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FootballMan City v Arsenal: Rice transfer to Gunners was 'good decision', says...

Man City v Arsenal: Rice transfer to Gunners was ‘good decision’, says Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has backed Declan Rice’s decision to become Arsenal’s record signing before the 2023/24 season despite interest from the reigning champions.

The Cityzens made a reported move for Rice a year before he joined Arsenal and were thought to retain a keen interest in the West Ham captain before he completed his transfer for £100 million plus £5m in performance-related add-ons in July 2023.

“There have been many, many players who I wanted to join us and didn’t come,” Guardiola said, responding to a question about Rice before City attempt to overtake Arsenal at the top of the Premier League on Sunday. “There is a long list. He took his decision – a good one – and a good luck.

“All of the teams in the Premier League would have signed Declan Rice. He is a young player, the captain of the national team and has played a lot of games. That is why Arsenal pushed.”

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Rice has impressed during a second successive title challenge by Arsenal and was named England captain for the first time in the Three Lions’ 2-2 draw against Belgium at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

Guardiola has faced challenges in central midfield this season, with Kevin De Bruyne yet to return to full fitness after missing five months of the season following hamstring surgery and Kalvin Phillips, who had been a contender to join Rice as an international regular, remaining out of favour and struggling for form during his current loan at West Ham.

De Bruyne could be available for the game at Etihad Stadium, which City will start a point behind their opponents.

Man City v Arsenal: Gunners ‘improved’

Mikel Arteta, who was Guardiola’s assistant before becoming Arsenal head coach in 2019, remains a counterpart the City boss admires.

“They have the same manager, new players,” Guardiola assessed. “They control many aspects of the game and every time they get better and better. When you have the same manager and patterns, you improve.”

Guardiola also backed Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard over accusations he led overblown celebrations following a 3-1 home win against Liverpool in February.

Odegaard playfully borrowed a club photographer’s camera to take a snap of the employee on the pitch after the full-time whistle, leading some pundits to repeat criticism aimed at Arteta’s players when they showed their satisfaction at winning games during the 2022/23 season.

“I don’t react over nonsense,” Guardiola said. “If they want to take a picture, take a picture. What is the problem?”

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