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Arsenal Consolidated Their Position In The Premier League’s Top Four With A 4-1 Rout Of Leeds

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Two goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka’s deflected strike put the Gunners 3-0 up before half-time.

Raphinha’s penalty pulled a goal back, but Emile Smith Rowe rounded off a miserable week for Leeds after their 7-0 thrashing at Manchester City on Tuesday.

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“We were really lucky to play today with everything that’s happening,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. “I told the players to enjoy the game and give everything because I don’t know how this will develop.”

Arteta’s own positive case back in March 2020 accelerated the Premier League’s shutdown for three months at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Six of the 10 matches in the English top-flight scheduled for this weekend have been called off due to a surge in cases due to the new Omicron variant of the virus.

A meeting of the 20 Premier League clubs will take place on Monday to decide whether to go ahead with the Boxing Day fixtures next weekend or to halt the season temporarily.

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Arteta has called for more consistency in the decision making over when matches are called off after the Gunners were forced to play their season-opening game against Brentford in August despite an outbreak.

“Now it’s play as you can and we’ll play as we can,” said Arteta. “The Premier League will make the best decision for everybody, but we want to play all under the same rules.

“That’s where I think they have to come forward. Whatever they decide is best for the competition has to be explained.”

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa described his side’s performance at the Etihad in midweek as the worst in his four years in charge and there was no sign of any improvement from his injury-hit squad.

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However, the Elland Road crowd remained behind the Argentine as they chanted his name in the closing stages.

Bielsa was without England internationals Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, captain Liam Cooper and Spain forward Rodrigo amid an injury crisis that saw 15-year-old Archie Gray earn a spot on the bench.

“The first half we could have lost it by more goals,” admitted Bielsa.

Arsenal moved into the top four for the first time in more than a year with victory over West Ham on Wednesday and opened up a four-point gap on the chasing pack for a place in next season’s Champions League.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was absent once more for the Gunners after being stripped of the captaincy by Arteta for a disciplinary breach.

His absence has given Martinelli the chance of a consistent run of Premier League starts for the first time since the bright start to his Arsenal career was interrupted by a series knee injury in June 2020.

The Brazilian has scored four times in his last six games as Arsenal.

Illan Meslier was helpless for the opener when Alexandre Lacazette robbed Adam Foreshaw inside the Leeds box and Martinelli slotted the loose ball into the top corner.

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The 20-year-old showed his pace and poise in front of goal to double Arsenal’s lead with a dink over Meslier from Granit Xhaka’s pinpoint pass on 28 minutes.

Leeds had a three-goal deficit to overcome at half-time after Saka’s deflected shot left Meslier wrong-footed three minutes before the break.

The hosts at least showed some spirit in the second period and pulled a goal back when Raphinha fired a penalty into the top corner after Joe Gelhardt had been brought down by Ben White 15 minutes from time.

Arsenal have blown the lead in their last two away league games at Manchester United and Everton, but there was no collapse this time.

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Substitute Smith Rowe rounded off the scoring as he blasted home Martin Odegaard’s precise pass.

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Liverpool and Chelsea at Newcastle’s mercy as trio’s transfer plans converge

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1642614004 sevilla defenders diego carlos and jules kounde battling real madrid striker karim benzema

Liverpool are attempting to muscle in on a deal for long-time Chelsea target Jules Kounde, though both clubs could see their chances torpedoed by Newcastle, per reports.

Chelsea have long been linked with a move for Sevilla centre-half Jules Kounde. The Blues sought to sign the Frenchman in the summer, but Sevilla’s strong bargaining position meant they were well placed to hold out for his release clause.

The Blues refused to activate the clause, ensuring Kounde would remain in Sevilla for at least another six months.

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However, Chelsea continue to be strongly linked with the 23-year-old amid ongoing uncertainty around their centre-back corps. Thiago Silva has penned a one-year extension. But Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are all on course to leave as free agents next summer.

A deal for Kounde could therefore be revisited when the season concludes. However, according to Spanish outlet Marca, Chelsea’s inability to procure a deal last year will now see them rivalled by Liverpool.

Per the outlet, Kounde is now being ‘followed’ by Liverpool. But the main subject of Marca’s report centred around a different Sevilla centre-half – Diego Carlos.

Carlos exit bad news for Kounde suitors

The Brazilian, 28, is a prime target for Newcastle this month as they seek to shore up their leaky backline. An injury to an alternative target has now ramped up the importance of securing Carlos’ signature.

