You might think that Tomas Soucek is entitled to revel in his glory. After putting in one of his typical outstanding West Ham performances, crucial to the recent results that have propelled the Hammers up the table, putting in a grueling day, running farther than almost anyone on the pitch and making telling contributions in both boxes, you might think that Soucek could take a break, at least for a night.
Soucek, however, would disagree. Once a game is played he is not one to think on to the next one. Instead it is time for post-match analysis, starting with his wife before he sits down for a film session just a few hours after the full time whistle.
"When I come home from a game I can't sleep," Soucek tells CBS Sports. "Many times the clips from the games are running through my head, what I could do better and what I did well. Sometimes, well, many times, I watch the game again.
"It's like practice. Practice one is what I do on the training pitch. And second practice is what I watch on the TV, what I should do better."
Is that the first thing you do when you get back home after a game? "One of the first things... because my wife is waiting for me every time and she wants to talk about the match, how I enjoyed it and tell me what she saw. Then she goes to sleep and then I'll watch the game. I know when my goals are so I don't wake her!"
Such commitment to self-improvement has paid off in emphatic fashion over the past year with Soucek winning himself a permanent move from Slavia Prague to West Ham before establishing himself as one of the Premier League's most impressive all-around contributors. In an era where the English game is supposed to be too dynamic for any one player to make a difference in attack and defense the Czech international is doing it all.
Since he arrived in England on January 29, 2020, only 11 players have won more tackles in Premier League matches than Soucek. There are just 10 individuals with more interceptions to their name. Nobody has won more duels.
Craving even more coverage of the world's game? Listen below and subscribe to ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.
If his defensive numbers are impressive, it is his offensive output that has been remarkable. In just over a year the midfielder, usually deployed alongside Declan Rice in a defensive pivot, has scored 11 goals in the top flight, none of them penalties. Apply the same criteria across the league and Soucek sits ahead of such scoring stars as Marcus Rashford, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus.
Soucek insists there is no secret ingredient beyond hard work and a willingness to chase down lost causes in the hope he can translate them into goals. He is being much to modest. To watch him when West Ham are in position to cross the ball into box is to see a man constantly on the move, fractionally adjusting his position to ensure he can get the run on defenders who are increasingly wising up to the threat he poses.
"Now it's harder and harder because when we want to cross I see the defenders looking for where I am so they want to cover me," Soucek says in an interview facilitated by club sponsor Betway.
"Especially in the Premier League there are many strong defenders and when I stay in one place they cover me. I want to develop my space and I want to go ahead like a free player and score the free header or the free shot. So it is why I am [always moving].
"When I want to receive the ball I have to do movements because if I stay under the line of play everyone covers me and I don't have space."
How Soucek compares to Premier League central midfielders since his move to England
|Total||Premier League rank|
|Goals from corners||5||First (also first across competition)|
When the ball does come his way he finishes with goal scoring instincts that date back to his earliest years playing youth football in his home town of Havlickuv Brod. A room in his parent's house is, he says, still festooned with trophies marking him out as the top scorer at tournaments for eight, nine and ten-year-olds. Perhaps he should bring them to David Moyes' office and convince his boss to give him a run of games through the middle?
"I don't think so. The best things that I can do are not as a striker, I like to go from second line into the box... I have more space than a striker [that way]."
Also back at his parents' home are Arsenal shirts bearing Tomas Rosicky's name and No.7 on the back, much to the chagrin of those Slavia Prague fans who could never agree with him idolizing a former Sparta player.
Though Rosicky was the man who captured Soucek's imagination, he was never really likely to become the same languid inside forward as the former Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund man. Instead he has modelled his game on a more dynamic force in Yaya Toure and when he arrived at West Ham Moyes challenged him to show similar qualities.
Soucek would acknowledge there is a long way to go yet before he is on Toure's level, he highlights assists as one way he could make a more direct contribution to the West Ham cause, but he has the determination to progress in that direction. "I have many, many things that I have to improve. When I watch the game afterwards I see many things that I should do better."
At Moyes' West Ham, Soucek's attitude is one that appears to be shared across the squad. Since the start of 2020, which the Hammers began hovering above the bottom three with their manager less than two months into his tenure, they have taken the eighth most points in the Premier League with 62. In that time Tottenham have taken 65, Arsenal and Leicester City 66. A team that was still battling for survival when the 2019-20 season resumed in the summer is now dreaming of European football at the London Stadium.
This has been a season where West Ham have given the traditional powers in English football all sorts of troubles, pushing Liverpool close at Anfield in October and earning what was by all accounts an excellent point at home to Manchester City. Those displays brought no delight to Moyes' players, however. "If we are playing against anyone, we want to win," insists Soucek. "And I feel that everyone trusts each other, that we really will win. It is very good for us that we could be changed mentally, on the page and at the training ground, as well. We keep working hard.
"We could play against the last team in the Premier League or first team in the Premier League and we want the same result. We want to win. It is a good mentality. We have to give our maximum 100 percent on the pitch. Maybe more."
Of course West Ham players are allowed one exception to the rule, one draw that they can celebrate like a victory. Certainly their comeback from three goals down with eight minutes to go to draw 3-3 must have felt like a defeat for Tottenham. Since that game the Hammers have taken seven more points than their rivals and head into Sunday's clash not only looking to move further clear of Jose Mourinho's men but also to keep pace with the contenders for a top four finish.
Reflecting on that stunning comeback which provided such fuel for the Hammers' rise up the table, Soucek says: "This game was maybe the best for us. Our one disappointment was that the referee didn't add an extra five minutes because we could have won the game!
"The first 20 minutes were horrible, but we didn't give up and we wanted to do something. The boss told us in the changing room at halftime that when we scored the first goal to 3-1 we could beat them because we played well. So when we when we scored to 3-1 I thought that we had 15 players on the pitch. We were everywhere."
It is a feeling you suspect Soucek's opponents might share. When the Czech dynamo is thundering into tackles one minute then rising to head home another goal the next it must feel like West Ham have four extra players hidden on the pitch.