Are these mind games in August, Pep?
You never know when the great Manchester City boss is being sincere, but his assessment of new Arsenal signing Declan Rice was hardly out of the ordinary. He’s been incredibly complimentary of the former West Ham skipper.
The Gunners beat out City for Rice’s signature this summer, eventually agreeing a British and club-record £105m deal with the Hammers after having two bids rejected. While the Cityzens were seemingly keen on signing Rice as an Ilkay Gundogan replacement, that was a price they weren’t willing to match with the player also keen on the idea of suiting up in red and white for the foreseeable.
Mikel Arteta will hope that Rice emerges as a transformative addition to Arsenal’s midfield with the Gunners hoping to usurp City at the Premier League summit in 2023/24. An excellent 2022/23 campaign saw them finish five points behind the eventual champions, and they’ve spent over £200m this summer in an attempt to bridge the gap with more incomings reportedly on their way.
Pep Guardiola lauds ‘incredible’ new Arsenal signing
While missing out on Rice was a blow to City, the Manchester club have been fine in the past when they’ve lost top targets to competitors. Nevertheless, the England international is evidently a player Guardiola admirers, with the Spaniard recently waxing lyrical over Arsenal’s new midfielder.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield against Arsenal, Guardiola discussed Rice’s move to the Gunners: “Rice decided on Arsenal so all the best,” Guardiola said (via the Metro).
“He’s an important player, a very nice guy and for England will be important. For Arsenal, what an incredible player.”
While his pre-season has so far been mixed as he attempts to adjust to a more possession-oriented system and an advanced midfield role, Rice is in contention to start against the treble winners on Sunday.
Arsenal have had plenty of Community Shield success in recent years, winning their four previous outings since 2014. Arteta will hope that streak continues at Wembley ahead of the following week’s Premier League opener at home to Nottingham Forest.