Tag Archives: professionalism

David Platt says Manchester City will fight until the end

We'll fight until the end, insists defiant City No 2 Platt despite United dominance

By
Andy Hampson, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

14:02 GMT, 17 March 2013

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UPDATED:

08:15 GMT, 18 March 2013

Manchester City have vowed to fight to the end but only the most optimistic supporter would back them to retain their title now.

The champions have fallen a near-insurmountable 15 points behind rivals Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League with just nine games remaining.

The latest blow came at Goodison Park as City were once again outplayed by their bogey side Everton, losing 2-0 after goals from Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic.

Over the rainbow: David Platt says Manchester City will not give in

Over the rainbow: David Platt says Manchester City will not give in

City still play United next month but the objectives may be to salvage pride, delay the inevitable crowning of their neighbours and score a psychological blow ahead of a potential FA Cup semi-final meeting.

First-team coach David Platt said: 'Our intention is to win football matches, full stop.

'It doesn't change anything for us between now and the end of the season.

'Every game we go into we have a focus and a professionalism to try to win it. That is what we try to do, to ensure we finish as high up the table as we possibly can and to try to ensure we win the FA Cup.'

A week ago City produced one of their best performances of the season as they crushed Barnsley in the FA Cup quarter-finals. On the same day Everton crashed to an unsettling 3-0 loss to Wigan in the same competition.

The difference in both sides yesterday was considerable as Everton produced a display full of commitment and a determination to make amends.

City failed to compete with Everton's enthusiasm and were fortunate Kevin Mirallas had already had a goal harshly disallowed before Osman struck his superb opener after 32 minutes.

The visitors had chances to equalise, most notably when Jan Mucha denied James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta in the second half and they could have had a penalty late on. Marouane Fellaini was penalised for handling a Carlos Tevez shot but despite the Belgian being inside the area, a free-kick was awarded outside.

Denied: Carlos Tevez's strike was handled in the box by Marouane Fellaini (not pictured)

Denied: Carlos Tevez's strike was handled in the box by Marouane Fellaini (not pictured)

But Everton deservedly held out and they wrapped up the win in injury time as Fellaini broke clear and set up Jelavic.

It was City's sixth defeat by Everton in eight meetings and a fourth successive loss at Goodison since Roberto Mancini took charge.

Everton may have done City a huge favour by holding United in last season's run-in, but they still remain a huge thorn in their side.

With Mancini 'a bit angry' after the game, Platt said: 'It is never an easy place to come. You know you are going to get worked and the crowd are going to be up for it. You are always under a certain amount of pressure.'

City's prospects suffered before the game when talisman Yaya Toure was forced to pull out through illness.

Struggle: Roberto Mancini's only chance of silverware this season if the FA cup

Struggle: Roberto Mancini's only chance of silverware this season if the FA cup

He was sorely missed, as were injured duo Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, but Platt offered no excuses.

Platt said: 'It doesn't help but that is what we have a squad for, people come in.

'We have got a little run of injuries and we lost Yaya on the eve of the game with migraine.

'We were without key players but that is the way it is.

'That is why we carry a squad, that is why everybody is capable of playing at this club. We have to get on with it.'

Aaron Ramsey: It"s taken three years to get over Ryan Shawcross tackle

Ramsey: It's taken me three years to get over THAT tackle by Shawcross

By
Rob Draper

PUBLISHED:

21:38 GMT, 16 February 2013

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UPDATED:

03:41 GMT, 17 February 2013

It will soon be three years since Aaron Ramsey was on the receiving end of that tackle from Stoke's Ryan Shawcross, a challenge that broke his leg in a manner which caused onlookers to wince and look away in disgust.

Three long years as far as Ramsey is concerned.

Breaking point: Ramsey tumbles in agony after Shawcross's challenge

Breaking point: Ramsey tumbles in agony after Shawcross's challenge

The unwanted anniversary comes at the
end of this month and although Ramsey was back playing by November
2010, it would be fair to say the injury and the vehemence of the tackle
had a greater effect on the 23-year-old than a mere nine-month absence.

He was on course to be a worldclass
player, his trajectory well ahead of compatriot Gareth Bale, and he
looked to be a potential replacement for Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal.

His comeback season was largely
spent on loan at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff. Last term he recovered
his identity as an Arsenal player.

