Wenger defends Arsenal’s transfer window inactivity

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It’s not easy being Arsene Wenger these days. No matter what the legendary Arsenal manager does, he can’t seem to get the worldwide media, and his own fans, off his back.

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While those bodies believe their criticisms of Wenger to be of his own doing, the 65-year-old Frenchman sounds like he’s heard just about enough second-guessing, criticizing and soapboxing to last him a lifetime.

Speaking Thursday, ahead of his side’s Premier League clash with Stoke City (Watch live, Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), Wenger was once again forced to defend his inactivity during the recently concluded summer transfer window, explain to the whole world how he didn’t “mislead” anyone over the details of Danny Welbeck’s ongoing injury situation.

All quotes from the Guardian:

“To support the club and support the team is to stand behind the players. It is not always expecting someone coming down from heaven to sort out all your problems.”

“You either find someone who strengthens your squad or not. Whether we have players injured or not doesn’t change the problem. That’s what I don’t understand from the media. I am surprised that people accused me of lying.

“When I was in the press conference on Friday morning, I did not know Welbeck had a bad setback. I did not lie to you, I gave you the information I had. I heard late on Friday night that his condition had not evolved as well as we thought it was and he had needed a specialist and needed further investigation. Apart from that, if we did not find someone [to sign], we did not find them. I can understand everyone’s hope, but if you look at what happened in the transfer market it shows you that there is a shortage of solutions out there.

Is it possible, just maybe, that everyone is actually right here?

Did Arsenal need to reinforce a number of areas during the summer window? Absolutely, we’ve already established that and discussed it at great length. They’re short depth at full back, depth at defensive midfield, depth in central midfield and (probably) depth at striker (if not a brand new starter).

The Gunners will unquestionably be a worse team over the course of 38 games for having not signed a single player to cover any of those four areas. They were, however, wise to remain idle during the summer transfer window, given the inflated prices paid for marginal players elsewhere, if you believe Wenger’s notion that “the [options] we had were not convincing at all.”

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I, of course, do not buy this. For $38 million, they could have put Morgan Schneiderlin at the base of their midfield, behind Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. That’s an improvement on Francis Coquelin. Too much for a defensive midfielders? OK, then for $15 million, they could have had Yohan Cabaye, who astoundingly moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Crystal Palace. For $19 million, they could have signed an established right back in Matteo Darmian or Nathaniel Clyne. The list goes on and on and on. If Arsenal won’t sign these players, then someone else will. Not a single one of the above summer signings wouldn’t have significantly improved the Gunners’ chances in 2015-16.

Spending money wisely is certainly a laudable endeavor in the modern game, but while it does assure the club’s long-term financial safety, the Premier League’s 19 other teams are continuously pushing on and strengthening in areas of weakness window after window. No more so than the five or six teams typically finishing in the middle of the table. Before long, the likes of Stoke, Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Everton will have spent enough — and wisely so — they will have caught up to Wenger and Co.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

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It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

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Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

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The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

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A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

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A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf