Arsenal transfers: A move for West Ham’s Declan Rice would make sense – this is why

Arsenal have clear areas to talk about in both windows of 2023 when it comes to squad depth.

The need to strengthen abroad will be the main focus this month, with the absence of Mykhailo Mudryk and the signing of Leandro Trossard. Midfield is next on the agenda given the big fallout between the first-choice trio of Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka and the second-string has rolled in at times. Mikel Arteta will turn his side.

This has been revealed as the club plan a summer move for West Ham’s Declan Rice, a move that has suited them in some ways.

In particular, England’s regular starter Rice, 24, will add to their depth in midfield. Mohamed Elneny is a solid player, as his 93 Egyptian caps would suggest, but turns 31 in July while Albert Sambi Lokonga, 23, often doesn’t focus on games when he plays. Rice, on the other hand, is more competitive for a starting point.

Arsenal have tried to strengthen their midfield over the past two summers, with bids for Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz rejected in 2022 after showing interest in Wolves’ Ruben Neves a year ago used to.

The plan in 2021 is to sign players under the age of 23, allowing them to grow in the club. This was the window in which Lokonga, then 21, arrived from Anderlecht. But the next step in Arsenal’s development is clear: sign players in their 20s who add quality and experience and are ready to have a real impact on their team.

Gabriel Jesus, 25, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, 26 years old now but 25 when he signed, have been examples of this since the summer.

Rice turns 24 on January 14 and is already active 187 Premier League appearances and captaincy West Ham in the Europa League semi-finals. On top of this, he started all of England’s matches at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

Before diving into which of Rice’s traits are appropriate for minority leaders, some context is key.

The box-to-box role he often plays with Tomas Soucek for West Ham has not appealed at Arsenal, but he has played as a 6 in a midfield three now at club level and wants also do the same for England. Some of the strengths he showed at West Ham will be adapted to the way Arsenal play, but some of the demands on him may be different.

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Rice’s greatest strength is his athleticism and defensive awareness. Those things are necessary, whether he is used in goal or as a No 6, especially at Arsenal.

As Jon MacKenzie of Tifo explained earlier this season, Arsenal’s “break defence” is designed to stop teams in their own half with open spaces when the full-backs are deployed. full 6 the one that pushes out will quickly destroy the counters when the property is lost.

This is where Rice excels.

Take this example from September’s Premier League trip to Everton, where West Ham were dismissed while attacking. The first task of the home midfielder Alex Iwobi is to play the ball to half, while his friends with claret and blue are still in Everton territory.

After getting himself back into position, Rice didn’t dive right in. Before turning to connect Neal Maupay with the ball, he is looking at where Everton will try to use (on the left side of West Ham’s wide defence) with Amadou Onana (who is Rice run up to the position shown below) ready to join. the attack.

He covered well, felt the wall and was ready to make his tackle when the ball reached Onana, stopping an attack before it really started.

As Arsenal become more dominant in games, more players are able to read the game in similar situations.

This is something that Rice does regularly and his hits are more than timely when placed in the middle.

He is the outfield player with the most recoveries (open balls) in the Premier League this season (181, with Manchester City’s Rodri second on 177 and Arsenal’s William Saliba a distant third at 156) and is second in interceptions (32) behind. Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucoure (34).

What really sets him apart is what happens next later he does those things.

He went to Manchester City last year, he moved when Jesus made his journey on the field…

… and easily beat Ilkay Gundogan as a result.

His first instinct after winning is to run forward, but without support, he does well to dribble away from pressure and move the ball.

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West Ham were able to dominate the ball – something Arsenal have been hoping to do this season – rather than allowing the game to become a competitive affair, like a basketball game.

If Rice sees an opportunity to make a move, he will go for it.

He did this for England against France in last month’s World Cup quarter-final to set up an attack after winning the ball at half-time. Arsenal fans may remember his run through the middle of the pitch against them in the 3-3 draw at the London Stadium in March 2021.

A dynamic player, the Englishman pulls himself back to take the ball forward. That’s probably the biggest difference between him (playing box-to-box) and Arsenal’s first number 6 as Partey is a forward from that position.

Since the beginning of last season, Rice is the largest export (1,032) and the largest total export (11,729 meters). in the Premier League. Undoubtedly, most of his success was in the central third, with his work more than the ball moving West Ham up the pitch. His tally of 556 is the sixth most in the Premier League since the start of last season but the first among midfielders, while his 175 in seven this season – the first for a midfielder middle.

When the 24-year-old makes these runs, his power often goes almost under the radar. Changing the ball quickly on the run before shooting and missing, or separating himself at the start of a dribble, is part of his game that helps in those areas.

Given Arsenal’s use of a box-to-box player in Xhaka, he could offer a little flexibility in terms of how to set up the midfield.

At first glance, what Rice does with the ball is relatable when looking at it through an Arsenal lens.

He was always used to the last third, with 154 wins from 191 attempts (five most attempts in the Premier League this season), but these things change the game at West Ham’s full back.

This is his go-to option rather than playing through the lines, something Arsenal players do on the other side of the pitch, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it.

England are more focused on this with him as a No 6, as seen in the World Cup loss to France.

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Returning a free pass, Rice fired a perfect first pass to Phil Foden.

When Foden gets the ball back to him, he checks the situation and makes a pass across the pitch to Harry Kane (out of the picture in the next screengrab).

Kane left Jude Bellingham for him, but could not go to the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.

Twice in quick succession, Rice looked to advance the ball and found his man both times. Not every game he plays in an England shirt will be the same, but moments like the ones above show us he can do it.

Another aspect of Partey’s game that has been important to him this season is his resistance to the press. It was a key to Martin Odegaard’s goal against Tottenham Hotspur this month as he took three players out of the game with one strike. If it can be linked again, Rice will be asked again, or ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​о moreоr again. Arsenal’s midfield.

Like the line-breaking pass, this isn’t something Rice does every week but he’s shown glimpses of it at the international level.

Again, the French game provides an example.

Harry Maguire gave it to him at half…

…Rice moves to the ball but is controlled by his back foot, opening and turning.

Antoine Griezmann pounced on the first move and Rice was able to drive the French half unchallenged, before setting up an England attack down the right.

If Arsenal end up wanting a transfer, Arteta wants these qualities to be seen again.

As far as goals go, Rice is a perfect fit for the Premier League leaders.

On the pitch, he excels in areas that most midfielders can’t, although his limitations seem like they could be improved. Off the pitch, he fits the way Arsenal are going, with the ability to perform in the short term but improve in the long term.

It’s true that January is coming too soon for busy events. However, the player and the team are approaching their common goal to play in the Champions League and know what they need at that level.

For Arsenal, that means a competitive team with depth. For Rice, it’s an opportunity to continue elevating his game.

(Top photo: George Wood/Getty Images)


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