Categories
Rugby

‘My heart is in Penrith’: Yeo

Penrith lock Isaah Yeo is humbled that incoming Canterbury coach Trent Barrett wants him to sign at Belmore but believes he owes it to the Panthers to stay.

Yeo was surprised when reports surfaced suggesting Barrett is keen to lure him to the Bulldogs when he comes off-contract at the end of 2021.

The Dubbo-born forward is a free agent from November 1, but he feels like his future belongs at the foot of the mountains.

“I’m still on contract at Penrith, and I’d like to think my heart is there,” Yeo said.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to come through there and I moved there when I was 17, so my first priority is to stay at Penrith, and I’d like to think that something will work out there.”

In his seven NRL seasons at Penrith, Yeo has rarely received interest from a rival club.

It’s why the news even shocked his family, including his father Justin.

Isaah Yeo is a Penrith boy. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“My old man was asking me if there was any truth to it,” he said.

“This is the first time (in my career) where I’ve been in a position like this where articles are written about interest from other clubs.

“I actually had that story sent to me.

“It is nice to hear, but it is just a matter of making sure I’m doing my job for the club.”

Yeo’s preference is to remain at Penrith, but he can’t speak highly enough of Barrett’s influence on him as the Panthers’ attack coach.

He credits the former Illawarra, St George Illawarra, and Cronulla playmaker for transforming his game this season.

“For me, moving to the lock role and not being a ball player until this year, Trent has been tremendous for me,” he said.

“We did so much opposed stuff and repetition. I guess the more you do that kind of stuff, the more confidence you get.

“I was more of an up-and-down player when I first moved to the middle, but Trent has helped me, and he is a big part of why I’m in his (Blues) squad.

“The amount of trust and belief that he puts in his players is outstanding, and he will be a big loss for us.”

As a Dubbo boy, Isaah Yeo grew up idolising Andrew Ryan when he starred for the NSW Blues on the Origin stage. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

Yeo missed out on the Blues’ final 21-man team for Wednesday’s opening Origin against Queensland in Adelaide, but he feels blessed to be a part of the squad.

He grew up in Dubbo idolising local star Andrew “Bobcat” Ryan, who played 12 Origins for the Blues, and now he has the opportunity to follow in Ryan’s footsteps and don the state’s blue jersey.

“Bobcat was the one that I looked up to being from Dubbo, with all the accolades he achieved,” he said.

“The grand final wins, State of Origin and Australia. I loved watching him play.

“It is always a goal to be part of something like this, and if you asked me at the start of the year if I would make this squad, I would have thought it was out of reach, particularly after my year last year.”

Yeo says the Origin camp has also helped him move on from the pain of last week’s grand final loss to Melbourne.

“You can’t be dwelling on stuff in a camp like this when there is so much on the line,” he said.

“And I don’t think you can when you are a part of a group like this.”

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Sports News

SuperCoach Racing Round 5: Rob Sutherland’s metric picks for Derby Day and Golden Eagle

After a couple of tough rounds of SuperCoach Racing this weekend we’re back in the sweet spot with loads of affordable Group 1 runners on offer.

So let’s get cracking reviewing the field for Round Five and see which rate the best in my metric.

It’s not too late to enter the game and win the weekly prize: register and start picking your SuperCoach Stable now!

Farnan looks like a quality option in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

For those who are new to this column, each week I rank the leading contenders that offer a, hopefully, winning blend of popularity in the betting market and cheap SuperCoach price.

To compare apples with apples I have added a weighting to reflect the different points on offer for Group 1, 2, 3 and non black type races.

Below I list the 30 best rated horses, run through the stable I have selected and then throw in a bit of bonus analysis on the jockeys too.

THE 30 TOP-RATED HORSES FOR ROUND ONE (GROUP ONE IN BOLD):

FROM THIS LIST I HAVE SELECTED THE FOLLOWING STABLE OF 11 HORSES

Victoria Quay sits atop my ratings and I expect the filly will be the most popular emergency of the round as she’s just $75K and sits on the second line of betting in the G2 Wakeful Stakes. The favourite in the race is Personal, she comes into this after a fast-finishing second in the G1 Thousand Guineas at her last start and at $175K looks to have this race at her mercy.

I’ve one more G2 runner in my stable and that’s Octane. He’s got a great strike rate (seven wins from 15 starts), finished third in the G2 Schillaci at his last start and will appreciate the larger Flemington track.

