Sports

Apr 222016
 
There were plenty of empty seats at Emirates Stadium when the game kicked off. The crowd was announced as 59,568 – the capacity is 60,432 – but the ground appeared far from full

Arsene Wenger has urged Arsenal’s stay-away fans to turn up and see “quality football” after his side moved third in the Premier League table with a 2-0 win over West Brom at Emirates Stadium.

An official attendance of 59,563 was given for Thursday’s game, but large sections of empty seats were visible.

Asked for a message to fans, Wenger said: “Come and support the team. If you love football, you go out there and I think you see quality football.”

Alexis Sanchez scored twice in the win.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Arsenal want more than third – Wenger

Clubs usually count season ticket holders in official attendances whether they are actually present or not, and there were reports before Thursday’s game that as many as 2,500 fans had returned their tickets.

Wenger said there was no way of knowing why fans did not attend, but defended his side’s performance.

He said: “It was a special night as well, a Thursday night, and I don’t know if you are intelligent enough, nor am I, to detect exactly why everybody that did not turn up tonight did not turn up.

“I believe we dominated from the start to the last minute and in fact, was what we did in the 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“Overall I believe the quality of our game was very good. Maybe, we could have scored more goals.”

Arsenal’s victory meant they became the second team, after Manchester United, to record 500 Premier League wins
Arsenal have two remaining home games this season, against Norwich and Aston Villa

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion

 Posted by at 5:10 AM
Apr 222016
 
Alexis Sanchez’s double took him to 12 league goals for the season

Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal beat West Brom to strengthen their hopes of a top-four finish.

The Gunners had drawn their previous two games but Sanchez settled the nerves with a neat finish on the turn from outside the area.

West Brom’s Gareth McAuley hit the bar with a header but that was as close as they came to a goal.

And Sanchez’s driven free-kick secured the win for Arsenal, who move up to third, five points behind Tottenham.

The win helps ease concerns the Gunners could miss out the top four – they are now four points clear of Manchester United in fifth.

Relive Arsenal’s win over West Brom.

Sanchez provides a much-needed spark

There were plenty of empty seats at the Emirates when the game kicked off
When asked after the game about empty seats, Wenger said: ” It’s Thursday night, it’s not easy.”

Striving to stay in the top four is a far cry from how Arsenal’s fans will have imagined this season finishing considering their position on New Year’s Day, when they were top of the table.

The north London club were ideally positioned to challenge for a first Premier League title in 12 years, but a run of just five wins in 2016 prior to the visit of West Brom all but ended their hopes.

A disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday left the Gunners 13 points behind leaders Leicester and some fans had made their discontent clear with boos at the final whistle at the weekend.

Fan apathy was evident in the number of empty seats at the Emirates on Thursday, and there was an eerie atmosphere when the game got under way.

An early goal was needed to ease the tension and Sanchez duly stepped up to deliver with a finish of real quality.

The midfielder received a pass from Mesut Ozil and turned Sandro before firing beyond Ben Foster.

The Chilean was at his marauding best and he continued to torment West Brom before deservedly scoring a second, driving a free-kick through the West Brom wall.

Sanchez has now scored five goals in his last four games and his recent performances have certainly provided a much-needed boost for Arsene Wenger – but how the Gunners’ boss must wish those performances had come a couple of months ago.

Arsenal untroubled by blunt Baggies

Under Tony Pulis, West Brom have hardly been prolific. They have scored just 50 goals in 51 games and have had the fewest shots on target in the Premier League this season with 93.

Add to the fact they had lost all but one of their nine previous Premier League trips to the Emirates, and a victory for the visitors looked like a bit of a tall order.

Their best chances came from set pieces. McAuley rattled the bar from a corner when the score was 1-0, while Salomon Rondon missed a near open goal from another corner midway through the second half.

From open play they carried no threat but with the Baggies 15th and 10 points clear of trouble, their job is largely done.

How did ref Jon Moss do?

Gareth McAuley was the only player to be booked by referee Jon Moss on Thursday

This game was the first for referee Jon Moss since his controversial performance in the 2-2 draw between leaders Leicester and West Ham on Sunday.

Moss awarded two penalties in that game, and also gave Foxes striker Jamie Vardy a second yellow card for diving.

On Thursday, Moss waved away a West Brom appeal for a penalty when Sanchez appeared to handle inside the area, and also took no action when Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny went down easily inside the area despite there being no contact by a defender.

He issued just the one yellow card and that was to McAuley after the Baggies defender held Olivier Giroud just before half-time.

Man of the match – Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez has scored or assisted nine goals in his last seven Premier League games and he was at his creative best against West Brom

What next?

Arsenal travel to struggling Sunderland on Sunday while West Brom are at Tottenham on Monday.

