Who could forget that Saturday afternoon in May? A last gasp winner in the playoff final to kill off Blackpool and see West Ham return to the promise land of the Premier League. Back where we belong. I don’t need to remind anyone of that goal which sent Hammers fans into delirium at Wembley that day, but what of the scorer, Ricardo Vaz Te. After such an impressive Championship campaign following his capture from Barnsley last January, why has the enigmatic Portuguese attacker not lived up to the hype in the top flight?
Before I discuss Vaz Te’s disappointing return to the big time, I understand a decent part of his season has been disrupted by injury. The winger played a part in our opening seven Premiership games before dislocating his shoulder against Arsenal, keeping him on the sidelines until late December. Therefore it is harsh to be too critical or judgemental on his performances this season. However that being said, I personally would have liked to have seen a little more from the 26-year-old when he has been fit.
For me, Vaz Te has been out of games far too often, becoming almost a passenger at times. As an attacking, skilful winger, he is a player we look upon to create chances and take it too the opposition, especially given our current lack of creativity. This sadly has happened on very rare occasions this season and his service to the likes of Carroll on the whole has not been good enough.
The most frustrating thing is that, all be it at a lower level, Vaz Te has got what it takes to perform well in a claret and blue shirt. After scoring a hatful of goals for Barnsley, Vaz Te managed ten in 15 games for us in the Championship and was a key part in our successful promotion bid. In addition he was always a threat, creating chances for the likes of Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan on a regular basis. He simply hasn’t provided that same goal threat this time round.
Perhaps he is one of them players who look very much at home in the Championship but a little out of their depth at the top level. He was at Bolton as a youngster and never really looked good enough in the Premier League. To be fair Vaz Te has showed occasional flashes of brilliance this season, for example his performance at Stoke was very good, creating the only goal of the game. Theses flashes have unfortunately been far too occasional this season and he has managed just one goal, away at QPR.
As disappointing as Ricardo has been this year, I personally don’t think it should be the end of the road for him at Upton Park. He was a massive player for us last year and perhaps if he had been fit all season, the opinion of him would have been a little different. The one thing Vaz Te has, which we certainly lack throughout the squad is pace and the unpredictability factor. Yes he can frustrate immensely but he has the potential to do something very special, that something could just be the difference in keeping us in the Premier League. All season, West Ham fans have been crying out for more pace and more style in our play, Vaz Te at least tries to offer this. And despite the occasional sulk, I do believe his heart is in it and has a good attitude as a West Ham player.
The one final thought is a tactical one. Vaz Te has never been a great crosser of the ball, yet always been capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. With cries for God knows how long for Allardyce to play two up top could RVT not be an excellent pairing for Andy Carroll? I would certainly like to see that strike force given a go as the season reaches the closing stages.As you can tell by my analysis, I am still very undecided over Ricardo Vaz Te. I would like to see him do well and think he is the type of player, if performing well, would be hugely beneficial to us. However the jury is still out and I’m still not convinced he has what it takes to make it as a Premier League player. I would expect and hope for him to still be at the club next year but his consistency must improve for the Portuguese player to remain a West Ham player.