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Reports: Arsene Wenger hopes to stay at Arsenal

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According to separate reports by the Daily Mail and Mirror, Arsene Wenger has decided he wants to stay at Arsenal long-term, and hopes the club comes to a mutual decision to extend his contract.

Fans have grown increasingly vocal at their hope the club will move on from Wenger, who has been with Arsenal since 1996. Banners have been displayed – and even flown – calling for his removal in recent weeks.

The discontent has grown thanks to a growing crisis, both on and off the field. The club has lost six of its last nine games, including embarrassing defeats to lesser clubs and by large scorelines. Off the pitch, there are loud rumors that big players are pushing for large contracts the club is unwilling to dish out.

Despite all this, Wenger – whose contract expires this summer and was reportedly undecided on his own position regarding his future – has apparently come to the conclusion that he is hoping to stay, and will work with the club if they decide to offer him an extension. That’s a big if, although the team may decide that stability and experience is the best way forward.

Two players, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, have both shown signs of unhappiness in recent weeks, and the papers have followed that up with reports of their discontent behind closed doors. Sanchez’s body language on the field has been that of an exasperated figure, and there are rumors that he is looking for a mega-contract. Ozil has also reportedly asked for a large wage increase to keep him satisfied, and with the club reportedly unwilling to give in, Ozil was left out of the squad in Saturday’s loss to West Brom after complaining of hamstring discomfort in Friday’s training session, despite now being suddenly fit to join Germany’s squad for the international break.

Amid all this turmoil, it’s possible – and increasingly likely – that Arsenal could miss Champions League qualification for the first time in Wenger’s 20-year tenure. The club sits in sixth position, on 50 points, which is two back of Manchester United in fifth and six behind Liverpool in fourth. Despite that, it’s possible the club could stick by him. John Cross of the Mirror, who crafted their version of the Wenger story, posted on Twitter that he is “fully expecting Wenger to stay. Arsenal believe he’ll turn it round.” He also offered his personal thoughts on the mood in the locker room:

No matter the players’ opinions, one half of the requirements for a contract extension appear met. Now it’s up to the club to decide if he’s the best man to lead the club forward, and the sooner the decision is wrapped up, the better for everyone at the club.

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.