Arteta reveals Saka is 'fine' and praises Vieira after win at Oxford

By Sports Desk January 09, 2023

Mikel Arteta allayed concerns over an injury sustained by Bukayo Saka and expects more decisive displays from Fabio Vieira after Arsenal beat Oxford United 3-0 in the FA Cup.

Saka was withdrawn in the second half of a victory at the Kassam Stadium on Monday that set up a fourth-round tie at Manchester City.

Arsenal face fierce rivals Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday and the sight of Saka limping off was a concern for the leaders.

But Gunners manager Arteta revealed the England winger is "fine" ahead of the short trip to do battle with Spurs this weekend.

Arsenal outclassed League One side Oxford following a lacklustre first-half display, Mohamed Elneny opening the scoring before the in-form Eddie Nketiah helped himself to a clinical quickfire double.

Vieira came into the starting line-up as one of seven changes made by Arteta and whipped in a brilliant free-kick for Elneny to break the deadlock with a header, then set up Nketiah for the second goal.

The midfielder has endured a frustrating start to his Gunners career due to injury, but Arteta is in no doubt he will prove to be a shrewd signing.

Arteta told ITV Sport: "He has the quality. He is a really creative player, and he can decide games in the final third. He made a difference."

Nketiah has scored four goals in as many games since the World Cup in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus, taking his tally for the season to seven.

Arteta said of the striker's form: "It is what we want from every player. I am delighted. You have to be scoring goals, and he is doing it."

He added: "We have only one [striker]. And to cope for that many months until Gabby's back is not easy. We have to make the most out of the players we've got."

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    Luchi Gonzalez admits his team need to learn the difference between competing and winning as they aim to bounce back against Austin FC on Saturday.

    The Earthquakes currently sit bottom of the Western Conference with 10 points, having won just three games this season.

    Gonzalez highlighted his team has no trouble competing with their opponents and is optimistic they can turn leads into actual wins soon.

    "The result of the last game [against Austin], we didn't get the job done there at the end even though we thought we were about to, but we're competing consistently in any competition," he said.

    "We've had the lead in eight out of [14 MLS games]. That does show you that we're ready, we're prepared and we compete. Competing and winning are two different things. We've got to keep working on our ability to make decisions individually, collectively."

    At the other end of the table, Austin sit in third with 22 points, just six behind leaders Real Salt Lake after back-to-back wins over Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City.

    Head coach Josh Wolff was pleased with his side’s approach in recent weeks but urged them to keep up that level as they head into a busy week.

    "We're very spirited, we're very organised and opportunistic," Wolff said.

    "We've shown we can score goals, that's not a problem. We have to keep approaching games in a meticulous way, a responsible and disciplined way so that we can win."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    San Jose Earthquakes – Jeremy Ebobisse

    Ebobisse has scored five goals in seven career matches against Austin FC. Only Jesus Ferreira (6) has scored more MLS goals against the Verde.

    Austin – Sebastian Driussi

    Driussi has scored seven goals in seven career games against the Earthquakes. No player has scored more goals against a single opponent than Driussi against San Jose since he joined MLS in 2021.

    MATCH PREDICTION: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES WIN

    Austin recorded their first-ever win over San Jose on April 6 with a 4-3 home victory (D5 L2). There have been at least four goals scored in five of the eight matches between the sides, including a pair of seven-goal games.

    San Jose has lost four of their first six home league matches this season (W2) after losing just twice at PayPal Park during the 2023 regular season. The ‘Quakes have conceded at least once in 11 straight regular-season home matches dating back to last year.

    Meanwhile, Austin have won six of its last nine regular-season matches (D1 L2), including the last two in a row. Only three teams have collected more points than Austin’s 19 since that run began in late March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    San Jose Earthquakes – 41.2%

    Draw – 28.6%

    Austin – 30.2%

  • Onana decided to 'stand up and fight' after Man Utd criticism Onana decided to 'stand up and fight' after Man Utd criticism

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    "Rashy, for me, is one of the best players in the world. But he is facing difficulty. It's not only him and me, but the whole club.

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  • The Numbers Game: Man City set on double repeat with Ten Hag on the brink The Numbers Game: Man City set on double repeat with Ten Hag on the brink

    The Premier League season is over, Euro 2024 is approaching, and now it is time for the FA Cup final to round off the English domestic season.

