ARSENAL BOSS SPEAKS CONCERNING HIS FUTURE AND SAYS HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO

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‘I KNOW WHAT I WILL DO IN MY FUTURE’ – ARSENAL BOSS WENGER TO MAKE DECISION PUBLIC VERY SOON

Pressure on the Frenchman has increased after a 3-1 loss to West Brom and the long-serving manager says he knows what he is going to do.

Under-fire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he has made a decision on his future that he will announce soon.

Wenger was subjected to more vocal criticism from Arsenal supporters during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at West Brom, while a plane sporting a banner calling for him to stand down flew over The Hawthorns at kick-off.

In a bizarre spectacle, another light aircraft trailed a message of support for the 67-year-old but there were few other sources of encouragement as his side slipped to a fourth defeat in five Premier League outings.

West Brom defender Craig Dawson twice benefitted from abysmal set-piece defending either side of Hal Robson-Kanu punishing poor goalkeeping by David Ospina – on as a substitute for injured Arsenal number one Petr Cech.

Wenger is out of contract at the end of the season and, although he has attempted to play down speculation over his future in recent weeks, he told a post-match news conference his mind was made up.

“I know what I will do in my future. You will soon know, very soon,” he said.

“We do not necessarily worry about that. We are in a unique bad patch that we have not had for 20 years and that is more important for my future.”

Arsenal are now five points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, who face Manchester City on Sunday, while Manchester United can go above them by beating Middlesbrough and a victory for Everton over lowly Hull City would bring them level with the Gunners on 50 points.

“We take all responsibility. It’s obviously a big disappointment when you lose a game like that. We all have to take responsibility and prepare for our next games,” Wenger said in an interview with Sky Sports.

“It’s very worrying because we are not used to that [four defeats in five] and overall we have a hell of a task now to fight back.

“We need to regroup and of course focus on the games coming up because there are many big games.

“Everybody goes away now [for the international break] and we have to recover and prepare for our end of season.

“We focus on analysing where we are not good at the moment and correct what didn’t work.”

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CHELSEA ARE EIGHT WINS FROM WINNING THE EPL TITLE SAYS ANTONIO CONTE

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes his side need 24 points from their remaining 11 fixtures to win the Premier League title.

Leaders Chelsea, who are yet to face four other teams from the top seven, appear to be running away with the league title as they sit 10 points above the chasing pack but Conte was not thinking too far ahead.

“Now I think we need 24 points to win the league. It’s important for us to go game-by-game without looking forward,” Conte said on Friday.

Conte played down reports suggesting he was stalling over a new contract in the hope of gaining more control of transfers.

“For now it is important for me and the players to be focused on the present to reach our target. I repeat I’m very happy to be Chelsea’s coach,” the Italian added.

“Honestly I have a good relationship. When I need something I speak with the club and we find always to try and find the right solution. Always together.”

Midfielder N’Golo Kante, who joined from Leicester City last year, has had a stellar debut campaign at Chelsea and is being touted to win the player of the year award.

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AITOR KARANKA AND MIDDILESBROUGH PART WAYS ON A MUTUAL AGREEMENT

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Aitor Karanka’s spell as Middlesbrough manager has ended with the club the lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Aitor Karanka has been sacked by Middlesbrough with the club in the Premier League’s relegation zone following a winless run in which they have taken only four points from a possible 30.

In a statement, Boro said: “Both parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of the club to make this change.” Steve Agnew will step up from his role as assistant head coach to take control of the first team.

A 2-0 defeat at Stoke two weekends ago has left Boro second from bottom, three points from safety and without a league win in 10 attempts since mid-December. They have failed to score in the past four of those matches and have managed only 19 goals in 27 league games this season.

Karanka, who oversaw promotion last season, has had a strained relationship with some players. Stewart Downing and Patrick Bamford were left out of the squad for last weekend’s FA Cup defeat by Manchester City, with the manager saying he needed “18 fighters”.

Karanka’s criticism in January of the club’s supporters and the atmosphere at the Riverside proved divisive and some fans called for his departure at Stoke.

The Spaniard was appointed by Middlesbrough in November 2013, when the club were 16th in the Championship, five points clear of the relegation zone.

“The club would like to thank Aitor for all his hard work over the past three and a half years and for the success we’ve had during that time,” the statement continued. “We wish him all the best for the future.”

Karanka said: “I’d like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough football club the very best for the future.”

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CHELSEA VS MANCHESTER UNITED: JUDAS IS STILL NUMBER ONE SAYS MOURINHO

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho told Chelsea fans “I’m still number one” after being heckled during his side’s FA Cup loss at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho, sacked twice by Chelsea, was called ‘Judas’ by fans during United’s 1-0 defeat, responding by pointing three fingers in reference to the three league titles he won with the club.

He said: “Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues for them, I’m the number one.

“Until then, Judas is number one.”

N’Golo Kante’s low shot was enough for Chelsea to beat holders United – who had Ander Herrera sent off in the first half – and set up a semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley.

Mourinho, 54, is Chelsea’s most successful manager after winning titles over two spells in 2005, 2006 and 2015.

He said: “They can call me what they want. I am a professional. I defend my club.

“I’m really proud of my players, I’m really proud of Manchester United fans.”

Mourinho would not discuss the Herrera red card, calling referee Michael Oliver “a referee with fantastic potential”.

He said: “I don’t want to go in that direction. In four matches he [Oliver] has given three penalties and a red card. I cannot change that. I shook his hand and said many congratulations.

“Mr Oliver goes home and he can do his own analysis, because I don’t want to analyse his work.”

Also, Mourinho’s Blues counterpart Antonio Conte accused United of targeting Hazard during the match.

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HARRY KANE COULD MISS THE REST OF THE SEASON AFTER BEING FORCED OFF IN TOTTENHAM’S FA CUP QUARTER-FINAL AGAINST MILLWALL

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Tottenham fans will fear the worst after Harry Kane was forced off in the opening minutes of their FA Cup quarter-final against Milllwall, leaving Spurs without their star striker and top scorer.

The 23-year-old has continued his excellent form in the Premier League this season, and leads the way for Spurs with 23 goals in all competitions the help lift the side to second in the table.

However, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino had reason to be concerned within minutes of kick-off at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Kane went down injured following a shot at goal from a narrow angle near the Millwall goal.

After having his shot saved by Millwall goalkeeper Tom King, Kane was caught by defender Jake Cooper and twisted his left ankle under the weight of the 22-year-old. The injury appeared to be to the same ankle that Kane injured earlier in the season September last year that kept him out of eight games, including the international break with England.

After receiving treatment for a number of minutes, Kane was not able to continue and limped back to the Tottenham dugout and straight down the tunnel, shaking his head as he passed manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Speaking after the match, Pochettino did little to ease the fears that the injury may be a repeat of the one he suffered earlier in the season, and if faced with a similar time out on the sidelines, Kane may not play against this season.

“He twists his ankle – the same ankle as it was before against Sunderland. Now we will wait and assess tomorrow and wait and see,” Pochettino said.

“Today it’s difficult. It’s a similar situation to Sunderland. We need to assess him today it is difficult to give you a real level of how he is.

“We hope it’s not a big issue but it looks similar. It’s sure it will be difficult for him to play against Southampton but we need to see what happens in the next few days.

“Every time something like this happens and before the scan he immobilises with a [protective] boot.”

The Argentina chose against sending on replacement striker Vincent Janssen, and instead replaced Kane with attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen, meaning that Son Heung-min switched to a central role to lead the attack with Dele Alli behind him for support.

The sight of Kane being forced off will not only concern Spurs supporters, given they have struggled to find a consistent goal scorer away from the striker this season, but also for England fans with the international break just two weeks away where England will face Germany in an international friendly and Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier.

