Is Declan Rice’s passing good enough for Chelsea or Man Utd?

Carlo Garganese

Declan Rice is one of the hottest names on the transfer market and has been consistently linked with a big money move to either boyhood team Chelsea or Manchester United.

At the age of 22, there is no doubt that it is impressive what Rice has achieved in his career thus far.

He has already played over 150 times for West Ham and earned 26 caps for the England national team.

Rice hit the headlines on Thursday after he burst up the field to score a superb solo goal for West Ham against Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League.

Both Man Utd and Chelsea have been associated with making bids in the region of £80-100 million for the central midfielder.

But ahead of West Ham’s Premier League match against Man Utd on Sunday, Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness raised some doubts about Rice.

While acknowledging that the youngster has fantastic energy and an ability to protect the defence and win the ball, he was uncertain at how good Rice is when in possession.

“When it’s going forward, when it’s about delivering cute and clever passes I think he’s a little bit short,” the Liverpool legend said.

“Will he get that? We’ll have to wait and see. I see him ultimately as a defender.

“In terms of being that top top midfield player, I’m not sure.”

Looking at Rice’s passing statistics last season it is easy to understand Souness’ concerns.

Rice had a passing accuracy of 86 per cent, which is decent at the top level, but too many of his passes were sideways and backwards.

Although as a holding midfielder he wouldn’t be expected to create goals like a number 10, Rice only managed one assist in the whole of last season. He has only five in his entire Premier League career.

Furthermore, Rice made just 13 key passes in 2020-21 according to InStat. There were 152 players in the Premier League who delivered more key passes over the entirety of the season.

Declan Rice v Jorginho

According to FBRef, Rice made 2.94 progressive passes per 90 minutes and 3.53 final third passes per 90 in 2020/21.

Compare those two figures to the best deep-lying director in football right now, Jorginho. The Chelsea star had 5.16 progressive passes per 90 and 6.28 final third passes per game.

Although Chelsea are a better team than West Ham – and a more attacking one – the huge difference here illustrates that Rice is not progressive nor creative enough right now.

The top teams play most of their games in the opposition half where the ability to break lines with passes is much more important than for smaller sides like West Ham.

At the age of 22, there is no reason why he can’t develop this side of his game but certainly Souness is right to question whether Rice is currently worth the £100m that has been quoted for him.