Former Premier League striker Noel Whelan expects West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice to switch to playing centre back in the near future.
The 20-year-old grew up operating at the centre of the defence, but has been utilised as a holding midfielder since manager Manuel Pellegrini arrived at the London Stadium. BBC pundit Whelan, however, expects him to drop back soon.
“I expect Declan Rice to be playing permanently at centre-back sooner rather than later,” he told Football Insider. “He’s a good defensive midfielder, don’t get me wrong, but he would be a great centre-back.
“He is perfect for that position. He’s strong in the air, mobile, reads danger well, has good concentration and he is full of confidence on the ball. In many ways, Rice is the ideal modern centre-back. It may help him in the long run that he’s played in midfield for an extended spell.”
There seems to be a real belief that Rice will one day revert back to his centre half ways, operating at the heart of the West Ham and England defence rather than in the middle of the park. There’s no doubt that the youngster can do either job to an extremely high level, but for Pellegrini it’s a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it at the moment. The Chilean seems to feel that he needs Rice more in midfield than he does at the back, which is probably a fair assessment when you look at his other options in both positions. However, there’s no disputing the fact that Rice has the defensive chops to be successful at centre half. As per WhoScored.com, the England international is averaging 3.8 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per game this season. He obviously enjoys the defensive side of the game. His spell playing in midfield, as Whelan mentions, means that he is terrific on the ball, a pre requisite for the modern day centre back.