Richard Keys urges Declan Rice to start doing more than providing sideways passes

Arsenal lost 2-1 to Fulham yesterday as their Premier League title ambitions suffered further blows, and Richard Keys has demanded more from Declan Rice.

The England international midfielder was far from his best as the Gunners stars struggled at Craven Cottage on Sunday, and the former Sky Sports journalist insists he did not do enough against Fulham.

Rice looked out of sorts and could not control the midfield like he usually does, giving the ball away cheaply far too often and was not as dominant in the tackle as normal.

Keys also questioned his lack of attacking intent, urging him to start doing more in the final third going forward.

“I’m a huge fan of Declan Rice. I think he’s a Rolls-Royce. I said when Arsenal signed him that he was the best piece of business any club had done in that window,” he wrote on his blog.

“He’s class. But he’s also wasted playing for Arsenal right now. What is the point of paying £110m for a player only to get him to tippy-tappy about in mid-field doing what a bang ordinary jobber could do? I’ve watched Rice closely this season – very closely on Sunday at Fulham. All he did for 90 minutes at Craven Cottage was drop between his centre-backs, pick up a sideways pass from them – knock it into Odegaard – get it back – knock it sideways or back again, before repeating the process time and time again. Why?

“Rice didn’t do anything to hurt Fulham. Nothing. Not one raking pass. Not one crunching challenge. Not one shot at goal. Nothing. So what’s the point of him? He’s become Declan Nice. He’s got everything required to be a top footballer. He should be getting hold of games the way Vieira used to. The way Souness did. The way so many other 6’s have down the years. He’s got the lot – height and energy. He can see a proper pass. And he’s got the muscle to get into people and break attacks down. But he doesn’t do anything at the moment except trickle balls sideways and backwards. It’s a travesty.”

Rice has been one of the most consistent top performers for Arsenal and across the Premier League this term, but he was far from outstanding yesterday, and he could do with some rest right now.

While he has been solid providing cover for the backline, he has not quite been impressive when it comes to having a dominating influence in the final third.

The Arsenal star is a fine box-to-box midfielder, but he needs to keep improving on the attacking aspect of his game.

The 24-year-old has already scored three goals and weighed in with one assist in 20 Premier League games, and while that is a decent return, he can do much more.

Such a player should be getting hold of the difficult games by the scruff of the neck, and he failed to do so against his old club and Fulham.

There is still plenty of room for improvement in his game, and Rice is under a manager capable of bringing out the best in him, so he will only keep improving and getting better going forward.

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