Thursday, May 30, 2024

Declan Rice – Data Viz

Over the weekend, Declan Rice made his long-awaited move to Arsenal, as the club invested a reported £105 million to secure his services.

One of the most protracted transfer sagas in recent times reached fever pitch when news broke of Manchester City entering the fray. Arsenal, known for their reluctance to engage in bidding wars, faced the looming inevitability of their number one target ending up at the deep-pocketed Etihad.

However, The Gunners leveraged their own financial muscle with a favourable payment instalment plan, as well as the allure of their N5 postcode and trusted the groundwork already laid by Mikel Arteta and Edu to emerge victorious in the battle for one of the most sought-after midfielders in world football.

In 2017, Rice made his West Ham debut in the final game of the season, a reward from Slaven Bilic for captaining the U23s to promotion. Since then, the Englishman has become a permanent fixture in The Hammers’ first team, featuring in 30+ league games for the past five consecutive seasons.

Throughout these years, his role has evolved. While initially tasked with anchoring the midfield, Rice has demonstrated versatility by spending more time further up the pitch to contribute more offensively, effectively operating as a box-to-box midfielder while never hiding from the ball.

2,475 – the number of times Declan Rice touched the ball during the 2022-23 season. Only Gabriel (2,776) and Benjamin White (2,532) registered more touches in an Arsenal shirt.

During the early stages of his career, he faced criticism, labelled in some circles as a ‘safety net’ passer – someone who retrieves the ball and swiftly distributes it to others for more progressive play. However, Rice has emerged as one of the league’s most dynamic and forward-thinking passers.

‘Deep completions’ refer to passes and crosses executed during open play, originating from outside the shaded zone (as depicted above), that successfully find a teammate within the same zone, covering a minimum ball movement of 5 metres.

Arsenal ranked 2nd in the league last season for the above metric, while West Ham found themselves in 19th. Given this context, it is impressive that Rice’s output is on par with that of his new teammates. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that his numbers will only improve in the future.

Stylistically, Rice exhibits the ability to execute line-breaking passes similar to Granit Xhaka, while also contributing effectively to the team’s build-up play, much like Thomas Partey. In essence, he combines many of the possession-based qualities displayed by these two players into one.

87% – Out of his 2,135 attempted passes in the previous season, Rice successfully completed 1,846. More than double the number achieved by any of his teammates.

240 – 11% of those attempted passes were progressive (ranked 1st for West Ham), covering an average distance of 284 yards towards the opponent’s goal per game (ranked 1st for West Ham); this total distance covered was only surpassed by White, Gabriel and William Saliba.

607 – Forward passes. Rice stood 3rd among midfielders in the Premier League last season, trailing behind only Bruno Fernandes and Rodri.

Yet it’s his ability to carry the ball from deep, after winning it back, that might have the biggest impact on a midfield that often lacked Rice’s capability to drive at the opposition, turning defence into attack. Although his numbers were somewhat influenced by West Ham’s transition-heavy approach under Moyes, they remain highly impressive.

315 – Rice recorded 315 progressive carries last season, a total that surpassed all other Arsenal midfielders. He also covered the most distance with the ball (5,152 yards) among all midfielders in Europe.

35 – Despite his role as a holding midfielder, Rice completed an average of 1.73 dribbles per 90 minutes (ranking 5th among West Ham players). Even when faced with pressure, he demonstrates both the bravery and the ability to navigate past opponents and play his way out of the opposition’s press, consistently driving his team forward.

However, where Declan Rice truly excels is in his ability to break up play, halt counterattacks, and exhibit his top-level game-reading skills. His exceptional anticipation, decision-making, and positioning are truly world-class, providing a level of protection that will enable Arsenal to push forward and commit the numbers Arteta seeks in attack.

3 – Rice was one of only three players (alongside Stijn Spierings (336) and Rodri (301)) to win possession 300+ times in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues last season.

63 – No player made more interceptions than Rice domestically last season.

62% – Out of the 50 attempted dribbles he faced, Rice successfully prevented 31, placing him in the 98th percentile among midfielders.

204 – Declan Rice is the youngest current Premier League player with more than 200 appearances in the competition.

At only 24 years old, Rice has already amassed an impressive 245 appearances for West Ham. He was named captain following Mark Noble’s retirement in 2022 and played a crucial role in The Hammers triumph in the Europa Conference, ending a 43-year wait for a major trophy. Despite his achievements, the Englishman has yet to reach the peak of his powers. His arrival at Arsenal is arguably the biggest statement of intent since the day Arsene Wenger announced Sol Campbell’s signing. With his quality, leadership and consistent availability, Rice promises to be a player who can elevate Arsenal to the next level.

