Slaven Bilic believes he has unearthed a gem in Reece Oxford after the 16-year-old became the youngest player to feature for West Ham the Premier League in Sunday’s surprise 2-0 win at Arsenal.
Oxford showed maturity way beyond his years in a holding midfield role as West Ham stunned Arsene Wenger’s side in their first top-flight game of the new campaign at the Emirates Stadium.
Cheikhou Kouyate took advantage of a misjudgement from Petr Cech to head the visitors in front and Mauro Zarate beat the Arsenal goalkeeper at his near post early in the second half to double West Ham’s lead.
Arsenal were unable to muster a response as West Ham ended an eight-year wait for a win over their London rivals in Bilic’s first Premier League game in charge.
Oxford became the second-youngster player after Jose Baxter to start a Premier League game and Bilic is expecting big things from the teenager.
He said: “The risk is not over. I know what it will be when he doesn’t play good, it will be ‘why did you put him in?’
“We are a little bit short in that position. I wanted someone to sit in front (of the defence), to drop into centre-half when we needed – as he’s a centre-half.
“He’s very mobile and quick, he can turn and play a pass. He’s also a very cool guy, he’s not fazed thinking ‘I’m playing at the Emirates’. I told him whatever you do wrong it’s my fault and not your fault, I’m lucky that he very rarely did anything wrong.
“But we’ve been preparing him for this for two weeks. He’s definitely going to be a big player, he’s going to have ups and downs. We have to manage him not only on the pitch, but off the pitch for him to stay grounded and progress, because the boy’s got everything.”
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