LET’S recite one of the Dream Team commandments: THOU SHALL NOT PICK DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS!
The reasons for this divine ruling is that the position requires attributes that simply don’t translate to points.
The likes of Fabinho (£2.3m) and Wilfred Ndidi (£1.8m) are superb at what they do but ball recoveries, pressures and kilometres covered aren’t directly rewarded in the same manner as goals and assists.
Goals will forever be Dream Team’s primary currency and so, generally speaking, you want your midfielders to be as attacking as possible.
However, Declan Rice (£3.2m) is making even the most experienced Dream Team gaffers question everything they know this season…
At the time of writing, West Ham’s midfield engine is the fifth-best midfielder in the game having moved onto 55 points at the weekend.
The 22-year-old scored the Hammers’ second goal in their 4-1 victory at Villa Park on Sunday.
Rice also assisted Ben Johnson’s opener and scooped the Star Man award to bank 15 points in one fell swoop, his best haul of the campaign.
The England international is now outperforming his team-mate Said Benrahma (£3.4m) by a single point.
This is a significant development since the Algerian features in 21.6% of teams while Rice’s ownership sits at a modest 5.6%.
We would have advised against backing the Irons’ No41 from the get-go but those who did just that have been rewarded for their boldness.
So how has a defensive midfielder managed to crack the code?
The answer is simple: he stopped being a defensive midfielder.
Let’s be clear, Rice’s defensive contribution is still significant and is most likely the aspect of the game David Moyes wants him to prioritise but he’s certainly broadened his horizons in recent months.
Where before he mostly sat deep or shuttled, he’s now essentially a fully-fledged box-to-box midfielder – much like his partner in crime, Tomas Soucek (£3.2m), who was so effective in both disciplines last term.
Rice has more goal contributions (three goals, three assists) this season already than in any full campaign of his career so far.
If he continues at his current rate, he will come close to reaching double figures in both metrics for all competitions.
Rice’s evolution is evident when you watch West Ham play – he breaks up play, drives forward, plays plenty of final third passes and isn’t afraid to shoot.
His dribbling in particular is an underrated facet of his game – only Bernardo Silva (£2.9m) has completed more progressive carries in the Premier League this season.
In conclusion, while it remains true that Dream Team gaffers should avoid defensive midfielders, they should be aware that players are capable of evolution.
Nobody can argue with Rice’s returns this season and as long as West Ham continue to impress domestically and in the Europa League, he may well be worth a punt.
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