Arsenal announced on Wednesday they had cancelled their pre-season trip to the United States after a “small number” of their touring party tested positive for coronavirus.
The Premier League side were scheduled to play Italian champions Inter Milan this weekend in the opening round of the Florida Cup, which also includes Everton and Colombia’s Millonarios.
In a statement announcing their withdrawal, Arsenal did not specify how many members of their touring group had tested positive for the virus, nor if any players were among those with a Covid-19 diagnosis.
“Following a small number of positive Covid tests among the planned party to travel to America tomorrow, we have sadly been forced to withdraw from the Florida Cup,” the statement read.
“This difficult decision is based on ensuring the health and wellbeing of our players and staff.”
The club said those who had tested positive were not currently displaying Covid-19 symptoms and were self-isolating.
“We are now making alternative arrangements in line with the Premier League protocols to continue our preparations for the new season,” the Gunners said.
Scottish left-back Kieran Tierney has signed a new long-term contract at Arsenal, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Tierney, 24, whose new deal reportedly takes him up to 2026, was a rare bright spark in a desperately disappointing season for Mikel Arteta’s men, who finished eighth in the English top-flight.
Since joining from Celtic for £25 million ($35 million) in 2019, Tierney has consistently been one of the Gunners’ best performers and has earned his status as a fans’ favourite.
“The club have been brilliant with me, so I am more than happy to extend it (the contract). I’m absolutely delighted,” Tierney told Arsenal’s website.
“I think the vision of the club, where it wants to go, and the expectations of the club are why I signed. Where I want to be in football is at the top. There’s no doubt about it, we’re not where we want to be just now, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Tierney excelled on the left side of a back three as Arsenal lifted the FA Cup in 2020 and he has also featured prominently in that position for his country.
His loss to a calf injury was a major factor in Scotland losing their Euro 2020 Group D opener 2-0 to the Czech Republic.
Tierney’s return helped inspire a much-improved performance in a 0-0 draw against England before Scotland bowed out of the tournament with a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.
Arteta hailed Tierney’s commitment to the club as “great news” as he tries to turn Arsenal’s fortunes around.
“KT gives us so much extra strength both defensively and offensively and it’s great to know that he’ll be with us for the long term,” said the Spaniard.
“Since his move from Celtic, his work ethic and quality has ensured that he is already one of most exciting players in the Premier League and a hugely important part of our team, both on and off the pitch.”
Villarreal will face Manchester United in the Europa League final after the Spanish side held out for a 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Thursday to prevent a clean sweep of European finalists for Premier League sides.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice hit the post for Arsenal, but a 2-1 aggregate defeat means the Gunners will miss out on Champions League football for the fifth consecutive season.
Edinson Cavani scored twice for United, who progressed 8-5 on aggregate despite a 3-2 defeat away to Roma.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will aim to end a four-year trophy drought when they take on Villarreal in Gdansk on May 26, three days before Manchester City face Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.
Sitting ninth in the Premier League, Arsenal’s season was hinging on Europa League glory for Champions League qualification.
But former Gunners’ boss Unai Emery got revenge for his sacking after just 18 months as Arsene Wenger’s successor by leading Villarreal to their first European final.
Emery won this competition three times with Sevilla and also took Arsenal to the Europa League final in his only full season in charge at the Emirates.
The Spaniard was criticised for his cautious approach after taking a 2-0 lead inside the first-half in the first leg, allowing Arsenal back into the tie through Nicolas Pepe’s penalty
However, the Yellow Submarine did not sit on their lead as they controlled the first-half without scoring the vital away goal.
Dani Parejo’s free-kick that dipped onto the roof of the net was Villarreal’s most dangerous effort.
But it was Arsenal who came closest to scoring before the break when Aubameyang’s strike with the outside of his right foot came back off the post.
Arsenal started the second period with far greater intent and wasted two huge chances to edge ahead on away goals.
Firstly, Pepe dragged his shot wide from Kieran Tierney’s inventive flick before Emile Smith Rowe also failed to hit the target with the goal gaping as Geronimo Rulli flapped at a cross.
As the home side’s desperation grew, though, more space opened up for Villarreal to exploit on the counter-attack.
Spanish international Gerard Moreno should have done better when he fired too close to Bernd Leno.
Aubameyang has had a difficult season since signing a bumper three-year contract in September that reportedly made him the highest paid player in the Premier League.
But the Arsenal captain was inches away from proving his worth as his header came back off the inside of the post and bounced to safety 10 minutes from time.
Mikel Arteta’s decision to remove Aubameyang moments later will be questioned as the home side rarely threatened in the closing stages to end their season with a whimper.
