James Collins had an absolute stormer of a performance in West Ham’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City and deserves a regular place in the starting line-up.
The 31-year-old centre-back is in competition with James Tomkins for a place alongside Winston Reid in the heart of the Hammers defence and he proved last time out that he is more than up to the task.
Collins has missed a few games this season due to a suspension and an injury problem which caused him to lose his place, but now he is back in action he should be a permanent fixture on Sam Allardyce’s team sheet.
The Wales international was outstanding against City, throwing his body in front of everything while getting his head to anything that came his way. He was a rock alongside Reid, whose performance also seemed to go up a level with Collins beside him.
West Ham have kept only one clean sheet in their nine Premier League matches so far this term, but Collins has made just four appearances and they only conceded last time out because of a moment of magic from David Silva.
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Collins is known for his superb blocking ability but he reads the game well, too, and is strong in the tackle as well as a formidable force in aerial duels. City’s array of talent struggled to breach West Ham’s back-line despite having carved Tottenham open only a week earlier – this was predominantly down to Collins’ display.
He is often criticised for not being the best passer of the ball or very comfortable with it at his feet and bringing it out of defence but this judgement is mainly based on previous seasons where opting for the long ball seemed to be an instruction.
However now, with the likes of Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate in the midfield, there is not as much of an onus on the centre-backs. More often than not if they can play the ball to either of those two they will be able to find the cutting forward pass, setting attacks in motion.
Tomkins is a good defender but he is perhaps not as solid as Collins and more prone to making individual errors. Although Collins can be careless on occasions in giving away needless free-kicks in dangerous positions, he more than makes up for it with his all-round defensive play.
If the Welshman is fit he should certainly be starting ahead of Tomkins based on current form, but this isn’t to say that a quality centre-back shouldn’t be brought into the club in January or the summer, especially if Reid is on his way out.