Cody Gakpo scored his first goal for Liverpool and Mohamed Salah was on target as Everton were consigned to a 2-0 Merseyside derby defeat at Anfield.

The Reds' hopes of securing a top-four finish had been rocked by a run of four top-flight games without a win, but they got their first Premier League victory of 2023 on Monday.

Salah rounded off a blistering counter-attack 12 seconds after James Tarkowski had struck the post with his 18th goal of the season, having failed to find the back of the net in his previous five matches, late in the first half.

Gakpo got off the mark early in the second half as Liverpool moved up a spot to ninth and kept their neighbours in the relegation zone by consigning boss Sean Dyche to a first defeat, with substitute appearances for the fit-again Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino also providing boosts for Jurgen Klopp.

Netherlands forward Gakpo spurned a good chance to open the scoring when he headed wide from close range early in a frantic start.

Tarkowski came agonisingly close to scoring a second goal in as many games after his winner against Arsenal when he rose to meet Alex Iwobi's corner with a header that struck that post, and Liverpool were in front moments later.

Everton were badly caught out on the break as Darwin Nunez darted forward and picked out Salah, who tucked into an empty net with Jordan Pickford in no man's land nine minutes before the break.

The Toffees were once again caught on the break four minutes into the second half, when Conor Cody failed to deal with Trent Alexander-Arnold's dangerous cross and Gakpo got off the mark with a tap-in.

Nunez was denied by Pickford from tight angle and bent an effort just wide after being set up by Gakpo as Everton continued to be opened up all too easily.

Ellis Simms was withdrawn after being handed a start with Dominic Calvert-Lewin unfit, before Jota and Firmino were given great ovations when they came off the bench, and Tom Davies' glaring miss with a header from close range summed up Everton's day.

To say this season isn't going according to plan for either Liverpool or Everton would be an understatement.

Liverpool have taken seven points from their six matches back since the World Cup break; Everton are on four from the same number of games.

The Reds could be as low as 11th by the time Monday's meeting between the Merseyside rivals takes place at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's team have looked a shadow of their former selves. Even in their poor title defence in the 2020-21 campaign, which included a 2-0 home defeat to Everton, they never seemed so unlikely to compete not only for the top honour, but Champions League qualification.

This time last year, Liverpool were in contention for an unprecedented quadruple; they would go on to triumph in the EFL Cup and FA Cup, though fell just short in the Premier League and lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

After selling Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich but bringing in Darwin Nunez and tying Mohamed Salah down to a new contract, Liverpool seemed set for another title push after beating Manchester City in the Community Shield.

Yet it has all gone downhill from there. They are out of both domestic cups and have no chance in the league, with their tally of seven defeats in the top tier closing in on their worst tally in Klopp's full seasons in charge (nine – 2020-21).

 

Everton, on the other hand, are mired in another relegation battle, with yet another manager in place. Sean Dyche arrived last month, following Frank Lampard's dismissal after less than a year in charge.

Dyche started in style at Goodison Park, however, guiding Everton to their first win since October by beating league leaders Arsenal 1-0.

That victory has not lifted Everton outside of the relegation zone, though it injected some optimism into the team and fanbase ahead of the short trip across Stanley Park.

The cornerstone of Everton's win over Arsenal was Dyche's midfield trio, while that area of the pitch is a clear issue for Klopp. It might just be where this match is won or lost.

Liverpool found lacking

It was easy to be impressed when Liverpool announced they had struck a deal with PSV to sign Cody Gakpo, before the January transfer window had even started.

Gakpo had starred for the Netherlands at the World Cup and was taking the Eredivisie by storm, having scored 21 goals and set up a further 25 since the start of last season up until his switch to Anfield. But he has yet to score or assist in six matches, creating only two chances across 497 minutes of action.

While Liverpool will be confident Gakpo will come good, the sensibility of signing another forward for big money when their midfield needs are so glaring could be called into question.

The Reds are reportedly keen to sign Jude Bellingham at the end of the season, and the Borussia Dortmund sensation might well be transformative. However, Liverpool needed reinforcements now, not in six months' time.

 

Fabinho's form has been erratic, and it feels as though the 29-year-old might well have passed his peak. The Brazil international is recording his lowest per-90 totals for duels (8.5), duels won (4.2), duel success rate (48.9), forward passes (14.8), attempted passes (59.7) and tackle success percentage (52.1) since he joined in 2018. On the flip side, he is giving away 1.7 fouls per 90, his highest tally in a Liverpool shirt.

He was fortunate to escape a red card in the FA Cup defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on January 28 and then missed last week's defeat to Wolves through illness.

Stefan Bajcetic started in Fabinho's place against Wolves and has looked bright when called on, though at 18 cannot be expected to perform consistently week in, week out.

Thiago Alcantara came to Liverpool as one of the world's best midfield maestros, but injuries have limited him to just 93 appearances and 71 starts.

Indeed, Thiago has not lived up to the form he showed at Bayern Munich, and while he creates a scoring chance every game on average, he has only directly contributed to nine goals.

