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Player Grade: Arthur Masuaku proves he belongs in the starting XI

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We evaluate the young left back’s 2016-2017 campaign with West Ham United

Hull City v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Summary

Eyebrows were raised when 22 year old Arthur Masuaku started popping up on the rumor wire. With so many needs that required addressing, why add another left back after the career making year Aaron Cresswell just had? Turns out, it might have been the best signing of the summer transfer window. Cresswell quickly joined the increasingly growing list of Hammer injuries and opened the door for Masuaku to shine.

Juventus v Olympiacos FC - UEFA Champions League
Masuaku battles Lichtsteiner during a Champions League showdown
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Artie came to West Ham United from Olympiakos where he was mostly used as a substitute. However, towards the end of his tenure he began to start matches, particularly in the Champions League. Though a bit unseasoned, the talent poured onto the pitch and many teams were lining up to grab the young full back. The winner, to some surprise, was West Ham United.

Expectations

After the wonderful season Aaron Cresswell had at West Ham United, helping to propel the Hammers to a 7th place finish, nobody expected Arthur to get more than a handful of appearances. At best, he added depth to a club who was about to splash onto the European scene. Cresswell was already starting at 28, so Masuaku was a long term investment. A successor, perhaps, but if nothing else a more than serviceable backup.

Performance

Arthur Masuaku opened the season against Chelsea, just twelve days after playing in the Champions League for Olympiakos. The first six matches for West Ham had very few highlights and was one of worst periods of the season. With Cresswell ailing, Masuaku was one of the few bright spots for West Ham, even as the team was floundering. When Aaron returned to the lineup at the end of September, he was welcomed back with open arms as a beacon of hope that could illuminate the way towards last year’s glory.

Unfortunately, Cresswell would never quite reach the level he thrived in last year. Fans were clamoring for Arthur, begging for Slaven Bilic to make the change. Whether due to injury, or poor play, Masuaku finally rejoined the starting XI in April and helped guide the Hammers to four clean sheets.

Highlights and Lowpoints

Masuaku had two standout performances this year. The first came against Swansea on April 8th where he was declared man of the match in a, must win, 1-0 victory. The second was against another pivotal match up with Everton on April 22nd. During a tough stretch for both the team, and Slaven Bilic, Arthur Masuaku helped anchor a defense that would prove to save, not only a coach’s job, but perhaps a season as well. Was he the sole reason? Of course not, James Collins and Manuel Lanzini were vital during that stretch as well. However, Arthur’s good form was undeniable and infectious.

Next Season

Honestly, who knows? Comparing Masuaku and Cresswell on performance alone – Arthur wins hands down. There’s no competition. But Aaron has history with West Ham, and is beloved by the fans. We enter next season going week to week to see who gets the start.

Final Grade – B