The shutdown of soccer in Switzerland has cost two former Arsenal players their jobs.
After reportedly refusing to take a paycut, FC Sion in the Swiss Super League announced that it had fired nine players, including defender Johan Djourou and Alexandre Song. Also included is Swiss National Team midfielder Pajtim Kasami, Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia, and club captain, Xavier Kouassi. Kouassi also formerly played for the New England Revolution.
According to a report in Switzerland newspaper Blick with quotes from Djourou, the players were asked to sign new contracts, with less than 24 hours notice, that would have significantly cut their wages. The report states the players were asked to sign a contract that would have provided them a maximum of 12,350 francs, or around $12,521 in salary. It’s unclear whether that’s a yearly salary or monthly, though it’s the same as the maximum available in unemployment insurance.
According to Djourou, the players as a whole rejected the request from upper management, but it ended with nine players losing their jobs. Internally, Djourou said, the players had discussed donating some wages to the staff, as the whole club struggles in this crisis. Djourou only joined Sion in January and played just once before suffering another injury.
The Swiss Super League has been suspended since March 1, when the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in response to the spread of the new Coronavirus.
Song and Djourou were teammates at Arsenal between 2005 and 2012.
Bayern Munich 4-0 Hannover 96 The reigning champs are now four points clear of the field after getting a brace each from Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski. The former now has three goals in Bundesliga play, while the latter has four. Bayern attempted 23 shots, 19 crosses and 11 corner kicks. Hannover’s totals? Six, nine and one. Domination.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Paderborn The newly-promoted darlings put together another impressive performance, twice taking the lead at Bayern on goals by Suleyman Koc and Moritz Stoppelkamp. But Lars Bender and freshly-minted German national teamer Karim Bellarabi found late-half goals to snag a point.
Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Hamburger SV What the heck is going on with Jurgen Klopp’s troops? Sure, Dortmund played in the UEFA Champions League this week, but to lose at home to previously-winless Hamburg? Pierre-Michel Lasogga netted in the 35th minute, and it was all they would need to pick up three valuable points, leaping out of the basement thanks to some big defense from Johan Djourou and company.
Hoffenheim 2-1 Schalke Alright, alright, alright… Hoffenheim is second in the Bundesliga, at least for a day, after scoring twice early before holding on through a late Klaas-Jan Huntelaar goal to beat the UEFA Champions League side. Hoffe is one of four Bundesliga teams still undefeated this season (Bayern, Monchengladbach, Mainz).
Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 FC Koln — USMNT’s Timmy Chandler an 89th minute sub for winners
Werder Bremen 1-1 Freiburg — Last place Bremen still winless after draw No. 4.
Hertha Berlin 3-2 Stuttgart — Salomon Kalou scored his 2nd and 3rd Bundesliga goals in the win.
Wolfsburg vs. Augsburg — Sunday, 930am ET Monchengladbach vs. Mainz — Sunday, 1130 am ET
With Hamburg trailing Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime 1-0, the recently troubled club has broken the Bundesliga record for most minutes to start a season without a goal.
The previous record was 474 minutes, held by VfL Bochum in the 1979/80 season. Oddly enough, Hamburg won the league title that year, and Bochum ended up midtable with 32 points in 34 matches.
UPDATE: Nicolai Müller scored in the 58th minute to break the streak at 508 minutes and equalize at 1-1. In typical Hamburg fashion, they lost in stoppage time on this peach of a free kick by a Chelsea loanee.
The goal means HSV are officially the last club in any of Europe’s big five leagues to score.
Julian Green is on loan with the club, although he was not in the squad for today’s match with Frankfurt due to a rib injury. Premier League fans will recognize a few names with HSV, including Lewis Holtby and Johan Djourou.
Holtby was sent on loan to Hamburg from parent club Tottenham, just days before manager Mirko Slomka was fired. It’s the second time that has happened to the 24-year-old attacker, who went on loan last season to Fulham just before manager Rene Meulensteen was fired. Meulensteen was replaced by Felix Magath, whom Holtby had a strained relationship with.
Djourou is a former Arsenal defender, and is part of a defense that has allowed just seven goals so far this season.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do a thing up front, and therefore have laid claim to a record they won’t want. The club also brought in Hertha striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga – who is goalless in seven appearances – Mainz winger Nicolai Müller, and Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami this summer, but none have made an impact at the front.
The club narrowly avoided relegation last year in a one-game playoff, but things appear to be dire for them on their second life.
Arsenal are set to make a title charge in 2014-15 after they started brightly last time out but faded badly. Arsene Wenger has spent big in the transfer market (nearly $100 million) and with Alexis Sanchez arriving up front, Gunners fans could have a new cult hero. Other top players such as Sami Khedira continue to be linked with a move to the Emirates as the frugal past has been cast aside.
Last season the North Londoners came close to shocking everyone as they lead the Premier League standings for over half the season. However a small squad, injuries and loss of form led to a dramatic capitulation which saw them hang onto fourth place late in the season as they managed to quell the threat of Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. Winning the FA Cup by beating Hull City, 3-2 in extra time, was the icing on the cake as Wenger signed a new deal after clinching his first piece of silverware in nine long years. More is expected this term.
