Declan Rice

Declan Rice

Declan Rice

Current Club: West Ham United.

Previous Clubs: Chelsea.

Loan Clubs: N/A.

International: Ireland 3 caps. England 42 caps 3 goals.

Trophies Won: European Conference League 2022/23.

As a youngster he grew up a Chelsea fan and is still close friends with Mason Mount from his time there alongside the Chelsea midfielder, but he has developed into a Hammers legend. Similar to growing up as an Irish player to become an English mainstay. Rice is clearly very willing to sacrifice his ideals in order to further his career. Not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are an Ireland/Chelsea fan with both teams having had need of a player like him in recent years! Rice is not content to just make up the numbers, hence the push to move on from West Ham this summer to give himself more chances of trophies.

That is probably the main strength of his game, that mental side, that desire to improve himself, to push himself and his teammates and drive to win things. It makes him more than just a good player to have on your team, it makes him a leader. Rice is a captain, whether wearing the armband or not, something that is invaluable in this modern era as those players are so few and far between. Too many now see a big salary as a trophy in itself, worrying as much about how much they are paid compared to their teammates as they are about how many trophies they have won. Though that is not to say that is not important to him too, it is just not number 1 priority like it is with so many others.

Physically Rice is big, strong and mobile, capable of getting up and down the pitch. In a physical battle in midfield, he is able to match most players and impose himself on them. Added to his versatility, able to play central defence as well as in midfield, that makes him an extremely useful part of a modern-day squad. The big question is really which of those roles best utilises Rice's qualities and that is still not entirely clear, though he has mainly played in midfield for the Claret and Blues.

In a team which plays on the front foot more and keeps possession better, I could see him being better suited to a central defender position, where his quality on the ball would be especially useful when playing out from the back. Rice is very capable of taking the ball under pressure and protecting it until he can pick out a pass. One thing he does not do enough in midfield, but could be a potent weapon as a defender, is driving forward with the ball at his feet.

While he is not a twinkle-toed dribbler, such as Brighton & Hove Albion's Japanese forward Kaoru Mitoma, Rice can drive into space and he is difficult to stop when he picks up a head of steam. He is also very capable of sitting back and pinging a pass to break a pass if pressed, making him very useful as either a deep-lying defensive midfielder or centre-back. Rice is also very good at breaking up play and positioning himself when in a defensive midfield role.

His utility value is a weakness though, at times, as he can often end up being used in roles that do not make the most of his strengths, purely to fill a hole in the team. At times recently he has been asked to play a more attacking midfield role by David Moyes and it has not suited him. He is very capable of scoring goals, but he does not do it enough to excel in that kind of role. His tendency to think more about ensuring he is covering in case of an opposition breakaway also means Rice does not score enough goals. It keeps him from gambling and getting into the 6-yard box regularly enough.

Also, though he is technically very sound, he is lacking in the skill to create himself a moment of space with a tight turn or quick shift of the ball, in the way a more skillful midfielder can. That little moment of brilliance that David Silva excelled at doing multiple times a game is something that he is only likely to produce a couple of times a season. Even then, it tends to be more of a case of him building up steam and bulldozing through a few challenges.

Played deep, in either midfield or as a defender, Rice is a top class player (though as a centre-back he can have a tendency to think like a midfielder and take risks he should avoid without the cover behind him that he would have while in midfield) who can break up play, keep possession well, resist a press and stride forward into space when it is there. That for me is where he is at his best and a more forward slot in midfield is something that he can play, but it is very much a secondary position which is not intuitive or natural to him. Rice is that rare thing in the modern game, a defensive player who can defend, break up play and cover for others. Added to his leadership qualities and the 'English premium', that makes him an extremely valuable player that West Ham will miss badly next season.

Requested by - RSharpe