FM

Oct 112013
 

Tonight, Robin van Persie became Holland’s top scorer after finding the back of the net twice in the first half against Hungary.

With 40 goals, the Manchester United striker had scored as many times as Patrick Kluivert has for the Dutch national team.

In August 2012, Kluivert joined the Netherlands national team coaching staff and was on the touchline this evening to celebrate with Van Persie.

In the second half, Van Persie competed his hattrick, to make him the outright top scorer for Holland.

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Jul 252013
 
Giggs and RvP

The 2013/14 Premier League season is set to explode back into our consciousness in just three weeks time and what a campaign it promises to be. Fans all over the globe are eagerly rubbing their hands at the prospect of a catalogue of intriguing storylines, controversial incidents, stunning goals and surprise packages over the next nine months whilst teams, managers and players will all be looking to create a new slice of history in what is arguably the most gripping league in the world.

Here’s a look at where the biggest talking points could arise along with a few predictions.

Title Race/Top-4 Contenders

The title race represents a tantalising prospect this upcoming season as it is widely expected to be a compelling contest with as many as six teams in the mix for English football’s top prize. Numerous managerial changes signal a dawn of a new era making for a hugely competitive, yet unpredictable, campaign. Three of last year’s top four teams have made switches in the dugout this summer, with all eyes on David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini inManchester, whilstChelseafans will be hoping that the return of the “Special One” can end the wait for the team’s first title since 2010.

Defending champions Man Utd, along with Man City and Chelsea, will be the main contenders for the top honour, however, a rejuvenated Arsenal will be looking to mount a serious challenge, while the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool – providing they can keep hold off their star players Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez – will be determined to secure a top-4 finish at the very least, which only  adds to the unpredictability at the top.

Everton cannot be ruled out of a place in the top-four either. New boss Roberto Martinez has boldly proclaimed his ambition to propel the Toffees into a prized Champions League spot, but will need to make a couple of astute signings as well as holding onto his star names, in order to achieve this challenging goal.

Top 10 Finish

The other top-flight teams will find it difficult to break into the top-seven, which leaves three remaining places for a creditable top-10 finish. The likes of West Brom andSwanseawill be looking for top-half standings once again, while there is a real sense of optimism on the south coast atSouthampton, with their highly rated boss Mauricio Pochettino setting his sights on a European place.

Meanwhile north east rivals Sunderland andNewcastlewill be eager to make a vast improvement on last season’s relegation battles. Nothing is ever dull with Paolo Di Canio at the helm, while Joe Kinnear’s return to Tyneside is sure to make for an interesting season ahead for Magpies fans.

Elsewhere, Fulham and West Ham together with Aston Villa will be hoping to challenge but they too must show marked signs of improvement on the 2012/2013 campaign.

Relegation Battle

The frantic fight for survival in one of the most competitive leagues in the world is always a thrilling, yet nerve-shredding, affair.Norwichand Stoke endured difficult run-ins last season and could be in danger of losing their top-flight status in 2014, however, as is usually the case, the three promoted clubs have been installed as the favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship.

CrystalPalacehave a woeful record in the Premier League having suffered relegation in all four of their seasons at the top. Under charismatic boss Ian Holloway they will be looking to rip up the history books and cement their place in the top-flight for a second season, which will be easier said than done.

Hull are also expected to struggle, while money-bags Cardiff have the potential to conjure up a surprise or two, providing they splash the cash, although as QPR found out that method can prove chaotic and ultimately costly.

However, if you delve into the recent records you’ll find that between 2001 and 2011, at least one of the three promoted teams has survived the first season in the top flight, while in 2011/12 QPR, Norwich and Swansea all miraculously survived, whereas both Southampton and West Ham avoided an instant return last season. The question therefore is, which ofCardiff,HullandCrystalPalaceare capable of continuing that trend this term?

Top Goalscorer Contenders

As always, the race to win the Premier League Golden Boot will be hotly contested amongst the top flight’s best strikers and last year’s winner Robin Van Persie will be looking to become the first player since Thierry Henry to win the prestigious award for the third time in a row.ManCity’s Sergio Aguero, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney are also in contention along with last year’s surprise package, Aston Villa’s Christian Bentake, Daniel Sturridge andManCitynewcomer Álvaro Negredo.

