David Moyes must place his trust in West Ham United academy product Ben Johnson living up to the challenge of facing Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s London derby.
The Irons graduate made his return to the starting line-up for Monday’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United, as Moyes reverted to a five-man defence following Angelo Ogbonna’s high ankle sprain.
Johnson had only played two minutes of Premier League soccer since earning his sole prior start this season, with the 21-year-old left an unused substitute of seven fixtures despite scoring his side’s first in a 2-2 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in December.
Moyes could have continued Johnson’s run of appearances on the bench against the Blades but opted to move Aaron Cresswell into a centre-back role to partner Issa Diop and Craig Dawson, and was not let down by the £2m-rated youngster.
Johnson brought heaps of energy to the position with an endless will to push forward and support West Ham’s attacks, and rarely put a foot wrong when helping Cresswell at the back.
Only Declan Rice (252) and Jesse Lingard (247) actually covered more ground with the ball at their feet than Johnson (243), with the London-born full-back happy to make up the yards and with the third-best progressive distance (156) recorded by a West Ham player as he pushed the Blades back into their own territory, per FBref.
That intent went further, with Johnson also carrying possession into the final third twice – only Vladimir Coufal (3) registered more – and delivering a team-high three crosses, while no other West Ham player provided more than one in open play scenarios.
Crossing is usually an area where Cresswell excels the most, with the 31-year-old offering a team-high average of 1.7 accurate balls into the box from 5.8 deliveries during Premier League games, per WhoScored.
He also provides one successful tackle, one interception and 1.9 clearances a game in the top-flight this term, while Johnson recorded two successful tackles, two clearances and an interception against Chris Wilder’s relegation-threatened side to ensure West Ham were not lacking with him on the pitch.
Moyes must now unleash Johnson on Tottenham and trust the natural right-back to live up to the challenge of facing West Ham’s London rivals while turning in a performance of a similar or even greater standard to Monday.
Manuel Pellegrini always expected Johnson to have a “big future” at the London Stadium and now could be his time to make the future the present, having already enjoyed a taste of getting the best of a top-six opponent.
Johnson was named Sky Sports’ Man of the Match against Manchester United last July, silencing Marcus Rashford to a single shot while making five tackles and five clearances at Old Trafford.
Retaining Johnson at full-back this Sunday will also allow Moyes to keep Cresswell at centre-half and in a position where he felt the £6m-rated ace was playing his way into England contention earlier this term, such was the level the West Ham defender was performing at.
AND in other news, David Moyes has been sent an instant reminder by a £9m West Ham target…