Arsenal

Douglas Luiz set for Arsenal transfer audition as Mikel Arteta sent clear Declan Rice message

Douglas Luiz and Declan Rice will go head-to-head at Villa Park on Saturday evening as Arsenal face title rivals Aston Villa

Douglas Luiz can show Mikel Arteta what he is missing when Arsenal face Aston Villa on Saturday evening. The Brazilian midfielder has been heavily linked with a switch to the Emirates Stadium ahead of the January transfer window.

The Gunners missed out on Luiz’s signing back in 2022 after Villa rejected multiple approaches from Arteta’s side for the Brazilian’s signature in the summer transfer window. The Villa midfielder went on to sign a new long-term contract with the club, but is now thought to be a target for Arsenal once again.

 

The 25-year-old would reportedly cost around £60million. Given that Arsenal spent more than £200million on incoming transfers over the summer and didn’t raise as much through sales as hoped, it would be difficult for the Gunners to match that price tag in January.

A potentially cheaper alternative could be to recall one of their loan players. football.london understands, however, that there is no recall clause in Albert Sambi Lokonga’s season-long move to Luton.

Declan Rice will have a huge task on his hands keeping Luiz and Co. quiet this weekend with Villa tending to pack the midfield against their opposition. Writing for the Premier League website, Adrian Clarke highlighted how Rice has the responsibility to control Arsenal’s shape against Villa.

“To handle this excellent Aston Villa side, who use four central midfielders in a 4-2-2-2 formation, you must be strong inside the heart of the midfield,” Clarke said. “Even when Villa use a lopsided 4-5-1, their quartet of Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz, McGinn and Youri Tielemans are always looking to create overloads down the middle.

This will test Arsenal’s shape and place extra responsibility on Declan Rice’s shoulders. Since joining from West Ham United, Rice has delivered consistently influential performances.

“Regaining possession with ease, making 23 interceptions along the way (11 more than any team-mate). Rice has offered his new side an extra layer of protection, as well as great quality on the ball.”

When analysing Villa’s intense playstyle and how Arsenal can get the better of Emery’s side, Clarke added: “Villa’s forceful approach allowed them to win their individual battles against a Man City side who could find no flow. Unai Emery’s team won 58.4 per cent of their duels on Wednesday, regaining possession 13 times inside the final third.

“This aggressive style, with Douglas Luiz and John McGinn regularly jumping out to press in advanced areas, gave them a platform to go on and dominate. Last season, Arsenal were in a similar position [to City] at Villa Park when trailing 2-1 at half-time, but they turned it around with a far more physically imposing and confident second half.

Playing with greater assertiveness and moving the ball at a better tempo, Arsenal passed around the hosts at will to outshoot them 18-3 in a half in which they scored three times. To play through Villa’s press, and subsequently expose Emery’s high line, a player’s speed of thought in possession must be incredibly bright.

“Villa’s desire to congest the middle third forces opponents to play in an area that is often less than 30 yards long. This can be challenging.”

Luiz’s intensity has gone up a level this season and he has proved to be a crucial asset for Emery – a key reason behind Villa’s rise up the table this season. It’s clear why Arteta wanted to sign him and the Brazilian would be a brilliant addition, but Rice has the chance to show why he is the better midfielder on Saturday.

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