As Michail Antonio remarked after the draw with Newcastle United at the weekend: “We need to start doing better at the back and we’ll start winning games”.
Having conceded the fourth-most goals in the division this season, 58, the Englishman’s words ring true. It is very much in West Ham’s interest they do not give in to pressure from Chelsea and ensure that homegrown hero Declan Rice remains at the London Stadium next season. Reports have emerged that Frank Lampard has identified Rice as the man who could shore up Chelsea’s faltering defence, but his worth in East London is immense.
No other Hammer has made more tackles than the colossal effort of Rice to disposes the opposition on average 3.1 occasions-per-match. Furthermore, alongside fellow screening midfielder Tomas Soucek, the duo have completed two interceptions-per-90-minutes, though the Englishman has done so over a whopping 33 matches, as per WhoScored.
Both stats go to show what an incredibly consistent performer the 21-year-old has become for the Irons this season, and without his defensive contribution, West Ham could have been even flimsier at the back.
Another significant influence Rice has exerted on West Ham this term has been his passing, averaging 44.5 per-match, the most of anyone in David Moyes’ side. The defensive midfielder retains possession with an 86 percent pass accuracy and is one of the most reliable players available to the Scottish manager with the ball at his feet.
Losing Rice would not only weaken the defence behind him, but there is a possibility without his ability to retain possession, those in front of him could suffer from their service being cut off at source as well.
As an academy graduate, the Englishman a local hero at the London Stadium, his passion for the club and consistency make Rice the ideal candidate to receive the armband permanently when legend Mark Noble is forced to hang up his boots and pass the torch. The 21-year-old has tasted the experience of leading out his teammates on a couple of occasions but stated that he could see himself captaining West Ham permanently one day.
With the need to stabilise a defence that has subsided far too frequently this term a top priority for next season, Rice cannot be allowed to leave this summer. Letting the graduate go would be a risk West Ham simply cannot afford to take given how they’ve flirted with the prospect of relegation throughout the 2019/20 campaign.
As a future captain and on-field leader, he holds significance to the club which is not easily replaced.