It’s no coincidence that West Ham’s results and performances have improved since Jack Wilshere’s injury, the Irons losing all four of their Premier League fixtures this season with the former Arsenal star in their midfield.
That’s not necessarily any particular fault of Wilshere’s, but more how depleting options have forced Manuel Pellegrini into selecting a more balanced team, with the three holding players in the engine room – Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble and Declan Rice – providing the necessary protection to compensate for what an incredibly offensive front three lack defensively.
But we know three holding midfielders just isn’t Pellegrini’s style, and we also know West Ham’s injury crisis in the middle of the park is so severe that the Hammers can’t rely on those three players alone until Wilshere, then Manuel Lanzini and then Carlos Sanchez are fit again.
West Ham need creativity to consistently link the midfield to the forward line and make this a true Pellegrini team. Robert Snodgrass, featuring as a central midfielder for the first time in the Premier League this season, showed he can provide it against Tottenham on Saturday while committing to the necessary defensive obligations needed to avoid over-exposure of the Irons backline.
The Scotland international has surprisingly emerged as one of Pellegrini’s favourites since the former Manchester City manager turned up at the London Stadium, going on to feature in every fixture – albeit often as a substitute – for the east London club this season.
And it was a productive performance from the 31-year-old who, at this point in his career, is more likely to show his technical quality and game intelligence in central areas than out wide. Snodgrass – who Transfermarkt value at just £6.3million – laid on the most key passes of any West Ham player against Spurs through his set piece taking but also weighed in with the second-most tackles, his return of five only surpassed by the aforementioned Rice.
Wilshere lacked that level of output during his early appearances for the Hammers, but perhaps more crucially the ability to combine it with some dogged defending as well. Although Pellegrini is clearly a big fan of the England international too, insisting he be offered a three-year contract by the club in the summer, Snodgrass has laid down an early marker to continue as the creative element in West Ham’s midfield even after Wilshere returns to fitness.
Who would you start in central midfield, West Ham fans? Let us know by voting below…