Following the 2018 World Cup, England fans have been positively anticipating this summer’s European Championships with the hope that the Three Lions’ young team can bring football home.
A disappointing semi-final exit to Croatia broke England fans hearts, but this England team has grown astronomically since then, with young blood such as Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden and Declan Rice bursting onto the scene.
One of the most important positions in a trophy winning team is the number six, who plays as a deep lying midfielder often being used to connect defence and attack.
Examples of players in this position are Sergio Busquets at Barcelona, Rodri at Manchester City and N’Golo Kante at Chelsea.
Declan Rice has starred for West Ham this season.
West Ham are flying this season, currently sitting fifth in the league with 22 year old Rice captaining the team, often showing the experience and leadership Mark Noble possessed.
England’s main choices to play in the holding midfield role are Rice, Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips and Eric Dier, but should the West Ham number 41 start for England?
Based on stats, the answer to that question is yes and below you will see why.
All stats are from WhoScored
After 29 matchweeks of this league season, Rice has played every minute of every match – which compares to his competition positively, with Henderson picking up an injury and Phillips only playing 63.5%.
Playing every minute of the season would be impressive in any campaign, but this season’s schedule has compressed games closer together than in a non-COVID season.
Defensively Rice is solid, winning two times more aerial duels per game than his competition (1.4) and has made 1.9 tackles a game – only behind Phillips who plays for Leeds, a team whose style means he has to defend more.
Phillips’ higher number of tackles may contribute to the Yorkshire man’s 1.3 fouls a game, a stat bettered by Rice and Henderson both making 0.7 and 0.4 respectively.
Henderson hasn’t been booked once in the 1078 minutes he has played this year, although playing for a team who often have possession may have helped him.
Over his 21 games this season, Phillips has been booked seven times, meaning a third of his matches have ended with him in the ref’s book, whereas Rice has only been booked twice.
Interceptions are another area where Rice excels, making two per game, which is once again more than either of his direct competition.
As well as being defensively sound, Rice is the best of the three when in possession too, boasting an 87.9% pass completion rate compared to Henderson’s 87.3% and Phillips’ 82.4%.
Dribbling is something else which Rice is the best at, with 0.9 dribbles per game compared to Phillips’ 0.7 and Henderson not even completing one dribble every other game, although this could be due to Liverpool possessing a passing style of play.
Despite being only 22, Rice has captained West Ham whenever Noble hasn’t been in the starting 11, showing a lot of maturity at such a young age as well as possessing composure whenever he plays.
This England team, as well as having experience in the squad, are also building for the future and Rice’s time as West Ham captain could lead to him filling the same role for England later in his career.
Out of the three, Rice is the best all-round player, with a balanced playing style showing impressive stats defensively and going forward proving why he should be Southgate’s first choice number six this summer.