EPL

Arteta demands reaction against Brighton as Arsenal look to reignite top-four bid

By Sports Desk April 08, 2022

Mikel Arteta urged Arsenal to respond against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday after a shabby performance at Crystal Palace slowed their Champions League push.

The Gunners had surged into top-four contention, but an underwhelming outing at Selhurst Park in a 3-0 reverse on Monday condemned them to a second loss in their last three Premier League games (W1), having lost just one of their previous 11 (W9 D1).

North London rivals Tottenham, who cruised past Newcastle United 5-1 on Sunday, occupy the final place in England's top four, though they are level on points with Arteta's side, who have a game in hand.

Manager Arteta called for a reaction from his team when they host Brighton, who have not defeated, or even scored against, Arsenal in their last three league meetings.

"Monday is gone. We're looking forward to playing in front of our fans," Arteta said in a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"We have to play better and we have to compete much better than we did on Monday. [The setback] has happened and it's happened with nine games to go, and we have to react now.

"We have to show tomorrow the energy, the commitment and the passion that we want to play the game tomorrow in front of our fans. Embrace the challenge."

Matters were made worse against Patrick Vieira's side after it was confirmed Kieran Tierney could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Thomas Partey continues to be monitored for a thigh problem that will keep him out for "some weeks".

"You lost, now you want to win, it's hurting and it's still hurting. We lost two big players, two really important players for us for sure," Arteta said.

"But whenever that happens you can't cry for it because they are not going to be available for us. So we have to find other solutions, and we have to be as good and as competitive as we have been."

 

Nuno Tavares was hooked off at half-time as he endured a torrid outing at left-back against Palace, with Jordan Ayew's strike a combination of his and Gabriel Magalhaes' fault through miscommunication.

However, Arteta assured the young Portugal defender he will bounce back from his mistakes.

"Throughout your career you have to go through difficult moments, and he's had some really good periods since he arrived at the club, and he was playing many more minutes than he was probably expecting," Arteta said of Tavares.

"That's the life of a player, especially at that age. There's ups and downs, and we are here to try and help him and make his career better, and that's what we're going to do.

"He is ready and he is willing, and he will be disappointed, but it's part of the job and we have to make decisions to try to win football matches. There is nothing personal there."

Crucial to Arsenal's hopes against Brighton will be the performance of Alexandre Lacazette, who has not scored from open play in any of his last 16 appearances across all competitions.

That amounts to 22 hours and 28 minutes without an open-play goal for the former Lyon striker since his last against Southampton in December, but Arteta expressed his support.

"Laca's contribution to the team in many other ways has been phenomenal," Arteta said.

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  • Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations

    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.

  • Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far

    Ghosts everywhere. In the stands, where the spectre of Diego Maradona was waving his fists, wondering how Argentina could put in such a vapid performance.

    On the pitch, where the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were sprinting through the middle, looking for a pass or clearing a path for Lionel Messi.

    The ghosts of Argentina's past haunted them for large parts of Saturday's game against Mexico, as the present almost became a living nightmare.

    Lionel Scaloni's team were in dire danger of heading out of this World Cup after two games, the champions of South America last year vulnerable to a humbling on the global stage, until a flash of Messi magic changed everything.

    A swish of that left boot from 25 yards, and the ball zipped into the bottom-right corner. It had to be him.

    On the night Messi matched Maradona's Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, he also moved level with El Diego on eight goals in his career at the finals, two behind national team record holder Gabriel Batistuta. For Messi, those World Cup goals have all come in the group stage, something he came to Qatar to change and still might.

    Losing to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was bad enough for Argentina, but at least there would be a reaction against the Mexicans. Perhaps it might be the spur they needed, and perhaps it could still be Messi's World Cup.

    Those were theories that were widely voiced, yet for an hour they looked to be utter bunkum.

    Even at 90 minutes, with a 2-0 scoreline barely reflecting the flow of the game, you were left fearing Argentina might find a way to trip up against Poland next time out. If they finish second in this group, it will almost certainly be France waiting for them in the second round, and on the evidence so far, Argentina would be mauled by Les Bleus.

    Messi and Co arrived at this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten run, but such has been their languid start you would have been forgiven for guessing they played all 36 of those games in the last month.

