Mohamed Salah is targeting a third consecutive African Player of the Year trophy after being named on the preliminary list of nominees for the 2019 award.

Salah defended his crown last year after scoring 44 goals for Liverpool and Egypt in 2018 and finishing as the 2017-18 Premier League Golden Boot winner with 32 goals.

The 27-year-old faces competition for this year's honour from Reds team-mate Sadio Mane. The Senegal international was joint top scorer in the Premier League last season with 22 goals alongside Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has also been named on the 30-strong list.

Manchester City and Algeria forward Riyad Mahrez, who won the award in 2016, is also included on the list announced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Aubameyang's Arsenal colleague Nicolas Pepe of the Ivory Coast is another on the list, along with Leicester City's Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Paris Saint-Germain's Idrissa Gueye, who represents Senegal.

Other prominent Europe-based players nominated are Ajax duo Andre Onana and Hakim Ziyech, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said Arsenal must ask questions of themselves after a 2-2 draw with Southampton left them without a win in five Premier League matches.

Alexandre Lacazette twice dragged his side back on terms against a team beaten 9-0 by Leicester City at the end of October, levelling after Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse put the visitors ahead.

The second of Lacazette's goals - his fourth of the season in the Premier League - came deep in second-half stoppage-time and was met with muted celebrations around a disgruntled Emirates Stadium.

Indeed the Gunners left the field to boos and when Aubameyang was asked whether they were deserved, the Gunners' captain told the club's official website: "I don't know.

"When we are playing, we are the first to be disappointed when it doesn't work. We will try to keep fighting. I think we have the quality to come back and we have to fight.

"I think everybody has to try to ask themselves what they can change, what they can give more of. Everybody has to do this, me first. I will try to work hard and to get back to winning ways."

Aubameyang captained Arsenal for the first time against Southampton but his performance was very much overshadowed by that of Lacazette on a day when few Gunners players were anywhere near their best.

With a Europa League clash against Eintracht Frankfurt next up for Unai Emery's side, Aubameyang promised graft from the squad as they aim to pick up a first win in seven attempts.

Asked what has gone wrong at Arsenal, Aubameyang replied: "I don't know exactly. The only thing I can say is that we as a team, as players, will try to continue our work.

"We have to find a solution together. I think we have to stay strong. We are men and we have to carry on our hard work.

"We have a game on Thursday and we will start from this game to try to turn things around. In this case, it's really not easy for everybody but we are men and we have to carry on to try to sort it out. We are a group and we can find a solution internally. That's what we are going to do.

"Everybody is disappointed today, the fans and the players. It didn't work today. It's not a good result for us. Obviously we're playing at home and we have to win games at home. We have to keep fighting and keep trying to sort it out."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is honoured to have been named Arsenal's captain, having been so desperate to lead teams when he was younger he bought armbands for himself.

Aubameyang was confirmed as Arsenal's new skipper earlier this month, when Granit Xhaka was stripped of the responsibility following his angry confrontation with fans in October's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

Speaking in the club's matchday programme ahead of Saturday's game against Southampton, his first home match since being confirmed as club captain, Aubameyang said: "Arsenal has a great history of wonderful captains like Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams. It is a privilege to follow in their footsteps and I will honour the armband by doing my very best on and off the pitch.

"When I was younger, I remember always wanting to be captain in my youth teams. I was talking about it with my mum just the other day actually. We were laughing because we recalled how I used to buy armbands myself so I could wear them.

"At the start of my career, I was not too focused on being captain or not. Now, it feels right. It comes with a lot of responsibilities but I feel I can do a great job. I have been Gabon captain since 2015 and that was also a great honour.

"My dad was also the national team captain when he was playing. So to take over from him in a way was again very special. Now, I am doing the double with Arsenal and Gabon and it is a wonderful privilege."

Arsenal head into the Southampton fixture winless in four Premier League matches, with head coach Unai Emery under increasing pressure as a result.

Barcelona are preparing for next season and they have several players on their wish list.

The LaLiga leaders are enjoying a decent campaign in 2019-20, but they already have one eye on 2020-2021.

Inter's Lautaro Martinez, Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich and Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic are reportedly their main targets.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TARGET MARTINEZ, KIMMICH AND MILENKOVIC

Martinez, Kimmich and Milenkovic are Barcelona's main targets ahead of 2020-21, according to AS.

If they miss out on Kimmich, they will look to RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann, the report says.

Meanwhile, Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen is another option, while Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a target if they cannot land Martinez.

ROUND-UP

- Mauricio Pochettino could be set for a quick return to management. Bayern Munich want to hold talks with the former Tottenham manager, according to The Telegraph.

- Could the impact of Jose Mourinho be felt at Tottenham already? Toby Alderweireld, who is out of contract at the end of the season, could stay at Spurs after Mourinho's arrival, The Telegraph also reports.

