Ronaldo, Mane Missing As EPL Unveils Player of The Season Nominees

File COMBO of the shortlisted EASports Player of the year 2021/2022 awards nominees

 

EA SPORTS on Friday unveiled nominees for the 2021/2022 Premier League Player of the Season award and surprising exclusions were Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s forward Sadio Mane.

Ronaldo, who won the Premier League Player of the Month for April, and Mane – a key man in Liverpool’s quadruple-chasing side – did not make the cut in a list that included Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been a shining light in United’s dismal season with 18 goals in 30 league matches. He has also twice been named as the Premier League’s player of the month. Similarly, the Senegalese star has scored 15 goals in 33 league appearances as the Anfield club bid for the unprecedented quadruple. His Liverpool teammates Mohammed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been important to Jurgen Klopp team’s blistering form this season.

File COMBO of Sadio Mane and Cristiano Ronaldo

 

Salah, who was  2017/18 EA SPORTS Player of the Season and also the leader in the Golden Boot race with 22 goals, was shortlisted for the prize. Arnold, on the other hand, has contributed at both ends of the pitch, dominating the right flank for the second-best defence in 2021/22 as well as scoring two goals and setting up 12 more, the second-most of all players.

The shortlist also included Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Jaoa Cancelo. Both have also been vital to Guardiola’s dream of lifting a consecutive Premier League title. The 2019/20 winner is aiming to be only the fourth player to claim more than one EA SPORTS Player of the Season award.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, who has been important to the side’s resurgence with 21 goals – only one behind Salah in the Golden Boot race – is also in the running for the top award. 

Having been a key part of a top-four chasing Arsenal, Saka’s contributions to the Gunners this season were rewarded with a nomination. 

Also included in the shortlist is Jarrod Bowen. He is the second West Ham United player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in a Premier League season. Bowen scored 10 and set up 10, justifying his inclusion on the list.

James Ward-Prowse completes the list of nominees for the award. He has been an unsung hero in the heart of the midfield for Southampton. The Saints have caught the eye with some magnificent performances leading to nine goals. Five of them came from trademark direct free-kicks.

Three More Barca Players Test Positive For COVID-19

Barcelona’s Uruguayan defender Ronald Araujo (2R) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Spanish league football match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on December 21, 2021. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

 

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele, defender Samuel Umtiti and midfielder Gavi have tested positive for Covid-19, the Spanish club said Wednesday, bringing to six the number of infected first team players.

“The players are in good health and self-isolating at home. The Club has reported the cases to the relevant authorities”, it said in a statement.

The three players join left-back Jordi Alba, centre-back Clement Lenglent and defender Dani Alves, who also tested positive this week.

Barcelona, currently seventh in La Liga, travel to Real Mallorca (15th) on Sunday.

Several Spanish clubs have reported Covid cases, such as Real Sociedad on Monday or Real Madrid in mid-December, but no match has yet been postponed.

According to La Liga and Spanish Football Federation rules, a match is suspended when a team does not have at least 13 players, of which five must be from the first team.

This puts Sunday’s match between Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano at risk because the latter team has up to 17 infected players, according to press reports, making it the hardest-hit squad in the first division.

Real Sociedad has reported 10 infected players, Cadiz has five and RCD Mallorca four.

AFCON: European Clubs Threaten To Withhold Players

AFCON trophy.

 

Europe’s top clubs are threatening not to release players for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon over fears surrounding its Covid-19 health protocol.

The European Club Association, which represents leading clubs across the continent, made its concerns known to FIFA in a letter seen by AFP.

“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are aware, CAF (the Confederation of African football) has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the tournament,” the ECA told football’s world governing body.

READ ALSONFF Sacks Rohr, Appoints Eguavoen As Super Eagles Interim Manager

The Cup of Nations, which was already postponed last year due to the health crisis, is due to start in Cameroon on January 9 and run until February 6.

