Warning: include(/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/tag.php on line 9

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/breadcrumb.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/usr/share/pear') in /home/ubuntu/websites/mirrorsports.lk/public_html/wp-content/themes/revolution_magazine/tag.php on line 9

Wenger ready to make peace with Mourinho

May 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he is prepared to bury the hatchet with old foe Jose Mourinho ahead of Sunday’s home game with Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho

Wenger regularly clashed with Mourinho during the Portuguese’s two stints as Chelsea manager, the rivalry spilling over into a touchline shoving match during an October 2014 game at Stamford Bridge.

The pair resume hostilities at the Emirates Stadium with their sides competing for a place in the Premier League top four.

Asked if peace could be made with United manager Mourinho, Wenger told reporters: “I am open always in life for everything, you know, for peace.

“But what is important when you are a competitor is that you give absolutely everything to win the next game.”

Wenger, who has never beaten Mourinho in the league, was reminded of his relationship with former United manager Alex Ferguson, which shed its initial spikiness to become corial.

“My relationship with Ferguson mellowed, yes. We have respect,” Wenger said.

“I think I try to respect everybody and I do not want to make a case of any person. I think it is important that I focus on my own team, the performance of my team and forget all the rest.”

Arsenal approach the weekend in sixth place in the table, five points below United and six behind Manchester City, with a game in hand on both.

“It just shows that everybody has moved up,” said Wenger, whose side will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

“The number of clubs that can fight at the top is bigger this season and the difference between the teams is smaller. As soon as you are not at your best, you can lose.”

With Sunday’s game sandwiched between the two legs of United’s Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo, Mourinho has indicated he will rest players for the trip to north London.

Wenger said that if Arsenal fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League he will follow Mourinho’s lead by making the Europa League a priority.

“I take every competition seriously,” he said during Thursday’s pre-game press conference at Arsenal’s London Colney training base.

“The only thing I always did over the years was to use the League Cup to give chances to young players. We always treated all the other competitions seriously.”

Wenger is still to announce what he will do at the end of the season and has faced calls to stand down from disgruntled supporters.

United’s struggles in the post-Ferguson era have been held up as a warning to fans calling for Wenger to go, but he says his departure could prove to be a good thing.

“It can as well go better from when I leave one day,” said the Frenchman, who has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996.

“You know, when you are such a long time at a club like I am, like Ferguson was, it is a little bit like when you have children. You want them to be happy.

“Even when you are not there anymore, you want them to be happy.”

Reminded that he had vowed to make an announcement on his future in March or April, Wenger joked: “That means I was wrong!”

He added: “I don’t want to speak about my personal case any more.”

Wenger revealed midfielder Granit Xhaka is likely to miss Sunday’s game after taking a kick to the calf in last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Wenger faces new quit calls after Palace loss

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger faces renewed calls to resign after Arsenal’s miserable season spiralled out of control with furious fans turning on his flops during their humiliating 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace

Wenger’s side hit a new low on a chastening evening in south London as struggling Palace condemned the shambolic Gunners to their heaviest Premier League defeat of the season.

Wenger’s side have lost four successive away league games for the first time in his 21-year reign as manager.

Goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic gave Palace their first home win over Arsenal since 1979 and left Wenger in turmoil after his team’s fifth defeat in their last eight league games.

With many Arsenal supporters again demanding Wenger resign, the toxic atmosphere around the north Londoners boiled over as fans refused to give the ball back to Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin when it went into the away section in the second half.

Instead, they berated Bellerin and his team-mates with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”, with the Spaniard having to be consoled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he was jeered again at the final whistle.

Wenger and his squad were targeted for more abuse when they made their way from the dressing room to the team bus. Arsenal’s shocking surrender leaves them in sixth place, lagging seven points behind fourth placed Manchester City.

With Wenger’s record of leading Arsenal into the Champions League for 19 consecutive years in severe danger, the beleaguered Frenchman acknowledged he has to find a way to avoid the mutinous mood wrecking what may yet prove to be his final season in charge.

“I want the fans to support the team, but I can understand they are extremely frustrated, like we all are,” Wenger said.

“We came with the desire to win the game, but in the decisive moments of the game Palace were sharper.

“To see us lose in that way is disappointing. It’s part of my job to build the confidence. We have a week to do it. it’s our job. we will try to do it.”

Faced with the prospect of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since 1997, Wenger has hardly helped his cause by refusing to confirm if he will sign an extension to the contract which runs out at the end of the season.

The uncertainty over his future has been a major distraction for a team lacking the fighting spirit required to cope with adversity.

Wenger conceded Arsenal’s chances of making the Champions League via a top-four finish look bleak, but he refused to be drawn on whether or not he will stay.

“I think it will be very difficult certainly,” he said. “I don’t want to speak about me tonight. I’m not in the mood.

“At the moment I pay more respect to the fact we had a disappointing result.”

Looking shell-shocked and far less defiant than he often is at such downbeat moments, Wenger must have been devastated by the way the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott went missing when he needed them most.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright claimed Wenger has lost the support of his players and even the Gunners boss admitted Palace had shown more passion.

“They were sharper and more decisive than us,” he said. “In the second half they came out strong and scored again.

“After that it was more difficult. “I don’t say the players gave up. For a long time we were unbeaten away but since we lost a few we don’t have the confidence. “You could sense it had an impact on us after the second goal.”

Palace moved six points clear of the bottom three and boss Sam Allardyce hailed a magical 10 days that also included a win at leaders Chelsea.

“One or two more results and we should be safe, but it’s a massive night for everybody, and a huge week for us all,” he said.

Thiago-inspired Bayern hand Arsenal 5-1 rout

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger’s future was plunged into further doubt on Wednesday as Thiago Alcantara inspired Bayern Munich to a 5-1 rout of hapless Arsenal to leave the Gunners facing a seventh straight Champions League last-16 exit.

Bayern Munich

Bayern extended their Champions League record to 16 straight home wins by flooring the Gunners with three goals in ten second-half minutes.

“That was a good performance, which perhaps wasn’t so expected,” said Thiago, who scored twice.

“We were playing at home, knew we had to score a few goals and everything worked very well after the break.”

Bayern knocked Arsenal out at the same stage in 2005, 2013 and 2014 and look comfortably placed to make it four times after romping through Wednesday’s first leg.

The Allianz Arena defeat raises the pressure on Wenger for the return leg on March 7 with only Alexis Sanchez’s away goal for comfort.

The result matched the 5-1 group-stage thrashing Arsenal received in Munich in November 2015 — the club’s joint record away defeat in Europe.

Arjen Robben’s superb curling shot gave Bayern the lead on 11 minutes, but Sanchez levelled by drilling home after Manuel Neuer saved his penalty on 30 minutes.

Robben also admitted he was surprised by the big win.

“Things worked very well,” said the Dutch winger.

“I am a bit surprised that we played so well, but on the other hand, I know the team has great character and can move up a gear when it matters.”

Bayern hit top gear after the break with a flurry of goals in quick succession.

Robert Lewandowski headed Bayern back into the lead on 53 minutes before Thiago added two in quick succession while Thomas Mueller came off the bench to complete the rout.

Bayern spent the opening minutes camped in the Arsenal half and took the lead on 10 minutes through Robben’s wonderful strike.

