Southgate hands Rice his chance

England boss Gareth Southgate has included West Ham's Declan Rice and Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson in his squad for this month's Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The World Cup 2018 semi-finalists are set to play the Czech Republic on 22nd March before travelling to face Montenegro three days later.

Rice pledged his international future to England last month even though the 20-year-old had won three senior Republic of Ireland caps, all in friendlies.

He had played for his grandparents' country since Under-16 level but Southgate is pleased that he has decided to represent England.

He said: "His form warrants his selection. It has been a well-publicised situation with Declan and we have tracked him for a long time.

"When you're asking a player to transfer association you have to feel the player has a future with you. Saying that, there are no guarantees, but his form has been excellent. We like his character and he can play as a holding midfielder or a defender. We look forward to welcoming him next week."

Wilson returned to the Bournemouth side last weekend after an injury lay-off and scored in the 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town. The striker netted in England's 3-0 win against the USA in an international friendly four months ago.

England are 7/1 to win Euro 2020 and 1/3 to beat the Czech Republic next week.

England squad:
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth).

No Arnautovic movement yet

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini has revealed there is still no movement in a proposed exit for striker Marko Arnautovic.

The Austrian's agent last week suggested his brother wanted a move to China, with West Ham reportedly having been offered £35m for a player they acquired for £20m last year from Stoke City.

The Hammers however released a statement suggesting they would not be willing to sell, insisting Arnautovic had a contract they anticipated he would honour.

Ahead of this weekend's trip to Bournemouth, where West Ham are 9/5 to win, Pellegrini has revealed the forward is working well in training.

"He is working with the team without any problem. He has a contract here so we will know what happens with that in the coming days," said the Chilean.

Meanwhile Pellegrini has suggested that former Arsenal and Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri has returned to English football with a point to prove.

The 31-year-old ex-French international impressed last weekend on his debut as West Ham overcame Arsenal at the London Stadium.

"He has a lot of quality, in the way he wants to get some revenge in football. His quality, we never had any doubts about him," Pellegrini said.

West Ham are 18/1 to beat Bournemouth 2-0 at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, while the game is 13/5 to end level.

Last weekend's match-winner Declan Rice continues to impress his boss.

"He is a player that will continue improving, he is just 20-years-old so he has a lot of time to continue growing as a player. I think he can play both positions [centre back and midfield] but I repeat that he is improving every day," added the West Ham boss.

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Premier League: West Ham Hammer on Poor Gunners

West Ham United 1-0 Arsenal

The Premier League is an exciting source of fantastic football for the eager sporting fan. The English top flight is full of clubs with capable players that can keep up with the best of them.

Of course, the top six clubs get all the attention with the quality of players they manage to draw. One great example of a club with a strong roster is Arsenal. The Gunners have brought in players who are among the world’s best simply through the club name and the vast amount of resources they have.

However, West Ham proved that you don’t have to buy the best players in order to be successful. Their 1-0 victory over their neighbours at London is a masterful display of superb defending and planning by Manuel Pellegrini’s men. Meanwhile, Unai Emery has to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to win these kinds of games.

Highlights of the game

Everyone and their mother knew that Arsenal would have a bit of a problem coming into this match: their failure to win games have seen them fall short of the lofty standards set by the board and the fans. Emery tried forcing the team past the rut by fielding an attack-oriented 3-4-3 that has Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alex Iwobi up front.

However, Mark Noble was the first to make a threatening shot to Bernd Leno. The Hammers captain took a powerful shot from the edge of the box around the seventh minute, and the German stopper had to pull off a superb save in order to stop the ball.

Alexandre Lacazette was soon able to put in work with his own shot attempts in the fourteenth minute. His first shot was blocked by former Arsenal man Lukasz Fabianski, and his follow-up went way above the crossbar and ended up with a goal kick for the Hammers.

Samir Nasri celebrates against former Premier League club Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey leaving Arsenal as Samir Nasri assists the winner for West Ham

There hasn’t been a lot of significant moves that happened since the Lacazette attempts, the next being a near goal by Felipe Anderson. He was supplied a great ball by former Arsenal man Samir Nasri, but his shot was just wide of the left post. Matteo Guendouzi tried to respond with a mid-range shot of his own, but the ball drifted wide of the right post.

