LONDON – Mikel Arteta expects Declan Rice to play a pivotal role in Arsenal’s return to the Champions League, as the midfielder prepares to make his debut in the tournament against PSV Eindhoven at the Emirates on Wednesday.
The Gunners are back in the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17, giving Rice his first taste of Europe’s elite club competition after his close-season £100 million (S$168.9 million) move from West Ham.
The 24-year-old has made a confident start to life with Arsenal, scoring his first goal for the club in dramatic fashion against Manchester United on Sept 3 – a match which they won 3-1.
It was a perfectly timed reminder of the quality the England international brings, as Arteta believes his astute reading of the game and unflappable demeanour strengthens his team.
“How he breaks up play, how he glues the team together in many moments when it was stretched a little bit,” he said.
“He was really dominant and then produced a magic moment to win the game.”
And the Arsenal boss added that his new signing can also be a regular goal threat.
“For sure and when you see the technical ability that he has and how he 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,” Arteta said.
Along with helping Arsenal challenge for the title – the north Londoners are two points behind leaders Manchester City after Sunday’s 1-0 win at Everton – Rice will be firmly in the spotlight in the Champions League.
Having played his entire career with West Ham until this season, he has never experienced the thrill of lining up while the Champions League anthem booms out before kick-off.
But he will finally be able to tick that off his bucket list on Wednesday.
“I’m so excited for that. I’ve said for many years now that I’ve wanted to play in the Champions League,” Rice said.
“I’ve wanted to push myself at the biggest level. This opportunity at Arsenal has arisen. It’s a great club.”
He has already made his mark in continental action, captaining West Ham to their fi...