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Arsene Wenger hails Gervinho after Arsenal beat Reading

Wenger hails Gervinho as Arsenal stay in the hunt for Champions League place

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:44 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:44 GMT, 30 March 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed the confident display of Gervinho after the Ivory Coast forward set the Gunners on the way to a 4-1 win over relegation-battlers Reading which kept them in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

Gervinho has often cut a controversial figure among supporters following a string of frustrating displays following an 11million move from Lille in July 2011.

However, the 25-year-old was on the money this afternoon, opening the scoring on 11 minutes and having a hand in everything positive as Arsenal eventually broke the Royals stubborn resistance again at the start of the second half when Santi Cazorla sweeping home. Olivier Giroud added a third following a quick break by Gervinho.

Key role: Gervinho was praised by Arsene Wenger following his performance against Reading

Key role: Gervinho was praised by Arsene Wenger following his performance against Reading

Hal Robson-Kanu headed in a consolation for Nigel Adkins' men, but there was to be no recovery to mark their new manager's first match in charge as Mikel Arteta's penalty made sure Arsenal closed up on Chelsea in the race for fourth-spot and also remained within striking distance of Tottenham, on whom they hold a match in hand.

'Gervinho's performance was very strong. He was always dangerous, always looked like he could score, gave assists and scored himself,' Wenger said.

'I believe that sometimes Gervinho has lost confidence because he played in a very negative atmosphere during a period. Strikers need confidence, and [with] his game, even more.

Winning feeling: Gervinho celebrates with team mate Bacary Sagna after the 4-1 victory

Winning feeling: Gervinho celebrates with team mate Bacary Sagna after the 4-1 victory

'He was always taking the ball and going forward, and provoking. When you lose confidence, that is a very dangerous game then.

'When he has found the confidence back, he's a very dangerous player.

'At the African Nations Cup, for me he was the best striker there. He is the type of player who is difficult to find, because they always go at people.'

Wenger was pleased with the final result for his side, who have now won six of their last eight league games and also won 2-0 away over Bayern Munich in the Champions League, although still bowing out of Europe.

'I enjoyed our technical side, our creative side, our spirit and how disciplined and focused we were,' said Wenger.

Mind the gap: Arsene Wenger fighting for Champions League qualification

Mind the gap: Arsene Wenger fighting for Champions League qualification

'The regret you have is that there were more goals in this game than the number of goals we scored.

'Overall, it's a good basis to finish the season well. Let's just keep that spirit, that attitude and play the football we want to play.'

Wenger called for his side to keep their performances high over the run-in, with little margin for error if they are to gatecrash the top four once again.

'What we do is we look at the table and we are still behind Chelsea and Tottenham. We are not in a calculation mode,' he said.

'We can just win our next game and continue to do what we do at the moment.

'We are on a run so let's take care of the quality of our game and that run. After, we'll see where we stand.

On target: Gervinho was on the scoresheet

On target: Gervinho was on the scoresheet

'It (Champions League qualification) will be less predictable than it was predicted. We have a word to say in that and we want to give our best to do it.'

For Reading, meanwhile, the outlook is not so positive as the defeat sent them bottom of the table on goal difference, some seven points adrift of safety.

However, with a home clash against former club Southampton, Adkins is not about to throw in the towel just yet.

He said: 'We have had a bit of a fragmented week with the change, and players away on international duty, trying to get to grips with where we want to go and what to do is going to be challenging.

'We wanted to get something here, but didn't. Arsenal kept the ball very well.

'We will analyse it now, debrief back with the players, take the lessons from it and work very hard on the training ground for the next one.

'You can't change everything straight away, but we will all work hard together to give us a chance in the next game.'

Adkins added: 'The spirit is there in the group, and all we can do is take it one match at a time – there here and now is putting this one to bed, working hard over the course of the week for the next one.'

Didier Drogba to make Galatasaray home debut in front of loudest fans in world

Better bring your earplugs, Didier! Gala fans named loudest in world as Drogba prepares to make home debut against Schalke

PUBLISHED:

12:59 GMT, 18 February 2013

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UPDATED:

13:48 GMT, 18 February 2013

Didier Drogba can expect a thunderous reception when he makes his home debut for Galatasaray on Wednesday after the Turkish fans were named the loudest in the world.

Drogba, who scored five minutes into his first appearance for the club on Friday, is expected to feature in the Champions League last-16 clash against Schalke.

And the striker can expect the full backing of the home crowd at the Turk Telekon Arena who recorded a sound level of 131 decibels at a recent derby match – louder than standing 50m away from a military jet taking off.

