EPL

Jorginho says title-chasing Arsenal ‘way more mature’ compared to last season

By Sports Desk March 05, 2024

Jorginho believes relentless Arsenal are approaching the Premier League title race with more maturity than last season.

The Gunners were top of the table for a total of 248 days last term before ultimately slipping behind Manchester City in the run-in.

Pep Guardiola’s men are again in the running this time, with the holders sandwiched between leaders Liverpool and Arsenal as the season enters the final straight.

Just two points separate the table-topping Reds and third-placed Gunners, who ran amok at sorry Sheffield United in a 6-0 Monday mauling.

“The performance of the squad (was great) and the mentality to start strong and carry on the momentum,” Jorginho said.

“It was really, really good to see a team playing forward and want to keep going.”

Asked what is different about the team this year compared to the one that just fell short last season, the Italy international added: “I think the maturity.

“We are way more mature how we compete and how we manage the games. I think that’s it.”

That mentality led Mikel Arteta’s side to race out of the blocks, racking up a five-goal lead quicker than any away side in Premier League history – Declan Rice making it 5-0 in the 39th minute.

Ben White’s second-half thunderbolt completed the rout, scoring the club’s 10,000th goal on a night they became the first English league side to win three consecutive away games by five or more goals.

“We are pleased that we are doing all this good stuff, but we need to carry on,” Jorginho said.

“Because if we just think ‘oh yeah, nice, it’s done’… no, we just need to put your head down and keep pushing, being humble and keep going.

“We need to not be just happy for what we are doing. Of course, we are happy but we want to keep being happy.

“So, to be like that we just need to keep pushing and working hard.”

Arsenal’s seventh Premier League win on the bounce pushes shambolic Sheffield United further towards an immediate return to the Championship.

The Blades also made history on Monday, becoming the first English side to lose three consecutive home league games by at least a five-goal margin.

It was the kind of performance that raises questions over Chris Wilder’s future but the United boss says it only strengthened his drive to rebuild his boyhood club.

“It cements it,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned in a way I’ll wake up tomorrow and it’ll strengthen my resolve to get this right because it’s a big job, we understand that.”

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  • Premier League relegation battle: Crucial weekend in the scrap for survival Premier League relegation battle: Crucial weekend in the scrap for survival

    While the Premier League title race unfolds, there is another tussle playing out at the bottom.

    And this weekend, six of the teams at the wrong end of the table fight it out against each other.

    On Saturday, Luton Town will hope to propel themselves out of the relegation zone by overcoming Brentford at Kenilworth Road, though the 15th-placed Bees will know that another win could all but end their worries of dropping down to the Championship.

    At the same time, the two bottom clubs go head-to-head at Bramall Lane, with Sheffield United hosting Burnley. Both the Blades and the Clarets look likely to go down, though if either are to survive, then taking three points from this one is a must.

    Sunday’s early game is a huge one at Goodison Park, as Everton and Nottingham Forest – both impacted by points deductions for breaches of Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) – face off. The Toffees are 16th, a point better off than the Tricky Trees, but Sean Dyche’s team are on a dismal run of just one win in 15 league matches.

    Crystal Palace are perhaps not out of the woods just yet, though after their stunning win at Anfield last time out, the Eagles will hope to carry on the momentum when they face West Ham.

    And using Opta data, we can assess the likelihood of the Premier League relegation scrap, as well as the underlying metrics behind each of these teams.

    Let’s work from the top down.

    Palace, after that shock 1-0 win over Liverpool, are now not considered to be relegation candidates by Opta’s predictive model, which gives them a 46.5 per cent chance of staying right where they are in 14th.

    The Eagles are six points clear of Everton in 17th, and while not mathematically safe, Oliver Glasner’s team are certainly within touching distance.

    It is worth noting, though, that according to the Opta power rankings, Palace have the most difficult run-in of all these seven teams, with the average rating of their remaining opponents coming in at 87.9. Like the Toffees and Sheffield United, Palace have six matches left to play, though they do not play any of the teams below them in that run.

    Next come Brentford. The Bees have five games remaining but, with 33 points, are likely just a win away from tying up their safety, and they will be hoping that comes against Luton (as well Everton and Forest fans).

