EPL

Arteta 'grateful' to be at Arsenal despite PSG links

By Sports Desk March 16, 2022

Mikel Arteta dismissed the suggestion he is interested in taking the Paris Saint-Germain job, insisting he is committed to Arsenal.

Arteta has been among those managers linked with potentially taking over at the Parc des Princes should Mauricio Pochettino leave at the end of the season.

Pochettino's time in the French capital has been somewhat underwhelming so far, with PSG crashing out of the Champions League last week after capitulating against Real Madrid.

Meanwhile, Arteta, who spent a season on loan at PSG from Barcelona in 2001-02, seems to have finally bedded in his methods at Arsenal, with the Gunners in pole position to secure a top-four spot and Champions League qualification.

Asked about the rumours ahead of Wednesday's clash with title challengers Liverpool, Arteta said: "Very simple, that I am extremely happy here and I'm grateful that it's where I am."

Arteta's team face a stern test of their quality against Jurgen Klopp's team, who have won their last eight Premier League matches.

Arsenal, however, have won their last five, joining Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea as the only other top-flight teams to manage such a run of victories in the competition so far this season.

Since losing their opening home game of the Premier League season, Arsenal have only lost one of their following 13 league games at Emirates Stadium this term (W10 D2), but Arteta knows the standards must remain high.

"This is never going to stop, this is a constant revolution," he added.

"In the history of the Premier League, there never existed this level of playing and competition so we don't know where that limit is so every plan that we do is with players and people with the mentality that this is going to keep the will going, that this is never going to be good enough and to do that you need to get people that are aligned with this ambition."

While Arsenal head into their contest with Liverpool in good form, recent history is not on their side. They were hammered 4-0 at Anfield in November and lost to the Reds over two legs in their EFL Cup semi-final.

Arsenal's record against the other "big six" sides this season is also disappointing, with only three points taken from six such fixtures so far – that win coming against north London rivals Tottenham. Indeed, the Gunners have conceded 17 goals in those matches, scoring just six times in return.

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    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta stood in unison with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola in condemning the fixture schedule.

    Guardiola said it was “unacceptable” that his side had to play an FA Cup semi-final less than 72 hours after being in action in the Champions League on Wednesday night as they beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday tea-time.

    The Gunners’ plight was arguably worse as they were also in Europe on Wednesday night but had to travel back from Germany on Thursday following their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

    They made light of that quick turnaround as they beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday to go back to the top of the Premier League before they play again on Tuesday night against Chelsea.

    “It’s not about us, Pep or myself, it’s about the well-being of the players,” Arteta said after Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard goals sent his side one point above City.

    “Especially when you are competing in European competition, everything has to be competed in the same way.

    “You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days or three days before and has more recovery time and you have to play in the Premier League or the FA Cup.

    “It is not right. If you look at it any angle it’s not right. If you want to protect and you always talk about the players and the protagonists, let’s protect them and think about them and do everything we can to give them the maximum time so they can recover and they can maintain the show they put on every week.

    “We stayed in Munich, I think we had two hours sleep, wake up and we started to talk about Wolves first of all and then understand what we had to do to win the game.

    “The boys were unbelievable. You look at the amount of games we have played in the last few weeks, the type of games we have played and the attitude and the way they have run today is top.”

    It was a good recovery from the Gunners after a horror week where their title hopes were damaged by a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa last week before their Champions League exit in Munich.

    But they could be four points clear of City by the time Guardiola’s side next play as they try to wrestle control of a thrilling title race.

    Arteta added: “It was really good, I really liked the performance, the result, the clean sheet but also the way individually and a team they showed they still have a step forward to make.

    “We realised we want to be involved in big competitions, fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League, the level it requires, we have to do something special. You have to have that love to compete.”

    Wolves battled hard but are crippled by injuries, with the majority of their key attacking players sidelined.

    They are now six games without a win, but boss Gary O’Neil was proud.

    “I thought it was an incredible performance, it exceeded my expectation of what we were able to produce today,” he said.

    “We didn’t deserve to lose 2-0, losing 1-0 and not quite being able to break them down is probably as bad as it should have been for us.

    “We came up just short against one of the best teams in world football so there’s no disgrace in that.”

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    It appeared as though Rovers’ incredible charge from relegation danger to play-off contention had ended as goals from Emile Acquah and Rory Feely gave the Cumbrians a two-goal advantage at the break.

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    “It’s right up there,” McCann said of the victory. “I said to the boys at half-time, out of all of the wins that we’ve had this would be the best one.

    “The first half we weren’t good enough. We played in to what they wanted us to do. We didn’t move the ball quick enough, we didn’t commit and that was the big message this week – commit people.

    “It could have gone either way there because I wasn’t nice to them at half-time, I was a little bit firm with them and it’s probably the first time I’ve had to do that in probably 15-16 games, so it could have easily gone another way.

    “But I think that’s a testament to what we’ve got in our changing room and the characters and the commitment, the desire to push and push and once we got that penalty I had a feeling inside me we could win the game.”

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    Harrogate manager Simon Weaver believes the club have made “massive strides” this season despite seeing their play-off hopes extinguished by a 5-3 home defeat by MK Dons.

    The Sulphurites have, nevertheless, racked up a club-record number of EFL points in a campaign since their 2020 promotion and are also guaranteed to finish in their highest position.

    A brace from 18-goal leading marksman George Thomson, following Abraham Odoh’s opener, proved insufficient as the visitors secured maximum points thanks to efforts from Alex Gilbey, Max Dean, Stephen Wearne, Emre Tezgel and Ellis Harrison.

    Weaver said: “It was a crazy game really.

    “To see the first goal go in after 30 minutes and then have so many after that and it could have been even more with the number of times we hit the woodwork. We looked very good going forward but we made some poor decisions defensively.

    “But I can still take a lot of pride from playing such a great style of football throughout and creating so many chances against a good team who almost went up automatically. We have made massive strides this season without a doubt.”

    Weaver is also running out of superlatives for talismanic 31-year-old skipper Thomson, adding: “He’s been immense this season and played an integral role for us throughout. You can just feel his presence on the pitch.

    “He’s a good leader out there and on the training ground and he’s capable of scoring goals from all angles at the moment.”

    The visitors were already guaranteed a play-off place prior to kick-off but Dons boss Mike Williamson hailed his team’s character after coming back from behind twice.

    He also pointed to the squad’s strength in depth after Gilbey and Dean were replaced at half-time by Wearne and Harrison, who also found the net.

    “I enjoyed the game because it was a good spectacle, especially for the neutral,” Williamson declared.

    “It showed us we still have things to work on and it was a performance we can learn a lot from and that’s always the case when you’re in that relentless pursuit of excellence.

    “But when things click we also look unstoppable. We know how good the boys are and they respond to every setback they have because they are an unbelievable group.

    “I made changes and we are at a level now where competition is very good. Everyone who came into the team and on as a substitute was excellent.

    “We want to breed a winning mentality and we’ll now sit down and discuss what we do for the next game, have a hard week’s training and make sure we keep up our momentum and confidence levels and keep improving in every moment.”

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