Mark Noble and James Tomkins were the last of the Tony Carr era to become first team regulars, but now seem to be falling down the pecking order.
West Ham fans have always been proud of the talent their academy has produced, from the fan favourites such as Joe Cole, to the less popular Jermain Defoe.
However, it has been a while since the club have created a talent of the same calibre, with Michael Carrick being the last Hammers graduate to break into the England team. Two players that have impressed the West Ham faithful are central midfielder Noble and defender Tomkins.
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Both players have been regular first choice during Sam Allardyce’s reign at the club but with cult legend Slaven Bilic taking charge the roles of both players have come under scrutiny.
The former Besiktas manager immediately prioritised strengthening the team defence, which has suffered an injury riddled few seasons and forcing the team to improvise, with Cheikhou Kouyate dropping back from his usual role in midfield for parts of the season.
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And despite Reece Burke entering the scene towards the end of the last campaign, Bilic brought in Juventus centre-back Angelo Ogbonna, who has been well received by the fans. A commanding figure, he had captained Torino before making his move to the Old Lady in 2013 and casts doubt over the future of Tomkins.
It’s true that the demands of the Europa League mean Bilic will require more depth but with the rise of both Reece Burke and Reece Oxford (who captains England U17), the competition may be seen as an opportunity to develop the youth players.
Despite the growing competition I can’t see Tomkins being completely lost from the squad. He is a strong tackler and last season was statistically the best centre back in the league. Being a home grown talent too it’s important that West Ham are able to rotate him in and out of the squad when required, as he would surely be first choice for any mid table side.
A different case entirely
Noble is a different case entirely, with many fans complaining that he is not fast enough and performs “too many sideways passes”. Last year noble began to see question marks over his starting squad and that doubt is nowhere near over, with Bilic’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation limiting the side to just two central midfield players.
The arrival of highly rated new boy Pedro Obiang and the imminent return of Alex Song has put a lot of pressure on Noble to claim one of the two spots.
The big question is what does he offer that the other don’t? Fortunately for him West Ham midfielders are very much defensive minded players, giving Noble the opportunity to show that he can be utilised in more of an advanced playmaker role, which is exactly where he appeared at his best last season. Having lost his set piece status to Cresswell (and maybe now Payet) and with Bilic preferring deeper playmakers Nobles chances this season may be limited.
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