    According to Opta’s model, Brentford have the second-easiest fixture list of any team in the league, with their average opponent rating of 85.1 higher only than Newcastle United’s (84.1).

    The Bees do, though, face a trip to Everton after they head to Luton, so should the worst occur and they lose those matches, then Thomas Frank’s team could find themselves firmly back in danger. As it stands, Brentford’s chances of going down are a meagre 0.3 per cent.

    Brentford are the second-worst expected goals underperformers in the competition this season, having scored six fewer goals than would have been anticipated based on the quality of opportunities they have created, suggesting that with better finishing, and a bit more luck, they would likely be clear of danger already.

    And if that can be said for Brentford, then it can be emphatically repeated for 16th-placed Everton.

    Even factoring in the eight points that have been taken off them this term, Everton – who were thrashed 6-0 by Chelsea on Monday – could have been out of danger had they simply come close to matching their xG. They are by far the Premier League’s biggest underperformers when it comes to that metric – Dyche’s side have scored 32 goals (which ranks 19th in the league) from an xG of 48, a whopping underperformance of 16.

    Sunday’s clash with Forest kick-starts a huge week of home games for the Toffees, with a Merseyside derby against Liverpool following on April 24, before Brentford then visit Goodison Park.

    With Forest, Brentford, Luton and Sheffield United among their final four fixtures, Everton should still have some confidence – they have taken seven points off those sides already this term, and a repeat of that could be enough, though a final-day away outing at Arsenal is ominous, given the Toffees have shipped nine goals in their last two visits to Emirates Stadium. Opta predicts they will stay up, but Everton do have an 8.9 per cent chance of slipping out of the top tier for the first time in over 70 years.

    Below them, Forest will no doubt have been buoyed by Everton’s sorry performance at Stamford Bridge. However, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team do have a rather sizeable 29.9 per cent chance of going down, so a victory at Goodison Park could be vital.

    Especially considering Forest’s next fixture comes against Manchester City, albeit it is at home, where they also face Chelsea in between away clashes with Sheffield United and Burnley.

    Perhaps worrying for Forest, however, is that in their three matches against Everton, the Blades and Burnley this term, they have taken only four points. Interestingly, while Forest have shipped 58 goals – a figure which betters only the bottom three, they have been unfortunate to concede so many based on their expected goals against (xGA), which is actually the sixth best in the league at 47.4.

    Then we have Luton. The Hatters have been one of the stories of the season, and despite their small budget have a brilliant chance of survival.

    That being said, Opta’s predictive model does anticipate they will go down, with Rob Edwards’ side having a 54.3 per cent chance of finishing where they are in 18th, with their chances of finishing in 17th being 29.6 per cent.

    Victory over Brentford, who beat them 3-1 earlier in the campaign, would see Luton move out of the bottom three, though, and with five games left, they do have what is considered a relatively easy run-in when it comes to the average rating of those teams they are going up against, at 85.4.

    That being said, Luton’s defensive record this season is awful. The Hatters have shipped 70 goals from an xGA of 69.7. They will need to tighten up if they are to complete the great escape.

    What about the bottom two?

    Well, they are perhaps down and out. After visiting South Yorkshire on Saturday, Vincent Kompany’s Burnley team have to go to Old Trafford and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium either side of hosting Newcastle, and Opta’s predictive model suggests they will go down – they have just a 1.6 per cent chance of survival.

    There is an even smaller chance of the Blades, who are 20th, staying up, at just 0.2 per cent.

    Chris Wilder’s team are the team with the fewest goals scored in the top flight, at 30, while they have conceded 84 – the worst in the division, and while victory over the Clarets would provide a morale-boost, the Blades seemed destined for the Championship.

  • Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can evoke spirit of Barcelona comeback at Atalanta Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can evoke spirit of Barcelona comeback at Atalanta

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will evoke the spirit of their Barcelona comeback when he sends his team out to keep their Europa League hopes alive against Atalanta in Bergamo.

    The Reds have a 3-0 deficit to overturn from the first leg if they are to make the semi-finals, a scenario which has echoes of their famous comeback to beat the Catalan side in a Champions League semi-final in May 2019 on their way to winning a sixth European Cup.