Declan Rice tried to end the half with a superb header from inside the penalty area, but his shot was also wide of the post. The referee blew the half-time whistle, and many in the London Stadium can feel that it is only a matter of time before a goal would be scored.

And that moment came at the start of the second half. A tussle inside the penalty box saw the ball land in front of Nasri. He then made the pass to Rice, and the teenager wasted no time in smashing the ball past Leno and into the top-right corner of the goal.

Emery eventually reverted the formation back to have four defenders in the back to bring in both Lucas Torreira and Aaron Ramsey, who made big Premier League 2019 news by reportedly joining Italian powerhouse Juventus in the summer.

The substitutes tried everything they could to rattle the Hammers and get an equaliser, but Pellegrini’s well-trained lads didn’t show the vulnerabilities that bit them dearly against Manchester City.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s struggles away from the Emirates continue. They cannot progress towards the Premier League title if they cannot stop losing on hostile grounds.

Key statistics

This is the fifth straight away game that they have not won, and three of the five were defeats. The last time they won away from the Emirates was November 2018 at Dean Court.

This loss is especially painful for the Gunners as they had 58% possession of the football but were more than sloppy with it. Fortunately for them, West Ham also weren’t able to capitalise on their chances, only having three of their 11 shots on target.

Rice’s superb goal against Arsenal is his first-ever professional goal. He has been developing his trade under the West Ham system since 2013, and it is exciting for Hammers fans to see one of their academy products showing results in the top flight.

What’s next?

Unai Emery rue lost opportunities after West Ham defeat in the Premier League

Arsenal manager Unai Emery reacts with a match official

West Ham have a couple of winnable fixtures for the rest of January. They will play Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League while they will face AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup. However, all of their games will be away from London Stadium.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have a tough schedule ahead of them. They will play Chelsea at the Emirates, and the Premier League 2019 odds will definitely be tougher. What follows that is a tough FA Cup tie against Manchester United, and that will be followed by a relatively easier league game against Cardiff.

Make sure to check the us Blog for more stories about the two club’s attempts to reach the pinnacle of English football.



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Pellegrini: Rice becoming top player

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini feels match-winner Declan Rice is on the road to becoming a 'complete player' after his goal in a 1-0 win over Arsenal.

The teenager scored shortly after half-time, firing a shot into the roof of the net having been teed-up by former Gunners midfielder Samir Nasri on his West Ham bow.

Rice, who can play at centre-back or in centre midfield, has been in the headlines recently as his international future draws attention.

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.

He was named man of the match after West Ham's lunchtime win over Arsenal and his manager feels he has the attributes to go right to the top.

"He is improving in every game," Pellegrini told Sky Sports.

"He has showed good technique and is good in aerial duels, I think we are seeing the complete player. At 19-years-old, I am sure we will see a top, top player."

Rice meanwhile admitted he was elated to nail his first Premier League goal, especially after missing a headed chance in the first half. He revealed his teammates have encouraged him to try his luck more often.

"I can't put it into the words. The lads are always on at me to take the shot on more. I have been getting into the box more recently and I was gutted with missing the header in the first half.

Arsenal failed to create the sort of scoring chances many would have expected and Pellegrini felt his players carried out their game plan effectively. If any side was going to score the games' second goal, the Chilean suggested it would have been West Ham

"I was pleased with the balance and consistency of the team. We did not allow Arsenal any chances despite their quality of players. We played with a mentality of a big team, always going for the second goal," he added.

West Ham are 2/1 to win their next game at Bournemouth next Saturday. The Cherries are 13/10 with the draw priced at 12/5.

Rice commits to Hammers

West Ham United's highly-rated teenager Declan Rice has signed a new contract that will not expire until the end of the 2023/24 campaign.

The 19-year-old has been with the Hammers for the last five years and has already made more than 50 first-team appearances for the club.

Rice said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have got the contract done. I'm absolutely ecstatic.

"Without a doubt, the plan was always to stay at West Ham. I've had the support from the fans, from the players and from the manager and now, to get it done and commit myself to this club is a very special moment and I'm over the moon.

"Without a doubt, you've seen now the way we've played after the first four games and that's what we've got to be aiming for, those European spots. With the players we've got out injured to come back in, we've definitely got to be aiming high."

Rice made his first-team debut in the final game of the 2016/17 season at Burnley and featured in 31 matches in the following campaign.