Yet the idea of the club making such a move a year ago would have been deemed unrealistic, and two years ago, it would have seemed nearly impossible. However, under the guidance of Mikel Arteta, The Gunners have once again emerged as a genuine contender.

While the upcoming season holds various factors that could impact our performance, one thing is certain – the collective determination to achieve success, with Declan Rice at the heart of it all.

Follow me on Twitter @jonollington

SourcesOpta, fbref, @Orbinho twitter feed, Tifo Football

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Goodly Morning

Thanks for a great data breakdown. A player whose stats also match the old fashioned “eye test”. Be interesting to see the midfield configuration now that Arteta has acquired the players he wants for his system moving forward. I look forward to seeing some driving runs from midfield. This should unnerve defences and create more space for the likes of Saka and Martinelli.


Yes – so many reasons to be excited here. The stats here really show just how much he can bring. The havertz stats were very interesting as well – never realised he was such a good presser as well so elite at finding space in attacking areas. And then we add in Jesus, ‘the best defensive forward in the world’

Exciting to imagine how this could all click!


I’m very happy about this transfer for obvious reasons. But what’s clear from this and other articles about Rice and his qualities is that Partey has been absolutely immense for us as well. On many metrics actually ahead of Rice, and he cost us half the amount. Partey’s 30 and has off-field issues that remain unresolved, if he moves on I am happy. But if the plan has been to let Partey go, then I’m looking at Rice less with excitement, as a massive, game-changing upgrade to the midfield, and more with satisfaction and relief, as one of maybe a… Read more »

Funsho Patrick

Lol…Partey is substantially better than he’s given credit for….I repeat, there’s no huge upgrade for him in Europe…sort of like replacing Harry kane and Aguero…you would need to break a record then pray it works out…but you gradually ease him out of the way….seems Arteta’s mind is made up on keeping jorginho as his preferred back up …I hope he sees enough in training to make a proper stand though….Great stats from Rice… we still trust the process!

A Different George

When he played well, which was most of last season, Partey was an elite player. But apart from his age and his injury record, and his off-field issues (as you call them), there is another aspect where Rice is a clear improvement, and that is leadership. It is not a putdown of Partey, because personality differences are normal, that despite his experience it does not seem he is a leader that younger players look to. Jorginho and Zinchenko, for example, looked like that as soon as they arrived. If you watched West Ham or England you can be pretty confident… Read more »

VAR will solve all the problems

All the opinions I agree with regarding Partey and Rice. Different type of players with different skill-set. I think with Rice playing, Martin, Havertz and Zinchencko will be tasked with retaining the ball and become the press-resistant players that will receive the ball. Xhaka was the one who would recycle the ball to Partey, Zinchenko, Martinelli. He would never hold on to the ball for too long, unlike Partey who could possess the ball for a long time (beating press) and wait for the right time to release it. This responsibility probably will be distributed to Martin, Havertz and Zinchencko… Read more »


Superb visualizations – they really complemented the words perfectly.


If indeed he is Partey and Xhaka rolled into one, then worthy of the price as we can effectively play with 12 next season. MA planning to use two inverted full backs to push forward either side of him?


Exceptional that we got our guy here. Everything we could want in a midfielder and again this gives us so much versatility. Double pivot is back on the cards if needed, rice as lone #6, at the #8 in place of xhaka in certain formations. Fantastic signing. A player that very clearly improves our team and by a margin. Exciting times… And with a real preseason for nearly the whole squad!

Kentish Gooner

Jon Ollington, you sir are a whizz! Take a bow.

Naked Cygan

Great stats! How is he in the air, specially with corners? I feel like we are slowly improving in defending corners and if Rice can help with that and maybe score a few for us too would be great.


For some reason I see us winning the FA cup next season


Cup and League. Not league cup!

Mr Dob Bobalina

Thanks for this.

FTR, since the move of stadium the postcode is N7.

A Different George

Not the point of this story, but it’s amazing that only one player in Europe won possession more than Rodri–who played on a team that already had possession all the time.

Man Manny

Not even the signing of Gabriel Jesus brought such excitement to all involved with Arsenal as the Rice signing. It could turn out to be bigger in impact too.
I hope Partey’s issue gets sorted one way or another soon so we get the true picture of our 23/24 midfield options.


1- number of days declan rice missed due to injuries. i would like to keep that way thank you very much!


Superb article Jon with some great graphics. The one showing how Rice turns recoveries into progressive carries and passes is particularly impactful.

Given Arteta’s comments on Rice’s physical traits I’d like to see some of your analysis of that. I saw a post from a previous day about how that’s a growth area for Timber. Future article idea, perhaps there’s something interesting about how the whole squad compares in terms of aerial ability, duels and if it’s improved over Arteta’s tenure?

Les Doodis

Great season ahead. The proof will be in the (Rice) pudding!


The proof of the (Rice) pudding will be in the eating.

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