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Issa Diop

Opinion: Previously a key man, West Ham 23-year-old must improve to start

West Ham United’s strong run of recent form continued on Friday night, with a 2-1 win over Leeds United at Elland Road lifting David Moyes’ men into the Premier League’s top six.

While a formation shift to a 4-4-1-1 set-up caught the eye, the exclusion of one Hammers star raised a few eyebrows.

West Ham defender Issa Diop was not in the matchday squad, with reliable source Claret and Hugh stating in the aftermath of the victory that the centre-half was excluded for tactical reasons.

It has been a tough campaign so far for the 23-year-old, who was forced to self-isolate early in the season and has then struggled with niggling injuries.

While Diop has been unavailable, West Ham have prospered with a three-man defence, with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell and Fabian Balbuena all standing up and being counted.

The former Toulouse enforcer was a critical player for the Hammers last season, starting 31 Premier League games and looking like an automatic selection for Moyes when available.

However, only 207 league minutes this season for Diop has been a humble return, with West Ham excelling in the French defender’s absence.

With the Hammers switching to a back four in the win against Leeds, this system removes one centre-half, meaning Diop is going to have to improve and work harder if he is to win back his place in the Irons starting XI.

The reinvention of Cresswell as a central option in a back three has also added an extra option for Moyes, with Diop’s role at the club moving forward appearing unclear.

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