A beautiful moment – Mikel Arteta expects warm West Ham welcome for Declan Rice

By Sports Desk October 31, 2023

Mikel Arteta believes Declan Rice’s potential return to West Ham will be “beautiful” – if the Arsenal manager decides to play the midfielder in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup clash.

The 24-year-old England international moved across London in the summer, the Gunners paying a club-record £105million to prise him away from the Hammers.

Rice, who captained West Ham to victory in the Europa Conference League final in the last of his 245 games for the club he joined at the age of 14, could be in line for his first return to east London having shone in the opening months of his fledgling Arsenal career.

“It will be his first time back at his old club and a beautiful moment for him, I think,” Arteta said on the eve of the fourth-round tie.

“I think it is beautiful. I had a chance to do it a few times and then you really see what they think of you and what you left at the club.”

Arteta feels Rice will receive a warm welcome from the West Ham fans, adding: “Every time you hear him talk about West Ham and what they did for him and everybody at the club, he cannot talk any higher of them, so hopefully they will be the same way towards him.”

While Arteta suggested it was “likely” Rice would be involved in the game in some way, he was rested entirely for the 1-0 win at Brentford in the previous round.

The Spaniard made a total of eight changes for the victory in west London but insists the Carabao Cup – which he won twice as a coach at Manchester City – is still a major honour.

“It’s a competition that we have the chance to progress and win a trophy and our mindset has to be focused on West Ham,” he said.

“I live it exactly the same as the Premier League (on Wednesday). I have the same thing in my tummy and the certain thing and same way to prepare and I’m going to be there, closer to the game, and I just want to win the game for sure.

“Even if you are doing rotations, I think the role of the players that are now committed to challenge for this trophy or for this game, I think it’s critical for them to show what they can do.”

Gabriel Jesus will not feature despite Arteta revealing the striker is “already pushing” to return from a hamstring injury suffered in a Champions League win at Sevilla last week.

Captain Martin Odegaard is again likely to be rested as he recovers from a hip complaint, while Arteta admitted to “concerns” over Thomas Partey’s most recent setback.

The Ghana midfielder missed just seven games in five years at Atletico Madrid but has been plagued with issues since joining Arsenal in 2020 – sitting out 53 fixtures for club and country in that time.

“I think that he will be out for weeks,” Arteta said of Partey’s latest injury.

“It is a big concern because, when Thomas is fit and available and he’s been part of the team, we have seen what the results and the impact that he has on the team.

“This season we have more protection, especially for that reason as well because we know in the past two seasons what has happened and the impact that it had on the team, so we had to address that.”

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