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Arsene Wenger says Arsenal "alive" after Spurs win… well, prove it – Leo"s London

Wenger says Arsenal are 'alive' after Spurs win… well, prove it!

Arsene Wenger claims his Arsenal team are 'more alive' than people thought after their dramatic win against Tottenham. That they looked it in the 5-2 victory is undeniable, but for proof of his claim, fans should wait a while.

Their results at AC Milan and Sunderland cannot so easily be forgotten. Consistency is the key and winning when the team are not playing well is important, too.

Sunday's victory against Spurs gave Arsenal fans another happy memory from a difficult season, delayed the advance of their rivals in the Premier League and secured local bragging rights.

Kings of north London: Arsenal beat their fierce rivals 5-2 at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday

Kings of north London: Arsenal beat their fierce rivals 5-2 at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday

Finish the job: The Gunners must follow up their thrilling win to prove it was not another false dawn

Finish the job: The Gunners must follow up their thrilling win to prove it was not another false dawn

But things are still terribly tight between the teams competing for fourth place and Arsenal are not there yet – and there have been false dawns already this season.

Their victory at Chelsea last October was another highlight of a season packed with lowlights and it was followed by some reasonable results. Yet here Arsenal are, having to claim they are not dead yet, again, four months later.

With 12 games to play, there is no more room for error if Wenger's side are not going to flop completely. Fourth place is the minimum Arsenal will accept and it will require quite some resolve to secure it.

Did you know

Arsenal, who posted a 49.5m profit in their last set of accounts, would have made a 14m loss if they had not sold key players such as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Mark Tony's words, Hughes

Mark Hughes should beware the terrible tweeter.

QPR chairman Tony Fernandes warned the world that he was about to fire Neil Warnock on the micro-blogging site with some cryptic clues and, on Saturday sent a message to his new boss.

'That's three players we have had sent off in the first 35 mins of each home game,' he tweeted. 'We really are not making it easy for ourselves.'

Watch out: Mark Hughes

Tweeter: QPR chairman Tony Fernandes

Watch out, Tony's tweeting: QPR manager Mark Hughes (left) and chairman Fernandes (right)

Fernandes went on to talk about how hard it is to play with 10-men later on and, although one of the sendings-off he referred to came before Hughes took charge, the message was clear.

He may as well have sent his team's boss a memo saying: your team needs to improve their discipline, and fast.

But Fernandes seems to prefer sending his messages to his manager on a public forum – so Hughes had better take heed.

Here's to captain Scott

Congratulations to Scott Parker on being given the England captaincy by Stuart Pearce. There are many reasons why he will be a good leader for his country, many of which I have covered here before.

But those who argue that he should not have been given the armband because he is an inferior player to Steven Gerrard are missing the point.

Centre of attention: Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker is the right man to captain England

Centre of attention: Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker is the right man to captain England

Parker's qualities and playing style are very different to Gerrard's. They complement each other. The Tottenham midfielder is the more tactically disciplined and is more inclined to forsake himself for the team. He can lead by example without having to be Roy of the Rovers.

Parker's one failing is the number of bookings he picks up, so let's hope he keeps a clean slate against Holland and gives England a platform – as a player and man – from which they succeed.

A little less conversation…

Making conclusions about Andre Villas-Boas this season has been tricky because of the confusion and contradictions which have surrounded him and Chelsea. But one thing has become abundantly clear: he talks too much.

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Leo's London: The FA's Suarez stance causes concern for England at Euros
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Leo's London: A move to Madrid could be the only Real way to save Wenger
25/01/12

Leo's London: Terry and Ferdinand should take a rest from the Cup… for the good of the game
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Leo's London: What goes around, comes around, Warnock
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Leo's London: Henry can show Arsenal the route to success
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Never mind that he drops the old guard one week and reinstates them all the next. That he goes from looking like a brave manager to the too-eager-to-please lapdog of the owner. Or that he gives the impression he is either a genius or fool and we don't yet know which.

Villas-Boas claimed he had the 'unconditional' support of Roman Abramovich and made similarly unrealistic assertions for weeks before admitting that, well, actually, maybe that's not quite right.

