Journalist Paul Brown has revealed that people behind the scenes at West Ham believe that the club would have qualified for the Champions League last season if Declan Rice had remained injury-free.
What did Brown say about Rice's injury?
The holding midfielder picked up a knee injury while on international duty with England, meaning that he missed six games of West Ham's run-in as they pushed for a top four finish.
According to Brown, his contacts at West Ham feel that Rice's fitness setback ultimately cost them a place in Europe's elite club competition.
He told GIVEMESPORT: “They’ve been crying out for a bit of depth because their starting XI last season could go toe-to-toe pretty much with anyone, and was a little bit unlucky not to finish in a Champions League spot. I know people at West Ham who thought Declan Rice getting injured was basically the death knell for that. If he’d stayed fit, I think they really believe they would have qualified for the Champions League, which would have been amazing.”
How did West Ham fare in the six games that Rice missed?
David Moyes' men had a mixed bag of results in Rice's absence, as they picked up three wins but also suffered three losses.
Interestingly, they did not manage to keep a single clean sheet in these games, suggesting that they did miss Rice's presence at the base of the midfield, protecting the back four.
West Ham lost out to Chelsea by two points in the race for the final Champions League spot, and we will never know if they could have made up this difference with Rice fit and available.
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Is Rice West Ham's most indispensable player?
There is certainly an argument for that.
The Irons have a number of quality operators in their squad, including Tomas Soucek, who scored 10 league goals last term, plus the likes of Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma - the attacking pair are a joy to watch when in full flow.
However, Rice is almost irreplaceable. His contribution may not be particularly eye-catching at times, but he is often the player for West Ham who makes key tackles and interceptions before starting off moves for the side as they push up the pitch.
Michail Antonio is perhaps the only member of Moyes' squad who is just as important, given that he is the team's only recognised striker.
Still, it is undeniable that Rice has played a huge part in West Ham's success over the last 12 months, and the club need him to remain healthy if they want to keep competing with the best sides in the country.News Now - Sport News