Declan Rice’s old Mikel Arteta and Arsenal comments speak volumes ahead of West Ham reunion

Arsenal star Declan Rice is preparing for his first Premier League match against his former team West Ham. The England international became the most expensive British player in football history when the Gunners paid £105million to sign him from the Hammers in the summer.

Rice has had a fantastic start to life in north London, scoring several last-minute winners. He has often praised Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, even before he joined the club.

On Boxing Day 2022, Rice played against Arsenal as a West Ham player. Despite West Ham scoring first, Arsenal won the match with three second-half goals. At that time, Arsenal were at the top of the Premier League and Rice admitted he thought the Gunners were the real deal.

The midfielder shared after the match, via Daily Mirror: “First half, even though we didn’t have much of the ball, we defended really well, stopped them really well and had a plan. But you can’t sustain that for 90 minutes especially against a team like Arsenal.

In the end, one of their chances will create something, and their free-flowing football managed to get through. We couldn’t just get up the pitch [after the equaliser], they smothered us all over the pitch.”

He added: “100 per cent [they can win the league]. They’re a top team, you can see they are coached incredibly well. They have a lot of attacking talent and a young squad, and they could go the whole way for sure. We tried as hard as we could to stop them, but it’s really hard, and in the end we came up short.”

His comments on how Arsenal were ‘coached incredibly well’ were particularly revealing and perhaps the first hint that a move to the Emirates Stadium was on the cards. Rice has already returned to the London Stadium with the Gunners, during the 3-1 defeat by West Ham in the Carabao Cup last month.

He’ll be hoping their first league meeting of the season goes in his favour, as Arsenal aim to return to the top of the table with a victory.

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