Arsenal: Why Declan Rice and Jorginho switch could be secret to beating Bayern

Declan Rice has given Jorginho the nickname ‘Tom Brady’ because of his passing range, and in recent months the Italian has been Arsenal’s quarterback.

Jorginho has rolled back the years to shine at the base of midfield, with Rice pushed forward into a more advanced role. But Mikel Arteta must surely be tempted to deploy Rice in his regular No6 position for Wednesday’s Champions League decider against Bayern Munich in Germany.

Their quarter-final is in the balance after a 2-2 draw last week and Arsenal would benefit from having Rice in the heart of the battle for what feels like a season-defining game.

Arsenal need a reaction after their damaging defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday. The defensive solidity that has defined their season disappeared last week as they shipped four goals in two games against Bayern and Villa. Prior to that, they had conceded three times in 10 matches.

Rice made just one tackle in the first leg and was ranked sixth for most passes by an Arsenal player

Fingers might be pointed at the defence but the midfield is just as crucial. Arsenal lacked control in both games - and they need to wrestle it back at the Allianz Arena Playing Rice at the base of midfield could be the answer as it would allow the £105million signing to have a greater influence on the game.

In the first leg at Emirates Stadium, he struggled to have an impact playing higher up the pitch and the match passed him by. Rice made just one tackle and was ranked sixth for most passes by an Arsenal player. Oleksandr Zinchenko, who came on at half-time, had more touches than him, as did five other Arsenal players.

Contrast that with the Villa game on Sunday, when Rice started as the No6 for the first time since February and had more touches and passes than any other Arsenal player. Crucially, his defensive numbers were also up and he was second only to Ben White for tackles made by Arsenal players.

Jorginho and Declan Rice at full-time of Sunday’s home loss to Aston Villa (Getty Images)
Jorginho and Declan Rice at full-time of Sunday’s home loss to Aston Villa (Getty Images)

That could be vital on Wednesday as Bayern showed in the first leg how dangerous they are on the counter. Arsenal were exposed by the pace of Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry and, for all of Jorginho’s quality on the ball, he lacks the athleticism that Rice brings.

In a game in which the Gunners are going to have to be solid defensively, Arteta would be wise to have Rice in front of the back four to give them as much protection as possible. But that does not mean Jorginho cannot play and Arteta need only cast his mind back to February to find a possible blueprint for the game.

Arsenal put in a brilliant performance to beat Liverpool 3-1 at Emirates Stadium and, that day, Rice played at the base of midfield and Jorginho was just ahead of him.

Jorginho was not quite as advanced as Rice has been when playing as a No8, and they worked well in tandem. The pair were Arsenal’s top two performers when it came to passes and touches. Rice topped the tackle charts, while Jorginho was ranked highest for interceptions.

Arteta can use the recent win over Liverpool as a blueprint to beat Bayern

Liverpool’s style that day was similar to the one Arsenal can expect from Bayern, with Jurgen Klopp looking to hurt the Gunners with pace out wide. Arsenal were able to shut Liverpool down thanks to Jorginho and Rice, who dovetailed perfectly.

Rice has enjoyed playing further forward recently, and the fact this is his best season in terms of goal contributions justifies Arteta’s decision to experiment, but long-term the England international still views himself as a No6.

Rice views Rodri as the benchmark in that position and the Allianz Arena is the perfect stage for him to show he can be spoken in the same breath as Manchester City’s midfield metronome.