The stats you need to know

  • Arsenal have now won 500 Premier League games, the second team to reach the milestone in the competition (Man United have 584 wins).
  • The Baggies have won just one of their last 12 Premier League away games (D5 L6).
  • The Gunners have scored in all 20 of their Premier League games against West Brom – the best 100% record in the division.
  • Arsenal scored as many goals from outside the box tonight as they had in their 33 previous Premier League games this season (2).
  • Tony Pulis has lost all eight of his Premier League visits to the Emirates Stadium.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Apr 222016
 
Jamie Vardy was shown a second yellow card for diving during Leicester’s draw with West Ham

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has accepted a Football Association charge of improper conduct.

The 29-year-old confronted referee Jon Moss after being sent off in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham.

By admitting the charge, Vardy, who has requested a personal hearing, could be given an additional suspension to his current one-match ban.

Premier League leaders Leicester have also accepted a charge of failing to control their players.

Vardy will miss their game against Swansea on Sunday but could also sit out the trip to Manchester United on 1 May.

The Premier League’s second top-scorer – with 22 goals this season – was shown a second yellow card early in the second half after going to ground in the West Ham penalty area.

He confronted Moss, who was criticised for his performance by Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer, before leaving the field.

Leicester, who are five points clear of Tottenham, need eight points from their final four matches to guarantee the title.

Their final four matches are against Swansea (home), Manchester United (away), Everton (home) and Chelsea (away).

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

 

Media playback is not supported on this device

Watford fan Joshua’s Focus predictions

BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson is pitting his wits against a different guest each week this season.

Lawro’s opponents for this weekend Premier League fixtures and FA Cup semi-finals is world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua.

Joshua, who beat Charles Martin to take the IBF title earlier this month, supports his hometown team Watford, and recently trained with Hornets striker Troy Deeney.

Watford striker Troy Deeney (right) was at the O2 Arena to watch Joshua become world champion

“I’ve known Troy for a while, we linked up in a barber shop,” Joshua told BBC Sport. “From there, I saw he was training with a coach in Birmingham.

“I liked the way his training was different to what I was used to so I linked up with him too. We were training together, footballer and boxer, and we had a great coach.

“Did Troy keep up with me? Definitely. He is a beast, he knows how to handle himself in the gym.”

The 26-year-old will not be at Wembley for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, but has a message for Deeney and his Hornets’ team-mates

“I will be supporting you from a distance,” Joshua said. “Good luck to everyone at Watford, you have come this far and the hard work is done. Enjoy it and get the job done.”

Deeney, who admits he chooses Real Madrid ahead of Watford when he plays on Fifa, met former Real and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho after the Martin fight.

“Yes he is a special one,” he added. “Cool, calm and collected – the triple c’s.”

You can hear more of Troy’s tales of following Watford on Football Focus at 12:10 BST on Saturday on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

Lawro got four correct results and no perfect scores from last weekend’s matches, to give him a total of 40 points.

He was beaten by actors Idris Elba and Richard Madden, who got six results correct, with no perfect scores, for a total of 60 points.

Ahead of Arsenal’s game with West Brom, Lawro picked up an extra 60 points from his midweek predictions. Nobby Butcher and Carl Frampton also added to their scores.

Make your own predictions now, compare them to Lawro and other fans and try to take your team to the top of the leaderboard by playing the BBC Sport Predictor game.

LAWRO’S PREDICTIONS

All kick-offs 15:00 BST unless otherwise stated

SATURDAY

Man City v Stoke (12:45 BST)

Tottenham are a very good side but I was still disappointed with Stoke’s performance against them when they were beaten 4-0 at home on Monday night.

The Potters just did not turn up, which is very unlike them under Mark Hughes.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Stoke City 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur: Potters were poor – Mark Hughes

I was also a bit surprised that Manchester City did not play better in their draw with Newcastle on Tuesday – I was expecting Manuel Pellegrini’s side to kick on after beating Chelsea at the weekend.

But I think they will beat Stoke at Etihad Stadium. They have to, really, because a top four place is still far from guaranteed.

As far as this season’s Champions League goes, I think City have a chance in their semi-final against Real Madrid. Those two games could be any score, and I honestly do not fancy one team more than the other.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Joshua’s prediction: 2-1

Match preview

Aston Villa v Southampton

Things keep getting worse for Aston Villa, with the stories coming out of the boardroom about David Bernstein and Lord King’s departure, and Gabriel Agbonlahor’s latest suspension generating more headlines.

Villa were officially relegated last week but it will take until the season ends for them to be put out of their misery.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Aston Villa: How club went from Europe to relegation

Southampton, who are on course to follow last season’s eighth-place finish with something very similar, will be far too strong for them.

Finishing in that seventh to 10th place bracket is a good achievement, but it will be difficult for them to kick on from that without spending big.

Saints have had to get used to seeing players leave at the end of each season but their recruitment has been very good to make up for that.

