Mark Noble has played well in the midfield for the Hammers this season, taking the captain’s armband and sitting in a holding role.
He has been offered the freedom to break forward when necessary, but his main aim is defensive, meaning he is playing a position he has rarely featured in before.
Usually utilised in a more all-round role, last season showed Noble at his best, playing as a runner in a diamond midfield, preserving his strengths in attack and defence, but making sure someone was always there to cover him deeper on the field.
This season he has not been offered that defensive security, with his midfield partner also being allowed the chance to move into free space ahead of him, and for all Noble’s strengths, a real weakness of his has become apparent.
Of all players in the Premier League this season, no one has been dribbled past more times than the 28-year-old, with opponents making it past Noble on an average of 2.5 times per game.
Noble shares this poor statistic with Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea, who, like the Hammers skipper, is often played in an unnatural holding role despite his strengths better utilised further up the pitch.
This is not to criticise Noble’s role this season, as he tries hard in his holding role and does get around the pitch winning tackles and making sure West Ham get the ball back, but he will never excel as a holding player.
With the likes of Alex Song still to get into the team when he is fit, and Cheikhou Kouyate having proven himself as a Premier League star, Noble is a strange choice to have in this holding role, and it would not come as a surprise to see his role change soon if his defensive performances continue to be so unassured.