Do Not Sell My Personal Information

Arsenal could sign their next Patrick Vieira in Declan Rice

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will be positively delighted with the progress his side have made this season; having failed to reach the Champions League across the past six years, the Gunners now top the Premier League table, eight points clear of Manchester City in second.

What’s the word?

With the north London outfit indeed flying high above expectations, even the most positive-minded of supporters would have expressed some sense of incredulity before the season’s inception at the prospect of not only being in the title race, but dictating it with an unfaltering grip.

According to The Times, Arteta has distinguished West Ham United captain Declan Rice as the primary target to try and lure to the Emirates Stadium in 2023, with his presence anchoring the midfield likely to fortify the ranks with iron-clad resolve and instil a finely-poised balance.

Despite Arsenal’s endeavours this season, there is an underling sense that world-class acquisitions across several departments of the field are needed in order to cement the club’s success for the coming age.

In Rice, who could cost £80m, Arteta could unleash a homegrown talent with an abundance of quality. At a vibrantly upward club such as Arsenal, under a blossoming young manager who’s growing his reputation substantially, the 24-year-old could take his game up to another level.

Arsenal’s next Vieira?

Having spent his formative football years at Cobham academy with Chelsea, Rice departed for east London in 2013, where he originally starred for West Ham’s U21 team before forging his way into the first-team fold with resounding success.

1 of 20

Arsenal are top at Christmas but when was the last time they won the league title from this position?

Since that point, Rice’s development has coincided with that of his club. During his 220 appearances for the club, he has been instrumental to the Irons’ successive European-clinching campaigns and reaching the Europa League semi-final against eventual trophy winners Eintracht Frankfurt last year.

Often captaining the team, the 24-year-old has missed just ten league games since the start of 2019/20, also playing ten times in that European run last season.

Despite the difficulties being experienced by David Moyes‘ team in the current campaign, as they languish in 18th place in the Premier League, the England midfielder has maintained his sublime performance levels.

As per Sofascore, Rice has recorded an average league rating of 7.25 this term, completing 90% of his passes and making 1.3 key passes and 2.4 tackles per game.

Do you want Declan Rice at Arsenal?

Yes

Yes

No

No

For comparison, Martin Odegaard is the only Arsenal regular with a higher Sofascore rating in 2022/23, illustrating the impact that the “superb” Rice – as once hailed by journalist Sam Inkersole – would likely make in north London.

Should he stride the midfield at the Emirates, the 24-year-old could find himself emulating legendary former Gunners icon Patrick Vieira, who cemented his legacy as one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever midfielders following his escapades under Arsene Wenger.

Vieira was a fearless, unabating storm of a player who captained Arsenal to three league titles and four FA Cups during his illustrious tenure in London. Making 400 appearances for the Gunners, he was an imperious, dominating colossus who combined power, aggression and skill, breaking up the play and recycling possession with dogged determination and taking the reins with his galvanising leadership.

West Ham’s captain and “force of nature” – as dubbed by Rob Blanchette – ranks among the top 5% of midfielders in Europe’s big five leagues over the past year for pass completion and the top 7% for interceptions, and is already a seasoned Premier League operator of 186 appearances.

Arteta could secure a modern-day version of the legendary Vieira by raiding Arsenal’s capital rivals for their skipper.