West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini believes Declan Rice is becoming a “complete player” after the 19-year-old gave the Hammers victory over Arsenal. Rice’s superb finish – his first Premier League strike – was the only goal at London Stadium, denting Arsenal’s top-four ambitions. Rice beat Bernd Leno with a first-time shot after a good lay-off by Samir Nasri, who was making his first top-flight appearance in England since August 2016. The maiden top-flight goal comes two weeks after Rice signed a new contract that will keep him with the Hammers until 2024.
Before that, the international future of Rice, who can play at centre-back or in centre midfield, had been in the headlines. He has earned three caps for the Republic of Ireland, all in friendlies, and the London-born man could yet decide to declare for England. In a highly-competitive London derby, Alexandre Lacazette was denied by an excellent save from Lukasz Fabianski as Arsenal failed to score in the league for the first time since the opening day of the season. West Ham were full value for their win, with Marko Arnautovic, Rice, Nasri and Felipe Anderson all going close when the game was goalless.
While West Ham move up to eighth in the table after a sixth win in nine league games, Arsenal remain fifth. The Gunners are three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who entertain Newcastle at 17:30 GMT. Arsenal are now without a win in five league games away from the Emirates Stadium and are playing catch-up in the race for a Champions League place. Only leaders Liverpool and Manchester City have found the net more than the Gunners, but against West Ham they failed to score in the league for only the second time this season – and have not kept a clean sheet since 8 December.