Liverpool legend John Barnes has expressed his concern about facing Arsenal ahead of their upcoming match at Anfield, admitting that this is the most worried he has been about the Gunners, especially with the addition of Declan Rice to their squad.
Mikel Arteta’s team secured Rice’s services by breaking the British transfer record with a £105 million deal that saw him leave West Ham for Arsenal. Since his arrival, Rice has made a significant impact, quickly becoming a key player for the Gunners.
Rice has not only provided a strong defensive presence but has also contributed crucial goals, including match-winners against Manchester United and Luton, as well as a stunning strike against Chelsea. His performances have impressed Barnes, who sees him as a key threat in Arsenal’s lineup that Liverpool will need to contend with.
Speaking to The Anfield Wrap, Barnes claimed:
“This is a game I’m really looking forward to. I’m not saying I’m worried about it, but this is probably the most worried I’ve been playing against Arsenal for the past three or four years because I think Declan Rice has really given them something extra from a strength point of view. I always felt we could overpower them, but now they’re a strong physical side.”
Barnes’ positive assessment of Rice’s impact at Arsenal is well-founded, considering the England international’s influential performances that have contributed to Arsenal’s position at the top of the Premier League table after 17 games.
Mikel Arteta’s foresight regarding Rice’s potential impact has proven accurate, as the midfielder has not only demonstrated his individual quality but also his ability to elevate the performance of those around him. Arteta’s earlier comments about Rice acting as a “lighthouse” for the team now appear more apt than ever, reflecting the pivotal role he plays in guiding and strengthening Arsenal’s midfield.
“He is willing to put the light in others, improve others and make the team better. We discussed a while ago how he could evolve the team and compliment the players and take that winning hunger into a team with players who really want to push themselves to a different level.
“He has an aura. The experience he has in this league is going to bring the team to a different dimension. He has the physical qualities we were missing for a while.”
Arsenal’s struggles at Anfield are well-documented, with their last league victory at the stadium dating back to September 2012. In that match, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski secured a 2-0 win for the Gunners. Notably, Declan Rice, now a key figure in Arsenal’s midfield, was just 13 years old at the time. Fast forward 11 years, and Rice is expected to play a crucial role as Arsenal seek to end their winless run at Anfield.