After a season of woe and sitting on the bench as his Arsenal side sit top of the Premier League standings, Thomas Vermaelen is rumored to be on his way out of the Emirates.
Vermaelen, 28, has played in just 11 games for Arsenal this season as the Belgian national team team captain has gone from skipper at Arsenal to back up, following the emergence of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as Arsene Wenger’s first-choice center back pairing.
According to reports Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg are willing to give Vermaelen an escape ladder from his nightmare in North London.
With the World Cup looming large, Belgian boss Marc Wimots is sweating on Vermaelen being at the peak of his game to help Diables Rogues become the dark horses of the tournament as the former Ajax academy product is the leader and heart of Belgium’s defense. At Zenit fellow Belgian international Axel Witsel and Nicholas Lombaerts would welcome Vermaelen, but can Arsenal really afford to let their third-choice center back go?
Vermaelen is said to be settled in North London since his move from Holland in 2009, but is growing increasingly worried as Mertesacker and Koscielny form an indomitable partnership at the heart of Arsenal defense that has more clean sheets (11) than any other PL team this season and has let in just 21 goals in 24 games.
With Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten and several promising youngsters to fight with for a starting spot at the World Cup this summer, Vermaelen is desperate to go to the big dance in Brazil after becoming a prominent figure for Belgium and Arsenal in the past few seasons.
Should the talented Belgian defender make a loan switch to try and play regularly before the World Cup? Or should he stay put at the Emirates to wait for a chance to shine?
It will be a tricky decision for Vermaelen to make. Which comes first, club or country?
WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.
Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.
It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.
Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.
Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.
Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.
Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.
Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”
However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.
That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.
“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”
Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.
All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.
La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.
[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]
That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.
The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.
Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.
In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.
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“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”
Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”
The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.