Chelsea’s hunt for a midfield anchor has navigated them in the direction of West Ham captain – Declan Rice. But is he the man for the job?
Chelsea’s cry for fluency in midfield has been an everlasting theme around the fanbase since the departure of Nemanja Matic in 2017; and the call looks almost certain to be answered this summer by the Chelsea board and Roman Abramovich.
Declan Rice was targetted by former Blues manager Frank Lampard in the summer of 2019 and 2020, but the club were priced out of a move by West Ham’s hefty demand of a sum in surplus of £100 million. But with the Hammers accepting their fate, Rice could well leave this summer – with the odds for his next club being Chelsea at 3/1. But just how good is the England midfielder?
Declan Rice is in his fifth season as West Ham’s defensive midfielder, racking up over 150 appearances by the time he turned 23. He is the epitome of maturity on young shoulders, and this is evident in his style of play. Rice operates in a deep-lying playmaker role for West Ham, alongside Tomas Souček and the pair have rapidly risen to become one of the best double pivots in the Premier League. They are arguably the key reason West Ham have become the exciting side, competing in Europe and for the top four.
Rice specialises in several aspects of midfield: ball progression, long and short-range passing, incisive decision making in the final third and interceptions.
When compared to Chelsea’s Jorginho, Rice betters him in tackles p90. – with the Englishman averaging 2.3 per game to Jorginho’s 2.1 and also interceptions p90. – with Rice averaging 1.9 to Jorginho’s 1.1 in the league. Rice seems to be assured defensively and that is his job as a defensive midfielder, but with the modern game becoming more expansive and fast-paced, the need for versatility and speed is required at the top level. Rice is statistically outperforming Jorginho in defensive actions, and Chelsea have a constant issue of quick attackers bypassing the double pivot with ease. Rice’s numbers suggest he could be the man to prevent the staticness in the Chelsea midfield.
Defensive midfielders are often criticised for being too pedestrian and safe with their passing. Rice’s use of the ball is designed to retain and slow down tempo rather than speed up the attack, but he is capable of slipping a killer pass too. His attacking numbers are a testimony to his innovative strides of progression and creativity further up the pitch.
“If I were a top-four team and I was looking for a player in that position, I would have Declan Rice as that holding midfield player,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports on Monday Night Football.
Rice also beats Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante in terms of attacking output; with Rice bettering the French international in dribbles p90. – with Rice putting up an average of 1.8 to Kante’s 1.5. Rice has also made darting runs from the halfway-line to the opposition box his signature move, something which is simply a thing of beauty. It allows the wingers to arch in behind and get the ball forward against mid/low blocks.
Rice’s defensive and attacking abilities could be paired to create a dynamo alongside Mateo Kovacic. With the pair specialising in snappy tackling from the heels of opponents and both very capable defensively. Rice partnering Kovacic could translate to a perfectly balanced midfield duo for years to come. Exciting transitions and also defensive assurance brought to Chelsea’s midfield.
Should Roman Abramovich give the green light to Thomas Tuchel over the signing, he’d certainly cost a large amount; some reports suggest he’d cost upwards of £80 million-£100+ million. However, with Rice making his love for Chelsea well-known, the player’s interests could play a key part in driving the price down. Rice’s links with the club, root from his youth days at Chelsea where he became accustomed to the culture of the club and those he played alongside. He is also represented by his father and older brothers, who are all ‘lifelong Chelsea fans’ according to Rice himself – making a deal very likely for Chelsea ahead of their competition in the shape of Manchester City and Manchester United.
Will Declan Rice make the move back to where he began his career this summer? Only time will tell, but what’s for sure is that he’d provide a new dynamic for Chelsea’s midfield.
Written by Ibrahim Khan (@ibzfussbal)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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