We need to talk about Angelo
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 22 May 2019 at 9:13pm
Written by: Nick Moore
Recent season reviews on fans’ websites have mirrored the scores given to players in after game polls. Some players do well, although it’s not always clear why or what it is based on.
Angelo Ogbonna is a case in point. He seems to be regarded well by West Ham fan judges, scoring similarly to first choice pair Balbuena and Diop. In one post season survey, he scored the same as Balbuena and Noble.
The statistics tell a different story. Angelo has started 20 games for West Ham this year. In only two of those have we kept a clean sheet. In the games he started we got 22 points (with six of these games being against the top six.)
In the remaining 18 games without Angel0, we picked up 30 points. We kept five clean sheets, and again, six of these games were against the top six.
Angelo isn’t a terrible player – he played well against Arsenal, for example – but he is not great either. He always looks uncertain when faced with pace. In games where it’s a battle, he rarely imposes himself.
We’d have got 42 points with him in the team if he played the whole season. We would have avoided relegation. But he’s not next level – whatever that is. We’d have finished 14th which is the ‘same old same old’ West Ham. He is a bottom half of the league player.
Defence remains an issue for the team. On goals conceded, the defence ranks lower than the offence does on goals scored. Only Fulham and Huddersfield have less clean sheets. And AFC Wimbledon, then bottom of Division One and averaging less than a goal a game in their league season, put four goals past us and knocked us out of the FA Cup. Angelo was, of course, playing in this game.
Improving defensively is probably the easiest and the cheapest area of the team to work on. Balbuena and Diop are the first choice pairing. Both have just completed their first season in the Premier League. The second season is always a test for new players, as it for promoted sides. All sides will have scouts and analysts looking for weaknesses in players to exploit. If they find one then all the sides learn from that and will exploit it (an example being the way sides worked out how to negate Jorginho at Chelsea.)
Diop had a dip in form when Balbuena was injured. Diop is a stunning prospect but Balbuena has been the outfield defender of the year. We have always looked more in control when Balbuena plays – but we need cover of a player who is seriously competing for a first team place. As it’s West Ham so there are always injuries.
Winston Reid’s future at Premier League level has to be in doubt after missing more than a season. He looked like he was carrying an injury before that. Ogbonna has been the only back up unless we were prepared to move Declan Rice. Moving Declan would be mad at this point given how well he has been playing.
The problem at centre back now is that neither Angelo nor Winston is definitely good enough to be competing for a first team place. Both are on long contracts. Both will be 31 by the start of next season.
Centre back is an important part of the spine of the team. No team can function without quality cover in this position. For real progress the club will need to find a way through this issue.