West Ham 1 v 1 Middlesbrough Part 2

Continuing the review of the Middlesbrough game, and the season to date, as we go into the second international break of the season.

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Part Two – Pedro Obiang

From the very first time I saw Pedro Obiang pull on a claret and blue shirt last season I thought that he was just the sort of player we needed to play in front of our back four. I have always liked the all-action mobile player in that position, doing the job that Makelele used to for Chelsea, that Kante did for Leicester’s title winning team last season, and to an extent like Scott Parker did for us a few seasons back.

Every time I watched him last season I thought he did a good job, but he had few opportunities, starting around a dozen games, and coming on as a substitute even more times to try to help to close out a game that we were winning, such as the 2-1 victory over Chelsea. It must have seemed strange to him as he appeared from the bench in one season more times than he did thoroughout his time at Sampdoria.

I thought he was particularly impressive in the early season victories away at Liverpool and Manchester City, both FA Cup games against Liverpool, and especially in the home victory over Tottenham which was the beginning of the end of their title hopes. Oxford, playing in a similar role in the opening game of last season at the Emirates was equally effective.

However, the manager’s views appear to differ from my own, as evidenced by the restricted opportunities given to Obiang and Oxford in that role. This season he has started with Nordtveit filling that position, which, on the evidence to date, surprises me.

Anybody who has read my writing will know that I have championed the inclusion of Obiang in the side, and so I was pleased to see him selected to start against Middlesbrough. And I thought he was our man of the match notwithstanding Payet’s wonder goal.

What is there not to like about Pedro Obiang? He is massively reliable, consistent, composed, and provides a shield in front of the defence that has not been seen this season. He is quick, athletic, strong in the tackle, has good distribution, and for me he should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

I have written before about my reservations for statistics in football, but despite this I felt compelled to look up Pedro’s numbers for Saturday’s game to confirm my thoughts of his effectiveness. His figures for successful tackling, interceptions, clearances, and blocks made him the best West Ham player from a defensive viewpoint. In possession he made more passes than any one of our team, with greater accuracy than most. A touch map on the West Ham website that I saw shows his all-over- the-pitch, and all-round contribution in an outstanding performance both statistically, and to the naked eye.

Surely he did enough to show the manager that we need a player in this role, and that he should be first choice to fill the position. Statistically, too, our results have been better when he has been included in the team, compared to when he hasn’t been on the pitch. I may be wrong but I think that we have only lost one league match in the past twelve months when Pedro Obiang has been involved (either starting or as a substitute), and he only featured for part of that game (the 2-1 away defeat at Newcastle in February). You’ll find that the games we did lose he wasn’t involved. A co-incidence?

Trust the stats Slav! We want to see more of Pedro Obiang.