Wenger hails Arsenal; update on Aubameyang deal

Leave a comment

Arsene Wenger has hailed Arsenal as they surged into a 4-0 lead after just 22 minutes against Crystal Palace on Saturday and won in the Premier League for the first time since December.

[ MORE: Mourinho update on Sanchez

Arsenal beat Palace 4-1 to move five points off the top four, despite all of their issues, as we were reminded how good they can be on their day when everything clicks.

With plenty of negativity around the Gunners heading into this game, plus Alexis Sanchez heading on his way to Manchester United amid growing criticism, Arsenal were fired up and delivered after five games without a win in all competitions.

Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with their first half display as several veterans returned to the starting lineup.

“We played our real game in the first half, good pace and good combination, created good chances” Wenger said. “In the second half the challenge was to keep the same drive and we didn’t manage to do that. Happy that we won the game. The speed of our game at the start was good. We are the only team to beat Palace in their last 12 games…. We know the challenge in front of us is very difficult, exciting as well but it will demand from us that we push ourselves in every single game. For 45 minutes our fans have seen some great football.”

Arsenal’s fans are growing increasingly excited that they will see some great finishing this season too.

Borussia Dortmund have announced that they’ve received a “first enquiry” from Arsenal for their star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Wenger was asked about a bid for the striker, which is reported to be around $61 million.

“No comment on that. They are responsible for their own statements. I can’t stand up for what they say. If we sign someone we will announce it,” Wenger said. “I half announce today Sanchez/Mkhitaryan because it’s likely to happen. The rest, we are not close at all to anything.”

Wenger was criticized by Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc earlier this week for not saying well, no too much on the pursuit of Aubameyang, who will presumably be a direct replacement for Sanchez, who didn’t play against Palace and is “heading up north” to seal his move to Man United with Henrik Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.

“I don’t know what I said, I said nothing happens and I can’t comment on it, so I am quite surprised,” Wenger added. “It looks to be a tactical reaction rather than anything else because I didn’t say anything.”

Aubameyang has scored 13 goals in 15 games this season for Dortmund, but he has been left out of Dortmund’s last two squads for disciplinary reasons. On Friday, while his team drew 1-1 at Hertha Berlin, he played five-a-side with friends and wore a Dortmund shirt with Ousmane Dembele’s name on the back. Dembele was suspended in the summer by Dortmund after trying to push through a $130 million move to Barcelona, which eventually happened.

It seems like Aubameyang’s move is eventually going to happen too with Arsenal chasing the reigning Bundesliga top goalscorer who had 31 goals in 32 games last season, plus 141 in 212 total games for Dortmund over the past five seasons.

If Wenger can bring in Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan this January, plus keep hold of Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, you’d have to say that is very good business for the Gunners as they aim to get the fans back on their side and push for a top four finish, the League Cup and a Europa League trophy in the final months of the season.

We all know Arsenal can blitz anyone when they’re on top of their game and Saturday gave us a timely reminder that despite all of the unrest around Wenger and his team, they’ve still got it. Big name arrivals may just save their season, too.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

Twitter/@BBCSport
Leave a comment

A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

Twitter/@FOXSoccer
Leave a comment

It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

@slbenfica_en
Leave a comment

LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.