The quality of West Ham’s summer signings has led several journalists to express their opinion that Sam Allardyce’s current team is the best Hammers side they have seen in many years.
Phil Neville on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night, along with staunch Millwall fan Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times, both agreed. Mark Noble too was quick to acknowledge the impact that the summer recruits have made to the team after the side’s 2-2 draw against Hull City last month. Noble has since been missing for the last two games after picking up a calf strain in training the day before the trip to Old Trafford and it is clear to see that the midfield has lacked that bit of extra drive in his absence.
Alex Song has taken the captaincy and, although he seemed a good choice to fill in due to his quality and experience at the highest level, he is sometimes guilty of giving the ball away too easily. This was evident in the defeat to Manchester United a little under a fortnight ago when we conceded two early goals.
When Wayne Rooney was sent off and the Irons dominated proceedings, they still couldn’t find that decisive pass in the final third.
In the home game with Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, West Ham strolled to victory against weaker opposition. Having gone in front early, for the rest of the first-half they looked comfortable and were content to keep possession without pressing their superiority.
In the second-half, it was a different story. Harry Redknapp must have told his team to go and get in the opposition’s faces and see if they could cause them problems. Well, for the first 14 minutes after the break it definitely worked; they controlled possession, almost levelled and the sense of unease amongst the crowd was evident. The need for a leader in the middle of the park was obvious.
Then, fortunately for the home side, they went further in front and from then on the points looked safe. Everyone, including the QPR contingent, probably knew that the goal had extinguished any chance that the visitors had of salvaging something from the game.
Although West Ham have played well in the last two matches, it is clear that Mark Noble is a key player for West Ham and we have certainly missed his influence. He controls the ball well and although he might not be blessed with the pace of some of his colleagues, he refuses to let the game drift, as it has done at times during the last two matches. In addition to this, he is a local hero who has emerged through the club’s youth system and is committed to the West Ham cause.
The general consensus among most supporters, which was made clear to me from sitting in the crowd last Sunday, is that Noble would probably be their choice to take over the captaincy on a permanent basis.