Many of Africa’s leading players are based at clubs in Europe, including Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, Achraf Hakimi, and Idrissa Gana Gueye of Paris Saint-Germain.

The ECA also raised concerns about the danger of players being unavailable for even longer periods due to the potential for travel restrictions or mandatory quarantine being introduced, in particular in relation to the emerging threat posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

According to FIFA’s rules for the release of players for international duty during the pandemic, clubs can retain players if “there is a mandatory quarantine of at least five days on arrival” in the place “where a national team match is supposed to take place” or when the player returns to his club.

An executive board meeting of the ECA — which represents almost 250 European clubs — on December 2 said these principles “must be strictly respected”, according to the letter sent to FIFA Deputy Secretary General Mattias Grafstroem.

“Should this not be the case…players (should) not be released for international duty”.

 ‘Unmanageable’ 

Clubs could lose players who are called up for the 24-team tournament from as early as December 27, which is particularly problematic for those based in England, where there is a busy schedule of matches over the holiday period in late December and early January.

“For certain clubs expected to release players, including English and French clubs, domestic competition matches are due to take place up until early January and hence the overlap of the 2022 AFCON release dates…are unmanageable,” added the ECA, whose chairman is Qatar’s Nasser al-Khelaifi, also the president of PSG.

CAF general secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba is currently in Cameroon overseeing final preparations for the delayed tournament.

The organisation refused to comment on the ECA threat when contacted by AFP but, in an update on its website, said that Mosengo-Omba “urged everyone to work around the clock to ensure that everything is in place for the opening game”.

However, the pandemic would appear to pose a far bigger threat to the successful staging of the tournament than concerns about the host nation’s readiness.

The CAF update said its president, Patrice Motsepe, had been in discussions with the Cameroonian government “on sanitary approach and Covid-19 protocols”.

When contacted by AFP, a senior official in the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) dismissed any suggestion the tournament could be called off as “fake news”.

AFP

Kogi United Players Protest At Govt House, Threaten To Boycott League Games

Some of the protesting players take to the Kogi State Govt House in Lokoja alleging non-payment of fees.

 

Players of Kogi United have organised a peaceful protest at the Kogi State Government House to demand payment of their unpaid sign-on-fees for two years.

The players, dressed in their club jerseys took their grievance to Governor Yahaya Bello who recently approved the release of the sum of N3,980,000,000 to implement projects in the first quarter as provided in the budget.

They blocked the entrance of the Government House told the media that they are determined to continue the protest until they receive payments for all their outstanding entitlements.

The frustrated players have also threatened to adopt other options, which includes boycotting the 2020/21 Nigeria National League matches.

READ ALSO: Napoli’s Koulibaly, Ghoulam Test Positive For COVID-19

“We want to be paid our two years sign-on-fees as we have people that look up to us for survival,” said one of the players.

“They promised to pay our entitlements but it did not happen.”

“We are tired of empty promises from Kogi State Government. We don’t think playing league games will be a good option for us.”

The players also claimed that increment in salaries, which was promised by the State Government, has not been implemented.

 

 

Neymar’s Fate To Be Known This Week After Marseille Red Card

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar walks off the pitch after a red card during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Neymar’s punishment for being one of five players sent off following a brawl at the end of Paris Saint-Germain’s defeat to Marseille will be revealed on Wednesday, the French Football League (LFP) said Monday.

The world’s most expensive footballer was shown the red card in stoppage time of the 1-0 loss at the Parc des Princes alongside teammates Layvin Kurzawa and Leandro Paredes, as well as Marseille’s Dario Benedetto and Jordan Amavi.

Neymar insisted Alvaro Gonzalez called him a “monkey” in a series of furious tweets late on Sunday after he was dismissed for slapping the Marseille defender on the back of the head.

“Look at the racism. That’s why I hit him,” Neymar, who was returning from coronavirus quarantine, said as he left the pitch. Gonzalez later denied making a racist comment.

