Arsenal plan guard of honor for Manchester United – but how will they receive Robin van Persie?

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When Manchester United heads to the Emirates for Sunday’s match-up with Arsenal, the Premier League champions will receive a guard of honor from Arsene Wenger’s men.

There had been murmurings that some Arsenal supporters could be inclined to turn their backs in protest when the teams emerge from the tunnel. Wenger, however, insists the club will follow tradition. “When you work somewhere abroad, you have to respect the culture of the country. That is part of the tradition of English football and I want that to be respected,” Wenger said.

While Wenger’s influence on the guard of honor will likely be respected by the Arsenal faithful (after all, United provided the same honor to the Gunners at Old Trafford in 2002), the reception that Robin van Persie will receive is another issue entirely. The Dutchman could be in line for a tough day at the Emirates, where many supporters are still reeling from the striker’s decision to leave the club last summer in favor of a £24m move to Old Trafford.

Although he used standoffish, robotic language when referring to van Persie, Wenger nevertheless urged supporters to respect the former Arsenal man. “We respect Robin van Persie like every other player who has left us and came back to the Emirates,” said Wenger. “I want the player to be respected like everybody else. I always said that for every single player who left, even some of them in much more controversy than Robin van Persie.”

Sir Alex Ferguson, on the other hand, is taking a very Fergie-esque look at the situation. “I don’t bother about it, and I don’t think Robin should bother about it either,” said Ferguson. “For Arsenal to have one of their players go to their biggest rivals of the last 20 years doesn’t sit well with their fans, nor Arsene (Wenger) for that matter.

“But it does happen. You just have to move on.”

When it comes to the actual footballing aspect of Sunday’s game, ‘move on’ is exactly what the Gunners must do if they are to prevail in their quest for a Top 4 finish. With United having already secured the Premier League title, many believe Arsenal has hit the lottery as Ferguson may be inclined to name a reduced lineup. But Wenger insists that “no matter in what state Man United will be, we will need a great performance to beat them and that’s what we want to focus on.”

With 4th place Chelsea one point behind and 5th place Tottenham two points back – both with a game in hand – a victory on Sunday is crucial for Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations.

 

Why PSG’s Alexis, Neymar pursuit fits in a (relatively) smart space

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Paris Saint-Germain’s run of four Ligue 1 titles ended last season, a campaign which also saw exciting league-winners Monaco go two rounds further into the UEFA Champions League.

Monaco looks set for a step back this season, with Bernardo Silva off to Man City and Tiemoue Bakayoko signing for Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe could join Monaco’s list of departures, and reports say Man City had a bid accepted for Benjamin Mendy.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

While Monaco is loading up on young talent again, PSG clearly sees its chance to surge back into the title seat and Les Parisiens may just make themselves European favorites as well if they can pry Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Neymar from Barcelona.

That would be a South American trident nearly as potent as the one Neymar current shares with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and the Brazilian would not be second or third fiddle.

PSG has so far been relatively quiet this summer, with the addition of Dani Alves the lone new buy. Aside from money, how was Alves lured to Paris over Man City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola? The idea of a reunion with Neymar and several Brazilian mates — Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura — may’ve been enough and surely that conversation would’ve happened between the two Barca stars.

The French side has to make a big chance at some point soon, unless they’ve been able to unload their money bags and actually buy a fountain of youth. Thiago Motta is 34, Blaise Matuidi 30, Silva 32, and Edinson Cavani 30.

It’s calculated aggression from PSG to splash cash in hopes of rivaling Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barca in pursuit of the UCL title. The Neymar move weakens one of those rivals. If Marco Verratti isn’t part of a swap deal, the signings of Sanchez and Neymar would meet the Italian star’s ambitions well up the road.

De Boer: West Brom was out to injure Palace star Zaha

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No shrinking violet, new Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer was left fuming at West Bromwich Albion players following the PL Asia Trophy third place match on Saturday in Hong Kong.

While the focus could’ve been on Luka Milivojevic‘s gorgeous free kick (watch here), De Boer couldn’t get past the hard fouls aimed at his key attacker.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

West Brom gave away the free kick that led to the aforementioned goal by chopping down Zaha, and the foul was not an isolated incident.

From the BBC:

“They were looking for him, to injure him,” said De Boer.

“He’s one of the exciting players in the league. I don’t want to think he’d be out for two weeks or months.”

De Boer is no stranger to rough play, so this is not coming from a soft place. We doubt it’s going to change anything from Tony Pulis‘ men, though.

Chelsea hammers Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing (video)

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Chelsea struck twice early and Michy Batshuayi put the cherry on top as the Premier League champions cruised past Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing on Saturday.

The Blues started a lineup they’d use on any occasion in the PL, while Arsenal had unproven prospects Cohen Bramall and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the XI.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

Willian‘s quick goal put the Blues up 1-0 at the Bird’s Nest, and Batshuayi scored the second and third. Both were pretty classy, especially the second.

Marcos Alonso did the lion’s share of the work to produce the second chance for Batshuayi, who is threatening to carry over his fine late season form to this campaign. What a smash.

Coutinho rocket helps LFC to PL Asia Trophy (video)

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Goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho helped Liverpool come back from an early deficit to win the PL Asia Trophy on Saturday in Hong Kong.

Islam Slimani gave Leicester City an early lead in front of a heavy pro-Liverpool crowd at Hong Kong Stadium, but Coutinho delivered the goods on both goals in a 2-1 win.

The tournament win is Liverpool’s first in its second trip to the PL Asia Trophy Final.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

First he crossed for Salah to head home, and then he scored the above goal by cutting in from the left and lashing a shot past a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.

We’ve seen this one before from Coutinho, just not on this particular continent. The Brazilian remains a Barcelona target, but looks prepared for the season in whatever land he sets foot.