Danny Higginbotham heaped praise on West Ham duo Mark Noble and Declan Rice and claimed their understanding had improved and stopped the club’s defence being exposed.
The Sky Sports pundit, regularly seen on Sky Sports News’ Football Centre, shared that the two Hammers players now had a greater understanding between them and were now giving the club’s defence the support and protective cover it needed.
Higginbotham pointed out that he previously thought the Hammers were too openly defensively because of their full-backs playing too high up the pitch.
“I have mentioned previously that West Ham had been too open defensively earlier this season,” wrote the pundit for The Sun.
“The Hammers were being exposed because their two full-backs play high and there was not enough protection in midfield.
“But in the last three games, there has been a greater understanding between central midfield partners Declan Rice and Mark Noble.
“West Ham captain Noble will get further forward, but they have both given more support and protective cover to the defence when the full-backs have attacked.”
The Sky Sports pundit has hit the nail on the head with his assessment of why the Hammers’ leaky defence seems to have been addressed. It’s clearly because Manuel Pellegrini has found the midfield pairing that works the best and been able to play them in consistent games which has seen them improve as partnership as a result. The pairing of the veteran Noble with the young eager presence of Rice seems to have worked wonders as the club look able to burst forward as well as have enough cover at the back that central defenders Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena aren’t sweating under their work load. Given that Noble had looked worryingly like he needed axing last season and at the start of this campaign, it’s quite the turn around. The veteran performer stole the show during the 3-1 victory over Manchester United as he kept Paul Pogba in his back-pocket while delivering inch-perfect passes which saw the Hammers play football. The only issue with Higginbotham’s assessment is that he has failed to compliment Pedro Obiang in the process as the Spanish midfielder is another reason why the midfield is doing more to help the defence.