Speaking to Caught Offside recently, the reliable journalist said:
“Rice, personally, is ready for a new challenge, and he’s spoken positively about Arsenal, praising Mikel Arteta.
“Having said that, I don’t think it’s Champions League or bust for Rice. Chelsea have an ambitious project built around young players that they want for the long-term, and I think that will trump something like Champions League football.
“Still, the Champions League does affect a club’s budget, it can stop you getting more than one marquee signing.”
West Ham have been quoted to want around £70m for the England international, so he wouldn’t come cheap but if the Gunners were to qualify for the Champions League ahead of the Blues – or even better win the Premier League – then they could well be best-placed to land him.
When you think of Arsenal’s greatest teams, they all had an absolute monster of a midfielder in the engine room – the likes of Patrick Vieira and Liam Brady instantly spring to mind.
It is perhaps what Arteta is lacking now.
Not that Granit Xhaka or Thomas Partey aren’t good because they are; very. But because neither are the sort of young, homegrown talent that’s evident right through this squad.
Rice fits the mould entirely.
He is currently the captain of the Hammers and a regular for Gareth Southgate at international level but he’s unlikely to win much if he remains at the London Stadium.
“Declan is the best central midfielder in the country,” ex-footballer Paul Parker once claimed. “If you wanted to spend a fortune on a midfield player, go and get Declan Rice,” before adding: “Give him what he wants and what happens is that he takes your team to another level.”
Indeed, it’s hard to argue against that as the 23-year-old – who has also been dubbed an “absolute monster” by ESPNUK editor David Cartlidge in the past – is currently the Irons’ best-performing player in the Premier League, where his average of 1.2 key passes, 1.6 interceptions and 2.3 tackles per game, via WhoScored, merely highlight his incredible ability to influence a game at either end of the pitch.
Some reports have linked Chelsea with a move for Arsenal target Mykhaylo Mudryk, so Edu Gaspar and co could deliver their own blow by launching a move for Rice, who has been long associated with a return to Stamford Bridge over the years.
Given the fact that he’s a young, English and immensely talented no.8 that can do everything, he’s absolutely perfect for Arteta and his system.
AND in other news, Ben Dinnery gives hint on Emile Smith Rowe return…