“He gave Arsenal the win last night despite not scoring, he is Arsenal’s most important player”- Arsenal legend Thierry Henry believes Arsenal now has a new king who is more significant than Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegard.
Thierry Henry discusses why Declan Rice’s ‘strange’ Arsenal role was essential to Sevilla’s victory.
Thierry Henry pours praise on Declan Rice while laying down his key role in Arsenal’s Champions League victory over Sevilla.
Declan Rice’s position in Arsenal’s Champions League triumph over Sevilla was described as “weird” by Thierry Henry, who praised his overall performance. The Gunners earned their second European triumph with a 2-1 victory away to Sevilla in Spain.
Arsenal took control with goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus either side of halftime, but a header from Nemanja Gudelj forced Arsenal to defend their box valiantly for the final 30 minutes. Rice made numerous interceptions in the second quarter, assisting Arteta’s team to six points in Champions League Group B.
On CBS Sports Golazo, Henry was quick to laud Rice, but not for his defensive duties, but for his key role in helping the Gunners construct assaults and win possession high up the pitch.
“We were wondering where Declan Rice was going to play and it was pretty easy to say that on the ball when they were low, they were always trying to free him in the build up to try and find,” the former Arsenal player remarked. “With Tomiyasu, you’d think he’d do what Zinchenko normally does, but they didn’t want him on the ball, so they went after this guy [Rice] behind Dodi Lukebakio, which they did.”
“On the night, Declan Rice had an unusual role in that he was low to build up and high to press.” We’re talking about attacking balance, and you’ve got a 2-3-5 with Ben White on the side and two holding players in Jorginho and Declan Rice, but there’s something quite exciting going on. When White leaves, Saka must stay and maintain the attacking balance that Sevilla failed to address.
“Saka maintains the team’s structure; Odegaard arrives, but he will never go high unless they switch.” Off the ball, he [Rice] plays as a 10 to keep an eye on their holding midfielder; they wanted to make sure the two holding midfielders were never on the ball.”
He said, “[Sergio] Ramos has it and Declan Rice goes onto Soumare, Odegaard then goes, and now you see that the job of Jorginho and Rice was to make sure those two guys didn’t get the ball inside.” So they don’t play inside, and the ball is returned.”
Jamie Carragher then intervenes to explain what Rice was doing at both ends of the pitch. “He is the centre forward, forget Declan Rice,” Carragher stated. “So when you talk about a complete midfield player, he is the highest person to press and the deepest player to build.” He responded: “That’s why Mikel Arteta went to get him because he can do so much for you, off the ball and on the ball.”
Arsenal improved when Rice dropped deeper against Chelsea, but it was evident Arteta wanted him higher up to push when Sevilla tried to play out from the back. So, rather than having one main function, the 24-year-old was given two, and he was the main reason Arsenal were able to dominate the bulk of the game and go two goals ahead before his role changed to cutting out the center passing lanes in the latter stages, which he did brilliantly.