David Moyes should adhere to Frank McAvennie’s advice after he backed Said Benrahma as the surprise answer to West Ham United’s Declan Rice woes.
The Hammers confirmed earlier this week that Rice sustained a lateral knee ligament injury while representing England during the March international break.
He now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, which reports have suggested could be as long as four to six weeks providing surgery is not required.
Rice having to have his knee operated on could see the 22-year-old be ruled out for the rest of the season, which would jeopardise his place in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad for this summer’s European Championships.
Moyes opted to recall Mark Noble against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night for only the Irons captain’s fifth Premier League start of the term, but McAvennie fears his former side having to rely on the 33-year-old long-term.
“To play Noble for six weeks could set us back, no disrespect to him, but he’s just not got the energy or the legs that the younger guys have,” McAvennie exclusively told FootballFanCast.
“David has got to find energy in the middle. If Rice is caught out and [Tomas] Soucek is up beside him, the two of them have got energy to get back, but Noble can’t.
“But if [Ben] Johnson or whoever he wants to put in – Benrahma, and may have to play him a bit deeper, but he’s still got the energy to get up and down. [Jesse] Lingard, I don’t think he’ll bring him that far back.
“It’s a strange one and it’s going to be a headache for David Moyes.”
Noble fared reasonably well in the holding midfield role beside Soucek by keeping things simple, with his leadership the key factor behind his performance having offered a calm head whilst Nuno Espirito Santo’s side threatened a three-goal comeback.
But the Molineux outfit have struggled for consistent form all season and now sit 14th in table, while Sunday’s clash with top-four rivals Leicester City will be expected to cause West Ham a much tougher test in the fight for Champions League qualification.
Moyes could look to weather the inevitable storm by adhering to McAvennie’s advice, and unleashing Benrahma in the engine room beside Soucek and Noble despite the Algerian never playing deeper than an attacking midfield role throughout his career.
The Hammers boss has previously praised Benrahma – who fell to the bench at Molineux and has not started back-to-back Premier League games since February 6 – for his defensive work rate, as his contributions had caught Moyes by surprise.
“I’ve had a bit of a laugh with him [Benrahma] because I’m saying to him: ‘I didn’t realise I’d signed a really hard-working midfield player who runs and closes down, and does all the defensive duties,’” Moyes said, via quotes by The Guardian, in February.
“I said: ‘I thought we got someone for assists and goal making.’ They’re the bits which I think he’s probably needed to improve. The other part has been excellent. I want team players here – I don’t want individuals – but Said’s been great for the team.”
Moyes can now look to unleash Benrahma’s defensive capabilities to their full potential by fielding the 25-year-old in a deeper role at home to Leicester on Sunday, and see if he can be the answer to West Ham’s Rice headache.
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