Mesut Ozil's Arsenal career looks set to end in the "next few days", with a decision on his future expected soon, according to Mikel Arteta.

Reports emerged this week claiming Ozil was in talks with MLS franchise DC United and Turkish side Fenerbahce, whom the former Real Madrid star is said to have supported as a child.

Ozil joined Arsenal from Los Blancos in 2013 and provided 54 assists in 184 Premier League appearances for the club – in the same period, only Kevin De Bruyne (74), David Silva (63) and Christian Eriksen (62) have created more goals than the German World Cup winner.

However, he has laid on just two since the start of 2019-20, as he fell out of favour again under Arteta despite the Spaniard initially appearing set on building the team around Ozil.

With his contract up at the end of the season, the 32-year-old is now able to negotiate a free transfer, though for any deal to go through this month, Arsenal will need to be involved in negotiations.

Reports in Turkey have claimed a deal with Fenerbahce has already been agreed, and while Arteta would not confirm whether this was the truth, he did state a decision is expected very soon.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Arteta told reporters on Thursday. "Now he's free to negotiate with other clubs, we will discuss internally the best situation for him, for the near future, with the player and the agent and try to find the best solution for everybody.

"Every player wants to play football, this is why we picked this profession. We are so lucky to be doing what we do, so for every player not playing, it is hard.

"We will decide what happens in the next few days."

Ozil's position at Arsenal has long been a source of contention, with some supporters adamant he should not have been excluded from the Premier League squad at the start of the season, while others have routinely urged him to leave for his own good but to also release the Gunners from the pressure of his substantial wages.

Arteta appeared optimistic about the situation, though did accept Ozil could yet stay for the time being.

"If something is sorted this month it's because it's good for both parties; good for Mesut and his future, and good for the club," he continued.

"If that's the case, we will move forward. If it's not the case, the player will remain here.

"He's been training with us, but he had some days [off] because we decided to give him some days for something personal, but he's been training with us all the time.

"We are aware of all the conversations with Mesut internally and his agent, and this communication keeps going. From now on he's free to talk to any club."

Paul Pogba has warned Manchester United they will continue to fall short of winning the "big stuff" if they do not improve on "details" after losing to Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final thanks to two set-pieces.

City became only the second side to reach four successive finals in the competition on Wednesday, while it was a third semi-final elimination in four EFL Cup campaigns for United.

On top of that, it was a fourth consecutive semi-final defeat for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer across all competitions, having fallen to City in the same competition in 2019-20 as well as losing to Chelsea and Sevilla in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively.

United have made undoubted progress under Solskjaer, as evidenced by the fact a point against Burnley next Tuesday will take them top of the Premier League for the first time since the opening day of the 2018-19 season – their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the only game that day.

But Pogba has warned United they will not win the biggest matches if they do not sharpen up around certain situations, with City's two goals on Wednesday coming from dead-ball situations.

Speaking to MUTV, the France international said: "It is disappointing because it is not the first one against City at home. We are disappointed with the result, obviously, with the two goals from set-pieces.

"It is very annoying to lose because there is a trophy behind all of this. We have to do better, we have to do better for sure. It is about details.

"Details make the difference all of the time and now when it is big games like this, it is details and at set-pieces we lost. We have to learn because it is not the first time.

"We have to learn, we have to get through this because, after this, there are big games coming up. Next time, we will do better, we will do better.

"We are improving. Last year they [City] were obviously more dominant and they dominated us [in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final]. That wasn't the case [this time], so obviously we are improving.

"We are improving in the league and, even though we lost in the semi-final, we are still going far and that is what we want. But now it is about details. It is good to improve but we have to go to the next step now, all of us."

Up next for United at the weekend is an FA Cup clash with Championship side Watford, before then going to Burnley for their rearranged fixture from the start of the season on Tuesday, and a top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool follows that.

Pogba looked to remind the team that they cannot afford to mope in the wake of defeat to City given the importance of the games on the horizon.

