UK News

“The star player Rice delivers on all levels”

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta shared a colorful story about taking different routes to work every morning, to illustrate his belief that every game tells a different story.

The The Gunners’ 3-1 win over Manchester United at Emirates Stadium had several plot twists in stoppage time alone, but one main character deserved to star as the main actor of this chaotic game.

Arteta was responding to suggestions he had begun to complicate the strategies that made Arsenal such impressive title challengers and long-time Premier League leaders last season, before collapsing at the ultimate limit under unrelenting pressure from Manchester City.

There is no question Declan Rice, coming from West Ham United for £105m, is the game-changing signing Arteta had in mind when he put so much time and effort into pursuing his top summer transfer priority.

Rice was signed for games like this, moments like this, when Arsenal were largely frustrated by Manchester United. They even thought they might suffer defeat until the video assistant referee (VAR) realized that substitute Alejandro Garnacho had started his run far too early before scoring what he believed to be the decisive goal in the 88th minute.

Rice, 24, was the standout player of the game, bringing calm and order to a game in which both sides seemed tense, falling short of the standards Artetas and fellow United Erik ten Hag would normally expect .

Rice then made the crucial contribution well into injury time, lurking unattended at the far post at a corner and just before the end beat United keeper Andre Onana by deflecting substitute Jonny Evans slightly but decisively.

Gabriel Jesus’ solo goal – as United stunnedly pressed for an equalizer – was a success that calmed late-stage jitters.

But Arsenal fans knew who was the driving force behind that win.

Big players deliver the big moments to decide the big games. Rice is delivered on all levels.

A thunderous roar swept through Emirates Stadium before echoing with the new Rice anthem – a predictably restated rendition of Vanilla Ice’s hit ‘Ice Ice Baby’.

Rice took the applause at the final whistle and again when he appeared for post-game media relations. No one doubted the Englishman’s playing ability or mental strength to cope with his huge price tag and higher expectations. That performance and victory provided the proof.

He could hardly keep the smile off his face as he said: “Arsenal are a huge club and you can feel the pressure but I’m trying to perform.”

“I’m eager to learn and improve and we want to get to the next level. All were great. I like to laugh and talk to people and have settled in well.”

Arsenal definitely needed Rice to make the difference here, because for much of that game they lacked the dexterity and pace that had set the pace for so long last season before that late collapse.

There were questions about Arteta’s tinkering – particularly the introduction and role of newcomer Kai Havertz.

So that win not only calmed nerves but sent Arsenal into the international break on a high when it seemed like things could turn out so differently while they awaited the VAR verdict on Garnacho’s goal.

Havertz has his doubters among Arsenal’s fanbase, who wonder why Arteta felt the need to pay Chelsea £65m for a player who is talented but inconsistent, arguably an over-the-top luxury in a once-established system.

However, none of those doubts disappeared here as Havertz remained anonymous save for a terrible early fresh air shot that saw the goal fall at his mercy.

Then when he went down on a foul by Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the second half, only to see a penalty initially awarded by referee Anthony Taylor and struck out by VAR.

Arterta has no such doubt, but it’s fair to ask what Havertz’s best role is at this Arsenal side and what he adds to last season’s strong combinations.

There isn’t a single question about Rice.

Few players are a guarantee of £105m – admittedly an inflated fee but the result of market forces – but Rice is one and he has shown just how important he will be, even if Arsenal’s form at the start of the season was timid.

It was a sobering experience for Manchester United after Marcus Rashford put them ahead in the 27th minute but Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard equalized seconds later.

On his debut, £72m striker Rasmus Hojlund gave some hope. The 20-year-old showed he could be the physical presence and focal point United have sorely missed.

And there was a brutal reminder of their currently reduced circumstances as injuries to Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez meant Harry Maguire, effectively an unwanted outsider under Ten Hag, and 35-year-old substitute Jonny Evans manned the defensive barricades in those crucial ones final stages.

The burst of relief and cheering from Arsenal fans at the end contrasted sharply with the desperation in the United fans’ corner.

But Rice had revealed why the Gunners paid so much money, and it’s certain there will be more installments in the future.

How to follow Arsenal on the BBC bannerArsenal banner footer

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button