Is West Ham's Winston Reid the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems?
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 18/01/15 12:19pm
Winston Reid has impressed at the heart of the West Ham defence this season. Could he be the solution to Arsenal's defensive problems?
If West Ham’s Premier League clash with Arsenal in December was an audition for Winston Reid, it’s safe to say the reported Gunners target would not have been offered a leading role at the Emirates.
With Arsene Wenger watching from the touchline, the Hammers centre-back was at fault for both Arsenal goals in a 2-1 defeat, thoughtlessly sticking out a leg to bring down Santi Cazorla for a first-half penalty before allowing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross to fire through his legs for Danny Welbeck to tap in.
However, clubs and managers' opinions on players are not formed in 90 minutes, but instead over months and seasons - and Reid has become a key figure at West Ham since his arrival in August 2010.
Barely used in his first campaign in east London, the New Zealand captain nailed down his place in Sam Allardyce's team the following season as West Ham won promotion from the Championship via the play-offs and picked up the supporters' player of the year prize at the end of 2012/13 after helping the club finish 10th on their return to the top flight.
Injuries restricted him to just 22 Premier League appearances last season, but he was at the heart of the Hammers' defence for nine of their 12 clean sheets and was a standout figure in the club's impressive start to this campaign, missing just one match as Allardyce's side rose to third before settling in their current seventh-place.
While clean sheets have been a rarity - West Ham have shut out the opposition just three times this term - plaudits have continued to fall Reid's way.
"Along with a lot of other West Ham players, he has had a very good season and has actually had a very consistent over the last few years," said Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith. "He is an aggressive boy that likes to attack the ball and he has a good attitude."
For Arsenal, who have conceded more goals than any of the other current top-five sides, Reid, who is out of contract in the summer, could prove a good fit. And another Sky Sports pundit, Jamie Carragher, is adamant Wenger must strengthen his defence in January.
"Arsenal need another defender, probably two," he wrote in November on skysports.com. "Numbers-wise, they are very low in that department, with Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy the only established players.
"You can't really expect to get through a whole season with that few players. They need another centre-back to come in, preferably one with pace."
Reid is no slouch. He recorded a top speed of 32.3km/hr against Liverpool earlier this season, almost 0.5km/hr quicker than Per Mertesacker's top speed, although some way short of Laurent Koscielny's 33.4km/hr mark against Manchester City.
However, Reid has won more aerial battles, made more blocks and clearances and has a better tackle success rate than either of the current Arsenal centre-back pair.
His passing accuracy is some way down on the current Emirates incumbents (79.72 per cent, versus Mertesacker’s 88.84 and Koscielny's 89.75) but it's clear Reid's combative style would add a different element to Arsenal's backline.
"He is one of those players that knows all about the Premier League," added Smith. "You buy somebody from abroad and you never quite know how long it's going to take them to settle or indeed if they can settle so that's an unknown quantity, whereas with Winston Reid he knows all about the Premier League and he is playing well at this level.
"He is not going to cost an awful lot and he would be a good player to add to the squad.
"Certainly I wouldn't see him displacing Koscielny when he is fit but he would offer an option. They need more bodies, more central defenders in the dressing room, so that would be an advantage. He is more mobile than Mertesacker so against certain opponents that partnership with Koscielny would be a possibility."
That doesn't mean Sam Allardyce will happily wave off his centre-half for a paltry fee this month, though.
"There's no choice for me, he stays - that’s it," the Hammers boss said recently. "If somebody makes a big offer, then obviously the chairman decides, but for me he's staying."
Reid himself has refused to be drawn on speculation about whether he is interested in signing an extension at Upton Park but another solid display in the Super Sunday fixture with Hull will further cement his status on the big stage of the Premier League.
Watch West Ham v Hull live on Sky Sports 1 HD on Sunday from 12.30pm