Declan Rice displays importance to Hammers in win over Fulham at Craven Cottage


In the heart of West Ham’s midfield is a man who has arrived to his starting role having come from the club’s famed academy.

No, this is not a piece on Mark Noble but rather his far more capable successor Declan Rice.

The 20-year-old was dominant during West Ham’s visit to Craven Cottage on Saturday, a game they won 1-0, as the youngster dictated play in order to supply the Hammers’ new look attack.

Constantly wanted to receive the ball, Rice consistently showed maturity far beyond his 20 years beside midfield partner Jack Wilshere.

Rice’s high press game was essential for Manuel Pellegrini’s side as they looked to dominate possession against recently-relegated Fulham.

Moving besides Issa Diop at centre-back for the second half, Rice looked just as capable as he defused attacks with ease whilst dealing with the ever-difficult Serbian target-man Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Rice stood out above the rest not for any technical skill that would have fans drooling at the mouth or retweeting endlessly on social media but the core components which go unnoticed in the modern era of the Premier League.

The England international’s willingness to put his body on the line for the team and do the ‘dirty work’ is essential for West Ham as they look to improve on last season’s tenth-placed finish.

Rice’s importance was highlighted by being the only outfield player to play a full 90 minutes for West Ham in the pre-season friendly as he continues to prove the solid foundation around which the team now plays.

His West Ham teammates clearly also agree with that sentiment, naming him the Players’ Player of the Year for the 2018/19 season at the club’s award night in May.

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The former Chelsea youth player did resemble West Ham captain Noble in one regard during the pre-season encounter at Craven Cottage when clattering into Fulham’s Tom Cairney, before protesting the decision repeatedly with the referee to earn himself a yellow card.

At such a young age and early in his footballing career, Rice seems already comfortable with the role that he is asked to perform as he links defence to attack.

The service the former Republic of Ireland international can provide to players such as Pablo Fornals, Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini is essential, with the addition of record-signing Sebastien Haller also boosting the east Londoners’ forward line.

If West Ham are going to attempt to bridge the gap between the top six and the other 14 Premier League teams, the value of a player like Declan Rice cannot be understated.

Grit, determination and hard-work are attributes that don’t apply to many Premier League footballers but Rice combines these skills with fantastic ball-playing ability that provides a level of security in the helm of the Hammers’ midfield.

His West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini stated back in March ahead of Rice’s imminent call-up for the England squad that the Londoner is ‘the best English holding midfielder’.

It’s tough to disagree with the Chilean due to the level of consistency shown from Rice, in an area which England are not blessed with an abundance of talent.

Whether Rice’s talent will eventually take him talents away from the claret and blue of West Ham remains to be seen but for now the Hammers’ committed fans can revel in the enjoyment of watching a young player of huge potential command their midfield, as the 20-year-old looks set to cement himself as an international regular.

Rice was superb in the Hammers’ display against Fulham and will now look to take that form into next weekends fixture when West Ham host Spanish side Athletic Bilbao at the London Stadium.


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