The Sun (Malaysia)
‘Rice Rice baby’
Gunners RM500m man shows what Arsenal have and Chelsea don’t
AFEW years ago, Declan Rice said he would have passed. Now, however, the £105 million (RM609m) man assumed responsibility, shot and, via a deflection off Jonny Evans, gave Arsenal a 96th-minute lead against Manchester United.
As Gabriel Jesus scored an even later goal, it was not technically the winner. But Rice was the scorer of the de facto decider in the sort of match that can define seasons and establish reputations.
Perhaps particularly for central midfielders, given that it is a fixture that evokes memories of Patrick Vieira against Roy Keane.
Vieira scored the winning penalty in an FA Cup final shootout against United; Keane scored a disproportionate number of his United goals – five, almost 10% – against Arsenal.
Rice’s first in Arsenal colours came at United’s expense. The most expensive Englishman ever can appear something of a throwback player: called a defensive midfielder, but often an all-rounder, in the way the Frenchman and the Irishman were.
Football has grown more complex, the tactical intricacies of managers such as Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola reducing the significance of going mano a mano with the opposition’s alpha male.
And yet, in the age of the £100 million (RM580m) midfielder, perhaps Rice has a responsibility to be more than just another cog in the wheel, to be the matchwinner at least sometimes.
If it is simplistic to demand a tangible impact that always equates with his price tag for a player whose contribution stretches far beyond goals and assists, he is nevertheless charged with improving Arsenal.
Turning one point into three and winning a game against rivals is a way of doing that.
Chelsea created the £100m midfielder and now have two of them, a £222m (RM1.3b) double act. That can seem the product of a shift in thinking, recognising the significance of dictating a game. But there is still the need to decide it.
Enzo Fernandez has shown his incisive passing as he has become increasingly creative: that he only has two assists in their colours is in part a reflection of others’ poor finishing.
But the Argentinian has a lone goal himself, and that was against AFC Wimbledon of League Two, while he missed a penalty at West Ham.
Moises Caicedo’s Chelsea career has only spanned 205 minutes on the pitch and, while Fernandez has been used as a No. 10 of late, the Ecuadorian’s deeper role means he is likely to score fewer goals than the World Cup winner or Rice.
Nevertheless, at such a colossal cost, each was bought to make a difference. And when, deep into added time, it seemed Arsenal would drop two points, Rice did.
Arsenal have now won three of their opening four Premier
League games as Rice once again shone following his move from West Ham.
“A tremendous performance,” Arteta said of Rice. “A holding midfielder needs to dominate his area and the pressing that is needed to break up play, how he glued the team together in many moments.
“He was really dominant and then obviously produced a magic moment to win the game.” – The Independent