"There is no time to be disappointed for a week because we know where we are. We are in a good position now. We don't have time to be disappointed. We don't have the time. We will get through this and we will go again," he added.

"It is difficult, and it is going to be difficult, and you learn from these games. It is going to hopefully help us to get through, to get better and to have a positive result in the next games.

"Football and playing for Man United is not easy, it will never be easy, but it makes the victory prettier and more beautiful when we get through a tough time, then we get through this.

"It is beautiful, and you get the emotion. That is all we want. That is what the fan wants, that is what the team wants, everyone wants this. The club is built on winning and big things, so that is all we want to get – the big stuff."

Manchester City reportedly believe they lead the race for Lionel Messi if the star leaves Barcelona.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at Barca at the end of the season and is linked with a move from the LaLiga giants.

The forward stayed at Camp Nou after sensationally requesting a transfer ahead of 2020-21, but it may have just delayed his exit.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD MESSI RACE IF STAR LEAVES

Manchester City believe they lead the race for Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to The Telegraph.

City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter have been most strongly linked with a move for Messi, who is expected to make a decision on his future at the end of the campaign.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 20 games in all competitions this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Gareth Bale injured, his chances of a longer stay at Tottenham appear slim. AS reports Real Madrid are expecting the attacker to return to the club at the end of his loan spell at the conclusion of the campaign, and that would hurt their chances of signing Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe with Bale contracted until 2022.

- Georginio Wijnaldum's future is no closer to being sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder and Liverpool have reached a stalemate over a new contract. Wijnaldum's deal expires at the end of the season and the Netherlands international has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

- Starring at Tottenham this season, Son Heung-min could be set for a new deal. The Telegraph reports Spurs are confident the forward, who is contracted until 2023, will re-sign.

- Mesut Ozil could finally be set to leave Arsenal. DHA reports the playmaker has agreed to a three-and-a-half-year deal with Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- With Moise Kean impressing on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, Everton are expecting an offer for the forward, according to the Liverpool Echo. Kean has 10 goals in 17 matches for PSG this season.

- Diego Alonso is under pressure at the helm of Inter Miami, and Sky Sports reports the MLS side have approached Phil Neville, who is the coach of England's women's team, to take over.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put Manchester United's latest semi-final heartbreak down to facing "probably the best team in England" rather than a psychological issue after their derby defeat to Manchester City.

John Stones scored his first City goal since November 2017 early in the second half and Fernandinho sealed a 2-0 EFL Cup victory seven minutes from time at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United had just two shots on target as they suffered a fourth semi-final defeat out of four since Solskjaer took over as manager.

City looked ominous once again as they extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches, setting up a showdown with Tottenham at Wembley, where they will be favourites to win the competition for a sixth time in eight seasons on April 25.

Solskjaer was disappointed by the way United conceded but gave great credit to Pep Guardiola's in-form side.

"Manchester City can score many great goals. You can accept that. When you concede two simple set-plays, it's very disappointing. Just not good enough in those moments," he told Sky Sports.

"We didn't create enough big chances. They didn't either. We didn't have the extra finesse we've had in the games lately, we weren't good enough.

"We played against a very good Manchester City team, they played well. When they play well you have to play very well to beat them. We were just lacking that little bit."

Yet Solskjaer does not see any need to read too much into the Red Devils' record in semi-finals during his reign.

"We're getting closer. This is a much better version of United than a year ago in those semis," he added.

"It's not psychological [losing another semi-final]. Sometimes you meet good teams in the semis. At the moment, City are probably the best team in England."

The PFA has urged its members to remember the "vital importance" of following coronavirus and club protocols as the United Kingdom enters a third period of national lockdown.

On Monday, the UK government confirmed England would be placed under strict restrictions as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths continue to rise.

Though vaccines are starting to be rolled out to vulnerable groups, the UK recorded 62,322 new cases and 1,041 deaths on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed that 40 players and staff members – a new high – had tested positive for the virus over the most recent two rounds of testing, up from 18 the previous week.

