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‘We believe we have fitness in the legs now’

Ken Gillard hailed his side’s fitness levels as we beat Southampton 1-0 to advance into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.

In a closely-contested match, Matthew Dennis came from the bench to settle the tie with a superb solo goal, 10 minutes from time.

Gillard also believes the FA Youth Cup is a valuable experience for his players and this is what he said after the match:

on the performance…
I thought it was a good performance, I think in the first 10/15 minutes we were a little bit nervous and we started a little bit slowly and the boys looked a little nervous. After that I thought we calmed down and played some good football at times, we had to defend at times as well. I thought in the second half once the game started to open up a little bit we started to find little spaces and little pockets to play in. Obviously Matty [Dennis] coming off the bench and scored an outstanding goal. He made a run like that down at Cheltenham in the last game where he came on, does exactly the same but the ‘keeper saved it. This time he’s come on and scored a fantastic goal to win the game, then we saw the game out quite comfortably in the end.

on the difference between the two sides…
I thought we finished the game strongly. I thought the fitness level of the boys, I always go back and mention the trip we went on to Bali, where we played four games in seven days and I think the lads believe now they’ve got that in the legs and they can keep going and going. I think had the game gone to extra time we would have fancied ourselves in extra-time as well. Really pleased to get the win and really pleased for the boys.

on the starting XI…
They’re all good footballers. We’ve picked up one or two injuries against Chelsea and Alex made a really good recovery and Ryan wasn’t available. We thought that these boys have been training hard so we’ll give them an opportunity and that’s what they want. They play against good players, they’ve shown a good attitude so they deserved a chance and I’m pleased they got out and got the win.

on players stepping up to the under-23s…
That’s what it’s about. It’s about progressing me and Steve (Bould) speak every single day and we want players to progress up to Steve’s team as quick as possible and Steve wants his players to do the same. The FA Youth Cup is a great platform for these boys to go and show the first-team staff who were here today and their families. Playing under the lights, it’s a great opportunity for them to show what they can do, so, the sooner the possible we can push people up, the sooner we can have the under-16s playing with us and getting them ready for next season.

on the FA Youth Cup…
It’s great for their development. Over the last few years we’ve had a bit of success, a couple of years ago, we got to the final against Chelsea which was a great experience. We’ve been able to go to Anfield and playing there, so it’s brilliant. You also go to non-league grounds and playing there is great to. I remember playing Middlesborough a few years ago and grinding out a win, so they play all different types of challenges and this was a very tough challenge tonight. Paul (Hardyman) always has his teams organised, they were thought to break down, but luckily we got over the line so it’s really good to get into the next round in the competition.

By Sam Cox

Copyright 2020 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.

Arsene Wenger
This news item was provided by the Arsenal FC News Feed website - the original link is: http://feeds.arsenal.com/~r/arsenal-news/~3/QV4cG-x3pJE/we-believe-we-have-fitness-legs-now

‘Zaha is always motivated against the big teams’

Mikel Arteta expects to come up against a fired up Wilfried Zaha at Selhurst Park this weekend.

The Ivory Coast international was strongly linked with a move to north London last summer, and our head coach knows just how big a threat he can be.

“I always see Wilf motivated against the big teams and ready to make an impact," Arteta said. "He doesn’t need that [further motivation].

"He has attention from the media and everyone realises how good he’s been. I don’t expect anything different against us.

"I always find him dangerous, the last few times we played. When he played against Arsenal recently, always a threat.”

Copyright 2020 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.

Arsene Wenger
This news item was provided by the Arsenal FC News Feed website - the original link is: http://feeds.arsenal.com/~r/arsenal-news/~3/PPmwIdob4ds/zaha-always-motivated-against-big-teams

Takumi Minamino: Liverpool’s newest signing could make a global impact

Takumi Minamino signed for Liverpool for £7.25m earlier this month

"Super, outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted, exactly the player we wished for."

Takumi Minamino is already a big hit with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after the Japan international's 70-minute debut in the Reds' 1-0 FA Cup win over Everton on Sunday.

As he prepares to become just the ninth Japanese player to appear in the Premier League when Liverpool visit Tottenham on Saturday, the 24-year-old midfielder could be about to make a huge impression off the pitch as well as on it.

We take a closer look at the impact Minamino's arrival on Merseyside could have.

'As popular as Real Madrid and Barcelona'

The former Red Bull Salzburg player is already a big deal on and off the pitch in Asia. The player 'inspired by Brazil's Ronaldo' is one of his country's top young talents.

His four years at Salzburg brought him 63 goals in 192 appearances and a £7.25m move to Anfield, with an adoring audience watching his every move.

"Definitely, it will boost Liverpool's popularity here in Japan," said Yumiko Tamaru, secretary for Japan's Official Liverpool Supporters Club.

"Real Madrid and Barcelona have been the most popular European football clubs here in Japan, but I think Liverpool will be as popular as these Spanish giants if Minamino flourishes in Liverpool.

