Timo Werner will become a Chelsea star but it could still "take time" before the goal-starved striker lights up the Premier League, according to Frank Lampard.

Blues boss Lampard has seen Werner fail to score in any of his last nine league games, which means he is mired in his longest drought in top-flight football since 2016 when he went 11 successive matches without finding the net.

On Saturday, Chelsea make the short trip to Fulham, and a Werner goal in the west London derby would come as a major relief to the German forward, his coach and Chelsea fans who may be questioning the investment in the former RB Leipzig man.

Werner struck 28 goals in 34 Bundesliga games last season, finishing second only to Robert Lewandowski (34 goals) in the scoring stakes.

Lampard hopes the time he has spent with Werner on the training pitch over the previous fortnight will pay off, with Chelsea having not had a Premier League game since their January 3 clash with Manchester City.

"I think his performances have been pretty good and I think they're going to get better," Lampard said in a news conference.

"I think it's going slightly unspoken about the fact that a lot players that come into this league are given time to come in and out of the team and feel their way. There are players who have come into the Liverpool team over recent years and have been given time to feel how the team plays.

"Clearly with Timo we didn't have that opportunity because of some injuries in certain positions and because we bought Timo and others to make an impact in our first team straight away.

"People have to be patient with the idea that we'll maximise Timo's talent in this team. That's a two-way street of Timo's work and our work as a group, and it will happen, but of course it can take time."

Werner, 24, has spent a large part of his Chelsea career in a wide role, which may not be the optimum way of using his strengths even if it was a position he often played for Leipzig.

Lampard is considering ways to tease the best out of the £47million man, aware he can fill various roles, and a goal in the FA Cup drubbing of minnows Morecambe last week was welcome.

"With Timo through the middle, it’s clearly an area of the pitch that he likes to start from," said Lampard.

"At Leipzig and with Germany, he's played centrally, he's played on the left, he's played as a lone striker, he's played as one of two strikers, so I see there's definitely room for manoeuvre in how you use Timo."

Werner has scored four Premier League goals in 17 appearances, also hitting the woodwork a league-high five times in his 40 shots.

Of all players with 40 or more shots, only Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne (three goals from 54 shots) has scored fewer times this season.

Chelsea will be tackling a Fulham side who have drawn their last five Premier League games, matching the number of draws they had played out in their previous 45 matches in the top flight.

The Cottagers have won just one of 28 previous Premier League clashes with Chelsea, however, when Chris Coleman's side won 1-0 at home against Jose Mourinho's men in March 2006 – with Lampard in the beaten team that day.

Chelsea lost last time out in the Premier League, going down 3-1 to Pep Guardiola's City, and it was all the way back in 1993 when they last suffered defeats in consecutive league games at the beginning of a year.

Those losses came against City, coincidentally, and Nottingham Forest.

Lampard believes Fulham boss Scott Parker is doing "fantastically well" and said they "played very well" in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham.

"They're very well organised and have threats throughout their team," said Lampard.

Manchester United star Paul Pogba expects Premier League players to find innovative ways of celebrating goals after being told to avoid hugs and high fives.

As a means of cutting contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, league chiefs have written to clubs to advise them that players should steer away from the usual exuberant celebrations.

The Premier League was also set to hold a series of meetings with managers and players before the weekend, with the same message expected to be emphasised.

Players have been celebrating goals largely as normal during this week's midweek programme, but football is determined to show it can operate responsibly as it aims to continue amid the global health crisis.

Frenchman Pogba scored the only goal as United won at Burnley on Tuesday to rise to the top of the Premier League table, and the strike was followed by a team huddle with plenty of close contact.

But now the Premier League is clamping down and Pogba can understand why it would do that amid rising numbers of positive cases.

Ahead of Manchester United's trip to face Liverpool on Sunday, he told Sky Sports News: "You find another way to celebrate, to be happy, but the most important is not this - the most important is the result.

"Obviously there's rules and you have to respect it and you have to do it for the safety of everyone. We've been doing very well, I think, in Manchester."

Former Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is pleased to see Manchester United back as Premier League title contenders – as long as the reigning champions can defend their crown.

