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What we love about Arsenal

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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 first up it is Arsenal.

[ 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.

Time to focus on the Gunners.


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Their sense of history: When it comes to Arsenal, there’s a stench of history about them. From the marble entrance hall at Highbury to their famous wave before games from the center of the pitch, they’ve always done things slightly differently and have appreciated tradition more than most clubs. Like all stadiums nowadays there are statues and walls dedicated to former legends but Arsenal just do it a lot better than most. Their legends truly live on. We love that.

The Invincibles: Who can forget the Arsenal Invincibles from 2003-04? Arsene Wenger created one of the greatest teams in history as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp scored the goals, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg created and the likes of Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell and Jens Lehman held things together in defense and midfield. The only team to go through an entire English league season undefeated, the Invincibles will always be the first team you think of when you think of Arsenal.

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Arsene Wenger and the French Connection: Mr Wenger transformed the English game when he arrived in 1996 with his tiny spectacles and baggy gray suits. The Frenchman also had plenty of compatriots around him too, as an invasion of French superstars took the Premier League, and England, by storm in the coming years. The drinking culture evaporated within the game and yoga, healthy eating and passing the ball became the norm. The thing we love most about Arsenal is that they, more than any other Premier League club, have had the biggest impact in designing the modern game we love today.

Passion of the ‘Gooner’ faithful: Now, there’s no doubt that your average Gooner is as passionate a fan as you will find. That passion often escalates to rage, especially in recent years. From fans getting together to start up their own post-game TV show to winning every online poll known to mankind, fans of Arsenal are incessantly devoted to their club. Are they the most forgiving set of fans on the planet? Absolutely not. In the good times and the bad they are willing to take a stand to show their displeasure and call for change if they think its necessary. How can you not admire that?

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Premier League suspended until April 30; ‘extended indefinitely’

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The 2019-20 Premier League season has been postponed until April 30 at the earliest but all parties involved have agreed that the current campaign should be ‘extended indefinitely.’

After a conference call meeting between Premier League clubs on Thursday about the best course of action to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, a statement was released in conjunction with the English FA, the English Football League and the women’s professional game in the UK.

Previously the Premier League season was due to begin again on April 3 but due to the coronavirus pandemic escalating in the UK in recent days, the decision has been taken that no games will be played until the end of April and that the season will be extended as long as possible.

Below is that statement in full from the Premier League:

English professional football bodies’ thoughts are with all affected by COVID-19 and are united in finding ways to resume 2019/20 season as soon as it is safe. The FA, Premier League, EFL and women’s professional game, together with the PFA and LMA, understand we are in unprecedented times and our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19. 

We are united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019/20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so. We have collectively supported UEFA in postponing EURO 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.

The FA’s Rules and Regulations state that “the season shall terminate not later than the 1 June” and “each competition shall, within the limit laid down by The FA, determine the length of its own playing season”.

However, The FA’s Board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019/20 season in relation to Professional Football. Additionally, we have collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than 30 April.

The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear and we can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority. We will continue to follow Government advice and work collaboratively to keep the situation under review and explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow.  We would all like to re-emphasise that our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19.

Atalanta grateful to give Champions League joy to coronavirus-hit Bergamo

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Atalanta is dedicating its UEFA Champions League advancement to those suffering from the coronavirus scare back home in Italy.

Josip Ilicic scored four times Tuesday as La Dea outlasted Valencia 4-3 in Spain and 8-4 on aggregate to clinch its first berth in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Club vice president Luca Percassi has been enraptured with the club’s success, which has escalated along with COVID-19 fears back home.

From Football-Italia:

“We received so many messages from all over Bergamo and Italy, not just the football world. This is a difficult time for the city, the region and the country, so we are glad to have given people two hours of entertainment and spectacle.

“There are no secrets to our success, we simply dedicate so much passion, hard work and determination into this club, because the city deserves it. We wanted to thank the city and show them what can be achieved in this difficult moment.”

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini said the club was inspired by the support of those back home.

Bergamo isn’t even a Top-30 city in Italy by population, but 1,245 people — about 10 percent of its populace — have been diagnosed with coronavirus. This Sky report details how terrible it’s been in Bergamo.

“We know so many people were watching us from Bergamo and received many messages, including the director of the hospital, so we are glad that we gave them a moment of joy,” Gasperini said.

Atalanta has a hold on fourth place in Serie A in a bid to return to the Champions League, three points more than Roma with a match-in-hand.

More Bundesliga protests: Fans slam German soccer federation

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BERLIN — There were more widespread protests at Bundesliga games over the weekend as fans vented their anger with the German soccer federation.

Bayern Munich ultras also took aim at their own team’s management on Sunday as they criticized chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for his strong reaction to protests the weekend before and questioned their club’s ongoing sponsorship links to Qatar.

