Press Association The Gunners ended the campaign in strong form, recovering from defeat at Tottenham in March to beat Bayern Munich away and then win eight from the last 10 league games as they battled back to clinch fourth spot ahead of their north-London rivals – and with it another shot at Champions League football. By contrast, Arsenal had secured only four victories from the opening 10 matches, and the 21-year-old said in an interview with Arsenal Player: “The games earlier on don’t decide our season but we have got to think that we have to win them, because that is what champions do.” Jack Wilshere has warned Arsenal cannot afford another slow start next season if they are to mount a sustained challenge for the Barclays Premier League title. Arsenal’s recorded opening defeats at Chelsea, Norwich and Manchester United. Indeed, Arsene Wenger’s side dropped as low as 10th place when they were beaten at home by Swansea on December 1. Wilshere, who is set for ankle surgery, knows it is a scenario which cannot be repeated if Arsenal are serious about lasting the distance in 2013/14, and he added: “The likes of Manchester United go away and win games and leave you thinking, ‘they keep winning and winning’ and at the end of the season the points tally shows that. “That is what we have to do (to challenge for the title).” Wilshere feels Arsenal must step up their form in the head-to-head against their direct rivals, having lost both at home and away to Chelsea, been beaten at the Emirates Stadium by Manchester City and having drawn with United when they came to north London just after being crowned champions. “We also have to improve our record against the big teams,” the England man said. “It has not been great this season and if you want to become champions you have to beat those sides.” To help facilitate closing the gap on United, City and Chelsea, Arsenal are expected to significantly bolster their squad this summer as Wenger finally dips into his £100million war chest, set to be backed up by new lucrative marketing deals. The club are also set to get Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Sebastien Squillaci and Korean forward Park Chu-young all off the wage bill. However, Gremio have suggested they are unlikely to take up a permanent deal for Andre Santos, who is currently on loan back in Brazil.
Press Association Sunderland keeper Keiren Westwood is desperate to step into the gap left by £9million man Simon Mignolet. He added: “I didn’t have that last year, but I still carried on going. At times, it was mentally demoralising. “I want to play. Everybody knows I want to play. It’s not in my nature to sit on the bench. I would rather go and play for a Championship team on less money and play every week, just so I get that buzz on a Saturday. “Sitting on the bench in the Premier League and picking up money is not my desire or attitude. It’s a trap I don’t want to fall into. “You can quite easily do that. You can see over the years that players have done that, not just goalkeepers.” The 28-year-old admitted last month that might have to consider leaving the Black Cats in search of the regular football he needs to regain his place as the Republic of Ireland’s number one. However, Mignolet’s departure for Liverpool means there is now a vacancy, and the former Coventry man and new signing Vito Mannone will fight it out for the right to take over from the Belgian. He told the Sunderland Echo: “It would have been a wrench to leave, but on the other side of it, I have to think of my career. I have to play games and have something to look forward to during the week, putting all that work in on the training field to send fans home happy on a Saturday.”
“We don’t have to (take a) risk. It would be silly to anticipate a time. We won’t force it just because we see improvement, because another injury now could put him out for longer. It would be stupid. “In a few weeks, maybe we can see Fletcher in action. We will keep our fingers crossed. He and the staff have done a very good job, we have handled the situation very well. “We expect to see him in the next few weeks. I can’t say two, three or four – we will see.” Press Association Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is happy with Steven Fletcher’s progress but will not rush the striker back into action. Last season’s top scorer for the Black Cats, Fletcher has not played since damaging ankle ligaments on Scotland duty in March. Di Canio told www.safc.com: “His improvement has surprised everybody. We are happy, but more importantly he is happy and excited.