The Dutch winger cut in from the right and curled home a superbly-weighted shot off his left foot from outside the area.

Arsenal then raised the tempo and started pressing the hosts.

Bayern defender Mats Hummels was given a yellow card for fouling Sanchez just outside the box.

Mesut Ozil drilled the resulting free-kick at Neuer, but moments later Arsenal were awarded a penalty.

Lewandowski mistimed a clearance in the area and struck Laurent Koscielny’s raised leg.

Despite Bayern’s furious protests, Serbian referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot.

Neuer saved Sanchez’s penalty, but the Chile international drilled home the rebound at the second attempt.

It was the valuable away goal Bayern had talked about not conceding in the match’s build-up.

There were equally furious Bayern protests at the other end when David Alaba’s cross struck Hector Bellerin on the hand, but the referee waved play on.

It was 1-1 at the break, but Bayern stepped up the pressure in the second half.

Robben released Philipp Lahm who put in a perfect cross and Lewandowski twisted to tuck his header past David Ospina’s reach.

The Poland hot-shot then flicked Xabi Alonso’s pass into Thiago’s path and the former Barcelona midfielder fired past Ospina.

Lewandowski hit the crossbar on 61 minutes, but Thiago added his second when his shot from the edge of the box deflected past the Arsenal goalkeeper on 63 minutes.

Mueller came on for Lewandowski on 86 minutes and added Bayern’s fifth two minutes later after Thiago squared the final pass.

Pressure on Wenger to break Bayern curse in Champions League

February 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger is once again under pressure to end Arsenal’s Champions League last-16 misery as the Gunners travel to bogey team Bayern Munich in Wednesday’s first leg.

Arsenal

Bayern are riding a record 15-match home winning streak in Europe with the midweek clash marking the 11th meeting between the sides at Munich’s Allianz Arena in the Champions League.

Arsenal have suffered last-16 defeats in each of the last six seasons, losing to Bayern in both 2013 and 2014, and another early exit would further ramp up the pressure on 67-year-old Wenger to quit after 20 years in charge.

The teams know each other well, having met six times in the last four years, and Bayern thrashed the Gunners 5-1 in Munich in their previous meeting in November 2015.

Arsenal warmed up for their trip to Germany with a 2-0 win over Hull as Alexis Sanchez scored both goals to stop the rot following back-to-back league defeats to Chelsea and Watford.

The Gunners are confident for the Allianz Arena leg with the return in London on March 7.

“If we put in our best performance, then we can beat Bayern as well,” Arsenal’s German defender Shkodran Mustafi told Sky.

“It’s down to us and it’s in our hands.”

Arsenal beat Bayern 2-0 in Munich in 2013, but still lost the last-16 tie following a 3-1 defeat in the first leg in London as the Germans went on to win that year’s final at Wembley.

“We have already won there and I feel we have a chance to go through,” said Wenger.

Midfielder Mesut Ozil, another Germany international, is enduring a dip in form, though, and has not scored since early December.

“It’s time for him to score again,” said Wenger. “I felt he did not feel confident (against Hull).

“It’s always a problem because you think he can deliver something special.”

Arsenal are third in the English Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, while Bayern are seven clear in Germany’s top flight.

The Bavarians have reached the semi-final stage in Europe in each of the last three years, but Bayern are itching to go one better and reach the Cardiff final on June 3.

Despite their lead in the Bundesliga, Bayern have turned in below-par performances in recent weeks and needed two late goals to earn a 2-0 win at relegation-threatened Ingolstadt on Saturday.

Xabi Alonso suffered an injury scare in training on Monday, while Bayern will be missing defender Jerome Boateng and winger Franck Ribery, who are recovering from shoulder and thigh injuries respectively.

Germany forward Thomas Mueller is enduring a goal drought with just one goal in 17 league games this term, but Robert Lewandowski has hit 23 goals in all competitions and is relishing the Arsenal showdown.

“Everyone is waiting for this game and it’ll be a big challenge for us,” said Lewandowski.

“Arsenal have very good players, but we need to concentrate on ourselves and if we play our best football, Arsenal probably won’t have many chances.

“We need to score at least once and concede nothing, then it’ll be a good evening for us.”

Sanchez hands Arsenal lift with win over Hull

February 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Alexis Sanchez struck twice as Arsenal returned to winning ways with a contentious and hard-fought 2-0 Premier League win over Hull City on Saturday.

Sanchez

The Gunners had lost their last two games coming into this contest against the relegation-threatened Tigers and had drifted out of the title race as a result.

They were by no means back to their best, but with a Champions League tie at Bayern Munich to come on Wednesday, manager Arsene Wenger will be pleased to have chalked up a timely victory.

Sanchez opened the scoring on 34 minutes with a goal that was allowed to stand despite the ball going in off his right hand.

He confirmed the three points with an injury-time penalty — his 17th goal of the campaign — after Sam Clucas had been sent off for clearing Lucas Perez’s strike off the line with his arm.

Hull threatened on occasion, but failed to get a positive result to lift them out of the bottom three, while Arsenal stay in the top four and provisionally close to within nine points of leaders Chelsea.

Some Arsenal fans decided to stay away in protest at what they deem as another failing Arsenal title bid.

But one man taking his seat in the stands at the Emirates Stadium was the under-fire Wenger, who served the last game of his four-match touchline ban.

His side seemed nervy at the back in the opening exchanges and Liverpool loanee Lazar Markovic broke into their box all too easily, but Oumar Niasse was unable to make contact with the Serbian’s cross.

Niasse tested Petr Cech moments later as he got onto the end of Kamil Grosicki’s smart cross to head towards goal, forcing the Arsenal goalkeeper to tip his effort behind.

The hosts then passed up two glorious opportunities to take the lead, with Hector Bellerin lashing wide when well-placed and Sanchez pulling his own effort wide of the mark from the centre of goal.

Hull’s defences were finally breached 10 minutes before the break and even then, the goal came in controversial circumstances.

After Kieran Gibbs’s shot was scrambled off the line by Andy Robertson, Sanchez followed in with a shot that struck Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic before rebounding into the net off the Chilean’s hand.

Despite protestations from the Hull players, the goal was given after assistant Jake Collin appeared to have a discussion with referee Mark Clattenburg over the incident.

Arsenal survived an injury scare to Francis Coquelin early in the second half before Cech once again saved from Niasse.

Theo Walcott was then cautioned for squaring up to Harry McGuire, with England colleague Gibbs lucky to only see yellow moments later for barging over Markovic as he ran through on goal.

Alex Iwobi shot over after a neat exchange of passes with Ozil before Walcott fluffed his lines as he searched for his 100th goal in Arsenal colours.

Niasse sent a header into the side-netting as Hull looked to ruin another weekend for Arsenal, who had Sanchez booked for simulation late on.

Wenger looked to his bench in an attempt to build on his side’s slender lead, with both Danny Welbeck and Lucas coming on with 10 minutes remaining.

Hull manager Marco Silva, who has now faced Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal since arriving at the KCOM Stadium, saw his own substitute Adama Diomande head a corner over.

The game was sewn up in injury time after Perez saw his header blocked on the line by Clucas, who was trudging down the tunnel after being dismissed by Clattenburg as Sanchez tucked away the penalty to seal the win.

