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Transfer Talk: Joao could soften Hammer blow of Rice exit
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Danny Ryan
Joao Palhinha is linked with a move to West Ham
Joao Palhinha is linked with a move to West Ham

Declan Rice is reportedly on the verge of joining Arsenal.

The Englishman's departure would be a big blow to West Ham so soon after they secured a place in next season's Europa League.

But David Moyes' side should receive a sizeable injection of cash from the Rice deal that will help them find his heir.

And Fulham ace Joao Palhinha is one player who has already been linked with a switch to the London Stadium this summer.

We take a look at whether the 27-year-old Portuguese would be a suitable replacement.

Tough tackler

Palhinha's greatest strength is undoubtedly his defensive nous.

The No26 made 147 tackles last season — the most by any player in Europe's top five leagues. Brighton's Moises Caicedo was his closest Premier League competitor on 100.

Palhinha also ranked 17th in the English top flight for aerial duels won (72), nearly double the total recorded by Rice (37).

The ex-Sporting Lisbon ace won possession in the attacking third more times than the West Ham star as well.

However, Rice stole the ball more times in both the middle and defensive thirds, while making more interceptions and committing 25 fewer fouls than the Fulham lynchpin.

But the numbers suggest that overall, the Hammers would likely lose next to nothing in the defensive department with Palhinha at the base of the midfield.

Joao Palhinha and Declan Rice both excel at the defensive side of the game
Joao Palhinha and Declan Rice both excel at the defensive side of the game

Passing gap

But while the tough-tackling Palhinha could replicate Rice's defensive influence, there is quite the gulf between the two players in the passing metrics.

Despite playing only 159 more minutes in the Premier League last season, the West Ham enforcer completed over 700 more passes.

He also made more over double the amount of balls in the final third, all while achieving superior accuracy.

And creatively Rice is in a different stratosphere to Palhinha, with the West Ham captain creating 30 more chances and completing 21 more take-ons in 2022-23.

Declan Rice is far superior when it comes to passing and creativity
Declan Rice is far superior when it comes to passing and creativity

Setup change

Finding a player with as many strings to his bow as Rice will be seriously tough for the Hammers, so a change in setup to accommodate his replacement could be necessary.

Palhinha — a more traditional defensive midfielder — has thrived at Craven Cottage with a more mobile and creative partner in Harrison Reed, who notched four assists last season.

And the East Londoners have players who can operate in a similar fashion, most notably Lucas Paqueta and Flynn Downes.

Tomas Soucek would be the unfortunate regular to miss out, but the Czech international and Palhinha is not a desirable pairing.

Soucek, 28, played in 36 Premier League matches last term but still ranked 158th in the division for passes.

He also completed just two take-ons across the campaign, while creating a lowly 15 chances.

Targets aplenty

Palhinha is certainly not the only midfielder on West Ham's radar. 

Ajax's Edson Alvarez is reportedly another target, while Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse have been linked with the Europa Conference League winners. 

And Valencia's Yunus Musah is the latest name in the rumour mill, with the American international impressing at the Qatar World Cup.

Given Rice's impending departure and Soucek's struggles in recent times, signing two or more midfielders may very well be on the Hammers' summer to-do list.


West Ham UnitedFulhamPremier LeagueJoao PalinhaDeclan Rice
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