Chelsea have seen two offers for Rooney rebuffed by United, who insist the England striker is not for sale. Mourinho will test that resolve, but not until after the trip to Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will wait until after Monday’s Barclays Premier League match with Manchester United to make a third approach for transfer target Wayne Rooney. “I don’t want Chelsea to do it before we go there,” said Mourinho, following Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa. “Everybody in the club, in the board, they agree with me. They share that opinion. “I think this period, by the ethical point of view, is a period where we’re going to be quiet.” The transfer window closes on September 2, so Mourinho and Chelsea may bide their time over Rooney. Mourinho has expressed sympathy with the view of managers who believe the transfer window should close before the start of the Premier League season. Yet the self-styled Special One is still determined to do his utmost to recruit Rooney, who appears unhappy at United. Mourinho has expressed satisfaction with his squad, which contains three strikers in Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba. Ba started against Villa, with Lukaku coming off the bench and Torres not in the matchday squad. There are alternative targets should a third bid fail, with Anzhi Makhachkala striker Samuel Eto’o, who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan, reportedly one of them. Speaking prior to the Villa clash, Mourinho said: “We have plans B and C. Don’t ask me names because it’s difficult to speak about players from other clubs.” Press Association
Press Association The Wearsiders’ dismal start to the season continued as a 3-0 defeat at West Brom left them bottom of the Barclays Premier League with just one point from five games. Di Canio approached frustrated fans after the final whistle and gestured they should keep their chins up. He received a mixed reaction but stood his ground to convey a message that he is determined to fight on. The volatile Italian argues that his much-changed squad needs time to gel but believes a good result in the coming week – against Peterborough in the Capital One Cup or Liverpool in their next league game – could make all the difference. He said: “If we keep going on a long bad run it will be difficult to gel together. “We need a good result. One good result can be the best medicine but obviously we need to be quick – and quick means Peterborough Tuesday and, on Sunday, Liverpool. “One game, one win, will clean all the players’ brains from the problems they have now. “The only way to find what you need is to work together. We have 14 new players and six or seven of those arrived in the last 20 days. Then we had international games and they didn’t meet each other until a few days ago. “The only way, even if it is tough sometimes, is to stay together, meet each other, and work together.” The heat was turned on Di Canio within 20 minutes of kick-off at The Hawthorns, perhaps inevitably, by the player he sold to the Baggies amid acrimony earlier this month, Stephane Sessegnon. Sessegnon, making his debut for the hosts, pounced on a rebound after Kieren Westwood saved from Scott Sinclair. Sunderland’s under-pressure manager Paolo di Canio is convinced one win could spark an upturn in the club’s fortunes. Sessegnon, who had been cheered by both sets of supporters prior to the game, pointedly refused to celebrate. Sunderland had their chances to equalise but it was clear their luck was out when, 15 minutes from time, Steven Fletcher landed awkwardly on his shoulder after stretching to shoot. With all three substitutes used, Sunderland had to play out time with 10 men and were punished as Liam Ridgewell and the impressive Morgan Amalfitano struck. Fletcher is expected to be out for at least a fortnight but Di Canio is sure his players will respond to their predicament and his demanding, abrasive methods. He said: “I didn’t see any malicious players in the dressing room, they have behaved. “They have a natural way to approach training sessions. They are players that, if you train twice a day, they do the job properly. “My regime is strict but to go from this situation is to be indisciplined people. “I believe they have faith in me and they follow me. “We keep going, keep working hard, stick together, share the responsibility, don’t turn our faces to the other side. “It is better to have more confrontation. I believe in looking in each others’ eyes. “I believe in this if I am at the top or the bottom. There is only one way – work, work, work.”