To sum up his frustrations, Thiago is a doubt for Monday's match due to a hip issue.

Jordan Henderson works as hard as ever, but at the age of 32 cannot be relied on to play 90 minutes up to three times a week. Naby Keita, on the other hand, has never really lived up to his price tag.

Harvey Elliott has solidified himself as a regular, playing 1,131 top-flight minutes, and he leads the way for open-play shot-creating actions when it comes to Liverpool's midfielders (68).

Liverpool's midfield has been the bedrock of so much success, but it's in need of a revamp.

 

Building blocks for Dyche

Having utilised a 4-4-2 for much of his time at Burnley, Dyche sprung something of a surprise in his first match in charge of Everton by playing a three-man midfield.

Yet this was not the awkward, disorganised 4-3-3 that Lampard had attempted to force into place in his latter days as Everton boss, but rather a solid, robust 4-5-1 that, off the ball at least, morphed into the two, solid banks of four that Dyche is renowned for.

Abdoulaye Doucoure had fallen out of favour under Lampard but was back in against the Gunners for his first league start since August, and turned in one of his best Everton displays.

Only Gueye (10) won possession more times than Doucoure (nine) for Everton, while the former Watford midfielder's tally of 27 attempted passes ranked third for the Toffees. He also made two interceptions (a team high alongside James Tarkowski and Amadou Onana) and won his only attempted tackle.

No Everton outfielder created more final third entries (seven), while Doucoure also played a key role in limiting Oleksandr Zinchenko's impact. The Ukrainian had a game-leading 121 touches though created only one chance.

On the opposite side of Gueye, Onana delivered another display that hinted at his immense potential.

While Everton have floundered in recent months, Onana seems to have settled into English football. He led the team in touches (47), tackles (four) and tackles won (two), and only Dominic Calvert-Lewin (nine) won more duels for the Toffees than the Belgium international (eight).

 

Dyche handed Onana the responsibility to press, and he won possession twice in Arsenal's defensive third. His recoveries tally finished at eight, including a well-timed intervention that resulted in the 21-year-old teeing up a fantastic chance for Calvert-Lewin.

Everton's new manager noted in his post-game press conference that Onana still had plenty to learn, but the signs are promising.

Gueye, meanwhile, thrived in his best role in front of the defence. Too often under Lampard, the 33-year-old was losing the ball in dangerous areas, but against the Gunners he completed all 25 of his passes.

One swallow does not make a summer, of course, and Everton have a lot of work to do to drag themselves out of danger. 

Everton are likely to lack Calvert-Lewin due to injury, whereas Liverpool still have a star-studded forward line to choose from. If Klopp's men can get a foothold in the middle of the pitch, another derby win should be theirs.

Indeed, given Everton have only won one of their last 22 league visits to Anfield, Liverpool still have to be considered huge favourites.

However, if Dyche can get his midfield to perform as they did against Arsenal, then Everton might just fancy their chances of getting something.

Under-fire Liverpool must prove their desire remains intact when they host Everton in Monday's Merseyside derby, says goalkeeper Alisson.

Last week's 3-0 thrashing at Wolves extended Liverpool's wait for a first Premier League win of 2023, leaving Jurgen Klopp's men mired in mid-table and 11 points adrift of a top-four place. 

Only once in the Premier League era have Liverpool started a calendar year with a longer winless run (five games in 2017), while they have also failed to score in their last three league outings. 

Liverpool's struggles have led to suggestions a team which almost landed an unprecedented quadruple last season needs to be rebuilt, while some have even called Klopp's position into question.

Speaking to the club's website ahead of Monday's huge derby, Alisson said: "It's a difficult moment – we recognise that. 

"I think the first step you need to make for changing the situation is recognising your real situation. 

"We are doing that. For this week, we have time, we are working hard. We know the importance of a derby. 

"We know the importance and the meaning for us to have a good performance, to show to our supporters that we still have the desire inside of us. We are going to do that and try to win the game."

Despite Liverpool's negative results, Alisson believes there have been some positive signs in recent games, and he is backing Klopp's team to turn their miserable season around.

"During the matches, we have a few good moments, so we can say we are playing at 75, 80 per cent of what we can play," he added. 

"We have to put [in] more, we have to give extra things for the team – not only in terms of football but in excitement, in attitude, supporting team-mates, everything that is in your hands to try to change our situation. 

"We understand that and we're going to use everything that we have in our hands to turn around this moment, this situation. I believe it is just a moment and we're going to get out soon." 

Jurgen Klopp is getting no sympathy from Sean Dyche ahead of Monday's Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton.

Dyche's second game in charge of Everton sees him take the struggling Toffees across Stanley Park to Anfield.

Everton beat Premier League leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park in Dyche's first match – their first competitive win since October 22 – but remain in the relegation zone.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions and went down 3-0 to Everton's relegation rivals Wolves last time out.

Asked if he sympathised with Klopp, Dyche gave a blunt response.

