Arsenal Manager,Arsene Wenger has warned his players not to slip when they visit out-of-form Southampton in the Barclays Premier League on Boxing Day.
Wenger’s side travel to St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday looking for a fourth successive league victory as they look to keep pace with leaders Leicester City.
Arsenal trail Claudio Ranieri’s men by two points, but enjoy a four-point cushion to third-placed Manchester City.
To maintain that difference, they need to remain focused against Ronald Koeman’s side, who have just one point from their last five matches, a 1-1 home draw with bottom club Aston Villa.
“For us the most important thing is to focus on ourselves, and not to speculate too much on any weakness of Southampton,” Wenger said.
“When you look at their team they have the potential to be a very strong team. We have to convince ourselves that again we need a top-level performance.
“Football is pragmatic. No one can predict what will happen in the next 17 games. So we want to go in with same attitude, spirit, and earn the right to win the games.”
Santi Cazorla (knee), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) and Jack Wilshere (calf), remain sidelined for Arsenal although Sanchez is closer to return than others.
Southampton also welcome their goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, back after missing two matches with a toe injury.
Facing Arsenal will be a daunting task for the hosts given the impressive recent displays by Wenger’s side, the visitors having beaten title rivals Manchester City 2-1 last time out.
“We know we’re in a difficult situation,” said Koeman, whose side won the fixture 2-0 last season. “We had a bad run last year, but not like this one.
“It is always difficult, it means maybe a lack in confidence and belief, but the best medicine is to win the game. The team is changing a bit, the team is doubting their qualities and not playing as they can, and that’s all about confidence.
“But they have to realise we can play good football, but we need to score when we have chances.”
Arsenal defeated Manchester City 2-1 on Monday night to secure second place in the English Premier League going into Christmas.
Theo Walcott opened scoring in the 33rd minute with a special goal. Feeding off a perfect pass from Mesut Ozil near the corner of the box on the left side, he cut in onto his favoured right foot and curled a shot into the bottom corner.
Olivier Giroud scored the second goal late to ensure the Gunners were comfortable going into the half time break.
Some great hustle by Walcott gave the Gunners an attack in the City half, and they wasted no time.
Ozil turned the provider again spraying another perfect pass down the left for Giroud. It looked like Otamenti was set to block the Frenchman, but he let the ball run across to his left foot and lashed a powerful finish between the keeper’s legs.
Man City turned on the heat in the second half and the Arsenal players stood firm but there appeared to be no danger in the 82nd minute when Toure picked up the ball on the edge of the box and lifted a magnificent first-time effort into the far corner, with Cech and everyone else rooted to the spot.
The Gunners held on nervously in the final minutes for a hard fought 2-1 victory to the relief of fans at the Emirates.
Mesut Ozil had given the Gunners an early lead but Lewis Grabban swept past Petr Cech on the stroke of half-time to hold Arsène Wenger’s side to a point at Carrow Road on Sunday.
Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League exploits seemed to have taken their toll on their Premier League performance as they sometimes appeared tired.
Laurent Koscielny and Alexis both suffered injuries during a physical encounter, but the players and their manager are confident Arsenal have enough strength in depth to maintain their Premier League title challenge.
Arsene Wenger admitted after the match that it was a difficult game.
“We played against a Norwich side that was at the top level physically and focused. They were well organised and they played every time with 10 players in their own half, and we were not incisive enough.
“Maybe the turning point of the game was maybe we dropped a little bit after scoring straight away and allowed them back into the game. In the second half I felt we had to dig deep to get though as we were a bit jaded and we lost players.
“Cazorla played on one leg and of course we played Kosicelny at the start of the game so it was, I would say, a fair point for Norwich and it was on the injury front a bad afternoon for us.”
On moving forward after the disappointment, he said, “We have to go through that spell. We had a bad spell of a few games now with Tottenham, West Brom and today we only have taken two points but we are still not far and going through a bad spell and not being far. It is not enough but at least we had an opportunity to come back.”
