Welcome Back: Ryan Fredericks’ return offers a glimpse of the future
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 12 February 2019 at 11:02pm
The game against Liverpool last Monday provided West Ham with a number of positives. The team were able to go toe to toe with an strong Liverpool team. Despite the visitors being out of form, West Ham have been very guilty of not taking advantage of their opponents’ form in the past. Ryan Fredericks was also a welcome return to the side and played with the confidence of a man who had been starting week in week out all season.
Having started the first game of the season in the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in August, it is fitting that Fredericks’ return to action came with aplomb against the side which had given him a baptism of fire. He was solid defensively and provided excellent running down the right hand side. This is a failing of Zabaleta that his engine is not as strong as it once was and he struggles to motor up and down the touchline. Fredericks on the other hand is a natural athlete and seems to be built in the similar mould of Kyle Walker. Walker has utilised his athleticism to cover up some of his technical failings and Fredericks also has this luxury.
Fredericks was in and out of the side at the start of the season. Pellegrini tended to opt with his trusted lieutenant Zabaleta, especially after losing the first four games of the season in which Fredericks started three of them. The 3-1 win away to Everton and 0-0 at home to Chelsea saw Zabaleta cement his place in the side at the expense of Fredericks. It started to seem as if the jump from second to first division would be too much for the Englishman. Pellegrini appeared to trust Zabaleta over Fredericks, who may have been too attacking and less diligent in his defensive duties.
Between the 1st of September and the 10th of November, Fredericks didn’t feature in a league game for the Hammers. He came on as a substitute against Huddersfield on the 10th of November but had to come off with the injury that kept him side-lined until Monday night. It has resulted in the stop-start career Fredericks has experienced so far.
Yet, against Liverpool he looked assured and comfortable. He dealt with the pressure from Sadio Mané well and worked alongside the back four in the offside trap. Evidently the linesmen didn’t seem to think so but in any other game this would be lauded as a well-marshalled defensive unit. His engine allows him to continue to run in the depths of the game and will please Pellegrini. Utilising full-backs in attack is a cornerstone of modern football and Fredericks can be a useful outlet.
There were some moments which didn’t fill fans with confidence. Some scuffed clearances and a tendency to react out in challenges could have come back to bite his team. His tendency to want to attack may have been punished by a more in-form team, but the midfield trio of Noble, Rice and Snodgrass offered plenty of defensive protection for Fredericks’ runs. So as it turned out, West Ham were able to push Liverpool all the way and in reality should have taken all three points.
As Pablo Zabaleta rapidly approaches his 34th birthday, the re-emergence of Fredericks as a viable replacement will be a relief. There was fear that he may go the way of Sam Byram, unable to make the cut from Championship to Premier League and not afforded the regular opportunities to showcase his skills. Hopefully Michail Antonio will no longer have to deputise as a makeshift right back and Fredericks can develop into a competent top flight player. It is yet to be seen if Pellegrini will trust his returning player ahead of Zabaleta but there is now the alternative option that provides pace, stamina, attacking intent and defensive potential to eventually replace the Argentine.