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

Arsenal have clear areas to deal with in 2023’s two switch home windows relating to squad depth.

The want for reinforcements out large has taken precedence this month, with the failed pursuit of Mykhailo Mudryk and the signing of Leandro Trossard. Central midfield is the following on the agenda given the massive drop-off between the first-choice trio of Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka and the second string who get rolled out each time Mikel Arteta rotates his facet.

This has manifested within the membership planning a summer time move for West Ham’s Declan Rice, a switch which would make sense for them on a number of fronts.

Most importantly, common England starter Rice, 24, would add to their depth in midfield. Mohamed Elneny is a gradual participant, as his 93 Egypt caps would recommend, however turns 31 in July whereas Albert Sambi Lokonga, 23, usually fails to make an impression in matches when he will get to play. Rice, in distinction, would be extra more likely to compete for a beginning spot.

Arsenal have tried to bolster their midfield up to now two summers, having bids rejected for Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz in 2022 after displaying curiosity in Wolves’ Ruben Neves a yr earlier.

The technique in 2021 was to signal gamers below the age of 23, permitting them to develop on the membership. This is the window when Lokonga, then 21, arrived from Anderlecht. But the following step in Arsenal’s evolution has turn into clear: recruit gamers of their mid-20s who add each high quality and expertise and are able to have an actual impression on their squad.

Gabriel Jesus, 25, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, 26 years previous now however 25 when he signed, are examples of this from the summer time.

Rice turned 24 on January 14 and has already executed so 187 Premier League appearances and captains West Ham to the Europa League semi-finals. On prime of this, he began all of England’s video games at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

Before diving into how Rice’s attributes would match stylistically on the league leaders, some context is key.

The box-to-box function he often performs in a pair with Tomas Soucek for West Ham is not replicated at Arsenal, however he has performed as a No. 6 in a midfield three just lately at membership stage and likewise tends to take action for England. Some of the strengths he shows at West Ham will likely be transferable to how Arsenal play, however a few of the calls for on him could differ.

Rice’s largest strengths are his athleticism and defensive consciousness. Those will likely be wanted, whether or not he is utilized in a box-to-box pairing or as a No. 6, particularly at Arsenal.

As Tifo’s Jon MacKenzie defined earlier this season, Arsenal’s “relaxation protection” is set as much as suffocate groups in their very own half with areas not noted large as full-backs tuck in. Often, it will likely be the ball-side center-back or No. 6 who pushes out to rapidly cease counters when possession is misplaced.

This is the place Rice excels.

Take this occasion from September’s Premier League journey to Everton, the place West Ham are dispossessed whereas attacking. Home midfielder Alex Iwobi’s first motion is to play the ball as much as midway, whereas his counterparts in claret and blue are nonetheless in Everton territory.

Having bought himself again into place, Rice doesn’t dive in right away. Rather than turning to have interaction Neal Maupay on the ball, he is wanting on the area Everton will attempt to exploit (to the left of West Ham’s stretched protection) with Amadou Onana (who Rice ran previous to succeed in the place proven under) prepared to affix the assault.

He covers properly, anticipates the move and is able to make his deal with because the ball reaches Onana, stopping an assault earlier than it has actually began.

As Arsenal turn into extra dominant in matches, gamers’ potential to learn the play in conditions like that can turn into extra vital.

This is one thing Rice already does often and extends past simply timing his tackles properly when left uncovered within the midfield.

He is the outfield participant with probably the most recoveries (unfastened balls recovered) within the Premier League this season (181, with Rodri of Manchester City second on 177 and Arsenal’s William Saliba a distant third on 156) and is second for interceptions (32) behind Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucoure (34).

What actually units him aside is what occurs after he makes such interventions.

Away to Manchester City final season, he is already on the move as Jesus makes his move infield…

…and intercepts forward of Ilkay Gundogan simply because of this.

His first intuition after successful possession is to drive ahead, however with none assist he does properly to dribble away from strain and move the ball on.

