Arsenal have clear areas to handle in 2023’s two switch home windows in terms of squad depth.
The necessity 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 subsequent on the agenda given the large 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 aspect.
This has manifested within the membership planning a summer season transfer for West Ham’s Declan Rice, a switch which might make sense for them on a couple of fronts.
Most significantly, common England starter Rice, 24, can be 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, can 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 exhibiting curiosity in Wolves’ Ruben Neves a 12 months earlier.
The technique in 2021 was to signal gamers underneath the age of 23, permitting them to develop on the membership. That is the window when Lokonga, then 21, arrived from Anderlecht. However the subsequent step in Arsenal’s evolution has turn out to be clear: recruit gamers of their mid-20s who add each high quality and expertise and are able to have a real influence on their squad.
Gabriel Jesus, 25, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, 26 years outdated now however 25 when he signed, are examples of this from the summer season.
Rice turned 24 on January 14 and has already made 187 Premier League appearances and captained West Ham to the Europa League semi-finals. On high of this, he began all of England’s video games at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.
Earlier than diving into how Rice’s attributes would match stylistically on the league leaders, some context is vital.
The box-to-box function he often performs in a pair with Tomas Soucek for West Ham is just 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. A few of the strengths he shows at West Ham can be transferable to how Arsenal play, however a number of the calls for on him could differ.
Rice’s best strengths are his athleticism and defensive consciousness. These can be wanted, whether or not he’s 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 defence” is about as much as suffocate groups in their very own half with areas ignored large as full-backs tuck in. Typically, will probably be the ball-side centre-back or No 6 who pushes out to rapidly cease counters when possession is misplaced.
That is the place Rice excels.
Take this occasion from September’s Premier League journey to Everton, the place West Ham are disposed of whereas attacking. House midfielder Alex Iwobi’s first motion is to play the ball as much as midway, whereas his counterparts de él in claret and blue are nonetheless in Everton territory.
Having obtained himself again into place, Rice doesn’t dive in right away. Relatively than turning to interact Neal Maupay on the ball, he’s wanting on the area Everton will attempt to exploit (to the left of West Ham’s stretched defence) with Amadou Onana (who Rice ran previous to succeed in the place proven under) prepared to hitch the assault.
He covers nicely, anticipates the cross 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 out to be extra dominant in matches, gamers’ capability to learn the play in conditions like that may turn out to be extra vital.
That is one thing Rice already does repeatedly and extends past simply timing his tackles nicely when left uncovered in midfield.
He’s the outfield participant with essentially the most recoveries (free balls recovered) within the Premier League this season (181, with Rodri of Manchester Metropolis 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 despues de He makes such interventions.
Away to Manchester Metropolis final season, he’s already on the transfer as Jesus makes his cross infield…
…and intercepts forward of Ilkay Gundogan simply consequently.
His first intuition after successful possession is to drive ahead, however with none assist he does nicely to dribble away from strain and transfer the ball on.
West Ham can choose the ball—one thing Arsenal have tended to do that season—fairly than enable the play to turn out to be a frantic you-have-an-attack-we-have-an-attack state of affairs, like a basketball sport.
If Rice does sense a possibility to push on, nonetheless, he’ll go.
He did this for England towards 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 from him via the center of the pitch towards them within the 3-3 draw on the London Stadium in March 2021.
A powerful participant, the Englishman backs himself to hold the ball ahead. Which may be the largest distinction stylistically between him (taking part in extra box-to-box) and Arsenal’s main No 6 as Partey is extra of a distributor from that place.
Because the begin of final season, Rice has essentially the most whole carries (1,032) and highest whole carry distance (11,729 metres) within the Premier League. Unsurprisingly, most of his progressive carries from him are within the center third, with him doing extra work than the ball to maneuver West Ham up the pitch. His tally of 556 ranks sixth within the Premier League for the reason that begin of final season however first amongst midfielders, whereas his 175 rank seventh this time period — first for midfielders once more.
When the 24-year-old makes these runs, his shut management usually goes underneath the radar. Whether or not it is to rapidly shift the ball on the run earlier than getting a shot or cross away, or to create space for himself at the beginning of a dribble, it’s 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 about up.
At first look, what Rice does with the ball could trigger reservations when him via an Arsenal lens.
He passes into the ultimate third pretty repeatedly, with 154 profitable from 191 tried (fifth-most tried within the Premier League this season), however these are usually switches of play to West Ham’s reverse full-back.
This appears to be his go-to possibility fairly than taking part in via the strains, one thing Arsenal gamers do proper throughout the pitch, however that doesn’t imply he can not 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 free cross, 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 cross via 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 cross via to the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
Twice in fast succession, Rice regarded to progress the ball and located his man on each events. Not each cross he performs in an England shirt is like this, however moments like these above present us he can do it.
One side of Partey’s play that has made him vital this season is his press resistance. It was key to Martin Odegaard’s aim towards Tottenham Hotspur this month as he took three gamers out of the sport with one contact. Whether or not that may be replicated can be one other query posed to Rice, or some other Arsenal midfield goal.
As with line-breaking passes, this isn’t one thing Rice does on a weekly foundation however he has proven glimpses of it at worldwide stage.
Once more, the France sport gives an instance.
Harry Maguire passes to him on midway…
…Rice strikes towards the ball however controls on his again foot, opening out to show.
Antoine Griezmann jumps on the first motion and Rice is ready to 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 out to be extra seen.
So 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 appear like they are often improved on. Off the pitch, he suits the course wherein Arsenal are heading, with scope to carry out within the brief 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 goals of taking part in within the Champions League and discovering what can be required of them at that stage.
For Arsenal, which means a aggressive squad with depth. For Rice, it might be a possibility to proceed to raise his sport from him.
(High photograph: George Wooden/Getty Pictures)