From here on it’s all about Group 1 points for the Beasts with eight runners remaining.

The Victoria Derby is always a bit of a risk with young horses being asked to step out to the 2,500m and while Young Werther is the favourite I really like the chances of Cherry Tortoni. So I’ve taken both.

I’ve also loaded up in the Coolmore Stud Stakes – really loaded up – with three horses here. The race is a ‘stallion maker’ but it’s a filly, September Run, who is the best rated horse in my metric. She’s the favourite and she’s $50K cheaper than my other two runners. Wild Ruler won the G2 Roman Consul at his last start and the wide barrier is not an issue down the Flemington straight. Then there’s Golden Slipper winner Farnan, jockey Glen Boss is usually confident but he’s particularly so here and let’s hope Bossy gives another salute like he did when winning the Cox Plate last week.

The Empire Rose looks like there are a few chances but I can’t go past Odeum. She won a the G1 Thousand Guineas at her last start, has just 49kg here and is significantly cheaper than the other main hopes in the race.

Speaking of tricky races, none looks harder to pick with confidence than the Golden Eagle. There are 22 horse in the field and my pick, Funstar, has drawn the outside barrier. But the speed maps suggest she’ll be able to roll forward early and get some cover and she’ll enjoy the soft track too.

My last runner, Buffalo River, is one I’m not 100% confident in as The Cantala is a race full of genuine chances. But the Moroney gelding has a superb strike rate (12 starts 6-4-1) and should roll towards the lead here. He may not win but will give every chance of a top-5 finish and I’ll take that.

CAPTAIN: I’m flip flopping between Funstar and Farnan to carry my armband in Round 5. At this stage leaning towards Farnan.

MORE SUPERCOACH RACING NEWS

Our experts reveal their Round 5 SuperCoach stables

AND NOW TO JOCKEYS

It’s a bumper field of nominations because there’s no clear candidates – unlike last round when Jamie Kah really stood out … and I tipped her … and forgot to change my jockey from the previous round. That hurt.

Craig Williams has the best Melbourne book and Nash Rawiller/Jason Collett both look good up in Sydney. Hard to split them so just pick your favourite rider out of that trio I reckon.

Originally published asRound 5: The SuperCoach stable the bookies pick

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Categories
Fighting

Aussie star Robert Whittaker says UFC president Dana White may have to step in and secure his promised title fight

Robert Whittaker concedes UFC president Dana White may have to step in and secure his promised title shot, saying champion Israel Adesanya “doesn’t want to fight me”.

Currently quarantining in Sydney, Whittaker has told News Corp a middleweight title blockbuster is all “that makes sense” after beating American Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 last Sunday.

Apart from breaking his rival’s arm in the first round of their Abu Dhabi showdown with a kick, the win was also Whittaker’s second big scalp in just 12 weeks — and followed his win over Englishman Darren Till in July.

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Robert Whittaker made light work of Jared Cannonier in Abu Dhabi last weekend.Source:Getty Images

MORE FIGHT NEWS

Tszyu Who? I’m the No.1 Australian fighter.

How Rob Whittaker earned another UFC title shot

All of which makes Bobby Knuckles the division’s undeniable No.1 contender.

However, speaking with the New Zealand Herald this week, Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman revealed his charge had “no interest” in re-matching Australia’s first UFC champion.

He said Adesanya felt it was too early to give another shot to the fighter he took the gold strap from via second round KO last October.

Instead, Bareman hinted the undefeated Adesanya (20-0) could potentially move up in weight and challenge UFC light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz.

Yet speaking from his Sydney hotel room on Friday, Whittaker suggested there was a far simpler explanation for Adesanya looking outside the division.

“He doesn’t want to fight me,” the 29-year-old cackled.

“Doesn’t want to talk about me.

“Obviously we don’t like each other much, that’s one reason for it. But he also knows I’m at that (championship) level.

“That I’m not going to be a cake walk for him.

Whittaker earned a unanimous points victory over American Jared Cannonier.Source:Getty Images

“And don’t get me wrong, he’s phenomenal fighter.

“When we run it back too, Izzy will be tough. Crazy hard.

“But I also think he sees the danger that I bring.”

Already, White has said Adesanya’s next fight should be a re-match with the Aussie dubbed ‘Reaper’.

So what chance it helps having the boss on your side?

“Absolutely,” Whittaker said.

“And the UFC has always been very good to me.

“So we’ll see.

