Written by : @ConorCulver
This year’s Hammer of the Year race is reaching its climax and there have been a few standout performers, three of whom are: Felipe Anderson, Lukasz Fabianski and Declan Rice with others such as Issa Diop and Pablo Zabaleta being honourable mentions. The case for the first three is strong, as we take a look at who is the most deserving at this stage of the season.
It’s safe to say Andersont was worth all the transfer drama over the summer, and with key players like Lanzini still to return, he can only get better. Anderson scares opposition defences and plays with a flair that fans love to see and, on his day, he is easily one of the league’s better wingers. His claim for this year’s award would be the fact that he leads the team in Premier League goals (8), he shares the lead with three others for most Premier League assists (3) and, surprisingly, he leads the team in tackles (64). We’ve also seen an ability from Anderson throughout the year to take games by the scruff of the neck and see us to victory (Southampton away is the first game that springs to mind) and he also seems to love playing in the big games. The only knock against him would be that on some days he just doesn’t turn up, but other than that, he’s having a great season.
Next, Fabianski’s case. Although a much less glamourous signing than Felipe Anderson he’s proven to be one of the better signings nonetheless. He leads the entire league in saves (101) and has salvaged us points in many games (Palace at the weekend) and has also saved us from being embarrassed on numerous occasions. He is quite easily the best goalkeeper we’ve had for a very long time and his consistency is what makes that so. He’s also put his body on the line on a few occasions this year for the team (yes, he’s paid to, but he isn’t paid to take a boot in the face from Matt Doherty) and this willingness to sacrifice his body is true HOTY material.
If he can’t share it with Fabianski, HOTY has to go to Declan Rice. He is the model of consistency throughout the side and his “bad games” (Liverpool on the first day aside) are often not bad games on his behalf. Instead it is those around him that don’t match his quality on the day. The fact that what he does goes under the radar is astonishing because he is the player that keeps us ticking. The sheer number of counter-attacks he’s single handedly broken up this year is ridiculous, and the timing of his tackles is spot on for anyone, let alone a 20-year-old. Just think about the exposure our back four would have if Rice wasn’t in the team; it’s kind of scary. He typifies what it means to play for West Ham. He works hard, if he loses the ball he’s hellbent on getting it back, but he’s also calm, composed and really can pick a pass. If there’s one thing he can improve on, it’s his finishing – but should we really let a holding midfielder’s finishing be the reason he doesn’t win HOTY? Of course not; and no-one complained about his finishing after the Arsenal game, did they.
Due to his value to the team, even if it is under the radar, so far Rice is a clear favourite for HOTY.