Hazard sparkles, Chelsea dazzle, rivals are frazzled

February 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Eden Hazard’s brilliant goal in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Arsenal further buried the title hopes of their Premier League rivals with even angry Arsene Wenger admitting that his London foes are a class act.

Hazard

Antonio Conte’s side shattered Arsenal’s hopes while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool hit a new low in a 2-0 defeat at Hull in Saturday’s games.

Belgian winger Hazard picked up the ball in his own half and waltzed past four opposing players to shoot home at Stamford Bridge after Marcos Alonso opened the scoring with a contentious effort, clattering into Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin before heading home.

Cesc Fabregas rubbed salt into Arsenal’s wounds in the 85th minute when the former Gunners midfielder chipped into the empty net after a woeful miskick from ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Olivier Giroud got a consolation but third placed Arsenal trail Chelsea by 12 points with 14 games remaining.

Chelsea have 16 wins in their last 18 league games, prompting Conte to hail the triumph as a significant moment in the title race.

“I consider Arsenal one of the six teams that can fight for the title. To put them 12 points behind is very important for us,” Conte said.

Wenger fumed over Alonso’s opener, saying: “It was 100 percent a foul. It was even dangerous play.”

But he joined Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola in saying Chelsea should have the title wrapped up.

“They look at the moment in full confidence, powerful, strong. They don’t concede goals. It’s for them to lose it.”

Second placed Tottenham are Chelsea’s closest challengers and their 1-0 victory against Middlesbrough meant they are still nine points behind.

When Son Heung-Min was fouled by Bernardo in the 58th minute at White Hart Lane, Tottenham striker Harry Kane stepped up to convert the penalty for his 16th goal of the season.

It was a first win in three league games for Mauricio Pochettino’s team, who are unbeaten in their last nine.

“When you don’t kill the game you leave it open. In the last second you can concede, that’s the Premier League. Thankfully it didn’t and we’re happy,” Pochettino said.

At the KCOM Stadium, Liverpool fell behind in the 44th minute when Alfred N’Diaye took advantage of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s poor handling to bag a debut goal.

Klopp’s side were finished off in the 84th minute when on-loan Everton striker Oumar Niasse raced clear to boost third bottom Hull’s survival bid.

“Obviously that was not good enough. We gave both goals away easily and the overall performance was not like it should be,” Klopp said.

“It makes no sense for us to play like this. We need to wake up, that was not acceptable.”

Liverpool have won only once in their last 10 games in all competitions and will be knocked out of the top four if Manchester City avoid defeat against Swansea on Sunday.

Sunderland stunned former boss Sam Allardyce with an first half goal rush to demolish fellow strugglers Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.

Lamine Kone, signed by Palace chief Allardyce when he was in charge at Sunderland, swept home after Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey dropped a 10th minute free-kick.

The Black Cats were two up in the 43rd minute through Didier Ndong’s first goal for the club.

Jermain Defoe put the result beyond doubt with two goals in first half stoppage-time. One furious Palace fan ran onto the pitch to confront defender Damien Delaney.

Sunderland remain bottom of the table but they are level on points with Palace, who dropped to 19th place.

Romelu Lukaku scored four times in Everton’s 6-3 victory against Bournemouth at Goodison Park.

Ronald Koeman’s side were ahead after just 31 seconds as Belgian forward Lukaku started his goal spree.

Everton doubled their advantage through James McCarthy in the 23rd minute and Lukaku notched his second six minutes later.

Bournemouth’s Josh King set up a tense finale as he netted in the 59th and 70th minutes.

Lukaku struck again in the 83rd and 84th minutes to cap his memorable afternoon before Harry Arter’s 90th minute reply and Ross Barkley’s sixth for Everton.

West Ham bounced back from their mauling by Manchester City with a 3-1 win at Southampton thanks to goals from Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble.

Watford consigned 10-man Burnley to a seventh successive away league defeat with a 2-1 success at Vicarage Road.

West Bromwich Albion beat Stoke 1-0 thanks to James Morrison’s sixth minute goal.

Arsenal face defining period, says midfielder Xhaka

January 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Granit Xhaka admits Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Burnley on Sunday marks the start of a defining period as the Gunners battle to get back in the title race.

Xhaka

Arsene Wenger’s side have fallen eight points behind leaders Chelsea and can’t afford many more stumbles if they are to catch their London rivals.

After Burnley’s visit to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal face an FA Cup fourth round trip to Southampton and a home league game against Watford before a must-win showdown with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

It is a crucial period that Switzerland midfielder Xhaka believes could determine if Arsenal will be in the hunt for silverware at the end of the season.

“I think firstly it was important to win at Swansea and the way we did with the 4-0 win there,” Xhaka said.

“Then we have the two home games coming up against Burnley and Watford.

“To be honest, I see it in the same way as the boss, these next three games could really tell a lot about what direction we are going to go in this season.”

If Arsenal are to win the title for the first time since 2004, they will need focused performances from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, but Wenger has so far offered no updates on the apparent impasse over the duo’s proposed new contracts.

The pair both have 18 months remaining and are believed to be seeking parity with the Premier League’s top players to extend their spells in north London

However, Xhaka believes Sanchez, who was visibly frustrated after being substituted during Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Swansea last weekend, is the perfect example of how a player should approach the game.

“Alexis Sanchez can be a really big role model,” he said. “The reason is that he always goes to his absolute limit in both training and in the game.

I think that attitude and application is something that any players can take something from.”

Wenger will welcome back Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs and Francis Coquelin after injuries, while in-form striker Olivier Giroud is fit despite being forced off at Swansea with an ankle problem.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche is set for a triple boost as Ashley Barnes, Dean Marney and Johann Berg Gudmundsson return from injuries after missing the midweek FA Cup win over Sunderland.

Burnley have defied predictions they would struggle to avoid relegation following last season’s promotion, climbing to 10th in the table after three wins in their last four league games.

Despite that impressive rise, Dyche’s side have a dismal away record, losing eight of nine games on their travels and scoring just three goals.

A trip to Arsenal doesn’t look like a good opportunity to halt that barren run, but Clarets midfielder Jeff Hendrick insists a change in fortune is well overdue.

“We’ve come off the pitch away from home and even though we’ve been beaten we’ve had a good feeling because the performances have been better,” he said.

“The first thing we needed to do was to start playing more like ourselves when we’re on the road, and we’ve definitely done that in the last few games, and the next step is to pick up the points.

“We’ve put in the performances and we’ve worked hard to get the points. Now we’ve got to kick on and keep putting in the performances and get as many points as we can.”

Wenger hails angry Alexis after Swansea rout

January 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger lavished praise on Alexis Sanchez after Arsenal brushed aside Swansea 4-0 at the Liberty Stadium, despite the Chilean star’s anger at being substituted.

Arsenal

Sanchez scored the last of Arsenal’s four goals on a day when new manager Paul Clement saw precisely how big the job of keeping Swansea in the top flight is going to be.

The 28-year-old Sanchez was taken off in the final quarter as Wenger sought to give the returning Danny Welbeck some valuable game time.

Even though Sanchez appeared far from happy with the decision, Wenger brushed aside the incident.

“I thought he (Sanchez) was very sharp. I rested him for two weeks and gave him a little breather. I think he benefited from that,” said the Arsenal boss.

“I gave him another rest for today, so he will benefit from that as well. He’s hugely influential.

