Don’t expect to see Dimitar Berbatov suiting up for Arsenal anytime soon

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As the English media continues to force this rumor through the presses, it’s hard not to ask the simple question:

Why?

Sure, Arsenal need striker depth, Berbatov is nearing the end of his contract, and Arsene Wenger is a frugal manager.

But that’s about all that fits this situation.

First of all, Berbatov doesn’t do sitting on the bench.  It’s been heavily documented over the years how much Dimitar’s confidence plays into his success or failure on a given day.

Even match to match, as attacking options dwindle in a defensive showdown, Berbatov makes less and less noise throughout such a match.  Sitting on the bench caused him to ask to leave Manchester United two summers ago.

So why would he move to Arsenal, where he would be the third choice striker? Wenger needs to get quality depth up front in the worst-case scenario – an injury to Olivier Giroud.  But he needs to find a player who would accept such a role, playing behind Giroud and Lukas Podolski, and Berbatov would surely be against that.

What’s there to scoff at when moving to a title contender?

Well, the Bulgarian is the man at Fulham. Even having scored just four goals this season, the attack still runs through him.  He has the Fulham youngsters on a string, playing them into his hand like a marionette.

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Injuries to Nicolas Bendtner (pictured) and Theo Walcott have Arsene Wenger scrambling for reinforcements

Berbatov has developed an exceptional relationship with a number of the young Fulham attack men, especially Alex Kacaniklic.  The 22-year-old Swedish winger often found himself on the end of vicious verbal assaults during the beginning of Berbatov’s Fulham tenure.  Now, Berbatov has the young talent feeding him the ball at every opportunity.

And despite Fulham’s precarious league position, with Premier League status still very much in doubt for next season, Berbatov has nothing to worry about. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he’s almost a guarantee to depart Craven Cottage when his deal runs out.

Finally, that precarious league position Fulham find themselves in only serves to strengthen their desire to keep their main talisman.  With Bryan Ruiz set for departure, why on earth would they sell Berbatov and leave themselves entirely empty up front? Should Berbatov leave the friendly confines on the banks of the Thames, Fulham will surely be playing Championship soccer next year.

Not surprisingly, the English media also continue to ignore the comments of both managers squashing the deal.  Rene Meulensteen publicly acknowledged he is aware of the 32-year-old’s importance to the club’s relegation battle, saying, “He is a Fulham player & a very important one for us.”

If that’s not enough, Wenger also did his best to put the rumors to rest, saying a week ago, “‘I won’t go into any specific names. That would be disrespectful. We are assessing our options which are restricted. Berbatov is not a name we have considered.”

So while injuries to Nicolas Bendtner and Theo Walcott have Wenger searching for cover at not just the striker spot but the wing position as well, don’t expect a mercurial Bulgarian with a sublime first touch to be the final choice.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Long-term absentee Santi Cazorla will leave Arsenal

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Santi Cazorla hasn’t played a match for the Gunners since suffering a gruesome Achilles injury back in October 2016.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Spanish Chelsea trio ]

And unfortunately for the Spaniard, Cazorla won’t feature for Arsenal again after six years at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal released a statement on Monday revealing the veteran midfielder won’t return to the club in 2018/19, which isn’t unexpected given the extent of his injury.

In his time with the Gunners, Cazorla made 180 appearances in all competitions for the club, and helped Arsenal win two FA Cups.

Cazorla was also a member of the Spanish national team squads that won back-to-back UEFA EURO competitions in 2008 and 2012.