2014. The last time I saw a robust, box-to-box engine in the middle of the park in a West Ham shirt.
Cheikhou Kouyate was outstanding in that period, but the Hammers have lacked a similar presence since – Tomas Soucek could be the solution.
The 25-year-old arrived in east London in January, signing from Slavia Prague on loan with an option to buy should the Hammers avoid the drop this season. Mark Noble has been an outstanding servant to this football club, but times are progressing and unfortunately, the West Ham skipper is regressing.
When it comes to understanding what West Ham United stands for, you cannot find a better person than Noble to answer. His loyalty, dedication and love in a claret and blue shirt remains unprecedented, but it is time to hand over the baton.
Pedro Obiang, Havard Nordtveit, Jack Wilshere…just a few names that were purchased to solve the central midfield dilemma; well, it’s 2020 and Noble is still being required as a regular, first-team starter.
But this is where Soucek can shine. Declan Rice has proven to be an exceptional talent in east London. We’re fortunate to have him, of course, but why not show some ambition and give him a partner who can match his quality? Soucek has only played a few games for the club, but the signs are certainly promising.
From the limited matches he played before sustaining a hip injury at Anfield, Soucek was showing qualities that were making West Ham fans lick their lips. A midfield presence to partner Rice, a player who is composed on the ball, can find a pass and possesses an aerial threat – that is Soucek.
With David Moyes recently switching to deploy a 4-4-2 system to give Sebastien Haller support, that central midfield position has become even more important. It has to be filled with players who are industrious and can physically cope with the demands of Premier League football for 90 minutes – sadly something Noble can no longer do, and that was evident in the Hammers’ 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
Not only can Soucek improve the overall complexion of the starting XI, but it also sends a statement in terms of wanting to progress as a football club. The priority for this season is survival, which has become a recurring theme since switching to London Stadium.
This move was all about progression and elevation, so now it is imperative we start implementing changes to help achieve those goals, and Soucek is the start.