Mikel Arteta said Declan Rice “dominated the game” during Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Monday Night Football, while Jamie Carragher described the £105m midfielder’s performance as “outstanding”.
After starting on the left of a midfield diamond against Nottingham Forest last weekend, the 24-year-old began in a single pivot for Arsenal’s trip across London and was key as his side defended with 10 players for the final 30 minutes to secure three points and a hard-fought clean sheet.
As well as shielding the back four and retaining possession, the England international made several well-timed runs forward and should have had a first-half assist after setting Eddie Nketiah clear.
Speaking to Sky Sports about Rice’s performance after the game, Arsenal boss Arteta said: “I thought he was fantastic. He really dominated the game. To ask him to do something new, I thought he was fantastic.”
Sky Sports pundit Carragher added: “Declan Rice was the best player on the pitch.
“I actually like him in the role he played tonight more than popping up between the lines. His initial position was to start in that deeper position and drive forward from it. I think that is where he is at his best.
“He has talked about learning from the manager, playing further forward, maybe playing in pockets. I don’t think it fully suits him but I really liked what I saw.
“It felt like everything went through him. He was in the centre of the pitch, he was getting the ball, he was switching play – a couple of great 50 to 60-yard passes.
“But also when he made that run, he slipped a little pass to Nketiah. He was the best player on the pitch. I thought he was outstanding.”
Rice: I have learned so much
Talking exclusively to Sky Sports in July, Rice explained how he is “already seeing football in a completely different way” at Arsenal and reiterated that statement to the Monday Night Football panel after the match.
“Against Nottingham Forest we played a diamond in midfield and I was on the left of the diamond and tonight I was the single pivot so I dropped back one spot,” Rice said.
“But in the last four weeks I have learned so much, I am learning different ways of playing the position, constantly on the move, learning how we build up, learning how we play as a team.
“I am really trying to test myself because to play for Arsenal, to play at the top level, you need to be one of the best and I am eager to keep learning and keep flourishing.”
Nev: Rice not yet in same category as Keane and Vieira
Speaking before kick-off at Selhurst Park, Gary Neville said Rice cannot yet be compared to Premier League legends Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.
“What I think he brings to Arsenal’s midfield is power, personality and physicality,” Neville said. “[Michael] Essien brought that to Chelsea. That, for me, would be a better example of what I see him as.
“Essien was a brilliant player, I thought he was outstanding, but he was the power in there for three or four years. Personally, I wouldn’t put Rice in the category of Keane and Vieira.
“I just think they were so special and Declan isn’t anywhere near that level yet. For me, £105m, you want goals and assists too. But that’s the way the market has shifted.”
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