Opinion: It's clear which player David Moyes should use to solve West Ham's injury crisis at centre-back
Earlier, the Guardian broke the news that West Ham will be without centre-back Issa Diop till the end of the season following an ankle injury against Burnley.
With Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogboona also sidelined with serious injuries that could see them absent for the rest of the season, David Moyes is facing a very real injury crisis.
A solution, however, could be closer to home than Moyes thinks in the form of star midfielder Declan Rice.
Can Moyes trust Declan Rice at centre back
He has the experience to play there. People may not remember but when RIce broke through as a shaven-headed teen it was at the centre of Manuel Pellegrini’s defence.
It was Pellegrini who saw the crucial hard running, hard tackling and ball-playing abilities of Rice and first started to transition him into the incredible box to box midfielder that David Moyes has fully crafted.
When he first joined the Hammers, David Moyes highly praised Rice’s ability at centre-back when talking to TalkSport:
“I think Declan could arguably be my best centre-half and my best midfield player”
Moyes has made a point of mentioning Rice as an option at centre back in the past.
“Declan has played [at centre-back] before and would give us a different dimension. We’ve got that possibility.”
That quote was in relation to the earlier Kurt Zouma injury when Issa Diop was still available.
Rice is well regarded as a centre back.
It is important to note that when Chelsea were linked with Rice a few seasons ago, it was with the intention to play him as a centre back.
Are there any better options for the Hammers
No. Of all the players Moyes has at his disposal who can play centre back, Rice is by far the most accomplished.
The two youngsters most apt for the role (Aji Alese or Jamal Baptiste) are lacking in experience at the highest level and with the season coming to its most crucial point, there is no room for error.
The same issues arise with the inclusion of midfielder Alex Kral or left-back Aaron Cresswell in the centre of defence. It is just not a natural position for them, especially in a two at the back system.
West Ham’s success begins with its defensive solidity and as such a cool head is needed at the back. Rice’s influence can be made up for in midfield by the multitude of other midfielders Moyes has available. The experienced head of Mark Noble is always waiting in the wings.
His absence could even allow his midfield partner Tomas Soucek to show more of the attacking intent that made him so feared last season.
For the balance of the team, Rice has to play at centre-back.
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