Injury concerns are a part of the West Ham way, but amidst the January window, there has to be something done to address the squad depth at left wingback.
The January transfer window can be a blessing and a curse for Premier League teams. Traditionally for West Ham, it has been the latter, although that did change under David Moyes last season. Both Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen were brought in to strengthen the starting XI, and both are every-game starters under their manager.
In order for West Ham to force the window to be a blessing they need to conclude their striker chase, add depth in central midfield, and now address the gaping hole at left wingback in the team.
David Moyes has confirmed that Arthur Masuaku is still “probably a couple of months away from being involved again” ahead of the match against Burnley. This has the Hammers deadset to remain in their backup 4-2-3-1 formation, abandoning wingbacks altogether, a setup they’ve fallen back on since Masuaku’s surgery.
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As it stands, the only left-back in the senior team is Aaron Cresswell. His remarkable season has largely hinged on his free-roaming position as left centre-back in a back three, and he has proven a bit of a defensive liability when he is forced out wide at left-back.
Ben Johnson, although dominant with his right foot, should be the starter when it comes to left-back due to his ambidextrousness, however, Cresswell’s setpiece shooting and delivery is too important to miss out on if he doesn’t start.
Ideally, the Hammers would have already started looking for a long-term solution to their left-back/left wingback problems but there is no reason to believe that a viable transfer strategy will be quickly or effectively executed with David Sullivan at the helm of operations.
Players the Hammers should be targeting are almost exclusively from the Championship. The player they should be circling is Brentford’s Rico Henry. The 23-year-old English left-back is having another stellar season of play and has chipped in a goal and two assists so far. The question will be, did Sullivan poison the well too much with Benrahma negotiations?
A more realistic route could be players on expiring contracts. In the Premier League, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Ezgjan Alioski, Kieran Gibbs, and Erik Pieters all would be likely available but none are young and exciting.
More Moyes-esque signings on expiring deals could be Frankfurt’s Jetro Willems who looked great at wingback for Newcastle, Union Berlin’s Christopher Lenz (from a club with great recruitment), Florian Miguel from Nimes Olympique in the heavily Hammers scouted Ligue 1, or 22-year-old Omar Richards from Reading.
A player is needed, young preferably, and West Ham cannot be too picky unless they want to splash some cash on the player the manager wants. With a compact schedule currently underway, the Hammers need a recruit in a left-back as quickly as possible.