Winston Reid must have been having a frustrating season. The defense had been leaking goals at an alarming rate, his partners at centre-back had either missed time or been playing hurt for most of the season, and to top it off, Bilic was resorting to a back three because of a lack of options at right-back, throwing the whole team off and playing a midfielder, Cheikhou Kouyate, on the backline because of a lack of options. Oh, and the team also sold James Tompkins, another centre-back who’d been with the team for years, in the summer to Crystal Palace.
When the rumors of Jose Fonte coming up from Southampton to play for West Ham, Reid must have been at least partially suspicious. Did this mean that the team meant to replace him? Or did it mean that he would have a new partner in defense?
With the season-ending surgery to Ogbonna finally announced, Reid will have gotten his answer. Fonte was brought in to be Reid’s partner in the back, providing a centre-back partnership that has to be one of the best in the Premier League. Our friends at Hammers Chat rate the partnership as at least in the top six in the league, and it’s hard to argue against that analysis.
Fonte, like Reid, has been in England for years and been through the lower leagues, and has experience with all of the top strikers and playmakers in the league. This means that there will be no adjustment period for him to get used to the speed and physicality of the Premier League.
Fonte had also been the captain at Southampton until he handed in his transfer request, so there will be another vocal leader in both the dressing room and on the pitch. While Reid has been vice-captain, almost by virtue by being one of the best players on the team, Fonte can bring a wealth of experience leading from the backline.
Portugal conceded 1 goal the entire knockout stage, and Jose Fonte played every single minute of it. Sneaky bid for MVP #Euro2016— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) July 10, 2016
And finally, Jose Fonte is a significant upgrade to an injured Angelo Ogbonna. While fans will be grateful to Ogbonna for playing through an injury that requires surgery and will end his season, Fonte is an upgrade at talent and experience even when Ogbonna is healthy. Fonte also has winning international experience with Portugal at Euro 2016, and had been a key cog in Southampton’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes of lower league football. It’s been said a million times in American sports that defense wins championships, and while that might be a pipe dream for West Ham in the near future, it’s upgrades like this at key positions that will vault the Hammers into the next level of clubs.