On his last weekend as a teenager, Declan Rice scored the first senior goal of his career.
The ball was bobbling around the box before Samir Nasri got it under control, rolling it back for Rice to lash into the top corner. From a former Arsenal player to a future one, it was fitting that Rice’s emphatic strike proved to be the only goal of the game in a victory for West Ham against the Gunners in January 2019.
Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham’s manager at the time, was already lauding Rice as a “complete player”. Four and a half years later, Arsenal have secured the midfielder’s services for a British-record £105m transfer fee.
For the first time since his days in Chelsea’s academy a decade ago, Rice will be lining up against West Ham in the coming season. Here’s when the former Hammers captain will go toe to toe with his old teammates.
26 December 2023 – Arsenal v West Ham (Premier League)
Unless Arsenal get drawn against West Ham in the opening rounds of the Carabao Cup, Rice will have to wait until Boxing Day to face his past employers.
Rice was wearing the West Ham armband when David Moyes’ side travelled to the Emirates on Boxing Day 2022. Said Benrahma put the visitors in front from the spot in the opening half-hour but a flurry of goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah earned the Gunners an emphatic 3-1 win.
In Arsenal’s first game after the World Cup and the first of Gabriel Jesus’ injury layoff, it served as a defiant victory in the club’s title tilt.
The reverse fixture against Rice and West Ham proved to be the beginning of the end of Arsenal’s bid as the Gunners ceded a two-goal lead to draw. Incidentally, it was a tackle from Rice high in Arsenal’s half that kick-started West Ham’s comeback.
10 February 2024 – West Ham v Arsenal (Premier League)
Rice will enter the London Stadium as an opposition Premier League player for the first time in his career at the start of February. West Ham haven’t played a top-flight match at home without Rice involved since May 2021 – Everton, coached by Carlo Ancelotti at the time, won 1-0.
It will be Rice’s 100th Premier League appearance at the London Stadium – Aaron Cresswell is the only other player to crack triple digits since the former Olympic venue was taken over by West Ham in 2016.
READ MORE ABOUT THE DECLAN RICE TO ARSENAL TRANSFER SAGA
By lifting the Europa Conference League in Eindhoven at the start of June, Rice joined the exclusive list of West Ham captains to have won a trophy with the club. Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore and – technically – Steve Lomas.
The latter was wearing the armband when West Ham won the 1999 Intertoto Cup – yet, that honour was somewhat diluted as both Juventus and Montpellier can also lay claim to that year’s award.
There were no caveats regarding West Ham’s European success under Rice last season. The Hammers won 12 of their 13 matches, snatching the club’s first major European title in 58 years with Jarrod Bowen’s 90th-minute winner against Fiorentina in the final.
While Rice’s final season at West Ham was domestically dominated by a relegation battle – which the club comfortably won – the England international was a staple of the team that recorded consecutive league finishes inside the top seven for the first time in the club’s history.
Across West Ham’s entire top-flight history stretching back 100 years, Rice has played in 17% of the club’s top-half league finishes.
After he was tossed out of Chelsea’s academy as a 14-year-old and battled his way into West Ham’s set-up, Rice’s unbridled enthusiasm on the pitch – as much as the success which his talent inspired – cemented his status as a fan favourite.
Rice’s former teammate and mentor Mark Noble promised: “Dec will always be hailed at West Ham as a fantastic player and such a top, top person. But I don’t think anyone begrudges him wanting to go and win things.” That theory will be put the test when Rice goes up against West Ham in the coming season.
On this edition of The Chronicles of a Gooner, part of the 90min podcast network, Harry Symeou reacts to the latest news regarding Declan Rice to Arsenal and review the Kai Havertz announcement.
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