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

FIFA Reduces Players’ Loan Per Club To Eight

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
File

 

FIFA has agreed steps that will limit the number of players clubs can send out on loan from next season and will also limit the amount of money paid to agents in commissions, world football’s governing body announced on Wednesday.

In a statement, FIFA said it had taken “a series of key steps to protect the integrity of the system and prevent abuses” following a meeting of its Stakeholders Committee.

From next season, the number of international loans out and in permitted per club will be limited to eight, with that figure dropping progressively to six by the 2022/23 season. The number of players that can be loaned between the same two clubs will be capped at three.

However, the cap will only be applied to players aged over 21, or “non club-trained” players aged 21 and under.

The measures are aimed at curtailing “abusive and excessive practices”, with FIFA citing the hoarding of players by clubs and the distortion of competition when teams bring in several players on loan from a bigger club with whom they have a close relationship.

“Players’ development is suffering as they are moved from one club to another with no clear career plan. The current loan system has facilitated player hoarding with clubs putting numerous players on their books and then loaning them out to other clubs,” FIFA said in a confidential document seen by AFP.

The measures appear to be aimed at clubs such as Chelsea, who have habitually had vast numbers of players out on loan in recent seasons.

Monaco have as many as 18 players currently loaned out, including seven at Belgian side Cercle Brugge.

The recommendations will be endorsed at the upcoming FIFA Council meeting in Shanghai, scheduled for October 24.

However, they will not immediately apply to domestic loans, with the document stating that member associations will have three years in order to implement rules on a loan system “in line with FIFA principles”.

Meanwhile, in an effort to curb the amount of money going out of the game and into the pockets of agents, FIFA stakeholders also agreed to limit commissions as “conflicts of interest plague football’s transfer system”.

As a result, a selling club will not have to pay more than 10 percent of a transfer fee received to an agent acting on their behalf.

Agents representing a player will be entitled to a maximum of three percent of that player’s total remuneration and another three percent for representing the buying club.

In 2016, Mino Raiola was paid 27 million euros for his role in Paul Pogba’s transfer from Juventus to Manchester United for a then world-record fee of over 100 million euros.

The new measures are designed to limit “financial incentive of agents to engineer a possible transfer” and to create “more transparent and objective forms of remuneration”, the document stated.

“Certain measures will certainly not please some agents, but there was a consensus on these measures and there have been discussions going back more than a year,” a FIFA official told journalists at the organisation’s Zurich headquarters.

“This is an important step towards making transfers more moral.”

The measures will also be endorsed at the FIFA Council in Shanghai.

AFP

FIFA Bans Eight Players, Agent For Life Over Match-Fixing

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
File

 

FIFA issued eight-lifetime bans to current and former players and an agent on Wednesday after they were found guilty of match manipulation.

Former Sierra Leone captain Ibrahim Kargbo and ex-Trinidad and Tobago defender Keyeno Thomas were among those suspended from all football-related activities over attempts to rig matches at international level.

World football’s governing body also banned former players from Benin, Afghanistan and Cuba, as well as Zimbabwean agent Kudzanai Shaba.

READ ALSO: AFCON U17: Guinea Reach Finals After Beating Nigeria 10-9 On Penalties

Kenyan defender George Owino Audi received a 10-year ban and a fine of 15,000 Swiss francs (13,165 euros).

FIFA said it opened disciplinary proceedings after a vast investigation into various international matches that Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted match-fixer, had attempted to manipulate for betting purposes.

“This large-scale investigation was conducted by FIFA over several years through its integrity department and in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and authorities,” read a FIFA statement.

AFP

Salah Outshines Other African Players As Leading Scorer In Europe

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool in southern England on January 12, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Mohamed Salah became the leading English Premier League scorer this season after netting twice for Liverpool in a dramatic 4-3 triumph over Crystal Palace at the weekend.   

The Egyptian superstar has notched 16 goals, two more than Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and England sharpshooter Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a profitable day for African attackers at Anfield with Senegalese Sadio Mane also scoring for league leaders Liverpool.

England

MOHAMED SALAH, SADIO MANE (Liverpool)

Salah raised his season tally to 19 in all competitions by scoring twice to keep Liverpool four points clear at the top by defeating Palace. The Egyptian had fortune on his side thanks to some errant goalkeeping by 39-year Julian Speroni, making his first appearance in over a year, and was also lucky to escape without a yellow card when trying to win a cheap penalty just before half-time. Mane grabbed his 10th of the season with a smart finish in stoppage time.

