It’s been a breakout season for young Irishman Declan Rice.
West Ham’s ‘young player of the year’ for 2017 was drafted into the senior squad at the start of the season, earning praise from pundits for his assured performances at such a young age.
Eleven starts and 22 Premier League appearances later, that form has seen the 19-year-old become a bright spot in a season of struggle for the Hammers. But with that responsibility comes a steep learning curve.
This was evident in today’s 4-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.
A midfielder who often, as was the case today, deputises at centre-back, Rice was central to keeping the Gunners honest, with the close-run game pegged at 1-1 heading into the final ten minutes. A cross from Aaron Ramsey in the 82nd minute was whipped into the box directly at Rice.
Whether or not goalkeeper Joe Hart called for Rice to leave it is unclear, but the Englishman was clearly unhappy with Rice ducking his head, resulting in a goal.
With the deadlock broken through Ramsey’s 58th goal for Arsenal, Alexandre Lacazette would add a late brace to give the departing Arsene Wenger a 4-1 victory.
Another man who was enraged by the error was Hammers boss David Moyes, who shared his frustration with Sky Sports and felt that his side would have earned at least a point if it didn’t occur.
“The young centre-half should head the ball away and it wouldn’t have even got to 2-1, it was that easy”, he told Sky Sports.
“Why he would duck in the box I’ve got no idea. We’ve all been young players going into games and we’re always going to make mistakes. The most important thing is you learn from your mistakes, you don’t do it again and you understand how important it is.
“Even if Joe Hart did shout, any centre-half – and I was one of them – can never let the ball go. The ball is in the middle of your goal and you are probably only six yards from your goal.”
The defeat keeps West Ham in 15th in the table on 35 points, six above the relegation zone with four games left to play.
Favourite defenders of the PL era include John Terry and Jamie Carragher. The ball was like a magnet to their heads. But they made mistakes early in their careers. Declan Rice will learn, as they did. If he wants to emulate them, he must #WHUFC
— Lee Clayton (@LeeClayton_) April 22, 2018