There has been public backing for Fernando Torres, too, before what appears to be something closer to the real feeling at Chelsea when Villas-Boas admitted the striker is suffering a crisis of confidence.

Don't forget his vocal backing of the high defensive line he insisted Chelsea hold, either, before they dropped it rather more quietly.

In the early days of Villas-Boas' reign at Stamford Bridge it quickly became clear that he was a manager who could talk. Answers to simple, closed questions, brought long, rambling and sometimes technical answers.

It has occasionally given the impression the Portuguese was obfuscating or trying to fill time to avoid further questioning on potentially controversial matters. But, as time has gone on, Villas-Boas's babbling has just left him looking weak.

He frequently appears as someone who protests too much and should choose his words much more carefully – something which would have the benefit of there being fewer of them.

Warnock warning

It is not quite the same as badge kissing or, Robbie Keane-style, claiming to have long dreamed of playing for every club you join. But Crystal Palace fans could pour a little scorn on Neil Warnock's version when he is unveiled as the new manager of a club.

At Leeds, the 63-year-old claimed he has 'one big challenge left', giving the impression that the club will get his last hurrah, even though his deal lasts only until the end of next season. This gives the impression that he will provide new levels of dedication and drive in the hope of going out on a high.

But fans of the Yorkshire club may be wise not to take him precisely on his word. When he joined Crystal Palace in 2007 it was to be his 'last job' too.

The Wright stuff

If you didn't catch any footage of Josh Wright's goal for Millwall at Burnley last weekend, take a look.

His long-range volley was of fantastic quality and, had it been scored in the Premier League, the midfielder's effort would have been given a good deal more praise.

Not only was it spectacular, but it was important, too, extending Millwall's lead to two goals and helping to ease the pressure that was building on them near the foot of the Championship.

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Liverpool celebrate at Wembley: Image of the week by Graham Chadwick

Graham Chadwick: My favourite image of the week… Liverpool celebration at Wembley

Each
week, Sportsmail's top snappers Andy Hooper, Graham Chadwick and Kevin
Quigley will be showcasing their favourite image.

Graham chooses this shot of Liverpool players celebrating after winning the Carling Cup.

I captured Liverpool's celebratory moment following the thrilling victory over Cardiff at Wembley.

After an exhilarating Carling Cup final was won on penalties, Reds captain Steven Gerrard displayed real emotion as the players clambered over keeper Pepe Reina.

Nikon D3
200mm lens
ISO 2000
F/ 2.8

Liverpool players celebrate at Wembley

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London 2012 Games: Every British athlete to be drugs tested

Every British athlete to be drugs tested before London Games

Every one of Britain's 900 Olympic and
Paralympic athletes will be tested for banned drugs at least once in
the run-up to the London 2012 Games.

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) will not confirm
exactly how many tests they will carry out but their target is for
every British athlete going to the Games to provide samples for
analysis. At least 10% of these will be blood tests, for substances such
as human growth hormone and the blood-boosting agent EPO.

More than 100 education sessions for athletes have also been planned alongside UKAD's testing programme.

Zero tolerance: UKAD have promised a robust system

Zero tolerance: UKAD have promised a robust system

UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson said the organisation, which is 90% publicly-funded and has an annual budget of 7million, had already targeted athletes at previous 'high-risk' windows such as qualifying for the Games.

Parkinson said: 'Tests will be planned using our intelligence-based testing approach which utilises intelligence gathered from a wide range of sources and focuses the allocation of tests around where they will have maximum impact in terms of deterrence and detection.

'Whilst the overall aim is to test every member of the British teams at least once, obviously those in more high-risk sports or disciplines, or athletes of interest to us will be tested more often. Essentially there is no limit to the number of times we might test any individual athlete.

Warning: Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson

Warning: Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson

'As the host nation at this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games, we want to lead the way in promoting clean sport, giving the British public the confidence that the performances they see from our athletes are achieved through four years of hard work, determination and dedication.'

The programme is being delivered in
co-operation with the sports' national governing bodies, the British
Olympic Association (BOA) and the British Paralympic Association (BPA).