Spain

SEYDOU DOUMBIA (Girona)

The Ivorian scored but could not prevent Girona losing a five-goal thriller to Real Betis in La Liga. Doumbia stooped low to head in after an error from goalkeeper Pau Lopez as Girona pulled 2-1 ahead, only for Betis to score twice in the second half.

KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Villarreal)

Toko Ekambi earned Villarreal a point by grabbing a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao. The Cameroonian slid in to score from close range with 19 minutes left to ensure his side avoided defeat in their fight against relegation.

Italy

GERVINHO (Parma)

Gervinho earned a penalty and scored the winner for Parma in a 2-1 victory over Udinese. Parma were awarded a VAR penalty for a Rodrigo De Paul foul on Gervinho which Roberto Inglese converted after 11 minutes. The veteran Ivorian scored the winner after 68 minutes, surging forward for the midfield to slot in his sixth goal of the season for promoted Parma, who are three points off the Europa League berths.

Germany

SALIF SANE (Schalke 04)

The Senegal centre-back put in a solid display in Schalke’s 2-1 win at home to Wolfsburg which pulled them clear of the Bundesliga relegation places with their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City looming next month. Sane was unable to stop Wolfsburg midfielder Elvis Rexhbecaj equalising midway through the first half before Schalke defender Daniel Caligiuri scored the late winner with his second goal of the game.

France

JORDAN IKOKO (Guingamp)

The Democratic Republic of Congo defender endured a day to forget as his side crashed to an embarrassing 9-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. Ikoko and his Guingamp team-mates were ripped apart by the runaway league leaders as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani accounted for all but one of the goals as PSG set a new club record for the biggest home win.

Chelsea Players Support Sarri’s Philosophy, Says Luiz

Chelsea Exceed £400m Revenue, Declare £62m Profit
Chelsea players celebrate after Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante scores the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park in south London on December 30, 2018. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri has the full support of the Chelsea players who have signed up to his philosophy says David Luiz despite the manager blasting them in the wake of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Luiz, who has become a pivotal figure in Sarri’s team after being sidelined last season by Antonio Conte, said it is remarkable how quickly Sarri has been successful in implementing his playing philosophy at the club.

While that was successful initially, Chelsea’s form has slumped of late with just two wins in their last five matches in all competitions, failing to score in three of those.

Arsenal and a resurgent Manchester United are just three points off Chelsea, who occupy the fourth and last Champions League spot.

Sarri is trying to rectify the scoring problem by offloading misfiring Spaniard Alvaro Morata and signing veteran Argentine Gonzalo Higuain who flourished under him at Napoli.

Luiz said the manager “was not happy” after the match “but nobody was happy, so it was normal.”

However, the 31-year-old Brazil international defender said the players were all behind Sarri.

“Everybody is trusting his job and everybody is with him,” said Luiz.

However, he said pointedly there was nothing wrong with the strategy and that they just need to be sharper in front of goal.

“It is our style, it is our philosophy,” said Luiz.

“I think if you asked at the beginning of the season, ‘can Chelsea keep the ball?’ — you would have said no.

“And now we are able to do that, like the best teams in the world, but then we have (to) improve our last 25 metres.”

Sarri has changed things around from Conte’s time at the club.

Italy international Jorginho — whom he signed from Napoli — has been deployed in the central midfield role which has resulted in N’Golo Kante being moved to an unfamiliar wider role.

However, the biggest bone of contention has been the Italian’s decision to use Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard as a “false nine” which has apparently not been to the player’s liking.

Luiz, though, is full of praise for Sarri.

“What Sarri has done until now is unbelievable, amazing, because normally (for) a team to understand this philosophy needs one or two years, like Manchester City and Liverpool, who are playing very well with the ball now,” said Luiz.

“What he has done has been amazing, so we have to try to improve the details now.”

AFP

Solskjaer Warns United Players Over Complacency

Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned Manchester United of the dangers of complacency as they prepare to face Brighton after beating Tottenham to extend their perfect record under the interim boss.

Solskjaer has won all six of his matches in charge since taking over from Jose Mourinho on December 19 and will look to keep that sequence going at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Arguably the most impressive victory in the sequence came last Sunday when Tottenham were beaten 1-0 at Wembley thanks to a Marcus Rashford goal and an eye-catching goalkeeping display from David de Gea.

“As I’ve said before, you go into every single game as a Manchester United coach, as a player or manager, thinking you’ll win the next one, that’s just the nature of this club,” said Solskjaer.

“We’ve had six good games but the next one is the most important one. You cannot be too confident. It’s complacency you have to be wary of. It’s the other side of it.