Ready To Step Up
One of Arsenal’s most improved players in recent months, Hector Bellerin, insists Arsenal’s players are “ready to step up” after Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Norwich City.
“I have said it before, there is great depth in the team,” he told Arsenal Player. “There are a lot of young players in the team waiting to come through, and we have a lot of quality training with us every day.
“They are ready to step up so obviously every single player on the bench can do the same job as every single player in the starting 11. We don’t need to worry about (the injuries to Alexis and Koscielny). The only thing we need to do is go out onto the pitch with the right mentality, it does not matter who we play.
“The conditions weren’t the best but Norwich are a well-organised team who were very solid at the back and dangerous on the counter. We should have played our game better than we did.
“We made some mistakes that cost us the game and we need to look at ourselves and realise that this is not the way. We need to push ourselves a bit more and play better football if we want to be at the top. What happened on the pitch was not a great experience but we need to try and bounce back so we are ready for the next game.”
Good To Be Back
In spite of the disappointing draw, Aaron Ramsey felt good to get more minutes under his belt.
The Wales midfielder had been sidelined since October, but returned as a substitute in the Gunners’ convincing midweek win against Dinamo Zagreb.
Sunday was Ramsey’s first start since making his comeback from injury, and the 24-year-old was delighted to secure another valuable 72 minutes against Norwich.
“It was good to be back out here and to get some minutes under my belt,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a few more games under my belt to get my fitness levels back up.
“It was obviously a bit disappointing to go a goal up and to concede that goal was a bit disappointing from our view, but to be fair they did well and they deserved to get a point out of the game. We just will have to up our game in our next match.
“They didn’t make it easy for us. They played a few long balls at times and it was difficult to get he ball down and get our pressing on but they did really well and probably a draw was a fair result.
“Every game is important at the moment, it is so tight so we don’t want to drop any points. We don’t want to have to play catch up but we will see at the end of the season and we will want to bounce back and get back to winning ways on Saturday.”
Arsenal’s senior players, Petr Cech and Mathieu Flamini have been rallying their colleagues to regroup and recover quickly after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
Olivier Giroud put the Gunners in front just before the half-hour mark, before the hosts hit back with two goals in the space of five minutes before half time.
Santi Cazorla then missed a late penalty as Arsène Wenger’s side slipped to their first Premier League defeat in seven games.
“The penalty, it can happen and Santi falling… there is nothing you can do,” Flamini told Arsenal Player. “We tried and tried and tried until the last minute but we can’t give any excuses – today we lost the three points.
“It’s a shame because we started the game well, we went 1-0 up and then after they scored [twice] before half time it became more difficult for us.
“We tried to push on in the second half, we had some opportunities but of course it is disappointing because we didn’t get any points.
“Sometimes it happens and now it is important to recover and focus on the next game.”
Goalkeeper, Petr Cech believes Arsenal were the better team but it was just one of those days for them.
“I think we don’t want to take credit from West Brom but across the 90 minutes we were the better side. We had chances and a lot of opportunities and we were unlucky as we scored an own goal. Apart of that, we were on top of them and looked like the side that was going to win the game, even in the second half.
“I thought when we had the penalty that we would still have a chance to search for the third goal but it was one of those games where it was not going our way. But I like our reaction and although everything went against us a bit, we kept going until the last minute and were still creating opportunities. We have to regroup and continue working,” he said.
Arsenal missed the chance to go top of the Premier League as West Brom came from behind to win 2-1 at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
Olivier Giroud headed home Mesut Ozil’s free kick to put the Gunners in front, but a James Morrison volley and a Mikel Arteta own goal turned things around in a five-minute spell before the break.
Late in the game, Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Sanchez was felled in the box but Cazorla slipped as he took it and the ball sailed over the bar.
Arsenal kept knocking for the remainder of the game but failed to salvage the situation.
Wenger told the media after the match, “It was a bad afternoon, we missed a penalty, we gave a goal away on set-piece, that is perfect to make your afternoon a nightmare and we missed open goal chances.
