Mikel Arteta persuaded Granit Xhaka to remain at Arsenal after promising the midfielder he would enjoy his football again.

Xhaka seemed set to leave Arsenal in this month's transfer window, having been heavily linked with a move to Hertha Berlin.

The Switzerland international was replaced as club captain by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after a confrontation with Arsenal fans during a home match against Crystal Palace in October.

Former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Xhaka had reportedly agreed terms with Hertha, but Arteta now believes the 27-year-old will remain at Arsenal.

"The first message for him was that I wanted to understand how he was feeling, why he was feeling that way," Arteta, who has won two of his four matches in charge of the Gunners, told reporters.

"I wanted him to hear from me my opinion on him, and that I was ready to support him and that I was ready to push the club to be supportive of him too, because I thought he could be a really, really good player for us and he could enjoy in this football club playing under me.

"I tried to convince him that way. He thought about it, he had a very positive response afterwards and I think he changed his mind."

Arteta is also unconcerned over the aftermath of the incident against Palace and believes Xhaka's relationship with Arsenal's supporters will soon be on the mend, despite his previous desire to leave the club.

"It is very common now. Every club has its own issues. Some things within the club, some within the media, some from social media," Arteta added.

"It is very difficult nowadays to have one full year where everything is perfect.

"It is the environment, we have to deal with that and hopefully in a few months nobody remembers these issues. Of course it is not ideal when players respond and it creates an instability. So as much as we can avoid it, the better."

Tottenham and England are set for a spell without talisman Harry Kane following his injury.

The striker suffered a ruptured tendon of his left hamstring and will require surgery, meaning he is not expected back in Spurs training until April.

With Jose Mourinho's men off the pace in the Premier League while England prepare for Euro 2020, the news comes as a blow to both club and country.

Using Opta data, we take a look at just how Kane's absence impacts both Tottenham and England.

 

SHOT-SHY

It should come as no surprise that Spurs and England shoot less often when Kane is not playing, with the forward boasting the ability and willingness to score from just about anywhere.

But Kane is also a wonderful playmaker, often dropping deep to create space and pick passes for runners such as Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Kane has played 187 Premier League matches, in which Tottenham averaged 15.6 shots per game. In the 24 fixtures he has missed, that figure drops to 14.9 shots per game.

The difference is more marked with England. Since his international debut in March 2015, the Three Lions have attempted 15.1 shots per game with Kane in the side (45 matches) and 12.3 without (16 matches).

 

GOALS DRY UP – AT BOTH ENDS...

So it follows that with fewer shots come fewer goals. Spurs and England certainly feel Kane's absence when it comes to putting the ball in the net.

The London club have scored 359 times across his Premier League matches since 2014-15, an average of 1.9 per game. They net 1.3 per game without him.

England score a hugely impressive average of 2.3 goals per game – 103 in total – when the top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying is involved. That drops to that same mark of 1.3 when he is missing.

Interestingly, though, England's defence is statistically meaner when Kane is absent, conceding 0.5 goals per game, down from 0.9.

Tottenham concede roughly one goal per game regardless of their front man's availability.

 

WINNING WOES

Tottenham were already struggling to finish in the top four in this season's Premier League with Kane in the side, so Mourinho really has his work cut out now.

Their top-flight win rate since 2014-15 falls from 57.2 per cent to a relatively ordinary 45.8 per cent when Kane is not involved.

They have lost seven of the 24 games he has not been involved in, while their points return drops from 1.9 per game to 1.6.

Although England may concede more often on average with Kane on the pitch, they are a much better side going forward when they can count on their captain, winning 64.4 per cent of matches with him compared to 50 per cent without.

Harry Kane is not expected to return to training until April in a huge blow to both Tottenham and England.

The Spurs striker suffered a ruptured tendon in his left hamstring in the Premier League defeat to Southampton this month, and the club confirmed on Thursday he would undergo surgery.

The latest estimate for Kane's lay-off should concern Tottenham fans, with the team sixth and six points off a Champions League place, while England manager Gareth Southgate will also be worried as Euro 2020 approaches.

So, will Spurs stick or twist in the transfer market? And does Southgate have an alternative to his talismanic captain?

SON TO THE FORE AT SPURS?

Jose Mourinho had insisted prior to this injury he had little interest in January business. While that must surely change with this news, Tottenham have rarely been willing to spend big in recent seasons.

