Arsenal’s decision to invest £105 million in acquiring Declan Rice has already shown early signs of bearing fruit. While the hefty price tag wasn’t solely for his goal-scoring abilities, the young midfielder has made it his mission to enhance his end product, and his recent performance against Manchester United exemplified this commitment.
In a thrilling encounter at the Emirates Stadium, Rice netted his first goal for the Gunners in the sixth minute of added time, breaking the 1-1 deadlock with a deflected shot past André Onana. The match had teetered on the edge throughout, with Martin Odegaard canceling out Marcus Rashford’s first-half opener, and substitute Alejandro Garnacho’s late effort denied by a VAR review for offside in the 88th minute.
Rice’s decisive contribution shifted the momentum firmly in Arsenal’s favor, and Gabriel Jesus added a third goal in stoppage time, igniting celebrations usually reserved for title contenders rather than early September fixtures. While some criticize Arsenal for over-celebrating, the context is clear. The victory over a historical rival and the desire to keep pace with Manchester City, despite the season’s infancy, fueled the exuberance.
Last season, Arsenal reached 50 points at the halfway stage but fell short of clinching the title. Manchester City’s exceptional performance has raised the bar to unprecedented levels, leaving no room for error. Accumulating 10 points from a possible 12 before the first international break is a significant confidence boost for Arsenal.
Declan Rice, brought in at great expense from West Ham, played a pivotal role in this success. His all-around display showcased his versatility and match-winning potential. The question on everyone’s mind: Could this be the first of many goals from the Gunners’ new midfield maestro?
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta Statement for Declan Rice:
The manager of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, undoubtedly agrees. Certainly, when you consider his technical prowess and his execution in these situations, Arteta said. He can do it with both legs and both feet because of his accurate shooting range and the power he can produce in a small area. He will arrive in the box on time as well.
Rice’s forward drive also played a pivotal role in the game. It was his surge that led to Kai Havertz going down in the box for a penalty, albeit overturned after VAR review, in an attempt to change Arsenal’s unusually cautious first-half performance.
Arsenal, known for dominating opponents at home, had only 45% possession in the first half. This departure from their usual style was a calculated move, given their opponent’s counterattacking prowess, a threat exemplified by Marcus Rashford.
Arteta acknowledged the risk, saying, “The first goal that we gave away we talked about it, if you lose the ball inside the first two passes after regaining it, you are kaput. We did it again.”
Rice’s contribution extended beyond his goal. He won four out of five duels and all three aerial challenges, recovering the ball five times in total. More importantly, he helped Arsenal regain control of the game in the second half, ultimately leading to a 55% possession share and creating scoring opportunities, with Bukayo Saka missing a golden chance.
While Arsenal celebrated their victory, Manchester United will rue the fine margins and missed opportunities. The disallowed goal by Garnacho and the promising cameo of their big-money summer signing, Rasmus Hojlund, highlighted what could have been. However, United’s summer transfer decisions raised questions, as they ended the game with an aging Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire at center-back. Injuries to key defenders further exacerbated their situation.
Despite their challenges, United remain far from narrowing the gap with Manchester City, an objective both teams share but one that Arsenal seems better equipped to pursue. Although Arsenal has not been entirely convincing in their early-season performances, they have found a way to win three of their four games, and in this crucial clash, their record-breaking acquisition, Declan Rice, made all the difference.
Arsenal’s substantial investment in Declan Rice is already paying dividends, as he played a pivotal role in their thrilling victory over Manchester United. While it’s too early to make definitive conclusions, Rice’s impact and the team’s ability to secure crucial wins early in the season bode well for their aspirations to challenge for the title. Arsenal’s gamble on Rice appears to be a wise one, and if he continues to deliver, it may prove to be the catalyst for a successful campaign.