The Reds trail United by three points at the top of the table heading into Sunday's crunch clash on Merseyside.

United are winless in four league games against Liverpool, losing on their last two trips to Anfield, but this will be their first meeting with the Old Trafford outfit leading the league since 2013, when Alex Ferguson oversaw their most recent title triumph.

Liverpool have since won the title once and finished as runners-up twice, while United have only once made the top two.

However, ex-defender Jose Enrique, who played for the Reds between 2011 and 2016, believes it is healthy for the rivalry for the teams to be competitive at the summit.

"For me, if I have to be honest with you, I like to see United struggle, obviously, but I also like to see them be there if Liverpool are winning the title," he told Stats Perform News.

"In the end, it's the type of fact that it has always been in the Premier League; they are the two clubs with the most history in the Premier League. It's the reality for titles and everything.

"Obviously, Manchester City go and buy, then Everton now. Yes, okay, it's good and it's amazing, but Manchester United and Liverpool have always been there, so it's nice to see that battle again.

"When Sir Alex Ferguson was there, Liverpool were struggling a bit, so both of them are going through a good moment now, and it's nice to see this type of thing.

"It's true that a derby's a derby. It doesn't matter in which position you are in the table, because every player is looking forward to this, so you will see the performance and the tackles and everything [that] is different to other games.

"But it's nice to see as well that fire. And finally, Liverpool finishing and winning the league, obviously."

Liverpool are winless in three in the league, but Jose Enrique added: "Obviously, Liverpool are struggling a bit with results now but both of them are in the top of the table.

"So, it's better to see a game of that magnitude to play for the top spot in the Premier League."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is aiming to avoid becoming just the third United manager to fail to win any of his first four league games against Liverpool and the rivalry will then be renewed once more in the FA Cup at Old Trafford six days later.

There will be no supporters at either match due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Jose Enrique still ranks this ahead of any other fixture.

"It's the best game to be involved in," he said. "Obviously, it's going to be different because there's no fans.

"But it's still a derby and the players will perform really well; it will be a determined game.

"Personally, when I used to be involved, it was amazing. It was the best game to be involved in.

"When we play at Anfield, this type of game, the atmosphere is completely different. Even the Champions League is special, amazing, but when you play against United, it's something else, a different experience."

After nine and a half years, three first-team appearances and loan spells at seven different clubs, Lucas Piazon's time at Chelsea has finally come to an end.

Piazon, 26, on Thursday put pen to paper on a four-and-a-half-year contract with Primeira Liga side Braga, whose coach Carlos Carvalhal he played under at Rio Ave last season.

His name has been linked to Chelsea for so long, since signing as a promising 17-year-old in 2011, but few fans could tell you what he has done during his career.

With the help of Opta data, we look back at Piazon's loan spells to analyse an unusual career that finally appears set for some normality.

MALAGA

Piazon's first loan switch saw him head to Malaga in January 2013 and he began well, setting up two goals across his first three starts. However, he only started one more game and did not register another goal involvement.

VITESSE

Things ramped up a few gears the next season at Vitesse, where Piazon found the back of the net 11 times in his first 1,331 minutes for Vitesse. He scored or assisted a goal every 73 minutes before the mid-season break but did not have a single goal involvement in 727 minutes across the second half of the season as they slipped from second – level on points with leaders Ajax – to a sixth-place finish.

EINTRACHT FRANKFURT

Piazon spent the 2014-15 season with Frankfurt and only scored twice, though one was an incredible free-kick winner against Hamburg, across 22 appearances and 11 starts in the Bundesliga. However, he created 1.7 chances per 90 minutes in Germany's top flight, second only to Takashi Inui (2.3) among Frankfurt players.

READING

A return to England followed and the first of three years in the Championship. Piazon had three goals and two assists in 23 league appearances for Reading. Among players to feature for the club at least 10 times, he ranked second for passing accuracy (84.3 per cent) and fifth for chances created per 90 (1.9).

FULHAM

Piazon spent the next two seasons down the road from Stamford Bridge at Craven Cottage. In his first season with Fulham he had 2.2 chances created per 90 minutes, behind only Tom Cairney (2.7) and Stefan Johansen (2.3) among players to feature at least 10 times.

