EPL

Trent a fair way ahead of rivals as Liverpool demolish 'putrid' Arsenal

By Sports Desk April 03, 2021

It's all in the timing, the control of the ball and the precision swing. Like a glorious golf shot, the perfect cross in football is beyond many players, but Trent Alexander-Arnold strikes the football with such pace, whip and dip that it's no wonder he celebrated Liverpool's opener against Arsenal as though he had headed the ball into the goal himself.

It's The Masters next week at Augusta.

This Emirates Stadium clash was a reminder of last season's Premier League masters in full flow, or at least that was the case for the final half an hour, because the first 60 minutes was so drab the tape should be wiped forthwith and we'll never discuss it again. Arsenal's players, thumped 3-0, would want the whole game deleted from memory, given they were abject from first whistle to last.

Alexander-Arnold had been lively enough before the breakthrough came, and James Milner owed him a better finish from the precise cutback that reached the veteran Liverpool midfielder in the 35th minute. Milner shot wide of the left post.

But in a game between two sides whose seasons have fallen well short of expectations, it was a flash of wonder that reminded the visitors how they became champions with 99 points last term. Gareth Southgate dropped Alexander-Arnold from his England squad a fortnight ago, so this will inevitably be interpreted as some sort of response.

But really it was just Alexander-Arnold doing Alexander-Arnold things. He makes chances and he makes goals, handy attributes for a right-back. And when there is very little actual defending to be done, as was the case against a dreadful Arsenal side, Alexander-Arnold is a world beater.

Diogo Jota, the player on the end of that game-changing cross on Saturday, later described the delivery as "unreal". Jurgen Klopp, who was stunned by the full-back's international omission, said that he "showed his class again".

When all is not going to plan for the 22-year-old, possessing strong defensive cover can paper over his weaknesses, and with Liverpool having hit upon an injury crisis at the back this season, Alexander-Arnold has been unable to count on Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip or Joe Gomez getting him out of trouble.

So the impact of his handful of errors has been magnified, and the scrutiny reached its apex when Southgate decided he should miss those opening World Cup qualifiers.

Since the beginning of last season, Alexander-Arnold has created 172 chances across all club competitions and had 21 assists. On each count, those are the highest number among defenders in Europe's top five leagues. In the same period, he has made four errors that have led to shots and two that have cost Liverpool goals. Some would accept that ratio.

Gary Lineker, who knows a thing or two about being on the end of crosses for England, believes Southgate got it wrong in dropping Alexander-Arnold.

"The perfect response from @TrentAA to his bizarre omission from the @England squad," Lineker wrote on Twitter on Saturday night. "He's been brilliant tonight. Can't be left at home in the summer. Just can't be."

The Euro 2020 finals surely do beckon for Alexander-Arnold, with England's group rivals Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland certain to be delighted if he stays at home.

Jota gave Alexander-Arnold a target after coming off the bench just after the hour mark, and the sublime cross from the right that found the striker on the edge of the six-yard box was a striker's dream.

Liverpool are still chasing fourth place, with Chelsea's defeat to West Brom earlier in the day a major boon to the Reds.

Mohamed Salah and Jota, with his second, finished off a lousy Arsenal who had just three goal attempts across the 90 minutes, and Mikel Arteta's men can now be counted out of the race for Champions League places.

Gary Neville, commentating for Sky Sports, condemned a "real flaky performance" by Arsenal, adding: "It's the worst I've seen them for a bit."

Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Martin Odegaard all started for the hosts, and Pepe was the only one of the quartet to manage a shot.

Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp said Arsenal's display was "putrid", and Arteta would probably agree. This was their heaviest defeat at home against Liverpool in the league.

On the day Liverpool's reign as Premier League champions effectively ended – they cannot possibly catch Manchester City now this season – this was a reminder of how Klopp's men can roll over feeble opposition.

On they go now, to face Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday. The Spanish champions will know all about Alexander-Arnold, who would have made a phenomenal complement to Roberto Carlos back in the day. Now they simply have to stop him.

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    Luke Shaw says England are extra motivated heading into their World Cup clash with Wales after their opponents wildly celebrated the Three Lions' exit from Euro 2016.

    An infamous video circulated following England's embarrassing last-16 defeat to Iceland six and a half years ago showing Wales' players lapping up their fierce rivals' demise.

    Wales surpassed expectations by making it to the semi-finals of that competition, despite losing to England in the group stage, but they have had less success at Qatar 2022.

    The Dragons require a victory against England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium if they are to avoid a group-stage exit and must hope the United States and Iran play out a draw elsewhere.

    A four-goal win for Wales against their neighbours on Tuesday would also be enough, but they have not so much as avoided defeated against England in their past six meetings.

    Shaw, who played a full part in England's 6-2 win over Iran and goalless draw with the USA, believes the scenes from 2016 will add more spice to an already feisty fixture.

    "I think you could say that," Shaw said. "But our motivation in itself has to be at its highest level. We are at the World Cup. We have great aims for what we want to achieve.

    "We have to have the maximum motivation at every game. I don't think there's any more motivation than what we have already. 

    "It wasn't nice. I don't want to dwell too much on that. I want to focus on what we do on the pitch. We can say things in interviews and I'd rather do our talking on the pitch."

    Asked if England's players would consider recording similar scenes of celebrating should they knock out Wales, Shaw said: "I think we are a respectful group.

