West Ham United fans are used to seeing complete performances produced by young midfielder Declan Rice, but the one he pulled out of the hat during Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal at London Stadium had one significant difference.
This was, of course, the 20-year-old’s first professional goal, the one that proved the difference between Manuel Pellegrini’s and Unai Emery’s men two days ago. On Rice’s 20th birthday, we are going to be analysing the special strike, as well as carrying out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on his overall Man-of-the-Match-winning display. Join us.
First of all, it’s arguably the most important facet of the Academy of Football product’s display that we’re going to be analysing, his first West Ham senior goal. It gifted his club a seventh victory in ten matches in all competitions and ninth place in the table, up from tenth, at the end of the weekend.
The strike was also scored at the perfect time for the Hammers, just after half-time, proving a huge blow to the travelling Gunners, though the goal was not undeserved by the home side. As you can see in the first of the four below wyscout.com images, it came from a right-sided cross from club-record signing Felipe Anderson.
This delivery was put into the box following a cleared corner, which Rice had helped to win, in the first place. Anderson’s cross was headed away by Sead Kolasinac, however, only as far as the man making his first league start for the East Londoners after his January move, ex-Arsenal playmaker Samir Nasri. Below, he is in the process of gently laying the ball into Rice’s path, the pass that would turn out to be the assist.
Having already missed a decent headed opportunity from a corner at the back end of the first half, Rice was going to waste no time in taking full advantage of his second opportunity of the match. The star still debating his international future struck the ball first-time and it was only ever going to go in one place.
As you can see, this place was the back of Bernd Leno’s net and at some pace, too, preventing the team with the fewest clean sheets in the PL this season from claiming a third shutout of 2018/2019. Although more importantly for the Irons and Rice, the ‘centre-forward’s finish’ would go on to give them a first league triumph of 2019 and a moment no one associated with the club, not least the glowing prospect, will ever forget.
For the next phase of our tactical analysis, we will analyse Rice’s key general statistics from his side’s first home win over their North London rivals since November 2006, using the below Wyscout image.
The graphic contains all the data we need on the versatile youngster from London Stadium, but also his career average for these statistics. Today, we are going to be solely focussing on the figures from Saturday lunchtime’s match, though it does make for an interesting comparison.
The first stat we are drawn to, beside a column detailing Rice’s left defensive midfield positioning within the 4-2-1-3 formation of Pellegrini is his total actions and rate of success in them. Here, the 20-year-old managed an impressive 64 total actions, 47, or 73 per cent, of which were successfully completed.
As we can see, Rice scored the one goal in Stratford, his first in 55 appearances and nearly two years of first-team action in Claret & Blue and we doubt the defensive midfielder will ever score a more important one. However, he failed to produce any assists against the North Londoners, something he has managed at senior level before.
The recent signer of a new long-term contract at London Stadium also weighed in with two shots, one on target for his goal, and his highest ever expected goals rating of 0.28.
His passing is one of the real strong points of Rice’s game and he did not let the record West Ham home crowd down, completing 90 and 100% of his 37 and one short passes and long passes respectively.
Although it’s very little surprise that last season’s Hammer of the Year runner-up didn’t get himself into a position to deliver a single cross, he did attempt an above-average one dribble. Completing it with ease, helped by his mesmerising close control and quick feet.
The strong, energetic charge came out on top in half or more of both his duels and aerial duels, however, perhaps most terrific of all was his number of interceptions. Rice totted up a staggering ten, thwarting many advances of a frustrated Arsenal attack, one that failed to ever really test their former goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Seeing so much of it throughout the 94 minutes, it’s testament to Rice that he only lost the ball on six occasions, only a third of the time in his own half, and recovered 12 times, the vast majority of the time in his own half. In addition and finally, the Hammers first-teamer of one-and-a-half years didn’t pick up a single card on the day.
Overall, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that these figures are something very special from Rice and as most would agree, the best he’s ever produced in the Premier League. Any midfielder in the world would undoubtedly take these stats in any game, let alone a then-19-year-old playing against one of the so-called “Big Six.”
Heatmap and touches
Next in our analysis, and with the help of our good friends over at whoscored.com this time, we are going to take an in-depth look at Rice’s heatmap and number of touches for his 55th senior showing.
They are contained in the above image and first, we’re going to focus on the star of now and the future’s heatmap in the left centre. As we can see, as well as staying well-disciplined and spending most of the game in his position, Rice covered plenty of ground in other areas of the pitch, covering for and helping out teammates. A constant hive of energy and spirit with a never-say-die attitude.
These points are reflected further in his number of touches, which can be found above the heatmap. A busy 59 was the joint-second most of any other West Ham player on the day, tied with his captain Mark Noble, and the joint-seventh most of all the players who featured at all, including the substitutes.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has proved that Rice’s performance in a historic win for his club was indeed the complete performance, or at least the closest any player will get to one. Capped off by the first senior goal and winner, celebrated by most of the highest spectator gate ever at a Hammers home match, 59,946.
The only surprise for the bulk of the Claret & Blue Army was the fact that Rice had managed to score and not the level of the performance, which they have become accustomed to seeing week-in-week-out from him after he regained his starting place back in September. With the distraction of the speculation about his new contract now gone and rumours about his international future soon to be resolved, the rising star has the chance to get his head down and focus solely on his football now. This continues with next weekend’s trip to face AFC Bournemouth.
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