How Rice has changed Arsenal

Arsenal graphic comparing stats from last season with this season
Arsenal graphic comparing stats from last season with this season

Last season, Arsenal's most common midfield trio was captain Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey.

This time, Declan Rice and fellow summer signing Kai Havertz, a £65m recruit from Chelsea, are the most frequent central midfield combination.

Rice has started every Premier League game since his move, with only centre-back William Saliba playing more minutes in the league than he has for the Gunners.

The England international has the third-best passing accuracy for midfielders in the league for teams currently in the top six of the table (including players with 1,000 or more minutes).

His 91% passing rate is only behind Tottenham's Yves Bissouma and Manchester City's Rodri (92% each).

Current boss Mikel Arteta is the only Gunners midfielder to have a higher passing accuracy in a Premier League season (of players to play in at least 50% of the minutes).

Of central midfielders in the league to have played 1,000 or more minutes, only Rodri (14.2) has carried the ball more than five metres upfield more times than Rice (10.4) per 90 minutes.

Arsenal are creating more chances, scoring more goals and conceding fewer chances and goals per game than last season.

However, at this stage last season - after 28 games - Arsenal were on 69 points, eight points clear of City at the top, compared to 64 this season - above Liverpool on goal difference.

In December, former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer wrote in a BBC column: "It is clear the Gunners have improved from last season, when they pushed City close until the final few games, and it is Declan Rice who has made the biggest difference.

"I would go as far as saying he has been the stand-out signing from the summer, and the £100m he cost from West Ham looks like money well spent.

"Rice has made the Gunners more solid and also gives them an extra little bit of bite in midfield, but everything he does on the ball is top class as well."

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