For all the millions splurged by West Ham in the summer transfer market, the one player who continues to make a most favourable impression is the teenager for whom they paid nothing.
Declan Rice has added stability to Manuel Pellegrini’s team, deployed deep in midfield in the last two games.
The 19-year-old’s performance was fundamental to the success at Everton and, one week on, he helped ensure the win at Goodison Park was built upon against Chelsea.
West Ham’s Declan Rice impressed at home to Chelsea after playing in a deep midfield role
Rice covered the ground as he did against Everton, helping to solve the Iron’s midfield issues
Rice ran himself to a standstill, suffering cramp as the Hammers clung on for a precious point with uncharacteristic resilience.
They would have won it had Andriy Yarmolenko not missed a sitter, but they were pleased with a first clean sheet of the season and became the first side to stop Chelsea scoring since Maurizio Sarri took control.
‘Easier to score than miss,’ smiled Pellegrini when asked about Yarmolenko’s chance but he was pleased with his team and especially Rice.
‘I see Declan working every day and I know the way he does it. He has lots of intensity, learning a lot about not losing his position. He can be a very good centre back and a holding midfielder and he has taken his chance.’
Rice tracked Chelsea’s dynamic midfield players well as they switched and filled pockets
For all the millions spent by Chelsea on their academy, the one player who came through their youth ranks to start in this derby wore claret and blue.
Rice hails from a family of Blues fans and was a schoolboy footballer at Stamford Bridge until he joined West Ham at the age of 16, breaking into the first team last season.
Although he has always represented the Republic of Ireland, it is not hard to see why Gareth Southgate has made his interest clear.
Rice was the only player on the pitch to be a product of the Chelsea youth academy
Rice is fast maturing and developing into the type of player Southgate prefers, and the type England seldom produce; a defensive player with the acumen to play as a midfield screen or in a back three.
He senses danger and is athletic and mobile enough to cover the ground and close the gaps, while being strong in the air and in the tackle.
He has ability on the ball, passing long or short with either foot. He understands his limitations, makes good decisions in possession and appears immune to the urge to tear around in search of glory.
Rice is showing the reasons Gareth Southgate wants to bring him into the England setup
Rice’s presence helped West Ham frustrate Chelsea, as the full backs stayed deep and encouraged Eden Hazard and Willian inside into a congested central area.
He slowed them down and smothered the danger when they tried to link up with Olivier Giroud.
‘It was very difficult to play inside,’ said Sarri, who admitted his team had missed the off-the-ball movement of Pedro, who was injured. ‘They were cutting out every pass for Giroud and we needed two wingers.’
Rice’s shield of protection has eased the pressure on the centre halves and gave Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang licence to get around in midfield and jostle Chelsea from their passing rhythms.
The system sometimes leaves West Ham short of numbers up front and means the three attacking players in Pellegrini’s team must be more clinical than they were against Chelsea, but it has stopped the rot after four straight league defeats to start their season.
They still needed a brilliant save by Lukasz Fabianski to deny Ross Barkley in stoppage time but this was a huge result for the Hammers and Rice was central to it.
Original Article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-6198699/After-millions-spent-West-Ham-teenager-Declan-Rice-continues-impress.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490