'I can't control what is written' – Arteta 'fully focused' on Arsenal amid Real Madrid rumours

By Sports Desk March 08, 2023

Mikel Arteta remains "fully focused" on guiding Arsenal to Premier League glory this season amid rumours he is wanted by Real Madrid to replace Carlo Ancelotti.

Arsenal are five points clear of Manchester City at the top of the English top flight in pursuit of their first title since the 2003-04 campaign.

Arteta has been widely praised for his work at Emirates Stadium in his third full season in charge, with a report from Spain on Wednesday suggesting Madrid could make a move.

Ancelotti is said to be under pressure as Madrid head coach, despite guiding the club to a LaLiga and Champions League double last season.

However, when asked about the speculation ahead of Arsenal's Europa League last-16 first-leg tie with Sporting CP, Arteta said he is giving it little thought.

"It's things that managers or players can’t control, what is written," he said at Wednesday's pre-match press conference. 

"What I can tell you is that I'm fully focused on what I'm doing here and extremely proud and grateful to do what I'm doing in this football club. That's it."

Arteta's focus will switch from the Premier League to Europa League on Thursday when Arsenal take on Portuguese heavyweights Sporting at Estadio Jose Alvalade.

It is the third of six games in the space of 18 days for the Gunners, but Arteta hinted he will not look to rotate his squad for the European tie.

"We have one team and we have to play the games with the best possible players to win it," he said. "There have been moments where we have made eight changes. 

"We try to accommodate. Players have moments throughout the season where they're available and when they're not. For sure we will try to pick the best team to win the game.

"Of course everyone wants to play. It's true as well when we've wanted to rotate players they've been injured and unavailable. Tomorrow that may be the case. 

"Sometimes it's been difficult and players have to deserve to play the minutes. Being fair in football is very difficult. 

"You have to be really good at communicating your decisions to help players understand what you do, but all the time you have to think for the best of the team. 

"We want everybody to feel important and we are going to try to make them feel like that."

Gabriel Jesus took part in training on the eve of the Sporting match, but Arteta gave little away when asked if the striker could make his first appearance since November.

"News on the squad will be tomorrow," he said. "We have brought a few players and you will see who is available."

Asked if Kieran Tierney, Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah are available, Arteta said: "Let’s see how they evolve. 

"We're trying to accommodate everybody and get them in the best position for tomorrow."

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    Pep Guardiola believes stopping Manchester City winning the treble could give Manchester United extra motivation in the FA Cup final.

    The two neighbouring rivals clash in the Wembley showpiece for the first time on Saturday with more than a trophy and local bragging rights at stake.

    For Premier League winners City victory could be the second leg of a potentially glorious treble with the final of the Champions League to come next week.

    United on the other hand – as the only side to have won all three of those competitions in the same season, back in 1999 – will be anxious to stop them and protect their place in history.

    City manager Guardiola said: “I could understand that. It belongs to them, that’s normal. Sport is like that.

    “’That belongs to us – we don’t want anyone else to do it,’ it’s normal, that feeling. It’s completely understandable. But it’s a football game, who will be better will win.”

    United boss Erik ten Hag, however, has played down the party-pooping aspect of his side’s task.

    The Dutchman has enjoyed an encouraging first season at Old Trafford having won the Carabao Cup and reclaimed a Champions League spot.

    “I know what is the thinking from the fans,” Ten Hag said.

    “But what we want is to restore Manchester United by winning trophies. We have an opportunity to win a trophy and we don’t want to be distracted by anything.

    “If it’s important for the fans then it’s important for us, so we will give everything to win the cup.”

    Guardiola insists the treble is not part of his thinking yet. He has spent the week preparing to face United and will switch focus to playing Inter Milan in Istanbul next week.

    “We didn’t speak once about Inter these days,” he said. “We’ll have Sunday off, and after we’ll have three or four days training.

    “We’ll introduce what we believe Inter are, to try to beat them, then. We have time. Saturday to Saturday is a long time to prepare for a game.

    “United and the FA Cup deserve the full attention and commitment. The players are completely aware of that.”

    City could have a fully-fit squad with Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji, who all missed last week’s game at Brentford, having since returned to training.

    Guardiola has confirmed second-choice goalkeeper Stefan Ortega will start, as he has in all domestic cup fixtures this season.