Only this season has he shown the form that saw him lauded so early in his career.

'It was a really tough thing to go through and I don't wish it upon anybody,' said Ramsey.

'The determination and the
professionalism that you need, all the hours you have to spend in the
gym, it's quite tough. But I've got through that. It's taken me a bit
longer than I would've liked, but I'm happy now where I am, and hoping
to improve and carry on this good form that I'm in.'

His confidence was fractured as well as his leg.

Confidence soaring: Aaron Ramsey's (left) back in form for Arsenal

Confidence soaring: Aaron Ramsey's (left) back in form for Arsenal

'Yes, that's a natural thing,' he
said. 'Confidence is a massive thing and if you're struggling with that
it does reflect in your performances. But I've got that back now. I'm
hungry to keep that shirt and I've proved that with the way I've been
playing of late.

'There has been a good progression
and hopefully I can get back to where I was. That injury did take it out
of me and hopefully that will only have been a minor hiccup when I look
back on my career.'

Bayern Munich in the Champions League will this week provide an acid test, particular after yesterday's exit from the FA Cup.

Ramsey has to establish himself as a guaranteed pick, though 16 starts this season represents progress.

'I'm getting stuck in a lot more,' he
said. 'I'm winning a lot more balls back and reading the game better
and moving the ball quicker, which suit's the way we play. I've had
positive feedback from the boss.'

But he is aware of Arsenal's
eightyear trophy drought – the Champions League represents their last
chance of silverware this season – and of lost opportunities in Europe's
premier competition.

A 4-0 defeat by AC Milan cost them last year despite winning the home leg 3-0.

Before that they could not hold a 2-1 home-leg lead over Barcelona.

He said: 'Hopefully, we can get into a strong position against Bayern in the home leg and we'll be more experienced.'

Steve Bruce hits out at DJ Campbell after striker walked out of move to Hull

DJ told me he was going for a spot of lunch… then ran off for talks with Blackburn, fumes Bruce

By
Lee Bryan

PUBLISHED:

11:54 GMT, 2 February 2013

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UPDATED:

11:54 GMT, 2 February 2013

Hull boss Steve Bruce was furious with QPR striker DJ Campbell after he allegedly told the club he was ‘nipping out for lunch’ but then walked out on a potential move to the KC Stadium to hold talks with Blackburn.

The whole affair left a sour taste in Bruce’s mouth and he blasted the striker of a lack of professionalism.

Hull believed they had agreed a deal but then found out that Blackburn had made a 4.5million offer for Campbell for a three-and-a-half year deal behind their back.

On the move: DJ Campbell looked like he was going to sign for Hull but left to go and talk to Blackburn

On the move: DJ Campbell looked like he was going to sign for Hull but left to go and talk to Blackburn

Not impressed: Steve Bruce was disappointed with Campbell's conduct

Not impressed: Steve Bruce was disappointed with Campbell's conduct

Bruce raged to the Daily Mirror: ‘The total lack of respect by DJ and his agent left a bad taste. I have no problem with him going but the way they handled it is shocking.

‘They said they were going for a bit of lunch, but went along the M62 and left us trying to find out where they were for a couple of hours. If they had rung and said what happened we could have all got on with our lives.

‘I have been in the game for a long time and never been as disappointed as I am with their behaviour.

‘It’s just greed. Be a man, just inform us of your intentions.’
Campbell’s move to Blackburn was put on hold as the parties disputed financial details.

But he is finally expected to join them on loan next week.

Sportsmail’s Charles Sale revealed the story this morning and claims the Hull boss was especially upset as Campbell’s agent – Otis Roberts – used to represent him when he became Sunderland manager.

It is understood Campbell was offered 16,000 a week by Hull and 25,000 a week by Blackburn, which might explain his rapid change of mind.

Theo Walcott to sign 25m Arsenal contract

EXCLUSIVE: 25m Theo deal! Arsenal confident of ending Walcott saga with five-year mega contract

By
Sami Mokbel

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 8 January 2013

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 8 January 2013

Arsenal will this week make an improved offer of 25million to Theo Walcott in a bid to resolve his contract saga.

The England forward will receive a five-year deal worth around 88,000 a week, plus a 3m signing-on bonus.

Sportsmail revealed last Wednesday that Arsenal were increasingly confident of winning Walcott round.

Pen to paper: Theo Walcott is poised to commit to Arsenal

Pen to paper: Theo Walcott is poised to commit to Arsenal

They hope the new offer will be
enough for the 23-year-old to commit long term to the club. His future
has been in doubt since he rejected an initial offer of 75,000 a week
on August 28.

That was followed by a breakdown in communications between the club and Walcott's representatives.

But manager Arsene Wenger has been hugely impressed by the player's professionalism during the stand-off.

No thanks: Walcott will snub Manchester United and stay at the Emirates

No thanks: Walcott will snub Manchester United and stay at the Emirates

Walcott is the club's top goalscorer with 14 and his impressive form has forced the club to change their stance.

As Sportsmail
revealed in December, the channels of communication between Walcott and
the club had reopened after peace talks between the player and Wenger
aimed at ending the dispute.

Walcott made it clear to his manager
that his preference has always been to stay at Arsenal, but he stressed
he was unhappy about the way he was treated during the early weeks of
the season.

The forward was left on the bench by Wenger, despite the fact he had played a regular role last season.

In addition to an improved cash
offer, Walcott also wanted assurances about his chances of playing as an
orthodox striker on a more regular basis. And negotiations now seem to
be heading in a positive direction, with Arsenal hoping to have
Walcott's signature secured sooner rather than later.

The uncertainty has alerted a string
of Premier League clubs. Liverpool, Chelsea and both Manchester clubs
monitored the situation, with Brendan Rodgers reportedly planning a move
to take him to Anfield this month.

But while Arsenal are confident of
keeping Walcott, they are unlikely to land David Villa. Wenger is said
to be keen on the Barcelona striker, 31, but Barca president Sandro
Rosell said: 'I completely rule out the transfer of Villa during the
winter market. He is ours and we need him, there is a lot of the season
left.' Villa joined Barcelona from Valencia in a 31m deal in 2010.

Sam Allardyce wants to bring Nicolas Anelka to West Ham in January

Hammers boss Allardyce admits interest in bringing Anelka back from China in January

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UPDATED:

23:17 GMT, 17 November 2012

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce admits he would be interested in a January move for Nicolas Anelka.

The 33-year-old is currently plying his trade in China for Shanghai Shenhua but has recently been linked with a move back to the Barclays Premier League.

Allardyce, who has guided the Hammers to sixth place in the table after the opening 11 fixtures, signed Anelka for Bolton for a then-club record fee in the summer of 2006 and revealed he would like to work with the France striker once again.

Welcome back Could Nicolas Anelka return to London

Welcome back Could Nicolas Anelka return to London

'It could interest me, of course it could,' he said.

'It would be of interest if that is a possibility financially for us and he wanted to come. I have had no conversations with Nicolas' agent or anything like that at this time.'

Anelka was seen as a marquee signing for Wanderers when he was signed from Turkish side Fenerbahce and his form at the Reebok Stadium earned him a big move to Chelsea a year and a half later.

Allardyce, who has yet to see big-name summer signing Andy Carroll score for the Hammers, believes Anelka transformed his Bolton side into a team that could challenge at the right end of the table.

He said: 'His professionalism and dedication was why he was such a good player and we never had problems at Bolton at the time he was with us.
“He was the difference – he was the reason we went into the top end, the top four, rather than the top eight.'

Old pals: Anelka and Sam allardyce in their Bolton pomp

Old pals: Anelka and Sam allardyce in their Bolton pomp

Much has been made over the years of Anelka's demeanour on and off the pitch but Allardyce reckons the perception of the former Arsenal and Real Madrid forward is off the mark and hopes the family man could be tempted to head back to London.

Asked whether he ever had a problem with Anelka's questionable temperament Allardyce said: 'He never was like that in his entire time I had him.

'He was disappointed I left, when he came and played for me I had him at a very, very good time – probably at the height of his career, I would think, because he had matured into a dedicated professional.

'I think he has always been dedicated but he got sidetracked by certain situations through his younger days but he learnt from that, his experience across Europe.

'He had a girlfriend, who is now his wife, and his family and I think that has matured him – I think Nicolas has still got his family here in London, I don't think they moved out to China.'

One stumbling block for a potential deal would come if Anelka refused to take a drop in his wages as he is currently reported to be earning around 250,000 a week in China.