LMA Manager of the Year

Having won it twice in the past three years, Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement opens up the door for another manager to win the prestigious LMA Manger of the year award. Due to the amount of managerial changes, this looks set to be a very competitive and Fergie’s replacement David Moyes and his cross-city rival, Manuel Pelligrini, have to be fancied along with Jose Mourinho, who amazingly never won the gong in his previous three year stint atStamfordBridge.

Surprise winners in recent years include Alan Pardew (2012) and Roy Hodgson (2010), which provides hope for those gaffers outside of the top six and it would be no shock if Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez, Paolo Di Canio or Steve Clarke emerged victorious next May if they can guide their respective teams to a successful campaign or cup run.

New Signings

There have been a number of exciting new additions to the Premier League so far and there are sure to be some more signings before the transfer window slams shut at the start of September.ManCityfans are looking forward to seeing the hugely talented Jesus Navas and Fernandinho plying their trade in the Premier League, while Tottenham have snapped up Paulinho. There will no doubt be a couple of me marquee signings in the pipeline, with the futures of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and Christian Benteke still yet to be decided.

Goal-line Technology

At long last goal-line technology, in the form of the hawk-eye system, will be employed for the first time next season. In recent years a spate of controversial incidents and referee/linesman howlers have forced the league’s big wigs to finally act. Hopefully we can look forward to a fair and unproblematic process, although there is bound to be an odd contentious moment as is always the case with technology.

Premier League 2013/14 Predictions

Chelseato win the Premier League

Robin Van Persie to win the Golden Boot

Stoke to get relegated

Southamptonto finish in the top 10

November to be the month of first managerial departure

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Jul 202013
 

Manchester United earned their first win of the pre-season when they beat Australian A-League All Stars 5-1 in front of 84,000 fans in Sydney.

Robin van Persie was a second half substitute for United and scored the fifth goal of the game after youth products Jesse Lingard and Danny Welbeck scored the earlier four goals.

Patrice Evra was replaced by Fabio da Silva in the second half and gave the captain’s armband to Van Persie.

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Apr 262013
 

PFA Player of the Year

Jack Howes – Bale

As a Spurs fan, obviously I am biased when it comes to who I think deserves Player of the Year. I’m as biased as a parent on sports day, or a member of the FIFA committee deciding which country to give a World Cup to who’s just been handed a suitcase by a member of the Qatari delegation that suspiciously feels like it has hundreds of thousands of dollars in it.

But this season, after watching one man consistently pull off heroics, having a Doctor Who like penchant for digging his team out of bigger and bigger scrapes, there’s only one man for me. For consistency of performance, for his ability to grab games by the scruff of the neck, for having a portfolio of goals sufficiently high in quality to make Matt Le Tissier or Tony Yeboah blush, I’m voting for Gareth Bale.

In seasons past, while Bale was an excellent player, he still had a tendency to be bullied out of games and was perhaps too reliant on his pace. When Spurs beat Inter Milan in the Champions League and Bale had given Maicon the sort of roasting you usually see sausages get on barbecues, I was still at school and in the 6th form common room heard someone say about his display “He wasn’t very good. All he did was kick the ball past the defender then run past everybody.” While this was obviously ludicrously simplistic, there was perhaps an element of truth to it.

This season though, that’s not the case. He has shown genuine skill in the way he goes past people, being a real twinkle toes at times. He has been helped by Andre Villas-Boas playing him in different positions, keeping the opposition off guard, though many times this season, you knew what Bale was going to do – and the opposition still couldn’t stop him. That’s how good he’s been. His pace, dynamism and athleticism has been such that teams have just not been able to keep up with him.

The variety of goals he’s scored has also been mesmerising. There have been fantastic dribbles, tap ins, headers, free kicks, thirty yard screamers, dinks, the lot. All that, and he isn’t even a forward, playing for a side sorely lacking goals in other positions. He truly has carried Spurs at times this season, and while Luis Suarez has done the same for Liverpool, Bale comes with the advantages of not being found guilty of racist abuse and not being a possible cannibal.

For those reasons, Gareth Bale is my PFA Player of the Year

Rob Marrs – Luis Suarez

I’ve always had a soft spot for Michael Carrick and would like to see him win but can’t say he has been the best footballer in the league this season. That is a three-way battle between van Persie, Suarez and Bale.