    United are without striker Anthony Martial due to a hamstring injury and winger Antony is also a major doubt.

  • James Vincent: It’s taken years to realise the importance of my cup-winning goal James Vincent: It’s taken years to realise the importance of my cup-winning goal

    James Vincent admits he has only recently started to grasp the full magnitude of his Scottish Cup-winning strike for Inverness eight years ago.

    The 33-year-old midfielder scored the biggest goal in Caley Thistle’s history when he burst forward from his auxiliary role at right-back to tap home in the 86th minute as his 10-man team overcame a late flurry from Falkirk to claim the old trophy in 2015.

    But Vincent, who returned for a second spell with Inverness between 2019 and 2021, admits it took him some time to fully appreciate the importance of what he had accomplished.

    “It really is the sort of thing you grow up dreaming of, scoring a late winner in a cup final,” Vincent told the PA news agency on the eve of his old side’s Scottish Cup final showdown with Celtic.

    “It’s probably something that has become heightened over the years, partly by doing interviews like this. At the time I thought it was just another game to be brutally honest.

    “I didn’t quite understand how it affected the lives of fans and staff. It’s only when you’re still getting messages from fans about the cup final all these years later that you understand how it impacted other people and that it was the biggest moment for the club they support.

    “It’s probably something that I’ve come to realise over the years was such a big occasion and I’m so happy that I was part of it.”

    Vincent was sent on by manager John Hughes as a 72nd-minute substitute to try and help Inverness – who were in the Premiership at the time – maintain control at a time when they led their second-tier opponents 1-0.

    A red card for Caley Thistle defender Carl Tremarco just three minutes later, however, changed the whole dynamic of the match and Falkirk equalised with 10 minutes left.

    Just as the Bairns looked set to turn the screw, the Highlanders broke away and won it when Vincent followed up to tap in the rebound after attacker Marley Watkins had surged from his own half and forced a save out of Jamie MacDonald.

    “Circumstances on the day were crazy,” recalled Vincent. “We had ups and downs, a red card, people playing out of position, but I just took a bit of a risk towards the end and fortunately it paid off.

    “When I came on, it was still 11 v 11 but Falkirk were getting a bit of a foothold. I went on for Ryan Christie to play in an advanced midfielder position but within three minutes we were down to 10 men and I got moved to right-back.

    “John Hughes liked utilising us in different positions, which I felt was a strength of ours. The remit from there was to shut up shop, get to extra time and see if we could take it to penalties but I had the chance to break forward and I took it.

    “A lot of the boys had played the majority of the game and were tired, especially when we were down to 10 men, but I had a bit of freshness about me and I was on the pitch so I just thought ‘I’ll have a go’. You don’t get to play in many occasions like that and I just took a gamble and kept going.

    “I got myself ahead of the midfield line and it was only Marley up top and he managed to brush off a defender and get a shot away. I still think he should have passed to me but he had a shot and I was in the right place at the right time.

    “Even though Falkirk were in the Championship, they had a really good squad and had been on the cusp of promotion for a couple of years. We were the favourites going into it but the tide turned when we had Carl sent off and we probably became the underdogs.

    “It was tough, it was backs-against-the-wall at times, but we had a great attitude about us. I don’t think anybody expected us to finish the game the way we did.”

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    “It’s really nice to see Aaron Doran and Danny Devine trying to do it again,” he said of the two remaining members of the 2015 squad. “They’re the two boys, along with Billy McKay who I’m still really close to and still talk to quite regularly.

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    “I’ll be watching on television as a fan and I’d love to see them have a go at Celtic and see where it takes them. If they do that and give it their all, nobody will moan regardless of the score.”

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    The issue happened against Dallas United in the The Soccer Tournament event on Thursday.

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    Former Hammers Anton Ferdinand, Carlton Cole, Matt Jarvis, Marlon Harewood, Zavon Hines and Jimmy Walker are among those taking part in North Carolina.

    It is unclear what was said – or to which player – but Ferdinand reportedly told media at the game the Hammers walked off due to racism.

    A statement from TST read: “After conducting an investigation into the final moments of the match between West Ham United and Dallas United, we have concluded that Dallas United violated TST’s code of conduct.

    “We have been in dialogue with leadership from both clubs and we are all aligned that the best path forward is Dallas United withdrawing from competition. All parties involved are unified in wanting to make a statement against racial insensitivity.

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