David Moyes has a major call to make as his West Ham side return to Premier League action this afternoon.
The Irons head to the Midlands to face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, where they will be looking to keep their place inside the top four, and they should still by in high spirits after their 3-2 win over Liverpool before the international break.
However, central defensive colossus and regular starter Angelo Ogbonna picked up a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury during the game, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.
Moyes must now decide who replaces him in the starting lineup to play alongside summer signing Kurt Zouma.
In reality, it’s a two-horse race between Craig Dawson and Issa Diop, and it’s the latter who could strike up the most formidable partnership with the Champions League winner in the absence of the Italian stallion.
Diop and Zouma are, of course, both French and they have already played together this term.
The pair were rock-solid in Croatia as the Hammers kickstarted their Europa League quest with an impressive 2-0 victory against Prva HNL champions Dinamo Zagreb, the very team who knocked Tottenham Hotspur out of the competition last season.
Both were graded amongst Moyes’ best performers that night, earning a 7.0 rating by SofaScore, and it is a partnership that must continue with Ogbonna on the sidelines.
Diop has looked in great nick whenever trusted this season – largely in Europe and the domestic cups. One example of this was seen against Manchester United, against whom he has an incredible record.
The 24-year-old titan nullified the threat on offer from Anthony Martial when the teams met in the Carabao Cup two months ago, recording a match-high seven clearances and making several crucial blocks. His performance was so good that Irons assistant manager Stuart Pearce dubbed him a “colossus“.
It comes just a few years after a similarly commanding display against Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils, when the former Old Trafford boss lauded the Frenchman as a “monster” to reporters after the game.
Valued at £13.5m by Transfermarkt, it is Diop who could cause Wolves a big fright on Saturday afternoon.
Whether Bruno Lage starts Hwang Hee-chan or Raul Jimenez – or even both – the Hammers’ one-time club-record signing is the man who can stop their threat at Molineux.