Arsenal

Arsenal could soon unleash Declan Rice in a different role

Arsenal travel to Anfield on Saturday night knowing that a win or draw will see them top the Premier League tree like a bright star on Christmas Day.

It will be successive campaigns that the Gunners spend there over the festive period should they avoid defeat, but that will be easier said than done against a Liverpool side who put five goals past West Ham in midweek.

If Mikel Arteta’s men take on a Jurgen Klopp team who play like they did in their 0-0 draw with Manchester United a week ago then they will be confident of sealing all three points. However, if they get a rampant Anfield outfit, it will be tricky.

One way of offering themselves more protection could be to unleash Jorginho if he’s fit, provoking a role change for Declan Rice.

A change of role for Declan Rice
The former West Ham star has been nothing short of titanic since switching claret and blue for the red of Arsenal last summer.

Almost overnight the midfielder has become one of the club’s most important players. Rice has been titanic, a colossus, a midfield monster. When the England man plays, Arsenal are a better team for it.

Improving their midfield didn’t even need to be a priority during the last window but when a player of Rice’s calibre is available you don’t say no.

For the majority of this campaign the 24-year-old has played as a lone pivot in the base of midfield yet in bigger games Arteta has preferred a double layer of solidity. Indeed, against Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle this season, he’d been fielded slightly further forward as a left 8.

This frees up Rice’s attacking instincts but also means he can drop deeper. In this position, he epitomises a box-to-box role, something we actually saw in the dying stages against Brighton. The £100m signing picked up the ball on the left, darted past Pascal Gross and then raced towards the penalty area before seeing a shot saved.

That leggy athleticism could well be key to opening the game up against Liverpool but it depends on one thing, Jorginho’s fitness.

The latest on Jorginho’s fitness
Speaking in his pre-match press conference Arteta seemed hopeful that the Italian would be fit for the weekend having missed Brighton with a foot problem.

Indeed, the Spaniard told football.london he was getting “better” and there is hope he will be fine for Liverpool.

If the £12m signing from Chelsea does pass a late fitness test then pairing him alongside Rice would work a treat. Although the north Londoners tasted defeat to Newcastle, they didn’t lose against Man City and Chelsea when Arteta tried it previously in a big game – with the England hero even netting in the draw at Stamford Bridge.

How Jorghinho has been playing this season
It may well come as a surprise to note that Jorginho has been playing in a similar way to Chelsea midfielder Moises Caicedo, as per FBRef, who note that the Chelsea star is the eighth most similar player across Europe’s top five leagues this term.

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