West Ham supporters have been pretty subdued in recent times after seeing their side stutter in the Premier League over the festive period.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men won four straight matches to start December to suggest that they were on their way up, only for things to take a slight turn for the worst since then with just one victory in four matches. Defeats at the hands of Watford and Burnley somewhat stunted the Hammers’ momentum, yet they did at least bounce back with a 2-2 draw at home to Brighton on Wednesday, with a Marko Arnautovic brace inspiring the home side to come from 2-0 down to secure their 28th Premier League point of the campaign.
As such, there have been many satisfied West Ham fans up and down the country in recent times, with the performances of centre back Issa Diop very much a bright spark in the Hammers’ first half of the season following his £22.5 million move (as per Transfermarkt) from Toulouse during the summer.
And the 21-year-old has certainly made a centre back spot his own so far this term with a string of commanding displays, with the Frenchman finally filling the void left by James Tomkins’ somewhat surprising departure to Crystal Palace back in the summer of 2016.
Ultimately, Englishman Tomkins came up through the ranks at the East London outfit and was a regular in the first team for much of his time in the senior set-up, eventually going on to appear 243 times for the Hammers, including sticking with them when they were relegated to the Championship back in 2011.
And with regular appearances in his final few campaigns at the club, it was somewhat of a shock that the Hammers sanctioned his £10.53 million move (as per Transfermarkt) to Palace back in 2016 – they let a key first teamer leave to a Premier League rival.
And, quite frankly, the East London outfit haven’t been able to replace Tomkins adequately since then with their defensive record having been pretty poor following his exit – that was until 21-year-old Diop was signed by David Gold and David Sullivan during the most recent summer window.
The Hammers spent big money on the young centre back in a bid to finally plug that void in the centre back ranks, a void that contributed to the concession of 68 goals in the Premier League last season – the joint-most alongside relegated Stoke City of anyone in the top tier.
Yet Diop has come in and helped transform their fortunes at the back with 19 starts in a row in the top-flight under Pellegrini, in which time the Hammers have shipped just 26 goals and kept three clean sheets en route to tenth place in the Premier League table.
And with some very authoritative performances in that time, with efforts against Manchester United and Chelsea of particular note, it’s clear that the Hammers have finally found their ideal Tomkins replacement in the 21-year-old Frenchman – he looks destined for an extremely bright future in English football.
So while the decision to let Tomkins leave was something of a surprise, it has certainly paved the way for the emergence of Diop, who has proven to be a lynchpin in this West Ham side this season.
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