West Ham are slowly transitioning into an intimidating outfit and remain one of the favourites to achieve a top-seven finish in the 2019/20 Premier League campaign – but are the centre-backs at the club good enough?
The Hammers finished 10th last season after accumulating 52 points but their defensive frailties were exposed, and ultimately, prevented them from achieving a higher finish.
In the 2018/19 league campaign, West Ham conceded 55 goals, three more than they scored (52).
A lack of consistency in defence has remained an ever-present theme since their switch to London Stadium and the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini is yet to eradicate that. However, the Irons did improve on the season prior – where they conceded 68 goals – and the defensive signings made by the Chilean manager in the 2018 summer transfer window certainly helped.
Are they good enough to sustain a top-seven challenge? Check out what centre-backs I think have a future at the club and the ones I think we should be looking to move on…
Issa Diop – Keep
The 22-year-old Frenchman has been an outstanding performer among the Hammers defence during his first year at London Stadium. Diop arrived last summer from Ligue 1 side Toulouse for £22m – a club-record fee at the time – and has thoroughly impressed the West Ham faithful.
The France defender averaged 2.1 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per match last season and proved a difficult customer for every Premier League striker he was matched up against.
This was some block by Issa Diop pic.twitter.com/U5Xvuhgxom
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) October 23, 2018
Diop was a stand-out performer in east London – so much so that he generated interest from Manchester United this summer – but the Hammers have held onto their prized asset and remains a crucial part of Pellegrini’s plans. An obvious keep, for me.
Angelo Ogbonna – Sell
Ogbonna arrived at the club back in 2015 and was instrumental to West Ham’s send off-season at Upton Park. With Slaven Bilic in charge, the Irons achieved a seventh-place finish in the 2015/16 season, maintaining 11 clean sheets in the process.
However, the now 31-year-old has looked off the pace since and has failed to replicate his Boleyn Ground form at London Stadium. Last season, the Italy centre-back made 20 Premier League appearances, acting as a stand-in for injured absentees but floundered the opportunity to impress Pellegrini.
Who could ever forget Angelo Ogbonna’s last minute winner against Liverpool? pic.twitter.com/NLg4GCStqn
— Boleyn Memories (@BoleynMemories) September 13, 2017
He averaged 1.3 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per match; with the direction West Ham are heading, it could be time to part ways and bring in someone more youthful and capable of competing at the top level. I would sell and replace.
Fabian Balbeuna – Keep
‘The General’ was part of the £100m summer spending spree in 2018 and arrived from Corinthians for £6.5m. The Paraguay defender has brought leadership qualities to the back four and has formed a solid partnership with the aforementioned Diop.
He did get off to a shaky start in east London, though, and struggled to impress in the Hammers’ opening four league encounters – suffering defeat in all four matches. However, the 27-year-old slowly started to adapt and became an authoritative figure alongside Diop. Last season, he averaged 1.7 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per match and displayed high commitment levels throughout the campaign.
Footage of Tottenham trying to score past Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena pic.twitter.com/SEqE0FyWQy
— West Ham Clips (@WestHamClips) April 27, 2019
Both Balbuena and Diop complement each other’s style – the Paraguay defender is often the rock while Diop is there if an attacker finds his way through the defensive line. The pair have looked stronger each game together and he is a definite keep.
Winston Reid – Sell
My affiliation with Reid will always remain a loving one, but sometimes it is best to move on. The 31-year-old has been the best centre-back at West Ham for the past decade and deserves the utmost respect from the Irons faithful for his loyalty and dedication in a claret and blue shirt; scoring the last ever goal at Upton Park will remain firmly lodged in the hearts of every West Ham fan.
However, injuries have prevented the New Zealand defender from continuing his excellent career in east London. His injury he sustained in 2018 has kept him on the sidelines for over a year, missing the entire 2018/19 campaign. Despite returning to pre-season this summer, there are serious question marks over his ability to remain injury-free.
“HE ROSE SO HIGH NEARLY TOUCHED THE SKY 2-1 DOWN 3-2 UP ITS MEANT TO BE ITS SURELY MEANT TO BE”
Happy birthday Winston Reid a goal that will go down in history that no West Ham fan will ever forget pic.twitter.com/zRSopSskFY
— West Ham Gossip (@westham_gossip) July 3, 2019
As previously mentioned, Reid has been the best centre-back at West Ham for some time. His passion, dedication and loyalty in east London is rare to find and every Irons fan admires him. Unfortunately, the Hammers are striving to compete at the top level and parting ways with the 31-year-old is the best solution for both parties.
A sell for me, albeit a reluctant one.