Arteta fears transfer ‘games’ amid £100m asking price as Arsenal plan for ‘aggressive’ summer

Jason Soutar
Reported Arsenal target Declan Rice celebrates a goal for West Ham

Declan Rice remains Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s ‘top priority’ this summer despite fears West Ham are playing ‘games’ with their captain’s asking price, as per Ben Jacobs.

Rice was at Chelsea until the age of 14 before being picked up by the Hammers.

He was given his senior debut for the Londoners by Slaven Bilic in May 2017 when he was 18 years old.

Since becoming a mainstay in the West Ham team in the 2017-18 campaign, Rice has gone from strength to strength and is now club captain.

However, he is ready for a new challenge and wants to play in the Champions League having reached the semi-finals of the Europa League and Europa Conference League with the Irons.

The 24-year-old’s contract expires in 2024 – though West Ham have the option to extend his deal by a year – and is expected to depart at the end of the season.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool are all believed to be interested, with the Gunners reportedly leading the race at this moment in time.

Mikel Arteta’s side are preparing for a huge summer transfer window, regardless of their league position at the end of the campaign.

The Spanish manager is eager to bolster his midfield and is also said to be interested in signing Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo and Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi.

As well as a new midfielder (or two), Arteta is hoping to sign a central defender or right-back, and potentially a winger.

Transfer expert Ben Jacobs has provided some insight on Arsenal’s summer plans, insisting that a second-place finish in the Premier League could result in a ‘more aggressive’ transfer window.

Writing for CaughtOffside, Jacobs said Arsenal will be ‘quite busy’ at the end of the season and a second-place finish will give Arteta ‘a real sense’ of what he needs to do to close the gap on Manchester City.

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Rice ‘remains’ one of Arteta’s ‘top priorities’ and the player ‘has spoken glowingly about both the Spaniard and Arsenal’.

In another boost to the Gunners, Rice would prefer to stay in London. A move to Chelsea could be on the cards, but they will not be competing in Europe next term.

‘West Ham are resigned to losing Rice’ but can now be ‘more bullish’ with Premier League survival all but secured.

Had they gone down, asking for £100m+ would have been very unrealistic, but that is what the Hammers want for their captain.

‘Suitors still feel there are games taking place’ with David Moyes insisting Rice should cost a British record fee – which was set by Enzo Fernandez when he joined Chelsea for £106m in January.

West Ham hold a lot of the cards here with the England midfielder under contract for another year, on top of the one-year extension option.

Thankfully for the Gunners, ‘there still remains a chance Rice is sold for less than the £100-120m ballpark West Ham are pushing for’, though it depends on the level of interest.

Moyes will not stand in Rice’s way this summer with the 24-year-old set to ‘essentially triple his wages elsewhere’.

West Ham’s ‘bargaining position’ has improved after the 1-0 win against Manchester United put them in a very strong position to avoid relegation, and they are hoping for a bidding war for their star player.

Jacobs notes that Arsenal have sent scouts out to watch Zubimendi, though their interest is not as advanced as reports in Spain suggest.

Arsenal ‘have not ruled out’ reigniting their interest in Caicedo and are ‘aware’ of Mount’s situation at Stamford Bridge. The latter is out of contract next year and Chelsea are expected to sell him this summer to avoid losing him on a free.

Jacobs adds: ‘Arsenal may also choose to bolster their defence and Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi is one target.

‘William Saliba’s injury has shown Arsenal need more centre-back depth. I do think Jakub Kiwior will be an important squad player next season, though.’

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