“When you look at the numbers, he’s been involved in about 25 goals in our team. But we also have players on the bench who are strikers who need competition. We were 4-0 up, he’s just come back from a good rest, Mesut Ozil as well comes back from sickness, so it was a good opportunity not to be stupid.

“All the players are frustrated when they come off, some show it, some not. I just make the decision I feel is right, that’s it.

“There’s no problem. In every culture it’s different. Some South Americans are a bit different to Europeans. Southern Europeans are more different to northern Europeans, you have to respect that.”

Sanchez’s 14th goal of the season added the finishing touches to Arsenal’s convincing win as the Gunners moved to third in the table. They have 44 points but remain eight behind leaders Chelsea.

In-form France striker Olivier Giroud gave the visitors a first half lead before own goals from Jack Cork and Kyle Naughton made the outcome certain, paving the way for Sanchez to add his name to the scoresheet.

Wenger was pleased with the overall performance of his team, albeit after a slow start.

“We had some problems getting going, but I put that down to the fact that Swansea played very well in the the first half,” said Wenger.

“They were well organised and they put in an unbelievable amount of work. Certainly in the second half we took over and in the second half they couldn’t follow the pace any more. We were relentless until the end.”

Swansea manager Clement said he saw enough to give him optimism that the Welsh side can stay up.

The defeat left Swansea at the foot of the table, but only six points separate the bottom six teams.

“In the first half the game was fairly even. Our defensive shape looked good and they weren’t producing clear cut opportunities,” said Clement, the club’s third manager of the season.

“Everyone knows the task at hand is a very hard one but we’re all up for it.

“There are games we will have to win. We have to make sure when those games come around we are in top form and ready to do that.”

Giroud’s scorpion stunner stings Palace

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Olivier Giroud stole the show as the Arsenal striker’s outrageous “scorpion kick” stung Crystal Palace and inspired his side’s 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Giroud

Giroud produced an audacious mid-air shot from behind his back to open the scoring and illuminate a dank afternoon in north London with one of the goals of the season.

The France international’s breath-taking strike deserves to be ranked alongside any of the wonder goals conjured by Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

Fittingly, it came in the 200th league match at the Emirates and provided the foundation for a win that was confirmed by Alex Iwobi’s second-half goal, keeping third-placed Arsenal nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

A second successive win following consecutive pre-Christmas defeats offers Arsenal renewed hope of a sustained title challenge in 2017.

But while the specifics of this otherwise routine victory will soon fade, the memory of Giroud’s gem will remain emblazoned in the minds of all who were privileged enough to witness it.

Palace won’t feel quite so warm and fuzzy about a defeat that leaves them without a win in two matches under new boss Sam Allardyce and just two points above the relegation zone.

Despite the absence of ill playmaker Mesut Ozil, Arsenal started brightly and went close to an early goal when Nacho Monreal’s cross eluded Giroud and ran to the back post, where Iwobi teed up Mohamed Elneny for a shot that deflected over.

Alexis Sanchez was next to threaten as the Arsenal forward cleverly worked himself into space on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a fierce strike that curled just wide.

Sweeping forward with typically extravagant passing moves, Arsenal looked at their elegant best and never more so than when Giroud opened the scoring in the 17th minute.

When Arsenal took possession on the edge of their own penalty area, Palace’s overwhelmed players must have hoped for a moment’s respite.

But the Gunners launched a ruthless counter-attack as a flurry of one-touch passing moved the ball out to Sanchez on the left of the Palace box.

Sanchez’s cross was just behind the diving Giroud but the Frenchman’s reaction was exquisite as he flicked his left foot behind him to guide an instinctive shot over Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey and in off the crossbar.

Giroud’s seventh goal of what had previously been an underwhelming season for the 30-year-old was such a bolt from the blue that even the man himself, grinning from ear to ear, wore the incredulous look of someone who couldn’t believe what he’d just done.

Anything either team accomplished for the rest of the half seemed prosaic in comparison, although that didn’t stop Arsenal pressing for a second goal as Elneny drove a low shot just wide.

Sanchez should have doubled Arsenal’s lead seconds before the interval, but he rushed his close-range effort and Hennessey saved with his legs.

Palace had barely reached the Arsenal penalty area in the first half, but they almost snatched an equaliser immediately after the interval when Christian Benteke headed wide from Andros Townsend’s cross.

That miss was Palace’s one and only chance to snatch a point and Iwobi delivered the knockout blow in the 56th minute.

Sanchez passed to the over-lapping Monreal and the left-back’s cross was deflected high into the air and, with the Palace defence statuesque, Iwobi had all the time he needed to loop his header over Hennessey.

Ozil and Arsenal look to bounce back after mini-slump

December 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger knows Arsenal have no margin for error when they attempt to revive their Premier League title challenge against West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

Ozil

The visit of Tony Pulis’s side to the Emirates Stadium presents the Gunners with an opportunity to bounce back after successive defeats to Everton and Manchester City that have undermined their claim to be genuine challengers this season.

It wasn’t simply the defeats, but the manner of the losses in games when Wenger’s side led on both occasions only to be overwhelmed by their opponents’ greater strength.

The performances led to accusations that, despite a promising start to the season in both the Premier League and the Champions League, Arsenal remain flawed and incapable of pulling off the right result when it mattered most.

Bearing the brunt of that criticism was Mesut Ozil, the playmaker whose contribution had been praised during the opening months of the campaign before the Germany international produced two sub-par performances.

Wenger, though, is happy with the 28-year-old World Cup winner’s contribution — although Ozil is yet to commit himself to a new contract — and insists the explanation for his team’s dip lies elsewhere.

“I don’t give Mesut any leeway when the team doesn’t have possession,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well.

“His main strength is of course when we have the ball and he suffers more when we don’t have it.

“At City, he suffered more than others because we didn’t have enough of the ball. Unfortunately, if you want to have the ball, you have to win it back.

“He is a guy who works much harder than people think and his body language goes a bit against him sometimes.

“We are a team who win the ball back high up the pitch very well, which means he and Alexis Sanchez do their part of the job very well.

“We have to respond. Mesut Ozil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.”

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to miss out after picking up an injury at City and Welsh international midfielder Aaron Ramsey faces a fitness test regarding a hamstring problem.

West Brom head for the Emirates Stadium with boss Tony Pulis happy with his team’s form despite a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United last weekend.

Pulis’s men have lost just twice in their last seven games but the Welshman is already looking at potential reinforcements in the January transfer window.

“I know where we are at the moment and we’re bobbing along okay,” said Pulis, who could be without key midfielder James Morrison who has had a bout of flu.

“What we’ve got to do is try to improve it this (transfer) window if we can and keep it going and hopefully every window from that point onwards we will get those one or two quality players that we need all the time.”

Pulis, who launched a bid this week for Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, has urged players unable to get into the starting XI at bigger clubs to consider joining the Baggies for regular football.

“This is a very good club to be at, it’s an opportunity to come here and play,” he said.

“Jonny Evans is one example of someone who couldn’t get into (Manchester) United’s team, now he’s been talked of in terms of Arsenal and Liverpool, the press are talking about him being one of their targets.

“It gives them the opportunity to play and that for me is what it’s all about.”