- Roma could extend Lorenzo Pellegrini's contract, but several clubs are interested in the midfielder. Manchester United, Tottenham, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter have shown some interest in Pellegrini, according to CalcioMercato.

- Marko Pjaca has failed to have an impact since his arrival at Juventus in 2016. CalcioMercato reports the Croatian attacker, who has already been on loan at Schalke and Fiorentina since his arrival in Turin, could be set for another spell away from Juve in January.

- Chelsea have a target in January if their transfer ban is overturned. The Premier League giants have been monitoring CSKA Moscow striker Fedor Chalov, according to Sky Sports. The 21-year-old scored 15 Russian Premier League goals last season and has five in 16 games in 2019-20.

Jose Mourinho seemingly has Gareth Bale in his Tottenham plans, but he will have to wait until before the start of next season.

Mourinho was named Spurs head coach on Wednesday, a day after the Premier League club sacked Mauricio Pochettino.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of talk around his potential movements in the transfer market – including a Tottenham return for Bale.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO EYES BALE, BUT CAN'T SPEND IN JANUARY

Mourinho's arrival at Tottenham offers Bale the perfect escape route from Real Madrid, according to AS.

The star attacker left Spurs for Madrid in 2013, but is set to leave the LaLiga giants at season's end, the report says.

Marca reports Madrid have ruled out a January exit for Bale. That would suit Mourinho, who has been told there is no money to spend in the January window, according to The Guardian.

ROUND-UP

- Mourinho has more pressing matters at Spurs. The Mirror reports Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, who are out of contract at season's end, are intrigued by the prospect of working under Mourinho and are open minded about their futures.

- It could have been different for Spurs. According to the Daily Mail, Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers was Tottenham's first choice before they turned to Mourinho.

- Meanwhile, the sacked Pochettino may not be out of management for too long. Barcelona and Bayern Munich are ready to pounce for the former Spurs manager, according to The Sun. Ernesto Valverde is under pressure at Camp Nou, while interim boss Hansi Flick will coach Bayern until at least the end of the year.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be getting closer to sorting out his future. Sky Sport reports AC Milan spoke to the departing LA Galaxy striker's agent Mino Raiola on Wednesday about the possibility of a return to San Siro.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in no rush to renew his Arsenal contract and with good reason. Sport reports the forward is waiting to find out how serious Barcelona's interest in him is before extending a deal that runs until 2021.

- Needing a striker, Manchester United are considering a January move for Roma's Edin Dzeko, according to ESPN FC. Dzeko has scored five goals in 12 Serie A games this season, and United are looking to finally bolster their attack after losing Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in the close season.

- Olivier Giroud has made just one Premier League start for Chelsea this season and the striker could be set for a January exit. La Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are considering a move for Giroud in January as they look for a back-up for Lukaku.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit out at "b*******" claims amid questions over his promotion to Arsenal captain.

Aubameyang replaced Granit Xhaka as skipper at the Emirates Stadium last week, with Arsenal – and particularly head coach Unai Emery – under enormous pressure.

However, The Athletic reported the forward's promotion to captain had "divided opinion" inside the club, while his relationship with YouTube channel AFTV had "irritated" some.

Aubameyang, who is on international duty with Gabon, dismissed the reports on Instagram on Monday.

"I just arrived in Gabon and heared [sic] a lot of b*******," he wrote.

"I talk with who I want whenever I want and if somebody's not happy with … you already know."

Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League, eight points outside the top four, and are winless in five games in all competitions.

Granit Xhaka has said he is not ready to return for Arsenal in Saturday's Premier League trip to Leicester City, head coach Unai Emery has confirmed.

The midfielder has not featured for the Gunners since being stripped of the captaincy after his outburst towards fans during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on October 27.

Emery says Xhaka is not in the right frame of mind to feature for the first team, even though he has been dedicated in training this week.

"Not yet," Emery told reporters on Friday when asked if Xhaka would be back in the squad.

"I spoke with him on Tuesday about how he's feeling now and how he is in his mind. He's working well, he's training well, but he said to me that he's not feeling good enough at the moment to play. We are going to wait."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named Arsenal's new captain and Emery has backed the striker to embrace the role.

"I can remember how we did the process because last year the captains were Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal," said Emery. "They left the team, at the last moment as well, Koscielny. In that moment I decided, and also I used the characteristics to find a captain.

"After I started with Granit Xhaka because he has the quality to take the captain's responsibility. Then after the [Palace] issue, I decided it was better for him not to. Next in line is Aubameyang, the second after him is [Hector] Bellerin, third is [Alexandre] Lacazette and the fourth is Mesut Ozil.

