Rice has embraced vice captaincy and West Ham history as he thrives
Declan Rice has embraced vice-captaincy, isn’t afraid to tell David Moyes to fix issues and has become one of West Ham’s most popular players… the England star is making £100m look a bargain
- Declan Rice is one of the most popular players inside West Ham’s dressing room
- He is keen to embrace West Ham history and is relishing his role as vice-captain
- Rice is also not afraid to tell David Moyes what he thinks when tactics don’t work
- But stats say labelling him the world’s best defensive midfielder is premature
David Moyes could only scoff when asked if it would prove easier for clubs to sign Declan Rice next summer as he continues to hold off signing a new deal.
‘There was a bargain to be got with Declan at £100million,’ he said. ‘That bargain’s now gone.’
Under contract at the London Stadium until the summer of 2024, Rice has elevated himself to become the face of a West Ham team that is pushing to break up the Champions League elite.
Comments around Rice right now are gushing – and in some cases are both premature and over the top.
No, he isn’t, as John Terry boldly claimed on Twitter, the best defensive midfielder in world football, but at 22 Rice is thriving and is continuing to get better and better.
Declan Rice is being showered with praise having taken his game to greater heights this year
The West Ham star leads the Premier League this season in both interceptions and recoveries
While it is not primarily his role in the side, goals and assists have weighed heavy on his mind.
Two goals and one assist in 2020-21 was there to be comfortably beaten this season as he elevates to have more of an impact at both ends of the pitch.
Already he has three assists – his most recent in the rampant 4-1 away win over Aston Villa – and one goal in the opening 11 games.
He is also taking more touches per 90 minutes, creating more chances and completing more dribbles this season compared to last.
Much of Rice’s prowess and reputation has been generated from his work as a screener in front of the defence and so quelle surprise that he leads West Ham in passing, tackles and interceptions in the league this season.
Rio Ferdinand is incredibly high on Rice as a player and told his Vibe with Five podcast: ‘He has arguably been the best midfielder in the country.
Rice has been described by close friend John Terry as the best in the world in his position
A statistical analysis of Rice’s Premier League form in 2020-21 compared to 2021-22 season
‘He has dominated games, he has played with maturity. The Euros, something’s clicked in him different.
‘His game management, the way he can change the pace of a game at times, we saw that at Newcastle earlier in the season. He’s added goals now. There’s a maturity in his game for one so young that he’s got levels still to go.’
It is worth noting that Rice is one of the most popular players inside Moyes’s dressing room.
He’s embraced his role of vice-captain and as such has made a conscious effort to pay homage to those that came before for the Hammers.
Rice recently attended the club’s unveiling of their 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup statue outside of the London Stadium alongside captain Mark Noble, before staying to mingle with the older generation and the relatives of the club’s legends.
Back on the pitch Rice has got total confidence in his abilities.
In Genk last week in the Europa League, when West Ham suffered a below-par opening 20 minutes, Rice was the one who was seen shouting towards the touchline at Moyes, telling him to fix it.
Rice has grown in both confidence and in leadership having been part of the team that helped take England to the final of Euro 2020 and so he doesn’t shy from telling his manager when he feels it is going wrong.
He is embracing the role of vice-captain and his leadership qualities are clear on the pitch
Rice, only 22, is not afraid to challenge manager David Moyes (left) if tactics aren’t working
That sort of leadership is invaluable and it is one of the reasons older pros – as well as circling clubs – are so taken by the youngster.
Rice comes across incredibly personable and void of an ego which is all too frequent among the game’s big stars.
But it is also important to stress that Rice can still make strides in his game, illustrated by the fact that he is only top of the charts in two of nine statistical metrics among his defensive midfield peers across the division.
He leads the league in interceptions (21) and recoveries (87) so far this season and is third for tackles made (30) behind Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Everton’s Allan (33).
But Rice is fifth in duels won and is fourth in passing – behind Jordan Henderson (729), Rodri (738) and Hojbjerg (789).
There are mitigating factors in that both Liverpool and Manchester City dominate possession in almost every match, aiding touches and passes for Henderson and Rodri.
Jordan Henderson (left) and Rodri (right) are ahead of Rice in the league’s passing statistics
Rice (left) is constantly looking to improve his game to be effective at both ends of the pitch
Long-term Rice could well look at the elevation of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard who made themselves major goalscoring threats from a deeper-lying midfield role.
Sat third in the Premier League right now following that impressive 3-2 win to end Liverpool’s unbeaten start, West Ham will hope they elevate along with Rice in a bid to convince him he doesn’t need to leave to realise his potential.
A player of Rice’s calibre is keen to get his teeth stuck into Champions League football having seen childhood friend Mason Mount lift Europe’s biggest prize last season for Chelsea.
Having driven West Ham to a sixth-placed finish last season, Rice’s stock went up in value once more and figures around the east London club feel strongly that only a fee that is north of the £100m Man City paid for Grealish would represent a respectable bid.
Heading into a World Cup year Rice knows he can kick on further to become the ultimate all-round midfield presence.
His mindset is to embrace criticism, not clam up against it, and anyone who can get Roy Keane – who was an outspoken critic of Rice years ago – to admit he was wrong is doing something right.
‘As players, you always see what people have got to say,’ Rice said earlier this season.
‘But someone like me that sees that I don’t really take it as criticism – I see and I think I’m going to prove that person wrong.’
The England international is one of the most popular players in West Ham’s dressing room
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