The Chalkboard: Rice emerges as West Ham’s key man

Declan Rice has emerged as West Ham United’s most important player in recent weeks.

The midfielder turned in another superb performance against Liverpool on Monday night as the Hammers held the Reds to a creditable 1-1 draw.

On the chalkboard

Rice truly enjoys big games.

The midfielder scored a brilliant goal the last time the Irons played at the London Stadium, the winner in the 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

And he was again covering every blade of grass against Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers.

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He won one aerial battle, made eight successful tackles from 11 attempted and also made two interceptions.

His pass success rate of 73% leaves something to be desired and he could have scored the winning goal before half-time, heading just narrowly over the bar.

But this was a complete defensive midfield performance and the 20-year-old put his midfield opponents, Fabinho and Naby Keita, to shame with his superlative discipline and hard-running.

Trust the academy

West Ham were right to trust in their academy when it comes to Rice.

There are often first-team players simply waiting to be discovered in the youth ranks and he is one such example.

He has never given anything less than 100% and is a warrior of a midfielder, as evidenced by his displays against the Gunners and the Reds.

There are few players with his skill set in the Premier League and it would be no surprise to see him eventually end up at Manchester City or Manchester United, such is his talent.

For now though he is West Ham’s key player, even more so than ¬£36million record signing Felipe Anderson and captain Mark Noble.