Irishman Pat McQuaid has promised not to prolong the bitter battle over the presidency of the International Cycling Union if he is deposed from office by British challenger Brian Cookson in Friday’s vote. “I think his influence was brought to bear.” Asked whether he expects the European voters to change their vote in his favour, McQuaid said: “We’ll have to wait and see. I wouldn’t speculate on that.” Makarov is one of those to have publicly backed Cookson, along with Bernard Hinault. In his support of the Briton, five-time Tour de France winner Hinault said “no organisation should accept people having more than two consecutive terms. That is not democracy.” Hinault added: “That is being asleep when life has to be a permanent evolution, and cycling must be like that too. We need to clean what is in place. Cycling needs news ideas, new solutions.” McQuaid insists he is already cleaning up cycling and that he requires a third and final term to complete unfinished business. “I want to tidy it up and then at the end of the four years to step away,” the 64-year-old said. McQuaid was critical of Hinault’s comments on the length of service, insisting the demands of the job mean it takes time. “It’s a lot more involved than a lot of people think,” McQuaid said. “You need to develop relationships with your federations, 175 federations, you need to visit them, meet with their governments and ministers and develop relationships with them, in order to ask them to help develop the sport in the country. “You’re there to create relationships with your other international colleagues, with WADA (the World Anti-doping Agency), with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and various bodies and that all takes time. “You’ve got another term to continue to develop the sport and utilise the relationships you have.” Time is required to make an impact, McQuaid argues, particularly in a sport such as cycling where doping has been so prevalent and made such a blot on the sport. “Changing a culture does take time,” McQuaid said. “We’re in a programme of doing it and there’s a lot of evidence that the sport is cleaning up; it’s a lot cleaner than it was when I came into it. “The culture change takes a bit more time and that’s work that is ongoing. “That’s all work that is going to take another two or three years. “That’s on top of the testing and biological passport and all those things. “That’s why I want this last four years to do that and it will only be four years. I will definitely be stepping down at the end of that time.” The winner requires at least 22 of the 42 votes to prevail in Florence and, although he is confident of being elected to serve a third four-year term in office, McQuaid will accept the result if it does not go his way. He hopes Cookson will, too, in a presidential race which has featured numerous verbal barbs, criticisms and controversy over the legislation and its interpretation. McQuaid, UCI president since 2005, told Press Association Sport: “I would hope that the vote would bring an end to all that. “I know if I lose I certainly won’t be looking to make a legal challenge. I’d walk away. I would hope my opponent would do the same.” Cookson has publicised his endorsements – from national federations to high-profile ex-riders such as Sir Chris Hoy – while McQuaid has opted to take a different tact. “I do have a lot of support from within the sport itself, but I’m not going around listing names every day of people who are supporting me,” McQuaid said. “I’ve enough to be doing to continue my job in running the UCI than looking for endorsements, or whatever.” McQuaid’s bid for re-election suffered a blow when delegates of the European Cycling Union, which has 14 votes, opted to back Cookson. McQuaid said: “It wasn’t a big surprise to me, because one of his supporters is Igor Makarov, the Russian oligarch (president of the Russian Cycling Federation and member of the UCI management committee). “He carries a lot of influence within the European federations. He also provided Europe with a one million Euro sponsorship deal some months ago. Press Association
A 25th-minute penalty from on-loan Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-yueng steered the Black Cats to what was their first victory in seven top-flight matches. The spot-kick was awarded after Leon Osman miscontrolled a goal-kick from Tim Howard. Sunderland gave their Barclays Premier League survival hopes a much-needed boost with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Everton at Goodison Park. Ki latched onto the ball and darted into the box, where he hit the turf when tackled by Howard, who was shown a straight red card. Everton, with Ross Barkley on as a substitute, piled on the pressure after the break but could not find an equaliser, with Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone pulling off several impressive saves. Gus Poyet’s men remain bottom of the table, but have cut the gap between them and