EPL

Mari confident Arsenal can take small steps to big things

By Sports Desk January 29, 2020

Pablo Mari is convinced he has joined an Arsenal team who are on the cusp of achieving great success.

The Spaniard has arrived at Emirates Stadium during a time of upheaval, with head coach Mikel Arteta forging his way in the early weeks of his reign after succeeding Unai Emery.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six games but have drawn their previous three Premier League fixtures and sit, by their standards, in what is a lowly 10th place.

They are closer to the relegation zone than the top four, in terms of points, but Mari is convinced the Arteta era can be a successful period in the club's history.

For now, the centre-back is focused on helping the Gunners make immediate progress up the league table.

"When I spoke to my agent, it was a big thing that Arsenal were interested in me," said Mari, who has signed on loan from Flamengo. "This is one of the best clubs in the world, so I'm absolutely delighted to be joining. I'm really looking forward to playing in this jersey and helping my team.

"I'm a very professional player. I like working hard every day to achieve objectives."

He added: "I want to take it one day at a time and achieve big things at Arsenal.

"Right now I want to focus on the day-to-day side of things. I think we need to put the plans to one side for now because the most important thing is to take things one day at a time and focus on achieving short-term goals.

"We need to change the dynamic around the team, so the short-term objectives are the most important thing. As I've said, we have Mikel’s ideas, aligned with the club, and we need to perform very well to change things."

The 26-year-old was previously on Manchester City's books but did not make a breakthrough at the Etihad Stadium, spending loans with Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna before moving to Flamengo last July.

While in Brazil, he helped Flamengo to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores trophy success, and they went close to toppling Liverpool in the Club World Cup final.

He could face Liverpool again in May, by which time Jurgen Klopp's side are likely to have wrapped up the Premier League title.

Arsenal are streets adrift of Liverpool this season, but Mari, who could sign permanently at the end of the season, suggests the gap could soon close to the Merseyside table-toppers.

"Obviously they're in great form at the moment and they're among the best players in the world, but we also have a fantastic team with top players," Mari told Arsenal's official website.

"This is football and that's the way you have to look at it. You have to compete against every side, whether it's Liverpool or any other club in the world.

"I have a lot of faith in this great club, Arsenal, and I know we're going to do very well."

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  • Brocchi dreaming of Milan reunion as Berlusconi's Serie A-chasing Monza try to recreate Rossoneri Brocchi dreaming of Milan reunion as Berlusconi's Serie A-chasing Monza try to recreate Rossoneri

    Silvio Berlusconi, Adriano Galliani, Cristian Brocchi, Mario Balotelli, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Gabriel Paletta.

    There is a real Milan vibe about Monza, who are nestled 15 kilometres north of the Lombardy capital, as the ambitious club stand closer than ever to achieving their goal of Serie A promotion after spending their entire existence in the lower leagues.

    Monza are owned by former Milan president and Italy prime minister Berlusconi, who returned to football in 2018 after selling his beloved Rossoneri a year earlier.

    After purchasing the club through his Fininvest company, Berlusconi turned to his trusted right-hand man Galliani – who was born in Monza – as CEO. Their partnership helped turn the Rossoneri into a superpower, with eight Serie A titles and five Champions League/European Cup crowns among the 29 pieces of silverware between 1986 and 2017.

    Monza are also coached by former Milan midfielder and boss Brocchi, while the Serie B outfit also boasts ex-Rossoneri players Balotelli, Boateng and Paletta.

    After completing their rise from Serie C to the second tier of Italian football amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2019-20, Monza are well and truly in the promotion mix – fourth and six points adrift of leaders Empoli, while they are only two points behind Cittadella, who occupy the final automatic spot through 18 games.

    Moving up to Serie A would mean a Milan reunion for many of Monza's staff and players, as well as Brocchi – who won the Scudetto and two Champions League titles among other honours at San Siro between 2001 and 2008 before spending a brief period in charge eight years later.

    "It is a dream that hopefully will come true. To have brought the Milan mentality coming from our board – always striving to build an important organisation similar to the Milan that won so much worldwide," Brocchi told Stats Perform News.

    "Board, manager and some players have worn that shirt and the dream to recreate Milan here in Monza is beautiful and emotional."

    "It is a tough season. There are many strong clubs, the ones relegated from A [in 2019-20] who have retained all the important players and those who last season had built up a squad for promotion and failed, so I think this year's Serie B is the hardest of recent times," he continued.

    Monza – back in Serie B following a 19-year absence – are no ordinary second-tier team in Italy, with all eyes on the Bagai due to Berlusconi.

    Berlusconi's presence has changed the landscape for Monza, who tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic before the star striker opted to return to Milan in January last year. However, Monza have since lured Balotelli and Boateng to the club.

    "Working for Berlusconi and Galliani's club is grand because all media attention is on you. For sure everybody thinks Monza have to win every game because these two people have gone down in football history winning so much. And this is exactly our goal," Brocchi said.

    "I know very well Berlusconi and Galliani's wish is to reach Serie A and win every game. We share the same mindset because I have grown up with them since I was nine. To me it is an honour to be the manager here.

    "For sure it is beautiful and important for me to manage in a club like Monza that are very ambitious. It is not easy to take a club from Serie C to Serie A but it is emotional because you have a lot of responsibilities and adrenaline is always rushing. As I said, to face strong clubs with your own aim and manage to overcome them, would make this even better." 

