Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac has returned to Bundesliga side Schalke on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 Bundesliga campaign.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international has been restricted to nine appearances in all competitions this season, just one of those coming in the Premier League.

Kolasinac has now been loaned to the team where he started his career before moving to Emirates Stadium in 2017, having spent five seasons in the German club's senior ranks.

Arsenal announced the news on their website on Thursday, with the loan deal set to officially go through on January 4.

"Sead needs to be playing regularly, so we have decided together that a move back to Germany with Schalke will benefit him at this moment," said Arsenal technical director Edu.

"We will be keeping in close contact with Sead, and wish him huge success for the remainder of the season with Schalke."

Kolasinac has made 113 appearances for Arsenal and was part of their FA Cup-winning squad against Chelsea in August.

The 27-year-old joins a Schalke side who sit bottom of the Bundesliga and are without a win in 13 league outings this season, but he is confident of keeping his boyhood side in the division.

"I'm happy and proud to be wearing the royal blue of Schalke 04 once again," Kolasinac told Schalke's website. "The club is currently in a difficult situation.

"Over the coming weeks and months I want to do my part in order to help us pick up as many points as possible.

"We will manage to stay up together, I'm 100 per cent convinced of it. I'm also very happy to be reunited with several familiar faces, both in the team and backroom staff.

"I never lost touch with FC Schalke 04. Returning to Gelsenkirchen was something I really wanted to do."

Kolasinac's departure could be the first of several for Arsenal in January, with manager Mikel Arteta revealing earlier on Thursday that trimming his squad is a priority.

Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have also been tipped to leave before the window closes on February 1.

Will Paul Pogba return to Turin?

Pogba's future at Manchester United is in doubt, with the World Cup-winning Frenchman reportedly looking to leave the Theatre of Dreams.

Juventus are keen to re-sign Pogba – who initially left United for the Italian giants in 2012 before returning to Manchester four years later.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE WANT POGBA REUNION

Signing Manchester United star Paul Pogba remains the dream for Juventus, according to Calciomercato.

Pogba is eyeing an Old Trafford exit amid growing links to former club Juve and LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

Juve are keen on reuniting with Pogba, though Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli, Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul and Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo are alternatives.

 

ROUND-UP

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

Alexandre Lacazette rode to Arsenal's rescue with the winner from the bench at Brighton and Hove Albion as a 1-0 success made it back-to-back Premier League victories since Christmas.

A seven-game winless run in the league was ended on Boxing Day as the Gunners beat Chelsea, although Mikel Arteta's men remained in 15th place after a dismal start to the season.

Rather than build on that triumph, a further setback appeared likely for a time at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday against Brighton, whose only prior home league win in 2020 had come on Arsenal's previous visit back in June.

But Lacazette, who lost his place in the XI to fit-again captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scored 29 seconds after his introduction as a substitute to settle a key clash in the bottom half in Arsenal's favour.

There was little in the first half to suggest Arsenal had brought forward any momentum from the Chelsea game, with Brighton well on top but themselves missing a cutting edge.

Bernd Leno watched Alireza Jahanbakhsh lash the best early chance over with the outside of his right boot, before the goalkeeper was belatedly called into action by the same man with the first shot on target eight minutes before the break.

Arsenal survived a goalmouth scramble within a minute of the restart, but they finally provided a threat on the counter soon after and Robert Sanchez blocked from Aubameyang at point-blank range.

An improved spell saw Gabriel Martinelli drive just over and the arrival of Lacazette on 66 minutes prompted the breakthrough.

A storming run down the right from Bukayo Saka created space for Lacazette, who was able to control in the centre with his first touch and fire decisively beyond Sanchez.

Only an apparent injury to Saka in the closing stages could put a dampener on a much better Arsenal second half.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Sergio Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, while Georginio Wijnaldum is set to decide his future.

Ramos, 34, is coming out of contract at Madrid at the end of the season.

With the defender yet to re-sign, he has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM KEEPING AN EYE ON RAMOS

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, according to the Evening Standard.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos at Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Ramos has been at the Spanish giants since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract at season's end, Wijnaldum is set to make a decision on his Liverpool future. Sky Sports reports the midfielder will decide this week whether to sign a new deal with the Premier League champions amid links to Barcelona.

- Diego Costa is set to leave Atletico Madrid, who are eyeing a replacement. Marca reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is best placed to replace Costa.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is again linked with a move. The Sun reports Serie A leaders AC Milan are chasing Zaha in January.

- Arsenal look set to be busy in January. The Sun reports the Premier League club want Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan in a £32million (€35.3m) move. Meanwhile, The Athletic says Arsenal are unlikely to rekindle their interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

- Could Marcos Alonso be returning to Spain? The Independent reports Atletico Madrid are in talks to sign full-back Alonso on loan from Chelsea in January. Alonso has played just three Premier League games for Chelsea this season.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

It appears there is still life in Arsenal, as Mikel Arteta oversaw a potentially season-changing 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day.

The Gunners had been on a dreadful run, but with the odds against them they produced their most complete performance in a while, with some of the youngsters playing important roles.

Leicester City and Manchester United began the day's action with an entertaining draw that doubled as a microcosm for the Red Devils' season.

Using Opta data, we have looked at the pick of the action on a busy Saturday.

Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United: Red Devils clicking in attack but let down by defence

Manchester United's unbeaten run away from home continued in Saturday's early kick-off, as their draw at Leicester City saw them go 14 without defeat on the road in the Premier League, their longest such streak since January 2011 (16).

They were all business in attack, with Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and substitute Edinson Cavani all effective.

Rashford opened the scoring to become the third-youngest United player to reach 50 Premier League goals (23 years, 56 days) behind only Wayne Rooney (22y, 157d) and Cristiano Ronaldo (22y, 341d).

Fernandes set him up and then got United's second, taking his goal involvement tally to 31 since joining the club – that's more than 50 percent of the club's 60 goals in that time.

Cavani's clever run and throughball released Fernandes, with the Uruguayan reaching five goal involvements from the bench in the league this term, two more than any other player.

But a late Axel Tuanzebe own goal – brought about by Jamie Vardy's shot – saw United pegged back.

It was the 11th successive away league game in which they have conceded at least twice, the worst such run since the Red Devils went 13 matches in 1959.

Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Young Gunners reinvigorate Mikel Arteta's men

Mikel Arteta was in an unenviable position before kick-off – he had lost three important senior players (Willian, David Luiz and Gabriel) at short notice, while Pablo Mari, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli earned their first starts of the season.

As such, there was an unfamiliar and inexperienced look to the Arsenal starting XI, which for the first time since January 2013 did not include a player over the age of 30.

Nevertheless, two of their more experienced players did find the net – Granit Xhaka's free-kick was the seventh time he has scored from outside the area, amounting to 79 per cent of nine goals. That's the highest ratio of Gunners players to have scored at least five times in the division.

Alexandre Lacazette's penalty was his 39th at the Emirates Stadium, 72 per cent of his club total, while it also made him Arsenal's top scorer this term with six across all competitions.

But it was a day to forget for Chelsea, and particularly Timo Werner. The German was withdrawn at half-time, thus extending his goal drought to 10 matches on all fronts, his worst goalless run since 12 games between March and September 2016.

Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace: Resolute Villans make light of numerical disadvantage

When Tyrone Mings was sent off just before half-time with Villa 1-0 up, one expected the worst for the hosts in the second period.

But if anything, that red – a record-setting fourth for the club on Boxing Day – seemed to spur Villa on, Dean Smith's side going on to score twice more and claim an eighth clean sheet of the season, more than any other side in the league.

Palace could only wish for such defensive solidity – they are without a shutout in their past 14 Premier League matches, their longest such streak since November 2017.

Bertrand Traore got the ball rolling early on, netting in successive matches after only managing two in his previous 19 league outings.

Kortney Hause made it 2-0 before Anwar El Ghazi finished Palace off in style with his fourth goal in as many Premier League appearances – a fine accomplishment for a player who, only a few weeks ago, was being targeted for criticism from some supporters on social media.

Jack Grealish may not have been on the scoresheet, but he was yet again crucial for Villa – Palace's only answer was to foul him. The England international's fouls won per game since the start of last season was boosted to 4.7, which is by far the most of any player to have played more than 100 minutes in that time.

Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle United: Defence provides solid platform again for Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has received his fair share of criticism this season, but if there's one area in which City are excelling, it's at the back.

Saturday's routine victory over Steve Bruce's lacklustre Magpies was their 13th clean sheet of the season across all competitions, more than any other team in Europe's top five leagues.

The omens weren't great for Newcastle coming into the game, and this was their 15th Premier League defeat on Boxing Day – a record – and their sixth in succession on this day.

On top of that, it's now 12 straight home wins over Newcastle for City, who've scored 41 times and conceded just seven in that run.

Raheem Sterling reached a milestone when he set up Ilkay Gundogan's opener, as it was his 150th goal involvement (96 goals, 54 assists) in all competitions since Pep Guardiola became coach, more than anyone else. Sergio Aguero has 146 (120 goals, 26 assists).

Ferran Torres got City's second, as the pre-season signing from Valencia continued his very promising debut campaign, this time leading the line in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus with Aguero only fit enough for a place on the bench.

Torres' goal was his seventh for City, and all seven games in which he has scored for the club have ended in victories, with five of them coming at the Etihad Stadium.

What does the future hold for Phil Foden?

Foden is highly rated at Manchester City, but he is struggling for regular game time.

Could Real Madrid prise the Englishman to the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – LOS BLANCOS EYE FODEN

LaLiga champions Real Madrid are ready to pounce for Manchester City's Phil Foden, according to the Mirror.

City sensation Foden has been struggling for regular game time under manager Pep Guardiola, starting just five of his 10 Premier League appearances this season.

Madrid have emerged as serious suitors for the 20-year-old sensation and there is a growing belief that he could be prised to the Spanish capital.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal are considering a move for Borussia Dortmund winger Julian Brandt, reports The Athletic. Out of favour at Dortmund this season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is reportedly keen to reinforce his struggling side in January.

Manchester United could send Donny van de Beek to Inter on loan as they look to bring in Christian Eriksen from the Serie A side, claims Calciomercato. Eriksen is set to leave Inter in January and the Danish midfielder has been linked to Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

- As question marks grow over Samir Handanovic, Calciomercato says Inter are considering Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso as a successor to the long-serving Nerazzurri star.

Madrid are confident of re-signing veteran star Luka Modric, according to Fabrizio Romano. It comes as Madrid still try to negotiate a new contract with captain and soon-to-be free agent Sergio Ramos, who has been linked to the likes of Juventus, PSG, United and City. Modric has previously been a target for Inter and Milan.

Luka Jovic would not be against a return to Eintracht Frankfurt but the out-of-favour Madrid forward is eyeing Milan, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea have reportedly joined the race for Erling Haaland as Manchester United consider their options.

Haaland, 20, has been heavily linked with a move after starring for Borussia Dortmund.

Europe's biggest clubs are lining up to sign the forward, and Chelsea are apparently among them, while United may look elsewhere.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA JOIN RACE FOR HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to enter the race for Dortmund star Haaland, according to 90min.

Manchester City are also reportedly heavily interested in the Norway international, who has also been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 games for Dortmund since arriving at the Bundesliga club from Salzburg in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United, meanwhile, may look elsewhere. The Mirror reports the Premier League giants may be unable to sign Haaland due to their "sour relationship" with his agent, Mino Raiola. The report says United see Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as an alternative.

- With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez still sidelined, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. Todofichajes.com reports the Premier League leaders are interested in Real Madrid centre-back Eder Militao. Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo says the club are in talks with Celta Vigo over 16-year-old defender Stefan Bajcetic.

- Struggling in the Premier League, Arsenal are expected to strengthen in January. The Daily Star reports the Gunners are considering a loan move for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior next month.

- After just one Premier League appearance for Chelsea this season, Antonio Rudiger has been linked with a move away. Le Parisien reports Paris Saint-Germain want the defender in January.

- Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard is apparently attracting interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Juventus and Milan are interested in the 22-year-old.

- Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig is set to leave Camp Nou following repeated criticism from Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are both keen on the 21-year-old, according to Fichajes.

Frank Lampard is furious at Chelsea's schedule for the coming week as they must play twice in the space of 48 hours.

The Blues visit Arsenal at 1730 GMT on Boxing Day before kicking off at the same time at home to Aston Villa two days later.

