Angelo Ogbonna was David Moyes’ true hero at Southampton as West Ham United were forced to settle for a point at St. Mary’s on Tuesday night.
Moyes altered his backline from Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion with Craig Dawson handed his long-awaited Irons debut in place of Fabian Balbuena, while returning Aaron Cresswell to left-back despite Ben Johnson’s excellence against the Seagulls.
The tactical shift ultimately returned the Hammers’ first Premier League clean sheet in seven games, having failed to keep the opposition at bay since beating Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane last month.
Dawson, despite a shaky start and a calamitous miskick resulting in the Watford loanee hitting Che Adams in the head, proved a wise addition to the starting line-up as the game progressed but paled into insignificance beside Ogbonna despite winning Clinton Morrison’s MOTM award on Amazon.
Second-half substitute Said Benrahma, who brought a needed spark to the Irons attack with half an hour to play through his direct runs after replacing Manuel Lanzini, also lingered in the shadows compared to Ogbonna who brought a composed and authoritative presence to silence the Saints’ prolific frontman Danny Ings.
Ings’ only clear break away from West Ham’s £70,000-per-week Italian proved irrelevant with the former Liverpool flop denied after Adams strayed offside in the build-up, leaving Moyes with plenty of confidence to know Ogbonna will step up to the challenge regardless of who he is partnered with.
Ogbonna has now started all 16 of West Ham’s Premier League fixtures thus far this term, while only missing the final 27 minutes of last month’s 1-0 win over London rivals Fulham after sustaining a groin injury.
Moyes was given further justification as to why he places such reliance in the 32-year-old against Southampton on Tuesday night, where Ogbonna registered the best pass accuracy rating (71%) of any Hammers defender with 17 accurate efforts from 24 attempts, per SofaScore.
He additionally found teammates with three of five long balls, was never dribbled past, lost possession only seven times and registered a game-high seven clearances while winning the ball with his sole attempted tackle.
Ogbonna also won two of his three ground duels, one of two aerial duels and took the same number of touches (34) as starting striker Sebastien Haller, as the Ivory Coast international struggled to threaten the Saints backline prior to his 77th-minute departure for the returning Michail Antonio.
West Ham may have gone a fourth Premier League game without a win by drawing at St. Mary’s, but Ogbonna’s display will offer Moyes plenty of positives ahead of facing high-flying Everton on New Year’s Day.