Zabaleta captained the side as he replaced Ryan Fredericks in the Hammers’ defence, and has come out and apologised on behalf of him and his teammates after the defeat to the League One side.
Speaking to Football Insider after the defeat to Oxford, Whelan warned that players like Zabaleta should be worried over their futures at the club.
“Some of those West Ham players should be worried about their futures,” he said.
“You look at someone like Zabaleta, who was a great Premier League right-back, it looks like his legs have gone and he won’t be at West Ham next season.”
“At his age (34), he’s not going to get any quicker and he’s playing in a position where his direct opponents are always quick and skilful.”
As Zabaleta’s West Ham career closes in on the end, his first-team opportunities will start shrinking. The improving form of Fredericks all but means that the 34-year-old is set for a place on the sidelines for the majority of this season unless there are injuries or suspensions. Zabaleta was poor when captaining the side in the defeat to Oxford on Wednesday, and he looked helpless as the younger, more athletic players from the League One side helped humiliate the Hammers. Zabaleta made 23 starts in the Premier League last season but has only managed 31 minutes in this campaign, another sign that he is labouring towards the end of his career in England. Rotation is bound to happen in the cups throughout the season, and Fredericks will surely come back in against Bournemouth in the league, and possibly force the Argentinian to wait until the FA Cup for another start in competitive action in East London. Whelan was right to pick out Zabaleta, who would be the first to admit he struggled against Oxford, as the experienced defender comes to the end of his Premier League career.