Time to stop berating our captain; he still has a key role to play!

Author: . Published: at 8:45pm

Article by @jasoninge

I was approached by a fellow site writer (@FarehamHammer) a couple of weeks about writing an article about our club captain, Mark Noble. Paul and I have strongly debated for many years on twitter about whether or not, Nobes or as he calls him the ‘Canning Town Huff and Puff Merchant’ should be in the West Ham team.

Earlier in the week, Paul wrote an article about the Tottenham defeat and Mark Noble. Regarding the Spurs game, obviously losing to them lot is a painful as it gets.  It was a weird game; we started very well and were just wasteful in the final third. Then, what has become a regular occurrence, sloppy mistakes by the players cost us goals, leaving us with an uphill battle. However ultimately we didn’t get the draw we should have earned with three penalties shouts turned down. The push on Carroll at the end, left me furious, having stated to a fellow season ticket holder after the Southampton game, where Zabaleta gave away the softest of penalties you will ever see, watch what happens when someone barges Carroll out of the way and we won’t get a penalty! Oh to be a big club, so we actually get some fair treatment from the match officials.  Now a lot has been made of the substitution to bring on Carroll for the injured Antonio, citing it as yet another show of Slaven’s tactical ineptness. I’m in the minority here, but I completely understand why tactically Slaven made this change. If you watched the opening period of the game, Joe Hart in particular was kicking long to Antonio’s head, which is logical, as neither Hernandez nor Arnautovic will win those headers. Now with Antonio frustratingly going off injured, we lost our strong, physical outlet and the only real alternative to that is in fact Andy Carroll. Obviously that meant Hernandez had to switch to the more withdrawn role, but this suggestion he’s playing on the wing is becoming ridiculous. The system we are currently implementing sees the two players playing off the central striker as narrow forwards, with the width coming from the wing backs.

The second part of Paul’s article, he put across his reasons as to why he believes, Mark Noble’s time as captain has run its course and it was now time to give the prestigious honour to summer signing, Pablo Zabaleta. Now, like most I was delighted when we signed Zaba, with his leadership qualities and vast experience being the main reason why it’s a superb signing. However in my opinion, Zabaleta’s qualities should only go to enhance the teams’ key leaders in the same way the likes of Reid, Collins and Hart do. It is clear as day that Mark Noble is the linchpin of this current squad and the entire club for that matter, with the way that his fellow professionals speak so highly of him. When new players join, they quickly become integrated in a squad that definitely appears to be a harmonious one, when you compare it to previous eras. Reflecting on that itself reminds me of the abuse that Nigel Reo-Coker, Lucas Neil and Kevin Nolan, all received as West Ham captain, with the vocal minority all feeling they also got preferential treatment by the manager at that time. Now, what I don’t think fans grasp, is when a manager appoints a captain, he gives it to the man who he believes can convey his passion and leadership between those white lines, because believe it or not it’s very difficult for the manager to affect the decisions that the players make out of the pitch (food for thought for those who blame Slaven for the consistent defensive errors the players make that lead to goals).

Now I’m sure some will say ok, I respect Noble for everything he’s done previously, make him club captain. We have alternatives and him remaining as captain, means he will play over either Obiang or Kouyate. For some reason bewildering reason to me, both players seem to rated so highly amongst a lot of fans, that you would think they were Sergio Busquets and Yaya Toure, which they most definitely are not. The Noble haters, would have you believe that he’s a god awful footballer, that slows the play down, can only pass the ball backwards or sideways, when pressured gives the ball away endlessly and his reckless tackling puts us under constant pressure. Frankly it’s complete and utter nonsense. If he was really as bad as that he would never have played over four hundred games for the club, under six different managers or those people who are far more qualified to judge a footballers ability than us fans and therefore must be clearly clueless too. Unfortunately, with those who think they know better every time Mark Noble does something wrong it is magnified and when other players do the same is brushed under the carpet.  Now as someone who has grown up watching Mark Noble come through the academy and establish him as a Mr West Ham, I consider what the haters see as his main weaknesses, actually to be his biggest strengths. Now, to back up my point I decided to look through data to show how important Mark Noble is to this team, as well as comparing to the two players, a lot of fans feel should be in his place instead.

*Stats come from Squawka  Passing

  Mark Noble Pedro Obiang Cheikou Kouyate
  2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018
Games Played 37 30 4 24 22 4 34 31 4
Total Forward Passes 1215 865 95 318 662 99 754 633 56
Total Backward Passes 636 504 63 150 218 43 460 410 43
Successful Passes 1607 1191 132 368 722 118 972 879 85
Pass Completion % 86 86 83 78 82 83 79 83 83

 

As you can see from this the proclaimed opinion from that Mark’s passing is below par is clearly false. The data shows Mark Noble plays more forward passes than backwards ones by a ratio of almost 2 to 1. As someone that plays in central midfield and has to very considered  in their approach to when to play safe and when the space is there to go forward, that’s what you would hope for.  In addition, a pass completion percentage in the mid 80’s consistently is very good return for any premier league midfielder.  Comparing that to the other two, Pedro does in fact fair slightly better forward to backward pass ratio than Noble but his completion % is lower. Cheik’s forward to back pass ratio is the lowest of the lot and pass completion % similar to Obiang’s. So basing on the passing debate, it would be apparent that the weakest of the three is in fact Cheikou Kouyate.

Defence (Tackling & Errors)

Mark Noble Pedro Obiang Cheikou Kouyate
2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018
Games Played 37 30 4 24 22 4 34 31 4
Tackles Won 74 32 7 31 57 12 73 53 6
Interceptions 83 40 3 36 32 3 77 80 5
Fouls Committed 36 27 3 20 27 1 36 44 2
Defensive Errors 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 2 0
Errors leading to goals 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0

 

Evaluating the defensive stats for Nobes, they appear more than adequate. To only be categorically at fault for 1 goals in the past 3 seasons, reflects that the complaints about him being dispossessed and costing us goals are once again false. He intercepts the ball a plenty and doesn’t give away a huge amount of free kicks. You can clearly see it is in fact Kouyate that commits more fouls and Obiang that errors leading to goals playing less minutes I might add too.

I conclude with this, Mark Noble is a club legend and has been a consistently good performer over the last decade, through the good and bad times. He deserves nothing but admiration and respect from every single West Ham fan. At 30 years old, he has many a year left, being the captain and a regular member of this team. It is apparent that the alternatives are in fact not a class above him. As I stated in my previous article, I live in hope that one day we will spend the money required to take this club forward and if that day comes, Mark Noble will gracefully be moved aside. As shown by the failure to sign William Carvalho for financial reasons, that day doesn’t appear to be near. However we do have a decent squad that I believe can take us up the league and I will back whatever the manager decides regarding team selection. I urge my fellow fans to do the same and stop with the constant negativity towards the owners, players and manager. He deserves the opportunity to turn things around and get his best team out on the pitch consistently, which after 6 games he simply hasn’t. A positive atmosphere is needed on Saturday and the win will come.

Come on you Irons!

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