Three matches in England's top flight were postponed over the festive period, while a number of EFL games have also been unable to take place.

With elite sport allowed to continue despite the new lockdown regulations, the Premier League has insisted it has full faith in its protocols, while the EFL announced on Wednesday it would introduce a twice-weekly testing regime, starting from January 11.

However, amid the rise in cases and deaths, there have been high-profile examples of players breaking coronavirus rules over recent weeks.

Manchester City, who have been hit by an outbreak within their squad, launched an investigation into reports of Benjamin Mendy hosting a party on New Year's Eve that included guests from outside his household.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was disappointed to learn of a Christmas gathering which saw Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso breach regulations, with West Ham's Manuel Lanzini also in attendance.

The PFA has released a statement, which read: "Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, the PFA would like to reinforce the message that players must follow the current COVID-19 rules and club protocols as a matter of vital importance.

"In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole.

"It is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the vast majority of matches have gone ahead as scheduled and the risks to players, staff and their families have been well managed and kept to a minimum.

"Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine's imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.

"Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that players have a unique position to inspire and influence society positively.

"Your compliance with the national restrictions sets the right example to millions of fans and young people. Following the rules is also the best way to protect your loved ones, your colleagues and their families from harm."

Manchester City have confirmed Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one staff member have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Premier League club have been massively impacted by COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with six first-team squad members being forced to sit out Sunday's 3-1 win at Chelsea.

Ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final clash with Manchester United, City have announced three more positive cases in the latest round of testing.

"Manchester City FC can confirm that Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one member of staff have tested positive for COVID-19," a club statement read.

"Both personnel will now observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK Government protocol on quarantine.

"Everyone at the club wishes Scott, Cole and all of our other colleagues a speedy recovery ahead of their return to work, training and competition."

Teenage academy product Palmer has featured twice for City this term in cup competitions, while third-choice keeper Carson has yet to make an appearance.

City previously had to shut their training centre following last month's initial coronavirus outbreak, which led to their trip to Everton being postponed four hours before kick-off.

Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and Eric Garcia are all confirmed to have contracted the respiratory illness, while Ederson previously confirmed he was self-isolating.

Defender Benjamin Mendy was named among the substitutes for the Chelsea match, despite breaching coronavirus regulations by hosting a New Year's Eve dinner party.

Meanwhile, four Manchester City Women players tested positive on Tuesday.

Manchester City have reportedly annoyed Kevin De Bruyne with their contract offer amid interest in Lionel Messi.

De Bruyne, 29, has been expected to sign a new deal with the Premier League giants, with his contract expiring in 2023.

But with Messi coming out of contract at season's end, City's offer to De Bruyne has seemingly drawn questions.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY ANNOY DE BRUYNE AMID MESSI INTEREST

Manchester City have annoyed De Bruyne with their contract offer, according to The Athletic.

The report says the offer is less than De Bruyne is currently on because of potentially signing Messi. However, the Belgium international is still expected to re-sign.

City have been strongly linked to Messi, who could leave Barcelona at the end of the campaign when is contract is due to expire.

The Barcelona captain has insisted he will not make a decision on his future until the season's conclusion.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also coming out of contract is Bayern Munich star David Alaba. The Guardian reports Liverpool are interested in signing the defender, but Real Madrid lead the race.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ramos will not accept a one-year deal and the defender and LaLiga champions are distant in their bid to reach an agreement, according to Marca. The Manchester Evening News reports City are not interested in Ramos.

Antoine Griezmann is still yet to find his best form for Barcelona, but Sport reports the Blaugrana are not considering selling the forward.

Mesut Ozil could be set to leave Arsenal. Football.London reports the playmaker, who comes out of contract in June, is in negotiations with MLS franchise DC United.

