West Ham United boss David Moyes could drop captain Mark Noble today after the surprise return to fitness of Tomas Soucek.
Moyes told his pre-match press conference that Soucek was some three weeks ahead of schedule and ready to play against Arsenal (whufc.com).
The Czech Republic star has been a big hit since signing for West Ham in January.
He has brought energy and legs to a midfield that has left young Declan Rice exposed all season.
Rice has coped admirably.
But questions continue to be asked of much-loved Hammers captain Noble, who has looked decidedly short this season.
Brave Noble increasingly exposed
Noble never shirks his responsibilities and always gives his all. He is always brave, always fronting up, always showing for the ball.
But even in last week’s 3-1 win over Southampton he stood out as a weak link in West Ham’s side.
His lack of pace and mobility is nothing new. And it is not his fault West Ham – until January – have continually failed to address that area of the team in the transfer market.
Put legs around him and Noble is a different player.
But at Arsenal – or in the coming weeks – he must make way for Soucek. The easy decision for Moyes would be to drop Pablo Fornals again.
That would not go down well with West Ham fans, though. The Spaniard has been excellent since forcing his way back into the side.
Why Noble can have no complaints if he is dropped
A goal, two assists and a tireless workrate in the last game and a half speak volumes.
Soucek alongside Rice in central midfield makes West Ham a completely different proposition.
And Noble can have no complaints if he is dropped.
After all he made it quite clear he should not still be relied on so heavily when he was brought on as a substitute in the FA Cup defeat to West Brom in January.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, he said: “I’m 33 in May. I’ve been doing this for 15/16 years of my life. It’s half my life.
“At a club at this level with the money we’ve spent, you can’t rely on me. You can’t rely on me to come on at half-time during an FA Cup game – that shouldn’t be like that.”
The comments shocked some fans and pundits. But Noble was just being brutally honest and essentially he was right and West Ham fans knew it.
Moyes must resist easy option but Noble still has big role to play
Moyes might be tempted to play Soucek AND Noble alongside Rice and sacrifice Sebastien Haller or Fornals in a more conservative approach at the Emirates.
But that would be a mistake. West Ham need four more wins and only have 10 games to get them. Arsenal are not the force they once were and the Hammers must treat every game as a chance to get three points now.
Not that Noble does not have a huge part to play at West Ham still.
His voice in the dressing room is worth its weight in gold.
And he will be needed on the pitch too, perhaps better used as a sub to inspire or help see games out.