Declan Rice’s underwhelming display on the opening weekend of the season against Liverpool and Manuel Pellegrini’s failure to recruit a specialist holding midfielder may have caused some West Ham fans to worry about the club’s options in that part of the field.
Carlos Sanchez is an underwhelming addition and a lot of weight looked set to fall on Rice’s shoulders. The early signs at Anfield were that Rice, after such an impressive season at centre-half last time aroumd, was not quite ready to be first-choice holding midfielder.
At Goodison Park on Sunday, he dispelled those fears. In the rejigged 4-3-3 system, Rice was exceptional at protecting the defence and getting on the ball in front of the back four. We’ve looked at the numbers behind his performance…
Rice’s defensive contribution against Everton was very strong indeed. The teenager made five tackles, three clearances, two blocks and one interception.
On the ball, he was reliable as well. 82.5 per cent of his 40 passes found their intended target. He had 55 touches, won a header and even embarked on a dribble.
It was a first-rate defensive midfield performance and West Ham need a first-rate defensive midfielder.
Rice repays Pellegrini’s faith
When Pellegrini’s summer spending spree did not include an elite defensive midfielder, it was easy to see the faith the Chilean was placing on Rice.
He was so impressive at centre-half last season but it’s a big ask for him to move positions and compete in the engine room against the quality that’s in the Premier League.
He has the talent to do it and yesterday he showed exactly that. Pellegrini came as close as he has so far to finding the right midfield balance and Rice is a huge part of that.