Declan Rice was exposed on West Ham’s last trip to Merseyside, when the Hammers lost 4-0 to Liverpool on the opening day of the season.
Recalled to the starting eleven in a holding midfield for a return to that neck of the wood for the trip to Everton, Rice was excellent as Manuel Pellegrini’s side recorded a 3-1 victory.
The versatile teenager has revealed that Pellegrini’s tactical preparation and altered team shape was behind the improvement.
What did he say?
Speaking to the club’s official website, Rice said: “I really, really enjoyed it. Obviously the first week against Liverpool was tough for me and I knew in myself that I had to improve.
“We’d worked on the tactics all week with me in there with Pedro and Nobes and it paid off. It was a really good moment for all of us.
“Before the game, we all got together and Zaba and Nobes said; ‘Whatever happens today, go out and give 100 per cent because that’s what the fans want and that’s what West Ham are about’.
“You could see that when Everton found it hard to break us down. I thought we were superb. We covered all the ground, made tackles, took some yellow cards and defended well.”
Credit to Pellegrini
Pellegrini has been criticised for his failure to recruit a specialist holding midfielder this summer, but he clearly had faith in Rice.
He took him out of the firing line but brought him back in at the perfect time at Goodison. What’s more, Pellegrini worked on a tweaked system of play – a 4-3-3 system – that helped Rice more.
The energy of Pedro Obiang was important and that allowed Rice to show what he can do.