Sports

Walcott reveals player-only meeting

 Posted by at 11:18 PM
Mar 092016
 
Theo Walcott signed for Arsenal in January 2006

Theo Walcott has revealed Arsenal’s players held a meeting without coaches to kick-start their stalling season.

Successive defeats by Manchester United and Swansea saw Arsenal slip off the Premier League pace, but they fought back from a goal and a man down to draw away to Tottenham last weekend.

“We know as a unit it has been tough and we all had a good chat amongst us behind closed doors,” Walcott said.

“It was a meeting to express how everyone was feeling and it worked.”

With nine games remaining, Arsenal are third in the Premier League, three points off Tottenham and eight behind leaders Leicester.

Walcott believes the meeting helped his side show the spirit needed to claim a point after Francis Coquelin’s red card at White Hart Lane.

“I’d like to keep what was said among ourselves but it was very important. We have had a reaction from it,” the 26-year-old added.

“It is important that as a team to know we have got it in us. We just have to produce it more often.”

Walcott (left) has scored eight goals in 34 appearances for Arsenal this season

As well as retaining hope of landing their first Premier League title in 12 years, Arsenal are into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as they attempt to lift the trophy for a third successive season.

They are 2-0 down against Barcelona before the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona next week.

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Sunderland sign defender Eboue

 Posted by at 9:10 PM
Mar 092016
 
Emmanuel Eboue made 96 Premier League starts during his eight seasons at Arsenal

Sunderland have signed former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue on a short-term deal until the end of the season.

The Ivory Coast full-back, who was a free agent after leaving Galatasaray in the summer, started training with the Black Cats in February.

Eboue, 32, spent eight seasons at Arsenal after arriving from Belgian side Beveren in 2004.

He moved to Turkey in 2011, where he won three Super Lig titles and five domestic trophies.

Find all the latest football transfers on our dedicated page.

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Mar 092016
 

French authorities have seized documents from the French Football Federation (FFF) in connection with Switzerland’s criminal investigation into ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

According to Switzerland’s office of the attorney general, the documents are connected to “the suspected payment of 2m Swiss francs [£700,000]”.

It said the search in Paris was carried out at Switzerland’s request.

The criminal investigation into Blatter, 79, began in September.

The office of the Swiss attorney general said the FFF consented to the search of its Paris base, which was carried out on Tuesday.

Swiss prosecutors have accused Blatter of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal and of a “disloyal payment” to suspended Uefa president Michel Platini.

Blatter, who served as head of world football’s governing body from 1998 until 2015, and Frenchman Platini have denied any wrongdoing.

The pair have been suspended from all football-related activities for six years after a Fifa ethics committee investigation found them guilty of breaches surrounding the payment to Platini in 2011.

Platini won the Ballon d’Or three times

They have both said they will appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Blatter and Platini say the payment honoured a verbal or gentleman’s agreement made in 1998 for work carried out by the Frenchman when he was a technical advisor for Blatter.

Last month, Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino was elected as Blatter’s successor and has vowed to “restore the image” of Fifa.

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Mar 092016
 

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Hull City 0-4 Arsenal highlights

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is concerned by the injury Aaron Ramsey suffered in the 4-0 FA Cup win at Hull.

Midfielder Ramsey, set to play a key role for Wales at Euro 2016 this summer, was replaced 16 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute.

Arsenal have Laurent Koscielny out and fellow centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Gabriel also picked up injuries.

“The most serious looks to be Ramsey,” said Wenger. “I think it’s a thigh strain.”

Mertesacker was involved in a clash of heads with Hull midfielder Nick Powell as holders Arsenal won the fifth-round replay to book a home quarter-final against Watford on Sunday.

“Mertesacker is just a cut on his eye,” added Wenger. “That looks to be very short term. Gabriel is a hamstring.”

Two goals each from France striker Olivier Giroud and England forward Theo Walcott secured Arsenal’s first win in six games.

That run has included a 2-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat by Barcelona and Premier League losses to Manchester United and Swansea.

Against Hull, some Gunners fans held up a banner reading “Arsene, thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye”.

Wenger said: “There’s nothing disappointing for me, I do my job. Look at the history of the club and you will see that I have nothing to be scared of.”

