Declan Rice compared to Liverpool’s Fabinho and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante as West Ham lose their ‘best player’ to injury in Champions League hunt
Tony Cascarino has compared Declan Rice’s impact at West Ham to that of Fabinho and N’Golo Kante as the midfielder was rocked by an injury blow.
The 22-year-old returned from England duty with a his swollen knee in a brace which talkSPORT understands will rule him out for at least four weeks.
Having not missed a game since the final fixture of the 2018/19 season, Rice’s omission from David Moyes’ side will come as a blow to their hopes of an unlikely Champions League finish.
It will also leave England boss Gareth Southgate sweating ahead of the delayed European Championship, starting in June.
Alongside Tomas Soucek, Rice has formed one of the best midfield partnerships in the division as his steel and silk combines perfectly with the goalscoring Czech Republic international.
Chelsea midfielder Kante and Liverpool enforcer Fabinho are two of the finest holding midfielders in the Premier League and provide the fulcrum from which their teams can attack.
Yet Cascarino argues Rice is just as important to West Ham in the same role and deserves to be considered in the same bracket.
He told talkSPORT: “When you look at say, Liverpool, and you had Fabinho that would play that role for Liverpool and do that really well – sit and let other people go forward.
“I’d put N’Golo Kante in that bracket, that’s what Declan Rice does for West Ham.
“He sits, he picks things, he can see things, the players trust him around him and he does the A,B,C’s of football – the simplistic things that affect a team – really well.
“He keeps the ball, so it is a huge blow; it is that N’Golo Kante, it’s that Fabinho role that he does brilliantly well.
“Fine lines, small margins make massive differences.”
Soucek and Rice enjoyed wonderful international breaks, with the Czech midfielder scoring a hattrick for his country and Rice grabbing two Man of the Match awards before his injury.
It is understood he suffered a knock in the Poland game to his knee yet was able to play on, despite playing every minute for the Three Lions across the three fixtures.
Former Chelsea and Aston Villa striker Cascarino believes not only will the midfielder’s absence hinder the Hammers in defensive moments; it will also force his partner to sit deeper.
He added: “I look and think that relationship with Soucek in the middle of midfield, allowing him to run, it reminds me of Paul McGrath and what he did for Roy Keane and Andy Townsend.
“He would sit at times in that midfield position and there is nothing better to have someone as an attacking midfielder like Soucek is and drive forward and know you’ve got protection behind you.
“Your pal is going to look after you and let you go, so it is a big blow. He’s West Ham’s best player.”