Little margins key if we want to win Champions League, says Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Press Association Sport 17:54 21/10/2019
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Pep Guardiola has called on his Manchester City players to show they have the mentality to win the Champions League.

The City boss said after the Premier League winners’ victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday his side were not yet ready to win Europe’s elite competition.

City are again rated among the favourites but in the past three years they have stumbled in the knockout stages and Guardiola feels there are mental hurdles that must be overcome.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Group C clash with Atalanta, Guardiola said: “I think the way we are really strong as a team has been built up from four seasons ago.

“But it’s more for the fact that two times in the Champions League we went out on away goals and in both games we conceded a lot of goals.

“In this competition you play against incredible players and, if you give some teams one moment, a metre, they will score. We have to know that.

“These little margins are sometimes the difference and we’re working on that. I believe that kind of situation is about the mentality.

“We’re good enough and we’re strong enough. When you play good, you defend less. When you don’t play good, you concede a lot.”

City beat Palace 2-0, bouncing back from their loss to Wolves prior to the international break, but Guardiola felt they should have won more convincingly.

The City boss does not believe his team are clinical enough, even though they are the top scorers in the Premier League by some distance. He also, although perhaps inadvertently, chose a strange example to illustrate his point – last month’s 8-0 win over Watford.

He said: “The Champions League will be won in the box and so far we haven’t been very strong in the box.

“We have made a number of mistakes that we shouldn’t make at this level. For example in the match against Watford we created a lot of opportunities but scored very little.

“But of course we have time. Tomorrow we have this chance to improve. We need six more points to qualify and tomorrow we can make an incredible step forward.

“We will see how we are in February in the latter stages if we are to go through.”

City are looking for a third win from three games in their group after victories over Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.

Atalanta are still to register a point but, as they sit third in Serie A and finished in that position last season, Guardiola expects a difficult contest against Gian Piero Gasperini’s team.

Guardiola, who used to play for Atalanta’s arch-rivals Brescia, said: “Having seen what Atalanta did last year and what they are doing this year, it is incredible. It is a great joy to watch his (Gasperini’s) team play.

“They are brave, they respect their supporters and they love the way they play. The way they play is quite unusual, they take a few risks.”

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Marcus Rashford disappointed not to beat Liverpool but hopes Man United can build on draw

Press Association Sport 17:30 21/10/2019
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Marcus Rashford is determined to kick on after Manchester United’s improved display so nearly brought a surprise victory against Liverpool.

The international break was an uncomfortable period for all connected to the Old Trafford giants, with the loss at struggling Newcastle leading focus to increase on players, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the entire background structure.

Yet United rallied impressively and came out fighting against reigning European champions Liverpool, with Rashford putting the hosts ahead on an afternoon when they would fall just short.

Substitute Adam Lallana secured a late 1-1 draw for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who had won their previous 17 league matches but, in Rashford’s opinion, should have tasted defeat on Sunday.

“My overall feeling is disappointment,” Rashford said.

“I think we deserved the three points and we can say it was a better performance, but at the end of the day they didn’t deserve to draw or win t
he game.

“So, I see it as we’ve lost two points and it was a big opportunity, a big game, but we keep going.

“We’ll try and get a win midweek and hopefully we can kick on.”

United head to Serbia to take on Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday, when Rashford wants to see more of a swagger and cutting edge.

“The second goal would have made the game a lot more simple for us,” the England international said.

“It didn’t come. I’d say 20 minutes before they scored the goal you can see we stopped playing passes in behind, and I always say when we stop doing that it puts more pressure on us as a team.”

Rashford added: “This club, we play attacking football and as soon as we take our foot off the gas a little bit it’s difficult to defend against top players for large spells like we had to towards the end of the game.

“So, I think we’ve just got to be more positive – at 1-0 or 2-0 up, we need to be more positive.”

The return of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard will surely help that positive mindset, although Daniel James worked well with Rashford on Sunday and linked up together for the opener.

“We had a bit of eye contact before,” Rashford told MUTV.

“These are the fine margins we’re working with, so probably without looking at each other and getting that little connection we wouldn’t have got the goal.

“Instead, you’d miss which has happened a lot in the past. So yeah, it was a good goal, but we definitely want more.”

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See who joins Sol Campbell and Thierry Henry in XI of Arsenal signings by Arsene Wenger

Press Association Sport 13:08 21/10/2019
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Arsene Wenger signed well over 100 hundred players during his 22-years as manager of Arsenal.