Spurs host Southampton next Sunday when they resume Premier League action, before a two-week break to their next fixture in the trip to Burnley on 1 April.

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MY FUTURE AT ARSENAL IS NOT DEPENDENT ON WENGER SAYS OZIL

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The Germany international is yet to agree a new deal at the Emirates Stadium but insists he will not depart should his manager leave this summer.

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil claims “everything is open” regarding a new deal at Emirates Stadium and insists the future of boss Arsene Wenger will not define his own.

Germany international Ozil is out of contract at the end of next season and the possibility of himself and star forward Alexis Sanchez penning lucrative fresh terms in north London has been a consistent narrative over recent months, as Arsenal’s form on the field has faded.

Ozil’s dwindling performances have mirrored those of the team as a whole, bringing the 28-year-old in for considerable criticism, while long-serving boss Wenger was the subject of fan marches before this week’s matches against Bayern Munich and Lincoln City that called for him to step down.

Despite this turbulence, the former Werder Bremen and Real Madrid star has not ruled out remaining with the Premier League side having already held contract talks.

“Everything is open. We had talks with Arsenal. Right now I concentrate on the current season,” Ozil told Bild.

“Arsene Wenger was one of the main reasons I joined Arsenal. But I know that sometimes things go very fast in football and that you can never plan something.

“This is why it would be wrong to say that my future depends on my coach.”

As for the scrutiny of his own game, 2014 World Cup winner Ozil insists this is nothing new.

“Criticism accompanies me since the start of my career,” he said. “I polarise – in Bremen, in Madrid, in the national team and now in London.

“Of course it’s not pleasant, but I am more thick-skinned today. I try to not let this get to me.

“I am a World Cup champion and I will always be.”

Bayern completed a humbling 10-2 aggregate defeat of Arsenal in the last-16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, running out 5-1 winners in London, but Ozil has not given up on achieving European glory with his current employers.

“You are never satisfied as a sportsman,” he added. “You need the motivation.

“I want to win the Champions League one day, preferably with Arsenal. I have one more year on my contract here.”

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CHELSEA PLAYMAKER EDEN HAZARD WINS PREMIER LEAGUE GOAL OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY

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Chelsea star Eden Hazard has picked up the February award for Premier League Goal of the Month after his brilliant run and finish put Arsenal to the sword in the 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard was a popular selection chosen from the combined votes of a panel of experts and the public, seeing off competition from Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater and Burnley new boy Robbie Brady to scoop the second prize of the year.

Hazard has been instrumental in helping the Blues develop a commanding lead at the top, and after scoring a sublime opener in the 2-1 win at West Ham, the diminutive playmaker has been recognised for another excellent strike.

With the Blues leading 1-0 against the Gunners on February 4, Hazard picked up the ball on the halfway line with plenty of work to do.

He looked up and embarked on a solo run which took him past Laurent Koscielny and then left Francis Coquelin on the floor before skirting beyond the Arsenal captain again and firing past Petr Cech for his third goal in his previous four home games.

It was a decisive contribution from the Belgian in what could prove a season-defining moment, with his celebrations after the magnificent effort showing the significance of the strike.

‘It is one of the best Premier League goals I have scored for sure,’ Hazard said. ‘I was not thinking about scoring but step by step I came close to the goal and in the last 10 metres I was alone.

‘When the ball went in I felt that I created something special so I was happy.’

Hazard is the second Chelsea player to win the award this campaign, after Pedro’s goal against Tottenham earned the November prize.

Chelsea are 10 points clear of Tottenham and Manchester City and need 24 points from their last 11 Premier League games, but they will turn their focus on sealing a FA Cup semi-final place against Manchester United on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Belgian has underlined his commitment to the Blues amid renewed interest from Real Madrid.

The 26-year-old stated earlier this season that he would only entertain the idea of leaving Stamford Bridge if he won the Premier League title again – an eventuality that could come to fruition this May.

Hazard said: ‘If I ever leave, it’ll be after winning a championship. You need to go out on a high so that people remember you for the right reasons.’