For all his many sins, Suarez has dragged Liverpool along this season – unlike van Persie he isn’t surrounded by world-class players but he has scored a huge amount of goals. He’s a dynamo and, in my view, has played the best football in the league this season. I think Michu can feel a little hard done-by not being nominated

Ramon Isaac – Robin van Persie

Juan Mata in my opinion is the best footballer and my favourite footballer in the premiership at this very second and it was always going to take something special for me to consider anyone else for the Player of the Year award, unfortunately, to the detriment of my emotional health, I’m going to say this… Robin Van Persie managed that something special and he done in it with a Manchester United team, that has won the league in spectacular fashion. I was skeptical about his move to Manchester United, not that I didn’t think he would do well but I wasn’t sure what he would offer a team that already had so much threat going forward. Well, 24 goals later and I think he’s proved me wrong. Of course the game is not just about the stats but they are pretty conclusive when you look at them. Question marks over whether he could replicate last season’s form, whether he could last a season, was he even worth the £24million they forked out on a player in the last year of his contract? They’ve all been answered with a resounding yes. They obviously aren’t a one man team but they owe a lot of this league’s success, which just happens to be their #20th, down to Van Persie’s goals and the quality of some his strikes have been simply brilliant. There is an air of inevitability when he scores and even with that baron spell he endured, I don’t think anyone doubted it would last much longer and even by then the damage had been done to the rest of the challengers. Goals against Chelsea, Arsenal, City He’s been the standout player for the runaway leaders, so with that in mind Van Persie gets my vote, just, ahead of Mata. I love you Juan.

Rob Pollard – Robin van Persie

I know his form has tailed off slightly in recent weeks, but I genuinely feel he has been the difference for United this season, and has therefore been the key component in United winning the title. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if City had signed him, we’d have won the league. He’s that good.

Ashley Perry – Robin van Persie

Robin van Persie should be awarded PFA Player of the Year. Despite Manchester City’s dwindling efforts this season that have left United with a remarkable lead, RvP won the title for the Reds. The former Arsenal man grew weary of fruitless campaigns at the Emirates and was hungry to win. Simply put, van Persie brought the 20th League title to Old Trafford just like he said he would.

PFA Young Player of the Year

Jack Howes – Christian Benteke

Yes, I have voted for Gareth Bale as PFA Player of the Year and he is also nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, so using simple logic he should win that award too.

But frankly it’s silly that Bale’s nominated for Young Player of the Year – he’s an experienced player now with close to 200 first team appearances in his career, who is a known commodity. This award should surely be those for who are a surprise package, who in football years if not actual human years are still youthful. As such, I disqualify Bale and vote for the guy who I think genuinely deserves it, Christian Benteke.

This may be a surprise choice, as he’s not the household name his fellow nominees are. But this season he has been an absolute powerhouse, carrying a shit heap of a team virtually on his back at times with remarkable renown. He has had little service, arrived in a country he’s never played in before to play for one of the worst teams in the league, and instead of faltering like almost anyone else would, he’s shown star quality to score goal after goal, many of them beauties. The man is dynamite at times with the ball at his feet.

And though he’s been criticised for being inconsistent – he’s playing for Aston Villa for god’s sake. He’s spent the season feeding off scraps, with next to no help. Try scoring goals when you’re being battered 8-0 by Chelsea, 4-0 by Spurs, 5-0 by Man City, with all of your teammates in your own half, trying and failing to stop the opposition scoring even more. It’s impossible, whether your Lionel Messi or the best kid in the playground at school.

Benteke has been magic, not only scoring goals but coming up with some sublime assists too, creating 10 more chances than any other Villa player this season. He has been their talisman, the fulcrum of their side. For the manner in which he’s done this, considering his lack of experience and the dismally low quality of the team he’s playing for, he gets my vote for PFA Young Player of the Year.

Rob Marrs – Romelu Lukaku

I think Bale will win but I don’t think he should win. He’s nearly 24! Lukaku has shone for an unfashionable team and has, at his best, been unplayable. I think Nastasic at City should have been nominated as should Rafael.

