Dzeko Strikes To Take Roma Into Champions League Last Eight

Dzeko Strikes To Take Roma Into Champions League Last Eight
Roma’s Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match against Shakhtar Donetsk on March 13, 2018. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Roma reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 10 years as Edin Dzeko edged them past Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday and allowed the Italians to win the tie on away goals.

The Bosnian striker’s 52nd-minute goal proved enough after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Ukraine, with 10-man Shakhtar failing to find the late strike they needed after Ivan Ordets was sent off late on.

Cengiz Under’s goal in the first leg last month ultimately proved crucial for Roma, but Dzeko was the hero on the night and also proved instrumental in Shakhtar defender Ordets being shown a straight red card with 12 minutes left.

That sending-off led to tensions spilling over, with Shakhtar’s Facundo Ferreyra picking up a booking for shoving a ballboy over an advertising board.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are the second Italian team to advance to the quarter-finals after Juventus, with the draw for the last eight taking place on Friday.

“The standing ovation is not for me but for everyone, we are deservedly in the quarter-finals,” said Dzeko of the applause which accompanied him off the pitch.

“We managed to do something Roma hadn’t in 10 years, so going forward to play against the best makes us all very proud.

“We are among the eight best sides in Europe.”

Roma did not concede a goal at home in the group stage and hammered Chelsea 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, so the home fans in the crowd of 47,693 would have been confident their side could get the job done.

The Ukrainians dominated early possession though, and there was a scare for the hosts when Alessandro Florenzi nearly nodded a free-kick into his own net.

Ferreyra then came close after Federico Fazio lost the ball just outside his own box before Roma struck seven minutes into the second half.

Kevin Strootman sent Dzeko through as Shakhtar tried without success to play the offside trap, and the Bosnian forward prodded a shot through the legs of goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and into the net for his fourth goal in the Champions League this season.

Dzeko was then brought down by Ordets who got a straight red card for his troubles, making Shakhtar’s task that bit harder.

– Roma pounce on mistake –

“We knew that sooner or later they would make a mistake and we’d pounce on it,” said Roma coach Di Francesco.

“If we face any opponent with this attitude and determination, we can go far.”

“Roma made the most of a single moment,” said Shakhtar coach Paulo Fonseca.

“Dzeko, of course, was a key player, but apart from his goal they didn’t have a chance, we had possession. If we had finished off the chances we had in the first leg the match would already have been over.”

Roma held on, and after Italy’s shock failure to qualify for the World Cup, their progress to the last eight along with Juventus is a boost for the country.

There have not been two Italian clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League since 2006/07, when Roma joined eventual winners AC Milan in the last eight.

There will also be at least three Italian coaches in the quarter-finals — Di Francesco, Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus and Vincenzo Montella of Sevilla.

Di Francesco added: “I spoke with Montella a few days ago and we said we’d meet in the final.”

Antonio Conte could make that four with his Chelsea side facing Barcelona on Wednesday.

Incredible Fred Gives Shakhtar Edge Over Roma

Incredible Fred Gives Shakhtar Edge Over Roma
Shakhtar Donetsk’s players celebrate the goal scored by midfielder Fred (3L) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football against AS Rome at the OSK Metalist Stadion in Kharkiv on February 21, 2018. GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

 

Shakhtar Donetsk fought back from a goal down as Fred’s free-kick gave the Ukrainian champions a 2-1 victory over Roma on Wednesday in their Champions League last 16, first leg.

Turkish youngster Cengiz Under marked his Champions League debut for Roma with a well-taken 41st-minute opener.

But second-half strikes from Facundo Ferreyra and Fred left the tie finely balanced ahead of the return game at the Stadio Olimpico in three weeks’ time.

“My team has everything they needed to play 90 minutes at a high level so the mistakes we’ve made were mental,” Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco said.

“I told the team to play the second half the way we played the first, but what I’ve seen on the pitch is that the team were happy to defend. We need to work on that problem.”

Roma, looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 10 years, started brightly while Shakhtar, who only returned to competitive action last weekend after the winter break, left the visitors too much space in midfield.

The Italians had a chance to go ahead in the sixth minute, but goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov saved well to deny Edin Dzeko.

