Cesar Azpilicueta sends ‘reality’ warning to Chelsea after Nottingham Forest draw
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has warned the Blues must accept the reality of their situation as they battle to stop the major slump that has plagued the early months of Graham Potter’s time in charge.
After an initially bright start, Potter’s Chelsea have fallen down to eighth in the table – behind local rivals Fulham – and have won just one of their last eight domestic games. That run could get worse before it gets better as Manchester City travel to Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
The latest poor performance from Chelsea was Sunday’s catastrophic 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest, in which the Blues were largely outplayed by the relegation candidates and fortunate to walk away with a point.
After the Forest game, Azpilicueta challenged Chelsea to wake up and understand the severity of the situation.
“We’re disappointed, of course,” he told Sky Sports. “That was not the way we wanted to start the new year and we’re disappointed to lose two points.
“Every game that you don’t win is another chance missed, but this is the reality and when you see the table, this is where we are. We need to have a very good second half of the season if we want to achieve a Champions League spot next season.”
Chelsea now sit seven points adrift of the top four, having played as many games as fourth-placed Manchester United and with a game in hand over fellow European hopefuls Fulham and Tottenham.
The immediate challenge for the Blues, however, is to ensure they remain in the top half of the table after this round of fixtures. With a clash with City on the cards, Chelsea could find themselves falling as low as 11th if results go against them.
Arsenal 4-1 Leeds: Player ratings as Gunners restore eight-point lead at Premier League summit
Arsenal restored their eight-point lead at the Premier League summit with an ultimately commanding 4-1 victory at home to Leeds United on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners will have watched Manchester City close the gap with a second-half dismantling of Liverpool earlier in the day – the match was shown on the Emirates’ big screens – and began their game in a fog of hesitancy. Although, their visitors warrant some credit for that.
Javi Gracia had lost all three of his previous meetings with Arsenal by an aggregate score of 0-6 but arrived in north London with a plan to frustrate. Jack Harrison on the left and Rasmus Kristensen, a right-back shunted into midfield, were tasked with plugging the gaps between Leeds’ full-backs and centre-backs, the half-spaces from which Arsenal have wreaked so much havoc this season.
With Arsenal’s regular avenues to goal protected by a military blockade of neon camouflage kits, the hosts had to rely upon a returning weapon of their own. On his first Premier League start since the World Cup, Gabriel Jesus roamed around in constant search of space. The Brazilian nodded a header over the bar after ten minutes before wriggling into the box with the ball at his blurring feet.
Chopping away from Kristensen, Jesus sent Luke Ayling to the turf but soon joined him on the grass when the Leeds skipper carelessly left his studs dangling. Jesus dusted himself off and cooly slotted the spot kick he had worked so hard to win down the middle of the goal, finding the net for the first time since the opening day of October.
Leeds had enjoyed the better of the opening half-hour but their stubborn resolve melted in the wake of Arsenal’s opener. Jesus soon launched a counter-attack which culminated with Gabriel Martinelli watching his 40-yard lob hurriedly scrambled off the line by Ayling. Within two minutes of the restart, Leeds’ beleaguered captain couldn’t stop Martinelli’s cross from bouncing along the box for Ben White to crash in at the back post.
The tight stitching in Leeds’ rearguard was well and truly frayed thereafter. Jesus, who had spotted whispers of room throughout, revelled in the newfound patches of green grass. Arsenal’s number nine picked out Leandro Trossard in the box, surging beyond a trailing pack of disheartened visiting players to receive a return pass and stuff it past Illan Meslier after 55 minutes.
Just as the final 15 minutes threatened to meander towards a tame conclusion, Kristensen exploited his advanced positioning with a thumped shot from the D. Aaron Ramsdale was unsighted by a wicked deflection from Oleksandr Zinchenko and gave up yet another clean sheet; Arsenal have conceded in seven of their last eight home games.
Granit Xhaka restored Arsenal’s three-goal advantage within ten minutes, bursting into a scantily-clad box and guiding Martin Odegaard’s feathered cross into the corner. A matter of hours after City underlined their title credentials against Liverpool, Arsenal responded with a 4-1 win of their own, the club’s seventh consecutive top-flight victory – the longest run of any team at any point of the season.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 4/10 – Alert right from the opening whistle, making a save inside the first ten seconds but very shaky with the ball at his feet.
RB: Ben White – 7/10 – No punches were pulled against his former club with a spiky, stud-filled showing.
CB: Rob Holding – 6/10 – Rarely ventured away from a safe pass but managed to clear most of the danger that fell his way.
CB: Gabriel – 7/10 – Commanding on and off the ball.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 5/10 – Struggled when lured into a one-on-one out wide but limited those scenarios as he spent much of his time in midfield.
CM: Martin Odegaard – 6/10 – Grew into the game as space opened up between the lines.
CM: Thomas Partey – 7/10 – Exerted a sense of reassuring serenity in possession.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 7/10 – Readjusted well when faced with the initial obdurate shape but continued to crash the box when space opened up.
RW: Leandro Trossard – 8/10 – Starting on his unfavoured right flank, Trossard was brilliantly disciplined when counter-pressing and set up Jesus’ second.
ST: Gabriel Jesus – 9/10 – Breezing around the final third, Jesus was back to his untameable best.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 8/10 – The Brazilian’s unwavering directness helped pierce Leeds’ stubborn resolve.
