Tag Archives: lengthy

Manchester United and Arsenal won"t win Champions League = Roy Hodgson

That's harsh, Roy! England boss writes off United's chances of beating Real (and he doesn't fancy Arsenal either…)

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

13:56 GMT, 19 February 2013

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UPDATED:

14:03 GMT, 19 February 2013

Roy Hodgson does not expect another English triumph in the Champions League this year, claiming his favourites for the title come from Spain and Germany.

Hodgson has picked Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as his top tips to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May, dismissing Arsenal and Manchester United’s hopes.

Speaking to an Italian newspaper, the England manager also said he had been impressed by the progress made at Juventus since their return to the top.

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

Vital: Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal against Real Madrid

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

head boy: Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the scores at the Bernabeu last week

‘My favourites are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern,’ said Hodgson. ‘Juventus is working well, too.’

Juve are virtually into the last eight after winning 3-0 at Celtic in the first leg of their last-16 encounter but he does not rate the chances of Arsenal, who take on Bayern Munich at the Emirates tonight, or Manchester United, runaway Barclays Premier League leaders, who drew 1-1 with Real in Madrid last week.

‘Arsenal and Manchester United have been unlucky with the draw,’ said Hodgson, during a lengthy interview with Gianfelice Facchetti, son of legendary Inter Milan defender Giacinto, who died in seven years ago.

His views are in line with the fear that the Premier League clubs have lost their stranglehold having dominated Europe for a few years.

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Tough times: Arsene Wenger must mastermind a win over Bayern Munich

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

Fancied: Roy Hodgson has backed Bayern Munich to beat Arsenal

In 2008, three of the four Champions League semi-finalists were from England but this year, for the second successive season, only two have qualified for the last 16.

Despite this and his acceptance that there is a diminishing pool of homegrown talent in the Premier League, Hodgson told Gazzetta’s Extra Time that he was optimistic about the future for the national team.

‘The win against Brazil was very important,’ said the England boss. ‘I am confident we can improve. We are finding the right balance between the old and new generations.

Jack Wilshere is a fantastic talent for the future. He lost a year through injuries but he is fit.’

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

Top tips: Hodgson has also backed Barcelona and Juventus to impress

He also said England fans were pleased to see an Englishman at the helm after the years under Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson.

‘The fans are happy and I suppose it is because the English team have an English manager and optimism is good because we have some young players,’ said Hodgson.

‘We had good managers but I think in a country with such important football history as England, Italy or Germany, the fans are more critical with a foreign manager. I knew this was the reality because I was national team coach in foreign countries.’

Andreas Weimann Aston Villa contract talks open

Aston Villa open contract talks with promising young striker Weimann

By
John Curtis, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

10:19 GMT, 26 January 2013

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UPDATED:

10:19 GMT, 26 January 2013

Contract talks: Weimann (right)

Contract talks: Weimann (right)

Aston Villa have held initial discussions with striker Andreas Weimann over a new contract.

Weimann has 18 months left of his current deal and Villa are hoping to secure the long-term future of the Austria international.

The 21-year-old broke into the first team last season and scored a vital injury-time winner against Fulham as the midlands club stayed up by only two points.

But it is during the current campaign that he has made a sustained impact and is their second top scorer with nine goals.

Weimann has formed a productive partnership with 11-goal Christian Benteke and the duo have kept record signing Darren Bent out of the side for lengthy periods.

Weimann's form has been one of the few highlights in a dismal season in which Villa are involved in another relegation fight and suffered a double cup exit to lower-league Bradford and Millwall.

His tally includes a double in the 3-2 defeat against Manchester United and another in the 3-1 win at Liverpool.

Impact: Weimann has been a standout performer for Villa this year

Impact: Weimann has been a standout performer for Villa this year

Villa boss Paul Lambert recently described Weimann as a 'natural finisher.'

He said: 'The way Andreas conducts himself on the pitch and in training is excellent.

'He has been really on top of his game and taken his chance in the first team.'

Weimann joined Villa as a 16-year-old from Rapid Vienna and had two spells on loan at Watford before before signing a new three-year deal with his parent club in August 2011.

He won his first senior cap for his country against Kazakhstan in October.

