West Ham boss backs his skipper after calls for him to be dropped
PUBLISHED: 08:30 10 March 2017
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Hammers manager Slaven Bilic is also happy with Cheikhou Kouyate playing at right-back
After a barrage of criticism on social media following the mistake that cost the first goal against Chelsea on Monday night, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has backed skipper Mark Noble.
The 29-year-old dithered on the ball and then lost it, allowing the Blues to break quickly and Eden Hazard to score, but it seems Bilic has no intention of dropping him for tomorrow’s Premier League clash at Bournemouth.
“He is our captain and he has done really well recently,” said the Hammers manager.
“He is the leader of the team and he keeps us balanced. Sometimes he has a great game and sometimes he doesn’t, but overall he is playing good.”
Canning Town-born Noble has played close to 400 games for the club and his appetite for West Ham seems unwavering.
“He is more than a player on the pitch, his presence means a lot for the others around him. You can’t judge a player on one mistake,” added Bilic.
“If it is like that then Barcelona should have sold all their players after Paris and now they should get long-term contracts and PSG the other way round,” he added, referring to Barca’s remarkable Champions League aggregate win from 4-0 down in the first leg.
“Before Chelsea I was asked whether he deserves a call-up to the England squad and now, after nothing basically, the questions is: ‘what about Mark Noble?’”
It seems Bilic will stick by his skipper tomorrow and he also spoke about Senegal midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate having to play at right-back.
“First of all, I am happy with the way he plays out there,” added Bilic. “It is a waste not to use him in the midfield and I have to praise him because it is not his natural position.
“I spoke to him on his own and in front of the whole team where I praised him. I told him the team needs him in that position and because of his qualities, not just physically, but as a footballer, he can play in any position.”
One option would be to bring Sam Byram in at right-back and play Kouyate in midfield ahead of Noble, but Bilic seems to have little appetite for that change.
“He is best in midfield or in central defence, but the team needs him now and he is a great person,” he said.
“Of course he doesn’t adore playing there, but he can do the job, he is happy to sacrifice his ideal position to help the team.”
West Ham seem to have a clean bill of health heading into the weekend, with Andy Carroll and Robert Snodgrass both fit after having stitches from the Chelsea clash, while Jose Fonte should also be fit after feeling something on Monday.
The Cherries have not won this calendar year, but Bilic still thinks it will be tough for his side.
“Is it a good time to play them? I don’t know. They didn’t have a good run since Arsenal (a 3-3 draw). They have had a few defeats and one draw, but then their last game gave them a big boost of confidence and belief – to get a point at Old Trafford.
“We’re expecting a very difficult game on a small pitch with a big atmosphere, but we are looking forward to it.”