Arsenal ‘suffer’ but prevail to open gap at top of Premier League table

Analysis Arsenal ‘suffer’ but prevail to open gap at top of Premier League table
Fabulous one game, feeble the next, and subsequent questions about their mentality and quality. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 October 2022

Arsenal ‘suffer’ but prevail to open gap at top of Premier League table

Arsenal ‘suffer’ but prevail to open gap at top of Premier League table
  • Mikel Arteta’s side become the first Gunners team since the 1903-04 season to win nine out of opening 10 fixtures

As Mikel Arteta passionately celebrated Arsenal’s victory at Leeds United on Sunday, supporters lauded his side with the chant “1-0 to the Arsenal.”

It paid homage to the teams of yesteryear who often showed defensive resilience and tactical acumen to achieve such a result.

It is something not associated with the Gunners in recent seasons as inconsistent performances have seen them fall out of the Premier League’s top-four picture and a place in the coveted Champions League.

Fabulous one game, feeble the next, and subsequent questions about their mentality and quality.

Now Arsenal stand four points clear at the top, having impressively won nine of their opening 10 league games in a season for the first time since 1903-04.

As Arteta said afterward: “This is not a coincidence, it shows the willingness that I see in the eyes of the players to win, to compete. This is something special.”

The 40-year-old Spanish manager, who took over in 2019 after three years as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, is creating something special at the Emirates Stadium as his young side passed another big test of their credentials to challenge the title favorites.

Mohamed Salah’s fourth goal this week, accounting for City’s first league defeat of the campaign at Liverpool, has added fresh intrigue to a race that did not feature Arsenal as contenders at the start of the season.

After all, they have not been champions since Arsene Wenger’s “Invincibles” went unbeaten in the 2003-04 season, and last finished in the top four in 2016 when they were runners-up to Leicester.

Yet Arteta’s men deserve to be in the frame again as their displays have combined stubborn resolve with a slick and quick attack, producing performances that bear the hallmarks of past title-winning sides.

They followed a thrilling 3-2 win over Liverpool last weekend with a defiant one at a hostile Elland Road against a Leeds outfit that allowed Bukayo Saka to smash in the stunning winner, via a Rodrigo mistake, and then pummeled the Arsenal backline with aggressive intent.

The outcome could have been different had Patrick Bamford not sent a penalty wide, nor VAR overturn another spot kick and red card for the otherwise impressive Gabriel — both injury time decisions changed after Bamford was adjudged to have initially barged the Brazilian center-back who lashed out with a high kick.

Arteta said Arsenal were made to “suffer” but crucially did not succumb as before.

Keeper Aaron Ramsdale, another to stand firm with a string of fine saves, reveled in his side’s ability to “win ugly” — where top teams sacrifice attractive football for a pragmatic approach to secure victories.

The visitors had opened Leeds up in a first half delayed by a power cut, with brisk counterattacks soaked in class.

In Martin Odegaard, they have a player capable of orchestrating attacks with intelligence and industry.

There are glimpses of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Luka Modric — footballing artists who are just a joy to watch — in Odegaard’s passing and knack of finding space. With such creativity and the captaincy at just 23, the Norwegian could lead Arsenal by example in the way Cesc Fabregas once did.

Having engineered an opening for Gabriel Jesus, which the Brazil forward chipped over with a neat backheel flick, a sublime pass between two defenders then released Saka to blast in from an acute angle.

With four goals in his last three games, England winger Saka is thriving like the rest of his team.

Yet Arsenal did not play to these strengths in the second half as Leeds pressed more vigorously, dropping deeper, not controlling possession and inviting pressure that they eventually managed to defy through determination and good fortune.

Having set higher standards, Ramsdale said: “It’s the worst we have played. Another day they probably beat us 2-1, 3-1.

“We want to play our way, we want to control games, but sometimes you just can’t.

“For us, to get through this game, get three points and a clean sheet away from home, is massive.

“Sometimes you have to win ugly, smash and grab with not many chances on goal. We don’t want to do this every week, we want to be winning with nice football.

“But it’s now in the back of our minds to know we can do it and, at a place like Leeds, gives us confidence. It’s important to do that.

“It’s polar opposites in terms of performances (to the one against Liverpool), but in the end it’s the same result. It’s all about that balance, you have to be able to do this.”

The Gunners will still have to show their rise is not followed by an expected fall, and they are not primed to fold under the pressure of being leaders.

