The 27-year-old arrived at the Emirates Stadium on January transfer deadline day in an £8.5million deal from Malaga. The defender produced solid displays in his first taste of Barclays Premier League action against Stoke and at Sunderland, before showing glimpses of his forward ability when his run and cross set up a late winner for Santi Cazorla against Aston Villa. Wenger is confident with time, Monreal will provide another outlet to the Gunners’ many attacking options, and he said in the March edition of the official Arsenal magazine: “The first thing you want from your defenders is to defend well, so we cannot reproach him for that. You will see the other aspects of his game more when his confidence has settled.” Press Association He added: “He is good in the air for a guy of his size, has a quick leap and has looked good. Monreal is very strong in other areas too, his crosses for example, and his forward play you will see a bit later. “It happened with Kieran Gibbs too, the more confident he became the more efficient he was going forward. It can take a bit if time to express that side.” Wenger continued: “There is no better culture shock than to play against Stoke and Sunderland. “He has not said a word to me about it, but he has spoken with the other players and he has seen all about the passion and commitment of the English game. You can say Nacho Monreal passed that test.” Gibbs has been sidelined with a thigh injury sustained in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool on January 30 – which gave Arsenal little time to hasten a move for Monreal. Wenger had been on the Spaniard’s case “for a long time”, and was happy to have landed “one of our big targets”. The Arsenal manager admits the January window was a testing period for the club, who came under criticism for not spending big despite obvious shortcomings on the pitch. “We had a difficult first six months of the season, because we were trying to extend the contracts of all the British players. That demanded a lot of work and then we had to deal with the (Theo) Walcott situation as well during January,” Wenger said. “”So personally I am relieved because we dealt with the situation and we extended all of our players (contracts).” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels Spain international Nacho Monreal will soon develop into as potent an attacking threat down the flank as he is reliable at the back.
“They are not bad people there. I wouldn’t say Southampton supporters are nasty, aggressive people. They’re not. They’re good supporters and they’ll give me a bit of grief but that’s life. I accept that. I will just get on with. I won’t lose any sleep over that. I will only lose sleep if the result is bad.” Anything but victory for QPR could prove disastrous for a side already seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Premier League. That is where Southampton ended the 2004-05 season under Redknapp but he insists he has a clear conscience. “Listen, no one was more upset than I was that the club got relegated that year,” he added. “When I went there were four teams cut adrift by miles and we just couldn’t get out of it. “I gave everything I had and that’s all you can do. You can look yourself in the mirror. No one tried harder than I did. You can only give your best at the end of the day. You are relying on players. I have said when I have been successful and done well at Tottenham, it is about good players. That is what the game is about. “If you’ve got good players, it is an easy game. You send them on the pitch and off they go. They perform week in, week out. It’s easy and the better players you’ve got the easier the job is.” QPR manager Harry Redknapp will not be losing any sleep over the hostile reception awaiting him at Southampton on Saturday, insisting he has no regrets ahead of his first return to St Mary’s. Saints suffered relegation from the Barclays Premier League eight years ago under the supervision of Redknapp, who then quit to re-join bitter rivals Portsmouth a matter of months later. That period still rankles with many Southampton fans, who will no doubt make their feelings known when he brings bottom side QPR to the south coast tomorrow. “Listen, I will get a bit of grief, won’t I? But what can you do? That’s no problem,” he said. Press Association
McDermott was sacked this week, with nine Barclays Premier League games remaining of a relegation fight the Royals still have a chance of winning. Ferguson is amongst those who feel McDermott had done a good job, pointing out he was January’s manager of the month following a run of impressive victories. However, he simply doesn’t understand why there should be a change at this point, with McDermott now joining Mark Hughes and Nigel Adkins as managers who have lost their jobs immediately before a trip to Manchester United. “The timing is surprising,” said Ferguson. Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson cannot understand the timing of Brian McDermott’s axing by Reading. “If a new manager comes along, they can’t buy anyone. What he has got he has got. “If they had done it in December or January maybe I would have understood it because it would have given a new manager time to bring players in during the window.” Even then, Ferguson would have been scratching his head. Having offered McDermott advice earlier in the season, the United boss feels by any measure, the former Chelsea coach has been a success at the Madejski Stadium. “He spent something like £1.2million and £7.4million has come in, so financially he has been successful,” added Ferguson. “He also got them promoted to the Premier League. I don’t know what more you can do. “He was manager of the month in January – I hope I am not manager of the month this month.” Press Association
