West Ham will be without Arthur Masuaku for this Sunday’s home clash with Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men travel to East London aiming for revenge after last season’s 3-1 loss.
Ahead of the game, Manuel Pellegrini has one selection dilemma. Masuaku is currently out with a suspension after receiving a red card against Aston Villa on Monday. It was two yellow cards so the DR Congo full-back will only miss one game.
The one game he misses is a crucial one. Man United are a good side but they are there for the taking if West Ham perform well. But how can Pellegrini solve this left-back conundrum without Masuaku? We take a look at three candidates…
Aaron Cresswell is the logical choice to replace Masuaku. On paper, he is West Ham’s second-choice left-back. And he even started the season in that spot ahead of Masuaku.
But his performance against Manchester City will make Pellegrini question whether to recall him. The sporadic England international was tormented by Kyle Walker down West Ham’s left and his lack of pace was ruthlessly exposed.
West Ham come up against Dan James (if he is passed fit) this weekend and he is arguably faster than Walker. Cresswell against James will be giving West Ham fans nightmares and it might persuade Pellegrini to keep him in reserve.
Pablo Zabaleta is the dependable choice to replace Masuaku. When Masuaku was sent off on Monday, Pellegrini looked to his most experienced defender to fill the void at left-back for the remainder of the game.
The veteran Argentine did a fine job and showed he has the legs to get up and down the pitch. Despite being much older, Zabaleta’s nous means he is probably better prepared to deal with James’ pace.
Pellegrini will have reservations about playing Zabaleta due to his age. But the 34-year-old only needs to deputise for one game while Masuaku is out so this could be a good arrangement.
Ben Johnson is the wildcard choice to replace Masuaku. The 19-year-old has only ever played one senior game for the Hammers but that was against Man City at The Etihad and he showed he is capable.
The teenager is naturally a right-back but he played at left-back against Man City because Cresswell and Masuaku were both missing. It would be a risk to bring Johnson in now but he is a talented young player and he impressed enough in pre-season to warrant an opportunity at some point.