It’s all relative, of course, and the 20-year-old has still been better than most of his teammates, but there’s no doubt that the youngster has dipped slightly below the sky-high standards he set last time out.
O’Hara believes he knows why: “[Mark] Noble’s been a fantastic servant to the club, but he’s on the cusp of the latter years of his career,” he said on talkSPORT [22/11; 09:36].
“I think they need someone round him [Rice] who’s going to do his donkey work, and then he can get on it and make them play. When he plays for England he has that, but he hasn’t got that at West Ham.”
It’s strange that O’Hara views Rice as somebody who needs players around him to do his donkey work, because most prognosticators would claim that it’s the England international who excels at doing the donkey work. He’s not a flair player like Felipe Anderson, so it’s slightly bizarre that O’Hara believes he’d be able to dictate games and create opportunities if only he had someone to do his running for him. Obviously Rice has struggled a little bit relative to what he achieved last season, but he’s still not been too bad, all things considered. As per WhoScored.com, the youngster is averaging 2.8 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and one clearance per game, while he makes 50.2 passes an outing with a success rate of 90.2%. So he’s not doing too badly without someone doing his donkey work. It seems, though, that O’Hara has misjudged Rice’s role in this West Ham team. He is the destroyer and the recycler of play, not the creator and the dictator of proceedings.