West Ham can decide on the ball — one thing Arsenal have tended to do this season — relatively than permit the sport to turn into a frantic you-have-an-attack-we-have-an-attack state of affairs, like a basketball sport.

If Rice does really feel a possibility to push on, nonetheless, he’ll go.

He did this for England in opposition to France within the World Cup quarter-finals final month to arrange a counter-attack after successful the ball on midway. Arsenal followers may additionally bear in mind his run by means of the center of the pitch in opposition to them within the 3-3 draw on the London Stadium in March 2021.

A robust participant, the Englishman backs himself to hold the ball ahead. That will be the largest distinction stylistically between him (taking part in extra box-to-box) and Arsenal’s major No. 6 as Partey is extra of a distributor from that place.

Since the start of final season, Rice has probably the most complete carries (1,032) and highest complete carry distance (11,729 meters) within the Premier League. Unsurprisingly, most of his progressive carries are within the center third, with him doing extra work than the ball to move West Ham up the pitch. His tally of 556 ranks sixth within the Premier League because the begin of final season however first amongst midfielders, whereas his 175 ranks seventh this time period — first for midfielders once more.

When the 24-year-old makes these runs, his shut management usually goes below the radar. Whether it is to rapidly shift the ball on the run earlier than getting a shot or move away, or to make area for himself initially of a dribble, it is an space of ​​his sport that helps in these areas.

Given Arsenal additionally use a box-to-box midfielder in Xhaka, he may additionally present some tactical flexibility with reference to how that midfield is arrange.

At first look, what Rice does with the ball could trigger reservations when taking a look at him by means of an Arsenal lens.

He passes into the ultimate third pretty often, with 154 profitable from 191 tried (fifth-most tried within the Premier League this season), however these are typically switches of play to West Ham’s reverse full-back.

This appears to be his go-to choice relatively than taking part in by means of the strains, one thing Arsenal gamers do proper throughout the pitch, however that does not imply he cannot do it.

England put extra emphasis on this with him as a No. 6, which was evident in that World Cup loss to France.

Recovering a unfastened move, Rice fires a pleasant ahead ball to Phil Foden.

When Foden bounces the ball again to him, he assesses the state of affairs and drills a move by means of a crowded space of ​​the pitch to Harry Kane (out of body within the subsequent screengrab).

Kane has Jude Bellingham operating off him, however fails to get his move by means of to the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.

Twice in fast succession, Rice seemed to advance the ball and located his man on each events. Not each move he performs in an England shirt is like this, however moments like these above present us he can do it.

One facet of Partey’s play that has made him vital this season is his press resistance. It was key to Martin Odegaard’s aim in opposition to Tottenham Hotspur this month as he took three gamers out of the sport with one contact. Whether that may be replicated will likely be one other query posed to Rice, or another Arsenal midfield goal.

As with line-breaking passes, this is not one thing Rice does on a weekly foundation, however he has proven glimpses of it on the worldwide stage.

Again, the France sport gives an instance.

Harry Maguire passes to him on midway…

…Rice strikes in the direction of the ball however controls on his again foot, opening out to show.

Antoine Griezmann jumps on the first motion and Rice is capable of drive into France’s half unchallenged, earlier than organising an England assault on the best.

If Arsenal’s curiosity was to finish in a switch, Arteta will need these attributes to turn into extra seen.

As far as targets go, Rice is a logical one for the Premier League leaders.

On the pitch, he excels in areas that not all midfielders can, whereas his limitations seem like they are often improved on. Off the pitch, he matches the route by which Arsenal are heading, with the scope to carry out within the quick time period but in addition to enhance in the long run.

January will certainly be too quickly for any concrete developments. Even so, each participant and membership are edging nearer to their shared targets of taking part in within the Champions League and discovering what will likely be required of them at that stage.

For Arsenal, which means a aggressive squad with depth. For Rice, it would be a possibility to proceed to raise his sport.

(Top picture: George Wood/Getty Images)


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