Mikel Arteta believes Declan Rice can stamp his authority on Manchester City’s midfield while Rodri serves the final game of his three-match suspension. A moronic red card against Nottingham Forest a fortnight ago dealt a minor bump in the champions’ otherwise solid start to the campaign.
City have lost both domestic fixtures in Rodri’s absence, with their quadruple hopes evaporating after being knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Newcastle United. That was followed by a shock 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers but Pep Guardiola’s side maintained top spot by a single point.
Rodri returned for the Champions League clash against Red Bull Leipzig and unsurprisingly, City returned to winning ways. But he must sit out against Arsenal as his ban applies to domestic fixtures.
Looking to capitalise on the 27-year-old’s forced omission is £103million man Rice. The England midfielder has nursed a back problem in recent weeks but still kept his place in the heart of Arsenal’s engine room.
These are the type of games which forced the Gunners to stump up a British record fee and, speaking to reporters ahead of the clash, Arteta insisted Rice has the ability to become as good as Rodri. He said: “We know what Rodri does. Everyone has described him as one of the best holding midfielders in the world, if not the best. There’s no doubt about that.
“But I am extremely pleased with Declan. He can occupy different positions but I think he has been really really good as a holding midfielder. And, yes, he has the qualities, the presence, the communication and the understanding to be a top, top player for us in that position.
Arsenal news and transfers LIVE: Bukayo Saka update, injury return hint, Manchester City boost
Mikel Arteta has perfectRead on football.london