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Arsene Wenger’s future in Stan Kroenke’s hands?

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Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has launched an attack on the current board for failing to sort out Arsene Wenger‘s future and not having a replacement lined up.

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Russian billionaire Usmanov, 63, owns 30 percent of the Gunners but has been excluded from the board at Arsenal as majority shareholder Stan Kroenke continues to hold the power with 67.05 percent of the shares.

Usmanov, speaking to Bloomberg from Moscow, had the following to say about the current situation as the Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to announce his future plans with the Gunners battling for a top four finish for the 21st season in a row under his guidance.

“I do not think that the coach alone is to be blamed for what is happening. The board bear huge responsibility,” Usmanov said. “Some continuity is needed and this includes the need to prepare for a successor for Wenger. This needs to be done in a very respectful way and I can suggest that Wenger himself prepare a successor. Unfortunately, I am fully isolated from decision-making at Arsenal. All the responsibility for the fate of the club rests with the main shareholder.”

Now, this is interesting.

With Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s CEO, recently attending meetings with supporters groups speaking of a “catalyst for change” and chairman Sir Chips Keswick saying that the decision over Wenger’s future will be “mutual” between the board and the manager, it appears that, at least according to Usmanov, one man holds the key to this decision: Kroenke.

The American billionaire has a hands-off approach when it comes to Arsenal while his son, Josh, also sits on the board as a director but you never hear much from them. Perhaps what is most crucial amid all of this smack talk from Usmanov is that he admits Kroenke calls the shots and we all know Kroenke is a huge fan of Wenger.

After the most recent Arsenal AGM Kroenke said that Wenger “has been a wonderful influence on the club” and added that “we are all very high on Arsene” as well as praising his ability to achieve consistent results.

Kroenke, Arsenal’s biggest shareholder, holds the key. That is clear.

That fact seems to have been overlooked in the past few months when fans have called for Wenger to be fired and have questioned the ambition of the board time and time again. Yet even the “Wenger Out” protests are dying down recently, with a protest scheduled for the home game against West Ham last week canceled due to a lack of numbers.

With Kroenke calling the shots, Wenger is in a very good position. The owner of the LA Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rapids sports franchises in the U.S. is the key man in Wenger’s future with a two-year deal reportedly ready for the 67-year-old coach to sign.

If that is the case, surely Kroenke will keep Wenger and maybe that’s why the Frenchman has been so coy on his future. Perhaps he knows he has the offer on the table from Kroenke no matter what everyone else connected with the club is saying.

Still, if Arsenal fail to finish in the top four this season then maybe Wenger and Kroenke’s plans go out of the window. The next few weeks for Arsenal are pivotal in its future with Wenger, plus Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in limbo with Champions League action in the balance.

Rapinoe, Morgan, Ertz lift US past South Korea, 3-1

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Alex Morgan scored in a fourth straight game, Julie Ertz scored for the fourth time in five games, and the United States women beat South Korea 3-1 on Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe added her 34th international goal and her 42nd assist.

Having assisted on Ertz’s diving header in the first half, Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick she drew in the 49th minute when pounced on a loose ball about 12 yards in front of the goal and was tripped by Ji Sohyun.

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Han Chaerin scored her first international goal in her South Korea debut to make it 2-1 just before the end of the first half.

U.S. forward Mallory Pugh had to leave the game late in the first half with a right hamstring injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of her injury after she was helped off the field by trainers.

Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd returned from a nine-week absence because of ankle injury, entering the game as a substitute in the 77th minute.

Midfielder Andi Sullivan started for the U.S. about 11 months after having reconstructive knee surgery. Her third minute shot narrowly missed the far post from about 18 yards. She was substituted out, as planned, at halftime.

South Korea began the game in a defensive posture and the U.S. maintained a decisive edge in possession, forcing Kang Gaae to make several sprawling saves before breaking though on Ertz goal in the 24th minute

Ertz dove in front of two defenders to redirect Rapinoe’s hard, low corner kick between the legs of Kang as the goal keeper tried to respond at the near post.

Morgan scored in the 40th minute, using her right foot to settle Kelley O’Hara’s bouncing pass from the end line, then pivoting and whipping her left foot through the ball from point-blank range. The goal was the 28-year-old Morgan’s 78th for the national squad.

Han scored against the run of play with a hard shot from about 25 yards that sailed beyond U.S. goal keeper Alyssa Naher’s reach before dipping under the cross bar.

