Tuesday 25 October 2016

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic is not focused on the one that got away

Published 14/10/2016 | 22:41

Christian Benteke chose Crystal Palace over West Ham
Christian Benteke chose Crystal Palace over West Ham

Slaven Bilic will be hoping not to be haunted by the two that got away when West Ham head to Crystal Palace.

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Hammers boss Bilic reluctantly sold defender James Tomkins to the Eagles this summer having been unable to guarantee him enough playing time.

And Bilic also has to come up with a way to stop in-form striker Christian Benteke, who West Ham wanted to sign before he opted to join Palace from Liverpool.

"Benteke was one of the players on our list but he was also on the list of many clubs," said Bilic.

"He went to Palace and now it's irrelevant because he is their player and we have got our strikers.

"I didn't speak to him. We just wanted to know the situation and we couldn't get him basically, it was hard to get him.

"I can say how good he is as a striker and the impact he has made. In the first three games they were struggling b ut now they are improving with him.

"But we can't just be focused on him because there are many players there who can turn the game. "

Benteke has hit the ground running at Palace with three goals, as well as his eight-second strike and hat-trick for Belgium against Gibraltar in midweek.

By contrast Simone Zaza, who Bilic signed on loan from Juventus after missing out on Benteke, has yet to find the net - or even come close - in his five appearances so far.

So underwhelming has the Italy striker been that there are even suggestions West Ham may want to avoid him playing enough matches to trigger a clause to make his move permanent at a cost of £17million.

But Bilic insisted: "I only have to make a decision on Zaza over Saturday.

"The only thing I am thinking about, about the situation in his contract or around his contract, is whether he going to be the one I will put at centre-forward against Palace."

The decision to sell Tomkins, who can play at centre-half or right-back, also seems to have backfired on the Hammers whose injury-hit defence has leaked 17 goals in their opening seven games.

"I didn't want him to leave but last year he played many, many games for us in different positions and he was very good for our squad," admitted Bilic.

"But I couldn't guarantee he would play week in, week out and that is the reason he left. He didn't want to leave because he is West Ham born and bred. He wanted guarantees, basically, and I couldn't give him that."

Press Association

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