In 2017-18 he scored five goals and four assists as the Cottagers secured promotion to the top flight. His 18 goal involvements (10 goals, eight assists) across his two seasons with Fulham was the fifth most for the club during that time frame.

CHIEVO

A first venture in Serie A followed in the second half of 2018-19, but Piazon only played 81 minutes across four appearances for Chievo. He created one chance and hit the target with his only shot.

RIO AVE

Piazon became an important squad player during an 18-month loan at Rio Ave, contributing two goals and an assist as they qualified for the preliminary stages of the Europa League by finishing fifth in the 2019-20 Primeira Liga. His two goals from seven shots (including blocks) in the top flight this season gave him a team-high conversion rate of 28.57. Among Primeira Liga players to have taken at least as many shots as Piazon this season, only five have a better conversion rate.

Frank Lampard has warned it may be impossible to "dictate" the behaviour of footballers in the heat of battle as the Premier League pushes clubs to reduce COVID-19 risks.

League chiefs want to cut out all unnecessary contact, between players, reportedly including hugs, handshakes and high fives, all actions that are commonplace in goal celebrations.

However, Chelsea boss Lampard says players can only do their best, and the possibility of bookings, which could lead to red cards, is something he says would be "very difficult to police".

Speaking on Thursday in a news conference, Lampard said: "If you understand football and understand the passion and the instinct which every fan has, they understand it can bring our emotions in you.

"To control the emotions is a fair ask, but to dictate emotions I think would be probably very difficult on the pitch.

"As it goes along we'll see if players can control it - I hope they can."


There have been goal celebrations in games since it was first declared they should be avoided, and the Premier League is holding meetings with managers and players this week when it is expected to drive home the importance of the new guidance.

Coronavirus infections have caused a rash of game postponements in the league over recent weeks, with a number of clubs badly affected by the recent rising toll of infections.

Lampard said: "[At Chelsea] social distance is top of the list, all the basics are top of the list.

"But when you're putting a football on the pitch and there's a lot of instinct involved, then it's not always as easy to draw a clear line on the pitch as in training.

"We'll try to do the best as we are told to minimise the threat and the danger that we know this virus holds.

"We've been told that and there are meetings for today and tomorrow to probably reinforce that from the Premier League.

"I'll reinforce that to the players, but football has and always will be a game of instinct. And if we want to take the instinct out of the game, I think it's not that simple.

"Players are good lads and they don't want to do the wrong thing. They've been asked to do their job through this very tough time and they're doing it.

"When they're on the pitch and if they score a goal well try to adapt slightly, as well as we can. In a perfect world, we'll all walk back to the halfway line and just start again.

"But with football maybe it won't quite be the case. I don't think you can hold players hugely to account unless there's a clear flouting of those rules.

"If people can get booked, which means they can probably get sent off if it was a second yellow card, I think it'll be very difficult to police, with keeping the energy and the excitement that football brings.

"The players have been asked to not show natural instinct in a game - let’s see how it works."

Amad Diallo is targeting Premier League and Champions League success after completing his move to Manchester United.

United agreed a deal with Serie A side Atalanta for 18-year-old winger Diallo back in October and he arrived at the club on Wednesday.

He has signed a contract until June 2025 with the option for an extra year and has lofty ambitions at Old Trafford.

"I'm a little bit too anxious to say this given it's just the start [of my time here] but my dream is to win the Premier League and the Champions League with Manchester United. That is my aim and goal," Diallo said in a club interview.

"I'm over the moon to be here. I'm so excited to start here at Manchester United. It's a dream come true and I can't wait to start and play with the guys.

"It's been a little bit strange these last few months. I would have hoped to have played a little bit more with Atalanta, but it wasn't possible. Now I'm here and I'm very happy to be here and I'm expecting a lot from my experience here. I'm looking forward to starting."

Diallo made his debut for Atalanta in October 2019 but left the club following only five appearances in all competitions – he played just 35 minutes of football for the Italian club after his impending move was announced.