In the 21st minute, Dzeko forced Pyatov into another diving save with a low shot from the edge of the area after a quick counter-attack.

But the keeper was unable to prevent Under from putting Roma ahead four minutes before half-time.

The 20-year-old forward latched onto a clever through ball from Bosnian striker Dzeko and sent the ball into the net despite the best efforts of Pyatov.

Under has been a revelation in recent weeks for Roma and has now scored five goals in his last four appearances.

But after the interval, Shakhtar, who had won three of their four previous meetings with Roma in the Champions League, moved up a gear.

A long ball forward by full-back Yaroslav Rakitskiy picked out Ferreyra, who dribbled into the box to slip the ball under the onrushing Alisson Becker.

The hosts continued to cut apart the Roma defence, but Brazil keeper Alisson was on top form as he palmed away a shot from Marlos, before springing to his left to brilliantly claw behind Taison’s long-range effort.

But Fred put Shakhtar into the lead with a magnificent free-kick with 19 minutes to play.

His powerful left-footed shot from 20 yards out dipped viciously and flew into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar for his first Champions League goal.

It could have been even better for Shakhtar as they bid for a first appearance in the last eight since 2011, but Roma substitute Bruno Peres made an extraordinary goalline block while lying on the ground to deny Ferreyra in the final minute of injury-time.

Shakhtar head coach Paulo Fonseca said. “The only reason we didn’t win by a bigger margin was a brilliant display from the Roma keeper.”

AFP

Fantastic Fred Gives Shakhtar Edge Over Roma

Shakhtar Donetsk’s players celebrate the goal scored by midfielder Fred (2L) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Shaktar Donetsk and AS Rome at the OSK Metalist Stadion in Kharkiv on February 21, 2018. GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

 

Shakhtar Donetsk fought back from a goal down as Fred’s free-kick gave the Ukrainian champions a 2-1 victory over Roma on Wednesday in their Champions League last 16, first leg.

Turkish youngster Cengiz Under marked his Champions League debut for Roma with a well-taken 41st-minute opener.

But second-half strikes from Facundo Ferreyra and Fred left the tie finely balanced ahead of the return game at the Stadio Olimpico in three weeks’ time.

Roma, looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 10 years, started brightly while Shakhtar, who only returned to competitive action last weekend after the winter break, left the visitors too much space in midfield.

The Italians had a chance to go ahead in the sixth minute, but goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov saved well to deny Edin Dzeko.

In the 21st minute, Dzeko forced Pyatov into another diving save with a low shot from the edge of the area after a quick counter-attack.

But the keeper was unable to prevent Under from putting Roma ahead four minutes before half-time.

The 20-year-old forward latched onto a clever through ball from Bosnian striker Dzeko and sent the ball into the net despite the best efforts of Pyatov.

Under has been a revelation in recent weeks for Roma and has now scored five goals in his last four appearances.

But after the interval, Shakhtar, who had won three of their four previous meetings with Roma in the Champions League, moved up a gear.

A long ball forward by full-back Yaroslav Rakitskiy picked out Ferreyra, who dribbled into the box to slip the ball under the onrushing Alisson Becker.

The hosts continued to cut apart the Roma defence, but Brazil keeper Alisson was on top form as he palmed away a shot from Marlos, before springing to his left to brilliantly claw behind Taison’s long-range effort.

But Fred put Shakhtar into the lead with a magnificent free-kick with 19 minutes to play.

His powerful left-footed shot from 20 yards out dipped viciously and flew into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar for his first Champions League goal.

It could have been even better for Shakhtar as they bid for a first appearance in the last eight since 2011, but Roma substitute Bruno Peres made an extraordinary goalline block while lying on the ground to deny Ferreyra in the final minute of injury-time.

AFP

Roma Captain De Rossi Gets Two-Match Ban

Referee Giacomelli gives red card to AS Roma’s midfielder Daniele De Rossi during the Italian Serie A football match Genoa Vs AS Roma on November 26, 2017, at the ‘Luigi Ferraris’ Stadium in Genoa. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Roma captain Daniele De Rossi was given a two-match ban on Tuesday for slapping Genoa’s Gianluca Lapadula in last weekend’s Serie A draw.

