Declan Rice’s stoppage time goal in Arsenal’s last-gasp 3-1 defeat of Manchester United on Saturday was only his 11th in 208 Premier League games, but manager Mikel Arteta believes the club’s record signing can start hitting the net regularly.
The former West Ham player is happiest as a deep-lying central midfielder, but with the quality of Arsenal’s squad, Arteta expects the 105 million-pound ($132.17 million) player to add goals to his already impressive attributes.
“When you see the technical ability that he has and how he executed in these moments. His range when shooting from accuracy and the power he generates with no space, with both feet,” Arteta told reporters.
“He’s got the timing as well to arrive in the box. The position will dictate that a lot because it’s about how you arrive. But he’s got the ability to do that for sure.”
England midfielder Rice’s goal arrived in the sixth minute of stoppage time and gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead before Gabriel Jesus broke free to seal the points a couple of minutes later.
His deflected effort sparked delirium on the Arsenal bench and in the stands and felt like the moment that he really announced himself as an Arsenal player.
“Big matches for big players and Rice was tremendous. He dominated in the middle of the park, he understood what was needed, gave the team motivation, and then produced the moment of magic to win the game,” Arteta said.
“To produce the same level of quality there when the pressure is on in that moment is just unique. You need to have that quality, that sense and that composure. He showed it today and he’s there.”
Arteta also said Rice’s impact went beyond the pitch.
“He’s a great kid. I think he’s got a good mixture of being extremely demanding with everybody and himself, having a bit of banter and being around the staff and the boys in a really humble way. So I think he’s fitting in brilliantly.”
After being held at home by Fulham the previous week and with champions Manchester City already showing that they will be offering up few gifts to their rivals this season, it was no wonder the celebrations were wild at the final whistle.
Although Arteta said he was not getting too wrapped up in hope for City to drop points.
“There are still 34 games to go! If you deserve it after 38 games you will be where you deserve it. We can only focus on that because it’s very early,” he said.
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