Lampard is particularly frustrated at the prospect as Chelsea's subsequent match against Manchester City has been pushed back, providing a six-day gap, but pleas to rearrange the Villa game have fallen on deaf ears.

"It's 48 hours," Lampard told reporters when the two matches in three days were posed to him. "I'm not trying to be clever there, but it's an important point for us because there are other teams challenging at the top of the league that have two games in three days [72 hours].

"Manchester United, Tottenham, I think Liverpool play two games in three days.

"It's counter-productive for the quality of the Premier League. It's a risk to play both games in top-end, elite sport, everybody knows that."

Asked if he would be able to name his best XI against both Arsenal and Villa, Lampard replied: "I don't think so.

"I think that's pretty much impossible. I couldn't say what I've just said and then put out the same team."

The Blues coach is surprised there was no change to the schedule as he believes it would be in the Premier League's best interests to have the Villa fixture on December 29.

"I'm surprised," Lampard said. "We hear a lot about how we'll have conversations and we'll talk, but not much action gets done at the critical time.

"Again, I have sympathy for the scheduling, I have sympathy for the difficult times, I have sympathy that if can we work together we try to find the best solution and sometimes there isn't one.

"Everyone loves football and everyone wants the season to be finished and everyone wants the Champions League to continue and international football to continue.

"But when you're given two teams asking for a game to be played one day later to try to get their best players on the pitch as fit as they can, why would you not do that? That surprises me."

First, Chelsea must tackle Arsenal, the side who beat them in the FA Cup final but have since failed to mount a challenge at the top of the Premier League and instead slumped to 15th place.

Lampard said: "I saw a very strong team and I think they added very well in the window.

"It's so early in the season. I know Arsenal's position, but I'll let them speak about their position; even ourselves, if we're going to fight for a title, that is on us and the games ahead. There are a lot of games to go.

"I think they're a quality team and I know a lot of people had them in the [title] argument at the start of the season.

"I heard that and maybe we were in the argument, maybe not firm favourites and Arsenal were in the same batch as us because of the way they finished last season.

"In the recent period, it hasn't worked for them in terms of results. Some of the performances have been better than results, for sure.

"The important thing for us is not to get caught up in any of that talk, because I can feel it coming with this game because of Arsenal's recent results.

"We must go there with a determination to win, a respect for Arsenal but a determination to win."

Erling Haaland is Chelsea's number one transfer target, while a pair of Premier League giants are lining up January bids for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has netted 23 goals in 23 games since moving to the Bundesliga in January, leading to him reportedly being installed as Frank Lampard's top target for the off-season.

Will Haaland make the move to Chelsea?


TOP STORIES – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland has been identified as Chelsea's top transfer target along with West Ham's Declan Rice, according to Sky Sports journalist Angelo Mangiante.

Haaland has been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

But Haaland is wanted in London as Chelsea prepare for a clear-out, with seven players being made available – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Victor Moses.

Mikel Arteta is convinced he has the fighting spirit in his Arsenal squad which will enable the embattled Gunners to turn their dismal domestic season around.

Arsenal have not won a game outside of the Europa League since November 1, when they defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

The FA Cup holders have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches and on Tuesday were dumped out of the EFL Cup by Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola's side winning 4-1 at Emirates Stadium.

It was the first time Arsenal have conceded four times at home in the competition since November 1998, when they lost 5-0 to London rivals Chelsea, who were also the last team before City to win four successive away games against the Gunners in all competitions, with the Blues doing so between 1960 and 1965.

With Arsenal 15th in the Premier League table – just four points clear of the relegation zone – Arteta now has to gather his players for fixtures against Chelsea, Brighton and Hove Albion and West Brom between Boxing Day and January 2.

Gunners manager Arteta conceded the run will likely decide Arsenal's league campaign, but insisted he has full belief in his players.

"It's a hard one to take considering how the game went. This level of opponent, when you give the goals away it makes the game impossible," Arteta told Sky Sports.

"A lot of strange things are happening in every game and that makes things really difficult.

"We have to turn it around round – there is no question with the fixtures we have it's going to decide our season.

"On the basis of what we have shown tonight against difficult opponents, I have fighters in my team. Yes, I have fighters."

