EPL

Arteta wants misfiring Arsenal to make Emirates Stadium a fortress

By Sports Desk November 27, 2020

Mikel Arteta wants misfiring Arsenal to play with more freedom in the Premier League and make Emirates Stadium a fortress - starting with a clash against Wolves on Sunday.

The Gunners have scored just nine goals in as many top-flight games this season, only finding the back of the net once in their last five - and that was a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty in the win at Manchester United.

Arsenal have had no such trouble in the Europa League, scoring 10 goals in their previous three matches to cruise into the last 32.

The London club eased to a 3-0 win at Molde on Thursday to make it four group-stage victories from four, but they are languishing in 12th place in the Premier League ahead of a home encounter with Wolves.

Arsenal boss Arteta wants to see his side entertain and be ruthless in order to climb the table.

The Spaniard said: "After the disappointing last result we had at home [a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa], we have to make the Emirates a fortress.

"Playing at home without fans is never the same, but it is what we have at the moment. We need a win on Sunday for sure."

He added: "In the Premier League teams are winning games by very small margins. We've competed in all of the games apart from probably the last 20 minutes against Aston Villa.

"The boxes are defining what we do in games. In the opponent's box we haven't been as ruthless as we have to be.

"In the Europa League we have found ourselves with more flow, more creativity in the final third. More 'let's go for it and express ourselves'. Some days it's not the same, but that's something to look at. 

"We try to encourage them to play with that freedom, we have our rotation in the team for many different reason - for injuries or some because of the performances.

"Also with the challenges we've faced against big teams in the Premier League over the first nine games. That's something we have to improve obviously and we are trying to do so."

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    TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PRIORITISE VAN DIJK DEAL OVER SALAH

    Liverpool are prioritising a new contract for Van Dijk over Salah, according to Eurosport.

    Van Dijk, 29, is recovering from a serious knee injury and his absence has been felt by the Premier League champions.

    Salah, meanwhile, has scored 13 goals in 18 league games this season, but in an interview with AS last month the 28-year-old refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

    The report also says Liverpool may look at West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, with Georginio Wijnaldum set to leave as a free agent at the end of the campaign.

    ROUND-UP

    - With Van Dijk and Joe Gomez injured, Liverpool have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig defender Upamecano. But The Sun reports Manchester United are poised to sign the centre-back for £38million (€42.7m).

    - Amid uncertainty over his future at Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele is being looked at by numerous European giants. Sport reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus and Bayern Munich are monitoring the forward's situation. Dembele is out of contract in 2022 and the Catalan giants could sell him if he does not extend his deal.

    - Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure at Chelsea as the Premier League side struggle for form. The Mirror reports Chelsea could turn to Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers if they move on from Lampard.

    - Yet to re-sign with Southampton with his contract expiring next year, Danny Ings is linked with a move. 90min reports Leicester City and Everton have joined the race for the forward, who has also been linked to Tottenham.

  • Is Thiago Alcantara ill-suited to Liverpool's style of play? Is Thiago Alcantara ill-suited to Liverpool's style of play?

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    An unnecessary luxury?

    First of all, there are only so many conclusions you can make regarding Thiago and his time at Liverpool because he has not featured particularly often, as previously highlighted.

    But the fact is, Liverpool's record in Premier League games he has featured in is quite poor, with only one of those six ending in a victory.

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    The hype after that match was stratospheric – the champions had seemingly added the final string to their bow and they were seemingly set to overwhelm everyone, but it's worth bearing in mind that was a Chelsea side reduced to 10 men before Thiago had even come on.

    Liverpool average just one point per game with Thiago, that more than doubles to 2.2 when he hasn't played – additionally, their win percentage rockets from 16.7 to 61.5 in games the Spaniard hasn't featured in.

    Of course, it's a relatively small sample size, so perhaps take the facts with a pinch of salt – but there are metrics that can shine more light on Thiago's influence.

    One of Hamann's major reservations related to Thiago's desire to dictate play and how he might, in the long run, negatively impact Liverpool's effectiveness off the ball.

    "Liverpool were always good when they weren't in possession, won it and played quickly forward. He's not that type of player, so it will be very interesting when he does play more often now how it's going to change the dynamics of the team," Hamann said.

    It's true, Liverpool do have more of the ball (65.7 per cent compared to 64.7) with Thiago in the side, but the difference is negligible and certainly cannot be pointed to as a cause for worry.

    The supply line

    Then there's the concerns relating to Thiago's style of play potentially impacting supply to the frontline. Well, the Reds average 18.7 shots per game when he plays (up from 14.9 without him).

    There is also no damning evidence to suggest Thiago isn't looking to feed the forwards either, after all, he passed to Mohamed Salah 11 times (a joint high) against Manchester United last weekend.

    He has picked out Salah 36 times in their 365 minutes on the pitch together – so, once every 10.1 minutes. Although that's less frequent than he passes to Trent Alexander-Arnold (once per every 8.2 minutes) and Andy Robertson (8.8 minutes), it shows he is supplying the Reds' most-threatening forward regularly.

    And while the two full-backs had off days against Burnley, can you really blame Thiago for passing to them often? Since the start of last season, they are Liverpool's leading providers of shooting opportunities.

    Additionally, his 14.9 passes into final third of the pitch per 90 minutes is second only to Jordan Henderson (16.2) among Liverpool players this term – Thiago beats him, and every other Red, in terms of successful passes in the attacking third every game, however (25.8, compared to Henderson's 20.5).

    "He's not that type of player"

    It's fair to say Thiago probably isn't best known for what he brings to teams off the ball, but despite some seemingly questioning him in this department, he appears to be at least pulling his weight.

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    He's also clearly a hard-working player who offers plenty off the ball. So, while the Reds are going through a tricky patch at the moment, Thiago's abilities should be embraced rather than looked upon with suspicion.

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    "He's given us so much. He's still giving us so much and he'll continue to do so."

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