West Ham United take on high-flying Newcastle United in the Premier League on Wednesday evening as they continue their quest to avoid the dreaded drop zone.
In their last domestic outing, the Hammers overcame bottom-placed Southampton with a shaky and narrow 1-0 victory at the London Stadium to propel themselves outside the relegation spots on goal difference.
With two games in hand over all their rivals in the bottom half of the table, a win against the Champions League-chasing Magpies would underline their top-flight credentials.
However, if manager David Moyes is looking to silence Eddie Howe’s indomitable midfield of Joe Willock, Bruno Guimarães, and Sean Longstaff, he should consider dropping Tomas Soucek after his dismal performance against the Saints last weekend.
Should Moyes drop Soucek vs Newcastle?
After signing permanently for the east London outfit in the summer of 2020 for €21m (£19m), the 58-cap international established himself as an indispensable component of a side that achieved consecutive top-half finishes, as well as reaching a Europa League semi-final.
However, the side that finished seventh last season has endured a massive decline in form that sees them languishing in 14th. This slump is partly attributed to the deteriorating impact of the Czech, whose miserable campaign was compounded by another dismal performance in his last game.
The £65k-per-week midfielder recorded the lowest rating of the whole starting line-up (5.9) and struggled to stamp any authority or control on proceedings.
Despite ending up on the winning side, the 6 foot 4 titan only attempted 21 passes and registered a completion rate of 52%, as per Sofascore. Soucek didn’t contribute any sort of attacking threat by failing to make any key passes, crosses, shots, or long balls, as well as drawing a blank on successful dribbles.
Perhaps even more worryingly, the £31m-rated man, who has formed a formidable reputation for his physicality, tough-tackling, and ball recovery, unexpectedly performed horrendously in these categories. He only won 25% of his ground duels, lost possession 15 times, and was dribbled past four times.
The midfielder also failed to make any clearances, interceptions, or blocks according to WhoScored, and consequently, he was substituted after 68 minutes. He looks a shadow of the player that netted 15 goals in 73 appearances during the previous campaigns. A call to drop the 28-year-old in the past would have been an outrageous claim, but now it seems a logical and necessary step if West Ham are to maximise their chances of safety.
This isn’t the first time that Soucek’s presence has been criticised, as earlier in the season Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp said he was “not convinced” by his midfield partnership with Declan Rice as the former Slavia Prague destroyer lacks creativity.
Rice is the club captain and has been the Hammers’ standout player this season with the highest average (6.98) in the squad and is virtually undroppable. The burden of the underperforming midfield is mainly a reflection upon Soucek and the latest damning statistics are another pivotal indication that he should be dropped ahead of the mouthwatering clash tonight.