Written by: @daena_bodie
It was only a few weeks ago that we looked at how Declan Rice had become the first name on West Ham’s team sheet, and since then he has continued to grow into his role in the middle of the park for the Hammers. At first, it was all too easy to believe the hype, but Rice has now shown West Ham fans that he can offer quality on a consistent basis.
Having gone on to score his first two goals for West Ham and picking up multiple MOTM awards, most recently at Newcastle, Rice’s influence on Saturday highlighted what the youngster brings to the team. Lanzini hailed him as the hero of the squad and that is continuing to ring true with his performances week in, week out.
Getting on the scoresheet alongside Mark Noble during the win against Newcastle was fitting, given the partnership the two have formed in the West Ham midfield. Both have been solid for the club so far this season, creating a strong foundation that frees up the rest of the squad to play Pellegrini’s attacking style.
With two goals in his last eight games, Declan Rice has started to offer an attacking threat to his already impressive defensive play. His first goal for the club, against Arsenal, was a calm and composed finish. While netting against Newcastle showed his effectiveness from set pieces, and now that he’s starting to grow in confidence, we are beginning to see the complete player that was promised.
Rice is becoming useful at both ends of the pitch for West Ham. Defensively, the young Hammer does the dirty work and covers a lot of ground to protect the back four, with 75 tackles this season, he’s the top tackler at the club and completing 7 out of 8 tackles against Newcastle shows he is successfully snuffing out opposition attacks.
It could be his youthful legs, but Rice’s intensity in the midfield never lets up and his importance defensively has helped sure up the Hammers at the back. His performances alongside some very impressive displays from Issa Diop and most noticeably, Angelo Ogbonna, who seems keen to keep Balbuena out of the starting XI, have revitalized West Ham.
A lot can be said about Rice’s defensive contributions, but it’s on the ball where he has helped the Hammers succeed. The academy graduate sits just behind Felipe Anderson as the club’s top passer and without leaning too heavily on stats, it shows how vital he is in keeping the Hammers ticking over.
Rice’s ability to win the ball back and get West Ham moving quickly in transition is key to the way Pellegrini has the team set up. But it’s not all doom and gloom if the team can’t move at pace. With Rice playing in a deeper midfield role the Hammers have been able to keep possession effectively with Declan dictating the tempo; and with having Lanzini back and looking sharp, West Ham now have a player with that bit of magic who can break through a rigid defensive line.
Things are looking up for the young Englishman and if he continues to produce at both ends of the pitch, West Ham have a quality player on their hands. So, here’s to the Basmati Busquets.