Emmanuel Petit ‘in love’ with ‘natural-born leader’ at Arsenal as Keown ‘astonished’ by teammate

Will Ford
Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit

Emmanuel Petit says he is “in love” with Declan Rice after the England international’s stellar showings for Arsenal following his move from West Ham in the summer.

Rice arrived at the Emirates for a club-record £105m fee and has settled immediately under Mikel Arteta, earning rave reviews for his displays.

And Petit, who won the Premier League with Arsenal in 1998, says he is delighted to see Rice – a “natural-born leader” – thriving in the Gunners team.

Petit said: “I’m in love with this guy!

“Before he arrived at Arsenal I was begging Arsenal to sign him for two, three years already.

“I think this guy is a natural-born leader and he has so many qualities, he shows so much maturity and composure on the pitch and this is exactly what Arsenal needed for ages.

“For so many years, [Bukayo] Saka and [Thomas] Partey have done a great job last season.

“But I remember when Arsenal used to win titles and fight for the big prizes, there were always so many great holding midfielders so I think Rice is the perfect player for Arsenal.”

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Rice sat at the base of midfield as Arsenal dismantled PSV Eindhoven on their return to the Champions League.

Bukayuo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard were all on target, and former Gunners centre-back Martin Keown reserved special praise for Odegaard.

“It’s astonishing how he’s risen in the game,” he told TNT Sports. “It was his third Champions League game, his first goal in Champions League football.

“He was at Real Madrid for many, many years and not really doing it. He won three Champions Leagues while he was there. But look at how he’s come back and he’s really controlling games.”

There’s no let-up for Arsenal, who return to Premier League action on Sunday as they take on Tottenham in the North London derby, with the fierce rivals level on points on 13 points heading into the game at the Emirates.