West Ham have a new youngster emerging onto the first-team scene, and 19-year-old Jeremy Ngakia has already exhibited signs that he can become a top player in the Premier League.
With Pablo Zabaleta announcing his retirement from Premier League football at the end of this season and Ryan Fredericks’ injury problems, it has paved the way for Ngakia to play first-team football; impressed is certainly the word to use.
The 19-year-old was part of both the U18s and U23s setup for the Hammers and when he was awarded a chance to impress David Moyes and 60,000 fans at London Stadium, he delivered.
Ngakia made his Premier League debut against, arguably, the best team in the world – Liverpool. Moyes chose to start Ngakia at right-wing back, and despite a nervy 10 minutes to start, the youngster soon found his feet and delivered an exceptional performance.
The Hammers may have lost, but Ngakia was undoubtedly a major positive to take away from the game. Hungry, determined, full of pace and willing to get stuck in; what more could West Ham fans ask for?
Since his debut, Ngakia has made another three Premier League appearances – Liverpool (a), Southampton (h) and Arsenal (a) – and the stats are certainly encouraging.
According to WhoScored, Ngakia has averaged three tackles per match and 1.5 interceptions. These are extremely impressive statistics, not just for a youngster, but for any full-back in the top division; for example, Trent Alexander-Arnold has averaged 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions in the Premier League this season.
Naturally, Ngakia looks as if he would thrive playing in a more advanced position. The 19-year-old has operated as a midfielder in his career before, but with West Ham lacking in the right-back department, that position is his for now.
Going forwards, Ngakia’s dribbling qualities set him apart from many defenders. As a full-back, you are required to be solid defensively, but also be a threat when going forwards. So far this season, Ngakia has averaged 1.3 dribbles per game and the Hammers should utilise his attacking qualities more often in the final third to endure success.
It will be interesting to see what Moyes’ approach is during the next transfer window. The Hammers have lacked quality full-backs for some time – the best partnership I can remember being Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson in the 2014/15 campaign – so will the Scottish manager take a chance on youth?
Ngakia has all the ingredients to become a top player at this football club; regular minutes on the pitch is what he needs and if he maintains his spot at right-back, there is no reason his development can be of a similar level to Declan Rice.