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Robbie Mustoe: Arsene Wenger has reached the end of his time at Arsenal

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With long-time manager Arsene Wenger‘s status at Arsenal in the spotlight, ProSoccerTalk spoke with Robbie Mustoe about what has happened to Wenger at Arsenal.

Q: Arsenal fans’ protests against Wenger seem louder than ever before. Why do you think this season is different even though Arsenal have been getting similar results as the past few years?

Robbie Mustoe: I think, as you said, the results are similar and in some ways the performances have been similar, some really good ones, particularly the first half of the season when there was a feeling that Arsenal was somewhat different, but I was never fully convinced of this. Although I did like Alexis Sanchez playing as a striker and [Granit] Xhaka was different in midfield, so there was a few differences going into this season, but I still was never convinced about the mentality of the team. Now going back to how it’s different, I think it’s different because it looks to me over the past few weeks that the players have lost respect for the manager.

We can criticize Wenger for some tactical things, some mentality things, some selection things, stuff that always stops him from winning the league title and in the first half of the season that was the same story. It’s changed because I think some of the players now are disbelieving like a lot of other people, the fans you’re seeing now more and more are realizing that it’s time for him to go, ex-players and loyal former guys that worked and played for Arsene Wenger are starting to say it’s definitely time to go. I just think the players have lost respect. Alexis Sanchez on the bench the other day with the smirking, it’s hard to be definitive if he was laughing there, it’s just when you watch them play it looks like they are empty. I’ve said that with Robbie Earle on our radio show, they look empty, they look like there is nothing inside left, that his words are not getting through. I suppose to summarize I think over the last few weeks the players have thrown the towel in a little bit and I’ve not seen that before. That is another massive indication that Wenger has reached the end of his time at Arsenal in my opinion.

Q: What is your takeaway from Wenger’s handling of the Alexis Sanchez situation in both the decision to bench him and his explanation afterward?

RM: The explanation to start with, it’s disappointing because people in the game know that there was nothing tactically different from Arsenal with a direct approach. There’s no way, assuming there’s not been a bust-up which is what Wenger is hinting here, that the joint-top scorer with an incredibly hard mentality, a winning mindset, a great work ethic, tremendous quality, there’s no way he doesn’t get into any team in the Premier League no matter what style you’re playing. The explanation of it was disappointing because it’s just not true.

[ MORE: Wenger to listen to protests ]

Leaving him out, if there is ill-discipline within the squad and if Alexis Sanchez was disrespectful to the manager, to his teammates, then of course as a manager you have the right to leave a player benched for whatever reason. My response to that would be find a way to patch up the disagreement, find a way to get the player back on board again and if you can’t you leave him out of the squad. Don’t put him on the bench and have people like, ‘what’s going on,’ leave him out and be open. Be open about it, if it’s a disagreement for whatever reason there’s various ways that you can go at it. The preferred way in my opinion would be, sit down and try to figure it out because you’re all in this together you need your best players. Without letting the player win, you got to get him back on board whichever way that you do that with man management. Wenger’s got every right if he feels that certain players are undermining him or the squad than absolutely he has every right to drop a player, but don’t leave him on the bench and tell us that it’s a tactical reason. That’s disappointing from a guy that’s so classy and has been around so long and he’s so good generally with the media. This, in my opinion, was incorrect.

Q: Do you think his decision to do this was some sort of last-ditch effort, feeling that he may have lost the respect of his players and trying to do something drastic to shake it up?

RM: Yeah, it is, it was. That’s what I thought. We are having to surmise this. Wenger said there was no bust-up and it’s a normal relationship so this is you know this s what we are suggesting, speculating if you like. That goes back to my last answer, if there is something that the players are revolting against in some way than you leaving your star player on the bench I guess sends a message out, but it just doesn’t feel right. We’ve seen this before with different players and it feels the right thing to do. Again it’s so difficult to speculate, I mean Dimitri Payet at West Ham United there was a big bust-up there. He said he didn’t want to play for the club again. The manager meets with him, meets with him again and just confirms to him that he is going to tell the press what the disagreement is and he did. That felt transparent, clean and open. This just doesn’t.

[ MORE: Arsenal release statement on Wenger ]

We are speculating, whether that’s right or wrong, I still think it’s the last resort to have a bust-up with a star player and leave him on the bench. A bigger message maybe is to leave him out of the squad and be transparent. It just hasn’t been handled very well from Arsene Wenger and I don’t think we’ve seen this before. If our speculation is correct and there has been a bust-up I can’t remember a time when Wenger has had to do this before or left a star player out because of issues not involved with how he’s playing. He’s been the best player for Arsenal and arguably the best player in the league. It has nothing to do with his performance level. It must have been something that was said behind the scenes and hasn’t been handled very well.

Q: Looking at where Arsenal are in the table and the fact that they are still in contention in the FA Cup is there a way this season can still be a success for Wenger and Arsenal?

RM: Yes, they can win the FA Cup and they can finish in the top four. Champions League qualification and winning a trophy has to be a success. Some Arsenal fans would say we’ve seen this before, we want progression, we’ve spent money, we are a little bit stronger, we should be winning the title, but you win an FA Cup and finish in the top four this year that’s a decent season, I don’t care what anybody says. It’s just that you’re concerned with the way that it feels different now. The atmosphere around not only the supporters, but it sounds like within the dressing room, within the playing staff is that this really has come to an end.

