West Ham recently announced that left-back Arthur Masuaku has signed a contract extension with the club – is this an indication that he is the answer to the Hammers’ defensive issues?
Masuaku has rivaled Aaron Cresswell for the left-back position over the past few years but neither have cemented their place in the starting XI and made it their own. The Hammers have struggled defensively since the switch to London Stadium and that failed to change following Manuel Pellegrini’s appointment in 2018 – conceding 55 goals in the Premier League last season.
The West Ham faithful have struggled to be convinced by Masuaku’s defensive abilities and Cresswell has been referred to as the better defender; the stats, however, prove otherwise.
Last season, Masuaku averaged 2.5 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per match while Cresswell averaged 1.5 tackles and 1.2 interceptions. To put that into perspective, Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell – who is regarded as one of the better full-backs in the Premier League – averaged 1.5 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game.
With stats as impressive as these, I think Masuaku deserves more credit for his defensive contributions.
When utilised correctly and coupled with the defenders he is comfortable playing with, the 25-year-old is a key part of the starting XI. Last season, the foursome of Masuaku, Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena and Ryan Fredericks only played four matches together – West Ham won three of those, keeping two clean sheets. That back four is arguably the strongest the Hammers have and it will be interesting to see what they can produce this season.
Before Neymar, there was Masuaku pic.twitter.com/91o1tb55Zo
— Kofi Apply (@Kofi_Akwaboah) May 12, 2019
Offensively, Masuaku is an excellent outlet and provides extra impetuous when West Ham are in the final third of the pitch. The Democratic Republic of Congo international has completed more dribbles (119) than any other defender since the start of the 2017/18 Premier League season, highlighting his attacking quality and effectiveness going forwards. However, he could only average 0.2 crosses per match in the Premier League last season – an element he must significantly improve on in order to establish himself as a regular starter.
In my opinion, Cresswell is not good enough to play for the club anymore. The 29-year-old suffered a knee injury in 2016 which kept him out of action for over three months; ever since, he has failed to make an impact on the pitch.
With the direction the Hammers are heading under Pellegrini, Masuaku can become the left-back the West Ham fans are craving. With Fredericks and Masuaku playing full-back, the Irons have outstanding outlets going forwards and both have demonstrated their defensive capabilities, also.
Pellegrini has already exhibited his faith and admiration of Masuaku – the contract extension clearly shows that he wants him and believes he is good enough to play this season.
West Ham have ambitions of challenging for a top-seven finish this season and they will have to significantly improve defensively if the are to reach their target – Masuaku could play a key role in helping the Hammers do that.