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Mikel Arteta’s decisions inviting scrutiny as Arsenal lose momentum with Man Utd and Everton defeats

Jacob Scott

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“I want more from my team,” Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports. The Arsenal manager offered no excuses for his side’s poor display in Monday’s 2-1 loss to Everton but to many supporters, the players aren’t the only ones underperforming right now.

A third defeat in four games has left Arteta under mounting scrutiny. “It was a worrying sign, how they lost,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. After the 3-2 reverse at Manchester United, this was the second game in a row in which Arsenal have surrendered a lead.

The momentum of their 10-game unbeaten run has been lost at a time when rivals are finding their own. Arsenal have slumped to seventh place as a result, behind Manchester United and Tottenham – two clubs who were in crisis as recently as a few weeks ago.

It would be a stretch to call Arsenal’s current plight a crisis. They are only four points behind fourth-placed West Ham, whom they face at the Emirates Stadium next week. “They can win the next home game and they will still be challenging for the top four,” added Carragher.

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Watch highlights from Everton’s win over Arsenal

But it is nonetheless concerning how quickly their progress has unravelled and Arteta did not help himself with some of the decisions which ultimately contributed to their latest defeat.

Granit Xhaka, back in the side after a three-month absence with a serious knee injury, was already tiring when, on 63 minutes, he fouled Anthony Gordon for the booking which later prevented him from stopping Andre Gomes in the build-up to Everton’s winner.

Arteta could have turned to Albert Sambi Lokonga, outstanding in the recent 2-0 win over Newcastle, but instead his first change was to introduce Nuno Tavares for Kieran Tierney.

Tavares’ erratic showing was in keeping with his recent performances and only added to the nervousness engulfing Arsenal. The 21-year-old lost possession eight times, according to Opta, most notably in the moments before Everton’s equaliser.

Arteta’s remaining changes were similarly difficult to make sense of.

Eddie Nketiah, who has recently rejected Arsenal’s offer of a new contract, had not made a single Premier League appearance this season before his introduction against Manchester United on Thursday and yet he was chosen ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when Gabriel Martinelli was withdrawn on 71 minutes.

Image:
Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White applaud the Arsenal fans at Goodison Park

Nketiah would go on to miss a glorious chance to put Arsenal in front and the decision to hold Aubameyang back was even stranger given Alexandre Lacazette’s obvious struggles.

The Frenchman, who is without a goal since mid-October, didn’t muster a single shot and only had one touch in Everton’s box. Why, then, was he kept on until the 85th minute?

Arteta was not oblivious to Arsenal’s attacking shortcomings. In fact he summed them up succinctly afterwards. “No penetration, no threat,” he told Sky Sports. But Aubameyang’s late miss, when he snatched at his effort while unmarked in the Everton box, suggests his already fragile confidence may now have taken another hit.

Others are being overlooked altogether.

Nicolas Pepe has been an unused substitute in the last five games. Lokonga has been pulled out of the side just when it seemed he had found his feet. Mohamed Elneny was given 90 minutes at Old Trafford, having barely featured all season, only to find himself back on the bench, unused, at Goodison Park.

It all feels muddled and while Monday’s game might have ended differently had Everton’s Ben Godfrey not somehow escaped punishment for his stamp on Takehiro Tomiyasu’s face in the first half, Arsenal were already struggling at that point.

Image:
Arsenal are taking a high volume of shots from distance

Individuals are out of form but there remains a sense of ambiguity about Arteta’s overarching offensive strategy.

Arsenal are taking more shots at goal this season but many of them are speculative and creativity is still lacking. Only Norwich have created fewer big chances among Premier League clubs.

Arsenal have scored just 18 goals in 15 Premier League games so far, placing them 12th in the division this season, and the underlying data offers little reassurance. In fact, their net expected goals total of -3.9 ranks them even lower, at 14th.

It could be argued those numbers are skewed by Arsenal’s heavy defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool but the meeting with Everton was the ninth game this season in which they have been outperformed by their opponent in terms of expected goals.

It is actual goals that really matter, of course, but another worry is how Arsenal react to scoring them.

Martin Odegaard’s strike at Goodison Park should have been a platform to build on but, like Emile Smith Rowe’s opener at Old Trafford four days earlier, it instead prompted Arsenal to cede control and hand their opponent the initiative.

“In the Premier League, when you have the opponent there for the taking, you have to kill the game,” said Arteta afterwards. No arguments there. But out on the pitch Arsenal could be seen timewasting with 20 minutes still to play.

His players seem unsure whether to stick or twist after taking the lead and it is a reoccurring issue, as shown by the fact they have dropped eight points from winning positions this season – matching their total for the whole of the last campaign in only 15 games.

All this is coming at a time when they should be better. Arteta has reshaped the side to his liking. The lighter schedule afforded by their failure to qualify for Europe has given him more time with the players on the training pitch. And yet familiar problems are still unsolved. The fog of ambiguity around their playing style remains.

Arteta wants more from his team. He is entitled to ask for that after their recent performances. But events at Goodison Park on Monday night were a reminder that he must look inwardly too.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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