Player ratings as Gunners go seven points clear
From the AMEX – Arsenal staved off a second-half comeback from Brighton to edge a New Year’s Eve classic and go seven points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
Bukayo Saka pounced barely a minute into proceedings by lifting into the top corner from close range before Martin Odegaard sent the Gunners into the break with a two-goal advantage, converting from a Saka corner.
Eddie Ntekiah had the visitors 3-0 up with a tap in during the 47th minute before Kaoru Mitoma offered Brighton a route back into the game with a calm finish. Gabriel Martinelli shot through Robert Sanchez to go 4-1 up, though substitute Evan Ferguson shrugged off some loose defending to grab another consolation.
Draws for both Manchester City and Newcastle earlier on Saturday gave Arsenal the opportunity to go seven points clear in first and they were straight out of the traps to open the scoring.
Odegaard drove forward unopposed before Tariq Lamptey was caught in possession, resulting in a Martinelli shot which took two deflections to fall at Saka’s feet. The England star made no mistake with his finish inside the six yard box within two minutes.
The visitors’ fast start caught Roberto De Zerbi’s side cold and they nearly doubled their lead with more good work on the left, though this time Sanchez was alive to keep out Zinchenko’s first-time shot.
Brighton did begin to work their way back into the contest, Aaron Ramsdale tipping a scuffed Leandro Trossard shot wide before he again denied the Belgian by palming a drilled effort over the top.
The home side’s continued probing didn’t alter the scoreline and instead it was Arsenal who struck next to extend their advantage. A Saka corner found Odegaard, who fired a half-volley through the swarm of players and past Sanchez to rampant cheers from the away end.
While the Seagulls had looked sharp in their recent 3-1 victory at Southampton, their attackers were blunt on Saturday night with no real goalscoring chance presenting itself before the break.
There was no increase in intensity from Brighton at the start of the second half, allowing Arsenal to walk through for their third. The ball broke for Martinelli on the left and his low drive was only half-stopped by Sanchez, allowing Nketiah to knock it in on the rebound.
Gabriel soon met a corner but saw his volley bounce back off the chest of Sanchez before William Saliba’s follow up went crashing wide, but Arsenal’s intensity dropped to allow Brighton a route back into the game. Pascal Gross played in Mitoma, who stayed onside to curl his shot beyond Ramsdale and into the bottom corner.
Brighton pressed and a loose ball across the Arsenal box just evaded a home player, instead ending up with Odegaard. A wonderful first-time pass unleashed Martinelli, who raced in on goal and tucked in Arsenal’s fourth.
Arteta’s side weren’t completely nerveless, however, and some wobbly defending from Saliba allowed 18-year-old Evan Ferguson to barge through and net his first ever Premier League goal.
Mitoma had another goal disallowed late on and Arsenal saw out the remaining minutes to further strengthen their place in the title race, while Brighton are down in eighth.
GK: Robert Sanchez – 4/10 – Good stop from Zinchenko to stop Arsenal going 2-0 ahead. Would have done better with the goals on another day.
RB: Tariq Lamptey – 5/10 – Caught out early on and Arsenal exploited his absence to open the scoring. Moments of promise but struggled for the main part.
CB: Lewis Dunk – 4/10 – Saw plenty of the ball but was often moving backwards and struggled whenever Arsenal roared forward.
CB: Levi Colwill – 4/10 – Another start for the loanee. Was hesitant when faced by Arsenal’s attackers early on.
LB: Pervis Estupinan – 6/10 – Provided a good outlet on the left and often got past White to cross into the middle.
CM: Billy Gilmour – 5/10 – Big shoes to fill in Caicedo’s absence. Booked for sliding in on Gabriel on the touchline. Decent run led to Mitoma’s strike but looked a little off the required level.
CM: Pascal Gross – 5/10 – Missed a more dynamic presence alongside him to deal with Arsenal’s energetic midfielders. Nice assist for Mitoma
RM: Solly March – 5/10 – Not given as much space to cut in as he was against Southampton.
AM: Adam Lallana – 4/10 – On the fringes for the first half being before hauled off early in the second.
