Wenger slams team for “lack of fight” after Everton disaster

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Arsenal’s Champions League future is in serious jeopardy after Everton dismantled the Gunners 3-0 at Goodison Park, and Arsene Wenger fears for the mental state of his squad.

Wenger labeled the club’s chances of making Europe’s top competition as “a serious worry” with Everton now in control of their own destiny just a point behind and a game in hand.

But that was not the headline from the Frenchman’s postmatch press conference.

The 64-year-old suggested his players were not up for the challenge. “Was there a lack of fight? You could say that,” Wenger told reporters in Merseyside.

“We have to go back to basics. Our performance was not convincing, not defensively, not offensively. Everton was better and deserved to win.”

With the 3-0 loss, Arsenal have conceded 20 goals in the four away matches against teams around them in the table – Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton.

The manager strained to find the answer for what may be causing their capitulations away from home against fellow Champions League hopefuls, questioning, “Our big-team defeats away from home have taken something of our charisma from the team. Is that belief? Is it fear? Is it confidence?”

Whatever it is, the Gunners must figure it out very soon.  Their remaining schedule is much simpler than that of Everton’s. Arsenal have just West Ham, Hull City, Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion, and Norwich City left in their Premier League fixtures, while Everton still must take on both Manchester clubs.

Despite that, the club has shown itself vulnerable not just to the top sides, falling at Stoke City a little over a month ago.

Later Wenger contradicted himself by falling back on his comments and told reporters not to worry about the character of his players.

“I wouldn’t question the spirit of this team,” Wenger insisted. “They are focused and want to do well but they have lost something on the confidence front.”

With the Champions League question marks will surely come more questions about Wenger’s future at the London powerhouse, and he will no doubt have to face those questions in the coming weeks, moreso if the Gunners finish outside the Premier League’s top four for the first time in 17 years.

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 ]

Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

[Update: The Croatia FA confirmed the decision, releasing this statement from Dalic. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”]

The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.