Arsenal 2-2 Swansea City: Stoppage time own goal from Flamini sees Gunners drop points at home (video)

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Late match heartbreak compounded Arsenals’ woes on Tuesday, with a stoppage time own goal from  Mathieu Flamini giving visiting Swansea City a surprise result at the Emirates. With Leon Britton’s stoppage time run ending with the French midfielder’s inadvertent equalizer, the Gunners were relegated their second straight disappointing result, this time being drawn at home by Swans, 2-2.

Arsenal, coming off this Saturday’s embarrassing result at Stamford Bridge, appeared set for full points when second half goals from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud reversed Wilfred Bony’s 11th minute opener. As they tried to see out the game, however, Britton’s run into a seem in front of goal caused stoppage time chaos, with Flamini, Per Merstesacker, and Wojciech Szczesny’s convergence on a ball in the middle of the penalty area leading to the shock equalizer.

The point may prove a valuable one for Swansea, now five points above the drop after its unexpected result in North London. Arsenal, on the other hand, is left in fourth place, the club’s 63 points leaving it six up on Everton in what may yet devolve into a surprise battle for the Premier League’s final Champions League spot.

An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot driven toward Michel Vorm in the fourth minute highlighted Arsenal’s early control, giving the impression the match would play out according to expectations. Dominating possession while maintaining play within Swansea’s half, the Gunners seemed primed to immediately reverse the form that saw them routed Saturday at Chelsea.

In the 11th minute, however, Arsenal was down again. Allowing Neil Taylor an uncontested cross from high on Swansea’s left, the Gunners saw Swans striker Wilfred Bony cut across Thomas Vermaelen and beat his mark to the near-post ball. From 10 yards out, the Ivorian headed into the left of goal to make it 1-0, Swansea City.

It was the only shot on target the visitors would have before intermission, though Arsenal only provided Vorm with slightly more pressure. Despite 60 percent possession and nine shots, the Gunners could only put two attempts on frame, never meaningfully testing the Dutch international before going into halftime down one.

The second half picked up where the first left off: Arsenal dominating the ball; Swansea looking comfortable in defense; Michel not bothered by shots fired well clear of his goal. As the half pushed on, the shots stopped coming as Arsenal began trying for quality over quantity. Not moving quickly enough to tax Swansea’s defense, the Gunners continued to give Vorm an easy night.

In the 73rd minute, that all changed. With Swansea’s defense pushed into its own penalty box, Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs dribbled around the defense and found Podolski at the edge of the six-yard box. With its first shot on target in 30 minutes, Arsenal was back even.

One minute later, relief became joy as Arsenal went in front. Dashing down the left side, Podolski made for the byline before firing a ball into the six-yard box. With Vorm stapled to his line, Giroud got a foot to the cross, lifting it up and into goal to put Arsenal in front.

Comfortable over the next 16 minutes, Arsenal appeared set to see out its 20th win of the season, with Swansea showing little sign it had recovered from the Gunners’ two-goal outburst. In the 91st minute, however, Leon Britton took it upon himself to test the Arsenal defense, bursting through a seem in the defense and onto a pass that forced a lunging stop from  Mertesacker. The resulting ball went off Szczensy, hit Flamini, and went into Arsenal’s vacated goal, leaving the match drawn at two.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Podolski 57′), Rosicky (Kallstrom 79′), Cazorla; Giroud (Sanogo 89′)

Goals: Podolski (73′), Giroud (74′)

Swansea City: Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chicgo, Taylor (Davies 73′); Britton, Shelvey (Hernandez 79′); de Guzman, Michu (Dyer 63′), Routledge; Bony

Goals: Bony (11′), Flaimini (o.g., 91′)

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.

Heynckes squashes Lewandowski rumors after Premier League rumors

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The English media – mainly the tabloids – has had a field day over the last 24 hours with rumors of a Robert Lewandowski move to the Premier League claiming, but the Bayern Munich manager is having none of it.

Jupp Heynckes told the German press during his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the club’s Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, “I can’t imagine there is a chance [the club executives] will sell Lewandowski.”

“Bayern is not a selling club,” Heynckes went on to proclaim. “They want to, and always will want to, keep their top players.”

The reports stated that Lewandowski was “flirting” with a move to the Premier League, and that while Manchester City and Chelsea were the more logical destination, Liverpool was actually the preferred landing spot as the Polish international was open to a reunification with former boss Jurgen Klopp, whom he worked with at Borussia Dortmund before his switch to Allianz Arena. Lewandowski’s contract at Bayern Munich currently runs through 2021, leaving the player with little say over his future.

While the rumors seem like a long shot, what does make sense is that, at 29 years old, Lewandowski doesn’t a ton of time left to convince a Premier League club he’s worth a heavy investment for the next couple of years. Many top teams – most notably Arsenal – are hesitant to sign players over 30 years old, and would be even less inclined to pay a hefty transfer fee for a player without a long future ahead of them. Manchester United just paid a cut-rate price for Alexis Sanchez, and while that was largely due to Arsenal’s position of weakness regarding the expiry of Sanchez’s contract, Sanchez’s age also partially contributed to that knocked down transfer rate.

Nonetheless, Bayern’s sale history is minimal, having only offloaded surplus players, such as defender Medhi Benatia this past summer, Mario Gotze back to Borussia Dortmund the summer before, and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City in 2015.