The teenager consequently has no doubt there is plenty for him to learn and he will be looking to fellow Ivorian Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba to help him settle.

"I'm only young, only 18, so there is still a long way ahead for me. I want to learn and progress and I will be listening to the more experienced players here and the coach, and I'll do my best and work hard to succeed," said Diallo.

"To be honest I cannot wait, I'm so excited at the prospect of working with these fantastic people at such a great club. This adventure is about to start and I'm really, really excited and over the moon.

"Eric will be a definite reference point for me. I've actually already been in touch with him over the last few months and we've been chatting.

"I'll be asking him for advice and will be listening to all he says, and also the other players who speak French and Italian like Pogba for example, he will be another good reference point for me."

Aston Villa's scheduled home Premier League game with Everton on Sunday has been postponed.

Villa revealed a "significant" coronavirus outbreak on January 7, the day before they were due to face Liverpool in the FA Cup.

While they still went ahead with that match, fielding a squad made up entirely of youth players, their Premier League meeting with Tottenham on Wednesday was not able to go ahead.

The Premier League decided at the start of the week to switch that game with Spurs versus Fulham, another match that had previously been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Craven Cottage last month.

It was always a possibility Villa's hosting of Everton could fall victim as well, and with several of the club's players and staff still in isolation, the Premier League made the decision to postpone on Thursday.

The league also announced a new date for Villa's clash with Newcastle United, which would have been played on December 4 were it not for a coronavirus outbreak at St James' Park.

Now the game is set to take place on January 23, while the Everton match will be rearranged at a later date.

Erling Haaland is one of the sought-after players in world football.

The Borussia Dortmund forward can reportedly take his pick from Europe's elite.

But if his agent Mino Raiola has his way, Camp Nou could be Haaland's next destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND COULD LEAVE BVB AT SEASON'S END

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could leave the Bundesliga club for Barcelona at the end of the season, according to TV3 program Onze.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus following his exploits for Dortmund.

The Norway international forward reportedly has a €75million (£66.8m) release clause at the end of his second season in Dortmund, though he could depart sooner rather than later.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says United are not working on a deal to sign Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The Spanish superstar is out of contract at the end of the season, and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, City, Chelsea and Liverpool. A move to Liverpool is reportedly not on the horizon due to his role in the injury to Mohamed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final.

City have joined Serie A champions Juve in the race to sign Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports the Daily Mail.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb, Milan are set to meet with free agent Mario Mandzukic over the next 24 hours to discuss a short-term deal. Staying at San Siro and Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are close to signing Torino midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan with the option to buy.

Arsenal are interested in Barca goalkeeper Neto, claims Sky Sports. With backup Runar Alex Runarsson struggling in London, the Gunners are hoping to bring in Neto on loan.

- Marca reports Barca are targeting Valencia star Jose Gaya to bolster their left-back position, while Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza is another option.

Juventus are set to complete the signing of American defender Bryan Reynolds from MLS club Dallas, says Romano. The 19-year-old will join Benevento until June, before linking up with Juve.

Jose Mourinho cited "individual mistakes" as the reason for Tottenham's tendency to drop points from winning positions.

Spurs looked set to be heading to third place in the Premier League thanks to Harry Kane's header against Fulham, but Mourinho's team were pegged back by Ivan Cavaleiro's brilliant 74th-minute effort.

After winning their opening three games of 2021 in all competitions by an aggregate score of 10-0, it was a reminder to Tottenham of their fragility when defending leads.

Tottenham have now dropped 10 points from winning positions in league games this season, and Mourinho blamed individual errors, while also rueing some glaring opportunities which were missed, with Son Heung-min twice failing to beat Alphonse Areola from close range prior to Kane's opener, before the South Korea forward hit the post in the second half.

"Three or four big chances in the first half to have a different result, the biggest chance of the second half would have killed the game and then again we concede a goal that is completely avoidable," a frustrated Mourinho told Amazon Prime Sport.

"We could have killed the game and again we lose a man in the box. That happens the majority of time in set-pieces, this time it was in open play.

