Despite it being widely reported that a new centre-back was one of David Moyes’ primary targets in the January transfer window, West Ham United ultimately failed to bring in a fresh face in the position – something which has left the 58-year-old considerably short of depth in the heart of his defence.
Indeed, the season-ending ACL injury sustained by Angelo Ogbonna means the Scot has just Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson and Issa Diop as options at centre-back, with the latter two of this duo having struggled to prove that they are capable of starting for a side pushing for a top-four finish in the Premier League this season.
This is something that led to Moyes reportedly taking an interest in Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car last month, however, after the Ligue 1 side failed to budge on their stance of a £15m upfront payment, and West Ham demanding on a loan to buy deal, the move subsequently fell through.
As such, with no incoming defender ultimately arriving at the London Stadium this winter, perhaps it would be wise for the manager to take a closer look at one of the club’s up and coming prospects to provide him with greater depth in the heart of defence in the second half of the season – in the form of Aji Alese.
Having worked his way through the West Ham academy, the 21-year-old centre-back very much appears to be on the cusp of breaking into the Hammers’ first-team squad.
Indeed, he has already made two appearances for the senior side – highly impressing in a 5-1 Carabao cup victory over Hull City back in 2020, as well as making his European debut in the 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb earlier this season.
Standing at 6 foot 4 tall, the £360k-rated defender cuts an imposing figure on the pitch, while his ability with the ball at his feet, in addition to the fact he is left-footed, is something that has earned the youngster a considerable amount of praise.
Speaking about the centre-back following his aforementioned performance against Hull, the We Are West Ham podcaster, Tom Edwards, said of the 21-year-old: “Alese [is] a left-footed centre-half, which is gold dust.
“Obviously, we’ve got Ogbonna, which [makes us] probably the only club in the league who has a half-decent left-footed centre-half other than [Manchester] City with [Nathan] Ake, there’s not many of them about.
“[Alese] looked like a seriously good player, as well – comfortable on the ball, good in the air, and it was just a joy to see two young players, who, not like [Declan] Rice or [Reece] Oxford, you heard lots about.
“Obviously, we’ve heard bits and bobs about Alese and Ashby, but they sort of [came] out the woodwork this pre-season and looked like really good players – and that’s what we want.”
As such, while it was obviously a disappointment to miss out on the signing of Caleta-Car this January, Moyes could well unearth a perfect alternative to the Croatia international in Alese – all that is required is for the 58-year-old to take a chance on the West Ham prodigy.