EPL

'What an opportunity to get our confidence back' – Fabinho relishing Arsenal showdown

By Sports Desk October 08, 2022

Fabinho says Liverpool's showdown with Premier League leaders Arsenal will provide a great opportunity for the Reds to "get our confidence back" as they look to improve their recent form.

Jurgen Klopp's side have endured a slow start to the Premier League season and are already 11 points behind the Gunners after their opening seven games.

The trip to the Emirates is the third of nine matches that Liverpool will play across all competitions in October, while they welcome reigning champions Manchester City to Anfield next weekend.

And with games coming thick and fast, Fabinho has called for focus from his team-mates as they look to build momentum and embark on a run of positive results.

"[The] Emirates is a nice place to play and Arsenal, of course, are in a really good moment right now, playing really well, winning their games, top of the league," the Brazil international told Liverpool's official website.

"It's a good opportunity for us as well to show that we are Liverpool, we are still one of the best teams in this league. So, it's a good opportunity for us to get the three points and to close the gap on these teams as well.

"I always say that this is the moment every player likes; playing every three or four days. Different competitions to play – Champions League, Premier League – so a lot of big games to play.

"In the league, our next two games are against maybe the better two teams at the moment, Arsenal and Man City. So, what an opportunity for us to play against these teams, to play these kind of games to get our confidence back.

"This moment is not good, and it's not easy when we know you can do better, you can play better, you can win more and more games. We just have to keep focused, keep concentrating, try our best to turn this situation."

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    Former Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte was sent off for punching Mohammed Al-Aqel on the arm as Al-Nassr played out a 2-2 draw with Al-Riyadh in the Saudi Pro League.

    Meshari Al-Nemer's 97th-minute strike salvaged a point for Al-Nassr, who had trailed for over half the game and played with a one-man disadvantage for over half an hour.

    Otavio had put Al-Nassr ahead only for Andre Gray to drag the hosts level, before Al-Aqel gave David Ospina no chance with a terrific overhead kick to make it 2-1.

    Al-Nassr's position was put in further jeopardy when Laporte was sent off following a bizarre off-the-ball incident which saw him grab and punch Al-Aqel on the elbow, while Cristiano Ronaldo came up with a glaring miss from Sadio Mane's pass across the six-yard box.

    Al-Nemer levelled at the death for Al-Nassr, though they still sit some 14 points adrift of champions Al-Hilal, who could complete an unbeaten season against Al-Wehda on Monday.

    Data Debrief: Laporte's horror show

    It was a game to forget for Laporte, whose bizarre punch on Al-Aqel put Al-Nassr up against it versus a team still in danger of relegation.

    Laporte did not attempt a single tackle in the game while his four duels contested were the joint-fewest of every outfield starter (alongside Khalid Al-Shuwayyi). He was also sent off in Al-Nassr's AFC Champions League quarter-final tie against Al Ain in March.

  • James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season James advises Slot to block out Man City and target 90 points in first Liverpool season

    Arne Slot should block out any noise around trying to catch Manchester City and instead set his sights on compiling 90 points in his first season in charge of Liverpool.

    That is the view of former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, who believes securing Champions League football should be seen as the minimum requirement for former Feyenoord boss Slot, who is replacing Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.

    While Klopp lifted the EFL Cup in his final campaign as manager, James feels it is very difficult for Premier League teams to set any targets relating to any silverware due to the consistent dominance of City under Pep Guardiola.

    City have won an unprecedented four straight Premier League titles and will face rivals Manchester United this weekend at Wembley in an attempt to win back-to-back FA Cup crowns. Guardiola also has four EFL Cup trophies to his name.

    James feels Slot should therefore focus only on what he can control and believes 90 points is an aspirational target that will at least put the Reds in contention.

    Liverpool made it to 82 points in 2023-24, which saw them finish nine behind Man City and seven adrift of second-placed Arsenal.

    That tally was comfortably enough to seal a return to the Champions League for next season, a status which James says Slot must ensure he maintains.

    "As we have seen under Jurgen Klopp, the fantastic manager, there are teams around in the Premier League who don't really care what you think you want to do, namely Manchester City," James said to Stats Perform when asked what Slot's minimum target should be.

    "There could invariably be a situation where whatever it is, such as if Pep decides it is his last season, then it might be fairytale stuff again, that he goes for the quadruple and he does it.

    "Then it doesn't matter [what your targets are], no one wins anything domestically. 

    "The minimum requirement, which Pep can't stop you from doing, has to be qualifying for the Champions League of course. But beyond that, I think it's just getting the performances. 

    "If you get 90 points, and I know this has happened to Liverpool and they have got records to prove it, but if you get 90 points or even more and still don't win the league, then it's not down to you doing something wrong, it's down to the excellence of whoever finishes above you. 

    "I would say minimum Champions League qualification and then just going for 90 points and see where it takes you. As I say, 90 points is the benchmark in the Premier League.

    "You know, it isn't that difficult to achieve when you think about it. You can literally lose to the four best teams, again subjectively, four best teams, home and away, and as long as you beat the others, the other 30 games, that's 90 points.

    "Who cares [which teams you beat]? You don't get an extra three points for beating the teams above you. It's just winning."

    James expects to see plenty of movement in the transfer window now that there have been substantial changes to the staff, but says Slot and his coaching team may not always get their own way.

    He added: "I do [expect a lot of movement]. There are a couple of things to say. The analysis department will have their numbers, they'll know who they need to keep, they'll know who they need to replace and obviously they'll know who they need or want to bring in. 

    "This wasn't just about Jurgen leaving, this was the whole staff going. This is a massive shift, and everybody [left at the club] has their opinion [on the squad], even the analysis guys.

    "[Those opinions] might encourage or discourage the manager from making choices, whether it's selection choices in games or whether it's selection choices for transfers. 

    "The conversation with Slot will be a whole room of [new] opinions added to a data analysis group [trying] to find replacements because some of the players are leaving. 

    "With transfers I think it will cause a little bit of a ruffle. It will be done for the right reasons but I don't think there'll be a situation where Slot will just bring the ones he likes in. 

    "It will be a group decision with the analysis department. It will need to be the right players and, as Liverpool have proven under Jurgen's tenure, when they get it right, they are very successful."

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    City edged out Arsenal by two points on the final day of the season to win their eighth Premier League title, their sixth under Guardiola and their fourth in a row.

    They are the first team in English football history to win more than three consecutive titles, while Guardiola is just the fourth manager to win six English top-flight crowns. 

    Alex Ferguson leads the way with 13, while Guardiola has matched former Aston Villa manager George Ramsay and Liverpool legend Bob Paisley.

    With 11, Ferguson is also the only person to win the Premier League Manager of the Season award more often than Guardiola, with his fifth dragging him further clear of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger (three each).

    Guardiola also claimed the prize after overseeing title-winning campaigns in 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2022-23.

    Having seen off competition from four other nominees, Guardiola said they deserved to share the honour with him.

    "I want to share it, especially with Mikel [Arteta] for the incredible job he has done until the last game, bringing us to our limits," said Guardiola.

    "Of course, for Jurgen [Klopp], for the unforgettable battles for many, many years. And Unai Emery, making something unbelievable again to bring Aston Villa to the Champions League.

    "And Andoni Iraola, with Bournemouth, being his first season in the Premier League, doing what he has done and coming back from a tough start to the season.

    "It is an honour to be alongside all of them and to win this trophy. We will defend this award as best as possible in the future."

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