Bukayo Saka (60′ for Jesus) – 5/10
Jorginho (60′ for Partey) – 5/10
Emile Smith Rowe (85′ for Odegaard) – N/A
Fabio Vieira (86′ for Xhaka) – N/A
Kieran Tierney (86′ for Zinchenko) – N/a
Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Watched on as his players unpicked the problem in front of them with admirable cunning and creativity.
GK: Illan Meslier – 5/10 – Sharp off his line but not always so decisive.
RB: Luke Ayling – 2/10 – The former Arsenal academy graduate played as though he was still harbouring north London leanings.
CB: Robin Koch – 4/10 – Rash when robbed of the extra security provided by so many extra players flooding into Leeds’ backline.
CB: Pascal Struijk – 6/10 – Safe and sturdy on the left of Leeds’ rearguard.
LB: Junior Firpo – 5/10 – Curbed his natural attacking instincts as Leeds were reluctant to commit more than the front three forward.
CM: Rasmus Kristensen – 6/10 – Despite nominally starting further forward, Kristensen’s defensive discipline was integral to tracking Xhaka’s roaming.
CM: Marc Roca – 5/10 – Sweeping up at the base of midfield, Roca sometimes slipped in the backline himself as well.
CM: Jack Harrison – 6/10 – Dropping as deep – and sometimes deeper – than Leeds’ left-back Firpo.
RW: Luis Sinisterra – 5/10 – Skirting around the fringes of the contest.
ST: Brenden Aaronson – 4/10 – A striker in name only, the flitting attacking midfielder drifted in and mainly out of the contest.
LW: Crysencio Summerville – 7/10 – A wriggling menace as Leeds swept forward in transition.
Weston McKennie (66′ for Aaronson) – 5/10
Rodrigo (66′ for Sinisterra) – 5/10
Liam Cooper (74′ for Koch) – N/A
Georginio Rutter (74′ for Summerville) – N/A
Patrick Bamford (85′ for Harrison) – N/A
Javi Gracia – 5/10 – Deployed his side in a compact shape that also threatened in transition until the opening goal.
Player of the match – Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal)
LAFC sign midfielder Mateusz Bogusz from Leeds United
LAFC finally signed Polish youth international midfielder Mateusz Bogusz from English Premier League side Leeds United.
He joins on a three-year contract through the 2026 Major League Soccer season, with an additional option for 2027.
“Mateusz is a talented young player with great ability who will provide another quality piece to our club,” LAFC co-president & general manager John Thorrington said in a release. “He is a dynamic and exciting attacker who has the ability to help our group in our ambitions to win more trophies. I am excited to welcome Mateusz to Los Angeles.”
Bogusz arrives after spending much of his Leeds United tenure on loan in the Spanish second tier, accumulating seven goals and eight assists across 65 appearances for UD Ibiza and UD Logroñés.
Internationally, he’s become an integral part of Poland’s U-21 team.
He now joins the likes of Ilie Sanchez, Kellyn Acosta and Jose Cifuentes in LAFC’s midfield as the reigning MLS champions defend the title. Head coach Steve Cherundolo also brought in Timothy Tillman during the Primary Transfer Window, adding to the competition after hitting the ground running when arriving from 2. Bundesliga side Greuther Fürth.
Though the options are not limited for Cherundolo, Bogusz offers an offensive component on the wings that the team could certainly use. And depth will be much-needed as the Western Conference giants balance the regular MLS season, Concacaf Champions League and Leagues Cup before even thinking about the redesigned, extensive playoff format in the winter.
LAFC currently sit in third place of the Western Conference table with 10 points in four games, and a record of 3W-0L-1D.
Jurgen Klopp explains why Liverpool were ‘lucky’ in Man City defeat
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confessed that his side were fortunate not to be on the receiving end of a truly humiliating scoreline in Saturday’s defeat to Manchester City.
An early Mohamed Salah goal proved to be a false dawn for Liverpool, who watched on as Julian Alvarez, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish scored in a dominant response to seal a 4-1 victory.
After the game, Klopp admitted his side were expertly dismantled, conceding Liverpool ‘may not even have won against ten men’.
He told BT Sport: “I think we saw a first half which you would expect. A dominant City side with us well organised, having our moments. We caused problems and scored a wonderful goal and had another big counter-attacking moment.
“So, 1-1 at half-time, it’s clear, you can show the boys what we have to do and where we have to defend them. We concede the first goal, an open ball in midfield where we don’t even have a challenge, then we are too deep and the counter-attack happens.
“After that, 3-1, where we have a massive overload on one side. We should win the ball but don’t even have the challenge. These kinds of things cannot happen but they happened.
“After that, we were just open. Wow. They could whatever they wanted and we were lucky they weren’t in the most greedy mood. They scored a fourth one but then they were happy. Apart from that, there is nothing good to say about this game.
“It’s a game we have to use, unfortunately, to make clear which things cannot happen. We cannot no have challenges in key areas. We cannot be that kind of open. It’s not possible. But it happened. I have to explain it but I can’t. I can only describe it.”
The defeat – the first time Liverpool have lost three straight games in over two years – was their eighth away loss in the Premier League this season and their fifth at any venue in 2023, having lost just four across the entirety of 2022.
Klopp must now pick Liverpool up and prepare for a trip to Stamford Bridge to face fellow European outsiders Chelsea on Tuesday, seeking to avoid a fourth straight loss – something Liverpool have not experienced since November 2014.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!
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