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For Arsenal the concluding fixtures of this season have become less about who wins and loses, and more about the imminent departure of their manager Arsene Wenger. The usual combustible end of season affairs morphing into a farewell tour – extended procession of well-wishing.

Coming after years of sustained calls for his abdication, the one hundred and eighty degrees turn of many supporters has been saccharine enough to rot the teeth from your head. The outpouring of emotion has been enough to lull you into thinking Wenger has retired, despite the fact he has yet to utter a word to back this up. Put simply, the man remains addicted to the game.

With this in mind, where is Wenger likely to get his next spherical fix? For my money the most likely avenue would be that of international football and a stint with his native France. Odds of 4/1 represent decent value and can be enhanced when you scream ComeOn.

As France head to this summer’s World Cup, bursting to the seams with dazzling talent, it is almost inconceivable that ‘Les Blues’ would want to change their manager, but delve an inch or two below the surface and you can see some problems bubbling away.

Current France manager, Didier Deschamps, is far from universally adored. While the gripes fans cling to are too numerous to list, the major issues boil down to two main faults.

The first is a reluctance to jettison poor performers. Time and time again Deschamps has shown an unflinching loyalty to a select few. This phenomenon is best illustrated by Newcastle and Spurs flop Moussa Sissoko. Despite failing to set the heather alight in the Premier League in any of his six seasons, Deschamps has still allowed the rangy midfielder the opportunity to rack up over fifty caps.

Such a rigidity in selection has lead to problem number two, a failure to blood youngsters. France’s rapid ascension in betting odds is largely founded on the vast quantity of blindingly talented youngsters making their impact felt in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Worryingly for France fans, domestic brilliance hasn’t translated into international recognition. Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe and Corentin Tolisso have all made a seismic impression on European football in the last two seasons but have not been assimilated into the national team.

Given the hype around the squad, failure to win this summer’s tournament will probably force Deschamps to fall upon his sword, leaving the door ajar for Wenger.

Wenger’s foibles have been covered ad nauseum over the last half decade or so, leaving many to assume is fit for nothing but the scrap heap, yet his remaining assets could gel phenomenally with his national team.

Where many see Wenger as too mild mannered to compete in the cut throat world of the Premier League, the more reserved world of international football meshes well with his protective, grandfatherly management style. His ability to coax the best out of a burgeoning generation of young talent could see him replicate the works of Spain’s similarly matured gaffer, Vicente del Bosque.

The curtain has closed on Wenger’s twenty-two-year Arsenal reign and while many have risen to applaud a career well worked they will miss the bespectacled manager solemnly heading for the side exit, getting ready to begin his next adventure.

 

Throughout his career Jack Wilshire has been a divisive figure. For every person who see him as England’s answer to possession-based football there is another who see him as a primadonna, whose preening and posturing mask a fragility. Whatever camp you find yourself in, one thing is clear – Wilshere’s time at the Emirates seems to be coming to an end.

For Wilshere to maximise his remaining years it would seem prudent for him to seek a change of scenery. Time and time again his body has proved unsuited to the rough and tumble of Premier League life. A move to the slightly more placid Serie A would seem the wisest avenue to success. Odds of 15/1 for him to move to Juventus and 20/1 to side with AC Milan can be found and boosted if you yell ComeOn.

Juventus would seem to be out of reach for Jack Wilshere considering how his career has stagnated in the last couple of years, and the fact Juventus have supplanted themselves as one of the game’s biggest clubs. Yet when you consider Juventus’ transfer strategy, the deal looks more plausible. The Old Lady have long made it their business to ally big money transfers with free acquisitions. In the last few years alone, Juventus have managed to secure the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Dani Alves, Fernando Llorente and Sami Khedira the minute their contracts ran out. With Liverpool midfielder Emre Can pencilled in as their next bargain, it is clear that Juventus see no reason to change their MO.

Wilshere could very well be the latest name in an illustrious list.