Mourinho off in Man Utd draw, Sanchez fires Arsenal

November 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was sent off as his side lost more ground in the Premier League title race by drawing 1-1 with West Ham United on Sunday.

United

After Diafra Sakho’s second-minute opener was cancelled out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho was sent to the stands for kicking a water bottle in protest at Paul Pogba’s booking for diving.

It was United’s fourth successive home draw in the league — a first since 1980 — and left them 11 points below leaders Chelsea in sixth place.

United assistant manager Rui Faria, filling in for Mourinho, told BBC Sport: “We all believe the results will appear.

“The referee explained it to Jose and there is nothing more to say. I think it was frustration from Jose after the yellow card for Pogba.

“It should be a foul for us, but the referee understood it in another way.”

Elsewhere, Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal kept pace within the leading pack by winning 3-1 at home to Bournemouth.

Mourinho made six changes to his starting XI at Old Trafford, but his bench created the biggest stir as formerly exiled midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger made an unexpected return to the match-day squad.

West Ham needed just 90 seconds to go ahead as Dimitri Payet’s free-kick from the right was headed in by Sakho.

In the 21st minute, Pogba’s deep cross was nodded in by Ibrahimovic, who has now scored seven league goals this season.

Moments later referee Jonathan Moss booked Pogba for diving after the France midfielder took evasive action as Mark Noble moved in to tackle him.

Mourinho reacted by furiously kicking a plastic bottle and was duly sent to the stands for the second time this season.

Wayne Rooney, whose next goal will equal Bobby Charlton’s 249-goal club scoring record, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan came on for United in the second half.

Jesse Lingard saw a goal chalked off for offside after Mkhitaryan had hit the post, while United were indebted to goalkeeper David de Gea for a crucial late save to deny Ashley Fletcher.

United will hope their luck changes when West Ham return to Old Trafford in the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Arsenal ended a run of three straight draws in all competitions with victory over Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium.

With England midfielder Jack Wilshere watching from the stands due to the terms of his loan from Arsenal to Bournemouth, the home side took a 12th-minute lead courtesy of a horror moment from Simon Cook.

In seeking to play the ball back to goalkeeper Adam Federici from the right, he undercooked his pass horribly, giving Sanchez the time to pick his spot and put Arsenal ahead.

Bournemouth equalised in the 23rd minute when Callum Wilson netted from the penalty spot after Nacho Monreal was harshly adjudged to have fouled him.

But Arsenal equalised in the 53rd minute when Theo Walcott headed in Monreal’s masterful cross and Sanchez made the game safe in stoppage time by tapping in substitute Olivier Giroud’s cross.

“I felt we started well, but when they equalised we were nervous and that’s where having three consecutive draws played a little bit on our minds,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team trail Chelsea by three points.

Right-back Mathieu Debuchy, making his first Arsenal start for 370 days, was forced off by a hamstring injury in the first half and Wenger expressed fear the problem was “severe”.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman made an unhappy return to former club Southampton as his current side fell 1-0 to his previous employers.

Charlie Austin scored the game’s only goal after just 41 seconds, heading in from close range after 19-year-old debutant Josh Sims helped on Cedric’s cross.

Stoke City climbed to 11th in the table with a 1-0 win at Watford.

A 29th-minute own goal from Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes settled the game, with Charlie Adam’s header hitting the post and bouncing into the net off the unfortunate Brazilian.

Sniping Mourinho says United’s luck will change

November 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

His team had been sucker-punched by Arsenal, but Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho could not resist one last dig at his opposite number Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal

“Finally, I lost against Arsene,” Mourinho declared as he left the Old Trafford press conference room following a 1-1 draw he said felt “like a defeat”.

“Finally, I lost against Arsenal.”

Saturday’s result in fact extended Mourinho’s unbeaten run against Wenger’s Arsenal to 12 league games, but that was of little consolation after a contest United dominated.

Juan Mata gave them a deserved 69th-minute lead, but with a minute to go, substitute Olivier Giroud headed in an equaliser with Arsenal’s first effort on target.

It has become a recurring theme for United, who have drawn three consecutive home games in the league for the first time since April 1992.

Maddeningly, in those three games — a 0-0 stalemate with Burnley and 1-1 draws against Stoke City and Arsenal — they have had a total of 74 attempts at goal to their opponents’ 19.

United remain sixth in the table, six points below fourth-place Arsenal and eight points behind Jurgen Klopp’s leaders Liverpool.

Mourinho, though, believes it is only misfortune that is keeping his team from the Champions League places.

“At this moment, we all know internally we are the unlucky team in the Premier League,” said Mourinho, who was missing injured centre-backs Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly and the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“We just focus on Burnley, Stoke and Arsenal — nine points, easily. If we have six points more, we are top four and close to the top of the league.

“We have a lot of work to do, we know that. We have lots of kids that are mistake-prone. We also know we have some amazing players that turn 33, 34.

“We know that other teams are prepared with much different conditions.

“How long is Mr Wenger with this team? How long is Mauricio (Pochettino) with Tottenham? How long is Klopp with his team?

“Chelsea and Liverpool don’t play in Europe. They have one week to work, to rest, to prepare.

“If you remember what Brendan Rodgers did with Liverpool two seasons ago, also in a season where Liverpool didn’t have Europe, they’re in a privileged position to improve their teams.

“The level and experience of Man City. We are in a very difficult Premier League. I know, the players know, the board knows, the owners know. By the reaction of the Man United fans, they know.

“We are very confident. We are very, very, very happy with our work and better results will arrive, for sure.”

Mourinho stopped short of naming names, but the “mistake-prone” comment was a reference to Marcus Rashford, left for dead by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the build-up to Arsenal’s equaliser.

Wenger praised Arsenal’s “never-give-up attitude”, but he could not explain why it took them until the 89th minute to threaten David de Gea’s goal.

“Had we a mental block here because for a while it didn’t go well for us?” Wenger said to reporters.

“Was it fatigue or a mental switch-on problem after the international break? Some players came back late on Thursday and we travelled on Friday morning and played on Saturday morning.

“It’s short, but I don’t think it’s an explanation. I felt that Man United defended very well as well.”

The game’s main point of contention arrived in the 35th minute, when Antonio Valencia nutmegged Nacho Monreal and then went down as the Arsenal left-back threw his arm across him.

Referee Andre Marriner waved United’s appeals away and although he made his anger clear on the touchline, Mourinho refused to criticise the official after the game.

“My view was it was not a penalty,” Wenger said.

“You will not be surprised by that. Mourinho’s view is that it was a penalty and you will not be surprised by that.”

Rooney in a fix as Arsenal gun for Man United

November 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Damaged and derided, Wayne Rooney embodies Manchester United’s delicate current predicament as they prepare for Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.

Rooney

Rooney has been splashed across Britain’s newspapers this week after photographs emerged of him looking the worse for wear during a post-wedding party at the England team hotel last weekend.

The incident has prompted an apology from the player himself, news of an investigation by the Football Association and the unlikely backing of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Fortunately for Rooney, manager Jose Mourinho’s anger over the matter is said to have been directed at the FA, for allowing the striker to go off the rails, rather than him.

But the 31-year-old is nonetheless expected to start on the bench against Arsenal, having been forced to withdraw from international duty with a minor knee injury.

Rooney found himself in the spotlight even before his late-night antics at the luxury Grove Hotel in Watford, north of England, last weekend.

