West Ham striker given timely opportunity to prove his worth
With a premium on first-team opportunities it’s easy to see why Nikica Jelavic is supposedly seeking a move away from West Ham this January. However, 24 hours is a long time in football.
It was barley a day ago that reports linking Jelavic to Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou Evergrande surfaced, but in the meantime, the Croatian’s dwindling stock with his current employers has unexpectedly ballooned.
Yet another injury to Andy Carroll, sustained in the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on Tuesday night, has left the Hammers seriously low on first-choice front men.
The full extent of Carroll’s hamstring injury is unclear, though even the best case scenario would entail two to three weeks out of action, while fellow marksman Diafra Sakho is not expected to return until March.
Meanwhile, Mauro Zarate is also being linked with a move to Malaga after an inauspicious stint in east London.
Enner Valencia’s timely return to scoring ways at the Vitality Stadium aside, Slaven Bilic has been left in the mire, just as their quest to attain European football is enjoying a full-blooded revival.
As his former national team coach, Bilic knows Jelavic’s game inside out and considering the former Hull man’s aerial ability and link-up play is most similar to Carroll’s profile, the Irons boss has little choice but to convince his compatriot to stay put.
The ex-Evertonian may have failed to reach the heady heights of his initial prolific stint at Goodsion Park – where he notched 12 times in his first 16 Toffees appearances back in 2012 – but it was his first Hammers goal in his first start since mid-December that earned FA Cup victory over Wolves before the Cherries were toppled.
West Ham moved up to within a point of fourth-place Tottenham with that win down in Dorset, leaving Bilic’s men as intriguing 14/1 shots to break the top four.
Jelavic suddenly seems like holding more influence over that potential outcome.
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