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Hodgson labels Watford mascot “a disgrace” after mocking Zaha

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Ahead of Crystal Palace’s match on Sunday against Watford, Palace boss Roy Hodgson has dug up old dirt on Watford mascot Harry the Hornet, warning the costumed man to behave himself.

The Watford mascot famously fell to the ground in 2016 while walking past Zaha to mock the Palace man who received a yellow card for a dive earlier in the match. The incident occurred after the match and drew a sarcastic clap from Zaha who did not take kindly to the incident.

[ LIVE STREAM: Watford vs. Crystal Palace on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET ]

“Zaha does not dive,” said Hodgson during his pre-match press conference. “If you’re asking me whether Harry the Hornet, who I presume is the mascot, should dive in that way, I think it’s disgraceful, because that’s not what football matches are about. And certainly if it’s provoking the crowd into looking for something that’s not there, it should be stopped.”

At the time, Zaha was asked if there was “an agenda against him” to which the Palace winger responded, “I feel that there totally is.”

“It was definitely a penalty,” Zaha said back in 2016. “I was so shocked when the ref told me it was a dive. What was funny was after the game – even though it makes no difference – was that he [Adrian Mariappa] has actually gone: ‘I’ll be honest, Wilf, it was actually a pen.'”

Then-manager of Palace Sam Allardyce called the incident “out of order” but the club was not punished by the Football Association.

Mkhitaryan: Emery building Arsenal ‘right way’

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Unai Emery may still be far from winning over the majority of Arsenal supporters, but count midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a convert.

Arsenal has lost both of its matches to start life under Emery, albeit to Manchester City and Chelsea.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

But it manufactured a lot more chances in the 3-2 loss to Chelsea, and could be argued as the better team on the day.

“Emery kept the philosophy of Wenger but is building something new on it,” Mkhitaryan told Sky Sports.

“He knows he can give something different to this club, like the balance between attack and defence. It’s not easy but I think he’s doing it in the right way.”

Mkhitaryan says the Gunners can also take heart in buying into a bigger picture. They could go Sam Allardyce and just lump it, and maybe get better results.

“If we are just going to kick the ball up front and wait for God to give us a chance to score, it’s not necessary (to build a philosophy).”

God, the Gunners are waiting on you.

Season Preview: Can Silva ‘fix’ Everton?

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Everton at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (English First Division titles – 9)

FA Cups: 5 (1906, 1933, 1966, 1984, 1995)

League Cups: 2 (1977, 1984)

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For the better part of the last 15 years, Everton have attempted — every which way imaginable — to burst through the glass ceiling that is the Premier League’s top-six (previously the top-four before Tottenham Hotspur’s rise to stability and Liverpool’s return to elite status). At first, they simply outworked their opponents (while spending next to nothing) under David Moyes; Roberto Martinez was supposed to bring about a free-flowing, attacking revolution (on a slightly larger budget); 12 months ago, Ronald Koeman was supposed to meld the two philosophies together (after spending spending more than $200 million in the transfer market).

Ultimately, all three came up short, each one failing more spectacularly than his predecessor. You can’t say, however, that the Toffees haven’t gone for it, that they’ve been happy to sit idly by and live a comfortable, unambitious life as a perennial top-half side in the PL. Of course, it’s where they’ve most commonly finished over the last decade and a half, but it hasn’t been without aiming higher.

In 2018-19, under the leadership of new manager Marco Silva (he’s more Martinez than Moyes, but with less PL experience than Koeman), the goal remains the same, but just as difficult — and unlikely — to achieve. Farhad Moshiri has owned the club for two and a half years now, and despite pumping nine figures into it (via transfer fees alone, not even including his investment as the club moves toward building a new stadium), the ceiling appears more opaque than ever before.


Everton could push for top-six because… Silva has shown (in a half-season at Watford, albeit) that he’s tactically astute and can piece together a formidable attacking unit. The jury is still out on whether or not he can set up a defense, but that’s where much of Everton’s experience lies, so the idea appears to be to rely upon them outperforming expectations and finishing bang in the middle of the goals-conceded column, at which point a positive goal differential is actually possible (-14 last season).

Everton will fall out of the top-half because…. all of the fancy, expensive pieces just don’t fit together/are redundant. Alongside Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson is arguably the most talented player on the roster (he should be, considering he cost $52 million last summer), but for the last few seasons he’s been the common denominator in a number of teams without any semblance of midfield balance. Richarlison and Theo Walcott aren’t going to cover up his defensive deficiencies out wide, at which point you’re asking an awful lot (read: absolutely everything) of Idrissa Gueye, who’s very good, but only about 75 percent of N'Golo Kante.

