West Ham United’s game against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday was initially positioned as a clash between two struggling teams desperate for a win.
However, the narrative has been altered dramatically by Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking and Jose Mourinho’s subsequent appointment at Spurs this week.
Now, Manuel Pellegrini’s beleaguered side will have to be wary of the dreaded new manager bounce. Plus, they may be without one of their most reliable players – at least from the start, anyway.
The Evening Standard reported on Friday that Hammers captain Mark Noble is available after rehabbing the ankle he injured against Burnley over the international break, but that he may only be fit enough for a spot on the bench.
If that is the case then the hosts are surely in big trouble at the London Stadium. Noble is the great stabiliser for the Irons, the consistent Mr. West Ham who has started 10 games this season [Source: Transfermarkt], and who never lets his boyhood club down. To be without him for the majority of a London derby would be devastating.
That’s not because the Englishman himself is some unbelievable player, but because he raises the level of those around him. There’s no doubt that metronomic midfielder Declan Rice plays better with the skipper alongside him in the middle of the park.
The statistics from Noble’s season so far support the fact that he himself is not exceptional. As per WhoScored.com, the 32-year-old has scored just once and provided zero assists.
Furthermore, he is averaging only 0.7 shots and 0.5 key passes per game. He makes a tackle an outing, alongside just 0.3 interceptions, no clearances and no blocks.
So this isn’t the most outstanding player in West Ham’s squad, but he is the truck that pulls his teammates along. He raises their level just by being out on the pitch.
So if he is only fit enough for the substitute’s bench on Saturday then it will represent a colossal blow to Pellegrini and his team’s chances.