Despite the initial rebuff, West Ham are still very much in the hunt for Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe. His credentials as a goal-scorer are impeccable – but it is his ability to save clubs at the wrong end of the table probably more telling.

With the inconsistency of Andy Carroll and the string of flops who have tried to fill his shoes, Slaven Bilic is desperate for someone to get on the end of Dimitri Payet’s many crosses. The odds on a move for the Frenchman have been cut from 5/1 to 2/1, a situation not helped by his frustration at having no target man.

Bilic, while refusing to confirm a Defoe pursuit, admitted that Simone Zaza’s “story at the club is over”.

He added: “We’re not going to discuss players that are not ours. The whole club is trying really hard to get some players in positions that we need. But I’m not going to talk here in public.

Angelo Ogbonna controls the ball while Jermain Defoe of Sunderland, left, and Winston Reid battle for possession

“Defoe has the things that are most important in a football game and that’s goals. Last season he was probably the main reason Sunderland stayed up and he has continued to play the same way this season. Each game he is not only scoring goals but creating chances and most of the chances he’s converting into goals.”

In the background is another attempt to fill the void with a £9million bid for Brentford’s Scott Hogan. “He’s a good player. I’ve watched him a few times. Again he is scoring goals, he’s very sharp, very quick and a very good finisher,” said Bilic at his press conference on Thursday (January 5).

Striker hunt

Over the past 10 seasons, West Ham have spent nearly £100million on 35 different strikers who have only scored a combined average of one goal every five games.

This season alone, the Hammers have brought in three strikers in Ashley Fletcher (free transfer), Jonathan Calleri on loan (£4m fee) and Simone Zaza on loan (£4.25m fee).

West Ham to finish higher than – betting odds from Oddschecker

Despite only signing them in the summer, Fletcher is being linked with permanent moves to a number of Championship clubs, Argentine Calleri is yet to score in nine appearances and Zaza will have his loan terminated by mutual consent.

Of all their striking options over the last decade, it’s Demba Ba that comes out on top in terms of games per goal, scoring once every 1.9 appearances. Behind him is Diafra Sakho, who has managed 20 goals in his 52 competitive matches at a rate of one goal every 2.6 games.

Ashley Fletcher puts on a bib during training at Rush Green

At the opposite end of the table Simone Zaza, Jonathan Calleri, Marco Borriello, Mladen Petric, Marouane Chamakh, Benni McCarthy, Mido, Savio Nsereko, Henri Camara, Wellington Paulista and Brian Montenegro failed to score for the club. Neither Wellington Paulista or Montenegro ever actually made a competitive appearance.

What makes West Ham’s striker issue even more apparent is the fact that Dimitri Payet created considerably more chances in the Premier League in 2016 than any other player (144).

So who is the man to make the most of Payet’s creativity? Bookmakers are offering best-price 5/2 on a return to West Ham for Jermain Defoe, while Daniel Sturridge is 8/1 to join the club.

Payet’s dilemma

Dimitri Payet during training at Rush Green on January 5, 2017

Dimitri Payet has struggled to replicate the form that won him the club’s player of the season award and has been linked with a move away from London over the past two transfer windows even though he signed a new contract in January last year.

Overnight the odds have been slashed from 5/1 to 2/1 that he’ll make a return to Marseille.

Marseille want to get back to winning ways and the new owner has promised fans that they will provide a threat to PSG over the coming years. They look poised to make a move for several players in the January transfer window to help them achieve Champions League football next season.

The Hammers have been firm in stating they aren’t willing to listen to any offers for their French playmaker but reports in France claim Payet wants to return to Marseille.

Statistics and odds from Oddschecker