Arsenal need to rival Chelsea in the bidding war for Declan Rice because they are in desperate need of a “priceless” holding midfielder, according to Paul Merson. The Blues are keeping tabs on Rice, who came up with the west Londoners’ academy and has established himself as a key figure at West Ham.
Chelsea have been linked with him, but I don’t know why Arsenal aren’t looking at Declan Rice
But Merson is adamant that the Gunners should also make a move as they have been in need of a player with the 21-year-old’s skills ever since Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva left.
The club legend added that a midfielder similar to the likes of Manchester United legend Roy Keane and Chelsea hero Claude Makelele would do wonders at the Emirates.
Merson told Sky Sports: “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.
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“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.
“People often say Makelele never scored but that wasn’t his job. It wasn’t Keane’s job either. Their job was to protect the back four and – I’m not going to say give the ball to better players because I don’t agree with that, they were as talented players as the ones going forward – but their job was such an art.
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“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.
“I don’t care who you are in football, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and even a Virgil van Dijk, if you’ve got people running at you left, right and centre every minute, they are going to go past you on occasions.
“That’s where good protection in front of the back four comes into it and every team needs it.
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“There are not too many world-class centre-backs in the world so that makes the defensive midfield position all the more important.
“For me, a good holding midfielder is priceless. 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.”
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