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Premier League

Decision on Wenger Waits Till FA Cup Final

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The future of Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, will be determined after the FA Cup final which pitched the club against Chelsea.

Sports Village Square gathered from South Africa’s online publication, Omnisport, that the embattled manager’s future at Arsenal appears likely to be settled at a board meeting after the FA Cup final, although the veteran manager tried to remain typically evasive on the issue.

 

Wenger is out of contract at the end of this season and has persistently batted away enquiries over his future. Arsenal have won six of their past seven Premier League matches but will miss out on Champions League football unless they are able to better Liverpool’s result against Middlesbrough when they host Everton on Sunday.

It would be the first time the Gunners have finished outside the top four under Wenger’s tenure, which began in 1996, and fan protests against his reign have continued despite the recent upturn.

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Asked at a pre-match news conference whether this weekend would mark his final game in charge at Emirates Stadium, he said: “Of the season, yes.”

Pressed on whether it would be his last game ever in north London he replied: “I cannot tell you that.

“I think what is most important for us is to win the football game that we play on Sunday.

   “After that, what happen to me is less important. I’m here to serve the club and the best way to do it is to win the next game.”

Questioning then turned towards Arsenal’s post-season board meeting

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   “I think it’s after the FA Cup,” Wenger said, before answering in the affirmative that “things would be finalised”.

   When the topic was brought up again and it was put to the 67-year-old that his future would be decided at the board meeting, he replied: “I didn’t say that. You interpreted it like that. I don’t know [how you should interpret it].

   I have been asked if there is a board meeting before the cup final and I said ‘after’.

   “Of course I will be there and at the moment we should focus on the short term and what’s going on this Sunday and in the cup final.

   “I don’t know [what will happen at the meeting]. There are many aspects of the football club that have to be discussed at a board meeting.

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   “One is, of course, what is happening with the manager, the future, the players to come in and things like that.”

   Addressing whether there would be an announcement a few days after the meeting, Wenger added: “Yeah, of course.”

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

Iheanacho,  Ndidi getting close to Premiership return as Leicester take big step towards promotion

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Nigeria’s duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi are on course for Premier League action next season as  Leicester City took a huge step towards a Premier League return with a 2-1 home win over West Bromwich Albion but Southampton’s automatic promotion hopes are hanging by a thread after they lost by the same scoreline at Cardiff City on Saturday.

Wilfried Ndidi and Jamie Vardy were on target for Leicester, with Vardy also missing a penalty, as the Foxes edged past their Midlands rivals who are bound for the playoffs.

With three games remaining, Enzo Maresca’s Leicester team have 91 points, two ahead of second-placed Ipswich Town, while third-placed Leeds have 87.

Southampton could have moved level on points with Leeds but suffered a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff despite taking the lead.

Joe Aribo’s 12th-minute strike put the visitors ahead and they should have increased their lead.

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But Saints were made to pay for wasteful finishing after the break as Famara Diedhiou equalised and Cian Ashford won it for Cardiff deep in stoppage time with a deflected shot.

Leicester host Southampton on Tuesday after Leeds visit Middlesbrough on Monday.

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Arsenal suffer 2-0 loss to Villa, hand Man City title race boost

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Premier League - Arsenal v Aston Villa - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Arsenal were stunned by two late Aston Villa goals as they lost 2-0 at home on Sunday to hand the initiative in the Premier League title race to defending champions Manchester City.

Villa substitute Leon Bailey tapped home from close range in the 84th minute before Ollie Watkins’ sublime finish three minutes later sent Gunners fans streaming for the exits.

Arsenal’s defeat, their first in 12 league games, sees them remain second, two points behind City and level on points with third-placed Liverpool with six games left to play.

Following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday, the weekend belonged to City who bolstered their chances of an unprecedented fourth straight league title with a 5-1 demolition of visiting Luton Town on Saturday.

Villa weathered pressure in the first half, with Kai Havertz shooting straight at goalkeeper Emi Martinez before Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka hit the side-netting as an opening goal for the Gunners’ felt like an imminent inevitability.

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But Villa went closest when Watkins’ effort bounced off one post and narrowly wide of the other, while Youri Tielemans’s rasping effort hit the crossbar then the post and somehow stayed out as the visitors improved considerably after the break.

Bailey gave the visitors the lead when he turned in Lucas Digne’s dangerous cross before Watkins broke Arsenal hearts with a beautiful chip over keeper David Raya to settle the contest.

“It’s massive to come away to Arsenal when they are playing such good football and to play like that just shows where we are going really, it was a perfect away performance,” Villa’s England striker Watkins told Sky Sports.

The win boosts fourth-placed Villa’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and moves them three points above Tottenham Hotspur, albeit having played a game more.

-Reuters

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Premier League to introduce semi-automated offside technology next season

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Premier League - Nottingham Forest v Brighton & Hove Albion - The City Ground, Nottingham, Britain - April 26, 2023 A big screen displays a VAR review message with a no goal for offside REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File Photo

The Premier League will introduce semi-automated offside technology next season to speed up decision-making after the clubs unanimously agreed on the move at a shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

The technology has been in use in major tournaments and helps limit the need for long waits for VAR reviews, where match officials manually check if a player is offside or not, while also reducing the margins for error.

“The new system will be used for the first time in the Premier League next season, and it is anticipated the technology will be ready to be introduced after one of the autumn international breaks,” the league said in a statement.

“The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters.”

The Premier League currently has VAR officials check offsides but the system has faced heavy criticism for the time taken to come to a decision while also leaving fans in the stadium in the dark with no replays.

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The technology involves several cameras tracking the ball as well as each player. The technology alone cannot determine if a player is offside, with VAR still having to validate it based on the data available — hence the term “semi-automated”.

The technology has been used in the 2022 World Cup and the Champions League, while most recently it was implemented at the Asian Cup earlier this year.

-Reuters

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