But despite the likelihood of Antonio Conte’s side not being caught at the summit, Hazard will not push through a move to the Bernabeu this summer, with three years remaining on his current Chelsea contract.

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PEP GUARDIOLA WINS PREMIER LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY

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Pep Guardiola was named Premier League’s ‘Manager of the Month’ on Friday morning but looked far from happy about it.

It is the first time the Spaniard has won the award since moving to England after his Manchester City side won all three of their games.

City scored eight goals in victories over West Ham, Swansea and Bournemouth, conceding just once, while also navigating three fixtures in the FA Cup and Champions League.

The manager tweeted that he wished to dedicate the award to his staff, the Manchester City fans and his players.

In his press conference ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough, Guardiola appeared to reveal a jealously of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.

Chelsea sit 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League and Conte has been named manager of the month three times this season.

‘I think Conte’s cupboard is full, that’s why they decided to give it to someone else,’ the City boss said when asked about the award.

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TOTTENHAM STRIKER HARRY KANE WINS PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY

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The 23-year-old scored four league goals in three appearances for Spurs as they won twice and lost once to solidify their place in the top four.

Kane scored the winner in a 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough on February 4 before notching a hat-trick in 4-0 demolition of Stoke City at White Hart Lane on February 26.

Kane scored four goals in three Premier League games in February

And he said: “It’s a great honour. It was a good month for me and the team.”

Kane beat five other contenders including Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and David Silva, West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley, Hull City goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic and Romelu Lukaku, the Everton forward.

 

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Xabi Alonso announces his retirement

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Xabi Alonso has announced he will retire from playing at the end of the season.

Reports earlier this year suggested Alonso was going to hang up his boots when his Bayern Munich contract runs out in the summer, and the 35-year-old midfielder has now confirmed that will be the case.

Xabi Alonso: ‘I want to win everything there is to win with Bayern Munich’

Alongside a picture of him waving, Alonso wrote on his Twitter account: “Lived it. Loved it. Farewell beautiful game.”

Alonso’s impending retirement was also confirmed by Bayern. The former Spain international told the club’s official website: “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I believe it’s the right time. I always thought it would be better to quit sooner rather than later. I still feel good, but I believe this is the right moment.

“I wanted to end my career still at the highest level, and Bayern is the highest level. I’m incredibly proud and happy to play for FC Bayern and to be a part of this family.

“I’ve experienced so much as a player with Real Sociedad, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. They are all great clubs. And of course, with the Spanish national team. I never would’ve thought I’d have such a great career, and I hope there’s more to come before it ends.”

Alonso’s decision to call time on his career comes after more than a decade of trophy-laden success at the top level. Having started his career at Sociedad, Alonso joined Liverpool in 2004 and was an influential part of Rafael Benítez’s side that won an unforgettable Champions League final against Milan in 2005.

Alonso scored the equaliser as Liverpool battled back from a 3-0 half-time deficit in Istanbul before going on to win on penalties. While at Anfield, Alonso also picked up an FA Cup winners’ medal and the Uefa Super Cup before returning to Spain in 2009 with Real Madrid.

In his five years at the Bernabéu he was part of another winning Champions League campaign, despite being suspended for the final in 2014, as well as a league title and two Copa del Rey triumphs.

Alonso’s final club is Bayern, who he joined in 2014 and has already helped win back-to-back Bundesliga titles among other honours, with more success possibly to come. Bayern are seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, through to the last eight of the Champions League after thrashing Arsenal 10-2 on aggregate, and are also in the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal.

He also enjoyed a glittering career with Spain, making 114 appearances for his country and helping them win the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hailed Alonso as one of the game’s greats and a “gentleman of football”. Rummenigge said: “Bayern would like to thank a great player and person for representing Bayern to such a high standard both on and off the pitch.

“Xabi Alonso is one of the greats of world football. He has won everything there is to win during his career. He’s a thoroughly remarkable person, and a gentleman of the game.”

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