UKAD say the majority of tests will
be attempted through no-advance notice, out-of-competition tests, either
at squad training sessions or through 'whereabouts' information
provided by athletes, with additional tests targeted at key 2012
selection events

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson
said: 'UK Anti-Doping has led the way in educating athletes and has one
of the most robust anti-doping programmes in the world. But we can't be
complacent. We need to ensure that athletes and support staff are fully
aware of their responsibilities with regards to anti-doping.

'Drug cheats have absolutely no place
in sport. We want our athletes to be positive role models for the
millions who will be watching the Games this summer.'

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Roberto Martinez defends Wigan pitch in wake of Darren Bent injury

Stop making excuses! Martinez defends Wigan pitch from critics after Bent injury

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has defended the DW Stadium pitch in the wake of Darren Bent's ankle injury and believes it provides a convenient excuse for visiting teams.

Bent is likely to miss the rest of the season after rupturing ankle ligaments in Saturday's goalless draw between Wigan and Aston Villa when he appeared to catch his studs in the turf.

It is not the first time the Wigan pitch, which is shared by the rugby league club, has come in for criticism but Martinez does not think it is a major problem.

Agony: Darren Bent ruptured ankle ligaments at Wigan last weekend

Agony: Darren Bent ruptured ankle ligaments at Wigan last weekend

The Spaniard told Latics Player: 'We want a really good pitch because we base our work on what we do with the ball, and the ball needs to roll well. But the pitch is becoming a bit of an excuse for other teams.

'I think the pitch is the same for both teams, you have to adapt to it. There's nothing we can do with the weather conditions we have and obviously it's difficult for the groundstaff.

'We're trying to do our best to correct it but I don't think the pitch is to blame for the injury to Darren Bent, it's just a very unfortunate incident.

Let's play ball: Roberto Martinez insists his team want to play on a good pitch too

Let's play ball: Roberto Martinez insists his team want to play on a good pitch too

'If you look at the records it's not a pitch that players get injured on much. Unfortunately we're going to see a player out for a long spell and that's something nobody wants to see.'

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France v Ireland: Clement Poitrenaud and Julien Bonnaire called up

France bring Poitrenaud and Bonnaire into side for rearranged Ireland clash

France team to play Ireland

C Poitrenaud (Toulouse);
V Clerc (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), W Fofana (Clermont
Auvergne), J Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M
Parra (Clermont Auvergne); J-B Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade
Francais), N Mas (Perpignan), P Pape (Stade Francais), Y Maestri
(Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), J Bonnaire (Clermont
Auvergne), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz).

Replacements: W Servat (Toulouse), V
Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), L Nallet (Racing Metro), L Picamoles
(Toulouse), J Dupuy (Stade Francais), L Beauxis (Toulouse), M Mermoz
(Perpignan).

France have made two changes to the side
that beat Scotland last time out for their rearranged RBS 6 Nations
game with Ireland on Sunday.

Les Bleus coach Philippe Saint-Andre announced on Monday Clement Poitrenaud had been called up to replace Maxime Medard for the game at the Stade de France after the full-back was ruled out with a knee injury picked up in the 23-17 win over Scotland.

Recalled: France forward Julien Bonnaire (right) will play on the flank

Recalled: France forward Julien Bonnaire (right) will play on the flank

The other change sees flanker Julien
Bonnaire replace No 8 Louis Picamoles. The move will see Imanol
Harinordoquy shift from the flank to fill in at No 8.

The match in Paris had originally been scheduled for February 11 but was postponed just before kick-off due to a frozen pitch.

Cover: Full-back Clement Poitrenaud (centre) replaces Maxime Medard

Cover: Full-back Clement Poitrenaud (centre) replaces Maxime Medard

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Andy Murray beats Marco Chiudinelli to reach Dubai Duty Free Championships quarter-final

Improved Murray makes light work of Chiudinelli to reach last eight in Dubai

Andy Murray became the first man through to the quarter-finals at the Dubai Duty Free Championships with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli.

The world No 4 has endured a post-Australian Open slump in the last two seasons and struggled on Tuesday in his first match since his Melbourne semi-final defeat by Novak Djokovic, needing three sets to get past unheralded German Michael Berrer.

Shake on it: Andy Murray beat Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli in straight sets to reach the last eight of the Dubai Duty Free Championships

Shake on it: Andy Murray beat Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli in straight sets to reach the last eight of the Dubai Duty Free Championships

But Murray looked much sharper today, albeit against modest opposition in the shape of the 30-year-old world number 185, and eased through in one hour and 22 minutes.

