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Right back carousel leaves Sam Byram spinning

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Young right back struggled to find consistency

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Summary

I feel like a broken record saying Sam Byram’s season was up and down, but that’s the only way to describe it (and many of the West Ham player’s seasons). He showed flashes of being our future starting right back but also made mistakes that you would expect a 23-year-old to make. For much the season Slaven Bilić seemed hellbent on playing anyone but Byram at right back.

Arsenal v West Ham United - Premier League
Hooray! Slav figured out to play a true right back!
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The failed Michail Antonio right back experiment was shot down for good (hopefully), Avaro Arebola (LOLZ), Cheikhou Kouyaté, Håvard Nordtveit , and Edimilson Fernandes all played in the right back slot at some point this season.

Watford v West Ham United - Premier League
We can all agree Antonio is not a right back now right?
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

For much of the season the back four looked a mess and much of that was due to not having a true right back play the position. It’s hard to get a back four to gel completely under perfect circumstances but when you have new guy playing out right every game it’s darn near impossible. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we saw the defense improve when we had our only true right back playing there.

Expectations

Byram was bought last year to be a development project for a year or two. After a couple strong games when he was forced into action some thought he would be able to tie the RB position down in 16/17. Last off-season the Davids didn’t sign a RB and it was expected that Byram would step in and be serviceable but not spectacular.

Performance

Overall Byram was an effective right back. As you would expect with any young player he made a few mistakes early. This caused Slaven Bilić to throw everyone but Byram into the RB role. The failed Michail Antonio right back experiment was succeeded by Håvard Nordtveit, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and Edimilson Fernandes all being stuck in at RB. With various but unsuccessful choices at RB Bilic put Byram back in at the end of the season and he was decent but not stellar.

Highlights and Lowpoints

Highs: Swansea (H)

This was the only game where Byram stuck out and looked fantastic. His tackle at the end of the game to stop Swans from equalizing was great and the team’s reaction says it all.

Sam played well with six clearances, two interceptions, and he won 56% of his tackles. This was his best game in claret and blue to date.

West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Lows: All of the big losses

Byram wasn’t solely responsible for many of the big losses this season but his inexperience did contribute to those losses. There isn’t any particular incident that sticks out as a glaring low for Sam but feel free to let me know if I missed something.

Next Season

Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Here’s Byram’s competition/mentor
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Sam is going to be behind new signing Pablo Zabaleta next season. Zabaleta will provide consistency and leadership that our back-line lacked last season. He’s a short term fix to the right back problem. Byram would do well to soak in every bit of wisdom that Zabs can give him. I think Sam has the capability to be our right back of the future. However, it sure seems that Slaven doesn’t see this and I think Byram could be on his way out the door sadly. If not this summer then next summer.

Final Grade: C-