Michael Brown has warned that opposition sides may target Declan Rice as a West Ham weak link as he is unused to the unique demands of playing at centre-back.

The former Tottenham and Leeds midfielder, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, suggested that he would rather see the 21-year-old playing in the centre of the pitch rather than at the heart of the defence.

Rice played the Hammers’ first game since lockdown – a 2-0 loss to Wolves – at centre-back but returned to midfield for the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham

Brown believes Rice would be best suited starting as a defensive midfielder and dropping back into defence during the game, suggesting that opposition could exploit him should he start as a centre-back.

Asked if he thought Rice was better suited in midfield, Brown told Football Insider: “I think you want to see that, it’s different when you’ve got that holding midfielder who steps back into the three, so he can be spare, he can sweep up.

“The difference between a midfielder, when I was playing in there, going into centre-half is when you’re dealing with the runs off your shoulders, the crosses coming into your box, materially that will be totally different.

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“You can say all you like as a midfield player but central defenders, when you’re used to that on so many occasions from totally different angles, it’s totally different.

“You would say that, for me, for the opposition team, with Declan Rice, can you put balls into the box, can you run off his shoulder?”

West Ham currently sit 17th in the Premier League ahead of their clash with Chelsea next Wednesday, with goal difference the only thing keeping them out the relegation zone.

Rice has played every single minute of the club’s league games so far, though he has not found the back of the net yet.

In other West Ham news, Alex Bruce has offered some hope to the Irons after a “massive blow” was confirmed.

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