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Robbie Mustoe: Arsene Wenger has reached the end of his time at Arsenal

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With long-time manager Arsene Wenger‘s status at Arsenal in the spotlight, ProSoccerTalk spoke with Robbie Mustoe about what has happened to Wenger at Arsenal.

Q: Arsenal fans’ protests against Wenger seem louder than ever before. Why do you think this season is different even though Arsenal have been getting similar results as the past few years?

Robbie Mustoe: I think, as you said, the results are similar and in some ways the performances have been similar, some really good ones, particularly the first half of the season when there was a feeling that Arsenal was somewhat different, but I was never fully convinced of this. Although I did like Alexis Sanchez playing as a striker and [Granit] Xhaka was different in midfield, so there was a few differences going into this season, but I still was never convinced about the mentality of the team. Now going back to how it’s different, I think it’s different because it looks to me over the past few weeks that the players have lost respect for the manager.

We can criticize Wenger for some tactical things, some mentality things, some selection things, stuff that always stops him from winning the league title and in the first half of the season that was the same story. It’s changed because I think some of the players now are disbelieving like a lot of other people, the fans you’re seeing now more and more are realizing that it’s time for him to go, ex-players and loyal former guys that worked and played for Arsene Wenger are starting to say it’s definitely time to go. I just think the players have lost respect. Alexis Sanchez on the bench the other day with the smirking, it’s hard to be definitive if he was laughing there, it’s just when you watch them play it looks like they are empty. I’ve said that with Robbie Earle on our radio show, they look empty, they look like there is nothing inside left, that his words are not getting through. I suppose to summarize I think over the last few weeks the players have thrown the towel in a little bit and I’ve not seen that before. That is another massive indication that Wenger has reached the end of his time at Arsenal in my opinion.

Q: What is your takeaway from Wenger’s handling of the Alexis Sanchez situation in both the decision to bench him and his explanation afterward?

RM: The explanation to start with, it’s disappointing because people in the game know that there was nothing tactically different from Arsenal with a direct approach. There’s no way, assuming there’s not been a bust-up which is what Wenger is hinting here, that the joint-top scorer with an incredibly hard mentality, a winning mindset, a great work ethic, tremendous quality, there’s no way he doesn’t get into any team in the Premier League no matter what style you’re playing. The explanation of it was disappointing because it’s just not true.

[ MORE: Wenger to listen to protests ]

Leaving him out, if there is ill-discipline within the squad and if Alexis Sanchez was disrespectful to the manager, to his teammates, then of course as a manager you have the right to leave a player benched for whatever reason. My response to that would be find a way to patch up the disagreement, find a way to get the player back on board again and if you can’t you leave him out of the squad. Don’t put him on the bench and have people like, ‘what’s going on,’ leave him out and be open. Be open about it, if it’s a disagreement for whatever reason there’s various ways that you can go at it. The preferred way in my opinion would be, sit down and try to figure it out because you’re all in this together you need your best players. Without letting the player win, you got to get him back on board whichever way that you do that with man management. Wenger’s got every right if he feels that certain players are undermining him or the squad than absolutely he has every right to drop a player, but don’t leave him on the bench and tell us that it’s a tactical reason. That’s disappointing from a guy that’s so classy and has been around so long and he’s so good generally with the media. This, in my opinion, was incorrect.

Q: Do you think his decision to do this was some sort of last-ditch effort, feeling that he may have lost the respect of his players and trying to do something drastic to shake it up?

RM: Yeah, it is, it was. That’s what I thought. We are having to surmise this. Wenger said there was no bust-up and it’s a normal relationship so this is you know this s what we are suggesting, speculating if you like. That goes back to my last answer, if there is something that the players are revolting against in some way than you leaving your star player on the bench I guess sends a message out, but it just doesn’t feel right. We’ve seen this before with different players and it feels the right thing to do. Again it’s so difficult to speculate, I mean Dimitri Payet at West Ham United there was a big bust-up there. He said he didn’t want to play for the club again. The manager meets with him, meets with him again and just confirms to him that he is going to tell the press what the disagreement is and he did. That felt transparent, clean and open. This just doesn’t.

[ MORE: Arsenal release statement on Wenger ]

We are speculating, whether that’s right or wrong, I still think it’s the last resort to have a bust-up with a star player and leave him on the bench. A bigger message maybe is to leave him out of the squad and be transparent. It just hasn’t been handled very well from Arsene Wenger and I don’t think we’ve seen this before. If our speculation is correct and there has been a bust-up I can’t remember a time when Wenger has had to do this before or left a star player out because of issues not involved with how he’s playing. He’s been the best player for Arsenal and arguably the best player in the league. It has nothing to do with his performance level. It must have been something that was said behind the scenes and hasn’t been handled very well.