Might their new head coach instead tinker with his existing options, then? Son Heung-min would appear the obvious candidate to take on Kane's striking role.

The winger started up front at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Sunday and deputised well for Kane for a stretch last season, prompting suggestions the South Korea star might play better without his most lethal attacking team-mate.

Lucas Moura, who also led the line in Kane's absence last season, and Dele Alli are options to join Son in attack, while Troy Parrott – 17 years old with just two senior appearances to his name – would hope to be handed a more prominent role.

 

PIPPING RIVALS TO PIATEK?

Spurs finally looked to have suitable cover for Kane in the form of Fernando Llorente last season, only for the veteran to depart for Napoli on a free at the end of the campaign.

Now, Tottenham are not the only English side searching for goals in the mid-season transfer window, with Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace all short in that department, but Mourinho's men should have the profile to blow those rivals out of the water.

One man linked with Spurs, Newcastle and Villa in recent days is Krzysztof Piatek, the Milan striker now at risk of slipping to the fringes of the Rossoneri first team following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return to San Siro.

Piatek was one of Europe's form strikers last season and, while his goals tally is far more modest this term – he only has four in 18 appearances in Serie A – Tottenham may have little choice but to take a risk. Milan reportedly want £30million rather than a loan.

 

ENGLAND U-TURN FOR VARDY?

Kane was the leading scorer in Euros qualifying with 12 goals and had been set to star for England in a finals tournament that will feature seven matches, including the semi-finals and final, on home soil at Wembley.

But perhaps Southgate is better equipped than Mourinho to deal with the absence of his key striker, with four of the Premier League's top five marksmen this term eligible for England.

Leading the way with 17 goals is Jamie Vardy, who has not featured for his country since the 2018 World Cup, citing in part his reduced role behind Kane in the pecking order as he stepped away from international football.

Yet with Kane facing a race against time to be fit for the finals, Vardy might now find himself a prominent figure if he could be tempted back into the squad.

 

FIVE YEARS ON, ANOTHER INGS CAP?

England are not short of options, as the Golden Boot race suggests, with Tammy Abraham in top form and both Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling capable of playing through the middle.

But Danny Ings will surely see this as his opportunity to add to his sole Three Lions cap earned in 2015 – he replaced Kane from the bench on that occasion – before awful injury troubles at Liverpool.

The Southampton striker, who scored the only goal in the game Kane suffered his injury, is enjoying the best season of his top-flight career, scoring 13 times already.

Southgate surely must at least assess Ings as an option in the March internationals, while Callum Wilson will hope to return to form for Bournemouth in order to stake his own case. Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin may also be in with a chance.

England captain Harry Kane is to undergo surgery on his left hamstring and will be out of action until at least April, his club Tottenham have announced.

The striker suffered his injury on New Year's Day when scoring a goal against Southampton that was ruled out for offside.

Spurs have specified the setback as a "ruptured tendon" and it means Kane is set to miss most of the rest of the Premier League season.

For England, the news comes as a blow to boss Gareth Southgate given Kane will miss a significant chunk of the build-up to Euro 2020, being ruled out of March friendlies against Italy and Denmark.

However, provided that he returns to training on time, Kane should be able to build up his match fitness over the closing weeks of 2019-20.

Tottenham said in a statement: "Following ongoing assessment by our medical staff over the past week, we can confirm that Harry Kane will undergo surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his left hamstring.

"The striker suffered the injury during our Premier League fixture against Southampton last week and specialists have advised surgery after further review of the injury.

"The decision to undergo surgery is not expected to impact the timeframe that the England captain will be sidelined, with the expectation that he will return to training in April."

Kane, 26, has scored 11 goals in 20 Premier League appearances this term.

His record of 32 goals in 45 games demonstrates his importance to England. He won the Golden Boot as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup, netting six times in Russia as the Three Lions reached the semi-finals.

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho faces a struggle to find a suitable replacement for Kane, given his influence over recent seasons.

Mourinho has Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura as options to lead the attack, along with teenager Troy Parrott.

However, with the transfer window open there is the option of trawling the market for a short-term fix to the problem, with Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek linked with a move.

The injury could scarcely have come at a worse time for Spurs, who are desperate to claw their way into the top four to secure Champions League football next season.

They sit sixth in the Premier League, six points behind fourth-place Chelsea, and host leaders Liverpool on Saturday.

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta is not expecting any major signings to be made this month.

