England’s midfield has often been the subject of criticism but Gareth Southgate now has some exciting options at his disposal. The emergence of Mason Mount, James Maddison and Ruben Loftus-Cheek has reinvigorated the creative spark of the team. However, the quintessential deep-lying midfielder has yet to be discovered; Declan Rice seems to be holding the baton but he is yet to fully convince the watching faithful.
Declan Rice and Competitors Must Step Up
The Three Lions seem to alternate between Rice and Harry Winks with the more experienced Eric Dier waiting in reserve. Rice has showed promise for West Ham United but has been largely underwhelming for his club this season; in fairness to Rice, the Hammers have collectively struggled and it would be unfair to expect the youngster to be that port in the storm.
It has been a similar story for Winks. The 23-year-old burst onto the scene in 2016 and looked to be a real talent. He was calm and assured on the ball and helped the Tottenham Hotspur midfield tick over. But he has been in and out of the side as Mauricio Pochettino looks to try and stop his ship from sinking.
Of course, Jordan Henderson can play in that position but he is now played in that higher number-eight position for his club and one would imagine that is where he would operate best for his country.
Declan Rice Pudding
Rice is often linked to Manchester United but there is still a long way to go before he is the elite player he wants to be. He reads the game very well, makes some good tackles in front of his defence but he is slow to distribute the ball. His passing isn’t too bad but he needs a little too long on the ball to make those passes. At a bigger club, you need to be quicker and more decisive with passing because that helps to cut through deep blocks. This is an area where Winks excels but the Spurs man lacks in the defensive side of the game.
Harry Not Quite a Wizard
Winks struggles in physical battles; he isn’t the best tackler. Winks is more of a regista style of number-six; this means that the main focus is on his technical abilities as opposed to his defensive ones. He is not quite at Jorginho’s level, a player who is a modern-day regista, but his distribution certainly helped England’s tempo against Montenegro. Tottenham’s present situation is not looking good, though, and it is easy to see why Winks is not a mainstay in the team. He is a good player to have but maybe isn’t someone to stand up and be a main man. Not yet anyway.
Dier at the Ready
England have always got the other Spurs man as an option. At 25, Dier still has many years to go but seems to be a player who hasn’t really pushed on after making his Premier League debut in 2014. Back then, he was a centre-back who had some good technical qualities but he was a little bit rash when defending. Now, he can play as the defensive-midfielder or the centre-back but he showcases a similar array of attributes. Still competent on the ball but, like Rice, doesn’t think quick enough for a number-six. His big advantage is that he has a lot of experience in different competitions which is always invaluable.
The number-six position is a pivotal one in modern-day football. Sergio Busquets has been a revelation for Spain and Barcelona over the years. The linchpin always made the game look so easy with his ease at reading of the game and dictating the pace of a match. Winks, Rice and Dier are all good players but this is where a top team needs an elite player. It really can make all the difference.
Rice could be that player. He seems to be an honest and committed man who always looks to improve himself. A move to a big club will be akin to the deep end of a swimming pool for the Londoner but it should help him mature and develop into the player he truly wants to become.
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