Vermaelen gunning for top four

first_imgThomas Vermaelen is certain that Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League if they can keep repeating the kind of display that saw them rip apart AC Milan on Tuesday night. The defender added: “We are out of the Champions League but we need to take the great feeling out of this game. “It’s really important that we qualify for the Champions League. I think Arsenal are a team that belongs in the Champions League. We have the quality to do it, that showed in the second leg.” Right-back Bacary Sagna felt the team’s performance in the opening period was the best he has seen. He said: “I honestly can’t remember us playing that well in a first half before. “We played without any pressure. We had nothing to lose. We could only score goals but it was not enough. “It is disappointing to go out but it will give us some momentum going in to the game against Newcastle (on Monday).” Goals from Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and captain Robin van Persie gave the Gunners a resounding 3-0 lead against the seven-time European champions, but they were unable to grab the fourth goal that would have taken the tie to extra-time and they bowed out of the competition. Arsenal have suffered from woeful inconsistency all season – highlighted by their 4-0 first-leg defeat in Italy – but Vermaelen said: “If we can play like (we did last night), there is no way that we will not be in the top four. That performance will give us a boost now.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Villa cut losses

first_img This compares with a deficit of £53.9m made by the midlands club for the previous 12 months. Villa brought about this sizeable reduction despite a fall in turnover of £11.6m. A 16th-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League, fewer live TV matches, lower crowds and early exits from both domestic cup competitions accounted for the turnover reduction. The average league attendance fell from 37,220 in 2010-11 to 33,873. But operating expenses were reduced by £20.3m to £138.4m and player trading resulted in increased profit by £8.1m from £18.8m to £26.9m. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were sold during this period for a combined figure of around £35m. In addition chairman Randy Lerner waived interest on loans totalling £107.1m made by him to Villa, which created a one-time benefit to the club of £20.3m. Villa’s chief financial officer, Robin Russell, said: “By managing costs effectively, the club managed to cut losses by more than half during a period which continued to be challenging economically both globally and especially in the west midlands. “In this respect, despite a disappointingly low performance level on the pitch in the 2011-12 season, these financial results represent a further step towards the club’s objective of long-term sustainability.” Aston Villa suffered a reduced loss of £17.7million for the year ending May 31, 2012, the club have confirmed.center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Martinez looks for home improvement

first_img Press Association The Latics pulled themselves out of the relegation zone with an impressive 3-0 win at fellow strugglers Reading last week but they are outside the bottom three only on goal difference. They have won just twice in the league at the DW Stadium all season and, ahead of Liverpool’s visit on Saturday evening, Martinez said:. “We have a very good record at home against Liverpool over the last four seasons and it is one of those moments of the season – we need to embrace those final six games of the season at the DW Stadium.” Wigan boss Roberto Martinez acknowledges his team must improve their home form to maintain their Barclays Premier League status.center_img He added: “Our performances have been very good but our results haven’t been able to match that. “There are certain margins we need to affect. We need to improve in certain aspects and that should start on Saturday. “They are a very difficult side but we need to create a special atmosphere in our own environment.” Martinez accepts his side do not boast the individual talents of Liverpool but that does not mean they cannot come out on top. He said: “We know we need to be at our best. “They are very creative and inventive in areas, they have got real pace and quality, they are well organised and press really well. They keep the ball extremely well. “It is very difficult to find weaknesses but results are a different matter.” last_img read more

Newcastle tell FA: Your rules don’t work

first_img The FA confirmed that the incident was seen by at least one of the match officials – even though referee Mark Halsey was unsighted – and under current rules that means retrospective action cannot be taken. Haidara suffered what could prove to be a serious knee injury after the challenge by McManaman, but no action was taken against the Wigan player during the match, and Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias said in a statement: “It is clear from this decision that the current disciplinary procedures are not fit for purpose.” Newcastle reacted with outrage after the Football Association announced that Wigan’s 21-year-old forward Callum McManaman will not face retrospective action for his studs-up challenge on Magpies defender Massadio Haidara. The statement went on: “Newcastle United, along with other clubs, have had players suspended for incidents reviewed after the game. Whilst not trivialising these incidents, they were not, in our opinion, of the seriousness of Callum McManaman’s tackle on Haidara. “Whilst we understand that the current procedures give the FA limited options, it cannot be correct that the most serious offences – those which have the potential to cause another player serious harm – can go unpunished, even if the original incident was seen by match officials. “We will now be making a strong representation to the FA and the Premier League to see how a more appropriate, fair and even-handed disciplinary process can be introduced at the earliest opportunity to prevent incidents of this nature going unpunished in the future.” The FA’s rules follow a decision taken last summer – after consulting with the leagues, Professional Footballers’ Association and referees – limiting retrospective action to off-the-ball incidents unseen by match officials. The rules apply unless there are exceptional circumstances, which would need to be more unusual than a late tackle, however nasty. Llambias also responded to claims by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan that it was a fair challenge, saying the comments had “disappointed and surprised” him as they came from someone he respected. Llambias added: “It is our strongly held opinion that the tackle on Massadio was extremely dangerous and is the type of challenge that has the potential to cause serious harm and such was the force, and reckless and dangerous nature of the challenge, even end a player’s career. “It was not a fair challenge. This view is shared by countless former players, referees and well-respected media commentators. Indeed it appears to be only Dave Whelan who takes a contrary view.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Kompany ready for run-in