“The only regret I have is not hitting this idiot in the face,” Neymar then posted after the game, before replying to a Gonzalez tweet to call him a “racist”.

The LFP’s disciplinary commission, which will decide the punishments, could investigate the Brazilian’s accusations against Gonzalez, who Marseille claim was spat on by Angel Di Maria.

Any racist behaviour carries a maximum suspension of 10 matches.

Spitting directed at another player can lead to a ban of up to six matches.

Kurzawa meanwhile could be suspended for up to seven matches for violent conduct after aiming a punch at opposition full-back Amavi.

AFP

NFL Will Shut Down For US Election Day So All Can Vote

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 24, 2020 the NFL logo is seen on the side of the NFL Network building in Culver City, a westside neighborhood of Los Angeles. – The NFL said September 3, 2020 it will close all league and team facilities on November 3, the US election day, so all employees have the chance to vote. Chris DELMAS / AFP.

 

The NFL said Thursday it will close all league and team facilities on November 3, the US election day, so all employees have the chance to vote.

The move, announced in conjunction with the NFL Players Association as part of social justice initiatives by the league, comes a week before the season opens with the Houston Texans at the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

League officials and the NFLPA executive committee met Tuesday and agreed upon a number of equality and social justice actions.

The NFL and union will work with state officials to establish polling places at league stadiums.

In the days before the election, the league and union will sponsor educational programs for players and staff regarding voter registration and obtaining absentee ballots as well as voter encouragement programs.

A one-hour program on the eve of the season opener will allow players to discuss work being done by the NFL and union to advance social justice and equality.

Measures also include teams and owners helping to set up meetings between state and local officials and law enforcement leaders to discuss how to reduce conflicts between police and communities.

The NFL and union will also support college education for the children of victims of such conflicts.

A coalition of players has expressed its perspective to government leaders on such issues as bail and criminal justice reform, education reforms and economic opportunity in disadvantaged communities.

More recently, community and non-profit organizations across the nation have received relief aid aimed at diverse communities that have felt a disproportionate impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

Three PSG Players Test Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.

 

Three Paris Saint-Germain players have tested positive for coronavirus, the French club announced on Wednesday, in a setback to their preparations for the scheduled start of their Ligue 1 campaign next week.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported the players in question were Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, but PSG did not reveal any names.

“Three Paris Saint-Germain players have confirmed positive Sars CoV2 tests and are subject to the appropriate health protocol,” PSG said in a statement.

“All of the players and coaching staff will continue to undergo tests in the coming days.”

The French champions, who last month lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich, had already said on Monday that two unnamed players had reported back with coronavirus symptoms following a holiday.

L’Equipe reported the players in question were Argentinian duo Di Maria and Paredes. Now it claims Neymar is the other squad member to test positive.

The three were among several PSG stars who travelled to the Spanish Mediterranean island of Ibiza last week for a holiday in the aftermath of their Champions League campaign, mixing with friends and family after spending the previous weeks isolated in a secure bubble with teammates in Portugal.

That was after the controversial decision was taken to postpone a league game away at Lens, initially scheduled for last Saturday, in order to give the PSG squad a break after their Champions League ‘Final Eight’ exertions.

The match at Lens has been rescheduled for next Thursday, September 10, with PSG due to entertain Marseille three days later.

Strict French league rules stipulate that collective team training sessions must be cancelled if a club has at least four positive tests over an eight-day period, with match postponements possible.

The cases raise questions about why the French league decided to postpone PSG’s match in Lens, only for so many of their players to travel abroad on holiday during a pandemic.

The postponement was granted in order to give PSG players a rest after their European run, despite France’s richest club having only played five competitive games in six months.

The last French season was ended early, with 10 rounds of matches unplayed, because of the health crisis, and the start of the new French season has already been impacted.

In recent weeks, several Ligue 1 clubs have reported positive tests, including Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Rennes, Nantes and Montpellier.

