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Wenger’s Best XI as Arsenal manager

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In his 22 years as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has seen more than his share of talented players grace the field in an Arsenal kit.

From Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to Lee Dixon and Tony Adams, some of legends of the Premier League have spent some of their best years playing for Arsenal, leading Wenger to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

No less than 222 players have played under Wenger, from the Invincible greats to one-time American youth product Frank Simek and the latest debutante, Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Looking back at the last 22 years, it’s difficult to select just 11 players, but we at Pro Soccer Talk have done our best to select the defining best XI for Arsenal in the Arsene Wenger era.

Bench: David Seaman, Tony Adams, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny Freddie Ljungberg,  Gilberto Silva, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Sylvain Wiltord, Robin Van Persie

The core of the squad is made up of players from the Invincibles era, when Arsenal went 49 games unbeaten, including winning the 2003-2004 Premier League title without a defeat.

Goalkeeper: Jens Lehmann

The man who eventually replaced Oliver Kahn as the German National Team goalkeeper, Lehmann enjoyed a second wind with Arsenal after spending the first 15 years of his career mostly in Germany (outside of a year with AC Milan). Lehman saved Juan-Roman Riquelme’s penalty kick to qualify for the 2006 UEFA Champions League final, though he was sent off early for a tackle outside of the box.

Left back: Ashley Cole

Although he left for greater glory with London rivals Chelsea in 2006, from almost his debut with Arsenal, Cole was one of the best left backs in the league, bombing forward on the attack but also skilled and pacey enough to get back and defend, especially in one-on-one situations.

Centerback: Sol Campbell

After making the move across North London, Campbell was a rock for the Gunners, leading them to the Champions League final as well as the Invincibles Premier League title. In a way, the hard-as-nails defender who could play out of the back was ahead of his time. If he had been playing today, he’d likely be valued as highly as Virgil Van Dijk.

Centerback: Kolo Toure

It’s hard to remember but for a short time, Kolo was the more well-known Toure brother, as part of his impressive exploits for the Gunners. As with a lot of Arsenal players, Toure was plucked from the Ivory Coast for just around $200,000 and sold to Manchester City for $21.7 million. (And by the way, Wenger admitted he regrets missing out on signing Yaya, who was once on trial with Arsenal)

Right back: Lauren

Another rock solid defender who could also attack down the wing, Lauren played a crucial role in unseating Lee Dixon from the Arsenal lineup and leading the Gunners in their glory years. Lauren won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.

Holding midfielder: Patrick Vieira

The Frenchman was the rock, the Dwayne the Johnson in midfield for the Gunners, and you can argue that without him Arsenal has never been the same. After he was signed for $4.5 million from AC Milan in 1996, Vieira went on to become Arsenal captain and the club’s leader on and off the field, before departing for Juventus in 2005.

Central midfielder: Cesc Fabregas

Debuting at 16, Wenger’s support for Fabregas allowed one of the best playmakers in the Premier League to blossom in front of our eyes. In the 2009-2010 Premier League season, Fabregas scored 15 goals and added 13 assists. After a slightly down year (three goals, 11 assists) by his standards, he moved to Barcelona, eventually winning the UEFA Champions League, despite just failing to break into the stacked midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Left wing: Robert Pires

The Frenchman’s exploits caused oohs and aahs to fall out of the mouths of Arsenal fans as he dribbled through opponents at will, scoring the occasional goal as well to keep defenders honest. The Premier League Player of the Year in 2002, Pires was a core piece in Arsenal’s success in the early-to-mid 2000s, but departed after the Champions League defeat.

Right wing: Marc Overmars

Winner of two Premier League titles, the Dutch winger displayed excellent technical ability in addition to his pace, making him a constant threat for defenders. After signing from Ajax, Overmars made more than 100 appearances for the Gunners before he left in a big-money move to Barcelona.

