The instant reaction to Mohamed Diame’s potential three-month absence for West Ham is that it could ruin their solid start to the season, but digging a bit deeper does suggest that things may not fall apart in the way that some fans may fear.
West Ham’s 3-2 defeat at Liverpool came more at a cost than simply dropped points, with Diame injuring a hamstring 17 minutes from time, at which point the Hammers were ahead.
The defeat has caused Sam Allardyce’s men to slip into the bottom half of the Premier League standings for the first time this season and the loss of Diame for an extended period could make 4/9 a decent price that they remain there come the end of the campaign.
His impact was instantly noticeable when introduced at half time against Chelsea to change the game and there is a clear argument that the Hammers would have beaten Liverpool if he would have completed 90 minutes.
Diame’s strengths are in his ability to shrug off players with lambasting midfield surges, while his workrate in harassing opponents into mistakes in dangerous positions is not matched by anybody else in the squad.
West Ham’s midfield trio of Diame, Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan has been untouched this season and whether Allardyce has the depth to tinker remains a doubt.
French international Alou Diarra is the obvious replacement, but he has hardly kicked a ball since signing for the Hammers because of injury.
However, he is due back in early 2013, with the hope being that it does not take him too long to find his match sharpness.
James Tomkins came on for Diame against Liverpool, but playing the defender in midfield for an extended period does not seem a recipe for success.
Instead, Allardyce would be better picking Gary O’Neill, whose introduction into the team proved a catalyst in West Ham’s promotion push last season.
Having missed virtually all season, O’Neill played in 11 of their final 12 games, in which they won nine and suffered just a single defeat.
Therefore, the midfield trio of Nolan, Noble and O’Neill has proven that it can flourish, albeit in a different manner compared to when Diame is playing.
Furthermore, Diame’s injury should also ensure that West Ham are not inundated with January offers for their Senegalese international, who has been interesting the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal in recent weeks.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.