Opinion: How double departure has left West Ham’s squad stretched in vital area

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Despite offering Jeremy Ngakia what was described as a “significant” offer, the Hammers were helpless in watching the 19-year-old prospect walk away from the London Stadium.

Pablo Zabaleta also left the club when his current deal expired, though at 35-years-old the Argentine right-back was at a very different stage in his career and had been a loyal servant for the Hammers. But for David Moyes, this double departure has brought about a problem he could do without given the precarious position of the Irons, as the only natural right-back remaining in the Scot’s squad is Ryan Fredericks.

When fit Fredericks has been first choice this season, making 22 Premier League starts for the Hammers, but in the last two campaigns he has been absent for 18 matches, and without a deputy, West Ham have been left in a vulnerable position.

There have also been suggestions that the 27-year-old is a nervy persona on the pitch and fails to link well with Andriy Yarmolenko when the pair line up on the right channel together. With that in mind, it seems a must for Moyes to prioritise a new right-sided defender in the summer transfer window, while hoping Fredericks stays injury-free for the final five matches of the campaign.

Should the worst happen and the Englishman’s reoccurring ankle issues, which have caused him to miss 157 days of action, or another injury keep Fredericks out the side, Moyes may be forced to implement Michail Antonio as a makeshift right back. The 30-year-old has deputised in defence previously but is considerably more comfortable further up the field, and that is precisely where he has had a significant impact for the Hammers of late, scoring twice, while providing one assist in his last two matches, as per WhoScored.

Losing Fredericks would be a seismic cause for concern as the Irons would be left weakened at either end of the pitch. Antonio would be somewhat uncomfortable defending, while also losing the support he can offer Sebastien Haller up front, who is set to return from injury imminently. The top-scoring Frenchman has provided seven goals this season but has not been able to play since the restart. Getting the 27-year-old back amongst the goals could be the key to seeing this Hammers side increase their four-point cushion to the drop and secure Premier League survival.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, West Ham’s squad has been left painfully thin on the right side of the defence. If Fredericks can keep himself off the treatment table for the crucial end of season run-in, then there should be little to worry about. However, an injury to the Englishman would spell trouble for Moyes and leave this Hammers side with some vulnerabilities for opposition to exploit at precisely the wrong time of the season.

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