Arsenal identify £80m England star as ‘top target’; ‘confident’ of ‘beating Chelsea’ after Mudryk saga

Arsenal top target Rice Credit: Alamy
Arsenal top target Rice Credit: Alamy

Arsenal have reportedly identified West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice as their ‘top target’ ahead of the summer transfer window.

Rice is recognised as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and he has also shone for England at the World Cup and European Championships.

As proven by his form at national level, he is a player capable of making the step up and he has admitted that he is looking to join a Champions League club in the near future.

The centre-midfielder initially looked likely to leave the Hammers last summer but they made it clear that would not entertain offers less than £150m.

This ensured that West Ham kept their prized asset in the short-term but they are resigned to him leaving in the summer. His contract is up in 2024 but they have the option to extend this deal until 2025.

Chelsea were initially considered to be Rice’s likely next club as he previously had a spell with the Blues as an academy player.

But Arsenal have appeared on the scene in recent weeks and they are hoping to beat Chelsea to the signing after their rivals edged them out to recruit Joao Felix and Mykhaylo Mudryk this month.

The Gunners were unwilling to meet Atletico Madrid’s extraordinary financial demands to sign Felix on loan and they were also understandably playing hardball in negotiations for £85m-rated Mudryk.

After missing out on those two players, The Times are reporting that Arsenal are serious about signing Rice as they have ‘made him their top target’ ahead of the summer.

A ‘bidding war’ is possible with Man Utd another club that could be involved but Arsenal believe that they are in a ‘strong position’.

The Gunners are ‘increasingly confident of beating’ United and Chelsea to the signing of Rice and they are ‘prepared to make a significant effort’ to sign him.

It was recently reported that Rice is an admirer of Arsenal and it is noted by The Times that he ‘fits into Arteta’s model of wanting young and aggressive players’.

The report adds: ‘Mikel Arteta has been focused on adding a winger this month and then a central midfielder and left-sided centre back in the summer.’

West Ham recently fell to a 3-1 loss against Arsenal. Speaking post-match, Rice praised the Gunners and suggested that they are in the Premier League title race.

“100%. They are a top team you can see they are coached incredibly well, have a lot of attacking talent, a young squad and they can go the whole way for sure.

“First-half we tried as hard as we could to stop them, we came up short and it’s frustrating.”

Rice added: “It’s a tough one because first-half even though we didn’t have much of the ball we defended really well, had a plan, went one-nil up but you can’t sustain that for 90 minutes against a team like Arsenal, it’s the same against City.

“In the end, one of their chances will lead to something, with their free-flowing football they managed to get through.

“Then your backs are against the wall and it’s down to us to keep going and we tried to do that but we couldn’t, we couldn’t get up the pitch, they smothered us.”

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