One thing that is for sure about Rice is that he is rated within the game.
Rice’s star has risen in the Premier League in the last few years, and he also started to make his mark in Europe.
He led West Ham to the semi-finals of last season’s UEFA Europa League, and the Hammers now find themselves in the final of the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they will face Fiorentina in Prague on Wednesday, kick-off 20:00 BST.
It will be West Ham’s first European final since they were beaten by Anderlecht in the 1975/76 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
Rice also played his part for England as they reached the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, averaging more passes per 90 minutes than any of his fellow Three Lions midfielders (68.5). This ranked him 19th across the whole tournament for midfielders who played at least three matches.
Rice has developed nicely in his six years as a first-team player at West Ham. He made 26 Premier League appearances in his debut 2017/18 campaign, where he won possession on average 4.6 times per 90.
That immediately rose to 8.6 times per 90 the following season as he moved from defence into midfield, and in 2022/23 it was at a whopping 9.2 times per 90.
Most possession won 2022/23
He ended the campaign with a competition-high 63 interceptions, seven more than Idrissa Gueye, Cheick Doucoure and Moises Caicedo (all 56). Gueye and Doucoure did, however, register higher per-90 rates (1.9 and 1.8 respectively).
Rice also protects the defence admirably. He was only dribbled past 20 times in the league in 2022/23, at an average of 0.6 times per 90.
Indeed, of midfielders to have competed in more than 200 duels in the Premier League this season, only Gueye, Jack Grealish, Palhinha and Partey recorded a higher success percentage than Rice’s 58.6.
Though he may be extremely capable defensively, Rice also isn’t afraid of going the other way.
He has scored four league goals this season, his best return in England’s top flight, and also produced a marvellous solo effort in the 4-1 Europa Conference League quarter final second-leg victory over Gent, running from his own half before slotting home in front of the wild home fans.
"When I’m running at defenders and I’ve got that space to drive with the ball, that’s when I feel like I’m at my best"
“When I pick the ball up in those positions and I’ve got all that space to drive into, I feel good," Rice told BT Sport afterwards. "When I’m running at defenders and I’ve got that space to drive with the ball, that’s when I feel like I’m at my best.”
His involvement in attacking sequences has been second to none for his club as well, recording 138 overall in the Premier League, the most for any West Ham player in 2022/23. That included 32 shots, 30 chances created and 76 involvements in the build-up to a shot, showing how integral he is going forward as well as in defence.
Only Said Benrahma (47) and Jarrod Bowen (35) created more chances from open play for West Ham in the league than Rice, while only those same two players as well as Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell created more than his three big chances.
Passing and Carries
As well as all that, there is more general midfield work to consider.
Rice is West Ham’s primary passer of the ball, making almost twice as many as any of his teammates in the Premier League this season. In fact, his 2,083 passes were only behind Rodri, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Caicedo for midfielders in the whole league, which is impressive when you consider David Moyes’ side can hardly be described as a possession-based side.
Does that mean he was giving the ball away all the time? No. Rice completed 88.1 per cent of his passes, eighth in the league for midfielders who attempted at least 1,000 passes. Does it mean he was playing easy passes? No. Only Bruno Fernandes (633) and Rodri (624) attempted more forward passes than Rice’s 607.
Most forward passes (midfielders) 2022/23
Does that mean Rice was being aided by space and movement around him? No. Only six players in the league completed more passes when an opponent was within two metres, and it’s not as if Rice was overrun with options to choose from either. West Ham recorded the lowest average passing options (1.08) of all Premier League teams in 2022/23.
He also loves to carry the ball. Only Rodri, with 702, totalled more carries in the Premier League this season than Rice’s 597, and the Man City star was the only player to record a greater total carry distance among central midfielders.
Rice has more in him when it comes to carries, which could potentially be unlocked in another setup. He recorded a gigantic 716 carries in the 2021/22 league campaign at 20.3 per 90, while he also has 100 in the Europa Conference League this season.
Rice is dependable, versatile and could prove the perfect ingredient if West Ham are to become European champions.
This article originates from Opta Analyst.