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Analysing Thiago Alcántara’s man-of-the-match performance for Bayern against Arsenal

Scott Challinor

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It was another difficult night in the Champions League for Arsenal, as Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich returned to put pain to the Gunners’ European aspirations once more. From the moment the draw paired the two together again, for the fourth time in five seasons, Arsenal fans were under no illusions that it would be a tough assignment.

After a promising first-half saw the teams go in level, with an away goal on the night from Alexis Sánchez to cancel out Arjen Robben’s spectacular opener, the Bavarians took full advantage of Laurent Koscielny’s forced withdrawal to hit another four past a shell-shocked Arsenal side and put one foot in the quarter-finals with a 5-1 first-leg scoreline.

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At the heart of their torment was former Barcelona midfield-man, Thiago Alcántara, who after a quietly effective first-half, in which Arsenal stood toe-to-toe with the hosts, began to exert his authority on the game in the centre of midfield and found himself in the right place at the right time on several occasions to unpick the Gunners. His individual performance deserves due credit, and notably the Spaniard also came out on top in The Boot Room’s own player-of-the-match poll following the game.

It didn’t take long for him to start setting his sights on finding a way through a compact Arsenal defence, drifting slightly out to the right in order to link-up with Arjen Robben. The Dutchman played an incisive pass inside to Thiago, who duly set up Arturo Vidal to register Bayern’s first effort on target, a speculative effort from outside the box that was well held by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina with just minutes on the clock.

Even after Bayern were stunned near the end of the first-half by Alexis Sánchez’s equaliser, after Arjen Robben had sensationally fired the hosts ahead, Thiago almost crafted an immediate reply, with an intricate curling ball over the top of the defence which found Arturo Vidal on the by-line, who laid the ball on first-time for Robert Lewandowski, who headed over from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.

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The Spaniard was continually stretching Arsenal with his incisive passes and link-up play, but his game well and truly sprung to life on 56 minutes. By this time Robert Lewandowski had already restored Bayern’s lead, rising above Shkodran Mustafi to head the hosts back into the ascendancy from Philipp Lahm’s teasing cross, but it would be the Polish international who would then turn provider, sumptuously back-heeling the ball first-time from Xabi Alonso’s pass straight into Thiago’s feet, who, having made an inch-perfect run, had the simple task of finishing beyond Ospina. It was the old German one-two returning once again, Alcántara’s strike coming just two and a half minutes after Lewandowski’s effort.

And it didn’t take long for the 25-year-old to help himself to his second. After the ball dropped to him kindly on the edge of the Arsenal box following a corner, he let fly with a right-footed effort that took a kind ricochet off Granit Xhaka to wrong foot Ospina, evading the Colombian’s flailing right-foot and creeping into the goal to the delight of the home crowd. A slice of fortune perhaps, but he had done well to find a pocket of space to give himself time to set his sights, after picking up the ball from Francis Coquelin’s weak clearing header.

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The midfielder was by now playing with the utmost confidence, drifting out wide in midfield gradually more to play passes inside. They almost always found their target, as he completed 93% of his passes, and he very nearly played in Douglas Costa for Bayern’s fifth on 82 minutes, finding the Brazilian with an incisive pass to the right of the Arsenal penalty area, only for the wide-man’s effort to be tipped away by Ospina for a corner.

Thiago wasn’t to be denied an assist, however, and he helped complete Arsenal’s miserable night after he capitalised on some calamitous defending from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He recovered possession, standing before Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi, and casually laid the ball off for Thomas Muller to score – the German international’s first contribution after emerging from the bench.

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Thus, a performance that started quietly yet effective, but grew in stature and influence as the game went on. Given the way this Champions League is panning out, Thiago Alcántara may yet have a part to play if Bayern Munich are to go far in the tournament. He looks to have already succeeded in at least slamming the brakes on Arsenal, and being in such free-scoring mood as late in the tournament as the knockout rounds can only bode well for the Bundesliga giants and their European aspirations. In Munich he was Arsenal’s tormentor, and for the Gunners to make the return leg at the Emirates a respectable one, they will need to keep the Spaniard in-check, as they failed to do, to their peril, in Germany.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by  oimoko0114.

