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Player ratings as Gunners extend lead at top of Premier League

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Martin Odegaard’s brace was enough to get Arsenal over the line in a 2-0 victory away to Wolves on Saturday night, extending their gap as Premier League leaders to five points.

Arsenal could’ve done more to break beyond an incredibly defensive Wolves throughout a slow-paced first half that was one-way traffic for the most part, between the occasional counter attack, but had their stride disrupted by Granit Xhaka’s early substitution.

Mikel Arteta’s side had to be patient after the break, but crucially up the tempo, and they did, particularly after drawing ahead. Odegaard tapped in a square ball after 55 minutes, but Wolves continued to be defiant, prompting Arsenal to move through the gears.

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The Gunners had the ball in the back of the net just five minutes after the first whistle, but the score remained goalless with Gabriel Jesus’ effort being judged as offside. Two minutes later, Goncalo Guedes burst through down the other end and appeared to be barged over inside the box by William Saliba, who was saved by the offside flag.

As expected, Arsenal dominated possession from there on which Wolves were happy to allow, with their game plan clearly to release an unorthodox strike duo on the counter. It showed signs of working, too, with Guedes firing over from a seamless breakaway after 20 minutes.

Jesus came close again after 35 minutes, rattling the crossbar after picking the ball up from Bukayo Saka’s slick pass and cutting inside onto his right foot, but was again flagged offside anyway. Wolves had a golden opportunity of their own nine minutes later, though, when Guedes pounced on William Saliba’s blind pass, but saw his curled effort blocked for a corner.

Status quo was maintained after the break, except Wolves were beginning to find their way forward with more regularity. Their front two always looked a threat when set through on goal and had Arsenal’s number for pace, but lacked the numbers to truly punish the visitors.

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A clever, reversed pass from Jesus into the feet of Fabio Vieira after 53 minutes set the early substitute in behind Wolves’ defence for what felt like the first time. He took the ball to the byline before playing a sublime, dinked ball across the face of goal for Martin Odegaard to tap in for 1-0.

Traore showed his brutish strength as Wolves upped the ante with 20 minutes to go, desperately stretching for a searching cross but only colliding with Aaron Ramsdale in his venture.

With 15 minutes to go, Arsenal had wrestled back control. Dispossessing Wolves in their own half, they swarmed the box and found a second when Odegaard rifled in a rebound for 2-0.

Steve Davis’ side made a good account of themselves in a well-contested defeat ahead of Julen Lopetegui taking charge after the World Cup. They sit at the opposite end of the league table to Arsenal, though, and need to stop the rot swiftly to avoid getting left behind.

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Gabriel Martinelli, Nelson Semedo

Not Martinelli’s night / Harriet Lander/GettyImages

GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 6/10 – A very quiet night for Ramsdale. Called into action at the death to bat away an effort from Daniel Podence.

RB: Ben White – 6/10 – Defensively sound and did his best providing support for Saka, but just doesn’t offer the same quality as other full backs.

CB: William Saliba – 7/10 – Swept up with composure whenever Wolves looked to break very coolly – sometimes too coolly.

CB: Gabriel Magalhaes – 7/10 – Confident display from the Brazilian, who quietly strutted his stuff ahead of a month or so without any football.

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LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 5/10 – A timid performance; would’ve helped Arsenal if Zinchenko could’ve ventured forward more to create overloads.

CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Sat at the base of midfield to stifle counter attacks, but Wolves seemed to manage to find a way forward whenever they liked.

CM: Granit Xhaka – N/A – Forced off after 15 minutes with what looked to be illness. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, especially with the World Cup around the corner.

CM: Martin Odegaard – 8/10 – Showed a different side to his game. Less influential in possession, but positioned well to strike when the iron was hot. A good trait to have.

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RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – Sharp down the right flank and looked a threat whenever he was given the ball in an advanced position. His teammates should’ve released him more often.

ST: Gabriel Jesus – 6/10 – Missing his shooting boots, and you can tell. When he wasn’t offside, he was off balance. Brilliant reversed pass into Vieira to start off Arsenal’s move for the opener.

LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 5/10 – Needed to show more desire to run beyond the last line and try to beat his man. Too predictable and not enough quality.

SUB: Fabio Vieira (15′ for Xhaka) – 5/10 – Struggled tremendously to get into the game, but then provided a run in behind and an incredible moment of quality to assist the opener. Sums up his streaky start to life as a Gunner.

