EPL

Arteta: Odegaard sets example as youngsters start to lead

By Sports Desk September 21, 2021

Mikel Arteta is backing his kid captains to lead Arsenal out of the gloom as the Gunners launch their quest for EFL Cup silverware.

After a poor Premier League start, Arsenal have strung together 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley, with Arteta pinpointing Martin Odegaard as a key factor behind their improvement.

The Gunners had lost each of their first three top-flight games, but confidence is growing before their first meeting with AFC Wimbledon in the cup on Wednesday.

Arsenal have only failed to go beyond the third round of the competition in one of the last 18 seasons.

Odegaard, who made his move permanent from Real Madrid after a loan spell at Emirates Stadium, scored the winner against Burnley last time out.

Arteta hailed the 22-year-old for the difference he is making, as well as highlighting the importance of fellow young midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, who turns 22 in October.

Experienced striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains Arsenal skipper, but the team now have others with priceless captaincy experience.

"I think we are building some leadership in the group," Arteta said. "It’s a really young group, with a lot of players under 23.

"Martin is the captain of the [Norway] national team and Sambi was the captain at Anderlecht.

"Martin has this capacity to do that with his talent, taking the ball in moments where others probably refuse to, but as well with his attitude, his rhythm and the way he presses and puts people under pressure. He's probably the first to do it.

"I was really impressed with Auba [Aubameyang] as well – I think his rhythm and high pressing was fantastic."

The last lower-league team to beat Arsenal in the EFL Cup were Walsall in 1983, and this is the first time AFC Wimbledon have reached the third round.

But Arteta insisted his focus remains on one game at a time, despite an expected one-sided affair on Wednesday when fringe first-team players are likely to be involved.

"These games are like any other game, an opportunity for anybody to show that he deserves to be in the team and we are wrong," Arteta said, quoted on the Arsenal website.

"Focus, demand the highest standards, prepare the same way or even better.

"There is a lot of coaching now going on around the team. Young players are starting to talk and communicate, and that facilitates a lot of things in the defensive phase.

"After the difficult start that we had in many different aspects, when you start to win two games, you can win the third one. You get more momentum, more confidence, everybody's back, and then you start to create a different feeling."

Related items

  • Ronaldo fires back at critics ahead of Liverpool showdown: I will close mouths and win things at Man Utd Ronaldo fires back at critics ahead of Liverpool showdown: I will close mouths and win things at Man Utd

    Cristiano Ronaldo intends to "close the mouths" of those who have questioned his defensive work by firing Manchester United to silverware this season.

    The Portugal international has made a huge impact in an attacking sense since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in a shock transfer two months ago.

    He has scored a team-high six goals in eight appearances, including late winners in the Champions League victories over Villarreal and Atalanta.

    However, with United struggling for consistency in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool, Ronaldo has been criticised by some for his lack of defensive effort.

    Indeed, Opta data shows only defenders Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are averaging fewer pressures than Ronaldo (12.1) for United in the league this term.

    But Ronaldo has hit back at his critics by pointing out his past glories, which includes a haul of 31 trophies for club and country since his first spell with United started in 2003.

    "I know when the team needs my help defensively. But my role is to win, help the team to win and to score goals – [the defensive side] is part of my job," he told Sky Sports.

    "The people who don't want to see that is because they don't like me. But to be honest I'm 36, I win everything so am I going to be worried about the people who say bad things about me? 

    "I sleep good at night. I go to my bed with my conscience very good. Keep going with that because I will still close mouths and win things.

    "Criticism is always part of the business. I'm not worried about that. And I see it as a good thing to be honest. 

    "If they worry about me or they speak about me, it's because they know my potential and value in football still. So it's good.

    "I'll give you an example: if you're in a school and you're the best student, you ask the worst student if he likes the best, they'll say they don't like him."

    United rank eighth in the English top flight for high turnovers as a team this season with 66, compared to 87 for next opponents Liverpool.

    Ronaldo has every right to feel confident in his goalscoring ability, though, having become the first player ever to finish top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League with his 29 league goals for Juventus last season. 

    And while he may be approaching his 37th birthday, Ronaldo insists he has no current plans to call time on his illustrious career.

