Mikel Arteta was full of praise for Declan Rice as Arsenal’s record signing produced a midfield masterclass before helping his side to a last-gasp win over Manchester United with his first goal for the club.
Rice, with the help of a slight deflection off United substitute Jonny Evans, struck six minutes into added time before Gabriel Jesus wrapped up the points five minutes later with a composed finish to make it 3-1. The Gunners had fallen behind to Marcus Rashford’s fine strike on 27 minutes but cancelled it out straight from kick-off as Martin Odegaard polished off a slick move.
Rice’s influence on the game was a major talking point in the post-game press conference, with Arteta saying: “I think it was a tremendous performance.
“When you look at how a holding midfielder needs to dominate his area and the presence that is needed, how he breaks up play, how he glides the team together in many moments when the team was stretching a little bit. he was really dominant.
“And then, obviously, he produced a magic moment to win us the game so I’m really happy with him.”
It’s unclear whether Arsenal had rehearsed the corner routine that led to Rice’s goal but Arteta inferred that might have been the case. All the same, in a pressure situation, he was thankful to have someone with the ability to finish as he did.
“We did it yesterday, but yesterday your heart rate is at 80 and today it’s at 190, so to produce the same level of quality when the pressure is on in that moment is just unique. You need to have that quality and that composure and he showed it today,” reflected the Spaniard.
He also believes the midfielder, who only scored 15 goals in 245 appearances for West Ham, can add more goals to his game.
“For sure and when you see the technical ability that he has and how executed it in this moment, his range when he’s shooting from range, his accuracy, the power that he generates with no space, with both legs, he can do it with both feet.
“He’s got the timing to arrive in the box, the position will determine a lot with how many goals he will score because at the end it’s about how consistent you are arriving there.”
Arteta also had warm words for Rice’s leadership skills, something Arsenal fans were keen to see transfer from the London Stadium where he was captain.
“He’s very natural. He’s a great kid,” said Arteta. “I think he’s got a good mixture between being extremely demanding with everybody and himself and then a bit of banter as well. Being around the boys and the staff in a really humble way, I think he’s fitted in brilliantly.”