– Cavani fires United into final –
At the fifth time of asking, United have won a semi-final under Solskjaer despite defeat on the night in Rome.
Already holding a commanding 6-2 lead from the first leg, Cavani blasted home his third goal of the tie six minutes before half-time.
Edin Dzeko and Bryan Cristante hit back early in the second-half for the Italian giants, who announced earlier this week that former United boss Jose Mourinho will replace Paulo Fonseca next season.
Cavani struck again for his seventh goal in six games to level 22 minutes from time.
Nicola Zalewski’s deflected strike salvaged some pride for Roma, but it is United who march onto Poland.
Manchester United’s clash against Liverpool was delayed after fans stormed Old Trafford in protest at the club’s owners on Sunday, while Arsenal kept Newcastle waiting to confirm their Premier League safety with a 2-0 win at St James Park.
Manchester City will be crowned English champions for the third time in four seasons if second placed United lose to Liverpool.
But Pep Guardiola’s side saw their hopes of a title party put on hold for a while at least after concerning scenes several hours before kick-off at Old Trafford.
Around 200 United fans managed to get onto the pitch in protest at the club’s owners.
The Glazer family, already disliked by many United supporters, were widely criticised for their leading role in the failed breakaway European Super League.
A small group of United supporters got into the club’s training ground to protest against the Glazers last week, but this was a much more significant incident.
The protestors pushed down security barriers outside Old Trafford and ran onto the pitch.
Fans waved anti-Glazer banners and set off green and yellow flares — the colours of United’s Newton Heath founders.
One flare was fired towards a television commentary gantry and small sections of the turf were damaged before order was finally restored.
Both United and Liverpool’s players were in their team hotels when the breach occurred.
When another group of around 30 demonstrators got into the stadium via a different route, there were growing concerns that the match would have to be postponed for safety reasons.
As hundreds more protested outside Old Trafford, the Premier League confirmed the scheduled 1530 GMT kick-off would be delayed.
Arsenal won for the first time in four games in all competitions thanks to Mohamed Elneny’s first Premier League goal and a superb strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Fourth bottom Newcastle remain nine points clear of the relegation zone with four games left.
Amid growing calls for his dismissal after one of Arsenal’s worst seasons in decades, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta knows the only way to silence the critics is to qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa League.
Arteta admits he is prioritising the Europa League, so it was no surprise that only Martin Odegaard, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka kept their places in the team beaten 2-1 by Villarreal in the semi-final first leg on Thursday.
Next Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium has already been billed by Arteta as the “crucial moment” in Arsenal’s season, but he hoped an encouraging display against Newcastle would provide the ideal preparation.
Arsenal rose to the challenge and were ahead after just six minutes when Hector Bellerin ran onto David Luiz’s long pass and cut his cross back to Aubameyang.
Aubameyang miscued his attempted shot but the ball ran to Egypt midfielder Elneny just inside the Newcastle area and he smashed a fine strike past Martin Dubravka from the edge of the area.
Arsenal threatened a second when Granit Xhaka’s thumping effort was pushed away by Dubravka.
Having scored his maiden top-flight goal, Elneny had a taste for another and his powerful header was cleared off the line by Miguel Almiron.
Arsenal’s 13 shots were their most in the first half of a Premier League game since 2018.
Aubameyang killed off Newcastle in the 66th minute with his first goal in seven games.
The Gabon forward has endured a poor season but he showed his class when he met Gabriel Martinelli’s cross with a superb flying volley from six yards.
Newcastle had Fabian Schar sent off in the 90th minute for a late challenge on Martinelli.
Tottenham host Sheffield United in the day’s late game.
Arsenal on Thursday lost 2-1 to Villarreal – managed by its former coach, Unai Emery – in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, compounding the Gunners’ miserable season.
Emery won his big reunion with Arsenal but 2-1 might prove a small reward for Villarreal, who failed to take advantage of Dani Ceballos being sent off in a frantic game.
Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol gave Villarreal a dream start at La Ceramica and the tie looked to be slipping away from Arsenal when Ceballos was shown a second yellow card early in the second half.
But 10-man Arsenal rallied and grabbed an away goal when Nicolas Pepe converted a penalty in the 73rd minute, before Villarreal’s Etienne Capoue also saw red with 10 minutes left to play.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might even have snatched a late equaliser for the visitors but Mikel Arteta will be delighted his team are not just in the contest but in a healthy position too, with an away goal to take back to London next week.
For Villarreal, a chance was missed but the lead is still welcome and Emery will take comfort from the fact that they were the better side for the best part of an hour, even before Ceballos was dismissed.