first_imgVincent Kompany believes his extended absence with a calf injury was a legacy of rushing back too quickly from a similar problem last season. The Manchester City skipper was out for virtually two months before making a goalscoring return in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Newcastle. Kompany revealed he had never quite got back to full fitness last term, when his presence was essential to City’s successful championship quest. “Last season, when we were going towards the title, I didn’t have enough time to do the real rehabilitation,” he said. Press Associationcenter_img “Usually it takes three or four weeks. We took four or five days. Eventually it catches up with you. Now I have taken the right amount of time and I have put in the right amount of work as well. If anything I feel really strong now.” Along with Sergio Aguero, Kompany’s absence has proved to be a handicap City were not able to overcome. Now both men are back, though the only realistic aims are securing second spot and regaining the FA Cup. Yet Kompany is certain City would benefit from a positive final few weeks when they begin the challenge again next term. “I feel there is still a lot to look forward to,” he said. “Whichever way we finish this season might set us up for the next one. “I always remember the way we finished the season before last. We ended on equal points with Chelsea, which was a massive boost, secured a place in the Champions League and also won the FA Cup. The year after that we went on to win the title. The end of one season has an impact on how you start the next one.” In the final analysis, manager Roberto Mancini will cite a lack of goals for his side’s failure to retain the championship won in such thrilling fashion on the last day of last season. With Carlos Tevez netting for the seventh time in eight games against the Magpies and Kompany scoring the first since his winner in last term’s Manchester derby, it is easy to wonder both why City have ended up in this situation and also whether they are only hitting top form because the pressure valve has been turned off. Mancini denies the latter situation is true. “When you play for a strong team like us, you always have pressure,” he said. “You should have pressure. We are in second but we still have to work hard because Tottenham are close and Chelsea are the same.” last_img read more

Mancini: United have fear factor

first_img Press Association Mancini feels there is an aura about United, built up over two decades of success, that gives them a firm advantage going into games. City may have won the Barclays Premier League last season but Mancini accepts they are still way short of possessing such a sheen, and their seemingly doomed title defence proves it. The champions trail United by 15 points heading into their latest derby at Old Trafford, and Mancini said: “No one plays well against United because they only play with fear.” Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Manchester United strike fear into opponents in a way his side do not.center_img He added: “Every team that plays against United plays very soft because they think this game is difficult, they can’t beat them. “It is not true – if you play strong against United you can beat them, like they can beat us. “But this is normal, this is football, this is because United have been a strong team for a long time. “For the other teams they play against, it is difficult. “We are young as a team and we don’t have the same importance like United in this moment. “Maybe in 10 years, it will be the same. The history is very important.” last_img read more

Neville flattered by Everton link

first_img “It’s just whatever direction the club want to take. But I know there are players who have gone into jobs and failed. “I am at the end of my career and I am looking to get into coaching and management. I have prepared for the last five seasons and I have some nice decisions to make. “I have had a lot of experience, studying coaching practices. I have been away with England Under-21s. I’m half-prepared for what I’m going into.” The former England international, 36, took the decision towards the end of the season to leave the club’s playing staff and is preparing for a career in management. He has been strongly linked with the Goodison Park vacancy and is also rated by bookmakers among the leading contenders for the job at Stoke, who parted company with Tony Pulis on Tuesday. “It is flattering to be linked with the Everton job,” Neville told The Times. Departing Everton captain Phil Neville has confirmed his interest in succeeding David Moyes as the club’s manager.center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Gunners seal Sonogo signing

first_img The 20-year-old, who has agreed a long-term deal with the Gunners, was a free agent after his contract with Ligue 1 outfit Auxerre expired. Sanogo is currently playing for France at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, scoring twice in the group stages to help his side through to the last 16, where they face the host nation. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is pleased to have captured the services of Sanogo, who scored 11 goals in 24 appearances with Auxerre after joining the club as a 14-year-old. Wenger said on www.arsenal.com: “Sanogo is a good young signing for us. He has shown that he has potential with his recent performances for Auxerre and also for the France Under-20 side. We are looking forward to Yaya joining us and continuing his promising development.” The Barclays Premier League club confirmed that the deal is subject to the completion of formal registration processes, with Sanogo set to join up with his new colleagues once his international commitments at the Under-20 World Cup are over . Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere believes if the Gunners were to sign England team-mate Wayne Rooney it would strike fear into the hearts of their Premier League title rivals. Rooney asked to leave Manchester United at the end of last season but it remains to be seen how the situation will develop with the arrival of new manager David Moyes, his former boss at Everton. Speaking in a question and answer session with www.espnfc.com, Wilshere said: “If it happens, it would be amazing. He (Rooney) is the type of player who can win you trophies – and just to see his name on the team sheet brings fear to the opposition. We could do with a little more of that.” Press Associationcenter_img Arsenal have confirmed the signing of France youth international attacker Yaya Sanogo.last_img read more

Returning skipper savours success

first_img Press Association After 16 years without a tour success, the Lions secured an unforgettable series victory against the Wallabies with Saturday’s fine 41-16 victory in Sydney. More than a hundred fans welcomed home the triumphant Lions at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday morning, with a huge cheer going up when captain Warburton emerged with the trophy on top of his baggage trolley. “It is a lot cleaner than it was Saturday night, that’s for sure,” he said. “There were a few bottles of champagne in the trophy.” Sam Warburton has returned home a proud man, having led the British and Irish Lions to victory in Australia.center_img He added: “It is a great feeling. It has been a long time coming this Lions tour so it is nice to come back with a trophy. “It has only been done nine times in 125 years so all the players know they are part of a very prestigious group and are very proud of that.” Warburton missed the series decider with a hamstring tear and, watching on from the sidelines, admitted he could not relax until the 75th minute. “People might have thought I might have relaxed in the 60th-odd minute,” he said. “But, being the pessimist I am and knowing Australia can always strike back with a few tries in a few minutes, I could not relax until it was five minutes to go. I figured out in my head that they had to get a try every 75 seconds to win, which I would have backed our defence on that one. That’s the point I start smiling and celebrating.” It has been quite a week for British sport, with the Lions triumph followed by Andy Murray winning Wimbledon on Sunday. The England cricket team are now looking to keep the feelgood factor and Warburton is confident Australia will suffer yet more sporting woe. “We will all be watching keenly,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to do for four weeks now but to watch cricket, so our eyes will be glued to the telly and hopefully they can do the job. I am sure they have had a massive influx of messages but the boys have sent good luck messages to them for the last couple of weeks now.” last_img read more

Plenty to ponder for Martinez

first_img “I’ve been really happy with how different the strikers are. Apostolos Vellios has been working really well but then you’ve got three senior figures with Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichebe and Arouna Kone. All three are going to be important. “Probably the focus is not who’s going to start on Saturday, it’s more how strong the competition can be throughout the campaign because it’s important to have effective strikers. They’re all ready.” Martinez favoured a single striker for much of his time at Wigan, and former Everton boss David Moyes adopted the same policy at Goodison Park. Versatility is the key word for Martinez, though, ahead of his first competitive match against Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday. “We need to be flexible,” said Martinez. “It’s something we’ve been working on this pre-season to play in different systems, having different partnerships, and that’s something we’re going to carry on testing over the next few weeks.” Martinez has spent a lot of his first summer at Goodison Park fending off questions about the futures of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, who have both been strongly linked with moves to Manchester United to rejoin old boss Moyes. United are said to have had one bid turned down for Baines, while Martinez talked about his relief when a buy-out clause in Fellaini’s contract expired at the end of last month. Press Association There are still more than two weeks of the transfer window to go, and Martinez said: “I’m not concerned at all at the moment. “The window is open and until it closes you’re going to get speculation, you’re going to get a lot of talk, not just at Everton. It’s the norm. “Marouane had a buy-out clause where it was very straightforward. If someone met that valuation, the club had no say. “That finished on July 31 so you can imagine during that period everyone was a bit expectant about what would happen. Once that date went, you just focus on working for the next season.” Martinez is still in the market for new signings having brought Gerard Deulofeu and former Wigan trio Joel Robles, Antolin Alcaraz and Kone to the club this summer. But the form of teenagers Ross Barkley and John Stones has made him even more confident about the squad he already has. “I’ve been very impressed with the youngsters,” said Martinez. “Ross Barkley and John Stones have really surprised me. I knew they had a fantastic future, but what they’ve got is a very special presence, and that excites me. “You always need to keep looking to try to help the players we’ve got at the club but we’re not looking for a specific number. If we don’t bring anyone in, I’ll be happy.” Martinez signed Arouna Kone from former club Wigan to join Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichebe and 21-year-old Apostolos Vellios, and the Spaniard expects all of them to play a big part this season. Martinez said: “That’s the type of decision you always want. When you’ve got three or four options to play up front, that’s a great position to be in as a manager. Roberto Martinez is being given a selection headache for his first Barclays Premier League game in charge of Everton by his four strikers.last_img read more