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Arsenal star admits he struggled with Mikel Arteta’s tactics when he joined the club

Arsenal superstar has admitted that he struggled to understand Mikel Arteta’s tactics and had fitness issues when he joined the team

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Declan Rice has shed light on the hurdles he faced at the outset of his Arsenal career following his blockbuster transfer from West Ham United last summer. 

The midfielder, now flourishing at the Emirates Stadium, confessed to initial struggles with fitness and comprehension of Mikel Arteta’s training regimen during pre-season.

Rice made nearly 250 appearances during his time at West Ham and established himself as an England regular under Gareth Southgate. His remarkable journey culminated in a historic move to Arsenal, setting a new English transfer record at £105 million, surpassing the acquisition of Jack Grealish.

Despite his soaring success at Arsenal and looming recognition in the PFA Team of the Season, Rice reminisced about his early days at the club. Accustomed to West Ham’s direct style of play, he found himself grappling with Arteta’s intricate tactics, admitting feeling “way out of his depth” during initial training sessions.

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Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Kingston-born midfielder candidly shared his experience with The Athletic, recounting pivotal moments of struggle and growth. Reflecting on a challenging pre-season match against Manchester United, Rice acknowledged his lack of fitness and comprehension, which highlighted the steep learning curve he faced.


“He’ll ask us to break things down, like in terms of our pressing and where we should go: ‘If that person drops, who goes there?’. Sometimes you feel a little bit on the spot because you don’t know the answer.

“But my main thing (around adaptation) was in pre-season when I’d obviously just got there and was trying to gain fitness. We played against Man United and I didn’t have the best of games. I wasn’t really that fit. And that was when we really tried to play our game model and you could just see I was way out of depth. I didn’t really understand anything that was going on.

“There were some good moments when I was trying to learn it, but there were also some moments where you could see I needed to improve a lot. After that, I watched a lot of videos and then on the training field tried to really improve. I think that game (against United) was a real catalyst to helping me out.”

Arteta’s meticulous approach, demanding players to dissect pressing strategies and positional play, initially left Rice feeling uncertain and under pressure. However, fueled by determination, he embarked on a journey of self-improvement, diligently studying match footage and honing his skills on the training pitch.

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