Manuel Pellegrini has already accepted that Pablo Zabaleta cannot feature in every West Ham game during December, so should look to the academy for his replacement.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash at Newcastle, the Chilean noted how it is impossible for the 33-year-old to play all seven games over the festive period.
“For his age, it is impossible for him to play seven games in December,” Pellegrini said. “So we need to see what we are going to do in that position.
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“Maybe with different players, but we need someone to replace Pablo because I repeat, he cannot play seven games in December.”
One option for the 65-year-old head coach would be Michail Antonio, who has played at right-back before, despite his natural attacking style. Another would be to slide centre-back Angelo Ogbonna to the full-back slot, but the player that Pellegrini should call on is yet to play a senior minute.
Ben Johnson signed his first professional contract at the Irons in January, but has only featured for the Hammers’ youth ranks since making his debut during the 2016/17 season with his first-team debut still yet to occur.
In the academy’s current Premier League 2 campaign, the teenage right-back has amassed ten appearances and featured in three EFL Trophy matches, and should be the next player to earn a senior promotion after Grady Diangana stepped up in the wake of Andriy Yarmolenko’s Achilles tear.
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