Mr West Ham Mark Noble adjusting role, but still vital to club

It’s becoming increasingly uncommon for players to be one club men in this day and age. But Mr West Ham, Mark Noble has never wavered and remains a key member of the squad.

Death, taxes and someone claiming West Ham should drop Mark Noble. These things are certainties for Hammers fans as one season ends and another begins. And every year there’s some agreement and a host of best eleven’s put out without him in it. But again and again, the midfield veteran proves that he has what it takes to be in the side, and vital to the strength of us at our best.

Far from seeing a decline in his role for the club, Mark Noble made more than 30 starts in the Premier League last season for the first time since 2015/16. However, he’s still one of the first players that fans will consider dropping to accommodate a new role, even for those who haven’t played particularly well. Does he deserve this current attack on his position? Or is it a product of his versatility?

Does Noble have a best position?

West Ham United’s English midfielder Mark Noble shoots to score the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Bournemouth at The London Stadium, in east London on January 1, 2020. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Whilst he has made a strong number of starts, to look at our squad now it’s still hard to decide if he is the strongest in any position. In defensive midfield, Declan Rice is clearly our No.1 pick. In a true central midfield role, Tomas Soucek has proven himself a bit more mobile and versatile given the advantage his height gives him in the box. In attacking midfield Pablo Fornals is a better player when he’s not all out of sorts, and certainly has huge potential. So where is he the best fit for the team?

Well towards the end of last season he had the most success, as did the team, with him playing in a fairly fixed no.10 role. Whilst his movement and passing invention aren’t up there with what you’d ideally want from your Premier League attacking midfielder, he offers defending from the forward position as well as consistent passing and an almost guaranteed penalty conversion. His 4 goals and 3 assists are down on the previous season, where he got 5 in both categories, but that’s more likely a product of both his positional rotation and lack of finishing in the side because his key passes are up this season from 0.7 to 1.3 per 90 minutes.

Defensively he gives the same impact year in year out, and his commitment to the cause and club means that he’s a great man to have to make important challenges and ensuring our defence is kept tight and focused. But where he was often used as an anchor player, he has adapted well to not being the number one choice there and proven a great mentor to Rice.

What does this season mean for the man moving forward? Well, I’m going to be the person that I mentioned at the start of the article because I don’t think that Mark Noble sits inside our best XI. Or at least not my ideal one. I think against a big team where we look to block the midfield with three central men, he’s in there. But in a normal game where we’re after more than just holding on, I don’t think he gets in. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t important for me over the next couple of years.

One of West Ham’s issues over previous years has been team identity and lack of depth. Keeping Noble as a key man for the next two years means that both of those are maintained. For me, I worry about a Hammers squad without Noble, and moving forward with him in the frame is the way we should be thinking.