Declan Rice is being hailed as a transformational signing after a succession of impressive displays for Arsenal this season.
After signing from West Ham for £105million, Rice has surpassed all expectations at the Emirates and has become the driving force in the club’s bid for a first league title since 2004.
We’ve picked out 11 opinions from players, pundits and managers about the England international’s current hot streak.
Let’s not forget that Arteta prefaced Rice’s impact at the Emirates during his unveiling last July.
“I see him like a lighthouse,” Arteta said of the England international. “He is willing to put the light in others, improve others and make the team better.
“We discussed a while ago how he could evolve the team and compliment the players and take that winning hunger into a team with players who really want to push themselves to a different level.
“He has an aura. The experience he has in this league is going to bring the team to a different dimension. He has the physical qualities we were missing for a while.
“The way he talks and presents himself. The ambition he has and his passion for the game is exactly what we needed.”
While delivered in his trademark David Brent style, the Arsenal manager has been proven entirely correct.
— Gunners (@Gunnersc0m) December 26, 2023
“It’s his physicality, the physicality and the fluidity of him,” Wright said after Arsenal’s win at Brentford in November 2023. “We just look strong, we just look different with him.”
“When you look at his consistency, I’m getting it all the time from people – captaincy.
“I love Martin and, of course, he’s our captain and I’m very, very happy with that, absolutely delighted with that.
“The thing is, when you’ve got a player in your team that is eight or nine out of 10 every week, leading by example with everything that he does, you can’t help but think… that guy is a captain.
“That guy is a captain, the way he’s playing.”
Speaking in March 2020, Merson told Sky Sports: “Chelsea have been linked with him, but I don’t know why Arsenal aren’t looking at Declan Rice. Arsenal are crying out for a holding midfield player.
“They don’t need a midfielder who’s going to be on the edge of the opposition box, they need a disciplined defensive midfielder, who is going to sit in front of the back four and organise the side; one who, when he gets the ball, gives it simple with 10-yard passes.”
“It’s such a hard job and that’s why I can’t believe Arsenal aren’t going in for a player like Rice.
“A player like Rice can allow the attacking players to flourish and it gives the central defenders the chance to be better than what they are.”
It’s safe to say the Arsenal legend has been vindicated this year.
Carragher has compared Arsenal’s man of the moment to Manchester United legend Roy Keane.
“There is no bigger compliment I can give to Rice than this: I would rather have him in my team than Rodri,” Carragher told the Daily Telegraph.
“I feel the same way about Rice that I felt about Roy Keane when he joined Manchester United for a British record fee in 1993, and Alan Shearer when he joined Newcastle United in 1996. Harry Kane is another; he was a guarantee for Bayern Munich this summer.
“From the moment he joined Arsenal, you knew that Rice would be brilliant. He has been probably the most influential player in the Premier League this season and, every time I watch him, he reminds me of Keane.
“He has that same presence, and he has a passing ability that is incredibly underrated.
“For Arsenal, the move for Rice was a no-brainer. I believe we will be talking about him as an Arsenal great in seven or eight years, and that his £105 million fee will look like a snip.
“Ultimately, he could be for Arsenal what Virgil van Dijk has been for Liverpool. Van Dijk cost £75 million but, after everything he has achieved at Anfield, that fee is rightly regarded as a bargain.”
ARSENAL WIN IT AT THE DEATH!
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) December 5, 2023
“Whether it is him [Rice] or how they adapted, I feel they have gone up a level this season,” Alexander-Arnold said before Arsenal’s draw at Anfield.
“They’re very consistent and they are winning in a controlled manner. It is different to how we are winning a lot of games. A couple of our games have been last minute, or down to ten men, winning in different ways.
“It feels like they are winning in a different way. He has been a big part of that. I have shared the pitch with him with England and know what he offers and brings to a team.
“You can see it in how he plays; breaking up the play, getting the team up the pitch and a lot of the dirty work.”
Speaking on Sky Sports on Friday night football in October, Neville conceded that Rice is the main man for Arsenal now.
“Probably. I think he is a big influence Declan Rice,” the Sky Sports pundit said. “That power, that drive. Taking him out of Arsenal makes a huge difference, they wouldn’t be good enough.
“With him in it he can be a difference player and he gives them a real chance. I’m predicting City might have a bit of a stumble this season and I suspect Arsenal get it right this season.”
Writing in his BBC Sport column, Shearer said: “It is clear the Gunners have improved from last season, when they pushed City close until the final few games, and it is Declan Rice who has made the biggest difference.
“I would go as far as saying he has been the stand-out signing from the summer, and the £100m he cost from West Ham looks like money well spent.
“Rice has made the Gunners more solid and also gives them an extra little bit of bite in midfield, but everything he does on the ball is top class as well.
“Arsenal haven’t been quite as exciting as they were last year going forward but, along with Liverpool, they have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League so far and I think they will be delighted with the progress they have made.”
“Declan Rice, somebody put one of the questions up there, ‘is he a bargain at £100 million?’ I wouldn’t go that far!” McCoist said on talkSPORT in December 2023.
“I certainly wouldn’t go that far. I wouldn’t see anyone as a bargain at £100 million.
“But he has fitted into the team exactly the way Arteta would have hoped and a lot of people thought he would.”
Bend it like Declan 🤩 pic.twitter.com/2AHDOpqDS3
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 22, 2023
“Rice has been outstanding,” Morrison said after Arsenal’s victory over Brighton. “He’s a big influence on this team.
“He covers the ground, he drives forward and he intercepts. He does it all. I think he’s magnificent.”
“If there’s any young holding midfielder out there who wants to learn how to improve every aspect of their game, watch this match and follow Declan Rice,” Murphy wrote in the Daily Mail after the 1-1 draw at Anfield. “He was sensational.
This game showed me just how important Rice — and also William Saliba — are for Mikel Arteta.
“They are the two players he cannot do without if they are going to win the Premier League. With those two players in the side, they can get a result anywhere.
“It also made me realise how much Liverpool need a player like him. If Rice wore a Liverpool shirt, I think they win the title. He’s that good.
“He was phenomenal last night, in every aspect. His reading of the game, winning the ball, his positional play, keeping hold of the ball under pressure, playing through the lines.
“It was an all-round brilliant display.”
“Declan Rice was unbelievable in that game,” Earle said on The Two Robbies podcast after Arsenal’s draw at Liverpool.
“Best player on the pitch,” Robbie Mustoe replied. “By a mile,” Earle added.
“His composure, he was trying to control things, put his foot in. He was covering centre-backs.
“Remember the time with the break away and Trent Alexander-Arnold hits the post, it was Declan Rice versus five Liverpool forwards.
“He looked like a Hollywood idol, like he pulled out a sabre said, ‘come on then, I’ll take the lot of you on’. He was in another mode.”