One player who may embody the fighting spirit Arteta spoke of is Gabriel Martinelli, who made his first start of the season after returning from a long-term knee injury.

Martinelli returned as a substitute in Saturday's defeat to Everton and looked lively in the first half against City, having one attempt and setting up Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser.

However, Martinelli sustained a blow to his shin and, despite trying to battle on, had to be taken off in the 49th minute, though Arteta suggested the injury was not serious.

"It was a really bad kick on his shin, it was swelling up and he could not continue," Arteta told a news conference.

"I think Gabi has a unique energy and a way to transmit his passion for the game. I think he plays the game in a different way to any other player, we can't compare him.

"What we have to say is it's great to have him back. To bring that spirit and that fight, and to play against this opponent the way he did it in that first half, I think that it's something to be really proud and happy with."

Pep Guardiola described Mikel Arteta as an "incredible manager" after his Manchester City side beat struggling Arsenal 4-1 to reach the last four of the EFL Cup. 

Arteta left his role as Guardiola's assistant a year ago to take over at Arsenal but he is under intense scrutiny after a dismal start to the season, which has left the Gunners 15th in the Premier League. 

He enjoyed no respite on Tuesday, with Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte sealing an 18th consecutive win in the competition for holders City after Alexandre Lacazette had cancelled out Gabriel Jesus' early opener. 

Arteta's position will come under further scrutiny after Arsenal conceded four goals at home in an EFL Cup game for the first time since a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea in November 1998, but Guardiola is in no doubt about the Spaniard's talents. 

"What can I say, everybody knows we are judged on results. He can defend himself perfectly," he told Sky Sports.

"I worked with him, we cannot have had our success without him. He is an incredible manager. I know his proposals and what he will do. Not even a little run of bad results is going to change my opinion."

The victory meant City became the first team to win four consecutive away games against Arsenal in all competitions since Chelsea between 1960 and 1965. 

They were helped on their way by Gunners goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson, who allowed Mahrez's free-kick to squirm through his grasp and gift City a 2-1 lead. 

It was Mahrez's first goal from a free-kick since September 2019 – and his fifth in all competitions in English football – and the Algerian knew there was an element of luck to it. 

"It was a solid performance," he said. "We started good and then they equalised. We got lucky with the free-kick and then we got the third one and then it was easier for us.

"I was surprised at the position of Runarsson. He was so close to the post and luckily didn't catch it properly and that was good for us.

"We've been struggling but it's football. It's not always easy to score four or five goals. Today we scored four goals and it was a solid performance."

Manchester City booked an EFL Cup semi-final spot and piled more pressure on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta with a resounding 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. 

Arteta, who was Pep Guardiola's assistant at City before taking charge of the Gunners a year ago, has faced questions over his future after a dismal start to the season has left his side languishing in 15th in the Premier League. 

He did not find any respite against his former club, with City – who have won the competition in each of the last three seasons – easing through to the last four after second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte. 

Alexandre Lacazette had earlier given the hosts hope of ending a run of three straight home defeats to City when he cancelled out Gabriel Jesus' early opener, but that proved to be a rare moment of joy in yet another turgid defeat for the beleaguered north London club.

The visitors started in ruthless fashion, taking the lead after just 125 seconds when Jesus headed Oleksandr Zinchenko's left-wing cross past Runar Alex Runarsson inside the six-yard box, ending a goal drought of 609 minutes for the Brazilian.

Laporte headed wide from a corner before the Gunners pulled level with their first effort on target in the 31st minute, Lacazette heading home Gabriel Martinelli's cross from six yards out.

City should have restored their lead before the interval, but Runarsson raced off his line to deny Jesus after a smart move on the edge of the penalty area involving Foden.

The Arsenal goalkeeper was entirely at fault for City's second nine minutes after the interval, though, allowing Mahrez's free-kick from the edge of the area to squirm through his tepid grasp.

City added a third five minutes later when Foden latched onto Fernandinho's pass and lofted a delightful finish over Runarsson, although the goal would have been disallowed if VAR had been in use with replays clearly showing the midfielder was offside. 

The holders added gloss to an 18th straight victory in the competition in the 73rd minute, Laporte stealing in at the back post to head home Foden's inviting cross. 

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