Recent reports have suggested that Arsenal have made Declan Rice their number one priority signing for the summer transfer window. This is a deal which seems highly possible especially because Declan Rice currently plays for West Ham, who aren’t playing at their best as of now and might possibly even be relegated from the Premier League if their poor run of form continues.
The Hammers currently sit at 18th on the Premier League table and have won only 15 points from the 19 games they have played, whereas Arsenal seem to be heading in a direction where they would not only be guaranteed a spot in the Champions League but possibly even lift the Premier League trophy.
But the question to ask here is why does Mikel Arteta want Declan Rice? And what would he bring to the team?
Declan Rice is a brilliant midfielder. He has an incredible profile and would very much suit Arsenal’s style of play. As of now it would seem like Rice would offer depth to Partey or even possibly take his spot in the starting squad, but it is also possible that Rice could do the same for Xhaka’s spot. Arsenal currently play in a 4-3-3 formation with Thomas Partey the 6 and Granit Xhaka the 8.
The 6 sits in front of the defence, sweeps up, stops transitions and starts attacks. The 8 plays further forward, as we’ve seen Granit Xhaka do this season, creates chances, a more box-to-box player who will even grab you a few goals from time to time.
So where does Declan Rice fit in this midfield?
Both midfielders are involved in the build-up play, heading into the final phases of attack we will often see more involvement from Granit Xhaka than Thomas Partey, as he performs more of the defensive duties and comes forward occasionally for his long-range screamers.
Xhaka and Partey both are currently doing an incredible job in their respective roles however we do not have the depth to back them up, while Sambi-Lokonga is an option, he needs the time to develop and replicate the contributions made on the pitch by his counter-parts. However, Rice is a player who is fully developed and can potentially even play better than the likes of Partey and Xhaka in the same position. He has brilliant awareness, when off the ball he positions himself well in every scenario possible, when going 1v1 against any player he spaces himself well which allows him to dictate how the opposition player moves and never over-commits when going in for a tackle, he has a lot of strength and will win a lot of physical battles. These are the abilities that are key when operating in the #6 role.
Video Credit: BlueFootball on youtube
Along with his outstanding defensive abilities Rice also has great vision, which roots from his awareness, but this vision is backed by his incredible passing range. He also has the ability to trick the opposition with his body language and pass the ball where the opposition least expects it to go, this allows an entirely new passage of play to open up. Rice is very good on the ball, he can dribble and combine well which is something that he will definitely do at Arsenal and as mentioned before he has good physicality, these abilities make him highly press resistant. Rice also is a natural leader, he is currently the captain of the West Ham squad.
All of these abilities are tailor-made for Mikel Arteta’s style of play. Declan Rice is such an incredible player, all of these abilities are essentially the best of Partey and Xhaka combined. This means that Arteta could experiment with Declan Rice as a single pivot as well and there is no doubt that he would excel at it. A similar player in the league is Manchester City’s Rodri, which could be a big reason as to why Arteta likes Declan Rice’s profile. We know that there are some similarities in Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola’s style of play, and having Declan Rice allows Mikel Arteta to use the 4-3-3 where Fabio Vieira and Martin Ødegaard are both included in the starting 11, which we all know can be very threatening.
Declan Rice’s addition to our squad will mean more rotation between himself and Xhaka/Partey which can only be a good thing. With the English midfielder’s abilities he has the full potential to operate as a single pivot as well and he will surely excel at doing so, however, he would function just as well in a double pivot. It is clear to see why Mikel Arteta would want Rice in his squad and I hope we do sign him in the summer window.
West Ham will be reluctant to let him go but the player may want to seek a move away from the club as they are currently not only far from qualifying for European Football but also in a potential relegation battle. With Chelsea spending money elsewhere & United recently signing Casemiro, Arsenal could have a free run at one of the best midfielders of his generation.
In an interview after West Ham’s game against Arsenal on boxing day when asked if he felt Arsenal were capable of winning the title, Rice said, “100 percent. They are a top team. You can see they are coached incredibly well, have a lot of attacking talent, a young squad and they can go the whole way for sure.”
I reckon it’s safe to say that if Arsenal made Declan an offer he would be tempted to take it.