Arteta: Winning at Anfield another step forward for 'exceptional' Arsenal

By Sports Desk October 01, 2020

Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal's "exceptional" performance against Liverpool in their EFL Cup last-16 tie and says winning at Anfield is a big step forward for his side.

Three days after losing 3-1 at the same venue in the Premier League, Arsenal prevailed on penalties in Thursday's match following a goalless draw after 90 minutes.

It is the third time Arteta has got the better of Jurgen Klopp in four managerial meetings this year, two of those victories coming via a shoot-out following August's Community Shield success.

And while acknowledging Arsenal still have a long way to go before reaching Liverpool's level, Arteta was delighted with his much-changed side's display on Merseyside.

"I am really happy with the performance. I think the boys were exceptional. We corrected a few things from Monday and it was superb," he told Sky Sports.

"We competed much better, the level of aggression we had, the way we pressed them really high was exceptional.

"To come here and play with the determination and courage is a big step forward for the team. They are on the right path.

"The gap towards Liverpool is still big. We will keep improving to try and reach their level."

Bernd Leno was the hero for the visitors as he made seven saves in normal time and kept out penalties from Divock Origi and Harry Wilson in the subsequent shoot-out.

Arsenal allowed Emiliano Martinez to leave for Aston Villa last month and Arteta is glad that his faith in Leno has paid off.

"Leno was really good. When we needed him we had him," he said. "You need a top individual performance to win at Anfield and that is what we had tonight.

"I really have belief in Bernd. I know him really well and what he can give us. We didn't want Emiliano Martinez to go but it was probably the right thing for both parties to do."

Leno, one of three players to keep their starting spot from Arsenal's league defeat at Anfield earlier this week, is grateful to have been given the full support of his manager.

"The club has always given me the feeling I was the number one, I am the number one and will be the number one," he said. 

"My job is to prove it every week and I feel I have done that tonight.

"It is not easy to come to same place with a big disappointment from Monday. We analysed the game and the manager found the right words to lift us."

The quarter-final draw took place shortly after full-time, with Arsenal paired against holders Manchester City in the last eight.

Arteta spent three seasons as assistant to Pep Guardiola during an unprecedented period of success for City and knows exactly what to expect in December's home tie.

"I was waiting and enjoying the victory and then we have to play Manchester City. It is what it is," he said. 

"There are a lot of tough teams left in the competition and we will prepare for it."

Related items

  • Chelsea v Tottenham: How Kante has gone back infield and back to his best under Lampard Chelsea v Tottenham: How Kante has gone back infield and back to his best under Lampard

    "Ridiculous" was a word used by Frank Lampard to sum up N'Golo Kante last week - and with good reason. 

    The Chelsea midfielder is back fit, back in the side and more or less back to his best, having missed 16 Premier League matches last season. 

    Kante's "quietly influential" form has helped Lampard's side to a strong start to the season that has left some to bill Sunday's derby clash with Tottenham as something of a title showdown – or at least a game that could well highlight which of the two has the best chance of dethroning Liverpool. 

    A win for either side will move them top of the table after 10 games, but Kante's recent performances might just indicate Chelsea have the edge.

    BACK WHERE HE BELONGS?

    In 2018-19, Maurizio Sarri preferred Jorginho at the base of midfield, with Kante generally shifted to the right of a three. 

    The system was hardly a failure: Chelsea returned to the Champions League, won the Europa League and only lost the EFL Cup final on penalties to Manchester City. Few, though, ever thought it brought the best out of Kante. 

    Since taking charge last year, Lampard has shifted Kante back towards the middle and, as can be seen from his average touch maps, 2020-21 sees a full return for the France international as the midfield anchor.

    N'Golo Kante's touch maps by season, from 2018-19 (L) to 2020-21. The shift from the right-hand side towards the base of midfield is clear.

    He is averaging 82 touches per 90 minutes in the Premier League, the highest figure he has ever posted for Chelsea, five more than in his title-winning debut season in 2016-17. He is also averaging 67 passes per game, more than he ever has before for the club.

    In other words, Kante is very much at the heart of Lampard's Chelsea.

    He is also back to his exceptional defensive levels in 2020-21, averaging three interceptions per game – again the most in his Chelsea career – as well as three tackles, his highest figure under Lampard.

    The caveat is his passes in the final third have dropped by an average of six per game compared to last season and by nine compared to 2018-19, but the creative talent at Lampard's disposal means the burden of attacking is no longer on Kante's shoulders.

