Saturday 21 September 2019

'Torn' Rice doing right thing by taking his time - Antonio

Golden goal: Declan Rice celebrates after scoring for West Ham. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Golden goal: Declan Rice celebrates after scoring for West Ham. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Jamie Holland

Declan Rice provided a further reminder of the quality that has two countries battling for his services by producing a man-of-the-match performance in West Ham's 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

Rice - who turns 20 today - hit his first senior goal with a well-struck 48th-minute shot from inside the area that gave the Hammers a deserved victory.

The in-demand Rice said last week that he was nearing a decision on his international future.

Rice's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio said yesterday that the player was genuinely torn between his two options.

"I've spoken to him about it and I think he's doing the right thing by taking his time, thinking about the situation. But it doesn't matter who he picks - he's going to be playing for either team."

Rice's social media movement has been studied in detail throughout the saga and the fact that he 'liked' a weekend comment which referred to him as a future Irish captain caused a bit of a stir.

Meanwhile, West Ham captain Mark Noble hopes Marko Arnautovic will stay at the club but said it was "realistic" for the Austrian to be considering a big-money move to China.

West Ham last week rejected a £35m bid from a Chinese Super League club, believed to be champions Shanghai SIPG, for Arnautovic, whose brother and agent has said he wants to leave.

Arnautovic appeared to be waving goodbye to the West Ham fans when he was substituted during Saturday's 1-0 win.

"I spoke to him (before the match) and he said, 'Mark, whatever happens, it is out of my hands, but as long as I play for this team, I am going to give 100pc'," Noble said.

"You saw that (against Arsenal). Marko has got a reputation of maybe being a little sulky but, let me tell you, he is a great lad around the dressing room. Do we hope he doesn't go? Of course, he's probably our best player.

"But I always think it is such a short career. You work until you are 35 and then you have got to find another living. You go to China for five years on £400,000 a week, you don't."

Arnautovic's situation has been compared to that of Dimitri Payet, who left West Ham in 2017 after going on strike.

"I think it's a completely different circumstance," Noble said. "We didn't keep Dimi and he was our best player at the time. I'm hoping this one is a bit different.

"If you are realistic, you can always see the player's point of view. He's got kids and he wants to secure their future. Obviously, he is earning fantastic money here, but the money in China is a different kettle of fish."

If Arnautovic does leave, the blow may be softened by the resurgence of Samir Nasri, who impressed on his first Premier League start for the club.

Nasri signed at the end of December, on the day he completed a doping ban received for using an intravenous-drip treatment.

Best feeling

The Frenchman, who was unable to play for 13 months, said it was "the best feeling so far in my life to be back.

"When you're 30 years old, you think your career is over because no one is going to give you a chance after four years of ban. It was almost like being depressed.

"I knew that I would have a club, but maybe not in the Premier League. After I lost one year, I didn't want to go somewhere 'exotic'. I wanted to be back in one of the biggest leagues in the world and prove to myself that I've still got it. I wanted to leave a legacy for my son, who never saw me play."

Nasri set up Rice's winner against an Arsenal team who are struggling for form away from home. Unai Emery's side are now without a win in five away games in the league

The future of Mesut Ozil, once again left out of the entire squad despite being fit, remains a major talking point.

"For me, he is like another player," insisted Emery. "Sometimes he is helping us, at other moments not helping us because of his injury or because maybe the match is not for him. But he is a good player."

Irish Independent

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