He has also been linked with a return to Liverpool or a move to fellow strugglers QPR but all three clubs would be hard pushed to fork out the sort of money the Frenchman is currently bringing in from Shenhua.

Craig Levein taking legal advice after Scotland sacking

Axed Scotland boss Levein seeking legal advice as fallout from dismissal continues

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UPDATED:

08:41 GMT, 8 November 2012

Former Scotland manager Craig Levein has confirmed he is taking legal advice following his dismissal.

Levein was 'relieved of his duties' by the Scottish Football Association on Monday, who stressed they would honour the remaining 20 months of his contract.

The former Hearts and Dundee United boss was removed from his role four days after the seven-man SFA board first met to discuss his position, with a poor start to the World Cup qualifying campaign cited as the main reason for their decision.

Legal advice: Craig Levein was sacked after a poor start to World Cup qualifying

Legal advice: Craig Levein was sacked after a poor start to World Cup qualifying

In a statement on Wednesday night, Levein said: 'I would like to thank everyone who has supported the team and I during my time as Scotland manager.

'It has been a privilege to have done the job and I would like to thank my backroom staff who have worked tirelessly during my time as manager.

'Most of all I would like to thank the players for their unswerving loyalty, effort and professionalism. I am extremely disappointed by the process of the last week.

'I note the position as stated by the Scottish Football Association but do not concur and I am currently taking legal advice as to my options. I will make no further comment at this time.'

Meanwhile, interim boss Billy Stark is determined to use the friendly against Luxembourg to galvanise a Scotland squad left disappointed by Levein's departure.

Gordon Strachan and Owen Coyle are among those who have been tipped to fill the vacancy and Under 21s boss Stark has refused to rule himself out of the running.

Axe: SFA chiefs Stewart Regan and Campbell Ogilvie confirmed the departure

Axe: SFA chiefs Stewart Regan and Campbell Ogilvie confirmed the departure

But he insists his priority right now is boosting morale ahead of the match on November 14.

Stark said: 'I can say categorically I'm not thinking anywhere beyond this game. I've got enough on my plate trying to get the players lifted because they are disappointed that Craig has left.

'It has been very apparent that there was a real loyalty there to Craig. I've spoken to a few of the senior players and they are old and wise enough to know that we have to move on.

'But they are very disappointed and part of the job will be to try to lift morale and get a really positive attitude going into the game.'

On his own interest in the job long-term, Stark said: 'I've been happy in the Under 21s job and I'm honoured and absolutely delighted to have the faith of the board that I can prove myself capable of taking the team next week.

'I don't think you rule anything out in football.'

Liverpool want Alex Pearce to replace Jamie Carragher

Get me the new Carra! Rodgers ready to raid old club Reading for defender Pearce

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UPDATED:

13:45 GMT, 7 November 2012

Brendan Rodgers wants to sign Reading defender Alex Pearce as a long-term replacement for Jamie Carragher.

Liverpool have had a bid for the 23-year-old rejected but are monitoring his contract situation.
Pearce – Reading’s Player of the Season last year – is out of contract in the summer. If no new deal is signed, Pearce would be available for a knockdown fee in January or for free next summer.

Red alert: Liverpool are interested in signing Reading defender Alex Pearce

Red alert: Liverpool are interested in signing Reading defender Alex Pearce

Sportsmail understands Pearce is unhappy with the terms Reading are offering and believes he has been benched for the last seven games as punishment for not agreeing to the deal on the table.

Pearce had not missed a minute of league football for Reading for more than a year before being dropped and his impressive start to life in the Premier League saw him make his Republic of Ireland debut in September.

He last played for Reading in the 1-0 defeat to West Brom in September and without him Brian McDermott’s side have shipped 18 goals.

Long term: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants to find a successor to experienced star Jamie Carragher

Long term: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants to find a successor to experienced star Jamie Carragher

His continued absence has raised speculation about his future and has put Liverpool on red-alert as Rodgers looks to bolster his squad in January.

Rodgers is an admirer of Pearce’s professionalism and promoted him to the role of Reading captain when he was in charge of the club in 2009.

It is also understood that Rodgers has doubts over the quality of the young centre-backs at Liverpool and believes Pearce is a better bet to replace Carragher, who at 34 is nearing the end of his Anfield career.

