Paul Merson urges Arsenal to sign 21-year-old linked with Chelsea FC
Paul Merson questions why Arsenal aren't competing with Chelsea FC to sign West Ham midfielder Declan Rice
Paul Merson has claimed that Arsenal need to sign a player like Declan Rice to improve their midfield.
The England international has established himself as one of the most-exciting midfield talents in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons.
Rice has been regularly linked with a move to Manchester United following his excellent performances in a struggling West Ham United side in recent years.
A report in England earlier this week suggested that Chelsea FC could also sign Rice in the summer transfer window, with the 21-year-old having started his youth career at the west London club.
Former Arsenal midfielder Merson reckons the Gunners are in desperate need of a player in Rice’s mould to protect Mikel Arteta’s back four and pass out from the back.
“The holding midfield position is a massive part of football now,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“I think some people look at the holding midfielders and think they could easily do it. They think they can easily sit in front of the back four and pass the ball five or 10 yards every time they get it, but it’s a very hard job.
“It’s so hard to not get too involved in the game, to stay patient and to stay in position in front of back four.
“Chelsea have been linked with him, but I don’t know why Arsenal aren’t looking at Declan Rice.
“Arsenal are crying out for a holding midfield player.
“They don’t need a midfielder who’s going to be on the edge of the opposition box, they need a disciplined defensive midfielder, who is going to sit in front of the back four and organise the side; one who, when he gets the ball, gives it simple with 10-yard passes.
“When you look back at the likes of Roy Keane later in his career and Claude Makelele, they were the best because they never got involved. They just did the simple things.”
He continued: “It’s such a hard job and that’s why I can’t believe Arsenal aren’t going in for a player like Rice.
“A player like Rice can allow the attacking players to flourish and it gives the central defenders the chance to be better than what they are.”
Merson added that Arsenal haven’t had a world-class holding midfielder since Brazilian Gilberto Silva.
“For me, a good holding midfielder is priceless,” Merson said.
“Arsenal haven’t really had a disciplined defensive midfielder since Gilberto Silva. Everyone talks about the club never really replacing Patrick Vieira, and of course, but they never replaced Gilberto either.
“There are players in the current team that are meant to do that job but they don’t have the discipline to do it, and that needs addressing.”
Rice has made two assists in 29 games in the Premier League this season to help the Hammers steer just clear of the relegation zone.
The 21-year-old has come a mainstay of the West Ham side over the past three seasons thanks to his dominant performances in midfield.
Rice made the controversial decision to switch allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England in 2018.
The West Ham star has gone on to make seven appearances for the England national team.