De Rossi was sent off with his side leading 1-0 after 69 minutes for hitting Lapadula in the face and the Genoa striker scored the resulting penalty for a 1-1 draw.

The Lega Serie A found the 34-year-old former Italy midfielder guilty of “seriously unsportsmanlike conduct”, meaning he will miss their next two league games against SPAL and Chievo.

Juventus were fined 10,000 euros ($11,846) for “derogatory chants of a territorial origin” against Calabria side Crotone, and Inter Milan 3,500 euros for delaying the second half of the Cagliari game by three minutes.

Verona defender Thomas Heurtaux and Bologna’s Vasilis Torosidis were both given one-match bans for their respective red cards at the weekend.

AFP

Napoli Reclaim Lead As De Rossi Sees Red For Roma

Napoli Reclaim Lead As De Rossi Sees Red For Roma
Napoli’s Brazilian midfielder Jorginho (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match against Udinese on November 26, 2017. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Italy midfielder Jorginho scored the only goal to put Napoli back top of Serie A on Sunday with a 1-0 win at Udinese, as a moment of madness saw Roma’s Daniele De Rossi sent off in a 1-1 draw at Genoa.

Joringho fired in off the rebound after missing a penalty on 33 minutes as new Udinese coach Massimo Oddo’s lost his first game in charge.

Napoli lacked inspiration after their Champions League exploits midweek and could thank goalkeeper Pepe Reina for keeping out a late Antonin Barak effort.

Maurizio Sarri’s side pull clear of Inter Milan who went top on Friday with Argentina striker Mauro Icardi bagging a brace in a 3-1 win at Cagliari.

“It’s a very important win, even though we didn’t play our best game. The Champions League saps your mental strength,” said Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne.

Napoli have 38 points from 14 games with Inter two points behind. Champions Juventus are third along with Roma on 31 before Sunday evening’s game against Crotone.

– ‘Great naivety’ –

Roma were held 1-1 at struggling Genoa after captain De Rossi was sent off in the second half after pulling Gianluca Lapadula’s shirt and slapping in him the face.

Stephen El Shaarawy had opened for Roma with a volley off an Alessandro Florenzi assist on 59 minutes but ten minutes later De Rossi saw red after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).

Lapadula slotted in the resulting penalty.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco criticised 34-year-old De Rossi’s “great naivety”.

“He’s not a kid, especially when he’s the leader, we have been able to control the game without giving anything in front of our goal,” said Di Francesco.

“I still haven’t talked to him but he was certainly sorry for what happened, the naivety is that nobody escapes VAR.

“These are two lost points, although I have to say played in the right way I’m happy with the performance apart from Daniele’s nonsense.”

Roma move joint third, but the stalemate ends their record of 12 straight Serie A away wins this season.

Lapadula’s penalty gave Genoa a much-needed point as they sit fourth from bottom with ten points.

AC Milan were held to a goalless draw by Torino in the San Siro, with goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma and Salvatore Sirigu pulling off some spectacular saves.

The match ended in controversy with a Patrick Cutrone goal ruled out as offside.

Milan are seventh, equal on 20 points with Chievo and Bologna, a single point ahead of Torino, but have failed to score in their last four matches at the San Siro.

AFP

El Shaarawy Stars As Roma Maul Chelsea

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz (L) heads the ball next to Roma’s Greek defender Kostas Manolas during the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Chelsea on October 31, 2017 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Stephan El Shaarawy scored a brace as AS Roma mauled Chelsea 3-0 to claim top spot in Champions League Group C on Tuesday at the expense of the English champions.

The rematch in Rome’s Stadio Olympico after a 3-3 thriller in London two weeks ago did not disappoint the 55,000 crowd in Rome as Chelsea coach Antonio Conte was frustrated on his return to Italy.

El Shaarawy rifled in two first half goals — the first after less than a minute and the second nine minutes before the break — with Argentine Diego Perotti adding a third on 63 minutes.

A second win in four games moves the Romans closer to the last-16, thwarting Chelsea who had been hoping to seal a spot in the knockout rounds with two games to go.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side now have eight points from four games, one point ahead of Chelsea, with Atletico Madrid third on three points after being held 1-1 by Qarabag.

