It’s crazy to think that after so many years of almost having a ‘banker’ from the penalty spot, West Ham are now in a bit of a spot-kick crisis.
The madness that unfolded at the end of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at London Stadium hammered home just how much of a problem the penalty situation is becoming.
With Mark Noble no longer a regular starter and now into his final season at the club, it’s perhaps a problem David Moyes hadn’t foreseen coming so soon, but recent history suggests it’s one that desperately needs fixing.
West Ham have missed four of their last five penalties in the Premier League. Michail Antonio, Declan Rice and Jesse Lingard have all stepped up with the responsibility since the beginning of last season, and all have had at least one saved or missed. Thankfully, Antonio and Lingard were fortunate enough to have seen the rebound hit the back of the net following theirs.
Before coming on in the 95th minute on Sunday, Noble had scored 27 of his 31 top-flight penalties, with his last miss coming against Burnley in December 2016. He scored the rebound after Tom Heaton parried it back into his path.
But as the West Ham legend begins to wind down his career, David Moyes has to fix what is becoming a problem that a modern-day football club just cannot afford to have.
The introduction of VAR has increased the potential of winning a penalty as referees are given a helping hand with contentious decisions. We saw that on Sunday, when he failed to see Luke Shaw’s handball before being able to watch it back on the pitch-side monitor. He only needed a few seconds to realise it was indeed a penalty.
So it’s even more important than ever to have a nominated penalty taker in your ranks, with deputies in place should that player not be available. Of late, it has been clear that the nominated taker has been difficult to agree on. No longer are we certain who will take the next penalty. Will it be Rice, who seems eager to take on that responsibility from Noble like he has the captaincy, or will it be Antonio?
Either way, it’s problem that needs to be nipped in the bid as soon as possible.
And that’s the view of We Are West Ham Podcast‘s Reece Bayliss, who quite rightly points out that while Moyes was put under pressure to make such a huge decision on Sunday, it should never have come to that in the first place. There should already have been a hierarchy of takers in place in the event Noble was not on the pitch.
In this week’s latest We Are West Ham Podcast episode, Bayliss said: “In my opinion, it was an absolute bonkers idea.
“We knew Antonio obviously wasn’t playing this week so, surely they must’ve had a chat about who was going to take penalties.
“Fair play to Noble, I would’ve done the same. It’s his last season. If he’d scored it, I think everyone would’ve been well happy but there still would’ve been that bit of ‘blimey, that was a bit lucky.’
“I do feel a bit for Rice, if he wanted to take it. He’s captain. I’m not saying he’s not put trust in him, Moyesy, because he had to make the decision on the spot but, we can’t be doing that every game that we get penalties.
“We train, practice penalties, we’ve got a lot of people who are happy to take a free-kick from 40-yards out, Cresswell and people like that.
“They’re the little things where you think to yourself, ‘why are we doing it? Why do we not just go right, he’s taking the pen.’ Bowen? Anyone?
“Some of them might not fancy it, you see that in European tournaments, World Cup tournaments. With goalkeepers, it might be a different story but certainly not bringing on a player who, you know he is one of the most confident players in the world, Mark Noble, but it must’ve been in the back of his head ‘what happens if I miss it?’ He must’ve known it was going to be the last kick of the game.
“But he’s professional and that’s why I think Moysey squashed it and we move on.”