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AC Milan

The Mikel Arteta project strikes again as Arsenal lose at Everton – The Warm-Up


TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Are you not entertained?

Just because you nuzzled up close to the bald magician, doesn’t mean you actually know how to manage an elite football team. As Mikel Arteta and Arsenal are finding out.

Premier League

‘When everybody sticks together, we are stronger’ – Benitez hails Everton fans after late win

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The Gunners had us concerned when they were on a 10-game unbeaten stretch in early autumn but worry no more, the Arsenal we know and love are back. 1-0 up against a team packed with confidence-racked misfits. Eleven minutes to play. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, it turns out.

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“It could have been very different but we haven’t managed to do that,” Arteta said in his post-mortem after the 2-1 defeat.

“In the Premier League, you have to manage the game when it’s there for the killing and the opponent for the taking. We haven’t done it today. When we had big chances, we didn’t put them in the net. When that happens, it doesn’t go your way.”

The problem is that there seems to be a chasm between what Arteta is seeing and what is actually happening. Only Norwich City have created fewer “big chances” this season. This was supposed to be a project of sexy, attacking football. The project. And while seventh in the Premier League isn’t as bad as many of us expected – The Warm-Up predicted ninth before the season – is that really cause for celebration at a club that desperately wants to belong again?

Whereas Manchester United’s decline was swift and brutal, Arsenal’s has been a death by 1,000 cuts – each season marginally worse than the one before, with a couple of exceptions, but not so catastrophic to spark immediate change.

With a manager that has offered little in the way of change, a squad packed with mediocre players and an ominously patient (read: disinterested) boardroom, the journey back to the big time looks impossible.

We all know how this story ends. Mikel, you look swish in a suit, but we’re afraid that’s about it.

‘They would smash me’

Jurgen Klopp can’t navigate a press conference in December without moaning about the fixture congestion or hinting at an injury Armageddon, and he obliged again with an amusing take ahead of his side’s nostalgia fest with AC Milan in the Champions League.

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“We have to rotate, we will rotate,” he said.

The medical department would smash me if I played the same side again, so I will make changes.

Poor man genuinely thinks the festive football schedule is one of life’s greatest tribulations, and the idea of playing Mohamed Salah three times of a week akin to the trenches at the Somme. He won’t rest until matches are once a fortnight and slashed to 20 minutes each way.

IN OTHER NEWS

This is a very, very good question.

Feel free to play along at home, Tuesday’s are meant for procrastination, but here’s the Warm-Up’s pick: Ramsdale; Lamptey, Zouma, Varane, Digne; Rice, Tielemans, Fernandes; Sancho, Ronaldo, Son.

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If this team is allowed to gel, and not just lumped together overnight for an experiment, they might challenge for the Premier League. Then again, we’ve shoehorned an injured Raphael Varane into defence because, well, the alternatives are even worse than a Frenchman at 30%.

IN THE CHANNELS

Bottom of the Polish Ekstraklasa. Drawing 0-0 at half-time in the Poznan derby. It’s no wonder goalkeeper Adrian Lis was feeling the heat. Still, he was saved by the smirk at the end.

Oh, and this Everton fan was amusing.

RETRO CORNER

It’s only fitting ahead of AC Milan v Liverpool that we revisit that dramatic night… in Athens. Look, you’re probably suffocating from Istanbul content, so let’s take a look at the night two years later that is hardly mentioned. And is funnier if you don’t support Liverpool.

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COMING UP

A feast. PSG v Club Brugge and RB Leipzig v Man City get us warmed up (both 17:45), then AC Milan v Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund v Besiktas, Porto v Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid v Inter Milan (all 20:00) bring us to bedtime.

Marcus Foley may currently have only one functioning leg but he has two working arms so we still expect a perfect Warm-Up tomorrow.

Premier League

Last-gasp screamer from Gray sees Everton end winless run against hapless Arsenal

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Premier League

Klopp: Contract talks with Salah ‘need time’ but both sides want to extend

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