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Declan Rice names the Arsenal player who never loses a duel and Mikel Arteta loves

Declan Rice has shared his admiration for the defensive qualities of two Arsenal players who have surprised him since joining the club.

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Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice
Image Credit: Getty Images

Declan Rice has shared his admiration for the defensive qualities of two Arsenal players who have surprised him since joining the club. The England midfielder, who made a high-profile switch from West Ham to Arsenal in a blockbuster deal worth up to £105 million, has quickly become an indispensable part of Mikel Arteta’s title-chasing team in north London.

Rice has been a consistent and integral figure in the Arsenal midfield, missing only one game due to a back issue in the Carabao Cup third-round win over Brentford back in September. Despite injury problems for key players, the 25-year-old has showcased an impressive debut campaign at the Emirates Stadium, scoring four goals and providing five assists in 36 matches across all competitions in the 2023/24 season.

The Gunners have experienced a scintillating resurgence, winning six consecutive top-flight matches in 2024 and scoring an incredible 25 goals. This impressive run has brought them within two points of league leaders Liverpool in the Premier League.

Arsenal defender William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes

Arsenal defenders William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes (Image credit: Getty Images)

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Rice, who has played a crucial role in Arsenal’s midfield, expressed his surprise at the defensive strength of his teammates, particularly singling out William Saliba and Gabriel. 

Speaking to TNT Sports before the 4-1 home victory over Newcastle, Rice praised Saliba as “unbelievable” and highlighted Gabriel’s aggressiveness, strength, and consistent performance in duels.

“I can’t speak highly enough of them,” Rice remarked. “Saliba is unbelievable, and the one who’s really surprised me is actually Gabriel. He’s so aggressive, so strong, really wants it all the time, never loses a duel. When you’ve got two centre-backs like that who want it, play aggressive, it really helps and gives you confidence.”

Since his arrival at Arsenal in 2020, Gabriel has been the top-scoring defender in England over the same time frame. The defender with the second-highest goal tally during this period is Ben Mee, who has scored 10 goals.

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