Noel Whelan gushed about West Ham defender Ryan Fredericks after Manuel Pellegrini opted to axe the right-back from his starting line-up against Sheffield United.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Laura O’Leary, the former Leeds United and Coventry City attacker shared that he found it strange that Pellegrini dropped Fredericks on Saturday.
The 27-year-old defender had played all but 10 minutes of the Hammers’ Premier League campaign this season ahead of being dropped against the Blades.
Whelan admitted that in his eyes Fredericks was the complete full-back as he was good defensively as well as going forward, but acknowledged that Zabaleta was a capable replacement for the right-back.
When asked about Pellegrini’s decision to start Zabaleta in place of Fredericks on Saturday, Whelan told Football Insider: “I’m a big admirer of Fredericks from the time he was at Fulham, I thought he a fantastic signing.
“He is your natural box-to-box wing-back, he has got all the energy, he loves to get forward, his defensive ability is fantastic, he’s your overall full-back.
“Zabaleta…yeah it’s a strange one, maybe Pellegrini thought Fredericks needed a bit of rest, but Zabaleta, loads of experience, you can’t really knock him, so maybe Fredericks needed a little bit of a rest so Pellegrini decided to freshen it up in that area.
“You drop Fredericks, bring in Zabaleta, it’s not a bad one to bring in, is it?”
Zabaleta has been sparingly used by Pellegrini this season as the 34-year-old had only played 37 minutes of league action ahead of the 1-1 draw with Chris Wilder’s side.
The 34-year-old has been at the Hammers since 2017 after joining from Manchester City, but his current contract is set to expire at the end of the season.