But spirited wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and now Leeds should dispel some doubts and give them belief they should be feared rather than be fearful.

“We are still developing and learning,” added Ramsdale. “We are in a great position at the minute, but we aren’t the finished article.

“We are not going to (go) everywhere and out-pass every team and win every second ball. Sometimes you have got to grit your teeth and that’s what we did against Leeds. We had to grind it out.

“We don’t feel added pressure being top. We go into every game with a big smile on our face, trying to win a game of football.

“We are just loving going into games because we know at our best, and at our worst, we can still win.”

Arsenal’s fine start has poured scorn on those who feel City are unstoppable in achieving a hat trick of titles.

Guardiola’s men remain favorites, but Liverpool have revived their hopes, Tottenham’s start to a season is their best since 1963, and Chelsea should not be discounted either following Graham Potter’s arrival and five straight wins.

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India
Updated 11 sec ago

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India
  • Glenn Maxwell returns career-best figures of 4-40 to spearhead Australia to victory
  • Mitchell Marsh led batting onslaught by scoring 96 runs to take Australia to 352-7

RAJKOT: Glenn Maxwell returned career-best figures of 4-40 to end Australia’s five-match losing streak with a consolation 66-run win over India in the third one-day international on Wednesday.
Mitchell Marsh led the batting onslaught with his 96 as Australia posted 352-7, a total their bowlers defended by bowling out India for 286 in Rajkot.
The hosts took the three-match series 2-1 but Australia finish on a high ahead of the World Cup starting October 5 in India.
Maxwell, who returned to the team alongside Mitchell Starc after the two players recovered from injuries, scored just five with the bat but made an impact with his impressive off-spin.
“I feel like I’ve come into this World Cup nice and fresh and I’m excited to hit the ground running,” Maxwell said after being named man of the match. 
“Nice to get a nice result tonight.”
The all-rounder added: “It’s nice to chip in, if Mitch Marsh was there on the field, we would have chopped and changed (on the bowling). Since he was not there, had to bowl more. That will be the role of the allrounders in this World Cup.”
Maxwell got the first three wickets including skipper Rohit Sharma, for 81, and star batsman Virat Kohli, for 56, after a brisk start by India.
Rohit raised his fifty in 31 balls and seemed to have the chase in control but Maxwell got the captain with a stunning caught and bowled in his second over.
He then sent back Kohli soon after the former captain’s 66th ODI fifty and, despite a fighting 48 by Shreyas Iyer, the Indian batting folded in 49.4 overs.
Pace bowler Josh Hazlewood took two wickets as Australia ended the losing streak which started in South Africa earlier this month.
Batsmen set up victory after Marsh tore into the Indian bowlers in attacking partnerships that included a second-wicket stand of 137 with Steve Smith, who hit 74.
The top four batsmen stood out with Marsh, David Warner (56), Smith and Marnus Labuschagne (72) all contributing to a mammoth total that looked like going beyond 400 before India hit back.
Indian pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah took three wickets while left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav took two.
India had only 13 players to pick for their XI with some rested and a virus in the camp that made Ishan Kishan miss out.
Rohit said the players are fresh and raring to go.
“When we talk about the 15 we are very clear what we want,” said Rohit.
“We are not confused, we know where we are headed as a team. It’s a team sport and you need everyone to play their part and that’s how we win championships.”
Marsh took on Bumrah with three boundaries and a six in the paceman’s first two overs and the left-handed Warner soon joined in the charge.
Warner hammered Prasidh Krishna for three fours and a six in the seventh over and raced to his fifty in 32 balls in the next with another hit over the fence.
Marsh reached his half-ton in 45 balls but was denied a century when he casually slapped Kuldeep straight to cover. His 84-ball knock included 13 fours and three sixes.
Smith, Alex Carey and Maxwell fell at regular intervals, slowing the tourists down before Labuschagne took control until he was undone by Bumrah’s slower ball in the penultimate over.
The two teams now head into the World Cup warm-ups before they meet in the 50-over showpiece tournament on October 8 in Chennai.

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition
Updated 21 min 27 sec ago

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition
  • Saudi handball team misses chance to qualify for 2nd round after 23-23 draw with Iran, which qualified along with Japan from the group
  • Table tennis players Ali Al-Khadrawi and Turki Al-Mutairi qualify for 32nd round in singles competition

HANGZHOU, China: Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee president, who is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, on Wednesday attended the Saudi team’s esports competition.
The Saudi team reached the quarterfinals of the League of Legends game in the esports stadium, where they lost 0-2 to the Korean team.
Committee Vice President Prince Fahd bin Jalawi attended the Saudi handball team’s game against Iran as part of the handball competition group stage.
The Saudi team missed the chance to qualify for the second round after a 23-23 draw with Iran, which qualified along with Japan from the group.
A total of 193 Saudi athletes will compete in 19 sports at the Asian Games, which conclude Oct. 8.

