West Ham United are currently faced with something of a defensive injury crisis, with manager David Moyes having seen his squad depleted of late amid what is a truly hectic run of fixtures leading up to next month’s World Cup.
That frantic schedule has ensured that while injury woes are likely, it is also the worst time for them to come about, with the Hammers unable to afford such notable absences as they attempt to juggle both domestic and European commitments.
The London Stadium outfit are currently sweating on the fitness of both Craig Dawson and Kurt Zouma ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Liverpool – with the pair having sat out the weekend draw with Southampton due to injury and illness, respectively – while Angelo Ogbonna was only on the bench against the Saints after limping off in midweek against Anderlecht.
The club have already been frustrated by the continued absence of summer signing Nayef Aguerd, with the £30m arrival from Stade Rennais still yet to feature after sustaining an ankle issue during pre-season.
That raft of complaints relating to the defensive ranks had forced Moyes to deploy something of a makeshift backline at St Mary’s on Sunday, with usual full-backs Aaron Cresswell and Ben Johnson forming part of a back three alongside Thilo Kehrer.
In need of increased depth, the former Everton boss could well turn to the academy in order to find a suitable stand-in, with 19-year-old colossus Levi Laing one such figure who could well be deserving of a chance.
The promising teenager – who signed his first professional contract back in July 2021 – has showcased his defensive strength for the Irons’ U21 side so far this term, notably impressing in the EFL Trophy.
The 1-0 win over Walsall in that competition back in August was a fine example of the Englishman’s talent, as the youngster racked up a remarkable haul of eight clearances, two blocks, two interceptions and one tackle on the day, while also winning 100% of his ground duels.
Such a performance illustrated just why the versatile centre-back – who can also feature at full-back – was dubbed an ‘uncompromising defender possessing good athleticism and technical ability’, as per the West Ham official website, having also admitted himself to being a “defender first and foremost”.
Those traits will likely ensure that Laing is well suited to life in the first team, with now potentially the ideal opportunity for Moyes to hand him a chance to prove his worth.