“Before fighting Cannonier, Dana came out and said it would determine the No.1 contender.

Whittaker took down Englishman Darren Till earlier this year.Source:AFP

“Then afterwards he also said ours was fight that made sense.

“And I know (Adesanya) wants to move up or whatever.

“So I guess we just work on timelines now.

“I’ll see what he does and then work out a date for next year.

“Personally, the fight that makes sense for me is the fight with Israel.”

Certainly Whittaker believes he will be a far different fighter to the one who competed before 60,000 fans inside Marvel Arena, Melbourne at UFC 243.

Adesanya completely outclassed the then champ, knocking him down twice before claiming a second round KO.

Since then, however, Whittaker has revealed he was “burned out” for some time before the fight.

After breaking down in the Wanda sand dunes on Christmas Day, the Sydney father-of-three has since overhauled his training program – and mindset – to claim consecutive wins against opponents who were themselves considered next up for a title shot.

Whittaker was no match for Adesanya in Melbourne late last year.Source:AAP

So as for how an Adesanya re-match now plays out?

“Ah, who knows?” Whittaker laughed.

“I do feel like this is a new chapter in my career.

“And I really am enjoying myself.

“But who is to say I get in there with Izzy and the same s**t doesn’t happen again?

“This sport, it’s a cruel mistress.

“But I can only keep doing what I’m doing. Get into another camp and then go give it a real Aussie crack.”

Originally published as‘He won’t fight me’: Whittaker slams sidestepping champ

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Categories
MLB

Wait, the White Sox hired Tony La Russa? Why it will or won’t work and what those across MLB are saying

    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

  • Senior writer of SweetSpot baseball blog
  • Former deputy editor of Page 2
  • Been with ESPN.com since 1995

After 34 years, Tony La Russa is back as the Chicago White Sox manager.

The news raises a host of questions: Does hiring the 76-year-old Hall of Famer — who last managed in 2011 when he led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title — make sense for Chicago? How might it work? What could go wrong? How are those around baseball — and fans in Chicago — reacting to it?

ESPN baseball writers Jesse Rogers and David Schoenfield break down the move.

Why would the White Sox choose Tony La Russa?

Schoenfield: Given the lack of precedent here — not just La Russa’s age, which makes him just the third manager along with Connie Mack (who owned the team) and Jack McKeon to manage at 75 years or older, but his decade removed from managing — it certainly is a shocking hire, even if La Russa is a Hall of Famer. Still, there’s a feeling that owner Jerry Reinsdorf views this as fixing a blunder he made way back in 1986, when he allowed general manager Hawk Harrelson — yes, THAT Hawk Harrelson — to fire La Russa. Reinsdorf has called it his biggest mistake as White Sox owner, as La Russa went on to win six pennants and three World Series with the A’s and Cardinals.

Are there baseball reasons? That’s harder to understand, as the trend for a long time now has been to hire younger managers who are more in tune with the rapidly changing analytics in the game. But maybe a little old-school approach is what the White Sox feel they need to get to that next level, because the talent is there to compete for a World Series title.

Rogers: It’s almost an ironic hiring. After the season, they admitted they’ve been “insular” in some of their thinking and hirings in the past. Considering La Russa has had a relationship with Reinsdorf since the first time he managed the White Sox in the ’80s, the move still screams of an in-house feel to it. So the point is, they know him. They know what he’s capable of, considering he’s won more games than all but two other managers in history, but the key thing they know about him is he’s smart and adaptable. What they don’t know is what a decade away from managing will mean. No one can know that until he’s in the dugout.

What is La Russa really like as a manager compared to other managers in today’s game?

Schoenfield: There will be a lot of discussion of La Russa’s ability to adapt to how much the game has evolved since 2011. There are a lot of factors in play here: leveraging analytics for things like pitcher development, dealing with players in this new age of activism, bat flipping, attracting free agents, the increasing role of manager as PR agent for the team (never La Russa’s strong suit). It doesn’t help that his short stint as chief baseball officer for the Diamondbacks included the disastrous hire of Dave Stewart as general manager, with the pair publicly being derisive of analytics. (At a time when other teams were starting to really ramp up their analytics departments, La Russa hired a 66-year-old former veterinarian as his director of analytics.)

