Mikel Arteta has praised Declan Rice for his intelligence and dedication, crediting him for playing a crucial role in shooting Arsenal to the top of the Premier League.
Following his high-profile £105 million ($132 million) move from West Ham in the summer, Rice has emerged as a key figure in Arsenal’s outstanding performance this season. Primarily played just in front of the defense, the English midfielder has been exceptional, leading Arteta to continue expressing admiration for his standout signing.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game at Aston Villa, Arteta said: “[Rice is] extremely intelligent to read situations, to break up play, to win duels – crucial duels in certain areas of the pitch that allow us to counter and progress in really dangerous situations.
“He is really humble, funny, really hardworking. And He is extremely committed in everything he wants to do. He wants to win everything that he does. Really easy going, he’s integrated in the team in a really positive way.
“I was really positive about it because when I spoke to him, he mentioned to me many times from day one, ‘I just want to play for Arsenal and I want to play with you’ and he maintained his word to the last moment and we were good enough to acquire him.”
Arteta speaks highly of ‘humble’ Rice
The Arsenal manager had recognized the importance of the then-West Ham captain in bolstering the Gunners’ midfield and enhancing their performance following last season’s second-placed finish.
But Arteta’s judgment has been validated, as Rice has evolved into the cornerstone of the Arsenal team, influencing a shift in the team’s mentality.
Additionally, this season Arsenal has displayed diligence and dominance in their matches, conceding few opportunities to opponents and applying relentless pressing. Rice can be acknowledged as the key player responsible for this transformative shift.
Arsenal faces a tough challenge of their title goals as they visit Aston Villa. Villa, led by Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery, is currently in excellent form, having secured victories in their last 14 home games. It’s noteworthy that the last time Villa suffered a home defeat was against an Arsenal team that hadn’t yet enlisted the services of Declan Rice.