Trequartista/Second Sriker: Dennis Bergkamp

The Dutchman never had blazing speed, but he didn’t need it. One of the greatest players to ever grace the Premier League, Bergkamp was at times impossible to defend, deftly making the ball go wherever he wanted and leaving defenders, and goalkeepers in his wake. Bergkamp spent his last 11 seasons as a professional with the Gunners, scoring 84 goals with 97 assists in league play.

Striker: Thierry Henry

Arguably the greatest player in the Premier League era for Arsenal – if not the whole league, Henry was an absolute revelation after Wenger signed him from Juventus and turned him into a striker. In eight seasons with the Gunners,  Henry scored 175 league goals with 74 assists, helping take Arsenal to two league titles and a Champions League final. He won the Premier League golden boot four seasons and was twice the player of the year.

Let us know who you’d have in your Arsene Wenger best Arsenal XI in the comment section below.

Ilkay Gundogan: ‘OK’ to award Liverpool Premier League title if season cancelled

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Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan believes that Liverpool have every right to be awarded the Premier League title if the the season were to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool, who haven’t lifted a top-flight title for 30 years, currently hold a 25-point lead over second-best City, and are two wins away from officially sealing the title.

“For me, that would be okay, yes,” Gundogan told German broadcaster ZDF, after being asked if Liverpool should be named champions if the season were to end early.

Despite believing that awarding Jurgen Klopp and company the title is the fair thing to do, the Germany international is concerned that the cancellation of the league will not only backfire on the top threshold teams but those on the bottom end of the table as well.

“You have to be fair as a sportsperson,” the 29-year-old said. “There are different opinions. For clubs who have had a very good season, it obviously wouldn’t be nice if it was cancelled now.”

“On the other hand, for clubs who aren’t doing as well and are maybe in the relegation places, an abandonment would obviously suit them.”

Gundogan added he’d be open to taking a wage-cut should City and other English clubs follow Juventus and Borussia Dortmund’s lead in asking players to trim their earnings in order to play non-playing staff.

Of course I think it’s okay, that goes without saying, [but] there’s been no discussion in England yet,” Gundogan said. “Perhaps that’s because the English clubs are a bit financially stronger than the clubs in Germany at the moment.

“I don’t know who has the final say in that decision. On the other hand, if a player says, ‘no, I don’t want that, I worked hard for it, I get my salary,’ then it can go in the opposite direction.

“For me personally, it would be okay but, to be honest, you have to be tolerant and if there are players who are against that, then that’s also an acceptable situation.

Harry Kane fails to rule out future Tottenham exit

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Harry Kane won’t rule out a future Tottenham exit, admitting that it largely depends on lifting silverware with his boyhood club.

Asked by Jamie Redknapp on an Instagram live session whether he would end his playing career at Spurs, the 26-year-old striker responded that it all depends on the “progress of the team” and added that he’s not the type of person to be somewhere just for the sake of being there.

In other words, he wants to win titles with Spurs, soon. If not, his days in north London may be numbered.

It’s one of those things, I couldn’t say yes, I couldn’t say no,” Kane told Redknapp on Sunday. “I love Spurs, I’ll always love Spurs. But it’s one of those things – I’ve always said if I don’t feel we’re progressing as a team or going in the right direction, then I’m not someone to just stay there for the sake of it.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” he added. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

Kane, along with his teammates at the time, got the short end of the stick under Mauricio Pochettino, losing a Champions League final and a League Cup final. The striker is aware that Spurs, top to bottom, have – and have had – the firepower to lift silverware but need the final push, which they may unlock under proven winner Jose Mourinho.

“We’ve been saying that for a couple of years now,” says Kane, “we have got a fantastic team but for one reason or another we haven’t been able to get the trophies that, when you look from the outside, we’ve got the team to get.”

“It’s a hard thing to take as a player. I want to win at everything I do so when we’re coming close and you don’t quite get there it’s hard to take and starts to build up. But from my point of view, and the team’s point of view, all you can do is do everything you can, give your best to win every game, to win trophies. For one reason or another, we haven’t quite got there yet.

