EPL

Arteta reflects on learning curve as Arsenal end winless run

By Sports Desk September 11, 2021

Mikel Arteta believes the last two weeks have been an important learning curve after Arsenal edged past Norwich City 1-0 to collect their first Premier League points of the season.

The Gunners finally scored at the fourth time of asking, avoiding the unwanted club record of going goalless in their opening four league games for the first time in their history.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's tap-in proved the difference – his fifth goal in three top-flight appearances against the Canaries – as the hosts climbed off the foot of the table and up to 16th.

Arteta was pleased with his team's efforts as they extended their top-flight unbeaten run to eight against Norwich, reflecting on what he sees as a successful two-week period.

"We had to suffer but I knew to win the game it would be like this," Arteta told BBC Sport post-match.

"After three defeats things get complicated. I must say it has been the best 10 or 14 days in my professional career. Not the easiest, but the best.

"You learn a lot in difficult moments, who you are with. In difficult moments when you see the people and the level of organisation and the fans we have.

"They were ready to suffer today but they just give, give, give to the team. Today and the last week everything glided together.

"We have to improve in a lot of things but today we made seven changes and already it looked different."

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  • Sheringham hails Kane-Son understanding as Tottenham duo eye Premier League record Sheringham hails Kane-Son understanding as Tottenham duo eye Premier League record

    Former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham has praised the understanding of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min as the duo close in on a Premier League record.

    Kane and Son have directly combined for 35 goals in the English top flight since the South Korea international's move from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.

    The Spurs pair, who successfully linked up again in last weekend's win at Newcastle United, are now just one behind the leading tally of 36 set by Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba ahead of a London derby with West Ham United on Sunday.

    And Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 appearances across two spells for Spurs, is hopeful Kane and Son can continue to link up in such devastating fashion.

    In an exclusive interview, the 55-year-old told Stats Perform: "They have a great understanding.

    "They're two phenomenal players playing at the top of their game. They have an understanding that clicks. 

    "They know what's good and what's bad for each other and they play to their strengths and long may continue for Tottenham."

    Sheringham knows all about the benefits of playing with a team-mate on the same wavelength.

    Indeed, the former England striker directly combined with Darren Anderton for 27 goals during their time together at Spurs; the fifth-highest tally in Premier League history.

    "Every now and again, you come across people that understand how you play and accommodate you perfectly," he continued.

    "Not everyone gets on that wavelength, but I definitely had it with Darren Anderton.

    "Maybe it'd be a little signal or an eye contact, but he would understand exactly where I wanted the ball. 

    "That's one thing understanding it, and there's another thing putting it exactly where it's needed to be. He was unbelievable at that.

    "People ask me who my favourite players are that I played with. He's out there in the top three because he was phenomenal at putting the ball exactly where I wanted. He was a feeder. 

    "I was the goalscorer at Tottenham, and I made a few for him as well."

  • Salah's 'on fire' but is Solskjaer terrified? Man Utd boss backs Ronaldo above Liverpool star Salah's 'on fire' but is Solskjaer terrified? Man Utd boss backs Ronaldo above Liverpool star

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has commanded Manchester United to douse the blazing brilliance of Liverpool's "on-fire" forward Mohamed Salah.

    The United manager knows Salah is capable of turning up at Old Trafford on Sunday and making a game-winning contribution, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games this season.

    Six of those goals have come in Salah's last four games, including Champions League doubles against Porto and Atletico Madrid, and the Egypt international has only failed to net in one game this term: the 2-0 win over Burnley in August.

    Although Solskjaer said he would side with Cristiano Ronaldo in any debate about who is the best player in the world, his admiration for Salah shone through.

    "I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique and his goalscoring record has been fantastic and he keeps on scoring," Solskjaer said.

    "But that being said, Salah at the moment is on fire. You've seen some of the goals he's scored lately. We know we need to be at our best to defend against him.

    "Players like this don't come around very often and we've got to enjoy them when we watch them – from afar, not on Sunday, that's too close for me."

    Wonder strikes against Manchester City and Watford in Liverpool's last two Premier League games have illustrated how well Salah is performing, and he sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart.

    Along with those goals in Europe, that lift him into double figures, Salah has found a consistency this season that makes him Liverpool's number one threat.

    "So we've got to do a good job, but not just against him," Solskjaer said. "I'm a big admirer of the frontline they've had for many, many years now, with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows?

    "They're players you have to focus on and you've got to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet.

