'Best in the country' - Arsenal transfer verdict given on Mikel Arteta's biggest decision yet

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta got his biggest Arsenal trannsfer spot -Credit:JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

David Moyes has claimed that not having Declan Rice is the reason behind West Ham's leaky defence this season. His side were battered 5-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, meaning that only the bottom three have worse records at the back in 2023/24.

With Rice in the side the Hammers only allowed 55 goals last term, even fewer than in 2021/22 when they came seventh. Only once in the past 10 years had they let in less in a single Premier League campaign, but this year has seen them concede almost two goals per match.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have benefited from Rice's shielding and are on course to concede around 15 goals less with his presence in Mikel Arteta's midfield. On Saturday they recorded a third clean sheet in five games, part of a wider run of nine in the last 13 games.

Included in that run was a 6-0 away win against West Ham. For Moyes, his side have been on the end of several big scorelines. As well as the defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal, they lost 5-2 to Crystal Palace two weeks ago, went down 5-1 at Liverpool and 5-0 to Fulham in the space of 10 days, shipping four to Aston Villa and three away to Manchester United as well this season.

They have only managed five clean sheets all year with four of those coming in a row during December and into January. Moyes, not holding back on his side, provided an extremely candid response when asked just why things have been so bad after the game at Stamford Bridge.

"There have been a few of these big away defeats this season which didn't really happen in previous years, why do you think it's happened this season?" it was put to him. "Declan Rice," he replied quickly.

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"You have the best midfield player in the county protecting, making sure, the moments and at times probably limiting 50% of maybe the attacks and moments. When you get that it makes you a much better defensive team."

Despite signing Ajax's highly-rated midfield destroyer Edson Alvarez, Rice evidently remains an enormous loss. For Arsenal, it has been their gain.

The England keystone has made himself part of the furniture in north London already and moves between being at the base of Arteta's midfield to crashing the box whenever needed. His leadership has been invaluable too, and has gone on to add an extra level of steel to a young squad continuing to develop.

That Moyes has no qualms in picking out Rice in such a matter seems to be a credit to the player and also yet more evidence of just how good of a piece of business even £100million is proving to be for Arsenal. Such has his impact been felt, fans were singing that he was actually signed at half-price during the 3-0 win over Bournemouth.