Paul Merson has warned Mikel Arteta about how the Arsenal manager intends to use Declan Rice after sealing the midfielder’s club-record transfer from West Ham United.
The Gunners raided their London rivals earlier in the summer window to strengthen Arteta’s team. Arsenal struck a new club-record deal with West Ham for Rice worth an initial £100m, rising by £5m with add-ons. While the 24-year-old put pen to paper on a five-year contract.
Arteta moved to gain Rice’s signature as the 43-cap England midfielder is one of, it not the best, in his position in the Premier League. He grew into an authoritative force in claret-and-blue after breaking through in 2017. But his role at the Hammers had also started to change.
Paul Merson warns Mikel Arteta about Declan Rice’s role at Arsenal
Irons boss David Moyes had begun to give him greater freedom to roam the field during the last two seasons. Former Chelsea academy reject Rice had asked Moyes to let him take on a box-to-box presence. But Merson does not believe Arteta should now follow suit at Arsenal.
Instead, the Arsenal icon is adamant that Arteta must play Rice in his best position to ensure he succeeds. Merson fears the Spaniard will let the 6 ft 2 talent roam the field like he had for Moyes. Instead, he argues for Sportskeeda that Rice must be Arsenal’s new midfield anchor.
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“Declan Rice has got to play as a holding midfielder for Arsenal,” Merson argued. “You can’t pay a massive amount for someone and then play them out of position. That surely can’t be right. He was brought to the club because he was the best holding midfielder around.”
Declan Rice has proven his worth as more than a defensive midfielder
While Merson is adamant that Arteta must use Rice as just a defensive midfielder, Arsenal’s new signing proved with West Ham that he was more than just an anchor. He was also more than just their leader, having effectively been the Hammers’ captain since September 2020.
Rice guided West Ham to their first major trophy since 1980 after winning the UEFA Europa Conference League last term. He was the heartbeat of Moyes’ plans through his exceptional tackling along with his supreme reading of the game and his strong distribution of the ball.
But Arteta wanted Arsenal to sign Rice as he can also offer charging runs from midfield and complement the attack. While the West Ham academy graduate did not score often for the Irons – only netting 15 in 245 career first-team games – he offers an impact across the field.