    "I think the main word is that I'm still happy and enjoying football," he said. "It doesn't matter how many things I won in my career. I win everything but I'm still motivated. 

    "I'm in a new chapter of my life, even with my age, and this is why I am here –  to try to win and I think Manchester needs to be at this level of winning and thinking to win big things so I'm here to help."

    Ronaldo is expected to start when United welcome fierce rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday.

    United trail their opponents by four points and have won just one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with the Reds, losing this exact fixture 4-2 last season.

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers 'didn't have an answer' for Braves' MVP Rosario MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers 'didn't have an answer' for Braves' MVP Rosario

    As the National League Championship Series unfolded, it became clear to the Los Angeles Dodgers that they had to find a way to stop Eddie Rosario. 

    Maybe that would have happened if the series had gone seven games, but Rosario made sure it did not, hitting his third home run of the NLCS to give the Atlanta Braves a 4-2 win Saturday and secure MVP honours. 

    As the Braves advance to their first World Series since 1999, they can thank a man who did not make his first start for Atlanta until August 29 but has become indispensable. 

    Rosario went 14 for 25 in the series for a staggering .560 batting average, driving in nine runs and scoring six himself. 

    "We just couldn't figure him out," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "He beat us the other way. He beat us to the pull side. He got hits off lefties, off righties. We tried to spin him. We went hard.

    "We just didn't have an answer for him and when you've got that big guy [Freddie Freeman] looming behind him it's just kind of tough to pitch around him, who was clearly hot. But, yeah, we just didn't have an answer for him."

    Rosario tied an MLB record for the most hits in a postseason series, but he could lay claim to owning it outright.

    The four men he shares the mark with – Marco Scutaro (2012 NLCS), Kevin Youkilis (2007 ALCS), Albert Pujols (2004 NLCS) and Hideki Matsui (2004 ALCS) – all needed seven games to reach 14 hits. 

    "It's just amazing how locked-in he is," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Rosario. "It's been something else."

    Atlanta acquired Rosario from the Cleveland Indians on July 30, just under three weeks after losing star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season with a knee injury, but they knew they would have to wait for the newcomer to join the lineup. 

    Rosario had been out since July 5 with an abdominal strain and would not become a regular fixture in the Braves lineup until mid-September, but no one is taking him out now. 

    Though the 30-year-old has postseason experience from his time with the Minnesota Twins, he has never experienced anything like the last week or so. 

    "This is obviously my greatest accomplishment of my career so far, this [MVP] trophy and this award, so it's something to definitely be proud of," Rosario said. 

    "It's truly a great moment, not just in my career, but in my life as well, but I want more. I want to win the World Series."

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Braves end Dodgers' reign, head to World Series MLB playoffs 2021: Braves end Dodgers' reign, head to World Series

    The Atlanta Braves are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1999 after their hottest hitter led them past the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. 

    Eddie Rosario's two-out, three-run homer off Walker Buehler in the fourth inning proved the difference for Atlanta, who ended the Dodgers' hopes of second successive title after Los Angeles won 106 games to Atlanta's 88 during the regular season. 

    It was sweet revenge for the Braves after they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Dodgers in last year's NLCS. Los Angeles had won seven straight postseason elimination games before Saturday, four of them against the Braves. 

    Austin Riley drove in the other Atlanta run with a first-inning double that scored Ozzie Albies and the Braves left the rest to their pitching staff. 

    Starter Ian Anderson worked four strong innings but Atlanta manager Brian Snitker pinch-hit for him as part of the sequence that led to Rosario's game-changing homer. 

    Relievers AJ Minter and Tyler Matzek did their part with two perfect innings each, striking out eight total batters around another rough outing from Luke Jackson, who allowed an A.J. Pollock RBI single in the seventh. 

    Will Smith came on to close it out in the ninth before a roaring sellout crowd of 43,060 at Truist Park, where the Braves have won 10 of their last 11 games, and got Pollock to ground out to shortstop Dansby Swanson for the final out. 

    Atlanta will face the American League champion Houston Astros for the title, with Game 1 set for Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. 

    The Braves were swept by the New York Yankees in their last World Series appearance 22 years ago, a disappointment that came four years after the franchise won its only title in 1995. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.