Another of Italy’s Superclubs could prove to be a safe haven for Wilshere. AC Milan may have slipped down the footballing totem pole since their Kaka-inspired Champions League winning days, but they remain one of the most recognisable clubs in world sport. Last season saw a £160million summer spending spree on the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Frank Kessie, Ricardo Rodriguez and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, yet with financial hardship on the horizon, it seems a change of tact is in order.

Ever since Chinese businessman Yonghong Li purchased the club, Milan have been hit with a litany of problems. The Chinese government frowning upon such ostentatious and frivolous spending has caused friction for Li, as has UEFA’s reluctance to be lenient in regards to the application of the Financial Fair Play rules. All the problems at Milan have been exacerbated by the inability to secure Champions League football and the monetary windfall that would have kept the wolf from the door for that little bit longer.

All of this plays into Wilshere’s hands. Milan’s need for proven players for bargain prices would ensure Wilshere plays more of a prominent role were he to saddle-up in Turin. More playing time can only be assured if Wilshire can improve his dire injury record, something that is more achievable at AC Milan than anywhere else in the world, given the world famous MilanLab.

The medical facility that extended the playing careers of the likes of Cafu, Seedorf and Maldini into their forties, is just the place for Wilshire to finally string a couple of uninterrupted seasons together.

Paul Merson once said of Wilshire, “in years to come I think he will become an Arsenal great like Liam Brady.” For Wilshire that ship has sailed. Attaining legendary status is well outside his grasp, instead he needs to maximise the potential that remains to him, and that goal can be found only in Italy.

Twitter @DrewMFarmer

Arsenal's 1-0 win over Huddersfield on Sunday brought the Arsene Wenger era to an end. Now, more than two decades after he arrived in North London, the Gunners are looking for a new man to lead them forward.

One name that keeps popping up as a possible Wenger replacement is current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri. The Italian tactician is currently second favourite at leading sportsbooks. Wagering on Allergi for Arsenal fans could have its advantages with a bonus that outweigh other possible candidates.

Allegri has won five Serie A Scudetti in his time in Italy. Four of those have come in consecutive years as the manager's Juventus have been unstoppable on the peninsula.

While Allegri has done a phenomenal job with the Bianconeri, his best work as a coach may have come seven years ago when he led AC Milan to the Serie A title. The Rossoneri's unexpected trophy win put Allegri on the map and made him a target of both Milan and rival fans in the years that followed. Allegri was under the scrutiny of Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi and every move was criticised by the former Italian Prime Minister. When Allegri replaced Antonio Conte at Juventus in 2014, the club's supporters were angry with the appointment, but it didn't take long for the former midfielder to win them over.

There are similarities between Allegri's arrival at Juventus and Arsenal currently. The Gunners are replacing an iconic manager and supporters are arguably the most divided they have ever been. More than anything, Arsenal need a manager who can step in and quell the unrest in supporters.

One of the biggest differences between Allegri and other candidates such as Mikel Arteta and Brendan Rodgers, is his experience. Yes, Rodgers has been winning titles in Scotland with Celtic and did manager Liverpool and Swansea before that; but the Northern Irishman hasn't navigated the tricky waters the of Champions League like Allegri.

The Italian has twice lead Juventus to the Champions League final. On both occasions, the Bianconeri were beaten by Spanish opposition. However, Allegri's achievements in the Champions League surpassed anything that Wenger and Arsenal did in 22 years. In addition, Allegri expanded on Conte's work at Juventus post-Calciopoli scandal of 2006.

Meanwhile, Arteta is only an assistant at Manchester City having retired at the end of 2016. Despite some calling for Arteta to be given the reins at Arsenal, including Ian Wright, the Spaniard's lack of first team managerial experience should worry Arsenal executives. Arteta may be learning under Pep Guardiola and have a great mind for playing football, but the current assistant coach is an unknown. Allegri is the proven quantity.

