EPL

Can Emery get the better of former club Arsenal? – Premier League talking points

By Sports Desk December 08, 2023

The latest round of Premier League fixtures brings the respective battles at both ends of the table into sharp focus.

Leaders Arsenal go head-to-head with surprise package Aston Villa and reigning champions Manchester City attempt to end a rare barren period at the top, while, towards the foot, Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper finds himself in the limelight for the wrong reasons.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the weekend’s games.

Familiar face

Mikel Arteta may not be pitch-side at Aston Villa on Saturday as he serves a touchline ban, but another Spaniard who is well known to Arsenal will be. Unai Emery was in charge at the Emirates Stadium between May 2018 and November 2019, when the Gunners dispensed with his services after a disappointing run of results. Emery returned to England in October last year and has since guided Villa into the top three, just four points adrift of his former employers at the top of the table and a genuine threat on home soil.

Timing is everything

 

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When Luton secured their promotion to the Premier League via last season’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final, their fans were able to dream of the days when English football’s aristocrats would head for Kenilworth Road. They could be forgiven for watching through their fingers when Manchester City make the trip on Sunday. City, for the first time in seven years, have not won in four league games, but the Hatters have managed only two top-flight victories all season. Few will give the hosts much chance of improving on that statistic this weekend.

Away the lads

 

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Newcastle travel to Tottenham on Sunday desperately searching for form away from St James’ Park. The Magpies, who won eight times on the road last season as they surged to a fourth-place finish, have collected three points away from Tyneside only once in seven attempts so far this season, courtesy of an 8-0 drubbing of Sheffield United. Spurs have lost their last three games on their own pitch to Chelsea, Aston Villa and West Ham. Something seemingly has to give.

Everton back in business

Everton’s response to the 10-point penalty which has left them fighting for their top-flight lives has been hugely impressive. Thursday night’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle – their fourth in six league outings – lifted them out of the bottom three and proved the perfect preparation for Chelsea’s visit to Goodison Park on Sunday. The Blues currently lie in 10th place with 19 points, one fewer than the total the Toffees would have had but for their punishment.

Cooper over a barrel?

Spare a thought for Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper. He has bullishly played down suggestions he could be out of a job if Forest lose a fifth successive league game when they head for Wolves on Saturday. The Welshman guided the club back into the Premier League at the end of the 2021-22 campaign and kept them there last season with four points to spare, the same margin they currently enjoy over the bottom three.

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  • Proud Lilywhites has no plans to quit as it celebrates 10th anniversary Proud Lilywhites has no plans to quit as it celebrates 10th anniversary

    Proud Lilywhites, Tottenham’s official LGBTQI+ supporters’ group, has changed lives and the law since its inception a decade ago, and has no plans to call it a day any time soon.

    Tuesday marks the organisation’s 10th anniversary and co-founder Chris Paouros acknowledged an early aim was to “put ourselves out of business” by improving equality in football and changing homophobic attitudes.

    The achievements of the group include helping a member seek asylum in the UK and contributing towards the Chelsea rent boy chant being deemed a homophobic hate crime, with this past month full of activities to celebrate their milestone.

    Recent men’s and women’s matches with Wolves and Aston Villa respectively were dedicated to Proud Lilywhites’ 10th anniversary with the club’s 62,850-seater stadium lit up in rainbow colours and again on February 15 when a celebration event was held at the ground, with first-teamers Ben Davies and Ellie Brazil in attendance.

    “Walking down the High Road (before Wolves), I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt,” Paouros told the PA news agency.

    “I come from Seven Sisters way and seeing the stadium saying celebrating 10 years of Proud Lilywhites, it almost took my breath away and I feel emotion now talking about it.

    “We just made up this thing 10 years ago and thought this is a good idea!

    “As a LGBTQI+ fan, you don’t always feel football is for you. And I always say that feeling when the ball is about to hit the back of the net and everyone rises in unison, you don’t get that anywhere else. For that reason I don’t want to deny that for anybody.”

    Proud Lilywhites’ celebration event was attended by several key allies with Spurs’ executive director Donna-Maria Cullen, Troy Townsend of Kick It Out, Women in Football’s Jo Tongue and Olympic gold-medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh all addressing the three-figure audience, while symbolically Ledley King was also present.

    Ex-Tottenham captain King has supported the group since the beginning after being in its first ever photo ahead of a Europa League clash with Dnipro on February, 27 2014.

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    The wheels in motion for Proud Lilywhites started weeks before that launch event at the Dnipro fixture when Paouros and five others held a meeting at White Hart Lane with then-supporters’ liaison officer Jonathan Waite to set out the group’s formation.

    In the Bill Nicholson Suite, Proud Lilywhites declared its three key principles would be community, education and campaigning and with it the pathway to changing lives and the law had been set.

    Later that year Proud Lilywhites put up its rainbow-coloured flag at White Hart Lane for the first time, which has been the catalyst for fans like group co-chair Lee Johnson to give football a second chance.

