Declan Rice became the most expensive player in Arsenal history and the most expensive British player overall when he signed with the Gunners this summer after leading West Ham to victory in the Europa Conference League the previous season. He had previously captained the Irons.
The previous British record was set by Jack Grealish’s £100 million move from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021. Arsenal’s previous record signing was Nicolas Pepe, who spent £72 million to buy from Lille in the summer of 2019.
Pepe failed to set the world alight in North London, while Grealish has also been hit-and-miss during his time at the Etihad, but Rice has seamlessly slotted into Mikel Arteta’s system and has been one of their standout players already this season.
The former Chelsea product – who was linked with a return to the Blues, as well as Man City and Manchester United – has registered two goals and two assists in his first 18 games for the Gunners, starting all of their Premier League and Champions League matches so far.
Despite his exceptional qualities as a holding midfielder, Rice has often been deployed as a number eight with Jorginho sitting deeper this season, and his exploits have helped Arsenal take 27 points from their opening 12 top-flight games to sit third in the table.
Speaking to the media ahead of England’s final Euro 2024 qualifying fixture against North Macedonia on Monday, Rice admitted that the nine-figure price tag made him “very nervous”, but the midfielder believes that simply being himself has made the transition easier.
“When the transfer was going through I was very nervous because of the price tag. It’s natural to think about that. You’re a human being bought for £105m, it doesn’t feel very normal. But that was because of what I’d done at West Ham, what they valued me at,” Rice told a press conference, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
“When I signed for Arsenal, I just thought I just need to be Declan Rice, be myself, don’t be any different, everything will go smoothly. The first three weeks of pre-season were really tough in terms of the change. When you’re at a new job you start to feel really settled after a few weeks.
‘That really feels the case now. In terms of the price tag, I don’t really think about it, I just play the games and try to play as well as possible. Honestly, I just try to play my football. I don’t let it affect me in any way, shape or form. I just go to training, try to train as well as possible.”
Declan Rice also sympathised with his England colleague Grealish over his difficult start to life at Man City after his £100m move, but the Arsenal man believes that the winger is now “flying” under Pep Guardiola.
“It’s £100m, it’s a lot of money, I could understand the pressure that comes with it. Not only the pressure you put on yourself but there’s an expectation of being bought for that much money we need to see performances straight away,” Rice added.
“I can see why Jack struggled maybe at the start – mentally. He was a £100m footballer but as he wasn’t playing as much, it was probably as bit different for him. Now he’s flying and it’s the same for me.”
Rice won his 47th England cap as a substitute in Friday’s 2-0 win over Malta, where he had a goal disallowed for a controversial offside decision after an Enrico Pepe own goal and Harry Kane strike had put the Three Lions out of sight.
The 24-year-old is expected to be brought back into the starting lineup for Monday’s Group C finale against North Macedonia, where a point would be enough to see England confirm a place in Pot 1 for the group-stage draw.