Rice role raises Bilic questions


riceDeclan Rice’s in the first team arrival raised another question over Slaven Bilic’s tactical approach yesterday afternoon.

It’s an issue that has been raising its head at various times since he chose to play Michail Antonio at right back claiming he could become one of the best in the league.

Yesterday we saw yet another example of it when the 18 year old was given his first team debut out of position in front of the back four instead of within it.

That really is a very big ask for a kid who has played at central defence most of his young life and that he got on with it in such style is a mark of how big this boy is going to be.

When I first read that Winston Reid had injured himself in the warm-up I consoled myself with the thought that at least we wuld see young Declan in his natural position.

But instead we saw Jose Fonte and Angelo Ogbonna thrown together in what proved to be horrendous partnership with an end result of three more goals against.

Whilst that was going on Rice was showing the sort of ability and composure in front of them which was so badly needed at the back.

We saw the boy bossing around his more experienced teammates, telling them where they should be, who to mark and who they should pass to.

And at one time he gestured to 14 years his senior Pablo Zabaleta to slow down and take some time before delivering throw in – remarkable!

He was always checking his position and that of others and spent the afternoon filling in whenever danger threatened.

He, Hermandez and Sakho are the plusses from the Southampton match but how much better will the kid become if he is given the chance to play in his preferred position.

It’s hardly a big deal because Fonte is not the answer at any time, Collins has a habit of throwing three or four games together before the mistakes start and Ogbonna is bang out of form.

Meanwhile Reece Oxford and Reece Burke have been allowed out on loan – hmmm makes you think!


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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • sleepswithdafishes says:

    Although iut’s common practice to blood 18 year old CBs in midfield or full-back, I agree with you Hugh that he should be at the back where he is needed most. It’s true that Fonte is not performing; he gave them 2 uneccessary penalties and even went to sleep for the first goal. Ogbonna could have tracked back to cover for that one too. I’d love to see Rice alongside Reid. At the moment that’s our best porrible CB partenership.
    What impresses me most about Rice is, as you point out, his mature attitude on the pitch, bossing and cajoling, just like a born captain.
    Antonio also made a big difference yesterday, and Lanzini will soon also add to the momentum created by yesterdays fight-back. Good times are just around the corner, without any new injuries.

  • winslow says:

    Just another example of the managers ineptitude…

  • Hammer64 says:

    ‘Makes you think’. Yes, indeed Hugh. Could have added that Reid seems to be joining the list of ‘frequently injured’ (pinned just below the list of ‘almost always injured’.) That defence has to be sorted.

    It seems wishful thinking to expect Rice to be a full time PL centre back back at 18, but it is hard to believe he is only that age when you watch him. While I am not in the ‘Give the kids a go’ gang I think in his case it is at least worth a try.

    I would still like to see a bit more urgency over Carvalho. If he is as good as he looked in vid on here. Somebody to protect that defence a bit might give it more confidence. But I reckon he is going to be another ‘nearly’ transfer.

  • West Ham Fan No 32 says:

    I agree we need him in central defence but at the moment we probably need him more in midfield, all of the goals were avoidable, the last penalty was one of those the opposing team rarely gets and in real terms it was a pen but marginal and 95% of the time never given so we were unlucky with that, Tadic foul on Hernandez was terrible equally as terrible as Arnautovic’s and should have been a sending off. Back on topic until we sign Carvalho we need someone in midfield with Rice’s drive and leadership to organise them and the defence, if he can keep playing well and doing what he is doing why not make him captain ? I read in the news about how we are now looking at Gomes from Barca which has all the signs of a loan to perm deal, whilst he may still be a good signing Carvalho is the best in his position why go for the third choice when for less than 10% more than you offered you can have the best ?

    • sleepswithdafishes says:

      I wonder how long Carvalhos contract lasts. Perhaps a 1 year loan for Gomes makes it easier to buy Carvalho next year.

  • Dutchy says:

    Our game has been based on defensive mistakes for quite a while! So you would sort out our current defenders right? No. So you would invest in a new Cb or two that don’t make mistakes right? No. So you would play our brightest prospect who happens to be a CB in defence right? No. Okay I’m lost! I like BIlic, but come on.. And that Fonte character has been a consistent contributor to our defensiveness shambles, has to be axed.

  • Lazurus. rises like a salmon says:

    Depth and quality is missing ! Carvhalo is a must but the brand comes first it seems !
    Until the deal is done or not we have a huge defensive problem that ain’t going away any time soon 😕
    Henry the frog said in a quote this morning that if you want to become a big club you have to think big!!!
    Not with Charlie on the end lol 😎
    If they can’t see the problems in this side then they are not fit for purpose ?

  • Willtell says:

    Errr I’m certain I read that Declan Rice was always a midfielder until he joined the West Ham academy where he was converted to defense a few years ago so it is not quite true to say that he was out of position….

  • kevin says:

    Remind me again the position where Bilic used to play ., come on Slaven , get this lot sorted for crying out loud . The dressing room belongs to you , we know , but it’s no good having an ageing and past his best midfielder as captain . Who would or should make a decent captain ? , not sure but Reid is in a better position at the back . If he can stop his increasing visits to the treatment table that is . Young Declan Rice has Captain written all over him … too young ? , well yes but in time who knows . How about next season !! From a position of CB .

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