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Main man: Didier Drogba celebrates scoring on his debut and will hope to do the same in front of his home fans

Main man: Didier Drogba celebrates scoring on his debut and will hope to do the same in front of his home fans

galatasaray fans

Meanwhile, Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua will take their battle against Drogba's move to Galatasaray to football's governing body FIFA this week.

The Ivory Coast striker left the club in acrimonious circumstances last month, with Shanghai saying he had breached his contract.

'We now have evidence which we believe will give Shenhua a 99 per cent chance of winning a lawsuit at FIFA,' a lawyer acting for the club told the Sina web portal.

The anonymous source from 'Shenhua's legal team' said papers would be submitted to the sport's governing body on Wednesday.

The report said Shenhua will provide evidence that Drogba breached his contract and that Galatasaray had violated FIFA rules by luring a player away from his current club.

Star man: Drogba left Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua to join Galatasaray

Star man: Drogba left Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua to join Galatasaray

Chinese media previously reported Drogba had asked FIFA to nullify his contract after the club defaulted on payments following a shareholder dispute dating back to September. The striker signed an 18-month, 9million deal with the Istanbul side.

Drogba — a Champions League winner with Chelsea last season — had signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Shanghai in June last year on a reported salary of $200,000-a-week.

Drogba's exit from Shanghai followed that of former Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka, who joined Italian giants Juventus on loan.

VIDEO Proof that Galatasaray fans are loudest in the world

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Nigel Adkins sacking by Southampton and replacement with Mauricio Pochettino is lunacy

Adkins sacking is lunacy but Saints must heed warning from Chelsea fans' abuse

By
James Coney, Money Mail Editor

PUBLISHED:

15:56 GMT, 18 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:43 GMT, 18 January 2013

You’d find it hard to find one
football fan, let alone any who support Southampton, who does not
believe the sacking of Nigel Adkins is complete madness.

Saints
had a terrible first few games back in the top flight. But even though
they lost eight in 10 matches there were few fans who lost confidence Adkins would get the team out of trouble.

And
the faith was rewarded. Saints have lost two in just 12 games,
including draws at Chelsea and Stoke and at home to Arsenal.

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Even though the side are just above the relegation places, there are few who don’t believe the only way is up.

The players clearly respect Adkins and the fans adore him.

Yet
club chairman Nicola Cortese has sacked the manager of a team, who just
two days drew, and almost beat, the champions of Europe.

He
has been replaced with a man few will have heard of, and by all
accounts speaks little English. His managerial career hardly sparkles –
getting Espanyol a couple of mid-table finishes before being sacked when
they were at the foot of La Liga.

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

FRANTIC FRIDAY

Read all the news of an unbelievable day on the south coast in MailOnline:

Southampton SACK Adkins and replace him with Pochettino just two days after drawing away at European champions Chelsea

Meet the man Southampton hope will keep them up… Pochettino unveiled but he can't speak English and admits he has been researching the Saints 'for several weeks'!

From sinner to Saint: Watch Southampton boss Pochettino foul Owen in the box

But
what is going through the head of every Saints fan will be this: Please
don’t let this be the start of another managerial merry-go-round.

Saints had 12 managers in eight years
before being relegated. Many of these were hopeless, some went on to
bigger clubs.

But sacking one who had gained two promotions in
consecutive seasons and had bought and built a talented team which
players bright attractive football seems like lunacy.

I
was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Three times the travelling
support sung Adkins’ name – even when the side were trailing 2-0 at half
time.

By contrast I
was struck by the horrible atmosphere among the Chelsea fans who despise
the sacking of their former manager. The abuse and animosity is having a
detrimental effect on the team’s home performances.

It’s a warning Saints supporters should heed.

I suspect there will now be the same level of anger towards the chairman by the Saints fans.
And
if that starts affecting performances then a side which was slowly
climbing the table could quickly fall back in to trouble.

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

Wilfried Zaha transfer news: Tottenham make 10m move for Crystal Palace starlet

Spurs spark January transfer battle for Zaha with 10m move for Palace starlet

By
Bob Cass

PUBLISHED:

23:00 GMT, 5 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:25 GMT, 6 January 2013

Tottenham will open negotiations this week for the 10million signing of Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

In spite of intense competition for
the 20-yearold Ivory Coast-born England international, Spurs have leapt
ahead of Manchester United and Chelsea because they are ready to do the
deal in the January transfer window and will comply with Palace's
condition that the player is loaned back to them until the end of the
season.

