As players get older they tend to take on a much deeper role on the pitch so that their energy levels are reserved.
We’ve seen this is many players over the years, more recently Wayne Rooney as he moved from striker to attacking midfielder.
Could Mark Noble take on the role for the right-back position? Noble is West Ham through and through, and I’m sure he would even play in goal if that meant he was still playing for the club.
West Ham’s larger pitch means that the central midfield spot requires a player that has speed, whereas the Upton Park pitch was smaller, which meant players without much pace had little ground to cover.
Due to the openness of the London Stadium, players with pace thrive on counter attacks with quick passing to cut open the midfield and defence in a matter of seconds. Noble has never been gifted with pace and always made ground by his distribution.
Some would say that the right back-position requires a defender to run up and down the line constantly, but if you push both full backs up, that leaves a huge space for our centre backs to cover. This means the centre of the park is exposed and our centre midfield players have to drop back as quick as they can.
Noble cannot get there in time, but Obiang can, and with Kouyate trying to get back from an attacking position, he is already out of the game. Now, if we swapped Noble for Kouyate, we would see two tall and quick midfielders filling the void left by Reid or Fonte, whilst an attacking Noble is trudging back.
The main threat of conceding a goal is down the middle because that’s where the goal is. Crosses can come in, but if the middle of the park was covered by centre backs and midfielders, it would provide a mobile wall in front of the goal, preventing any shots or possible through balls.
We need to keep the ball away from the goal and out wide where angles are narrowed. It’s very rare you see a direct goal from a position near the corner flag or in the opposition’s half.
Noble is a great tackler and has a very good passing ability, switching the play from left to right. This is what Obiang is now doing. Noble can sit back, linking up with Fonte and Kouyate to enable passes to feed in current right winger Sofiane Feghouli. Noble would still be able to take deep free kicks, which would also allow another midfielder in the box as we would be using a defender, who would be behind the ball anyway.
I believe that our captain marvel Noble can cover this position, leading by example until the end of the season. We would see an attacking Michail Antonio on the right hand side, linking up with Nobes, and we could see a formidable partnership between Kouyate and Obiang, a very similar pairing like Arsenal’s Petit and Vieira.