Declan Rice was finally officially unveiled as an Arsenal player to much fanfare and real excitement on Saturday.
Declan Rice is the most expensive British player ever, and £105 million paid to West Ham is the biggest fee ever exchanged between English clubs.
It has been a strange saga for Arsenal fans. It was as close to a sure thing as you can get for a transfer like this.
However, Arsenal fans still carry the scars from the days they were unable to compete financially.
As a result, the drip-feed of absurdly granular information about this deal was excruciating for Arsenal fans. A fee had been agreed for Declan Rice for around two weeks before he was finally announced.
That wait sent more anxious fans into a spiral, because they thought something had gone wrong. Why? Because Arsenal are the team who lost out on Xabi Alonso because they quibbled over a couple of million. They’re the team who bid $40,0000 + 1 for Luis Suarez.
Arsenal are used to big clubs having priority on the biggest players by default. Particularly in the last five years – they stopped even being linked to the best players after dropping out of the Champions League.
This is why news of a Manchester City bid and the perceived delay allowed news organisations to antagonize Arsenal fans. They still don’t quite think of themselves as a club who signs the biggest players.
However, if you look at how it played out, there was never anything to worry about. In the end, Rice arrived at the Emirates Stadium wrapped up in a little bow. The England international was conveniently announced just in time to join Arsenal on their preseason U.S tour.
West Ham got their coveted £100 + million fee, and were able to act like they were playing hard ball. They couldn’t be seen to just be giving away their Europa Conference League winning captain.
On the day it was announced, West Ham said their goodbyes first before making way for the Arsenal fanfare. This was a massive, complex transfer carried out with military precision.
It speaks to the improvements at Arsenal, especially with regards to their recruitment. It also speaks to the appeal of Mikel Arteta’s project that Arsenal was always Rice’s preferred destination.
Arteta has turned their fortunes around such that the best young players in the world now want to go to the Emirates Stadium. Now, he has secured a player who will be his midfield general for years.
Arsenal are back.