Xhaka back as Aubameyang starts for Arsenal against Eintracht

By Sports Desk November 28, 2019

Granit Xhaka has been selected for Arsenal's Europa League match against Eintracht Frankfurt in what will be his first appearance since being stripped of the club captaincy.

Switzerland midfielder Xhaka has not featured in the five matches across all competitions since he reacted angrily to being substituted during last month's 2-2 Premier League draw at home to Crystal Palace.

The Emirates Stadium faithful booed Xhaka on his way off the field and he gestured provocatively in response before removing his shirt in frustration.

The 27-year-old later acknowledged he got "carried away" and reacted "disrespectfully" towards Arsenal's supporters, while under-fire head coach Unai Emery named Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his new captain.

Arsenal have not won since Xhaka was consigned to the sidelines and Aubameyang also starts against their Bundesliga opponents.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker is supported in attack by Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who was on target during a 3-0 win in Frankfurt back in September.

Emery's position has been the subject of mounting speculation over recent days, with his cause hardly helped by Nuno Espirito Santo – reportedly a favourite to succeed him in the Arsenal dugout – leading Wolves to a 3-1 lead at half-time at Braga in their own Europa League encounter.

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    Jules Kounde insists he is in no rush to leave Sevilla at the end of the season despite links with several European heavyweights, though he accepts not everything will be in his control.

    Kounde, 21, joined Sevilla from Bordeaux last year in a deal that could reach €25million, which would make the centre-back the club's record signing.

    The Frenchman has enjoyed an impressive adaptation and cemented himself as a regular partner for Diego Carlos, who, like Kounde, arrived from Ligue 1 last year and is attracting significant interest.

    Kounde's impressive performances in the recent Europa League victories over Roma and Wolves have contributed to even greater exposure and admiration.

    Real Madrid and Barcelona are just two of the clubs said to be interested in the France Under-21 international, who is reported to have a release clause greater than €75m.

    Up next for Sevilla is a semi-final showdown with Manchester United, giving Kounde another opportunity to catch the eye, and while he sees it a good thing to be interesting other clubs, he is relaxed about the future.

    "It is always good that you interest teams, be it Diego or myself," he told Marca. "We are very focused on winning this cup. I don't look at other teams.

    "I'm good at Sevilla. Next year we are going to play in the Champions League and we all deserve it. I am very focused and very happy here.

    "It is something that I control, but sometimes there are parameters that do not depend on me. I do not look away [from Sevilla]."

    Despite Sevilla's pedigree in the competition and their 19-match unbeaten run, Kounde does not think Los Nervionenses will be considered favourites by most.

    "I do not know if we are favourites. For most people I don't think so," he added. "But we don't care.

    "Nobody wants to go to the final and win the cup as much as we do. We will give everything on the pitch. In the end, when we give everything, we can beat any team."

    Sunday's contest will see Kounde come up against fellow Frenchmen Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial and he considers himself very familiar with the latter.

    He said: "I have seen [Martial] play many times. He is a very good forward, very complete. Powerful, fast, skilful with the ball and we are sure that we will have to be very aware, as with Adama [Traore, against Wolves], even if he is another level of power.

    "Diego and I will have to talk a lot. We cannot leave him spaces."

    On Pogba, Kounde added: "He is an important player, a reference in world football. He has a lot of quality, one of the best midfielders in the world and is very important in the France team.

    "Their individuals are very powerful, but we focus on the collective and ourselves. We know what United represents in the world, they are a reference."

  • Who will replace Setien as Barcelona head coach? Who will replace Setien as Barcelona head coach?

    "Nobody is safe," declared Gerard Pique after Barcelona were humiliated by Bayern Munich in their final match of a long, long season.

    The defender was very clear that changes must be made in the wake of an 8-2 battering in the Champions League quarter-finals.

    President Josep Maria Bartomeu is expected to chair an extraordinary board meeting on Monday, when the dismissal of head coach Quique Setien appears likely to be ratified.

    Barca's problems stem far beyond the man in charge of the first team, but Setien looked powerless in the dugout in Lisbon on Friday and is the first obvious departure as part of a top-down clear-out at Camp Nou.

    Appointing a replacement is complicated by next year's presidential elections. Assuming Bartomeu does not heed growing calls to step aside, he will be in power for at least another 10 months. That means any coach who comes in now could find himself supplanted by the preferred choice of the next president.

    With that in mind, here are six of the firm favourites to take over from Setien.

     

    Mauricio Pochettino

    The favourite in many quarters, former Tottenham boss Pochettino could be a hugely tempting - and low-cost - choice.

    The Argentinian, who left Spurs last November five months after reaching the Champions League final, has softened his stance on coaching Barca after previously declaring he could never take the job due to his allegiance to Espanyol.

