When Pedro Obiang went down Saturday against Leicester City, most Hammer fans were fearing the worst. And today, the worst has been confirmed.
INJURY UPDATE -Obiang is out for the rest of the season— Jack Sullivan (@jsullivanwhu) March 20, 2017
This is pretty dire news for West Ham United. Pedro Obiang has been the Hammers best midfielder, if not best player, for the entire season. His passing from a deep role has been critical in more than a few goals this season, and his steady play has shone brightly next to the inconsistent play of Mark Noble. His howitzer of a goal against Southampton is one of the highlights of the season. His influence on the middle of the pitch even had him linked to a big money move in the summer transfer window to Liverpool, although those rumors have died down lately.
And now with him being out for the rest of the season, there is now a gigantic hole in the middle of the pitch. The obvious choice to take over his spot as a central midfielder would be Cheikhou Kouyaté. Kouyaté had a very successful time at AFCON 2017, and has played out of position a number of times this season at right back or at centre back, although he did play centre back at Anderlecht before coming to East London in 2014.
The other options to replace Obiang in the midfield would be Havard Nordtveit, Edmilson Fernandes, Manuel Lanzini or the club could even recall Reece Oxford from his loan at Reading to give him some playing time at the big club. Given the recent war of words between Jaap Stam and Slaven Bilic, a recall might actually be a likely scenario, especially with Winston Reid also set to miss time. A like-for-like replacement would see either Kouyaté or Nordtveit taking up a defensive midfield position, or Bilić could look for a different player at the position, putting either Lanzini or Fernandes next to Noble with a bigger emphasis on offense from the central midfielders.
In short, this is terrible news for West Ham. Obiang has easily been one of the best players for West Ham this season. Hopefully one of the other players can step up and fill in well for the rest of the season, but it will be difficult to replace him in the side. Given that the team is also dealing with injuries to the team’s best central defender, Winston Reid, and the team’s leading scorer, Michail Antonio, there is something of an injury crisis at the club currently. This will either make the team stronger, or they will crumble like a house of cards. The team has dealt with the adversity of the Payet situation and other critical injuries earlier this season, so hopefully Mark Noble will stop
ripping fans in the press talking to the press and concentrate on being Captain of the team. Noble rediscovering his form and sorting out the dressing room and getting everyone on paddling the same direction on the boat will be critical for the rest of the season.