Dropped by first Mourinho and then interim England manager Gareth Southgate, Rooneymanaged to force his way back into the starting XI for both club and country.

His last United display, in their 3-1 win at Swansea City prior to the international break, was one of his best in recent memory as he created a pair of goals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

But an injury sustained in England’s 3-0 win over Scotland forced him out of Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Spain and he now looks likely to find himself back in the increasingly familiar setting of the bench.

Rooney has made a habit of tormenting Arsenal over the years, scoring 14 goals against them — a figure bettered only by his tally against Aston Villa (15).

As a swaggering 16-year-old with Everton, he scored his first ever Premier League goal against Arsenal in 2002 and they were also the victims for his first United league goal and 100th league goal overall.

But with Rooney sidelined and Ibrahimovic suspended, the teenage terror gunning for the Gunners this time around is expected to be Marcus Rashford.

The 19-year-old striker scored twice on his Premier League debut to inspire United to a 3-2 win over Arsenal in February and the London club’s manager Arsene Wenger has not forgotten.

“The man who killed us last year was Marcus Rashford,” said Wenger, whose side have not lost away in the league since that game.

“He took us completely by surprise.”

Although Arsenal won 2-1 at United in the FA Cup in March 2015, they have not won a league game there since September 2006, while Wenger has never overcome Mourinho in the league in 11 attempts.

But although the historical omens would appear to favour United, the form and the momentum belong to Arsenal.

Whereas United have won just two of their last eight league games, Arsenal have won seven of their last nine, drawing the other two.

Wenger’s men will provisionally go top if they prevail, which would leave United — sixth in the table ahead of the weekend’s fixtures — a yawning nine points off the pace.

But midfielder Michael Carrick said this week: “We still feel we’re well in touch.

“I know people are looking at it and saying we’re drifting and we’re not right at the top, but we still feel there’s more to come and we’ve got a great chance of being up there.”

Mourinho’s preparations have not been helped by selection issues that could deprive him of four frontline defenders.

Centre-backs Chris Smalling (foot) and Eric Bailly (knee) are definitely out, while there are doubts over full-backs Antonio Valencia (broken arm) and Luke Shaw (leg).

Arsenal will be without flying right-back Hector Bellerin (ankle) and his Spanish compatriot Santi Cazorla (Achilles).

Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, faces a fitness test on his hamstring and is not due to return from international duty with Chile until Friday.

Spurs hope Kane can supply derby spark

November 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Buoyed by the return of Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur will look to arrest their current slump and improve their dismal record at the Emirates Stadium in Sunday’s derby against Arsenal.

Kane

Though they remain the last unbeaten team in the Premier League, Tottenham have gone six games without victory in all competitions since their stunning 2-0 defeat of Manchester City a month ago.

Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen left them in third place in their Champions League group and manager Mauricio Pochettino concedes preparation for the 179th North London derby has not been ideal.

“It’s true that we are not in a positive situation,” said the Argentine, whose side are fifth in the table ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, three points below second-place Arsenal.

“In the six games after Manchester City we have struggled to win games — four draws and two defeats. We are very conscious about that. We need to work hard and try more than before.

“We are in a difficult moment, but in football you always need to be ready to change the dynamic and we have a very good opportunity on Sunday to go to the Emirates and try to win the game.”

Pochettino is yet to lose a league game against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, winning one and drawing three of their four encounters, although he did taste defeat against him in last season’s League Cup.

Spurs have won just once at Arsenal since May 1993 — a 3-2 success in November 2010 — but will draw encouragement from Kane’s return to fitness after seven weeks out with an ankle ligament injury.

The 23-year-old England striker has scored four goals in his three league games against Arsenal and although he is understandably short of match fitness, Pochettino says he could start.

In Kane’s absence, Spurs have scored only three goals in their last six games and have not scored from open play in the last five.

Midfielder Mousa Dembele faces a late fitness test on a foot problem, but centre-back Toby Alderweireld (leg) and winger Erik Lamela (hip) are definitely out and Moussa Sissoko is suspended.

Arsenal go into the game carrying momentum, Wenger’s side having won 10 of their last 11 matches in all competitions.

They came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Tuesday, when Mesut Ozil’s sumptuous 87th-minute winner took Arsenal into the last 16 for the 17th season running.

Spurs have not finished above Arsenal since 1995, having been pipped to second place behind Leicester City by their rivals on last season’s final day.

But Wenger was reluctant to entertain suggestions his side have any kind of mental hold over their foes from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.

“At the moment I’m more focused on the fact that this is more than a derby,” said the Arsenal manager, whose team trail leaders Manchester City on goal difference.

“It’s an important game for us because it’s a big home game and we have an opportunity to show that we have an interesting role to play in this Premier League, and that we can win these kinds of games too.”

Winger Theo Walcott is expected to overcome a hamstring problem to start, while midfielder Granit Xhaka returns after a three-game domestic ban.

But Wenger has doubts over Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Nacho Monreal (muscular), Hector Bellerin (knock) and Kieran Gibbs (shoulder).

Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, is putting pressure on Alexis Sanchez for the lone striker’s role, having scored three times in his last two appearances.

There has been just one 0-0 draw in the last 43 meetings between the teams and the omens for goals are good.

The last time Arsenal and Tottenham met at midday was in November 2004, when an 81st-minute Robert Pires strike was enough to give Wenger’s men a dizzying 5-4 victory at White Hart Lane.

Arsenal can last pace in title race, says Wenger

October 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are finally equipped to last the pace in the Premier League title race.

Arsenal

Wenger’s side have struggled to match the financial muscle and strength in depth of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent years.

But the Gunners appear in much better shape to slug it out with their title rivals this season after reeling off seven successive wins in all competitions.

Arsenal have enjoyed similar hot streaks before fading in the past, but boss Wenger, speaking ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Middlesbrough, sees a more steely side to his squad this time.

“Before the season everybody would say that it could be a very tight, interesting championship,” said Wenger, whose side are behind leaders City on goal difference.

“After the first two or three games people felt that City would run away with it, or Man United would after they won their first three games as well.

“But I believe we are all in the same pack and it’s down to being consistent and trying to focus game after game. From Man City to United to Chelsea, everybody has a chance.

“We are consistent at the moment and I feel there is more to come out from our team.”

City, still smarting from Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League loss away to manager Pep Guardiola’s former club Barcelona, are not in action again until Sunday when they face Southampton at Eastlands.

Should Arsenal and Tottenham both slip up, City could still yield top spot to Liverpool if the Merseysiders, currently two points off the summit following their goalless draw with Manchester United, beat West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Saturday.

Tottenham face a potentially tricky trip to south coast side Bournemouth, who’ve won plaudits for the quality of their football under young English manager Eddie Howe.

Guardiola is also known for the courage of his football convictions and he insisted those would not change after he saw Lionel Messi, once his star player, score a hat-trick against City on Wednesday.

To make matters worse, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, himself a former Barca player, was sent off for saving Luis Suarez’s effort when outside his area after gifting the ball to the Uruguayan striker as he tried to follow Guardiola’s call to play out from the back.

Guardiola won his first 10 games as City manager but the club have now gone four games without a victory, a 3-3 draw at Celtic followed by a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham before they squandered two penalties in a 1-1 draw against Everton last Saturday.

