International News - Issue 301

Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger Bored Of Criticism 

Arsene Wenger has launched an impassioned defence of his tenure as Arsenal manager in the face of mounting recent criticism. A faltering title challenge has been accompanied by relentless questioning, which has provoked Europe’s longest-serving manager to snap back. “Look, I have worked here for 19 years and I’m always sitting here having to justify that I’m good enough to do the job,” he said. “I have no problem to cope with everything but I find that a bit boring in the end. I always have to convince you that I am good enough. I worked for 35 years at the top level.” “What I find just boring is always sitting here after 19 years to face [the question]: ‘Do you think you are good enough?’” said Wenger. “I am not on Twitter. I don’t invite anybody to go out to dinner and be nice with them. I work and work and work and work. If it’s not good enough, someone will tell me one day. That’s all I can do. I do not worry what you [journalists] say about me or what fans say about me. I try to do my job in a proper way and with full commitment. After that everybody has the right to have an opinion. “I cannot influence the behaviour of the fans. How can I do that? I don’t know. I am humble enough every day to question myself, to accept my mistakes and, believe me, I do that. After that there is no coincidence that the people who own the club tell me to be here for 19 years. Do you think they are more stupid than you or me? I feel privileged to have the confidence of the club for such a long time. I work seven days a week with full commitment. That’s all I can do.” 

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has told Cristiano Ronaldo not to pay too much attention to fans who boo him. The Portuguese superstar was jeered by sections of the Bernabeu crowed in a recent match, despite another massively profitable season in terms of goals. He netted four in a 7-1 demolition of Celta Vigo this past weekend, but Zidane believes the problems stem from the club’s failure to match rivals Barcelona this season. “There are fans who want Ronaldo to be sold? Well I don’t and I’m the coach. As far as the whistles go, they did it to me too, to everyone,” ‘Zizou’ says. “It’s not a question of one player in particular, it’s a fanbase that wants more from its players. “I see a full stadium and that means a lot. The fans are very important, they have always supported us. It is part of football that they are unhappy if things do not go well.”

Borussia Dortmund have played down Barcelona's chief scout’s presence at their game against Bayern Munich this past weekend, saying they are confident of hanging onto their star players. Ariedo Braida watched the 0-0 Bundesliga draw, with speculation rife that Barca were running the rule over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ilkay Gundogan. However, Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insists they have nothing to worry about. “We are in no way concerned,” he said. “It is completely normal for the 'who's who' of football to come down for such a game.”

Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luis says La Liga and the Spanish media “protect” Barcelona forward Lionel Messi because he is their “darling”. Luis was shown a straight red card for a knee-high challenge on Messi last month and initially handed a three-match ban, which was reduced to one following an appeal. The defender feels the reaction by officials and the media was blown out of proportion because of the player on the receiving end of his foul. “It was a red card, it was not a mistake by the referee, it was a red card,” he told Brazilian television channel Esporte Interativo. "I was not late, I went after the ball,” he insisted. “Now that type of play happens during every match, but because it was with Messi and because here he is the darling of the media and La Liga, obviously no-one wants to see one of the best players of all time taken out. “No one wants to miss a chance to see him play and that is why all of this happened.” La Liga’s competition committee said Luis had initially been given a three-game ban because of the “special seriousness of the action”.

An argument involving two football fans discussing whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the greater player turned violent in India, resulting in the death of one avid supporter. Two men, both Nigerian internationals, were celebrating the 34th birthday of Obina Durumchukwu at a flat in Mumbai last Saturday, when Durumchukwu himself began arguing with 21-year-old Michael Chukwuma over whether the Barcelona forward or Real Madrid superstar is the best in the world. The argument intensified dramatically, with Chukwuma now in custody after stabbing his compatriot. "They were discussing football players. One is a fan of Messi and the other was for Ronaldo," a police inspector said, according to the BBC. "During the conversation a quarrel had taken place. The deceased threw a glass into the face of the accused person. The glass broke and caused small injuries. "After that the accused took the broken glass and assaulted the deceased person who died due to heavy bleeding."

Chelsea legend Frank Lampard believes Manchester United should try to hire former Blues boss Jose Mourinho. United have been repeatedly linked with the decorated Mourinho, who was sacked by the English champions in December following their dire run of domestic form. Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal has been under pressure for much of the campaign, with the side currently sixth in the Premier League standings following a 1-0 defeat to West Brom last Sunday. "If I’m in charge at United and I see Pep Guardiola going to Manchester City, Jose would be top of my list," Lampard is quoted as saying by The Mirror. "Jose will get the best out of the players there. He will recruit top players. "They are not happy with where they are at. It’s a good option for both United and Jose. It's a good fit."

Sergio Aguero is the best player in the Premier League, according to Manchester City teammate Bacary Sagna. Aguero reiterated his value with a brace in City's 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa last Saturday, missing out on a hat-trick with a failed conversion from the spot. The Argentinian - last term's Golden Boot winner with 26 strikes - has scored 16 goals in 21 games in the Premier League this season - three less goals than pace-setting Jamie Vardy of Leicester City. "For me he is the best player in the league, and probably one of the best players in the world," Sagna said of Aguero in the Manchester Evening News. "He is class, because he trains and enjoys football on the pitch and you can tell he gives the maximum for the team. He is very good." The Frenchman, who has played alongside Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema, Robin van Persie and David Silva, added: "For me he is the best I have played with. I have played with great players but he is just class."

Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer says the club is "a mess from top to bottom". The Magpies are fighting for survival in 19th place on the table, a point away from safety with 10 matches left following a 3-1 loss to Bournemouth last Saturday. Shearer, who managed the club when it was last relegated from the Premier League in 2009, believes current boss Steve McLaren is only partially to blame for their dire situation. Shearer said on BBC's Match of the Day show: "He's (McClaren) in massive trouble, he has to take his fair share of the blame but the whole club is a mess from top to bottom. "We've seen statements from the chief executive, from the fitness coach saying how fit the players are, from the manager, from the captain and from the players backing the manager. "Well if that's a performance to say 'we're backing the manager', then they really are in trouble. "There are no statements of intent on the pitch where it really matters and that's the problem." Shearer also questioned the team selection against the Cherries, with McLaren dropping striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for Emmanuel Riviere. Mitrovic has scored five goals since his arrival last summer, while Riviere has only netted once in the topflight in two seasons on Tyneside. Shearer said: "The team lacks character, leaders. "You've got a £15million striker (that you paid for in the summer, (the team) can't score goals, he's on the bench. That tells you where the problems lie at Newcastle: everywhere."

Chelsea veteran John Terry believes he has three more years left at the top level. The 35-year-old centre-back's contract at Stamford Bridge is set to expire at the end of the season. And while the Blues are yet to offer Terry a new deal, he believes he still has plenty to offer the English champions. "While I’ve got a couple of years left, the main thing for me is to fully focus on that and give everything," Terry is quoted as saying by The Sun. “I’ve definitely got two or three years in me. I’d be gutted if it isn’t at Chelsea, I’ve said clearly I want to stay. “As a player in your mid-30’s you get written off a little bit. “Pretty much like the team early on in the season! We get written off and all of a sudden, a couple of wins and who knows what’s going to happen?” Terry is Chelsea's most successful skipper, having helped the club claim four Premier League crowns, five FA Cups, three League Cups, as well as Champions League and Europa League trophies.

Barcelona bosses are reportedly planning to tie Lionel Messi down to the club until 2022. Mundo Deportivo reports that the club’s stadium expansion plans rest heavily on the World Player of the Year’s continued presence at the club. They want to pin him down on a contract until 2022, by which time he will be 35, but not before sorting out a deal for Neymar. The Brazilian’s future remains in doubt as talks stall, and it is believed Messi’s long-term future could also be dependent on whether Barcelona fork out the cash to keep Neymar.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech faces up to three weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury. The Czech Republic international sustained the knock when he raced back towards his own goal after going up for a corner in his side's 2-1 home loss to Swansea City. "He will be out for three weeks," Wenger said. "It is not more serious. It is a serious calf injury and he had a groin alert on the first goal and he could not kick the ball properly out because of his groin and maybe compensated a little too much and provoked another muscular injury."

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has downplayed talk that he will lure goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to Manchester City next season. The German shot-stopper has been a stalwart for the Bavarians since joining in 2011, winning three League titles, two German Cups as well as the 2013 UEFA Champions League. With current club coach Guardiola confirmed as City’s new manager next season, media outlets have linked a number of Bayern stars with a move to the Etihad, with English reporters suggested Neuer is in the front of the queue to follow his current coach to England. Yet Guardiola has waved away such claims, believing the German international’s long-term future remains at the Allianz Arena. "Neuer will be the Bayern Munich goalkeeper for the next five, six, seven, eight or nine years if he wants," Guardiola told reporters. "I hope he will end his career here."

Eden Hazard as rejected talk that he could leave Chelsea at the end of the season. The Belgian international, the reigning Player of the Year, has been tipped to join Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain, despite a very average season so far. “The future is always the same and that is to win trophies, next season, in two and three years,” Hazard told Chelsea TV. “You want to win the games, to win trophies. [To do that] you have to be ready because all the teams want to beat Chelsea. We are ready for that. We have good players in the team and I hope we can win more trophies. “I am always happy here. Even if I play badly, I'm happy. I know this is football but I try to keep a smile on my face every time.”

New FIFA president Gianni Infantino has announced his excitement that video technology will be used to assist referees from at least the start of the 2017/18 season. After a meeting last Saturday with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), football’s law-making body, Infantino announced that changes are coming. The IFAB – which is 18 years older than FIFA and comprises four FIFA members and one member from each of the four British associations – has approved a two-year trial period for technology to be used in four cases: to determine if a goal has been scored, sendings off, penalties and mistaken identity. “We have taken a really historic decision for football. IFAB and FIFA are now leading the debate and not stopping the debate,” Infantino said at a news conference. “We have shown we are listening to football and applying common sense. We have to be cautious but are taking concrete steps forwards to show a new era has started in FIFA and IFAB.” There will also be changes to the laws of the game: referees can now send-off players for pre-match fights, the ball can go in any direction at kick-off rather than only forwards and players can be treated on the field for injuries rather than having to leave it and wait for a signal to return. One of the most significant changes will apply to last-man fouls in the penalty area to deny obvious goalscoring opportunities; if the defending goalkeeper or defender makes an obvious challenge for the ball the punishment is downgraded to a yellow card rather than an automatic red one. Penalty-kick rules are also modified; if a kicker tries to deceive the goalkeeper by stopping and starting in his run-up, the right to have a retake is removed. Instead, the defending team is awarded an indirect free-kick and the attacking player is yellow-carded. If goalkeepers move off their line they will also be yellow-carded. Former Premier League referee David Elleray, the head of the English FA’s Referees Committee and the author of the new law revisions, explained that the existing laws had to be refreshed as they no longer applied to the modern game. “We wanted to bring some common sense to the laws, to reflect what football expects the referees to do today and eliminate the confusion in the game,” he said. “We are giving referees the licence to be closer to the understanding and spirit of the game. We have to move forward. Everyone believes we have been talking too long about these changes and now we have to see what benefits they will bring.” These changes will come into effect at Euro 2016 in June.