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Irish Hammer 12:01 Wed Jan 19
Zouma - What we are missing.
Article has around 20 pictures and diagrams which explain the defensive errors we are making, I can't post pictures unfortunately.


How Kurt Zouma’s absence has hurt West Ham
West Ham

The absence of Kurt Zouma has been heightened by West Ham United’s defensive struggles in recent weeks.

Zouma sustained a hamstring tendon injury against Chelsea in December and has been sidelined for six weeks. He then missed the 3-2 loss to Leeds United as he recovers from COVID-19. But the defender is back in training now and could feature in the upcoming league game away to Manchester United.
His return would be a welcome boost for David Moyes. West Ham have missed his qualities on the ball since he’s been absent, especially given the errors Issa Diop and Craig Dawson made in Sunday’s defeat.
The defensive pair have struggled and supporters have been clamouring for new additions. The club have been linked with Nice’s Flavius Daniliuc, Feyenoord’s Marcos Senesi and Burnley’s James Tarkowski — but like to leave their business late in the window.
It’s a cliche but Zouma’s return will feel like a new signing. Moyes’ side have a better win percentage and goals conceded per game when the Frenchman has been present.
West Ham with and without Kurt Zouma
WITH ZOUMA ALL COMPS 21-22 WITHOUT ZOUMA
12
Games
20
7
Wins
10
1
Draws
5
4
Losses
5
20
Goal For
36
1.7
Avg Goals For
1.8
14
Goals Against
21
1.2
Avg Goals Against
1.1
58.30%
Win Percent
50%
So what makes the defender an important member of the team?
Dawson and Diop formed a solid defensive partnership last season, but so far this campaign, they have yielded mixed results. The below examples highlight some of the recurring issues.
Passing
Not much separates Zouma, Diop, Dawson and Angelo Ogbonna in ball carries. Zouma has brought the ball up the pitch 73 yards per game, so too has Dawson and Diop, while Ogbonna averages 70 yards. But what is noticeably different is the latter makes better passes and is rarely caught out in possession.
Of late, we have seen Dawson and Diop’s limitations on the ball — whether it’s playing a diagonal ball to the attacking players, or putting team-mates under pressure with an under-hit pass.

The above graphic is a perfect example of Zouma’s confidence in possession. When Declan Rice passes to the defender, he seemingly has four options: play it to Lukasz Fabianski, pass to Dawson or Ben Johnson, or play a long ball to Vladimir Coufal.

Despite Kai Havertz applying pressure, Zouma shifts to his left and passes to Tomas Soucek, who is in space. It is not a groundbreaking passage of play, but it is important to remember this, in how Zouma differs from Diop and Dawson.

Rice passes to Zouma and Neal Maupay tries to force the defender into making a mistake. In situations like this, it is common for centre-backs to panic, but the Frenchman keeps his composure and threads the ball to Johnson.

Zouma’s game intelligence has been a big miss. In the 1-1 draw to Brighton & Hove Albion, Solly March attempts to tee up Maupay in the box. Zouma intercepts the pass and has the presence of mind to find Michail Antonio, who is in acres of space — enabling West Ham to break forward.


How does this compare to Diop and Dawson?
In the 3-2 loss to Leeds United, Dawson had a pass completion rate of 65 per cent, his lowest since the win away to Crystal Palace, while Diop had 76 per cent.
The duo were rash with challenges, sloppy in possession and had no answer for Leeds’ attacking trio of Jack Harrison, Daniel James and Raphinha.


Above, Diop is on the ball and attempts to find Nikola Vlasic, but his pass is intercepted by a Leeds United player, which leads to groans from the London Stadium faithful.
On Sunday, Moyes admitted his team did not play well and made mistakes. Soucek’s absence, due to COVID-19, was noticeable, with Rice having to cover more ground than usual.


But it did not help that the England international occasionally found himself under pressure. Dawson is better off playing a long ball to clear the danger, but he passes to Rice, which leads to a nervy moment with Rodrigo and James closing in. Rice manages to win a goal kick, but the sequence of play could have been avoided.
Defending
“When I signed him I knew we were taking a France international centre-half and he has not disappointed us from what we have seen so far,” was Moyes’ assessment of Zouma’s performances prior to the 2-1 loss to Brentford in October. One of Zouma’s strengths is his ability to come out strong in one-on-one battles, as these examples show. In the league defeat against Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo comes up against Zouma and the Frenchman shows Ronaldo on his left foot.


Although the forward tries to advance past the defender, Zouma makes a brilliant tackle. Remember earlier we mentioned Zouma’s game intelligence? Ronaldo skips past Coufal and there is a considerable distance between the attacker and Zouma.

Yet Zouma tracks back in time to intercept Ronaldo’s shot.

In the loss at Wolves in November, goalkeeper Josa Sa plays a goal kick to Daniel Podence, with the striker having a one-on-one battle with Zouma. The centre-back puts his body in front of the attacker before shielding it away for a goal kick. Calm and composed.


How does this compare to Diop and Dawson?
For large parts of the season, Diop and Dawson have struggled in one-on-one situations. A case in point was the loss to Leeds United.
Raphinha was one of their key performers and he constantly targeted Diop. In the build-up to Mateusz Klich’s disallowed goal, Diop takes up a good position. Although Raphinha is the quicker of the two, Diop should be able to delay the threat on goal until West Ham have more cover in defence.

But the defender naively makes a challenge and the Brazilian surges past Diop.

Diop was taken off in the 87th minute to sarcastic applause from the home crowd. The last time Moyes substituted a centre-back, which was not enforced by injury, was Ogbonna’s withdrawal in the 4-0 win at Norwich City in July 2020. It is something the manager rarely does. Dawson was also rash with some of his decisions. Take for instance his slide tackle on James. The defender fails to retrieve possession and with the scoreline 2-1, Leeds have a brilliant chance to establish a two-goal lead.


Raphinha threads a pass to James, who squanders the opportunity.

Remember when Zouma shielded the ball away from Podence? Dawson is in a similar area of the field and body checks the forward — giving Wolves a free kick in a dangerous area.


Another example is from the Arsenal game. Emile Smith Rowe advances forward but Diop keeps retreating, enabling the attacking midfielder to score past Fabianski.


These are just a few examples of their defensive struggles. Zouma will be important for West Ham’s top-four push. But if his return is to be delayed, a new defender before the window closes would be very welcome.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

⚒️ 4:45 Wed Jan 19
Re: Zouma - What we are missing.
He’s back fit for the weekend.

Cor Blimey 4:36 Wed Jan 19
Re: Zouma - What we are missing.
We’ve lost 7 league games. Zouma has played in 4 of them.

Darby_ 2:25 Wed Jan 19
Re: Zouma - What we are missing.
While it was obviously a shame to lose Zouma and Oggy, I think our defense looks much worse without Soucek protecting it.

Sniper 12:05 Wed Jan 19
Re: Zouma - What we are missing.
Diop just isn’t a good defender. He hasn’t developed at all in his time here, which is a real shame as he looked like he had bags of potential

As for Dawson, I like him as backup but if you look at the goals we conceded when he was playing with ogbonna/Zouma, it was almost always his player that escaped the marker and scored.

We should have had a new cb lined up for the start of jan





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