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Premier League

Arsenal Raids Monaco for Thomas Lemar

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Arsenal officials are getting closer to capturing their Monaco target, Thomas Lemar, Sports Village Square has gathered. According to UK tabloid, The Sun, the French club has agreed to the £45 million transfer which Arsenal proposed, although a press statement from Monaco on Tuesday had indicated the club wanted an additional £10 million.

It is the third time that Arsenal has been gunning for Lemar. Arsene Wenger had already seen two bids rejected by the Ligue 1 champions for Lemar, but the FA Cup winners seem to have finally made a breakthrough in negotiations if the Sun’s report can be taken as gospel.

Lemar has remained on Arsenal’s radar for much of the summer as Wenger continues to boost his firepower at the Emirates, and the 21-year-old is believed to have already agreed personal terms with the north Londoners as he eyes the exit door at the Stade Louis II.

The France international has, however, had to wait a long time for his current employers to relent and agree to him becoming the latest of Leonardo Jardim’s title winners to depart.

Monaco were expected to be holding out for a fee in excess of £80m for Lemar in some quarters – twice as much cash as Arsenal’s opening bid – and had held out hope that such an asking price would cause the Gunners to walk away.

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That stance appears to have softened considerably according to the Sun and, if the red top’s report proves to be true, would take Wenger’s summer spending close to the £100m mark.

Lemar would join compatriot and £52m arrival Alexandre Lacazette at the club if he completed a switch across the English Channel, as well as Sead Kolasinac who joined on a free from Schalke at the beginning of July.

The former Caen starlet would become the fourth Monaco first-team star to leave this summer, with Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Tiemoue Bakayoko departing for Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

 

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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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History favours Man City as title race goes to wire

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Man City Seek Confidence-boosting Win Over Arsenal -

Arsenal have at least taken the Premier League title race to the final day of the season but the omens are not good for Mikel Arteta’s team if they are to stop Manchester City making history.

City’s nervy 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday, their eighth league victory in a row, means they arrive at the final day of the campaign with a two-point lead over Arsenal.

Victory over West Ham United would seal a fourth successive title for Pep Guardiola’s side — an unprecedented feat in English football.

Arsenal, who have barely put a foot wrong since the turn of the year, host Everton needing a win and a huge favour from West Ham if they are to claim their first title for 20 years.

It is a far cry from last season when Arsenal collapsed under City’s relentless charge in the closing weeks and they won the title by five points having wrapped it up well before the finale.

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Arsenal will live in hope, but City are in familiar territory and are masters at closing the deal.

Nine times has the Premier League title race gone to the final day with City involved in the last four, each time being crowned champions. No team starting the final day below first place has won the title.

City beat West Ham 2-0 at home in 2014 to seal the title under Manuel Pellegrini but it has not always been that straightforward. In 2012, they needed Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time goal to claim a 3-2 win over Queen’s Park Rangers and deny Manchester United — a moment etched in English soccer folklore.

Then in 2022 they trailed Aston Villa 2-0 at home on the final day but hit back with three goals in six minutes to make Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers academic.

“By no stretch of the imagination is this won,” Kyle Walker, who was made captain this season after Kevin de Bruyne’s injury problems, told the club’s website.

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“Could there be another twist or turn in? Who knows? Until the final whistle has gone against West Ham, that’s when I will visualise hopefully walking up to get the trophy.

“I’m excited. Obviously, there are nerves, but nerves are good when it comes to these pressure moments.”

DE BRUYNE DOUBT

City will hope De Bruyne recovers from the ankle problem he sustained at Tottenham while goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt after suffering a head injury.

Arsenal will hold out a little more hope as their goal difference is better than City’s, meaning should they beat Everton and City draw, the London side would take the title.

There are other issues to be sorted out on Sunday.

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Aston Villa, who are at Crystal Palace, have sewn up fourth place and qualification for the Champions League but fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur need a point at relegated Sheffield United to be certain of fifth and Europa League football.

