The Battle of the Brothers between Andre and Jordan Ayew this weekend—as West Ham United hosted Swansea City at the London Stadium—turned into a bit of a damp squib, with the Hammers nabbing a late win when Diafra Sakho struck at the death.
The match was an opportunity for the duo to demonstrate to Kwesi Appiah why he was wrong to exclude them from the Ghana squad to face Uganda this week, and to prove to Black Stars fans that they still have the quality to make a difference to the national side.
Instead, they did little of the sort.
While Dede may receive some credit for his hard-work on the left—before he was replaced with 12 minutes remaining—neither brother did enough to suggest that their sides will enjoy the kind of prosperous campaign that their supporters are hoping for.
West Ham got the win at the death, but fan frustration at the team’s lethargy and lack of invention had spilled over long before Sakho handed Slaven Bilic a late lifeline.
How much longer can the Croatian last with the Irons without meshing together some kind of coherent frontline from his myriad offensive options?
You wonder whether he’d have seen out the international break had Swansea grabbed a winner, such was the unhappy mood on the terraces.
While Ayew’s work rate, anticipation and technical qualities ought to set him a part as a player who can have a key role in Bilic getting the best out of his forwards, there’s a sense that the West African remains misused by the Croatian coach.
Indeed, the games when Dede has truly shone for the Hammers are pretty few and far between—increasingly so—and while he got off one shot on the left flank during Saturday’s showdown, he didn’t deliver a single key pass or an accurate cross during a disinterested showing.
It would be little surprise if substitute Arthur Masuaku—who contributed the assist for Sakho’s late strike—is picked ahead of Ayew in a more advanced role after the international break to give the Hammers more menace on the left.
With or without Bilic, the Hammers should have the quality, the resources and the ambition to pull away from the relegation zone, but until he has a manager who knows how to employ him within a team structure, it remains to be seen what kind of contribution Dede will make during the rest of the campaign.
At least things aren’t quite as bad as they are at Swansea, where Paul Clement’s side head into the international break in the relegation zone after taking just five points from their opening seven fixtures.
Any hopes that the Swans would use the momentum of last season’s survival act to push on and consolidate themselves in mid-table have proved ill founded, and after scoring just three goals all season—the lowest scorers in the Prem—it’s clear to see where their problems lie.
For the first time this term, Clement opted to play all three of his forwards from the start, with Tammy Abraham partnering Wilfried Bony, with Jordan just in behind.
The trio struggled to mesh.
Abraham can be excused for being inexperienced at the Premier League level, while Bony still needs to shake off the lethargy he showed at Stoke City last term.
For Ayew, however, the finger may have to be pointed at Clement, with the Ghana international wholly struggling to impress in a supporting role through the middle.
He completed just one dribble, and failed to make a single shot or complete a key pass. In fact, he lost the ball on eight occasions—more than any other player on the pitch—and too often sought a conservative option when in possession, rather than attempt to stretch the play.
“I am concerned," Clement told journalists after the match. "I would have expected better in terms of points and performances.
“Good strikers carve out opportunities for themselves.”
Black Stars fans may criticise him relentlessly, but Jordan has demonstrated how effective he can be in wide areas—just witness the fine cross to set up Asamoah Gyan against Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations—and some of his best work in the Premier League has been when starting from the flanks.
In Bony he should—in principle—have a target man to aim at in the Gyan mould, while being positioned on the wing ought not prevent Jordan from cutting inside to shoot when the opportunity arises.
Regardless, the prognosis for the younger Ayew’s third season in England doesn’t look too promising.
Since leaving Lorient, he’s been involved in two relegation battles in two seasons—failing in one and succeeding in the other.
He’s firmly on course to complete the ‘hat-trick’ this campaign, but which way will things unravel this term?