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'We need to reset': Arteta acknowledges Arsenal struggles as Liverpool dump Gunners out of FA Cup

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7th January, 2024
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Three straight losses, an elimination from the FA Cup, and the ominous sight of Manchester City back in form and boosted by the return of Kevin De Bruyne.

These are worrying times for Arsenal.

In a heavyweight third-round matchup in the FA Cup, Arsenal’s increasingly alarming problems in front of goal were further exposed in a 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.

An end-to-end contest was settled by two late goals – an own-goal by Arsenal defender Jakub Kiwior in the 80th minute and a fierce strike by Luis Diaz in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Arsenal have now lost four of their last seven matches in all competitions, including their last three in a row.

“We need to reset,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “This (upcoming winter) break is good. It has come at a good time.”

Arsenal have had 48 shots in their last two home games – taking in the 2-0 loss to West Ham in the Premier League on December 28 – and not scored a goal.

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That statistic, plus a knee injury to first-choice striker Gabriel Jesus that made him miss the game, could yet tempt manager Arteta to go into the transfer market this month.

Otherwise, Arsenal risk falling short again this season, just like in the last campaign when the team faded late on and were beaten to the Premier League title by fast-finishing Manchester City.

“If the team is getting hammered, not playing well and not deserving to win football matches, I would be much more worried,” said Arteta, attempting to stay positive. “I love winning and we have to win many more games.

“But at the moment, the thing we have to change, what we have to reset, is up here,” he added, pointing to his head.

Even more worrying for Arsenal, Man City look in prime shape heading into the second half of the season, with a 5-0 win over second-tier Huddersfield in the FA Cup notable for the return from injury of De Bruyne after nearly five months out.

De Bruyne hadn’t played since sustaining a hamstring injury at Burnley on the opening day of the Premier League season on August 11. The Belgium playmaker came on as a 57th-minute substitute – when City was 2-0 ahead – and provided the cross that Jeremy Doku converted for the final goal in a one-sided match at Etihad Stadium.

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City manager Pep Guardiola welcome back a midfielder he described as “exceptional” and “unique.”

“Kevin helps us to win games and there are few like him in the world,” Guardiola said. 

Phil Foden scored twice, Julian Alvarez added another and there was an own-goal for the defending champions.

Erling Haaland was still deemed not fit enough to feature for City, but should be back soon to complement the returning De Bruyne and Doku as Guardiola’s team go for an unlikely repeat of its treble of major trophies won last season.

City are third in the Premier League, five points behind first-place Liverpool with a game in hand, and iarethrough to the round of 16 in the Champions League.

Wrexham made their Hollywood owners happy by winning 1-0 at Shrewsbury, a local rival from a division higher in English soccer’s pyramid, thanks to Tom O’Connor’s second-half goal.

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The buzz around Wrexham and their celebrity owners, Rob Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, reached new levels during an FA Cup run around this time last year when the Welsh club beat one second-tier Championship team in Coventry and then took another, Premier League-bound Sheffield United, to a replay.

The team has already got through three rounds this season and will find out on Monday its opponent in the last 32.

Promotion remains the big goal this season for Wrexham, who arein third place in League Two.

Premier League teams West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Luton were all held to draws at home by lower-division opponents.

West Ham failed to hold onto a lead earned by Jarrod Bowen’s early goal and drew 1-1 with second-tier Bristol City. 

Forest had to come from two goals down to draw with third-tier Blackpool 2-2 while another third-tier team, Bolton, held Luton 0-0.

© AAP

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