Football News

Mikel Arteta calls for Bukayo Saka to improve despite helping Arsenal to another win

By Harry Edwards

Published: 9:02, 14 October 2022

The 2022/23 Europa League reached its fourth matchday on Thursday night and the groups are starting to take their final shape.

As part of the condensed fixture list, teams have faced each other back-to-back in just seven days, which means a lot of Europa League action. On Thursday some teams took a big step towards qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League, some actually secured their spots, but others have started their goodbyes to the tournament.

But with 16 matches across the two time slots on Thursday, it’s easy to miss the best stats and stories. So below we’ve rounded up the things you might have missed from matchday four of the 2022/23 Europa League.

1. Arsenal’s run continues

Arsenal are having an excellent season. The Gunners went into this game off the back of a 3-2 win over Liverpool, further strengthening their title credentials, to remain top of the Premier League table after nine matches.

They have carried that start into the Europa League with three victories, and Arsenal have now won more games across all competitions this season than any other Premier League club (11).

Bukayo Saka scored the only goal of their 1-0 win over Bodo/Glimt on Thursday night, but boss Mikel Arteta wants even more from the Englishman.

“Yes, but again he can become much better,” he said when asked of Saka’s improvements this season.

“He had moments in the game where he was really good and then moments he can improve and demand more of himself, especially defensively.

“There were moments where we allowed their left full-back to progress the play and break our press too easily. There a lot of things to improve.”

2. Scott McTominay x Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United huffed and puffed against Omonia at Old Trafford on Thursday night, taking 34 shots, the highest total for any team in single Europa League match since the start of last season.

Just as they looked unable to blow the house down, Scott McTominay scored in the 90th minute to keep them three points behind group leaders Real Sociedad. While his goal was not nearly as important, McTominay was the first substitute to score a 90th-minute winner in a European match for Man Utd since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 1999 Champions League final.

“It’s the right result because Manchester United were so dominant in both games,” Paul Scholes said.

“That injury-time goal has saved themselves real embarrassment though. Francis Uzoho made some good saves but nothing you wouldn’t expect in the Champions League.

“Manchester United had more than enough chances but their finishing just wasn’t there tonight.”

3. Cody Gakpo on top of Europe

Cody Gakpo may not have scored in PSV’s 5-0 win over Zurich but he provided yet another assist to continue his unbelievable start to the 2022/23 campaign.

The Dutchman, who was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League over the summer, has been showing teams what they are missing out on with 24 direct goal involvements in 17 games so far this season. Adding 11 assists to 13 goals, Gakpo has now been directly involved in more goals than any other player in top-flight European football this season.

That’s right, even more than Erling Haaland, who Gakpo overtook on Thursday night.

4. Ciro Immobile writes Lazio history

He’s a product of the Juventus youth system but Ciro Immobile will forever be remembered as Lazio’s player – it’s hard to think of a time when he wasn’t banging the goals in for I Biancocelesti.

Already the club’s all-time top goalscorer, Immobile is now Lazio’s best scorer in European competitions, netting his 21st goal in their 2-2 draw with Sturm Graz. The Italian moved one clear of Simone Inzaghi, having been level with the former Lazio boss since February.

5. The most dramatic Europa League group

Sticking with Lazio and Group F for a minute, if you want drama in the final two gameweeks of the Europa League, this is your place.

With four games played, Feyenoord, Midtjylland, Lazio and Sturm Graz are all level on five points and currently separated by goal difference. Of course, head-to-head is the primary tie-breaker but the past two gameweeks — when teams played each other back-to-back — brought four draws, meaning head-to-head will only truly come into play in the final two matches.

The first four games of the group finished Lazio 4-2 Feyenoord, Sturm Graz 1-0 Midtjylland, Midtjylland 5-1 Lazio and Feyenoord 6-0 Sturm Graz. And let’s be real, we all want to see the reverse of those scorelines happening for ultimate tie-breaker chaos.

6. Roma’s disastrous strikers leave them in limbo

Roma are the defending Europa Conference League champions and as things stand they could be on their way back to the competition. Jose Mourinho’s side have not had a good time in the Europa League so far with one win and one draw from their opening four matches.

That draw was secured against Real Betis on Thursday night (having lost to the Spaniards in Rome last week), with Andrea Belotti scoring the equaliser after Sergio Canales had put the hosts ahead. Belotti started in a strike partnership alongside Tammy Abraham but the pair struggled to click in the first half, and receiving a stern telling off from their manager.

“It was a disaster in the first half, really, really bad,” Mourinho told reporters of Abraham and Belotti’s partnership.

“They didn’t do what I asked. They came off at half-time with red ears because I was shouting at them so much.

“It was better after the break, not just for the goal, but also because they worked together.”

Things are still in Roma’s hands, however, as they can go through to the knockout round play-offs if they win their final two matches against HJK and Ludogorets.

7. Germany’s best team

Which Bundesliga team has won more competitive matches than any other so far this season? Bayern Munich? Borussia Dortmund? Union Berlin?

No. Freiburg.

Currently second in the Bundesliga, Freiburg have won five of their nine league matches to sit two points behind leaders Union Berlin, plus another one in the DFB-Pokal. But they have commanded their Europa League group too.

Christian Streich’s side have already guaranteed their spot in the knockout stages of the Europa League, just needing to confirm whether it’s a direct route to the last 16 or the extra matches of the knockout round play-offs. At the moment it’s looking like the last 16, with Freiburg winning all four of their matches so far, scoring 11 goals with just one conceded to sit five points clear of second-placed Qarabag.

Europa League Outright Odds

Team Bet365
Bayer Leverkusen 5/6
Atalanta 3/1
Roma 9/2
Marseille 10/1
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