To further manager Manuel Pellegrini’s problems, Noble’s likely replacement in the starting line-up, Jack Wilshere, has been ruled out by reliable Hammers news source Claret & Hugh due to a stomach issue.
So when talk began to surface that star midfielder Declan Rice may miss the game because of an injury suffered on England duty, the West Ham fans were likely on red alert.
Fortunately for them, though, Claret & Hugh reported on Friday that the 20-year-old is almost certain to start having trained throughout the week.
The Hammers faithful will surely be breathing a huge sigh of relief, then. To potentially be without Noble, Wilshere and Rice would have left Pellegrini’s side incredibly vulnerable in the centre of midfield.
In that scenario the Chilean would either have to start a perhaps not fully fit Noble, or go with a shaky partnership of veteran Carlos Sanchez and winger Robert Snodgrass pushed back into a deeper role.
Luckily, though, Rice appears ready to go. The statistics from this season show that, while he’s not quite been as good as last term, he is still absolutely crucial to the east London outfit.
As per WhoScored.com, the England international is averaging 2.8 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and one clearance per game. Meanwhile, he is averaging 1.1 successful dribbles per outing, to go with 50.2 passes a game with a success rate of 90.2%.
That’s incredibly hard to replicate, particularly by an attack-minded midfielder like Snodgrass or a past-his-best veteran like Sanchez. Luckily, Pellegrini likely won’t have to worry about that.