    Barca would represent by far the biggest job of his coaching career and the sheer challenge of getting them back on track could appeal to Pochettino, who turned Spurs into Premier League title challengers and top-four regulars over five years.

    There are reports, however, that Pochettino's appointment could be a majorly divisive move, given his previous comments about Barcelona.

    Xavi

    Barca's former captain turned down the coaching job in January when Ernesto Valverde was sacked, and he may think the time is still not right to take the reins.

    The Catalans would need to buy out his deal with Al Sadd as well as convince Xavi to come back, plus there are political complications, with presidential challenger Victor Font declaring the former Spain star would be his choice in 2021 if he wins the election.

    Still, there are few who better understand the 'Barca DNA', he is adored by the fans and, crucially, he could be the man to convince Lionel Messi to stay.

     

    Massimiliano Allegri

    Another unattached option, Allegri has a commendable pedigree from his time with Milan and Juventus. Six Serie A titles, seven domestic cups and two Champions League finals in the past decade give Allegri a CV to rival any candidate.

    He would certainly bring an uncompromising authority to the dressing room, as well as vast experience, but the 53-year-old could well be put off by the complications of those elections, especially given other leading clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Inter are said to be interested if they make a change.

    Patrick Kluivert

    Kluivert represents one of Bartomeu's more sensible possible appointments given he would probably accept the job despite the uncertainty of next year.

    The former Barca striker is currently head of youth football at Camp Nou, and that is a role to which he could return if the head coach position became untenable in 2021.

    He is another who understands the club well, would presumably be more than happy to promote youngsters to the first team, and he learned some of his coaching craft at the right hand of Louis van Gaal with the Netherlands national team.

     

    Ronald Koeman

    Another former Barca star who knows only too well the demands of the club, Koeman also spoke with them about replacing Valverde only to turn them down.

    Like Xavi, Koeman is committed to his present project, which is to lead Netherlands at Euro 2020. With that tournament having been pushed back to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 57-year-old would appear unlikely to quit his national team now for the sake of a potential short-term posting at his old club.

    Garcia Pimienta

    Like Kluivert, Pimienta represents an internal candidate who would likely be unmoved by the looming elections.

    A former academy player who made one appearance for the senior side, Pimienta has been coaching at La Masia since 2001 and took charge of the B team two years ago.

    It would be unfair to expect him to become the new Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique, who also honed their first-team credentials with the B team, but the 46-year-old would likely be a popular choice for the new generation of talent breaking through, even if the appointment lasted only until next year.

  • Bruno Fernandes relishing pressure of price tag: 'When a club pays £55m, it gives you confidence' Bruno Fernandes relishing pressure of price tag: 'When a club pays £55m, it gives you confidence'

    Bruno Fernandes believes his £55million transfer fee instantly gave him the confidence boost that has subsequently led to a swift adaptation to life at Manchester United.

    Fernandes joined United from Sporting CP in January after a somewhat drawn-out saga and the Portugal midfielder has had an impressive impact.

    In 21 appearances across all competitions, Fernandes has scored 11 goals and set up another eight, quickly establishing himself as one of the key components in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

    On top of that, United have lost just once since his debut at the start of February, the 3-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea last month.

    Solskjaer's men secured a third-place finish in the Premier League and face Sevilla for a spot in the Europa League final on Sunday and while Fernandes recognises he has had lots of support, he also feels the fee United paid gave him a boost.

    "I can't say it was easy, but of course we had good results and I was scoring some goals, but for me it was easy [to adapt] because the team helped me a lot, everyone in the club helped me – the coach, staff, everyone, that gives a lot of confidence," he told reporters on Saturday.

    "I already played in Italy, so I know how it is to be out of my country in different leagues. Of course, the Premier League is completely different, but I have the confidence of staff, team-mates, all the club, and I think everything is going well because when you have confidence from everyone you can do your game and your best.

    "I think when a club pays for a player £55million, you have confidence from the club.

    "Of course, then there are all the conversations with the manager, team-mates, and as I say before, the coach always says to do my game, try do what I did in Sporting, have the same confidence, do the same things and improve.

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    Sunday's opponents Sevilla, who have won the Europa League three times and twice triumphed in its previous guise of the UEFA Cup, finished fourth in LaLiga and progressed past Roma and Wolves in the past two rounds to reach the last four.

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    Sevilla have been boosted by the return to their squad of Nemanja Gudelj after he overcame coronavirus, and Fernandes is already planning to swap shirts with his old Sporting colleague.

    "I'm happy he's healthy now," Fernandes said. "I spoke with him when he had the virus. I'm happy he can be healthy now, but tomorrow I hope I can beat him. We will change the shirts tomorrow – I'm happy for him."

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