Name: Enner Valencia
Taking a 2-1 slip-up at Newcastle United out of the equation; January paid dividends for West Ham United as they firmly put themselves in the race for the Premier League’s top four with two victories and an impressive draw in their other three New Year fixtures.
The anticipated return of influential midfielder Dimitri Payet certainly proved fruitful as the France international announced his return from injury with a goal and an assist this month, but it was Ecuadorian Enner Valencia who hogged the limelight throughout January with four impressive strikes and an assist to his name.
The 26-year-old, who finally looks fully fit after battling calf and ankle injuries this season, was Hammers boss Slaven Bilic’s saviour as fellow forwards Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho were quickly consigned to the treatment room themselves.
Valencia, who arrived at Upton Park from Mexican outfit Pachuca for a reported £2m following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, spearheaded West Ham’s attacking intent brilliantly as the London side rallied to wins over Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth before halting title contenders Manchester City to a stalemate last weekend.
Firstly; the Ecuador star assisted Michail Antonio’s powerful header against the Reds with a beautiful cross to the far post, before ditching the provider role for the goalscoring trait as he swiftly recorded a brace at Dean Court ten days later to sink newly-promoted Bournemouth 3-1.
After an out-of-sorts display from the Hammers during their blip at St James’ Park, Valencia once again inspired West Ham to snatch a valuable point off 2011/12 and 2013/14 league champions City with two predatory finishes to frustrate Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Now just six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and just the one behind Manchester United in fifth, Bilic’s side have firmly set their sights on qualifying for European football next season inside their luxurious Olympic Stadium after falling short during last summer’s UEFA Europa League qualifiers.