"The first is Aubameyang because he has experience and he has the respect in the dressing room. He was the top scorer last year in the Premier League and also I know he needs time to take that responsibility 100 per cent. But we are going to support him.

"Every player, we are going to support the four captains, and we are going to support him as our first captain because he has also made one extra step to achieve that responsibility.

"For example, Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] said everybody can take responsibility as a captain. We want to be a strong family here and I know for the supporters it is very important who is the first face, in front, with the captain's responsibility. I decided to give it to Auba and everybody also agreed with that decision and now I am telling you he needs time to take that responsibility with confidence, but we give him that confidence, I give him that confidence. He has the quality and the values to do perfectly with that responsibility."

Emery's own position is under scrutiny following a run of one win in six games in all competitions, while Leicester are six points above them in the Premier League table.

While he insists he has not spoken to the board about his future, Emery believes off-field problems - such as the issue around Xhaka and the attempted armed robbery of Sead Kolasinac and Ozil in July - have complicated the Gunners' situation.

"We need to improve and also we are in one process," he said. "First we are speaking about the captain's circumstances, then also some circumstances with some players - with Sead Kolasinac and with Mesut Ozil - then also circumstances that didn't help us with Granit Xhaka. For example, we're losing one player at the moment, Granit Xhaka, who is important for us and the way we play, but I have confidence in the players and in our work.

"I know we are in one process and we are speaking with the club about the responsibility of the club, and they are supporting us, and the players are supporting me. We know we are taking one responsibility with the young players, but the young players need one process to achieve that responsibility and their performance in the team, but we are helping them."

Bayern Munich have removed another name from their list of potential replacements for Niko Kovac.

Arsene Wenger reportedly contacted the managerless German giants to personally express his interest in becoming head coach but will not considered for the role.

Now back to winning ways, Bayern could even delay the naming of a new boss until the end of the season.

 

LEAD STORY – BAYERN DELIVER BAD NEWS FOR WENGER

Arsene Wenger's hopes of coaching Bayern Munich have been dashed, according to Sport Bild.

A new report from the German publication claims the Bundesliga champions, while respectful of Wenger's work at Arsenal, are not considering him for the job, despite his attempts to convince chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Interim boss Hansi Flick, who steered a wounded side to a 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League, could now remain in charge until the end of the season, when it will become easier to approach either Erik ten Hag or Thomas Tuchel.

 

ROUND-UP

- Kai Havertz's future is becoming a matter of intense speculation. SPORT say Barcelona have strengthened their interest in the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder and sent scouts to watch him in the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid. Havertz was linked with an £80million move to Manchester United earlier in the week.

- Havertz is not the only player on Barcelona's radar. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito believes the LaLiga's champions are interested in signing Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

- Arsenal, meanwhile, are preparing to part with Granit Xhaka in January after stripping him of the captaincy. The Mirror claims the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could be shipped back to Germany in the next transfer window.

- Manchester United have added Spain international Jose Gaya and his Valencia team-mates Ferran Torres and Carlos Soler to their list of transfer targets, reports Medios Deportivos. 

- There is good news for United's rivals Manchester City, who could welcome Leroy Sane back into the first-team fold in February, according to The Sun. Sane suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield in August.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos insists it does not matter who wears the captain's armband at Arsenal in the wake of Granit Xhaka being replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as skipper.

Head coach Unai Emery announced on Tuesday that Xhaka had been stripped of the captaincy following his angry reaction to being jeered by his own supporters in the recent Premier League draw with Crystal Palace.

Aubameyang will instead take on leadership duties, starting with Saturday's trip to Leicester City, but Sokratis feels the issue is secondary as long as everyone pulls in the same direction on the field.

"I think it is the first time he is a captain," Sokratis said, according to several British newspapers.

"For me it's important that Aubameyang first has to score, he has to do his work. The captaincy or who has this [armband] on the pitch, I don't think it is very important.

"He is a very good guy, but who has the captaincy is not very important. It is important that all the team is good in the dressing room. We are like a family. In the end who brings to the pitch the captaincy is the last thing."

Arsenal's disappointing run continued with a 1-1 draw with Vitoria SC in the Europa League on Wednesday, Bruno Duarte cancelling out Shkodran Mustafi's late goal in Portugal.

Emery's side are winless in four matches in all competitions and Sokratis acknowledges the importance of responding with victory at in-form Leicester this weekend.

"It's a very big game, a game we have to win," he said.

"Of course we have a lot of games in front and if we see last year we were there but in the last seven games, we didn't win one.

"The other teams were six, seven points behind us but in the end they were in front. We need to be consistent all year, not only one month.

"Leicester is in a very good moment, they're a very hungry team. You can see this. We have to be ready to beat them."

Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy following his angry confrontation with fans.

