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Rising stars: Soucek head and shoulders above midfield rivals

13 Aug 2020
Tomas Soucek, West Ham

Adrian Clarke highlights impact of 6ft 4in midfielder who wins more aerial duels than anyone else in his position

Adrian Clarke looks at players who emerged in the Premier League last season and are set to shine in 2020/21.

Tomas Soucek (WHU)

Soucek proved to be one of the best signings to arrive in January’s transfer window.

Joining from Slavia Prague, he has added energy and an attacking threat to West Ham United's central midfield unit.

The 25-year-old covers a lot of ground as a defensive midfielder but still breaks forward when opportunities arise.

Midfield threat 2019/20
Most headed efforts/90  Most aerial duels won/90
Tomas Soucek 0.69  Tomas Soucek 6.14
Christian Pulisic 0.57  Eric Dier 4.33
Anwar El Ghazi 0.44  Philip Billing 3.95

Standing at 6ft 4in, Soucek is already the league’s most dominant midfielder in the air.

He has recorded more headed efforts on goal per 90 minutes and won more aerial duels than any other player in his position.

It is no surprise he is already a firm favourite with manager David Moyes.

Moyes is well-known for his admiration of Marouane Fellaini, a player he signed for both Everton and Manchester United.

And Soucek is a similar player to the Belgian, who scored 37 goals in 260 Premier League appearances.

He poses a big threat from set-pieces, breaks into the box to attack crosses in open play and adds height when defending dead-ball situations. 

The best of Soucek

 

Before Soucek arrived, West Ham had not posed much of a threat from corners and wide free-kicks, scoring just six goals in 25 matches.

But the tall midfielder netted twice from corners against Chelsea and Newcastle United, while his physical presence also acted as an effective decoy.

Opposing defenders were often distracted to such an extent that Soucek's team-mates began to get extra space to attack crosses themselves.

It is no coincidence the Hammers scored more than three times as many goals from set-pieces with Soucek in the starting XI.

This will be one of their core strengths this term.

Soucek's impact at West Ham
2019/20 Without Soucek With Soucek
Minutes 2,379 1,041
Matches 25 13
Set-piece goals 6 8
Mins/set-piece goal 396.5 130.1

Soucek has also added much-needed running power to West Ham’s midfield.

Prior to his arrival the pairing of Declan Rice and Mark Noble could sometimes be overrun, but the industrious 25-year-old has reinforced the unit well.

Indeed, Soucek covers more ground than any other Hammers player, which enables Rice and Noble to concentrate on their key strengths.

Ground covered 2019/20
West Ham Km/90 mins*
Tomas Soucek 12.3
Pablo Fornals 12.1
Andriy Yarmolenko 11.4
Robert Snodgrass 11.2
Declan Rice 11.0
Mark Noble 10.9

* minimum 500 minutes played

Soucek is terrific at winning possession, averaging 1.9 interceptions per 90 minutes, and his qualities have given West Ham balance.

Well-suited to the Premier League, he can kick on in 2020/21 and further enhance his reputation.

Also in this series

Part 1: Martinez makes case to be Arsenal's first choice
Part 2: Lamptey has pace to take Brighton forward
Part 4: Jones gives Liverpool midfield another dimension
Part 5: Podence can cement Wolves starting spot

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