Marseille’s game against Saint-Etienne on August 21, which was set to be the season opener, was postponed.

AFP

Arteta Won’t Sell Arsenal Stars To Fund Rebuild

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 18, 2020. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP.

 

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal will not sell their best players to fund an overhaul of his inconsistent team.

Arteta has been linked with several players as he prepares for a summer rebuild, but mooted moves for the likes of Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey won’t be cheap.

While the club broke their transfer record to land Nicolas Pepe last summer, Arsenal are now set to be without Champions League action yet again next term.

Such big-money deals appear to be out of the reach of Arsenal at the moment, which has led to speculation that some players would have to be moved on to fund any major signings.

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would raise the biggest fee and has been mentioned as a Barcelona target with one year left on his contract.

But Arteta, who saw his side win their third game in six days with a 4-0 victory over Norwich on Wednesday, does not feel that is the right approach.

Asked if the club would have to sell to bring in new players, the Arsenal manager said: “Obviously we are putting different plans together to see what we are going to be able to do. At the moment the uncertainty is still big.

“We have seen different things. The way that Chelsea is dealing with the market is different to rest at the moment, but Bayern Munich as well they’ve have been really aggressive.

“So I don’t know. But if you ask me, we cannot be a team that has to sell his best player to try to bring in and improve our squad. That’s for sure.”

AFP

Bayern Close On Title As Bundesliga Steps Up Racism Protests

Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (C) heads to score his team’s fourth goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern Munich on June 6, 2020 in Leverkusen, western Germany. Matthias Hangst / POOL / AFP

 

Bundesliga players wore black armbands and took the knee in displays of support for the Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday, as Bayern Munich kept title rivals Borussia Dortmund at bay with a ninth successive win.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored his 30th league goal of the season as Bayern came from behind to claim a 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, a win which kept them seven points ahead of second-placed Dortmund, who beat Hertha Berlin 1-0.

After Lucas Alario secured an early lead for the home side, Bayern struck twice in quick succession just before half-time to turn the game in their favour after Kingsley Coman’s equaliser.

A mistake from Moussa Diaby allowed Coman to curl in the equaliser, before a fizzing shot from Leon Goretzka and an elegant lob from Serge Gnabry saw Bayern take a two-goal lead into the break.

“We didn’t start well, but I think it’s something which really distinguishes us at the moment, that we are able to fight our way back into games,” Goretzka told Sky.

Lewandowski sealed the win in the second half, equalling his most prolific Bundesliga season, although Leverkusen teenager Florian Wirtz struck late on to become the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever scorer at just 17 years and 34 days.

READ ALSO: Man City Face Critical Appeal Against Two-Season European Ban

“We already knew he was a huge talent,” said Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz of the teenager, who beat the record set by Nuri Sahin for Borussia Dortmund in November 2005 by 48 days.

As thousands of protesters assembled in city centres across Germany, both of the country’s top two clubs also used Saturday’s games to make statements against police brutality and racism.

Dortmund players warmed up in T-shirts bearing messages of solidarity such as “no justice, no peace”, before taking the knee in the centre circle with their Hertha colleagues for a moment’s silence before kick-off.

Bayern players, meanwhile, wore black “Black Lives Matter” armbands during their rampant win over Leverkusen.

“As players, we always have the same message — we are tolerant, we are open, we are open to the world,” Bayern captain Manuel Neuer told Sky.

– Can keeps Dortmund hopes alive? –

Dortmund battled to a 1-0 home win over Hertha thanks to a second-half strike from Emre Can.

England winger Jadon Sancho, who was among the first Bundesliga players to lend his voice to the protests last weekend, missed from close range just after the break before setting up Can with a deft chip over the back line on 57 minutes.

A late equaliser from Christian Strohdiek saw bottom-of-the-table Paderborn snatch a 1-1 draw away to RB Leipzig.