    Brocchi, who oversaw just seven matches as Milan coach before being replaced by Vincenzo Montella, continued: "Monza's aim is to improve. We started from C, we are in B and we want Serie A. The difference between us and other clubs is that once in Serie A we won't have the goal of avoiding relegation at the last game, but to rank in the top 10.

    "Mr Galliani wants us to always be a strong team going for great objectives. This is what will happen should we win this league."

    Balotelli and Boateng are set to play a key role in Monza's push for promotion following their high-profile arrivals.

    Boateng has made an immediate impact, with the former Milan and Barcelona midfielder – on average – scoring a goal every 243 minutes in Serie B this season, the best average among Monza players with at least 90 minutes played.

    Only Dany Mota has fired more shots on target than Boateng (23 to 10) among Monza players this term and the talented Portuguese forward has four league goals.

    Balotelli – coming off a difficult spell at Brescia before their relegation from Serie A – scored with his first touch in Serie B on debut for Monza last month before being sidelined through injury.

    "They [Balotelli and Boateng] arrived here in Serie B thanks to the acquaintance they had with Berlusconi and Galliani and even with me as a manager, since I trained them at Milan and we had a great relationship," said Brocchi, who was handed his first senior head-coaching role at Milan after replacing Sinisa Mihajlovic almost five years ago, having previously worked with the club's youth team.

    "They settled in very well, they always train hard, they lead by example by showing the will to take me, Berlusconi, Galliani and Monza to Serie A. So far they have been important, let's hope they can give us even more in order to make this dream come true."

    The experience of Balotelli and Boateng complements an exciting core of Monza players, including Mota and Brazilian full-back Carlos Augusto, as well as talented loanees Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo), Andrea Colpani (Atalanta) and Davide Bettella (Atalanta).

    Both Balotelli and Boateng have tasted Serie A success in their careers to go with respective Premier League and LaLiga honours, with the latter part of the last Milan team to celebrate Scudetto glory in 2010-11.

    The strategy of sporting director Filippo Antonelli and Brocchi to invest in promising young talent has continued to deliver results on the pitch.

    Monza have allowed the fewest headed goals (one) in Serie B this season, while Brocchi's side have conceded 10 goals from inside the box – the least in the league, while they have scored five goals inside the opening 15 minutes of play – the joint most in 2020-21.

    "Monza are a mix of experienced players and great young talents. The right mix to achieve our goals. Players like Balotelli and Boateng can help Mota, Carlos Augusto, Frattesi, Colpani or Bettella, all under-21 players for Italy and Portugal," the 44-year-old Brocchi said.

    "You can't only field experienced players, you have to look for the right mix and this is what Antonelli and I looked for. I think experience helps youngsters and their exuberance helps the expert ones."

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    Madrid were stunned by third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, sparking fresh talk about Zidane's position at the helm.

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    Zinedine Zidane is being questioned more than ever as Real Madrid head coach, according to AS.

    The report says he will remain at the helm until the Champions League, which will resume in February, and former star forward Raul is the top candidate to replace him.

    Madrid are second in LaLiga, seven points behind Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

    ROUND-UP

    - Pogba may be happier at Manchester United. The Daily Star reports United are increasingly confident the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2022, despite interest from Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

    - Christian Eriksen looks set to leave Inter, but it remains to be seen where he ends up. The Telegraph claims Leicester City have ruled out a loan move for the midfielder due to his wage demands.

    - RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is set to be the subject of speculation for months to come. Goal reports Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have shown interest in the defender, who is also wanted by Bayern Munich.

    - Dele Alli wants to reunite with Mauricio Pochettino at PSG. 90min says the Tottenham midfielder has asked chairman Daniel Levy not to block a potential switch this month.

    - Arsenal appear set to strengthen in January. Sport reports midfielder Martin Odegaard is very close to joining the Premier League club on loan from Real Madrid.

  • Klopp dismisses Premier League title talk amid Liverpool slump Klopp dismisses Premier League title talk amid Liverpool slump

    Jurgen Klopp dismissed talk about the Premier League title race after Liverpool's surprise 1-0 loss to Burnley.

    Liverpool's 68-game unbeaten home league run came to an end after Ashley Barnes netted a late penalty.

    Reigning champions Liverpool have gone four league games without scoring and are winless in five, leaving them six points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

    Klopp said it would be ridiculous to discuss the title race given his side's form.

    "Look, how silly would that be if I sit here now, losing against Burnley, didn't score for the last three or four games – I don't know exactly – and now I talk about the title race? How silly would that be?" the Liverpool manager told a news conference.

    "It's just we have to win football games – it was always like this. For this we have to score goals, there is no doubt about it. That's what we have to change and have to do better. If things don't work, you have to work harder, do the right things more often, longer and more consistent, all these kinds of things.

    "But not talking like it is an easy situation, it's not. It shows a lot of things. It's incredible how consistent the boys were but that was never something that anybody should have taken for granted because now we see they are all human beings, that's how it is. And now I have to make clear about what we have to do in the right moments and then we will score goals again."

    Liverpool had 27 shots without scoring against Burnley, the most they have had in a single league match without finding the back of the net since April 2013.

    Klopp said his players were lacking some confidence amid their poor run of form.

    "We can do more with this group, we can play much better football, that is my concern. That is what I am thinking about," he said.

    "The confidence is not on the highest level, I think that is so obvious that I don't have to mention it – you can see it in specific moments. It is like 90 per cent of all what the boys did all of the time is still there, but the decisive 10 per cent in the moment is missing.

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    Liverpool face Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday before visiting Tottenham four days later.

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