Despite the fact that David Moyes identified a new central defender as one of his primary targets for West Ham United in the January transfer window, the 58-year-old Hammers boss ultimately failed to land a new player in the position prior to Monday’s transfer deadline.
Indeed, with Angelo Ogbonna being ruled out for the season with an ACL injury, West Ham were heavily linked with a number of central defensive targets last month, the most prominent of which was Olympique de Marseille’s Duje Caleta-Car.
However, with the Irons looking to take the 25-year-old on a loan to buy deal, and the Ligue 1 outfit being unwilling to budge on a £19m (£16m) upfront transfer fee, the Irons’ move for the Croatia international fell through on the final day of the winter market.
As such, Moyes will have to play out the rest of the season with just Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson and Issa Diop as options in the heart of his defence – something that, considering Zouma’s previous trouble with a hamstring tendon injury, as well as Dawson and Diop’s poor form while covering for the stricken first-choice pairing, could come as a major blow to West Ham’s top-four hopes this term.
Although, looking at the silver-linings from the Hammers’ failed attempts to sign a new centre-back this month, the rest of the season will now provide one player with the perfect opportunity to finally live up to the expectations about his potential following his then-club-record £22m transfer to West Ham – in the shape of Diop.
Indeed, following his move from Toulouse back in 2018, the now-25-year-old quickly established himself as a first-team regular at the London Stadium, playing 33 Premier League fixtures in his debut campaign in East London, over which the £10.8m-rated defender helped his side keep seven clean sheets, as well as making an average of 1.9 interceptions, 2.1 tackles, 4.7 clearances and winning 65% of his duels per game.
These returns saw the £61k-per-week former France U21 international earn a highly impressive seasonal SofaScore match rating of 6.99, ranking him as the Irons’ best-performing defender that season – with his displays earning him a considerable amount of praise.
Following West Ham’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United in October of 2018, Jose Mourinho singled the centre-back out in his post-match comments, with the legendary coach stating: “Congratulations to the scout who found Diop, a monster who dictated everything.”
However, since that campaign, the 6 foot 4 defender’s career in East London has stalled, with the 25-year-old earning seasonal SofaScore match ratings of 6.70 over 32 Premier League appearances in 2019/20, 6.92 over 18 top-flight outings in 2020/21 and averaging an extremely disappointing match rating of just 6.59 over his eight league fixtures so far this season – something which has seen the former Toulouse prodigy slip down the Hammers’ defensive pecking order.
As such, should the Frenchman wish to get his Premier League career back on track, Diop simply must grasp the opportunity handed to him by West Ham’s lack of action this January in the second half of the season – or else his days at the club, and perhaps even in the Premier League, could well be numbered.