Timo Werner set up Patrik Schick on 27 minutes to give Leipzig the lead, but they were forced to defend it with 10 men after Dayot Upamecano was booked twice in the first half.

Strohdiek’s last-minute strike gave Paderborn their fourth draw in five games, though Steffen Baumgart’s side remain eight points off Fortuna Duesseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off place.

Duesseldorf themselves missed the chance to move towards safety, as they battled to a dramatic 2-2 draw against 10-man Hoffenheim.

A headed opener from Rouwen Hennings and a red card for Hoffenheim’s Benjamin Huebner put the home side in pole position.

However, the visitors struck back with goals from Munas Dabbur and Steven Zuber before Hennings saved a point with a late penalty.

Uwe Roesler’s side remain three points adrift of safety in the relegation play-off place, after goals from Moussa Niakhate and Pierre Kunde Malong gave fellow strugglers Mainz a rare win over local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt.

Having sealed a crucial win with his 77th-minute strike, Cameroon international Kunde also joined the protests, taking a knee in place of a celebration.

“I think it’s good. It isn’t a political statement, it’s just a position, and these are values that we have. For me, there is no other possible position to take,” said Mainz sporting director Rouven Schroeder.

str/jc/dj

Premier League Players Face Strict New Training Protocols

 

Premier League players are set to be subjected to a strict testing regime if they are to return to training amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to British media reports.

The BBC said Tuesday it had seen a copy of official protocols sent to all 20 Premier League clubs detailing the need for corner-flags, balls, cones, goalposts and even playing surfaces to be disinfected after each training session.

Other measures in the guidance include twice-weekly testing, and a daily pre-training questionnaire and temperature check.

Should a player test positive, with or without symptoms, they will be forced to self-isolate for seven days.

All players will have to travel to a training ground individually and avoid public transport. Once there they will not be allowed to gather in communal areas and won’t be fed on the premises.

Tackling and contact will reportedly be banned for the first phase of team training.

Meanwhile, club medical staff must wear personal protection equipment when treating the players.

A meeting involving players, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the British government over safety and health issues surrounding a possible restart of the game is set to take place on Wednesday.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, said his members would be open to playing again provided “everything that can be done is being done” to assure their safety.

READ ALSO: New Resolution On Pandemic Truce Presented To UN Security Council

“We’ve got to try it, see if we can do it and see if we can return to some form of activity,” Taylor told the Mirror.

“But it’s also being as careful and having as many assurances as possible that it’s achievable.”

However, England internationals Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose are the two latest high-profile players to raise their concerns over a return to contact sport when the rest of society is being advised to follow social-distancing guidelines.

– ‘Lives at risk’ –

“The moment we do go back it just needs to be a moment where it’s not just for footballing reasons, it’s safe for not just us footballers but the whole medical staff, referees,” Sterling told his YouTube channel.

Meanwhile Rose, on loan at Newcastle from Tottenham, told an Instagram live: “People’s lives are at risk.

“Football shouldn’t even be spoken about coming back until the numbers have dropped massively.”

A further complication for Project Restart is where any matches would be played, with the clubs opposed to a proposal for a limited number of neutral venues to be used.

The UK’s national football policing lead previously stated resuming matches on a home-and-away basis would “present challenges” to the emergency services.

But Mark Roberts said on Tuesday that police, government and football authorities were working together on a plan “which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come out against the idea of playing matches in the capital at this stage, with the city having been particularly badly hit by the pandemic.

Five of the 20 Premier League sides are based in London.

“With the country still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people dying every day, he believes that it is too early to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and top-flight sport in the capital,” Khan’s spokesperson told the Evening Standard.

Premier League clubs face having to pay a huge refund to broadcasters even if they manage to complete the virus-disrupted season behind closed doors.

Broadcasters would be reimbursed for matches not being played as scheduled and the lack of atmosphere in empty stadiums is also a factor.

