Many West Ham United fans were unsurprised when they found out Maiga had been dropped to the bench for the big London derby against Spurs. However, the majority were surprised when they discovered that it was Ricardo Vaz Te who had replaced Maiga, rather than Mladen Petric. He had displayed his ability the week beforehand against Everton, and so you could be forgiven for thinking that the Croatian would take Maiga’s place.
Admittedly, when Vaz Te was named in the starting XI at White Hart Lane, I couldn’t understand Sam Allardyce’s ideas behind the decision. But it turned out to be a fantastic alteration. During the last week of the summer transfer window, news came out of Upton Park that the Portuguese attacker had requested a transfer after having been infrequently involved in the opening matches of the new campaign and last season.
His reason for his desire to leave the Boleyn Ground was quite plausible, as he correctly pointed out that since joining the club in January 2012 from Barnsley, he had scored the most goals for the Hammers – including the winner in the Championship play-off final – and therefore did not understand why he was getting so little firstteam opportunities. He had been mainly used as a substitute before the Tottenham Hotspur meeting but he had already shone in the Capital One Cup earlier this term, as his inch-perfect free kick opened the scoring against League Two side Cheltenham Town.
Following Vaz Te’s order for a transfer, Allardyce wrote in his weekly London Evening Standard column that the Portuguese star would have to prove him wrong, and show Big Sam why he should be starting. Against Spurs, he did that. In order for Allardyce’s puzzling 4-6-0 formation to work, Vaz Te would need to track back and defend whenever the Irons lost possession. Also, Ricardo would have to join in with the attacks and be able to cause Hugo Lloris problems when going forward.
He did both of those, and is a main reason for the Hammers embarrassing Tottenham. When you consider that Vaz Te has not been playing regularly this season, he was extremely energetic. He ran into all four corners of the pitch trying to hold the ball up or make necessary clearances. And on 72 minutes, Vaz Te finally got his name on the scoresheet. The goal was not the best on the day, but it certainly was vital as it opened up a two goal lead with only 18 minutes of normal time remaining.
Most of the plaudits from newspapers quite rightly went to Ravel Morrison, who was fantastic himself and scored a superb solo goal, but Vaz Te was an important reason for West Ham’s 3-0 win away from home. As aforementioned, Allardyce had challenged Vaz Te to prove him wrong and show him that he did have the talent to nail down a regular spot in the Premier League.
On that performance, Vaz Te deserves to be in the Premier League, and Maiga could be waiting on the sidelines for quite some time now.