Even if Allegri is top of Arsenal's managerial wishlist, its arrogant to think he would leave an establish Champions League contender for a re-building Arsenal. In the wake of Juventus' seventh straight Serie A championship, it has been reported Allegri plans to stay in Turin for another season. It does appear Allegri is studying English, which is a sign he wants to try his hand in the Premier League. While there may be no better time or club to manage, the Arsenal position may not suit Allegri on a personal level.

‘Its not how you start, it’s how you finish’, is more than just the title for The Hours hit album, it is also a pretty apt description for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal tenure. Swanning into English football and radically altering the landscape counts for little in the modern day when the club finds itself mired deeper and deeper in mediocrity.

As the game has evolved Wenger has looked increasingly prehistoric. Where he should be seen as a footballing deity, he has appeared more like a doddering grandfather. Equally befuddled by opposition tactics as he would be, were his grandson to ask him to play iPhone slots.

Teams at the elite level mirror their manager; Manchester City are as meticulous as Guardiola, Liverpool as bombastic as Klopp, Manchester United as curmudgeonly as Mourinho. Arsenal are no different. The last few years Arsenal’s players have performed in a manner that compares to their manager’s weakest aspects; indecisive, frail and bereft of ruthlessness.

Things have degenerated so much that Wenger was in very real danger of allowing the environment around the club to become so toxic, that his legacy would be poisoned. Fortunately, Wenger has given himself the opportunity to leave the Emirates Stadium with his head held high.

This week sees the Gunners take on Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Europa League. Having lost to Galatasaray in the Uefa Cup final in 2000 and to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final, this is the last golden chance for Wenger to add a European title to his CV. A continental title would be enough to melt even the most ardent anti-Wenger Arsenal supporter’s heart and ensure a fond farewell is forthcoming.

To reach May’s final in Lyon, Arsenal will require 180 minutes of footballing perfection to overcome Diego Simeone’s brilliant Atletico side. Already in this competition Atletico have brushed aside Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow and Sporting Lisbon, scoring an absurd 15 goals and conceding just 3.

Arsenal on the other hand have beaten Östersunds FK, AC Milan and CSKA Moscow, matching Atletico’s 15 goals scored, but letting-in twice as many. Such a porous defence will need to calcify hugely before lining up against the likes of Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro, Angel Correa and Fernando Torres.

Games at the sharp end of tournament football are often decided in the midfield, and this contest looks no different. For Arsenal to succeed they will have to match the grit, determination, composure, technical grace and controlled aggression so of displayed by Simeone’s men. Gabi, Koke, Niguez, Vitolo and Partey are all experienced warriors with a litany of games under their belt at the highest level. Whether the likes of Ramsay, Wilshire, Elneny and Xhaka can rise to the occasion and out play such illustrious opponents remains to be seen.

With either Marseilles or RB Salzburg awaiting in the final, Arsenal can consider themselves huge favourites if they can find a way to successfully navigate the semi-final.

It will require a level of concentration and dedication that has been absent from Arsenal’s recent games, but if Wenger can find a way to channel the wisdom of his younger self and win the Europa League, it will be the best way to collectively say goodbye to a legend of the modern game, an Au Revoir to the most important manager in Arsenal’s history.

 

The tie against AC Milan in the Europa League Last 16 seemed to mark the end of the ‘phoney war’ in the competition for Arsenal. Part of the shift in gear in Europe was of course down to the malaise of the Gunners in the league, leaving Arsène Wenger with no option but to put every effort into conquering the Europa League.

Step one was achieved with victory in both against the fallen Italian giants, whereas Wenger should undoubtedly be happy with the quarter-final pairing with CSKA Moscow. Despite the fact it will be a rather anxious trip to Moscow – given the political tensions between Russia and the UK recently – most Gunners fans will expect to see their team’s name in the semi-final draw.