They might also be a bit worried about hanging on to their manager Ronald Koeman this summer too.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Joshua’s prediction: 0-0

Match preview

Bournemouth v Chelsea

Bournemouth beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the start of December, in one of Jose Mourinho’s final games in charge of the Blues.

That win lifted the Cherries out of the bottom three, and they have not been back in the relegation zone since, which underlines how impressive their first season in the Premier League has been.

They are not going down, but they might have to wait a little longer to be mathematically safe.

Chelsea’s season is just petering out, but I don’t think Bournemouth will make it three defeats in a row for Guus Hiddink’s side.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Johsua’s prediction: 1-3

Match preview

Liverpool v Newcastle

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez has had two decent results in the past week – a win over Swansea and a draw with Manchester City.

It looks like he has put a bit of resolve back in that team, but I am not sure he has got the players to go and get another positive result at Anfield.

I don’t see them getting much of the ball on Saturday, the way Liverpool are playing. The Reds are on a roll at the moment.

Benitez will get a good reception of course, but I think that is all he will get.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Joshua’s prediction: 2-0

Match preview

Everton v Man Utd (FA Cup semi-final, 17:15 BST)

I think Everton were seriously naive in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby defeat. Even before they won that game 4-0, Liverpool had scored four goals in each of their last two home games.

So it was time for Toffees boss Roberto Martinez to play a 4-5-1 and tell his players to start scrapping.

Instead, they made it far too easy for the Reds, who could have been four or five up at half-time, and it was embarrassing for Everton.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Everton loss horrible for fans – Roberto Martinez

There are many reasons why Martinez is in danger of getting sacked if Everton lose at Wembley – and results are only one of them.

It seems Martinez’s biggest problem is with the Everton fans. Rightly or wrongly, lots of supporters have decided they are not having him.

If you are running that football club, you are going to take that into consideration. Will the new owner Farhad Moshiri let Martinez spend his money in the summer? I very much doubt it.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Man Utd have to score more goals – Van Gaal

If he wins the FA Cup, Martinez might get more time because they have not won anything since 1995, but if they get rolled over by Manchester United then he is in big trouble.

I don’t think United boss Louis van Gaal has changed the way his side play, but there was a little bit more urgency about them in their win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Van Gaal’s future is in doubt even if he wins the FA Cup, though. For me, he needs a top-four finish and Champions League football to keep his job.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

Joshua’s prediction: 1-3

Match preview

SUNDAY

Sunderland v Arsenal (14:05 BST)

Sunderland’s win at relegation rivals Norwich last week was an excellent result.

The Black Cats seem to have tightened up defensively because they have now had two clean sheets in their last three games.

I am backing them to pick up another point here, because I am not sure what to expect from Arsenal at the moment.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Joshua’s prediction: 0-3

Match preview

Crystal Palace v Watford (FA Cup semi-final, 16:00 BST)

I know Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew changed his team around for Wednesday’s defeat by Manchester United but, before then, they were coming into a bit of form after a long run without a league win.

I think Palace will fancy their chances against Watford. The Hornets also made lots of changes in their defeat by West Ham, but they were fortunate to beat West Brom at the weekend and I don’t think they are in a good place at the moment.

There seems to be a bit of speculation over Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ future too. That seems harsh after the season they have had.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

Joshua’s prediction: 1-2

Match preview

Leicester v Swansea (16:15 BST)

I was at the King Power Stadium last week for Radio 5 live and the atmosphere felt a bit strange before kick-off.

You could sense West Ham were going to cause Leicester problems and, when the game started, the Foxes looked heavy-legged and leaden-footed.

It is going to be interesting to see how they cope without the suspended Jamie Vardy.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Jamie Vardy: How long should Leicester star be banned for?

Shinji Okazaki, who spends more time on the floor than any other player I’ve seen, and Leonardo Ulloa are their only other options up front.

Without Vardy’s pace, teams can really squeeze Leicester because nobody is going to run in behind them.

I think that is a real worry, so I am going to go for another draw here – although Swansea did look like they had just booked their summer holidays in Benidorm against Newcastle last weekend.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Joshua’s prediction: 2-0

Match preview

MONDAY

Tottenham v West Brom (20:00 BST)

It is always much easier to be the chasing club in the title race but, even so, Tottenham are playing extremely well at the moment.

They have always had skilful players but they have now got application and endeavour too, and they never roll over. Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has done a wonderful job.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Spurs can win Premier League title – Harry Kane

Tottenham are built from the back but they have developed as the season has gone on and, at the moment, they are the best team in the league in every department.

West Brom have taken only one point from their last four games and it is hard to see their form improving on Monday.

However Leicester do on Sunday, Spurs will win this and keep the pressure on.

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0

Joshua’s prediction: 2-0

Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

*Does not include score for postponed games

Lawro’s best score: 160 points (week 19 v Guy Mowbray)

Lawro’s worst score: 20 points (week one v Graeme Swann & week 23 v Ice Cube and Kevin Hart)

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed