Football News

Declan Rice hails West Ham’s clean sheet specialist Ben Johnson

By Ben Green

Published: 11:33, 28 October 2021

West Ham vice-captain Declan Rice has heaped significant praise on fellow academy graduate Ben Johnson, who is flourishing under David Moyes this season.

The 21-year-old right-back put in another stellar defensive performance for the Hammers in midweek, keeping a lid on Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Co as the east Londoners knocked out the reigning League Cup champions Manchester City from the competition.

The Hammers dug in deep to take City to penalties after a hard-fought 0-0 at the London Stadium, with the hosts winning the resultant shoot-out 5-3. Moyes’ men went flawless in their five spot-kicks, while Phil Foden’s opening miss ensured the Hammers progressed.

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The result means City’s reign of dominance on the cup has come to an end, with Pep Guardiola’s men monopolising the trophy over the last four consecutive years, while the Hammers have now eliminated both Manchester clubs from the competition, beating Man Utd the round prior.

It was an excellent team effort, but Johnson once again stood out on the right flank, impressing with his maturity, composure, athleticism and defensive resilience, a quartet of traits that have been evident this season whenever the academy wonder has taken to the turf.

In the absence of stalwart Vladimir Coufal, who has been sidelined with a groin strain over the past few weeks and with Ryan Fredericks still not fully fit after injuring himself in the Man Utd win in the cup, Johnson has been given the starting No. 2 berth, and he has vindicated the selection.

In his six starts for the club this campaign, he has kept six cleans sheets, registering a further appearance in the 4-2 win over Newcastle, in which a goal was not shipped during his late cameo on the pitch. So, that’s seven games, zero goals conceded for Johnson this season.

He kept shutouts in both of his Europa League 90-minute showings versus Rapid Vienna (2-0) and KRC Genk (3-0) at home, kept both Man Utd (1-0) and City (0-0, 5-3 pens) quiet in the League Cup, and has produced clean sheets in the Premier League over Everton (1-0) and Tottenham (1-0)

Following his latest defensive masterclass against the reigning League Cup and English champions City, Rice, who was kept on ice by Moyes ahead of the weekend’s journey to Aston Villa, took to social media to wax lyrical about his fellow academy graduate.

Rice wrote: “Ben Johnson, that’s all.” His tweet was accompanied by a ‘clapping emoji’ to really hammer home the praise.

Johnson’s meteoric rise has now left Moyes in a bit of a quandary, a welcomed managerial headache that has not often been forthcoming in E20, as to whether a now fully-recovered Coufal comes straight back into the side, or whether Johnson continues to get the nod.

However Moyes approaches this dilemma, both players will certainly be getting plenty of chances to showcase their talents, with the Hammers still fighting on four fronts this term, and the chances of group-stage progression from the Europa League looking increasingly likely.


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