David Moyes has delivered West Ham United a welcome boost after confirming that Arthur Masuaku has returned to light training sessions.
The DR Congo international has been out of action since mid-December having made the decision to have surgery for the sake of his career, after dealing with pain in his knee for the best part of two years.
West Ham refused to put a timescale on his return at the time but Moyes is now hopeful of seeing the 27-year-old be back available for selection in around a month.
Masuaku went under the knife following a strong run in the Hammers starting line-up following a move from Moyes to go five-at-the-back, with the £7m-rated dynamo opening 10 of the London Stadium natives’ first 11 games of the Premier League season.
Moyes confirmed in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Fulham, that while the left-back remains West Ham’s only absentee through injury, his progress is heading in the right direction.
“We’ve only got Arthur Masuaku [out], who has started jogging for the first time on Thursday following his knee surgery, so it gives us a thought that Arthur is only possibly a month away from coming back,” the Irons boss said.
“Hopefully, we’re trying to keep as many people fit as we can. This is a really difficult period for us. The fixture list has not been easy for any of the clubs and we’re no different.
“We’ve a really important Premier League game and then an FA Cup tie in midweek as well, so it’s another really big week for us. That said, I’m not thinking about the cup tie tomorrow, that’s for sure, but I know it’s on the horizon because of the week we’ve got.”
Moyes confirming that Masuaku is nearing a return to action will come as a boost for West Ham, after the east London outfit opted against strengthening the left-back position during the mid-season transfer window.
The Hammers were linked with a myriad of potential options to add depth behind Aaron Cresswell and youth prospect Ben Johnson, with FC Barcelona’s Junior Firpo, Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri, Brentford’s Rico Henry, RB Leipzig’s Matthew Bondswell and Manchester United’s Brandon Williams all touted at some stage.
Yet Moyes and the Irons hierarchy ultimately opted against spending out on a short-term fix, which could now prove to be a masterstroke if Masuaku is able to come back into the fold and hit the ground running next month.
The 27-year-old’s efforts earlier in the Premier League campaign still remain at a high level compared to his positional rivals across the division, with Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell (1) and Sheffield United’s Max Lowe (0.8) the only left-backs blocking a higher number of crosses on average (0.7) per game in the top-flight this term, per WhoScored.
Masuaku additionally ranks fourth in the league for passes blocked (1.2) and fifth for accurate crosses (1.1) delivered by a left-back, and is the joint-most successful left-sided full-back for bringing possession out from the back with 2.2 successful dribbles a game, level with Brighton’s Solly March.
Cresswell, who took over honours at left-back following Masuaku’s operation, is also offering 1.1 accurate crosses a game but is misdirecting 1.7 more than his teammate, who only fails to find a West Ham shirt 2.6 times a game compared to 4.3.
Moyes may still persist with Cresswell in the role given the Irons’ form at present, but Masuaku’s return will be a big boost in adding adequate depth in the role in a potential European push.