- Linked with Juventus and InterOlivier Giroud is set to stay at Chelsea, according to Goal. They also claim Juve are considering Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella as an alternative, while Milan look set to keep hold of star midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested Jurgen Klopp may have been trying to influence referees by discussing the penalties awarded to Manchester United.

Klopp felt Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty during Monday's 1-0 loss to Southampton, while highlighting how many spot-kicks United were awarded.

Under Klopp, Liverpool have been awarded 46 penalties in all competitions, including 30 in the Premier League. In that same time frame, and under three different managers, United have won 67.

Since Solskjaer became United manager in December 2018, United have been given 42 – with 27 in the league. Liverpool have had just 19 spot-kicks in all competitions in that time.

But Solskjaer, whose side host Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, dismissed the talk about United's penalties.

"That's a fact, probably. That's probably going to be my answer – that's a fact that we’ve got more than them," the United manager told reporters.

"But maybe they should… well, we’ve had… I don’t know how many penalties they've had. I don't count how many penalties they have.

"So, if they want to spend time on worrying about when we get fouled in the box then I don't spend time on that."

Solskjaer suggested Klopp was trying to influence referees by discussing United's penalty record.

"I can't talk on behalf of other managers, why they say things like this," he said.

"Obviously I felt it worked last year in the FA Cup semi because Frank [Lampard, Chelsea head coach] spoke about it.

"We had a nailed-on penalty that we should have had and didn't get, so maybe it's a way of influencing referees."

CONMEBOL has joined the Uruguayan players' union in backing Edinson Cavani after the Manchester United striker was banned by the Football Association (FA) for a controversial social media post.

Cavani was suspended for three matches and fined £100,000 for posting a message in response to an Instagram story after he scored twice in United's 3-2 comeback win at Southampton on November 29.

The post from Cavani featured a Spanish word often used as a term of endearment in Latin America, with Cavani later apologising and deleting when he is said to have become aware the word could be construed as having racist connotations in English.

An FA investigation, which involved a language expert witness, concluded that Cavani's actions constituted an aggravated rule breach, because the language used "included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin".

On Monday, the Uruguayan Football Players' Association (AFU) issued a statement, shared by international stars Diego Godin and Lucas Torreira, that called the sanctions against Cavani "reprehensible", while accusing the FA of displaying a "biased, dogmatic and ethnocentric vision".

South American football's governing body was not so fiery in its own statement, but it similarly suggested the FA had not taken "cultural characteristics" into account.

"CONMEBOL expresses its solidarity with the player Edinson Cavani, punished by the English Football Association," the statement read.

"The disciplinary action of the outstanding player of the Uruguay national team clearly does not consider cultural characteristics and the use of certain terms in everyday speech in Uruguay.

"The judgement of these types of statements, within the framework of a process that can lead to penalties for the athlete and affect his reputation and good name, must always be carried out taking into account the context in which they were made and, above all, the cultural peculiarities of each player and each country.

"CONMEBOL condemns and will always condemn with the greatest energy any racist or discriminatory instance, but the specific case for which Cavani was sanctioned does not constitute one of these."

Cavani, who must also undergo a face-to-face education course, accepted his FA ban but insisted his "heart is at peace" over the social media post.

The 33-year-old sat out United's 2-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa last weekend and will also miss Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City and the FA Cup third-round tie at home to Watford.

The Premier League has announced 40 new cases of COVID-19 among players and club staff - by far the highest figure recorded in a single week.

At the same time, the league said it was confident its protocols meant games should continue to be played, with clubs now being tested twice weekly.

The results for December 28 to January 3 saw the number of positives surge from the previous high of 18, which was recorded the week before.

In a statement, the Premier League said 28 tested positive from 1,311 tested between December 28 and December 31, with a further 12 positives from 984 players and staff who underwent tests from January 1 to January 3.

Although England has entered a national lockdown, professional sport is being allowed to carry on, unlike last season when the campaign went on hold for three months.

The latest figures from league chiefs follow the postponement of three matches last week due to coronavirus infections, with Fulham's games against Tottenham and Burnley called off, along with Manchester City's fixture at Everton.

