|We’d need a talking stick for Eddie and Dec talk through their feelings.|
Okay, I’ll admit I kind of got caught up in the alliteration and painted myself into a bit of a corner. I hope you’ll accept “watchman” as a variation on defensive midfielder. I tried warrior and wizard, but those seemed a bit overwrought. “Workman” felt a little too blue-collar. Let’s move on. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that we’re here to explore the possibility that we’ll go after Declan Rice. Numerous sources have reported that we’re after him as a prime summer target, and this is probably part of why we walked away (alliteration!) from Mudryk and were never really after Felix. Splashing cash on them might have hindered about ability to go after someone like Rice. But why wait ’til summer?
Legend has it that January transfer fees will always be higher than summer fees. The selling clubs are reluctatnt to part with a valued assed at a time when it’s difficult to re-invest on replacments or upgrades. However, as th Mudryk saga shows, that legend and that logic have gone by the wayside as transfer fees skyrocket regardless of the season. With big spenders like Boehly apparently printing their own money, the government of Saudi Arabia getting into the action, and rumours of new ownership at Man U, fees are only going to go up. The longer we wait, then, the pricier the player gets.
Rice has signalled that he’s open to move to Arsenal, with the prospect of Champions League said to be a big draw (something that just might give us an advantage over Chelsea, who are (of course) interested in him). With West Ham swamped in the middle of a pack of a half-dozens staring relegation in the face, they might be reluctant to part with him now, hoping he stays to help the club stay up. Their situation comes as a bit of a surprise after having been in contention for a Europa League spot the last two seasons and making it to the Europa League semifinal just last year. This doesn’t seem to have impressed Rice all that much.
If West Ham do get relegated, this would probably depress Rice’s fee as the club consider a drop in revenue and are forced to sell valuable assets. Even if they avoid relegation, there’s no guarantee Rice stays. I don’t run West Ham, obviously, but it does seem like selling now might make the most sense. Re-invest that fee in two, three, or even four players who can help stabilise the club. They need goals rather desperately, and that’s not really something Rice can provide playing as a #6. What he does excel at are areas like tackles, interceptions, and clearances (to be expected when your squad averages a meagre 42.8% possession). More to the point, Rice does excel at shielding the defense, is assured on the ball, and can carry the ball up the pitch like a freight train.
He’s versatile enough to play as a 6 to give us cover and rotation for Partey or as an 8 to give us cover for Xhaka. While Partey is superior to Rice in most if not all areas, the Rice-Xhaka comparison could go either way depending on the metric(s) we’d discuss. Heck, that’s an almost-ideal rotation. Rice, alternating shifts with Xhaka or Partey as opponents merit and fitness dictates, would give us depth as well as options. How does one put a price on that? He’s on something like £60k/wk, certainly not out of line with our current wage structure. What would it take to prise him away from West Ham in the next two weeks? I don’t see anyone we could throw in as a makeweight, so we’re looking at a fee of maybe £80m. Would that turn the heads of Moyes and West Ham’s owners? Possibly.
If Chelsea continue to flounder, our odds of geting Rice look better. If we were willing to pay out a similar fee for the unproven Mudryk, it doesn’t seem ludicrous to pay slightly more on a Prem-proven homegrown player who can help to reinforce an area we sorely need to improve. Up top, we do have options, all the more so with Smith-Rowe making his way back from injury. Nketiah’s been showing signs that he can help us soldier on until Jesus gets back. If Partey goes down, though, we would take a tumble.
I don’t know, though. What would it cost? I feel comfortable with an £80 fee. If West Ham insist on £100m, though, is that worth it? Say he helps us win Europa League. Winning just the final match is worth about £7.5m. Winning the Prem is worth about £45m. It’s possible that we could do one or both without Rice. With Rice? That starts to look like money in the bank. I say do it, Edu. Get Vinai to pull out ye olde chequebook and fill it in. As for you, how much would you be willing to spend to get Rice?