Premier League

Wenger refutes Neville theory

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Sat, 13 Apr 2013 09:00:00

Harry Redknapp has admitted it will be hard for Queens Park Rangers to hold on to Loic Remy if they go down.

QPR look set to be relegated as they head into Saturday's clash with Everton still seven points adrift of safety, with just six games of the campaign remaining.

Remy has nevertheless impressed since arriving from Marseille in January, and Redknapp believes he would be among the Premier League's leading scorers if he had been with the club all season.

Redknapp concedes that a player of such quality is unlikely to stay ay Loftus Road if they drop into the Championship, although no talks have yet taken place as everyone focuses on the fight for survival.

"I would have thought it would be hard to hang on to Remy. He was someone we were chasing when I was at Spurs," said the QPR boss.

"Every goal he has scored here has been a fantastic goal. He has five goals in seven games.

"Over the season he would get you 20 goals in the Premier League. And a 20-goal-a-year man is going to be hard to hang on to.

"We have to make sure we stay up if we want to keep him. That's the key, although I haven't discussed it with him or the owners."

McManaman estimates he will have an 80-strong support for the encounter with Millwall at Wembley, all hoping McManaman can retain his place in Roberto Martinez's starting line-up.

"I can't wait for Saturday, " the 22-year-old told Wigan's official website.

"I've got 55 of my mates going on a coach and 25 of my family members will be there as well, so it's quite a big following.

"If I play it will be the biggest game of my career."

It is Wigan's first appearance at the last four stage of the competition and victory would open the door to Europe should both potential final opponents, Chelsea and Manchester City, qualify for the Champions League.

Not that McManaman is unused to the experience given his family are all Evertonians.

However, the Merseysider owes a debt of gratitude to the competition because it was Martinez's desire to use it to blood youngsters during the early stages that offered him a chance to shine.

"When we started the cup campaign against Bournemouth I wasn't playing very well and I started to get a bit frustrated because I wasn't fully fit and hadn't been playing many games," he said.

"It all changed in the fourth round at Macclesfield. That's where I turned around my form personally and as a team we've just kicked on from there."

With a fully fit squad to choose from and seven points from the last three Premier League games, Wigan can approach their task with confidence, knowing it will be a special day for chairman Dave Whelan, who broke his leg in the 1960 FA Cup final.

"It will be a significant day for the chairman because he has been through such a lot," said the Wigan manager.

"The FA Cup is something very special for him.

"Not many people had the experience he did in the 60s, with the final and being carried off.

"There is a sense of unfinished business. It is a unique way of closing that circle."

The Lions midfielder has had to make regular trips back to France this season to spend time with his four-year-old son, Llyas, who has leukaemia.

And the 28-year-old claims he will be using his son as motivation for the Wembley semi-final.

"He's had leukaemia for about nine months and is having treatment, he's doing well and hopefully he's going to get well again," Abdou said.

"My strength is my son. When I see he is doing well I follow him, and hopefully we are going to get through it.

"He will be watching the game on Saturday so he'll be happy to see dad on the TV hopefully.

"The club and the manager have been brilliant, I can go back any time I need to.

"It's difficult, but when I'm here to do my job I give 100 per cent. You have problems in your life and you have to deal with them.

"When you play football for 90 minutes you have to switch off but when I finish the game the first thing I do is call home to see what's happening.

"When I go home and see him smiling and happy that's the main thing."

Whyte was last week reported to be planning legal action in an attempt to regain control of the club's assets, claiming he was the main driver behind the Sevco 5088 company which purchased the assets and business of the company he had put into administration.

Days later, Green transferred the assets - which were bought for ?5.5million in June last year - to a different company called Sevco Scotland, which then became The Rangers Football Club.

In angrily dismissing Whyte's claims last week, Green said: "It is alleged there is a letter which agrees Mr Whyte and a business partner of his, Aidan Earley, would have a majority shareholding in Sevco 5088. If there is it wasn't signed or endorsed by me."

A report on STV on Friday evening showed what appeared to be documentation confirming Whyte as a company director of Sevco 5088.

But in the latest salvo in the war of words between the two men, Green issued a fresh statement denying the validity of the paperwork shown.

The statement, on Rangers' official website, read: "Mr Green is appalled by this blatant attempt to discredit him.

"These documents are not correct or valid and he did not sign Craig Whyte or his associate on as directors of Sevco 5088.

"Mr Green was the sole director of Sevco 5088 until he resigned and became the founder director of Sevco Scotland, formed by Scottish solicitors.

"If this documentation was correct then, as Sevco 5088 was formed as the initial bid vehicle, the administrators would have been negotiating a sale of the club to a company which had a director who was clearly forbidden from being involved with it.

"Furthermore, it should strike people as deeply suspicious that these documents are being filed today 11 months after they were supposedly signed and on other documents Mr Green's home address has been mysteriously changed without his knowledge.

"Furthermore, notice was filed publicly in January this year by Field Fisher Waterhouse and is on record at Companies House company seeking to strike off the company, yet four months later directors appointments are now being supposedly filed.

"As stated previously these matters are now in the hands of lawyers who are preparing a file to be sent to Police Scotland and Mr Green cannot comment further on the details of that process."

Tottenham crashed out of the competition in Switzerland on Thursday night after the tie ended 4-4 on aggregate after extra-time.

Yann Sommer saved from Tom Huddlestone and Gylfi Sigurdsson then scored, but any hope 10-man Tottenham had of advancing to the semi-finals was blown by Adebayor's poor attempt from 12 yards.

The Togolese took a slow, stuttering run up and then cleared Sommer's goal by a foot, before Marco Diaz went on to secure an easy 4-1 shootout win for Basle.

Adebayor's miss drew derision from all quarters, with fans either side of the north London divide and former players like Gary Lineker criticising the 29-year-old's spot-kick.

Adebayor, who scored four penalties for Spurs last season, has defended himself, blaming his missed attempt partly on fatigue and the boggy sodden pitch in north-west Switzerland.

"It's tough," the Tottenham striker said. "You run around for 120 minutes, you give everything you have in your stomach, you are tired, you play with 10 men for 30 minutes and at the end of the day you have to take a penalty.

"The pressure is there when you take the ball. It's not the reason why we missed. We had to score, but it's not easy for us.

"I have taken penalties for Arsenal and Real Madrid. It's a gamble.

"You miss or you score. I missed against Basle. I am very disappointed, but that's football. You just have to keep focused and keep going."

Tottenham's squad will now have a four-day break before reconvening ahead of their vital Premier League clash against Manchester City a week on Sunday.

Spurs fought hard to take the tie to extra-time last night. Clint Dempsey scored twice to cancel out goals from Mohamed Salah and Aleksandr Dragovic, and just before the end of the 90 minutes Jan Vertonghen saw red for a cynical foul on Marco Streller to make life much harder for Tottenham.

However, with six season-defining games to come shortly, Adebayor knows he and his team-mates must forget about their Europa League disappointment fast.

"I'm very disappointed," he said."Now we've got time off. We'll go home, see our families and forget about what happened and think about the next game"

The hosts, who lost 5-1 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, must have been fearing the worst when Ivan Rakitic's brace and Alvaro Negredo's goal put the visitors on course for another memorable win just after the half-hour.

But Dorlan Pabon reduced the deficit before half-time and their cause was helped by Ruben Castro netting from the penalty spot in the 54th minute before Gary Medel was given a straight red card almost straight after.

It was not until the 90th minute that they levelled, however, Igiebor heading home to complete a memorable comeback.

In an action-packed opening few minutes, the hosts had their first sight of goal with Ruben Castro meeting Joel Campbell's cross, which forced Sevilla goalkeeper Antonio Beto to tip round the post.

It proved a key save as Rakitic gave the visitors the perfect start in the sixth minute.

Former Arsenal and Atletico Madrid winger Jose Antonio Reyes picked out the 25-year-old and he rifled low into the net from the edge of the area.

Beto was on hand to keep Sevilla's lead intact shortly afterwards after Jose Canas was given time and space to get his shot away, while at the other end, Alvaro Negredo's 20-yard piledriver was marvellously turned round the post by Betis goalkeeper Adrian.

There was nothing he could do, however, when Rakitic bagged his second of the match, Negredo laying off for the Croatia midfielder to tap in from close range in the 19th minute.

Sensing blood, Unai Emery's men continued to attack and Federico Fazio headed over from Reyes' cross.

And Betis must have feared they were on for another hiding from their rivals when Negredo put Sevilla three goals to the good in the 33rd minute.

Reyes grabbed his second assist, marauding down the left wing before picking out the Spain striker, who was left with a simple finish.

Betis gave themselves a hope of a comeback when Pabon netted two minutes before the interval, the on-loan Parma forward superbly lobbing over Beto from just inside the area.

And their hopes of mounting a memorable fightback were given a further shot in the arm when Ruben Castro slotted home from the penalty spot after Fazio was adjudged to have fouled Jorge Molina in the area in the 54th minute.

Sevilla were starting to crumble and two minutes later, their task became even harder when Medel was given a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Jose Canas.

Unsurprisingly, the Verdiblancos immediately set about levelling proceedings although their efforts were initially repelled by a valiant Sevilla defence.

Molina fired wide of the target from a decent position although that was the closest they came to equalising as the match entered its closing stages.

But just as all seemed lost, Igiebor popped up to head high into the top corner and past a despairing Beto from Ruben Castro's right-wing cross in the 90th minute to send the home fans happy.

England assistant coach Gary Neville this week reignited an old debate by arguing the "pathway is blocked" for up-and-coming home-grown talent by too many overseas players in the Premier League.

Wenger, once lambasted for foreign imports, now has a British core within his Arsenal squad - including the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, who made his senior debut in the Premier League aged just 16 against Blackburn in September 2008.

The Gunners boss maintains if the player is talented enough, then they will force their way into any team.

"I am not convinced by Gary's theory because if you want to develop their qualities, and if he is talented, you put your child in a good class.

"If he is in a good class, he develops better than in a poor class," said Wenger, who expects to have Wilshere available again after an ankle injury for Saturday's clash against Norwich at the Emirates Stadium.

"Look at Aston Villa. They play plenty of young players.

"Wilshere was good enough here. He played, You make room for them.

"It is a theory that it is a bit too protective for me and not enough competitive."

Wenger feels having top quality foreign players around a club can only help local talent flourish.

"For young, English players to have the privilege to play in training every day with world-class players gives you an opportunity to improve much quicker than a guy who is isolated in the middle of Africa and has nobody to compare to," he said.

"If you listen to any player, he will say to you: 'I improved because I have seen Dennis Bergkamp in training and I play with him every day'."

Following Tottenham's defeat on penalties in Basle and Newcastle's exit at the hands of Benfica, Chelsea are now England's last representatives in Europe, having edged past Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, despite a 3-2 defeat in Moscow.

Wenger - whose side lost in the Champions League last 16 to Bayern Munich despite winning the second leg in Germany - feels the lack of progression of English clubs needs to be careful analysed.

He said: "Is it because our championship is too hard? Is it as we don't have a winter break? Is it because our level has gone down? I don't know.

"But we must not be in denial and say 'we are the best in the world'."

Wenger, though, still feels the English top flight is "the most attractive to watch."

The Arsenal boss continued: "If you look at the attractiveness of the game, and go from channel to channel of French game-English game you stay with the English one. The whole package, the ingredients of passion, commitment and pace of the game, that is superior.

"The Premier League is super-competitive compared to Spain where you have only two teams who can really win it. In England it is very competitive in every game."

Despite Norwich having recorded only one victory in 2013 as they creep towards Premier League survival, Wenger insisted there can be no complacency if Arsenal are to overhaul Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

Given Andre Villas-Boas' squad are now not next in action until they host Manchester City on April 21, were Arsenal to win all of their three matches beforehand - at home to Everton on Tuesday night and then away at Fulham - they would hold a formidable seven-point lead on their north-London rivals.

"We have a chance to build an advantage, but since five weeks ago we have know we must win our (own) games whether they play or not," Wenger said.

"It does not matter whether Tottenham play or not, we have to win."

Wenger added: "This is a massive week for us.

"Experience helps always, particularly a positive experience, but now it is down to being at our best in every game."

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