“I want players to be confident but not be complacent and take their foot off the pedal because that’s a big difference for me. I want them go into games full of confidence, taking people on, getting the crowd with them because that’s what it’s about.”

Solskjaer has yet to see the best of forward Alexis Sanchez, who missed last Sunday’s win at Tottenham with a minor hamstring problem.

“He’s champing at the bit in training,” he said. He’s attitude has been fantastic in training and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

The interim boss has played down the suggestion that he is responsible for coaxing better performances out of the players since last month’s departure of Mourinho, adding that he was confident the former United manager would be back in work soon.

He said: “Yeah, why shouldn’t he? He’s a fantastic manager and with the results, he’s had I don’t think he’ll be struggling for work.”

 Fellaini injured 

Solskjaer said Marouane Fellaini is facing up to four weeks out of action with a calf injury.

The Belgium midfielder has made just two substitute appearances for United since Solskjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho.

Newspaper reports this week suggested that Fellaini, who signed a two-year contract in June, would be allowed to leave during the January transfer window.

His injury would appear to have ended the prospect of that happening, while Solskjaer has given the midfielder some reassurance by suggesting that he has an “X-factor”.

“There’s an X-factor in different players. We all know Felli’s X-factor. He’ll be working hard to get back in when all the big games are coming as well.”

With Fellaini injured, Solskjaer has suggested that Scott McTominay’s chances of going out on loan may have receded.

Celtic have been in negotiations with United about taking the Scotland midfielder on loan, but the caretaker manager appears reluctant to sanction a deal.

He said: “Scott is working hard. He’s a young boy I still believe in. We’re working on his contract. With the injuries to Felli as well and the squad we have, I’m not sure we’re going to see any movement.”

AFP

Confidence Key For Arsenal To Make Champions League, Says Emery

Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish headcoach Unai Emery looks on before the French L1 football match between Caen (SMC) and Paris (PSG) on May 19, 2018, at the Michel d’Ornano stadium, in Caen, northwestern France. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Unai Emery says his players are in dire need of a win to regain their confidence and reboot their challenge for a Champions League spot for next season.

The Gunners’ bid to return to the Champions League after a two-year hiatus has hit the rocks of late — Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by West Ham left them six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Emery, who once again omitted 2014 World Cup winner Mesut Ozil from the squad despite his recovery from a knee injury, admitted confidence was low although they could go a long way to restoring it if they beat Chelsea at home next Saturday.

“Now it’s more difficult, it’s clear,” the Spaniard replied when asked if a top-four finish was still a possibility.

“I think the most important thing for us is to recover our confidence and be more competitive. We need consistency over 38 matches.

“Now it isn’t enough at the moment. West Ham was a bad result.

“If we can win today (Saturday) we are playing against Chelsea with a three-point maximum distance.

“This result makes that more difficult,” added the 47-year-old Spaniard.

Emery — who began the post-Arsene Wenger era with the club going on a 22-game unbeaten run — admits another cause for concern is their poor recent away form.

The Gunners have not won away in their last four league games, taking just one point from a possible 12.

“It’s our challenge,” Emery said of improving Arsenal’s away form.

“We are working on that.

“It’s also the opposition team. Like here (West Ham), for example, they are with their supporters, they feel good and strong and can push.

“We need to take more confidence, better performances collectively, being competitive away to change this moment.

“We started the season away well, being competitive and winning.”

AFP

Players, Others Arrested In Spain’s Fixing Probe

 

Spanish police have dismantled a gang that allegedly fixed professional tennis competitions, detaining 15 people and probing 68 others including tennis players, one of whom played in the last US Open, they said Thursday.

In a statement, the Civil Guard police force said the organisation bribed tennis players to fix matches in ITF Futures and Challenger tournaments, the lower levels of professional tennis where young players start out before getting to the ATP level.

The Civil Guard added the operation kicked off after the Tennis Integrity Unit, an anti-corruption tennis body, made an official complaint.

It did not identify those detained or being probed but said one of them played in the last US Open. It is unclear whether he is among the arrested or investigated.

According to Europol, “the suspects bribed professional players to guarantee pre-determined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to bet on the pre-arranged game.”

The members of the organisation are Armenian. “Some of them” were arrested, a Civil Guard spokeswoman told AFP.

They “attended the matches to ensure that the tennis players complied with what was previously agreed, and gave orders to other members of the group to go ahead with the bets placed at national and international level,” Europol said in a statement.

The Civil Guard said the group had been operating since at least February 2017 and could have made millions of euros.

AFP