Last season: The Gunners finished fourth last season. That meant they qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the 18th straight season but it was a story of ‘what could have been’ for Arsene Wenger’s side as they led the Premier League up until January. Injuries, a loss of form and balancing a small squad took its toll but they did pick up a first piece of silverware in nine years, with the FA Cup in hand. Here is a recap of their 2013-14 season.
Star player: Alexis Sanchez
Just like they did last summer by bringing in Mesut Ozil, Arsenal splashed the cash to bring in a genuine superstar. Sanchez, 25, has shone for Barcelona over the past few seasons and his performances for Chile during the World Cup showcased his supreme talent. His incredible pace, eye for goal and ability to play in a variety of attacking positions means he should slot in with Arsenal well. The big question mark is whether or not Sanchez adapts to the physicality of the Premier League straight away. If he does, he has all the attributes to be one of the top strikers in the league. Arsenal have been lacking that, Olivier Giroud’s purple patches aside, ever since Thierry Henry left.
Coaches’ Corner:Arsene Wenger
Many thought the 64-year-old Frenchman wouldn’t be in charge of Arsenal this season as he kept everyone waiting regarding his new deal. Now that Wenger is around for the foreseeable future, the Gunners can concentrate on improving the squad and trying to add more silverware to their collection. The longest-serving manager in the PL will continue to develop the beautiful flowing soccer he has fostered over the past two decades, while adding a steely core.
PST predicts: Arsenal have strengthened in key areas and will be a force at the top of the table. With Manchester City not spending much, Liverpool and Chelsea bringing in plenty of new players and the likes of Manchester United still figuring things out, Wenger’s men see themselves as serious title contenders. For the first time in a few years optimism levels are remarkably high around the Emirates Stadium. Expect Arsenal to put definitely in the top four at the end of the season, however a title may be just beyond them this season. Top four.
The French controlled Switzerland through and through, and from the very start it was clear not “if” but “by how much” would be the appropriate question.
Les Bleus hit twice in the first 20 minutes, as Olivier Giroud powered in a header and Blaise Matuidi took advantage of a Swiss mistake, and they never looked back, putting themselves on the brink of a place in the final 16.
From the very start of the game it was clear who would be the most dangerous, and Giroud put them up in the 17th minute. Off a corner kick, he powered in a header from a good distance out, and it split the difference between Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and the near-post defender Ricardo Rodriguez.
Just a minute later, the restart saw a back pass from Valon Behrami go horribly wrong, and it was intercepted by Karim Benzema. The striker found Blaise Matuidi coming down the left flank, and the PSG midfielder struck home between Benaglio and the near post for a second goal just 67 seconds after the first.
From there the French never looked back, and Switzerland looked shell-shocked for the rest of the match.
Granit Xhaka thought he’d pulled one back after the initial shock, but his header off a 27th minute free kick was ruled out for offsides.
La Nati did have a few chances, but nothing came of them. Their best came in the 30th minute, when a straight-on Admir Mehmedi shot was kept out by Hugo Lloris. The rebound fell to Xherdan Shaqiri who ripped a bouncer across the face of goal, but Lloris dove expertly and got a fingertip to the shot, which trickled just wide and out of the reach of Haris Seferovic streaking to the far post.
Despite the few moments of brightness, the Swiss didn’t look like they were going to make anything of the first half, and the French put them away with a third before the break.
They had one chance to do so which wasn’t taken, when Johan Djourou played a mind-boggling tackle on Benzema was the ball was trickling out of play, a clear penalty which the referee gave. Benzema’s spot-kick was saved, however, and Yohan Cabaye blasted the rebound off the crossbar.
Les Blues would find their triple, however, on a corner-kick counter. Switzerland’s try from the flag found only French feet, and Raphael Varane played Giroud in down the left touchline. Giroud, already with a goal to his name, shared the wealth to Mathieu Valbuena in the box, and he struck home the chance with ease.
The second half was just a formality at this point, and the French were happy to sit back and deny the Swiss any serious chances. They shut up shop for good with a half-hour left as manager Didier Deschamps removed Giroud in favor of midfielder Paul Pogba.
Well…we thought they shut up shop. They added a fourth just for fun when Matuidi delivered a perfect ball into the box, and Benzema beat Philippe Senderos with a scissor kick through Benaglio’s legs.
And another, for Moussa Sissoko after Benzema found him in space on the right edge of the box and the Newcastle midfielder picked up his first international goal with a shot across the face inside the far post.
Switzerland got a pair of consolations to destroy France’s clean sheet, and they’ll feel a little better after taking advantage of France’s let off at the end. The first came on a free kick by substitute Blerim Dzemaili that trickled under the way and past a diving Lloris for a slow-rolling goal. With three minutes to go, Gokhan Inler poked a ball over the French defense for Granit Xhaka to finish with a quality volley.
France may have even had six, had the referee not blown
With a pair of dominating wins, the French look a lock to move into the knockout round, if not a mathematical guarantee. They would go through with an Ecuador win or draw against Honduras this evening.