Top 3 options for West Ham United to replace Declan Rice

Vatsal Gupta
By Vatsal Gupta
8 Min Read

Can you really replace a player who you demanded “Bank of England” money for? West Ham United are faced with this question after selling Declan Rice to Arsenal.

The midfielder was a stalwart for the team, a presence that made them feel like they could compete with the “big boys”. He had taken the leap from an academy prospect to a leader who would lead West Ham to the promised land.

However, reality struck, a top-six PL club raided them, and armed with more than £100 million but a lot weaker for it, the task has begun to replace Rice.

It’s not easy, as Barcelona can attest to when they went to replace Neymar in 2017, but in true Moneyball fashion, the Hammers might have to secure multiple players who can combine in the midfield to replace Rice’s unique set of skills.

Here are the top three contenders for West Ham to replace Rice, along with some honourable mentions-

1- Scott McTominay

Embed from Getty Images

As said earlier, there are only a few players in world football as proficient at both sides of the game as Rice is. McTominay is similar in the sense that he is better than Rice going forwards, but it comes at the cost of passing skills and defensive game.

Before he left West Ham, Rice was undergoing a transformation from a defensive-minded anchor man to a box-to-box goalscoring threat.

McTominay is already there. In addition, he has the leadership skills and force of personality to fill the leadership vacuum in the squad in the long term.

David Moyes loves PL-proven players who are physical assets, and the Scottish international fits the mould perfectly.

The worry for West Ham will be the hardball negotiating stance of Man United, eager to fleece a nouveau-rich club. Figures of around £45 million have been quoted, a price Moyes’ team would be reluctant to pay.

If they can negotiate it down to around £35 million, then Scott McTominay is the player most stylistically similar to Rice who also checks all the boxes of an ideal David Moyes signing.

2- James Ward-Prowse

Embed from Getty Images

The difficulty of replacing Declan Rice can be seen from the fact that the second entry on this list is a player whose playing profile is completely opposite to that of the first entry.

Unlike McTominay, “JWP” is a creator. He is a set-piece wizard who also runs selflessly to cover every blade of the grass. However, his physical limitations mean he is best deployed as a deep-lying ball-circulator instead of a destroyer that Rice started off as.

Southampton will almost certainly find it difficult to keep hold of their captain after relegation so West Ham have that going for them. However, his suitability to Moyes’ style of football is harder to envision beyond his elite set-piece deliveries. Furthermore, Southampton will also not let him go on the cheap and for a player with that many question marks over his fit, it remains to be seen in the Hammers open their chequebook.

They have already had a bid rejected for him and they might move to other targets, but JWP will be an astute addition for the right price for his set-piece delivery alone. The likes of Tomas Soucek, Michael Antonio, and Nayef Aguerd will be licking their lips at the prospect of his arrival.

3- Denis Zakaria

Embed from Getty Images

Zakaria is a safe passer of the ball who can sit in front of the defence and kill attacks with his positioning. Again, he is not a direct Declan Rice replacement.

The Swiss international is as good as Rice at the defensive part of the game but lacks in the attacking sense.

He could be a good partner next to Tomas Soucek, who can make forward runs and provide an aerial outlet in attack while Zakaria sits back and does what he does best- sweeping up attacks and intercepting forward passes.

He has spent time on loan at Chelsea, although not very fruitful, but it still means has some Premier League experience which Moyes so desires in all his signings.

Juventus have likely deemed his expendable, so this deal should be relatively easier to complete than others listed here. However, the player’s willingness to move from Juventus to West Ham is doubted, while the Hammers might also think they can get a player better fit for purpose with their money.

Honourable mentions

West Ham United have been bidding for midfielders left, right, and centre. Some have fallen through because of the asking price not being met, some haven’t gone through because of reported differences of opinion between the sporting director and manager.

However, the players make sense in terms of potential fit at the club.

Chief among them is Edson Alvarez. The Ajax defensive midfielder has been linked to bigger clubs in the past so it would be a significant coup for the Hammers if they sign him.

He is an elite defensive screener with ever-improving passing skills. Although he lacks in the goalscoring department, his age and playing profile means there is a lot of room for improvement.

Besides Alvarez, there are data-driven options like Marseille’s Valentin Rongier and Andre Gomes, but their age (28 and 30 respectively) will turn West Ham off on making big offers for them.

Replacing Rice was never going to be easy and it has been a proper headache for the Hammers.

Ideally, they need to sign at least two players to fill that gap- one who is elite defensively, and the other who is a box-to-box threat. A midfield of Denis Zakaria with Scott McTominay comes closest to replicating Rice’s unique skillset but adjustments will still need to be made.

Nobody said replacing a generational talent would be easy!

Share this Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *