Declan Rice leaves West Ham for record fee with Arsenal move imminent

By Sports Desk July 15, 2023

West Ham have confirmed captain Declan Rice will leave the club for a “British record fee” – with the midfielder expected to sign for Arsenal imminently.

The Hammers are understood to have been involved in discussions with the Gunners over the structure of a deal for the 24-year-old with the fee expected to be £105million.

“I am sorry to see Declan leave us but I believe that everyone at West Ham United should be very proud of the part we have played in his journey from the Academy of Football at Chadwell Heath to becoming the most valuable young player in English football,” joint-chair David Sullivan said in a statement.

“I would like to make it clear to our supporters that we did not want to sell Declan. We wanted to build our team around him and made a series of improved, long-term contract offers to secure his future.

“However, once Declan made it clear that he wished to move on and seek a new challenge, the club felt it would not be right to stand in his way, acting in the best interests of West Ham United.”

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    Pat Noonan insists FC Cincinnati must improve defensively ahead of welcoming the New England Revolution to the TQL Stadium on Sunday. 

    Cincinnati edged a seven-goal thriller in their latest MLS fixture against the Philadelphia Union, with Luciano Acosta scoring in the 10th minute of injury time to secure a 4-3 win. 

    Noonan's side have now won nine of their last 10 league games and sit second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Inter Miami. 

    But there were some concerns at the back, with Cincinnati having now conceded eight goals in their last four games, something Noonan is keen on addressing. 

    “Certainly, how we have gotten results has shifted to scoring goals and struggling defensively from an early stretch when defensively we were much stronger and didn’t need four goals to win a game,” Noonan said.

    “We gave another set-piece goal which has been a little bit of a theme. Against Philadelphia, it was defending crosses.

    “We will continue to look at the best combination of guys to help us from the frontline to the backline to be better defensively because I think right now, with how we are creating chances, that hasn’t been a concern. But we need to get better defensively.”

    Meanwhile, New England continued their impressive recent form with a 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps last Sunday and have now won three in a row. 

    The Revolution have closed the gap at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are now two points behind Orlando City and the Chicago Fire. 

    Head coach Caleb Porter was pleased with his side's reaction to conceding late in their latest fixture and believes the mentality within his squad has significantly shifted. 

    “We have still got to score more though,” Porter said. “But I loved that we scored three goals and I loved that we responded after conceding to take the game to 1-1.

    “That shows mentality is changing. I also loved that the guys were a little ticked off at the end of the game. We have won three in a row, and they were kind of mad that they didn’t score more and they conceded.

    “That’s a great mentality to have. We’re not relieved to win; we’re expecting to win now. If we play like we did against Vancouver, we can beat anybody in this league.”

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

    The Argentine took his assist tally to 13 in MLS this season during Cincinnati's win over Philadelphia, more than any other player in the division this season. 

    Acosta has now assisted 92 goals since arriving at Cincinnati in 2021, moving up to ninth in the all-time assist charts in MLS. 

    New England – Giacomo Vrioni

    The Albanian scored his second goal in three games during New England's victory over Vancouver, taking his tally to 16 for the club since arriving in 2022.

    Of his 10 goals scored in the MLS, Vrioni has scored against just seven sides, with Cincinnati being one of those. 

    MATCH PREDICTION: CINCINNATI WIN

    The Revs should enter this game in high spirits, having won three straight matches after only collecting seven points from their first 13 games in MLS this year. 

    Their last four-game winning streak came in August 2021, and the fourth win in that run came against Cincinnati.

    A repeat is not expected here, though, with Cincinnati winning nine of their last 10 matches (one defeat). No team in the post-shootout era has ever won 10 games in a span of 11 regular-season outings before. 

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Cincinnati – 64.6%

    Draw – 18.9%

    New England – 16.4%

  • Portland Timbers v Vancouver Whitecaps: Neville aiming to raise the level back on home soil Portland Timbers v Vancouver Whitecaps: Neville aiming to raise the level back on home soil

    Portland Timbers head coach Phil Neville has urged his players to raise their performance levels against the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS on Saturday.