LM: Kaoru Mitoma – 8/10 – Showed excellent pace and direct running when played into space. Got the Seagulls back in contention with a well taken finish. Second goal set up a grandstand finish to no avail.
ST: Leandro Trossard – 5/10 – Couple of half opportunities from range were comfortably dealt with.
Evan Ferguson (60′ for Trossard) – 7/10 – Made a big difference as Brighton threw more balls into the box, Used his strength to muscle Saliba out of the way and score.
Jeremy Sarmiento (60′ for Lallana) – 6/10 – Provided a bit more bite as Brighton chased a result.
Julio Enciso (76′ for March) – 6/10 – Added some late flair to Brighton’s attack.
Roberto De Zerbi – 4/10 – Missed the energy of a few notable midfield absentees, as well as the pressing and physique of Danny Welbeck up front. Horrible start to the second half ended Brighton’s hopes here.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 5/10 – Big and strong when needed during the first but had a few dodgy incident in the second.
RB: Ben White – 7/10 – Smooth operator at right back. Nice in build-up play but also given some grief by Mitoma in defence.
CB: William Saliba – 4/10 – Not at his rock-solid best. Shrugged off by Ferguson a little too easily down the middle.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Booked for time-wasting. A little more convincing than Saliba.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 7/10 – Got tight with March and won the majority of their battles out wide.
CM: Thomas Partey – 7/10 – Late challenge on Lallana got Partey booked. Recovered the ball well.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 7/10 – Patrolled midfield well without making too many decisive bursts forward.
RM: Bukayo Saka – 8/10 – In space at the back post to convert past Sanchez. Quieter for the rest of the game but set the tone.
AM: Martin Odegaard – 9/10 – Bursting run opened the doors for Arsenal to take the lead. His strike put Arsenal almost out of sight before half time. Made his side’s attack sing with his brilliant orchestration.
LM: Gabriel Martinelli – 8/10 – Played his role in the first goal but might have wanted a bit more success out of his duel with Lamptey. Shot through Sanchez for his side’s fourth.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 7/10 – Slipped into good spaces to receive possession and was on hand to steer in Arsenal’s third from close range.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (60′ for White) – 5/10 – Given some grief by compatriot Mitoma in the last half hour.
Kieran Tierney (60′ for Zinchenko) – 6/10 – Followed Zinchenko’s lead.
Mohamed Elneny (74′ for Partey) – 5/10 – Arsenal lost some control following Elneny’s introduction.
Rob Holding (87′ for Odegaard) – N/A
Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Early goal settled any nerves from the visitors before Odegaard’s second. Should have saw out the second half a little easier but did what was required.
Player of the match – Martin Odegaard
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
Reece James withdraws from England squad due to ‘ongoing issue’
Reece James has left the England camp and returned to Chelsea due to an ‘ongoing issue’.
The right-back was expected to start Sunday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley after Kyle Walker played all 90 minutes of Thursday’s 2-1 win away at Italy. But James has failed to prove his fitness and will reconvene with Chelsea at their Cobham training base.
A statement from England read: “Reece James has withdrawn from the England squad and will not feature against Ukraine on Sunday.
“The full-back has returned to Chelsea for assessment on an ongoing issue.
“No replacements are planned as Gareth Southgate’s squad, including the suspended Luke Shaw, continue their preparations at Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground.”
Though James’ fitness record is patchy and he was suffering with a hamstring injury earlier this month, he joined up with the England squad this week having played 90 minutes in two of Chelsea’s final three games before the international break and was expected to be fit and healthy.
He came on as an 85th-minute substitute on Thursday for Bukayo Saka as 10-man England sought to hold onto their lead.
James missed England’s 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign after sustaining a knee injury in the autumn.
Chelsea will be hoping that James’ problem isn’t serious ahead of a busy month that sees them face the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
James has already missed 17 games for Chelsea this season – 15 for his knee problem, one for a hamstring issue and one because of illness.
Prior to this season, James has been reported as to having nine other injuries during his time in the Chelsea senior setup, missing a total of 51 matches for the Blues.
On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reviews Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Everton & Graham Potter’s performance. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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