"Of course it is costing points, especially away we are winning and then we don't show that ambition to kill the game and many times it happens that in the last part of the game we concede.

"There are things that are individual, that are down to individual qualities and individual mistakes. Basically I cannot say much more than that.

"It's good that we play [soon]. It's not good that after that game on Sunday we have 10 days. At this moment though we just have to accept that."

Tottenham are at least unbeaten in their past eight London derbies in the Premier League (W3 D5), since a defeat to Mourinho's former club Chelsea last February.

Spurs managed just five attempts in the second half, compared to eight from Fulham, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg sees vast room for improvement.

"Very disappointing. I think we have to do better, in a couple of aspects of the game, it's difficult to speak right now because of the emotions," the midfielder told Amazon Prime Sport.

"More bravery, more focus in terms of organising the team and being solid as a team.

"It doesn't mean you have to stand in your own box and defend, it means that the team is compact, closes the lines. Executing the chances, I had a chance and had to score. Many details that we have to do better."

Fulham, meanwhile, have drawn five consecutive Premier League games, their longest such run since January 2007 (six games).

Scott Parker was angered by the Premier League rearranging this fixture in the wake of Aston Villa's coronavirus outbreak, but was delighted with the performance his team put in.

"Very impressed, I thought it was outstanding, everything about us," Parker said.

"Nobody knows what we've been through in the last couple of weeks, players in the squad who have had one day of training, to prepare and play like we did is what I'm pleased the most with.

"I'm proud of the team because of how we played in the circumstances but I'm even more proud of them because they showed some real quality."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta lauded Thomas Partey and his impact as the star midfielder prepares to return for the Gunners.

Partey has been restricted to just six matches for Arsenal since arriving from LaLiga side Atletico Madrid in a £45million deal three months ago.

Only one of those appearances has come in the last two months, having aggravated a thigh injury in Arsenal's 2-0 loss to London rivals Tottenham in December.

However, Partey is back in contention for Thursday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace and Arteta is excited to be able to call upon one of his key men once again.

"I think he's got a different presence - he brings something different to the team," Arteta said. "It's not just about his talent, it's not just about his physicality, it's who he is as a person. 

"He makes players better around him and that's a big, big quality.

"It's incredible that we are in January, we signed him in October and we have only played him [a handful of times]."

Partey has completed 2.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in his five Premier League outings and attempted 3.25 tackles per game, which no other Arsenal player can match.

And though the north London side have won only one of those five matches, compared to six victories in 12 league games without him, Arteta admitted Arsenal have missed the midfielder's presence.

"We haven't really seen the impact he could have on the team. Obviously we have missed him. I think it's going to be a big bonus if we can keep him fit," he said.

"When you are injured you feel first of all the responsibility when the club has made the effort we made to sign him.

"He was so willing for months to be joining us. He really wants to be a part of it and knows how much he can help. 

"Then he had to deal with the injuries, with the lockdown and moving into a new place, and that's been tough for him.

"That's why sometimes he was rushing and wanted to do everything straight away, because he's so willing to come back, he doesn't want to be alone at home. 

"He's in a really good place, he's settled really well in the dressing room, around the staff. He's a special character and hopefully we can see him on the pitch finally."

Harry Kane's brilliant header was not enough for Tottenham as Jose Mourinho's side were pegged back to a 1-1 draw by Ivan Cavaleiro's equally fine effort.

Spurs looked set to claim back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since November thanks to Kane's 25th-minute effort – his 36th league goal against a London rival.

Scott Parker was enraged by the decision to reschedule his team's trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at such short notice, but Fulham stayed in the game and, with Son Heung-min squandering a great chance to wrap things up, got their reward.

Substitute Ademola Lookman proved the difference-maker as he pinged in a cross that was met by the towering Cavaleiro to seal a share of the spoils.

Sergio Reguilon blazed over inside the opening 10 minutes, but Fulham showed plenty of intent and Hugo Lloris had his palms stung by Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa's strike.

Alphonse Areola came to the fore with two superb stops, both from Son, who prodded goalwards from point-blank range before attempting to guide a header into the top-right corner.