"My focus is on Everton, that's what I’ve been brought here to do – make sure we're right without focusing on anyone else. That's absolutely my focus," he said at a press conference.

"There's no sympathy in football. I can empathise. You have an understanding of others. He certainly doesn't want or need my sympathy – trust me.

"Someone who's as experienced as him and what he's done in the game. He doesn't need sympathy from anyone.

"As a manager you can empathise, understand each other's roles. No matter what level you're at, you can understand, because it's a very difficult job.

"There's an understanding, a shared feeling. I've been through it myself when things aren't always going as you'd wish. But he doesn't need my sympathy."

Dyche and Klopp have had some fiery exchanges down the years. Indeed, the pair had a heated discussion at half-time during Burnley's 1-0 win at Anfield in the 2020-21 season, which ended Liverpool's 68-game unbeaten run.

Reflecting on that incident, Dyche quipped: "He felt my coat wasn't good, like [Aston Villa midfielder] John McGinn did, and he mentioned it.

"I said, 'well, you're not the first to get there, John already did', so that cleared that one up."

Switching tact, he added: "I think fans don't mind that, they want to see two managers standing up for their teams, and then after that, it's done, end of. It used to be a much more regular occurrence in football, but maybe it's not now. It meant nothing. It was nothing more than both of us standing up for our clubs."

Liverpool have only lost one of their last 22 home derbies, when Carlo Ancelotti masterminded a 2-0 victory for Everton in February 2021.

Just two of the 22 managers to have taken charge of Everton in a league Merseyside derby have won their first meeting with Liverpool – Joe Royle in November 1994 and Dick Molyneux in October 1894.

Dyche will be the 10th manager whose first such game is away from home, with none of the previous nine winning, but he is relishing the opportunity.

"I'm looking forward to it because of the size of it – the city, the mentality of the two clubs," he said. "I grew up in the 70s and 80s, the historical games, and also I don't imagine it happens now, but finals when the two fans were combined.

"I was telling my lad about that the other day. It's changed a bit now, the way life is. I'm certainly looking forward to taking on the next challenge against them."

Dyche might well have to cope without Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Anfield, with the striker described as "touch and go" to feature in the match due to a hamstring injury.

Diogo Jota could make his first appearance for Liverpool since mid-October on Monday when the Reds host Everton in the Merseyside derby, but Thiago Alcantara may miss out.

Thiago has suffered a hip flexor injury, according to manager Jurgen Klopp, and the Spanish midfielder has not trained this week as a result.

Jota was taken from the field on a stretcher with a calf injury in stoppage time of Liverpool's 1-0 win against Manchester City almost four months ago, but returned to full training earlier this week and Klopp confirmed at a press conference on Friday that the 26-year-old is "in contention" to make the squad on Monday.

The former Wolves striker was pictured in training along with three other players back from injuries in Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk and Arthur Melo.

"I don't know, we have to see how that looks, how [they deal] with training intensity and we'll make a decision," Klopp said regarding Firmino and Arthur, while adding about Van Dijk: "I don't think [he] is that close [to playing]."

Getting players back will be a much-needed boost for Klopp, whose team are on one of their worst runs in recent memory, winning just one of their seven games in 2023 (D2, L4).

Liverpool face an Everton side fresh off the appointment of manager Sean Dyche at Goodison Park and an impressive 1-0 win against Premier League leaders Arsenal, and Klopp is in no doubt as to the size of the task on Monday.

"Intensity is always important," he said. "We know it's a difficult game, Sean Dyche is now there and made a massive impact immediately, it was obvious. We have to prepare and that is what we will do."

Klopp refused to discuss the Premier League's decision to refer Manchester City to an independent commission for alleged breaches of financial regulations, and just wants his team to focus on getting their own season back on track.

"This is not a time we wanted to have or are we are happy to be in, but I think it's a time that we can show if we want to show that the club is really special," he said. 

"The boys delivered a lot of great moments in the last few years, not all of them at the moment for different reasons are clear, but we are fighting to change the situation, but I really believe that the better you behave in your lower moments, the quicker you get in the better moments again."

Manchester City reportedly view Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell as a potential answer to their left-back problem and will investigate a move at the end of the season.

Chilwell, 26, was purchased from Leicester City for a £50million fee prior to the 2020-21 campaign, and he enjoyed immediate success at Stamford Bridge. In his first season with the club, all 27 of his Premier League appearances came in the starting line-up, and he also played a full 90 minutes in their Champions League final triumph over City.

Unfortunately, the England international with 17 senior caps has been plagued by injuries since, with a serious knee injury this past season followed by a long-term hamstring injury early in the current campaign.

Chilwell returned from his hamstring issue with a brief appearance off the bench against Fulham on February 3, and if he can prove his fitness down the stretch then he could prove the perfect replacement for Joao Cancelo after his shock departure on loan to Bayern Munich.

TOP STORY – CITY IDENTIFY CHILWELL AS POTENTIAL CANCELO REPLACEMENT

The future of Cancelo with City is looking bleak after he was shipped off to Bayern following reports of a training ground dispute with boss Pep Guardiola, and Caught Offside claims the club are already looking at long-term solutions in his position.

