Is Declan Rice already proving his worth at the Emirates?

We hear from two Gunners fans on how our former captain is settling at his new club

Declan Rice (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

The question of whether or not Declan Rice is worth £105 million has and will continue to be debated by Arsenal fans but Gunners fans Sam Lambert and Pat McLaughlin were impressed by what they’ve seen of the England midfielder so far. Our former captain’s winner against Manchester United will live long in the memory for many Gunners and goes someway to answer early critics Rice has faced about what he can do offensively.

‘The transfer fee undoubtedly reflects the immense confidence Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy have in Rice’s potential impact on the team,’ Pat, from JustArsenal, tells me. ‘However, as fans and analysts alike dissected the decision early this summer, questions quickly arose about whether Rice’s skills and attributes truly merit such a hefty investment. Rice’s reputation as a super-fit “water carrier” is undeniable. His energy levels and pitch awareness have been his standout assets at West Ham, traits that have made him a reliable presence in midfield.

‘Yet, critics argued that for the colossal sum spent, we should expect more than just a tireless ball-retriever. The intricacies and finesse seen in the likes of Thomas Partey or Rodri, who excel in their multifaceted roles, have left some wondering if Rice possesses the necessary versatility.’

But Sam adds: ‘He was very unlucky not to score on the opening game of the season against Forest. Yes, they were from long range but they were well saved and some only just missed the target. It does seem that he has fitted into this team seamlessly well, and he’s already offering everything I had really hoped for and saw of him last season at West Ham.

‘On the defensive side, he is magnificent with how he gets stuck in, the way he picks up loose balls, and wins tackles. This is what we need to really kick on and challenge again to win the league this season. But what has surprised me so early on is the way he drives forward with the ball and is able to switch up what channel the ball goes down so fluently, he makes it look easy.’

Pat also believes that Arteta could be key in Rice’s development to the midfielder the Gunners, and arguably England, need to win trophies. ‘Critics have suggested that Rice’s playing style, while effective, lacks the refinement and finesse required to dominate the midfield,’ he continued. ‘Comparisons with Partey only serve to highlight the gap in qualities between the two players. However, supporters of the signing argue that perhaps Rice’s potential attributes have been overshadowed during his time at West Ham. The new environment and the guidance of Arteta might unearth dimensions to his game that were previously untapped.

‘Arteta’s apparent enthusiasm for Rice has driven the urgency behind the signing. It was evident to us that the manager perceived something unique and transformative in Rice’s abilities. The hope is that, under Arteta’s tutelage, Rice can develop into the all-encompassing midfielder Arsenal desperately needs. The manager’s track record in developing young talent, coupled with his vision for the team, is a compelling reason for fans to retain optimism.’

And Pat suggests Arteta’s plan to elevate Rice’s game into a more comprehensive and influential force will be put to the test. ‘The manager’s unwavering belief in Rice, coupled with the club’s strategic decision-making, will determine whether this transfer becomes a milestone in Arsenal’s resurgence or a missed opportunity. One thing is certain is that the Arsenal fans are much more forgiving of Rice’s transfer fee than the £65m we paid for Kai Havertz, who is currently being severely criticised for his early performances for the Gunners.’

But do Pat and Sam think, based on what they’ve seen, that Rice is and will prove to be worth the £105m spent on him? Pat says: ‘The transfer fee could have been distributed across multiple acquisitions, bolstering different areas of the team. But as the saying goes, “if you don’t spend big, you don’t win big”. But equally important is spending wisely on players whose attributes align with the team’s needs.

Ultimately, the verdict on whether Declan Rice was worth £105 million for Arsenal will unfold on the pitch. ‘If Rice can evolve from a diligent water carrier into a midfield maestro, as it looked against Palace, capable of not only disrupting opposition play but also orchestrating Arsenal’s attacks, the substantial investment might just be vindicated. I personally believe he will only grow in dominance, and if he can remain injury-free, he can marshall our midfield and defence for many years into the future, and guide Arsenal to the trophies he craves so much.’

Sam adds: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that he will prove his worth over this season, and I reckon you could’ve got more for him as the transfer market is inflated. Maybe over time we will soon see people saying £105 million was a bargain for the player he actually is, especially if he can keep up his form and play every game how he has started this season.

‘I think the real challenge will be the Champions League when he comes up against midfielders who are just as good as him. ‘But I’m excited to see how he plays in this competition as it is a step up from the Europa League and Conference League.’

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