Ramon Isaac – Christian Benteke

The Young Player of the Year happens to be eerily similar to the main award. I wanted to pick Hazard, I really did he’s been phenomenal in his first season here in England, sadly he also finishes a close second. I’ve omitted Gareth Bale because there is no way he should be considered as a young player anymore despite whatever the FA guidelines might be. If you’re turning 24 before the next season, you aren’t “Young” unless your name is Ashley or Luke of course. Back to the award, I’ve picked one Belgian who had his first season in the league, over another. Christian Benteke signed for Villa with no real fanfare, if I remember correctly he hoped to score “7” goals for Villa this season. He’s amassed 15 so far, for a club that quite frankly at times has looked incapable of scoring 15 goals all season and he’s done it with a relative lack of fuss. He’s strong, athletic and has generally been a nuisance to defenders trying to mark him. He’s even keeping fellow Belgian starlet, Lukaku out the national side. He has been a revelation and a bargain buy for the club that desperately needed someone to step up with Darren Bent becoming anonymous. If Aston Villa do survive they can thank Benteke, if they go down I can guarantee they will be saying “bye bye” to him.

Rob Pollard – Gareth Bale

He’s carried Spurs during much of the second half of the season. His goals have been brilliant to watch, and he’s a constant threat. Sandro’s injury was a huge blow to Spurs, but Bale’s form has meant they have managed to keep pace in the race for top four.

Ashley Perry – Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke should win Young Player of the Year after a hugely valuable impact in his first season at Aston Villa. The powerful Belgian has scored the highest % of a club’s goals in the Premier League this season. Villa were threatened with relegation, but Benteke has saved Paul Lambert’s side and the striker is now highly-sought among Europe’s top sides. Big things to come.

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Apr 132013
 

Fernando Torres has now scored 20 goals for Chelsea this season, a goal tally that betters the likes of Wayne Rooney (16), Carlos Tevez (16), Olivier Giroud (16), Sergio Aguero (14), Dimitar Berbatov (13) and Eden Dzeko (13), yet he is still widely regarded as a flop after the £50m Roman Abramovich forked out for him.

After just 1 goal in his first season and 11 in his second, Chelsea fans admirably stuck by the Premier League’s most expensive player and offered him their full support during this difficult period.

“I would like things to be much better but the support they give me every day is amazing,” Torres said a year ago. “I remember a game against Wolverhampton and I was on the bench, and they were still singing my name. I’ve been very lucky to live very good moments but that game, when I was in the middle of nothing and not playing, was maybe the best memory I have in all my career. At the beginning of the season, I went through a hard moment, I was not playing, things were wrong and I was eight games without playing – I had never been in this situation before. The only thing that gave me hope was the support of the people. That game against Wolverhampton showed me there are important things to fight for, the love of the fans, the support of the club. My team-mates as well but the fans are the ones who have always been there from the first day until now.”

When you consider how infrequently Torres was scoring for Chelsea it was remarkable to see how well supported he was by the fans. When you compare the treatment of Torres by Chelsea fans to the treatment of Dimitar Berbatov by United fans, when he was the Premier League’s top scorer in the season they won their record breaking 19th title, it’s all the more impressive. Of course, it was in their best interest to try and get the best out of their £50m man, but football fans are fickle and many turn on their players for much less. What seemed to be Torres’ saving grace was that he at least appeared to be trying, even if he wasn’t coming up with the goods.

However, in Torres’ third season in West London, with him still failing to recreate his form at Liverpool, now often not putting in the required effort, and becoming associated with the dismissal of the incredibly popular Roberto Di Matteo and the appointment of the incredibly unpopular Rafa Benitez, Chelsea fans have slowly turned on him.

At the beginning of the year, following yet another poor performance, Torres was booed and jeered by the fans at Stamford Bridge during their game against Swansea. It was his 100th appearance for the club, with a goal tally of just 26, and this latest lacklustre performance was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Chelsea fans.

Still, after racking up 20 goals this season, Torres is two goals away from matching his tally for 2009-2010 with Liverpool, having already bettered his 2008-2009 record, meaning this season could become his second highest goal-scoring season in the six years he’s played in England. So, just how deserving is he of criticism?