Fabrizio Romano writes that "Chilwell is one of the players who has been appreciated by Manchester City for years" – but adds the Englishman is just one name on a shortlist of left-back options to pursue when the season wraps up.

Chilwell's five-year contract with Chelsea ties him to the club until 2025, but the report states the addition of Marc Cucurella has made him more expendable if the price is right.

ROUND-UP

– According to 90min, Chelsea have made 24-year-old Napoli striker Victor Osimhen their top forward target, and he is expected to cost in excess of £100million (€110m).

– The Daily Mail is reporting Tottenham will look to sign new centre-backs at the end of the season, and have taken a liking to 22-year-old Crystal Palace talent Marc Guehi, who may be available for a fee of around £45million.

– According to Spanish publication Sport, Barcelona will join a long list of elite clubs – including Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Inter – in the pursuit of 25-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram. The France international will become a free agent after the season, and his father Lillian Thuram spent two seasons with Barcelona before retiring.

Inter will work to secure 29-year-old striker Romelu Lukaku on either a permanent deal or another loan from Chelsea next season at a lower cost, per Gazzetta dello Sport.

– Football Insider is reporting Liverpool, Everton and Leeds United are all interested in 18-year-old Birmingham City midfielder George Hall, who some are calling "the next Jude Bellingham".

Arsenal's assault on the Premier League title suffered a hit at Goodison Park as Sean Dyche provided the new manager bounce for Everton.

The Toffees secured a first league win since October to condemn the Gunners to defeat, opening the door for Manchester City to cut the gap to the leaders to just two points if they beat Tottenham on Sunday.

Sean Dyche's side were not the only relegation-threatened team to pick up a major scalp, as Wolves stunned Liverpool at Molineux to extend a miserable run of form for Jurgen Klopp's Reds.

There was no similar result for Southampton, who were picked apart by in-form Brentford, while Manchester United maintained their fine home run with a hard-fought win against Crystal Palace.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the most interesting facts to emerge from Saturday's Premier League action.

Everton 1-0 Arsenal: Goodison gloom for Gunners

Goodison Park is a ground that used to hold many happy memories for Mikel Arteta, who started his Premier League career at the club, but three consecutive league defeats for Arsenal at the venue may have changed that.

Arteta has lost all of his three Premier League away matches to Everton, the first Gunners manager to endure such a run, while the Toffees boast three consecutive home league victories against Arsenal for the first time since March 1977 to August 1978.

It handed Arsenal just their second defeat in their last 21 Premier League matches (won 17, drawn 2), with the loss ending a streak of 14 unbeaten top-flight games for the league leaders.

Dyche, meanwhile, became just the second manager to beat a side starting the day top of the table in his first Premier League game in charge of a club, after Alan Curbishley defeated Manchester United in his first match with West Ham in December 2006.

Wolves 3-0 Liverpool: Dawson delight amid Klopp rot

Craig Dawson is not a name that would usually strike fear for opposition defenders in the Premier League but the Wolves defender has established a habit of haunting Liverpool, his latest goal representing his third against the Reds.

Each of those goals have come for a different side (West Brom, West Ham, Wolves) and he has scored more goals against Liverpool than he has versus any other side.

Klopp's side have now lost three consecutive away games in the Premier League for the first time since a run of four in April 2012 and have lost back-to-back Saturday 3pm kick-offs in the competition for the first time since March 2012.

A horror start was their downfall against Wolves, with Liverpool conceding more Premier League goals in the opening five minutes of matches than any side this season (five), while Joel Matip's own goal was his first in 135 Premier League appearances.

Brentford 3-0 Southampton: Bees buzzing at home

Unbeaten in their last nine Premier League games (won five, drawn four), only Newcastle United are currently on a longer run without defeat – extending their streak to 16 with a draw against West Ham in the late kick-off.

The Bees' trio of goals against Southampton took their tally to 23 goals in 11 Premier League home games this season, already surpassing the tally of 22 last term. In fact, only Manchester City (38) and Arsenal (25) have scored more at home this term.

On target with a header yet again, 10 of Ben Mee's 12 Premier League goals have come in that fashion and no side has conceded more headed goals in the top-flight this season than Southampton (10), two of them being on Saturday.

Pressure upon Saints boss Nathan Jones continues to rise, with Southampton losing eight of their last nine in the Premier League, winning just once, while they have just a single clean sheet in their last 27 matches in the competition.

Manchester United 2-1 Crystal Palace: Penalties on point for United

With 13 consecutive home wins in all competitions, Manchester United are in their stride and are enjoying their longest such run at Old Trafford since a 20-match streak between December 2010 and September 2011.

While Marcus Rashford scored in five consecutive Premier League home games for the first time, it was Bruno Fernandes' opener from the penalty spot that sent Erik Ten Hag's side on their way – and took the Portugal midfielder's tally of penalty goals in the Premier League to 14.