Despite this impact, the Premier League said it would press on with the season as intended. There have been calls from some in the game for a circuit break - a period in which clubs could look to get the virus under control.

The Premier League, however, said: "With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its COVID-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled."

It said players or club staff must self-isolate for 10 days after a positive test.

Jurgen Klopp was, predictably, none too pleased after Liverpool lost 1-0 at Southampton on Monday.

Not only did the Premier League champions see a 12-game unbeaten run end, but they also gifted Manchester United the chance to go top of the table if the Red Devils win their game in hand.

Liverpool only managed one shot on target against Ralph Hasenhuttl's Saints after conceding a Danny Ings goal in the second minute, when a free-kick eluded Trent Alexander-Arnold and gave the former Reds striker the chance to score a fine lob.

Klopp admitted they should have done better with that set-piece, but he was further irritated in the second half when two penalty appeals were turned down, first for a tangle between Sadio Mane and Kyle Walker-Peters and then for a Georginio Wijnaldum shot that struck the arm of Jack Stephens.

"[The handball] looked like a clear penalty," Klopp said. "I turned to the fourth official, he said: 'We checked already, no penalty.'

"What [referee] Andre Marriner did with Sadio Mane tonight, I'm not sure that's okay, to be honest.

"I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five and a half years. I've no idea if that's my fault, or how that can happen."

It's quite the claim – but is it true?

PEN STATE

Under Klopp, Liverpool have been awarded 46 penalties in all competitions, including 30 in the Premier League (they've scored 39 of them, for good measure). In that same time frame, and under three different managers, United have won 67 and scored 54 penalties in all competitions.

What about the past two years? Well, 42 of those United penalties have come since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became manager in December 2018, with 27 in the league. Liverpool have had just 19 spot-kicks in that time. Klopp, then, has a point.

If you combine the past two Premier League seasons, no team has had as many penalties as the Red Devils, who have won 20 and scored 15 of them. Next on the list is Leicester City (17 won, 13 scored) and then Manchester City (14 won, eight scored). Liverpool have won 10 in that time and scored every one.

Having half the number of their bitter rivals will doubtless be a source of frustration, but they should consider the feelings of Everton fans. The Toffees have had just three penalties in the past two seasons, the lowest of any side to be in the division across both campaigns.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE

In 2019-20 in the Premier League, United won more penalties than anyone else (14 – three above nearest rivals Man City). That number was a record for a single season in the Premier League era. Liverpool won five.

The balance actually seems to be shifting a little in 2020-21, though. United are joint-second for Premier League penalties (six, level with Brighton and Hove Albion), but four behind Leicester, who won 10 spot-kicks in their first 16 games, a competition record.

Liverpool, for their part, are only one behind United on five. Had the Southampton game taken place in the first few weeks of the season, they may well have caught up with them through the Stephens incident: the earlier implementation of the handball rule led to seven such penalties being awarded in the first five matchdays of 2020-21.

Only five have been given since, and none since December 13 – when Fulham's Aboubakar Kamara was penalised against Liverpool.

Dani Ceballos says his priority is to become a regular for Real Madrid once his second season on loan at Arsenal has come to an end.

The midfielder impressed for the Gunners in 2019-20 before extending his loan stay for an additional season.

He has not played as regularly in this campaign, prompting speculation Madrid would recall the 24-year-old and loan him out elsewhere to get more minutes.

But Ceballos did return to the Arsenal starting XI with an impressive performance in the 4-0 away win over West Brom last time out, the club's third consecutive triumph.

While Ceballos is loving playing under Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, he still sees his future with Madrid rather than in London.

"A third year on loan? No, my goal is to return to Real Madrid and be important at the best club in the world," he told El Larguero.

"I believe that one day I will come back and be able to return the affection that the fans showed me.

"I signed a long contract with Madrid. I have two-and-a-half years left. 

