West Ham fans have been justifiably frustrated by some of the criticism that Declan Rice has received following England’s 4-0 win against Bulgaria on Sunday.
It wasn’t necessarily the 20-year-old’s best performance as a holding midfielder, but some fans were making sweeping judgements about a player they had only seen a few times.
Hammers supporters see Rice in action every weekend, and they are far better placed to judge what the England international can offer. He is still a work in progress, especially as he has only played in midfield regularly for the last 13 months or so, but his talent is obvious.
If we look at the top five European leagues over the past calendar year, the midfielder compares favourably to other players who play a similar role in their teams.
We’ve looked at five metrics in this analysis. Tackles, Interceptions, aerial duels, one-on-one duels and overall successful defensive actions per 90 minutes based on the statistics from Wyscout.
From there, we then looked at players who excelled in all of these areas, rather than simply one or two of them, and had played over 1000 minutes in the last twelve months. Rice very comfortably fits into the top 25 and he’s in good company with the likes of Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.
In terms of overall successful defensive actions, Rice is only marginally off Busquets, having averaged 8.15 per 90 minutes compared to the Spaniard’s 8.93. When it comes to tackles per 90 minutes, he is almost dead level with Casemiro, averaging 0.96 to the Brazilian’s 0.97.
He still has work to do in terms of one-on-one duels with opponents as well as interceptions, but to say he is a bang average player as rival fans have been suggesting is just wrong.
Rice isn’t going to be the flashiest of players and there’s no doubt he will need to develop more on the ball, but both his managers at club and international level know there is a player there who can establish himself as a top defensive midfielder.
That doesn’t mean he will achieve the same amount of success that Casemiro and Busquets have had. After all, they have multiple league and Champions League medals under their belt, but anyone who sees the Hammers star play on a regular basis will know there is huge potential there to make it at the highest level.