On the other hand, maybe that sells short La Russa’s role as an innovator during his long career. While with the A’s, he and GM Sandy Alderson were heavy into the numbers in the 1980s, way before most people in baseball. He turned Dennis Eckersley into what some would call the first “modern” closer, a guy mostly saved for the ninth inning. Maybe that’s been a little overstated, but when Eck became a full-time closer in 1988, he did pitch 72 innings over 60 games and saved 45 of them. As La Russa writes in “One Last Strike,” he and pitching coach Dave Duncan asked a simple question: “How many guys do you think we have as good as Eck who can pitch in the ninth inning?” The answer was none, thus the idea to have Eckersley available for as many ninth innings as possible.

Later on with the Cardinals he experimented with hitting pitchers eighth, in order to get Mark McGwire more RBI opportunities. When he managed the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title, he was also an early innovator in starting pitcher usage. With Adam Wainwright injured that year, Chris Carpenter was really the team’s only workhorse and reliable starter. In 18 playoff games that year, Cardinals starters averaged just 5⅓ innings per start and five times were pulled before completing five innings even though the starter had allowed three runs or fewer.

Heck, we just saw 71-year-old Dusty Baker run out a bullpen game in the playoffs. People can adapt — and it will certainly be interesting to see how La Russa adjusts from the way he did things even 10 years ago.

What has La Russa been doing since he managed last?

Schoenfield: It’s important to note that he’s been around the game since he retired after that 2011 World Series. He oversaw baseball operations for the Diamondbacks from early in the 2014 season through the 2017 season, with that final season ending in a playoff berth as a wild card. He then worked as front office advisor with the Angels and Red Sox. As he alluded to in his media conference on Thursday, he knows the amount of pregame preparation is much more involved now, but La Russa was always regarded as one of the most prepared managers in the game (and a manager has a lot more help these days, with more coaches, so a lot of the work gets passed down to the coaching staff).

What are those around baseball saying?

Rogers: People in baseball are shocked by the move, but of those contacted no one would definitively say they don’t believe La Russa can do the job. He has too much on his resume to dismiss the idea out of hand. The big question is connecting with the modern-day player. One executive said any manager taking a decade off would be facing that question.

Another executive opined that La Russa is smart enough to fit in with the current era of baseball. In other words, even if you consider him an old-school manager, he won’t be telling Tim Anderson to lighten up on the bat flips, but he will stress playing the game the right way. La Russa used his relievers early and often, so his style might fit in with the analytical nature of this era in baseball. He was a matchup guy before that was a thing.

One former reliever who played under La Russa quipped that the members of the Sox bullpen better not get comfortable in their roles because La Russa will change them on a daily basis. Or at least the La Russa he played for would. No one can know what current-day Tony will bring to the table. And that was the other overriding opinion about the hire: It’s uncharted territory so there isn’t much history to make a prediction on.

Why could the hiring work?

Rogers: La Russa was a lawyer before becoming a manager. He’s smart and has already managed in both leagues in several eras. And one huge key is he hasn’t been on a beach for the past 10 years. He’s been in three distinctly different organizations in the Angels, Red Sox and Diamondbacks. If it wasn’t for the gap in time in managing, the move wouldn’t be looked upon with such trepidation. Besides, the White Sox look great on paper. Mostly, their manager will need to get out of the way and let them play. How hard is that?

Schoenfield: Hey, Jack McKeon was 72 when he managed the Marlins to the 2003 World Series title. I think the interesting dynamic here is that most of these White Sox players won’t know anything about La Russa. But La Russa stressed his history and success of building relationships during his long tenure as a manager before and that aspect of the job is probably more important than any X’s and O’s. Building that trust with Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert is more important for La Russa than helping them with analytics or their swing. There are others to help in that area.

Why could this hiring not work?

Rogers: Isn’t it obvious? He’s 76, which leads to physical questions of doing the job more than mental. It’s a grind. And that’s without even considering another potential COVID-19 season. And the disconnect that can occur between the modern player and this manager is real. La Russa basically has sat out for one generation of players. There are a bunch of roadblocks that could get in the way, with the biggest one being his relationship with a young Sox team.

Schoenfield: Right. Remember in the 2011 World Series in Game 5 when the Cardinals made two odd choices with the bullpen that made no sense? After the game, La Russa blamed the noise level in the park, saying that bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist had misheard him (in one case, meaning Jason Motte didn’t get warmed up, and in another that lefty Marc Rzepczynski had to stay in to pitch to lefty masher Mike Napoli). When Rzepczynski was finally replaced by Lance Lynn, La Russa was expecting Motte. “I saw Lynn, and I went, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?”’ La Russa said after the game, which the Cardinals lost.