Best possible XI:

Pickford

Martina — Keane — Jagielka — Digne

Sigurdsson — Gueye — Davies

Walcott — Niasse — Richarlison

Transfers In: Richarlison ($45 million, Watford), Lucas Digne ($23 million, Barcelona)

Transfers Out: Wayne Rooney (free), Ramiro Funes Mori (undisclosed, Villarreal), Joel Robles (free), Davy Klaassen (undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: B-

After lighting $225 million on fire last summer, one would imagine there wasn’t a ton of money to be spent this time around — nor was it needed — though Silva clearly earmarked Richarlison as a must-have marquee signing. Lucas Digne was tabbed to become one of the world’s best left backs as recently as three years ago, but it hasn’t quite happened for him at Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona. 

Star player: Richarlison was the PL’s “Wait, who’s he?” breakout star during Silva’s six months at Watford. Equally adept at winning the ball in the air and dribbling past defenders, the 21-year-old possesses an especially unique blend of skills that Silva clearly values and knows how to maximize. 

Coach’s Corner: If not for Ronald Koeman’s untimely departure last October, Silva might still be the manager at Watford. Silva didn’t make any bones about wanting the Everton job, though, which ultimately led to his dismissal by a quick trigger finger a couple months later. The squad, as it exists now, plays perfectly to Silva’s strengths and ideas as a manager, but we already knew he could set a team out to attack and entertain. It’s the other part — the defending — that he struggles with, and that Everton struggled with last season (58 goals conceded, 7th-most, even after six months under Sam Allardyce).

PST Predicts: They have the seventh-best squad in the PL, and they’re so predictably — and boringly — likely to finish with the seventh-most points in the PL this season. Outside of the “big six” finishing 1-6, Everton finishing 7th is the safest bet one could make.

England keen to extend Southgate’s contract

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LONDON (AP) England manager Gareth Southgate‘s employers want him to extend his contract beyond the end of the 2020 European Championship.

Southgate’s popularity with the fans rocketed last month when England reached the semifinals of the World Cup, where the team was beaten by Croatia.

[ MORE: Juve beats MLS All-Stars in PKs ]

He was handed a four-year deal by his Football Association employers in November 2016, after taking over from Sam Allardyce.

“Gareth has been excellent, we’d like him to stay beyond 2020,” FA chief executive Martin Glenn said on Wednesday. “I think we’d both like that, but … he’s on holiday now, so we’ll talk when he comes back.”

Southgate, 47, was previously manager of Middlesbrough and the England Under-21 side.

Walker: Southgate ‘backbone of this team; man’s a gentleman’

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Oh, the difference 24 months can make.

[ MORE: Deschamps: EURO heartbreak drives France to World Cup final ]

The entire footballing world could infer pretty safely that the vibe surrounding the England camp had changed massively between the time the Three Lions were eliminated from the 2016 European Championship — at the hands of Iceland — and Wednesday, when Gareth Southgate‘s side was defeated by Croatia in the semifinal of the 2018 World Cup.

Following Wednesday’s heartbreaking failure, Kyle Walker, who was in the squad and on the field when the full-time whistle blew and England were effectively embarrassed after losing in such hopeless fashion, spoke passionately of the 180-degree turnaround in terms of belief and support that he has witnessed over two years, and that he felt in the moments immediately following the end of extra time — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was there in France, in the Iceland game, and it was completely different to that. For them to still be singing when we’re seeing friends and families, chanting our names and singing the manager’s name, is completely different. And I think we need to take full credit for that because we’ve changed that.

“I think the football has brought the nation together, people are going to pubs and celebrating, and that’s what football should be about. It’s enjoyable, we all love to play the game and fans love to support it. So it’s hats off to us. It’s unlucky we couldn’t bring it home for them, but hopefully there’s time in the future.”

“There’s nothing better, when people are writing you off and saying, ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt,’ slagging people off, it’s kind of saying: ‘Well, there you go, have that back at you.’ But we do it for ourselves as well.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to share the dressing room with these players. We’ve all grown up watching England, and to represent your country at a semifinal of a World Cup, there’s no better feeling.”

[ MORE: Mourinho: England needs to keep coaches for next World Cup ]

As for Southgate, to hear Walker tell it, there’s not a single person in the locker room that wouldn’t run through a brick wall for him.

“The man’s a gentleman. That’s the best way to describe him. He’s been in our shoes. He relates to us massively. He knows what to say at the right time. And he makes you feel like you’re the best player in the world. He gives you that confidence, and I think that he needs to take the most credit out of everyone of us.

“We’re the guys who are running on the pitch, but he’s the backbone of this team. He’s made sure that everyone has stuck together through good and bad moments, and made sure our feet stayed on the floor. I can’t put into words how much credit he deserves for this.

And to think, Southgate only wound up in the job — one he pretty openly and firmly stated he didn’t want — because Sam Allardyce incriminated himself in a newspaper sting operation after 67 days on the job.

Southgate was the England U-21 manager at the time. Fast-forward 22 months, and he’s a near-lock to receive a four-year contract and be tasked with leading his country through the upcoming EURO and World Cup cycles.