He played his first game for the Republic of Ireland in March 2018 and has been a crucial part of Manuel Pellegrini's squad this term.

West Ham are 23/20 to beat Burnley on Sunday and 8/1 to win the match from behind.

McCarthy issues Rice vow

Mick McCarthy has told West Ham starlet Declan Rice that he will build his Republic of Ireland team around him if he chooses to play for him.

Former Ireland boss Martin O'Neill had been desperately trying to convince the 19-year-old to stick with the birth nation of his father's parents as opposed to switching to England, where he was born.

Rice has featured in friendly fixtures for the Republic but opted out of their Nations League squad as he weighed up the possibility of switching allegiances to Gareth Southgate's Three Lions.

However, McCarthy has now confirmed that he recently held productive talks with Rice and is looking to select him for his squad ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers, which get under way in March.

The 59-year-old told Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday: "There was myself, [assistant manager] Robbie [Keane], Declan and his dad and it is just up to him what he wants to decide – that's how I've left it.

"It's not my decision as to whether he plays for the Republic of Ireland, it's my job – if he decides that he wants to stay with us – to pick him.

"I think he's a really talented player. I thought he was a lovely lad, he's got a really nice family behind him and he has everything about him that makes you want him to play for you. That's still my case, I want him to play for us.

"I'd love to build a team around him. We start in March and that's my deadline I guess, I need to know by then. I'd like to build a team around him and he could be a future captain – he's that type of player."

Ireland are 6/1 win Euro 2020 qualifying Group D, while Switzerland are priced at 10/11 and Denmark are 11/8. 

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O’Neill coy on Rice situation

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill suggests he is "surprised" at reports that Declan Rice has decided to declare his international future lies with England.

The 19-year-old West Ham midfielder has made three senior appearances for Ireland but, according to FIFA rules, as they were non-competitive matches he is free to switch allegiance to the country of his birth should he choose so.

Ireland manager O'Neill expressed confidence when he met the media in Dublin on Thursday that Rice would re-commit after deciding to sit out the last two international windows.

Reports in England later claimed that he had opted to change to his birth country, with the FA seemingly preparing to instigate the process on Rice's behalf.

Rice has impressed for the Hammers this season, though England boss Gareth Southgate last month told the teenager there were no guarantees he will be getting any call-ups with the World Cup semi-finalists in the near future.

O'Neill expressed his surprise at the suggestion Rice was ready nail his colours to the England mast.

"I would be a bit surprised. Nothing surprises me in this life but I would be particularly surprised [if it were true]," said the Irish boss.

"[The FAI press officer] has told me the story is inaccurate and [Sky Sports] are going to change it.

"I've used the word 'hopeful' and that is where I stand."

Rice and his West Ham teammates are 9/5 to win at Brighton on Friday night. The Seagulls are 7/4 while the draw is 23/10 at the Amex Stadium.

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O’Neill thrilled with Rice debut

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was delighted with Declan Rice after the youngster claimed the man of the match award on his debut against Turkey.

O'Neill's side lost the friendly in Antalya 1-0, but the West Ham teenager impressed on his senior international bow.

Rice had been the subject of some advances from England boss Gareth Southgate recently, but the London-born 19-year-old was firm in his commitment to the Irish cause.

He admitted afterwards that he had a tear in his eye during the national anthem, with his father in the stand and memories of his grandparents in Cork in his mind.

His manager was suitably impressed with a composed display that belied his tender years.

"He's played left-sided centre-half for West Ham, his club, and at this minute I think he's getting accustomed to a number of positions," said the Ireland boss.

"I had no hesitation in putting him into the middle of the field. It was a man-of-the-match performance and I thought he was excellent for us.

"Considering it's his debut and he's 19 years of age, it was an impressive performance from an impressive young man."

Skipper Seamus Coleman was back on the pitch in an Irish shirt for the first time since a horrific leg-break in a World Cup qualifier against Wales in Dublin more than a year ago and the Everton stalwart was also keen to highlight Rice's performance.

"We're disappointed to have lost but I thought Declan was brilliant," said Coleman.

"He wasn't just brilliant today, he's been brilliant all week in training.

"He's a great lad, desperate to do well and a few of us could have taken a leaf out of his book today."

West Ham are 9/5 to beat Southampton next weekend at the London Stadium. The struggling Saints are 6/4 while the draw is 11/5.

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