With the Gunners having spent in the region of £136million in the previous transfer window on Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba, it has been suggested they will not invest heavily in the squad in January.

Tentative reports in Spain have linked them with interest in Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti, while RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is also said to be a target.

Arteta suggested last week that Arsenal could look to sign a defender to cover for Calum Chambers, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.

However, speaking ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to Crystal Palace, Arteta says there are unlikely to be many significant arrivals before next season.

"I'm not expecting big things," he told reporters. "I'm expecting big things from the players I have now to get through the season in a more balanced way. We always have to be looking because of some injuries."

Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future has been the subject of recent speculation, although the striker insisted before the FA Cup win over Leeds United on Monday that he is fully committed to the club.

"I was very pleased to read those comments," said Arteta. "He knows exactly what I think about him and obviously he's a massive player for us. But at the moment, we're in the middle of the season and we haven't discussed anything further on that at the club.

"My intention is to keep Auba, obviously, because I know that, if we keep Auba with us, we're going to be stronger and closer to winning football matches."

When asked about talks over a possible new contract for Aubameyang, Arteta replied: "I don't know, we haven't discussed that. But I'm confident that he's very happy here because that's what he said in the media."

Arteta secured his first win as Arsenal boss over Manchester United on New Year's Day before Monday's 1-0 defeat of Leeds at Emirates Stadium.

The former Manchester City assistant coach thinks there is already a greater energy within the squad than before his arrival.

"The first thing I wanted to change was the energy around the team and around the club as well," he said. "I think this is slightly better than how it was - or much better, I would say.

"Obviously, the fact that we are winning games helps, and what I'm seeing at the training ground is much more like what I want to see."

Arsenal are 10th in the Premier League table, a point and a place behind Palace, heading into the game at Selhurst Park.

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick has asked for January signings and the club are working to fulfil his request, but Hasan Salihamidzic confirmed Leroy Sane will not join this month.

Sporting director Salihamidzic addressed the media as Bayern take part in a mid-season training camp in Doha, Qatar.

He revealed Bayern are working with Flick, installed as coach at least until the end of the season following Niko Kovac's sacking in November, on moves for the present transfer window.

Salihamidzic had previously said of January: "I don't think much will happen."

However, at a news conference on Thursday, Salihamidzic told reporters: "Hansi Flick has assessed the current situation and has come to the conclusion that we need to strengthen. Hansi and I are in constant contact.

"We are considering every option, but it is difficult to strengthen our squad during the winter break."

However, Germany international Sane, long linked with a switch from Manchester City, will not be among any new recruits.

Salihamidzic did not deny Bayern would renew their interest at the end of the season but, with Sane still sidelined following a serious knee injury, a January deal was ruled out.

"It is not an issue for the winter [window]," he said.

Bayern have this month already agreed to sign Alexander Nubel, who will leave Schalke on a free transfer at the end of the season, seemingly putting star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer under pressure.

But Salihamidzic has assured there is an understanding with Nubel, 23, that Neuer will remain first choice for the start of the next campaign.

"Alexander Nubel will be a huge asset for FC Bayern," he said. "He is ambitious and a top character.

"Alexander knows that Manuel Neuer is our number one. He is looking forward to working with Manu."

Allan has joined Atletico Mineiro from Liverpool after failing to make a senior appearance for the European champions.

The 22-year-old has completed a move back to his native Brazil after the Reds accepted a reported fee of £3.2million.

Allan moved to Liverpool from Internacional in 2015 but spent his career at Anfield on loan with other clubs, initially due to work permit issues.

Having played for SJK and Sint-Truiden, he joined Hertha Berlin for the 2016-17 season, making 15 Bundesliga appearances.

Allan played 22 times for Apollon Limassol and then made just four appearances back in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt.

He enjoyed a more productive loan on his return to Brazil with Fluminense last year.

"Everybody at Liverpool FC wishes Allan all the best for his future career," Liverpool said in a statement.

There is never a good time to face the current Liverpool team but Jose Mourinho's beleaguered Tottenham team could well do without meeting the Premier League leaders on this particular weekend.

Spurs are winless in their last three games in all competitions and have won just one of their last four in the top flight, leaving them sixth and a staggering 28 points behind the Reds after 21 games.

Liverpool, in stark contrast, can rack up their 12th consecutive Premier League win if they triumph at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and will be well rested having fielded a team largely made up of fringe players in their 1-0 FA Cup victory over Everton.