Below is the quarter-final draw, with ties to be played on the 5th and 12th of April:

Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow

Atlético Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon

Lazio vs. Red Bull Salzburg

RB Leipzig vs. Marseille

Wenger will have been happy to avoid Spanish Giants

You would expect Wenger to have been happy to avoid Atlético in the draw. The Spanish side have been imperious in the competition ever since coming in from the Champions League group stages. They hammered Lokomotiv Moscow – a side who leads CSKA by eight points at the top of the Russian Premier League – 8-1 on aggregate in the Last 16. Lazio and Leipzig would also have represented tricky opponents.

As you might expect, Atlético have been made outright favourites to win the Europa League. However, Arsenal are not far behind in the odds. The latest betting from Bet365 is shown below. Before you bet, click here to check out no deposit offers for UK bookmakers:

Atlético Madrid 11/8

Arsenal 3/1

Lazio 15/2

RB Leipzig 9/1

Marseille 10/1

RB Salzburg 16/1

Sporting Lisbon 25/1

CSKA Moscow 33/1

As you can see, CSKA have been made rank outsiders to win the tournament. Although, Arsenal fans should not take anything for granted: Their win against Lyon in the Last 16 was impressive, as were the home and away victories against Benfica in the Champions League group stage, where they finished 3rd behind Manchester United and Basel.

Gap in quality will have to be exposed by Arsenal

But, even when taking into consideration the Gunners’ erratic form recently, most neutrals would agree that Arsenal should have too much quality for CSKA Moscow. It is going to be an important to take a healthy cushion to Russia however, with there being every chance of a hostile atmosphere at the VEB Arena due to the political climate. Should Arsenal go there with any less than a lead of a couple of goals, you could see the occasion becoming precarious for Wenger’s men.

Without looking too far ahead, Wenger must be thinking about Atlético to some degree. He will know that they are the two best teams left in the competition, although Lazio are a free-scoring side who have flourished under Simone Inzaghi. However, Arsenal vs Atlético is the final that everyone will wan to see. Should they both get through these rounds and avoid each other in the semis, there is a fair prospect of it happening. In fact, the bookmakers have gone as low as 4/1 for those two to clash in Lyon on 16th May.

One step at a time however, and all roads to glory must go through Moscow first. Wenger and the players will need to get it right, because there is nothing else left to hope for this season.

As countless Real Madrid sides of the past can testify, when it comes to attacking players, too many cooks spoil the broth. Without a balance within a starting eleven, sides leave themselves horribly exposed to opposition attacks.

Arsene Wenger will now feel burdened to squeeze, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Ozil into an effective fighting force. You'd be lucky to get some good odds with the William Hill promo code 2018 on Arsenal finishing in the top four due partly to this reason.

From an Arsenal point of view, the latest transfer window is hard to asses. On one hand they managed to recover well from losing their best player, attracting two extremely talented players to fill the Alexis Sanchez-shaped hole, as well as tying Ozil down to a new contract when for all the world he looked to be joining the Chilean in heading for the exit. The opposing view is that Arsenal have merely made cosmetic changes to their side, failing to address the structural problems that have blighted the team for so long.

If huge sums of money were to be dispensed, surely it would have been more prudent to splurge on a much-needed holding midfielder, or a top-quality centre-back capable of operating in either a back three, or four?

Without a real rugged, intelligent, midfield-enforcer able to negate Arsenal’s imbalance, there seems to be no cogent way for all four of Arsenal’s attacking gems to thrive.

So, who then should Arsenal consign to the bench?

Clearly, it cannot be Aubameyang. The Gabon international, while offering little in terms of link-up play, is one of the most natural finishers in the game. The penalty box is his natural habitat, at ease within those white-lined confines as any lion skulking the Serengeti.

Ozil too looks to be un-droppable. His lackadaisical demeanour may stoke the ire of many a fan, but when the little German is at his languid best, there are very few players in the game capable of matching his creativity. A fact relayed best when you consider he has almost fifty assists for the Gunners – a number that should be higher, were his teammates not so profligate.

Lastly, we have the man who was swapped for Sanchez, Mkhitaryan. It would be wasteful not to utilise the Armenian in tandem with Aubameyang, considering how fruitful a partnership they formed while playing together for Borussia Dortmund. Then, of course, you must factor how determined he will be to restore his once glistening reputation, tarnished through Jose Mourinho’s continued misuse.

