Manuel Pellegrini’s men won a thrilling contest 5-3, but the performance was not without its flaws.
The Chilean opted to play an attacking midfield quartet of Jack Wilshere, Pablo Fornals, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Lanzini in front of Rice in the centre of the park, and as reported by Inkersole, the youngster struggled without usual partner Mark Noble beside him.
Writing in a piece for Football.London, he said: “It is all well and good playing the exciting and dynamic midfield of Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson but for the 60 minutes that was on the pitch, Declan Rice got absolutely battered in defensive midfield before he was mercifully substituted off.
“Fulham didn’t have the quality on Saturday to punish the Hammers for their extremely adventurous midfield but Hertha Berlin, especially striker Pascal Kopke, did and showed that without Mark Noble in this West Ham team, they are absurdly vulnerable.”
This is a wake up call for West Ham. Undoubtedly, for the first time in a while, the Hammers have a dazzling array of attacking talents who are more than capable of doing considerable damage to just about anybody in the Premier League. It is important, however, that Manuel Pellegrini learns how to deploy those players with balance so as to not leave his side vulnerable. There is no argument the Declan Rice is a top quality player with the potential to kick on and become one of the finest defensive midfielders in Europe. Last season, his pass completion rate of 86.9%, and his average of 2.9 tackles per match [Whoscored] were a vital component in everything good about the Hammers, but crucially, he had the veteran Noble alongside him. You could have the best CDM in the world working away in the engine room, but sometimes football is a game of simple mathematics, and if you don’t have enough help in key areas, you will get overrun. Plenty for the manager to think about after this one.