Mikel Arteta reveals new Declan Rice role in case of Arsenal ‘emergency’

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Declan Rice could fill in again at centre-back for Arsenal after playing in defence in the Champions League on Tuesday night, Mikel Arteta has said.

Rice came on as a substitute for William Saliba and played in the centre-back role, with Jorginho filling his usual spot in midfield in the 1-1 draw at PSV Eindhoven.

The game was a dead rubber, with Arsenal already assured of top spot and PSV certain to finish in second place in Group B, but it allowed Arteta to give minutes players outside the first XI, including Reiss Nelson, Aaron Ramsdale, Mohamed Elneny and Cedric Soares.

And Arteta tried Rice at centre-back, something the manager thinks could be useful in the future.

“We are very short at the back and I really wanted to try if something happens, how we’re going to resolve that situation,” Arteta said. “I thought he was really good. He has played there before. We have to try as if we have an emergency we have to understand and to be sure that we can fill that gap in the right way.”

Arteta was pleased with his team’s Champions League group stage campaign, which saw them finish top of a group also containing Lens and Sevilla with 13 points.

“I think overall very, very positive, after six or seven years without being in the competition with a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience. I think we have competed very, very well. I really liked the approach of the team in every single game, the way we try to play and dominated the opponents.

”We’ve had some big results and big experiences as well… overall finishing first with a game to play we have to be really happy, close that chapter, leave it until February and make sure in February when that chapter opens up again we are in the best possible place to compete against another top side.”

Eddie Nketiah’s 42nd-minute goal was cancelled out by Yorbe Vertessen’s equaliser shortly after half-time in an even game.

“There were good moments, there were moments we lacked that cohesion and timings especially in the way we pressed against a really good side. When you don’t get the timings right, you have to defend awkward spaces and we had to do that a few times tonight which could have cost us the game. I’m really happy with the attitude and behaviour of every single player, how they tried and in the end we could have won it.”


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