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Declan Rice is starting to catch the eye for West Ham… an old head on young shoulders

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After a tough start, Declan Rice is starting to catch the eye for West Ham… and find out who has made my Premier League team of the week

  • The first time I saw Declan Rice play he hadn’t mastered his midfield position 
  • Rice has developed so much from the start of the season to where he is now 
  • What I see is an old head on young shoulders and who keeps on impressing
  • He is a similar sort of player to Manchester City central midfielder Fernandinho

Jamie Redknapp for the Daily Mail

The first time I saw Declan Rice play in midfield was at Liverpool on the opening day of the season. West Ham were well beaten and after the game I did not think Rice had it in him to master that position.

He could not handle Liverpool’s movement and was dragged all over the pitch. He has since learned from that game and made the position at the base of midfield his own.

Rice may be just 19 but when I watch him now, I see an old head on young shoulders — a player who is towering in the air and not afraid to be aggressive. Mark Noble was waxing lyrical about him when I spoke to West Ham’s captain recently.

Declan Rice has turned into a top performer for West Ham in the Premier League this season

Declan Rice has turned into a top performer for West Ham in the Premier League this season

His schooling as a centre back gives him that defensive instinct to snuff out danger whenever West Ham do not have the ball.

During West Ham’s brilliant victory over Burnley he won back the ball 12 times, more than any player on the pitch at the London Stadium.

He has become more disciplined in maintaining his central position and when his team are in possession, he drops back between the centre-halves to allow their full backs to attack.

Rice has become an integral part of West Ham's midfield and can run games on his own

Rice has become an integral part of West Ham's midfield and can run games on his own

Rice has become an integral part of West Ham’s midfield and can run games on his own

Rice has all the hallmarks of Fernandinho, the anchorman of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City midfield. 

The Brazilian is still performing at the peak of his powers but given he is 33, City will be on the lookout for a long-term replacement. 

I would not be surprised if Rice is already on their radar, and plays against them in West Ham’s next home game. It will be the biggest test of his fledgling career.

He has the same attitude as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and John Terry — players who put in the hard yards in training and worked tirelessly to keep on improving.

Gareth Southgate should be banging down his door to convince him to play for England rather than the Republic of Ireland and Rice must also decide whether to sign a new deal with West Ham.

When young players burst on to the scene, it is usually creative players such as Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho who catch the eye. Rice’s future will be just as bright and it is vital that he makes the right decisions for his career. 

Rice, who is only 19, shares similar traits to that of Manchester City's Fernandinho

Rice, who is only 19, shares similar traits to that of Manchester City's Fernandinho

Rice, who is only 19, shares similar traits to that of Manchester City’s Fernandinho

What struck me most about Arsenal’s draw against Liverpool was the Emirates atmosphere. The fans were brimming with optimism and it was a ground transformed.

That is all down to Unai Emery. For the last 10 years, their fans have been crying out for grit and determination in their team. Now, Arsenal do not know when they are beaten.

After conceding a second penalty at Wolves, Juan Foyth will have wanted the ground to swallow him up. It may have been a nightmare Spurs debut but he must view it as a learning curve.

He now knows he needs to work on his body position and how he defends one-v-ones. Iron out those mistakes and he will come back stronger.

Callum Wilson continues to impress for Bournemouth and surely must be due an England call

Callum Wilson continues to impress for Bournemouth and surely must be due an England call

Callum Wilson continues to impress for Bournemouth and surely must be due an England call

Whatever you may think about Wayne Rooney’s recall for a farewell England cap, there is another striker who I hope Gareth Southgate calls up when he names his squad on Thursday.

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is one of the most in-form English forwards. As our table shows, he has been involved in 10 Premier League goals this season — a figure bettered only by Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling.

Pace is key to whether a player can cut it on the international stage. England proved against Spain that they can hurt good sides on the counter-attack with their blistering speed.

Wilson gives defenders nightmares when he runs at them and is part of a team which plays the sort of attractive, attacking football that Southgate wants. England also lack depth up front. I hope his electric start to the season is rewarded with a first call-up.

Everton fans I know are desperate for Marco Silva to sign a striker in January, but they have a ready-made centre forward in Richarlison. He is strong in the air and has a good blend of pace and physicality. 

Think of Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry. They started as wide men before moving into the middle. Richarlison has all the attributes to do the same.

