I think every West Ham fan is in agreement that Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena should, and indeed will, be our starting centre back pair next season. But is our cover for those positions sufficient enough?
Angelo Ogbonna was essentially our only deputy last season, and while he is clearly a popular member of the squad, our defensive record when he plays in place of Diop or Balbuena is a stark contrast (negatively) to when the Frenchman and Paraguyan line up alongside one another.
So, what happens if either Diop or Balbuena get injured for a prolonged period of time, just like the latter did playing against Watford at the back end of 2018?
A number of reasons can be argued as to why our form dipped so much after that disappointing loss. The Arnautovic saga initiated not long after, while injuries started to pile up after a busy festive period; but none more so than the loss of the General.
We do, however, have another player ready to step in this time around: Winston Reid. Having missed 53 games over his long injury layout, the former Hammer of the year is with the first-team squad out in Switzerland for their nine-day training camp.
It brings a smile to the face that such an honest and reliable defender for us over the last nine years, one who has also scored so many important goals, is finally back and available for selection. But shadowing that smile is a hint of doubt.
Leaving emotions to one side; can we really go into a Premier League season relying on an injury-prone footballer, whose last outing came 16 months ago? How do we know that he won’t break down at any point in the season, whether on the pitch or in training? If we really want to push on for a top seven (maybe higher?) finish this season and prove our worth, we need reliable back-up options when called upon.
History at West Ham tells us that we are going to need that squad depth to come into use at some point or other.
Looking at our transfer budget, it doesn’t look like we will have enough money left over to sign an able deputy.
Providing Maxi Gomez eventually signs for the club, and perhaps another centre midfielder, we would in all likelihood be looking at freebies and loan deals. With that in mind, would we really be able to sign better than what we already have?
So, all in all, I don’t know the answer to my first question. I’m sure though, that the men who matter, Manuel Pellegrini and Mario Husillos, do have the answer.
And that is probably to outscore the opposition.
Written By Lou | @lou_pye