A shift in impetus this season from the resolute defending personified by then manager Sam Allardyce, has seen West Ham’s creative attacking talents shine brighter under new manager Slaven Bilic. Last year, if asked, most fans would have said our best player was one of the back five whereas this year I’m sure they would undoubtedly point to one one of the attackers
Yet whilst the large majority of West Ham fans salivate over the attacking options and displays we’ve seen so far this season, there is one player I feel is going somewhat unnoticed with his performances at the other end of the pitch – James Tomkins. Whilst the club, as well as all of us, will want to forget our brief qualifying stint for the Europa League this summer, Tomkins managed to score two in six games played under the new manager.
Nevertheless, the beginning of the Premier League season has been a rather challenging one for the Hammers’ academy graduate. If anything, his start to the season has been tough in terms of the mentality required, due to his ever changing circumstances and placing within the squad. But while many would bemoan the cutting and changes, Tomkins has just let his football do the talking. Many talk of the selection headaches within the midfield and upfront, but Tomkins is single handily going to give Bilic a massive headache if he carries on as he is.
In his seven appearances this season, Tomkins has played at right-back three times and centre-back four times. With the arrival of Angelo Ogbonna, Tomkins must have been wondering where his playing time would come from as the club added depth to an already competitive position. However, he has been heavily relied on which shows just how trusted and well thought of he is by the management.
The fact he has only played two consecutive games (Manchester City and Norwich) in his favoured position,- shows the flexibility and dependency which has been put on his shoulders. Whether you want to put that down to Jenkinson’s form, ineligibility or suspensions, the fact remains that Tomkins has outperformed our first choice right-back and one of our first choice centre-backs so far this campaign.
The question is now should Tomkins be our first choice right back whilst he plays so well there, especially, once Ogbonna returns? It’s clear that both fullSTUART PLANT @IronViewsStu Struggle: Carl Jenkinson has not been at his best backs aren’t playing to their potential in the early stages of this season, so why should Tomkins have to sit on the bench when he could replace one of them and do a better job if he himself is to be replaced by a fit-again Ogbonna? He doesn’t possess the raw speed of Jenkinson, that’s a given, however, defensively he is so much better suited there.
Although you’d expect Jenkinson to have the better attacking prowess between the two, that has been non-existent so far this season, which has left Bilic berating him and Cresswell to offer more going forward from the touchline of a few occasions this season. When Ogbonna returns it will be intriguing to see whether or not he does replace Tomkins instantly, and, whether or not that means Tomkins simply slides along to right back, or, finds himself right back on the bench with the return of the Italian centre-back.
Also, let us not forget that our only three clean sheets so far this season have come in games when Tomkins has played at right back. During our win at Anfield he had the highest pass accuracy of our defence (82 per cent), made more passes (44) and had more touches (53) than his backfour colleagues. Aaron Cresswell has had plenty of people calling for him to be given an England call-up but, for whatever reason, Roy Hodgson hasn’t handed him it, Does he deserve it? Yes. But not on this season’s showing.
However, Roy could make a smart move in handing Tomkins a callup now that England are qualified for the Euro’s. It would be great to give him the opportunity to show what he can do in something of a problem-position for the national side, especially as there is no pressure on England now they have qualified for next summer’s tournament
Much like Mark Noble, Tomkins has represented England from the U16s up to the U21s, as well as Great Britain in the Olympics. What’s more is who is going to go to the Euro’s for England. Jagielka, Cahill, Smalling, Stones? Why shouldn’t Tomkins be able to force his way into the squad at the expense of any of those listed?