fifa15guide | Under-pressure Arsene Wenger: I can still turn things around at Arsenal

Brighton heaped more misery on Arsenal with a 2-1 win at the Amex, as the Gunners slipped to their fourth straight defeat in all competitions.
Despite Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Brighton, Arsene Wenger is adamant that he is still capable of turning things around for the club.

Arsene Wenger insisted he can still “turn things around” at Arsenal despite admitting that the team’s top-four hopes are over after Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Brighton.

Arsenal fell to their fourth-straight loss in all competitions to heap more pressure on their under-fire manager, whose future is in serious doubt after 22 years at the club.

The defeat leaves the Gunners 13 points off fourth place with just nine games to go, and needing a good result in Thursday’s Europa League game at AC Milan to keep any hopes alive of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

It was Arsenal’s eighth loss in total in 2018, with large sections of the away fans chanting “We want Wenger out” during the game. But the Frenchman himself still maintained he’s the right man for the job despite the poor form.

“Yes it’s the first time it happens in my whole career [losing so many games], I must say, and it’s not easy. But I have enough experience and enough desire to turn things around,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “And I believe as well at the moment, when we need to stay in the game we make individual mistakes at the wrong moments.

“And when a team struggles a bit for confidence it’s even more difficult. We have to stick together; we have no other solution.”

Wenger has now lost four games in a row.

Wenger also added “there is no uncertainty” surrounding his own position — indicating he fully expects to be allowed to see out the season.

Last season, Arsenal finished outside the top four for the first time in Wenger’s career and he admitted that any chance of avoiding a repeat of that failure is now gone.

“You can say that yes, I think it had already gone before [the Brighton game],” he said. “Mathematically, with five teams in front of us, you need two to collapse. With such a number of games to go it’s very difficult to think it will happen.”

Wenger also blamed “heavy legs” for Arsenal’s poor first-half performance, as they went 2-0 down within 30 minutes after goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray. This latest loss came after successive 3-0 defeats to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final last weekend and in the league on Thursday.

“They started strong, we were caught cold. And after in the second half, I felt we responded very well with big desire, but we couldn’t get the goal that got us at least a point,” Wenger said.

“Yes, [confidence] was missing, you could see that. We played Sunday at Wembley, Thursday night a big game again, and today early morning, so it was I think a combination of yes, a lack of confidence, but as well a bit heavy legs.”

Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

fifa15guide | Pep Guardiola focused on titles, not records after win against Chelsea

Manchester City needed to stay patient against a defensive-minded Chelsea side, but David and Bernardo Silva were pleased to break through and secure three points.
Bernardo Silva’s goal lifts Man City over Chelsea, keeping City unbeaten this season at the Etihad.

MANCHESTER — Pep Guardiola says he’s not interested in records and is more concerned with securing his first Premier League title with Manchester City.

His side moved 18 points clear at the top with a thoroughly dominant 1-0 victory over champions Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium thanks to Bernardo Silva’s second-half goal.

City need four victories from their final nine matches to be absolutely certain of winning the title but, with 78 points already, they could potentially break Chelsea’s points record of 95 for a season set in 2004-05.

“What really matters is to be champions,” Guardiola told a news conference. “I never spoke with the players about the records. I never [said] we have to win the two games to achieve something.

“Against Basel we are going to try to play the way we played today and Stoke City we are going to try and play like we play all season. That’s is what I want to see. After, at the end, we will see.

“We are not going to play for the records. We are going to play to win the game. And after, the records will be a consequence. Records are always a consequence of what you have done but they are not the main thing.”

Pep Guardiola was pleased with Manchester City’s performance in Sunday’s defeat of Chelsea.

Despite the narrow scoreline, the victory over Chelsea was a completely one-sided game with City having 71 percent possession and restricting Antonio Conte’s side to just three shots off target.

And City did break one record in the match with 902 passes against Chelsea — more than any team has managed in a single Premier League game since the stat began being recorded.

“We try to play with the ball, we try with our power like a team, it’s what we want to do,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes it is more complicated when teams are aggressive.

