Arsene Wenger: ‘hurtful’ supporters damaged Arsenal’s image

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted that supporters campaigning for the manager’s removal had created a “hurtful” atmosphere that was damaging the club’s reputation on a worldwide scale.

Wenger made it clear he was “not tired” and wanted to continue working in football, but declined to explain in full why had chosen to break his contract, stating that he would wait until he had left the club.

However, he spoke at length for the first time about the bitter divisions that have been created among Arsenal’s fanbase.

“I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England, and our fans did not give the image of unity that I wanted. That was hurtful because I feel the club is respected over the world and, overall, the image we gave from our club is not what it is — and not what I like.”

“I feel this club has a fantastic image and, for me, that is absolutely vital. We can speak and speak and speak but sport is about winning and losing and you [the supporters] have to accept you will lose games, even when I will not be here anymore.”

“But it is about something bigger than just winning or losing and that was always a worry: how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids playing in Africa, China and America and the dreams it can create for young children who want to play football.”

“I am not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is … for me, that is more important than me staying. That is all I want to say. It is nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy and I can understand that. It’s my job. I have to live with that. I can accept that.”

Chelsea beats Southampton to set up FA Cup final with Man United

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Olivier Giroud’s brilliant semi-final goal helped Chelsea beat Southampton by 2-0 as the Blues go on to set up a FA Cup final with Manchester United.

Giroud, 31, received the ball from Eden Hazard and jinked his way past two Southampton players in a crowded area before he stabbed the ball home.

It was a goal which provided the game’s memorable moment as the player showed superb balance, poise and technique to finish as Southampton defenders dropped like dominoes.

The scored stayed the same, before Giroud was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 10 minutes to go and the substitute sealed safe passage with Chelsea’s second when he headed in at the back post from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.

Southampton went close with Nathan Redmon’’s low drive from distance while Charlie Austin hit the post, meaning that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will come up against managerial adversary Jose Mourinho at Wembley on 19 May.

French international Giroud won the FA Cup three times as an Arsenal player and his fondness for the competition continued against the Saints with the crucial first goal.

He now has a hand in 22 goals in 26 appearances in the competition since January 2012, with 15 goals and seven assists — more than any other player in the competition during that period.

He also had scored twice as Southampton squandered a two-goal lead against Chelsea to lose 3-2 in their Premier League fixture at St Mary’s last weekend.

After his strike at Wembley he has now scored eight goals at Southampton’s expense, against no other side has he scored more since he arrived in England.

Barca one win away from title after Atletico collapse at Real Sociedad

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FC Barcelona are one win away from a 25th Spanish La Liga title after Atletico Madrid lost by 3-0 at Real Sociedad.

Diego Simeone’s side team second best throughout and fell behind when Willian Jose turned home a cutback by winger Adnan Januzaj, while substitute Juanmi made it 2-0 late on when he drove in before getting his second in stoppage time with a chip.

Barcelona will win the La Liga title with victory at Deportivo La Coruna on 29 April, after finishing second last season, three points behind rivals Real Madrid.

Atletico hosts fifth-placed Real Betis on Sunday with the chance to close the gap to Barca back to nine points, but only if Barca does not win.

Second-placed Atletico, who are now 12 points behind Barcelona with five games remaining, would travel to Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on 26 April but carry a concerning streak in regards to away games, as demonstrated by their rout at Real Sociedad, with Simeone putting the blame on concentration issues.

“We have to take a good look at our away form and be more alert and attentive because we are letting ourselves down on the road,” Simeone said after the game.

“Today we did not play a good first half. We improved at the start of the second half, but we did not have the consistency to get closer on the scoreboard.”

“We have to look at what happened, but congratulate Real Sociedad on their deserved win.”

Pochettino: FA Cup victory would not change Tottenham’s life

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Mauricio Pochettino says that an FA Cup triumph this season would not change Tottenham’s life, as he looked ahead to Saturday’s semi-final against Manchester United.

“It would be fantastic to win the FA Cup,” the Argentinian said.

“But is it going to change our life? I don’t believe so. Every one of the semi‑finalists will fight to win but it’s not about who needs the trophy more.”

Tottenham have lost their previous seven FA Cup semi-finals — the most recent being the one last season against Chelsea. That defeat still hurts Pochettino but he remains consumed by the pursuit of glory in the Premier League or Champions League.

“If we are capable to win the Premier League and the Champions League, it is a moment you say the team has improved and reached the next level,” Pochettino added. “ To win the FA Cup or the League Cup — it will be fantastic for the fans but it is not going to move the club to a different level.”

“That is my opinion. Some people respect it; some people don’t. I want to play to win the Premier League and Champions League. If we can win the FA Cup, then fantastic. But if you are going to change the vision or put the club in a different level, you must compete for and then win the Premier League and Champions League.”

“People in England love to talk about perception and the changing of perceptions. We had a good Champions League group stage this season — beating Dortmund and Real Madrid — and we competed very well against Juventus [in the last 16]. The dimension of the club around the world changes completely [because of that].”