Kurt Zouma ready to step up and lead West Ham from defence following Angelo Ogbonna blow

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·2-min read
Kurt Zouma ready to step up and lead West Ham from defence following Angelo Ogbonna blow
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Kurt Zouma has hit the ground running at West Ham but now faces the task of truly living up to his billing as a leader at the back.

The news that Angelo Ogbonna would likely miss the rest of the season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Liverpool was gutting for the Hammers.

For so long, the 33-year-old has been a dependable figure at the back, not only in dealing with opposing forwards but keeping his teammates in check too.

Watching games behind closed doors during the pandemic offered an insight into the vocal leaders on the pitch and, in east London, Ogbonna’s voice could be heard above all others.

The Italian is a commanding presence, tactically astute and well respected by his teammates.

Ogbonna’s injury is the first real blow West Ham have suffered this season. There have been fears over what would happen should David Moyes’s squad suffer such a setback.

Moyes still cites injuries to Michail Antonio and Declan Rice towards the end of last season as the key factor behind their fall from the top four in the final weeks of the campaign. The Scot is well aware of how, with a squad smaller than all of their top four rivals, an injury can acutely hurt this group.

At the back, however, they are far better prepared for such hurdles this season.

They have lost a leader but have one ready-made to step up in Zouma. Signed from Chelsea for almost £30million over the summer, the French international has slotted in superbly alongside Ogbonna so far this season, his start made all the more comfortable by the guidance of his partner at the back.

Zouma must now play the same role for whoever steps up alongside him.

Moyes sent on Craig Dawson to replace Ogbonna against Liverpool and the 31-year-old, signed for just £2million from Watford after his impressive loan last year, excelled against Jurgen Klopp’s fearsome front three.

Moyes, a former defender himself, knows a good centre-back when he sees one and Dawson is firmly no-nonsense, while also posing a threat at set-pieces going forward.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There is also Issa Diop to consider. Certainly, his time at West Ham has been up and down.

A firm favourite of Manuel Pellegrini's and once hailed as a "monster" by Jose Mourinho, the 24-year-old has found Moyes harder to impress, though there will be a chance now with Europa League and Carabao Cup games still to navigate alongside a packed Premier League schedule. With Zouma taking the lead alongside him, Diop could shine.

Where last season the loss of such a key figure could have ended West Ham’s flying start, they now have the confidence they can continue. The task for Zouma is to ensure that confidence is not misplaced.

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