Theo Walcott agrees deal to stay at Arsenal

Walcott finally agrees new deal at Emirates with forward set to stay at Arsenal until 2016

PUBLISHED:

12:19 GMT, 18 January 2013

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UPDATED:

13:00 GMT, 18 January 2013

Theo Walcott appears to have ended the drawn out contract saga at Arsenal by agreeing a new deal that will keep him at the club until 2016.

After lengthy negotiations the England forward has finally agreed, in principle, a three-and-a-half year deal at the Emirates.

The 23-year-old is likely to join fellow Britons Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who all signed five-year extensions last month.

Finally: Theo Walcott has agreed a new deal with Arsenal after lengthy negotiations

Finally: Theo Walcott has agreed a new deal with Arsenal after lengthy negotiations

On alert: Arsene Wenger was concerned that another of his prized assets would leave the club

On alert: Arsene Wenger was concerned that another of his prized assets would leave the club

Walcott was expected to agree a deal
sooner, but he baulked at a deal worth 75,000 per week in
August as he held out for a contract closer to 100,000.

Arsene Wenger has seen some of his brightest
talents leave the Emirates in the past two summers.

Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri,
Alex Song and the Premier League's leading goalscorer this season Robin van Persie have
all departed and the Frenchman was desperate to keep Walcott
on board.

Wenger had
said that he was '99 per cent' certain that Walcott would agree terms
before the weekend, and it appears his prediction has come to fruition.

He told The Sun: 'I hope it will be signed before the weekend. There is a possibility. My optimism is at 99 per cent now.'

He added that he was concerned
Walcott would follow the other big names out of the club but it appears
he is set to stay in north London.

Wenger said: 'Yes I was scared at
some stage, that he could leave because it is like that with the
experience I have in negotiations.

'When things last too long, it is never a good sign. It took us some time to get where we want to get. It is still not finalised, but hopefully it will be done by this weekend.'

Walcott joined the Gunners in 2006, when Wenger signed the 16-year-old Southampton academy graduate.

The Englishman is Arsenal's top scorer this campaign with 14 goals in all competitions.

Problem solved: Arsene Wenger managed to convince Walcott to stay at the club

Problem solved: Arsene Wenger managed to convince Walcott to stay at the club

Crisis averted: Samir Nasri moved to Manchester City

Crisis averted: Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona in 2011

Crisis averted: Samir Nasri (left) moved to Manchester City and Cesc Fabregas (right) left for Barcelona in 2011

Big loss: Robin van Persie left Arsenal last summer for Manchester United

Big loss: Robin van Persie left Arsenal last summer for Manchester United

Barnsley 1 Blackburn 3 – match report: Keith Hill sacked

Barnsley 1 Blackburn 3: Hill sacked as Tykes slip to foot of the table

PUBLISHED:

18:01 GMT, 29 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:06 GMT, 29 December 2012

Managerless Blackburn put two days of off-field turmoil behind them to record a first win in seven matches against npower Championship strugglers Barnsley – whose manager Keith Hill was sacked after the game.

Henning Berg was dismissed as Rovers manager on Thursday following one win in 10 games at the helm.

Rovers' senior coaching staff were also shown the door and, under the caretaker control of reserve-team boss Gary Bowyer, it was the only signing of Berg's 57-day reign that opened the scoring at Oakwell.

Three and easy: Rovers recorded their first win in seven games

Three and easy: Rovers recorded their first win in seven games

Match facts

Barnsley: Steele, Wiseman (Stones 46), Foster, McNulty, Golbourne, O'Brien, Dawson, Perkins, Done (Noble-Lazarus 46), Tudgay, Davies (Sinclair 70).

Subs Not Used: Lidakevicius, Hassell, Harewood, Greening.

Booked: McNulty.

Goals: Dawson 76.

Blackburn: Kean, Henley, Hanley, Dann, Martin Olsson, Rochina (Markus Olsson 67), Murphy, Lowe, Vukcevic (Kazim-Richards 46), Rhodes, King (Nuno Gomes 90).

Subs Not Used: Usai, Henrique, Morris, Rosado.

Booked: King, Vukcevic.

