Football News

Mikel Arteta reacts as Thierry Henry highlights Yaya Toure-esque evolution at Arsenal

By J Smith

Published: 12:23, 8 March 2024

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has given his seal of approval for the comparison made by Thierry Henry between Declan Rice and Yaya Toure.

The Gunners are currently in the thick of one of the most exciting Premier League title races in recent memory, sitting third in the table with 11 games to go, just two points adrift of leaders Liverpool and one behind defending champions Manchester City.

Arsenal’s push has been fuelled in part by the strong form of Declan Rice, who arrived at the club from West Ham for a hefty £100m fee last summer.

Initially, Rice was signed to add more stability to the base of Arteta’s midfield both with and without the ball.  That has happened, but a bonus for the north London side has been Rice’s attacking output, with the England international hitting five goals and six assists in 27 Premier League appearances so far.

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Six of those attacking involvements (2g/4a) have come in his last four outings, with Rice most recently helping himself to a goal and an assist in Arsenal’s 6-0 thrashing of Sheffield United on Monday. Rice’s performance in that trip to Bramhall Lane prompted Arsenal legend Henry to compare the 25-year-old to his former Barcelona teammate Yaya Toure, who adapted to become a lethal attacking force upon arriving at Manchester City in 2010 after initially filling a holding role at the Camp Nou.

“Do you know the best example of that? It’s Yaya Toure,” Henry said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football coverage.

“For a long time at Barcelona, he had to cover Iniesta and Xavi. That was his job, so he didn’t come with a lot of goals or assists and what we saw of him. At City, he played higher and suddenly the goals came!”

Arteta is clearly very pleased with Henry’s assessment and also insists Rice wants to achieve even more in the game than Toure, who lifted six major honours during his 316-game spell with Man City.

“A very good player to get compared to because Yaya was an incredible player. What he did in this league was outstanding, and Declan wants more so that’s a good sign,” Arteta said at his pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend’s clash with Brentford.

Rice is obviously getting hooked on the feeling of contributing to Arsenal’s rampant attack, which is the most productive in the Premier League right now with 68 goals from 27 games.

“I want to keep scoring goals. There is no better feeling in the world than assisting and scoring. I am striving for more every day,” Rice said following the win over Sheffield United. “I think I am on double figures now for the season, I think it is my best season. Listen, I want way more than what I’ve got at the minute.”

And Arteta is hoping Rice’s forward-thinking positivity is infectious: “That’s something that is amongst the team that they want to keep improving. They all believe that they have another gear or two to go and that’s the level that we want to push them to. We are achieving it with the majority of the players and we have to continue to do it.”

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