There was a lot of speculation at the time about what really happened — and that maybe La Russa had a brain fart at the wrong moment. Maybe it was just too loud. “We can’t even hear the phone ring, it’s so tucked back in the tunnel. You can’t even see the pitcher warming up. It’s not a very good setup,” Lynn said after the game.

Anyway, the point here is that this is where La Russa was then, and he was 66. At 76, the watch for any miscues will be even more intense and critical.

What’s the reaction in Chicago?

Rogers: Since his name was initially floated, there has been a total pushback in all forms toward even the idea of La Russa becoming the next White Sox manager. On social media, sports radio and within the media. From callers to columnists, the idea has been panned. It’s not any better now that he’s been announced.

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Rugby

Wales great JJ Williams was the lion who ran like a cheetah

The lion who ran like a cheetah: Wales great JJ Williams will always be known for his role in the invincible tour of South Africa, but there was so much more to him than just rugby

  • Former Wales and British & Irish Lions player JJ Williams has died at the age of 72 
  • The winger played 30 times for Wales between 1973 and 1979 – scoring 48 points
  • Williams was regarded as a true athlete and leaves behind a sporting family

Whenever a privileged guest asked him about the greatest of all Lions tours, JJ Williams would point to a ‘treasured’ picture on the wall of his inner sanctum.

The black and white imagery makes it as symbolic today as the day it was snapped, in Port Elizabeth on July 13, 1974, when the Welsh wing ran like the wind and did what no Lion had done before or since. 

His fourth try in successive Tests against the Springboks clinched the series and none cheered louder or longer than the victims of apartheid in the cheap seats behind the posts.

 Former Wales and British & Irish Lions player JJ Williams (above) has died at the age of 72

Their ecstatic reaction gave the scorer as much satisfaction over the ensuing 46 years as the beauty of the try itself. South Africa had been expelled by the IOC and FIFA but rugby’s predictable refusal to take a similar stand left the Lions to weather a storm of protest.

‘I treasure the photograph not because it’s me but because of the reaction of the black people in the crowd,’ he said. ‘The sheer joy on their faces, the arms raised in a victory salute at another Lions try is something I still marvel at.

‘Their jubilation stemmed from the all-white Springboks being hammered. They were effectively saying to us, “Thank you for showing that the white supremacist regime running our country is not so supreme after all. Thank you for coming. Thank you for beating them.”.’

 The winger played 30 times for Wales during a six-year international career from 1973 to 1979

The cheering extended all the way to Robben Island. The story goes that Nelson Mandela and fellow inmate Steve Tshwete who would become Minister of Sport under Mandela’s presidency, clubbed together to send the untouchable Welshman a small token of their appreciation.

‘They gave me two rand notes, a fantastic gesture,’ he said. ‘I was told that I was supposed to be one of President Mandela’s favourite players. I don’t think anyone could ask for a bigger compliment.’

There was far more to JJ, so called to distinguish him from the other John Williams, alias JPR, than the Lion who ran like a cheetah. 

A multi-national sprint champion who competed at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, a family man whose three children all made their mark as athletes, an employer blessed with the acumen to run his own painting business and a fearless critic, he died on Thursday from brain cancer.

Williams (left) leaves behind a successful sporting family including athletics star Rhys (right)

A hitherto youthful 72, his place in the pantheon had long been assured. At a time before the old Corinthian spirit had been battered into a pulp, when the Lions played strictly for the love of the game and responded by compiling the only invincible tour record: Played 22, Won 21, Drawn 1, Lost 0, Points for 729, against 207.

Far from not making a bean, Williams and his wife, Jane, lost a small fortune. The local education authority’s refusal to grant him paid leave from Maesteg Comprehensive School left the newly-weds struggling to pay the mortgage.

Once established as an automatic choice in the Welsh team of the Seventies, probably the most revered of the amateur era, JJ became increasingly infuriated by the WRU’s penny-pinching. 

 Williams scored 48 points for Wales during his career and was regarded as a very quick player

The most ludicrous example happened while he nibbled at a lunch of toast and honey before a match against England at Twickenham.

The chairman of selectors, Jack Young, tapped him on the shoulder to query his £5 expenses claim for the previous week. 

‘That’s right, Jack — two trips from Maesteg to Cardiff and back. Petrol isn’t cheap these days, you know.’ According to JJ, Young told him: ‘We worked it out at £3.80. You owe us £1.20.’

Worse was to follow. Within days of returning home from South Africa to Nantyffyllon, Widnes had offered him a world record £13,500 in September 1974 to cross the Rubicon to rugby league. 

Williams repeatedly become infuriated with the Welsh Rugby Union during his career

Absurdly, any public admission of such an offer exposed the player concerned to a lifetime ban under draconian rugby union regulations. 

Warned about the consequences, he said: ‘Go ahead and quote me. What are they going to do? Ban me?’

Which was exactly what they did. Despite announcing that he had turned Widnes down, JJ reported to Stradey Park the next day for Llanelli’s match only to be told by the Scarlets’ honorary secretary, the late Ken Jones: ‘Sorry JJ, you can’t play. The WRU say you have professionalised yourself.’

Williams also played seven times for the British and Irish Lions (above) in a memorable spell 

Enraged, Williams drove home ready to fight his corner. ‘The WRU saw fit to make me feel I had committed some sort of crime when all I had done was decline a fortune for the glory of continuing to play for Wales for nothing,’ he wrote in his autobiography.

He reported for training the following week, by which time the union realised that to press charges would provoke public outrage. He retired six years after the Lions tour with a career record of 352 tries from 438 matches.

Of the unbeatable Lions of 1974, JJ is the fourth to die following Gordon Brown (53), Andy Ripley (62) and Mervyn Davies (65).

The game they play in heaven is about to get a whole lot faster.


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Categories
Soccer

Mikel Arteta has selection headache for Man Utd clash after Arsenal beat Dundalk

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta admits he has decisions to make over his team as they prepare to face Manchester United.

The Spaniard named a much-changed line-up for the Europa League clash with Dundalk though his side were comfortable.

Three goals across four minutes saw the Gunners win 3-0 with Joe Willock impressing in north London.

Willock is yet to make a Premier League appearance though scored and was arguably Arsenal’s man of the match on the night.

Arsenal attentions now turn to Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford with Arteta admitting he has a selection headache.

Arteta told BT Sport: “We have a large squad and I wanted to give opportunities to everybody.

“Today they showed they were prepared when I need them and today they made it more difficult me for selection.

"Sometimes it is about the quality, sometimes it is about the tactical plan for the game. I am very pleased with the performance today.

  • Willian opens up on Arsenal frustrations after summer Chelsea move

"We missed Willian the last couple of weeks, he had a very short pre-season. He needs that bit of rhythm. He looked good today, great to get some minutes in his legs.

"After losing the way we lost against Leicester it was painful. It took is a few days to react but good to respond straight away with a win and now we go to Old Trafford and try to win again."

Willock is determined to keep fighting as he looks for an opportunity under Arteta.

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The goalscorer said: "I am grateful to play for this team, to start from the beginning makes me happy and a proud moment for my family. Happy for the team and happy to score as well.

"He [Mikel Arteta] just told me to keep working hard. I told him I want to fight for my position and hopefully I will get an opportunity again."

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Categories
Soccer

5 talking points as Arsenal comfortably see off Dundalk in the Europa League

Arsenal made it two wins out of two in the Europa League with an easy 3-0 victory over Dundalk in Group B.

After a slow start to the game the Gunners finally opened the scoring on 42 minutes when Eddie Nketiah took advantage of a mistake by the Dundalk 'keeper to poke home from a corner.

Just minutes later it was two after Joe Willock finished well from a rebound, and straight after half-time Nicolas Pepe made it three with a finish from outside the box to finish the game as a contest.

Mikel Arteta's side are now top of their group, and have another home European game to come next week when they take on Norwegian side Molde.

Here are five talking points from the Emirates…

Goals finally fly in for Gunners

It may have only been Dundalk, but this victory will have done Arsenal's attacking players the world of good confidence-wise.

Previous to tonight they had suffered two consecutive 1-0 defeats, and questions were beginning to be asked about Arteta's ability to set up the team offensively.

For 43 minutes it looked like it could be another night of frustration, but suddenly the floodgates opened and the goals flew in.

They certainly looked a lot sharper going forward, with fast-paced passing and much more creativity than we have seen in recent weeks.

The big question now is whether they will be able to do the same against Manchester United this weekend in what already looks like being a potentially huge game in their Premier League campaign.

The problem of Pepe

What a very strange player Nicolas Pepe is.