Goals: King 29, Rochina 44, Rhodes 90.

Attendance: 9,153

Referee: Andy D'Urso (Essex).

Click here for the latest Championship table, fixtures and results

On-loan Manchester United forward
Josh King's bundled home before the half hour and a sublime individual
effort on the stroke of half-time from Ruben Rochina gave Blackburn
breathing space.

Stephen Dawson reduced the arrears
during a lacklustre second half, the closing stages of which were marred
by the sight of Barnsley forward Marcus Tudgay receiving lengthy
treatment following a collision with Rovers goalkeeper Jake Kean and
leaving the field on a stretcher.

That reduced Hill's side to 10
men having used all their substitutions and, in the eighth of nine
additional minutes, Jordan Rhodes muscled his way on to Jason Lowe's
long ball to seal Blackburn's triumph and send Barnsley to the foot of
the table.

Stephen Foster returned to the heart
of the Barnsley defence after suspension ruled him out of the Boxing Day
defeat to Birmingham, while Scott Wiseman, Matty Done and Craig Davies
were restored to Hill's starting line-up.

Bowyer tweaked Blackburn's attack by selecting Rochina and Simon Vukcevic in support of top scorer Jordan Rhodes.

Colin Kazim-Richards and Diogo Rosado
dropped to the bench while David Dunn, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Gael
Givet and Dickson Etuhu were among a host of senior players absent from
the squad.

Barnsley almost took the lead in the
ninth minute when Scott Dann's botched clearance presented Davies with
an opportunity but Rovers managed to scramble clear.

More slack defending, this time a
poor backpass from Martin Olsson, presented Dawson with a shooting
opportunity but Grant Hanley was in place to head clear.

Hotshot: Jordan Rhodes settled the game in the dying embers

Hotshot: Jordan Rhodes settled the game in the dying embers

Davies had the ball in the net with
17 minutes played but the whistle had gone for a foul on Adam Henley and
Blackburn then began to make most of the running.

Rhodes uncharacteristically skied
over after Rochina released Henley in the 23rd minute and Barnsley could
not claim the opening goal was not on the cards when it arrived.

Straight from a Kean clearance, King
raced clear of the Tykes backline and, although Luke Steele save his
initial effort, the rebound struck him and bobbled into the net.

Rovers remained on the front foot and were rewarded in style by Rochina.
Wiseman backed off the advancing former Barcelona B playmaker, who
stormed into the penalty area and lashed past Steele at his near post.

Kean saved well from Tudgay on the
stroke of half-time but that did not persuade Hill against making a
double substitution at the break as Reuben Noble-Lazarus and John Stones
replaced Done and Wiseman.

Kazim-Richards was also on at the
interval for the injured Vukcevic and almost extended Blackburn's lead
in the 54th minute, seeing a shot deflected behind.

That opportunity was inventively
set-up by Rochina and Blackburn let the initiative slip after he limped
off midway through the half.

Barnsley sensed the opportunity and, with 14 minutes to go, Dawson lashed home emphatically from 20 yards.

The host's charge for an equaliser
was concluded without Tudgay – leading to the huge allocation of injury
time that Rhodes crowned with his 12 Blackburn goal in 21 starts.

Robin van Persie kick: Ashley Williams will not be charged by the FA

What will Sir Alex say Swansea skipper Williams will NOT be charged over RVP kickFA won't take any action against WilliamsFergie fumed Van Persie 'could have been killed'Man United boss will not face disrepute charge over his comments

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UPDATED:

11:17 GMT, 24 December 2012

TODAY'S POLL

Should Williams be banned for his kick at Van Persie

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Ashley Williams

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The FA have confirmed they will NOT be charging Swansea City defender Ashley Williams for his ugly clash with Robin van Persie at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson called for Williams to be handed a lengthy suspension for slamming the ball into the back of Van Persie’s head from point-blank range when the United striker was lying on the floor after a 74th-minute foul.

Ferguson, speaking after United were held 1-1, went on to claim the incident ‘could have killed’ Van Persie, but the FA confirmed to Sportsmail that no action will be taken against Williams as he was booked at the time by referee Michael Oliver.

