West Ham United sealed a place in the Europa League as they cruised to victory over Southampton in the final Premier League game of the 2020/21 season on Sunday evening.
And David Moyes largely has Pablo Fornals to thank after a quickfire first-half brace set the tone for their performance, on a day where a point would’ve been suffice.
The Spaniard fired into an empty net to open the scoring on the half-hour mark, and then doubled his and the Hammers’ tally three minutes later when latching onto Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
In the second half, the three points were sealed by a surprise name in Declan Rice, who was arguably an unsung hero after running the midfield engine room.
Captaining the side in Mark Noble’s absence, the England international was an absolute beast under Moyes, recording a 7.3 rating on SofaScore. Only the goalscoring midfielder, Aaron Cresswell and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski managed better.
The 22-year-old is going to be a wanted man once again this summer, with local rivals Chelsea already mooted with reigniting their interest.
The Telegraph’s Matt Law believes the Blues could use Tammy Abraham as a makeweight in a bid to tempt the Irons into a sale.
Good luck with that after his latest outing.
Rice was frequently involved in the game, managing 47 touches and was a major influence in linking the defence to the attack, registering two successful dribbles (100%), making 74% of his passes, and firing two shots at goal, via SofaScore.
Furthermore, the 6 foot 1 monster – who is now valued at £54m – was a rock defensively, putting in two tackles, which was above his average for the season whilst he also won a whopping 87.5% of his battles, proving to be a hard man to bypass.
His presence certainly helped stop the influence from the likes of James Ward-Prowse and Stuart Armstrong, two of the Saints’ top playmakers.
Rice, a £60k-per-week earner at the London Stadium, also earned the praise of The Athletic’s Roshane Thomas, who claimed he enjoyed a “brilliant performance” and also stated that he came off to a standing ovation – quite deservedly so.
Whilst Fornals will take the plaudits for firing the Hammers into Europe, it was the display from Rice that may well go unnoticed despite playing a starring and underrated role on the day.