“Next year, the gaffer now, it’ll be his first chance to really have a pre-season with the team and embed his values into the team and we’ll see what happens. Of course, I want to win, I want to win team trophies, I want to be doing it sooner rather than later. So we will have to see how it goes.”

Kane, who is third on Spurs’ all-time scoring list, is fond of Mourinho, a manager he grew up watching and respects. The strike admits they chat on a regular basis about soccer and a plethora of other subjects, but is aware that if Spurs want to reap all the benefits from having him onboard, the players will need to leave it all on the field.

“He came in and what you see is what you get,” Kane said. “He’s an honest guy – he’ll tell you if you’re doing things well or if you’re not. If he likes you he’ll tell you and if he doesn’t like you he’ll tell you.

“From my point of view, I have built a good relationship with him. We talk every few days or so, talk about all different things, talk about the team, when we were playing, what we can do, how we can improve.

“For me, it’s great to work under a manager like Jose. Obviously growing up, watching football, he was a big part of that. It’s another opportunity for me to work with one of the best managers in the world.

“I’m excited to see how that relationship unfolds and see what we can do on the pitch. So far he’s been great and I know he’s excited to put his stamp on the team when he gets his opportunity.

“When a manager like him comes in and you know he’s won everywhere, I’m sure he has no intentions to not do that at Spurs. From a player’s point of view we know we have a top, top manager, so it’s up to us to go out there and perform.”

What we love about West Ham United

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Tottenham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This afternoon, we forge ahead with the Irons, the Hammers, the West Ham United Football Club.

The Bubbles: Let’s be honest here, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” is one of the coolest song/gesture combinations in world football. The bubbles floating across the field as the Irons seek three points is *chef’s kiss.*

The Academy of Football: Current captain Mark Noble is the latest in a long line of celebrated footballers to come out of West Ham’s Academy. And there are some giants in there, including the subject of our next topic Sir Bobby Moore. West Ham has produced Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Paul Ince, Trevor Brooking, and Frank Lampard Senior and Junior.

West Ham United
Frank Lampard and Joe Cole (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)




Sir Bobby Moore: Can you believe we’ve got a member of the Carolina Lightnin’ on this list? Obscure American soccer jokes aside, Mr. West Ham didn’t just captain the club but also the national team that won England’s only World Cup (West Ham legends Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were also on the team). Moore is one of the greatest defenders of all-time, having played more than 500 times for West Ham in addition to his status as a centurion for the Three Lions. A Ballon d’Or runner-up in 1970, “Sir Bobby” was an absolute monster of the game. Plus, he was in “Escape to Victory.”

West Ham United
The Bobby Moore statue outside Wembley Stadium (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Mark Noble: There’s something remarkable about everyman Mark Noble, and not because the 32-year-old finishes penalties like a surgeon and looks like the definitive everyman. Doesn’t he give hope to every average-built person on earth? Poor Mark is five appearances from 500 for his career, and will likely meet that milestone by the end of this season, presuming it comes! His 60 goals are seven shy of Carlton Cole’s modern West Ham standard of 67, while his 59 assists lap the field.

Noble (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Juventus players, staff set to sacrifice up to $100M in wages

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Juventus players and coaches have agreed to forego pay for March, April, May, and June to the tune of approximately $100 million.

The Old Lady has been hit internally by coronavirus, with players Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi, and Daniele Rugani testing positive for COVID-19.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Italian football federation chief Gabriele Gravina has become a worldwide name during the COVID-19 crisis, and praised the move by Juve’s players and staff (via Football-Italia).

“The agreement reached by Juventus is an example for the whole system. I thank Giorgio Chiellini, his teammates and Maurizio Sarri because, in wake of the collaboration that the FIGC hopes to have in days, they placed general interests at the heart of their conversations with the club.

“Unity and solidarity in the world of football represent the first great response to the emergency we’re experiencing, and that risks becoming even more serious if we don’t resume playing soon. Only through the contribution of all the protagonists, each of them playing their part, will we make football stronger.”

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