West Ham United will be looking to maintain their strong start to the 2021/22 campaign when they host their first-ever Europa League group stage game at the London Stadium this evening.
David Moyes and his side welcome Austrian outfit Rapid Wien to east London, where they’ll be looking to build on their opening 2-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb two weeks ago.
In Croatia, the Irons boss named a mixed starting XI – it was largely full-strength barring a couple of fringe players and debutants.
With Everton in the Premier League at the weekend, the Scot could be tempted into rotating the side that clinched a last-gasp victory 2-1 over Leeds United on Saturday.
One dilemma facing Moyes is surely the form of his industrious box-to-box machine, Tomas Soucek.
He was named the club’s ‘Player of the Season’ last term but he’s struggled to repeat such exploits so far this campaign, though that’s not entirely any fault of his own.
The Czech Republic international featured regularly at Euro 2020 in the summer and that combined with a lack of pre-season – after putting in 100% to see the Hammers into Europe last season – could be one big reason behind his slump in form.
You could, therefore, forgive him for looking a little jaded.
It is something that even Moyes himself has noted, going as far as suggesting that the 6 foot 4 titan’s role has somewhat changed thanks to Declan Rice.
“[Rice is] not a Frank Lampard, for example, or someone who is expected to score goals,” the 58-year-old told reporters (via football.london).
“Tomas Soucek is in a role to try and get us goals, and Tomas didn’t disappoint with the goals he scored last year. We can’t allow them both to make runs into the box, so we need to have a bit of understanding that one stays deeper than the other. But Declan has looked more likely to get further up the pitch and we think he’ll score a few goals this season.”
Against United in the Premier League, plenty of supporters noticed him struggling with fitness, so in a game that a weaker-than-usual Hammers side should win, Moyes must look to be bold and axe Soucek.
He also looked underwhelming up at Elland Road, too, as highlighted by Football FanCast here.
It’ll help his form in the long run as he desperately needs a proper rest – something he will not get during the international break as the 43-cap beast will play a crucial role for the Czech Republic.