Have West Ham found the solution to their defensive problems?

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Cheikhou KouyateWest Ham are trying hard to defend our early lead in the Premier League. There have been some trying moments, but out of them we’ve somehow managed only one loss in our last eight games. It’s a testament to the character of the players that we’re still fighting to stay at the top of the table, but West Ham have a bit of a situation regarding their current centre-backs and their respective injuries— and also with regards to Winston Reid, who will almost certainly leave at the end of the season—all of which are leaving us looking rather exposed at the back.

Winston Reid, and Jameses Tomkins and Collins have worked hard this season to put in strong displays of football, but we are woefully short of options when one or more of them is injured. It was injuries to centre-backs that lead to us heading into our game with Manchester United with a severely depleted defensive roster. James Tomkins was our only fit centre-back and as a result, we drafted recently returned Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate into our starting eleven as our second centre-back.

It sounded a bit worrying initially, but it was one of the best team decisions Sam ever made. Kouyate put in a wonderful show in defence, and now I’m wondering – could Cheikhou Kouyate actually be the surprise answer to our centre-back woes?

I don’t mean it in one of those “no, we could totally put Joey O’Brien up front if need be” kinda ways. I’m quite serious. What if Kouyate was a regular starting defensive option?

There’s certainly an argument for it. He was outstanding against Manchester United. He won every tackle he entered in to, and was’s overall Premier League Player of the Week whilst playing out of his ‘usual’ position – which is no mean feat, really. He even found time to get forward and score a tremendously impressive goal. It was a complete performance from Kouyate, and he absolutely deserved his Man of the Match accolade.

Admittedly, it wasn’t his first rodeo. Kouyate has had plenty of experience in a defensive role. He has played previously in defence for both former club Anderlecht, and also for his country, Senegal. In fact, he was considered a defender by all rights before his move to the midfield of West Ham United – and it looks like he retained all of his previous defensive skills.

Having Kouyate at the back also allowed for us to get more talent on the pitch, whilst navigating the tricky issue of our slightly overcrowded midfield. This structure opened up our team wonderfully, and while West Ham were tremendously unlucky to be broken down by United in the 93rd minute, getting a point off of a team that regularly gets three off of us is still a massive achievement.

It’ll be interesting to see where Kouyate features tonight – he’s certainly earned himself a starting position, without question – but with ongoing injury issues and James Tomkins now nursing a broken nose courtesy of Marouane Fellaini, we may just get to see Kouyate shine in defence yet again.

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  • Stuart Willard says:

    but I think you will find he signed on the basis of being considered a midfielder. Filling in is one thing but being moved there long term very much another.

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