Jamie Redknapp's team of the weekend includes Rice, Raheem Sterling and Alvaro Morata

Jamie Redknapp's team of the weekend includes Rice, Raheem Sterling and Alvaro Morata

Jamie Redknapp’s team of the weekend includes Rice, Raheem Sterling and Alvaro Morata



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Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud would love to haunt old club Arsenal

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‘My blood is blue now’: Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud would love to haunt old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

  • Olivier Giroud insists he bleeds blue as he prepares for Europa League final 
  • The Chelsea striker is determined to impress against his old club Arsenal 
  • Giroud stressed that he’s happy at Chelsea and is in talks over new one-year deal

The little twists of fate are not lost on Olivier Giroud as he prepares for Baku and an end-of-season reunion with his former club.

Giroud was forced from Arsenal at a time when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived and overloaded the numbers competing for the one place up front in Arsene Wenger‘s team.

‘I was going to the boss and telling him we can change,’ he said. ‘I would say, ‘We can put two strikers up front’, but Mesut Ozil used to play No 10, like a second striker, and I was OK with that.’

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud wants to haunt his old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud wants to haunt his old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

Giroud decided it was best to move on and Chelsea paid £18million. Eighteen months later, he is Maurizio Sarri’s single striker, trusted to lead the line in the Europa League if rarely in the Premier League, where Gonzalo Higuain has been preferred.

The Frenchman has been prolific in Europe, with 10 goals and three assists, making him the top striker in the competition ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic.

Eintracht are out, beaten on penalties by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Jovic, who is closing in on a £52.4m move to Real Madrid, can score and assist no more.

Giroud still has one to play, the big one against Arsenal, his former club who are now managed by Unai Emery and have been propelled to the final in Baku by seven goals against Valencia from the £100m twin strike force of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

‘It seems things are different,’ smiled Giroud. ‘Sometimes they play two up front. When I was there it never happened.’

Giroud admits it will be 'tough' to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

Giroud admits it will be 'tough' to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

Giroud admits it will be ‘tough’ to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

The prospect of duelling for a trophy with Arsenal, where he spent five and a half years, is sweet for the 32-year-old.

‘I always like playing against my old teams,’ said Giroud. ‘It’s going to be tough, and it could be painful if it’s not going the right way, but you have to put the feelings and memories aside.

‘I enjoyed the years I spent there. It has been a big part of my career, my first club in England and it will always be special, but now I feel my blood is blue. The same as the national team, blue suits me well.

‘I settled in quickly. I felt like part of the family straight away. I knew a few of the players and I’m a sociable person, I always try to communicate. It wasn’t difficult to integrate. I always see it as a new challenge. 

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

‘I couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. And now I want to win my second trophy with Chelsea. To finish as top scorer and help my team. Our target is to win a trophy every season and this is the last chance.’

This, he believes, is where you find the key cultural difference between the two London rivals, cast at opposite ends of football’s identity spectrum since the turn of the century. One obsessed with winning and the other obsessed with beautiful football, although the lines have become blurred by the end of the Wenger era and Sarri’s arrival at Stamford Bridge.

‘The main difference is Arsenal always tried to give the chances to the young players,’ said Giroud. ‘It felt like more players formed at the club could have the opportunity to play. Maybe you would get more time at Arsenal. They would be more patient.

‘At Chelsea you have to be ready quickly because in terms of trophies it has been the best club in England for the last 10 years.

‘You don’t have time at Chelsea and when you are young it is quite difficult to find your place. You can see we have a very good academy producing very good players and a few of them are in the first team and that is a good example for the future generation.

‘I don’t want to kill the dreams of these young Chelsea players. They are very talented, but it makes sense because Chelsea invest more in every transfer window and they buy more top players in the world who are more experienced.

‘I am just being honest. People who know football and the Premier League and these two clubs, they know Arsene Wenger could not spend too much money. It was the philosophy of the club and because of that — or thanks to that — he would give the opportunity to young players.’

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don't have much time to succeed

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don't have much time to succeed

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don’t have much time to succeed

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea's game against Watford

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea's game against Watford

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea’s game against Watford

Giroud won’t say which method he prefers but he is thriving in Chelsea’s demanding environment. Within six months of his transfer, he won the FA Cup, which he won three times at Arsenal, and kept Lacazette out of the team as France won the World Cup.