Only Wayne Rooney (20) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (18) have scored more from the spot for United than Fernandes, with his latest effort being the club's 173rd all-time spot-kick in the Premier League – the joint-highest total alongside Liverpool.

The red mist descended on Casemiro, however, with the Brazilian shown a straight red card for the first time in Europe's top-five leagues; the dismissal coming in his 366th such appearance.

That provided a late charge for Palace, who saw eight of their 10 shots come in the final 20 minutes after Casemiro's dismissal, but Patrick Vieira's side remain winless in the Premier League in 2023 (drawn 2, lost 3), scoring just once in the process.

Sean Dyche emphasised the importance of going back to basics after his tenure as Everton manager began with a surprise 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal.

James Tarkowski's 60th-minute header was the difference as Everton ended an eight-match wait for a Premier League win at the first attempt under Dyche on Saturday, dealing a blow to Arsenal's title bid.

Dyche thus became just the second boss to beat the Premier League's leaders in his first match in charge of a new club in the competition, after Alan Curbishley's West Ham upset Manchester United in 2006.

Speaking to BT Sport after dealing Arsenal their first defeat in 14 Premier League outings, Dyche backed his side to improve as they become more accustomed to his approach.  

"It gives us a platform to move forward," Dyche said. "The performance was key for me. We've crammed a lot in this week, and the performance was the first marker.

"We managed to press the game well, I still think we can deal with the ball better, but that comes with confidence and belief in doing the basics well.

"That's my style, if you like. I want them to understand the basics of the game, but we've got some very good players here."

Everton adopted an aggressive approach from the off at a raucous Goodison Park, and Dyche was delighted with his team's application in their hard-fought win.

"I'm not knocking what they were trying to do under the last manager, I've got my style of working, that's all it is," Dyche added.

"We want to make sure everyone knows we are committed to the cause and giving everything.

"For the players, the basic requirements never change. You have to win your battles, win your races, win with commitment to the cause.

"I still think we could improve on our play, but that comes with confidence and confidence usually comes with results."

Tarkowski's winner represented his first Premier League goal for Everton, with all eight of his strikes in the competition coming under Dyche's management (seven for Burnley).

The defender echoed Dyche's thoughts in his own post-match interview, praising Everton's determination and describing the win as a potential turning point in their battle for survival.

"It has been tough for us and the fans and for all the staff at the club," he said. "Hopefully this is the turning point for the club, there is a lot of talent here.

"We've lacked that little bit of grit at times and that's what the fans want. We've seen what it's all about today."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is still "so proud" of his players despite the leaders slipping to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.

The defeat, which came courtesy of James Tarkowski's second-half header at Goodison Park, was just Arsenal's second of the Premier League season – their first coming against Manchester United at Old Trafford in September.

The result means Manchester City can cut the Gunners' lead at the top of the table to just two points with victory over Tottenham on Sunday, although the London side will have a game in hand.

Arteta, who became the first Arsenal manager to lose three consecutive away Premier League games against the Toffees, lamented his side's inability to deal with Everton's physical threat, but hopes it will act as an important lesson for the remainder of the season. 

“We had loads of the ball and we generated many chances, but we lacked that purpose and quality in the final third," he told BT Sport.

"Then we conceded and they slowed the game down and we struggled.

"They do this to every team. Their physicality is their strength. If you want to control the game against them you have to control this. We did not do that.

"We needed more composure and to better control the game emotionally. We gave away so many unnecessary free-kicks and that's what they want.

"Today I love them much better than the week before or a month ago. It is easy to be next to someone when they are winning well. I am still so proud of all of these players, they deserve it.

"This is not going to be a rosy pathway. This is going to be tricky and we will have to dig in and play much better than we did today."

Arsenal will hope to return to winning ways against Brentford next Saturday, before a mouth-watering clash with Pep Guardiola’s City four days later.

Sean Dyche's Everton reign got off to a flying start as James Tarkowski's header handed Premier League leaders Arsenal a surprise 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.

Everton looked revitalised in their first outing under the former Burnley boss, and it was two of his former Clarets players who combined for the winner – Tarkowski powering Dwight McNeil's corner home on the hour.

Arsenal were kept at arm's length by Everton during an unusually disjointed display, with the deserved victory dragging the Toffees – at least temporarily – out of the relegation zone.

Having suffered just their second league defeat of the season, the Gunners could see their lead at the summit cut to two points when title rivals Manchester City face Tottenham on Sunday. 

Despite Everton starting strongly at a boisterous Goodison Park, Arsenal missed the first clear chance on the half-hour mark, Eddie Nketiah firing wide following excellent work from Bukayo Saka.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin somehow failed to slide home Amadou Onana's low delivery three minutes later as Everton threatened, before the unmarked Abdoulaye Doucoure headed McNeil's cross wide.

Conor Coady then made a vital goal-line clearance from Saka's volley, before Calvert-Lewin almost found the top-left corner with a looping header as an entertaining first half ended level.

