It would be something of an understatement to say that the heart of the West Ham United defence has been a problem area for David Moyes so far this season – with Angelo Ogbonna being ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with an ACL injury, Issa Diop’s form having fallen off a cliff and Kurt Zouma clearly being impacted by a very much self-inflicted off-field issue.
And, while the Hammers have somehow scraped five points from their last three fixtures against Watford, Leicester City and Newcastle United respectively, it is an unavoidable fact that over the Irons’ last eight league games – only one of which has come against a so-called big-six side – they have conceded 13 goals.
As such, it is clear to see why a new centre-back was one of the 58-year-old manager’s priority positions in the January transfer window. However, after failing to bring a fresh face to the club this winter, perhaps it would now be a smart move for the Scotsman to take a closer look at one of the Hammers’ most exciting up and coming defensive talents – in the shape of Jamal Baptiste.
Despite being just 18 years of age, there is already a considerable amount of hype surrounding the future of the young defender – and it is not difficult to see why.
Indeed, the teenager is already a regular in West Ham’s U23 side, having featured in 16 Premier League 2 fixtures so far this season, scoring three goals along the way, as well as appearing in all three of the youth side’s Papa John’s Trophy matches, over which Baptiste provided his teammates with one assist.
Furthermore, the £180k-rated centre-back is clearly a player whom Moyes is aware of, with the 58-year-old having handed the youngster his first-team debut in the 4-0 FA Cup win over Doncaster Rovers last season, as well as starting the defender in the 1-0 Europa League loss against Dinamo Zagreb back in December.
However, it would still appear there is a great deal more to come from Baptiste, with the former West Ham academy manager previously stating of the 18-year-old: “One of the finest young prospects at the club, without any doubt, is Jamal Baptiste who, believe me, is going to be a monster player in the Issa Diop mould. I see him as exactly that – the new Issa Diop.
“He’s got everything – height, power, pace and is already, at such a young age, making a serious impact on the U23s. They’re going to be a lot of clubs after him but when he sees players coming through into the first team that counts for a lot.”
As such, with the £67k-per-week Diop’s place in the West Ham first team looking increasingly uncertain, with the former France U21 international having been heavily linked with a move away from East London in January, it would appear highly advisable for Moyes to finally unleash “the new Issa Diop” more regularly over the remainder of the season – as it is clear that Baptiste is a player who has an exceptionally bright future in the game.