We can speculate about stuff happening off the pitch, but I can give you my opinion of what I see from the team. I’ve been watching Arsene Wenger and his team for years and years and years and I’m seeing over the last few weeks with some bad results almost a team that’s saying wow we can’t turn up against the big teams, we can’t get the right results. It seems to me that that FA Cup fixture and the top four finish is going to be extremely hard. Success is possible, some degree of success, but there’s so much that has gone on in these last few weeks. It’s not right at the club and Arsene Wenger himself must realize that. I just don’t know how stubborn he is, I don’t know if he’s just going to say, ‘I don’t care, I have a contract, I’m going to crack on, we’re going to get this right, we’re going to sign some players in the summer.’ That’s one line of thinking, but the other line that would make more sense is, ‘My time has come to an end here. I’m going to let my owner and my board of directors know that this is my last season.’ I’d like that transparency. I’d like that honesty and it could be known to everybody that that’s the intention and I think then the remainder of the season is not so horrible. I think there will be respect and appreciation between now and the end of the season for what he’s done. I just really don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It seems that everybody around the club: pundits, supporters, maybe players now and former players really believe that this is time for him to leave.

For more on Arsene Wenger’s future, listen to the latest 2 Robbies podcast.

Follow Live: Chelsea, Swans, Cherries in FA Cup replays

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Chelsea, Swansea City, and Bournemouth look to avoid upsets in replays of their third round FA Cup matches.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

All three matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

The Blues tangle with former Premier League peers Norwich City, this time at Stamford Bridge, in a bid to host a fourth round match with Newcastle United.

Antonio Conte‘s not messing around (too much) with the XI.

Swansea City and Wolves, meanwhile, are arguably battling for a bid in the fourth round, as a trip to Notts County is on the docket for the winner of Wednesday’s replay at the Liberty Stadium.

Bournemouth is at Wigan Athletic for a replay with the third-tier Latics, with the victor hosting West Ham United on Jan. 27.

Benevento captain Lucioni banned one year for doping

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ROME (AP) Benevento captain Fabio Lucioni has been banned one year for doping.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

Italy’s national anti-doping organization made the decision Tuesday after the steroid clostebol was found in a sample taken after Benevento’s 1-0 loss to Torino in September.

Benevento team physician Walter Giorgione was banned for four years for administering the steroid to Lucioni in a spray.

Both Lucioni and Giorgione plan to appeal.

The 30-year-old Lucioni joined Benevento in 2014 and the defender helped the team move from the third division up into Serie A this season for the first time.

Benevento is last in Serie A with only two wins in 20 matches.

The ban is back-dated to October, meaning Lucioni can return early next season.

Everton completes move for Walcott: “I’m dead excited” (video)

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Everton continues to supply its managers with top-end talent, adding Theo Walcott to its expensive season of boys which includes Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Cenk Tosun, Jordan Pickford, and Michael Keane.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

The deal is reported to be near $28 million for Walcott, who’s made only a half-dozen Premier League appearances this season but did nab three goals in five Europa League matches.

Walcott, 28, scored 108 goals in 397 appearances for the Gunners. His 19-goal campaign last season was his second-best — he scored 21 in 2012-13 — but Walcott dipped down Arsene Wenger‘s depth charge and is leaving to pursue regular football.

And his comments will be lapped up by the #WengerOut brigade at his now former club:

“The Club has won trophies but I want them to win trophies now. The manager is very hungry and it’s just what I need. I’ve had a couple of chats with him and straightaway I felt that hunger and that desire that he wanted from me. I need that and I wanted that

The move is another exciting one for Everton, which has underachieved under Ronald Koeman and now Sam Allardyce. And it’s another sale from Arsenal which gives pause: Are the underperforming Gunners going to regret the move?

In the 2005-06 season, Walcott made his Southampton debut in the Football League Championship at the age of 16, and moved to Arsenal the next season.

Walcott has eight goals in 47 caps for England, and won two FA Cups at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Montreal nabs Algerian DP ]

Here is a useful quote from Sam Allardyce:“His physical output is excellent, he would be one of our top players in that area as well, which will hopefully bring us a lot more excitement and more ability to get forward quicker and create.

And here is an utterly useless one: ““If you analyse his goal record, then we are looking at a player who contributes goals on a regular basis.”

You don’t say. To paraphrase: If you look at all his goals, he regularly scores goals. Here’s more from the player on his move.

Montreal to nab Algerian DP Taider from Bologna

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The loss of Swiss power Blerim Dzemaili is a big one for the Montreal Impact, but another World Cup player may be taking his place in Quebec.

[ MLS: Club-by-club SuperDraft needs ]

Tutto Bologna reports that Algerian playmaker Saphir Taider, 25, is set to sign with the Impact on a contract through 2020.

On loan to Montreal last season, Dzemaili went back to Bologna. Taider is coming back the other way and will reportedly be a Designated Player.

Taider isn’t as consistent a player as Dzemaili, but presents a skill set that should be a massive problem for MLS midfields.

He has 42 caps with five goals for Algeria, and was once property of Juventus. He spent parts of four seasons at Inter Milan, with loan stints back to Bologna, at Sassuolo, and a unremarkable time at Southampton.