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Arsenal “close” to Declan Rice transfer

The Gunners are getting closer to landing their top target.

West Ham United Trophy Parade Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

Arsenal are closing in on a record-setting transfer move for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, per The Guardian. The Gunners are reportedly offering around £90M for the 24-year old, and West Ham are seeking add-ons that could push the fee over the £100M mark. Wherever the price tag lands, it will be a club record buy for Arsenal and a club record sale for West Ham, and it doesn’t seem as if price is going to be a stumbling block. The Guardian reports “talks are progressing smoothly and there is confidence that the deal will be finalized soon.”

It’s no secret that Arsenal have made Rice their primary target this summer. Depending on where you look, the club and player have already agreed personal terms or at least have a rudimentary understanding of what the terms would look like. Rice seems set on a move to Arsenal: he reportedly admires Mikel Arteta’s football, is good friends with Bukayo Saka from their time playing for England together, and has rejected a £200K per week contract extension from the Hammers. He wants to move and to Arsenal, it would seem.

It goes without saying how massive of an upgrade the addition of Rice would be for the Arsenal lineup. He immediately makes the midfield more athletic, stronger without the ball, and younger. Don’t sleep on the younger part. The Gunners had the second-youngest average starting lineup in the Premier League, but the midfield, especially holding part of it, is getting long in the tooth. Thomas Partey (29) and Granit Xhaka (30) were the two oldest consistent starters for Arsenal. Rice could be an immediate replacement for the departing Xhaka and is a candidate to be the long-term replacement for Partey.

Arsenal have made a transfer market habit of identifying their targets and moving early in the window. The trend shows confidence up and down the organization — in talent evaluation, in the long-term plan, and in the people executing that vision. A move for Declan Rice appears to be the next in that series.

If you take a step back from it all, that Arsenal are the likely landing spot for Rice and that he wants to come to North London says so much about the Gunners’ growth under Mikel Arteta and the Kroenke’s commitment to building a winning club. When was the last time Arsenal bought a top-of-the-market player? Mesut Özil? Alexis Sanchez? And both of those guys were being offloaded to fund other moves at their clubs. Declan Rice is a young, established, English star, likely in line to become England captain at some point.

If you had told me at anytime in the last 5-10 years (or maybe longer) that Arsenal would be the likeliest landing spot for a player of that profile and at his price tag, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are, hopefully a few weeks away from that becoming a reality. It’s good to be a Gooner.