The Frenchman celebrates his 70th birthday on October 22 and here, the PA news agency picks its best XI of players brought to Arsenal by Wenger.

Jens Lehmann

Going unbeaten in the league in his first season, 2003/04, was a fine start to Lehmann’s Arsenal career.

He would go on to win the 2005 FA Cup but was sent off in the 2006 Champions League final as Arsenal lost to Barcelona – the closest Wenger has come to winning the European Cup.

Lauren

Signed from Mallorca in 2000 for a fee in excess of £7 million, the Cameroon international soon established himself as Wenger’s premier right-back.

He was one of the first names on the team-sheet for the 2001/02 double season and played a big part in Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ campaign.

He left the club in 2007 after making almost 250 appearances in his seven-year spell in north London.

Sol Campbell

The signing of Campbell on a free transfer from Tottenham remains one of the most controversial moves in the history of the Premier League.

The England international surprised the footballing fraternity with the move but his decision, and that of Wenger to poach a player from Arsenal’s fierce local rivals, would be vindicated as he was a pivotal part of the Invincibles’ unbeaten defence.

Laurent Koscielny

The Frenchman joined as a virtually unknown player in 2010 but he would soon establish himself as an important member of Wenger’s defence.

He scored the equaliser as Arsenal came from 2-0 down to beat Hull in the 2014 FA Cup final to end a run of 10 years without a trophy and was labelled as one of the world’s best defenders by Wenger as he developed at Emirates Stadium. He departed for Bordeaux in the summer having refused to travel on the club’s pre-season tour.

Ashley Cole

Not strictly a Wenger signing but Cole deserves his place in this side having been given his chance to shine by the Frenchman.

He came through the ranks and was given his first-team debut at the age of 18, going on to become one of the best left-backs in the world.

Two Premier League titles, including the unbeaten season of 2003/04, and three FA Cups would be his reward before an acrimonious move to rivals Chelsea would tarnish his Arsenal legacy.

Cesc Fabregas

Signed as a 16-year-old from Barcelona’s fabled academy in 2003, Fabregas was soon playing first-team football with Arsenal and remains their youngest-ever player and youngest-ever goalscorer.

He became one of the main focal points of Wenger’s team and remains one of his biggest success stories but could never manage to help the club win the Premier League for a fourth time before his return to Camp Nou in 2011 – Fabregas would eventually get his hands on a Premier League winners’ medal after joining Chelsea in 2014.

Patrick Vieira

Vieira technically joined the club in the closing days of Bruce Rioch’s time in charge and before Wenger took the reins at Highbury.

But Vieira admitted it was Wenger’s impending arrival which saw him join a club he would go on to captain.

Another member of the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ campaign, his tough-tackling, full-blooded approach won many admirers and earned more than the odd red card.

Freddie Ljungberg

Marking his debut with a goal against bitter rivals Manchester United endeared the Sweden international to the Arsenal fans instantly – and Ljungberg would go on to become a vital ingredient in Wenger’s side.

Signed after plenty of scouting, Ljungberg made his mark, scoring 71 goals in his 313 Arsenal appearances, earning him the 11th spot in arsenal.com’s ‘Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players’ list as he collected two Premier League titles and a hat-trick of FA Cups. He now works as assistant to current Arsenal head coach Unai Emery.

Alexis Sanchez

The Chile forward just pips Arsenal’s club-record signing Mesut Ozil to a spot in the front three of Wenger’s greatest signings. Brought in from Barcelona in 2014 his mixture of tenacity, skill and goalscoring ability saw him become a very popular figure among the home fans at the Emirates Stadium.

He scored 25 goals in his debut season including one in the 4-0 FA Cup final win over Aston Villa as Arsenal claimed a record 12th victory in the competition but left for Manchester United under a cloud in January 2018 where his form dipped alarmingly ahead of a loan move to Inter Milan last summer.

Thierry Henry

The most obvious inclusion up front is Henry – the France forward who is Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer having notched 228 goals across two spells with the club.

After an underwhelming stint at Juventus, Henry joined compatriot Wenger and was converted into an out-and-out striker and would never look back.

Henry was the Premier League’s top goalscorer in four different seasons, winning seven honours with the Gunners.

Robert Pires

Having played his part in France’s World Cup and European Championship successes of 1998 and 2000, Pires arrived at Arsenal with a winner’s pedigree.

And, despite an indifferent start, he would maintain that during a six-year spell at the club which saw him score 84 goals, some of them very memorable, as he played his part in one of the most successful periods in Arsenal’s history.

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