Manuel Pellegrini will have a lot of decisions to make ahead of West Ham’s season opener against Manchester City, but who to start at left back could be among the hardest to make.
Just like everywhere on the pitch, Man City have a plethora of talent who could be effective on the right wing – with Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané, Riyad Mahrez and even Gabriel Jesus capable of playing there.
Therefore, it is important Pellegrini makes the right choice in deciding who will directly face them – with Arthur Masuaku, Aaron Cresswell and Ben Johnson the main candidates as it stands.
ExWHUEmployee has suggested that left-back isn’t a priority position at the moment, so with the Hammers’ pursuit of strikers still not concluded, Pellegrini’s full back options are likely to remain the same.
It is uncertain whether Masuaku will be completely ready in time, as he will return late for pre-season after being part of D.R. Congo’s African Cup of Nations squad.
Though his side was knocked out of the tournament by Madagascar on Sunday, which should see him return to the Hammers quicker this summer, so there is definitely a chance he will be back in time for the season opener.
If fully fit he could be the front runner to take the position, as he played every minute of West Ham’s last five games of the 2018/19 campaign – though he was dropped by D.R. Congo after their first AFCON match.
The Englishman will have had the entire pre-season to show Pellegrini what he’s got, while Masuaku was on the D.R. Congo bench, which could give him an advantage in the short term.
Johnson has also been in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland for the training camp and will have had an opportunity to build on his impressive showing against City last campaign and get his name in the manager’s thinking.
It would be a massive statement from Pellegrini to pick the 19-year-old, but he did the same with Declan Rice against Liverpool while he was at the same age, though he had more experience than Johnson does.
For now, it seems as though the three players have a fairly equal chance of getting on the pitch – it would be great to see Johnson given the opportunity after impressing so much on his first-team debut against the same opposition.