David Moyes’ side equalled their biggest win of the season last weekend by thrashing Norwich City 4-0 and condemning the Canaries to relegation. The Scot changed his team selection up for the crunch clash and for the even more critical encounter against Watford, Moyes must select the same eleven.
The most notable change against the Canaries was that Hammers captain Mark Noble returned to the starting line-up for the first time in three matches and produced a superb display. In fact, the only other game where the 33-year-old received a higher match rating this term was the 4-0 thrashing of A.F.C Bournemouth, when he bagged a brace and scooped the man of the match award.
On Saturday Noble had to settle for an assist, his second of the season, but what was perhaps most interesting is that Moyes deployed the veteran in a more advanced role than usual and to great effect. No other player came close to the Englishman’s eight key passes against Norwich City, and he showed the kind of flair and precision you would not typically associate with the combative midfielder and reminded the doubters what he is capable of.
Given the level of his performance, along with the creativity the talisman displayed, something Manuel Lanzini has been struggling to rediscover, as he has now gone 15 appearances without providing a goal or assist, Noble should be given another starting berth. His fighting spirit and newfound elegance in the engine room could be precisely what West Ham require to overcome a Watford side who sit level with the Hammers on 34 points.
Furthermore, only Leicester City have conceded more penalties, ten, in the Premier League than the Hornets’ seven this term, which could see the Irons awarded a spot-kick on Friday. Few, if any, current top-flight players can hold there nerve from 12 yards better than the Irons legend. Noble has converted 38 of his 42 career penalties, a staggeringly impressive record, and one which may prove decisive against Watford.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Noble when Tomas Soucek arrived in January, the Czech Republic international has reinvigorated the engine room at the London Stadium and often left Noble watching on and even threatened to take his armband. However, against Norwich, Noble was sensational in his new attacking midfield role, and his performance has earned the captain another shot for the upcoming crunch clash.
A repeat of Saturday’s heroics would only add to his already illustrious West Ham legacy.