Manuel Pellegrini spent big in the summer on a host of new arrivals, but neglected to sign a new holding midfielder.
Combined with the departure of Cheikhou Kouyaté, that represented something of a gamble for the former Manchester City manager; who was going to anchor the midfield?
As a result, Pellegrini put in a lot of faith in one man; Declan Rice. The teenager broke into the Hammers team as a centre-half; but the Chilean invested heavily in the back-line and pushed Rice into midfield.
After a baptism of fire at Anfield on the opening day of the season, Rice was reintroduced on West Ham’s return to Merseyside against Everton and has been outstanding since.
So how does he compare to the current holding midfielder for the Premier League title winners, Fernandinho? The two men are at opposing ends of their careers, so we took to the Premier League’s stat comparison tool to examine the duo…
The two men have been converted into holding midfielders, but from different areas of the pitch. Rice is a centre-half moved into midfield, and Fernandinho moved back from a box-to-box role.
That is reflected in the numbers; Rice’s defensive instincts have seen him make more blocks (3 to 0) and win more tackles (7 to 6) than his Brazilian counterpart; from three less appearances.
Another impressive stat is how Rice stays on his feet; he has only made three fouls so far, Fernandinho has made 11, for a team that is defending for a lot less of the time.
The one that stands out is Rice’s passing success, which underlines his technical quality. His rate of 87.68 per cent outstrips the 85.97 per cent of Pep Guardiola’s holding midfielder; which is no mean feat given the two club’s respective style of play.