Conte’s Chelsea were a shadow of the team that played at Stamford Bridge earlier this month.

French midfielder N’Golo Kante, who has just returned from a hamstring injury, was left out by Conte, along with Nigerian Victor Moses as Greek defender Kostas Manolas started on the bench for Roma.

El Shaarawy and Perotti backed up Edin Dzeko in the Roma attack with Chelsea counting on the trident of Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morato and Pedro.

After an opening burst the hosts were ahead after just 38 seconds when Dzeko nodded down and El Shaarawy blasted into the back of the net past a stunned Thibaut Courtois.

Hazard — who scored a brace in the first leg along with Dzeko — was omnipresent early for Chelsea with Alisson saving twice at the near post, Alvaro Morata also missing an opportunity in front of goal for the English champions.

But after going close a second time, El Shaarawy broke through again on 36 minutes following a long ball from Radja Nainggolan.

A Tiemoue Bakayoko header looked dangerous but Alisson dived to clear four minutes before the break.

Perotti got the third after the break following a Cesc Fabregas error in midfield to pile the pressure on Chelsea, who could thank Belgian keeper Courtois for pulling off some key saves including a searing Manolas header.

And Argentine Perotti could have made it 4-0 minutes later as unmarked he fired over an empty net.

Fabregas came off midway through the second half with Danny Drinkwater getting his Champions League debut.

But it was all Roma, as Nainggolan was kept out by Courtois, along with a Dzeko header from the resulting corner.

It was the third straight defeat for Chelsea in Italy, with their last win back in 2003 over Lazio.

Roma next travel to Atletico Madrid with Chelsea facing the long trip to Qarabag in Azerbaijan.

AFP

Atletico, Roma Prepare Key Champions League Clash

Atletico Madrid’s forward, France’s Antoine Griezmann (C), takes part in a training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Atletico Madrid. Photo: TIZIANA FABI / AFP

Roma host Atletico Madrid on Tuesday in an opening game of the Champions League group stages which Italian coach Eusebio Di Francesco believes will be crucial to their ambitions.

In a Group C that also includes Premier League champions Chelsea, both sides desperately need to win in the Stadio Olimpico.

Di Francesco insists Roma can match the technique and tactics of the Spanish runners-up in 2014 and 2016 to Real Madrid.

“(Diego) Simeone’s squad have a clear identity,” Di Francesco said. “Perhaps less flair, but very tactically sound and they always know what their role is. They have reached two Champions League finals and you don’t do that by accident. They have strong mental and physical qualities.”

“For us to compete with them we have to also go out on the pitch with those same characteristics –- together with our own playing ideas,” the Roma coach added.

“It’s an important game, one of the great ones in the life of a footballer.”

“We have the qualities to hurt Atletico.”

Atletico’s visit to the Italian capital will be their first since 1999 in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals when they came from behind to beat Roma 2-1.

“We are in a very balanced group where anyone can go through,” said Simeone with Chelsea opening against Azerbaijani newcomers Qarabag.

“Chelsea, Roma and ourselves start with the same options. I live the present and tomorrow (Tuesday) begins a complex and exciting group stage.”

– Griezmann returns –

Atletico arrives in Rome on the back of a complicated start to La Liga, in which they are sitting sixth after one win and two draws.

In those games, Simeone could not count on striker Antoine Griezmann, who was banned but will have him at his disposal Tuesday.

The question is who will link up with the Frenchman with options Argentine Luciano Vietto and compatriot Angel Correa, who formed Atletico’s attacking duo in the last two matches.

Candidates also include veteran Fernando Torres, or Frenchman Kevin Gameiro, back after groin surgery.

“We will try to have a great competition and fulfill a dream, but everything depends on winning against Roma,” said Atletico defender Diego Godin. “We know how important the first match is and it is key.”

Roma has won one game and lost another in the Serie A but arrive more rested with a three-week break after last weekend’s clash at Sampdoria was postponed due to torrential rain.

“Any advantage is relative, also because a lot of Atletico’s players did not play in the last game against Valencia –- so a lot of their starters are also rested,” Di Francesco added.

