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Arthur Melo to Liverpool: Injury-prone but technically brilliant, Brazil midfielder a gamble worth taking for Jurgen Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp had already confirmed Liverpool were in the market for a midfielder before Wednesday’s win over Newcastle but Jordan Henderson’s hamstring injury added to the urgency.

Henderson joined Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines when he was forced off in the second half at Anfield but Liverpool acted just 24 hours later, confirming the loan signing of Arthur Melo from Juventus.

Arthur looked to have a brilliant future in Catalonia at that point but it never quite came to fruition for him.

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Over the course of his first season at the club, he only started more than three consecutive games on two occasions. By the end of his second, he had fallen out of favour altogether.

His move to Juventus that summer, for a fee of £66m, with Miralem Pjanic moving the other way for £54.8m, provided a change of scenery but ultimately not a change of fortunes.

Arthur impressed in patches in his first campaign in Italy but featured sporadically under Andrea Pirlo and it was a similar story under Pirlo’s successor Massimiliano Allegri last season.

His talent has never been in doubt – Allegri described his technical ability as “extraordinary” earlier this year and Pirlo was similarly complimentary – but other factors held him back.

Robustness under scrutiny

Injuries have been a persistent issue for Arthur and they leave question marks hanging over him as he arrives at Anfield.

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Liverpool’s absentee list is such that Arthur will be needed immediately but does he have the robustness for the Premier League? Does he have the robustness to play under Klopp?

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Liverpool’s breathless approach demands high levels of stamina and physical resilience and there is little in Arthur’s recent history to suggest he possesses those qualities.

He has not featured at all for Juventus this season and arrives at Anfield having not played a single minute of competitive action since Juve’s Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter Milan four months ago.

It is not exactly ideal preparation for a side about to embark on a run of five games in 15 days.

It is not ideal, either, that Arthur has never started more than 19 league games in a league season in Europe, the percentage of fixtures he has started in fact declining every year since his arrival from Brazil back in 2018.

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It is a worrying trend which goes part of the way to explaining why Arsenal decided against moving for him in the January transfer window. The hope for Klopp and Liverpool is he will succeed in reversing that trend in his new surroundings.

Pass master like Thiago

If he can, it may yet prove an inspired piece of business.

Thankfully for Liverpool, Arthur’s susceptibility to injury is not the only quality he has in common with Thiago.

Until now, Liverpool have not possessed another midfielder capable of influencing proceedings quite like Thiago in possession but Arthur might just be that man – providing he can stay fit.

While he has not featured nearly as regularly as he would like during his time with Juventus, his influence on the ball can be seen in his statistical output.

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He has averaged more touches per 90 minutes than any other Juventus player over the last two seasons and also ranks top in terms of passes and pass success. Only one player, Manuel Locatelli, has averaged more passes in the final third.

Much like Thiago, whose off-the-ball work is underrated, Arthur offers plenty out of possession too, the statistics showing he has won possession in the middle third of the pitch at a higher rate than any other Juventus player over the last two seasons.

Chiefly, though, he is someone who can help his team dominate possession and unpick opposition defences. Like Thiago, he is not known for racking up goals and assists. He is more likely to be found starting attacks than finishing them.

But his “extraordinary” technical ability coupled with the Xavi-like distribution which marked him out for a big future at Barcelona could help ease Liverpool’s reliance on Thiago, and give them a much-needed alternative in an area of the pitch in which they too frequently find themselves short on numbers.

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EPL: Bacary Sagna predicts scorelines for Man City vs Utd, Arsenal vs Tottenham fixtures

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Former Arsenal defender, Bacary Sagna, has predicted the scoreline for Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Manchester United.

Sagna also predicted the outcome of Arsenal’s Premier League tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

Man City will host Man United in a Premier League derby at Etihad on Sunday, while Arsenal will take on Tottenham in a London derby at Emirates on Saturday afternoon.

Providing his predictions, Sagna said Man City would beat Man United by three goals to nil, while Arsenal will defeat Tottenham 2-0.

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“I can’t see anyone other than City winning this match. I think City will win 3-0,” Sagna told Lord Ping.

He added, “Arsenal will win. Arsenal 2-0.”

“Listen, make no mistake, this will be a tough game for Arsenal. Tottenham has quality players, dangerous players. Son [Heung-min] has come into a bit of form. [Harry] Kane, we all know what he can do.”

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Volleyball: Offa, Customs win Premier League

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Offa Volleyball Club (male) and the Nigeria Customs Service (female) have emerged the champions of the 2022 Nigeria Volleyball Premier League competition.

In the men’s final match at the indoor hall of the Ondo State Sports Complex, Akure, Offa defeated Nigeria Correctional Service 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 25-17, 17-25, 15-11), while in the women’s category, Customs emerged champions, beating Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-21) on the final day of the league.

Offa coach, Suleiman Ajeigbe, expressed delight over the victory, saying the trophy would be going to Offa community for the first time.

Ajeigbe also commended his players for properly executing their game plan and playing to instruction.

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He said, “I feel so proud, I feel so excited and I give all glory to God almighty. It has been a very challenging one, but to the glory of God. In the history of the Nigeria Volleyball Premier League, Offa, a local government in Kwara State will be lifting the trophy, this is historical, this has never happened before.

“Offa Volleyball Club came into being to help the youths in my community. I started the club to ensure that every member of my team is Kwara-born, majority of them are born in Offa. It is to the glory of God that I was able to start it, most of my players are playing outside the country now. I started the club in 2010, so it’s been a long time actually.”

Customs coach, Sunny Akapson, said his side’s victory was as a result of hard work, determination and dedication.

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EPL: Glen Johnson predicts result of Arsenal vs Tottenham derby clash

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Former Chelsea star, Glenn Johnson has provided his prediction for Saturday’s North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.

Mikel Arteta’s side will receive Antonio Conte’s Spurs at the Emirates on Saturday.

The Gunners would be leapfrogged by Tottenham at the top of the Premier League table if they hand Arteta’s side their second defeat of the season.

Arsenal has won six out of seven of their opening games, losing once to Manchester United.

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Spurs are unbeaten and just a point behind them in third, with Tottenham able to leapfrog their rivals with a victory.

Johnson told SafeBettingSites: “It’s going to be a tough one to call, to be honest.

“Tottenham looks great, Arsenal looks great. Finally, we’ve got two good teams going into the north London derby!.

‘This is their first big test, for both teams. [I’m going] 2-1 to Arsenal.’

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