“Today they were so organised today, it is like they played against Barcelona in the Champions League. We spoke about it, to be patient, move the ball quick, don’t make too many touches, and control the counter-attack from Hazard, Willian and Pedro because in that situation they are so good at it.

“Now we need three or four victories to be champions.”

It’s an incredible turnaround from last season, when Chelsea were the only side to win at the Etihad Stadium as they finished 15 points clear of City.

Sunday’s defeat left them 25 points behind City. And Guardiola admitted he couldn’t have expected such a change in form.

“No way, no. Who could believe it?” he said. “I think if you ask the players, the players neither. In terms of not just the results but the way we played, today was another demonstration.

“We had the same desire as at Stamford Bridge and that is what pleases me the most.

“I didn’t expect it after what happened in the previous season — to have the distance, 25 to Chelsea, 33 to Arsenal, 19 to United, who play tomorrow, 18 to [Liverpool]. It’s a lot.

“Tottenham, Liverpool and United they made a good result, a good pace but we were so far so good in terms of we drop points but after four or five wins.”

Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

Fiorentina captain Davide Astori dies at 31; Serie A games postponed –

Serie A commissioner Giovanni Malago speaks on the decision to postpone Sunday’s Serie A and Serie B matches following the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori.

Fiorentina captain and Italy international Davide Astori has died at the age of 31, and all of Sunday’s Serie A games have been postponed.

Fiorentina confirmed the news on Sunday morning in a statement posted on the club’s official website, with multiple outlets in Italy reporting the defender died of cardiac arrest in his hotel room before the game against Udinese.

“The belief is that the player died of a cardiac arrest by natural causes,” Udine prosecutor Antonio De Nicolo said. “It is strange that such a thing should happen to a professional who is so closely monitored without there being any warning signs.”

Astori’s body was taken to the Santa Maria della Misericordia Hospital for an autopsy.

“A profoundly shocked Fiorentina are compelled to announce that their captain Davide Astori, who was struck by an unexpected sudden illness, has passed away,” the team said in a statement. “In this terrible and delicate situation, and in particular out of respect for his family, we appeal for everybody to show sensitivity.”

Genoa’s game with Cagliari, which was due to kick off at 12:30 p.m. local time, was postponed when the players were informed of the news during their warm-up routines. They were visibly shaken as they left the field. After an announcement was made at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris explaining the postponement, fans applauded as a picture of Astori appeared on the big screens inside the stadium. 

Torino subsequently announced that their fixture with Crotone would not go ahead before the Lega Serie A confirmed that all of the weekend’s remaining fixtures, including the Milan city derby on Sunday evening, had been postponed.

A statement from the league read: “Shocked by this tragic news, all of the family of the Lega Serie A warmly unites around the family of Davide Astori and Fiorentina. All of today’s games are postponed due to mourning. Ciao Davide.”

Fiorentina’s league rivals have been sending their condolences.

“AS Roma share the pain the football world is feeling for the loss of Davide Astori. Shocked by this tragic news, the directors, players and all staff of the club affectionately stand by his family through their pain,” wrote Roma in a tweet. 

“Today there are no colours, but just profound pain. Juventus express their own condolences to the family and to Fiorentina for the loss of Davide Astori,” wrote Juventus.

Astori began his career at AC Milan but never played a Serie A match before moving to Cagliari. He spent six years in Sardinia and made his national team debut before being sent out on loan to Roma in 2014.

In 2015, he joined Fiorentina on loan, with the club taking up their obligation to buy, and the defender rose to captain the side this season. He played 25 times for his club in 2017-18.

After representing Italy Under-18s, Astori played 14 times at senior level. His debut in March 2011 in a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Kiev was eventful — he was introduced as a first-half substitute before being sent off with 15 minutes remaining after receiving two yellow cards.

Astori scored his only international goal in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup third-place playoff against Uruguay in Salvador, giving Italy a first-half lead in a match which finished 2-2. The Azzurri won the contest on penalties.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.