SUNDAY’S game at the London Stadium could not have gone much worse for West Ham.
Not only did the Hammers suffer an embarrassing 6-0 defeat to Arsenal to extend their miserable run of form, Declan Rice (£3.4m) was essentially the mastermind behind the humiliation.
Dream TeamA world-class player[/caption]
The 25-year-old was the heartbeat of David Moyes’ side prior to his big-money transfer to North London and while many West Ham fans showed their appreciation for their former player, even the most gracious supporter would have been pained by the influential nature of Rice’s performance.
The England international is expected to do the dirty work at the base of midfield and the home fans wouldn’t have been surprised by his surging carries either but not even Rice’s family members would have hoped for THREE goal involvements.
He provided the assist for the Gunners’ opening goal in East London with a corner converted by William Saliba (£3.1m) before repeating the trick minutes later from a wider angle via an indirect free-kick nodded home by Gabriel (£3.7m).
Rice later capped the rout with long-range stunner, allowing him the luxury of a non-celebration.
Despite playing just 67 minutes, he banked 17 Dream Team points at West Ham’s expense and is currently the joint-top performer in Gameweek 23 alongside team-mate Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher (£3.3m).
GettyNot a celebration…[/caption]
In many ways, this was a timely reminder of Rice’s viability as Arsenal players should be popular ahead of Gameweek 24.
On Saturday, they travel to Turf Moor in what has to considered one of the most favourable match-ups of the Premier League campaign – Burnley have taken just five points from 12 home league games since promotion.
Conversely, only Manchester City have earned more points on the road than Arsenal.
Following that, Arteta’s men fly to Portugal for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Porto.
By it’s very nature that should be a sterner test but Rice and company are favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
It’s worth noting that Porto have scored 35 goals from 21 games in the league this term which is under par for one of Portugal’s “big three”.
A friendly league game plus an additional midweek fixture makes for an appealing Gameweek from an Arsenal perspective, even accounting for back-to-back away days.
AlamyDream Team’s top performer[/caption]
Saka should be the first port of call given he’s currently Dream Team’s overall leading points scorer with 243.
However, the England winger already features in over 50% of teams so his returns aren’t likely to have much of an impact at the top end of Mini Leagues.
Coupling Saka with a second Arsenal midfielder is certainly a viable strategy for Gameweek 24 and Rice’s 17-point haul automatically puts in him contention.
Martin Odegaard (£4.1m) and Gabriel Martinelli (£4m) are more attack-minded but both have scored fewer points than Rice across their last three outings.
The latter also earns more bonus points and gets through plenty more tackles.
Admittedly, Odegaard and Martinelli have greater potential to plunder double-digit hauls from individuals games but Rice might actually be the sensible selection as his returns are generally more consistent.
Dream Team bosses should also mull over Gabriel, Saliba and David Raya’s (£3.1m) viability ahead of Gameweek 24 as Arsenal’s defensive numbers are the best in the Premier League right now.
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