Theo Walcott doubts Tottenham can handle pressure

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You can tell Theo Walcott loves Arsenal. With his future under intense scrutiny, he signed a new contract rather than follow the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri out the door. And now he’s questioned the desire of the club’s bitter north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-1 on March 4 to go third in the Premier League, seven points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal. Now? They came into this weekend in fifth, two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal. Ouch. While Arsene Wenger’s team has found its form when it matters most, Tottenham are, as usual, swooning in the springtime. And tomorrow they have to play Manchester City.

Last season, Spurs even blew a 13-point lead over their great rivals and finished outside the top four, condemning them to the purgatory of the Europa League with fond memories still fresh of the club’s thrilling debut Champions League campaign in 2010-11, which included games against Inter Milan, A.C. Milan and Real Madrid.

Injuries to Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe haven’t helped, making the attack over-reliant on the unreliable Emmanuel Adebayor. But Walcott reckons the problem might be psychological.

“I think because we’ve had the experience of doing it at the death and Tottenham have a history of phasing out, we have the upper-hand, definitely, the experience of coping with the pressure of it,” he told The Times.

“Losing at their place was obviously a blow, but we’ve bounced back from that and when you’ve expected them to win and they don’t, that has to make you wonder about how much they want it.”

Not that you’d blame Tottenham if the club does indeed have a mental block about finishing above their neighbors from four miles down the road. You want omens? We’ve got omens.

In theory, they’re similar-sized clubs with comparable pedigree, resources, fanbases and talent. Yet Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal since 1995. It doesn’t look like there’s room for both London clubs in next season’s Champions League, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea expected to comprise the top three. And Wenger’s side hasn’t finished outside the Premier League’s top four since 1995-96.

 

 

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]