Is Declan Rice really the midfielder Arsenal should be signing this summer?

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The England international has been strongly linked with a switch to Emirates Stadium - but would he be the right fit for Mikel Arteta's side?

Declan Rice has been West Ham's 'Mr Dependable' for a good six seasons now, racking up 232 appearances across all competitions while earning a regular spot in the England squad.

The combative central midfielder has saved his very best performances for the international stage, including against Germany and Italy at Euro 2020 and in the Three Lions' last-16 win against Senegal at the Qatar World Cup.

The Premier League's biggest clubs have taken notice, with a scramble for Rice's signature set to take place when the summer transfer window opens as the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United all seek reinforcements in the middle of the park.

Arsenal, though, are reportedly leading the race for Rice at the moment, much to the delight of their former academy graduate Jack Wilshere.

"He’s a midfielder who can do anything. Anyone who supports any club would want Dec to join," Wilshere told PA Sport last month. "If I’m talking from a selfish point of view, in north London, I think he would be very good under Mikel [Arteta]. I’m looking forward to wherever he goes. I hope it is Arsenal, it would be a massive signing and a perfect fit."

Rice is certainly ready for a step up, but is he really best suited to Arsenal? GOAL examines why the Gunners might be better off pulling out of the race for the 24-year-old...

  1. 'The English tax'
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    'The English tax'

    Very few of the players that have been regulars in Gareth Southgate's England squad have tested themselves outside of the Premier League, which is undoubtedly the best division in club football right now.

    Jude Bellingham is currently lighting up the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund - the same place Jadon Sancho shone before his switch to Manchester United in 2021 - and former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham is currently plying his trade in Serie A with Roma.

    But the very best English players tend to star in the Premier League, and it has been suggested that this has led to inflation when it comes to transfers.

    Jack Grealish became the most expensive player in British football history when he joined Manchester City from Aston Villa for £100 million, while Manchester United broke the world transfer record for a defender when they signed Harry Maguire from Leicester City for £80m.

    The likes of Raheem Sterling, Kalvin Phillips and Ben Chilwell have also moved between English clubs for huge fees, with Rice the latest man to be valued at an extortionate price that does not accurately reflect his value.

    In April last year, West Ham boss David Moyes attempted to ward off potential suitors by setting a staggering price tag for Rice. "One hundred and fifty (million) just now would be minimum, but he is not for sale. What I do know is that it means there are only certain clubs that could even consider it", he said.

    West Ham were fighting for a top-four finish and Europa League success last season, but are battling relegation in the current campaign. Despite their struggles, it is still being suggested that Rice will cost any potential suitors at least £100m.

    Rice is a fine player, but for that kind of price, he needs to be transformative. Arsenal need someone that is going to take them to the next level, not just a reliable squad player.

  2. Caicedo still on the market
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    Caicedo still on the market

    Before Rice emerged as a priority target for the Gunners, Brighton's Moises Caicedo was at the top of their agenda.

    Arsenal tabled two bids for the Ecuadorian in the January transfer window amid rival interest from Chelsea, with the second coming in at a whopping £70m, but the Seagulls refused to budge on their £90m valuation.

    For his part, Caicedo did everything possible to force the move, even going so far as to request a transfer in public.

    "I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful," he said in a statement. "The fans have taken me into their hearts and they will always be in my heart so I hope they can understand why I want to take up this magnificent opportunity."

    Arsenal ultimately failed to get their man - settling for a cut-price Jorginho instead - and some five weeks later, Brighton announced that Caicedo had signed a new five-year contract with the option of an extra year.

    That does not mean that he will be off-limits this summer, though. He will once again be the best young midfielder on the market, and there is still a deal to be done for Arsenal.

    Caicedo would still cost less than Rice, and at 21 years old, he represents the smarter investment. The youngster is already an accomplished box-to-box midfielder and has a higher ceiling than his West Ham counterpart.

    Arsenal could live to regret it if they decide against reigniting their interest in Caicedo, who won't be short of alternative options when the transfer window reopens.

  3. Doesn't offer enough going forward

    Doesn't offer enough going forward

    “This midfield role is a vital part of any team because in an ideal world, it’s multi-dimensional – you are creative, you chip in with goals and you’ve got a defensive head at all times.

    “If you’ve got all three of those attributes, you’re worth your weight in gold. For me, Rice has just one of them.”

    Liverpool legend Graeme Souness caused quite a stir with his assessment of Rice in his column for the Daily Mail, and even provoked a frustrated response from the man himself.

    “It’s harsh. I think it’s harsh because Souness doesn’t watch West Ham every week," the England international said before last month's 2024 European Championship qualifiers.

    The statistics back up Souness' remarks, though. Over the course of Rice's entire West Ham career to date, he has mustered just 14 goals and 12 assists.

    He's also only found the net three times in 41 outings for England and has yet to set up a goal at international level.

    Granted, creating and scoring goals is not Rice's main responsibility, and he ranks near the top of the list for the most progressive passes made in the Premier League this season. But for someone with his technical ability and vision, he should be making a bigger contribution in attack.

    At Arsenal, he would be competing directly with Thomas Partey for a spot in their midfield, and at the moment he doesn't offer anything extra that would make him a guaranteed starter ahead of the Ghana international.

  4. Not a suitable heir to Xhaka

    Not a suitable heir to Xhaka

    It has been suggested in some quarters that Arsenal have identified Rice as the long-term heir to Granit Xhaka, who will turn the ripe old age of 31 in September.

    Xhaka's current contract is due to expire in 2024, and although it has been reported that the Gunners are eager to trigger a one-year extension option on the Switzerland international, his future is currently uncertain.

    However, Rice has far more in common with Partey than Xhaka. If the West Ham man were to replace Xhaka in the Gunners' engine room, they would instantly become a worse side.

    Xhaka tends to push further up the pitch for a start, and he has often made a decisive impact in the final third, as evidenced by his 13 goal contributions so far this season.

    He is ferocious in the tackle and a master of breaking up play, but is also more forward-thinking than a typical deep-lying midfielder; always on the lookout for an incisive pass to get Arsenal in behind and capable of cracking in a thunderbolt from 25 yards if given the space.

    The Gunners star can be prone to the odd moment of madness, but he is the general in Arteta's team, and Rice simply could not fill his boots.

  5. Rice still loves Chelsea

    Rice still loves Chelsea

    Stamford Bridge has also been touted as a possible next destination for Rice, who began his journey into professional football at Chelsea.

    He spent seven years in the Blues' academy ranks before being released as a 14-year-old in 2014, with West Ham subsequently snapping him up.

    Rice played alongside current Chelsea stars such as Mason Mount and Reece James during his time in their youth set-up, and his bond with them is clear to see whenever they reunite to play for England.

    A certain club legend has even been on hand to guide Rice during his career, as he revealed in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap in February 2022.

    Asked who his idol was when growing up after confirming that he was a boyhood Chelsea fan, Rice said: "John Terry. I speak to him a lot. I speak to him all the time really."

    A return to his roots, then, would make perfect sense for all parties, particularly given the fact that Chelsea's need for new recruits is far greater than Arsenal's right now.

    Rice would likely slot straight into Chelsea's starting XI, and they also have the financial muscle to meet West Ham's asking price without overstretching their budget.

    The Gunners could still press ahead with a move for Rice, and he would certainly give them extra depth in a key position. But he wouldn't be a real difference-maker at the Emirates, and his heart still belongs to the Blues.