Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said he is pleased his side have evolved from last season despite criticism that the Gunners lack the same spark. Arteta’s men sit top of the Premier League and are into the last 16 of the Champions League after thrashing Lens 6-0 on Wednesday.
But that display of attacking prowess has been a rarity this season as Arsenal have relied on their defensive solidity to move to the top of the table. Four of their nine Premier League wins have been by a 1-0 scoreline, including last weekend’s at Brentford.
By contrast, an unexpected title challenge by Arteta’s men last season was built around the explosive form of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard. But Arsenal eventually fell short of a first league crown in 19 years as Manchester City stormed clear in the final weeks of the season. “This team is going to be different to last season and hopefully very different to next season,” said Arteta yesterday. “That’s part of the evolution. Leaving some of the things in the past to the new things. That has a transition. We want to still be competitive and win matches and I think the team is competing really well.”
Wolves travel to the Emirates today hoping their luck will turn after a series of controversial refereeing calls have gone against them this season. Arteta also fumed after Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat Newcastle last month, branding the decision to award Anthony Gordon’s winning goal as “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.
But he disagreed with Wolves boss Gary O’Neil, who said he has now given up on VAR and would like it removed from the game. “I think we can improve it and we are trying to do that,” Arteta added. “Technology is taking a huge responsibility in games and it needs time. If we use it the right way - we are listening to people, we are open, we are humble and we are trying to be constructive - I think we will get to a really, really good place.”
Ten Hag urges United to ‘rise to the occasion’ against Newcastle
Manchester United must eliminate individual errors and play at their highest level when they travel to face top-four rivals Newcastle United in a Premier League clash today, manager Erik ten Hag said. United, who are sixth in the league standings with 24 points – one ahead of seventh-placed Newcastle, were held to a 3-3 draw in the Champions League by Galatasaray on Wednesday, in which goalkeeper Andre Onana made two costly errors.
Ten Hag said his side had played well against Galatasaray, but admitted that they still needed to raise their level, telling reporters: “We have to do some things better. Eliminate individual errors, defensive transition, but we can sort this out and I would be more concerned if we didn’t play well. I really respect (Newcastle). It’s a difficult team to play but it’s a good challenge and I like to play against them. We have to rise to the occasion and be at our best against them because the way they play is very organised.”
Ten Hag’s counterpart Eddie Howe said he was relishing the prospect of facing United at St James’ Park, telling a press conference: “I think they are very good games. We respect their team and their manager. They are an outstanding team and I think these games against the bigger clubs are always very difficult and always decided by fine margins. In big moments you are looking for big players to step up and potentially win you the game. I think that is the situation we are in, but we know we are going to have to be at our very best to win.”
Howe also provided an injury update on Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock, saying both players would not feature against United.
Meanwhile, Early pacesetters Tottenham desperately need to arrest their slide after three straight defeats but champions Manchester City are their next port of call. Ange Postecoglou’s team, unbeaten in their first 10 games, have developed the costly habit of letting leads slip - losing to Chelsea, Wolves and Aston Villa despite scoring first each time.
Postecoglou is grappling with a lengthy list of absentees and suffered another blow with the loss of midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, expected to be out until February after suffering a serious ankle injury against Villa. City last week showed a chink in their armour, failing to win at home in any competition for the first time this year when they were held 1-1 by Liverpool.
But Erling Haaland notched his 50th Premier League goal in just his 48th game at the Etihad – obliterating Andy Cole’s record – and this week became the quickest player to 40 Champions League goals with his strike against RB Leipzig.
FixturesToday (1500 GMT unless stated): Arsenal v Wolves, Brentford v Luton, Burnley v Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest v Everton (1730), Newcastle v Manchester United (2000)
Tomorrow: (1400 unless stated): Bournemouth v Aston Villa, Chelsea v Brighton, Liverpool v Fulham, West Ham v Crystal Palace, Manchester City v Tottenham (1630)
Arsenal players train in London yesterday, on the eve of their Premier League match against Wolves.