Pablo Zabaleta has already made himself something of a fan favourite at West Ham and were it not for Marko Arnautovic’s drastic escalation in form since David Moyes replaced Slaven Bilic in November, the former Manchester City star would be the stand alone candidate for 2017/18’s Hammer of the Year award.
Amid a turbulent season relentlessly unhinged by accusations of inconsistent enthusiasm for the cause, however, it’s Zabaleta’s unwavering commitment that has won fans over as much as his actual performances. Likewise, at 33 years of age, it’s plausible to suggest this season might well be the best West Ham ever get out of the ageing Argentine.
Thus, it quickly becomes a question of who could replace Zabaleta at right-back next season, or at the very least share game-time with him to ease the burden on those veteran legs. And in terms of options from around the Premier League, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to look past Burnley’s Matthew Lowton.
One of Aston Villa’s few reliable performers under Paul Lambert, the 28-year-old – initially picked up from League One with Sheffield United – has always been something of an underrated player, but that rings even truer in a Burnley team that is often overlooked for the true talent it possesses – the focus usually being on their organisation, physicality and work-ethic.
But it takes quality to win football matches and that’s precisely what Lowton provided against Everton in Saturday’s early kickoff. While the 5 foot 11 right-back produced all the usual returns you’d expect of a defender in a Sean Dyche team – making four tackles, three interceptions, five clearances and winning three aerial duels – it was his technical ability that had a decisive impact on the match.
Burnley caused problems down Everton’s left-hand side all afternoon, and it must be acknowledged that relentless work from Aaron Lennon just in front created the space for Lowton – who Transfermarkt value at £4.5million – to truly thrive. Nonetheless though, five chances created and two accurate crosses from right-back speaks for itself, especially as it included the superbly-weighted pass into Ashley Barnes to supply the striker for the Clarets’ first goal after going one behind.
Well-disciplined and physical enough to hold down a place in Dyche’s team yet also showing what he can produce on the ball going forward, Lowton’s starting to resemble an incredibly complete and well-rounded full-back. So, West Ham fans, would you back a summer swoop for Lowton? Let us know by voting below…