Coach Ivan Lendl said following the Berrer match that he believed Murray had left Australia in a positive frame of mind and he certainly made a fast start.

Easy does it: World No 4 Murray impressed in his second round win

Easy does it: World No 4 Murray impressed in his second round win

The 24-year-old created a break point in Chiudinelli's first service game and then capitalised on his next opportunity when a backhand proved too good for his opponent.

Feeling the heat: Chiudinelli was comfortably dispatched by Murray in Dubai

Feeling the heat: Chiudinelli was comfortably dispatched by Murray in Dubai

The Swiss player beat Nikolay Davydenko in the first round on Tuesday but he was having no joy at all on the Murray serve and the third seed served out the set with an ace.

In a hurry: Murray was the first through to the quarter finals

In a hurry: Murray was the first through to the quarter finals

Alex Kay Talks Tennis

Chiudinelli held Murray at bay in the second set until the ninth game, when some good play from the Scot forced three break points and he took the second to leave himself serving for the match.

And there were no late alarms for Murray, who will face either fifth seed Tomas Berdych or Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko in the last eight.

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Nicklas Bendtner eyes Russia move this summer

Show me the money! Arsenal striker Bendtner ready to join Russian revolution

Nicklas Bendtner is ready to turn his back on the Premier League with the striker eyeing a lucrative move to Russia this summer.

The Denmark international is on-loan at Sunderland from Arsenal but has failed to make an impression, scoring just three goals in 18 appearances so far this season.

Russian revolution: On-loan Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner admits he'd consider a move to Russia

Russian revolution: On-loan Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner admits he'd consider a move to Russia

The 24-year-old's faces an uncertain future with his Gunners contract expiring at the end of the season.

But Bendtner has admitted he would consider joining the Russian revolution should he become a free agent.

'There are a lot of very strong players going to Russia, players who previously wouldn't have done so,' he said.

'They play great football there.'

Up for grabs: Bendtner's Arsenal contract expires this summer

Up for grabs: Bendtner's Arsenal contract expires this summer

Bendtner's Arsenal team-mate Andrey Arshavin recently returned to his old club Zenit St Petersburg while Christopher Samba quit Blackburn last week to sign for mega-rich Anzhi Makachkala, managed by Guus Hiddink.

'I am fine for the moment and I will look at the options available to me when the time comes,' Bendtner added.

'You can never say never in football.'

Robin van Persie to play against England despite injury scare

Van Persie to risk groin injury against England despite scare in Holland training session

Robin van Persie is set to play against England at Wembley at Wednesday night despite a worrying injury scare.

The Arsenal captain failed to complete Holland's training session on Tuesday due to a groin problem and walked off the Wembley pitch for the final 15 minutes.

Van Persie was in visible discomfort before coming off, missing an eight-a-side training match.

Scroll down for video
Not again: A crestfallen Robin van Persie leaves the Wembley pitch

Not again: A crestfallen Robin van Persie leaves the Wembley pitch

Sportsmail was told on Tuesday night that Van Persie made the decision to come off after feeling pain in his groin.

Van Persie went into the
session carrying a 'very mild' groin problem from Sunday's win over
Tottenham, though it was not deemed serious enough to keep him out of
meeting up with the Dutch squad.

Discomfort: Van Persie shares a smile with Arjen Robben

Discomfort: Van Persie shares a smile with Arjen Robben

Arsenal sources insist Van Persie's decision to make an early withdrawal from training was purely precautionary.

And there now appears to be no doubts over his participation in the Gunners' clash against Liverpool on Saturday.

History: Van Persie suffered an ankle injury playing for his country against Italy in 2009

History: Van Persie suffered an ankle injury playing for his country against Italy in 2009

Arsene Wenger would be keen for his striker to sit out the friendly to ensure he does not risk aggravating the injury further. But Dutch boss Bert van Marwijk is ready to anger the Gunners manager by opting to playing the striker.

Close attention: Van Marwijk watches Van Persie at Wembley

Close attention: Van Marwijk watches Van Persie at Wembley

'I am optimistic that he will play. We will have to wait and but I don't think it's too serious,' said Van Marwijk.

