West Ham fell to a third consecutive defeat in all competitions as they were dismantled by Wolves on Tuesday night, but it could get a lot worse on Monday with the visit of league leaders Liverpool – particularly if Manuel Pellegrini elects to start Arthur Masuaku again.
The Hammers shelled out just shy of £100m in the summer as Pellegrini took the reins, with the Chilean spending big to reinforce a lacklustre defence – Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have both been impressive, but the latter’s absence through injury has left one side of the back four weak.
Angelo Ogbonna cut a shaky figure once again on Tuesday but Masuaku’s lack of defensive ability cost his side – the Congolese is a fine dribbler and a threat on the front foot but is far more suited to the wing-back role than full-back.
He struggled against Matt Doherty but his real challenge is set to come next week, when the Irons host the Reds at the London Stadium – Pellegrini must drop him to avoid a certainly ill-fated match up with Mohamed Salah, even if it means deploying one of his players out of position.
With Masuaka a liability and Aaron Cresswell not yet confirmed fit for the clash after missing the Wolves game, Pellegrini is short of options at left-back and should consider giving summer signing Ryan Fredericks a run out there instead.
— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) January 29, 2019
Naturally a right-back, the former Fulham man has got bags of pace and, while he has been criticised for a lack of positional awareness previously, he offers far more of a challenge to Salah than Masuaku.
Additionally, Salah’s tendency to cut inside onto his lethal left-foot means the right-sided Fredericks may be able to deal with him more comfortably.
The 26-year-old has recently returned from a shin injury that kept him out for two months and, if he is given the nod next time out, will be making his first start since November – talk about a baptism of fire.