Arsene Wenger drops biggest hint yet that he will sign a new contract

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Ahead of Arsenal’s home game against Fulham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN, 10am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) long-time manager Arsene Wenger left a cryptic message out in the open about his future at the club.

Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal for 17 seasons and is the current longest serving manager in the Premier League, has not yet signed a new contract and his current deal runs out at the end of this season. However when asked about a potential new deal, Wenger had the following to say.

“There’s always a point where you have to decide, of course,” Wenger told reporters with a smirk on his face. “There’s a point where you have to decide and a point where you have to make your decision public… You can take that sentence whatever way you want to.”

This season Wenger’s Arsenal side have been sublime in the PL, and lead the league after a superb start that’s carried over into the New Year with just three defeats from their first 21 games and they’ve racked up 48 points already. But the French manager must soon commit his future to the club, publicly, or risk missing out on several new players and keep current players tied down to the club, as uncertainty over his future in North London continues to grow.

(MORE: Midseason Reports – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Cardiff, Chelsea, Crystal Palace)

Rumors leaked earlier this week suggest Wenger will sign his new contract alongside Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, as both defenders are also yet to commit their long-term futures to the club. However Wenger was coy on that speculation and instead wanted to stay focused on the job in hand. Winning games in the PL. Plus trying to win some silverware, to end the eight-year spell that’s seen no new additions to the Gunners trophy cabinet.

One thing for certain is that a new deal is there if Wenger wants it, and his latest comments signify the fact that only one signature from his fountain pen, Biro, quill or whatever he uses, will ease any concerns over his future as manager of Arsenal Football Club.

But cast your minds back to last August and the beginning of the current campaign…

Wenger was certainly not wanted at the Emirates and his side were booed off the pitch by the home fans in a 3-1 opening day loss to Aston Villa. All was not well and many thought Wenger wouldn’t last the season, after eight years without a trophy looked like becoming nine and yet more transfer window misery was set to descend upon the Gunners.

How things can change.

Now Arsenal’s fans are pleading for Wenger to sign a new deal and are begging for forgiveness and questioning why they ever doubted the 64-year-old.

With the Gunners top of the PL table, in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and possessing a plethora of highly-talented young players (including the $60 million signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in August), the future is looking bright at the Emirates Stadium. The only thing that’s missing is Wenger pledging his future to the club that has turned him into one of the globe’s most respected managers.

Instead of smirking, laughing and waving away questions about his future, it’s time for Wenger to sign on the dotted line. It seems like that moment is edging closer, if it hasn’t been settled behind close doors already.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

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Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

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“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.