In the first half it looked like being another one of those nights for the unpredictable Ivory Coast winger.

He lost possession 15 times after constantly dribbling into Dundalk defenders, and he also put in an early contender for worst corner of the season when he managed to find the side netting rather than any teammates.

Yet just when he was being written off again he came out in the second half on fire and scored a delicious goal to make it three before he was withdrawn on the hour.

Whether he will ever find consistency in north London remains to be seen, but he is certainly fascinating to observe, as you simply never know what you're going to get.

Wonderful Willock

Joe Willock was a man with a point to prove tonight, and he took advantage of his rare start with an accomplished performance in the middle of the park.

The 21-year-old constantly made brave choices with the ball, and took his goal well with a beautiful touch before his thumping finish.

He also grabbed an assist by setting up Pepe's strike, and was at the centre of everything Arsenal did well.

Considering how little football he has played so far this season Willock could not have done much more tonight, and he may well have played himself into Arteta's thinking as the Gunners' packed fixture schedule continues.

Runarsson makes Arsenal bow

Arsenal fans got their first sight of new backup goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson tonight since he joined from Dijon last month.

Although he had a relatively quiet evening, there were signs of promise, and the Icelandic international did well to tip away an early long-range effort with relative ease.

He also claimed a number of corners with a bellowing cry of "Alex's!", and he was vocal and confident throughout.

Tougher tests will no doubt follow, but as debuts go it couldn't have gone much better for Runarsson, and considering he only cost around £1m the 25-year-old could well prove to be a smart bit of business.

Qualification already in sight

With a home game against Molde coming up next week, Arsenal could all but seal their qualification to the knockout stages with victory.

Arteta will no doubt be desperate to get over the line as quickly as they can, and would no doubt appreciate having one or two games where he is able to experiment and play the kids without pressure.

Their fixture list does not look kind towards the end of November going into December, with the Gunners facing the likes of Wolves, Tottenham, Everton and Chelsea in the festive period, and the opportunity to rest key men is one which could be crucial.

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Dele Alli "becoming an issue" for Jose Mourinho after Europa League defeat

Deli Alli’s poor form is “becoming an issue” for Jose Mourinho, after Tottenham fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at at the hands of Royal Antwerp.

That’s the view of Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle, who felt Alli missed a golden chance to impress his manager.

The England international was handed a rare start in Europe, after being left out of four of the last five Premier League squads.

But Alli failed to grasp his chance, as a much-changed team were beaten by the odd goal in Belgium.

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Mourinho made nine changes for the game, but after a dismal first-half showing, he made four substitutions at the break. Alli was one of the quartet taken out of the action, as his alarming dip in form continues.

And Hoddle was less than surprised to see Alli’s withdrawal, after a “sloppy” 45 minute display.

"I think it is becoming an issue,” Hoddle told BT Sport. “This was his opportunity, Jose would have put him in tonight thinking 'OK, hit me right between the eyes, have a great game, score a goal maybe'. But it just didn't happen for him.

“At the moment, in his game, he's giving the ball away too many times. His options are there, he's trying his best, but it's not happening for him. Sloppy play isn't going to get him back into the team."

On the decision to withdraw Alli, Mourinho refused to comment on specific players, with Gareth Bale also struggling.

“I don't want to analyse individually,” he said. “It's fair to say that players with bad performances influence the team but also a team influence individual performances.

“It's not for me to individualise and brings some names to the table.”

Owen Hargreaves also took aim at Alli, claiming his performance showed he was a player lacking in confidence and one playing without the freedom that has made him such an exciting player in years gone by.

"He's lacking in confidence and you can see his frustration with the fact he was making mistakes,” Hargreaves added. “He knows he's being watched like a hawk by Mourinho and everyone.

Does Dele Alli have a future at Tottenham under Jose Mourinho? Have your say here

“He wants to play well but when your confidence is low, you end up playing really safe.

“What I noticed today was that when he was getting the ball into him, he was just stopping it dead rather than try to get it out of his feet and keep moving. He doesn't want to make mistakes.

“He's such a fabulous player but he needs to play with that freedom that we saw when he burst onto the scene when he was absolutely outrageous."

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Frank Lampard names three former Premier League stars in dream seven-a-side team

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has named three ex-Premier League stars in his dream seven-a-side team.

The former midfielder played against some of the greatest talents to ever grace the field both at home and abroad during his career.