"For various reasons, I didn't leave the club in the best manner. My goal is to succeed at Arsenal [but] my wish is to wear the Madrid shirt.

"For those of us from Madrid, the arrival of Zinedine Zidane has been good for everyone. 

"Each coach has their taste in players. He told me that he needed me to play and get minutes. He was clear with me."

Discussing life under Arteta with Arsenal, Ceballos, who has started nine of the Gunners' 17 Premier League matches, continued: "Mikel is a coach who suits me like a glove.

"That is because he played in the same position as me. He wants us to play forward when we steal the ball. 

"The Premier League is a bit below [LaLiga] at a tactical level but it is more physical. The position of number eight is the one that suits me best.

"We started to get into bad dynamics and when a team has a priority to fight for Europe it is difficult to get out. We have chained three victories together and hopefully we will go up [the table]."

Ceballos also said he would love to be reunited with the Real Betis fans by playing there again later in his career.

"Betis is different from any club in the world," he added.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is convinced Manchester United have developed significantly since suffering three semi-final defeats in 2019-20 as they prepare to host rivals Manchester City in the last four of the EFL Cup.

Had things gone a little differently last term, Man United might have ended the campaign with three trophy successes, breaking Solskjaer's duck as the club's boss.

But, United lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup semis, suffered a late 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League and fell at the same stage of the EFL Cup to City, losing 3-2 on aggregate.

The elimination by City was particularly chastening given the manner of the first-leg home loss, as United were swept aside and somewhat fortunate to only lose 3-1 – the 1-0 away win in the second meeting was insufficient to save their hopes.

But it could be argued there is a different aura to this United side. They are level on 33 points with pacesetters Liverpool in the Premier League but have played one game less, and they head into Wednesday's game unbeaten in seven across all competitions.

The EFL Cup semi-finals this season are limited to one-game affairs rather than being split over two, and Solskjaer is adamant United are a different animal.

"When you get to a semi, you've done a lot of good work to get there and naturally you're playing against better and better opposition," Solskjaer told reporters.

"I think we've improved immensely in a year since the last semi [against City] and even when we were in Europe in August.

"For me, it's a step closer to get to the final, we've developed a lot, it's easy to say, 'have we learned?' But it's not about if we've learnt, it's about some fine margins in those semi-finals as well.

"When you win games of football, you don't think about it's a semi-final or a normal game or a league game or a quarter final, you just think about this game and want to win it."

United have faced City six times since Solskjaer was initially installed as Jose Mourinho's replacement in December 2018 and, perhaps rather surprisingly, has the edge over Pep Guardiola in their head-to-head with three wins to two.

Their most recent meeting, just under a month ago, was a rather cagier 0-0 draw that had few conclusions drawn from it by most, though Solskjaer still felt there were signs of United's progression.

They have every reason to be wary again, however – City have progressed from their previous five EFL Cup semis and lost only twice in 23 games in the competition under Guardiola.

"I've seen progress," Solskjaer continued. "Sometimes the results don't show the whole picture of the game, some of our counter-attacking goals in the wins we've had have been brilliant; in the league away when we won, we could have scored four or five in a 10- or 15-minute period.

"A few counter attacks there were out of this world but we had less control of the ball and defended fantastically. I think the last game was more or less 50-50 in possession, maybe a more cagey game from both teams but still I felt that was a progression having stayed more in the game.

"You never know what kind of system he [Guardiola] is going to come up with but you know you've got to defend really well against Man City.

"It's hard to keep the ball in their half, they find a way of overloading, so you've got to be brave, compact, trust your players.

"When we have the ball, we have to be able to keep it, play out of their press because they're one of the quickest to put the counter pressure on and win the ball high up.

"So, it's a balance. We've found that balance. We didn't have the 'X factor' last game, maybe because they were a little bit more cagey and set up to counter attack more as well.

"They've been some fascinating games and I feel we've got closer and closer and results sometimes you can't control."

