Defensive Solution Emerges From Thin West Ham Squad

Aaron Cresswell, West Ham. (Photo by NEIL HALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Aaron Cresswell, West Ham. (Photo by NEIL HALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

A surprising selection that spurred the reselection of West Ham’s best formation has proven David Moyes right in his defensive return to ‘old faithful.’

Despite having the players to better fill out a 4-2-3-1 formation, David Moyes has transformed West Ham into a wingback slinging team with his trusty 5-2-3 formation. He strayed away from this slightly up top against Brighton, but defensively, the return to shape was extremely noticeable.

Sebastien Haller and Jarrod Bowen were atop the new-look formation with Mark Noble inexplicably playing the #10 position behind them. After the initial shock of seeing Noble in this position, supporters then realized the ambidextrous Ben Johnson, natural right-back, was also selected, as a left-wingback though.

Arthur Masuaku’s surprising knee surgery and subsequent delay on rehab had sent fans into a mental spiral trying to justify Aaron Cresswell switching from centre-back to LB or LWB. He has settled into a free-roaming CB position extremely well but has shown that he cannot stay out wide due to lack of pace.

Enter Ben Johnson. The selection was a slight shock, but not all too surprising. Johnson made his Premier League debut against Manchester City at left-back in February of 2019 despite his natural position being right-back and impressed in his first feature. With chances limited through squad depth or injury, Johnson now has a direct path to Jeremy Ngakia-esque glory down the left side of the pitch.

No one would have pegged a Masuaku injury as the chink in the West Ham armour after their near domination of a daunting start to the schedule. Marked as deadwood in the summer, Masuaku played further forward with less defensive responsibility liberated the Congolese wingback and opened up the Hammers on the left side, only to follow suit on the right with the signing of Vladimir Coufal.

Ben Johnson’s well-taken goal shows that he has an understanding of the wingback position as well. Far too advanced for any fullback to be, Johnson realized his winger responsibilities and followed his forwards into the box, staying far enough back to be an option on the eventually recycled delivery.

His calm but assertive finish was picture perfect, bulging the net past diving defenders and a helpless keeper. Manuel Lanzini deserves immense credit as well for acrobatically finding Johnson to create the goal.

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Moving forward, David Moyes needs to stick to this formation and reward his youth team product with more minutes at left-wingback. As was done with Jeremy Ngakia, let the homegrown product have every opportunity to make this position his own. Congratulations, Ben Johnson, what a way to open your Premier League account!