Sunday, June 11

The Fiver | The potential for Mikel Arteta and his players to Arsenal things up


Deadlocked with cuddly north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 54 points but with two games in hand, Arsenal look to be in the box-seat to take fourth place and the place in Big Cup that comes with it next season. Look to be, except with the caveat they are Arsenal … albeit a version that has come a long way from the side that lost against Brentford on the opening night of the season. They went on to provoke much tittering among the punditocracy with defeats in their next two games, leaving them with a UK-at-Eurovision-esque “nul points” going into the season’s first international break.

Well who’s laughing now, the Fiver might ask. And while the answer, as usual, will almost certainly be “not Fiver readers!”, we might also include Mikel Arteta, whose dogged insistence that we should all “trust in the process” has turned out to be correct. And where once that process might have seemed a mite indefinable, it turns out it involved nothing more complicated than getting a few well coached old pros and lots of exciting young tyros to gad about in a specific way. And last Thursday, following the return of his players from international duty, Arteta stressed the importance of getting their heads back in Arsenal’s particular game.

“I will have them all here today, just try to refocus them – obviously, when they’re on international duty all the time they’re being asked to do different things, different roles, different kind of pressures,” Arteta trilled. “For some of them, it was their first international, so emotionally for them as well it’s very draining. And make sure that everyone is fine and look forward to the challenge that we have ahead.”

With 10 challenges ahead for Arsenal before the end of the season, the first will be negotiated tonight at Selhurst Park, where the potential for Arteta and his players to Arsenal things up looks eminently possible. With their own occasionally brooding former Gunners midfielder in charge and no shortage of talented young whippersnappers among their ranks, Crystal Palace resemble a kind of Gooners-Lite. Comfortably ensconced in mid-table, they could actually be a lot higher were it not for their pre-Christmas predilection for failing to get the results their often excellent performances deserved.

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Indeed, one of those games at the Emirates, where it took a late, late Alexandre Lacazette strike to get 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,” said Vieira at the time. “I feel sorry for them today. In the second half, we had the desire to compete and won the ball quite high. This is the part of the game we wanted to improve, being aggressive. It’s part of the DNA of Crystal Palace.”

And while not liking it up ‘em was once famously part of the DNA of Arsenal, even during the Vieira years, the current crop of players don’t seem to mind a tackle. While the outcome of tonight’s game looks tough to call, your neutral Fiver is looking forward to a spicy and feisty affair.


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


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

Phil Jones
Your man. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian


Football Weekly has landed! Join Max, Barry, Jonathan Wilson and Robyn Cowen to talk buzzing Brentford, super Spurs and the Human Rights World Cup draw.


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 that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up here.

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“Can I be the first to request that you go back to not having prizes for the letter o’the day? I’m much better at winning those” – Richard O’Hagan.

“When a match gets to 90 minutes and there’s five additional 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 anywhere. Does anybody care?” – David Sage.

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

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Steve Malone, who wins a copy of Jon Spurling’s Get It On, a joyous retelling of how the 1970s rocked football. And it’s also available here.


Marcus Rashford has sent well-wishes to Louis van Gaal, after the Dutch national coach revealed he is receiving treatment for prostate cancer. “Earned my debut from LVG. Will forever be 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 has said incidents at the Old Firm derby on Sunday were “not acceptable”. A staff member required stitches after being hit by a bottle as the Queen’s Celtic won 2-1. “It’s mindless, thuggish behaviour and it has no place in any civilised society,” added the Scottish first minister.

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

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Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the Ricketts family still reckon themselves suitable custodians of Chelsea, and are waving around £$L abstinence in an effort to sway unimpressed fans.

To the amusement of absolutely no one, Frank Lampard’s Everton are still deep in the relegation mire after losing at Taxpayers FC. “If we keep on the path we showed I have a strong belief we will be OK,” preached FLE’s Lampard.

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

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


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

You know the drill: it’s 10 Premier League talking points.

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

Beth England, Ella Toone and Vivianne Miedema.
The compos just get better. Composite: Getty, Rex Features

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

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

France! Jorge Sampaoli’s Marseille have finally found a middle ground and look set for Grande Coupe, writes Eric Devin.

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

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

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