With Ryan Fredericks out injured, West Ham could have been in a heap of trouble. David Moyes had no regular senior options to turn too with both Jeremy Ngakia and Pablo Zabaleta departing when their contracts expired. Up stepped Ben Johnson to make his first appearance in the Premier League this season for the crucial match against Watford.
He filled the void perfectly against the Hornets and once again played a vital role against Manchester United, keeping Marcus Rashford quiet as the Hammers secured Premier League survival. After the match, Johnson spoke of his delight and ambitions for next season.
What did he say?
Speaking to WHUFC.com, Johnson said: “We’re just delighted to mathematically be safe. Looking at the first couple of fixtures [after the restart], it was looking really tough. Having so long a break there was uncertainty in the squad, but I think we’ve dug deep.”
“We can go to another level as well – and just getting results is what we what, and we can do. We’ve had a difficult season, and not the season we expected, but in the last couple of games we’ve shown what we can do and that we can go up a notch,” added the 20-year-old defender.
Johnson laid down a gauntlet for the Hammers to continue their fine form by saying: “Attacking-wise we’re dangerous, and defensively we’re strong, so hopefully we’ll just bring that into next season.”
When it has mattered after the Premier League’s resumption, West Ham have found another gear, collecting 11 points from eight top-flight matches. Had the Hammers performed the way they have since the division restarted, they would have collected over 50 points by this stage, which would put Moyes’ side in 11th.
Instead, there have been long periods of disappointment throughout much of this campaign which included one victory in ten league matches between December and February. West Ham made a fantastic start to the season and were amongst the European places after seven games, but they experienced a catastrophic drop off in form during the middle of the season, which saw the Irons lose 17 out of 25 in the league.
Moyes appears to have finally established a side which appears both defensively sound and threatening in attacking areas, as Johnson mentioned, having scored 13 and conceded seven in the last six matches. The defender will be hoping he can continue his role in the side next term even when Fredericks returns from injury.