Supporters around the country showed their inventive side as they displayed witty banners addressing a host of issues without resorting to the personal insults against Hoffenheim billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp that led to games being stopped the previous weekend.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The federation had warned that a repeat of the insults or banners with cross hairs would lead to games being suspended and potentially called off.

There was chaos in the league last week when fans targeted Hopp and the federation, which had instructed referees to use FIFA’s three-step procedure for dealing with the abuse – a measure originally developed for combating racism. It almost led to the abandonment of two games after referees went to Step 2.

Union Berlin president Dirk Zingler criticized the federation in an interview with Die Welt newspaper on Friday, saying it had lost touch with the majority of supporters in Germany and that its authority was damaged after years of scandals.

Federation presidents Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Reinhard Grindel were all forced to step down amid corruption allegations before former Freiburg president Fritz Keller took over last year.

“If (the federation) believes that it can treat people and organizations like it has for the last 10 or 20 years, then it doesn’t work,” Zingler said.

The federation said Friday that it had gone too far in implementing the three-step procedure and that criticism from fans should be permitted as long as it wasn’t hateful or defamatory.

The supporters needed no second invitation.

Mainz fans said the federation’s priorities were skewed.

“World Cup arranged through bribery, presented as a fairy tale, slavery ignored, racism talked away, and now unashamedly courting an insulted billionaire,” read a banner during Mainz’s game with Fortuna Dusseldorf on Sunday. “Every value is all the same. Whoever has money has the morals!”

Rummenigge was a target for describing the previous weekend’s protests as the “grotesque face of soccer.”

In Dortmund, fans held pictures of Rummenigge, Hopp, federation president Fritz Keller and others with red clown noses behind a banner saying “The grotesque faces of soccer.”

Hertha Berlin fans held banners saying “Bribes, collective punishments, deaths in Qatar. It’s clear who the grotesque face of football is.”

Freiburg fans criticized Keller, who was president of their club before he took over at the federation: “Back to collective punishments. Racism relativized. Deliberately escalated. Fritz Keller – nothing understood.”

They also said the federation was Hopp’s soccer federation.

Schalke fans apologized to prostitutes for linking them to Hopp, and they criticized their own club’s stated stance on discrimination while failing to properly address racist comments made by Schalke chairman Clemens Tonnies at the beginning of the season.

Bayern supporters showed a banner with the federation’s logo crossed out and a list of complaints against it: Collective punishment, unfair ticket prices, video assistance in games, the loosening of the 50-plus-1 rule to protect clubs from investor takeovers, the banning of pyrotechnics at games and more.

The Bayern fans also criticized Rummenigge.

“The very grotesque face of Bayern is shown by those who take blood money from Qatar and Co.,” a banner read.

They could be the last protests for some time. Fears over the spread of the coronavirus are likely to see the next set of games go ahead without spectators.

Marseille striker Benedetto wears swim cap after head injury

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Marseille striker Dario Benedetto came off the field with blood pouring from a head wound, and went back on wearing a swimming cap in his side’s 2-2 home draw against struggling Amiens on Friday.

The bizarre scene happened after he clashed heads early on with an Amiens defender. After briefly receiving treatment, Benedetto ran back on with a tight-fitting blue cap covering his wounded head.

Marseille’s reputed “Cercle des Nageurs” swim club has trained former Olympic champions, the siblings Florent Manaudou and Laure Manaudou, as well as former world champion Camille Lacourt.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Benedetto kept his cap on for the rest of the French league game, but failed to add to his club-leading 11 league goals as second-placed Marseille carelessly threw away a 2-0 lead after goals from midfielders Morgan Sanson and Dimitri Payet.

Amiens replied in the 84th thanks to forward Serhou Guirassy’s penalty and equalized in the fifth minute of injury time through Iran midfielder Saman Ghoddos.

Marseille forward Valere Germain was at fault, naively trying to lead his side to a third goal with 30 seconds left, rather than just kicking the ball out.

Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas was sent off as he protested angrily to referee Francois Letexier after the final whistle.

Yet his players were squarely to blame.

“It’s not possible. We can’t complain about the referee,” Marseille’s Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman said. “If you want to play the Champions League, you can’t play this way.”

Marseille trails Paris Saint-Germain by 12 points, but remains favorite to qualify directly for next season’s Champions League. Marseille leads third-placed Rennes by nine points with 10 rounds remaining after this weekend.

PSG’s game Strasbourg on Saturday was called off following a decree from the Alsace city prefecture because of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, the roof at Stade Pierre-Mauroy will remain open even if it rains when Lille hosts Lyon.

The coronavirus reached 577 cases in France by Friday afternoon, with nine deaths.