@Denniswatling > The Academy of Football, with the exception of Declan Rice, has arguably fallen flat in the last decade. Since the class of ‘08 (Stanislas, Hines, Sears and Collison) seldom few have made more than the odd first team appearance, let alone get a string of games. Enter Ben Johnson. A player with known pedigree and with family ties to England internationals Ledley King and Paul Parker, he has really begun to come into his own under Moyes of late.
Since his baptism of fire away against Man City in El Pell’s first season, where a solid display was overshadowed by an unfortunate penalty conceded, Johnson has been under the radar of sorts. Talks of injury problems and potential loans was all we heard, and when Ngakia made the right back spot his own last year collectively we began to question if he was destined to go the way of so many before him (Potts, Lee, Browne and Lletget to name a few). Thankfully, we are now seeing him get sufficient game time and is often talked about as being better than the in-form Aaron Cresswell in a back 4.
West Ham are a team that is evolving, able to switch between a back 4 or 5 when needs must. Primarily a right back, against Tottenham Johnson came in at left back to allow Cresswell to shift to the left centre back slot (which is arguably his best position) to secure the win. As such, a young versatile full back that can transition into a more attacking role, as seen in the cup this year, is just the type of player we otherwise may need to go into the market for in summer.
Johnson himself does not see any issue playing at either left or right back either. Talking to the Evening Standard he referenced the fact that the modern winger often cuts inside and the same should be able to apply with an attacking full back. “If you’re a left winger then 99 percent you’re going to be right-footed. You can go both ways so as a wing-back it’s not that different. It is just that when you have to defend you have to have the right body shape and being aware over your left shoulder instead of your right.” He even referencing Ashley Young & Cesar Azpilicueta as a great example of a full back playing on their weaker side. “I’ve watched a lot of players playing on the left but being right-footers,” he said. “Azpilicueta at Chelsea did it for years and Ashley Young at Inter Milan, still playing at the top level and doing it. There are a lot of players capable of doing it.
As West Ham strive to modernise and develop to meet the modern game at last, Johnson’s ability and mindset is clearly matching that.