EPL

He is important for Arsenal – Emery defends Xhaka after fans turn on him

By Sports Desk September 22, 2019

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery defended Granit Xhaka after he was booed by his own supporters during Sunday's pulsating 3-2 Premier League win over Aston Villa.

The Gunners, who had Ainsley Maitland-Niles sent off in the first half, looked to be heading for a sorry home defeat as John McGinn and Wesley scored for Villa either side of Nicolas Pepe's first goal for the club.

Calum Chambers levelled in the 81st minute, though, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a dramatic three points with a superb free-kick six minutes from time.

That late jubilation was a far cry from the scenes that greeted Xhaka's removal for Joe Willock earlier in the half, with large numbers of the home faithful audibly expressing their dissatisfaction with the Switzerland international's display.

Emery, however, said the 26-year-old Xhaka is still very much part of his plans and wants to see more support for him from fans.

"We need our supporters and we need them helping each player," he told a media conference. "It is our responsibility to transmit our commitment and Xhaka is doing this.

"He played very well on Thursday [against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League] and last week at Watford he did well. Here, I changed him because he played for 90 minutes on Thursday and I wanted to bring fresh players on.

"But Xhaka is a very important player for us. He has a big commitment here, he is improving. I am not asking people to support him but I assure you he is going to achieve his best things if the supporters help him.

"We are professional; Xhaka is an experienced player and he knows sometimes we can receive criticism and we need to be mature and continue working.

"For me he is a very important player and I am going to support him. I am going to decide when he plays and when he doesn't, but he is important for us because his commitment and behaviour is great and he is a good player."

Matteo Guendouzi was central to Arsenal's stirring second-half display, winning the penalty which was converted by Pepe and driving forward the Gunners at every opportunity.

Emery was full of praise for the 20-year-old and said he has exactly the kind of attitude he wants from his players.

"With Matteo, last year when he came here he progressed and he is progressing," he said. "Really, I like that spirit he has. He has talent but above all I like his attitude, his energy, his commitment and his behaviour.

"He's one player who is angry when he is not playing but I like that. When you decide that they play you know they will give you what you need.

"I want to be calm with him. He is humble, continuing to improve and growing up with us."

Related items

  • Big Match Focus: Manchester United v Liverpool (Sunday 16:30 BST) Big Match Focus: Manchester United v Liverpool (Sunday 16:30 BST)

    Liverpool could equal an English top-flight record in grand fashion when their title assault takes them to a wounded Manchester United on Sunday.

    The Premier League leaders are sure to target three points knowing victory against their bitter rivals would be the perfect way to level Manchester City's benchmark of 18 consecutive wins at this level.

    Recent trips to Old Trafford have not been particularly profitable but the Red Devils, beaten 1-0 by Newcastle United last time out, look to be little more than a mid-table outfit at present.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will not have won a match inside 90 minutes for a month in all competitions by the time the game kicks off, and the expected absence of David de Gea presents a further hurdle.

     

    POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGHS FOR KLOPP AND SALAH

    Liverpool have won five Premier League matches at Old Trafford but none under Jurgen Klopp.

    The German's three draws and single defeat in four attempts add up to his longest winless streak in away games against a Premier League opponent.

    He might never have a better opportunity to halt the trend.

    United are lurching from one bitter blow to another and have laboured in home games against Crystal Palace, Astana, Rochdale and Arsenal this season, losing to the Eagles.

    Those subpar showings, coupled with Liverpool's own outstanding form, will have Klopp's men supremely confident of delivering victory for their manager.

    But with the missed chance of last season's 0-0 draw still fresh in the memory, there will be pressure on the visitors to take the initiative in attack.

    Mohamed Salah, who is recovering from an ankle injury, will hope to be fit as he, like Klopp, has something to prove in this fixture.

    Though prolific since his arrival on Merseyside, the Egyptian has failed to either score or assist a single goal in each of his four Premier League appearances against United.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD: SCOTT MCTOMINAY V FABINHO

    Scott McTominay this week shared insights into his warm relationship with Jose Mourinho, and the Scotland international will hope to make his former manager proud in a key battle.

    His opposite number, Fabinho, provides just the kind of shield United's defence will need if Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are to be kept quiet.

    Liverpool's midfield anchor has won 12 tackles this term, five more than McTominay, at a success rate of 60 per cent.

    McTominay's tackle success rate, at 44 per cent, is less impressive and, while the 22-year-old has certainly been one of United's best performers this season, his numbers lag behind Fabinho's in several departments.

    The Brazilian has created three more scoring chances in 61 fewer minutes on the pitch and his passing accuracy of 87 per cent is comfortably superior to McTominay's 81 per cent.

    FORM GUIDE

    Liverpool's long Premier League winning streak dates back to March and includes away wins over Southampton, Burnley, Chelsea and Sheffield United this season.

    James Milner's last-gasp penalty kept the run alive in a hard-earned 2-1 triumph over Leicester City at Anfield before the international break.

    United, meanwhile, are searching for answers following a string of lacklustre performances since outmuscling Chelsea on the opening weekend.

    The four goals scored that day hinted at a bright future but United have failed to net more than once in any of their subsequent 10 matches in all competitions.

    HISTORY SAYS…

    Victory will not come easily for Liverpool, who have not travelled to Old Trafford while top of the table since October 1996.

    On that occasion, a David Beckham goal gave United a 1-0 win.

    Results more recently have been similarly close, with four of the past six Premier League meetings ending level.

    Liverpool, the heavy favourites, must snap a five-match winless streak in away games against United in order to preserve their perfect start in the league.

  • Rumour Has It: Allegri 'very close' to Man United, but Spurs remain interested Rumour Has It: Allegri 'very close' to Man United, but Spurs remain interested

    Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

    United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

    While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

     

    TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

    Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

    Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

    They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

    However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

    Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

    - Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

    - Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

    - Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

    - Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

    - Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

  • Wellington Phoenix sign former Premier League striker Gary Hooper Wellington Phoenix sign former Premier League striker Gary Hooper

    Wellington Phoenix have completed the signing of former Premier League striker Gary Hooper.

    The 31-year-old joins on a one-year deal after being released by Sheffield Wednesday at the end of the 2018-19 season.

    Phoenix will be hoping Hooper can fill the void left by last term's Golden Boot-winner Roy Krishna, who departed at the end of last season to join Indian Super League club ATK.

    Hooper brings a wealth of experience from English football and the Scottish Premiership, where he arguably enjoyed his most impressive spell, scoring 82 goals over three seasons with Celtic.

    "His CV on paper is arguably the most impressive of any Wellington Phoenix player to date and I have no doubt he will contribute," Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome told the club's website.

    "I'm sure that football fans across Australia and New Zealand will be thrilled to see a player like Gary in action for Wellington.

    "It's been no secret that we've been searching incredibly hard for a striker this season and we're extremely pleased to sign someone of the highest calibre."

    Hooper will not be ready to make his debut in time for the weekend's clash at Sydney FC but will be available for the Phoenix's home match against Perth Glory in round three.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.