safety to three points. The Toffees, meanwhile, remain fifth after what was only their second league defeat of the season. There was a nervous moment at the back for Everton early on when their skipper Phil Jagielka misjudged a header and Steven Fletcher looked to take advantage, but they survived as Howard rushed out to clear. There were then optimistic efforts struck from distance at both ends, with Fabio Borini sending one over Howard’s bar before Bryan Ovideo cut inside and cracked the other towards Mannone, who got behind it. Moments later, the Toffees won a corner, via an Oviedo cross, which Gareth Barry met with a header but could not guide on-target. James McCarthy scuffed a shot into the stand and when his fellow Everton midfielder Barry then gave away possession, Sunderland worked the ball to Jack Colback, whose low strike was saved by Howard. It was not long after that when the goalkeeper received his marching orders having opted to play a goal-kick short to Osman. Osman made a hash of attempting to control it and Ki claimed possession, looked to go around Howard and went to ground in the area when the United States international came out to meet him. Referee Lee Probert had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and sending off Howard, who was replaced in goal by Joel Robles – brought on by Toffees boss Roberto Martinez for Osman. And Ki, scorer of Sunderland’s winning goal in their recent Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea, then made no mistake in firing the penalty in past Robles, who was on his Everton Premier League debut. Robles looked shaky as he fumbled an Ondrej Celustka drive in the 36th minute but did well to block the follow-up by Sebastian Larsson and from the resulting corner, Ki miscued wildly when trying to shoot. Everton then found themselves down to nine men for a few minutes, with Kevin Mirallas having headed down the tunnel, and when the Belgium forward returned to the pitch, Barry picked up a booking – meaning he will be suspended for the next match – for a tackle on Colback, with Larsson then curling the subsequent free-kick over. Mirallas was substituted at the interval for Barkley, and after coming through a spell in which Modibo Diakite scooped a deflected effort over and Fletcher’s header was saved by Robles, Everton began to apply some pressure of their own. Mannone made a decent parry to keep out a Jagielka header and got his hands on Romelu Lukaku’s attempt at a rebound shot. Lukaku then saw Mannone get down to claim his drilled shot from outside the box, before Barkley – who netted so spectacularly in the previous game against Swansea – sent another ambitious effort too high. Fletcher brought a save out of Robles, but Everton kept pressing, with Barkley looking in increasingly confident mood as he drew a parry out of Mannone and then struck narrowly wide. Mannone comfortably dealt with further shots from Lukaku and Barkley, then produced a delightful save to push behind a rising drive from Oviedo. There was a brief respite for the visitors and Fletcher dragged an attempt the wrong side of the post having been put through. But Everton were soon pressing again, and Mannone did superbly to palm away Barkley’s free-kick as the England international tried to repeat his match-winning trick from the Swansea contest. The Toffees came close again as the end of the game drew ever nearer, with Borini clearing an effort from substitute Nikica Jelavic off the line, before the final whistle confirmed Sunderland had held on for all three points. Press Association
The Heineken Cup Pool One leaders were staring at their second successive European defeat after Richie Gray and Brice Dulin touched down for a 14-0 Castres lead after 20 minutes. But 21-point fly-half Jimmy Gopperth inspired Leinster’s comeback, scoring two first-half tries with man-of-the-match Rob Kearney chipping in with a drop goal and Jordi Murphy adding a clinching late try. Having become the first away team to win in Castres since last January, Leinster now need just one match point at home to the Ospreys next Friday to qualify for the last eight as pool winners. Leinster are four points ahead of second-placed Northampton Saints who host Castres in round six, with Gopperth eyeing up another win to seal a home quarter-final. “Of course you want a home quarter and to achieve that we’ve got to win the game next week,” said the Kiwi number 10. “We’ve just got to make sure we get the points on the board early, make sure we win first and let the game take care of itself after that. “Hopefully we’ll get a good outcome from it.” Gopperth singled out the collective belief shown by the Leinster players as an important factor in their fight-back in the south of France. “We were disappointed with missing a couple of first-up tackles that got us into that situation (of being 14-0 down). “It’s the belief in each other and wanting to work hard for each other. “Leinster have always been a great