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Jan Vertonghen: Tottenham open talks to sign Arsenal target

Spurs open talks to sign 7m-rated Arsenal target Vertonghen from Ajax

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UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 2 May 2012

Tottenham are going head-to-head with rivals Arsenal in the race to sign Jan Vertonghen after opening talks with the Ajax captain.

Having signed Germany forward Lukas Podolski earlier this week, the Gunners were preparing for their next transfer splurge by taking steps to land the Belgium central defender.

Vertonghen, who was watched by Tottenham scouts against Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier this year, is entering the final year of his contract.

London calling: Tottenham will rival Arsenal in the race to sign Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen

London calling: Tottenham will rival Arsenal in the race to sign Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen

Arsenal feel they can land the 25-year-old for as little as 7million, despite interest from Newcastle and Chelsea.

But, according to reports in Holland, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is keen to wrap up a deal to take the defender to White Hart Lane at the end of the season, hoping he can provide the lure of Champions League football.

'Jan has some dream clubs, which are special for him,' Vertonghen's agent Mustapha Nakhli told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

Interest: Spurs boss Harry Redknapp

Keen: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Head-to-head: Redknapp (L) and Arsene Wenger both want to sign the defender

'Playing football in the top of the Premier League is something he has always hoped for.'

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger wants Vertonghen to form part of a new-look defensive pool next season, with Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou available for transfers away from the Emirates this summer.

Spurs are four points behind third-place Arsenal with a game in hand in the Barclays Premier League. The team who finishes in third could prove to be the destination for the in-demand defender.

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Arsene Wenger: Winning north London derby is a must for Arsenal

Wenger calls on Arsenal to restore pride by winning north London derby

Arsenal must forget the disappointment of another year without a trophy and focus on winning next weekend's north London derby against Tottenham, according to manager Arsene Wenger.

Wednesday's 4-0 Champions League defeat by AC Milan, which almost certainly eliminated them from the competition, was compounded yesterday when they crashed out of the FA Cup in the fifth round with a 2-0 loss at Sunderland.

The Gunners will therefore, barring miracles, head into an eighth season without a major trophy, and they may well do so without even the consolation of a Champions League spot.

Another season without silverware: The Arsenal players react to going out of the FA Cup

Another season without silverware: The Arsenal players react to going out of the FA Cup

Arsenal are currently in fourth place in the Barclays Premier League table but lead Chelsea only on goals scored with Newcastle a further point behind.

Great rivals Tottenham, meanwhile, are 10 points ahead in third place and will hope to do the double over Arsenal when they travel to Emirates Stadium next Sunday after winning 2-1 at White Hart Lane in October.

Asked about another trophyless season, Wenger said: 'The competition is very hard in England. I do not want to speak too much about that. We can speak a long time about that one day.

'At the moment we have to forget all that and focus on our next game and try to win it. We have won our last away game in the Premier League so let's win our next one at home.'

Bad day at the office: Arsene Wenger

Out: Robin Van Persie sees Arsenal crash out of the FA Cup

Bad day at the office: Wenger and Van Persie watch Arsenal crash out of the Cup

The Frenchman was understandably on the defensive at the end of a miserable week, and he also confirmed he will be without Francis Coquelin, Sebastien Squillaci and Aaron Ramsey for the Tottenham clash after they joined an already lengthy injury list.

Addressing whether Arsenal are at crisis point, Wenger said: “It depends what you call a crisis. Every time we lose a game we have a crisis. Our job is about winning and playing well.

'We will get criticism but I feel that is a bit hard on the team.

'At the moment I get many lessons from many people who have managed zero clubs and zero games and zero European games.

'We have played 15 years in the top four, which is a mark of our consistency.'

On a high: Tottenham are enjoying one of their best seasons and are in line to finish third

On a high: Tottenham are enjoying one of their best seasons and are in line to finish third

Wenger found an ally in Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill, who does not believe the Frenchman deserves the criticism that is being aimed at him.

'We haven't always seen eye to eye but I think he's been fantastic for the English game,' said O'Neill.

'Of course he'll be disappointed at the week, particularly losing the game in Milan.

'My own view is I don't think the criticism, which we all receive, is particularly merited. I think he's been one of the great managers and will be considered so.'

Sunderland's victory ensured they progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2004, when they eventually lost to Millwall in the last four, but O'Neill was cautious about talking up their chances.

He said: 'We're in it. There's only eight teams left in the competition and we're one of them.'

The performance was yet another indication of the progress the Black Cats have made since O'Neill succeeded Steve Bruce in December, and the Northern Irishman admitted his players have surprised even him.

He added: 'We put a big, big effort into the game, and that doesn't surprise me because they've been doing that for some considerable time, but I think I probably do get pleasantly surprised with them.'

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Sunderland 2 Arsenal 0

Sunderland 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners set for SEVENTH barren season after crashing out

Arsenal are almost certain to end a seventh successive season without a major trophy after crashing out of the FA Cup in the fifth round at Sunderland.

The match came only three days after the Gunners' crushing 4-0 Champions League defeat against AC Milan and a week after their last-gasp Premier League win at the Stadium of Light.

Again it was Sunderland who took the lead through Kieran Richardson's volley five minutes before half-time but this time there was no way back for Arsene Wenger's side and the result was sealed by an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal in the 78th minute.

From bad to worse: Arsenal players are disconsolate as they crash out of the FA Cup to Sunderland

From bad to worse: Arsenal players are disconsolate as they crash out of the FA Cup to Sunderland

MATCH FACTS

Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon.

