Declan Rice: West Ham midfielder stepping up as he begins fight for England role

Declan Rice's decision to switch allegiances to England increases the competition in defensive midfield

After Declan Rice pledged his international future to England last week, we look at the West Ham midfielder's breakthrough season so far…

Despite playing for the Republic of Ireland three times, Rice is set to submit a formal written request to FIFA and switch his allegiance to England.

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The decision comes after months of consideration, and during a time where he has emerged as a key player for West Ham.

Here, we analyse the stats behind Rice's rise to prominence, and consider what he could offer to England as manager Gareth Southgate ponders a March call-up for the 20-year-old.

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Declan Rice scored his first ever West Ham goal in the January win over Arsenal

Rice's second chance

Having started the final eight Premier League games of the 2017-18 season at centre back under David Moyes, Rice was switched to defensive midfield by new manager Manuel Pellegrini for their opening league game of the current campaign against Liverpool.

Rice lasted just 45 minutes with West Ham 2-0 down at half-time, and this tactical switch - which saw Robert Snodgrass introduced and Jack Wilshere drop back to play alongside Mark Noble - resulted in Rice being omitted from the next three games.

Image: An injury to Jack Wilshere saw Manuel Pellegrini offer Declan Rice a reprieve

However, an injury to Wilshere offered Rice a reprieve, and following four straight defeats to start the season, he played all 90 minutes of their first win over Everton.

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Rice has gone on to play every minute since Wilshere's injury offered him a second chance, and he put in a man-of-the-match display against Leicester in October, before scoring his first goal in the 1-0 January win over Arsenal.

Rice in numbers

Only Felipe Anderson has made more passes (1159) and had more touches (1793) than Rice for West Ham this season - 1002 passes, 1299 touches.

Rice's passing accuracy of 86.03 per cent ranks him fifth for West Ham, while again, only Anderson (168) has won more duels than his 128.

Kante Rice
Image: Declan Rice's defensive stats are impressive for West Ham

He is also fourth for blocks (nine) and interceptions (36), while no outfield player has made more recoveries (197) than the midfielder.

Weighing up the England competition

Southgate operated a 4-3-3 in England's final four matches of 2018, with Eric Dier starting in defensive midfield on three occasions, and Fabian Delph the other.

Along with Dier and Delph, Jordan Henderson and Harry Winks are the figures predominantly standing in the way of Rice and an England starting place.

Premier League 2018-19 - Stats per 90 mins

Declan Rice Fabian Delph Eric Dier Jordan Henderson Harry Winks
Passes 44.53 86.03 61.17 86.72 78.52
Touches 57.73 107.38 72.6 72.6 90.19
Duels won 5.69 5.83 4.37 4.37 3.87
Recoveries 8.76 6.7 5 8.39 7.8
Blocks 0.4 0 0.4 0.15 0.19
Interceptions 1.6 1.61 1.27 1.17 1.08
Passes own half 21.02 33.52 29.95 35.99 34.76
Passes opp. half 23.51 52.51 31.22 50.73 43.76

Rice does not pass or touch the ball as much as the aforementioned four, though they are all playing for sides in the current top three.

When breaking down their stats per 90 minutes, Rice tops the lot for recoveries and blocks, and only slightly trails Delph for duels won and interceptions.

Eric Dier and Ramos
Image: Eric Dier was Southgate's first-choice defensive midfielder towards the end of 2018

Rice's defensively-inclined statistics ultimately makes Dier his most direct rival on an international level.

Southgate has deployed Henderson, Winks and Delph in the two more advanced midfield positions, but Rice's numbers suggest he will not be considered anywhere but the defensive midfield role.

March debut in the balance?

Southgate's tendency to offer both youth and in-form players an opportunity on the international stage suggests Rice will get an immediate chance to prove himself in an England shirt.

However, though London-born Rice is in line to feature in Southgate's next England squad in March, FIFA's procedures for transferring his international status may make that impossible, Sky Sports News understands.

It therefore remains up in the air whether Rice will play in the Euro 2020 qualifiers at home to the Czech Republic and at Montenegro.

Gareth Southgate during the UEFA Nations League, Group A4 match between England and Croatia
Image: It is not yet clear whether Southgate will be able to call on Rice in March

In the meantime, West Ham host Fulham on Friday - live on Sky Sports - before ending the month with a trip to Manchester City.

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West Ham are then live on Sky once more when hosting Newcastle on March 2, and also face Cardiff and Huddersfield before the international break - meaning Rice has five more opportunities to shine.

In switching allegiances, Rice said "he is not taking for granted a call-up to the England squad or making any assumptions about my future international career".

Now the difficult decision has been made, the hard work continues, and Rice will be desperate to prove he is another young spark in England's bright future.

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