Chase hots up: Spurs open talks with Crystal Palace for Wilfred Zaha

Chase hots up: Spurs open talks with Crystal Palace for Wilfred Zaha

But neither United nor Chelsea are ready to concede defeat.

'Spurs may think they've jumped the gun, but the deal is a long way from being completed,' said a source close to the situation.

'This could turn out to be the hottest transfer battle of the season and it could boil down to a question of which club does Zaha want to join.'

Heading north Zaha could be crossing the river

Heading north Zaha could be crossing the river

Reading are about to sign Tom Rogic from Australian side Central Coast Mariners

Reading nearing second signing of the transfer window as fee is agreed for Aussie Rogic

PUBLISHED:

10:19 GMT, 2 January 2013

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UPDATED:

10:19 GMT, 2 January 2013

Reading are close to signing Australia international Tom Rogic to help bolster the options in central midfield.

Playmaker Rogic, 20, has shone for the Central Coast Mariners and is due to reach the end of his contract in May.

Reading fans will be hoping Rogic can give their midfield the spark it lacks

Ingenuity: Reading fans will be hoping that Rogic can ignite their midfield

He came close to joining Reading in 2011 when the Berkshire club failed to secure a work permit for him.

Mariners chairman Peter Turnbull said: 'We have been in discussions with Reading and both clubs are fairly satisfied with what's on the table and now it's up to Tom to reach a personal agreement with Reading.

'I am not going to say what the figure is but there is an agreement there. Of course we don't want to see him go,' he said to SBS' The World Game.

'I'd like to have Tommy here for another six years because he's a special player.

'But the reality is that quality Australian players will always want to test themselves overseas where they can command the salaries and exposure they cannot command here.

'You have seen it with the Harry Kewells, Brett Emertons, Lucas Neills, Jason Culinas and so many more over the years.

'We could keep Tom here until May when
his contract expires but then he could leave for nothing, and we as a
club would be out of pocket. It's a situation where our hands are really
tied.

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Rogic has been capped four times by Australia

International Pedigree: Rogic has been capped four times by Australia

'The way things are now I would expect that things will be resolved by the end of the week concerning Tom and it may be that he will decide to stay, though considering his past association with Reading perhaps that would be unlikely.'

Reading director of football Nick Hammond said in The Sun: 'We've been monitoring Tomas closely for the past year or so and were really disappointed when we couldn't sign him because of those work-permit issues.

'Our opinion of him has only got higher.

'He's a smashing lad. I have no doubt he has the potential to play in the Premier League.'

Rogic made his senior Australia debut against South Korea in November.

Didier Drogba should join Milan, says Marcello Lippi

He's a beast! Lippi urges Milan to splash big money on former Chelsea striker Drogba

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UPDATED:

11:33 GMT, 29 December 2012

Marcello Lippi has described Didier Drogba as ‘a beast’, insisting Milan should buy him, despite his price tag.

The Guangzhou Evergrande boss, who has been linked with Real Madrid, has been highly impressed with Drogba’s performances for Shanghai Shenhua.

But Milan bosses have already said he is too expensive.

Beast: Didier Drogba (right) should join Milan, according to former Italy manager Marcello Lippi

Beast: Didier Drogba (right) should join Milan, according to former Italy manager Marcello Lippi

The Ivory Coast international has been training with Chelsea during the Chinese Premier League’s close season and is still likely to leave before the next campaign.

‘If both Robinho and Alexandre Pato are really going to leave Milan, then I would see Drogba doing better for the Rossoneri than Juventus,’ Lippi told Gazzetta dello Sport.

‘He has played against our team and is still a beast. He makes a real difference on the field. Drogba would therefore be a valuable addition to the squad both in Serie A and the Champions League.’

The former Italian coach can also envisage him pairing up well with Stephan El Shaarawy, but knows Drogba will drive an exceptionally hard bargain.

Impressed: Drogba (right) has been in excellent form since joining Shanghai from Chelsea

Impressed: Drogba (right) has been in excellent form since joining Shanghai from Chelsea

One more time The last time Drogba played in Europe, he scored the winning penalty against Bayern Munich int he Champions League final

One more time The last time Drogba played in Europe, he scored the winning penalty against Bayern Munich int he Champions League final

‘I think, technically speaking, he would form a great partnership with El Shaarawy.

‘But, he did not follow his heart or, indeed, make a footballing decision when he decided to go to China.

