Ben Johnson must be banging on David Moyes’ door demanding that he stays in the West Ham United defence after Arthur Masuaku suffered a setback in his return from injury.
That’s according to the reliable Claret & Hugh, who claim that Moyes is unlikely to be able to call on Masuaku until the middle of April at the earliest.
The DR Congo full-back has been sidelined since December after undergoing career-saving knee surgery, having finally gone under the knife to resolve an issue that had caused the left-back pain for the best part of the previous two years.
Masuaku was Moyes’ favoured option at full-back before the operation, having opened 10 of the Hammers’ initial 11 Premier League fixtures and playing the full 90 minutes in eight of his appearances, plus September’s Carabao Cup second-round win over Charlton Athletic.
The 27-year-old had begun to make cautious progress toward a return to full training back in January before Moyes stated hope of him being available for selection in March, which no longer is expected to be possible.
“We’ve only got Arthur Masuaku [out], who has started jogging for the first time on Thursday following his knee surgery, so it gives us a thought that Arthur is only possibly a month away from coming back,” the Irons boss said ahead of February’s trip to Fulham, but it looks like he’s now had another setback that will rule him out of the game on March 8th and beyond.
Ben Johnson has been used sparingly as a stand-in option to afford Cresswell the chance to feature in the centre of the Hammers backline, starting three of seven Premier League appearances including last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.
The academy graduate is yet to open successive top-flight fixtures this season with Moyes instead opting to return the 21-year-old to the bench, but should now urge his head coach to be given a continued role amid Masuaku’s setback.
It will be all too easy for Moyes to axe Johnson after the £2m-rated youngster’s display at the Etihad Stadium last Saturday, but the defender can point to a lack of support for his issues having been left woefully isolated against the runaway Premier League leaders.
Jesse Lingard consistently drifted inside and left acres of space on the Sky Blues’ right-wing for the likes of Riyad Mahrez to exploit, in a situation Moyes failed to correct before hauling Johnson off in the final five minutes.
Johnson will also have learnt that he needs to get touch-tight to players more often having gifted Kevin de Bruyne a margin of space to pick out Ruben Dias’ for City’s opener, while Mahrez was later able to cut the ball back to John Stones inside the Irons’ box.
Continuing to be just a bit-part player will not allow Johnson to atone for those errors and find a grove to operate in, starting with next Monday’s visit of Leeds United to the London Stadium.
So, if Masuaku is now at least a month away from a return, it should be the time that Moyes allows Johnson to establish himself as a first-team regular.
AND in other news, West Ham are monitoring an “outstanding” £18.5m titan praised by Jurgen Klopp…