How do you solve a problem like Said Benrahma? Or, is there even a problem?
Maybe these questions are a bit unfair, since the 26-year-old was pretty unplayable at the start of the season, scoring in our first two matches. We all thought that we were finally seeing Benrahma’s true potential — first spotted by Moyes whilst plying his trade in the Championship.
However, as the campaign has drifted on, he seems to have had less influence on our matches — there’s only been the occasional demonstration of why Moyes signed him for £25m (plus another £5m in add-ons). Incidentally, it’s worth remembering that that fee made Benrahma the third-most expensive player signed by West Ham, after Sebastian Haller and Felipe Anderson – and we know how those two turned out.
Certainly the stats aren’t indicative of a player who David Moyes clearly rated when we obtained his signature, given the fee – although bear in mind that his signing was necessitated by the incoming loan of Jesse Lingard last season.
After 34 games in the Premier League, Benrahma had played a part in 31 of them having been called up to the African Cup of Nations for the other three, but only been in the starting eleven for 24 of those matches. For a player who had such a high relative value, this is dodgy territory. Why hasn’t he started more?
To be fair to him, we have seen flashes of his best form of late: He did supply a couple of assists in the victory over Aston Villa, and most recently scored in the 3-1 defeat against Spurs. It’s fair to say that when he came on in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, he did have an impact, although did so on the losing side.
So whilst it’s unreasonable to suggest that he isn’t contributing, the questions are being raised as to whether the £25m-odd spent has been worth it. So, there’s the inconsistency. And then, what of the relationship with the manager? From my vantage point, I think it’s fair to say it hasn’t been entirely harmonious.
Disagreements on the touchline with David Moyes have been obvious. This has also translated to the fans, some of whom are now vocally expressing their doubt that he will feature in the manager’s long-term plans for the club. Whilst you can legitimately ask the question whether Benrahma would get into any of the other top six or seven sides, and there is some debate about that, I still believe that he has a future at the club.
I think he has probably shown just about enough to suggest that he can play at this level, but Moyes himself has called for more consistency and end product.
Far from this being the sign that Benrahma is headed for the exit door though, I wonder if Moyes is using this to spur the player on a bit — after all, he’s not exactly publicly criticising him for his performances, more suggesting that he is capable of more. It would be nice to hear more compliments around his performances, perhaps, but the manager is right — sometimes you watch him play and his influence wanes. That shouldn’t really be happening.
It’s also fair to say that those comments could apply to the team as a whole. It’s probably true that fatigue is catching up with a bit of a threadbare squad — and a close look at results suggests that form has been patchy for longer than perhaps we would like to admit, slightly hidden by the very strong start.
So maybe the inconsistency is not just confined to Benrahma. Perhaps, the problem is a little overblown: maybe, things aren’t that bad and as a flair player, maybe we should accept that sometimes he will have more influence in matches than others. Perhaps he has become an easy target for recent inconsistent performances by the team as a whole.
I think that Benrahma has a future at this club — he’s a match-winner on his day, full of tricks and skill, and capable of winning a game on his own. The word is ‘capable’ though. I’m expecting next season to have more of a feel of make-or-break. The high standards that the team have set over the last couple of seasons need to be matched to ensure that the excitement of this season’s European fixtures continue.
Benrahma has a crucial role to play in that. Let’s hope that he is up to the task.