Jack Wilshere enjoyed an excellent pre-season campaign for the Hammers in the summer but has failed to convey that into the Premier League thus far – but does Mark Noble regain his spot in the starting XI?
West Ham bolstered their attacking options over the summer with the additions of Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals and Albian Ajeti and manager Manuel Pellegrini is determined to transition the east London club into a possession-based, attack-minded outfit.
Wilshere missed a large portion of the 2018/19 campaign due to injury but returned this summer with a point to prove. His performances thus far in the league, however, have been sub-par and fans are already challenging the idea of bringing Noble back into the fold.
The Hammers skipper is yet to feature this season due to an injury he sustained in pre-season and, as always, West Ham struggle to perform when the 32-year-old is absent.
The Irons faithful are optimistic of achieving a seventh-place finish this season but face a tough battle to do so with the likes of Wolves, Leicester City and Everton all targeting the same position.
Pellegrini has opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation thus far, with 20-year-old Declan Rice engaging the holding midfielder role. Wilshere’s responsibility has been to play slightly further than Rice while maintaining a solid partnership in midfield, but the 27-year-old has lacked discipline and left his partner isolated in the middle of the park.
Despite Rice’s quality, playing as a holding midfielder by himself is too much responsibility for him to take and Wilshere has failed (so far) to provide a balanced midfield in terms of offensive and defensive transitions and phases of play.
This season posed to be Noble’s last in terms of maintaining his starting position and the aforementioned Wilshere was set to take his spot, but that could be about to change once again.
Since moving to London Stadium, the Hammers have shipped goals for fun – a total of 187 conceded in three seasons – and the defensive midfield position is part of the problem. The recent emergence of Rice has filled the Hammers fans with more assurance in that position but the England midfielder remains without a consistent partner.
So how does the long-term picture look?
Despite Wilshere’s shaky start to the season, he has to remain the number one partner for Rice. Yes, Noble is an important figure and his absence is noticeable, but at 32, the England midfielder cannot play 38 games a season and last 90 minutes each time.
We are attempting to build for the future, and as much as I love Noble and everything he has done for the club, he cannot be looked at as a long-term performer.
The central midfield area is one that certainly needs to be addressed next summer and the whole defensive output needs improvements, but we cannot rely upon a 32-year-old to make us perform.
Noble’s leadership qualities on and off the pitch remain unprecedented at the club, and as fantastic as that is, it comes with issues. West Ham, at the moment, do not inherit many leaders on the pitch when Noble is absent and that is a huge, visible problem on the pitch.
The transition takes time and, in the long-term picture, the Hammers should view Wilshere as the first-choice pairing for Rice but there is certainly work to be done.