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High-strung Wenger says Sanchez reports “completely false”

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Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger was in a combative mood on Monday.

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After losing 2-1 at Liverpool on Saturday — their third defeat in their last four PL games — Wenger’s side slipped up in the top four race as they’re now 13 points behind leaders Chelsea.

To compound matters the Gunners boss was heavily criticized for benching top scorer and star player Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger has claimed Sanchez’s omission was purely tactical as he went with Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud up top for a more direct approach but numerous reports have since circulated suggesting that the Chilean forward was involved in a training ground spat with his teammates last week.

Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday (Arsenal trail 5-1 from the first leg) at the Emirates, Wenger said “nothing happened” and the reports were “completely false” and had this to say about Sanchez’s current attitude.

“I explained after the game at Liverpool that I decided to go for a more direct option in the game. That was the unique reason in my decision,” Wenger explained. “For the rest, his attitude, he is a committed player sometimes with excessive behaviors but you have that so many times in the history in many squads.”

He then described his current relationship with Sanchez, while showing some annoyance when asked about the forward not yet agreeing to a new contract.

“Honest and normal, like with every single player,” Wenger said. “Alexis Sanchez has 15 months left on his contract so the decision depends on Arsenal Football Club, not on anybody else.”

Wenger then jumped in as reporters grilled club captain Per Mertesacker, who was sat alongside him in the press conference, about their support for Wenger and if the players want him to stay at the Emirates Stadium next season.

The Frenchman, whose contract runs out this summer, stated the players did not decide who the manager would be, the board do, and then gave this rallying call.

“I think we are in the best club in the world and we have to show pride and commitment to defend the pride of this club,” Wenger said. “It is not about the politics. We are not in a political club here, we are in the performance. I have to perform and the players have to perform.”

After seemingly months of criticism of him and his players, Wenger is hitting back.

This siege mentality could hold them in good stead for the rest of the season but with so much uncertainty surrounding the future of Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Wenger himself there are still plenty of distractions. Wenger’s decision to call these reports false will somewhat clear them up and he was seen shaking Sanchez’s hand before training on Monday at their London Colney home.

That said, his comments saying Sanchez as “excessive behaviors” leaves the door open for some intrigue as to what has gone on behind-the-scenes. Sanchez is a notoriously hard trainer and is upset when he isn’t picked to play in a third round League Cup game, let alone a massive Premier League battle away at a top four rival.

Don’t expect this situation to quieten down between now and the end of the season.

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.

Everton announce lifetime ban for fan involved in altercation with Lyon player

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On a night when UEFA unveiled a new campaign for respect, there wasn’t enough of it shown both on and off the field.

Everton has followed up on UEFA opening up disciplinary proceedings against them by banning a fan from Everton matches after the fan was seen to punch at an Olympique Lyon player in the second half of Lyon’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.

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“Club Officials have reviewed the footage of an incident that occurred in the 64th minute of the game against Olympique Lyonnais where supporters towards the front of the lower Gwladys Street End became involved in a confrontation between players,” Everton said in a statement. “We have identified one individual whom action will now be taken against. This will include a ban from attending future Everton fixtures and the Club registering a formal complaint with Merseyside Police.”

The video below shows a fan – amazingly, holding onto a small boy in one arm – throwing some punches at Lyon players after a fracas on the field.

The punch and ban is yet another dark moment for Everton, which has just one point from its first three Europa League matches and sits in 16th place in the Premier League with eight points from eight games.