‘He earns one million euro a month. Who can imagine he will agree to halve his wages to play in Italy’

Heather Watson aiming to stay top Brit

Looking after No 1… Ambitious Watson aiming to stay top Brit

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 21 December 2012

To gain an appreciation of how Heather Watson has become such a nuggety tennis player it helps to visit her at the place where it all started.

The IMG/Nick Bollettieri Academy on Florida's Gulf Coast is a very long way from her native Guernsey, but it was here that she arrived as a 12-year-old armed with a racket bag, a few mementoes of home and dreams inside her head.

'That's where I first stayed, it's actually a classroom now but it used to house several dorms,' says Britain's No 1 as she points at a whitewashed block of buildings in the middle of the campus.

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

Green machine: Watson at the IMG Academy

'It brings back a lot of good memories.' She looks almost surprised when you ask if she suffered any homesickness, but then not for nothing has the 20-year-old already acquired a reputation as one of the WTA Tour's most durable and resourceful newcomers. And it helps that her three roommates back in those days, aspiring young golfers from South Korea and America – and another called Nicola Reynolds from Guildford – turned out to be friends for life.

'It was too much fun in the dorms to be homesick and those three were great, I think they would be the bridesmaids at my wedding if I ever got married. I just found the whole thing very exciting and I can't remember anything negative about it at all.'

Watson's parents Ian and Michelle had decided that if she was to be serious about her tennis she had to leave Guernsey and head for a place with a track record of producing good players and they plumped for Bradenton.

After three years her mother came to live there part-time and she moved out of the dorms to focus more professionally. Michelle no longer travels that much with her after a request this summer from her daughter that she have a bit more space.

Bathed in year-round sunshine and with an on-site high school, the academy turned out to be a decent choice, which is why Watson heads into the new season exuding such optimism, even by her own sunny standards.

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

Delight: Watson after her memorable victory in Osaka in October

When she flies to Auckland on
Christmas night it will be as the world No 49, with a very particular
plan as to how she will build on the success of the past two seasons
that has come quicker than anyone expected.

Watson
approaches each campaign with military precision and every December
holds what might be termed an Annual General Meeting with her father,
which can last three hours and features a devastatingly honest appraisal
of the season just gone.

'We
have to be absolutely clear about things and not hold back. It can get
quite heated although this year's took only two hours because I reached
my main target, which was to get into the world's top 50,' she says.

'For the coming season the soft target is to get into the top 30 and the ultimate one is to make the top 25. It would be great to be seeded for a Grand Slam, which sounds a lot but I believe in setting quite tough goals.'

There is also the incentive to ward off the rising challenge of Laura Robson, although she places that in a wider context. 'I would want to finish the year British No 1, not No 2, but I am focussed far more on what happens in the world rankings in general.'

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Brit of all right: Watson in action at the London Olympics

Watson is currently ending her offseason training block in the company of her Colombian coach Mauricio Hadad and her fitness trainer Flo Pietzsch. On the day we meet she is practising with Alexander Sendegeya, a 16-year-old Liverpudlian based there who is trying a similar route to the top of the game.

After a festive visit from her mother Michelle, the three of them will take off for New Zealand knowing a big opportunity for ranking improvement presents itself. This is because she had a poor start to a season that ended with her becoming the first British player in 24 years to win a title on the main WTA Tour, the HP Open in Osaka.

'I went to Australia last year with half a sprained ankle that I did playing football and it was never going to be good in hindsight. The victory in Japan has really helped my confidence.'

Watson is relatively diminutive at 5ft 7in, but points out that Martina Hingis was no powerhouse either. 'The really positive thing is I've got to where I am with still so much that I can work on. I know I've got to get bigger shots and I'm using doubles to work on coming to the net, which is something I love. I know I am not that big but I have certain advantages with my speed and agility, and my mental toughness.'

Watson believes she is still three to four years off her best and will not rest until she becomes a factor more at the business end of Grand Slam tournaments.

Away from the court her ambition is to buy a flat close to Wimbledon and Roehampton's National Tennis Centre. 'London's expensive so I'm having to save up,' she says. 'I drove past those One Hyde Park apartments the other day. I might have to win a Grand Slam to afford one.

Ricky Burns eyeing one more fight before Adrien Broner unification

Burns eyeing one more test before 'biggest fight of his life' against Broner

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UPDATED:

19:39 GMT, 17 December 2012

Ricky Burns will not fight rising American star Adrien Broner until April at the earliest.