Areola was beaten in the 25th minute, though. Where Son went for height, Kane went low, diving to meet Reguilon's exquisite left-wing cross and head in off the post.

Kane was the beneficiary of another terrific cross – this time from Serge Aurier – soon after, but failed to keep his header down.

Tosin Adarabioyo made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to frustrate Moussa Sissoko after the restart, while Areola had to lunge across to keep out Harry Winks' dipping effort.

Son could have wrapped things up with just under 20 minutes remaining, yet hit the base of the right-hand upright, and Spurs were made to pay.

Cavaleiro towered over Eric Dier to meet Lookman's cross and send a powerful header beyond Lloris, rescuing a hard-earned point with Fulham's first shot on target of the half, with Reguilon rightly denied a last-gasp winner by the offside flag.

Pep Guardiola suggested Manchester City got a reality check against Brighton and Hove Albion despite moving third with a fourth consecutive Premier League win.

Phil Foden's goal was enough for a 1-0 victory that took City back to within four points of leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

It was another win and another clean sheet for City – their eighth shutout, a league high – but Guardiola's men did not quite hit the heights of previous performances.

The manager saw that as a positive, however, believing it was important for his side to come through a tricky test against strugglers Brighton.

"For the next games that we have in January, February, this is the best thing that could happen today," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

"There's some rumours outside the team, in the team after Stamford Bridge, [Manchester] United, and the reality is today, the game that we played today.

"It's nice to play the way we played. For 60, 70 minutes, we were so good.

"The first half was the way we have to play; the second half we struggled more because of the quality of the opponent - not because we were lazy or a lack of concentration, not these kinds of things."

City won despite missing a late penalty through Raheem Sterling, their seventh Premier League spot-kick failure since the start of last season, of which the England forward has accounted for three.

Sterling had replaced Foden, who was enthused by City's performance while acknowledging room for improvement.

"I feel like we're back to our best," Foden said. "We're definitely taking confidence from the last few results.

"Today I still thought we could have done better, but we dug deep to get the win. Overall, I'm really proud of the team and how we kept going to the final whistle. Overall, it's a great result."

It was a seventh win from seven Premier League meetings with Brighton, and City now intend to turn their focus to Crystal Palace next on Sunday.

"We know that we have a game in hand, but we just have to think of the next opponent and not think too far ahead," said Foden, now City's top scorer with eight in all competitions.

"We just want to keep going with this form and push to win the league, hopefully."

Unai Emery has blamed bad decisions made by the club for his Arsenal exit and confirmed he favoured a move for Wilfried Zaha over Nicolas Pepe in his final season.

The 49-year-old spent 18 months in charge at Emirates Stadium before being sacked in November 2019 and subsequently replaced by Mikel Arteta.

He guided Arsenal to the Europa League final and a fifth-place finish in the Premier League in what proved to be his only full season in charge.

Arsenal spent a club-record £72million to bring in Pepe from Lille ahead of 2019-20, but Emery felt the Gunners should have instead moved for fellow Ivory Coast international Zaha.

"I usually want to sign first the players I know," he told Football.London. "When we played against Crystal Palace, Zaha showed he was a very good player.

"I also think Nicolas Pepe is a very good player. When you make the decision you have to decide how easy the adaption will be of some players.

"I was thinking the adaption was easier for Zaha because he was playing in the Premier League and you didn't know exactly how fast Nicolas Pepe can adapt to the Premier League because I know you can need some time to adapt.

"I was thinking at this time that the adaption of Zaha was probably easier and faster than Pepe."

Pepe has struggled in his year and a half with Arsenal, scoring and assisting a combined 13 goals in 42 Premier League appearances.

That compares to 17 goal involvements for Zaha across the same period in 11 more games, while the Palace winger also completes more dribbles per 90 minutes (3.68 compared to 2.92) and plays more passes into the final third (2.2 to 2).

Pepe's inability to make an impact on games was one of the contributing factors in Emery's exit and the Spaniard rued some of the decisions made during his second season in charge, though he reflects on his time in north London fondly.

"I was in Arsenal for a year and a half and first year I think was a very good season," he said.

