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Why did Declan Rice play as a defender in Arsenal’s last game?

Declan Rice at Arsenal
© Ace Football

The England international dropped from the middle of midfield into central defense during Arsenal’s last game.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta wanted to test Declan Rice in a center-back role in case one of his regular options gets injured.

In Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, Arteta made changes in the team. The manager made some bold choices, as the club had already secured a knockout spot as Group B winners. One of these decisions saw Rice play as a defender after replacing Cedric Soares in the second half.

“We are very short at the back,” Arteta explained of his decision to play Rice in defense.

“I really wanted to try when something happens, how we are going to resolve that situation and I think it was really good.

The Spaniard added: “He has played there [in defense] before and we have to try in case of an emergency. I will have to make sure that we can fill the gap in the right way.”

This season, Arteta has played William Saliba and Gabriel almost exclusively as his two main center-backs.

Ben White initially partnered with Saliba in central defense, before Arteta restored him as a right-back following Thomas Partey’s groin and thigh injuries. This paved the way for Gabriel’s return to the line-up.

Jakub Kiwior, another center-back option, played the entire PSV game as a left-back.

Arsenal will return to action on Sunday at home against Brighton in the Premier League.