What they’re saying: Premier League managers reflect

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The first day of the Premier League season is in the books.

Goals, penalties, red cards, refereeing controversy and plenty more all came to the fore on a frantic and encapsulating opening day of action.

With six games down in the morning kick offs, let’s catch up with the men who make all the decisions and will either be reveling in victory, or wallowing in defeat as we speak.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup, Villa stun Arsenal, Saints, West Ham and Fulham also win)

We hear from every single Premier League manager following their teams first game of the 2013-14 season.

Here it goes. There will plenty of post-game chat from the gaffers in the coming weeks and months.

Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on spending more money: “I’m there to buy, if we find them we’ll do it. I’m not the only one working on that. It’s not my money, it’s the money of the club. Why should I resist (spending)? I just defend the idea that you spend the money you have and not the money you don’t have. For years I did that. Today we have more so we can spend more. It’s as simple as that. Of course I am excited by that prospect but what I want to convince you of is that we are ready to spend the money if we feel that the players makes us a better team tomorrow morning.”

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: “I’m proud of them, they deserve credit. The front three lads are a handful for any team. We’re a really young side with enthusiasm and hunger for the game and to do well. There’s a long, long way to go, we will have ups and downs, but after that I’m over the moon.”

Liverpool 1 – Stoke City 0

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers on the win: “It was a terrific performance all round – but of course, the goalkeeper gets the plaudits when he saves a penalty right at the end. Obviously when you don’t take your chances – and we created numerous chances and didn’t do that – and then get a penalty against you at the end, there’s sometimes that sinking feeling. I think from that, you also saw the spirit in the team, what we’re trying to cultivate here as well and the energy and attitude of the players.”

Stoke assistant manager Mark Bowen: “When you come to Anfield for the first game of the season you know it’s going to be tough but we can’t fault the way lads stuck at it. Some teams have been known to go under here but going into the last 20-25 minutes I thought we were in the ascendancy. When you come to places like Liverpool you know you are going to come under pressure but we coped really well. The lads are disappointed; that’s natural when you get a penalty so late on and don’t score.”

Norwich City 2 – Everton 2

Norwich manager Chris Hughton on Ricky van Wolfswinkel: “He’s certainly done today what we wanted him to do. That’s about working hard for the team. He certainly gave us a good outlet up front. He’s a willing runner up front and I’m really pleased for him. It was certainly a nice feeling to get a goal on his debut.”

Hughton on the 2-2 draw: “I think it was a fair result. They showed what a good side they are. They are seasoned side so we are delighted with the result. You want to win every home game but overall I am quite happy.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on the result: “Conceding two goals made it difficult but we created some good chances and showed some good signs. In general terms I am delighted. We looked like a team that could create enough chances. It was a very positive start from a tricky fixture.”

Sunderland 0 – Fulham 1

Fulham manager Martin Jol: “I think it was a perfect away result but not a perfect performance. We had to grind out the result. It was a very scrappy game for us. Sunderland put so many players up front – they had four attacking players. We didn’t do well at times. We have to try to control the midfield – we didn’t do that in the first half and couldn’t keep the ball. Against an energetic Sunderland team… it was a bit easier than we thought, in hindsight.”

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio: “We played attractive football and dominated but in this country more than any other, set-pieces can cost points. It wasn’t even an incredible challenge in the air. We played in their half for 80 minutes and delivered 30 balls into the opponents’ area but didn’t put the ball into the net. The only clear ball into our box cost a goal. I warned my players before – the players from abroad have to learn. If my players learn quickly why we lost the game, we will have a very good season.”

West Ham United 2 – Cardiff City 0

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce on Cardiff: “We came up to the Premier League having won more Championship games away than we did at home. But last year in the Premier League it was a huge task to pick up points on the road, we only won three games in the entire season away. Your home form is what you need to get right to stay in the Premier League. Hopefully with what Malky has brought to the club Cardiff will get the results they are looking for.”

Malkay Mackay on the defeat: “I thought we started the first 15-20 minutes slowly, after that we had plenty of possession. We knew we were coming to a good team, to play in a good atmosphere in a good stadium. And we knew we had to start better. They were clinical in the way they took that first goal. The last half hour of the first half we had a lot of possession but no penetration and a couple of shots that were blocked. But I cannot be too harsh on the players, overall it’s about learning and at times we gave a good account of ourselves.”

West Bromwich Albion 0 – Southampton 1

West Brom manager Steve Clarke: “I think it was (a harsh) result. We struggled to get into it in the first half but I think we had better control after the interval. The fans will be disappointed with me and the team. I’ll think about that (making new signings) more on Sunday. Today is all about disappointment. I’ve seen it. [penalty decision from referee] There’s no doubt in my mind, it’s a very soft decision.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino on the 1-0 win: “We are very pleased because the team performed very well and put in great effort today. I think we actually deserved to win 2-0 because we were disallowed a goal in the first half, which should have been allowed to stand. West Brom is a very difficult place to come against a very good team so overall we are very pleased.”

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

[ MORE: Go behind the scenes at NYCFC’s new training facility ]

Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.