“Gutless” “toothless” and “poor” were all words used to describe West Ham United’s performance at Brighton & Hove Albion last night, as they fell to a frustrating 1-0 Premier League defeat.
However, there was one shining light for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, in the centre of the park, in midfielder Declan Rice, who was operating in the middle of a midfield-three, featuring himself, captain Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang.
The Academy of Football product put the distraction of days of speculation about his International future and whether he will choose to play for the Republic of Ireland or England, behind him to put in another mature display.
Today, in the wake of the Hammers’ fifth defeat out of eight league matches this season, we carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of Rice’s performance against Chris Hughton’s men. We will be analysing his key stats from the match and heatmap, before comparing him to an opposing midfielder, displaying just how good he was in defensive midfield.
For the first phase of our tactical analysis, we have enlisted the help of our friends over at wyscout.com to bring you the below graphic, containing a block of stats from the 19-year-old’s productive evening.
As you can see from the image, Rice played all 96 minutes, having not missed a minute of PL football since the last International break and was head and shoulders above the rest of his faltering teammates.
The first stat we are drawn to is total actions and how many of them were successful, for the youngster, 60 out of 76, that’s an impressive 79 per cent, to go with his eye-catching 95% passing accuracy.
Two-thirds of his trickier longer passes reached their intended targets in the one-goal loss, while he didn’t get an opportunity to make any crosses, but was successful with his one attempted dribble.
While Rice could only win 43% and 50% of his respective duels and aerial duels, he was involved in 18 overall duels, showing his unflappable desire to constantly get stuck in, without receiving a card of any kind.
The starlet broke up the play of the opposition six times with interceptions but will be disappointed that six out of his seven losses came in his own half, although seven of his 16 recoveries did arrive in the opposition half, nine in his own half.
On the whole, these are very impressive match stats from Rice and members of the Claret & Blue Army have come to expect no different, amazing, really, for a player with only 14 months of real English Top-Flight experience.
Next, we are going to look at the Ireland International’s heatmap from the American Express Community Stadium, which has been provided by our good friends over at whoscored.com.
Rice’s heatmap can be found on the right of the picture, along with the stat that he had a whopping 67 touches over the 90 minutes on the south coast, that’s ten more than any Brighton player managed.
As you can see, there is a hotspot in the midfielder converted from a centre-back’s starting position, he was the most defensive cog in the midfield machine, sitting a little further back from Noble and Obiang.
However, there are traces of Rice’s movement all over the midfield and at the back, showing that he was quite literally here, there and everywhere, whether it be supporting in attack or mucking in at the back, to help the back-four.
And finally, if you weren’t convinced enough about the display of Rice, we have created a comparison between the performance of him and one of his opposite numbers, used the WhoScored website, once again.
The home player we have chosen is fellow defensive midfielder and Dutch International Davy Propper, who as you can see, was operating in a similar position to Rice, before coming off injured late in the match.
Although Propper earns a marginally higher match rating, with 6.84 to Rice’s 6.59, the Hammer bosses it when it comes to the stats, having better figures than the Seagull, on three occasions.
The only stat that the Dutchman wins is tackles won, achieving three more than the Irishman, while they are both tied on 82%, when it comes to their overall pass completion.
However, Rice reigns supreme in possession, dribbles and aerial duels won, as you can see from the image, and neither player has a shot, wins a corners, is or dispossessed.
In conclusion, today’s statistical tactical analysis has found that when it came to midfield performances, none were better than Rice’s in his first Friday Night Football start, not even opposition players who earned a better rating than him.
The star continues to be the Irons’ most consistent performer so far this season and arguably Player of the Season, thus far, having finished runner-up in the race for the award last term. Strong performances, even when the rest of his team are not on their day, prove that he is only going in one direction and should he choose to represent the Three Lions, his first International call-up cannot be too far around the corner.