“I believe that West Brom were strong in the fight and they had 100% commitment as well and you have to give them credit for that. But overall I felt it dropped a huge blow when we scored and we just had to make sure they didn’t come back with an easy goal and that is where we were disappointed today.
“But I cannot be mad at the team because they gave what they could until the last minute but we lost a bit of focus at 1-0 – at 35 minutes we were 1-0 up and then at 45 we were 2-1 down. Our defending on that level was very, very poor.”
The result means Arsenal have not yet won in November in all competitions, as they turn their attention to the Champions League clash with Dinamo Zagreb in midweek.
In another shocking result on the day, Liverpool trashed Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad, helping Leicester City move top of the table with a 3-0 win over Newcastle United.
Meanwhile, Diego Costa ended a three-match losing streak for Chelsea as the champions picked up a 1-0 victory over Norwich City.
The striker halted his own barren run of 603 minutes without a goal in all competitions to lift Chelsea spirits at Stamford Bridge.
Watford 1 – 2 Manchester United Chelsea 1 – 0 Norwich City Everton 4 – 0 Aston Villa Newcastle United 0 – 3 Leicester City Southampton 0 – 1 Stoke City Swansea City 2 – 2 AFC Bournemouth West Bromwich Albion 2 – 1 Arsenal Manchester City 1 – 4 Liverpool
Nigerian youth international, Kelechi Iheanacho, scored a last-gasp winner as Manchester City edged Crystal Palace on Saturday to maintain their 100 per cent start to the 2015/2016 premier league season.
Iheanacho’s late goal helped Manchester City beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in their English Premier League match at Selhurst Park.
Super Eagles forward, Odion Ighalo also scored the winner for Watford in their 1-nil win over Swansea City.
Premier League Champions, Chelsea lost for the 3rd time this season with Stephen Naismith inspiring Everton to a 3-1 win at Goodison Park.
In other results, Arsenal beat Stoke City 2-0, Norwich City beat Bournemouth 3-1, West Brom and Southampton battled to a goalless draw, while Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-1 in the day’s last game.
Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert has emerged the fifth manager to depart in this current Premier League season, after Neil Warnock (Crystal Palace), Alan Irvine (West Bromwich Albion), Alan Pardew (Newcastle United) and Harry Redknapp (Queens Park Rangers).
According to a statement from Aston Villa, Lambert was shown the way out of the club after a run of ten winless games took them into the English Premier League relegation zone.
The forty-five year old took over at Villa Park in 2012 and led the Midlands club to 15th-place finishes in his first two seasons, but the former Scotland midfielder had come under pressure from fans following a poor run of recent form.
Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Hull City on Tuesday night was the last straw for the club’s board. The defeat saw them slip into the relegation zone for the first time this season – they were third from bottom ahead of Wednesday night’s Premier League fixtures.
A lack of goals has been Villa’s primary problem all season – they have managed just 12 in 25 league matches and have not won in 10 games.
A statement on the club’s website read: “Aston Villa Football Club has parted company with manager Paul Lambert. First-team coach Scott Marshall and goalkeeping coach Andy Marshall will continue to prepare the squad for Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Leicester City at Villa Park.
“The club would also like to place on record its thanks to Paul and take this opportunity to wish him every success in the future.
“The club will announce a new manager in due course. There will be no further comment from the club at this stage.”
Many of Villa’s travelling fans at Hull made it clear they wanted Lambert to be sacked. After Tuesday’s defeat Lambert remained in defiant mood, saying: “I was aware of it (fan unrest) months ago. I just try to do my best.
“We have a massive fanbase behind us, and they want to see the team doing well. It was a disappointing result. “We are in a fight. I have said it to the lads in the dressing room. They know it. There is still a lot of football to be played. We just have to go out to win the next game.”
Lambert replaced Alex McLeish in June 2012 after two years with Norwich City. He signed a new contract extension in September last year, shortly after a 1-0 win over Liverpool took them to second place in the table. They won three of their opening four matches of the season, drawing the other.
