Wenger reveals: I decided to sign this sensational midfielder years before he came to Premier League

Westham will be hosting Arsenal over the weekend in yet another Premier League clash as both sides struggle to earn three points that will boost their campaign this season. Arsenal are currently third place on the table, 11 points behind surprise league leader Leicester City and 4 points behind second place Tottenham Hotspurs.

Speaking ahead of the Gunners’ trip to West Ham United on Saturday, Arsene Wenger’s press conference on Thursday saw Dimitri Payet added to the collection of players the Arsenal manager has noticed, admired and declined to sign. Payet has been a sensation for the Hammers this season, setting up more chances than any other player in Europe and inspiring West Ham’s surprise bid for a Champions League position.

With 12 goals and eight assists in all competitions, he’s been the key to West Ham’s season and proven himself as one of the best and most dangerous players in the Premier League. The French international has starred in midfield for the east London club this season and Wenger admitted in his press conference today to keeping tabs on the Frenchman for years before his Premier League arrival.

He was a top talent, always, but had periods of being up and down,” Wenger said.

The Gunners manager spent time watching the Payet when he was with old club Saint-Etienne but decided against bidding for him.  “I’ve looked at him many times. I’ve known him for a long time. He played at Saint-Etienne and we watched him many times. I think he has all the attributes to be a top player, which he is, but he’s 29-years-old already. He’s matured a lot and come back into the national team, which shows he was more consistent.”

So why didn’t Arsenal make a move?                            

“But historically we always had a great number of creative players – we had Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey – they are all offensive players and I’ve certainly forgotten a few, so we had the numbers,” Wenger explained.

Along with his brilliant performances have been a number of outstanding free-kicks, the latest against Crystal Palace last weekend. It was the fourth free-kick the former Marseille midfielder has scored for West Ham this season – the others came against Bournemouth, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United – as well as another brilliant strike he scored for France.

His recent form has seen Westham manager Slaven Bilic shower praises at him and say his impact will make other Premier League clubs rethink their policy about signing players with no sell-on value.