    Here they were off the pace from the start, lacking any obvious strategy, down on energy, praying for Messi to conjure something. It had an air of Barcelona in the final days of Ronald Koeman's reign about it.

    Scaloni has backed Lautaro Martinez to be his lone striker, and there might have to be a rethink on that score. Martinez has a shot conversion rate of 12.9 per cent this season for Inter, which is not ideal for a striker, and has been finding the net at club level every 206.25 minutes.

    He has Edin Dzeko up alongside him for the Nerazzurri, who has been more clinical with his chances, but with Argentina it is Martinez who leads the line ostensibly alone.

    This team used to have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and they desperately miss prime era Higuain and Aguero.

    Martinez has a strong scoring record for his country, but he was ineffective here, his second game at his first World Cup.

    When a clear chance came his way in the 40th minute, after a fine cross from the right by Di Maria, he planted a header way off target. It was his one goal attempt. Argentina only had five shots all night, which was still one more than Mexico. Their combined total of shots is the fewest ever recorded in a World Cup, based on studies of matches going back as far as 1966.

    There was a moment late in the first half that looked to be typifying Argentina's night: Mexico's Alexis Vega had a free-kick well saved by Emiliano Martinez shortly before half-time and Argentina went on the break, with Messi looking to dance down the right and make something happen.

    Except, those feet don't dance as quickly as they once did, and the ball was soon swept into touch. At Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for company, the gradual decline of Messi is not quite so obvious. He can be a joy to behold in that company still, but when all the attention of defenders is on him, as it inevitably was this time, he was being too easily crowded out and barged off the ball.

    In the second half, Erick Gutierrez hacked down Messi when he got close to the edge of the box and began to sprint, and Argentina had the chance they wanted. Messi punted it over the crossbar, and you just sensed it would not be his night.

    And then Messi decided that, actually, yes it would be.

    At the age of 35, he cannot win a World Cup by himself, but he can still come up with magical moments, and it was a goal for the career showreels, a stroke of familiar genius at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will stage this tournament's final.

    For the second time in his career, Messi has scored in six consecutive international games for his country. He remains a joy of a player, and his country's biggest hope.

    Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a late second goal that flattered Argentina, and it made the Benfica player, at 21 years and 313 days, the youngest Argentina scorer at a World Cup since the 18-year-old Messi announced himself at the 2006 finals. The past might still be a haunting influence, but here was a glimpse into the future.

    A smiling Messi celebrated with relieved supporters at the end. For just a fleeting moment in this game, he had been afforded a yard of space and made it count.

    Friday marked two years since the death of Maradona. He is Argentina's past, yet you still almost expect television cameras to pan to him in the stands.

    Messi has spent his life trying to live up to the legend of Maradona, and that shared super-natural brilliance has just about kept Argentina's hopes alive in Qatar.

  • Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi strike helps ignite La Albiceleste's World Cup campaign Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi strike helps ignite La Albiceleste's World Cup campaign

    Lionel Messi was once again Argentina's saviour with the breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico at Lusail Stadium to ignite his side's World Cup campaign.

    Poland's 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia earlier on Saturday left Argentina needing to avoid defeat against Mexico if they were not to exit the competition after just two games.

    Argentina put their shock 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia behind them thanks to Messi's long-range opener after 64 minutes and Enzo Fernandez's equally-as-impressive late strike.

    Lionel Scaloni's men join Saudi Arabia on three points and are one point behind Group C leaders Poland, who they face in their final match, while Mexico are bottom on one point.

    Argentina made five changes on the back of their opening loss, three of those in defence, and they failed to register a meaningful attempt in the first half.

    Mexico went closest to opening the scoring before the interval through an Alexis Vega free-kick that called Emiliano Martinez into action.

    The quality only marginally improved in the second half, but out of nowhere Messi controlled Angel Di Maria's pass and fired a low shot past Guillermo Ochoa from 25 yards.

    That strike took Messi level with fellow great Diego Maradona on eight World Cup goals for Argentina, who added a second through substitute Fernandez.

    With three minutes left, the Benfica midfielder received a pass from Messi following a short corner, worked his way into the box and then curled away from Ochoa into the top corner.

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