Rookie right-back Ben Johnson has emerged as West Ham’s unlikely talisman this season.
The 21-year-old has started six matches so far – and the Hammers have yet to concede a goal in any of them.
That remarkable run began with the Carabao Cup victory at Manchester United and also includes Premier League wins over Everton and Tottenham, and Europa League successes against Rapid Vienna and Genk.
And it culminated in Wednesday night’s memorable Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out triumph over Manchester City following a goalless draw.
West Ham coach Stuart Pearce, himself a former full-back, said: “The most important thing about Ben is whenever you pass him or meet him first thing in the morning, he’s got a smile on his face. He takes in all the knowledge you can pass on to him.
“He’s a wonderful professional to deal with and work with. We’re very proud to have him out of our academy system as well, which is a real plus for us, especially with the connection to this club with the academy.
“I think he’s just developing and getting better and better, and like with all young players, the more game time they have, the better they’ll get, so I am delighted for the boy.”
Johnson’s display in keeping Raheem Sterling quiet against City was so complete that the England forward eventually switched flanks.
The form of Kevin De Bruyne, who also struggled to have an impact at the London Stadium, must be a concern as well ahead of Saturday’s clash with Crystal Palace.
But boss Pep Guardiola insisted: “Everyone deserves to play, is ready to play.
“Kevin came back from important injuries in the last part of the season and was so important against Liverpool, Chelsea and Brugge. He was there as always. Day by day he will get his best form.”
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