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Real Madrid 2-0 Roma (4-0 agg)

 Posted by at 5:40 AM
Mar 092016
 
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 90 Champions League goals

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 40th goal of the season as Real Madrid reached the Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-0 aggregate victory over Roma.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Real peppered the visitors’ goal, although Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah wasted chances for Roma at the Bernabeu.

It proved costly as Ronaldo crashed in at the near post before setting up James Rodriguez for an angled finish.

Roma hit the post but Real made the last eight for a sixth successive term.

With Zinedine Zidane’s team 12 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, and disqualified from the Copa Del Rey, winning the Champions League remains their only realistic chance of silverware.

And although the 10-times winners impressed in attack, their casual approach to defence, particularly from left-back Marcelo, will give more potent teams hope.

Roma will now return to Serie A, where they lie third, after winning their last seven successive league games.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a great chance to double his tally

Ronaldo settles Bernabeu nerves

Strangely for a game where Real wracked up 37 shots, Roma had the better opportunities and could have changed the mood inside the Bernabeu if Salah and Dzeko were more clinical.

Ronaldo did miss a great chance to double his lead, but having been out of favour with Real fans after his seemingly critical comments about team-mates following the 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid on 27 February, he proved his value once again.

Early on, Real’s leading scorer appeared to be trying too hard to win supporters over, occasionally guilty of showboating rather than taking the chance to shoot.

Once he stung the hands of Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny either side of half-time, he finally opened the scoring when he showed great anticipation to cut across Roma’s Kostas Manolas and poke in substitute Lucas Vazquez’s close-range cross.

The Portuguese forward, who now has 13 goals in this season’s Champions League, set up Rodriguez for the second four minutes later as the Colombian fired in low after a swift counter attack.

Gareth Bale has scored 14 goals this season for Real Madrid

Bale comes on to improve fitness

The gap to Barcelona in La Liga has coincided with a calf injury to Gareth Bale, but, after appearing and scoring as a substitute in their 7-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, the Welshman made his first start since 17 January.

The world record signing worked hard on the right wing and sent in several fizzing crosses which, had Karim Benzema been playing, might have resulted in a goal.

As it was, Real took the lead when Vasquez came on to replace Bale and set up Ronaldo with his first touch.

But it was a decent work out for the former Tottenham player, who could yet make a telling difference as the season comes to a close and will be aiming to star for Wales at the European Championship in June.

Mohamed Salah was once described by a former boss as “world-class, if only he could finish”.

Salah the biggest threat for Roma

When Salah played at former team Basel, his manager Murat Yakin said the winger could be world class if only he could finish.

Unfortunately, that proved an accurate assessment of the Egyptian, who had a short-lived period at Chelsea in 2014, during which he was loaned to Fiorentina.

The 23-year-old caused plenty of problems for Real with his pace on the right wing, and set up Dzeko for a great early chance.

But the profligacy shown by both was further underlined with another miss by Salah after the break, and 18 minutes later Real were 2-0 ahead.

Diego Perotti’s shot against the post, two minutes from time, would only have been a consolation.

‘Players’ reaction causes me pain’

Luciano Spalletti, Roma coach: “We are weak and at the first sign of difficulty we cannot be the team that we need to be. It is not as if Real Madrid are going through a great period of form and at the moment they are not irresistible.

“When I come back into the dressing room after the final whistle and see the players satisfied because they will get compliments for the performance, this creates a disappointment and pain in me that I cannot reconcile.

“When you go into the dressing room after a 2-0 defeat, you need to be angry and realise the chances you have thrown away over these two games.”

Stats you need to know

  • Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored in 61 different Champions League matches; more than any other player (Raul 56, Lionel Messi 51)
  • Ronaldo has now scored five goals in his last six Champions League appearances against Roma.
  • Keylor Navas has now gone eight consecutive Champions League games without conceding, one game away from equalling Jens Lehmann’s record by a goalkeeper (9 in 2005/06).
  • Real Madrid has 37 goal attempts, more than Roma, Gent and Wolfsburg combined.

What next?

Real Madrid are away at Las Palmas as they try to close the gap on Barcelona while Roma travel to Udinese in their bid to catch Serie A leaders Juventus.

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