Darren Bent has backed Pablo Zabaleta to start every Premier League game for West Ham United after the defender missed their opener against Manchester City.
The Sky Sports pundit believed that Manuel Pellegrini made a mistake after the Argentine veteran started the game on the bench, with Ryan Fredericks starting at right-back instead.
Bent praised Zabaleta and his desire to defend first when speaking to Football Insider and was in awe of the leadership and experience that he can offer the Hammers.
“I do think he should be playing every game. I know he’s getting on and that but for leadership and experience, knowing how to defend properly, organisation – someone of that calibre, who’s won the biggest trophies, you need that,” he said.
The two-time Premier League winner joined West Ham in 2017 and has gone on to make 66 appearances for the East London side.
There is no doubting the fact that Zabaleta would give great experience to the Hammers’ side, and right now they definitely need that through their defensive woes. In pre-season and the opener, they struggled to contain opposition attacks and conceded way too frequently. Pellegrini will have been hoping that the cobwebs would have been rubbed away by the time they started the Premier League but when you come up against a rampant Manchester City side, some times damage limitation is the only option. If that was damage limitation on Saturday, then Hammers’ fans may have to get used to seeing a lot of goals being shipped this season, but they won’t be the first side to suffer the same fate from Pep Guardiola’s men. Zabaleta is known for his no-nonsense defensive actions, and the Argentine proved that last season when averaging 1.8 tackles and 3.3 clearances per game [WhoScored]. The Hammers may miss out on attacking threat if using the 34-year-old but against the top sides his defensive strength could be used to great effect.