England’s Best Holding Midfielder?
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 26 February 2019 at 6:47pm
Written by: @ConorCulver
Two weeks ago Declan Rice changed his international allegiance from Ireland to England. When asked about the topic, Manuel Pellegrini stated that Rice is the best holding midfielder that England has to offer at the moment. Pellegrini’s right; Rice brings a lot to the table, and here’s why.
The main reason Pellegrini is right is that a player like Rice is hard to find. There are two different systems that seem to be deployed now when using a holding midfielder – one using just one player, the other using two. When using one, the player must be able to defend, but also have a significant ability to distribute the ball and link up the defence and the midfield (for example Fernandinho at Manchester City). When using two, you often have one who can defend and one who can play with the ball (for example Kante and Fabregas when Conte was in charge at Chelsea).
Rice is one of the few individuals who can defend and play with the ball, both to a high skill level. For England, this will allow Southgate to play Rice at the base of the midfield and play creative, attacking midfielders alongside Rice (such as Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.) The reason this makes Rice a better option than his competition is because Jordan Henderson cannot defend (and his passing ability is average at best), and Eric Dier can defend but is poor when in possession; plus he’s a liability when it comes to bookings (having more bookings in 15 games than Rice does in 24).
Another major reason Rice is the best option England have is because, like Dier, he can play at centre-back too. If someone gets sent off, Southgate needn’t waste a substitution because Rice is more than able to switch positions. The only worry may be that he could take a few liberties with the ball at the back due to him playing in midfield most the time but his intelligence would suggest that he could adapt and adapt quickly. This also means that Southgate can name him as either a defender or a midfielder in his squad – so if Southgate wants to take an extra defender or midfielder he can put Rice into whichever category accommodates that.
Finally, Rice is 20. Southgate has been clear that he wants to develop young talent and the potential Rice possesses is so much greater than Henderson and Dier. There is a reason the top clubs are circling Rice, and it’s because all the hype isn’t just hype.
He genuinely is the best holding midfielder England have at their disposal, and Hammers fans can’t wait to see him with the three lions on his shirt.