Table tennis
Ali Al-Khadrawi and Turki Al-Mutairi qualified for the 32nd round in the singles competition after winning their 64th-round matches on Wednesday.
Al-Khadrawi defeated his Pakistani opponent 4-1, while Al-Mutairi beat a Mongolian rival 4-3.

Saudi rider Samantha Saifi concluded the qualifying round of the dressage competition, scoring 57.706 points in the second round of the competition on Wednesday. Saifi had previously scored 57.617 points in the competition on Tuesday, claiming 29th place in the overall standings.

Prince Saud Al-Saud, Hatem Al-Shammari and Saed Al-Mutairi, who are representing Saudi Arabia in the shooting competitions, concluded their participation in the individual shotgun.
Al-Shammari finished 21st in the overall standings with a score of 116 out of 125, while Al-Mutairi ranked 25th with a score of 113. Prince Saud ranked 25th with a score of 113.

Hisham Al-Dukhi and Mohammed Al-Suwaik exited the games in the quarterfinals of the taekwondo competitions after losing to China and the Philippines, respectively, on Wednesday.
Al-Dukhi defeated his Iraqi opponent Hussein Al-Lami 2-1 in the 32nd round before losing against China’s Chenming Xiao in the 16th round of the U-68 kg weight category. Al-Suwaik departed in the quarterfinals of the U-80 kg weight category.

The Saudi U-23 football team trained for the last time ahead of their match against India in the 16th round on Thursday. National coach Saad Al-Shehri led the training session, which included fitness recovery exercises, a midfield mini-match, shooting practice and stretching exercises.

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season
Updated 31 min 36 sec ago

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season
  • 700 races will be run at King Abdulaziz Racecourse with a total prize fund, excluding the Saudi Cup meeting, of $21.9m
  • Three other new cup races for Thoroughbreds have been added to the calendar

RIYADH: Prize money for the 2023-24 horse racing season in Riyadh, which begins on Oct. 16 and continues until Mar. 16, will increase by more than 7 percent compared with last season, and 56 additional races will be run at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, where the highlight remains the Saudi Cup in February.
The total prize money for the season, excluding the Saudi Cup meeting, will rise by $1.5 million to a total of $21.9 million, the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia said. The total number of races will increase to 700 across 59 meetings, all of which will comprise 12 races compared with the previous 11: 10 for Thoroughbreds and two for purebred Arabians.
This represents a significant increase in the number of races for purebred Arabians over the course of the season, the jockey club added, with 66 races added to the calendar. They include a new cup race, the $80,000 Abdulaziz bin Musa’id bin Jalooey Cup, which will be run for the first time on Feb. 10, 2024.
Five purebred Arabian contests have been introduced to the pattern, the highest level of races, this season and will be run as listed contests. The JCSA Cup will take place on Nov. 25, a week after a new, yet to be named listed race on Nov. 18. In the new year, the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Sword on Jan. 13, the Sprint Championship on March 8, and the King Abdulaziz Racecourse Championship on March 9 will be run as purebred Arabian listed events.
Three other new cup races for Thoroughbreds have been added to the calendar. The Imam Mohammed bin Saud Cup, worth $240,000, is a notable addition to the King’s Cup race day on Jan. 13, and the others are the $80,000 Prince Saad bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal Cup on Jan. 19 and the $80,000 Prince Fahad bin Jalawi Cup on Feb. 10.
A further development this season is the reduction of the distance in the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup to 1,800 meters, the same trip as the $20 million Saudi Cup, to better reflect its status as a key qualifier for that contest.
The dates for the Saudi Cup meeting have been confirmed as Feb. 23 and 24. It will once again carry an enormous prize fund of $35.4m, with the centerpiece $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable in the world.
For the first time this season, the Saudi Cup meeting will feature three international G1 races, after the Al-Mneefah Cup for purebred Arabians, which takes place the day before the Saudi Cup, was promoted to G1 status this season.
Prince Abdullah bin Khaled, chairperson of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s Technical Committee, said: “The announcement of the 2023-24 Riyadh program marks the JCSA’s continued commitment to the growth of racing in the Kingdom.
“The Riyadh program, held throughout the autumn, winter and spring at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, builds on the success of the Ta’if summer season and leads the Saudi Arabian racing community into the Saudi Cup weekend and beyond, to the conclusion of the season in March and then potentially an international campaign for the top performers.
“This season the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup will be run as an 1,800-meter race for the first time, making it a true prep for the Saudi Cup, which is held over the same course and distance.
“In addition we have added to our purebred Arabian program, with almost double the amount of races on offer. Every race night will now feature 10 Thoroughbred races and two purebred Arabian contests, underlining our continued commitment to developing this code of racing both in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup
Updated 27 September 2023

