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Why Chelsea need to sign Declan Rice

It’s the beginning of September, somewhat an unusual September, of course, because in an anomalistic way, the transfer window is well and truly open. Chelsea FC began their spending spree by making a couple of very qualitative signings in the right winger Hakim Ziyechfrom Ajax for a fee of 40 million of euros and the striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, after the English club paid his release clause of 53 million of euros. In terms of the defensive recruitments, Chelsea have signed the 23-year-old LB from Leicester City, Ben Chilwell for a quoted fee of 45 million of pounds + 5 million bonuses and have also managed to secure the services of the highly experienced Brazilian CB, Thiago Silva, on a free, after the end of his contract with the club where he spent 8 years of his career, PSG. Another incoming on a free from France is Malang Sarr, the former Nice center-back, who will spend this upcoming season away on loan. The signing who has attracted the most flashing spotlights amongst the media and fans, though, is the one of German young star Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of 71 million of pounds. The Blues are expected to carry on with their transfer spree, with the exciting prospect Declan Rice from West Ham being seemingly on the top of the list. In addition, the Blues have been strongly rumored to make even more defensive signings this summer, by adding also a new goalkeeper and possibly another centre-back in their ranks.

In particular, a possible return for Rice at the club where he started his football journey is being widely discussed between groups of fans, pundits and other people related to the sport or English football in general, talking mostly about what the arrival of the 21-year-old English midfielder would bring to the West London club.

Giving my opinion on the matter, I think and believe that Rice’s arrival would be the most exciting defensive signing for Chelsea since the signing of N’Golo Kantein the summer of 2016. I am aware that there will be sections of people who may disagree with me, but it’s important to point out that there are a lot of positives that Rice’s return to the club where he made his first steps in football would reward the Blues with.

So, first of all, as I started to explain above, Declan Rice’s initial contacts with the game started at Cobhamtraining ground, so this means that he already knows very well the environment, the facilities and of course, the standards, objectives and targets of the club in all its levels. Indeed, this situation would help him settle easily, considering also his very close relationship with one of the most important players in Frank Lampard’sside this season, Mason Mount, among others. In addition, some weeks ago he was seen in the company of Blues legend and former striker, Didier Drogba, while another legend, John Terry, posted a photo in his Instagram profile with the 21-year-old midfielder alongside him, saying complementary words about the young man.

Secondly, there is a considerable number of fans and pundits that often stress the necessity of the team to have some blunter, more vocal personalities inside the group and Rice has proved to have and eventually develop apparent leadership skills, thus being rewarded with the captain armband at West Ham in some important games last season. On top of that, his brave and composed attitude has been mirrored in some of his interviews, too, as particularly in one of them, around the time that West Ham had to play Manchester United, he stated that there was no place at all to fear going against the likes of Pogba, Fred etc, whereas his constant sense of humor has made his character even more likeable.

According to the stats that SofaScore provides us with, Declan Rice was the joint-second highly-rated player in his team last season, along with the Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (6.99 rating), left behind only by Michail Antonio (7.08 rating). In addition, he tops the list of the accurate passes per game, with a number of 39.2 (the percentage of accuracy is 86%) and together with Mark Noble, the one of accurate long balls per game (3.4). Anyhow, it can’t be argued that the attribute which has mainly pleased Chelsea fans (including me) during the so-called ‘’eye-tests’’ is Rice’s tackling. SofaScore classifies this feature, plushis positioning and ball control, as a strength of his. Furthermore, the 21-year-old tops the ranking of the interceptions per game in reference to his fellow team-mates (2.0), despite the very young age.

Another big plus regarding Declan Rice’s profile has to do with his admirable versatility, which has been a cause for constructive debates between fans more often than not. Of course, he is a natural defensive midfielder, but he was occasionally played even as a centre-back by West Ham’s manager, David Moyes, in the campaign that we left behind us and this positional switch resulted impactful all the same. Thus, although that I see him more as a DM, Rice’s ability to impress in both those positions would give Frank Lampard an important selection boost, in terms of choosing the defensive players who will start a particular game or another.

The last matter I wanted to cover is the comparison between Jorginho and Rice, which I find unfair and characterized by a general misunderstanding. From my own perspective, parallelisms between two footballersare useful and count as an actual indicator not only when the players are of the same positions, but when they are also of the same profiles. Specifically, Jorginho is more accustomed to playing as a Regista, being the initiator of the attacking actions of his team and ideally, touching the ball and passing it forward the most, compared to his team-mates. On Rice’s side, he is a better protector, a better tackler, the one who would provide that sort of ‘’dirty work’’, including making tactical fouls, which is all in all a necessity inside the universally fierce and dynamic nature of English football, but he is not the one you could give the duty to dictate the play from deep to. So, in general, I believe that the comparison doesn’t really stand.

To sum it up, Rice’s signing would be a very beneficial move for the club in the aspect of reinforcing the defensive area and for the player himself in the aspect of personal growth and maturity. I am aware that this isn’t the exact type of marquee signing some people could expect, but taking into consideration his more than convincing performances against teams of different levels, his exemplary mentality, his young age, the social connections he has with some key individuals at the club and Ethan Ampadu’s departure on loan, Declan Rice’s move to Chelsea would fit like a glove.

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