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Angelo Ogbonna the epitome of West Ham’s transformation after long road to becoming David Moyes’ rock

Jack Rosser
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There have been many players who have gone to another level under David Moyes during his second spell at West Ham, but few have been as impressive as Angelo Ogbonna.

The Italian has been outstanding since Moyes returned to the London Stadium last January, missing just two Premier League games - through injury - since the start of 2020 and playing every minute in the League so far this season.

Moyes, as he often reminds everyone, is working to build a more solid and consistent West Ham side, and Ogbonna has been at the heart of that transformation.

Alongside Craig Dawson, the 30-year-old has now kept four consecutive clean sheets as the Hammers have established themselves in the race for Europe.

But Ogbonna has been leading the way with his performances for some time. A rock during West Ham's resurgence after the restart last season - finishing second to Declan Rice in the Hammer of the Year award - Ogbonna has continued to set the standard this term.

"His levels have gone up," said Moyes after West Ham’s 1-0 win over Burnley on Saturday. "His level of play, concentration levels and his own ability. He was called into the last Italian squad in the last window, that gives you an idea of where Angelo Ogbonna's performances have been. His form has been good, playing much better, and he is a big player for us in the team at this moment."

Ogbonna has been on a long journey to become the man leading the West Ham backline. Those close to the defender say there needed to be a transformation from the player he was at Juventus when left them for the Premier League in 2015.

Stuck behind Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in the pecking order at Juve, Ogbonna still managed more than 50 appearances in his two years at the Italian giants.

But he never felt he was going to dislodge such an iconic trio. He was too polite, too respectful to battle the status quo.

That mindset has changed in east London. Ogbonna is popular, but not afraid of confrontation and not always the easiest to deal with behind the scenes. Becoming a regular starter required a shift in mentality.

He became a key figure under Slaven Bilic before having his second season cut short when he had knee surgery on a career-long issue. Were that decision not made, the version of Ogbonna we are now seeing may never have had the chance to emerge.

There have been other issues to overcome. He was back in the side after injury under Moyes during the Scot’s first spell at the club, before Manuel Pellegrini signed Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena, who forged a good partnership. Ogbonna still made 43 appearances under Pellegrini, but never saw eye-to-eye with the Chilean and was critical of the direction he was taking the club.

Away from football, his second child arrived during the first lockdown last year and his wife and children spend a lot of time away from London back in Turin, which would be a challenge for any father and husband, especially during a pandemic. Becoming a father for the second time, as well as more time in the side, has helped Ogbonna mellow as a person. But he remains very much a leader, whether he is screeching instructions from the back or delivering much-needed messages in the dressing room or at the training ground.

The trust Moyes places in Ogbonna has taken his career to new heights, and now the West Ham manager wants to be able to reward his man at the back with the best spell of his time in England.

"I hope that is maybe age and experience," Moyes said of Ogbonna's new-found consistency. "Sometimes centre-halves get to the better performances later in their career and I hope that is the case with Angelo. He has been really solid, really good and consistent. At the moment getting the clean sheets is a big bonus for the team.

"He is [a leader], he's a big member of the squad. He is part of [a group with] Mark Noble, Declan Rice and Angelo Ogbonna. I think he has been here six years now. From that point of view, when his career finishes we want him to be able to talk about something good at West Ham, not always bad. We want him to come away from here saying he had some good times at West Ham as well."

Many within the club have witnessed Ogbonna’s growth from an agitated, inconsistent player to the leader that we are seeing today. It is a role he has stepped into wonderfully. Few would begrudge him those happy memories this season.

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