Swansea City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsene Wenger lays down the gauntlet to players – perform or be sold

1 Comment

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has laid down the gauntlet to his players – perform down the stretch or risk being sold.

It’s no secret that Wenger will be flush with cash to improve his side when the summer transfer window opens. And now, in a very non-Arsene move, the Frenchman is requesting his players prove to him why they shouldn’t be replaced.

“We have to analyse. What will decide our attitude, my attitude, is how we do now until the end of the season,” said Wenger. “We have had some blips that were not expected, Blackburn and Bradford, but overall I must say the attitude of the team has been great and when everyone is here (fit), then we have a strong team.

“What is important is to analyse where we can improve at the end of the season.”

Wenger’s warning shot is a motivational tactic wrapped in barbed wire. The gaffer is not exasperated with his squad. Quite the opposite, really, as the Frenchman was quick to note that his team deserves credit for shuttling themselves into Champions League contention after winning five of their last seven in the league. At the same time Wenger rarely throws around ultimatums – so don’t be surprised if the manager holds true to his word and brings down the axe this summer.

So what key players could be on the Arsenal hotseat?

Up front, the bullseye is squarely on the back of Gervinho (4 goals, 0 assists in 14 appearances). Since arriving in North London, the forward has shown remarkable athleticism but horrid technique. Golden opportunities are frequently squandered and half-chances routinely result in throw-ins. Yet somehow, Galatasaray are rumored to be interested in an $18.2 million move for the 25 year old, a move that most Goonahs would be delighted to see through and would provide the club a $1.8 million profit. Unless Gervinho steps up and answers Wenger’s call in a big way, it’ll be au revoire for the 25 year old.

In the midfield, Mikel Arteta (4 goals, 2 assists in 25 appearances) and Aaron Ramsey (0 goals, 2 assists in 27 appearances) are both very reliable but consistently underwhelming. In the center of the park, Arteta is neither a defensive maestro nor a playmaker. Similarly, Ramsey can get the job done in a number of midfield positions but fails to excel in any particular role. Both players could be key players at lower level Premier League clubs but if Arsenal wants to return to being a title-contending squad, Wenger needs to do away with the midfield vanilla.

Defensively, Laurent Koscielny (1 goal, 0 assists in 16 appearances) and Bacary Sagna (0 goals, 0 assists in 16 appearances) need to find a way into the squad to prove themselves. The former has shown glimpses of stardom but too often commits silly mistakes that cost his squad points. Sagna, on the other hand, is a quality full-back who any Arsenal fan would welcome keeping in the squad so long as his health improves and more importantly, he starts to show greater commitment to the club. One feels like Sagna could take or leave Arsenal. This is exactly the kind of blasé attitude that Wenger’s side needs to eradicate.  

Pellegrini says announcing departure was mistake; Won’t jump into job

Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini, right, and Bayern Munich's manager Pep Guardiola during the Champions League group D soccer match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)
AP Photo/Clint Hughes
Leave a comment

Former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini thought it was the right thing to do; His club was reportedly looking for his successor, so why not let them do it in the open.

[ MORE: Barcelona could chase Mata ]

What followed Pellegrini’s announcement that he would leave at the end of season were three straight losses and, arguably, City’s chances at a Premier League title.

From Sky Sports:

“After Guardiola said he was coming to England it was my decision [to go public] because all the media was talking about Guardiola here, Guardiola in Arsenal, Guardiola in Manchester United,” he told The Guardian.

“It was not fair for all managers – when everyone knew he was coming here. If I ask if I would do that again… I have some doubts.”

Pellegrini said the announcement didn’t make it difficult for him, but for his players.

The Argentine also said he’ll wait for an interesting job to come calling, and that he could be done managing forever if such an opportunity doesn’t present itself. That said, we think he’ll find a job that’s to his liking given this comment:

“Of course, I would miss it. The challenge keeps me alive.”

Life is a good motivator.

Will upsets continue in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round?

SANDY, UT - OCTOBER 1: The U.S. Soccer Championship trophy sits on display before the game between DC United and Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium October 1, 2013 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup hits the third round on Wednesday, with NASL teams entering the fray and at least one fourth-tier or lower side guaranteed to advance to face MLS competition.

The USASA had three teams win second round matches, and two will face each other on Wednesday. The L.A. Wolves knocked off the USL’s Orange County Blues, while L Maquina FC handed the NPSL’s Sacramento Gold an ouster. They will tangle for the right to a high-profile match-up with the L.A. Galaxy.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gonzalez wins Liga MX with Pachuca ]

We’ll also see NASL vs. USL geographical rivalries when Carolina faces Charlotte and Rayo OKC meets Oklahoma City.

Wednesday’s third round matches
Chattanooga FC (NPSL) vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL)
Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) vs. Richmond Kickers (USL)
Jacksonville Armada (NASL) vs. Charleston Battery (USL)
New York Cosmos (NASL) vs. Jersey Express (PDL)
Carolina RailHawks (NASL) vs. Charlotte Independence (USL)
Miami FC (NASL) vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (USL)
Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) vs FC Cincinnati (USL)
Rochester Rhinos (USL) vs. Lansdowne Bhoys FC (USASA)
Indy Eleven (NASL) vs. Louisville City FC (USL)
Saint Louis FC (USL) vs. Minnesota United (NASL)
Rayo OKC (NASL) vs Oklahoma City Energy (USL)
Des Moines Menace (PD) vs. San Antonio FC (USL)
Arizona United (USL) vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks (USL)
La Maquina (USASA) vs. L.A. Wolves (USASA)
Kitsap Pumas (PDL) vs. Sacramento Republic (USL)

Iranian woman “sneaks” into Persian League match dressed as a man

Persepolis FC
@PersepolisFC
1 Comment

An Iranian woman wanted to see her favorite team play badly, but knew well the unspoken rule: no females at the stadium.

The Independent has the story of a woman who dressed in layers and filmed herself in case trouble came from her attendance.

[ MORE: Police free kidnapped Mexico striker ]

Persepolis FC is the name of the club, and they play in the Persian Gulf Pro League.

From The Independent:

There is no official ban on women attending sports events in Iran, but they are often refused entry so it is rare for women to attend.

In a third video, the woman explains that she layered five T-shirts and five pairs of trousers to hide her figure and covered her face with face paint.

I recognize that this is the norm over there, but it’s still a striking story.

Report: Barcelona ready to swoop if Mourinho deems Mata surplus at Manchester United

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - OCTOBER 01: Juan Mata (L) of Chelsea shakes hands with manager Jose Mourinho (R) after being substituted during the UEFA Champions League Group E Match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and Chelsea at the National Arena Stadium on October 1, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s a $40 million question for Manchester United: Will Juan Mata and Jose Mourinho work well together?

Their time at Chelsea was fractured when Mourinho deemed Mata surplus to requirement and shipped the Spaniard to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Rashford signs new 4-year deal ]

Mata, 28, has been a consistent performer for United, but will his reunion with Mourinho be short-lived? It’s easy to imagine both as ready to move on and Barcelona could be an option if that happens.

Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona could make a bid of close to $40 million in order to help the midfield continue to tick. Mata was a key part of United’s possession-based approach under Louis Van Gaal, and as a player really does fit the bill of a Mourinho-minded mid.

We’re just hoping that if Mata moves, he doesn’t switch anywhere that would change his English language blog posts.