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Diop struggles v Newport demonstrate centre back problem

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One of the big takeaways from West Ham United’s pre season was that the centre of their defence didn’t look particularly strong.

That’s something that continued into the new campaign, where they were thumped 5-0 by champions Manchester City in their first Premier League game.

One of the big culprits in that contest was Fabian Balbuena, who was axed for Angelo Ogbonna in the immediate aftermath. The consistent presence at centre back, though, has been Frenchman Issa Diop.

However, the worrying thing for Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini is that even the 22-year-old looked dodgy for much of Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Newport County in the Carabao Cup.

Suddenly the Chilean is surely starting down the barrel of a big issue at the London Stadium, because it’s difficult to say that there is a centre half that he can truly rely upon at this moment in time.

That was borne out at Rodney Parade, where Diop looked shaky, particularly during the first half. The youngster appeared sluggish, hurried in his defensive work, and almost even scored a comical own goal.

The statistics don’t instantly reveal the extent of his struggles, although they demonstrate how busy he was against such lowly opposition. As per, the former Toulouse man made two tackles, three interceptions and five clearances. However, he committed three fouls, more than any other Hammer.

Watching the game, though, demonstrated just how big of a problem this is developing into for Pellegrini. His solid centre back partnership from last season of Balbuena and Diop no longer looks as reliable as it once did. Tuesday’s game, and particularly Diop’s struggles, will certainly have given the Irons boss food for thought.

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