Statistics though are not in favour of the Romans, having won just one of their last seven Champions League games in their home stadium.

Di Francesco will have all his men, except for his summer signing, Czech striker Patrick Schick, who suffered a muscle problem.

AFP

Totti Bids Emotional Farewell To Roma

Photo Credit: Copa90 (YouTube)

It was an emotional Sunday for Francesco Totti as he makes the final appearance of his 25-year Roma career.

The ex-Italian professional footballer came on in the 54th minute in the club’s 3-2 win over Genoa as Diego Perotti’s last-minute winner helped AS Roma book a spot in the Champions League group stage.

40-year-old Totti, who played for the Seria A club [his only club] from 1992 to 2017, made 786 appearances and scored 307 goals.

According to the club’s website, he had prepared a letter to read out to fans after his final game for Roma.

The letter reads:

Thank you, Rome.

Thank you to my mother and father, my brother, my relatives and my friends.

Thank you to my wife and to my three children.

I wanted to start from the end – from the goodbyes – because I don’t know if I’ll be able to read these lines.

It is impossible to sum up 28 years in a few sentences.

I’d like to do so with a song or poem, but I can’t write any.

Over the years, I’ve tried to express myself through my feet, which have made everything simpler for me ever since I was a child.

Speaking of childhood, can you guess what my favourite toy was? A football, of course! And it still is today.

At some point in life, you grow up – that’s what I’ve been told and that’s what time has decided.

Damned time.

Back on 17 June 2001, we all wanted time to pass a little more quickly.

We couldn’t wait to hear the referee blow the final whistle.

I still get goose bumps now when I think back to it.

Today, time has come to tap me on the shoulder and say:

‘We have to grow up. As of tomorrow, you’ll be an adult. Take off those shorts and boots because starting today, you are a man. You can no longer enjoy the smell of the grass, the sun on your face as you bear down on the opposition’s goal, the adrenaline consuming you, the joy of celebrating.’

Over the past few months, I’ve asked myself why I’m being awoken from this dream.

Imagine you’re a child having a good dream… and your mother wakes you up to go to school.

You want to keep dreaming… you try to slip back into the dream but you never can.

This time, it’s not a dream, but reality.

And I can no longer slip back in.

I want to dedicate this letter to all of you – to all the children that have supported me.

To the children of yesterday, who have grown up and become parents and to the children of today, who perhaps shout ‘Tottigol’.

I’d like to think that for you, my career has become a fairytale for you to pass on.

It’s really over now.

I’m taking off that jersey for the final time.

I’ll fold it away, even though I’m not ready to say ‘enough’ and perhaps I never will be.

Forgive me for not giving interviews and clarifying my thoughts, but it’s not easy to turn out the light.

I’m afraid. It’s not the same fear you feel when you’re standing in front of the goal, about to take a penalty.

This time, I can’t see what the future looks like through the holes of the net.

Allow me to be afraid.

This time, it’s me who needs you and the love that you’ve always shown me.

With your support, I will succeed in turning the page and throwing myself into a new adventure.

Now, it’s time for me to thank all of the team-mates, coaches, directors, presidents and everyone who has worked alongside me during this time.

To the fans and the Curva Sud, a guiding light for all Romans and Romanisti.

Being born Roman and Romanisti is a privilege.

Being the captain of this team is an honour.

You are – and will always be – my life. I will no longer entertain you with my feet, but my heart will always be there with you.

Now, I will go down the stairs and enter the dressing room that welcomed me as a child and that I now leave as a man.

I’m proud and happy to have given you 28 years of love.

I love you.

Sikiru Olatunbosun Bags ‘CNN Goal of the Week’ Prize

Sikiru Olatunbosun Bags CNN Football Goal of the WeekMFM FC Striker, Sikiru Olatunbosun, has won the CNN Football Goal of the Week award.

Olatunbosun defeated Radja Nainggolan of Roma, Youri Tielemans of Anderlecht and Joey Jones of Woking FC to clinch the honour.

The Nigerian was the overwhelming winner with 82% of the total votes.

This is the first time that a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) player will be nominated for, and win the weekly CNN football prize.

Olatunbosun was nominated for his long-range screamer against Rangers on January 24 at the Agege Stadium in Lagos.

