The two remaining Premier League matches from Sunday are the focus of our latest Scout Notes write-up.
Arsenal v Liverpool and Manchester United v West Ham United are the games in question.
Mikel Arteta is hopeful Bukayo Saka’s (£9.0m) injury is only minor, having been forced off in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday.
The England international opened the scoring at the Emirates, his third goal in four matches, but left the pitch on 79 minutes after receiving treatment on his right leg.
He was clearly in some pain and hobbled off, but Arteta was quick to downplay the issue in his post-match presser.
“He should be fine, I think. He got a kick, I think, on the ankle or the back of his foot, but he should be fine.” – Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka
There are other injury problems for Arsenal to contend with, however.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.2m) reaggravated a calf problem and was hooked at half-time, while Gabriel Jesus (£8.0m) was absent from the matchday squad after picking up a knock in training.
“Unfortunately, he [Jesus] had a setback in training and was not fit to play. It is something related to that [previous knee injury]. Hopefully a short-term [injury], but the game will be too fast for him.
“With Gabby [Jesus] we expect it to be something about days, and with Alex [Zinchenko] we don’t know because he had some feeling in his calf again and we had to take him off.” – Mikel Arteta on Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko
MARTINELLI A THREAT
Gabriel Martinelli (£7.7m) looked electric at times on Sunday, with his pace and dribbling a constant threat for Liverpool.
Given space to play, he pounced on a rare Alisson Becker (£5.7m) error to put Arsenal 2-1 up, his third goal in four matches. Yes, he was fortunate to score, but it was the reward he deserved for an excellent display.
With honourable mentions to Saka, creator-in-chief Martin Odegaard (£8.5m) and Kai Havertz (£7.1m), who performed very well in a number nine role, the Gunners’ frontline is starting to click.
Indeed, they racked up six big chances and 3.5 expected goals (xG) here, a huge achievement given the opposition.
“I think he looks again really confident, really sharp, he was a real threat today not only for the goal that he scored and how intuitive and cheeky and streetwise he was to do what he did, but as well Leo [Trossard]. I think Kai [Havertz] was unbelievable playing as a nine, it was a game that I thought he was going to fit in the same way Jorgi [Jorginho], you need big performances to beat these kind of teams, I think all of them were at their best today.” – Mikel Arteta on Gabriel Martinelli
NO ASSIST FOR GABRIEL
Gabriel Magalhaes (£5.0m) scored an unfortunate own goal in the first half on Sunday and later got a yellow card to go with it, in a day to forget for the Arsenal centre-back.
The Brazilian was then denied an assist for Martinelli’s goal for two reasons.
Firstly, the last touch came off Alisson. Had he not touched it Gabriel would have been awarded a full Opta assist.
Secondly, it was deemed by Opta that Alisson made an unforced error. This is consistent with previous decisions, such as Alexander Isak’s (£7.6m) goal against West Ham United last season, when Lukasz Fabianski’s (£4.2m) error gave rise to the goalscoring opportunity.
WHY TAA WAS SUBBED
In his first start since Gameweek 20, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.5m) had a difficult afternoon, with Martinelli causing him all sorts of problems.
Largely staying out wide rather than inverting, the balance never looked right and he was substituted in the 57th minute, a concern for his owners ahead of Double Gameweek 25.
Explaining his decision, Jurgen Klopp said:
“We didn’t play enough football, we needed to get used a little bit to each other, like the right-side triangle – [it was] tricky to find, let me say it like that. From the start, always when Macca [Mac Allister] and Curtis [Jones] were on the ball and could turn and could get out of this man-marking situation the pitch was really open for us. There we could have found Trent [Alexander-Arnold] one or two times more often, I would say: that could have caused them even more problems. We made changes as well around that time. Trent, [it] was never planned that he plays 90, it was clear we had to take him off a bit early and stuff like this.” – Jurgen Klopp
“We had a completely new right-sided ‘triangle’. We needed to get used to that. It was tricky to find. They were not involved in the game enough and we didn’t use Trent [Alexander-Arnold] in the way we wanted him to be used. We wanted Trent more on the wing with better protection with Joey [Gomez] in the centre. It could have worked better but it didn’t. Would I have done it again like that? Yep.” – Jurgen Klopp
The right-sided triangle referenced by Klopp was disrupted by the loss of Dominik Szoboszlai (£7.1m), who will be assessed after he was ruled out of Gameweek 23.
