The impact of Declan Rice on Arsenal is clear. While the cost was high, with West Ham receiving £105m for a player they acquired for free, Rice is a valuable acquisition. As Arsenal struggled under the weight of competing against Manchester City for the title last season, they were in need of a resilient midfielder. During their recent game against Sevilla, when they were clinging to a slim lead, Rice’s ability to sense and eliminate threats was greatly appreciated.
Mikel Arteta’s team, Arsenal, has shown improved strength since acquiring Rice. This was evident in their recent victory against City, where Rice made a crucial goal-line clearance and consistently shut down potential attacks. His presence has also brought more organization and leadership to the team. Arteta, who compares Rice to a lighthouse for his ability to elevate his teammates, was deliberate in his pursuit of the talented English international last year.
Rice remained dedicated throughout his last season at West Ham, even after helping the team avoid relegation. He ended his time at the club by leading them to their first major championship in 43 years, winning against Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final. This victory was the ideal way for Rice to say goodbye as a club icon, as no player had captained West Ham to a European title since Bobby Moore. As a result, he is likely to be warmly received when Arsenal comes to the London Stadium on Wednesday for the Carabao Cup fourth round.
It is presumed that he will be participating, even if only as a substitute, and there should be no resentment towards Rice when he goes against his previous team for the initial time. The truth is that the 24-year-old had to depart in order to advance his career. Rice became a member of West Ham at the age of 14 and still holds affection for the club, but it was necessary to seek new opportunities. It is understandable that he wants to strive for significant titles and compete in the Champions League each year.
It was unlikely for West Ham to achieve this. Despite having the opportunity to spend £105m on improving their team, they are still in the middle of the standings. Although they had a promising beginning, their performance has declined and there are familiar critiques about Moyes’s conservative strategies. They were not impressive in their match against Everton last Sunday and have now lost three games in a row. Moyes could really use a strong showing against Arsenal.
The outcome of the match against Arsenal may have an impact on the decision to extend Moyes’s contract at the end of the season. West Ham’s recent performances have highlighted the reason for Rice’s departure. The ongoing issue revolves around the team’s inability to develop an effective attacking strategy. This was evident in their game against Everton, where their weaknesses were exposed. It was clear that Sean Dyche’s team anticipated West Ham’s struggles in creating scoring opportunities and capitalized on their possession and defensive tactics.
The recent matches have revealed that West Ham’s opponents have figured out their strategy. While their practical, reactive style led to wins against Brighton and Chelsea in August, it may not be sustainable for long-term success. Their only league victories since then have been against Luton and Sheffield United, which are not considered tough opponents. As a result, West Ham’s fans are starting to envy teams that play more entertaining football with similar resources.
Moyes has the benefit of Lucas Paquetá’s creativity. He also has Jarrod Bowen on the right wing and acquired Mohammed Kudus, a Ghanaian forward, in the summer. It is reasonable to believe that a manager with innovative tactics could bring out the best in these players, similar to how Unai Emery has transformed Aston Villa’s performance.
Despite the emphasis on West Ham’s predictability when they have the ball, there are also underlying problems in their midfield structure. The absence of Rice’s strength and vigor has not been adequately addressed. While West Ham acquired Edson Álvarez and James Ward-Prowse as midfielders, they are more susceptible to being played through. The defense is also weaker without Rice’s defensive support.
As a result, Moyes has shifted Paquetá to the left, removing him from his preferred central position. Instead, he has opted for a strong midfield trio consisting of Tomas Soucek, Ward-Prowse, and Álvarez. While this formation may be effective against tougher opponents, it also limits West Ham’s ability to spread out wide. If they surrender possession, Paquetá’s lack of speed prevents him from quickly advancing up the wing to alleviate pressure during counterattacks.
This also results in a lack of flexibility. However, due to Saïd Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, and Maxwel Cornet being out of favor, Moyes has a limited selection of options. In their game against Everton, he attempted to be more open-minded by benching Soucek and starting Kudus in the No 10 position, but it was not successful. Kudus did not apply enough pressure and Everton overpowered the concerning slow partnership of Álvarez and Ward-Prowse. Álvarez, who has received five bookings and will be suspended for the match against Brentford on Saturday, is still adapting to the speed of the Premier League.
Arsenal does not have any concerns in their midfield department. At the start of the season, there was a claim that West Ham did not miss Rice and were actually more well-rounded without him. This idea was unfounded and seems even more ridiculous now. As Arsenal continues to reap the rewards of purchasing Rice, West Ham is starting to feel his absence more intensely.