Premier League • England

Arsenal backed to win Champions League in stunning praise, as Chelsea hero names star who changed everything

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

A former Chelsea star has incredibly tipped Arsenal to challenge for the Champions League title, explaining how summer signing Declan Rice is the player who took them ‘to the next level’.

Arsenal have recruited brilliantly in recent years, adding the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus, Martin Odegaard, Ben White and Rice to Mikel Arteta’s first team. The Gunners managed to top the Premier League for large parts of last season, though they were ultimately beaten to the trophy by Manchester City.

Arsenal had a busy summer following that heartbreak, spending big money on Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber, while also signing David Raya on loan with a view to a permanent deal.

Rice has immediately established himself as an integral player, with Raya aiming to do the exact same after usurping Aaron Ramsdale in goal, while Havertz scored his first goal for the club at the weekend. Unfortunately for Timber, he will be out for an extended period after sustaining an ACL injury.

Arsenal’s new arrivals have helped them win five out of their first seven league games and maintain an unbeaten record, putting them in third place. The north London side have also beaten City in the Community Shield, advanced in the League Cup at the expense of Brentford and won their Champions League opener against PSV. They will face Lens in their second group stage clash on Tuesday night.

During an appearance on talkSPORT, Chelsea hero Joe Cole has surprisingly backed Arsenal to challenge Europe’s elite, including City, Real Madrid and Bayern, by going deep into the competition. And Rice’s form is one of the main catalysts for this potential success.

READ MORE: Arsenal star tipped for heartbreaking January transfer with 23 y/o talent stagnating under Arteta

“They certainly can win the Champions League,” he said. “Earlier when Arteta was in the early stages of his reign he was talking about ‘the project, the project’, I was thinking ‘what’s going on here?’.

“But he’s made every right decision at every corner. I think they’re a young team, they’re fearless, Declan going in has taken them up another level.”

Joe Cole lavishes praise on Arteta and Arsenal

Cole continued: “It’s very difficult once you get to a certain level as a football club to improve your team.

“We’ve seen so many teams get there and then falter when they’ve made two or three bad signings.

“I think bringing in the goalkeeper, strengthening that area of the pitch, you’ve got two great goalkeepers now. Kai Havertz got his first goal.

“I think they’ll push Manchester City all the way. I think Liverpool will be there as well.”

Arsenal have certainly taken great strides in the last two seasons, and they can now be considered one of the best teams in England.

But Arteta is still dealing with a young and relatively inexperienced squad when it comes to the biggest European matches, so it remains to be seen whether his players can step up and take Arsenal all the way in the UCL.

Meanwhile, an Arsenal and Manchester United target has postponed a move to England by penning a new contract in the German Bundesliga.