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup
  • Pakistan will play warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia on Sept. 29, Oct. 3 respectively
  • The last time Pakistan’s cricket team set foot on Indian soil was in 2016 during the T20 World Cup of that year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national cricket team arrived in India on Wednesday after seven years to take part in the upcoming ODI World Cup tournament, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed in a statement.
The last time Pakistan played cricket on Indian soil was in 2016 when former captain Shahid Khan Afridi led the green shirts in the T20 World Cup of that year.
Political tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors mean they haven’t played a bilateral cricket series against each other in over a decade. The two teams only lock horns in global cricket tournaments at neutral venues.
“Pakistan team has landed in Hyderabad, India,” the PCB said in a statement. A video accompanying the statement showed Pakistan captain Babar Azam, vice-captain Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and others exiting the plane with their suitcases.

This screengrab taken from a video shared by Pakistan Cricket Board shows the Pakistani team walking out of the passenger jetway at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India on September 27, 2023, ahead of ICC World Cup 2023. (Courtesy: PCB/Screengrab)

Pakistan left for India during the wee hours of Wednesday, traveling to Dubai where they were joined by Bowling Coach Morne Morkel while Team Director Mickey Arthur will join the squad in India, the PCB said.
Only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have traveled to India before: Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad, and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.
Skipper Babar Azam’s side will play two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia on Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 respectively before they begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6.
Pakistan will face India in Ahmedabad on Oct. 14 where over 100,000 fans are expected to attend the high-octane clash.

Pakistan agree contract deals that will allow players to get share of ICC revenue

Pakistan agree contract deals that will allow players to get share of ICC revenue
Updated 27 September 2023

Pakistan agree contract deals that will allow players to get share of ICC revenue

Pakistan agree contract deals that will allow players to get share of ICC revenue
  • There had been deadlock between the cricketers and Pakistan’s cricket board since contracts expired on June 30
  • Three Pakistani cricketers in the top category will get a monthly retainer of $15,600, says Pakistan Cricket Board

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board has agreed a “momentous” three-year central contract deal with its international squads that will include players getting a proportion of International Cricket Council revenue.
There had been deadlock between the squads and the PCB for several months since the contracts expired on June 30, with the players asking for their share in the revenue the board gets from the ICC, the game’s governing body.
The new three-year contract is backdated to July 1, 2023, but the cricket board said the performance of the players would be reviewed every 12 months.
“As many as 25 cricketers will be offered a momentous deal that will include a proportion of ICC revenue,” the PCB said in a statement on Wednesday.
It is the first time the PCB has merged the red-ball and white-ball contracts of the players, saying it is “aimed at promoting fairness and a transparent selection process.”
Each player in the four categories received a raise of more than 100 percent. Three in the top category, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi, will get a monthly retainer of $15,600.
“It is a historic deal,” skipper Babar said. “It has been a lengthy and, at times, challenging negotiation process, but I believe we have reached a fair and beneficial agreement for both parties.”
The players will receive a share of three percent of ICC revenue, which will be around $1 million. The PCB will be earning around $34 million per year from the ICC.
Besides getting a monthly retainer, there is a raise of 50 percent in match fees for players who feature in test matches, an increase of 25 percent for ODIs and 12.5 percent for T20s.
The PCB also agreed that the centrally contracted players can play in two other T20 leagues aside from the Pakistan Super League.
“I am pleased to announce that after lengthy negotiations the PCB has come to a financial agreement with the players,” said Zaka Ashraf, chairman of the PCB managing committee.
Category A: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi
Category B: Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah and Shadab Khan
Category C: Imad Wasim and Abdullah Shafique
Category D: Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmad, Saud Shakeel, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood, Usama Mir and Zaman Khan.