Pulis has stressed the importance of the crowd – even if they are criticising him – giving their backing to the players, and was delighted with the level of support. The manager, whose team moved up to 10th, said: “We played very well at Newcastle last week (in a 2-1 defeat) and two outstanding goals cost us the game, which was disappointing. “But I thought the response from the crowd was brilliant (in the West Brom match). There has been a lot of people moaning and groaning, or so I have been told, but they turned up and right from the first whistle to the last there was a very positive feeling around the ground, and that was very good for the players. “It has been seven years that we have been pushing on, and you get good times and you get bad times.” Those who were watching the match did not get much in the way of entertainment. After West Brom captain Chris Brunt had a fifth-minute strike saved by Asmir Begovic in a fairly bright start for the visitors, Stoke were the better side for the remainder of the first half. But they struggled to create any real clear-cut opportunities, with a deflected Jon Walters shot that spun wide being their closest attempt. The standard improved slightly after the break, but neither side looked likely to break the deadlock as Baggies frontman Romelu Lukaku and Stoke’s Peter Crouch failed to convert headers, before Potters substitute Kenwyne Jones passed up a good chance in stoppage time by prodding straight at Ben Foster. Foster has returned to the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Montenegro, almost two years after making himself unavailable for national team selection. West Brom boss Steve Clarke said: “After Ben came back (in December) from the second groin operation he had, it took him three or four weeks to get himself up to speed, but I think since then his performances have been top-level. He has made himself available for England, which can only be good news for them.” Stoke manager Tony Pulis has praised the club’s fans for creating a “very positive feeling” around the Britannia Stadium during his side’s 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw with West Brom. The Potters went into the Albion contest off the back of three straight defeats and having suffered a total of seven losses in their last nine top-flight fixtures, and there has been some discontent from the Stoke supporters in the wake of the 1-0 defeat to West Ham on March 2. But Pulis said: “What you need when things are not going very well is people to support you and get behind you, and they were fantastic on the terraces.” Press Association
Press Association “We’ll see how she gets on, if things went well we could look at something like the Prix Vermeille.” Paul Deegan’s Midnight Soprano has to carry a penalty having already won the Noblesse Stakes over course and distance this season. Last time out she was not disgraced when beaten just over four lengths in the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock. “She’s got a penalty, but this race has been the plan for some time,” said Deegan. “She’s very well but it looks like Venus De Milo will be very hard to beat given how well she ran in the Oaks. The ground will be in our favour, though. “We had her entered up over hurdles at Galway as she’s a natural jumper. Ruby (Walsh) came to school her and she could have run at Galway but we thought we’d stick to the original plan. We’ll get this race out of the way then she’s in the (Irish) Leger Trial (Curragh, August 24) and the Leger itself and then we might think about going hurdling. “She’s a superstar mare and we normally sell them to go hurdling but we’ll keep her. I only had one runner over hurdles last year (Mr Lando) and it won.” As well as Venus De Milo, Aidan O’Brien also runs Beach Of Falesa, while Jim Bolger saddles Bunairgead. Dermot Weld is represented by Sleeping Beauty, with John Murphy’s Kiss Goodnight completing the field. The lightly-raced filly did not see the racetrack as a two-year-old but is quickly making up into a smart performer, taking second place in the Curragh Classic on just her third career outing. Unbeaten in two starts prior to that, Aidan O’Brien drops her to Group Three level before hopefully raising her sights again. O’Brien said: “She has been in good form since the Oaks, although we haven’t done a lot with her. I’m happy with her and we’re going for this hoping to win a Group race with her. Darley Irish Oaks runner-up Venus De Milo could book a trip to Longchamp with a victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes at Cork on Tuesday.