The BBC reported the bill could be as high as £340 million ($420 million) and would surge to £760 million if the season cannot be completed.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously warned of a £1 billion loss once the absence of gate receipts is taken into account.

New government guidelines have paved the way for elite sport to return behind closed doors in England from June 1.

Britain has been one of the worst hit by the global pandemic, with the UK government officially recording more than 32,000 deaths from COVID-19.

AFP

Barcelona, Real Madrid Players Begin COVID-19 Testing

 

Players at Barcelona and Real Madrid started to undergo coronavirus tests on Wednesday as La Liga clubs planned to return to restricted training ahead of the proposed resumption of the season next month.

Barca captain Lionel Messi and France international Antoine Griezmann were among players pictured arriving one by one in their cars at the club’s training centre early Wednesday morning.

Players at Madrid, including Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema, also underwent health checks at Real’s training base on the outskirts of the city.

Results from the coronavirus tests are typically known within 48 hours. The testing is part of the league’s strict medical protocol with which teams must comply before a return to training.

Atletico Madrid, who will also carry out tests Wednesday, are aiming to resume training immediately once the results are known if all goes to plan.

The first of a four-phase de-escalation programme announced by the Spanish government last week would allow players to initially train alone, with a maximum of six players allowed on the pitch.

READ ALSO: Germany To Give Green Light To Restart Football In May 

Players will be expected to arrive on club premises already in their kit and wear a mask and gloves when not training. After each session they will be given a bag with clothes for the next day.

La Liga’s programme will then permit training in small groups before a return to larger team sessions.

In the fourth and final phase, scheduled for early June, the government have said outside events can go ahead when attended by fewer than 400 people.

La Liga is proposing to complete its season behind closed doors, with games starting again in the middle of June.

“People’s health is paramount, so we have a comprehensive protocol to safeguard the health of everyone involved as we work to restart La Liga,” league president Javier Tebas said on Monday.

“Circumstances are unprecedented, but we hope to start playing again in June and finish our 19/20 season this summer.”

Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 26,000 deaths in the country according to the latest figures on Wednesday.

AFP

Arsenal Players Vote On New Captains, Says Holding

Arsenal’s players celebrate on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 22, 2019. Arsenal won the game 3-2. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has asked his players to vote for their preferred choices as captain as he rebuilds his five-strong leadership group, according to defender Rob Holding.

Emery introduced a pool of five captains following his appointment last year but out of his original choices, Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey have left the club.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka has so far worn the armband in the Premier League this season but is yet to convince in the role and was jeered by his own fans during the weekend win over Aston Villa, while the peripheral Mesut Ozil is the only other member of the initial five still at the club.

Holding revealed that Spanish coach Emery recently conducted a poll of the dressing room.

“He likes his five captains. We all did a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named,” said Holding.

“It was just write names down and then give them to the manager and he will go through them obviously with his input and we’ll see what happens.

“I have no idea (when an announcement will be made), but there are a lot of leaders in that team who are helping each other out and pushing each other on.”

Arsenal have been repeatedly criticised for a perceived lack of leadership, dating back to the reign of Arsene Wenger.

Out-of-favour Ozil was named captain for Tuesday’s League Cup win over Nottingham Forest before passing the responsibility to centre-back Holding when he was substituted.

While he was unwilling to reveal his choice of skipper, Holding described Xhaka as “a great leader” and also praised the influence of experienced close-season signing David Luiz.

Asked if Arsenal have more leaders than critics believe, Holding said: “For sure. You can see it in training. The way David Luiz has come in and when he is talking in front of the group he speaks really well.”

Holding marked his return from a nine-month injury lay-off by scoring just seconds after taking the armband from Ozil in the 5-0 win over Forest.

And the 24-year-old has aspirations of performing the role again.

“I would love to be a captain and being captain of Arsenal is unbelievable,” he said. “It would be a great feeling.”

AFP