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Irish Hammer 12:36 Thu Oct 21
Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
The article has graphics but I can't them here I'm afraid. But its worth a few mins to read.

Better balance helps Soucek and Rice rediscover best form as a midfield pair

The midfield partnership of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek is the envy of many Premier League clubs — yet the pair have struggled as a duo at the start of this season.

However, there were signs the West Ham United midfield two was back to its best in Sunday’s away win over Everton.

Rice put in another man of the match display, while Soucek’s ubiquitous performance also left a lasting impression.

The Czech Republic international had a goal ruled out for offside and was the most accurate passer (97.8 per cent, 45 successful passes out of 46 overall) among the 22 starters.

Following an accidental collision with Everton striker Salomon Rondon, Soucek suffered several cuts to his face.

After receiving stitches, and in a jocular mood, he reassured fans via Twitter that he’s “still alive”.

Before he came off with his injuries on 79 minutes, it had been one of Soucek’s better games this season — one many will hope leads to an upturn in form.

“Tomas is OK,” said West Ham manager David Moyes. “He’s obviously been a bit sore, with different stitches. He got his lip redone the other day again by another doctor, but he’s had stitches in his lip, he’s had stitches in his cheek and he’s had stitches above his nose as well; three different areas he’s had it.

“I think he’s fine. There’s just a decision whether we decide to rest him (against Genk, in Thursday’s Europa League group match) or just give him a chance for a breather really, but I don’t think his injuries would be any reason not to play him. Tomas wants to play.”

Last season, the Soucek-Rice partnership worked perfectly.

Whether it was his ball carries, interceptions or tackles, Rice highlighted on a weekly basis why he is such a sought-after talent, while Soucek scored 10 league goals to finish as West Ham’s joint-top scorer in the competition alongside Michail Antonio.

Ahead of this season’s opener against Newcastle United in August, Soucek spoke about wanting to kick on again this campaign.

“My partnership with Declan is very good for me and I hope that we can still improve, because there is still space for improving,” he said. “I am happy that he is still a young guy and a young star; he can improve next to me and be one of the top central midfielders and I can improve next to him as well. We know each other, so one can move and the next one can immediately fill in the space, so it is a good relationship.”

However, over the two months since, Soucek’s progress has stalled.

The 26-year-old is widely considered a box-to-box midfielder but this season it is Rice who has become a lot more attack-minded, with his goal in the 2-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb in last month’s Europa League opener a case in point. The England international has massively improved as an attacking threat but this has meant Soucek has found it hard to produce the type of performances that deservedly earned him the Hammer of the Year award for last season.

As Moyes said: “I think Tomas has been trying to rediscover his best form. Is it to do with Declan Rice getting forward a bit more? Well, I’m hoping that both of them can get goals, which will give us two goalscoring midfielders. But I think Tomas has struggled a little bit with it.”

Fatigue may also have been a factor.

Soucek has played 4,128 Premier League minutes since the start of last season — by far the most by any West Ham player (Aaron Cresswell is next on 3,892, almost three whole matches less). Fellow midfielders Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, of Tottenham Hotspur, and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse were the only outfield players to play more minutes in the division than Soucek in 2020-21.

Minutes played in 2020-21 PL season

Yet there were signs the partnership was blossoming again at Goodison Park.

As the graphic below shows, although Rice (No 41) would occasionally burst forward, midfield partner Soucek (No 28) played a slightly more advanced role.

This represents each West Ham player’s average position during the game, and suggests the midfield pair got the balance right.

With Rice looking to bomb on more, Soucek has had to become a lot more mindful of potential gaps appearing for opposition counter-attacks — as opposed to last season, where he was primarily focused on making runs into the opponents’ box (as he was the likelier of the two to score).

The graphic above shows Soucek’s touches against Everton.

The deeper red colour highlights where he had a higher density of touches — the central area and the right flank.

Rice, meanwhile, had a lot more touches down the left, helping to nullify Everton danger man Andros Townsend’s impact on the game.

It is great that Rice has shown signs of transitioning into a box-to-box midfielder, but arguably his biggest strength is how disciplined he is defensively.

In the 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace back in August, Rice also had a high density of touches in the central area and left flanks. Similarly to last weekend’s game against Everton, he aimed to repel the threat of Wilfried Zaha, who did not have a shot on target in the game.

But the touch map above shows Rice played slightly further forward than Soucek against Palace. Their double-act is at its best when Soucek is also given license to roam forward, considering Rice is better suited to snuffing out attacks than his team-mate is.

Soucek excelled when Moyes frequently played a 5-4-1 system last season, which could also shift into a 3-4-3 formation. Since that opening win over Newcastle, Moyes has stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation so far in the new campaign, something which has perhaps taken Soucek a bit of time to get used to.

Yet the performance against Everton provided plenty of encouragement Rice and Soucek are starting to get back to their best as a pair.

The former has elevated his game since helping England get within a penalty shootout of winning this summer’s European Championship — and it surely won’t be long before Soucek follows suit.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Charoo 12:23 Fri Oct 22
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
You do a lovely job Irish - keep it up and I’m sure the Kildare post, the Cork Bugle or the Wicklow Times will soon pick you up as chief sports editor :)

Up the Hammers.

SurfaceAgentX2Zero 8:41 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Female relative, I reckon.

Irish Hammer 2:43 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.

Charoo 2:01 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.

With a feather quill and on parchment paper.

I shall never reveal my sources. 🤫

Charoo 2:01 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Irish Hammer is the source. He writes these himself.

Swiss. 2:01 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Was anyone watching how much space Everton were giving us in midfield?

Lets see against Spurs.

Texas Iron 1:23 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Be good if you posted the source of your articles...

You never post the source...


BillyJenningsBoots 1:18 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Oh Vexed...

get over it - he has more than contributed to the performance of the team he's been superb and yes is getting better with each season - if he stays fit he will have played more than 150 games for us more than most players who join us or are brought thru the youth ranks... Di Canio and Scotty Parker played fewer games. Rice's contribution to the team I believe can be compared to them - he's our best and most consistent player!

Just admit you were wrong he's been a proper player for a good 3+ years...

Vexed 1:13 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Yeah, they can both rest all they want after a thumping win against those muppets on Sunday.

Takashi Miike 1:00 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
I think the big man was more jaded mentally than it being a fitness thing. great to see him getting his form back, though I hope he's rested for sunday

Vexed 12:52 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Accidental collision my arse.

I've never been his biggest fan but Rice was outstanding against Everton. The Euros was his coming of age, where he was also excellent. It's a shame now we've waited for a long time for him to become a proper player that he's now going to fuck us off at the end of the season.

dealcanvey 12:51 Thu Oct 21
Re: Article on Rice & Soucek starting to gel again.
Soucek had a much better game on Sunday.

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