David Moyes is in line for a potential injury boost at West Ham United following the March international break, with Arthur Masuku touted for minutes with the Under 23s.
That’s according to Claret & Hugh, who claim that the DR Congo defender may be given a run-out at Rush Green against Leicester City’s junior side on Friday night.
It was expected that Masuaku would not be able to make his return to action until the middle of April at the earliest, having suffered an apparent setback in his recovery.
But Moyes confirmed last week that the 27-year-old had been back in training over the previous few days and carried out sessions with the U23s, though remained lacking match fitness.
“Arthur’s trained two or three days this week with the U23s and trained with me for a couple of days now, so Arthur’s getting much closer to match fitness and all-round fitness generally,” Moyes said ahead of West Ham’s trip to Manchester United.
The Irons may now look to test Masuaku’s knee with a run out in the academy ranks against Leicester on Friday, with a view to his potential inclusion in the senior fold once the Hammers regroup after the international break.
Masuaku was Moyes’ number one choice at left-back before his operation, having opened 10 of West Ham’s initial 11 Premier League games and only departed the action before the final five minutes on one occasion.
Aaron Cresswell has often been Moyes’ go-to in the role since losing Masuaku, but has begun to be utilised in a centre-back capacity once more with academy product Ben Johnson earning frequent minutes at wing-back instead.
Masuaku proving his fitness against Leicester’s U23s will no doubt be a big boost for Moyes as he looks to secure West Ham a place in next season’s Champions League, having lost ground to Chelsea in the top-four race after last week’s defeat at Manchester United.
The Irons now trail the Stamford Bridge natives by three points and will not overtake Thomas Tuchel’s side by winning their game in hand, with West Ham claiming an inferior goal difference by nine.
Masuaku had been an influential part of the Hammers’ early-season form with no player yet to eclipse his average 2.2 successful dribbles per game from left-back, with Cresswell only bringing play out from the back 0.1 times from 0.2 attempts and Johnson from half of his one dribbles a game, per WhoScored.
The absent 27-year-old’s defensive impact had been superior to what Cresswell has since brought to the side, as well, with Masuaku registering 1.7 successful tackles to his teammates’ 1.1 while blocking 0.4 more crosses and 0.6 more passes a game.
Masuaku’s form sparked praise from former Irons striker Frank McAvennie back in October, who believed the £7m-rated full-back had responded well to Moyes’ tough treatment.
“You need managers to say that if you do this, you play and if you don’t do it, you’re not playing. I know you have to wrap players in cotton wool these days but sometimes you need to give them a kick up the backside,” he told Football Insider.
“That was possibly the wee kick up the backside he needed because he has been a different player of late. It is all a lot better now.”
It obviously remains to be seen what sort of impact Masuaku’s lengthy absence will have had on his productivity, but Moyes will surely be glad to have another body available after the international break.