Visiting captain Martin Odegaard blazed over from a good position after 59 minutes, and Arsenal were punished a minute later as Tarkowski found the bottom-right corner with a fine header from McNeil's right-wing corner.

Arsenal introduced January additions Jorginho and Leandro Trossard in search of a leveller, but the latter's 20-yard attempt, saved by Jordan Pickford, was as close as they came as their title hopes suffered a huge blow.

Manchester City have reportedly identified Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister as their desired replacement for Ilkay Gundogan at the end of the season.

Mac Allister, 24, is enjoying a career-best season, with his five goals in 17 Premier League fixtures already matching his best ever tally for a full league season.

The talented creative midfielder also made six starts for Argentina during their march to victory at the Qatar World Cup, scoring his first senior international goal during a 2-0 win over Poland in the group stage.

His emergence as a player capable of shining on the world stage, as well as his contribution to Brighton's terrific season, has apparently caught the eye of City boss Pep Guardiola.

 

TOP STORY – CITY VIEW MAC ALLISTER AS IDEAL GUNDOGAN REPLACEMENT

According to Fichajes, Gundogan is expected to leave City when his contract expires at the end of the season, and Bernardo Silva could follow if he gets his wish with a LaLiga move.

The report states Guardiola is a big fan of Mac Allister, and believes he has proven himself as a capable Premier League producer.

Fichajes claim Brighton have set an asking price in the range of £40million, indicating they are more willing to part ways with him than 21-year-old Moises Caicedo, with both of their contracts expiring in 2025.

 

ROUND-UP

– ESPN is reporting Napoli will hold firm with an asking price of at least €100m (£90m) for 24-year-old striker Victor Osimhen, who has strong interest from Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

– According to 90min, Chelsea's top priority now is sorting out a contract extension for 24-year-old England international Mason Mount.

Mason Greenwood will look to revive his career in China if United decide to let him go, per the Sun.

– Caught Offside is reporting West Ham and Everton will have to return after the season if they want to sign 27-year-old winger Sheraldo Becker, with Union Berlin unwilling to deal in January due to their strong league position.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta wants to build around players such as Gabriel Martinelli after the forward signed a new deal at the club.

Martinelli agreed to a new long-term contract that will reportedly run until the end of the 2026-27 season.

The 21-year-old, who signed for Arsenal in July 2019, has started every Premier League game this season and scored seven times in the competition for the top-flight leaders, who head to struggling Everton on Saturday.

Bukayo Saka is another youngster thriving under Arteta, who sees plenty of scope for improvement as the Gunners aim to build a dynasty with such talents.

"It's great news. We want to build on all the talent that we have in the squad," he said in a press conference on Friday.

"It's great to see them happy and commit to the club. He's a player with enormous potential who has so much to improve.

"He can develop physically, mentally, defensively, the space he occupies, consistency."

Asked if Saka and William Saliba – who has been excellent in Arsenal's defence following loan spells at Marseille and Nice respectively – were close to signing fresh deals, Arteta added: "Part of the plan is to extend the contract of our biggest talents. We are trying to do that.

"The others will be done whenever we can. I see everybody really happy and willing to continue with the club."

Arsenal wanted to recruit two more highly rated youngsters in January but were unable to get deals for Mykhaylo Mudryk or Moises Caicedo over the line.

Mudryk joined London rivals Chelsea in a £89million (€100m) move, while Brighton and Hove Albion rebuffed two offers for Caicedo.

The Gunners did bring in Leandro Trossard, Jakub Kiwior and Jorginho, with the latter set to add vital experience in their bid to claim a first league title since 2004.

"We knew that in this market you have to adapt and be flexible and ready for inconvenience," Arteta said of Jorginho.

"We had a big one with [Mohamed Elneny's] injury and we needed a player in that position. [Jorginho] is a player that I've always admired. He's a great character who'll bring leadership and quality in that position and he's going to help us a lot."

Jorginho could make his debut against Everton, with Thomas Partey a doubt due to an injury he suffered in last week's FA Cup defeat to Manchester City.

"Let's see, that one is still a doubt," Arteta said. "Let's see how he comes in today and if he’s able to train or not. We will make a decision on that.

"He's not ruled out and it's nothing very significant, but it was significant enough to get him out of the game, which for Thomas is a bit unusual, but hopefully he'll be fine."

Arsenal have not won at Goodison Park since October 2017, when they beat the Toffees 5-2.

Saturday will be Sean Dyche's first game in charge of Everton, who sit 19th, level on 15 points with Southampton below them.

Dyche lost 10 Premier League games against Arsenal during his time in charge of Burnley, and should the Gunners win, they will become the first team in English league history to register 100 victories against a single opponent.

On December 21, 2019, two new managers sat in the stands at Goodison Park, watching on as Everton hosted Arsenal.

Everton had just appointed Carlo Ancelotti amid Duncan Ferguson's full-blooded, temporary spell in charge after Marco Silva's sacking.

On the opposite side of the director's box, Mikel Arteta, who had been unveiled as Arsenal's new head coach a day earlier, looked down as Freddie Ljungberg took charge for the final time as interim boss. The match finished 0-0, both teams in need of reinvigoration and a sense of direction.

