Arsene Wenger drops biggest hint yet that he will sign a new contract

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Ahead of Arsenal’s home game against Fulham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN, 10am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) long-time manager Arsene Wenger left a cryptic message out in the open about his future at the club.

Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal for 17 seasons and is the current longest serving manager in the Premier League, has not yet signed a new contract and his current deal runs out at the end of this season. However when asked about a potential new deal, Wenger had the following to say.

“There’s always a point where you have to decide, of course,” Wenger told reporters with a smirk on his face. “There’s a point where you have to decide and a point where you have to make your decision public… You can take that sentence whatever way you want to.”

This season Wenger’s Arsenal side have been sublime in the PL, and lead the league after a superb start that’s carried over into the New Year with just three defeats from their first 21 games and they’ve racked up 48 points already. But the French manager must soon commit his future to the club, publicly, or risk missing out on several new players and keep current players tied down to the club, as uncertainty over his future in North London continues to grow.

(MORE: Midseason Reports – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Cardiff, Chelsea, Crystal Palace)

Rumors leaked earlier this week suggest Wenger will sign his new contract alongside Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, as both defenders are also yet to commit their long-term futures to the club. However Wenger was coy on that speculation and instead wanted to stay focused on the job in hand. Winning games in the PL. Plus trying to win some silverware, to end the eight-year spell that’s seen no new additions to the Gunners trophy cabinet.

One thing for certain is that a new deal is there if Wenger wants it, and his latest comments signify the fact that only one signature from his fountain pen, Biro, quill or whatever he uses, will ease any concerns over his future as manager of Arsenal Football Club.

But cast your minds back to last August and the beginning of the current campaign…

Wenger was certainly not wanted at the Emirates and his side were booed off the pitch by the home fans in a 3-1 opening day loss to Aston Villa. All was not well and many thought Wenger wouldn’t last the season, after eight years without a trophy looked like becoming nine and yet more transfer window misery was set to descend upon the Gunners.

How things can change.

Now Arsenal’s fans are pleading for Wenger to sign a new deal and are begging for forgiveness and questioning why they ever doubted the 64-year-old.

With the Gunners top of the PL table, in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and possessing a plethora of highly-talented young players (including the $60 million signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in August), the future is looking bright at the Emirates Stadium. The only thing that’s missing is Wenger pledging his future to the club that has turned him into one of the globe’s most respected managers.

Instead of smirking, laughing and waving away questions about his future, it’s time for Wenger to sign on the dotted line. It seems like that moment is edging closer, if it hasn’t been settled behind close doors already.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.