This leaves Lacazette as the odd man out. It is a real shame for the Frenchman. Despite impressing hugely in the last few seasons for Lyon, he has never really looked to be trusted by Arsene Wenger.

Going forward Arsenal would look best in a 4-3-2-1.

Cech in goal. A back four of Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal, with the fullbacks expected to get forward regularly to offer the otherwise narrow side some width. Sead Kolašinac would be a better fit than Monreal, yet sadly, looks to have been permanently cast into the wilderness by his manager.

A midfield three of Elneny, Xhaka and Ramsey. Elneny and Xhaka trying their utmost to provide a secure base, simultaneously covering either attacking fullback and allowing Ramsey to make his trademark late runs into the box.

This then allows Ozil and Mkhitaryan to roam freely, pulling apart compact defences, and threading Aubameyang the through balls his pace can exploit. This forces Lacazette to operate in an auxiliary capacity, coming on late to menace weary defenders.

It is far from the ideal line up, both holding midfielders have deficiencies, Elneny too slow, and Xhaka far too erratic, while Monreal lacks the guile to full thrive going forward.

Yet, in a season where the top five clubs are steadily widening the gap between themselves and Arsene Wenger’s men, it may just be the stable line-up needed to string a few wins together and surge themselves back into Champions League contention.

 

SBO.net have tallied up every tweet sent by Premier League players in 2017; who’s the most Twitter-happy?

With so much personality on the Premier League pitch, it’s no surprise that sometimes the action spills not just into the sidelines but also online. In fact, it seems like these days, talking the talk is just as important as walking the walk. That’s why SBO.net have put together all the big stats from 2017, ranking the most frequent Twitter posters of the year, or, as they like to call it, The Premier League’s Biggest Twits.

They’ve scoured social media to count every single tweet sent out by a Premier League player last year, and the neat infographic ranks the top 20 tweeters, or twits, of 2017.

Spending his time on the shelf wisely, Everton’s Yannick Bolasie (@YannickBolasie) wasn’t going to let us forget about him. Having suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury during Everton’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United in December 2016, Bolasie had a lot of time to kill in 2017 - and it shows. During his 12 months off the pitch, the Lyon-native racked up an astounding 474 tweets. Now that he’s back in action, his 180,000 followers may have to take a backseat.

Unlike Bolasie, Southampton’s Charlie Austin (@chazaustin10) had no time off the field in 2017 - and yet still miraculously found the time to send 465 tweets throughout the year. On December 23rd, just three days prior to Bolasie’s return to the pitch, the second-most frequent tweeter in football, Austin, was given the opportunity to nab the top spot; not only being served a three-game suspension for violent conduct during Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield, but also suffering a hamstring tear in the same game that would keep him sidelined for 2 months. He’s got plenty of time to keep his 150,000 followers up to date now, but, without a spot in the world rankings, perhaps some time away from the keyboard might help Austin focus on proving himself on the pitch.

Having said that, we shouldn’t assume that the ones tweeting the most are the ones least focused on the game - the Premier League’s current top team, Manchester City, also took the prize for the most Twitter-happy team for 2017 - with four players ranking in the top 20. Nicolás Otamendi (@Notamendi30), Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan), Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus33), and Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) were the 16th, 14th, 5th, and 3rd most frequent Tweeters, respectively.

Meanwhile, the only Arsenal player who tweeted their way onto the prestigious list is of course Mesut Ozil (@mesutOzil1088). The 7th best player in the world was the 15th most frequent tweeter - tallying up 221 posts in 2017.

 

  • 15 Sep 2015
    So let me stop reminiscing of days gone by and let me focus on our Welsh wonder. Let me start off by saying that I think it is quite obvious that Aaron Ramsey is better in central midfield. His partnership with Mesut Özil, his running from deep and his underrated ball winning ability makes him a ...Read more