FA Cup: Arsenal continue to struggle vs Liverpool; Bruyne back for City | Football News - Hindustan Times
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FA Cup round-up: Arsenal's struggles continue in 2-0 loss to Liverpool; De Bruyne back for Man City in 5-0 win

AP |
Jan 08, 2024 07:25 AM IST

Arsenal risks falling short again this season, just like in the last campaign when the team faded late on and was beaten to the Premier League title.

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.

Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli reacts with Ben White (Reuters)
Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli reacts with Ben White (Reuters)

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 has now lost four of its last seven matches in all competitions, including its 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 has had 48 shots in its last two home games — taking in the 2-0 loss to West Ham in the Premier League on Dec. 28 — and not scored a goal. That statistic, plus a knee injury to first-choice striker Gabriel Jesus that made him miss the game, could yet tempt manager Mikel Arteta to go into the transfer market this month.

Otherwise, Arsenal risks falling short again this season, just like in the last campaign when the team faded late on and was 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 and Arteta, Man City looks 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 hasn’t played since sustaining a hamstring injury at Burnley on the opening day of the Premier League season on Aug. 11. The Belgium playmaker came on as a 57th-minute substitute — when City was 2-0 ahead — and provided the cross that fellow replacement Jeremy Doku converted for the final goal in a one-sided match at Etihad Stadium.

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. “I’m pretty sure Kevin felt how our people are in love with him. This mutual respect will last forever.”

Phil Foden scored twice, Julian Alvarez added another and there was an own-goal for the defending champions, who saw defender Manuel Akanji go off injured in the first half.

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

“I know he can handle the pressure,” Guardiola said of De Bruyne, “but I don’t want to put all the pressure on Kevin’s shoulders.”

HOLLYWOOD CHEER

Wrexham made its 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.

The buzz around Wrexham and its 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, which is in third place in League Two.

REPLAYS NEEDED

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. There was more bad news for the Hammers, with Brazil midfielder Lucas Paqueta forced off injured in the first half.

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.

American striker Daryl Dike scored his team’s third goal in the 27th minute of second-tier West Bromwich Albion’s 4-1 win over fifth-tier Aldershot, his first match since tearing his right Achilles against Stoke last April.

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