West Ham United will be looking to upset defending Premier League champions Manchester City for the second time in little over a month when they return to action on Sunday afternoon.
Irons boss David Moyes will also be hoping to see his side bounce back from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, though he’ll be buoyed by the fact that they won their group in the Europa League with yet another midweek victory on Thursday night.
Despite not kicking a ball until today, the Hammers remain in fourth place and now face the team directly above them in the standings, having knocked them out of the Carabao Cup on penalties in October.
The Scot largely rotated his squad in Austria, so much of his usual starting XI should be fit to feature, in which young academy graduate Ben Johnson has to be among those in line to start again.
He has excelled at right-back, so much so that the 21-year-old has often kept his place over trusty servant Vladimir Coufal. Indeed, the 5 foot 9 dynamo deputised over the Czech Republic international when he picked up an injury earlier in the campaign and Moyes hasn’t looked back since, nor should he.
Johnson has been crucial to West Ham’s success so far this season, leading to a very glowing endorsement from Moyes. “He’s a bit of utility player for us, he’s been here for a while,” he claimed (via football.london).
“He’s a really important player for us. In the squad and the group he’s really important. Quite often we’ve brought him on and used him in different roles and he’s had a chance to have some games under his belt, he’s not let us down and scored a good goal in midweek.”
The 58-year-old isn’t the only one left impressed by the youngster. ExWHUemployee dubbed him “sensational“, whilst Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was left “really impressed” by the Hammers starlet, also claiming that he “looks an excellent defender.”
Johnson has made ten appearances this season, in which he has helped the side to six clean sheets, including some big-game affairs such as against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Genk – as well as in that aforementioned win over the Citizens last month.
It means he has silenced some huge stars, ranging from Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho to even Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne, both of whom could feature today.
The 21-year-old has also been graded as Moyes’ fourth-best performer on the season so far, per WhoScored, whilst he leads the squad for tackles (2.7) and interceptions (1.8) per game, proving to be an absolutely crucial rock at the back, as if the feats above didn’t already suggest that.
Johnson could genuinely leave Pep Guardiola a little wary heading into kick-off, should he be named in the Irons’ starting XI, just like he did four weeks ago.
Moyes must unleash his impressive young prodigy today.
AND in other news, “A definite target”: Ex drops big West Ham transfer update, fans will be buzzing…