Sam Allardyce praises West Ham for second-half display

Allardyce hails second-half performance as Hammers come good to rout sorry Saints

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UPDATED:

17:44 GMT, 20 October 2012

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce praised his side for recovering from a poor first-half performance to secure a 'brilliant' 4-1 victory against fellow Premier League new boys Southampton.

After a dour opening 45 minutes that Saints dominated, it took less than a minute of the second half for Mark Noble to break the deadlock.

Kevin Nolan doubled the Hammers' advantage moments later and although Adam Lallana halved the deficit, Noble's penalty and a superb strike by substitute Modibo Maiga sealed an emphatic victory for the hosts.

Much better: West Ham improved as the game went on

Much better: West Ham improved as the game went on

'It was a surprise we won 4-1 when you look at what we did in the first half,' Allardyce said after the match.

'The good thing for us is the professionalism of players that took a little bit of criticism at half-time for what was a bit of a lacklustre performance.

'The only good thing we did was not to allow Southampton any real chances in the first half.

'We were just not playing well enough and, if we were to overcome them, we had to play better than that and we had to do that by upping the tempo and showing the sort of desire we showed against Arsenal, Fulham, Sunderland and Aston Villa this year.

'Of course, doing that in the second half and giving that sort of performance and scoring the goals – obviously the timing was brilliant because we went out, got right at them and scored two very quick ones – gave us a fantastic 4-1 victory.

'We can forget the first half now and just enjoy the victory and really focus on the positives of how we turned the game around when we looked like we were struggling. In fact, we didn't look like we were struggling, we were.

'To come out and put it right, not just in terms of winning the game but winning the game comfortably is great.

'Scoring four goals against any side in the Premier League is no mean feat and 4-1 is a brilliant result for us.'

The win was the Hammers' fourth since their return to the top flight, while Saints have only four points to show from their opening fixtures – something Allardyce highlighted during the half-time break.

'We had to look at ourselves and say “we're just not doing our job properly” apart from we defended okay,' the former Bolton and Newcastle boss said.

Praise: Sam Allardyce was glad his team stepped up their game

Praise: Sam Allardyce was glad his team stepped up their game

'We weren't passing it well enough, mixing our play well enough, we weren't putting the right quality to the front lads, we weren't sustaining any pressure on the opposition.

'I said “we need to sustain pressure on this opposition as this team is struggling confidence-wise. They've only picked up four points and they score plenty of goals, but conceded 20. If we put pressure on the back four they will make mistakes”.

'And certainly they did that and we capitalised on that.'

The result means Southampton have now conceded 24 goals in just eight matches back in the Premier League.

It is a record that has cost the south coast side this campaign and will no doubt see the position of manager Nigel Adkins come under scrutiny.

Rout: Mark Noble celebrates the third goal for West Ham

Rout: Mark Noble celebrates the third goal for West Ham

Asked how long he thinks he will have to turn things around, the Saints manager said: 'Honest answer I don't know. That is football, I am being brutally honest with you.

'There is a vision at the football club to play a certain brand of football by passing the ball.

'There needs to be stability at any football club, which is important. But I am not naive as it's football and football is a results-driven industry.

'We've got a process in place that we're doing our best to adhere to, but you've got to win games of football.

'You've got to keep it out at one end and stick it in at the other end.

'On too many occasions this year in the Barclays Premier League, we've not kept it out of our net and I am being up front and honest with you.'

Arsenal named Premier League club of the year

'Outstanding' Arsenal named Premier League club of the year

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UPDATED:

14:22 GMT, 16 October 2012

Arsenal have been named the 'club of the year' for providing the best customer service to fans under a new awards scheme being run by the Premier League and tourism board VisitEngland.

Liverpool, Fulham and Manchester City have also picked up gongs in other categories in the VisitFootball awards.

Top-flight clubs have been monitored for customer service for the past two seasons and a panel of industry experts voted Arsenal the club of the year for their 'simply outstanding service'.

Club of the year: Arsenal have the best customer service, according to VisitEngland

Club of the year: Arsenal have the best customer service, according to VisitEngland

City received the 'Best Fan Innovation' awards for their City Square and Family Stand projects, while Liverpool's stewards won the club the 'warmest welcome' award.