    After that victory his players remarked about the stirring speech he gave in the dressing room before kick-off and Klopp said, although he does not yet have anything planned, he can use that brilliant night at Anfield as a reference point even though they will not have the backing of a home crowd.

    “I usually don’t prepare these things like that, especially not the day before or four years before whatever,” he said.

    “I remember I said, ‘If we fail, then let’s fail in the most beautiful way’. And that’s exactly how I see it again.

    “After the game (last week) everyone in the stadium thought ‘that’s it’. Now it’s a week later I don’t think everyone thinks it is already decided

    “We want to win the game. If we want to win, we better play good. If we play good, we have a chance to win it. Then we will see.”

    That Barcelona victory is the only time in Liverpool’s long European history they have overturned a three-goal first leg deficit.

    However, they have never made such a comeback playing the second leg away from home and in the four first leg European ties they have lost at Anfield they have never progressed to the next round.

    Liverpool hammered Atalanta 5-0 at home in a behind-closed-doors Champions League group game during lockdown in November 2020 – having lost the home leg 2-0 – and Klopp hopes they can capitalise on any indecision the hosts may have about how to approach their seemingly comfortable lead.

    “Tomorrow is more difficult because they don’t have to score at all,” he added.

    “We will see who deals better with the situation. If Atalanta go through then they will deserve it. If not, then something special will have happened.

    “We have to do better. It’s really not simple because usually you fight for everything but when you are 3-0 up it is not easy for them.”

    Despite their significant advantage, Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini is not underestimating the occasion as they seek to book only the second European semi-final spot in the club’s history.

    “We know that it will be one of the most important games in our history, if not the most important,” he told a press conference.

    “Even though we won the first leg, tomorrow we start again at 0-0. Our focus will have to be not to think about the result of the first leg.”

    Captain Marten De Roon added: “I don’t think only in Bergamo but I believe that all of Italy will be behind us tomorrow.”

  • Rafael Leao ready to make his mark as AC Milan look to beat Roma Rafael Leao ready to make his mark as AC Milan look to beat Roma

    Rafael Leao is determined to silence his critics when AC Milan seek to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Roma.

    Leao came in for criticism after last week’s first match, but showed a much better version of himself as Milan fought back from two goals down to take a 3-3 draw at relegation-battling Sassuolo on Sunday.

    The 24-year-old forward, who scored Milan’s first goal, recognises he needs to bring more consistency to his game.

    “I hope to help my team,” Leao told Milan TV.

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    “After the first leg, where I didn’t do very well, I was disappointed and with Sassuolo I wanted to give the right answer. If I make a mistake, I always try to come back even stronger, to learn from my mistakes.

    “I found the joy of doing well and helping my team-mates. I want to play better now. We know the comeback is possible. We have to start strong, try to score in the first few minutes and then play like a final.”

    Goalkeeper Mike Maignan is expected to return in goal after sitting out Sunday’s match as a precaution, but Simon Kjaer is a doubt after suffering a muscle injury in that match. Both he and fellow defender Pierre Kalulu missed training on Wednesday.

    Gianluca Mancini struck in the 17th minute as Roma took an impressive 1-0 victory at the San Siro last week, carrying on their good form since Daniele De Rossi replaced Jose Mourinho in the hotseat.

    The 2022 Europa Conference League champions came ever so close to making it back-to-back titles after they were defeated on penalties in last year’s Europa League showpiece and are 90 minutes away from another semi-final.

    But De Rossi knows AC Milan are far from beaten as they prepare for the second leg in Rome.

    As quoted on romapress.net, he said: “Milan? They will fight with everything they have. This is their last resort, they want to win and achieve one of their objectives for the season. It will be difficult.

    “There are characteristics of the opponent that must always be respected and you need to think about the opponent’s coach’s moves. The first leg with Milan was quite balanced, perhaps it went a little better for us. Milan won’t change their tactics too much, but we must not overthink our own gameplan.

    “We will prepare the match to win it, to try to score a goal which would be a blow for them even if it might not be decisive.

    “Milan are a very strong team, they are better than us, but in the first leg we showed that we are not that much inferior and I told my team that we can play for it. We are one step away from an important milestone such as a European semi-final.”

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