But Villa’s season soon collapsed – they have won just two of their last 21 games, including a dismal run of 659 minutes without a Premier League goal which ended in a defeat to Chelsea earlier this month. Nevertheless Villa chiefs showed every sign of resisting the growing unrest among Villa fans and keeping faith in the Scot despite their plunge into the relegation zone.
Villa have been knocked out of the League Cup by third-tier Leyton Orient, but have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Coach Stephen Keshi has opened up on West Brom and Nigerian International Osaze Odemwingie, saying he skipped the player’s name from his squad selection because Osaze had personality problems which he felt cannot be permitted in the squad.
A lot of uproar was generated between the coach and the West Brom player before the Afcon 2013 tournament due to Osaze’s non-inclusion in the provisional squad to the Nations Cup in South Africa.
To a lot of football-loving Nigerians, it appeared as if Keshi didn’t have an idea of what he was doing. This perception continued into the tournament especially in the face of the abysmal performance by the Super Eagles in the group games, giving rise to many questioning why players like Osaze and others were dropped from Keshi’s provisional squad.
“We decided not to take some of these superstars to the Nations Cup because it is a long period of time and for the long period of time, you need characters that go together,” the former Super Eagles captain explained in an interview with Daily Trust.
“And if you have one or two who do not get along, forget about the superstars, the team will fall apart. I can bring a player in for a game. We can manage some of these players with a little bit of character problems, but when it comes to a long period of time, that’s difficult.
“Odemwingie is a very good player, a player I love to have in the team, but he wants to do what he wants to do.
“In the national team, where I was captain for 14 years, you are nothing but an individual in the team as you are not bigger than Nigeria. If you are not ready to give the green-and-white shirt the due respect, you are walking out of my team.
“We talked on the phone, I told him what I wanted from him, but he had his own notion and I said for now, I will skip you.”
Keshi also revealed that Obafemi Martins was not ready for the Nations Cup, but he has not shut the door against the Levante striker.
“He is still part of the group. If his name is in the next call-up, if he wants to come, we will see how it goes,” he said.
The Eagles coach admitted he missed Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi at the African Nations Cup, whose presence in the dressing room would have improved his team.
“Honestly speaking, I missed Shola Ameobi because in the game against Venezuela, he has a different presence in the locker room, he came in with this coaching ability and togetherness, when he talks to these boys they listen. This was the first time he was coming.
“This was what I was looking for on the pitch, somebody who could talk for me on the field, because I know what I did as a captain on the pitch.
“He was really, really ready to come, but his contract denied him from coming.”
Keshi’s Star Players
Keshi also said he will stick with Efe Ambrose at right back despite concerns the Celtic star is being played out of position.
Ambrose is best known as a central defender, but was played at right during the 2013 AFCON in South Africa with many raising concerns over his suitability in that position.
Keshi said the versatile Ambrose grew as a right back during the AFCON.
“He was growing during the tournament; he loves to play in the position. With every game Ambrose was just marching forward with a lot of confidence. If he were not growing, then that’s a different thing,” Keshi remarked.
“He is a very technical player. He loves playing this position and so we said go ahead.
“He can also play in central defence, as a defensive midfielder and at right back; same goes for Oboabona, Kenneth (Omeruo) and Onazi.
“An emergency could come up and we are blessed to have players who can play different positions. It’s a wonderful gift.
“This is what we are looking for in a team, like when Onazi came in and played right back for Efe Ambrose when he was suspended.”
In the English premier league Queens Park Rangers boss, Harry Redknapp has confirmed he wants to sign West Brom forward Osaze Odemwingie .
Redknapp revealed his interest for the Nigerian international after goalless draw against his former club Tottenham and his optimistic that the club’s chief executive, Phillip Beard will be making a suitable offer soon.
There were however reports earlier in the week that Rangers had a bid for the West Brom forward Osaze but his club rejected the offer.