Conor Bradley (£4.1m) was left out of the Liverpool squad after his Dad tragically died on Saturday.
Despite having 57% possession, Liverpool mustered just one shot on target and 0.37 xG, in an uncharacteristically subdued display.
Klopp started with Cody Gakpo (£7.2m) on the right, Luis Diaz (£7.4m) left and Diogo Jota (£8.0m) through the middle, leaving Darwin Nunez (£7.4m) on the bench.
However, they were all on the periphery, combining for just five shots.
Discussing his decision to bench Darwin, Klopp said:
“Nothing to do with intensity in the games we have. It is how we start and how we use the full power of the boys. Darwin from the bench is a good thing to have as well. It is just for this game and how we thought it made sense. But we really think when he comes on he can change the game and have a real impact.” – Jurgen Klopp on Darwin Nunez
In the other match, Manchester United beat West Ham United 3-0 at Old Trafford.
Rasmus Hojlund (£6.9m) opened the scoring midway through the first half, extending his run to four goals and two assists in his last four outings, before Alejandro Garnacho‘s (£4.8m) brace.
Benched by 36% of his owners, Garnacho was superb playing off the right and with attacking returns in three of his last five appearances, is making a mockery of his £4.8m price tag.
“Very [happy], there are times he has to get used to this position because he prefers it a little bit more on the left. Now he is on the right, he has freedom and fluidity in the game where he can find the spaces. We know he is good in his attacking and dribbling and creating. He can be direct but he can also secure the ball, so I am impressed in the performance and I am impressed that, even during the third game in seven days, he is performing. This what it means to be a Manchester United player.” – Erik ten Hag on Alejandro Garnacho
“I am always trying to help the team by either scoring or assisting. I don’t care if Rasmus [Hojlund] or [Marcus] Rashford score, we have to win and we have to be in the top six again. Hopefully, you know, [I could get] 10, 12 goals? With Rashy on the left and Bruno [Fernandes] in behind, we think we have a good team in the front.” – Alejandro Garnacho
However, United were left to rue an injury suffered by centre-back Lisandro Martinez (£4.5m), who was forced off after 71 minutes.
Erik ten Hag admitted after full-time things do not look good for the Argentine international, who is not long back after a foot problem.
AREOLA OFF AT HT
Alphonse Areola (£4.2m) was forced off at half-time on Sunday, having failed to recover from the knock he took when a team-mate crashed into him during the first half.
It was a heavy hit for the Frenchman, who was replaced by Fabianski after the interval.
However, David Moyes played down the issue in his post-match press conference, telling reporters it was a precautionary substitution.
“We took a precaution with Alphonse Areola [when we subbed him off at half-time]. We just thought that we didn’t need to take the risk, we didn’t need to take any chance. Hopefully he’ll be okay.” – David Moyes on Alphonse Areola
Further forward, Ben Johnson (£4.4m) played on the right wing with Mohammed Kudus (£6.8m) on the left, but whatever David Moyes is trying isn’t working, which is impacting the form of Jarrod Bowen (£8.0m).
The 24% owned midfielder has blanked in each of his last four matches and looks to be the player missing Lucas Paqueta (£6.0m) most.
In better news, the Brazilian could make a return to action within a fortnight.
“Right from the start, I was wondering if we were going to get anything on target. Let’s be fair, it’s not just today, it’s been in recent games as well. We’ve not scored as many goals recently. We only got one against Bristol City, two against Sheffield United and one against Bournemouth, but today I felt we made better opportunities. I thought we played better today, and we got some chances, but we just weren’t clinical when we got the moments.
“We haven’t got into our rhythm, mainly because of some of our boys being away at the Africa Cup of Nations and because of two or three injuries. If we look at our form up until around the first of January, we’ve been very good. But we’ve got knocked off by those things and we just can’t get the balance to our team right on the left-hand side.” – David Moyes