Soucek: The stats don’t lie . . . or do they?


For much of this season, I have lamented the inclusion of Tomas Soucek in the middle of our team, and last night highlighted why.

There’s a lot to like about Tomas.  There’s no doubt that he plays with his heart on his sleeve, and I have never once questioned his loyalty to the club, nor his effort levels.  His blood runs as claret & blue as ours.  He has an uncanny knack of popping up in the box to score important goals for us too.  Some will argue that this ability alone has earned us crucial points and more than makes up for any deficiencies he has in his game.

I understand that argument, but I can’t help considering the ‘opportunity cost’ of his inclusion – what we might have achieved had he not played.  It’s pure conjecture of course – we can only posit a theory on what may have happened, but it’s a theory I’m willing to explore.

Super Tomas Soucek should not play as striker for West Ham

Super Soucek? Maybe, but you might want to think again rated Tomas with a 7.2 last night – the same as Kudus, and more than anyone else bar the Fabulous Fabianski.  Really??  Better performing than Antonio? Or Mavro?  I suspect the score was earned by his two crucial goal line clearances – perhaps as valuable as a goal – but for me, he just didn’t (and doesn’t) do enough.

He managed just 16 accurate passes (out of a paltry 18 in total).  Yes, sure, we only had 27% possession.  Sure, JWP only managed 27 accurate passes.  Sure, the manager had sent them all out there to watch the beautiful game rather than play it.  But the fact is, for all his endeavour, the guy cannot control or pass a football.

And that’s a pretty huge failing for a central midfield player in a modern, fast-paced passing game.

Don’t pass him the ball

It’s a failing that his team-mates are well aware of too.  Seriously, just watch how often they avoid passing to him when he’s an easy option.  He finds some space, and they pass backwards, or down the wings.  Anywhere but to Soucek.  Because they too know that he’ll fumble, panic, get chased down or pass it to an opponent.  It’s just not good enough for a midfield player.

So we pass down the wings instead, or lump it up to an unsupported Antonio, in the hope that he’ll pull off a masterclass in hold-up play and ram-raiding.  It’s all so predictable and easy to defend.

Last night, Leverkusen had a perfect balance of approach play, with 33% down the left, 31% through the middle, and 37% on the right.  Not knowing where the ball is coming from is mentally taxing, requires constant awareness and leads to fatigue that can be exploited.  Which they did.

West Ham, on the other hand, over relied on the Paqueta/Emerson combo, with 55% down the left, 30% on the right and a woeful 15% through the middle.  That allowed Alonso to focus his hungry pack of wolves on obvious danger areas.  It’s not difficult to understand why.

Achilles Heel

Soucek is not a reliable midfield outlet for us.  He’s no danger in the middle of the park.  He cannot distribute effectively, is too easy to run past and when he does get close, typically gives away fouls.  He is our Achilles heel.  In that position anyway.

Perhaps if Kalvin had worked out, or if Alvarez was eligible to play, he’d have been benched, but I doubt it.  Moyes just can’t resist thwarting our dynamism, creativity and attacking intent by including him in an ultra-defensive midfield.

For me, his attributes better serve us up front or in central defence.  He can score, and he can block (when his back is to our goal).  Bring him on for the last 20 minutes in attack, alongside Antonio or Ings and he’ll score.  Play him alongside Mavropanos and he’ll marshal the defence and put his body on the line in a way Aguerd never will and Oggie and Zouma no longer can.

Just imagine how many goals we could’ve scored with a more dynamic midfield.  That, for me, is the opportunity cost.

Guest post by Mr Buddy Lurve 

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