Ledley King backs West Ham United cousin Ben Johnson as answer to centre-back conundrum
Tottenham icon Ledley King has hailed West Ham defender Ben Johnson’s versatility and backed him as a future answer at centre-back.
The former England defender is the young Hammer’s cousin, and has likened the pair’s early careers where both have played a multitude of positions.
With injury striking across the Irons defence this season 22-year-old Johnson has featured in both full-back positions, as well as in wide midfield roles, and played alongside Craig Dawson as a centre-back at Chelsea, which King believes could be his future home.
King told Sun Sport: “What I do like about Ben is that he is a footballer, first and foremost, which means he is able to play in different positions.
“And in a way I started off a little bit like that.
“In my first game I got brought on at left-back and then [Glenn Hoddle] started playing me in midfield – but I always knew I was a defender.
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“Ben’s versatile, good with both feet, has good balance and he’s a good size.
“In the modern game, especially in a back three, he could be one of the centre-backs.
“There’s probably fewer aerial duels now than there was 15-20 years ago, you don’t have to be quite as big and physical so he can definitely do that.
“He’s improving each season. West Ham again have had a good season.
“They’ve done well at combining the league and Europa League this season, which isn’t easy.
“Ben is establishing himself in the first-team which is good to see.”
With Angelo Ogbonna going down with a major knee injury this year and summer signing Kurt Zouma also being ruled out with knocks of his own the centre-back position has been under the spotlight.
David Moyes is known to want to strengthen there and is not convinced by Issa Diop so is willing to let the Frenchman go.
Perhaps Johnson could feature in the mix for next season, but considering the problems that the club have been through with absences this year he surely would have been used there more often if he was seen as a real option.
With such a small squad he has more often than not been required to fill in elsewhere, and with Arthur Masuaku also likely leaving in the summer, it will require strengthening of both full-back positions for Johnson to move centrally.
He is gradually establishing himself in the first-team year by year, reaching a high of 33 appearances in all competitions this season, aided by the Europa League run.
And he still has age on his side, but unless he shows plenty of the qualities of his older cousin during the pre-season it seems likely that Moyes will be looking to buy a new centre-back.
If the Scot opts to use a wing-back system though it is common for one hybrid defender who usually plays wide to slot in, and it looks like Johnson could at least be in line for that role for now.
In other West Ham news, the Hammers have been to watch a highly-sought after young talent who comes from a family of footballing talent.
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