West Ham defender Fabian Balbuena is suffering from a “summer hangover” and must put in a good performance over the international break to impress manager Manuel Pellegrini, according to Football.London journalist Sam Inkersole.
The Paraguayan has started just one game for the Hammers so far this season, but did captain his country in their 2-0 defeat to Japan on Thursday.
And Inkersole believes that the South American needs to step up in his break away from east London.
Writing in a piece for Football.London, he said: “Balbuena is suffering from a bit of a summer hangover.
“The manager has preferred [Angelo] Ogbonna to Balbuena as he identified a problem during Balbuena and [Issa] Diop’s partnership last season. It was one that got better and better before the Paraguayan picked up a knee injury during defeat to Watford.
“Both Balbuena and Diop are right footed whereas Ogbonna is left footed, so Pellegrini has decided to go with the left/right combination instead of a right/right combo he had last season.
“The centre back needs to re-discover some form over the break and prove to Pellegrini he deserves to re-establish his partnership with Diop from last year.”
You have to feel for Balbuena a little. The Paraguayan barely put a foot wrong prior to his injury last season, but after his spell on the sidelines he really struggled to reestablish himself as a part of Pellegrini’s plans. The 28-year-old managed 1.7 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, and a hug 7.5 clearances per match in the Premier League last term, as per Whoscored, but struggled in his single outing this season, registering just four clearances and nothing else. That has been enough for Pellegrini to go with Ogbonna over Balbuena, and increasingly, it looks as if he will struggle to displace the Italian. That is a real shame because he and Diop looked as if they were forming something special at the heart of defence. Maybe if Ogbonna falters in his own form at some point this season, Balbuena might get a second chance, but as it stands, he faces an uphill battle.