Emery said on Wednesday he would always have a “place in his heart” for Arsenal, despite a turbulent 18 months in charge of the club before he was sacked in 2019.
He might also look on with little envy at his successor Arteta, who is under pressure now to win the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League, with Arsenal sitting 10th in the Premier League table and nowhere near the top four.
Villarreal took the lead in the fifth minute with a free-flowing move out from the back that Arteta would be proud of.
It started with the goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli and finished with Samuel Chukwueze driving into the box, the ball spilling out to Trigueros, who drove into the far corner.
There were not even 30 minutes gone when Villarreal made it two, this time from a simpler source as Dani Parejo’s corner was flicked on by Gerard Moreno and Albiol stuck out a foot at the back post.
Emery brought on Francis Coquelin to add some protection but the dynamic of the game changed just before the hour, when Ceballos arrived late on Parejo’s ankle to earn a second yellow card.
Moreno should have made it three but Bernd Leno pushed his shot over and then Arsenal were given a lifeline, Bukayo Saka nipping between Capoue and Trigueros before tumbling over. Pepe drilled the penalty down the middle and in.
Villarreal’s lead had been cut and then their numerical advantage vanished too as Capoue flew in late on Saka to see red, while injuring himself in the process.
Arsenal sensed an equaliser and Aubameyang, on as a substitute, might even have found it when he was slipped in on the right of the area but Rulli made the save.
Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek says he wants to bring back the “glory” to Arsenal as he plans to test the resolve of the club’s American billionaire owner Stan Kroenke with a takeover bid.
Kroenke, through his Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE) business, has been the Gunners’ majority shareholder for a decade and took full control of the club by buying out Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov’s stake in 2018.
Arsenal’s performances on the pitch have declined markedly during the Kroenke reign.
The London club have not won a Premier League title since 2003/04 and are set to miss out on a top-four finish in the English top flight for a fifth consecutive season.
Kroenke’s part in the failed European Super League (ESL) project further angered success-starved fans.
Arsenal were one of 12 clubs to initially sign up to proposals for the breakaway competition but, along with five other English clubs, withdrew from the plans within 48 hours after a fierce backlash from fans, players, governing bodies and the British government.
Thousands of supporters protested outside the Emirates Stadium before Friday’s 1-0 defeat by Everton, calling for Kroenke to sell the club.
On Tuesday, KSE said it had no intention of selling, despite reports of Ek’s interest.
“In recent days we have noted media speculation regarding a potential takeover bid for Arsenal Football Club,” read a KSE statement.
“We remain 100 percent committed to Arsenal and are not selling any stake in the club. We have not received any offer and we will not entertain any offer.”
However, Ek, who says he has supported the club for 30 years, believes he has the funding to make a serious offer.
“I’m very serious,” the Swedish billionaire told CNBC on Wednesday. “You know, I have secured the funds for it, and I want to bring what I think is a very compelling offer to the owners and I hope they hear me out.
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was eight years old. Arsenal is my team. I love the history. I love the players. And of course, I love the fans.
“So as I look at that, I just see a tremendous opportunity to set a real vision for the club to bring it back to its glory. And I want to establish trust with fans and I want to engage the fans again.”
According to reports, Arsenal greats Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp would be part of an advisory group in a takeover bid.
“All I can do is prepare what I think is a very thoughtful offer, and bring it to them and hope they hear me out,” added Ek.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta defended the commitment of KSE to improving results on the pitch.
Arteta’s side are 10th in the Premier League and on course for their worst league finish since 1995.
“The reality is that we have owners who are really, really committed and want a successful team on the pitch and are going to do everything on the pitch to achieve that,” said the Spaniard.
Arsenal could play themselves back into the lucrative Champions League should they win the Europa League — they travel to Villarreal for the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is still unsure if captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard will be fit for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg away to Slavia Prague.
Aubameyang and Odegaard, who is on loan from Real Madrid, missed training Tuesday because of illness and an ankle injury respectively.
Arsenal were due to train Wednesday before travelling to the Czech Republic with the tie all-square at 1-1 and Arteta, asked if the duo would take part in the session, told reporters: “It depends how they wake up. (On Tuesday) none of them could train. Hopefully (on Wednesday) it is a sunnier day so maybe it is better.
“I don’t know, we have to see how they are. We still have a couple of other ones as well from the last few days, so we’ll have to see how everybody is and after training how they react for (Thursday’s) game.”
