Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has backed Declan Rice to become a legend at the Gunners after his summer move from West Ham.
After going agonisingly close to winning the Premier League last season, Arsenal and Mikel Arteta were unwilling to rest on their laurels. The Gunners spent just over £200m in the summer transfer window, strengthening their squad across the pitch.
Over half of that outlay was spent on Rice, a £105m move that made him the most-expensive transfer between two British clubs, before the record was broken by Chelsea’s signing of Moises Caicedo a month later. Rice remains the most expensive British player and Arsenal’s club-record signing, smashing the £72m previously spent on Nicolas Pepe.
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There was a lot of pressure on Rice, fresh off captaining West Ham to Europa Conference League glory, to make an immediate impact given the transfer fee. And he’s done exactly that.
Rice has slotted straight into the Arsenal midfield, looking like someone who has been at the club for years, not months. The Englishman has started every Premier League game for Arsenal so far, playing the full 90 minutes on each occasion.
Only William Saliba and Ben White have had more touches for Arsenal this season than Rice’s 440, and the same duo are the only ones to out pass him on both attempts and success. For passing accuracy, among players to have made at least 50 passes, only Saliba and Fabio Vieira have a better success rate than Rice’s 91.99%.
Although he is a defensive man, Rice has also found himself on the scoresheet once this season, netting late on against Manchester United to help Arsenal secure a 3-1 win. Gabriel Jesus may have scored the final goal, but Rice put Arsenal 2-1 up just when the game looked to be ending in a draw.
And though he isn’t captain anymore, as he was at West Ham, Rice is still showing the leadership traits Arsenal need, according to 1998 World Cup-winning midfielder Petit.
Speaking exclusively to Squawka (on behalf of Betway), Petit said: “This guy, he plays as a leader, as a captain on the pitch. You can see how confident he is, if you put away his quality, you can see his maturity, and he’s still young.
“But you can see that this guy has made the right decision to come to Arsenal, because this is exactly what Arsenal need, especially in midfield position. And this area, we have seen so many monsters in this position with Arsenal for the last two decades.
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“If Arsenal want to be strong, they need to have leaders in the spine of the team and Declan Rice is the example of it. He’s an example on the pitch, his behaviour, he never gives up until the last second of the game, he will fight to win the game and his quality on the pitch.
“If I am his teammates, if I play in midfield with him, I will play full of confidence with him because I know that he will stick behind me, will support me all the time, he will try to make me a better player on the pitch.
“So this is very important for the team, you need to realise that the teammate you are playing with, is trying to make you a better player. And this is exactly what Declan Rice is on the pitch.
“For me, I’m in love with him. Honestly I’m in love with this guy because he will make such a good, good buy for Arsenal and he will be a legend for the club if he stays for a few years, definitely.”