Q: Looking at where Arsenal are in the table and the fact that they are still in contention in the FA Cup is there a way this season can still be a success for Wenger and Arsenal?

RM: Yes, they can win the FA Cup and they can finish in the top four. Champions League qualification and winning a trophy has to be a success. Some Arsenal fans would say we’ve seen this before, we want progression, we’ve spent money, we are a little bit stronger, we should be winning the title, but you win an FA Cup and finish in the top four this year that’s a decent season, I don’t care what anybody says. It’s just that you’re concerned with the way that it feels different now. The atmosphere around not only the supporters, but it sounds like within the dressing room, within the playing staff is that this really has come to an end.

We can speculate about stuff happening off the pitch, but I can give you my opinion of what I see from the team. I’ve been watching Arsene Wenger and his team for years and years and years and I’m seeing over the last few weeks with some bad results almost a team that’s saying wow we can’t turn up against the big teams, we can’t get the right results. It seems to me that that FA Cup fixture and the top four finish is going to be extremely hard. Success is possible, some degree of success, but there’s so much that has gone on in these last few weeks. It’s not right at the club and Arsene Wenger himself must realize that. I just don’t know how stubborn he is, I don’t know if he’s just going to say, ‘I don’t care, I have a contract, I’m going to crack on, we’re going to get this right, we’re going to sign some players in the summer.’ That’s one line of thinking, but the other line that would make more sense is, ‘My time has come to an end here. I’m going to let my owner and my board of directors know that this is my last season.’ I’d like that transparency. I’d like that honesty and it could be known to everybody that that’s the intention and I think then the remainder of the season is not so horrible. I think there will be respect and appreciation between now and the end of the season for what he’s done. I just really don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It seems that everybody around the club: pundits, supporters, maybe players now and former players really believe that this is time for him to leave.

For more on Arsene Wenger’s future, listen to the latest 2 Robbies podcast.

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Wednesday
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

German fans turn on fellow supporter for racist abuse

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BERLIN — The fans of German soccer club Preußen Münster showed how racist abuse can be handled, shouting “Nazis out! Nazis out!” after one of their own fans targeted a visiting player with monkey chants.

The perpetrator was a 29-year-old man who was forced out of the stadium. And the player, Würzburger Kickers defender Leroy Kwadwo, thanked the opposing fans their “exemplary” reaction.

“I was racially abused by one single spectator. It just makes me sad,” Kwadwo wrote on Saturday, a day after the match. “I indeed have a different skin color, but I was born here in this wonderful land that has given my family and I so much and made so much possible. I am one of you. I live here and can live my calling as a professional with the Würzburger Kickers.

“Something like yesterday just makes me sad and angry because everyone has to know, racism does not belong in OUR world. We all have the opportunity to oppose it and stop it if it happens.”

The incident occurred during a third-division match in Münster.

On Monday, Münster said it would seek to ban the suspect from all German stadiums for three years, the toughest possible sanction permitted under current regulations.

“The least we an do is ensure that this person is no longer allowed in our stadium,” Münster president Christoph Strässer said. “We will not tolerate racism or any form of discrimination. The issue of integration is naturally important to us as a sports club, and Article 1 of the constitution applies primarily, namely: Human dignity is sacrosanct. That goes for everyone in this country.”

The perpetrator also faces legal consequences. Local police said the man would be charged with incitement, which can lead to financial penalties and a jail term of three months to five years if convicted.

Referee Katrin Rafalski stopped the 0-0 draw in the 88th minute after being informed of the racist abuse by Kwadwo. It was followed by a stadium announcement against the abuse and the “Nazis out!” chants from the fans.

The German soccer federation praised the fans’ reaction on Twitter on Saturday.

“So sad and shameful as the racist incident against Leroy Kwadwo was, so exemplary was the immediate reaction to it,” the federation said. “The third division stands together and says, no to racism and discrimination!”

The incident occurred only days after Bundesliga club Schalke was fined 50,000 euros ($54,600) after some of its fans subjected Hertha Berlin player Jordan Torunarigha to racist abuse during a German Cup game on Feb. 4.

Torunarigha, the son of former Nigerian player Ojokojo Torunarigha, was targeted with monkey chants and was eventually sent off in extra time when he picked up a second yellow card after appearing increasingly upset as the game went on. The 22-year-old German defender was consoled by Schalke’s Amine Harit.

Numerous other racist incidents have tarnished European soccer this season.

On Sunday in Portugal, Porto striker Moussa Marega was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães. Several Porto and opposition players attempted to dissuade him from walking off the field in the 71st minute, when he demanded to be substituted.