Pain in the neck: Van Persie feels the force of Ashley Williams' kick

Head case: Williams lashes the ball against the neck of floored United striker Van Persie

Lashing out: Floored Manchester United striker Robin van Persie feels the force of Ashley Willaims' kick

Ref rage: An angry Sir Alex Ferguson complains to fourth official Lee Probert after the incident

Ref rage: An angry Sir Alex Ferguson complains to fourth official Lee Probert after the incident

It is the policy of the FA not to ‘re-referee’ incidents that have been seen by the match officials.

The FA also said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that Ferguson will be handed a disrepute charge for his comments on the matter.

The United manager had said: ‘The Van Persie situation you can clearly see that he could have been killed.

‘The FA has got to look into it
regardless that he has been given a yellow card. He should be banned for
a long time because that was the most dangerous thing I’ve seen on a
football field for many years.

Seeing red: Van Persie leaps up to retaliate with Williams after the incident

Seeing red: Van Persie leaps up to retaliate with Williams after the incident

Head-to-head: A furious Van Persie leaps up to vent his rage to Williams after the incident

Head-to-head: A furious Van Persie leaps up to vent his rage to Williams after the incident

Pulled apart: The pair had to be separated by their team-mates

Pulled apart: The pair had to be separated by their team-mates

So, was RVP at risk

GRAHAM POLL
Former Premier League referee

Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction to Ashley Williams kicking the ball that hit Robin van Persie in the 76th minute sounded a little over the top, but Williams could well have been sent off rather than cautioned by referee Michael Oliver.

If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball was deliberately kicked at an opponent and used like a weapon, then he should have been sent off for violent conduct. As it was reasonable for Williams’s actions to be seen as natural in clearing a loose ball from his own penalty area, it was almost impossible for Oliver to determine with any degree of certainty what his intentions were – and so a caution was the sensible decision.

MARK LEATHER
Former Premier League physio

It's unlikely that being hit by the ball could have killed Van Persie. But being struck that hard from such a short distance could have knocked him out. I’ve seen players knocked out by free-kicks struck from 10 yards away.

If you are unconscious, there is then a risk of trauma to the brain. A blow that fierce is like being hit in boxing – the damage is unpredictable. It can lead to internal bleeding and permanent damage, or there can be just an aching head.

‘It was absolutely deliberate. The
whistle has gone, the game has stopped and he has done that right in
front of the referee – he could have killed the lad.

‘It was a disgraceful act by the player, he should banned for a long time.’

Williams played down the incident,
saying: ‘I tried to clear the ball, (but) it hit him on the head. I was
trying to clear the ball. He was obviously a bit angry about that.

‘It was a much ado about nothing.’

He added: ‘I tried to apologise but
there wasn't much time. I didn't see him afterwards. Obviously I would
shake his hand but it is no big deal.

'I just lashed at the ball and I
understand why he is angry but it is not like I am going to shoot and
hit him square on the head.’

The ugly scenes detracted from a thrilling draw. Patrice Evra had put
United ahead after 16 minutes but Michu hit back for Swansea with his
13th Barclays Premier League strike 13 minutes later. United twice hit
the frame of the goal as they tried and failed to restore their
six-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, says Ashley Williams is 'not a nasty footballer'.

He said: 'You see the incident and it is a very, very dangerous situation'.

'If you see one of your players with a bang on the back of the head it is really dangerous and it can have bad consequences. You can understand that.

In the book: Referee Michael Oliver booked Williams but Ferguson is calling for the defender to be banned

Yellow peril: Van Persie was also booked by Oliver for his part in the bust-up

In the book: Referee Michael Oliver booked Williams but Ferguson is calling for the defender to be banned, while Van Persie also received a yellow card for his part in the bust-up

'I signed Ashley Williams for Swansea
and I know his character inside out. I can guarantee you without even
looking at the incident that he is not a nasty footballer.

'He is a winner and fully committed, a
leader and a captain, and I don't for one second doubt that he did not
do that on purpose.

'It is an action of the game. He can
show frustration – it is an emotional game and it is very unfortunate
that it hits Van Persie in a part of the body where he could have been
hurt heavily, and you don't want to see that.