"We achieved the Europa League final, we were at the last moment with the possibility to be in the top four and I think last year when I was there we recovered a lot of confidence for the club and the fans and for the players and I think we finished well that season.

"I was very happy, enjoying it and working very well. The club supported me and I was happy with the players, the atmosphere and the supporters – only the second six months of the second year when I finished in November I think we made some decisions not good for the club, but not for me, the decisions of the club.

"When the results were a little bit bad the situation changed but my first year in Arsenal I remember a lot of positive things, on the sidelines the same. I enjoyed being a coach of Arsenal and I'm very grateful for that moment I had in Arsenal.

"For me it's not negative, it was a positive experience and after I left the club the first month was not easy for me because I was running out of things [to do] but now I am very grateful to the owners, the club, the supporters, the players, the workers in Colney. 

"I now only remember the very good things there and the first year for me was a very good performance for us.

"I worked well with Mr [Stan] Kroenke, Raul [Sanllehi], [Ivan] Gazidis during the first months there. The results towards the end were the main problem but for me it was a positive experience and I'm grateful to Arsenal for the opportunity.

"This is football. Now I want the best for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, the supporters and everyone at the club."

Another player Emery failed to get the most out of is Mesut Ozil, who has since been completely frozen out of the picture by Arteta and looks set to leave Arsenal this month.

Only Kevin De Bruyne (75), David Silva (63) and Christian Eriksen (62) have provided more Premier League assists than Ozil's 54 since the start of 2013-14, but the German was regularly overlooked for selection.

Emery has defended his treatment of Ozil, however, by insisting he gave the playmaker all the guidance he could.

"I worked for one and a half years with Mesut and tried to help him, support him and achieve the performances for the team with him," said Emery, who was appointed as Villarreal head coach last July.

"Now I don't know what the problems are as I am very concentrated and focused with Villarreal. I follow every Arsenal match but I don't know what the problems are with the team or the players.

"I can only speak about Mesut Ozil when I was with him there and I tried to achieve the best performances with him."

Manchester City extended their unbeaten Premier League run after Phil Foden's first-half goal secured a comfortable 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Foden found the back of the net a minute before half-time and that proved to be enough for Pep Guardiola's men to make it eight games without defeat – including four straight wins – in the top flight.

England international Foden took his tally for the season to eight goals in all competitions at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, making him City's highest-scoring player in 2020-21.

Bernardo Silva hit the crossbar and Gabriel Jesus made his return from COVID-19 as a substitute, but City were unable to add to their tally, with Raheem Sterling missing a stoppage-time penalty.

A lovely exchange between Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan led to the first major opening in the 14th minute, but the Belgium international was kept out by Robert Sanchez inside the six-yard box.

Mahrez was unable to supply the finish at the end of an intricate move around the visitors' box, before De Bruyne was again denied by Sanchez following a counter-attack from Brighton's first corner.

City made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time, with Foden controlling a pass from De Bruyne exquisitely and guiding a fine finish into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box.

Guardiola's men remained comfortably on top in the second half and after Mahrez missed a one-on-one, Sanchez denied Gundogan and saw Silva's follow-up – which came after he sent the ball through Ben White's legs – crash back off the bar.

Substitute Sterling blazed his last-gasp penalty over after De Bruyne pounced on a wayward header from Lewis Dunk and was taken down by Sanchez.

But City had done enough to move up to third and four points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

 

What does it mean? Defence still rules for City

City have done well to put together a strong run despite the absences of Jesus and Sergio Aguero, but their impressive form has been built on their defence.

They have conceded just two goals during their eight-game unbeaten run, while they have let in just seven in their past 14 outings in the top flight – four fewer than any other side since the start of October.

Brighton looked dangerous on the break at times, but Ruben Dias and John Stones secured a clean sheet for Ederson on his return from coronavirus.

Delightful De Bruyne

De Bruyne was at the heart of everything positive for City in the first half. By setting up Foden he has now assisted 14 goals in all competitions this season, a tally no Premier League player can better.

Jesus use raises questions

City finally have a fit striker in Jesus, but for some reason Guardiola decided to play him from the left after sending him on in the 67th minute. It was not until Sterling entered 15 minutes later that the Brazil international got to play through the middle.