Arsenal have found that direction. Everton, it is safe to say, have not.

Arteta, of course, played for both clubs. A star of the David Moyes era at Everton, Arteta was "the best little Spaniard" the blue half of Merseyside knew, though the relationship was soured slightly when he left for Arsenal in 2011.

The former midfielder had been linked with the vacant Everton job when it became apparent he was ready to cut his teeth in management, though Arsenal always seemed the likely destination.

In fairness, while Farhad Moshiri, once an investor at Arsenal, and Everton's board have made numerous mistakes over the last several seasons, bringing in such an experienced, quality manager as Ancelotti seemed like a no-brainer.

Indeed, there were some suggestions it was Arsenal who had made the wrong call, going for the inexperience of youth (Arteta was only 37 at the time) when a proven, top-class winner in the form of Ancelotti was right there.

Arsenal would go on to finish eighth that season, while the Toffees ended in 12th. Yet just over three years later, Everton welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park again, and the contrast in their fortunes could not be more different.

While the Gunners sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League, Everton – now under the tutelage of Sean Dyche – are embroiled in a relegation scrap for the second season running. This time, though, it very much feels as if Moshiri and Co. might have pushed their luck too far.

 

Patience is a virtue

Arsenal supporters might be revelling in their title charge, but it would be fair to say that Arteta has not always had the backing of 100 per cent of the club's fanbase.

Despite leading Arsenal to FA Cup glory in his first half-season at the club (albeit no fans were at Wembley Stadium to witness it), Arteta was criticised in his first full campaign as the Gunners struggled to adapt fully to his approach.

Then there was his strained relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose form fell off a cliff after he was rewarded with a lucrative new contract in 2020, and a move for free agent Willian that Arteta pushed hard for, only for the playmaker – now back in the Premier League at Fulham – to struggle.

Aubameyang's last appearance for Arsenal came, coincidentally, in the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park last term, when the Gunners surrendered a lead and lost 2-1 to a late Demarai Gray thunderbolt.

There was yet more scrutiny directed at Arteta and sporting director Edu when, with Arsenal having failed to add to their ranks in January last year, the 2021-22 season culminated in them losing out on Champions League football to rivals Tottenham.

A 5-1 home win over, you guessed it, Everton, on the final day did ensure they ended a campaign on a high, but the business Arsenal did in pre-season has been transformative, and Arteta seems to have finally and firmly got his message across.

 

Arsenal head to Goodison Park with 50 points, 35 more than Everton, having lost just one league game all season. They have scored 45 goals, second only to Manchester City; Everton, on the other hand, collected the last of their three victories (the lowest total in the top flight) on October 22, and have netted just 15 times in 20 games.

While Arsenal are reaping the rewards for the patience shown in Arteta – and, it must be noted, large financial backing, too – Everton are paying the price for flitting between managers and chaos in the upper echelons at the club.

A club in chaos

Even with Arsenal flying high, Everton could have cause for optimism heading into this match. They have, after all, won three of their last four Premier League games against Arsenal, as many as they had in their previous 26 against them, and that includes two successive home defeats last season and in the 2020-21 campaign.

They last won three home league fixtures in a row against the Gunners between March 1977 and August 1978, but the chaos of the last month, which has somehow surpassed even the disarray of January 2022, when Rafael Benitez was allowed to sell Lucas Digne before being sacked himself and replaced two weeks later by Frank Lampard, has drained any air of optimism that might come with a new manager.

Lampard was sacked on January 23, less than a year into the job following a 2-0 defeat at West Ham two days prior. In a summary of the level of dysfunction at Everton, the club did not officially confirm Lampard's sacking until over five hours after it was briefed to media outlets.

On the same day, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher labelled the Toffees "the worst run club in the country" – it's hard to argue with that assessment.

While Lampard, with a meagre 23.7 per cent win ratio in the league, can have few complaints over his dismissal, that dysfunction was clear again in the managerial search that followed. Marcelo Bielsa was the owner's preferred candidate and even flew into London for talks, reportedly offering to take over the club's under-21s in view to taking charge of the first team at the end of the season.

 

Dyche, a polar opposite in terms of playing style, was appointed instead, though even that announcement dragged on into Monday.

The hope will be that Dyche can steady the ship, though he has already suffered a blow, with Everton – who are said to have targeted up to 14 players in a last-ditch scramble on deadline day following the £45million sale of Anthony Gordon to Newcastle United – the only Premier League club that failed to make a signing in January, when reinforcements were evidently required.

Arsenal, on the other hand, could not get their first-choice acquisitions (Mykhaylo Mudryk and Moises Caicedo) through the door, but boosted their ranks with Leandro Trossard, Jakub Kiwior and Jorginho.

Forks in the road

With Arteta's links to Everton, it's hard not to make direct comparisons, especially with the start of his Arsenal tenure coming right after that goalless draw back in 2019.