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The Liverpool Echo (citing Marca) acknowledge Newcastle’s ongoing pursuit, but indicate Sevilla would be highly unlikely to sell both Carlos and Kounde in quick succession.

And with Newcastle expected to up their offer for Carlos this month, few would be surprised to see money talk when all is said and done.

If achieved, Liverpool and Chelsea’s chances of prising Kounde out of Sevilla next summer would plummet.


How a frantic fixture list has derailed Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes

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One in, one out at Anfield

Meanwhile, Liverpool will recall centre-back Rhys Williams from a loan spell at Swansea to allow Nat Phillips to leave on a permanent deal, according to a report.

Goal report that the Reds want to bring Williams back into Klopp’s squad. He has only played five Championship games for Swansea this season and has not featured since December 4. However, Klopp will not let the centre-back leave on loan to a different club.

Instead, he wants Williams to stick around and act as the club’s fifth-choice centre-back – as Phillips has done this season.

But Phillips, who is four years older than Williams, has proven his worth in the Premier League and now wants regular football at a new club. The defender has only featured three times for the Reds this term.

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West Ham have interest in Phillips, but ideally want a centre-back who can provide cover on the left. As such, Goal adds that Watford came forward with an offer for him earlier this month. However, Liverpool rejected the approach.

The Liverpool Echo provides more details on the Reds’ assessment of his value. Sporting director Michael Edwards values Phillips at £15million. The £12million Burnley paid Stoke City for Nathan Collins last summer is reportedly his guide.

Burnley could make a move for the Liverpool man if Newcastle firm up interest in Clarets star James Tarkowski. In any case, the Liverpool Echo adds that the race to sign Phillips will intensify in the coming days because of Williams’ imminent return to Merseyside.

READ MORE: Club chief reveals shock Newcastle interest in former Liverpool man with release clause attached

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Agent link sees Jose Mourinho and Roma set sights on integral Wolves midfielder

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joao moutinho and leander dendoncker protest to the referee during wolves game against southampton

Jose Mourinho and Roma are keen to engineer a deal for an integral Wolves star, according to reports in Italy.

Wolves sit eighth in the Premier League after 20 matches, having won nine of them. They have the second best defensive record in the division, having seen just 15 goals go against them so far this term.

Bruno Lage is gaining admirers for making Wanderers a troublesome side to play against. The manager will be hoping they can continue their decent form and complete a top ten finish.

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Several players are impressing at Molineux, including goalkeeper Jose Sa. The 29-year-0ld came in to replace Rui Patricio in the summer and has since kept eight clean sheets.

Young full-back Rayan Ait-Nouri is also putting in some exciting displays on the left flank. He picked up a groin injury during December but marked his return against Southampton with two assists in a 3-1 victory for Wolves.

One star who is understated but helps Lage massively is central midfielder Joao Moutinho. The Portugal international, now 35, has featured in every league game this season.

He got a rare headline earlier this month by scoring the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford. His half volley eight minutes from time gave Wolves their first victory at the ground since 1980.

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Jose Mourinho wants veteran to join Roma

The latest rumours claim Moutinho’s displays have not gone unnoticed. Football Italia, who cite Corriere dello Sport, state the veteran is of interest to Mourinho and Roma.

The former Chelsea, United and Tottenham boss is searching for midfield reinforcements. He is using the Prem as a hunting ground given his solid links with the division.

Mourinho wants the Wolves man to move to Rome, and he could be helped by super agent Jorge Mendes. He represents both men, suggesting a deal could be put into motion.

The Serie A outfit will first need to sell Amadou Diawara. The 24-year-old, currently representing Guinea at the Africa Cup of Nations, is rejecting advances from Valencia.

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Moutinho has made 160 appearances for Wolves at the time of writing, following a £5m switch from Monaco in July 2018. He has helped the west Midlands club to fight for top ten finishes since then, although they were unable to do so last season.


How a frantic fixture list has derailed Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes


Wolves star wanted by United

Meanwhile, Ralf Rangnick has reportedly told United to monitor the progress of Wolves defender Max Kilman.

According to 90Min, the German gave an in-depth assessment of his squad to the likes of Director of Football John Murtough and new Chief Executive Richard Arnold.

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And Wolves’ English defender Kilman, 24, was one player Rangnick urged the club to look closely at.

Last term, he made 18 Premier League appearances. But this campaign has been his true breakthrough season as he has played every minute under Lage.

READ MORE: Chiquinho names main reason for joining Wolves after sealing £3m Molineux switch

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