What's next?

City host Crystal Palace on Sunday in the second of three straight Premier League home games, while Brighton are in action at Leeds United a day prior.

Manchester United are top of the Premier League at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

Few would have predicted such a turn of events when United fell to a tame 1-0 loss against Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 1.

Since then, though, United have gone on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league that contained nine victories, including the 1-0 away win over Burnley on Tuesday.

As a result, they sit three points clear of Premier League champions Liverpool ahead of their huge trip to Anfield on Sunday.

We have used Opta data to look at who has performed best, both for United and across the league, during this resurgent period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

IMPRESSIVE ATTACKING STATS

United have conceded a respectable 11 goals in as many matches, but it is their attacking play which is really separating them from the pack.

They have scored 25 goals in those 11 games, five more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool are next with 20, though they have played one game fewer, followed by Leeds United and Leicester City (both 18).

United have racked up 122 attempts at goal, which is second-best in the league – only Leeds (132) rank higher.

And United's efforts have been more accurate, as they have the most shots on target (72), well clear of Leeds and Liverpool (both 56).

BRUNO AND RASHFORD STAND OUT

It will surprise few to learn that Bruno Fernandes has been United's best performer over the past 11 games, just as he has been since his debut a year ago.

He has scored eight goals for United in the 11-match period, with the next best contributors being the impressive Marcus Rashford (five) and new arrival Edinson Cavani (three).

Fernandes also comes out on top for assists with five. Rashford again follows closely with three, which is also the tally registered by Anthony Martial.

Once again Fernandes (27) and Rashford (24) both come out on top when it comes to shots, with Martial also generating a good number of attempts (22).

As you might expect, that trio subsequently fare best when it comes to attempts on target, with Fernandes (18) ahead of Rashford and Martial (both 14).

The Portugal international has 316 successful passes in the opposition half over those 11 games. Rashford (221) is second and a welcome sight for United is Paul Pogba (195) coming next in the list.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who asssisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved in offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who assisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

Fernandes leads United for chances created over the 11 matches with 34. Improving full-back Luke Shaw is a surprise second with 17, followed by Martial and Rashford (12).

FERNANDES IN ELITE COMPANY

The eight goals scored by Fernandes since November 2 puts him two clear of the next best in the league, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (six).

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (six) just edges him for assists and is the only man with a higher number across all Premier League teams during that span.

When the metrics are adjusted to calculate contributions per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, some other United players come to the fore

Fernandes and Cavani (0.79) fare best for United in a tie for fifth for goals per 90 minutes, with Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi, who has been on a hot streak, topping the list on 0.94.

Everton's Lucas Digne is averaging one assist per 90 minutes over the period, though his sample size is a little smaller after missing time for injury.

De Bruyne averages 0.67 assists per 90 minutes, while United's top player in the category is Cavani on 0.53, ahead of Fernandes on a still impressive 0.49.

That suggests Cavani, despite his relatively quiet return from suspension at Turf Moor, could have more to offer than just goals and an aerial threat if deployed regularly as a number nine.

When it comes to shots on target, Martial is in a tie for third in the Premier League with Fernandes (both 1.78 per 90).

The rampant El Ghazi (2.99) and resurgent Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette (2.04) top the charts during the timeframe.

Perhaps surprisingly it is Nemanja Matic who averages the most completed passes in the opposition half per game among United players (34.11).

Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones are ranking as the league's best in that category since November 2 at 52.86 and 48.28 respectively.

With chances created, Fernandes (fourth, 3.36 per 90 minutes) and Shaw (eighth, 2.88) both come out well.

But it is reported United target Jack Grealish (4.22) who has been far and away the most creative player in the top flight over the period.

It is clear the form and fitness of Fernandes will continue to be imperative to United's hopes of sustaining a serious title challenge.

But if Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Pogba and Shaw can build on their positive contributions during their surge to the top in support of Fernandes, the goals should be able to keep flowing.

If they do and a positive result at Anfield leads to a six-point advantage, perhaps fans can dare to dream.

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