The Reinvention of Arthur Masuaku Demonstrates the Adaptability of David Moyes

By Michael Lee
Oct 2, 2020, 10:30 AM GMT+1
Masuaku has been quietly impressive in West Ham's last two outings
Masuaku has been quietly impressive in West Ham's last two outings | Julian Finney/Getty Images
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It's been a while since West Ham fans serenaded Arthur Masuaku to the tune of September by Earth, Wind and Fire - and not just because stadiums are currently empty.

For a time, during the final days of Slaven Bilic's reign, the Congolese signing from Olympiacos was bestowed the honour of being better than Romelu Lukaku and identified as never giving the ball away in melodic verse. Critics will say neither of these are even remotely true, but it's time for an reappraisal on the merits of Masuaku.

Yes, his previous performances at left back have veered between forgettable and the definition of a liability. Yes, his continued presence in the squad is symptomatic of a transfer policy that considers full backs an added extra rather an essential part of modern football. Yes, he spat at an opposition player during an FA Cup defeat at Wigan two years ago.

Masuaku was sent off for spitting against Wigan in January 2018
Masuaku was sent off for spitting against Wigan in January 2018 | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

However, Masuaku has played an important role in West Ham's latest tentative revival. Against Arsenal, he put a disciplined, positive performance in as the Hammers somehow wrestled defeat from the jaws of a deserved Emirates Stadium point. Then, back on familiar home territory against Wolves, Masuaku troubled the opposition defence with driving runs forward and contributed the assist for Sebastien Haller's headed goal.

It is worth nothing that Masuaku's qualities - running with the ball at defenders, devilish crosses and the kind of unpredictability that means even Arthur doesn't know what he'll do next - are not exactly the attributes you would imagine David Moyes would look for in his full-backs.

But, Moyes does have previous with reinventing his player's positions on the pitch to bring the best out of their ability. Upon taking charge in 2017-18, the Scot converted Marko Arnautovic from sulking left winger into one of the league's best lone strikers. Last season, he repeated the trick with Michail Antonio. Moyes has form with adapting to the needs of an unbalanced squad.

He did the same with Masuaku. Upon his arrival in 2017, Moyes quickly identified the attacking potential in Arthur's game and positioned him on the left wing - far away from his own goal but with the freedom to cause havoc in the opposition half. One fond memory of this author was a jinking run and pinpoint deep cross for Arnautovic to net in a relegation six-pointer with Southampton.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Moyes has repeated the measure this season. After the comatose performance against Newcastle on the opening day (a result that is looking worse and worse with each passing week), West Ham have switched to a system with three centre backs, two wing backs, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek manning the midfield and the hard-working Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen supporting Antonio up front. The results have so far been encouraging.

While the Hammers are still likely to be involved in a relegation struggle this season, the outlook is undoubtedly brighter than a few weeks ago - and the rehabilitation of Masuaku has played an important role in this surprising development.

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