David Moyes must find a solution for Tomas Soucek’s struggles after frequently being caught out of position as West Ham United beat Aston Villa on Monday night.
Moyes handed the Czech Republic international his 10th start of the Premier League season for the visit of Dean Smith’s Villans, who arrived in east London within three-points of the Champions League places following Leicester City’s surprise loss at relegation-threatened Fulham.
A win for West Ham saw the Irons move ahead of the Birmingham-based outfit and up to fifth place, and could now go third with a win over Manchester United on Saturday evening.
Moyes will need to see an improved performance from Soucek if the Scottish coach is to orchestrate a victory over his former employer, who he has only beat on four occasions in his managerial career despite facing them 28 times across all competitions.
Soucek had been one of Moyes’ standout stars of the season so far prior to the visit of Villa, but failed to deliver the same impact at either end of the field with no key passes and one shot that was off-target, plus just one touch (38) more and one fewer accurate passes (12) than goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, per WhoScored.
Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville was far from impressed with Soucek’s positioning, in particular, having felt the £19.1million summer signing was too rash in applying pressure that he exposed his defensive teammates.
“An old principle. If you think about central midfield play, coaches would always say that a central midfield player, in this case Soucek, furthest away from the ball, he should be able to see his mate’s back and read what’s on the back of his shirt,” Neville said during Sky Sports’ coverage of Monday night’s game (30/11, 20:55).
“You look at Soucek, he just gets drawn forward and leaves that space. That’s the place you’ve got to block. Every coach in football now stops that ball into the strikers and forwards.”
Moyes can ill-afford to see Soucek similarly be caught out of position when Manchester United visit the London Stadium this weekend, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils boasting the Premier League’s fifth-most active offence with 13.8 shots a game, and with the second-most coming from outside the penalty area (44%), per WhoScored.
The Old Trafford natives are far more inclined to try their luck from range than inside the six-yard box (2%, a league-low), while forward Anthony Martial registers a large per cent of his 37.8 touches per game on the edge of the opponents’ area – where Soucek was often not found against West Ham.