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Most intense game for 20 years, says Arteta after Arsenal draw at Anfield

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Premier League - Liverpool v Arsenal - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - December 23, 2023 Liverpool's Darwin Nunez in action with Arsenal's William Saliba REUTERS/Carl Recine Acquire Licensing Rights

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool as one of the most intense games in decades on Saturday as the north Londoners’ long wait for a league victory at Anfield continued.

Gabriel’s early headed goal gave Arsenal hope of a first league win at Liverpool since 2012 but Mohammed Salah struck a superb equaliser before halftime.

Arteta’s side finished strongly but could not force a winner, although they will head into Christmas with a one-point lead over Liverpool and Aston Villa at the top of the table.

The Spaniard said ahead of the clash that playing at Anfield was like being in a washing machine and he was not to be disappointed in a high-octane duel.

“An unbelievable game of football, one of the most intense I’ve witnessed in 20 years in this league,” Arteta said.

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“For many moments we were on top, in the last 20 minutes we wanted it more, but a draw is a fair result.

“To see our boys have the courage and belief to play like we have done here I think our players deserve big, big credit.”

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was effusive in his praise for Arsenal, while Arteta said Liverpool caused chaos.

“We were determined to attack and cause them problems. They are a team who cause chaos, they are so vertical and direct. They are the best in the world at doing that,” Arteta said.

“It was an unbelievable game of football with two teams that raised the bar to another level.”

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Arsenal will spend Christmas Day top for the second successive season, although they may have been knocked off their perch before they play again on Thursday.

Liverpool and Aston Villa, who are one point behind, are both in action on Tuesday.

“I’m happy to be where we are. Tomorrow we have a beautiful dinner with our families, then back to work,” Arteta said.

While Arsenal have won five of their last seven league games, Arteta said they still need to improve if they are to stay ahead in a tight title battle.

“Yeah of course there are certain things that we have to improve. Especially killing games,” he said.

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“Sometimes the results have been too close. But we have showed a good level with five key players out. That’s something we have to maintain.”

Liverpool counted the cost of their point with left back Kostas Tsimikas suffering a suspected broken collarbone, while Klopp was also left frustrated about his side not being awarded a penalty for an apparent handball by Martin Odegaard.

“I am pretty sure someone will come to explain it to me why it was not a handball but I don’t know how?,” Klopp said.

“I don’t say that the ref can see it because I don’t know where he was in that moment. But how can a guy in an office see that and not come to the conclusion that maybe, possibly it could be worth the referee having another look?”

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Sancho back in training with Man United after positive meeting with Ten Hag

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Jadon Sancho was back training with Manchester United for the first time in 10 months, with a club source confirming the winger and manager Erik ten Hag have resolved their differences following their public fallout last year.

Sancho and Ten Hag had a positive meeting at Carrington Training Centre and the two have decided to draw a line under last season’s drawn-out argument, the club source said.

The 24-year-old Sancho made just three appearances for United last season, spending the second half of the campaign on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his relationship with Ten Hag soured in September.

Ten Hag had left the winger out of his squad for United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal, saying Sancho’s performances in training had not warranted a place in his team. Sancho immediately lashed out on social media, accusing Ten Hag of making him a “scapegoat.”

He was banished from the first team and trained with United’s youth squad before returning to his former club Dortmund in January, where he shone during their Champions League semi-final victory against Paris St Germain, earning praise from Ten Hag. Dortmund were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

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“(Sancho) is a very good player… he showed why Manchester United bought him and he showed he represents a high value for Manchester United, which is good,” Ten Hag told reporters following Dortmund’s 1-0 win over PSG in the first leg.

“I’m happy for Jadon, for the performance, and we’ll see what is going to happen in the future.”

Sancho will not travel with the team to Norway for their pre-season opener against Rosenborg since he began training later than the other players but the club source said he would be available for selection after that.

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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Ruud van Nistelrooy returns to Man United

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United legend Van Nistelrooy is expected to be announced as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants

Manchester United legend, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been spotted being driven into Carrington, the training ground of Manchester United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Rene Hake arrived at Manchester United’s training ground

Reports have it that the Dutchman is set to be appointed as one of Erik ten Hag’s new assistant coaches.

He played for Manchester United from 2001 to 2006.

Now  48, he reportedly turned down job offer from Burnley to return to his old club, having previously led PSV Eindhoven to second place in the Eredivisie and victory in the Dutch Cup.

He is being joined by Rene Hake, 52, who was persuaded to give up his job as Go Ahead Eagles manager despite leading the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history.

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