Switzerland midfielder Xhaka reacted to ironic cheers and then jeers when he was substituted against Crystal Palace last month, appearing to shout expletives in the direction of the supporters before sarcastically applauding. He then removed his shirt while leaving the field and headed straight down the tunnel.

The 27-year-old, who has not played for Arsenal since and is not in the Gunners' squad for Wednesday's Europa League clash with Vitoria SC, had been named his club's captain in September following a player vote.

However, head coach Unai Emery has confirmed Xhaka will no longer captain Arsenal and striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will take the armband instead.

"I have spoken to Granit and he is no longer one of the captains in the group," Emery said at a news conference to preview Wednesday's game.

Granit Xhaka's absence from the Arsenal squad will continue after he was not included in the travelling party for Wednesday's Europa League trip to Vitoria Guimaraes.

Arsenal captain Xhaka last played on October 27 against Crystal Palace, a game that was overshadowed by supporters jeering the Switzerland midfielder.

He subsequently reacted by appearing to shout expletives in the fans' direction and sarcastically encouraging their jeers, earning widespread criticism from supporters and former Gunners players.

Xhaka has since been left out of the squad for games against Liverpool and Wolves, and he will remain absent on Wednesday, with the match moved from Thursday to ease pressure on Portuguese authorities due to Sporting Braga also being in Europa League action at home.

Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are also among those missing, presumably being held back for Saturday's clash with high-flying Leicester City, though Arsenal have not explained their absences.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his 50th Arsenal goal but Wolves came from behind to earn a 1-1 Premier League draw at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gabon striker was captaining Arsenal in the absence of Granit Xhaka, who was left out for the second game running after his reaction to being substituted against Crystal Palace.

Aubameyang had failed to score in three consecutive league games but opened the scoring in the 21st minute, though Arsenal remain winless in three top-flight matches after a late leveller.

Wolves struck with 14 minutes to go, Raul Jimenez climbing at the back post to head in Joao Moutinho's cross and extend Wolves' unbeaten league run to six games.

Wolves dominated the opening exchanges before Aubameyang - Arsenal's fifth starting captain of the season - hit a weak volley to waste a clear chance at the other end.

Arsenal took the lead within three minutes of that opportunity. David Luiz found space on the right wing and picked out Alexandre Lacazette in the box, the striker feeding Aubameyang to tuck home.

Lucas Torreira and Lacazette then forced saves from Rui Patricio as Arsenal gained control, but after the interval Wolves got on top again.

Bernd Leno denied Jimenez before a series of defensive blocks kept the visitors at bay, while Romain Saiss was perhaps fortunate only to be booked for a poor challenge on Arsenal's substitute striker Gabriel Martinelli.

Arsenal's inability to kill the game came back to haunt them as a clever Wolves throw-in from Jonny Castro Otto allowed Moutinho to cross for Jimenez and salvage a point for his side, deepening the woes of Emery and prompting full-time boos from home fans.


What does it mean: Arsenal lack resilience again

Following some poor defensive displays, what Emery will have craved was a solid performance at the back. He seemed to be getting just that as Arsenal aimed to collect what would have been only their second clean sheet in the Premier League since August. But their weaknesses were exposed once more as Wolves claimed a point they certainly deserved.


Aubameyang leads by example

Arsenal's rotating captain's armband ended up with Aubameyang and he should have proved the match-winner, scoring his goal moments after wasting a good opening. 

Only six players have reached 50 goals for Arsenal faster than Aubameyang. The former Borussia Dortmund striker, who joined in January 2018, did so in his 78th appearance.


Ozil struggles to take his chance

Restored to Arsenal's Premier League lineup for the first time since September after impressing against Liverpool in a midweek EFL Cup thriller, Mesut Ozil had a chance to prove Emery wrong for sidelining him this season. 

But the former Germany midfielder was unable to dominate with Arsenal often on the back foot. While he did record more passes than anyone on the pitch they were typically not incisive. Lacazette recorded as many key passes despite being withdrawn for Martinelli after an hour.


What's next?

Both sides have Europa League action in midweek, with Arsenal away to Vitoria Guimaraes on Wednesday and Wolves hosting Slovan Bratislava the following day. Next weekend's Premier League action sees Arsenal travel to top-four rivals Leicester City and Wolves host Aston Villa.

Robert Lewandowski scored for the eighth Bundesliga match running, equalling a record set by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Lewandowski headed home his 12th league goal of the campaign to draw Bayern level against Augsburg on Saturday after Niko Kovac's side fell behind inside 30 seconds.

The Poland international has now netted in the opening eight Bundesliga games of the season, matching Aubameyang's impressive effort at Borussia Dortmund in 2015-16.

No Bundesliga player has scored in the first nine matches of a campaign, meaning Lewandowski will have the opportunity to make history should he feature against Union Berlin next Saturday.

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