West Ham's first splash in the winter transfer window came in the form of a £3.7 deal for Leeds United's 22-year old rampaging right back, Sam Byram. Initially expected to ease into things with the Hammers, Byram instead was forced into immediate action slot due to injury to Carl Jenkinson.
Why did West Ham bring him in?
West Ham's starting right back for the first part of the season, Arsenal loanee Jenkinson, earned poor reviews and correspondingly lost his spot to James Tomkins, a center back by trade. When Tomkins suffered an injury in mid-January against Newcastle, West Ham was left looking for cover in the near term while also taking an eye toward longer term benefit by adding a younger player. Faced with reported competition for Byram's services from elsewhere, the Hammers pounced with a winning offer.
In the past four seasons with Leeds United, Byram scored nine goals and contributed 12 assists, displaying creative flair while delivering tantalizing crosses in addition to his solid defensive play. While ostensibly strongest at right back, the athletic Byram also offers versatility with ability to play further up the flank as a midfielder or winger (hence the overly flattering comparison to Bale).
Is Byram worth consideration for your fantasy team?
When Jenkinson was injured only 13 minutes into the recent game against Manchester City, Byram came on and played the remainder. While the Citizens managed two goals, the first came via Jenkinson penalty and Byram acquitted himself well thereafter against the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling. The dangerous Citizens managed only one more goal and two shots on target the rest of the way, with Kun's tying goal an extremely unlucky one from the Hammers' perspective as the ball bounced around like a pinball, coming off Winston Reid and then Aaron Cresswell before leaving Byram no chance to reach Aguero before he slotted it into the net.
He drew one foul while committing two, and also was given a yellow card, managing only a single point in Fantrax. In the same game, fellow defenders James Collins, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid scored 6, 9 and 7 points, respectively. On the season, Cresswell (8.73 ppg) and Reid (10.38 ppg) have been the big scorers for West Ham on defense. While Tomkins (7.1 ppg) has also scored well, Jenkinson managed a paltry 3.45 ppg despite contributing two goals.
Byram only costs 1.000 at the moment, as his basement price leaves him as an excellent option. However, there is no shortage of cheap or cheap-ish bargain defenders (such as Leighton Baines, Aly Cissokho, Ivo Pinto, Matt Targett and Kevin Wimmer) who likely can be expected to return you more in the way of points, so Byram is more tempting only if you are interested in spending the bare minimum on a defender and freeing up the most points for impactful purchases elsewhere.
In the Official BPL game, clean sheets are king, while offensive contributions from defenders also provide royal returns. West Ham has allowed 28 goals (10th fewest), notching seven clean sheets (tied for 8th most). Meanwhile, its wing defenders have combined for three goals and three assists, not great but not bad either. Unfortunately, Byram costs 5.0 in Official, which is not that much cheaper than Cresswell (5.6) and is actually more than Reid (4.8) and Collins (4.3). Additionally, other teams offer plenty of attractive, less expensive options (such as Craig Cathcart, Charlie Daniels, Christian Fuchs, Ashley Williams, Patrick Van Aanholt and Philipp Wolscheid) so the newcomer is far from alluring in that format. If you are looking to add Byram, Fantrax clearly seems like a much better avenue than Official.
West Ham's fixture list over the next five games is quite favorable (v. Aston Villa, at Southampton, at Norwich, v. Sunderland, v. Tottenham), with Spurs the only upper echelon squad on the offensive end and two or three clean sheets seeming like a good possibility. As the competition grows less stiff (Manchester City is about as tough as it gets, after all) and Bynam gets more comfortable, he should be able to pick things up and turn into a solid if unremarkable fantasy scorer.
What question will you want to know the answer to before committing?
It looks like Tomkins will return from injury to start Saturday's FA Cup match against Liverpool, as Byram is cup-tied and cannot play. The question is, who starts the following Premier League fixture against Aston Villa and the rest of the season thereafter?
If Tompkins plays well against Liverpool and makes it through in healthy fashion, Byram's chances will take a hit. Even so, given the short turnaround between the games with Liverpool and Villa, Slaven Bilic may want to rest Tompkins anyway, rewarding Byram with another chance to impress. Ultimately, with Byram a more natural fit at right back than Tompkins and with the youngster having responded nicely when thrown into the fire against Manchester City, the newcomer should be given every chance to claim the starting spot. However, given the uncertainty of the situation, it may be advisable to wait until after the Villa game (or perhaps even the Southampton clash) to be sure.