scrambling team and I think we just worked hard for each other because we want to be in the top eight. “Our set-piece took a bit of a hard knock and they got their act into gear and we really got some go-forward ball and looked after it in the second half. That’s when we created opportunities and we finished well.” Castres fly-half Rémi Talès, who had to go off in the first half with a bicep injury, said that Leinster’s big-game experience counted for them at crucial stages. “It’s a shame. The smallest error was punished. We’re disappointed because overall we played a good match,” he said. “They’re a team with huge experience. In key moments, that makes the difference.” David Darricarrère, who coaches the Top 14 club along with Serge Milhas, pointed to the ‘small inaccuracies’ that Leinster seized upon to turn the game in their favour. “We were in a good place in the first half, but Leinster capitalised on our mistakes and handling errors and the little details that matter at this level,” he said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes and their Heineken Cup experience stood to them. We still have a game to play against Northampton and there will be no let-up from us. “We’re learn from today and I believe matches like these – played at such a pace and intensity – will prepare us well for rest of the Top 14 Championship.” It was a gutsy recovery from the Irish province, who struggled at scrum-time against the powerful French champions and had to scramble in defence on a number of occasions. “Castres delivered everything we thought they would – they were massively combative, very physical at the breakdown and a good set-piece,” said Gibbes. “It took a massive effort from us to score three tries and we almost sniffed out an opportunity for a fourth at the end. “To come to a place like this against a well-organised team that haven’t given up a lot of tries at home, it’s a satisfying result and puts a spring in our step for next week.” Commenting on his side’s early lapses, the New Zealander admitted: “It wasn’t an ideal start. “The way they were able to gain access was more about our deficiencies rather than them creating a hell of a lot – but they’re a good team, we gave them a little bit and they took those two tries early. “We just felt if we were able to get a little bit of a foothold with possession, particularly at set-piece, that we may be able to put pressure on them later on…and it took quite a long time to do that. “I thought the boys’ resilience and energy and their commitment to keep getting up and running into these big fellas here was first class.” Press Association Forwards coach Jono Gibbes praised Leinster’s resilience as they came from two converted tries down to beat Castres Olympique 29-22 at Stade Pierre-Antoine.
Former Newcastle skipper Rob Lee has warned Alan Pardew he faces a major fight to hold on to his best players if owner Mike Ashley does not back him with hard cash this summer. However, Lee believes it could take far more than that for Pardew to rebuild a squad which may yet be further depleted during the closed-season. Asked if four big signings would be enough, the 48-year-old former midfielder, an ambassador for the Budweiser Open Trials campaign, which will provide amateur footballers with the opportunity to play at Wembley in front of professional scouts, told Press Association Sport: “It’s a start. Is it enough? No, probably not. “Is [Loic] Remy going to sign for us? I am sure after the season he has had – he’s only on loan – he will have a lot of options and if he sees Newcastle selling Cabaye, their best player, what’s he going to think? “It’s not as though he’s going to have a shortage of offers, so my instinct would say he won’t sign, so you have got to replace him; there are rumours that [Papiss] Cisse is not happy and is going to go; Shola Ameobi is out of contract; [Cheick] Tiote, is he going to be happy with Cabaye going? I think there will be a lot of people after him. “You have to keep these people happy – [Fabricio] Coloccini again, is he going to stay? There were rumours he wanted to go back anyway. “Again, it comes down to when you start selling players, your best players that are left are not going to be happy.” Lee was not surprised to see Cabaye leave the club after he was unsettled by Arsenal’s bid in August, but was astonished that a replacement had not been lined up before PSG were given the green light. He said: “Everybody knew it was coming. That’s fine, but you have to have somebody lined up to replace him. He’s your best player. “He went very, very cheaply as well – if you look at [Juan] Mata going for £37million, he’s a bargain, he’s an absolute bargain for PSG. “We had to have someone lined up to replace him straight away, but typical Newcastle, we didn’t.” Whatever happens during the summer, Pardew faces the task of trying to plug the gap left by Cabaye. His initial attempt to do that in last weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby proved less than effective as Newcastle were trounced 3-0 by Sunderland to invite further recriminations after a dreadful week or so for the club, and Lee admits the manager has a problem on his hands. He said: “You look around and you think is there anybody there who can actually do that at the moment? I would say no. “It’s a major rebuild for Newcastle in the summer, but it depends how much money you are given. For a major rebuild, you need to spend a lot of money. Will Mike Ashley give him that money to do that?” *The Budweiser Open Trials, in association with BT Sport, will see six regional trials take place across the country. The trials will culminate in a showpiece match at Wembley Stadium. Those who make the cut will have one last chance to prove it’s never too late to achieve your dream as they play in front of professional scouts. Watch the first part of the Budweiser Open Trials on BT Sport on Saturday 8th March as part of its FA Cup coverage and subscribe to YouTube.com/BudweiserUK Pardew this week revealed he wants to make up to four major signings as he prepares for the new campaign having lost star man Yohan Cabaye to Paris St Germain last month. The £19million-plus the Magpies banked for the France international remains untouched after since-departed director of football Joe Kinnear failed to find a replacement before the transfer deadline. Press Association
That was one of five victories around the world which saw McIlroy finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic, but the 25-year-old feels his Open triumph at Hoylake and victory at Firestone Country Club – both by two shots over the unfortunate Sergio Garcia – means he is playing at a higher level. “This is better,” said McIlroy, who also came from seven shots behind to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May. “I’m more in control of my ball and my ball flight. Mentally, I’m really sharp. “It was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt trying to close out a golf tournament out there (on Sunday). I felt normal. I felt like it was the first round or the second round. It didn’t feel like a fourth round. “When I say mentally it’s the best I’ve ever been, I didn’t get ahead of myself. I didn’t start to think about my score. I didn’t think about where I was in the tournament. I just kept playing my shot after shot after shot.” With Adam Scott narrowly failing to secure the top-five finish he needed to prevent McIlroy from overtaking him, the Northern Irishman’s lead at the top of the rankings is just 0.17 points. But McIlroy is more focused on tournament victories than rankings, with plenty still to play for in the rest of the season. He added: “It’s a nice honour and it’s a nice title to have, but I don’t think you should go into tournaments thinking about it or thinking, ‘Oh, this guy could pass me if I don’t finish in this position, or this guy could do this’. “I think you just go and you play and you try to win golf tournaments, and if you win golf tournaments, the ranking takes care of itself. My goal now until the end of the year is just to try to win as many golf tournaments as I can. It’s not to try to finish number one in the world. It’s just to get as many titles as possible. Press Association “I feel like the run of golf courses we’ve got coming up are going to suit me. I haven’t seen Valhalla, but from what I heard you need to hit it pretty long and drive the ball well.” McIlroy certainly did that in Akron, leading the field in driving distance (334.8 yards) and also finishing joint first in greens in regulation at 79.17 per cent. Asked if McIlroy was on the way to dominating the sport as Tiger Woods did in his prime, European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley told Sky Sports 4: “There is no reason why not. “That’s the best exhibition of driving I have ever seen from anybody in terms of length and accuracy. That golf course is very narrow off the tee and he is finding the fairway time after time at 340 yards. “What I think is great is that Rory can hold his attitude where it is at now, it’s very much in the present, taking one week at a time. He’s never said he was chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors and that’s a great attitude, it takes the pressure off him and keeps him very much in the present where he needs to be.” Rory McIlroy believes he is in the best form of his life as he seeks a third win in succession and second major title in the space of four weeks in the US PGA Championship. McIlroy headed to Valhalla back on top of the world rankings for the first time since March 2013 after claiming his first World Golf Championship event in the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday. It is the third time the Open champion has taken top spot with a win, the first coming in the Honda Classic in March 2012 and the second later that year when he won the US PGA Championship by eight shots at Kiawah Island.