It has been a crazy couple of months behind the scenes at West Ham. Preparations for the big move to Stratford progress, the future of manager Sam Allardyce remains in the balance whilst commanding centre-half Winston Reid has fortunately been persuaded to commit his long-term future to the club.
Amidst all the headlines, one piece of news to slip under the radar has been West Ham’s decision to activate the option of a two-year extension in Morgan Amalfitano’s contract. Whilst the 30-year old might not be the first name on Big Sam’s team sheet, keeping the Frenchman at the club has to be considered the correct verdict.
Amalfitano’s £1million summer arrival from Marseille was a shrewd piece of business by the Hammers, especially as the midfielder had already proven his Premier League pedigree during a 2013/14 loan spell at West Brom. Moreover, at such a cut price, the player’s versatility of being able to fill in anywhere across the midfield added extra validation for the deadline day signing.
Joining once the season is already in full swing is never easy but Amalfitano has acquitted himself well during his maiden campaign at Upton Park, even if his role has usually seen him operate from the fringes. Coming off the bench to notch a goal in his home debut against Liverpool certainly helped the Frenchman, who continued to make telling contributions despite limited opportunities during the team’s impressive first half of the campaign.
Things have soured a little since the turn of the year, a sentiment epitomised by a petulant red card just minutes after replacing skipper Kevin Nolan in the FA Cup loss to former club West Brom, but that dip in performance is hardly unique and could be planted at the door of almost any Hammers player.
Whilst everyone at the club will be looking to LIAM NEWMAN @ThatLiamNewman Staying put: Morgan Amalfitano will be at West Ham next year 2015-16 with hopes of a top 10 finish, the primary objective is to remain a Premier League outfit for when we move into the Olympic Stadium. Amalfitano is the type of player you’d want around the squad and certainly has the quality to grace the top-flight, even if he isn’t quite of the desired standard for West Ham’s long-term aspirations.
Moreover, if Alex Song’s loan doesn’t become permanent and Matt Jarvis is sold, then it will be important to retain most of the other midfielders for sheer numbers alone. It seems inevitable that there will be a summer shake-up of some sorts, perhaps even including a change of manager, but the owners will be wary of initiating a major transformation to the playing staff at such a crucial time in the club’s history
Keeping Amalfitano at the club makes perfect sense, even if he is to endure another year spent chiefly on the sidelines. As far as his playing qualities are concerned, Amalfitano’s attributes are a great luxury to have. The midfielder has already shown during his brief spell at Upton Park that he knows where the goal is and he has also displayed a level of crossing ability that would be a great luxury option to possess from the bench – especially when chasing a late goal or looking to utilise the aerial threat of Andy Carroll and co
Perhaps most pleasing, though, is the fact Amalfitano applies himself in the right way. Fans, coaches and colleagues will forgive the odd mistake such as that stupid sending off at the Hawthorns if a player is willing to put in a shift and a palpable willingness to impress has been an omnipresent trait during the Frenchman’s maiden year with the club.
Likewise, an enthusiasm towards performing the basics well is a characteristic that should serve the Frenchman well throughout the remainder of his West Ham career. The benefits of a full pre-season schedule with the club shouldn’t be overestimated either and there is a good chance that Hammers fans will see an improved Amalfitano in 2015-16.
Starting opportunities will presumably remain restricted, regardless of who’s in charge, but the Frenchman is unquestionably a useful member of the squad. Amalfitano’s status at the club is a glowing testimony of Allardyce’s good work since being appointed manager four seasons ago and to have a player of this ilk as a fringe star underlines the improvement made to personnel during that period.
Should this summer bring a conclusion to Big Sam’s time at E13 then there can be no arguments that he’ll have left the club in a much better state than he inherited. Perhaps activating Amalfitano’s contract extension will prove to be one last masterstroke from the departing gaffer.