West Ham's French polish from 'monster' Diop
PUBLISHED: 13:30 02 October 2018
Hammers defender is showing his class
When former boss David Moyes appeared as a pundit for West Ham’s trip to Everton, he said that what the club needed to invest in was defenders.
Well, the more observant of us would have noticed that Manuel Pellegrini had already done just that and the partnership of Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena is proving one of the success stories of the season.
Last week the pair coped with the likes of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud, this week it was Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, but for Diop it was just another day at the office.
“It is good for my confidence,” said the 21-year-old Frenchman. “But I don’t think I played very good. I play my normal game, but I still need to improve and work out how to play better.”
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho described the former Toulouse defender as a ‘monster’ and it is easy to see why after this display.
“It was a good performance, we played well, we kept the ball and we won the game, so I am happy.”
That was the secret of their success. Unlike the Chelsea game and countless others against United in the past, this time it was West Ham in control and keeping the ball.
And when they did get into trouble, the partnership between the two defenders came up trumps.
“For sure we need to have more of a relationship because we have played together maybe 10 times at the most,” said Diop.
“But Fabian is a very good defender and it is easier for me to play with him as he is very strong and tall and experienced.”
Diop provides more pace and his tackling and heading ability has got West Ham out of a few scrapes this season.
So how has he settled in England and at West Ham?
“I needed to have an adaptation, but in football you don’t have that time so you need to learn quickly and to play good on the first day.
“The Premier League is faster,” he said. “There is a lot of box to box play, while in France it is more tactical.
“The Premier League has all the strikers and wingers are very quick and they all attack.”
It did take time for Diop to force his way into the starting XI, so did a certain League Cup goal at AFC Wimbledon turn the corner for him?
“It was a good moment, but if I didn’t score, things would have been the same,” he insisted. “I would continue to work hard, to keep my confidence and I try to do my best on the pitch.”
Diop seems to be a fixture in this West Ham team now and even in the short time he has been at the club, he has been helped by coach Manuel Pellegrini.
“He is a big coach,” said Diop. “He has coached the best clubs in the world so he has a lot of experience.
“He knows his football and we can all improve with him.”
The youngster is certainly proving his worth after coming from humble beginnings. One of five children, he was brought up in Toulouse by mum Isabel.
“It was not an easy life, but we were very happy and also the compliments need to go to my mother because she is a very strong woman.
“I don’t know whether she is proud of me – I hope so.”
It looks like Diop has come through the hard way, but perhaps that is why he appreciates his success and has dedicated himself to the game.