West Ham United

West Ham United

Premier League • England

David Moyes may have his hand forced following glowing Declan Rice reference

Declan Rice and David Moyes during a West Ham warm-up

West Ham boss David Moyes may be forced into playing Nikola Vlasic more regularly, following a glowing reference from Declan Rice.

The Hammers have been one of the standout teams in the Premier League beyond the ‘big six’ this season. Indeed, Moyes’ side sit in fifth, four points outside the top four.

The Scot has a penchant for easing players into the side, and not throwing them in at the deep end straight away. That has been the case with the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma in recent seasons, and the pair are now performing very well.

That has also been the case for Croatian attacking-midfielder Vlasic. The 24-year-old joined for £27million in the summer, and has been utilised for just 382 minutes in the league since.

However, comments from vice-captain Rice could see his status improve in the Hammers squad.

On a Soccer AM YouTube video, the Englishman praised Vlasic for his strength.

“I would put him in there, I would say that he’s one of the top three strongest players I’ve played with as well, he is so strong,” he said.

Indeed, that strength will stand him in good stead in Premier League. The comments from an influential squad member such as Rice will no doubt give the Croatian a good chance of improving his status.

West Ham offer 3 players big new contracts

West Ham offer 3 players big new contracts

West Ham are offering Jared Bowen, Declan Rice and Thomas Soucek new contracts but who will sign

What’s more, Michail Antonio has scored just one goal since the turn of the year. As such, Vlasic could deputise as a false nine, a position he has played in before.

Deploying him up top would allow in-form midfield stars – the likes of Bowen and Benrahma – to retain their places. Indeed, Moyes may well have to be prepared to further integrate Vlasic into the West Ham squad.

Vlasic could usurp Antonio as no.9

Michail Antonio of West Ham

In other news, Antonio has suffered a massive drop in form. After scoring six goals in his first eight league games this season, he has now failed to score in six top-flight games.

The Jamaican forward has received criticism from Dutch analyst Jan van Halst.

“At the start of the season, he did reasonably well, but not at all in the last few weeks,” he said.

“He is so clumsy and unpolished. I think this team actually deserves a better striker. One that can hold onto the ball and get you playing.”

Vlasic could well deputise up top given Antonio is lacking form at the moment.

READ MORE: Moyes irked by ‘worst’ West Ham display; makes player request to save top-four hopes