"A lot of football fans have already started to contact us asking how they can get Liverpool's match tickets. I think you will find more Japanese fans at Anfield after January."

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool, describes the Asian market as "probably the biggest international market for Premier League clubs".

And, with Liverpool having just signed a huge new kit deal with Nike, he believes Minamino's arrival will only increase the club's opportunities.

"Liverpool's front-of-shirt sponsor Standard Chartered and insurance partner AXA are both big in Asia," said Maguire.

"Japanese fans and media are very keen on the Premier League and whenever a Japanese player signs for a Premier League club there is always a surge in interest, as shown by Shinji Kagawa playing for Manchester United a few years ago.

"Minamino's signing will lead to an increase in merchandise sales and potential new commercial deals in that market.

"Manchester United historically have had the biggest Asian fan base, but Liverpool and Chelsea are vying for second place.

"Fans and commercial partners in the region always want to be associated with success and Liverpool's recent achievements in the Champions League and Club World Cup can be used to leverage more lucrative deals with sponsors."

About 40 Liverpool fans watched Minamino's debut in a pub in Tokyo

'An eruption of euphoria'

Cynics may be quick to mention shirt sales and commercial reasons as key factors behind Klopp acquiring the 24-year-old forward, but Japanese supporters insist he has the talent to succeed on Merseyside.

Tamaru, who watched Sunday's Merseyside derby from a British pub in Tokyo's Ebisu district crammed full of Liverpool supporters in red shirts and scarves, said: "I think they signed him purely for footballing reasons.

"We know that Klopp is a manager who doesn't sign players unless he knows how they perfectly fit within his system.

"He doesn't use signings straight away until he's certain that the player understands his footballing philosophy. When he [Minamino] starts to play, he'll just fit. And he'll make a big impact on other Japanese players."

Minamino's inclusion in Liverpool's starting XI was met by an eruption of euphoria inside the pub when announced on social media.

Despite a quiet first game for the Reds, Japanese fans were still enthused about Minamino's prospects at Anfield.

"What's amazing is that he's signing for Liverpool right now when they're the best team in the world. It's incredible to have a Japanese player play for them," said one fan.

"Here in Japan, we're far from Europe. For Japanese players to go there and make a step up and make an impact, like Minamino has done at Red Bull Salzburg, I really admire and respect him," added another supporter.

The third Japanese player to lift the Premier League trophy?

Despite Japan being one of Asia's top footballing nations, Minamino will be just the ninth player from the country to appear in the Premier League with few making a tangible impact.

Shinji Okazaki and Maya Yoshida are the only two Japanese players to make 100 Premier League appearances, while the former is the only Japanese player to reach double figures for goals in the top flight.

Okazaki played a significant role in Leicester City's 2015-16 title-winning campaign, while Kagawa also lifted the Premier League trophy in the 2012-13 season in what was a culmination of a 38-game spell for Manchester United, during which he scored six goals.

However, the likes of Kazuyuki Toda, at Tottenham, and Ryo Miyaichi, for Arsenal, Bolton and Wigan, made less of an impact with just a smattering of top-flight appearances between them.

Liverpool fans will be hoping Minamino can become the third Japanese player to lift the Premier League trophy later this year.

And if that does happen then that Liverpool pub in Tokyo may need to open another branch to accommodate all the club's new fans in Japan.


This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50986663

Chelsea transfer news: Stick or twist? Why a January logjam could force Frank Lampard's hand

This weekend, Burnley present Chelsea with a problem that’s become all too familiar. A well-organised, deep-lying defensive side, offering few easy cracks and poised for the counter. It’s a blueprint in both attack and defence that’s already been perfectly executed by West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton at Stamford Bridge this season when Frank Lampard’s young side have lacked imagination and an incisive spark. 

Ever since the club’s transfer ban was lifted last month, Lampard has made no secret of his desire to refresh a squad many see as having outperformed expectations. The revival of a £150m ”war-chest” was quickly splashed across the back pages and no later had the drip-feed of targets filtered through. In fact, by mid-December, the club’s shortlist was effectively well known: a striker to compete with Tammy Abraham, a left-back to usurp Emerson and Marcos Alonso, and a world-class playmaker to fill the void left by Eden Hazard. They, along with a new centre-back, were the players Lampard identified to re-shape his fun, exciting squad into a more ruthless image. And yet, despite such a clear strategy, the club finds itself locked in something of a stalemate. 

Timo Werner, who has scored a remarkable 23 goals in 25 games this season, is set to remain at RB Leipzig as the club challenges for a first Bundesliga title. Another striker scouted by Chelsea, Moussa Dembele, is unlikely to be sold this month due to an injury crisis at Lyon. Meanwhile, the same impasse can be found at left-back, with Leicester insistent that Ben Chilwell stays as they attempt to cement a Champions League spot.

With Jadon Sancho, the situation is more complicated due to such widespread interest in the 19-year-old. The Independent has been told by a source at Borussia Dortmund that Chelsea are currently seen as the most likely suitor. Yet, in each position, Chelsea are by no means guaranteed of signing any of the aforementioned players come the summer.

