Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger responds to transfer policy critics

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We would all be hard pressed to find anyone around the Emirates who use the word “successful” when assessing Arsenal’s transfer accomplishment over the past few years.

The exit door has been quite busy, of course, but the lack incoming talent for the financially well-off club has become more irritating than a nasty rash for Gunners faithful.  Just ask any supporter; find them at the nearest North London pub, staring forlornly into their pints and finding it increasingly difficult to remember, you know, the “good times.”

But there is one man who apparently believes the club’s policies have nailed the sweet spot.  And that man is none other than manager Arsene Wenger, who boxed a few verbal rounds with media Tuesday in Istanbul ahead of Arsenal’s Champions League play-in match against Fenerbahçe.

At the very least, Wenger’s timing is off. Even if he believes the club’s spendthrift ways have served Arsenal interests in the long run, it’s just not what increasingly restive supporters want to hear. Not after watching Wenger’s men fumble away the Premier League opener, dropping a home debut for the first time since 1993 in a 3-1 setback against Brad Guzan and Aston Villa.

Not after the club’s highly public swing-and-misses for Gonzalo Higuain, Luiz Gustavo and (apparently) Luis Suarez.

Not after the big bummer that is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long-term injury.

And yet, here was Wenger, sounding combative as he responded to the transfer-related criticism, more of which fell Monday from Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew, who was bothered by Arsenal’s “disrespectful” and distracting pursuit of midfielder Yohan Cabaye.

I cannot listen every minute to every state of mind for everybody,” Wenger said. “You cannot look all the time in life at what others do. You do what is right for you. I would just like to reiterate to you that in the last 16 years we have been very successful with transfers.

“If you look at the players who play [against Fenerbahce], they are top quality players. You should never forget that. It is not always to think what is outside is better than what you have. What is important as well is to rate what you have and our fans have to understand that as well.

“What is important is to go out and see a good football game. All that other stuff is good for the newspapers, but it is not real football. A squad has to have the right number. And we will have the right balance when the transfer window closes, don’t worry.”

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.