    Manchester City and Manchester United, as they did last season, will face off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

    City won 2-1 in June 2023, with Ilkay Gundogan's stunning volley after just 12 seconds setting the tone for a dominant performance from Pep Guardiola's side, who were en route to winning a treble.

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    "We play FA Cup [and] we can do back-to-back doubles, we have [a] chance to do this," Guardiola said on Friday. "The FA Cup for itself is FA Cup, Wembley, all our fans going to London. It's the last game of season, last effort. 

    "I'm impressed how well we have trained after a few days off, so focused, everyone wants to be involved, we will do our best for sure."  

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    Using Opta data, here's all you need to know...

    What's expected?

    Unsurprisingly, Opta's model makes Man City the favourites, with a 68 per cent win likelihood. United's chances are rated at just 14.4 per cent, with a 17.7 per cent chance it finishes level after 120 minutes, meaning penalties would be needed.

    City are unbeaten in their last 35 matches in all competitions (W29 D6) – it’s the second-longest run by a top-flight club in English football history, after Nottingham Forest’s run of 40 in 1978.

    There has been a gulf between the rivals this season. City won both of their league meetings against United by an aggregate of 6-1. The last time they beat their neighbours three times in the same campaign was in 1969-70.

    City fare well in some significant data points. They have the biggest positive difference (+83) between total shots (127) and shots faced (44) in the Premier League this season, and the biggest positive difference (+9.6) between their expected goals (xG) of 14.8 and expected goals against (xGA) of 5.2.

    With City topping the Premier League and United way down in eighth, 31 points separated the rivals.

    City scored the most goals in the Premier League, with 96, 29 more than United (57), whose xG was also 57.

    United's defensive issues have been well-documented. Their xGA stood at a whopping 70 across their 38 league matches, with only the three relegated sides and West Ham having a worse figure, while only Sheffield United (678) allowed more shots than the Red Devils (667).

    Ten Hag on the brink

    United are looking to win the FA Cup for the 13th time, something only Arsenal (14) have ever done more. However, the Red Devils have failed to win the trophy in four of their last five final appearances, with the exception coming in 2016 against Crystal Palace under Louis van Gaal (2-1).

    There have been six previous occasions of a side finishing 8th or lower facing that season’s champions in the showpiece – Aston Villa (10th) beat Manchester United 2-1 in 1957, but since then such sides have lost all five finals by an aggregate score of 15-0.

    United have won five of their last seven FA Cup games against City. However, both defeats in that run have come in games at Wembley (2011 semi-final, 2023 final).

    The Red Devils have lost six of their last seven meetings with City in all competitions (W1), including each of the last three in a row. They last lost four consecutively against them between 2013 and 2014.

    United have lost 19 games and conceded 84 goals in all competitions this season. They last lost 20 in a campaign in 1973-74 (22) and last conceded more than 84 in 1963-64 (89).

    This is only the second time in FA Cup history the same fixture has been played in the final in consecutive years, after Blackburn Rovers v Queen's Park Rangers in 1884 and 1885, and the sensible money would be on City repeating their victory from last year.

    Serial winners

    Much has been said of City's dominance in the Premier League, but Guardiola's team just have to be lauded for their incredible hunger to keep winning.

    City could complete the league title and FA Cup double for the third time, something only previously achieved by Manchester United (1993-94, 1995-96 and 1998-99) and Arsenal (1970-71, 1997-98 and 2001-02). The Citizens did so in 2018-19 and 2022-23 and thus could become the first team to do so in consecutive campaigns.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Man City: Erling Haaland

    Phil Foden is the Premier League Player of the Year, while he has been involved in 10 goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions, scoring nine and assisting one. He has also netted six goals in his last five games against United, while only against Brighton (eight) has he scored more career goals than his six against the Red Devils.

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    He has also been involved in nine goals in five appearances against United in all competitions (six goals, three assists), more than he has against any other side as a City player.

    Man Utd: Bruno Fernandes 

    Fernandes scored from the penalty spot for United in last season's FA Cup final.

    He could become the fifth United player to score in the showpiece in two different years, after Bryan Robson (1983 and 1990), Norman Whiteside (1983 and 1985), Mark Hughes (1990 and 1994) and Eric Cantona (1994 and 1996).

    Marcus Rashford, having been left out of the England squad for Euro 2024, will be looking to offer a reminder of his qualities, too.

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