Having returned from last week’s trip to the United States to play in the Final Whistle on Hate game, he is finalising contract talks.

His original deal is about to expire but Chelsea want to exercise their option for one more year and, with Higuain set to be sent back to Juventus after the Europa League final, Giroud has been convinced to stay.

‘I feel very happy at the club,’ said Giroud. ‘Maybe I need a bit more game-time but I won’t give up. That’s my mentality. That’s how I’m made. It’s not sorted yet but we are talking about another year.’

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal



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Miracles Do Happen As Former Player Santi Cazorla Simply Proves Arsenal Wrong In Letting Him Leave

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Rarely are players missed as much as Santi Cazorla is at Arsenal. Without him, an integral part of the creative midfield machine has been absent, resulting in the gunners inability to play in the traditional Arsenal style.

It seems the club have no one of the same quality as the dynamic Spaniard and they will eventually have to go to great lengths to replace the one player they couldn’t and still can’t do without. As transfer fees go, the £10m Arsenal paid Malaga was nothing short of theft.

Since his departure and re-employment, I’m sure I’m not alone in checking out his progress at his current club, Villarreal this season.

As I did, I recalled his absolute and undeniable class in a red and white shirt. I recalled his energy, his vision and his exquisite touch which are now gracing La Liga instead of North London.

But, let’s rewind this astonishing story that has resulted in a call up to the national side after so much misery.
Cazorla missed 18 months of his football career after an horrendous Achilles injury that required several operations. He had a severe infections which turned into gangrene and it nearly cost him his foot.

Operation and recuperation were very much part of everyday life for Cazorla. It was an injury in which he lost an unbelievable eight centimetres of his tendon and placed his career at the brink.

Arsenal extended his contract by a year while he was absent but when the chance to extend that came around, Arsenal pulled the plug. The medical assessment at the time indicated that he wouldn’t be able to compete at the top level again and taking into account the midfielders age, he was released.

Whoever made that assessment is now looking incredibly stupid because Cazorla came back with a vengeance and has since made 45 appearances in all competitions for Villarreal, scoring seven goals and delivering 11 assists, not bad for someone who’s career was over.

He featured in one of the most exciting games in La Liga in April’s 4-4 draw with Barcelona and because of his exceptional performances and key contributions, he’s been called up to the provisional Spanish national squad, the first time since 2015

When Cazorla heard about his national team call up, he apparently cried and no wonder. He has gone from being a potential amputee, to a cast off, to hero, to the Spanish squad. What a phenomenal turn around in fortune and totally deserved.

I’ve been an Arsenal supporter for many years and you don’t get to see that many special players in a lifetime but I have been lucky enough to see more than my fair share and along with the Bergkamp’s and Henry’s you can add the name of Cazorla.

Not out of sentiment but on pure skill and merit, because Cazorla could have been in the same side as both, he could have been in any of Wenger’s top sides including the Invincible’s.

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He was and is a top, top player and the most positive, inspiring human being in football, overcoming injury and misfortune.

In all the time he was injured, he never once believed he wouldn’t grace the football field again and he never gave up or felt sorry for himself at any point.

I hope his resurgence continues and Cazorla features for Spain in the way he always should have when he played well for Arsenal yet was constantly overlooked.

Follow Arsedevils for news and updates on Arsenal.

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Chelsea step up preparations for Europa League final

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Chelsea step up preparations for Europa League final as Eden Hazard and Maurizio Sarri’s futures hang in the balance

  • Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday
  • Maurizio Sarri is also being lined up by Juventus to be their new head coach
  • N’Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea have stepped up their preparations for their Europa League final clash with Arsenal as clouds hang over the futures of talisman Eden Hazard and manager Maurizio Sarri.

Hazard, who was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday, will be allowed to leave this summer.

Sportsmail understands the Blues are concerned that if they let him leave Stamford Bridge for free next summer – when his contract expires – there would be repercussions for their Financial Fair play figures. 

Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday evening

Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday evening

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Sarri, who was not photographed at Cobham training ground, is also being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri. 

One player who was in action on Monday, was N’Golo Kante, who is on his way back from a hamstring injury.

This is a major boost ahead of the final in Baku on May 29 as the Blues midfielder is now likely to be fit for the match.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first club competition. 

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot in Baku. 

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength. 

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out with Mateo Kovacic.  

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday



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