At their best Liverpool look unstoppable, but Tottenham have only lost one league home game in four months and Mourinho would love nothing more than to put his side's season back on track by putting a speedbump under the Anfield juggernaut.

 

ACID TEST FOR SPURS' POUROUS DEFENCE

Since Mourinho's arrival, Spurs have kept just one clean sheet and any Tottenham fans anticipating a more miserly rearguard action under the Portuguese have been disappointed thus far.

Defensive fragility has been Tottenham's Achilles heel all season, and their record of two domestic clean sheets this term is bettered by every top-flight club except stragglers Norwich City.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have scored in their last 29 top-flight matches and are steaming towards Manchester United's record of finding the net in 36 consecutive Premier League games, which the Red Devils set in November 2008.

Stopping Liverpool means stopping Sadio Mane, who has been involved in 11 goals in his last nine Premier League appearances, scoring six goals and assisting five.

Mane picked up the African Player of the Year award earlier in the week and will no doubt be in the mood to celebrate with a goal in North London.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: JAN VERTONGHEN v VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Among those tasked with stopping Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino et al will be Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen, who has started in 14 of Spurs' 21 league games this season.

The Belgium international's contract is up at the end of the season and his lacklustre performance in Tottenham's 1-1 FA Cup draw with Middlesbrough prompted calls for him to be let go by sections of the club's support.

But in answering his critics Vertonghen might point to his duel success rate of 74.02 per cent this season, which stands up well against the imperious Virgil van Dijk who has won 75.58 per cent of his Premier League duels this season.

Van Dijk has been successful in 64.29 per cent of his tackles this term, while Vertonghen has won 58.82 per cent of his, and Van Dijk's nine blocks put him just one ahead of his Tottenham counterpart.

Van Dijk dramatically outshines Vertonghen in the air, winning 101 aerial balls compared to the Belgian's 42, and the Dutchman can boast seven league clean sheets this season.

Perhaps most worrying for Mourinho is that the 32-year-old Vertonghen has been dribbled past on 10 occasions across the course of the campaign - seven more times than Van Dijk, who so rarely gets beaten on the ground or in the air.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool have scored seven goals without reply in their last two Premier League away games, which extended their winning streak on the road to four consecutive games.

But Spurs do have an omen in their favour: in their last 10 home league games against sides starting the day top of the table, Tottenham have won six (D1 L3).

That said, getting a result against Liverpool requires Spurs to break down the Premier League's meanest defence, and they will have to do so without the injured Harry Kane.

Tottenham have won just two of their last 12 games in all competitions without Kane (D4 L6) and when the England striker has been missing this season his team-mates have failed to win at all (D3 L1).

HISTORY SAYS

Recent meetings with Liverpool have not gone well for Tottenham, who have won just one of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds (D4 L9), winning 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017.

It was not always this way: Liverpool lost five consecutive games at Tottenham between 2008 and 2012, but in their last six league visits they have claimed three wins and two draws.

Victory on Saturday would mark Liverpool's fourth consecutive win in London - a feat they have not achieved since October 1989.

Liverpool's tally of 58 points from 20 Premier League games this season has already eclipsed their totals from the entirety of the 2011-12 and 1998-99 campaigns, and their charge towards the title will take some stopping at Spurs.

Massimiliano Allegri is without a club since leaving Serie A champions Juventus at the end of 2018-19.

However, Allegri could be nearing a return to management sooner rather than later.

The Italian is believed to be interested in taking charge of Manchester United.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI WANTS UNITED JOB

Massimiliano Allegri is interested in becoming Manchester United manager as pressure mounts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Allegri has been rumoured to be of interest to Bayern Munich after leaving Serie A champions Juve at the end of last season, while the Italian was also linked to Arsenal prior to Mikel Arteta's appointment.

However, he is reportedly holding out for the United job should Solskjaer be sacked. Ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is also believed to be monitoring the situation.

 

ROUND-UP

- ElDesmarque claims MLS duo Inter Miami and LA Galaxy are ready to vie for the signature of Real Madrid's Gareth BaleChelsea, though, have also been linked with the former Tottenham star.

- The race is heating up for Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek. Struggling for goals and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back at San Siro, the Poland international is wanted by Tottenham, reports The Guardian and Calciomercato. Spurs want to boost their attacking options following Harry Kane's injury. Aston Villa have also tabled a bid for Piatek, but Calciomercato claims he is holding out for a bigger club.