    HOJBJERG BATTLE AWAITS

    If Chelsea's form is based in part on the performances of Kante, Tottenham's strong start to the season is very much built on the work of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

    Signed from Southampton for a reported £15million fee, the 25-year-old has established himself as Jose Mourinho's most important player behind the relentlessly brilliant Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

    Through nine rounds of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Hojbjerg had managed more touches (809), attempted more passes (695) and completed more passes (619) than any other midfielder in the competition. He has also got stuck into 29 tackles, the third-highest number for midfielders this term and four more than Kante.

    Hojbjerg might not be a player of the Kante mold, but the two have had remarkably similar influences on their teams. Each has one assist in nine league starts, their passing accuracy practically matches (88.5 per cent for Kante, 89.1 for Hojbjerg), and they have made exactly the same number of recoveries (64).

    Effective as they are without the ball, so much of Chelsea and Spurs' good work with it also relies on these two.

    Kante has started 139 open-play sequences this season, eclipsing Hojbjerg (111), but that is about as big a difference as you will find.

    Of those sequences started by Kante, 13 have ended in a shot and two in a goal; for Hojbjerg, 11 have ended in a strike at goal and one has seen Spurs get on the scoresheet.

    Indeed, in terms of involvements in open-play build-up, Kante has managed 423, only slightly up on Hojbjerg's 415. Of those tallies, each player has seen 31 of those involvements end in a shot; when it comes to resulting in a goal, Hojbjerg edges Kante eight to three.

    On Sunday, the winner of the battle for midfield control between these two could well swing the match in his side's favour.

  • Real Madrid 1-2 Deportivo Alaves: Hazard blow as ramshackle champions come unstuck Real Madrid 1-2 Deportivo Alaves: Hazard blow as ramshackle champions come unstuck

    Real Madrid were stunned 2-1 by Deportivo Alaves and lost Eden Hazard to another injury as Zinedine Zidane witnessed a horror show from his team. 

    Lucas Perez and Joselu struck as Madrid suffered a third defeat in their opening 10 LaLiga games this season, their title defence getting off to a rocky start. 

    Madrid had played 15 previous home games against Alaves in LaLiga, winning 14 of those. They lost the other game, a 1-0 setback in May 2000, but the Santiago Bernabeu was a fortress that Alaves had found hard to crack. 

    With Madrid in their temporary home of the Alfredo di Stefano stadium this season, it was a completely different story. Despite Casemiro grabbing a late consolation, coach Zidane was left to pick up the pieces from a worrying performance. 

    Alaves were handed a fifth-minute penalty when Victor Laguardia's header struck Nacho on the upper arm, and Perez found the left corner with a confident strike from the spot. 

    Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois then prevented a second goal, producing a sharp stop to palm away a chip from Perez who got in behind the Madrid defence. 

    A hobbling Hazard, meanwhile, had to be substituted just before the half-hour mark, his wretched run of luck continuing. Moments earlier he had taken a fall in the Alaves penalty area. 

    Toni Kroos was denied by a fine double save from Fernando Pacheco, after a shambolic attempt by Alaves to walk the ball out of defence from a goal kick. 

    But Madrid were counting the cost of Kroos missing out as Alaves stretched their lead in the 49th minute. Courtois tried to pick a pass to Casemiro, but it was never on and Joselu stole in to intercept and side-foot into the empty net from 25 yards. 

    Perez was denied by Courtois as the former Deportivo La Coruna and Arsenal striker again breached the home backline, before Joselu then sent a thumping drive just wide of the top left corner as the two goalscorers combined. 

    Shots from Rodrygo and Lucas Vazquez went narrowly wide as Madrid sought a way back into the game. Casemiro netted from close range after 86 minutes but they could not force a late leveller, Isco going close when he clipped the top of the crossbar in the sixth minute of additional time.

  • Hazard injury woes return as Real Madrid star hobbles out of LaLiga clash Hazard injury woes return as Real Madrid star hobbles out of LaLiga clash

    Eden Hazard suffered fresh injury woe as the Real Madrid winger hobbled out of Saturday’s game against Deportivo Alaves. 

    The Belgium international has been blighted by ankle and leg problems since joining Zinedine Zidane's Spanish giants from Chelsea 18 months ago. 

    It was not immediately clear what his latest problem was, with Hazard able to walk off the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium pitch, albeit in obvious discomfort, to be replaced by Rodrygo after 28 minutes of the game. 

    Hazard had gone down in the Alaves penalty area moments earlier, although it was ruled that no foul was committed. 

    He was seen to grimace, stooping over after getting back to his feet and appearing to be in pain. 

    It was just Hazard's third LaLiga appearance of the season, after previous outings against Villarreal and Huesca. 

    Last season he started just 14 games in the Spanish top flight, playing just a minor role as Madrid won the LaLiga title in his first season at the club.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.