“I was letting the round get away from me somewhat, but making four birdies on the last seven holes was nice to sort of redeem the round a little bit and keep myself in the tournament,” said the world number three, who has been watching videos of his eight-shot triumph at Kiawah Island to gain inspiration. “It makes me feel good because maybe in the middle of the season or a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have been standing up here. I would have been going home. “It’s good to be able to do that and fight back and makes you feel good about yourself going into the weekend. Walking up the second hole, which was my 11th hole today, all I wanted to do is be here for the weekend. All of sudden, I’m somewhat back in the tournament. “If I get off to a fast start tomorrow I’m right there.” Press Association McIlroy, who won five times last year but has recorded just one top-three finish in 2013 since his controversial equipment change in January, looked set to miss his second major championship cut in succession. The 24-year-old was five over par after 11 holes of his second round but birdied four of the next six to add a 71 to his opening 69 and finish level par, seven behind clubhouse leader Adam Scott. Defending champion Rory McIlroy’s thoughts turned from survival to revival after an excellent recovery in the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as Ireland manager is over after defeat in Austria effectively ended the nation’s hopes of World Cup qualification. Here, we take a look at some of the contenders for the vacancy. MARTIN O’NEILL Press Association Former Sunderland boss O’Neill is available after being shown the door at the Stadium of Light in March. The 61-year-old Northern Irishman has already been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite, although it is understood he had not been contacted before Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at the Ernst Happel Stadion. MICK McCARTHY It was McCarthy who took Ireland to the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East, where then skipper Roy Keane’s differences with the Ireland set-up infamously came to a head. The current Ipswich boss had more than six years in charge of the country for which he played, and like O’Neill, the 54-year-old would enjoy popular support if he was appointed. CHRIS HUGHTON Hughton, 54, remains a hugely popular figure in Ireland, for whom he won 53 senior caps. An accomplished coach, he has established an enviable reputation as a manager after first stepping into the limelight at Newcastle, whom he guided back into the Barclays Premier League following relegation, and has impressed at both Birmingham and current club Norwich since. ROY KEANE For many, Keane would be the perfect man to shake things up with his no-holds-barred approach to the game. Currently working as a television pundit, the 42-year-old Cork man cut his teeth as a manager at Sunderland, winning promotion to the Premier League at the first attempt, and later guided Ipswich to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Luke Shaw has reiterated his long-term commitment to Southampton amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. United and Chelsea are being regularly linked but the teenage left-back insists his future remains on the south coast. “I don’t really take notice of things that are written about me – it is frustrating at times, but I just laugh it off,” Shaw told Southampton’s official matchday magazine. “They (the media) don’t know anything because they aren’t around the training ground and in the dressing room with me. “They should know that I’ve signed a contract at Southampton and I’m not even thinking about moving. “I am happy at Southampton because I’m playing football, which is exactly what I want to be doing. “There are a lot of people out there that like to twist things – especially on social media – but I’ve said a lot of times that I am happy here, so I’ll just carry on. “I think people are starting to realise what sort of a club Southampton is. We are young and ambitious, and we want to go places in the next couple of years.” The 18-year-old academy graduate is considered one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League and has been tipped as a future England international. Shaw’s growing profile has seen speculation mount over his future, despite the England Under-21 international penning a five-year deal at St Mary’s in the summer. Press Association
Afterwards, Pellegrini said he had seen enough to confirm Hart will face Liverpool. He said: “We don’t know what will happen in the future, today, what Joe did I think he did it well. “We’ll see what will happen, every match we can play with different 11 starters, but at the moment Joe will continue to play in the next game. “At the moment he deserved to play today and he also deserves to continue. “When I put (Costel) Pantilimon in the starting XI I spoke with Joe and he understood that he was not in a good moment. “Maybe seven games after, one month after, he’s working very hard, and I thought that he deserved another opportunity, and I think he did it well. “It was a tough decision (to change the goalkeeper) because we were winning. I think Pantilimon was doing well also but I thought that this game was better for Joe to play. “I think that we have a squad, and I have to make the decision every week who will play, not only Joe Hart.” Hart made his first Premier League start since October 27 in City’s 4-2 