West Ham, Its Time To Start Managing Declan Rice

West Ham manager David Moyes and Declan Rice. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
West Ham manager David Moyes and Declan Rice. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images) /

The severity of this season’s form has picked up where it left off when the World Cup break began. A demoralizing loss to Arsenal has only highlighted the issues at West Ham and they begin and end with David Moyes’ managing of his superstar-laden team.

There are no players bigger or more important than club captain Declan Rice. With his name in headlines for years and his contract coming to an end after next season, his departure this summer seems all but confirmed to a Champions League team. But, that is not what needs to be discussed now.

Rice has returned from his time away with England and has retaken his central midfield role with seemingly no boundaries. Gone are the days of him being either a centre-back or a holding midfielder. Now, Rice plays in the middle of the pitch and roams where he pleases with no regard for the space behind him.

West Ham cannot afford to mortgage current team success for the benefit of one inevitably leaving player, no matter their importance.

This is not Declan Rice’s fault. He is seemingly given no structure, so any positioning he finds himself in is of his own doing. He has the ability to be effective everywhere and follows the play trying to instigate for his fellow directionless teammates. As gifted as Rice is, this is not sustainable and is hurting the team in the big picture.

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To compound this issue, Tomas Soucek plays the exact same role with less skill and game-breaking ability. A holding midfielder on paper, Soucek isn’t great at tackling, isn’t great at passing, isn’t the fastest, and isn’t extremely disciplined positionally. Why? Because it’s clear his only coaching is being told to get in the box when we have the ball.

The solution to this problem is easy and has two steps. First, coach your players. Declan Rice needs to emulate his role at the World Cup and sit deep protecting the backline and outletting the ball to the attackers in the team. If the opportunity arises to move forward, take it, but be positionally disciplined.

Second, pick a better team to fit with Rice. He is the talisman so use him as the anchor of this team. With Rice sat in a holding position with his exceptional passing ability, peg Lucas Paqueta beside him and put Pablo Fornals in front as a #10. Rice can play off of these create players and liberate them by staying deeper.

Brentford are a team that like to break fast on the wing and will pump balls into the middle of the pitch. West Ham will likely see more of the ball than their previous 33% showing against Arsenal and will need structure to break down the Bees’ backline. Rice dictating play and resetting the offence from a central location could be key in this.

There is a weird mentality that West Ham should do everything in their power to make Rice happy so he stays with the club. In reality, he will leave for different challenges elsewhere, in a team that is a perennial Champions League contending side.

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So, instead of mortgaging the team’s success for loft ambitions of keeping Rice, treat him like a player, give him coaching and direction to be the best he can be at his position, and put the team ahead of any individual, regardless of their importance to the project.