- While Piatek could prove a difficult signing, Villa are closing in on Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Calciomercato, Gazzetta dello Sport and Tuttomercatoweb say former Liverpool keeper Reina has agreed a contract with the Premier League side until the end of the season.

- The Mirror reports United are in the market to sign a defender on loan after Harry Maguire's injury. Maguire – the world's most expensive defender – is facing a spell on the sidelines due to a muscle tear.

United are also weighing up a move for Ajax and Netherlands star Donny van de Beek, reports The Telegraph. With Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba injured, the Red Devils are in need of midfield reinforcements. Van de Beek has previously been linked to Real Madrid.

- AS claims Atletico Madrid are looking at Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik as an alternative to Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani. Out of contract at season's end, Cavani is reportedly poised to make the move to Atletico, however, United and Arsenal are also interested.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Inter winger Matteo Politano has agreed to join city rivals Milan. Struggling for game time with the Nerazzurri, Politano's agent met with Milan's management on Wednesday as a shock switch nears.

Chelsea are preparing a £40million bid for West Ham defender Issa Diop, according to the Express. London rivals Tottenham are also reportedly interested.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he is not thinking about Arturo Vidal leaving the LaLiga champions amid links to Inter and Manchester United.

Vidal has slipped down the pecking order since Frenkie de Jong's arrival from Ajax, prompting speculation over his future at Camp Nou, where he has only started four LaLiga matches this season.

The 32-year-old Vidal has been heavily linked to a reunion with former Juventus head coach Antonio Conte at Serie A side Inter, while struggling Premier League giants United are reportedly interested.

Valverde addressed the rumours ahead of Thursday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Atletico Madrid in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"We're not thinking about him going to another team," Valverde told a news conference. "We'll see tomorrow [Thursday]. In principle he's with us. No clues."

Pressed on reported interest from England and Italy, Valverde replied: "Arturo Vidal plays for us and tomorrow he'll be on the pitch or on the bench.

"We don't pay any attention to other clubs being interested in our players."

Vidal swapped Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Barcelona in 2018 and the Chilean has since won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana.

He has scored six LaLiga goals in 15 matches this season, while the veteran has amassed 20 appearances across all competitions.

Nicolas Pepe earned his first inclusion of the season in FIFA Ultimate Team's Team of the Week thanks to his eye-catching display against Manchester United.

The reported £72million signing from Lille endured a difficult first few months in an Arsenal jersey, struggling to recapture the form he showed in France over the previous two campaigns.

But in the 2-0 win over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, Pepe opened the scoring and was a constant livewire, troubling United's backline with his trickery, movement and general unpredictability.

With some European leagues enjoying a mid-season break, the latest FUT selection is rather Premier League-dominated, with five players from the division in the starting XI, while there are another six England-based representatives among the substitutes and reserves.

Joining Pepe in the starting XI are the likes of Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, Alejandro Gomez of Atalanta and Lazio's Ciro Immobile.

Below, we take a look at the entire squad that is set to be available online.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Salvatore Sirigu (Torino) – 86

RB: Jesus Corona (Porto) – 84

CB: Domenico Criscito (Genoa) – 82

CB: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) – 87

RM: Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – 85

CM: James Maddison (Leicester City) – 84

LM: Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – 83

LW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – 84

CAM: Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta) – 87

ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) – 89

ST: Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) – 84

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Odisseas Vlachodimos (Benfica) – 83

CB: Mouctar Diakhaby (Valencia) – 81

CDM: Mark Noble (West Ham) – 81

CAM: Marko Livaja (AEK Athens) – 81

LW: Ricardo Horta (Sporting Braga) – 82

ST: Enes Unal (Real Valladolid) – 81

ST: Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town) – 81

RESERVES

GK: Paul Farman (Stevenage) – 72

CM: Uros Racic (Famalicao) – 79

RM: Tyrese Campbell (Stoke City) – 75

ST: Nahki Wells (QPR) – 78

ST: Matt Godden (Coventry City) – 75

Fernandinho is close to signing a new deal with Manchester City, the 34-year-old has revealed.

The Brazil international, who joined the Premier League champions from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, is out of contract at the end of this season.

City boss Pep Guardiola has spoken of his desire to keep Fernandinho at the Etihad Stadium and he appears set to get his way.

