The elder member of what constitutes Arsenal Analysis is old enough to remember watching Pat Rice in an Arsenal shirt! He draws an interesting comparison with Justin Hoyte.
I remember when Pat Rice made his debut for Arsenal. A young kid from Northern Ireland who grew up next door to Highbury. Who, after working at a greengrocers on Gillespie Road joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1964. Apart for four years at Watford (1980-1984) he has never really left Arsenal. Playing at right-back, he was a stalwart at the club through the 1970s eventually becoming club captain.
I remember the press making the point that after so many appearances at Arsenal he remained the only outfield player at the time who was without a goal to his name. A kind of football virgin if you like! Or a latter day John Jensen (who joined Arsenal in 1992 scoring his first goal two years later). We the fans were of course urging Pat on in every game to go forward and try his luck. He managed 13 goals in the end (not all in that game)!
He was never an attacking full back. He didn’t like going forward so much and always concentrated on doing the simple things well. In those days the full backs were indeed full backs who were not really encouraged to be that adventurous. Bob McNab (the Arsenal left back in the 70s) used to do it more often and he was considered an exception to the rule. What I remember most about Pat Rice in football terms was that he played with gusto, tenacity and determination and always put safety first. Conservative but dependable.
I have been noticing most of these characteristics in Justin Hoyte. He has improved a great deal since he went out on loan to Sunderland and came back stronger and more experienced. And his recent performances for the England Under 21s have been in my opinion very good (apart from his penalty miss). Unlike Pat Rice he has already scored for Arsenal!
He also has pace which is inherited from his parents, who were very decent sprinters themselves.He grew up at Arsenal tagging along with his parents who have a coaching role at the club. A little bit like Pat Rice who practically lived at Arsenal.
He is ofcourse in competition with Eboue for the right back position. He does not have the flair and skill of Eboue but then again Eboue doesn’t have the positioning awareness and dependability of Hoyte. Eboue of course has impressed this season more for his attacking flair and the beautiful crosses he put in the box for Henry to exploit.
Especially the late winner against Manchester United and the headed goal against Porto at the Emirates in the Champions League. He has indeed performed well as a right wide midfielder whenever he was used in that position. Arsenal Analysis and others of course have seen the potential in this switch (Arsene who to buy?).
Is there I wonder a place for both in the current Arsenal team?
P.S Pat Rice holds the distinction (along with Bob Wilson) of having taken part, as player or coach, in all three of Arsenal's Doubles. Let’s hope that Justin Hoyte matches that…at least.