The Holland manager knows he will be risking Wenger's wrath by taking any sort of fitness risk with his talismanic striker.

Wenger is already an outspoken critic
of the number of FIFA's international calendar, particularly with
regards to the number of friendly matches.

The Gunners manager has already had a number of run-ins with the Dutch FA over their use of Van Persie.

Speaking in 2010, former Holland
manager Dick Advocaat said: ‘He is always moaning about something.

'Mr
Wenger wants to become the champion of England; I want my team to
qualify from the Euro 2012 group. We need to respect the interests of
each other.’

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Scott Parker profile after being named England captain

From Capello's snub to leading his country… the rise of captain Parker

What an amazing rise to power. It was only in May 2010 that Scott Parker was considered too timid to secure a place in England’s World Cup squad.

Fabio Capello studied the then West Ham midfielder during that pre-tournament training camp in Austria and concluded he could offer nothing to his country in South Africa.

New man: Scott Parker poses in a photoshoot for FHM ahead of being named England captain

New man: Scott Parker poses in a photoshoot for FHM ahead of being named England captain

Not everyone on Capello’s staff agreed. Franco Baldini thought him the perfect alternative to Gareth Barry and given Barry’s fitness concerns, the then general manager of the England team would have had Parker on the plane.

The player himself, by then approaching 30, thought his chance with England had gone, not least because Capello had not even offered him the chance to impress in the pre-tournament warm-up matches.

But Parker responded by returning to West Ham and impressing week after week in the Barclays Premier League.

Leading the way: Parker trains with England at Wembley on the eve of the Holland match

Leading the way: Parker trains with England at Wembley on the eve of the Holland match

His team were struggling, slipping
ever closer towards relegation, but Parker continued to battle in a
manner that made him a worthy recipient of the footballer writers’ Footballer of the Year award.

In the end, even Capello cracked, with a European qualifying encounter against Wales in March 2011 the audition that Parker had craved.

In the holding role he looked a natural, and a player capable of handling the pressure of international football, given how much was at stake for him personally that day.

Since then, Parker has established himself in the national team to the point where he is now one of the first names on the team-sheet. Jack Wilshere so enjoyed having him alongside him he urged Arsenal to buy him ahead of Tottenham last summer.

Decisions: Stuart Pearce chose Parker over Steven Gerrard (left) for the role

Decisions: Stuart Pearce chose Parker over Steven Gerrard (left) for the role

FHM cover
Read an interview with Scott Parker in this month’s FHM Collections supplement – free with FHM – on sale on Thursday

After a dreadful start to their
Barclays Premier League campaign, Tottenham won the transfer race for
Parker and his presence in the side proved pivotal in their rise up the table.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp certainly sees Parker as the most important signing he has made since arriving at White Hart Lane.

Stuart Pearce would have seen all of this as he would have seen how Parker has established himself among England’s international footballers.

He commands respect but he also has the qualities that Pearce has been talking about when discussing what he looks for in a skipper.

He is selfless, he is a team player and he also leads by example. As Alan Curbishley remarked at the Footballer of the Year dinner last May, he is also the last player who will need a super-injunction.

Clearly, Steven Gerrard would have been the popular choice and it will be interesting to see this evening against Holland if Parker’s selection as captain has been influenced by Pearce’s desire to start with Gerrard on the bench.

But even if the two midfielders do start alongside one another for the first time in an England shirt at Wembley, no one can deny that Parker is also perfect captaincy material.

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Giles Clarke poised for third term as ECB chairman

Clarke poised for unprecedented third term as ECB chairman

Giles Clarke is set to continue as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board until 2015.

ECB has announced Clarke has been
nominated for the role by the 18 first class counties and Marylebone
Cricket Club for the next term of office up to the organisation's annual
general meeting in 2015.

Top man: ECB chairman Giles Clarke

Top man: ECB chairman Giles Clarke

No other nominations were received and Clarke's candidacy will now be put forward for election by the 41 full members of the ECB. The result will be known in mid-March.

Clarke said: 'I am most grateful and honoured by the First Class Counties and MCC in being re-nominated for the role of ECB Chairman.'