    "We do things in the right way. That's the example Gareth [Southgate] wants to set. We are fully behind that. We are fully respectful.

    "I think their motivation is going to be extremely high. They are going to give everything to win. It's not an easy game. But we need to focus on what we do."

    England will advance to the knockout stage if they avoid a heavy loss to Wales, though Southgate's side will be targeting a victory to make certain of top spot in Group B.

    Speaking ahead of England's first ever World Cup match against a fellow British side, Southgate said: "We have got to play well. 

    "We are going to play an opponent that is wounded and, like everybody else, desperate to beat the English. We've got to play an intelligent game, play well and match their spirit.

    "I would be very disappointed if someone says their players will want it more than ours. I'd be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have been for five years."

    England have lost their third and final group-stage game in just two of their 14 participations at the World Cup (W7 D5), doing so against Spain in 1950 and Belgium in 2018.

  • Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job Queiroz accuses Klinsmann of 'outrageous' slurs against Iran, demands German quits FIFA job

    Carlos Queiroz has demanded Jurgen Klinsmann resign from his FIFA position after making a string of accusations about Iran's World Cup team, labelling the German's comments "a disgrace".

    Iran head coach Queiroz reacted after his team were accused by Klinsmann of having "worked the referee" during the 2-0 win against Wales on Friday.

    Working as a BBC pundit, Klinsmann suggested Iran getting to the match officials and pushing the boundaries of acceptability was "part of their culture".

    In response, Queiroz suggested California-based Klinsmann's "outrageous remarks" stemmed from his "American/German" background.

    He said Klinsmann should visit Iran's training camp to learn more about the team, but must step down from FIFA's World Cup technical study group beforehand.

    Prompted about the conduct of Iran's players in the Wales game just staying on the right side of the game's laws, Klinsmann said: "That's their culture, that's their way of doing it, and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well the Iranian national team.

    "He struggled in South America and failed with Colombia to qualify, and then he failed with Egypt to qualify as well, and he went back right before the World Cup and guided Iran, where he worked already for a long, long time.

    "This is not by coincidence. This is just part of their culture, that's how they play it. They worked the referee. You saw the bench, always jumping up and always working the linesman and fourth referee on the sidelines, they are constantly in their ear.

    "This is their culture; they make you lose your focus, make you lose your concentration and what's important to you."

    Klinsmann said there could have been a "big difference with another referee" and added: "Let's say it did not play into the hands of Wales."

    Queiroz responded on Saturday with a string of withering Twitter messages aimed at Klinsmann, who was a 1990 World Cup winner as a player with West Germany and later coach of Germany and the United States.

    Queiroz began by saying: "Even not knowing me personally, you question my character with a typical prejudiced judgement of superiority.

    "No matter how much I can respect what you did inside the pitch, those remarks about Iran culture, Iran national team and my players are a disgrace to football. Nobody can hurt our integrity if it is not at our level, of course.

    "Even saying so, we would like to invite you as our guest, to come to our national team camp, socialise with Iran players and learn from them about the country, the people of Iran, the poets and art, the algebra, all the millennial Persian culture…

    "And also listen from our players how much they love and respect football. As American/German, we understand your no support. No problem. And despite your outrageous remarks on BBC trying to undermine our efforts, sacrifices and skills, we promise you that we will not produce any judgements regarding your culture, roots and background and that you will always be welcome to our family.

    "At the same time, we just want to follow with full attention what will be the decision of FIFA regarding your position as a member of Qatar 2022 technical study group.

    "Because, obviously, we expect you to resign before you visit our camp."

    This is former Manchester United assistant boss Queiroz's third consecutive World Cup as Iran boss. His short spells with Colombia and Egypt followed the 2018 tournament, with Queiroz leading Egypt to this year's Africa Cup of Nations final.

    They were defeated in that game on penalties by Senegal, and Egypt also lost by the same method to the same opposition in a World Cup play-off, with Queiroz departing and returning to the helm with Iran in September.

  • Barcelona boss Xavi reveals he turned down opportunity to join Brazil Barcelona boss Xavi reveals he turned down opportunity to join Brazil

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    The former Spain international succeeded Ronald Koeman last year in charge at Camp Nou, and has helped to revive fortunes at the Catalan side since his arrival.

    Though his team have slipped into the Europa League for a second season running, they remain competitive in the domestic top-flight, sitting two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid at the World Cup break.

    Xavi has revealed he was approached by Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Rogerio Caboclo over a role with the Selecao during his time in charge at Al Sadd, but that he turned them down to hold out for Barca.

    "It was an opportunity [that came] through the president of the CBF," Xavi told ESPN. 

    "They [came] to Qatar, and they talked to me, [and asked if] I could be part of Tite's staff.

    "But I wanted to be a coach, not an assistant. My desire was to be a coach.

    "It would be a tremendous opportunity - it was [a chance] to make history, to be the first European to work in the Brazilian national team.

    "But, at that moment, it did not happen. I was clear that I wanted to be coach of Barcelona, ​​which was my dream, and here I am."

    However, Xavi teased he would not rule out taking up the chance if it was offered again, adding: "You never know. It would be a spectacular opportunity.

    "But my intention was to take over Barcelona. You never know about the future [though]. I'm working hard, and you can't rule anything out."

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