Defeat for Tottenham could see fast-finishing Chelsea come fifth if they beat Bournemouth at home.

Sixth-placed Chelsea are three points above Newcastle United who end travel to Brentford and with sixth place potentially good enough for the Europa League, should Manchester City win the FA Cup, there is still plenty to play for in terms of European spots.

Eighth-placed Manchester United could grab a European place via the league if they win at Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle drop points at Brentford.

At the bottom, the relegation places are virtually decided with 18th-placed Luton needing to beat Fulham, hope Nottingham Forest lose to relegated Burnley and overturn a 12-goal deficit in goal difference to retain their place in the top flight.

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-Reuters

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Premier League clubs may vote against use of VAR

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 Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - May 15, 2024 General view of the big screen during a VAR review before a penalty is overturned Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Premier League clubs will vote on whether to drop video assistant referees (VAR) from next season after Wolverhampton Wanderers submitted a resolution on Wednesday, citing the “negative consequences that damage the relationship between fans and football”.

VAR was introduced in 2019 to assist on-field officials with key match decisions, but the technology has been at the centre of controversy with complaints ranging from its extensive analysis to delays that can take several minutes.

“After five seasons of VAR in the Premier League, it is time for a constructive and critical debate about its future,” the Wolverhampton statement said.

“Our position is that the price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is contrary to the spirit of our game and should therefore be removed from the 2024/25 season onwards.”

A Premier League spokesperson confirmed they will facilitate a discussion on VAR with clubs at next month’s annual general meeting.

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However, he added that while clubs are entitled to put forward proposals, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside the referees’ body PGMOL, to continuing to improve the system for the benefit of the game and its fans.

“The void left, having removed VAR, would potentially place even greater criticism on on-field decisions made by match officials and increase frustration by supporters. This would also have a significant impact on the Premier League’s reputation,” he said.

Last month, Sweden’s top leagues said they would not consider introducing the VAR system after clubs voiced their opposition to the technology.

-Reuters

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Aston Villa’s Champions League qualification a special day, says boss Emery

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Aston Villa manager Unai Emery after a Premier League match on May 13, 2024 REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery celebrated a “very special day” after the Premier League club clinched a spot in Europe’s top-tier club-football competition for the first time since 1983 and said he is excited by the future of his team.

The West Midlands side secured the Champions League spot on Tuesday after Tottenham Hotspur suffered a 2-0 home loss to Manchester City in the Premier League. Aston Villa had won the old European Cup, precursor to the Champions League, in 1982, but have not played in the continental competition for 41 years.

Villa are fourth in the Premier League standings with 68 points, five more than Tottenham, who sit fifth with one game to play. City are now within touching distance of an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.

“It’s a very special day today,” Emery told Villa’s website. “It was our dream when we started the season to be here. To play Champions League is, after the Premier League, the best.

“You can play in the Premier League against the best teams in the world, it’s very difficult. When you are playing in the Champions League you are playing against the best teams, at the same time, from other countries. And it’s amazing.

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“And we are always responsible about the history here, we know the history of Aston Villa is so long and so successful. Even in the Champions League, before it was the European Cup, we knew the responsibility was to try to increase our level, try to be demanding and to dream.

“I want to enjoy more and, next year, now the new challenge starts for us. To build again a team, and being strong to go and always increase our level. This is our objective.”

The confirmation of their top-four finish coincided with the club’s End of Season Awards Dinner at Villa Park, where captain John McGinn also spoke on the achievement.

“On behalf of all the players, it’s been an amazing season,” the 29-year-old Scotland international said.

“We got promoted, we got into the Premier League and were seven points behind with four games to play, we managed to stay in the league.

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“We kept building and thankfully we’ve achieved something we haven’t done for 40 years. So, on behalf of all the players and staff, we’re over the moon, we’re delighted.”

Villa will conclude their campaign with a trip on Sunday to in-form Crystal Palace, who are 12th in the league.

-Reuters

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