With the club’s current longest serving player, Mark Noble, out injured for the past two games against Tottenham and Stoke, Gary O’Neil has stepped in and, in my opinion, performed quite well.
Big Sam singled out the 29-year-old midfielder for praise after his performance away at Stoke and I felt he took to the position of the holding midfielder like a duck to water. O’Neil is far more influential in the game when he is put to his defensive capabilities because since joining the club it’s safe to say he hasn’t lit up the Boleyn Ground with his performances on the right wing.
A lot of Hammers fans have questioned Gary O’Neil’s place in the squad, he is definitely not going to be a regular first team starter as he offers little width or crossing when played on the wing and isn’t going to displace Noble, Diame or Nolan in the middle of the park when all are fit to play
After such a long period of time out of the game due to the horrific injury against Aston Villa a couple seasons back, O’Neil could well choose to head somewhere else to ply his trade in the summer. O’Neil is good back up, but possibly not Premier League quality anymore, in the summer it might be best to let him go elsewhere and find a better replacement to challenge the three previously mentioned for a Thomas Johnson starting spot.
But let’s not be too harsh on O’Neil, if anything he gives 100% in every game he plays in, whilst possibly lacking the technical gifts of others he puts blood, sweat and tears into football. It’s right to say Sam Allardyce and a lot of Hammers fans see Noble, Diame and Nolan as the midfield three as Diame makes up for Noble’s lack of pace as he has an engine that he fuels for every minute of the 90. What Noble lacks in pace he makes up with his great vision for passing. It’s surprising he hasn’t received a full international call up from Roy Hodgson as he’s certainly on par with someone of Leon Osman’s quality
Noble has spent years in the West Ham first team under the shadow of former Hammer Scott Parker and now Kevin Nolan but has been stepping into his own in the holding role, setting up attacks and throwing his body to the cause for the claret and blues. With Noble back in the squad and fit to play I can’t see Sam keeping him out for Gary O’Neil.
You wouldn’t leave out one of your best players and someone who has worked so hard to make that position in the first team his, for someone who is a squad player at best, O’Neil helped a bit in the Championship but unfortunately the Premier League might be a bit beyond his grasp nowadays