EPL

Arsenal have to be at top of their game to beat 'best team in England', Arteta claims ahead of Liverpool clash

By Sports Desk March 15, 2022

Arsenal must be at their "very best" if they hope to defeat Liverpool in the Premier League, says Mikel Arteta, with the Spaniard hailing the Reds as "the best team in England".

The Gunners welcome Jurgen Klopp's title-chasers to Emirates Stadium for a crucial crash that could shape both of their respective seasons.

Liverpool will fulfil their game in hand on champions Manchester City and could move a point behind them with victory, while a win for Arsenal would further consolidate their top-four spot.

Arsenal have not played in the Champions League since the 2016-17 season and are desperate to return, and Wednesday's fixture might prove something of a litmus test as to just where the Gunners are at. Indeed, Arsenal went into the reverse fixture at Anfield in November on the back of a fine run of form yet were hammered 4-0.

"We are facing arguably the best team in England and have to be at our best to beat them," Arteta told a news conference.

"You face a team that dominates every single aspect of the game, so when that happens, you have to be at your very best."

On their prospects of securing a top-four finish, Arteta cautioned Arsenal about getting ahead of themselves, adding: "There still is a long way to go.

"There are better teams in the country because that's what the league table shows. We haven't done anything yet.

"What we are doing is trying to improve. We understand better what we want – being much more consistent in performance and results, and nothing else."

With the international break set to follow this weekend's fixtures, several Arsenal players are expected to be called up for their national teams, including England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

The shot-stopper was the hero against Leicester City at the weekend with another strong performance and was hailed by opposite manager Brendan Rodgers as the best goalkeeper in the country at the moment.

Arteta doubled down on that praise, adding: "Thanks to Brendan for thinking that way. Aaron has to take those words to give him confidence.

"He's been exceptional since the day we signed him, not only on the pitch, but what he transmitted, what he brought to the building, to the club."

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  • Stefano Pioli determined to stop Inter Milan clinching Scudetto against his team Stefano Pioli determined to stop Inter Milan clinching Scudetto against his team

    AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli wants victory “for several reasons” as they prepare for their derby clash with Inter Milan on Monday.

    Milan were knocked out of the Europa League at the hands of fellow Serie A side Roma in midweek and will be looking to bounce back with a victory against their city rivals.

    The Rossoneri sit second in the table behind Monday’s opponents and a win for Inter means they could also clinch the title, something Pioli insists his side will use for extra motivation.

    He said on acmilan.com: “Pride, redemption, belonging, responsibility, all good terms to describe the game that awaits us.

    “Because of the league table, the Europa League exit, and for the fact that they want to win the Scudetto in this game, we have a big opportunity. A victory would be important for several reasons.

    “I have a lot of faith in my players, they know how important the game is. The more you play and gain trust if you understand how to stay in the game, it will be fundamental not to give away chances at the start like we have done in recent derbies.”

    Milan will also be looking for revenge after they were thrashed 5-1 in the reverse fixture during Inter’s impressive start to the season and they have been beaten the last five times the sides have played each other.

    Pioli knows his side have to be at their very best to get a result on Monday.

    “We had high expectations in the fixture earlier this season, then we weren’t able to overcome some obstacles during the game. As far as the tactical choices go, we are open to every option.

    “We will need to play an exceptional game, we come off the back of five consecutive defeats against them and they have always given us problems.

    “They deserve to win the Scudetto but we need to do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen tomorrow. We have worked hard in the last few days, we are totally focused on best preparing for the game”.

    A win for Milan could all but secure their Champions League status for next season and, with nothing else to play for this season, Pioli has set his side the objective of finishing the season strongly.

    He added: “I ask my AC Milan to win and do well from now until the very end. After seven wins on the bounce, we didn’t play as we could have done, we need to give it our all and do so until the end of the season.

    “Journalists and fans have the right to criticise, tomorrow there will be 70,000 fans spurring on AC Milan, nothing else matters. The squad shouldn’t play for me, but for the fans and to honour the shirt.

    “I want to give everything as I have done since my first day, I have been given a lot and I still feel like I have a lot to give to this team. Work is the only verb I know, we will try to win every game from now until the end and then we will see.”

  • VAR is a Luton fan – Forest hit out at PGMOL after ‘poor decisions’ at Everton VAR is a Luton fan – Forest hit out at PGMOL after ‘poor decisions’ at Everton

    Nottingham Forest have accused VAR Stuart Attwell of being a Luton fan after feeling they were on the wrong end of “three extremely poor decisions” during Sunday’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Everton.

    Forest posted on X, formerly Twitter, soon after full-time that they were considering their options, having “warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him”, adding that their patience had now been “tested multiple times” this season.

    The relegation-threatened midlands club were furious not to be awarded spot-kicks by Anthony Taylor for challenges on Giovanni Reyna and Callum Hudson-Odoi by Ashley Young, who in the meantime had looked fortunate to escape a handball decision, with Attwell backing the referee.

    Forest posted: “Three extremely poor decisions – three penalties not given – which we simply cannot accept.

    “We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game, but they didn’t change him. Our patience has been tested multiple times.