Fulham won the 'unsung hero' award for their supporter liaison officer Tommy Guthrie.

All 20 clubs were judged across eight areas including ticketing, stewarding, catering, toilets and the club shop. The judges stated about Arsenal: 'Their staff at every level from stewards to catering and cleaners to retail were very impressive. They clearly have a culture of high standards at Emirates Stadium and their professionalism shines through.'

Manchester City's City Square and Family Stand, with giant TV screens and post-match player and legend appearances in City Square 'are clearly a hit with the fans' said the judges.

On Liverpool's stewards, the judges said: 'We loved the stewarding at Liverpool because they clearly enjoy their job. There is a great rapport with the people they know but also an engagement for those who it might be their one and only Liverpool game of the season. Without doubt the warmest welcome we found in the Premier League was at Anfield.'

Guthrie was praised for his work at Fulham – including taking foreign supporters clubs to a local pub when they visit – with the judges saying: 'He may see it as his job but the level of detail from Tommy is something that should be singled out and applauded.'

Stadium watch: A panel of experts voted Arsenal the club of the year for their 'simply outstanding service'

Stadium watch: A panel of experts voted Arsenal the club of the year for their 'simply outstanding service'

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the improvements in the service for fans had been reflected by more women and families going to games.

Scudamore said: 'A lot of effort has been put into making Premier League grounds more safe and welcoming over the last 20 years, which is why we have seen traditional fans being joined by more sections of society.

'Nearly a quarter of attending fans are women now, 13 per cent of season ticket holders are children and overall 63 per cent of supporters coming to a match do so with a family member.

'There are increased expectations among this more diverse audience and VisitFootball shows that the Premier League is taking customer care very seriously.'

Alex Song: I wanted to stay at Arsenal for life

I wanted to stay at Arsenal for life! Song blasts back after being 'fobbed off' by Gunners

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UPDATED:

10:49 GMT, 26 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Alex Song has revealed he didn't want to leave Arsenal and planned to sign for the rest of his playing days before being sold to Barcelona.

The Cameroon midfielder was slated after he left The Emirates with sources at the Gunners saying Song regularly arrived late for training, took a half-hearted approach in sessions and did not follow instructions from the management staff.

Sources also claim Song’s levels of professionalism had dropped significantly.

Getting shirty: Song has blasted his former employers for letting him leave

Getting shirty: Song has blasted his former employers for letting him leave

Song was distraught by the accusations and claims he was forced out of the club he loved.

He told The Sun: 'I woke up and read those things in the paper and was really surprised and disappointed. I love Arsenal, I never wanted to leave.

'I was ready to commit my future to the club. All I wanted were talks about a new contract but each time we were due to sit down, the club postponed it. I was fobbed off.

'I wanted a new five-year contract at Arsenal. In the end I got one – at Barcelona.'

Song made 197 appearances for the Gunners after joining from French club Bastia for 1million in August 2006 and came second to top goalscorer Robin van Persie in the fans' Player of the Season poll last season.

New start: Song has signed a five-year deal with the Catalan giants

New start: Song has signed a five-year deal with the Catalan giants

New start: Song has signed a five-year deal with the Catalan giants

He approached the club to speak about a new deal as long ago as last November, but was told to wait until the New Year.

The next indication he received was that talks would begin in April, but this failed to materialise and he was told to wait until after Euro 2012.

Song added: 'I had been trying for eight months to start talking about a new long-term deal but the club kept postponing me all the time, saying “You have three years left”.

'I hadn’t talked about money I just wanted to sit down and discuss a new deal – I wanted to commit my career to the club I loved.

'Then out of the blue, Barcelona came in for me.

'And, suddenly, I was wanted by the biggest club in the world and they wanted to give me a five-year deal.'

I loved the club! Song said he would have signed a deal for life with the Gunners

I loved the club! Song said he would have signed a deal for life with the Gunners

Song added: 'I had been trying for eight months to start talking about a new long-term deal but the club kept postponing me all the time, saying “You have three years left”.

'I hadn't talked about money I just wanted to sit down and discuss a new deal – I wanted to commit my career to the club I loved.

'Then out of the blue, Barcelona came in for me. And, suddenly, I was wanted by the biggest club in the world and they wanted to give me a five-year deal.'