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage. The England goalkeeper was helpless to stop Vincent Kompany’s looping own goal drop into the net as Fulham clambered from 2-0 to draw level in the second half, before City replied with late goals from Jesus Navas and James Milner to take the win. Joe Hart will keep his place in the Manchester City side for the Boxing Day clash against Liverpool after making his first Premier League appearance in almost two months against Fulham, manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed. City had eased into a 2-0 lead after half-time thanks to Yaya Toure’s free-kick and a goal at the right end for Kompany. But things changed after the break as the strong winds which had been behind City’s backs in the first half began howling in their faces. “It was a really difficult match: the pitch wasn’t good and it was very windy,” Pellegrini added. “Fulham are a tough team at home and they defend very well. “We started well but after slipping back Navas and Milner made huge contributions.” Kieran Richardson got Fulham’s first before a bizarre own goal from Kompany, who sliced what should have been a routine clearance up and over Hart. Pellegrini praised his players for not panicking when Fulham levelled the match. He said: “We had at least three clear chances to score more goals and normally when you miss chances the other team will score. “The second goal was very bad luck, and it would be impossible to repeat. “These things happen and I think the reaction of the team was very important, to go forward again to try to win.” Dimitar Berbatov suffered a groin problem on Friday, and Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen admitted he chose not to risk the Bulgaria striker with the busy festive schedule in mind. Meulensteen said: “Unfortunately he kicked a ball wrongly in training which aggravated something in his groin as far as I’m aware. “So we had a good look at it, we assessed him, and actually assessed him this morning as well. “And unfortunately he was too big of a risk. With all the games coming up I didn’t want to take the risk of having to start Berbatov in that position and maybe him have to come off and then you lose him for the other games.” Meulensteen said Fulham continued their trend of praiseworthy hard graft without reward. He said: “It’s the same story as the Spurs and Everton games. “The goals that we concede, from set plays, it’s not good enough defending, especially the one just before half time. “I was hoping the experience would kick in a bit from some of these players, to steady the ship.” Press Association
Press Association The 56-year-old, once touted as potential future England manager, can understand the decision, even if he is “disappointed” by the outcome. “There was a change of manager who decided he wanted to bring his own staff in, and that is always a consequence of managerial changes,” Curbishley said on Sky Sports News. “I understood it, I respected it, but I was a little bit disappointed because – when I went into Fulham – the role I had was something the club needed. “Rene had never been a manager before and I was there to advise and offer my opinion on things, as was Ray. “There are some inexperienced managers in the Premier League such as Tim Sherwood at Tottenham and Garry Monk at Swansea, so there is a role for ex-managers to be mentors. “But unfortunately it only lasted seven weeks. “The owner decided after the Liverpool game he was going to make a change. “Rene will be disappointed, as it was his first stab at management, because the two games previously against Manchester United – where we drew – and against Liverpool, when we led twice, we felt the tide was turning a little bit.” The Cottagers took the dramatic step of replacing Rene Meulensteen last week with the German coach, who also decided assistant manager Ray Wilkins and first-team technical director Curbishley would leave the club under a clean break from the old regime. Former Charlton boss Curbishley had only returned to football just before Christmas when taking up a new role at the west London club. Alan Curbishley would have liked more time to try to help Fulham stay in the Barclays Premier League, but has no doubt new manager Felix Magath believes he has “all the tools” needed to pull off a survival battle. Magath’s first match almost ended in victory at West Brom, but a late mistake from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg saw them end up with a 1-1 draw which leaves Fulham still bottom of the table. However, the Cottagers are only four points from safety. German coach Magath has a reputation as a strict disciplinarian, but Curbishley sees no reason why the three-time Bundesliga winner should not make a successful transition to England. “He was a fantastic player, top class, been there, done that and won most things,” Curbishley added. “He did the double with Bayern Munich and is full of confidence, and believes he has the tools to make Fulham survive.” Ashkan Dejagah scored for Fulham at West Brom. The Iranian had worked with Magath at Wolfsburg, winning the Bundesliga in 2008-2009. Midfielder Dejagah believes the German will have his men fired up again for the west London derby against Chelsea at Craven Cottage next weekend. “I have known him for a long time,” Dejagah said on the club’s official website, www.fulhamfc.com. “It was a good week in training before West Brom, all the sessions were good. “We need to do the same this week and we’ll see what happens against Chelsea.”