The Gunners, however, have been buoyed by the availability of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Saka suffered a thigh injury during last weekend’s 3-0 win away to Sheffield United in the Premier League, while Smith Rowe missed the trip to Bramall Lane with an ankle problem.
But both players are now set to feature in Prague.
Arsenal, however, will definitely be without David Luiz and Kieran Tierney, who both have knee problems, on Thursday.
Former Arsenal player and sports pundit Martin Keown has suggested the Gunners side “need someone to punch them in the face” in order to get them back to their glory days after a lethargic performance in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
Mikel Arteta’s men headed into their Europa tie against Slavia Prague with a much-needed win after being humbled by Liverpool over the weekend.
However, a couple of missed opportunities and shambolic defending cut shut a Nicholas Pepe 86th minute goal at the death to grant the visitors a much-deserved draw at the Emirates.
Keown was unimpressed with the London club’s performance and expressed his frustration at their cautious approach to the game.
“For me it was about Arsenal tonight and the way they played. By sitting off they chose the wrong tactics,” a furious Keown said while being interviewed on BT Sport.
“There was an opportunity to take the initiative and ask questions, can you play? But they were allowed to settle and build from the back,” he further added.
The first half for Arsenal was a tale of misplaced passes, overhit crosses, and missed chances from regular high fliers in the likes of Bukayo Saka and Lacazette, with the former EPL-winning player tearing into his former side after the break.
“It seems like Arsenal are not proactive in games, they need someone to slap them or punch them in the face before they wake up and start to play,”he remarked
“He (Arteta) did it in the second half with the substitutions but they couldn’t see it through.”
The 54-year-old pundit admitted Arteta was on the right path to changing the woes of the last season’s FA cup winners but was not getting the right reaction from his players.
“The result is hugely disappointing, it’s going to be difficult now for Arteta. He’s made a lot of changes within the club, a lot of people have been allowed to go.”
Arsenal next travel to Sheffield on Sunday with hopes of putting their barren run behind them as they plan to put pressure on 9th place Aston-Villa.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday he was uncertain whether Scotland international Kieran Tierney would play again for the club this season after he suffered knee ligament damage against Liverpool.
The 23-year-old full-back limped off before half-time in a 3-0 Premier League loss at home to Jurgen Klopp’s men on Saturday.
Arsenal confirmed on Wednesday that Tierney suffered knee ligament damage during the game and could be sidelined for the next six weeks.
If that is the case, he could return for the final league game of the season at home to Brighton on May 23 — with the Europa League final taking place three days later.
But Arteta, speaking ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie against Slavia Prague at the Emirates, was keen not to make promises over Tierney’s immediate future.
“We have to make sure first that he doesn’t need any surgery, which it doesn’t look like,” he said.
“If that’s the case, the timeframe will be around that (six weeks). It could have been worse because the action looks quite scary but he’s feeling better and the damage is not that bad.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the bad news that maybe we were expecting after the game.”
Arteta also stopped short of confirming whether he felt Tierney would be fit for Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign, adding: “Again, it will depend on how things evolve in the next few weeks.
“He’s so keen to play for us before the end of the season and he’s extremely keen to represent his country in the Euros.”
The Euro 2020 tournament, delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, starts on June 11.
Manchester United were paired with Spanish side Granada in Friday’s draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League, while Arsenal will take on Slavia Prague.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United, who beat AC Milan in the last 16, are due to play away in the first leg on April 8 but it remains to be seen where that match will take place.
The Old Trafford club faced Spanish opponents in Real Sociedad in the last 32 but the first leg of that tie was moved to Turin in Italy because of restrictions on travel from the UK to Spain as a result of the pandemic.
Granada are in Europe for the first time after finishing seventh in La Liga last season. The team from southern Spain notably beat PSV Eindhoven away in the group stage and eliminated Napoli in the last 32 before defeating Solskjaer’s old club Molde of Norway in the Round of 16.
Granada coach Diego Martinez has won the Europa League before, during his time as an assistant coach at Sevilla.
Meanwhile, Ajax will face Roma with the winners of that quarter-final playing either United or Granada in the last four. United beat Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final.
Arsenal are set to host Slavia in the first leg of their quarter-final and will be wary of the runaway Czech league leaders who have eliminated Leicester City and Scottish champions Rangers in the last two rounds.
However, if the Gunners get through they could face their former coach Unai Emery in the semi-finals.
Emery’s Villarreal will take on Dinamo Zagreb, last-16 conquerors of Tottenham Hotspur, in the other quarter-final.
Emery took Arsenal to the final of the Europa League in 2019 when they lost to Chelsea in Baku.
The final of this season’s competition is set to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 26.