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Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny back in training; Bellerin knee surgery a success

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny back in training; Bellerin knee surgery a success

ESPN

LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri insisted he accepts the fact that his job as Chelsea head coach is "always at risk" but reiterated that he will keep trying to implement his style of football at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's shock 4-0 humiliation against Bournemouth on Wednesday intensified criticism of Sarri's methods, with many of the travelling supporters chanting "You don't know what you're doing" at the Italian during the match and a handful staying to confront him outside the Vitality Stadium as he left.

Sarri travelled back to London in a car rather than Chelsea's team bus in order to get home quickly to analyse the match, and revealed that he has slept for no more than "six or seven hours" across the two days since the Bournemouth loss as he agonised over what went wrong.

Four defeats in Chelsea's last 10 Premier League matches, coupled with reports of player disquiet at Sarri's training methods and tactics, have raised significant questions about whether the Italian will survive the season at Stamford Bridge.

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But after pleading for patience from those inside and outside the club, Sarri admitted that he is well aware of the unforgiving nature of his industry.

"I think that my job is always at risk, and I love my job for this reason," he said. "I thrive on pressure. So I love my job for everything, but I know very well the rules. My job is always at risk. You can win against [Manchester] City, but after three days you are at risk."

When it was put to him that Chelsea's recent history suggests he will not be given the time he wants to get things right, Sarri replied: "It's not my problem. I want to remain the same man. If I am a dreamer, I am a dreamer.

"If I have fun with my football, I want to play my football. If I believe that the organisation in a team is everything, I cannot change my mind."

Asked if anything could conceivably change his mind about the way football should be played, he admitted: "I don't think so at the moment. I can change my mind in the future, I don't know. I changed in the past.

"But, at the moment, no. If I can change the mentality of these players, they are really very suitable for my football."

Sarri claimed after the Bournemouth loss that his players "haven't even learned the most basic moves" of his system and, while he remains devoted to refine things with his players at Cobham, he pointed out that Chelsea's relentless fixture schedule is not making his task any easier.

"First of all, here it's very difficult to have training," he explained. "Because it's impossible. We started to play every three days in August. In five months, we have only had one week without a match during the week, so it's very, very difficult to have training here.

"So it's very difficult to improve the single players, to improve the team. We are trying to work with videos, but it's a long way. We are trying to change something during training but we have little time.

"First of all we worked on how to build up the action. Now we are working on the last 30 metres. But the time is really little."

Sarri is expected to make minimal changes to his team from the Bournemouth defeat for Huddersfield Town's visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but Andreas Christensen could partner David Luiz in defence with Antonio Rudiger in danger of missing his first Premier League game of the season.

"We have only one [injury] problem, not a serious one, but I don't know if Rudiger will be able to play," Sarri said. "A little problem in his knee, so I have to speak with the doctor. The situation [on Thursday] was 50-50."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had a blistering start to life as Manchester United manager because he has clicked with the club's best players, Ander Herrera has told ESPN FC.

The Norwegian has kicked-off his reign at Old Trafford with eight wins and a draw and Herrera believes it is down to his instant relationship with United stars like Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.

"Ole had that click with some players that they are performing at their best," Herrera told ESPN FC. "He is getting the best from Rashford, he is getting the best from Paul, he is getting the best from Anthony, from Jesse. That's not easy.

"When you are a manager, we sometimes speak too much about tactics. But the most difficult thing for a manager is to get the best from his best players and this manager is doing it. We have all seen it."

Herrera has also benefitted from the change of manager and has played a key role in United's revival after winning a place in Solskjaer's preferred midfield alongside Pogba and Nemanja Matic. The Spaniard's form has restarted talk that he should be a contender for the captain's armband once Antonio Valencia departs -- possibly in the summer. But Herrera, who is approaching 200 games for the club, says he does not need it to feel like a leader in the dressing roon.

"I have been told a lot of times 'you should wear the armband in the future' but I don't need it," said the 29-year-old. "I don't go crazy with that. I think the best thing a team can have is different leaders. We need it from all the players.

"Of course I am very thankful to the fans that feel I can be the captain or the leader of the club but I honestly don't think that we should have only one. I feel I could be a leader in some moments but I don't think I am the only leader at the club."

The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) has warned that it is possible some tickets being offered for thousands of pounds on the secondary market for Liverpool's potential Premier League title celebration may not even exist.

Liverpool could lift their first league title in 29 years when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit Anfield on the final day of the season in May.

And hundreds of general admission tickets of up for sale on one secondary marketplace, with prices starting in excess of £1000 and going up to nearly £6000.

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The face value of tickets for Premier League matches at Anfield range between £9 (in small areas) and £59.

"The FSF is opposed to touting and exploitative secondary ticketing sites selling matchday tickets for vastly-inflated sums," an FSF spokesperson told ESPN FC.

"We have long promoted ethical and consumer-friendly alternatives such as in-house ticket exchanges where fans can swap tickets at face value.

"If the title goes down to the wire, demand for tickets will be high, but buyers should beware. With the fixture still some way away, it's possible tickets listed on secondary sites don't even exist."

Liverpool said they do no comment on individual cases and referred ESPN FC to its position on touting.

The club urge supporters not to buy tickets from unofficial sources and have been working with private investigators who specialise in ticket touting to help them combat the issue.

"Behind the scenes we are working extremely hard to try and eradicate ticketing touting to protect our supporters from getting caught out with fake or unofficial tickets," CEO Peter Moore said last year.

"We will continue this work and are committed to looking at new ways how we can help to stop this illegal trading."

Some Liverpool supporters cannot afford the costs of tickets on unofficial channels, but will still hope to celebrate the title victory on Merseyside.

Richard Ridsdale is travelling over from Abu Dhabi without a ticket, having explored various options to secure one.

"It's a joke, but expected," he said. "I have a few mates with season tickets, but obviously no spares. I tried to get hospitality and was even prepared to do a package with Thomas Cook. But when I looked over Christmas it was already sold out.

"I'll just get around the ground and into town later."

Ken Corcoran, from Cork, Ireland, is one fan who has paid over the odds for a ticket, but ultimately wants to be in attendance for what could be a historic occasion.

"I paid €400 for the ticket. I have paid more in the past for tickets," he said. "I bought it before Christmas. But of course I'm not happy about it, it's a rip-off.

"I'm 39 years old and have been following the Reds since I was five or six. So the past 29 years have been a tough watch, especially 2013-14.

"I've full faith in this team doing it and I want be there to witness it. I don't want to miss out on potential history."

Striker Vincent Janssen will be part of Tottenham's Premier League squad for the rest of the season after no deadline day move for him materialised, manager Mauricio Pochettino has said.

Spurs had hoped to sell Janssen -- who last played for them in August 2017 -- for around £15 million, but no offers materialised, and discussions with Real Betis and Schalke about a loan fell through.

Janssen was not registered in Spurs' Premier League squad for the first half of the season and has recently been playing with the under-23s, but was been named in the squad list submitted on Friday.

"We now have two free places -- with [Georges-Kevin] Nkoudou going to Monaco and [Mousa] Dembele to China -- I think he's going to be on the list," Pochettino told a news conference.

"That is my decision, that he's going to be involved with the first team from today and he's going to be like another player with the chances -- if he deserves it -- to be in the squad or to play.

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Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

"For different reasons -- but the principle reason was a sporting decision -- one year ago we decided to send him on loan [to Fenerbahce], and then in the last year he didn't play because he was injured."

Pochettino said Spurs had tried to find a solution to the situation with Janssen wanting to leave, and added: "Always, he behaved well. That is so important, that he was very respectful with everyone.

"For different reasons he can't go away -- reasons that are difficult of course to understand for me. My decision straight away was to invite him in and to open the door to the first team."

It has now been more than a year since Tottenham signed a player, and Pochettino said he would like to have strengthened his squad to boost their title chances.

"I'm a person that is so happy trying to help the project of the club," he said. "My idea is not always the same as the club's idea, or the chairman or the people that are in the club. But sometimes we are forced to take some decisions.

"Of course I wanted to strengthen the squad, but if we cannot and we cannot sign then I need to stick with the project of the club.

"But of course I'm disappointed because we're in a very good position and maybe, with a little more help from some players, we cannot put the excuse that we are not a real contender.

"Tomorrow we're going to try to win the three points [against Newcastle], and the next game the same, and then we will see at the end if we can win the Premier League.

"But if we win the league it's not because we were prepared or we built a team to win the Premier League. It's because sometimes in football things happen."

LIVERPOOL, England -- Jurgen Klopp has said manpower issues were the reason for why only one half of the pitch was cleared of snow at half-time of Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Wednesday.

Sources have told ESPN FC that the Premier League are content no rules were breached when Anfield groundstaff only removed snow from the half of the pitch Liverpool were attacking in the second half.

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Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

Klopp insists the move was not made to gain an advantage and that no members of Liverpool's staff were instructed.

"When we were warming up it started snowing, but the pitch was completely OK," he told a news conference on Friday. "Then we went in, and when we came out it was like full of hail or wet snow. The pitch was difficult.

"The first half we had 80 percent of the ball, so only one team suffered and it was us. It was clear that our groundstaff tried to clear it, but they didn't have enough man power.

"They realised how difficult it was when they started doing it, not before. There was no plan, nobody told them, I can swear, to clear only our side or our box.

"I hear people say it's unsporting, but it's an advantage, if their box is clear then it's better to defend. It's no coincidence that in the first half we scored a goal in a box that was full of snow. That's how it is, we cannot change it.

"In England people are not used to it. In Germany you would give shovels to everybody, even people in the stands would come on the pitch and help, and you would have 15 minutes to clear.

"We had even commercial things going on around the pitch -- next time, first of all, there will be no commercial if it is snowing, and we will have enough shovels to clear the pitch. That's football. The heating obviously couldn't deal with it.

"In the end it was a bit better, but it was a difficult pitch to play on."

Leicester frustrated Liverpool in their efforts to move seven points clear of Manchester City in the league table.

City defender Kyle Walker took particular delight in Liverpool's draw, mocking the result on Twitter before deleting it.

"I never celebrated that another team dropped points or lost a game," Klopp said. "For me that's not allowed. I never asked anyone to clear one side of the pitch and leave the other one in the mud. That's how I understand sports.

"You have to do your own things, to work out and show your best performance. I don't understand it.

"For supporters it is a little bit different, for people involved I don't understand. But it is nothing to criticise because I don't understand, so how can I criticise it?"

Meanwhile, Joe Gomez remains sidelined through injury and is not expected to return in time for the first leg of Liverpool's Champions League round-of-16 tie with Bayern Munich on Feb. 19.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is set to miss the trip to West Ham United on Monday night, but could return to full training next week.

"[There's] no return date for Joe," Klopp said. "Trent is getting better and better and better."

LONDON -- Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said he needs patience and time to "change the mentality" at the club before he can make his style a success.

Criticism of Sarri's methods intensified after Wednesday's 4-0 thrashing at Bournemouth, with some travelling fans confronting him outside the stadium after the game.

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Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

The result -- a fourth Premier League defeat in 10 matches -- saw Chelsea slip to fifth in the table behind Arsenal, but Sarri said he would not be deviated from the plan he is trying to implement.

"I think that my football is about co-operation, so I have to speak to my players and involve them in my football, more than we are doing in the moment," he told a news conference ahead of the home game against bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield.

ESPN+ is America's home for a host of professional soccer leagues from around the world, highlighted by Italy's Serie A, Major League Soccer, UEFA Nations League and English FA Cup. |
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ESPN FC's experts ranked the best men's players and managers in world football. Check out the list.

Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

"Now we have the mentality for doing the match, but we need to improve in the reaction. We need to improve in the offensive phase.

"We have a lot of individual players, so it's not easy to change in four or five months. For example, in the last match I think we built up the action very well in the first half.

"Then, we were able to close spaces ourselves because we stayed too tight with the three offensive players. So it was easy for the defenders to defend.

"Sometimes, we need to stay very high and wide. We have to go inside to receive, not to stay inside. So we need to improve. I need to change completely the mentality because they were used to playing on counter-attacks, so they could drive the ball. Now we have to change."

Sarri said the managers of the Premier League's top three -- Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham -- had all taken longer than a few months to build their teams.

"I want to remember that, in the first season, Tottenham and Liverpool were in the middle of the table," he added.

"The situation in England is very clear. There are three teams above the others. In one, the coach arrived five years ago, in one four years ago, and in the other three years ago.

"They had a plan and were really patient. So we need to change mentality and go on.

"It's very difficult because this team won with another [style of] football. But we can do it, I think. We can improve, we can change mentality, we can play our football."

Asked whether he had been given assurances by Chelsea that he will be given time, Sarri said: "I don't mind, because I am a dreamer. I want to play my football."

The coach's unwillingness to deviate from his favoured 4-3-3 formation has become a cause for frustration among some Chelsea supporters, but the Italian said he would not try a different approach.

"Why?" he said. "First of all, I want to do Plan A very well. I don't want to change some things that, at the moment, don't work very well.

"First of all I want to see my football played very well. Then we can go and change something."

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has said some players did not want to join the club in last month's transfer window following the disappearance of a plane carrying striker Emiliano Sala.

Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson remain missing after the aircraft vanished from radar on its way from France to Cardiff on Jan. 22.

The Argentina striker had completed a club-record £15 million move to Cardiff two days earlier and had returned to France to say goodbye to his Nantes teammates ahead of his move to the Premier League.

ESPN+ is America's home for a host of professional soccer leagues from around the world, highlighted by Italy's Serie A, Major League Soccer, UEFA Nations League and English FA Cup. |
ESPN+ schedule

ESPN FC's experts ranked the best men's players and managers in world football. Check out the list.

Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

"One or two of the strikers we were talking about didn't really want to come in the circumstances," Warnock said at a news conference ahead of Saturday's home game against Bournemouth.

"They didn't want to come in after what's happened. So it's been a very difficult window."

Earlier this week, seat cushions likely to have come from the plane carrying Sala and Ibbotson were found on a beach in France, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said.

The cushions were discovered Monday on near Surtainville, on the Cotentin Peninsula, by French authorities.

"From a preliminary examination, we have concluded that it is likely that the cushions are from the missing aircraft," the AAIB said in a statement.

Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny is back in full training ahead of Sunday's Premier League game at Manchester City after scans confirmed he had not fractured his jaw.

Koscielny was caught by a stray boot from Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku in the FA Cup defeat last week, and did not play in Arsenal's Premier League home win over Cardiff on Tuesday.

Arsenal said scans had shown only "bruising and soft tissue swelling" to Koscielny's face and jaw, giving manager Unai Emery the option of picking him amid a defensive injury crisis.

"He trained today well, we are positive with him," Arsenal coach Unai Emery said.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who injured an ankle against United, will be sidelined until the end of the month. Stand-in full back Ainsley Maitland-Niles' right knee will be assessed ahead of the trip to Manchester.

Meanwhile, defender Hector Bellerin has undergone successful surgery after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture earlier this month.

Surgery = success. Big thank you to all the doctors and physios who worked so hard to get me ready for surgery and through it with such ease

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