West Ham welcomed Issa Diop back into the starting XI in the 3-0 win over bottom side Sheffield United.
The Frenchman was making just his fifth league appearance of the season and marked his return to the side with a fantastic performance.
Diop was handed a start in the absence of Angelo Ogbonna. He’s developed a formidable partnership this season with Craig Dawson, meaning Diop has found chances hard to come by.
Despite that, our number 23 performed as if he’d been in the side all season. It was an excellent display from the centreback, who really took his opportunity with both hands.
West Ham Zone have taken a deeper look into his return.
The flying Frenchman
Diop marked his first start since December with a headed goal in the second half. It put us 2-0 up and in a comfortable position with 57 minutes played. He outjumped Ethan Ampadu to tidily glance in an Aaron Cresswell corner.
As well as this headed goal, Diop won 100% of all his aerial duels in the game [WyScout]. He won 92% of duels overall. Of all the times he came up against McGoldrick, Sharpe and Lundsram he wasn’t defeated once.
An example can be seen below. Before Ludstram is even in possession of the ball, Diop is onto him like a flash.
He closes down the space quickly and doesn’t allow his opponent to turn when receiving the ball.
Within a second he’s all over Lundstram and wins the ball back for the Hammers. We go on to break from this challenge and push Sheffield United back. This was a crucial time in the tie, as the visitors were looking desperately to get a foothold.
That’s just one example of Diop’s intense pressing. He also made 13 recoveries over 90 minutes and five interceptions. His ability to retain possession was also crucial, maintaining 84% of accurate passes. Diop’s average in the Premier League this campaign is 90.9% – he very rarely gives the ball away.
Overall, he was successful in 77% of all actions during the match. To think he had only played 427 minutes in the top-flight this season is crazy, but it’s a testament to how well we’ve performed in 2020/21.
There was a lot of panic initially when Ogbonna got injured. It’s still a huge blow to us, but this performance from Diop will have settled a few nerves.
He’s still a young player with bags of potential. It was great to see him back in the side and playing to such a high standard.
In other West Ham news, David Moyes has detailed our advantage that piles pressure on our European rivals.