The logjam has forced the club into a type of stick-or-twist predicament, where they will have to gamble on alternative targets or hope Lampard can sustain a top-four place until the end of the season. Wilfried Zaha remains desperate to join an elite club and, as The Independent revealed last month, intermediaries have been in contact with Chelsea in an attempt to engineer a move. However, Crystal Palace’s stubborn £80m evaluation is considered exorbitant and the common consensus is that Chelsea would rather wait for Sancho.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze have both been considered but remain unlikely. Thomas Lemar has been offered to London clubs on a loan deal, with The Independent revealing that a loan fee of £5m with a £50m option-to-buy is being touted. The 24-year-old could provide a perfect short-term solution, however, the Atletico Madrid winger has been in woeful form and there are obvious concerns over whether he could hit the ground running.

The lack of progress is also preventing the exit of players that have fallen out of favour. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi are both for sale and it’s possible the former’s departure – his agent was pictured with Inter Milan officials yesterday – might yet be sanctioned without an immediate replacement, with the 33-year-old playing less than 300 minutes of football so far this season.  

However, there’s an understandable reluctance to sell any other members of the squad without certainty over new arrivals. Marcos Alonso has been sidelined while Emerson has often been rotated to allow for Reece James to play at right-back. Both have attracted firm interest from Italy but will have been forced to recognise that their chances of securing a move away this month are slim.

Frank Lampard has made clear his desire to bring in new players in January (Reuters)

And so, despite those three positions initially targeted, the return of Nathan Ake is left as Chelsea’s most likely piece of business this month. The Dutchman’s £40m buy-back clause remains attractive and unaffected by the January window’s inflation, he’s familiar with many of the players and staff from his days in the academy, and is capable of covering at left-back. With the sale of either Alonso - who’s thought to be below Emerson in the pecking order – or Andreas Christensen, who’s reported to have recently attracted interest from overseas, a significant portion of any outlay could at least in theory be immediately recouped.

However, Lampard rebuffed any possibility of Christensen leaving in his press conference on Friday afternoon, insisting he’s “always liked” the 23-year-old. “I can rule it out,” Lampard said. “I like Andreas as a player; I’ve always liked him. I used to train with him and saw the talent coming through.”

But whether Ake’s arrival alone could be enough to reinforce a top-four finish remains unclear. It’s also why on and off the field the club’s series of upcoming fixtures, starting with Burnley tomorrow, could prove so pivotal. It’s a deadlock, a test of patience, and ultimately the risk of whether waiting for the right targets could prove the wrong decision. A poor performance on Saturday could go a long way to forcing Chelsea’s hand.


This news item was provided by the The Independent - Premier League website - the original link is: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/chelsea-transfer-news-burnley-sancho-zaha-ake-dembele-rumours-gossip-epl-a9277906.html

Harry Maguire: Man Utd defender could be fit to face Norwich

Harry Maguire (right) was injured during Manchester United's FA Cup third round match at Wolves

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says defender Harry Maguire could return for Saturday's league game against Norwich at Old Trafford.

Maguire, 26, suffered a hip problem in last Saturday's FA Cup meeting with Wolves and missed Tuesday's Manchester derby defeat in the Carabao Cup.

It was initially thought Maguire would miss the Norwich match but the England star has responded well to treatment.

"Harry has a chance for tomorrow," he said. "We will see how he trains."

Of the injury, Solskjaer added: "It was a minor thing, don't know where the reports are coming from, [reporters] might have mistaken it for Harry Kane.

"It's not a surprise, he's a warrior and if there's a minor problem he'll put himself up to play."

Solskjaer refused to be drawn on whether club captain Ashley Young will leave for Inter Milan this month.

Young, 34, has rejected the chance to extend his contract amid interest from the Serie A leaders,

"Ashley Young is our player and our captain," said Solskjaer. "We have to handle the speculation and if it is needed, me and Ash will have a discussion.

"We don't have too many players fit and ready and we need the ones we have. Ash has been very good for this club. Let's see where we are in February."

The search for new faces at Old Trafford continues

United continue to search for potential signings this month, even if their mantra is not buying anyone for the sake of it.

Midfield was a priority area even before injuries ruled out Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay for a number of weeks.

A player they have been linked with repeatedly over the past few months is Sporting Lisbon's Bruno Fernandes.

In the summer, United indicated Solskjaer had no real interest in the 25-year-old, who Tottenham did have a firm interest in.

Bruno Fernandes has long been linked with a move to Manchester United

Fernandes subsequently signed a new contract in November, although it is thought to contain a get-out clause.

It has been suggested Solskjaer and his assistant Mike Phelan watched Fernandes in person when Sporting entertained FC Porto last Sunday.

The United boss avoided talking about the Portugal international in his news conference but he did say the club were looking at targets.

"I do go and watch games all the time," he said. "Where I go is irrelevant.

"In terms of signings, we still have the same thoughts we had a month ago. If something happens we will tell you."


This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51060183