“Starting in Glasgow, own goals in White Hart Lane (against Tottenham), missing penalties, we give a lot for the opponents,” Guardiola said.

Southampton, by contrast, were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday after manager Claude Puel made several changes to the side that beat Burnley 3-1.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho returns to former club Chelsea on Sunday, fresh from guiding the Red Devils to a 4-1 Europa League win over Fenerbahce — a match in which world record signing Paul Pogba scored twice and veteran striker Wayne Rooney started after three successive club games as a substitute.

Chelsea will look to carry on from their 3-0 win over faltering Premier League champions Leicester.

Despite their domestic problems, Leicester maintained their perfect record in the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Copenhagen on Tuesday and face Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Wenger stays coy over Arsenal future

October 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Arsene Wenger’s 20th anniversary celebrations climax with a trip to Burnley on Sunday, but there are still questions over his future with Arsenal beyond the current campaign.

Arsenal

Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and the Gunners boss has refused to rule out the possibility of taking charge of England in the future following Sam Allardyce’s sudden departure from that role this week.

With Gareth Southgate appointed as England’s caretaker coach for the next four matches, there remains an opening the Frenchman could fill when his contract expires at the end of the season.

“Right now my priority is to do well here,” Wenger said when asked about the England situation.

“This has always been my club and if I am free one day, why not? I’m focused on my job right now.”

Wenger is aware it would be difficult to leave after such a long and successful spell in north London, which has included three Premier League titles and six FA Cups.

“I believe that this club is brave and that’s one of the good values of the club and we have shown through the years that we can have a good togetherness at the club and that is always the quality that came out through good and bad moments,” he said.

“I think I have one quality which is a passion for the game, and another quality is that I always have the desire to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday.

“If I look back, the way I manage today is not the same as it was five, 10, or 20 years ago. How long can I do? I don’t know.

“I rule nothing out because I want to work and I want to do well. I accept that it can finish tomorrow as well.

“It’s a love story and you always expect a love story to last forever, but it can always stop suddenly.”

Arsenal travel to Burnley looking for a fifth straight victory and Wenger believes they can maintain the momentum from commanding victories over Chelsea and Basel this week.

“We have to go into the game with the same commitment, the same focus that we had in recent games,” he said.

“The danger from Burnley comes from the fact that they are very efficient in some aspects of their game, they are very well organised defensively.

“They don’t concede many goals at home and they’ve shown that against Liverpool and Watford.

“They’re very dangerous on set-pieces and counter-attacks as well, so we have to prepare well.”

Wenger has not escaped criticism from some Arsenal supporters in recent years after failing to win another Premier League title since 2004.

But Burnley manager Sean Dyche believes Wenger’s standing should be beyond debate.

Dyche, who will be looking to guide the Clarets to a first win over Arsenal since 1974, said: “As ever they do get people questioning them, but they look a good group to me.

“They’ve got pace and clever movement, they’re very good players. Arsene for me is one of the top managers without a shadow of a doubt. The way he puts a team together, the style, the manner.

“As a manager of course we all understand fan mentality and the thirst and desire to win.

“From a manager’s point of view you have to scratch your head to wonder why he’s questioned at times.”

Burnley, unbeaten at home in three games since the opening day of the season, are likely to be unchanged from their 2-0 win over Watford on Monday, with striker Andre Gray going into the second game of his four-match suspension.

Dazzling Arsenal raise Wenger’s England stock

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

If he really wants the once-again vacant England job Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal players provided the Frenchman the perfect showreel in a classy 2-0 defeat of FC Basel to move joint top of Champions League Group A on Wednesday.

Theo Walcott

Sam Allardyce’s self-inflicted demise after only 67-days in charge of the national team has inevitably given voice to those who say the FA should turn to Wenger — an almost de-facto Englishman after 20 years in charge of Arsenal.

Arsenal’s vibrant display against a club that has got the better of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea in the competition in recent years will strengthen their calls.

Theo Walcott, discarded by Allardyce’s predecessor Roy Hodgson for the woeful Euro 2016 campaign, scored twice before the break as the hosts tore Basel apart.

Walcott combined superbly with Alexis Sanchez for both goals — the first a header from the Chilean’s cross after six minutes and the second a precise shot after a slick one-two with the south American wizard left Basel’s defence standing.

Had it not been for Basel keeper Tomas Vaclik, a rampant Arsenal could have been six up before halftime.

A pre-match poll on the BBC’s website had 66 percent of voters agreeing that Wenger should lead England out of the mess created by Allardyce’s downfall after he was secretly filmed making inappropriate comments in a Daily Telegraph sting.

Wenger said he had been surprised by the chain of events but declined to offer any clues as to what the future may hold once his current Arsenal contract runs out next year.

“I am 100 percent focussed on Arsenal until the end of the season and my priority will always be to this club,” Wenger said. “Nothing will change that.”

Wenger was also coy on whether the in-form Walcott deserved to be part of England’s starting lineup for their next World Cup qualifier against Malta this month.

“When you see the way he played tonight it’s hard to ignore him, but I will leave that to Gareth (Southgate),” smiled Wenger, referring to England’s stand-in manager.

He was more lucid on his side’s form.

“The only regret was that we did not score enough tonight considering what we created. Overall, some excellent football,” Wenger said. “The first half was top quality.”

They have now gone eight matches unbeaten since losing to Liverpool on the opening day of the season and against Basel continued where they left off in a 3-0 rout of Chelsea at the weekend courtesy of another first-half onslaught.

Walcott and Sanchez were irresistible but Arsenal’s threat came from all angles with Mesut Ozil tormenting and full backs Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin marauding forward.

Swiss Granit Xhaka, formerly of Basel, overshadowed his brother Taulant who, like his team mates, could not stem the flow of Arsenal attacks.

Vaclik denied Sanchez with an outstretched arm after he had been played in by Ozil while Bellerin and Alex Iwobi also should have extended the lead.

Basel threatened a couple of times after the break with Birkir Bjarnason, one of Iceland’s Euro 2016 heroes, curling a shot that Arsenal keeper David Ospina clawed over the bar.

Wasteful PSG held by Arsenal in Group A opener

September 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Paris St Germain wasted the chance to ignite their stuttering start to the season when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Arsenal in their Champions League Group A opener on Tuesday.

Football Soccer - Paris Saint-Germain v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group A - Parc des Princes, Paris, France - 13/9/16Arsenal's Olivier Giroud and Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti are both sent off by referee Viktor Kassai as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks onReuters / Benoit Tessier

The hosts enjoyed a dream start when Edinson Cavani put them ahead in the first minute but PSG squandered numerous opportunities and paid dearly when Alexis Sanchez swept in an equaliser late in the second half.

Cavani headed home after just 44 seconds but PSG gradually let Arsenal fight their way back into the game until Sanchez fired home from just inside the box in the 78th minute.

Both sides ended with 10 men after Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud and PSG’s Marco Verratti were shown red cards for an innocuous off-the-ball incident in stoppage time.

French champions PSG, who took only one point from their last two Ligue 1 games, next travel to Ludogorets while Arsenal will host Basel on Sept. 28. Basel and Ludogorets also drew 1-1.

“For a home game we would have preferred all three points especially since we played much better. We wasted chances but we played a good game,” said PSG’s Blaise Matuidi.

