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Man City v. Arsenal postponed; affected players homebound

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Coronavirus fears have caused the postponement of another fixture, and the sequestering of several Arsenal players.

This time it’s the Mikel Arteta-Pep Guardiola reunion at the Etihad Stadium that will have to wait for another date.

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Manchester City and Arsenal announced the postponement of Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET kickoff.

Several Gunners players made contact with Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis, who has contacted COVID-19, when the sides met in the Europa League.

From Arsenal.com:

We identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game.

The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact. …

The players will remain at their homes until the 14-day period expires. Four Arsenal staff, who were sitting close to Mr Marinakis during the match will also remain at home until the 14 days are complete.

The incident was 13 days ago, so players will be free to rejoin their teammates on Thursday.

Wow.

The match had already been rescheduled due to the FA Cup, and there are very few openings left on the calendar for a second reschedule date.

From ManCity.com:

Manchester City FC wishes Mr Marinakis a speedy recovery, and further information will follow in the coming days about rescheduled dates, but supporters are advised not to travel to Etihad Stadium for this fixture.

More coronavirus connections to football:

Wolves’ Europa League match in Greece closed to fans

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The first leg of Wolves’ Europa League tie with Olympiacos will be played behind closed doors, the club announced Monday.

The Greek government “enforced the temporary suspension of spectators attending sporting events” due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and would not make an exception for the match.

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The short notice is brutal for traveling fans, who would’ve already scrambled to make last-minute arrangements to get to Greece after the Feb. 28 draw.

That’s the world we’re living in, though, and health comes first.

From Wolves.co.uk:

“Unfortunately, the decision has now been confirmed and all parties must submit to the official ruling imposed by the relevant Greek authorities.

“We share the disappointment of all of our supporters who will be affected by this decision, and can confirm that all match ticket refunds will be processed over the next 48 hours.”

Thursday’s first leg kicks off at 4 p.m. ET, while the return leg at the Molineux is a 1:55 p.m. ET kickoff on March 19. Wolves visit West Ham United between the Round of 16 legs.

Mikel Arteta reacts after Arsenal extends shutout streak

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Arsenal’s last three opponents have hardly recalled Barcelona in its prime, but there’s no doubt Mikel Arteta will be happy to see the Gunners’ clean sheet streak hit three.

Mikel Arteta’s latest triumph is a 1-0 win over stingy Olympiacos in Greece, and Arsenal did not concede a single big chance on the day according to Sofascore.

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Arsenal entered the day having blanked Burnley at Turf Moor and Newcastle United in London to run its shutout streak to 270 minutes.

Given that the Gunners allowed 28 goals in a 14-match run without a clean sheet that stretched from Oct. 21 to Dec. 21, that’s good stuff.

Here’s Arteta, via Football.London:

“I told them they have to enjoy defending. If you give the ball away you better run back. The team instead of splitting are coming together and the wide players are doing different things than before. It’s a big effort.”

Arteta seems to have a perfect storm going for him. He’s one manager removed from Arsene Wenger, somewhat clear of the looming legend but also connected to him by his status as a former player.

He’s also, of course, linked to Pep Guardiola, and there’s more than a hint of the Man City boss in Arteta’s press conferences.

Take his words on the match in Pireaus on Thursday.

“It’s tough to come to a stadium like this and come away with a win. There are some great things for our development as a team. The first 10 minutes we suffered and were completely poor.”

Soon he’s going to be saying they were “so, so good” and perhaps even rocking a bulky sweater. We doubt he’ll be shaving that jet black mane of hair any time soon, though.

Lacazette gives Arsenal first leg in Greece

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Alexandre Lacazette scored the lone goal as Arsenal beat hosts Olympiacos 1-0 in the first leg of a Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

The second leg is Feb. 27 at the Emirates Stadium, four days after the Gunners host Carlo Ancelotti and Everton in Premier League play.

Lacazette now has eight goals in 24 appearances for Arsenal this season.

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Lacazette missed a big early chance from close range, Gabriel Martinelli deprived of a near-certain assist.

Fortunately for Lacazette, he got a second bite at the apple and smashed it home with a vengeance. Bukayo Saka continued his impressive debut season by assisting the goal.

It was an even match, as Olympiacos continued its habit of steady defense but was unable to produce any attack. The Greeks weren’t credited with the creation of any big chances.

Bernd Leno made three saves and was very good in distribution on the day, with Saka, David Luiz, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Sokratis Papastathopoulus continuing steady defense under Mikel Arteta.

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

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He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.