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Arteta lauds Declan Rice for ‘finding it really easy’ at Arsenal

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has commended Declan Rice (24) for his swift adaptation to life at the Emirates Stadium after his club-record £105 million transfer in the summer.

Rice’s transfer from West Ham United in July allowed the England international to have a full pre-season with Arsenal. He has made a strong impression in the central midfield role, featuring for the entire duration of every Premier League match this season.

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His performances earned him Arsenal’s Player of the Month award for August, and he scored his first goal for the club, a late winner against historic rivals Manchester United earlier this month.

“You always hope that the transition is going to be smooth and fast, but sometimes the reality is very different,” Arteta told reporters on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s league trip to Everton.

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“In his case, it has been really positive, he’s finding it really easy. He understood the team, our way of playing really, really fast and things are going well for him.”

As Rice has seamlessly integrated into Arsenal, their former record signing, Nicolas Pepe, has departed the club. Arsenal opted to terminate the contract of the Ivory Coast international, who was signed for £72 million in 2019.

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Pepe played a significant role in Arsenal’s FA Cup victory in 2020, but he subsequently faced limited playing time under Arteta. He departs Arsenal after having scored 27 goals in 112 games and has joined Trabzonspor on a free transfer.

“I wasn’t involved in that deal but what I can say about him as a person is that he’s a phenomenal boy, he tried really hard. It’s not his fault for the amount of money that we paid at the time,” Arteta said.

“When things are not working out, you have to move on… That decision was made and I think it was for the benefit of both parties.”

Arteta said winger Bukayo Saka “trained normally” amid concerns over a possible Achilles injury, while the Spaniard added that Arsenal are looking to extend the contract of skipper Martin Odegaard, whose current deal expires in June 2025.

“He’s our captain; he’s a massive player for us. He’s really important for now and the future. We want to keep him here for a long time,” Arteta said. “I’m always optimistic. We’re really close (to a new deal) with him and his agent.”

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