Arsenal are firmly in the driving seat to secure a mouthwatering £105m deal for West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice after Manchester City pulled out of the race for the Englishman. After months of groundwork and input behind the scenes to secure Rice, Mikel Arteta looks like he might just have got his man despite their previous offer being matched by the European Champions.
The goodwill amongst the Arsenal faithful for club owner Stan Kroenke has risen beyond recognition in recent years due to significant investment since the arrival of Arteta, and such an outlay on Rice will only work in the favour of KSE regardless of what happens on the pitch next season. Fans generally want to see ambition from their club’s ownership model, which can sometimes come at a price even after clear intentions of improving outcomes.
Should the deal for Rice get over the line, it will eclipse the £72m spent on Nicolas Pepe just four years prior. Back then, the board looked different. Raul Sanllehi and Ivan Gazidis were at the forefront of transfer activities and unexpectedly dropped an unthinkable sum of money on a player who had spent the majority of his time in the Ligue 1 scoring most of his goals from the penalty spot.
The landscape has since shifted, however, as Technical Director and former invincible Edu now operates as Arteta’s right-hand man when it comes to transfers. The investment in young English players such as Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White suggests the project will culminate in a British core, and Rice’s potential arrival only strengthens that argument.
At 24 years old, Rice brings experience, durability, and composure to Mikel Arteta’s side. His ability to play in every game he’s asked to and operate in various positions is a quality Arteta hasn’t had at his disposal with Thomas Partey missing effectively 50% of fixtures since he arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2020. Availability is an invaluable asset to a player in this day and age, especially since Arteta decided to place an incomprehensible amount of responsibility on Partey in the ‘number six’ role, covering a position that usually required two players to operate in.
The noise coming out of Arsenal suggests that Rice will fill that role ahead of Partey in the upcoming season. The Ghanaian looks like he may well end up departing north London by the end of the window, with various reports suggesting he could move on to Saudi Arabia. Rice will no doubt play a key role at Arsenal which Arteta clearly thinks only he can fulfil.
For Arsenal to spend such an astronomical sum of money on a player who wouldn’t have even considered the idea of heading to the Emirates a year ago, it shows how far the club have come in their trajectory. Arteta and Edu have turned Rice’s head in a period where financial giants such as both Manchester clubs and Chelsea have shown an interest, which just goes to show the fortitude and resilience both men seem to possess at this moment in time.
Despite the breaking news this morning suggesting that Arsenal were as close as they have ever been to agreeing a deal with the Hammers for Rice, there still seems to be some loose ends to tie up in order to get it over the line. In an exclusive interview with talkSport just a day after West Ham’s Europa Conference League triumph in Prague, club owner David Sullivan went live on air to explain that Rice was for sale this summer following failed talk to keep him at the club. Sullivan was keen to mention that any sale of Rice would however come at a significant price for any potential suitors, and he is absolutely living and dying by that statement.
The Hammers are set to receive a record fee for any British transfer for Rice, which would eclipse the £100m Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish in 2021. By no means were Sullivan and co ever going to let their captain go for any less than their valuation which has been proven in the last few hours as they continue to negotiate the payment of the £105m on offer from the Gunners. An asset beyond the value of any player West Ham have ever had looks to finally be on his way out of East London, but the deal is still yet to be finalised.
The ownness is now on Arsenal to test West Ham’s resolve and strike a deal that suits both parties. Reports suggest that the Hammers want the entire fee to be paid in eighteen months, whereas Arsenal have offered payment over a four-year period. Suggestions a deal could be done within the next few hours seem slightly premature given how tough West Ham have been to negotiate with, but there seems to be a positive feeling amongst those negotiating that a compromise can be reached sooner rather than later.
Arteta’s side are not stopping there, however. The club seem to have already wrapped up a deal for Chelsea’s Kai Havertz and are close to reaching an agreement for Ajax defender Jurrien Timber. If the Gunners can secure the signing of Rice, their summer window will shape up to smash their previous record window in 2021 and put them back in the conversation for another Premier League title charge and a deep run in the Champions League ahead of the upcoming season.
By: Tom Norton / @tomnorton_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto