Arteta 'very positive' about finalising Odegaard deal

By Sports Desk January 26, 2021

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confirmed the club are close to signing Real Madrid attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan as he reflected on his side's 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette helped the Gunners come from behind and claim all three points at St Mary's, where they lost 1-0 in the FA Cup just three days earlier.

The result moved Arsenal above Southampton and into eighth place in the Premier League table, and Arteta indicated his side's positive start to 2021 could soon be boosted further by Odegaard's arrival.

"I think we are pretty close but it's not finalised as I understand it," Arteta told reporters, when asked about the 22-year-old Norwegian playmaker.

"I haven't spoken to [Arsenal technical director Edu] or the club in the last few hours but we're very positive that we'll finalise the deal."

After a dismal run of one victory in 10 league matches between October and December, Arsenal are unbeaten in their past five Premier League games and have won four of them.

Arteta indicated that the upturn in form has restored belief to his squad, saying: "Football games are always judged by the result and that affects the confidence.

"The moment that we started to win and confidence went up and we started to grow and understand each other better, we got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit, things were much better to be fair."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl lambasted his side's defending after they succumbed to a third defeat in six league games.

Hasenhuttl told BT Sport: "It's always frustrating when you concede goals, but when it is that easy I think it hurts even more.

"The first was a mistake in the build-up, but then still we had the chance to defend it and we didn't do it, and then the second one was similar.

"It's not the way we can defend, we can do it much better and we know this. After being down one at half-time it's difficult to come back. We had chances to do it, but also the final quality was not good enough.

"We know we are a good side when we play a perfect game, but today we were far off this."

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    Infantino was addressing the European Council on Wednesday, speaking about a range of topics including football agents, Qatar 2022 and FIFA's proposals for World Cup finals every two years.

    He concluded his speech by talking about the latter, outlining how FIFA's reasoning behind the controversial idea – which is being pushed by Arsene Wenger – comes down to a desire to let more people around the world enjoy the best players for "the future of football".

    Infantino said: "We see that football is going to a direction where the few have everything and the vast majority have nothing. I understand.

    "In Europe, the World Cup happens twice per week because the best players are playing in Europe. In Europe there's no need for additional events, but if we think about the rest of the world, and even in Europe, the vast majority of Europe that doesn't see the best players, that doesn't participate in the top competitions."

    But, as he went on to explain ethical dilemmas currently troubling the sport, Infantino's address took a curious turn, suggesting the proposed World Cup changes – and greater inclusion in global football – could make refugees think twice about fleeing Africa for Europe.

    He added: "We have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport, because football is about what I was saying at the beginning – it's about opportunities, about hope, about national teams, the country, heart, the joy and emotion. You cannot say to the rest of the world, 'give us your money and if you happen to have a good player, give us the player as well, but you just watch on TV'. We need to include them. We need to find ways to include the entire world, to give hope to Africans so they don't have to cross the Mediterranean in order to, maybe, find a better life but more probably death in the sea.

    "We need to give opportunities and we need to give dignity, not by giving charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe a World Cup every two years isn't the answer, [but] we discuss it, debate it."

    Several hours later, the Swiss – via a statement released on FIFA's Twitter account – took the opportunity to clarify his comments.

    The statement read: "Given that certain remarks made by me before the Council of Europe earlier today appear to have been misinterpreted and taken out of context, I wish to clarify that, in my speech, my more general message was that everyone in a decision-making position has a responsibility to help improve the situation of people around the world.

    "If there are more opportunities available, including in Africa, but certainly not limited to that continent, this should allow people to take these opportunities in their own countries.

    "This was a general comment, which was not directly related to the possibility of playing a FIFA World Cup every two years."

  • Everton managerial candidate Pereira: 'If they want me, they must call me' Everton managerial candidate Pereira: 'If they want me, they must call me'

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    Everton sacked Rafael Benitez earlier in January after a dismal run of one win in 13 league games left them six points above the relegation zone.

    That cushion has now been reduced to four points after Everton lost to Aston Villa on Saturday, with Duncan Ferguson having taken interim charge.

    A host of names have been linked with the job, though all with vastly different profiles. Former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, sacked in 2016, was an initial candidate, but the Belgian FA rebuffed Everton's approach.

    Fabio Cannavaro is also said to have been interviewed, similarly Frank Lampard. Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, confirmed last Friday that no approach had yet been made to Derby County's administrators.

    However, widespread reports on Monday claimed that Pereira was the favoured choice of owner Farhad Moshiri, whose running of the club has come under scrutiny from fans. 

    Those reports were met with some outcry, with a photo spread via social media on Tuesday showing graffiti at Goodison Park reading: "Pereira out. Lampard in."

    With suggestions on Wednesday that Everton were still weighing up options, Pereira – who was dismissed from a second spell in charge of Fenerbahce in December – took the somewhat surprising decision to speak to Sky Sports.

    "The club asked me to come for a meeting. I had a few interviews, not just one, with different people at the club, the board. We discussed everything, and I gave them my point of view about the club, the team," Pereira explained.

    "I think they were enthusiastic to what I proposed. An intense game, pressing, possession. We need to give confidence to the players, to the team and the fantastic supporters. This is what I proposed to them. What I felt in the meetings was that they were positive."

    Asked if he had been informed whether he would be getting the job, Pereira said: "They have other candidates and this is a time for decisions.

    "No, [they have not told me]. Just to wait for the decision, be calm, and they are grateful for the interviews, that's all.

    "What I want to tell you is that all of my career, I worked under pressure. About the decision? It's something I can't control.

    "I built my career with passion, organisation, competence. This is what I can offer to the club. I give 100 per cent of me, football for me is 24 hours. This is my life, my passion. 

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    In response to the graffiti, Pereira said: "This is the first time in my career that I see this kind of thing. My CV speaks for itself. The club is not in a good position and the supporters have passion, this passion is the power of this club.

    "[Critics] don't know me very well, they don’t know my work, know me as a person. I worked in a lot of countries, different clubs, different levels, got several titles.

    "I don't take this as a personal attack."

    Pereira has won four league titles across spells in charge of Porto, Olympiacos and Shanghai SIPG.

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    Hwang initially joined on a season-long loan from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig and agreed personal terms on a deal before arriving in England.

    Wolves have now activated a clause to make the move permanent from July for a fee reportedly in the region of £12million.

    The deal will run to 2026 and was confirmed by the club's website on the player's 26th birthday.

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    Hwang first came to prominence at Salzburg during the 2019-20 season, playing in an attack that included Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino and Patson Daka, before signing for RB Leipzig for around €9m in 2020.

    However, he only managed three goals and four assists in 29 appearances across all competitions for Die Roten Bullen – albeit only five of those were starts.

    Wolves technical director, Scott Sellars, was delighted to confirm the news and told the club's website: "He's had a really positive affect on not only the team, but also the whole football club, and he's been a fantastic addition to Wolves.

    "We could see straight from our first meeting with him that Hee-chan is such a focused and determined young man who wants to be successful in his football career.

    "He's not had the experiences he would have liked at Leipzig and he wanted a change, and he's grabbed his opportunity here in the Premier League with both hands. He's shown a lot of determination, a lot of focus and certainly a lot of professionalism every day, and he's got his rewards in terms of his performances and his goals."

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