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Destiny Awaits? A Rallying Cry for Gooners everywhere ahead of Manchester City vs Arsenal
Arsenal enter the business end of the season to see if this side can make the step into greatness says Thomas Dow

27 MARCH, 2024 11:23 THOMAS DOW
Destiny Awaits? A Rallying Cry for Gooners everywhere ahead of Manchester City vs Arsenal
We find ourselves in a title race and with a chance to overhaul the demons of the past 20 years says Thomas Dow in a rallying cry to Gooners everywhere. PICTURE: Victoria Concordia Crescit – the Arsenal team during the Champions League penalty shootout victory over Porto at the Emirates. CREDIT: Charlotte Wilson/OFFSIDE

I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’ve been bored senseless at this latest international break.

The football on show is generally fairly tedious and all it does is make me nervous that members of our squad will come back with season-threatening injuries.

The sooner they return to Arsenal, the better.

However, I have enjoyed the fact that we’ve had a period where we’ve been able to enjoy being top without any risk of that changing.

Now though, we are dangerously close to the return of Premier League football and a potentially decisive fixture against Manchester City.

Having spent the past two weeks wishing for Arsenal to return, I’m now dreading it more than ever, writes Thomas Dow.

Arsenal are about to enter into the business end of the season, the part that will determine whether this side can make that step into greatness.

It’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

Should we progress to the Champions League semi-finals, then we will face a gruelling 14 games between now and the end of the campaign.

It can be said with some certainty that Mikel Arteta is going to have to make use of his squad if we are to end the season with silverware.

Over the past months, we’ve seen rotation largely through necessity. Absences in defence have led to opportunities for Jakub Kiwor, while Leandro Trossard has deputised for both Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli in attack.

Their respective stocks have risen throughout this time, and Arteta now has genuine options in both.

Now though, we are returning to action with an almost fully-fit squad. Jurrien Timber could well be the only continued absentee, with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey both edging closer to match fitness following a behind-closed-doors friendly against QPR during the break.

For the first time in a long while, Arteta has options.

Arsenal fans are going to have to get used to this idea of rotation.

There will be games that require a more sturdy tactical set-up, and that is likely to see Declan Rice partnered alongside either Jorginho or Partey.

However, there will be other times when Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira or even Emile Smith Rowe could be utilised in the midfield.

In defence, Arsenal have availability that was missing for much of the campaign. Tomiyasu can play across the back line, while Oleksandr Zinchenko can be a pivotal player at left back against certain opposition.

As supporters, we have an important job. It isn’t to criticise and question the decisions of the manager. It is to back him.

Whoever steps foot onto that field needs to feel like they belong, and we can play a major part in that.

Changes to the line up will be done for a reason. It might be on the advice of the medical team, or perhaps a tactical alteration designed to surprise the opposition. Whatever those reasons though, we can’t question them.

This has the potential to be a special season for the club.

We find ourselves in a title race and with a chance to overhaul the demons of the past 20 years.

Let’s do this together.

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TEARS OF JOY Pep Guardiola breaks down in tears as Man City win Premier League after stunning comeback win against Aston Villa
Anthony Chapman
Published: 19:08, 22 May 2022Updated: 20:33, 22 May 2022
PEP GUARDIOLA broke down in tears after winning his fourth Premier League title in dramatic style.

Manchester City were 2-0 down at the Etihad to Aston Villa when they launched an epic comeback with 15 minutes remaining.


Pep Guardiola broke down in tears as Man City pipped Liverpool to the titleCredit: Ruckas

Pep could not contain his emotions after City’s dramatic late comeback against VillaCredit: Ruckas
Two goals from Ilkay Gundogan and a third from Rodri – all in the space of five minutes – propelled City to top spot ahead of Liverpool.

The Reds kept the pressure up in their game against Wolves at Anfield, which they won 3-1.

It means City secured the title by just one single point.

And as the final whistle blew, Guardiola released all his emotions on the field.

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The former Barcelona boss was embraced by City’s coaches as wild celebrations broke out across the stadium.

But Guardiola didn’t know where to look as the tears began to stream down his face.

The Spaniard was hugged by assistant Juan Lillo as he put his head in his hands and sobbed openly.

Guardiola had been a bag of nerves throughout the game, especially when Villa netted their second goal with just 20 minutes to play.

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Had the visitors held on to their 2-0 lead, or even secured a point, the title would have ended up at Anfield.

But Gundogan’s 81st minute winner was the difference in the end.

And Guardiola was not ashamed to reveal his emotions to the public at the final whistle.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “The last game is always special, a lot of emotion. Aston Villa gave everything but the first goal changed everything. We had to handle it.

“We are legends. When you win the Premier League in this country four times in five seasons it is because these guys are so, so special. We will be remembered.

“Winning at home in front of our people is the best. The moment we equalised we had the feeling we had the chance to score the third.

“The magnitude of the achievement is related to magnitude of our rival and I have never seen a team like Liverpool in my life. Congatulations to Liverpool – they have made us better and better each week.

“I don’t have the energy or desire to think about next season now. We are champions again.”

However, City fans were in a jubilant mood as they invaded the pitch during full time.

Delighted supporters stormed the field to congratulate their idols.

And some even ended up breaking the CROSSBAR as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne were mobbed.

However, Villa boss Steven Gerrard claimed afterwards that his goalkeeper Robin Olsen was attacked by City fans while trying to reach the tunnel.

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The stopper came off holding the back of his head.

And Gerrard said: “Our goalkeeper was attacked. I am going to see how he is now. I think you should ask Pep and Man City those questions.”

Manchester CityPep Guardiola
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Liverpool could save millions with their “staggering” teenage Thiago heir
Liverpool need not sign another No. 8 with this prodigy waiting in the wings.

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara
Liverpool languished last season but have been reborn after broad changes were made to the struggling midfield last summer. It was a new chapter, supporters knew that, but few foresaw Jurgen Klopp’s decision to not be a part of it.

The revered manager has handed in his notice and will step down from his position at the end of the campaign, and having already won the Carabao Cup in February, he is targetting further triumph in the Premier League and Europa League both.

Klopp isn’t the only person to be draping the curtain on their Anfield career this year, with stalwart Joel Matip likely to depart at the end of the contract in several months.

The 32-year-old Cameroonian has been a rock in defence since joining from Schalke on a free transfer back in 2016 (he was Klopp’s first permanent signing), but bleakly he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in December and is not expected to feature again before the end of the term.

Thiago Alcantara is also out of contract in June; the distinguished Spaniard arrived on Merseyside as one of Europe’s most impressive midfielders, and while he has exhibited his sparkling quality since signing from Bayern Munich in a £25m transfer back in 2020, injury woes have restricted him severely.

Thiago Alcantara’s performances for Liverpool
Thiago was once described as “the most gifted player I’ve seen in the Premier League” by talkSPORT host Tony Cascarino, and there really is no disputing that his range of passing, control and intelligence is on par with any midfield orchestrator across Europe.

Glittering stays with Bayern Munich and Barcelona have seen major honours such as two Champions League titles, seven Bundesliga championships and four La Liga trophies placed in his personal cabinet spoke of his pedigree, and, in fairness, he’s added the FA Cup and Carabao Cup since completing a transfer to Liverpool.

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
But as he nears the culmination of his fourth campaign on English shores, Thiago has never completed more than 20 starting appearances in a single Premier League season, playing just five minutes of action this term, against Arsenal in February, before aggravating the injury that had shackled him in the darkness for so long.

They say that the best ability is availability and given Thiago’s age, torrid track record on the fitness front and sizeable salary, opting against renewing his current terms is something of a no-brainer.

Liverpool: Highest Earners 23/24





Mohamed Salah



Virgil van Dijk



Thiago Alcantara



Trent Alexander-Arnold



Alexis Mac Allister



Alisson Becker



Ryan Gravenberch


Sourced via Capology

While last summer’s sweeping changes have alleviated the worry of trying to replace the Spain international, with Alexis Mac Allister namely fit for purpose in a similar type of deep playmaking role, Liverpool appear keen to find a fresh star regardless.

Indeed, recent reports suggest Liverpool are interested in working on a deal for Atalanta midfield Teun Koopmeiners, with the Dutchman valued at £52m by his Serie A outfit after revealing that he wishes to leave this year.

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Is this worth it? Koopmeiners is an impressive and multi-functional player but he’s probably not what Liverpool need, especially when the likes of Stefan Bajcetic are ready to take the step up and assume Thiago’s place in the first team.

Why Stefan Bajcetic could replace Thiago
Spaniard Bajcetic joined Liverpool from Celta Vigo as a 16-year-old for just £224,000 back in December 2020, and after several years honing his craft within Liverpool’s development ranks, he was handed his professional debut off the bench during Liverpool’s 9-0 dismantling over Bournemouth in 2022.

Liverpool midfielder Stefan Bajcetic.
His veteran countryman might be more polished and elegant in his distribution but Bajcetic has the trappings of a top player and has already proved himself worthy of a place in Liverpool’s squad after shining among rusty senior peers last term, leading to one writer remarking: “Staggering that Liverpool look most in control this season when 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic is playing.”

Last year, Bajcetic competed in 11 Premier League games in total before an abductor injury ended his campaign in March, bagging off the bench against Aston Villa after the mid-season pause for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, notably succeeding with 64% of his attempted dribbles as he sought to progress the play and inject some youthful avidity to a withered team.

This season, the teenager did feature twice in the early phase of the campaign and was praised for his “brilliant” effort in a makeshift right-back role against LASK in the Europa League by reporter Neil Jones, but niggling problems have precluded him from enjoying the true breakthrough campaign he will envisage.

Thiago may well have never quite fitted Klopp’s system perfectly but his world-class attributes shone through regardless, though given that his ship has clearly sailed it presents Bajcetic with the perfect opportunity to cement himself during the months to come.

It’s been frustrating for all involved that the 19-year-old has been limited to just two appearances in almost a year after such an incredible start to life on the major stage, but Bajcetic has developed physically in that time and now looks ready to tackle the rigours of top-flight football henceforth.

