Declan Rice has significantly enhanced Arsenal’s squad, making him my signing of the season.
Transitioning from West Ham with top-six ambitions to a club competing in the Champions League and for Premier League titles represents a significant change in pressure However, Rice has fearlessly coped with the added scrutiny and the weight of a £100 million price tag.
Rice has successfully adapted his game to fit Arsenal’s style of play. While at West Ham, he primarily focused on defensive duties, but at Arsenal, where possession dominance is key, he has demonstrated his ability on the ball and provided progressive passes.
Additionally, he has contributed important goals on occasion. His seamless transition has been remarkable.
The England midfielder’s performances have been exceptional, making him Arsenal’s standout player. This achievement is particularly impressive considering the existing quality within Mikel Arteta’s dressing room.
With Thomas Partey sidelined due to injury, Rice has predominantly operated as Arsenal’s deepest midfielder. However, in a recent match against Liverpool, when Jorginho joined the midfield, Rice had the chance to showcase his abilities by pressing higher up the pitch. Liverpool struggled to contend with his athleticism during the game.
The 25-year-old returns to the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon, where he previously faced jeers from a portion of West Ham fans during the Carabao Cup clash earlier this season.
Rice could potentially face off against his England teammate Kalvin Phillips. Phillips has experienced a challenging start to his tenure as a West Ham player, making a couple of errors that have resulted in goals.
Something to keep an eye on for Sunday is the midfield battle between the aforementioned pair. Why? Because the on-loan Manchester City midfielder is seen as the Declan Rice ‘replacement’. So it will be interesting to see which England international comes out on top in the middle of the park.
A win for the Gunners would move them level on 52 points with Manchester City, and two points behind league leaders Liverpool.
The Hammers have an eye on a top-six finish this season, and a victory over Arsenal would move them on to 39 points, temporarily a single point above Manchester United, who host Aston Villa in the late Sunday afternoon kick-off.