How Arsenal could line up with Declan Rice

As transfer sagas go, Arsenal and Manchester City’s pursuit of Declan Rice has been a pretty entertaining one.

The Premier League’s top two in 2022/23 have embarked on a proper tussle to sign the West Ham skipper and it looks as if the Gunners’ latest £105m bid will get the job done.

While there are issues over payment structure, Arsenal’s mammoth proposal has seen City pull out of the race, making Rice bound for north London.

It’s a huge signing for Mikel Arteta, who aims to usurp his mentor at the top of the Premier League next season. Here’s how the Spaniard could utilise his impending record-breaking arrival.

Declan Rice, Thomas Partey

Rice could potentially replace Thomas Partey in north London / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Thomas Partey has played an instrumental role in Arsenal’s rise under Arteta, but the midfielder’s persistent injury woes and poor end to the 2022/23 season have cast a cloud over his future this summer.

The Ghanaian could depart the club with Rice being utilised as his replacement at the base of Arsenal’s midfield. The Gunners have a couple of other options for the number six role, including Jorginho, who often impressed after joining in January, but Arteta could morph Rice into a dominant force in a deeper-lying position.

Arsenal’s possession structure means he’ll often partner Oleksandr ZInchenko (and possibly Jurrine Timber) in a midfield pivot anyway, while Arteta’s 4-4-2 pressing shape means the holding midfielder is rarely left on an island. It’s a role Rice could excel in, that’s for sure.

Potential lineups

Rice – Havertz – Odegaard (4-3-3)

Rice – Smith Rowe – Odegaard (4-3-3)

Rice – Fabio Vieira – Odegaard (4-3-3)

Declan Rice

The England international will be expected to perform multiple positions at Arsenal / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Both Arsenal and City viewed Rice as a midfielder capable of performing several functions. In north London, the England international will be expected to line up as both as a six and an eight.

Granit Xhaka’s impending departure leaves a gaping void in the Gunners dressing room and it’s one Rice will be expected to fill from both a leadership and tactical perspective. Xhaka enjoyed an excellent season in an advanced role on the left side of Arsenal’s midfield three and Rice could be used in a similar position.

However, Kai Havertz has been touted as a potential Xhaka replacement, while Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe are also candidates for the role. The function, which involves a lot of receiving ahead of the ball, could also limit Rice’s progressive capacity and perhaps manifest more flaws than strengths.

Potential lineups

Partey – Rice – Odegaard (4-3-3)

Jorginho – Rice – Odegaard (4-3-3)

Jorginho – Havertz – Rice (4-3-3)


Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek

Rice often partnered Tomas Soucek in midfield at West Ham / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Arteta’s dynamics changed following the arrival of Zinchenko, with Arsenal adopting a 4-3-3 which altered into a 3-2-5 possession structure.

However, Arteta had previously utilised a 4-2-3-1 with Partey and Xhaka occupying the deeper midfield roles. Crucial to the system, however, was a marauding full-back so the boss will only revert to this system in Zinchenko’s absence. Perhaps they should keep Kieran Tierney around for a little longer?

Nevertheless, this is Rice’s bread and butter. He’s shone in a double pivot for both club and country, although he will have to adapt to Arsenal’s relentless quest to control contest. West Ham were happy ceding possession to the opposition, while England are similarly pragmatic at major tournaments. However, Rice undoubtedly has the intelligence and technical repertoire to evolve into more of a midfield controller.

Potential lineups

Rice – Jorginho – Odegaard (4-2-3-1)

Rice – Partey – Odegaard (4-2-3-1)

Rice – Jorginho – Havertz (4-2-3-1)


On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby CudworthGraeme Bailey and Sean Walsh to discuss Tottenham’s denial of receiving a bid from Bayern Munich for Harry Kane, Arsenal and Manchester City’s tug of war for West Ham captain Declan Rice, Man Utd’s ongoing pursuit of Mason Mount & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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