Sitting 10th in the Premier League, the Gunners are on course for their worst league finish since 1995.
But Mikel Arteta’s men are also just three games away from only the club’s third ever European trophy and a much-needed ticket back into the Champions League for the first time in five seasons.
All is not well at the Emirates on or off the field. Ahead of Friday’s 1-0 defeat by Everton, thousands of fans demonstrated against Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke, calling on the American billionaire to sell the club following his role in a collapsed European Super League.
It is easy to see why Kroenke sought the guaranteed income the Super League would provide.
For 19 seasons between 1998/99 and 2016/17, the Londoners never failed to qualify for the Champions League. Now they are set to finish outside the Premier League’s top four for a fifth consecutive year.
That decline started prior to Emery’s 18-month spell in charge between May 2018 and November 2019.
The Spaniard missed out on the top four by a point and got to the Europa League final in his only full season in charge, but was dismissed just four months into his second.
Arsenal were one of 12 breakaway clubs seeking the reassurance of top level European football every season without facing the perils of having to qualify.
“I want to win for myself and for Villarreal. (Two years ago) I was defending Arsenal’s red colours in that final against Chelsea, now I feel that affinity for the yellow of Villarreal. I have that competitive instinct, that responsibility I owe the club and everyone I represent with my decisions.”
A three-time Europa League winner during his time at Sevilla, the 49-year-old has won 28 out of 31 knockout ties in the competition across spells at four different clubs.
Revenge is also on Villarreal minds for those with a far longer connection to the club than Emery.
A first ever major trophy is also the Spanish side’s only route into next season’s Champions League.
“The two clubs have their own history between themselves,” added Emery. “It will be a great contest, regardless of my having coached there recently.”
In the other semi-final, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is aiming to reach a final at the fifth time of asking since taking charge of the Red Devils against Roma.
Under the Norwegian, the English giants have twice fallen at the last four in the League Cup and in the semi-finals of last season’s Europa League and FA Cup.
With United realistically assured of a top-four finish in the Premier League, but too far off Manchester City to mount a title challenge, ending a four-year trophy drought is the major prize left on offer for Solskjaer’s men this season.
Australia and New Zealand withdraw from Rugby League World Cup over safety concerns
Australia and New Zealand have officially withdrawn from this year’s Rugby League World Cup, citing player welfare and safety concerns.
They have requested the International Rugby League postpones the tournament until 2022 to “minimize the risk of players contracting COVID-19 and ensure the best outcome for player wellbeing”.
The event is due to be held in England this October and this latest news is a major blow to the tournament’s hopes of going ahead.
The ARL and NZRL made the decision after considering the risk of COVID-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia, and the time a majority of NRL players would have to spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup.
“They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do.
“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”
Peters said: ”There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.
“The tournament organizers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the COVID-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.
“We understand how disappointing this is for fans and those involved, however, player and staff safety remains paramount.”
Jordan Henderson contract issue may make sense on paper – but Jurgen Klopp won’t think so
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson has come under fire following a report by Alan Nixon in the Guardian which claims that the player has a contract with the club that runs out next summer. This has led to suggestions that Liverpool could face a court case over breach of contract as well as an immigration issue should Henderson choose to move abroad.
This transfer window has presented itself as one of the most challenging in recent memory. Both parties have been in need of a deal; Liverpool in particular has been looking to offload a player’s and/or cash sum in order to bring in new blood into the team. Lo and behold, Daniel Sturridge has been brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea – and it looks as though he will be the one receiving the bulk of the transfer fee along with a hefty chunk of change from his new club. Perhaps most interestingly of all, however, is Klopp’s reported admiration for Jordan Henderson at Anfield.
This transfer window has presented itself as one of the most challenging in recent memory. Both parties have been in need of a deal; Liverpool in particular have been looking to offload a playership and/or cash sum in order to bring in new blood into the team.
Lo and behold, Daniel Sturridge has been brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea – and it looks as though he will be the one receiving the bulk of the transfer fee along with a hefty chunk of change from his new club. Perhaps most interestingly of all, however, is Klopp’s reported admiration for Jordan Henderson at Anfield
The circumstances surrounding the enforced loan are as much about money as it is about reputation. The fine with which Liverpool are engaging with the Football Association over the issue is likely to do little to improve their standing in the minds of their fans, or even increase their reputation at Anfield. They may even do the opposite. More than a decade has passed since the last player to be refused a January move back to his home country went public with his criticism of the then-manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson. Perhaps it is time for someone else to take up the banner.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sends Premier League title message after first Man Utd friendly
We have to start better than last season. We didn’t get off to a decent start at all,” Solskjaer told MUTV after Sunday’s friendly win over Derby.
“I think the Premier League is more competitive. We had maybe one competitor every season when I was playing, so the first six or seven games, very important.
“You don’t win the league, but you can lose the chance of winning the league in the first six or seven games.”
Solskjaer has pressure on him in the upcoming campaign to win his first title in charge of the club after collecting no trophies since taking over in 2018.
Last season he came close as his team lost on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.
The boss, who used a lot of young players in Sunday’s match, was pleased with his side’s performance against Derby.
He added: “The first game is always difficult, it’s the first test of 45 minutes, big pitch, took a bit of time to get going, loads of young players getting their chance to play with some of the first-team ones.
“Tom [Heaton] was very positive, he’s here to give the other ones a little bit of a challenge as well. He’s conducted himself so well throughout his career. I was just at the end of my career when he was coming up, so I’m so happy to have him.
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