Ahead of Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in charge of West Ham United, there was much uncertainty about the role club captain Mark Noble would play in his team and whether there would be a regular starting position for the veteran, at all.
However, doubts over the skipper’s ability to perform at the highest level fell on deaf ears to the Chilean and his staff as Noble has continued to fulfil a vital role. Ahead of this evening’s Premier League trip to face Leicester City, we carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of the 31-year-old’s campaign so far, finding out how he has managed to remain one of the first names on the teamsheet despite Pellegrini publicly guaranteeing nothing and perform at such a high standard.
First, we will be analysing Noble 2018/2019’s thus far from a positional standpoint to understand more where he has been playing since the beginning of August, with a little help from the below graphic, provided by our good friends over at wyscout.com.
The image contains a heatmap and position map, as well as a brief profile and some basic statistics about his contributions under the 64-year-old, which has included starting seven of the nine league matches, missing two in late-August, early-September, through injury.
Noble has always played in the centre of midfield and as we can see, that hasn’t changed this season as both maps tell us there is hardly an area of the centre of the park he hasn’t featured in. However, his role has been slightly different as, in the main, it has been part of a midfield three alongside Pedro Obiang and Declan Rice, having that support has allowed him to flourish with that much-needed cover in place.
For the main part of our analysis, to find out just how impressive the captain has been for a 31-year-old in the world’s toughest league having to adapt to a new manager’s style, we are going to be taking an in-depth look at his general average statistics for this term.
The above stats, from his seven league appearances so far, having not featured in any Carabao Cup matches, are provided by the fantastic Wyscout website once more.
In the graphic, we have the figures from each of Noble’s showings individually, but today, we are only going to be focussing on the averages column at the very top, featuring the numbers per 90 minutes, next to another mini heatmap.
The first stat we are drawn to is total actions and the star with over 12 years of PL experience’s rate of success in them, averaging an eye-catching 76.02, displaying how active he is on the field and managing to successfully complete just shy of 80 per cent of them.
He is yet to score this season, when he does, it more than often comes from the penalty spot but Marko Arnautovic was chosen to take the Hammers’ only spot-kick of the season so far to break the deadlock in the defeat to AFC Bournemouth, hence his expected goals rating of 0.03.
Something he has done this campaign is assist, accounting for his average of 0.15 per 90 minutes, teeing up Arnautovic for the third goal in the 3-1 beating of Manchester United at London Stadium, along with shooting, averaging just below 0.5 per game, 67.4% coming on target.
Noble has always been known for having a better defensive side to his game rather than a better attacking one, in spite of the odd moment of magic such as the volley at the King Power Stadium last season, which is why his numbers improve as we start to analyse more defensive stats.
An eye-catching 83.8% of his 52.31 passes and 62.6% of his 6.15 longer trickier passes have reached their intended targets in the middle of the park, but he will want to improve his crossing game when he gets into wide areas, that stat speaks for itself.
Usually one of his better areas, his duelling hasn’t quite been up to scratch yet, winning just 36.5% of his 16.46 duels and 0% of his 0.31 aerial duels, but something he struggles in more often than not, dribbling, he has excelled in, averaging nearly two a game and completing over 90% of them.
1.85 interceptions per 90 minutes tell us his reading of the game is still on point, along with just two yellow cards, his disciplinary record being just out of the picture. Noble only loses the ball 8.15 times and a very small percentage of the losses put his team in danger in his own half, recovering 6.31 times, 41.5% of the time in the opposing half.
Overall, there can be little denying that these stats aren’t just more than respectable for a player of Noble’s age in the most competitive league on the planet, but they are fabulous figures and ones that show the footballing world he is still more than capable of doing a job at this level.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that Noble, with the help of injuries to the likes of new signings Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez, has not only been able to keep his starting place under Pellegrini, but hold it down with flying colours.
Statistically, he has been excellent this season so far with many members of the Claret & Blue Army claiming that he has actually improved with the arrival of the new manager in East London. Leading out his boyhood club, Noble is set to continue his superb form in the East Midlands this evening, and who would bet against him producing another match-winning performance like he did away to Leicester just five months ago?