Arteta's first game in charge of Arsenal was a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth on Boxing Day, 2019. He has now overseen 115 top-flight matches as Gunners boss, winning 65, losing 32 and drawing 18.

That 56.5 per cent win ratio is far better than any of the three permanent Everton managers that have immediately proceeded Dyche.

Ancelotti won his first match, against Dyche's Burnley, on the same day as Arsenal drew with Bournemouth, and despite a flying start to his one full season in charge in 2020-21, even he could not guide Everton to European football.

He left for Real Madrid with a 43 per cent win record (25/58) in the league, having taken 1.5 points per game, not far off Arteta's 1.85, but far better than Benitez's 1.0 or Lampard's 0.9.

In the same timeframe, Dyche oversaw 88 Premier League matches at Burnley, winning 22 (25 per cent), drawing 27, losing 39 and averaging 1.1 points per game.

 

Dyche's overall win percentage across his 258 top-flight matches is 27.9, though his Clarets side did tail off in his final seasons, prior to his dismissal last April.

Only against City (11) has Dyche lost more Premier League games than he has to Arsenal (10), who would become the first team in English league history to register 100 wins against a specific opponent should they triumph.

Arteta has lost three of his five matches against his old club as a manager, so it's no sure-fire guarantee for Arsenal, but Dyche has an unenviable task on his hands... not just on Saturday, but in the coming months.

Newcastle United have joined the race for Jude Bellingham, with reports suggesting they are not dissuaded by Borussia Dortmund's potential £133million (€150m) asking price.

Bellingham, 19, has become one of the top prospects in world football since arriving in Germany, becoming a key player for Dortmund and impressing at the World Cup with England.

The Birmingham City youth product, who already has 22 senior caps to his name, has become more of a goal-scoring threat this season, with his 10 goals in all competitions already matching the combined total from his past two seasons. 

Bellingham netted in each of his first four Champions League fixtures this campaign, joining Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe as the only teenagers to ever score in four consecutive games in the competition.

The world's biggest clubs are set to fight it out for the young phenomenon's services, and Newcastle want in on the action.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENTER BELLINGHAM CHASE

According to Sport Bild, the main four contenders for Bellingham are Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid, but "Newcastle United are trying to get into the game".

The report says Bellingham has ruled out both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain but gives no indication that Bellingham would consider a move to St James' Park.

That could change if Newcastle – who have lost just once this Premier League season – qualify for the Champions League.

It also states Dortmund will demand "up to" £133m (€150m), but with so many wealthy, interested parties, it is hard to imagine the final figure falls below that without any unforeseen injury concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

– The New York Times is reporting Fiorentina were left frustrated by Chelsea owner Todd Boehly after he personally called them with a low-ball offer for 26-year-old Morocco midfielder Sofyan Amrabat on deadline day.

– Leeds United winger Jack Harrison, 26, is expected to sign a new contract with the club after his £20m transfer to Leicester City was called off at the 11th hour, per Sky Sports.

– According to Calciomercato, Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric has received interest from both MLS and Saudi Arabian clubs, but he has his heart set on a contract extension at the Santiago Bernabeu.

– The Telegraph is reporting Chelsea's academy players fear a mass exodus if the club misses out on Champions League qualification, as they will need to balance their books with some sales.

– According to The Independent, Everton do not feel 30-year-old free agent Isco has the physical profile to suit the Premier League and are no longer considering his signing.

Manchester City might be searching for a new left-back following Joao Cancelo's departure to Bayern Munich.

Cancelo, a star of City's last few seasons, joined Bayern on loan earlier this week having fallen out of favour with Pep Guardiola.

Bayern have the option to make that move permanent at the end of the season, meaning City could well be in the market for a replacement.

TOP STORY – Chilwell to join City from Chelsea?

The Times is reporting that City could target Ben Chilwell, the Chelsea full-back, to replace Cancelo.

England international Chilwell has had an injury-disrupted season and missed the World Cup due to a hamstring issue.

However, he would fit the mould when it comes to the attacking full-backs that Guardiola employs.

If City have a big windfall to play with from a potential Cancelo sale, could a fresh start in the north west be on the cards for Chilwell?

ROUND-UP

– The Mail and The Athletic are reporting that Everton are looking to make amends for their fruitless January transfer window by signing free agent Andre Ayew to address their striker concerns. Nottingham Forest are also said to be in talks with the attacker, who last played for Al Sadd in Qatar.

– According to The Times, Everton could also target former Real Madrid midfielder Isco after his move to Union Berlin fell through.

– Sky Germany reports Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino is close to signing an extension at Anfield, with his current deal expiring at the end of this campaign.

Paris Saint-Germain are said to be "furious" with Chelsea after Hakim Ziyech's loan move to the Parc des Princes fell through.

Barcelona coach Xavi insisted that they wish to build around Raphinha in the future, after the Brazil winger was linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

– Phil Hay of The Athletic detailed how Leeds United's Jack Harrison had a medical at Leicester City before a switch to the King Power Stadium broke down on deadline day.

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