Michael Owen praises Declan Rice after surprise Arsenal tactical switch

By on February 13, 2024

Declan Rice

Michael Owen has said that Mikel Arteta’s decision to put Declan Rice on free-kicks initially astounded him, but he now recognizes its brilliance.

Arsenal (as highlighted by Sky Sports) broke their transfer record by agreeing to a £105 million deal with West Ham to complete the signing of Rice last summer. With Rice rising into the spotlight and establishing himself as one of the best holding midfielders, it was expected that he would join and take over the defensive midfielder position.

I suppose that’s why, once the Gooners learned he was joining, they weren’t concerned about the main defensive midfielder, Thomas Partey, being linked with a move. Notably, various news outlets, including Football London, last summer suggested that Partey could leave if a decent offer for his services was made; however, this did not occur.

While others believed Rice’s only contribution to Arsenal would be to improve their defensive side of the game. However, his outstanding technical ability has exceeded expectations, and in addition to enhancing Arsenal’s defence, he has shown flashes of brilliance in attack.

Rice is 6ft 3inches, so many thought he would be utilised in the box to add an additional goal threat at set-pieces. However, as Michael Owen points out, Mikel Arteta has astonished many with his use of Rice at a set piece taker.

Rice on set pieces

Owen admits that he initially thought Arteta was wasting the 24-year-old, but he now understands why the Arsenal manager has him taking set pieces given Rice’s excellent technique.

Owen told Premier League productions on Monday, via HITC:

“I wouldn’t even consider it. Yes, technically, he is great. But the size of him.

“He is 6 feet 3. You are wasting someone. I would be thinking to myself, ‘I am not wasting him on set-pieces. He needs to be in the box, scoring goals’.

“And the very least, if he’s not going to be heading the ball and scoring a goal, I want him, someone with a defensive mind, that is going to be on the edge of the box and stopping any counter-attacks.

“So, the last thing I think is (he should be taking set pieces), so he must be incredibly talented to take set pieces and take him out of those areas. He has this pace and whip, hasn’t he?! It’s not an easy technique, but he has it to a tee.”

It’s pleasant to hear Arsenal’s record signing praised; it just goes to prove what a good value-for-money signing he is. Last Sunday, when Arsenal defeated West Ham 6-0, it was evident what an asset he is; he not only scored once but also assisted twice in deadball situations.

If Arsenal go on to win the title, there is no doubt Declan Rice would have made a significant contribution. It is no secret that Arsenal’s success on set-pieces is a driving force behind our title push. We’ve scored 16 goals from set pieces, more than any other team, and with Rice now delivering set pieces, that number is likely to increase further over the coming months.