Subs not used: Westwood, Bridge, Campbell, Ji, Meyler, Kyrgiakos, Elmohamady.

Goals: Richardson 40, Oxlade-Chamberlain 78 og.

Booked: Larsson

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Coquelin (Squillaci 10) (Rosicky 53), Song, Arteta, Gervinho, Ramsey (Walcott 53), Oxlade-Chamberlain, van Persie.

Subs not used: Szczesny, Arshavin, Chamakh, Benayoun.

Booked: Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

Wenger threw Gervinho straight back into the team on his return from the African Nations Cup while Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukasz Fabianski were also among five changes from the Milan drubbing.

What Wenger did not need after losing Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the past week was more defensive injuries but he was forced into a change after less than 10 minutes when Francis Coquelin appeared to suffer a hamstring problem and Sebastien Squillaci came on.

The Gunners had already gone close through Mikel Arteta's free-kick that curled narrowly wide, while Sunderland forward Stephane Sessegnon also drilled a shot just off target.

Last weekend's loss, inflicted by Thierry Henry's injury-time goal, was Martin O'Neill's first at home, and the Black Cats boss had goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to thank for a smart stop to deny Gervinho in the 28th minute.

Arsenal wanted a penalty when Robin van Persie went down under a challenge from John O'Shea, and the striker certainly had a case with O'Shea getting no more than the faintest of touches on the ball.

While the Gunners looked dangerous in attack, their defence again was not standing up very well to pressure and Johan Djourou became the first man in the book when he hauled down Craig Gardner after a poor touch had let the midfielder in.

Horror show: Kieran Richardson fires Sunderland ahead against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light

Horror show: Kieran Richardson fires Sunderland ahead against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light

On their way: Sunderland celebrate Richardson's opener against Arsenal

On their way: Sunderland celebrate Richardson's opener against Arsenal

Sebastian Larsson's free-kick was
headed away by Thomas Vermaelen but only as far as Richardson, whose
well-struck volley arrowed into the corner of the net with the aid of a
slight deflection off Squillaci.

And it almost got worse for Arsenal
before half-time as Jack Colback did well to keep in a deep cross from
Larsson but James McClean could only poke his effort wide from close
range under pressure from Fabianski.

Only the crudest of challenges from
Bacary Sagna ended a break from McClean in the opening moments of the
second half and the full-back was swiftly shown a yellow card.

Sealed: Sunderland's Sebastien Larsson's shot was turned into his own net by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Sealed: Sunderland's Sebastien Larsson's shot was turned into his own net by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Gutted: Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored an own goal to seal Arsenal's fate

Gutted: Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored an own goal to seal Arsenal's fate

Larsson has been deadly with free-kicks from just outside the box this season but this time his shot was just too high.

Eight minutes after the break Wenger made a double change, substitute Squillaci also appearing to pick up an injury and being replaced by Tomas Rosicky, while Theo Walcott came on for Ramsey.

Alex Song dropped back into the centre of defence and Walcott took up a forward position but it was Sunderland doing almost all the attacking.

Blow: Arsenal lost Francis Coquelin to injury in the first half at the Stadium of Light

Blow: Arsenal lost Francis Coquelin to injury in the first half at the Stadium of Light

Having survived that spell, the Gunners responded with a good bit of possession and Arteta won a free-kick 25 yards out for a foul by Larsson but Van Persie's effort was deflected behind and the corner came to nothing.

Sunderland's workrate really was phenomenal as they hassled and harried their opponents all over the pitch.

Vermaelen headed a free-kick from Arteta straight into the hands of Mignolet but the tie was decided in the 78th minute when Sunderland got their second.

Bad night: Not even Robin van Persie could inspire Arsenal to victory against Sunderland

Bad night: Not even Robin van Persie could inspire Arsenal to victory against Sunderland

Sessegnon created the goal with a run from inside his own half to the edge of the Arsenal area after more great Black Cats pressure had set up the break.

The Benin forward played in Larsson on the right and his shot rebounded off the inside of the near post onto to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who got his feet in a muddle and could only help the ball over the line.

Van Persie, who had been quiet all afternoon, stabbed a shot over the bar as Arsenal desperately sought a way back in but it was emphatically Sunderland's day.

On the brink Arsene Wenger is under serious pressure at Arsenal after another poor season

On the brink Arsene Wenger is under serious pressure at Arsenal after another poor season

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Arsenal to offload Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Sebastien Squillaci and Manuel Almunia

Arshavin, Chamakh, Squillaci and Almunia braced for Emirates exit

Arsene Wenger will enter phase two ofhis quest to offload Arsenal”s dead wood next month after watching his understudies disappoint in Greece.

Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci are among the players to be put up for sale, while Manuel Almunia and fellow goalkeeper Vito Mannone will also be allowed to leave.

Out in the cold: Arsenal

Out in the cold: Arsenal”s Andrey Arshavin, left, and Tomas Rosicky

Arsenal will listen to offers for Tomas Rosicky, although the club are wary of leaving themselves short of options in midfield as Jack Wilshere returns to fitness. Arsenal let five players go in the summer.

Wilshere will have to wait until next week to discover if he will face a UEFA probe into a possible breach of betting rules.

Ahead of Tuesday”s Champions League loss to Olympiakos, the midfielder tweeted that he would bet on Emmanuel Frimpong scoring the first goal.

Out of sorts: Arsenal

Out of sorts: Arsenal”s Marouane Chamakh

Wilshere later deleted the tweet and denied making a bet after it became clear the post could leave him in trouble. UEFA rules stipulate players cannot bet on matches.

A UEFA spokesman said: “The case has been transmitted to our disciplinary body.”