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Rugged Declan Rice adds substance to Arsenal style in bid to end Everton hoodoo

Rugged Declan Rice adds substance to Arsenal style in bid to end Everton hoodoo

Given how much Everton have struggled in recent seasons, Arsenal’s record at Goodison Park is surprising.

The Gunners have not won on any of their past five visits to the blue half of Merseyside, with their last victory in 2017.

Arsene Wenger was in charge then and even three points that day was a rarity, as prior to that Arsenal had won only one of their previous five clashes at Goodison.

Mikel Arteta will have fond memories of Everton’s home from his playing days, but as a manager it has been an unhappy hunting ground for him. The Spaniard has lost all three of his games there as Arsenal boss — and at a time when the Toffees were fighting for Premier League survival.

Making his mark: Declan Rice has added a real physical presence to Arsenal’s midfield (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Making his mark: Declan Rice has added a real physical presence to Arsenal’s midfield (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The Gunners’ defeat there in February was particularly painful, because it derailed their title bid. The loss started a run of three League games without a win.

Then, they produced a lacklustre display and struggled against Everton’s direct approach, but they return to Goodison this weekend with close to the perfect antidote by having Declan Rice in their side.

Rice has made a strong start to his Arsenal career following his summer move, endearing himself to supporters with a late and decisive goal against Manchester United just before the international break. Moments like that justify why the Gunners parted with £105million to sign him in the summer, but games like Sunday’s can equally show Rice’s value.

An accusation lobbied at Arsenal last season during their fading title charge was that they lacked physicality, but Rice rectifies that. “He’s got the physical qualities we’ve been missing for a while, that’s why we had to do what we had to do to get him,” Arteta said days after Rice signed.

From his time at West Ham, the midfielder knows all too well about digging out results when things are not clicking, which has often been Arsenal’s downfall at Goodison. Rice brings substance to the Gunners’ style and he is already establishing himself as a leader at the club.

Arteta has described him as a “lighthouse”, and the 24-year-old is proving a popular figure among the squad. Arsenal have made a steady start to the season, going unbeaten in their opening four games, but they will need to raise their level this month with Champions League fixtures to come.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Friday morning that American private investment firm 777 Partners is buying Everton.

Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has agreed to sell his 94.1 per cent stake, which he said would secure financing to complete the club’s new stadium, currently under construction.

Miami-based 777 Partners already has stakes in a number of clubs through its 777 Football Group, which Everton will become part of, including Hertha Berlin, Sevilla, Genoa, Brazilian team Vasco de Gama, Standard Liege, French team Red Star and Australian team Melbourne Victory. Moshiri initially bought a 49.9 per cent stake in Everton in 2016.