    Paouros added: “When we first put a flag up at White Hart Lane, there was a huge hoo-ha about it.

    “Now it is a permanent fixture and people are proud of it. You can say it is just a symbol to say you are inclusive, but actually that flag has brought so many people back to the game.”

    The homophobic rent boy chant – aimed at Chelsea, their players and fans – had forced Johnson away from football, but the Crown Prosecution Service in 2022 recognised it as a homophobic hate crime after Proud Lilywhites alongside Chelsea Pride co-chair Tracy Brown gathered evidence through victim impact statements to ensure the law was changed.

    Proud Lilywhites also works alongside Kick It Out to provide fan education, but a real source of pride revolves around helping a now-committee member to be granted asylum in the UK.

    “One of our members, she is a committee member now, was seeking asylum in this country for persecution for her sexual orientation,” Paouros explained.

    “And as you know if you seek asylum, you have to prove it and how on earth do you prove your sexual orientation? It is unthinkable.

    “However, in 2016 or 2017, we did a stall before the north London derby where we made rainbow rock sweets, talked about Proud Lilywhites. She helped and it was photographed.

    “So, that evidence of helping with the stall along with a letter we wrote supporting her case meant she was granted asylum and it is one case, but I am really proud of that.”

    There are countless other examples of Proud Lilywhites’ impact with the group recently singled out for praise by Angharad ‘Haz’ James upon her departure from the women’s team, while Ashleigh Neville described it as “amazing” earlier this month.

    Proud Lilywhites has twice been recognised at the Football v Homophobia awards and was the fourth LGBTQI+ football group to form in England. Now it is one of more than 50 linked to the Pride in Football network, which it helped form.

    However, the group’s work is far from over with homophobic abuse targeted at Proud Lilywhites on social media earlier this month, which means a one-time assertion no longer rings true.

    “We’ve always said we want to put ourselves out of business and not be in a position where we’re doing this forever, but Donna (Cullen) said, ‘Do you really? Because look at all these people who love being part of this group’. There is something in that because it’s about how you bring people together to feel a sense of community,” Paouros conceded.

    “Last year we saw an increase in homophobic chanting and abuse in professional football.

    “So, we need to encourage a culture of reporting that doesn’t feel like people being grassed up.

    “While we are not safe on our phones, not safe on our streets and while football can sometimes send us signals that we don’t belong, the Proud Lilywhites remains a beacon for the positive change fans can make alongside committed clubs like Spurs to ensure football really is for everyone.”

  • Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029 Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029

    Manchester City winger Oscar Bobb has extended his contract with the club until 2029.

    The Norway international, 20, has made 16 appearances so far this season, scoring twice – including the last-minute winner in the 3-2 victory at Newcastle last month.

    “I am very proud and honoured to have signed my new contract with City,” said Bobb, whose previous deal was set to expire in 2026.

    “It is an incredible environment and the best possible place to be for a young player.

    “I have already learnt so much from (manager) Pep (Guardiola), his coaching staff and my team-mates. To know I am going to be here at the club until 2029 means everything to me.

    “Now I just want to focus on continuing to further my development and to work as hard as I can every day to try and help the club achieve more success.”

    City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain feels there is plenty more to come from Bobb, whose first senior goal came on his full Champions League debut against Red Star Belgrade in December.

    “Oscar is blessed with superb natural talent and technique and has already established himself as a very important member of the squad,” Begiristain said on the club’s website.

    “He is an exciting young player who is always hungry to learn and who takes on board all the advice and guidance Pep and the coaching staff provide him with.

    “We have been delighted to watch his progression from our academy through to the first team and to see his fantastic ability, attitude and application continue to prosper.

    “Oscar is developing all the time, and we believe he can help to bring even more success to the club in the coming years.”

  • Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board

    Bayern Munich have confirmed the appointment of former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to the club’s board.

    The 50-year-old – who came through the Bayern youth ranks and made one senior appearance – will start his new role with the Bundesliga champions on March 1 and has signed a contract until June 2027.

    Former Germany Under-21 defender Eberl went on to have spells at Bochum and Greuther Furth before signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he later moved into coaching and then became director of sport.

    Eberl moved to a similar position at RB Leipzig in December 2022, but was relieved of his duties at the club just nine months later.

    “I spent my entire childhood and youth at FC Bayern and in Munich, so it’s something special for me to return in a new role to the club where it all began,” Eberl said on the Bayern Munich website.

    “The job as board member for sport is a great challenge, which I will approach with a lot of respect and humility, but with even more anticipation.

    “Together with everyone here, I want to do everything I can to ensure that FC Bayern continues to be successful in the future and brings joy to its fans.”

    Bayern announced the club’s executive board would consist of three positions from July 1 – a chief executive, a chief financial and sales officer as well as a board member for sport, which will be Eberl’s role.

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