    Portland are currently on a five-match unbeaten streak in the competition and made a winning return from their mid-season break by beating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Wednesday.

    They sit seventh in a tightly contested Western Conference, and Neville admits they need to improve if they want to keep their current form going.

    "Even though we got the win against San Jose, the performance was nowhere near good enough," Neville said. "We had 10 days off, and I hope that kind of performance is out of the way.

    "Saturday's a big game against Vancouver, and we can't play to that level. We have to keep raising the level. We need to keep pushing and stay in the pack by winning games.

    "We're developing a mentality of not accepting defeat, making people accountable for what they're doing, and guys are stepping up."

    Meanwhile, Vancouver sit one place and one point above Portland but suffered a disappointing 3-2 defeat to the New England Revolution last weekend.

    Having won back-to-back games by 2-1 scorelines before that loss, head coach Vanni Sartini is hopeful his side can make some big improvements ahead of this week's Cascadia derby.

    "The challenge is to play better than we did in the last game," he said. "Offensively, we will need to do a lot of things that we normally do well, creating chances and getting men in the box.

    "I didn't like the performance of last week, so this week we're focusing on the things that we can do better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portland Timbers – Jonathan Rodriguez

    While Evanilson is a constant threat for Portland (and their joint-top scorer of the season with eight goals), Rodriguez is close to equalling his tally.

    He scored the winner against San Jose on Wednesday, netting his seventh goal of the campaign.

    Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

    Gauld was a bright spark for Vancouver in their disappointing defeat to New England last weekend, scoring both goals.

    He was clinical; despite amassing an xG of just 0.09, he had the joint-most shots (three), scoring with both of his attempts on target and also creating three chances.

    MATCH PREDICTION: PORTLAND TIMBERS WIN

    The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last five Cascadia rivalry matches against Portland and the Seattle Sounders (three wins, two draws), their longest such run since a seven-match streak between 2013 and 2014.

    They have also won their last two games against the Timbers, recording 3-2 victories both home and away in August 2023 and March 2024.

    However, Portland are in great shape, going unbeaten through their last five matches (three wins, two draws), and netting multiple goals in 13 different MLS games this year. Only Inter Miami, with 14, have recorded more such matches.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Portland Timbers – 43.6%

    Draw – 23.8%

    Vancouver Whitecaps – 29.6%

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    Spain coach Luis de la Fuente believes he is working with the best group of players in world football after La Roja clinched their place in the Euro 2024 knockout rounds by beating Italy.

    Spain were drawn into what many believed to be the toughest group at the tournament but have made light work of some difficult opponents, thrashing Croatia 3-0 before overcoming Italy 1-0 on Thursday.

    They have clinched top spot in Group B with a game to spare, with Riccardo Calafiori's own goal handing them their deserved victory over the reigning champions.

    Spain fired off 20 shots to Italy's four in Gelsenkirchen, also creating 1.9 expected goals (xG) to the Azzurri's 0.18 and enjoying 57.2 per cent of the possession.

    This is just the second time La Roja have started a European Championships tournament by winning their first two games to nil, after they beat Czechia 1-0 and Turkiye 3-0 in 2016.

    The likes of Nico Williams, Lamine Yamal and Pedri all dazzled against Italy, leaving De la Fuente convinced he is in charge of the most talent squad at the Euros. 

    "I think we're the best in the world in terms of interpreting various match situations," De la Fuente said at his post-match press conference.

    "Of course, that is really reinforced and strengthened when you win silverware. 

    "But I think it's important to really underline the quality of this generation of players, the players that have broken into this squad. I think the Spanish players are the best in the world."

    While De la Fuente now has the luxury of being able to rest players against Albania on matchday three, he knows there can be no room for complacency in the last 16.

    "I think we were superior across the board from a footballing perspective," he added. "Perhaps it even seemed that Italy played badly, but that's because we played very well.

    "Italy won the Euros three years ago. We're still a long way off winning the European Championship. We haven't yet achieved anything. Okay, we've won some important matches. We have wonderful prospects.

    "But football can also be very cruel. So we need to be cautious. We need to be humble. We need to show respect."

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