Granit Xhaka today hailed Arsenal’s new mental strength as a “game-changer” after they beat Aston Villa 2-1 last night to maintain their perfect start to the season.
Arsenal have won all five of their opening Premier League games, a feat they have not achieved since the 2004-05 season, and they head to Old Trafford on Sunday to face Manchester United top of the table.
Mikel Arteta’s side dominated Villa, but they needed a late Gabriel Martinelli winner after Douglas Luiz scored straight from a corner to cancel out Gabriel Jesus’s first-half opener.
Luiz’s goal — seconds after coming on as a substitute — came in the 74th minute and threatened to undo all of Arsenal’s good work, but within three minutes the Gunners had restored their lead through Martinelli.
Reacting quickly to conceding has been a theme of Arsenal’s season so far. They have let in four goals in five games, but on average they have responded with a goal in under four minutes.
“I think it was the biggest goal for us, to change this mentality,” said Xhaka.
“I’ve been here seven years and I saw a lot of things, good and bad things, but we were always struggling a little bit in this way.
“You could play good football, everything looks good, but sometimes the 50-50 ball, the 50-50 games, you have to take it for you. I think today we won the 50-50 duels as well.
“Then you turn everything around and you start to believe with each other a little more. The fans start to believe in us as well and this is football.
“It’s not only with the ball, but without the ball as well. I think the game-changer at the moment is the mentality.”
Man Utd vs Arsenal on Sunday
Sunday’s opponents United are 12th in the League, but Xhaka is not underestimating them.
“I know they are maybe not looking at the moment so good, but it’s Manchester United. It’s always difficult,” he said.
“They are in the same position maybe that we were three years ago. They are building something as well. We have respect for them — but we go there to take the three points.”
Chelsea drops Fofana update after initial tests on knee injury
Wesley Fofana’s knee injury is better than initially feared after the first set of tests returned positive results.
The defender suffered a knee injury in a collision with Rafael Leao in the 38th minute of Chelsea’s 3-0 home win against AC Milan, as his night ended in frustrating fashion having scored his first goal for the club earlier in the match.
There is hope that Fofana could return before the World Cup, with Chelsea’s final match before the tournament taking place away to Newcastle on November 12.
The centre-back is likely to miss this weekend’s clash against Wolves and the away match at San Siro against Milan next week.
Fofana was seen leaving Stamford Bridge on crutches on Wednesday night, with his right knee in a brace as there were worries he may have suffered a serious injury.
Speaking in his post-match press conference after Chelsea’s victory over Milan, Blues boss Graham Potter admitted he was unsure how bad it would prove to be for Fofana.
‘We’ll have to scan it tomorrow and see how he is but there’s nothing to report at the moment,” Potter said.
“That’s the one disappointing thing about the evening so we have our fingers crossed. We’re concerned but I don’t want to speculate on it now.
“These things happen. He’s a young guy and a strong guy but we’ll support him.”
Erik ten Hag explains decision to substitute Jadon Sancho in Omonia victory
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has confessed that he was unimpressed with the left side of his team in the first half of Thursday’s 3-2 victory over Omonia Nicosia, leading to him substituting both Jadon Sancho and Tyrell Malacia at half-time.
United were woeful in the first half and trailed at the break after Sancho and Malacia conspired to give away the ball for the cheapest of counter-attack goals, and both were hooked at the interval.
Sancho was replaced by Marcus Rashford, who went on to bag a goal and an assist, while fellow substitute Anthony Martial also scored just moments after being introduced on the hour mark.
Asked to explain his logic behind removing Sancho while his team were losing, Ten Hag said: “It [the goal] was not what I wasn’t happy with, it was the movement with our ball.
“The width on the left side, for me, was no good first-half – the movement from behind the defending line.
“So I hoped with Luke [Shaw] and Marcus we get more effect from that and so in my opinion that happens.”
Asked what he told Rashford and the rest of the team at the break to inspire a comeback, Ten Hag told BT Sport: “More runs, we are too static, we have to make the opposition move to get behind – that is why we made two subs.
“The subs really had an impact today.”
The boss added: “I would call it stay composed. It can always happen, football is a game of mistakes. I agree with you, first 30 or 35 minutes, we played quite well, the only thing we didn’t do was score a goal.
“When you score a goal you make your life easy, we didn’t. Then we concede a goal and it was the worst 10 minutes from the game from us. After half-time, we dealt well with the setback.”
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