"When I renewed at the end of 2018, we put a clause that if I reached certain goals, my contract would be renewed automatically," the player told ESPN Brasil.

"Conversations have already started, we talked about it last month. I am close to reaching those goals and renewing the contract, but we can only confirm it after signing."

With City suffering injury problems in defence this season, Fernandinho has often operated at centre-back, which he has been happy to do.

"It's good as long as you can be at the highest level," he said. "Playing in a different position opens up the range of learning.

"In defence, I see the game in a different way. It has been very cool and the guidance I have received from Pep has been very good.

"At 34, playing in the Premier League is a source of pride. Many, many players wanted to be experiencing what I am experiencing."

Fernandinho played the full match in City's 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg win over rivals Manchester United on Tuesday and is likely to feature at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday.

Ralph Hasenhuttl labelled it a "disaster" and it seemed Southampton would enter a tailspin following their miserable 9-0 home loss to Leicester City in October.

The Saints were a goal behind when Ryan Bertrand was dismissed in the 12th minute, and they shipped eight more in a landslide at St Mary's, suffering the joint-heaviest defeat in Premier League history.

Saturday brings a rematch and Southampton have displayed good humour in the build-up, muting Twitter terms related to the last encounter.

But with a five-game undefeated streak behind them and a European place remarkably not out of reach, a team formerly deemed destined for the drop are on the up.

A review of history with help from Opta data puts the turnaround in clear context, positioning Southampton as potentially the best of the clubs who diced with double-digit defeats.

 

Bouncing back the easy bit

Hasenhuttl expressed bewilderment in the aftermath of the crushing October result, claiming he had "never seen a team act like this" as he criticised the complete lack of fight.

His words drew a reasonable response as Southampton next recorded 2-1 defeats to Manchester City and Everton respectively, before a 2-2 draw at Arsenal that would have been a win if not for Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser deep into stoppage time.

Home wins over Watford and Norwich City followed to provide further proof that psychological scars can be erased in a relatively short period in the Premier League.

In 1999, Sheffield Wednesday sandwiched a single defeat to Sunderland between an 8-0 loss to Newcastle United and a 5-1 win over Wimbledon.

The Black Cats themselves took the same length of time in 2014 to move past an 8-0 mauling at the hands of none other than Southampton, with one game – an away loss at Arsenal – wedged between that and a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Lessons can clearly be learned in the short term, but for most these results augur an eventual battle for survival.

Saints sustain top-half tilt

The loss to Leicester left Southampton in the relegation zone, exactly where they began when Hasenhuttl took over in December 2018.

Skip forward 11 top-flight fixtures to the cusp of this weekend's schedule and the Saints are now a mere five points adrift of sixth-placed Tottenham.

That might mean less with the table congested as it is but, sitting 12th after 21 games, Southampton are poised to set a new standard for teams scolded by defeats of eight goals or more.

Two of the five teams previously beaten by such margins limped on to relegation: the Ipswich Town side of 1994-95, who were in a mess by their time of their then outright-record 9-0 loss to Manchester United, and 19th-placed Wednesday in 1999-2000.

Wigan Athletic suffered two eight-goal losses in 2009-10 and still survived after they finished 16th, which is where Sunderland ended in 2014-15.

Aston Villa, 8-0 losers against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December 2012, found their way to 15th that season, a high mark that Southampton have the opportunity to exceed as they look ahead to winnable home meetings with Wolves, Burnley and Villa over their next six fixtures.

Watford help chart way forward

Southampton's game against Leicester occurred less than a month after Manchester City's ruthless 8-0 demolition of Watford, and the Hornets are also a team righting their earlier wrongs.

New boss Nigel Pearson's arrival at Vicarage Road has coincided with an upturn that could conceivably have the Hornets out of the bottom three with a win over Bournemouth this weekend.

Never before have two different teams suffered Premier League losses of an eight-goal magnitude or greater in the same campaign.

Together, however, Southampton and Watford are setting about showing how humiliating results need only be regarded as a footnote to the season.

Inter are seemingly nearing an agreement with Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen, reports say.

The Denmark international is out of contract at the end of the season and has also been linked with a move away from Spurs in January.

Inter are among the clubs reportedly interested in Eriksen and it seems the Serie A high-flyers are close to a deal.

 

TOP STORY – INTER IN ADVANCED TALKS WITH ERIKSEN

Inter are in advanced talks with Eriksen for a move ahead of the 2020-21 season, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira.