23 year old from Stoke-on-Trent. Avid Port Vale fan. Also follow Derby County & OGC Nice closely. BA Hons Modern Languages Graduate (University of Oxford). My prior experience in Sports Journalism comes from Volleyball & Floorball, having worked on major tournaments with the CEV, FIVB, & IFF. Have been contributing pieces to The Boot Room since 2016. Views are my own.

Arsenal

It is too soon for Mikel Arteta to be considered for Arsenal job

The 36-year-old has been linked with the Emirates hot seat.

Jake Jackman

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Mikel Arteta
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Arsenal have a huge summer awaiting them as they will need to appoint a successor to Arsene Wenger and rebuild a squad that has missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.

It won’t be an easy task and the board must act swiftly to make sure the club are prepared for the 2018/19 campaign.

Considering Wenger’s departure was announced weeks ago, Arsenal should have made progress in their search for a replacement.

There will be a number of names under consideration and it is important that they do their due diligence to ensure they can start to move in the right direction again.

BBC Sport report that Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the options being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates Stadium.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As a former player, he would be well received by the fanbase, but it would represent a huge gamble by the club.

The 36-year-old was part of the playing staff under Arsene Wenger as recently as 2016.

Although he will know the problems that exist at the club, he may struggle to exert the authority to correct them considering many of the current squad were his peers.

It has only been two years since the Spaniard retired from playing and he wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for a job of this size this soon.

Upon retiring, he took up a coaching role at Manchester City and the experience will stand him in good stead to move into management one day.

After all, he is working with one of the best managers of all-time in Pep Guardiola and Arteta will have played a role in the team’s record-breaking Premier League season.

That coupled with his history with Arsenal makes him an attractive left-field option for the Gunners.

However, the size of the risk attached to an appointment means that the club should look elsewhere this summer.

The club will want stability, but first and foremost, they will want success.

The fact that Arteta has no managerial experience means that he would be learning on the job and the North London side can’t afford to allow that.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal are a huge club and as the man following Arsene Wenger, the next manager will be scrutinised closely.

It would be a job better suited to a manager with experience and know-how at the top level.

The article goes on to mention both Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Either of them would be a better appointment for Arsenal at this time, as they have both managed big clubs previously.

For Arteta, the fact that he is being linked to a job like Arsenal shows how highly he is thought of within the game.

If he wants to go into management, he needs to leave Manchester City and gain experience as a number one.

If he does that, whether it be in England or abroad, he could be ready to take the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium at a later date.

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Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
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This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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Arsenal hero Patrick Viera would be an underwhelming appointment for Everton

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Photo: Getty Images.

The managerial merry-go-round is warming up ready for another summer of action and it looks increasingly likely that Everton could be involved as fans grow more and more unhappy with the management of Sam Allardyce. What may come as a greater surprise is that the club could turn to Arsenal hero Patrick Viera to replace him.

According to Metro, Viera is admired by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and fits the profile that the Toffees are looking for of a young and dynamic coach to take over at Goodison Park.

Viera has also been linked with the opportunity to replace his former coach Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where he remains a legend, but is currently under contact with New York City, part of the Manchester City group.

(during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match between AS Roma and Manchester City on March 17, 2015 in Latina, Italy.

The Citizens would reportedly not stand in his way of a Premier League move and Everton would be happy to offer more than the £2 million that he currently earns per year, but it would be a hugely underwhelming appointment for the blue half of Merseyside.

Whilst Viera has done well in Major League Soccer in New York, he has not achieved enough to have caught the eye of such a high profile club were it not for his playing career.

Given the finances reportedly available to the next Everton manager and the huge pressure to get an underperforming squad up to scratch and matching expectations, it would be a big gamble if the club were to put their faith in Viera.

He may well have potential, but it would be a surprise to see a club of the size and resources of Everton being the ones to give Viera his first opportunity as a Premier League coach.

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