EPL

Smith Rowe must 'earn the right' to play for Arsenal - Arteta

By Sports Desk August 27, 2022

Mikel Arteta has challenged Emile Smith Rowe to demonstrate hunger and consistency to regain his place in Arsenal's starting line-up.

The playmaker enjoyed a successful 2021-22 season with the Gunners, scoring 10 goals and providing two assists in 33 Premier League appearances.

Bukayo Saka (11 goals, seven assists) was the only Arsenal player to be directly involved in more goals than Smith Rowe, whose impressive performances saw him break into Gareth Southgate's England squad.

However, a combination of injuries and illness has seen the 22-year-old lose his place in Arsenal's team. Indeed, he has only appeared twice from the bench during the Gunners' bright start to the Premier League season.

Speaking ahead of his side's clash with Fulham at the Emirates Stadium, Arteta issued a rallying cry to the youngster.

"He needs to now earn the right to play in the team," Arteta said. "In order to do that, he needs to perform and be consistent.

"He's been injured. He's not had a clean pre-season, he's not there yet.

"Every day for me is the key. What he shows every day and that consistency and that hunger to increase the level."

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    Hugo Lloris says personal milestones will be put to one side as he attempts to help France into the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

    Les Bleus meet Poland in a last-16 clash in Doha that will see Lloris equal Lilian Thuram's record of 142 caps for France.

    It represents a landmark moment for the Tottenham goalkeeper, who made his international debut against Uruguay 14 years ago, but he was quick to train his focus on securing victory for his country at Al Thumama Stadium.

    "It's quite something and I am very honoured to reach that figure and that number of caps, but it's a day before a last-16 game, so that [the record] is of course secondary," he said.

    "The World Cup is the most important thing and I am 100 per cent focused on tomorrow's game. It's going to be a battle and we will all need to be 100 per cent focused.

    "I will appreciate reaching that record once the tournament is over."

    The main threat to Lloris' hopes of celebrating his achievement with a clean sheet is Poland striker Robert Lewandowski. The Barcelona star finally broke his World Cup duck in the group stage and appears to be growing into the tournament.

    Lloris added: "Lewandowski is one of the best number nines in the world and has been for some time now. He's an important player for Poland but we are facing a team that defends well, that works hard, and then you have Lewandowski up front and he is clinical.

    "Also, they have Wojciech Szczesny, who has played a magical tournament in goal.

    "Poland deserve to be here. We have been trying to analyse their matches to see what type of game we will be facing. There's also a mental element that comes in at this stage so we will have to be ready."

    The knockout phase could see matches decided by penalty shoot-outs and, although Lloris will do his homework, the 35-year-old concedes it may come down to luck.

    "We have all the tools at our disposal to analyse penalty taking but there is always a bit of chance," he said. "You can study what has happened before and then the penalty taker does the opposite of what you're expecting.

    "You can prepare but there's always an element of instinct that comes into play. If the penalty is well taken you have little chance of saving it."

    It was a shoot-out that accounted for France at the European Championship last year, Les Bleus going down 5-4 to Switzerland after a pulsating 3-3 last-16 draw in Bucharest.

    That was a painful afternoon for the world champions and coach Didier Deschamps was not keen to spend too long reminiscing.

    "We don't talk about the past," he said. "I don't think it's worth it, especially a match that we've lost. Now we are facing another round of 16 game but it's not the same opponent.

    "We try to approach each match in a similar way. The group phase games were all difficult and now we have the best 16 teams in the world, even if you might not think so on paper. The games are getting tougher and we are going to have to be at our best."

  • 'A warning signal' - Dani Alves cautions Brazil against World Cup complacency after shock Cameroon loss 'A warning signal' - Dani Alves cautions Brazil against World Cup complacency after shock Cameroon loss

    Brazil's defeat to Cameroon is "a warning signal" they must heed ahead of the World Cup knockout rounds, says Dani Alves.

    The Selecao fielded a much-changed side in their final Group G match, with progression to the last 16 already secured.

    But a late Vincent Aboubakar finish condemned Tite's side to a shock 1-0 loss in Lusail, to check Brazil's momentum heading forward.

    With a last-16 tie against South Korea now confirmed, veteran defender Alves - who skippered his nation against Cameroon - believes it is a reminder that there is no safety net now for his side.

    "It's a warning signal," he said. "There is no weak rival. Here is the lesson, we need to stay switched on throughout the game. One detail and it's over.

    "We end today with the feeling that a beautiful day slipped through the hands of us players who weren't playing much."

    Brazil arrived at Qatar 2022 as the pre-tournament favourites, a record enhanced after two strong opening performances against Switzerland and Serbia prior to the defeat to Cameroon.

    Despite the likes of Germany, Belgium and Uruguay tumbling out of the competition, Brazil face a difficult path to the final should they get past South Korea, with Argentina and the Netherlands among their potential semi-final opponents.

  • Cody Gakpo, Mohammed Kudus and the breakout prospects of the World Cup group stage Cody Gakpo, Mohammed Kudus and the breakout prospects of the World Cup group stage

    Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

    Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

    Stats Perform has identified four players who have lit up Qatar and, in turn, have seen their profile and transfer stock skyrocket, opening the door to a new world of possibilities come the January transfer window.

    Take a look at these young leading lights...

    Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

    Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

    Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

    While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

    There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

    That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

    He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

    Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

    Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

    Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

    His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

    His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

    Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

    Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

    Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

    The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

    After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

    He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

    Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

    Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

     

    Harry Souttar, Australia

    Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

    Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

    It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

    Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

    While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

    Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

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