I owe the King an apology.
In the September issue of BBM, I wrote how I would not miss Arthur Masuaku’s performances if David Moyes had felt it was high time for a changing of the guards at left-back, although I would almost certainly miss the man himself. Who wouldn’t?
Fast forward almost two months and while I still don’t think His Royal Highness is the best we can do in that position, his performances so far have gone a long way in changing my mind.
That is, of course, thanks to the way David Moyes has tweaked his tactics to accommodate our more attacking players, including Masuaku, allowing the Congolese to put his attacking threat to good use and spend a lot less time having to worry about the worst part of his game: defending.
Aaron Cresswell’s almost seamless transition into the left-side centre-back role also perfectly complements Masuaku’s strengths, as he’s the best possible person to step in and cover when his teammate is in an advanced attacking position.
The switch to a 5-4-1, or 3-4-3 depending on whether or not we’re in possession, has been the masterstroke of the season so far, allowing us to defend in numbers and catch teams on the counter-attack.
It’s worked against almost every team we’ve faced, and Arthur Masuaku has played a pivotal role in what has been a relatively impressive start to the season.
The stats completely back this up, too. By deploying Masuaku in a more advanced role within a five-man defence, Moyes has been able to squeeze out the positive traits that the left-back has always had, but that we’ve only sporadically seen since he signed for the club in 2016.
This is backed up heavily in the stats. Compared with last season, Masuaku is averaging better per 90 minutes for dribbles completed, touches in the opposition box, attacking duels won, final third passes completed, crosses completed and through balls completed.
These are perhaps no surprise given the shift in his responsibilities, but he has in fact also improved the defensive side of his game. He’s now winning more defensive duels, making more interceptions and losing the ball far less per 90 minutes compared to last term.
While a lot of that might not mean much to some fans, often the stats don’t lie, especially when averaged out using per 90 minute metrics.
But what they ultimately show is that while many of us wouldn’t have minded too much if the club had decided to cash-in on the King during the summer window, we might just have lost a key cog in what is becoming an interesting claret and blue wheel right now.
It is now clear that the club had absolutely no intention of investing in a better left-sided defender as they spent all summer trading wingers with everyone.
So Masuaku’s emergence as an important left wing-back has not only been a welcome sight for all his fans and followers, but also integral to the form of the team in the opening seven games of the season.
So this is my apology to HRH. I did never want to see the back of him, but knew I just wouldn’t miss his inability to defend had he left.
But now, a West Ham without King Arthur is not one I want to imagine. He has redeemed himself in the eyes of his kingdom and we all bow down to his eminence.