    "When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool at the moment, they're on a great run of form, with some individuals' skills that you cannot almost defend against. But as a team we need to be compact, we need to be aggressive, we need to go out there and give every drop of nous and knowledge, strong mindset and physical energy.

    "It's going to take everything to get results against the best teams in Europe and the world, and Liverpool are one of them at the moment."

    Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season, netting twice in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat before hitting the fourth as Liverpool won 4-2 in the Premier League.

    No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against United, while the Merseyside giants have not earned consecutive league wins at Old Trafford since January 2002.

    Should Jurgen Klopp's men follow up last season's Premier League success at United with another victory, they would hold a seven-point cushion over their great rivals.

    United have a disappointing recent record in league games against Liverpool, winning just one of their previous 10 encounters. This game has often failed to live up to expectations in recent seasons, with six of the last 10 ending in draws, and Liverpool coming out on top in the other three.

    Solskjaer said he hoped the 3-2 win over Atalanta on Wednesday signalled "the end of a bad period for us" and that it might be "the start of something big". That is bold talk, given United have lost three of their last four domestic games, including a 4-2 setback at Leicester City last Saturday.

    Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 in the Premier League, with the turmoil that plagued them at the start of the year banished and replaced by an optimism they can challenge for a second title in three years.

    United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest such run since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

    Although United finished ahead of Liverpool last season, Solskjaer was realistic enough to recognise it was injury chaos in the Anfield ranks that blunted the 2020-21 challenge from Klopp's men, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sitting out most of the season.

    "They're one of the teams we're trying to chase. What they've done in the last four years is something we're striving towards and [trying] to go past them," Solskjaer said.

    "We ended above them last season, they had a very bad spell of injuries, so now they're back to their best."

  • Don't pay much attention to bull**** – Guardiola defends 'exceptional gentleman' Bruce after Newcastle departure Don't pay much attention to bull**** – Guardiola defends 'exceptional gentleman' Bruce after Newcastle departure

    Pep Guardiola came to the defence of 'exceptional gentleman' Steve Bruce following his recent departure from Newcastle United earlier this week.

    A decision that looked on the cards following the completion of the club's Saudi Arabian-backed takeover, Bruce left the Magpies by mutual consent on Wednesday after a difficult start to the Premier League season.

    Newcastle are yet to win in the league this season, having collected just three points from 24 on offer.

    The 60-year-old subsequently suggested it could be his final managerial role due to the abuse he received during his two-year tenure.

    "I think this might be my last job. It's not just about me, it's taken its toll on my whole family because they are all Geordies and I can't ignore that," Bruce told The Telegraph.

    "By the time I got to Newcastle, I thought I could handle everything thrown at me but it has been very, very tough.

    "To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail, to read people constantly saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a stupid, tactically inept cabbage head or whatever. And it was from day one."

    Newcastle's Allan Saint-Maximin paid tribute to the 'gentle' and 'caring' Bruce, and Manchester City boss Guardiola believes that the winger's social media post epitomised the respect warranted by the ex-Manchester United defender, who took charge of his 1,000th game as a manager in Sunday's defeat by Tottenham.

    Addressing the media ahead of City's trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, Guardiola said: "I read the post on Twitter and Instagram from Saint-Maximin.

    "This is, for me, what Steve Bruce is – [he is] an exceptional gentleman. He always took care of me so nicely when I came here from Catalonia. I wish him all the best. 

    "I'll tell him 'don't pay much attention to the comments because it is bull****.'

    "Steve Bruce and all other managers want to do the best; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. He does not have to worry. I'm pretty sure all the people in Newcastle – the board and especially the players – know exactly what Steve is."

    It was a sentiment echoed by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who told a news conference: "Is it social media? Don't read it, don't watch it, especially not in average or bad periods. That's the best advice you can give to every manager in the world.

    "I'm really sorry for Steve Bruce if that happened. I think the most important skill in modern football for a manager is to not let criticism get too close to you or just ignore it. That's what I do."

    Rafael Benitez preceded Bruce at St James' Park, and was a popular figure with the club's fanbase. The current Everton boss has ruled himself out of contention to take over at Newcastle, however.

    Asked if such harsh criticism could possibly lead potential managers to stay away from coaching, Benitez said: "Not for me at Newcastle or here at Everton. You have to accept that in football if you win, everything is fine, if you lose, you can lose your job.

    "This is the situation for many years, in a lot of countries.

    "My relationship with the Newcastle fans is fantastic, my relationship with the people in the city was very good so I have good memories. At the same time, I do not want to see any manager lose his job, that is the only thing I can say."

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