Arsenal will be dealing with disappointment this summer, after a poor end to their season. For a long time, they looked to have a real chance of winning the Premier League title. A poor April and May has led to Manchester City winning with some comfort, but there has been major progress made by the Gunners. Mikel Arteta will know that his team need more quality and depth if they are to push on from here, both at home and in Europe. This summer transfer window is a huge opportunity for the club.
Declan Rice is reportedly a leading target for the club. Central midfield is an important position for Arsenal and they need reinforcements. Granit Xhaka is likely to leave, while Thomas Partey and Jorginho both have flaws as players at the highest level.
Although Rice hasn’t played at the very highest level at club level, he is well regarded and there is belief that his long-term future should be at a Champions League club. It would be a major coup for Arsenal and one that has only been made possible due to their excellent 2022/23 season. The midfielder has performed well for England and he has been the driving force behind West Ham United’s progression to a European final.
Throughout the last few years, Rice has developed into a well-rounded defensive midfielder, who is capable of playing as a box-to-box midfielder if required. At the very highest level, it is more likely that he will have success as the former. Arsenal will be looking at him for this role, either as a single defensive midfielder or as part of a double pivot alongside either Jorginho or Partey.
Rice is excellent at anticipating phases of play and taking up the correct positions to win the ball back. He is averaging 2.23 tackles (60th percentile), 1.75 interceptions (93rd percentile), and 1.61 clearances (83rd percentile) per ninety minutes. These show that his preference is to win the ball back through anticipating, rather than relying on his aggression in the tackle. Five yellow cards from 36 Premier League matches show that he doesn’t have a disciplinary issue and that is something that Partey and Xhaka have both had at times.
One of his greatest strengths in Rice’s game is ball progression. He can carry the ball vertically and play forward passes to launch attacks. The West Ham United captain averages 6.39 progressive passes and 2.38 progressive carries per ninety minutes. These rate in the 76th and 85th percentiles respectively, showing that he ranks well compared to his peers. In a more dominant team, this could improve further.
Arsenal have attacking players that can inflict a lot of damage on the counter-attack. They are at their best in transition, therefore Rice’s ability to move the ball between the thirds quickly would mesh well with the current team at the Emirates Stadium.
It feels like this is the right time for Rice to move on from West Ham. If the Hammers to win a European trophy, it will be a perfect ending and emphasise that the England international should be playing regularly in Europe.
There will be competition for his services, with Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Newcastle United all being credited with an interest. It would be a major coup for Arsenal and underline their progression as a club under Mikel Arteta.
As a player, Rice’s profile will fit in well at the Emirates Stadium and he will improve the team, taking them closer to that elusive league title.
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