PSG were boosted by the return of centre back Thiago Silva who made his first appearance of the season after a hip injury.

Grzegorz Krychowiak started in midfield alongside Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti while Blaise Matuidi was fielded in an unusual position on the left wing to contain Hector Bellerin.

For Arsenal, Giroud started on the bench with Sanchez up front and Alex Iwobi on the right wing.

Cavani benefited from some loosing marking by the Arsenal centre backs to glance home Serge Aurier’s cross.

Angel Di Maria proved a constant threat, finding Rabiot in the box with a superb backheel and forcing Arsenal keeper David Ospina to a spectacular save direct from a corner.

Cavani missed a sitter in the 35th minute, shooting wide in front of an empty goal after going around Ospina.

Arsenal relied mainly on counter-attacking but started the second half by applying some pressure but lacked presence in the box with their fans chanting Giroud’s name.

The France striker came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 63rd minute as Sanchez went to the left wing.

PSG had two more clear chances in the 67th and 69th minutes through Aurier and Cavani.

The home side paid for their failure to kill off the game when Arsenal equalised in the 78th minute.

Alphonse Areola made a great save to deny Iwobi but the ball rebounded out and Sanchez was lurking to fire home.

Shortly afterwards Cavani missed another great chance when he failed to go around Ospina after collecting a through ball in the box, the keeper sticking out an arm to claw the ball away.

Iwobi came close to winning it for Arsenal in the 83rd but Areola stretched to his left to tip the ball away to save new coach Unai Emery’s blushes on his PSG Champions League debut.

“I think it’s a good point but we came here with our ambition and we wanted to have the three,” Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny said.

“But when we start like this it’s difficult to play.”

PSG suffer late heartbreak in home draw

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Paris Saint-Germain conceded an injury-time equaliser as they warmed up for their Champions League clash next week against Arsenal with a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Saint-Etienne on Friday.

PSG

The big-spending Parisians looked set to top Ligue 1 thanks to a second-half Lucas penalty, but Robert Beric popped up in the second minute of added-on time to somehow eke out an unlikely point for the visitors.

“Am I angry?” said new PSG coach Unai Emery. “No… The result is hard to accept but I have to keep a cool head. I have nothing to reproach the players for tonight.

“I am the coach and I am the one responsible,” added Emery, whose side were well beaten 3-1 at Monaco in their last game and lie third after four matches.

The French champions gave a first start this season to international midfielder Blaise Matuidi after the former Saint-Etienne player saw a proposed transfer to Italian championsJuventus fall through.

He was involved in the major talking point of a tepid first-half when he appeared to have his legs swept out from underneath him when well placed in the box, but the referee waved away furious home appeals for a penalty.

Meanwhile goalkeeper Kevin Trapp had to be at his best to thwart the away side when he was down smartly to his left to save from close range at the Parc des Princes.

PSG, runaway league winners last term, had plenty of the ball in the second period but did little with it, with Emery calling for winger Angel Di Maria off the bench shortly before the hour in the hope he would inject some badly needed pace and guile.

They finally made the breakthrough in the 67th minute thanks to a penalty from the Brazilian winger Lucas, after Matuidi again took a tumble.

The Parisians were cruising to victory, before Beric neatly chested down a deep cross late on and knocked the ball into the ground and over the stretched arms of Trapp.

PSG, now without defender David Luiz following his return to Chelsea, host Premier League Arsenal on Tuesday.

Chelsea take pole position, Arsenal end winless run

August 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Chelsea swept to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 victory over Burnley, while Arsenal won 3-1 at Watford to ease the pressure on Arsene Wenger on Saturday.

CHelsea

After a dismal title defence last season, Chelsea look revitalised under new manager Antonio Conte and the Italian was able to celebrate his third successive win after the most emphatic display of his brief reign.

So disappointing last term, Eden Hazard has made a vibrant start to the new campaign and the Belgium midfielder put Chelsea ahead with a superb run and clinical finish from the edge of the penalty area in the ninth minute at Stamford Bridge.

Willian was back for Chelsea after recovering from a calf injury and the Brazil winger doubled their lead in the 41st minute before Nigeria’s Victor Moses came off the bench to net the hosts’ third in the 89th minute.

“It was a good performance. We have started very well this season but we must know we can improve,” Conte said.

“Eden Hazard must be this decisive in every game and I’m pleased because I saw it today.”

At Vicarage Road, Arsenal’s first victory of the season, after losing to Liverpool and drawing with Leicester, should silence Wenger’s critics at least temporarily.

Failing to win their first two matches while struggling to make an impact in the transfer market had prompted some Arsenal fans to turn on Wenger again after many protested against him last season.

But there were no complaints as Arsenal took the lead in the ninth minute when Santi Cazorla stroked home a penalty after Nordin Amrabat elbowed Alexis Sanchez.

Chile forward Sanchez increased Arsenal’s advantage five minutes before half-time with a deft touch over Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Mesut Ozil was making his first start of the season after being rested following Euro 2016 and Arsenal’s German playmaker made up for lost time with a headed goal in first-half stoppage time.

Watford’s Roberto Pereyra reduced the deficit in the 57th minute, but the Hornets remain winless.

“I believe we shot ourselves in the foot in the first game and were under huge pressure,” Wenger said.

“Today we had a good solid performance but at the moment we are not completely there physically and you could see that in second half.”

Leicester City finally secured the first win of their title defence with a 2-1 success against Swansea City at the King Power Stadium.

Claudio Ranieri’s side took the lead in the 32nd minute when Jamie Vardy finished off a typically efficient counter-attack from the champions and captain Wes Morgan lashed in the second in the 52nd minute.

Riyad Mahrez wasted a chance to make it three when the winger’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski and there was more frustration for Leicester when goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel came off injured.

But Leroy Fer’s 80th-minute goal for Swansea came too late to rescue a point for the visitors.

Danny Rose’s 72nd-minute equaliser earned Tottenham Hotspur a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

James Milner gave Liverpool a deserved lead with a penalty in the 43rd minute after Roberto Firmino went down under the slightest contact by Erik Lamela.

But a sustained spell of second-half pressure climaxed when the unmarked Rose drilled home to preserve Tottenham’s unbeaten record.

“It’s not easy when you play a team that are perfect on the counter-attack and you need to take risks. The draw is a fair result,” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said.

Everton climbed to second place with a 1-0 win against Stoke City at Goodison Park.

Ronald Koeman’s team enjoyed a stroke of luck in the 51st minute when Leighton Baines’ penalty — awarded for a foul on Ashley Williams — was pushed onto a post by Shay Given, only for the ball to rebound off the Stoke goalkeeper’s head into the net for an own goal.

Southampton rescued a dramatic 1-1 draw against Sunderland as Jay Rodriguez’s 85th-minute strike crept past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to cancel out Jermain Defoe’s 80th-minute penalty at St Mary’s.

Scott Dann’s late leveller gave Crystal Palace a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Bournemouth at Selhurst Park.

Josh King fired Bournemouth in an 11th-minute lead before former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke won a penalty on his Palace debut.

Artur Boruc saved Yohan Cabaye’s spot-kick, but Palace defender Dann spared his team-mate’s blushes with an equaliser three minutes into second-half stoppage time.

Next Page »

Copyright © 2010 Mirror Sports  Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.