'But from my point of view, I know
Ashley Williams really well – when you sign a player you find out about a
player and I can guarantee you he is not the type of footballer who
would do that on purpose.'

QPR boss Harry Redknapp, speaking ahead of his side's Boxing Day clash with West Bromwich Albion, said of the Williams incident: 'I don't see how he was going to be killed.

'He kicked the ball at him. I have seen worse things on a football pitch.'

Sir Alex scouts 15m-rated Benfica defender Garay

Sir Alex scouts 15m-rated Benfica defender Garay

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UPDATED:

11:15 GMT, 21 December 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has sent scouts to watch 15million-rated Argentinian defender Ezequiel Garay play for Portuguese club Benfica.

Formerly of Real Madrid, Garay has to be sold by Benfica next summer since they are struggling to pay his wages.

Garay has 11 caps for his country and has also been tracked by Juventus.

Heads up: Sir Alex has sent scouts to watch Garay in recent matches

Heads up: Sir Alex has sent scouts to watch Garay in recent matches

Sir Alex has had to field a patched-up defence this season following Nemanja Vidic's lengthy absence and Rio Ferdinand has also been prone to injury in recent years.

He struggled to land a permanent place under Jose Mourinho, but has been impressive after moving to Portugal.

Real are also entitled to half of whatever fee he is sold for.

Case for the defence: Garay has been in action in the Champions League with Benfica

Case for the defence: Garay (left) has been in action in the Champions League with Benfica

McLaren worse without Lewis Hamilton – Christian Horner

Red Bull team principal Horner says McLaren will be worse without Hamilton

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UPDATED:

08:37 GMT, 28 November 2012

McLaren will be a poorer team next season without Lewis Hamilton, according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Hamilton, who joins Mercedes on a three-year deal in 2013, saw his lengthy association with the British team end in failure after he was forced to retire from the lead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton will be replaced by Sergio Perez, who failed to score a single point in the six races since his move to McLaren was announced in September.

Impact: Christian Horner thinks McLaren will miss Lewis Hamilton

Impact: Christian Horner thinks McLaren will miss Lewis Hamilton

Switch: Hamilton (right) is leaving for Mercedes in 2013

Switch: Hamilton (right) is leaving for Mercedes in 2013

‘McLaren is a weaker team without Lewis,’ said Horner. ‘They would admit that.’

‘Lewis is an outstanding driver and in Lewis and Jenson Button they had a hugely strong driver line-up.’

Hamilton joins a Mercedes team who ended the season desperately off the pace.

But Horner, who last night joined over 500 of his Red Bull colleagues in celebrating Sebastian Vettel’s world championship triumph, still believes Hamilton will be a contender for the title next term.

‘Whichever team had taken Lewis, he will be an asset,’ Horner added.

‘Lewis will naturally bring performance to Mercedes. Fernando Alonso, Lewis and indeed Jenson are very strong threats for next year.’

Vettel completed a hat-trick of titles last Sunday after finishing sixth at the season-ending race in Brazil.

Chat: Mark Webber, Horner, Sebastian Vettel, David Coulthard and Adrian Newey speak to the Red Bull team

Chat: Mark Webber, Horner, Sebastian Vettel, David Coulthard and Adrian Newey speak to the Red Bull team

The 25-year-old German fought his way from the back of the pack after a collision with the Williams of Bruno Senna on the opening lap to beat Alonso to the title by just three points.

Phil Duncan F1 blog

After strong comeback drives in Abu Dhabi, where he finished third after starting from the pit-lane, and in Interlagos, Vettel has done his best to dampen accusations that his strongest performances only come from the front of the pack.

‘It’s actually a little bit of comedy to look back now and you were the driver who can’t overtake,’ said Vettel. ‘Now after just two races people have changed their mind.

‘To win from the front or to come through the field it is the same thing. You still do your best.

‘People credit the fact that you have overtaken drivers more than pulling away from the front and building a lead.

‘Maybe they don’t understand how much it is worth to pull out a gap’

Vettel was gifted sixth place in Sunday’s rain-hit race after Michael Schumacher allowed his fellow countryman to pass with relative ease.