Rangy, lean and adroit, Bajcetic is the complete package and has the energy and enthusiasm in his play to assume Thiago’s position in the squad and make a lasting impression.

Given the buzz that trailed his efforts last season, thrown in at the deep end, it’s hardly surprising that such a furore is being stirred up as Bajcetic awaits his return. And Liverpool awaits him too.

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Angus Sinclair • Opinions & Feature Writer
(2171 Articles Published)
Angus is a freelance analytical writer for Football FanCast.

Having graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2022, Angus found a home at FFC after previously writing for Vavel and OurSoundMusic.

A passionate Liverpool supporter and a lover of statistics, Angus also holds a fondness for MMA and Tennis.

Outside of football, he is a voracious reader with a particular love for fantasy and historical fiction.

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Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Nunez – Liverpool injury news and return dates
Liverpool injury news and return dates as Andy Robertson hands Jurgen Klopp another blow after coming off in Scotland’s 1-0 home loss to Northern Ireland

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MARCH 26: Andrew Robertson of Scotland goes down with an injury during the international friendly match between Scotland and Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on March 26, 2024 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Liverpool defender Andy Robertson goes down with an injury during the international friendly match between Scotland and Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on March 26, 2024 (Image: Stu Forster)
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Liverpool suffered another injury blow last night as left-back Andy Robertson was forced off in Scotland’s friendly defeat to Northern Ireland.

The defender started for the second game in a row for his nation following Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Netherlands. Robertson was forced off in the first half at Hampden Park after being on the receiving end of a rough tackle from Trai Hume.

Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that the 30-year-old’s problem isn’t too bad ahead of the return of Premier League action. The Reds will host Brighton on Sunday, March 31, though for now the squad is spread across the globe competing for their countries.

The latest internationals saw Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo feature for Colombia and the Netherlands respectively while Ibrahima Konate played for 90 minutes for France on last night, despite all leaving Merseyside with fitness concerns.

Here the ECHO analyses the fitness of 10 players Liverpool boss Klopp will be sweating on ahead of the visit of Brighton to Anfield.

Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson’s 63rd international appearance for Scotland ended early as he was forced off after 37 minutes. Steve Clarke’s struggling side lost 1-0 after Robertson’s Liverpool team-mate Conor Bradley scored his first goal for Northern Ireland.

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The defender, who missed a large part of the season due to a shoulder injury sustained playing for Scotland in October, held his ankle before looking dejected walking off the pitch.

Scotland boss Clarke said: “He’s just come off the pitch, let the injury take it’s course, he’ll go back to his club, they will assess it and hopefully it’s not too serious.”

Potential return date: Unknown

Darwin Nunez
Darwin Nunez was arguably in his finest form in Red heading into the international break, scoring four goals and providing two assists in four appearances. It earned him another call-up for Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay squad. However, that had to be turned down as the striker suffered a potential hamstring injury against Manchester United.

He had also been ruled out briefly in February, though Klopp and his medical staff remain hopeful that the issue is not a serious one. It is yet to be known whether Nunez will be fit in time for the visit of Brighton.

Potential return date: Brighton (H) – March 31.

Curtis Jones
Another player who was becoming one of the first names on Klopp’s team sheet week-in, week-out, Curtis Jones unexpectedly suffered an awkward landing on his ankle against Brentford in mid-February and has been out of action since.

Thankfully, though, his progress looks to have been timed perfectly for the return of the Premier League this week with his manager hopeful of his involvement in some capacity against the Seagulls. This will hinge on his progress during the break.

Potential return date: Brighton (H) – March 31.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold
A big miss has been the creativity of Trent-Alexander Arnold, though with the rise of Bradley, Liverpool have coped well in the full-back’s absence.

The vice-captain nears a return from the knee injury that has kept him sidelined for the majority of 2024 so far, but still has some work to do. Klopp stated that he did not expect Alexander-Arnold back until the second week after the break, which matches up with the away league visit to Manchester United on Sunday, April 7.

Potential return date: Manchester United (A) – April 7.

Diogo Jota
Also taking a blow against Brentford, Diogo Jota came off worse after being landed on by an opponent. The problem was later revealed to be a knee injury and Liverpool have been hopeful of their instinctive finisher’s return ever since.

Like Alexander-Arnold, early April was as much detail as was revealed about Jota’s return. It means the first couple of fixtures should be too early, though United remains a possibility.

Potential return date: Manchester United (A) – April 7.

Alisson Becker
A hamstring issue has prevented Liverpool’s No.1 from standing between the sticks for some big matches since February, however Caoimhin Kelleher has stepped up in his absence.

All has been quiet about an exact return date for Alisson Becker though there evidently is no rush given his importance to the team. Expect an update from Klopp once domestic action is back in full flow.

Potential return date: Unknown.

Stefan Bajcetic
Stefan Bajcetic has been an unfortunate absence given his exciting maiden campaign in England. The 19-year-old has been nursing various setbacks over the course of the season but is excitingly closing in on a comeback.

The defensive midfielder has been bui

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