David Moyes has claimed using Declan Rice as a centre-back would be a waste of the England international’s talent.
Former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness claimed after West Ham’s Premier League defeat to Manchester United that Rice would be more suited to the role of a defender.
It is a claim that Hammers boss Moyes vehemently rejected.
“I would disagree with that,” Moyes said. “The more I see Declan, the more I see the attributes he has.
“I’m fortunate that I can get a bit closer and see what his strengths and weaknesses are. Declan could easily be a centre-back but at the moment, especially the attributes of his speed, mobility and recovery, I think he would be wasted if he was anywhere else.”
Souness claimed that due to a lack of creativity going forward, Rice could be better utilised by Moyes as a centre-back.
“You have got to remember that this boy is 22, he is a seasoned pro already, has got great energy levels, he is an athlete and he senses danger,” Souness told Sky Sports.
“When it is about going forward and delivering cute and clever passes, I think he is a bit short on that. Will he get that? We will have to wait and see.
“I see him, maybe ultimately, being a defender. I think the modern central defender has to be good on the ball, has to take it under pressure and deliver passes. He can certainly do that from being the last line of defence.”
Souness added: “In midfield I understand that he’s learning that game in there. It will be a terrible waste if he doesn’t use what God give him, which is that tremendous athleticism.
“But in terms of being that top, top midfield player, I’m not sure.”
Moyes disagreed with Souness saying: “Maybe when he’s 28 or 29 he might want to become a centre-back. But at the moment he’s doing a fabulous job as a centre midfielder.”
The manager went on to say that he expects Rice to pop up with more goals this season but not to expect him to emulate Frank Lampard’s goalscoring record.
“He’s not a Frank Lampard, for example, or someone who is expected to score goals,” the manager added. “Tomas Soucek is in a role to try and get us goals, and Tomas didn’t disappoint with the goals he scored last year.
“We can’t allow them both to make runs into the box, so we need to have a bit of understanding that one stays deeper than the other. But Declan has looked more likely to get further up the pitch and we think he’ll score a few goals this season.”
With West Ham’s defence in fine form so far this season, Rice is far more influential for the Hammers in midfield. And as Moyes pointed out, he already has a tough decision to make when it comes to his central defensive partnership without adding Rice to the mix.
“Issa Diop’s form over these two games has been excellent,” Moyes said. “Craig Dawson dropped out and he was really unfortunate because we’d drawn 0-0 at Southampton and played well.
“All I can do is try and pick what I think is right for the game and try and put the ones out that perform. I’m glad we’ve got the level of competition we’ve got now because it’s certainly given us a better chance of being successful.”