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SUB: Reiss Nelson (90′ for Saka) – N/A

SUB: Mohamed Elneny (90′ for Vieira) – N/A

SUB: Cedric (90′ for Zinchenko) – N/A

Manager: Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Showed extreme trust in his XI, only changing Xhaka out of necessity. And that patience paid dividends. The Gunners weren’t at their best, but they continued to grow and grinded out a deserved win.

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GK: Jose Sa (5); RWB: Nelson Semedo (7), CB: Max Kilman (5), CB: Nathan Collins (6), CB: Toti Gomes (6), LWB: Hugo Bueno (6); CM: Boubacar Traore (5), CM: Ruben Neves (7), CM: Joao Moutinho (5); ST: Adama Traore (6), ST: Goncalo Guedes (7)

SUBS: Daniel Podence (6), Dexter Lembikisa (4), Matheus Nunes (N/A)



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Katie Zelem discusses the ‘catch 22’ Man Utd face ahead of Old Trafford return

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Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has described the two-week break since a momentous WSL win over Arsenal as ‘catch 22’ for the squad because that time out of action before facing Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday has both positive and negative implications.

Having lost to Chelsea in early November, their first league defeat of the season, United responded by mounting a 3-2 comeback win at the Emirates Stadium when club football resumed after the recent international break.

Another two-week pause in the club schedule, during which time United have played a behind closed doors friendly, has offered both the chance for rest for starters and minutes for those less involved so far this season. But there is a risk that positive momentum fades.

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“It’s catch 22 in football. Everyone is dying for a break, but equally when you’ve got a good run of momentum, you want to keep it going,” Zelem said of the paradoxical situation.

“We’ve got to look at it as a positive. People were able to get minutes in a friendly match we played. We obviously had a hard week of training and it means we’ve been able to prep properly for the Villa game. Often, when there are really busy three game weeks, it reduces your prep time.

“As a team, we’re in a really good place going into the weekend and we all can’t wait.”

United manager Marc Skinner welcomed the opportunity for rest, insisting that it is the team that is responsible for nurturing momentum.

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“It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we’re competitive within the team because that’s the real driving factor for us,” Skinner explained.

“I’ve said this before, whether it’s a loss going into a break, or a win going into a break, it’s about us taking charge of momentum.”

As far as the game itself, United have won on both previous occasions they have played at Old Trafford – against West Ham in 2021 and Everton earlier in 2022 – and find familiarity that the pitch dimensions are actually the same as at usual home stadium Leigh Sports Village.

Even if the setting will obviously be different because of the much larger stands that surround the grass, it feeds into their preferred style of play and makes the transition smoother.

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“We pride ourselves on keeping the ball and building our attacks. For us, at Old Trafford that will be vitally important,” Zelem went on to say.

“We know that Villa will try and catch us on the break and they’ve got a lot of attacking threats. We need to look at it like we’re playing at Leigh…it’s obviously a lot harder when there are so many more people and huge stands around you. It’s just another game for us and that’s how we’re taking it.”

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!





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Club Leon appoint Nicolas Larcamon as new head coach

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Club Leon has appointed Nicolas Larcamon as the new head coach, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura. 

He replaces Renato Paiva, who announced his departure just days ago.

Larcamon now joins after serving as head of Puebla for two years, where he managed a record of 27W-21L-32D in 80 Liga MX games total. During the 2022 Liga MX Apertura, Larcamon inspired Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarter-finals before falling to Club America. 

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He announced his resignation from Puebla shortly after being eliminated from the Liguilla, claiming the team needed ‘renewed energy’.

“The truth is that the decision is mine, obviously that the perspectives of what is coming for the team at all levels are taken into account a little, which is going to be very challenging,” he said to TUDN.

”That is why I understood it very fair to give the place to someone with renewed energy, with maximum motivation, the institution deserves it. There were four tournaments of great intensity, demands, where we were always at our best, and the decision had more to do with these issues. There was a lot of speculation, it coincided with Piojo in Tigres, but it has nothing to do with it. it was a decision made days before and we were only in negotiations.”

He will now take on new challenges with Club Leon. 

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The team concluded the 2022 Apertura in 10th place, qualifying to the Liguilla playoff match before losing 1-0 to Cruz Azul. 

Leon kicks off the 2023 Clausura on January 6, against Mazatlan.

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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