After his first goal of the season for West Ham, Issa Diop seemingly has stepped back into the starting XI under David Moyes, a logical and long-overdue decision by the manager.
Don’t get me wrong, Fabian Balbuena is a fine footballer. Last season, Balbuena played in 23 matches in Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham, and despite only scoring one goal and NOT celebrating in his signature General fashion, he was solid defensively and prioritized that aspect of his game rather than goals.
With 13 games under his belt this season and a back-three likely to be used, the resurgent Issa Diop we saw against Everton isn’t likely to fully push Balbuena to the bench, but his prominence will come second to the young Frenchman now.
Like him or not, this is the right move for the 18-year-old Balbuena. We know what he is – dependable, stout, and good in the air – and that helps the manager deploy him. With 23-year-old Issa Diop, however, the potential of this player eclipses that of Balbuena and it could be argued his right-now skill already has, too.
Nabbing the opening and only West Ham goal of the match against Everton, the massive 6’3″ frame of Diop is a hard-to-miss target in the opposition’s area. Combined with Sebastien Haller and Angelo Ogbonna, the Hammers tall trio makes the life of dead ball deliverers a lot easier when it comes to finding a head to land the ball on.
His goal was great, the celebration was great, and the draw was great, but what is better than ‘great’ is Diop’s defensive mobility. So good at moving the ball out and stepping up to make a play, many have called for him to switch to a defensive-midfielder alongside Declan Rice! While he does have the skills to succeed in this position, his telescopic tackling and chemistry with Angelo Ogbonna should make him a mainstay at centre-back.
David Moyes has used him only once in his return to West Ham, against Everton, but his impact on both sides of the ball should see him stay in the lineup for both Leicester City on Wednesday and West Brom on Saturday. His youthful energy and playability make it a no-brainer for the Scot.
Get used to seeing Diop in the starting XI moving forward, for better or for worse. Growing pains are expected but he’s only going to get better and learning from the unflappable Ogbonna his a massive positive for the centre-back, too. Unwavering in the face of transfer rumors and committed to the Hammers, Issa Diop is one of our own!