Mitchell Hall > Arthur Masuaku’s injury timeline is down to around a month before his return to action, but with the Hammers in such flying form, is there a spot reserved for Masuaku when he is finally ready?

The tricky left-back showed himself to be one of West Ham’s standout players during the first months of the season before undergoing surgery in mid-December. Fans at the time were understandably concerned about losing such a key player in their solid performances up to that point; however a smooth change in formation from Moyes meant the team maintained and perhaps even excelled their previous results. 

Now the question is whether Masuaku has any way back into the team and the new system, a question he himself put forward in a response on twitter, replying “Do I still fit in tho?!” to a fan looking forward to his return.

The key issue blocking his recovery of his first team spot is the recent change in formation since his absence, going from a five across the back to a traditional four. This means his left wing-back role is gone and he would have to play in a more defensive left-back role or head further up the pitch as a left midfielder.

This doesn’t mean Masuaku is completely frozen out; just recently full back Ryan Fredericks played as a right midfielder against Aston Villa. The problem comes in Arthur’s style of play. Despite some improvement, it is clear to see he lacks the defensive acumen required to perform in the standard left back role, especially considering Cresswell’s fine form this season. So that leaves his only viable position as a left midfielder, a spot that has a huge amount of competition existing within the squad. To place himself on the team sheet in that position, Masuaku will have to beat reliable performers such as Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, and currently the biggest ask, exciting new arrival Said Benrahma.

It is very hard to picture a scenario in which, after an at best two-and-a-half-month absence, Masuaku walks back into the squad. That however doesn’t mean we won’t see any of him in action. Moyes can change his team quite drastically to suit the matches he plays, and Masuaku may provide a slightly more defensive option for the left side, like the reasoning behind his Fredericks selection. Perhaps Moyes may even deploy the five across the back that worked so well earlier in the season, for games in which he sees fit to invite pressure on and hit on the counter. Masuaku’s return, playing or not, offers another layer of depth and versatility to Moyes starting and substitute options, and still possesses an important role in the team.