However, he reports Spurs are looking to sell Eriksen in January for at least €20million (£17m).

Amid uncertainty over his future, Eriksen has made just nine Premier League starts for Tottenham this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at San Siro, multiple reports suggest Inter are eyeing Manchester United veteran Ashley Young. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reports Inter and United are in advanced talks regarding the 34-year-old.

- Georginio Wijnaldum has been linked with a surprise move from Liverpool, with his contract expiring in 2021. However, Sky Sports reports the Netherlands international is happy at the European champions and wants to stay as long as possible.

- Arsenal are looking to strengthen in January, but the Premier League club are considering loan deals. Goal reports Arsenal are unlikely to make any permanent signings this month, unless an opportunity is too good to turn down.

- In a Premier League relegation battle and with injuries mounting, Aston Villa have held talks with Milan over possible deals for forward Krzysztof Piatek and goalkeeper Pepe Reina, according to the Daily Mail. Villa lost Wesley and Tom Heaton for the rest of the season to begin the year.

- Wilfried Zaha still looks set to leave Crystal Palace. The star's agent is said to have held preliminary talks with Bayern Munich, although a move to the Bundesliga giants is unlikely, according to Sky Sports. The Mirror reports Zaha's new agent, Pini Zahavi, is also trying to get the attacker to Tottenham.

- There continues to be talk about a possible move to Tottenham for Thomas Lemar. The Independent reports Spurs are considering making a loan approach for the Atletico Madrid midfielder, with a £51million (€60m) option to buy.

"Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we want you to stay," came the chant from the stands late in the first half of Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford.

With Manchester United trailing 3-0 to bitter rivals Manchester City, it was an endearing show of support… or at least it would have been were it not coming from the away fans.

It was a damning indictment of just how bad United had been before the break, as they failed to register a single shot on target and found themselves essentially kissing goodbye to another competition.

Just 39 per cent possession and not a single clear-cut opportunity to show for 45 minutes of football at home, United were utterly humiliated. A Bernardo Silva stunner, Riyad Mahrez's straightforward effort and Andreas Pereira's own goal put City in complete control at the interval, and it would have been so much worse were it not for Raheem Sterling fluffing his lines a couple of times.

United's problems were all too predictable.

With Pereira and Fred filling the deep-lying midfield roles the Red Devils drew 3-3 at Sheffield United in November, when for much of the game they just could not cope, and were held by Aston Villa in their next outing at home.

Pereira's hopelessness in the position against the Blades was glaring, to the extent where it seemed he would never be afforded the responsibility to play it again.

Yet, here he was again, starting against a City side blessed with supreme ability through the middle. The result? Pep Guardiola's men streaming forward almost unchecked right through the centre of the pitch.

The other common denominator from the clash with the Blades – when United were 2-0 down until the 72nd-minute – was Phil Jones, who looked completely sapped of confidence when called into action on Tuesday.

Solskjaer failed to learn from his mistakes – Guardiola did not.

When the two sides met exactly a month earlier in the Premier League, City were stunned by United's effectiveness on the counter, with Solskjaer's front four sitting unusually deep to make the most of their pace on the break.

United won the game 2-1 and probably should have gone into half-time 4-0 up, but virtually every sniff of a United counter was snuffed out early on this time around.

City's defence started deep to restrict space in behind, while Guardiola opted against using a striker, resulting in Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling chopping and changing between themselves.

As such, United looked lost without an out-ball, while the fluidity of City's midfield and frontline allowed them control in the centre and plenty of creativity in attack without compromising their defence, for the most part.

The unpredictability of City's set-up was at its most effective for the second and third goals. Firstly, it was Silva feeding Mahrez straight down the middle, and then De Bruyne found himself doing the damage to make it 3-0, beating Jones with ease and seeing his effort bounce off David de Gea and ricochet in off Pereira.

Unfortunately for City, Nicolas Otamendi switched off for a split second after a wayward De Bruyne pass in the second half and United exploited that – Marcus Rashford pulling one back for the hosts following Mason Greenwood's throughball.

But that was a solitary moment of incisiveness from United when City were already well on their way to their 3-1 victory.

United's hopes of reaching the EFL Cup final and claiming a first trophy under Solskjaer now rely on them being able to outmanoeuvre City on the counter at Etihad Stadium.

But on the evidence of this first leg, Solskjaer is a one-trick pony and Guardiola has got him figured out.

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