Gattuso not yet turning focus to Barcelona

By Sports Desk July 06, 2020

Gennaro Gattuso is not yet turning his focus to Barcelona in the Champions League, wanting Napoli to finish the Serie A season strongly.

Napoli recorded a 2-1 win over Roma on Sunday to be sixth in the table, having won four of their past five games.

They will face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next month, having been held to a 1-1 draw at home in February.

Gattuso, whose side visit Genoa on Wednesday, is in no rush to begin preparing to face the LaLiga giants.

"There is still time," he said after the win over Roma.

"We have almost one month ahead. We must think to end the league at our best, be ready and put some fuel in our legs. It is about our mentality.

"Nowadays I want the team to fit well on the pitch because many players will stay with us next year and we need to build a winning mentality."

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    Martin Odegaard was always fighting a "lost battle" with comparisons to Lionel Messi but has the characteristics needed to flourish at Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta. 

    The Gunners completed a deal to take Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing the attacking midfielder the number 11 shirt that was worn by Mesut Ozil when he joined the club. 

    Odegaard was signed by Los Blancos from Stromsgodset as a prodigious teenager and has had loan spells in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and Vitesse before impressing in a temporary stint with Real Sociedad last term. 

    Madrid opted to recall him for the 2020-21 campaign, though the 22-year-old struggled to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's team. 

    Arteta is excited by Odegaard's qualities but did urge caution, saying comparisons to Barcelona great Messi are unhelpful. 

    "I wouldn't even get close to that name you just mentioned [Messi] because it's a lost battle in my opinion. Martin is Martin," Arteta said when previewing Saturday's clash with Manchester United. 

    "In the last few seasons he's progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well. 

    "He's such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he's got the qualities to be a success for us. He's a specialist to playing in the pockets, to be in the number eight, number 10 positions. 

    "He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals. 

    "Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It's another option to give us more creativity in the final third."

    Last season, Odegaard topped Sociedad's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total as he provided six assists from 31 appearances. He also boasted an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

    This term he has been afforded just three LaLiga starts by Zidane, albeit Arteta made clear several factors will determine whether a permanent deal will be struck. 

    "He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for," he added. 

    "Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he's owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that. 

    "I just wanted to give him a clear picture of who we are as a club, what we are trying to do, what we expect from him, just try to transmit the passion and excitement that we had to bring him in. 

    "I wanted to show him the project, how he fits and just try to persuade him that this is the right place for him and try to make things work." 

    Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to improve their previously precarious top-flight standing to ninth. 

    They welcome a Manchester United side who saw their own 13-match unbeaten league run surprisingly ended by rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday. 

    "It's not a surprise because to beat any team in this league is extremely difficult and it's not taken for granted," Arteta said when asked about that game.  

    "Sheffield United are a really good threat and you see that. They've lost games they didn't deserve to lose." 

    Arsenal were the last side to beat United in the league before the Blades' unlikely triumph, while they have not lost to the Red Devils since an FA Cup defeat in January 2019. 

    Still, Arteta says there is nothing to be gleaned from a decent recent record against United. 

    "I think every game is completely different, they have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world, we know we’re going to have to be at our best," he said. 

    "The games are huge, we need to be better than what we were on Tuesday [a 3-1 win at Southampton] to beat them. 

    "They've been in top form. They've been top of the table playing really well. We know they are a real threat. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday."

  • Arteta makes no promises on Aubameyang chances of facing Man United Arteta makes no promises on Aubameyang chances of facing Man United

    Mikel Arteta has offered no guarantee that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for Arsenal in Saturday's big clash with Manchester United.

    The striker and club captain left the squad just hours ahead of last weekend's FA Cup match at Southampton, because of personal reasons.

    Aubameyang specified on Wednesday that his mother had been experiencing "health issues" and stressed he "had to be with her".

    He said he was keen to be back on Arsenal duty, but how soon that happens could hinge on a range of issues.

    Arsenal manager Arteta did not give a firm answer one way or the other when asked whether Aubameyang had travelled abroad to be with his mother.

    If he did head overseas, that could bring quarantining into the equation and mean he may have to wait a while before returning to action.

    Looking at the weekend prospects for the Gabon international, Arteta said: "I don't know. I spoke with him yesterday, things are looking better at the moment, but we're going to have to wait and see.

    "He's our captain and one of the most important players. We are doing everything we can to have him back as quick as possible but understand he's been through difficult days, that he has to support his family and we are here to support him as well with the time that he needed to get that sorted."

    When asked if Aubameyang had left the UK to be with his mother, Arteta said: "He had to support his family and he had to be with them."

    Pressed on the possibility of quarantine, he replied: "I don't know about what happened."

    Arsenal lost in the cup to Southampton but took swift revenge by winning 3-1 in the Premier League at St Mary's on Tuesday, to continue their recent revival in the competition.

    Arteta had dedicated that victory to Aubameyang on behalf of the squad and explained it was important to support the 31-year-old at all times.

    "That's what we always talk about and what we expect to do for each other," said the Arsenal boss. "When someone is having difficulties, that we understand for him, protect him, give him our love, because it's what is needed."

    Aubameyang scored twice in his last Premier League appearance, the 3-0 win over Newcastle United on January 18, after netting just three in his previous 16 games in the competition.

    In the Newcastle game, Aubameyang matched his season's Premier League highs for shots at goal (five) and touches in the opposition box (nine).

    Having also scored against Newcastle in the FA Cup third round earlier in January, it suggested his best form may be coming back.

    Only once last season did Aubameyang have more goal attempts in a game (seven against Brighton and Hove Albion on June 20), while he only had more touches in Arsenal's rivals' box twice (in December 2019 games against Norwich City and Bournemouth).

    Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari are expected back in training with Arsenal in the coming days after short injury lay-offs, Arteta said.

    He said Arsenal would "have to see" how Kieran Tierney is, although video that appeared to show the left-back in training this week may suggest he could face United this weekend.

  • Havertz can be 'world class' if given time at Chelsea - Rolfes Havertz can be 'world class' if given time at Chelsea - Rolfes

    Kai Havertz has all the qualities to be "world class" but was always likely to need time to settle in at Chelsea, according to Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director Simon Rolfes.  

    The Blues spent a reported £72million (€80m) to bring the Germany international from Leverkusen in September, yet he has so far struggled to justify the hefty price tag.  

    The attacking midfielder was one of several big-money signings during a busy close-reason recruitment drive, with compatriot Timo Werner - who arrived from RB Leipzig - also enduring a difficult start to life at Stamford Bridge. 

    Havertz has managed five goals and five assists, as well as 23 chances created (1.4 per 90 minutes) and five big chances created (0.3 per 90) in 25 appearances so far in 2020-21.  

    For comparison, during his final season at Leverkusen, he registered 18 goals (0.43 per 90), nine assists (0.21 per 90), 84 chances created (1.99 per 90), 20 big chances created (0.47 per 90) from 45 appearances.  

    Chelsea's struggles on the pitch this term saw club legend Frank Lampard sacked and replaced by Thomas Tuchel, and Rolfes feels it is unfair to focus purely on Havertz, who he is backing to show his true abilities in the Premier League.

    "It's always difficult if you change country and a little bit of a different style. That's the same if we sign players," Rolfes told Stats Perform News. 

    "Some players need two days, some guys need half a year. For example, Moussa Diaby needs three-four months to adapt from France, although he was playing for PSG, to adapt to the Bundesliga.  

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