EPL

Arteta sets 100-goal target if Arsenal are to challenge for title next season

By Sports Desk March 19, 2022

Mikel Arteta has challenged his Arsenal players to aim for between 90 and 100 goals next season if they are to build on this campaign and challenge for the Premier League title.

Arsenal are well positioned to end their five-season wait for Champions League football as they sit fourth in the English top flight with games in hand on the chasing pack.

The gap on top-two sides Manchester City and Liverpool stands at 19 and 18 points respectively, however, albeit having played one game less than both teams.

Arteta believes a lot of that can be explained by the attacking output of each side, with Arsenal having scored 43 goals so far, compared to 68 for City and 75 for Liverpool.

Arsenal have been tipped to strengthen their squad in the next transfer window, and manager Arteta is fully aware exactly where his team needs improving if they are to push on.

"To be with the top teams this season you need to score 90 to 100 goals at least," he said. "Somehow you need those goals in the team. 

"Don't ask me how, but you need them. They have to come. That contribution, how it's done, you have to find the right pieces to do it. It's non-negotiable."

Arsenal's 43 Premier League goals this season – one of which was an own goal – have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 42.7.

That means the Gunners have scored about as many goals as you would expect from the quality of their shots, netting from a xG of 0.1 per shot.

No Arsenal player has made it to double figures for goals this term in the league ahead of Saturday's trip to Aston Villa, with Emile Smith Rowe their leading scorer on nine.

By comparison, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling (both 10) are into double figures for City, as are Sadio Mane (12), Diogo Jota (13) and Mohamed Salah (20) for Liverpool.

Players of such quality do not come cheaply, but Arteta insisted a goalscorer – or goalscorers – can make all the difference when it comes to challenging for major honours.

"If you look at the history of [successful] football teams, they always have that," he said. "You look at the Barcelona team that won six titles; they scored 100 goals for three years. 

"If you don’t need that then you need to have 30 clean sheets. In the last 11 games, if we can score 11 goals and concede zero we're going to win 11 games. 

"Or we can score 35 and concede, and we're still going to have 33 points. But in a very different way."

Pressed on Arsenal's transfer business in the upcoming window, and whether it was important to continue focusing on youth, Arteta said: "We have to find the right piece. 

"When we find that player, maybe the top priority won't be the age in that position. Maybe in another one, yes. So we'll have to get that right."

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    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.

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    “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’

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    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.

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    “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.

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