Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to substitute Pablo Zabaleta for Ryan Fredericks at half-time on Friday evening could finally be the sign that the manager has more faith in Fredericks than the 34-year-old.
Zabaleta was poor in closing down Fulham starlet Ryan Sessegnon last time out at the London Stadium and the right-back was largely at fault for the Whites opening the scoring as early as the third minute.
The Hammers recovered well to win the match 3-1 in the end but Sessegnon was quite easily able to put a low pass behind Zabaleta, which Ryan Babel calmly pounced on and put away to give Fulham an early lead.
Fredericks, who started West Ham’s previous two league games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace looked much more composed and organised at the back in the second-half, making it difficult for the likes of Sessegnon to find space on the wing.
The 26-year-old showed in the matches against the Reds and the Eagles that he is well and truly capable of handling the pressures of the Premier League and looked very comfortable at right-back.
The victory over Fulham was West Ham’s first in five league matches and it certainly boosted their chances of making a strong finish to the league.
Pellegrini should continue with Fredericks as a regular starter for the remainder of the season and use Zabaleta as a substitute when needed.
The former Manchester City man’s experience can undoubtedly not be questioned but given Frederick’s good showings of late, he might be of higher value when used from the bench in critical times.
Fredericks showed against Crystal Palace that he is a modern day right-back, who is capable of attacking down the flank with pace, while making quick recoveries in defence when needed.
Fredericks, who is valued at £3.6 million (by Transfermarkt), will definitely add to the East London club’s lethal attacking threat.