EPL

'If I'm happy for anyone it's him' – Arteta hails Nketiah after spirited Arsenal response against Chelsea

By Sports Desk April 20, 2022

Mikel Arteta expressed his delight for Eddie Nketiah after the striker's first Premier League double saw Arsenal respond to a poor run of form with victory at Chelsea on Wednesday.

A frantic first half at Stamford Bridge saw Arsenal twice pegged back by Chelsea, after Timo Werner cancelled out Eddie Nketiah's opener, and Cesar Azpilicueta restored parity following Emile Smith Rowe's goal.

Nketiah delivered again after the interval before Bukayo Saka's penalty sealed a 4-2 victory as Arsenal moved level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham in the battle for Champions League qualification.

In Nketiah, Smith Rowe and Saka, Arsenal also saw three English players score in the same Premier League match versus Chelsea for the first time since September 1996.

Arteta reserved much of his praise for Nketiah, who proved his worth to the Gunners by scoring his first top-flight goals in over a year – since an injury-time equaliser versus Fulham in April 2021.

"What I've been saying all the time about Eddie, when you look at him in training and how humble he is all the time, good things happen," Arteta said of the forward.

"Good things happen to good people. He has proven that all season and he hasn't given any signs of anything different. If I'm happy for anyone it's him, because I know what he's been through. 

"The same with Mohamed Elneny and Rob Holding."

Manager Arteta also hailed the adaptability of his side, who ended a three-game losing streak with the success over Thomas Tuchel's European champions.

"The way they started the game was tactically really demanding, they kept changing their shape and we had to adapt," the Spaniard told Sky Sports.

"We managed to grab a little bit of the game, we looked dangerous on the counter-attack, we scored four goals and conceded twice.

"After two difficult weeks it's a great day. What I love is the spirit of these players. When you lose matches you get punished and criticised but with these players I don't care because they're growing.

"For us to win a London derby away the way we did it I'm really happy as well."

Arteta then added to reporters: “I said to them if you want to play Champions League football you have to come to places like this and win.”

Arsenal will be hoping to carry the impetus from the win over Chelsea when they on Saturday host fellow top-four chasers Manchester United, who have played a game more and are three points behind the Gunners.

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    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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    A post shared by Tottenham Hotspur (@spursofficial)

    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.”

  • Wales appoint former England assistant Rhian Wilkinson as head coach Wales appoint former England assistant Rhian Wilkinson as head coach

    Wales have appointed former England and Team GB assistant Rhian Wilkinson as the new head coach of their women’s team.

    The 41-year-old won 183 caps for Canada between 2003 and 2017 and coached most recently at American club Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League.

    She has joined Wales on a contract until 2027 and succeeds Gemma Grainger, who ended her three-year reign last month to take charge of Norway.

    Wilkinson said: “It’s an incredible honour to be taking on the role of Cymru head coach.

    “The team has gone from strength to strength in the last few years and I aim to build on that with our mission to qualify for next summer’s Euros and beyond.

    “We have a group of players that are ready and deserve to be in major tournaments. I can’t wait to meet them and work with them.

    “My mother is Welsh, and I spent part of my childhood growing up in south Wales, so I’m excited to involve myself with the country’s culture and explore that part of my roots even further.”

    Wilkinson spent seven years of her playing career at Team Strommen in Norway and represented Canada at four World Cups and three Olympic Games.

    She won bronze medals at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 before coaching Canada Women’s Under-17 and Under-20 teams and working as an assistant in the senior set-up.

    Wilkinson was also Hege Riise’s assistant for the England and Great Britain women’s Olympic teams in 2021.

    Football Association of Wales president Steve Williams said: “I am thrilled to welcome Rhian to the FAW as the women’s national head team coach.

    “After the growth of the team in recent years, we now look forward to seeing that progress even further, as the team aims to put Wales on the world stage with major tournament qualification for the first time.”

    Wilkinson will attend Wales’ friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday and is set to take charge for the first time during the April international window.

    The two games in that window will mark the start of the Euro 2025 qualifying campaign, with Wales discovering their opponents at draw in Switzerland on March 5.

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