West Ham have been dealt a blow ahead of Friday’s clash with Sheffield United, with Ryan Fredericks being ruled out for a month.
The speedy right-back limped off in the FA Cup win over Gillingham at the weekend. His replacement, Pablo Zabaleta, got himself on the scoresheet but Fredericks’ knock is a blow for the Hammers.
Despite not quite being at his best, Fredericks has been a regular starter this season. The news, therefore, will be a bitter blow for new manager, David Moyes, who is looking to continue his fine start when he brings the Hammers to Bramall Lane on Friday.
Why is this a boost for Sheffield United?
In simple terms, it means the Hammers are probably going to opt for Pablo Zabaleta to start the game. While we don’t wish to put any disrespect on Zabaleta’s name, it’s safe to say he’s not quite at the level he once was.
By that, we mean in terms of his speed and power down the flanks. A player well into his 30s cannot simply be expected to maintain the levels he has shown all his career.
In the case of Sheffield United, it leaves an intriguing game-plan available. We all know the Blades love to attack from wide areas. The overloads created from the likes Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell have caused teams trouble all season.
Therefore, going into Friday, Chris Wilder might well choose to target Zabaleta. The pace and relentless nature of Enda Stevens could well prove too much for the former Man City man. John Fleck also occupies that side, while David McGoldrick – as we against Burnley – is also prone to taking up positions out left.
Obviously, Zabaleta remains a top professional and a fine player. On his day, he’s still a very good right-back. However, the consensus among a number of West Ham fans is that they would rather see Fredericks in there over ‘Zabs’.
Sheffield United will have done their homework on West Ham. It will, then, be little surprise to see them try and exploit Zabaleta at down the left-hand side.