West Ham United have endured a mixed opening to the new campaign during a period of adjustment for the array of new talents who joined the club during the summer, but one of the new signings has shown real promise in the early stages of his career.
Indeed, making the transition to the Premier League is a challenge which players embrace with varied levels of success. Settling into an established team is one thing but arriving at a club, such as West Ham, who have just completed a squad overhaul represents a challenge which players seldom tackle with immediate success.
But in Issa Diop’s case there is enough evidence to suggest that the Hammers have secured the signature of a huge talent for the future. Diop did not come cheap at £22 million, but for a 21-year-old of his promise there is every chance that the club will label the deal as a bargain when they look back in the coming years.
Standing at almost 6’4″, Diop is a commanding physical presence to be reckoned with. Winning aerial duels and physical fifty-fifties are the norm, but it’s his ability to complement his physical quality with a composed, sure-footed technique which makes him such an interesting talent to watch for the future.
The early signs suggest that Diop will become a mainstay at the heart of West Ham’s defence in the years to come, but who he will play alongside remains up for debate.
Fabian Balbuena has struggled to convince so far and Declan Rice is looking increasingly more useful in a midfield anchor role, so Pellegrini may need to reassess his options next summer.
The unfortunate thing for West Ham is that they had a perfect partner for Diop in their ranks in James Tomkins, but they decided to sell him to Crystal Palace for £10 million in 2016 – a decision which has been questioned ever since.
One small consolation for the Hammers is that they were able to make a £10 million profit on a player who rose through the academy ranks but, after making 243 appearances and scoring 11 goals for the club, it was a decision which the club may be regretting more than two years later.
Although there are question marks surrounding his injury record, Tomkins is a fantastic physical presence in the back-four with natural leadership qualities and an unrivalled passion for West Ham.
He’s not the most comfortable defender in possession of the ball, but he certainly had enough composure to adapt to the possession-based philosophy which Manuel Pellegrini is trying to implement.
The club may have made a semi-decent profit on Tomkins following years of commendable service to the club but, with the benefit of hindsight, it was a decision which cost them their perfect partner for Diop.
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