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Analysis – Rice or Dier for England?

Burnley FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
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As England gear up for their meeting with the Czech Republic this evening, much of the talk has been around Declan Rice.

The West Ham United midfielder has been the undisputed star of the show at the London Stadium this season. Indeed, his introduction into the team earlier in the campaign helped to turn their season in the right direction.

His inclusion in this England squad, following a change of allegiance, has been much anticipated as a result.

Much of the talk this week has been how Rice could be the midfielder than England have lacked in the past. Southgate clearly sees something in the midfielder and is willing to give him his chance as soon as possible.

Chelsea v West Ham United - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 08: Declan Rice of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on April 8, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But who is the better option to anchor England’s midfield, Rice or Eric Dier? We’ve taken a look at their stats this season to determine the answer.

Now, we have to caveat this with the fact that Rice has managed 28 appearances this season compared to Dier’s 14. That has something of a bearing on how the two players compare. Still, let’s start with the defensive numbers.

In this regard, Rice comes out on top. He averages three tackles per game, that’s double the amount Dier manages. He also manages more interceptions, 1.4 compared to 0.9 per game, and registers far fewer fouls per game as well.

The pair are level when it comes to winning offsides and are both dribbled past 1.4 times per game on average. They also register the same number of blocks per game, with a score of 0.4. The only area that Dier comes out on top in is when it comes to clearances. Tottenham’s man registers 1.9 compared to Rice’s 1.7.

So defensively, Rice has been the better player this season. So how about when it comes to passing? Well, that metric belongs to Dier. He registers slightly more key passes, 0.4 compared to 0.3, and averages more passes per game as well.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea FC - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 24: Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 24, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

He’s also registered more through balls and crosses per game, although he is ahead in this regard by a mere 0.1. In fact, in the three areas Dier leads in, he only does so by a margin of 0.1. Rice has a better overall passing accuracy, 85.6 compared to 84.3, and more long balls per game, three compared to 2.1.

Dier is also dispossessed and has fewer touches per game than Rice at this moment in time. Again, though, the difference between the two players is just 0.2 and 0.1. Some would argue that those numbers are negligible.

Had Dier played the same amount of games as Rice this season they would likely be even closer than they are. In fact, the West Ham man would probably lead in more categories than he does.

Likewise, Dier plays for a better side at this moment in time. Tottenham play a better style and see more of the ball than West Ham. That has a big factor on stats, particularly when it comes to passing and defensive stats.

However, what these numbers do show is how difficult a decision Gareth Southgate has on his hands. Choosing between Dier and Rice is not an easy one to make, as the numbers here prove.