The Scot was due to defend his WBO world lightweight title at the Excel Arena last Saturday but prospective opponents Liam Walsh and Jose Ocampo pulled out.

Burns, 29, is instead expected to return to the ring on January 26 in Glasgow while WBC champion Broner will be in back in action three weeks later.

Let down: Ricky Burns was unable to defend his title against Jose Ocampo

Let down: Ricky Burns was unable to defend his title against Jose Ocampo

Assuming both come through unscathed, a
unification showdown could take place in America in the spring – but
only if the price is right.

Burns' manager Alex Morrison told STV:
'I spoke to Ricky this morning and we decided he will not be fighting
Adrien Broner in February.

'Ricky didn’t want to jump from a non-event to the biggest fight of his life in a matter of weeks.

'He’ll make a defence of his title in Glasgow in January and we’ll look at Broner after that.'

Burns had been promised a 300,000 pay-day by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer to fight Broner in February.

'I hope we can make it happen then,'
he said. 'I don’t see why not and Ricky Burns will be paid two or three
times more than his previous best purse. The venue could be Atlantic
City on the East Coast.'

Mouthwatering match-up: Burns could be set to fight Adrien Broner in April

Mouthwatering match-up: Burns could be set to fight Adrien Broner in April

But Morrison added that it will take at least 400,000 to tempt Burns into facing the 23-year-old.

'Ricky will fight in America if the
money is right,' he said. 'That’s 400,000 net, after fees, after tax.
We could be looking at April.'

Broner offered to fly to London at
just two days' notice last week to face Burns, whom he accuses of avoiding
him when the pair fought at super-featherweight.

'I’m ready. Burns is a world-class fighter and I respect him for what he’s done.

'I wanted to fight him when he was WBO
super-featherweight world champion but he moved up a division. I hope
he doesn’t try to avoid me again.

'We should all try hard to make sure
our fight happens. There will be a lot at stake with two belts on the
line. Let’s give fans the kind of fight they want.

'We can all make a lot of money from this fight and be happy.'

Chris Hughton plans January move for Craig Mackail-Smith and Liam Bridcutt

Hughton plots January raid on Brighton for Mackail-Smith

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UPDATED:

08:47 GMT, 17 December 2012

Norwich manager Chris Hughton is planning a January spending spree, with Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith top of his list.

And Hughton may raid the south coast side for midfielder Liam Bridcutt too, according to the Daily Mirror.

The Irishman is a long-standing admirer of Mackail-Smith, who has 10 goals in 19 Championship matches this season, and had a 3m bid rejected in the summer.

Transfer target: Norwich boss Chris Hughton wants to bring Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith to Carrow Road in January

Transfer target: Norwich boss Chris Hughton wants to bring Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith to Carrow Road in January

The frontman is a proven goalscorer in the second tier and also has six caps for Scotland.

Bridcutt, who started out at Chelsea, is also on the radar of Aston Villa and Fulham.

On the radar: Hughton is also interested in Brighton midfielder Liam Bridcutt

On the radar: Hughton is also interested in Brighton midfielder Liam Bridcutt

The 23-year-old midfielder is out of contract in the summer and has yet to agree a new deal.

Hughton was boosted over the weekend when midfielder Wes Hoolahan signed a new three-year contract.

Carlin Isles – fastest rugby player on the planet?

Is this the fastest rugby player on the planet Former US sprinter taking Sevens circuit by storm

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UPDATED:

13:01 GMT, 12 December 2012

Forget Bryan Habana and his cheetah, American Sevens star Carlin Isles is quickly earning a reputation as the fastest man in rugby.

The 23-year-old was rated as the 36th-fastest sprinter in the US with a 100m personal best of 10.13 seconds before opting to switch to the oval ball game just a few months ago.

Scroll down to watch a video of Isles in action…

Speedster: Carlin Isles is taking the Sevens circuit by storm

Speedster: Carlin Isles is taking the Sevens circuit by storm

And Isles, who's PB would have seen him qualify for this year's Olympic 100m semi-final, has taken no time at all to adapt to rugby and he took October's Gold Coast Sevens by storm.

Clearly not short of confidence (and rightly so as the video below confirms), Isles has loved every minute of his rugby career so far. 'I had a track career and now I am playing rugby and for that I am very thankful,' he said.

'When I see all the room on the pitch, it’s like Christmas to me. When we train, the width of the pitch is a little shorter, so I was like, “I can run all day around these guys”.'

Having missed out on London 2012 Isles may yet get the opportunity to compete at the Olympics when Sevens returns at Rio 2016.