Rangers will be returning to the negotiation table to try and come up with a better offer.
Super Eagle striker, Peter Odemwingie faces a three-match ban after he received a straight red card for kicking Sascha Reither in West Bromwich Albion’s 0-3 defeat to Fulham in the Barclays English Premier League on Saturday.
The score was 1-0 to Fulham at the time of Odemwingie’s misconduct after Dimitar Berbatov bagged his first goal for the Cottagers.
The striker, who scored on the opening day of the season, shocked all when he lashed out at an unsuspecting Reither leaving the referee with little option but to send him off.
Odemwingie, who will miss his club’s next three matches, has now apologised for his actions.
“I lost my temper. I’m a professional and should have kept my cool, but it happens,” he said.
He further revealed that he wanted to foul Reither without any malicious intent.
“I wanted to foul the player because I thought he was angry towards me. But I should cool my emotions.
“I’ve said sorry to the players and to the staff. It’s a lesson to learn.
“I am looking at the incident in a different way now.
“That moment went very fast for me, I felt a kick on my ankle and felt an injustice that the linesman was so close but nothing was given.
“But now I think it was my fault. I lost my temper. I’m a professional and should have kept my cool, but it happens. It’s not my habit.” Meanwhile, the WBA manager, Steve Clarke has refused to criticise the 31-year old Nigerian.
“We’re all human – we have emotions. Peter felt he had been fouled, felt it was a free kick and reacted in the wrong way. The red card is there and he has accepted the punishment, we all have to accept it and move on,” he said.
Steve Clarke the manager of West Brom has told Romelu Lukaku who is the new signing of the club from new European champions Chelsea that he should show his worth as he will not be given automatic shirt in the first team, meaning he will have to earn it.
The youngster before now has always blamed Chelsea for his lacklustre performance saying he never got playing chances. He concluded saying that his year at Stamford Bridge was a waste of time.
This information really does not impress Steve Clarke as Lukaku thought a sob-story would earn him a soft spot but it made his situation worse.
Clarke says he won’t take any crap from Lukaku even though he understands the forward’s desire to play, he’s only going to get opportunities by earning them and to do that he’ll have to shut up and work hard.
Accroding to Clarke “Whether he has grievances with Chelsea is not for me to comment on. I don’t know what happened last year at Chelsea. It was obviously going to be difficult for him to get in the team ahead of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres and that proved to be the case.
“But he’s got a clean slate this year. He’s one of a number of strikers competing for a place in my team and I’m hoping that at the end of this year he’s not complaining about anything.”
Although Lukaku won’t face as much competition as he did at Chelsea behind the likes of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, West Brom also have a number of forwards that he has to fight his way ahead of, including Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Markus Rosenburg.
He’s a player that needs to work on a few things, including his terrible first touch, and he’s in good hands with Steve Clarke. Although I’m annoyed by what he’s said, I’ll be willing to forgive his rudeness if he shows us what he’s capable of whilst on loan at the Hawthorns.
Bolton Wanderers offered Fabrice Muamba a place in the management of his club Bolton Wanderers after his announcement that he is retiring from football as a player.
This was necessary for the player after his heart attack in last season’s FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
Before his retirement, Muamba sounded his determination to resume his career after his incredible recovery which left him effectively dead for 78 minutes.
So in order not to go against medical advice from several specialists Muamba had to bow out of the game.
Muamba has been described by sources close him as “shattered” that he will be unable to continue his career. But after consultations with experts in England and with Pedro Brugada, the Belgium-based cardiologist, the former England Under-21 midfielder has retired.
Muamba said: “As part of my on-going recovery, last week I travelled to Belgium to seek further medical advice from a leading cardiologist. But the news I received was obviously not what I had hoped it would be, and it means I am now announcing my retirement.
“Football has been my life since I was a teenage boy and it has given me so many opportunities. Since suffering my heart attack and being discharged from hospital, I have remained utterly positive in the belief I could one day resume my playing career and play for Bolton Wanderers once again.