    “NFFC will now consider its options.”

    All three incidents were waved away by referee Taylor, with VAR Attwell opting not to reverse any decision, suggesting with the handball that Young’s arm had been deemed to be in a natural position when it was hit by Hudson-Odoi’s shot.

    Forest head coach Nuno Espirito Santo backed the club’s statement in the main but played down the importance of Attwell’s allegiances.

    Asked whether he agreed with his club’s stance, he said: “Yes I share (the view) because I saw the images. You see it so clearly, you don’t understand why the decision was against us.

    “I honestly think the situation with Gio Reyna in the first half was a clear one and the handball, we can ask because if not, the ball goes to (Chris) Wood and there is an incident with Callum and Ashley Young.

    “I share the feeling of the club because it is not only this game, it has been a while for poor decisions against us. It is not an excuse but we are not comfortable with the referees.”

    Nuno stopped short of repeating the club’s suggestion Attwell’s appointment as VAR raised issues of impartiality, instead choosing to question the official’s inability to spot what he thought were three viable spot-kicks.

    “I am aware of the complaint that the club was not comfortable with the VAR but the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) decided another way,” he said.

    “It is not important if he is a fan of another club or not. The VAR is sitting down in a chair, they have time to assess the images.

    “I would just like to understand the why – why we have always been on the end of bad decisions.

    “It is a feeling of disappointment that we are always being punished and it is difficult to control the players with this feeling because they felt they worked hard and not got what they deserved.”

    Asked whether he thought it was appropriate for the club to complain about the appointment of officials before a match, the Forest boss said: “I prefer not to answer if it is appropriate.

    “It’s a feeling and trying to avoid what happened today and not raise any more suspicions or thoughts that no-one wants. It is about preventing.”

    It is not the first time Forest have been incensed with refereeing decisions, and as a result they appointed former official Mark Clattenburg as a consultant analyst to fight their corner.

    The PA news agency understands the Football Association is aware of the post and is investigating, and has contacted the PGMOL for comment.

    Amid the furore, Everton moved five points clear of the relegation zone after goals in either half for Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil.

    The only downside to the day for the hosts was striker Beto being carried off after being knocked unconscious in a clash of heads.

    “He definitely came around and could understand what is going on, a good early sign,” Toffees boss Sean Dyche said.

    “It was fantastic how early the medical team came around, we hope for news over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

    The Everton manager was happy to have secured back-to-back home wins either side of Monday’s 6-0 humiliation at Chelsea.

    “It is very pleasing considering the madness of the current situation – two wins and two clean sheets in three games, sandwiched by a horrible performance,” he said.

    “The reaction was very important today.”

  • Philippe Clement says Rangers’ return to winning ways was ‘what I demanded’ Philippe Clement says Rangers’ return to winning ways was ‘what I demanded’

    Philippe Clement insists Rangers reacted as he expected after getting back to winning ways with a 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Hearts at Hampden Park.

    The Light Blues went into the game with just two wins in eight in all competitions and on the back of a goalless draw against Dundee on Wednesday night which followed their first ever defeat by Ross County in their cinch Premiership encounter in Dingwall last Sunday.

    The Gers boss, who raised eyebrows by dropping regular centre-back Connor Goldson in a reshuffle, saw striker Cyriel Dessers score a goal in each half to set up a date with Celtic on May 25 – the first Old Firm final since 2002.

    “To say it’s pleasing it not a good word,” said Clement, who revealed attacker Abdallah Sima will be assessed in the next couple of days after going off early with an injury.

    “It’s what I expected. It’s what I demanded, it’s what I wanted.

    “It was what I knew I would get from the team, also. I was totally not pleased about the game after Ross County, with how we lost our structure and lost our normal football.

    “Against Dundee, we were too much in a rush to score a goal and today we found the right balance again, what we have been doing for a lot of months.

    “But it’s been challenging in the last couple of months with all the injuries and players in and out.

    “We have been lacking rhythm. But today, if you see the bench, it is stronger again and that’s going to be important in the next couple of weeks when it’s one game a week.

    “Before these cup semi-finals we were the only team that played during the week. It makes a different and you need to look at that if you have three games in seven or eight days.

    “With players coming out of injury you cannot let them play all the minutes. It’s been a puzzle around that but now, in this last part of the season, it’s going to be a challenge in the squad with players coming back.

    “Quality then rises in the training and quality rises in the game also because we have a strong bench.”

    Hearts boss Steven Naismith blamed “immaturity” for failing to make more of their attacking play.

    “Frustrated, disappointed with the outcome,” he said. “That is the overriding emotion.

    “We got off to a terrible start, we can’t lose cheap, early goal like we did.

    “But the reaction from then until the second goal was good.

    “I thought we controlled the ball a lot, created opportunities and what you see is our immaturity in the final third.

    “We had four or five really good situations and we either pick the wrong option, or the wrong pass or we don’t get the finish.

    “And these are moments when we must hit the target or make the goalkeeper make a save or score a goal.

    “That is the biggest frustration for me because we get good opportunities that we didn’t take and the goals we conceded were cheap.”

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