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West Ham v Arsenal: Declan Rice set for transfer audition

West Ham need to break their pattern when they take on Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday (16 April) as they prepare for another crucial battle in the race for survival. 

Despite spending over £150m in the summer window, the Hammers find themselves 14th in the Premier League table with 30 points, three points above the drop zone. 

David Moyes’s side has been inconsistent throughout the campaign but they need to get back to some sort of momentum, or else they may have to pay the biggest price. 

Moyes has done an excellent job at West Ham. He took charge of the Hammers when they were in the relegation zone, and he took them to the semi-final of the Europa League last season. 

West Ham narrowly missed out on the top four in the previous two seasons, but there have been times when Moyes’ future has come under threat this season. Our friends at SportsBuffer wrote an in-depth analysis of what has gone wrong at West Ham this season, and truth be told, the problems still remain. 

When it comes to “punching above the weight”, very few managers in England are as efficient as Moyes in transforming a struggling club. But he was never comfortable working with big-money signings, and we can see why – with eight games left to play, the Hammers squad still looks disjointed. 

We have seen a recurrent pattern of this dramatic decline this season. Whenever Moyes has come under pressure about keeping his job, he has found a way to pick up immediate results.

Just when it seems that the Hammers have found their mojo back, they start to fall apart, and the cycle continues. They have picked up two crucial wins against Fulham and Southampton, and need to maintain pick up a positive result against the Premier League leaders to boost their survival hopes. 

This fixture is also crucial for Declan Rice who is almost certain to leave West Ham after the end of the season. 

Rice has a contract at the club until 2024, and the Hammers have the option to extend his deal for one more year. They are unlikely to do so and will allow their captain to move elsewhere after a disappointing season. 

The 24-year-old midfielder has been a great servant for the Hammers and he has been one of the most consistent players for both club and country in the past two seasons. 

David Moyes has made it clear that it will require a British transfer fee record to lure Rice away from West Ham, and it roughly means we are talking about fees in the north of £100m. 

Arsenal are heavily linked with a move for Rice and they are willing to pay £80 million for him. Sky Germany journalist Florian Plettenberg reported this week that Liverpool have included Rice in their five-man midfield shortlist, but the Reds are highly unlikely to pay over the top. 

Rice has grown into a complete midfielder under Moyes. He was always solid defensively but where he has genuinely improved is in his distribution and carrying the ball forward. He chips in with crucial goals and when you take into his account his leadership qualities – you get the complete package for someone who is enjoying the prime years of his career. 

At the same time, the Gunners are checking on a raft of midfielders elsewhere, and it’s not guaranteed that they will definitely move for Rice. The north Londoners made a bid in January for Moises Caicedo and probably will try their luck again for the Brighton midfielder in the summer. Bayern Munich youngster Ryan Gravenberch is also on their radar, while the Gunners are reportedly keen on Alexis Mac Allister as well. 

While Rice will be determined to give his best and help the Hammers grab all three points, his performance could be seen as a transfer audition for the Gunners as well. If he impresses (yet again), chances are high that Arsenal will come up with a massive bid for him in the summer window. 

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