Triple champ: Vettel (left) secured his third consecutive F1 drivers title at the weekend

Triple champ: Vettel (left) secured his third consecutive F1 drivers title at the weekend

It was Schumacher’s final grand prix before retiring from the sport for a second time, and Horner believes the manoeuvre was very significant.

‘Michael is renowned for being a tough racer but it was his gesture to Sebastian,’ added Horner.

‘It was almost like passing the baton on. It wouldn’t have been well received at his former team but Michael obviously felt it was something he wanted to do and it was very generous.’

On Schumacher, Vettel, who could challenge his fellow countryman’s incredible record of seven world titles, added: ‘He is extremely happy for me.

‘It is a great gift and great part of your character if you can be truly happy for somebody else because I think there is a lot of guys who pretend to be happy buy they’re not.

‘In that regard it is impressive after what he has achieved.’

Arsene Wenger responds to Arsenal fans" criticism

Wenger opts for sarcasm as Arsenal fans voice frustrations against Villa

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UPDATED:

22:20 GMT, 25 November 2012

It was short, sweet and to the point.

After Arsenal’s travelling support chanted ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at Arsene Wenger following his late substitution of Olivier Giroud, the club’s manager chose sarcasm as a convenient escape.

Well, it was either that or criticising his own fans which is the game’s No 1 no-go area as far as football managers are concerned.

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

‘I’ve been lucky,’ he said, ‘I’ve only managed 1,600 games and in 200 matches in the Champions League.’

As a neutral, it was difficult not to feel a tad of sympathy. Given Wenger’s monumental achievements over the past 15 years, perhaps he deserves more understanding.

Saturday’s outing at a drenched Villa Park was the Gunners’ 10th game in 34 days. Some of his players had used their spare week in that time to represent their respective countries.

This Wednesday’s trip to Everton kicks off a spell of five matches inside a fortnight. It is a hefty workload.

And Wenger travelled to the Midlands on the back of a vital home Champions League qualification game with Montpellier.

Benched: Jack Wilshere was rested by Wenger against Aston Villa

Benched: Jack Wilshere was rested by Wenger against Aston Villa

Arsenal fans howled for the introduction of Jack Wilshere after barely an hour, vocalising their criticism of the manager still further. They were right, too. This stalemate needed a touch of genius.

But equally Wenger’s explanation was sensible. After being without the England international for such a lengthy period of time, he’s using his experience to guide the playmaker through.

‘Jack’s ankle is inflamed,’ he said, ‘it’s around the scar tissue. It’s not much but the rest today will help him get rid of it.

‘Apart from that, he’s done well. But he’s not played competitively for 17 months. People forget what that means — in terms of his career, 17 months is a massive length of time.

Under the cosh: Arsene Wenger

Under the cosh: Arsene Wenger

‘But I’m happy with his progress.’

It was fair to say that Arsenal’s usual crispness of passing was lacking but Villa, with Paul Lambert watching from the stands following his one-match ban for criticising match officials, were far more solid after conceding eight goals in their last two outings.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared particularly afflicted by the hosts’ industry. But again Wenger’s comments were on the level.

‘He’s learning his trade and he’s a very talented young boy,’ he said, ‘I believe he will be a great player but at the moment he is learning his job. Basically, he’s 19 years old.’

As for Lambert, he trotted out his usual ‘We’ll be fine’ line.

He’s right, fine lines are what the game’s all about. But he’s not out of the woods yet.

If Villa’s next three matches against Reading, QPR and Stoke City don’t go according to plan, he might need his own method of self-defence.

Oh well, he could always phone Wenger for advice.

Michael Clarke better than Sir Donald Bradman?

Better than Bradman High-flying Clarke is in the form of ANY Test batsman's life

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UPDATED:

14:21 GMT, 22 November 2012

It's no longer enough to say that Michael Clarke is merely in the form of his life. After Thursday's undefeated 224 against South Africa at Adelaide, there is an argument for saying he is in the form of any batsman's life in the history of Test cricket – including Don Bradman.

Clarke's 243-ball beauty pageant, part of Australia's first-day Blitzkrieg of 482 for 5 – the most they have scored in a day's play since 1901 – made him the first player to score four Test double-hundreds in a single year.

