The potential of Mikel Arteta and his players for Arsenal is rising | Soccer

MALICE AT THE PALACE?

Deadlocked with cuddly north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 54 points, but two games less, Arsenal appear to be in the box to take fourth place and the place in the Big Cup that comes with it the next season. Look, except with the caveat that they are Arsenal… albeit a version that has come a long way from the side that lost to Brentford on the opening night of the season. They continued to cause plenty of laughs among the pundits with defeats in their next two games, leaving them with a UK-at-Eurovision-esque “zero point” ahead of the first international break of the season.

Well, who’s laughing now, might ask the Fiver. And while the answer, as usual, will almost certainly be “not Fiver readers!”, we could also include Mikel Arteta, whose stubborn insistence that we should all “trust the process” proved correct. And where once this process might have seemed like a nondescript mite, it turns out it involved nothing more complicated than getting a few well-trained old pros and lots of exciting young tyros to have fun in a way specific. And last Thursday, after his players returned from international duty, Arteta underlined the importance of getting their heads back in Arsenal’s particular game.

“I’ll have them all here today, just try to refocus them – obviously when they’re on international duty all the time they’re asked to do different things, different roles, different pressures,” Arteta said. “For some of them it was their first international, so emotionally for them too it’s very exhausting. And make sure everyone is okay and looking forward to the challenge ahead of us.

With 10 challenges ahead for Arsenal before the end of the season, the first will be negotiated tonight at Selhurst Park, where Arteta and his players’ potential for Arsenal looks very possible. With their own occasionally sullen former Gunners midfielder and no shortage of talented young whippersnappers in their ranks, Crystal Palace look like something of a Gooners-Lite. Sitting comfortably in the middle of the table, they could actually be much higher were it not for their pre-Christmas predilection for not getting the results their often excellent performances deserved.

Indeed, one such game at the Emirates, where it took a late strike from Alexandre Lacazette to break the Gooners out of jail, left their visitors visibly deflated. “I was really disappointed to concede at the end because the players worked really hard and they deserved those three points,” Vieira said at the time. “I feel sorry for them today. In the second half, we had the urge to compete and we got the ball quite high. That’s the part of the game we wanted to improve, to be aggressive. That makes part of Crystal Palace’s DNA.

And while disliking them was once part of Arsenal’s DNA, even during the Vieira years the current generation of players don’t seem to mind a tackle. While the outcome of tonight’s game looks hard to call, your neutral Fiver is looking forward to a spicy and fiery affair.

LIVE ON A GREAT WEBSITE

Fancy some searing Premier League action on Monday night? Join Scott Murray for Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal from 8pm (BST).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“For me personally, it was as big an achievement as winning the league. People might think, ‘What are you talking about?’ But coming back from where I was, to a dark place, makes it special”- Phil Jones speaks to Donald McRae about playing for Manchester United again and dealing with injuries and online abuse.

Your man. Photography: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Weekly has arrived! Join Max, Barry, Jonathan Wilson and Robyn Cowen as they talk Brentford, Super Spurs and the Human Rights World Cup draw.

MOVE GOALS

The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You don’t need to be told it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up here.

FIVE LETTERS

“May I be the first to ask you to have no more prices for the letter of the day? I’m much better at winning them” – Richard O’Hagan.

“When a game comes to 90 minutes and there are five extra minutes, we all say the game was 95 minutes long. But what happens to the extra minutes played at the end of the first half? They don’t seem to be counted as a draw leaves. Does anyone care? – David Sauge.

“Jurgen Klopp asking Liverpool fans to stay away if they have laryngitis (Friday’s Fiver) made me wonder if Frank Lampard’s Everton’s Frank Lampard could ask fans to stay away from future matches unless they had laryngitis. That way, players won’t be able to hear the harsh boos and harsh gasps of dismay” – Steve Malone.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our Letter of the Day is…Steve Malone, who wins a copy of Jon Spurling’s Get It On, a joyous account of how the 1970s shook up football. And it is also available here.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Marcus Rashford has sent his best wishes to Louis van Gaal, after the Dutch national coach revealed he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer. “I deserved my debut with LVG. Will be forever indebted,” Rashford wrote. “You can fight this. We are all behind you.

Get well soon, Louis.
Get well soon, Louis. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

Nicola Sturgeon said the incidents at the Old Firm derby on Sunday were “not acceptable”. A member of staff needed stitches after being hit by a bottle as Queen’s Celtic won 2-1. “This is stupid and brutal behavior that has no place in any civilized society,” added the Scottish First Minister.

In more absolute news, the A-League will soon start using AI to protect footballers from online abuse.

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the Ricketts family still see themselves as proper guardians of Chelsea and wave abstinence from £$L in a bid to sway unimpressed fans.

Much to anyone’s delight, Frank Lampard’s Everton are still mired in the quagmire of relegation after losing at Taxpayers FC. “If we continue on the path we have shown, I have the firm conviction that everything will be fine,” preached Lampard of FLE.

“In [Big Cup] I always think too much – new tactics, tomorrow you will see a new one. Good God, the penny finally fell for Pep! “I think a lot, that’s why I have very good results.” Oh, he was being sarcastic.

Sam Kerr and Beth England scored twice apiece as Chelsea beat Reading to return top of the WSL, while Liverpool secured their return to the top flight with a 4-2 victory over Bristol City in the Championship.

WANT EVEN MORE?

Six months into Newcastle’s Saudi-backed takeover and while the team is doing well, some fans have been pushed into moral acrobatics, writes Barry Glendenning.

You know the drill: those are 10 talking points in the Premier League.

The race for the WSL title and Women’s Champions League places is heating up, as our weekend review explains.

Beth England, Ella Toone and Vivianne Miedema.
The compositions are improving. Composition: Getty, Rex

Start your Euro Blog on Monday in… Deutschland, where Dortmund look much more dynamic in the stands than on the pitch, according to Andy Brassell.

Italy ! Exaggerated hand gestures abounded at the Allianz Arena, where officials played a big part in Internazionale’s victory over Juventus, reports Nicky Bandini.

France! Jorge Sampaoli’s Marseillais have finally found common ground and are preparing for the Grande Coupe, writes Eric Devin.

If somehow your only source of information is The Fiver, then you won’t know the full Human Rights World Cup group stage draw just yet – so here it is.

And if that’s your thing…you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT TOO!

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