It’s fair to say there were few West Ham fans who knew the name Tomas Soucek when the Slavia Prague captain arrived in London in late January. His move was met with a muted reaction in England but back home, his parent club Slavia Prague were gutted to see him leave.
Yes, it is only a temporary move but a £13m option to buy meant a permanent move away was likely if he impressed. With that in mind, here we take a look at how Soucek is getting on and give our verdict on whether or not Slavia can expect to see him back at the Sinobo Stadium again.
Who is Tomas Soucek?
Firstly, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Soucek, let’s just take a quick look at the man behind the name. Soucek joined Slavia Prague as a teenager and finished mastering his craft in professional football in their academy before his breakthrough season in 2015/16 as a 20-year-old.
Despite featuring in 31 games and notching seven goals from midfield, he soon fell down the pecking order and a couple of loan spells with fellow Czech sides – Viktoria Zizkov and Slovan Liberec – allowed him to continue his development.
By the 2017/18 campaign, Soucek was firmly back in the plans of Slavia Prague as the club won the Cup and a year later. Soucek had a hand in 27 goals (18 goals and nine assists), they completed a league and cup double giving him his fourth piece of major silverware after earning a medal for his part in the early part of the 2016/17 season.
That form continued in the following season with Soucek winning the Czech player of the year award after a further 10 goals in 23 games took his stats to a remarkable level. May you be reminded that Tomas plays as a defensive midfielder. His performances hadn’t gone unnoticed and then came the move to West Ham.
From title winner to relegation battle
Considering Soucek has been used to collecting silverware in his homeland a move to West Ham, who are firmly in a relegation battle in the English Premier League, was a wakeup call to show things aren’t always a walk in the park. Far from it in fact. He had to watch from the stands as his new club lost 2-0 to Liverpool before a debut, which came at home to fellow strugglers Brighton, saw the Hammers earn a point in an entertaining 3-3 draw.
What followed were back to back matches against Man City and, again, Liverpool as West Ham shipped five goals and collected zero points. To make matters worse, Soucek hobbled out of the Liverpool match shortly after the interval with a minor injury and he missed the next game, which his team won.
Soucek and co then traveled to the Emirates to face Arsenal but the Czech midfielder had to make do with just a nine-minute cameo from the bench as his team fell to defeat. He was restored to the starting XI for the next match but Wolves and then Tottenham comfortably swept West Ham aside by two goals to nil on both occasions.
Things were not looking good for West Ham and Soucek, although proving a decent player, wasn’t influencing things enough to turn the tide of poor results. Then came a grudge match with Chelsea.
Becoming a cult hero?
Chelsea do not like West Ham. West Ham hate Chelsea. It’s a huge game in the Hammers calendar but, on paper, this time around, it looked destined to be yet another nail in the Premier League coffin for David Moyes’ men.
Their odds didn’t improve when Willian gave the Blues a 42nd minute lead from the penalty spot but then, three minutes later and on the stroke of half time, Soucek gave West Ham a lifeline as he headed home Jarrod Bowen’s corner kick.
His goalscoring account was open. West Ham had life breathed into them and come the final whistle, Soucek had played his part in a first West Ham win – at the seventh time of asking. Goals from Michail Antonio and Yarmolenko added up to an incredible 3×2 victory.
The next match saw West Ham visit Newcastle United desperate to build on their shock win over Chelsea. They could only manage a 2-2 draw with Soucek grabbing his second goal in as many games. Four points from six looked like a platform that could help the Londoners pull away from danger but a 1-0 defeat to Burnley brought them back to reality before Michael Antonio hit four goals in a demolition of now relegated Norwich City.
With three games left to play, the Hammers are in a strong position to stay up with a three-point cushion and significantly better goal difference over third bottom Bournemouth.
An away trip to Manchester United looks tough but it is sandwiched between home games against fellow relegation candidates Watford and Aston Villa. If West Ham can get over the line and keep hold of their topflight status for another year, then Soucek will have played a major role in their survival.
That combined with scoring against Chelsea will ensure he remains long in the memory of their fans. It’s likely that Moyes will look to sign him permanently too with the player stating how much he’s enjoying it.
Even if the worst does happen and West Ham go down, Soucek has proven himself more than capable of competing in the Premier League and it surely won’t be long until another team pick him up with quality midfielders not easy to come by.
Do the stats back up the hype?
First things first, he might only have two goals in 10 matches but they’ve both been vital in earning points. There is a constant goal threat to his game too with him averaging two shots on the oppositions net each match.
He’s much more than an attack minded midfielder though. His pass completion is only 69.3%, which is far from the Hammers best, but he is their second most dominant player in the air and his defensive contribution is excellent.
Over an average 90 minutes, he makes three clearances, two interceptions, one block and wins over two tackles. His stature of 1,92m – which wouldn’t be out of place in the basketball NBA expert picks by BetAmerica – make him a very reliable presence in midfield.
All in all, Soucek is making quite the impression in the Premier League and a return to Slavia Prague is looking less and less likely with each passing game. It will all come up to whether the Hammers retain their Premier League place, but even if West Ham does not activate the buyout clause we believe Tomas is getting a move elsewhere.