Bradman managed three of the blighters in 1930. It's only fair to point out that he batted only eight times that year to the 12 innings Clarke has managed so far in 2012. Even so, a fourth double eluded him.

Flying high: Clarke is in the form of any Test batsman's life

Flying high: Clarke is in the form of any Test batsman's life

Top Spin

As Bradman himself would have pointed out: facts are facts. You just don't outdo the Don, especially not in Australia, and especially not at Adelaide, Bradman's home for most of his career.

But Clarke is redefining records that have stood untouched for years, and have thus been regarded as untouchable.

It all starts with Bradman's Test average of 99.94, which cricket aficionados generally accept won't ever be beaten over the course of a lengthy career. And it goes from there. No one can rival Bradman. If they do, we know we are witnessing something special.

Take bat: Clarke has scored 1,265 Test runs this calendar year

Take bat: Clarke has scored 1,265 Test runs this calendar year

Clarke now averages 75 in his 17 Tests as captain of Australia, which began so unpromisingly with an innings defeat to England at Sydney in January 2011. In 2012, that figure rises to 140.

This calendar year alone, he has scored 1,265 Test runs, which is 361 runs more than the next man, Alastair Cook. But Cook averages 43, nearly 100 fewer.

Quite simply, no one can live with Clarke – except, it seems, Kyly Boldy, who married him in May and is presumably enjoying what must feel like the longest honeymoon in Test history. For there is a joy about Clarke's batting right now that weds confidence and technique and fearlessness.

Legend of the game: Don Bradman's Test average of 99.94 is unlikely to be beaten

Legend of the game: Don Bradman's Test average of 99.94 is unlikely to be beaten

South Africa's attack may have been weakened by injuries to Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, but Clarke was still in the mood to take five fours in an over off the fearsome Morne Morkel. A lofted drive over extra-cover was followed by two cuts backward of point, a drive past a flailing mid-off, then – the piece de resistance – a glorious on-drive.

In January, Clarke scored 329 not out against India at Sydney, but declared before he could go past Australia's record of 334, shared by Mark Taylor and Bradman. The time feels right to rectify that show of modesty in Adelaide tomorrow.

Raheem Sterling apologises to Ben Watson after collision leads to broken leg at Anfield

Sterling says sorry to Watson for breaking his leg in freak collision

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UPDATED:

18:47 GMT, 17 November 2012

Raheem Sterling has apologised to Ben Watson for the challenge which resulted in a broken leg for the Wigan man during Liverpool's 3-0 win at Anfield.

In a freak collision, 27-year-old Watson was caught just above the shin by the knee of the Reds winger as they jumped for a ball in the first half.

'To Ben Watson I didn't realise it was
serious as that ill be praying for a speedy recovery mate ill have you
in my prayers every day #sorry,' Sterling tweeted.

Treatment: Ben Watson receives attention at Anfield

Treatment: Ben Watson receives attention at Anfield

Hobbling off: Watson leaves the field, to be replaced by David Jones

Hobbling off: Watson leaves the field, to be replaced by David Jones

Watson received lengthy treatment on
the pitch before declining the use of a stretcher and hobbled off
assisted by Wigan medical staff – and he may require surgery.

Despite further attention down by the
touchline the midfielder struggled to put any weight on his right leg
and was eventually taken down the tunnel.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez confirmed the injury after the defeat – and absolved Sterling from any blame.

Apology: Raheem Sterling was quick to say sorry for the tackle that resulted in a broken leg for Ben Watson

Apology: Raheem Sterling was quick to say sorry for the tackle that resulted in a broken leg for Ben Watson

No blame: Roberto Martinez called the incident an accident on a grim day for Wigan

No blame: Roberto Martinez called the incident an accident on a grim day for Wigan

'I haven't seen the challenge back, but I don't think any of the players were looking at each other,' he said.

'Both were looking at the ball – it's a real accident. It's a nasty collision.'

'It is a broken leg and we are going to miss him,' the Spaniard continued, 'he has a fracture and we are going to assess him now because maybe he will require surgery.

'We will see what the extent of the breakage is and what treatment he needs. We are really disappointed because he was at a good level.'