West Ham United are increasingly confident that Angelo Ogbonna will return from injury shortly after the international break.
That’s according to Claret & Hugh, who claim that the Italian is expected to be available to David Moyes for next month’s clash with top-four rivals Leicester City or the following trip to Newcastle United.
West Ham’s medical team and backroom staff have been pleased with the progress seen from Ogbonna in recent weeks, to believe he is now only one or two games from a return.
Moyes had confirmed that Ogbonna was closing in on a return to fitness ahead of last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Arsenal, but poured cold on an imminent appearance.
“We’ve got just about everybody the same [as against Manchester United],” Moyes said last Friday. “Pablo Fornals is improving, and, on the injury front, Angelo Ogbonna is closing in and getting much closer to fitness but he’s a wee bit away.”
West Ham’s increasing confidence in Ogbonna’s recovery will hand Moyes a huge boost coming out of the international break next week, with Pablo Fornals expected to be made available for the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday, April 5th.
Fornals missed the Gunners’ visit to the London Stadium with a groin injury but should be included in the travelling squad at Molineux, along with Arthur Masuaku (knee) and Andriy Yarmolenko (knee), per Claret & Hugh.
Having the quartet all available should soon see the numbers in the Irons’ treatment room reduce drastically, with Ryan Fredericks (groin) the sole additional name Moyes mentioned when speaking to the media last week.
West Ham expecting Ogbonna to be passed fit to face Leicester on April 11th or Newcastle six days later may be a boost for Moyes, but it comes as a problem for Issa Diop.
The Frenchman has stood in for Ogbonna beside Craig Dawson in each Premier League game that the Italian has missed so far, in a reprieve after Moyes had only awarded Diop 117 minutes of top-flight action between mid-September and February.
Diop made himself the Hammers’ hero against Sheffield United on his return to action by producing a resolute showing at home to the Bramall Lane natives, yet his performances have dropped off in more recent weeks.
The £67,000-per-week centre-half was often indecisive against Manchester United and left West Ham woefully exposed midway through the second half when caught on the ball, allowing the Red Devils to break four-on-two.
He was not without fault in the draw with Arsenal last time out, either, as the Irons seemed to try to stand off after the break which invited the Gunners to attack.
“West Ham came and pressed them, they tried to win the ball high up and Arsenal just didn’t get it right,” Paul Merson wrote in his column for Sky Sports.
“For the players, as soon as the shackles are off and they have nothing to lose, they can play. But at the same time, I think West Ham helped with that because they sat back so deep, that they invited Arsenal onto them. And if you give them that much time and defend on the edge of your box, they will open you up by the end of the game.”
Diop’s positioning was a fault labelled at him toward the end of last season by football.london, as well, who claimed he had regressed to look shaky in possession, unsure where to stand and was ‘lucky’ to have Ogbonna beside him.
Another performance from Diop like those he produced against Arsenal and Man United could be all the evidence Moyes needs to bring Ogbonna back against Leicester, making next month’s trip to Wolves potentially Diop’s final chance to impress.