Jamie Carragher has criticised Liverpool's performance after a 1-0 away loss to Southampton continued their recent slump.

The Premier League champions went down to defeat courtesy of an early goal from their former striker Danny Ings on Monday.

Liverpool had drawn their previous two games against West Brom and Newcastle United, while they also recently dropped points against Brighton and Hove Albion and Fulham.

Manager Klopp felt the Southampton defeat was down to an early mistake by Trent Alexander-Arnold and a failure to award his side penalties.

But Carragher was baffled to see Liverpool not bombarding the Southampton goal in the latter stages.

Aside from their 7-0 win over Crystal Palace, the former Reds defender has been concerned by their lack of creativity, particularly away from home.

"The big worry is where are the goals and creation coming from, because it has been non-existent," Carragher said on Sky Sports.

"This Liverpool team is amazing but it is going through one of its first real rough patches it has been through in the past two seasons.

"I did not see that coming, I expected a reaction from Liverpool on the back of two really poor performances. We have just seen another one."

LACK OF SHOTS ON TARGET

Fraser Forster – who kept his first top-flight clean sheet in over three years - made a save from Sadio Mane in the 75th minute in what proved to be Liverpool's only shot on target.

That was also their longest wait for an attempt on target in a Premier League match since December 2015. 

Klopp's men have failed to score in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since May 2018, having found the net in each of their 21 previous outings.

Opta data shows that after having eight attempts on target in the astonishing win over Palace, Liverpool have mustered just seven across their last three Premier League matches.

Carragher added: "Liverpool's away form this season is so poor. 

"When it comes to chances created, they have not looked like scoring. Did Fraser Forster have to make a good save, a big save? Did anyone miss a real chance where they had to score?

"That is a really big worry for Liverpool at the moment, in terms of what they are creating away from home. It is nowhere near enough.

"If you take that Aston Villa result out, Liverpool have done quite well defensively and that is quite worrying.

"At times I watch them and think where is the goal coming from.

"The big problem for me, if you go back to the last game against Newcastle, yes, [Mohamed] Salah missed chances and Mane missed chances, but if they don't score then who else is going to score?

"Take out the Crystal Palace game and nobody else has scored away from home for Liverpool who was available. The other one is Diogo Jota who scored against Brighton."

MIDFIELD STRUGGLES TO CREATE

Starting midfielders Thiago Alcantara, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined for just one created chance.

When it comes to chances created from open play per 90 minutes this season, Liverpool only have two players in the Premier League's top 30 - forwards Salah (1.67, 12th) and Mane (1.55, 18th).

Aston Villa standout Jack Grealish (3.13), Manchester United attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes (2.97) and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (2.50) lead the statistical category. 

"There was the freak result against Crystal Palace but look at chances created from open play," continued Carragher.

"Last season's average was 10 from open play. But they are not creating what you would associate with a top team this season.

"Look at the average chances created from open play away from home [7.8 this season] and they are down in seventh.

"When you are a top team like Liverpool you should be in the top two or three for everything offensively."

Andriy Shevchenko is in the conversation to take over as Chelsea manager if the Blues decide to part ways with manager Frank Lampard.

With Chelsea languishing in ninth place in the Premier League table, Le10sport reports the Ukrainian's name is on the Blues list of possible replacements.

Shevchenko played for the club between 2006 and 2008 and has since forged a managerial career with the Ukraine national team, moving through the under-19 and under-21 teams to the senior dugout.

 

TOP STORY – SHEVCHENKO BEING CONSIDERED AS NEXT CHELSEA MANAGER

Chelsea are studying their options to replace Lampard and his former Blues team-mate Shevchenko is part of the shortlist, reports Le10sports.

The 44-year-old led Ukraine through an undefeated Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, drawing 0-0 in Portugal and beating the European champions 2-1, in Kiev.

Shevchenko remains close to the club as his 14-year-old son, Kristian, plays in the Blues academy and is well liked by club owner Roman Abramovich, say Le10sports sources.

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