Lloyd’s introduction drew an enthusiastic response from nearly 10,000 spectators in the Superdome. The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year missed a pair of U.S. exhibition wins over New Zealand last month because of an Aug. 13 ankle sprain in a National Women’s Soccer League match.

Forward Tobin Heath, who has an ankle injury, and defender Taylor Smith, who has an injured shoulder, were not in the lineup and are not expected to play in a second friendly scheduled between South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match.

UEFA charge Roma after racist chanting witnessed

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AS Roma and its fans could face severe penalties after alleged racist chants were hurled in the direction of Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.

It appears via broadcast footage from Chelsea’s 3-3 UEFA Champions League draw with Roma at Stamford Bridge this week that after shepherding a ball out of play, Rudiger was subjected to monkey noises and other racist abuse from the away end where the AS Roma fans were congregated.

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In the past, UEFA has ordered either partial or full closures of stadiums and announced fines to the clubs, though it doesn’t seem to have stamped out the problem of racist chanting in Europe.

Hopefully, UEFA will investigate this fully and ban the individuals who allegedly committed the chants.

Rudiger signed for Chelsea this past summer for a reported $44.8 million.

FIFA says deal close to resolve transfer system complaint

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ZURICH (AP) A complaint to the European Commission challenging soccer’s transfer market is set to be withdrawn by the global group of players’ unions, according to FIFA.

A formal complaint that the trading system is “anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal” was filed in Brussels two years ago by FIFPro.

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After a meeting Thursday of the FIFA stakeholders committee, soccer’s world governing body said a tentative agreement relating to unpaid player wages and transfer fees reached with FIFPro, European clubs and a global leagues’ group can help end the dispute next year.

“It was an issue that was stewing for a long, long, long time,” FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani told reporters after chairing the meeting. “Because of our impetus they came to an agreement.”

FIFPro, which has campaigned to let players terminate contracts after going unpaid for several weeks, cautiously welcomed its “constructive talks with FIFA.”

“(It’s) premature to discuss what might happen next regarding our legal complaint against the transfer system, or any prospective deal until we are satisfied with the proposals put forth,” the Netherlands-based union said.

FIFA has been open to reviewing a transfer system which has seemed weighted in favor of wealthy clubs and was widely criticized in the European summer trading window. Salary caps, limits on squad sizes and restricting loan deals have been suggested.

Representing 65,000 players, FIFPro had suggested its September 2015 filing threatened the biggest upheaval in transfer rules since the Bosman case in 1995.

Then, a European Court of Justice ruling gave players more freedom to move within the European Union and drove up salaries by letting clubs sign out-of-contract players without paying a transfer fee.

The tentative accord FIFA announced Thursday seeks to amend complex transfer regulations and better protect players and clubs from unpaid salaries and transfer fees.

Another shared goal is enforcing cases more efficiently with a clearer path to applying sanctions. Players can wait many months – and even years – pursuing claims for unpaid wages in FIFA judicial bodies.

FIFA’s ruling council must approve the accord next week at a meeting in India. A new draft of transfer regulations could then be put to the Council next March in Zurich, clearing FIFPro to drop its complaint case.

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Delegates at FIFA headquarters Thursday included English Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore and two-time Champions League winner Edwin van der Sar, now CEO at Ajax.

The session also discussed changing rules that govern players’ eligibility for national teams and switching allegiance, FIFA said.

However, talking points such as club salary caps, allowing an extra Copa America tournament in 2020 on the international match calendar, and issues around the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were not raised.

Report: USMNT interim manager to be named this weekend

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What’s next for the U.S. Men’s National Team?

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The first of many dominos may fall this weekend, according to ESPN FC.

The report states that the USMNT is likely to name its interim manager “some time this weekend,” however, U.S. Under-20 manager Tab Ramos likely won’t be the one named.

Ramos is reportedly seeking a full-time position as the USMNT boss, and the interim tag could be a turn off for the 51-year-old former national team midfielder.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati had stated following former U.S. manager Bruce Arena’s departure that he expected to make a decision in “seven to 10 days.” A decision this weekend would stick with Gulati’s original intentions.

The Americans will reconvene next month when they take on Portugal on Nov. 14 in an international friendly in Leiria.

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The match was originally scheduled to be played in Faro, but due to recent devastation in the are the fixture will be played in Leiria and all proceeds will go to the victims of wildfire damage. Portugal will also play a friendly four days prior to taking on the U.S. against Saudi Arabia at the same stadium.