UCL Draw: Barcelona To Face Arsenal In Round of 16

UCL drawUEFA Champions League holders, Barcelona will face Arsenal in the last 16 following the draw in Nyon, with Chelsea meeting Paris Saint-Germain for the third year running and Juventus up against Bayern München.

Barcelona beat Arsenal in the 2009/10 quarter-finals – when Lionel Messi scored four in the second leg – the 2010/11 round of 16 and in the 2006 final in Paris.

Chelsea and PSG have played in each of the last two seasons, with both ties decided on away goals.

The Blues won their 2013/14 quarter-final, while Paris gained revenge in dramatic fashion in last term’s round of 16.

Bayern overcame Juventus 2-0 home and away in the 2012/13 quarter-finals en route to lifting the trophy and 2015/16 UCL draw has provided the Italians a chance for revenge.

Roma and Real Madrid have played eight times, all in the UEFA Champions League and all since 2001/02. Roma knocked Madrid out in the 2007/08 round of 16.

Atlético recorded two victories against PSV in the 2008/09 group stage, 3-0 in Eindhoven and 2-1 in Madrid.

Benfica defeated Zenit 4-3 on aggregate in the 2011/12 round of 16, although the Russian club won both their fixtures in last season’s group stage.

Dynamo ousted Manchester City 2-1 on aggregate in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League round of 16, prevailing 2-0 at home before a 1-0 away loss.

Gent and Wolfsburg are the only two teams never to have met before.

Full Draw

16 February & 9 March

Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)

Benfica (POR) v Zenit (RUS)

17 February & 8 March

Gent (BEL) v Wolfsburg (GER)

Roma (ITA) v Real Madrid (ESP)

23 February & 16 March

Arsenal (ENG) v Barcelona (ESP)

Juventus (ITA) v Bayern München (GER)

24 February & 15 March

PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Atlético Madrid (ESP)

Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) v Manchester City (ENG)

Arsenal’s Petr Cech Reveals Secret To Vital Saves

Petr CechPetr Cech says taking a calm assessment of dangerous situations is the key to making important saves.

The experienced goalkeeper has had a big impact at Arsenal since his summer move from London rivals Chelsea.

Cech was particularly pleased with his performance against Liverpool in August, when he made two fine saves to deny Christian Benteke and then Philippe Coutinho.

“[My favourite was] probably the first one against Benteke because Gabriel tried to intercept the ball when he ran across the goal, and until the last fraction of a second I didn’t know whether he was going to touch it or not,” Cech told Arsenal Player.

“I had to wait and I also knew that Benteke was already there. I thought, ‘OK I have to wait to see if he deflects it towards his own goal or whether it will go anywhere else’, and then I knew that I would have to go fast to the other side. I was lucky that I had perfect timing to get there.

“Taking information before the situation happens helps. I knew he was running there so I knew that the moment Gabriel missed the ball I had to get there as fast as possible.

“It’s the awareness that I had two options; to wait and then as soon as the ball went past him, knowing that I had to get there. I was ready for that so as soon as I saw that he would not touch the ball I had already gone.

“Maybe it’s a bit of experience, but I would say it’s taking the information prior to the situation. That was the key in this moment.”

Cech Hails Arsenal Team Spirit

CechPetr Cech believes that Arsenal’s “extraordinary” team spirit will drive them on to further success in the coming season.

The Czech Republic international joined the club in June and has been delighted with the reception he has received from his new team-mates.

Cech is confident that the camaraderie he experienced on tour with the club in Singapore can help the Gunners mount a sustained title challenge this term.

“What I’ve found is a group of players who work very hard and who are focused on what they are doing on the pitch to get ready,” the goalkeeper said.

“I found that the team spirit is extraordinary in the way that everybody pulls in the same direction. This is why I believe that we can have a successful season.

“We need to have that connection between players to reach the same targets. I’ve only been here a few days but I can feel that the team is together.

“We have a good balance in the team. We have players with a lot of experience and we have young players who want to prove their value by being a part of the first-team squad and playing as much as possible.

“There are hungry players, there are experienced players and in terms of the age category we have a good balance. We hope to use that to our advantage.”