Lampard – who came second in the 2005 Ballon d'Or award – even holds the impressive record as the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history, ranking fifth in the all-time list overall.

Despite having won the division three times with Chelsea though, as well as every trophy on offer, he was asked to pick a team of players he had come up against, thus excluding any of his old Blues colleagues.

Making his selection in an interview with The Mail, Lampard opted for ex-England teammate and former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in midfield alongside Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane.

Ex-Man Utd defender Rio Ferdinand was included at the back, having also played with Lampard at international level, as well as in the early stages of their careers at West Ham.

He then plumped for Bayern Munich stopper Manuel Neuer in goal, who was between the sticks on arguably the greatest night of Lampard's career when he captained Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2012.

Reserving his best selections for his attack, Lampard completed his trio of ex-Premier League picks by adding Cristiano Ronaldo to his side.

Setting up alongside the Portuguese superstar – once of Man Utd – Lampard opted for legendary Barcelona forward Ronaldinho, as well as, somewhat predictably, Lionel Messi.

It was in fact Ronaldinho who pipped Lampard to the Ballon d'Or in '05, with Gerrard making up the podium.

Asked who he would choose between his other two frontmen, Lampard replied: "This is a horrible question. I’m going to go for Messi on pure, natural talent but what Ronaldo has done is incredible."

Who would make your dream seven-a-side team? Have your say below.

He also gave special mention to legendary Barca duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who narrowly missed out despite Lampard naming them as the two hardest opponents he came up against.

"They were the two midfield players," he added. "They were great players. They were kind of not the biggest and quite slight and it just shows it doesn’t matter.

"Sometimes people think you have to be huge to be a football player. You don’t."

Lampard's dream VII: Neuer, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Zidane, Ronaldinho, Messi, Ronaldo

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Arsenal’s win over Dundalk gives Mikel Arteta exactly what he wanted from Mesut Ozil snub

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has faced his fair share of criticism after dropping Mesut Ozil from his Europa League and Premier League squads, but Thursday night’s win over Dundalk proved he made the right decision over the German playmaker.

Arteta named a completely different line-up on Thursday night by making ten changes for the Europa League tie.

Senior stars like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Partey were all left out in favour of younger players.

Nicolas Pepe, who has struggled for game time this season, was handed a start and repaid Arteta’s faith with a moment of magic in the second half.

With the Gunners 2-0 up, the Ivory Coast international was handed the ball on the edge of the area on his favoured left foot.

Pepe rolled his foot over the ball a few times before switching it to his weaker right foot and lashing his shot towards goal.

Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers was powerless to stop the ball soaring past him into the top corner of the net, giving Pepe his second goal of the season in all competitions.

His goal was a pure moment of magic, and seemed to come out of nowhere.

Moments of individual brilliance have been somewhat lacking at Arsenal recently, and that was one of the main criticisms Arteta faced when he axed Ozil, who is capable of producing such star quality.

But by producing something out of nothing, Pepe could well have eased the pressure on Arteta in that sense.

Arteta will have been desperate for his players to step up in the absence of Ozil and start creating chances for themselves, and Thursday night’s win was the perfect example of that coming into effect.

Something that was noticeable from Arsenal’s style of play against Dundalk was their desire to get the ball forward and test Rogers in the Dundalk goal.

Reiss Nelson in particular, who started on the right wing in a very attacking line-up, was a constant problem for the Irish side.

He was given the freedom to dribble with the ball and express his footwork in order to beat defenders, and was a nuisance throughout the game.

He was one of a number of youngsters brought into the side, as Arsenal’s young blood laid down a statement of intent amid a congested fixture calendar.

In the middle of the park, Joe Willock played on the right-hand-side of a midfield three – likely the position Ozil would have been played in had he been included.

The 21-year-old was always looking to get forward and join the attack, but refused to neglect his defensive responsibilities.

He rounded off a solid game with his first goal of the season for the Gunners, a fine finish after he pounced on a loose ball inside the area.

Because of his constant pressing and desire to be part of the attack, he was able to drift around to the back post and was in oceans of space as Pepe’s initial shot ricocheted into the air.

He had the time to bring the ball down before shimmying onto his right foot and blasting into the roof of the net.

Arteta should be delighted after Thursday night’s win, although Dundalk aren’t the most elite of opponents, he will know he has a comfortably strong squad capable of tackling the congested fixture calendar.

And thanks to Pepe and Willock, he might also be breathing a sigh of relief over his Ozil decision, too.

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