Just like the club, the man who embodies West Ham had a season to forget. For the first time that I can remember the skipper was getting calls to be dropped and sold off. While Mr. West Ham certainly didn’t play up to expectations he was hardly a flop. Once safety was secured it was revealed that Mark Noble was playing with a hernia for much of the season which I’m sure affected his play as it would anyone.
Fans expected to see the Mark Noble we’ve all come to expect. A savvy defensive midfielder that can place passes, make the tough tackle, and occasionally put one in the back of the net. After last year’s performance where an England call up was a real possibility, this season’s form may have put the nail in Noble’s England coffin for good. He did not live up to expectations but certainly was not the worst player on the field.
If given the choice I think some fans would have replaced the entire team this season. There we calls to drop the skipper after Pedro Obiang finally settled into life in East London. Don’t get me wrong I thought Obiang played really well and showed what an asset he can be. However, I still think Mark Noble is indispensable right now. His leadership and passion for this team are matched by no one. A closer look at that statistics show Mark was better on offense than Obiang while Obiang out played Nobes on the defensive end.
Here’s one thing that really surprised me as I dug into this season’s performances.
Stat: West Ham's win against Burnley today meant that the Hammers won a match without Mark Noble for the first time in 883 days. pic.twitter.com/kZLAtuqfw3— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) May 21, 2017
Why doe we struggle so much without him? I think it’s mainly his passion for this club. He is willing to do anything for it and that sort of attitude helps lift others. Now before you start shouting abuse, you can’t deny he is the rock of this club right now. Him and James Collins are the only two who you can absolutely tell will do anything for West Ham. Reid is the backup captain but he’s more mild-mannered than Noble and his passion for the club isn’t immediately evident. Everyone else is an import that has been with the club for fewer than five years. At a club like West Ham you need a few homegrown guys that love the club.
I also think we struggle without Noble because he’s a very efficient and savvy player. No, he is not great at anyone thing (except penalties) but he’s good at everything. He’s exactly what you want in the center of the park. Sure, he’s not pacey which can hurt on occasions but he makes up for his lack of pace with smart positioning and a tireless work rate.
From my observations I think Mark’s form suffered from a number of things. The move to the stadium had to be incredibly hard for him, more than others. He’s been going to Upton Park since he was a boy and suddenly years of routine are gone. I also think the Payet situation dragged on him as he tried to keep the dressing room together with a bad apple rotting away. Then you have his injury which would certainly affect anyone’s performance.
Highlights and Lowpoints
His two best games came at the London Stadium. Neither was a particularly spectacular or remarkable performance but they were his best games of the season. Against Sunderland he was very active passing the ball completing 98% of his passes, making a number of interceptions, and just playing well overall. Against Hull he got one of his three goals on the season in a pivotal game that helped pull us out of our early season funk.
In these three games Noble played badly on defense and the score line certainly showed that: 3-1, 1-1, and 5-1. They were all rather poor team performances as well and since he is the skipper part of that lies with him. In reality the teams lows are every players lows this season as they all let the club down immensely in those games.
Noble is heading into his thirties a time when footballers tend to decline and lose a step. As someone without natural speed this could catch up with Noble much like it did with former West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan.
I think Noble continues to start next season partnered with Obiang while Kouyate is deployed in a more forward role. An Obiang/Noble partnership would be a good partnership to help out our back line and control the center of the pitch.
A full offseason of rest and recovery is going to be exactly what Noble needs to recharge his batteries and get ready to avenge this year's mediocrity. I think he can certainly regain his 2014/15 form and if we’re lucky his 2015/16 form. Nobes probably has two more seasons of being a contributor to the team before he has to consider his future as a footballer.
As next season wears on we might see age start to catch up with Mark and a slow transition to the bench will begin. I just hope that fans realize what we have with Mark Noble is special and he is one of a dying breed who has loyalty to a club. It’s going to be a sad day when Mr. West Ham leaves the club either via transfer or retirement.
Final Grade – C+