Aside from the slating he’s received for a lack of effort, the quality of the opposition he’s scored against takes something away from his goal tally. Just 7 of his 20 goals have come in the Premier League, against Reading (20th), Sunderland (17th), Aston Villa (16th), Norwich (14th), Newcastle (13th) and Arsenal (5th). Of those 7 goals, only those against Arsenal and Sunderland had a direct impact on the final result.

The remaining 13 goals came in Cup competitions. In the League Cup he scored the fifth in a 6-0 win over Wolves (20th in the Championship) and the fifth in a 5-1 win over Leeds (17th in the Championship). In the FA Cup he scored a late equaliser against Brentford (3rd in League 1) to force a replay and again in their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough (9th in the Championship). In the Champions League he scored twice in the 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland (2nd in the Danish League). In the Europa League he scored in the third in a 3-1 win over Steaua București (1st in the Romanian League), but more importantly, scored twice in their 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan (5th in the Russian League) and again in their 3-2 defeat against the same club in the second leg, which ensured they progressed to the semi-final on goal difference. He also scored in the 3-1 win over Monterrey (7th in the Mexican League) in the FIFA World Club Cup semi-final. This would suggest that Arsenal, who are currently 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United, are the best side he’s scored against this season, which isn’t anything to write home about.

When you compare Torres to strikers at other clubs (and Demba Ba since he joined Chelsea), a clearer picture of his flaws begins to develop.

Torres scores, on average, every 5+ hours that he’s on the pitch, which is a poor record compared to others, with the likes of Dzeko, Suarez, Van Persie and Rooney scoring every 2+ hours. Another huge flaw is his clear cut chance conversion, with him scoring just a quarter of the chances that are put on a plate for him, which is dwarfed by the likes of Suarez, Rooney, Tevez and Dzeko who score half of their chances. Torres’ passing isn’t dreadful, but it is still weaker than most other top club strikers.

Where Torres shines is his ability to get his efforts on target, with a shooting accuracy of 57%, but he isn’t deadly enough in front of goal so isn’t converting these chances.

In conclusion, whilst any season a striker scores 20+ goals can’t be regarded as a poor one, the quality of the opposition and the lacking effort in most of his appearances means it’s probably too little too late for the Spaniard. With Radamel Falcao managing 28 goals in 33 appearances this season and 36 goals in 50 appearances the season before, you can understand why Chelsea would be keen on shipping Torres back to his former club and luring the Colombian in his place. They may be cutting their losses and the £50m spent on Torres may ensure that he goes down as one of the Premier League’s biggest ever flops, but Chelsea fans can take some comfort in the fact that at least they didn’t spend £35m on Andy Carroll…

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Nov 032012
 


Van Persie/André Santos @SpheraChannel by SpheraChannel

Whilst Arsenal fans responded to Robin van Persie like a bunch of bitter ex-girlfriends, it appears as though the players at his former club are more forgiving.

“Robin, you’re a c*nt” and “Robin van Persie, you know what you are” (?) were sung loudly from the stands, as well as replacing his name with Santi Cazorla’s for the song they used to sing for Van Persie.

It appears as though the players and manager don’t hold a grudge though. Ahead of kick-off, Jack Wilshere and co. shook hands with and embraced Van Persie’s before Andre Santos asked for his shirt at half-time. Arsene Wenger was also seen hugging the player as they walked to the tunnel, at that stage, with Van Persie’s goal the only thing separating the two sides.

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Sep 042012
 

The Premier League threw up its usual amount of excitement and quality again this weekend.

1. Ben Arfa (Newcastle v Aston Villa)

2. Podolski (Arsenal v Liverpool)

3. Dembele (Spurs v Norwich City)

4. Van Persie (first) (Man Utd v Southampton)

5. Van Persie (third) (Man Utd v Southampton)

So there are 5 brilliant goals for you to choose your favourite in the poll below.

Which was the best goal?

View Results

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Aug 172012
 

It was announced this afternoon that Robin van Persie will wear Manchester United’s number 20 shirt this season, following speculation that he might be given Dimitar Berbatov’s number 9, despite the Bulgarian still being at the club.

Who else has worn this shirt and what did they win when they wore it?

1993-1994: Dion Dublin

Premier League: 1

1994-1995: Terry Cooke

1995-1996: Gary Neville

Premier League: 1
FA Cup: 1

1997-2007: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Premier League: 6
FA Cup: 2
European Cup: 1
Intercontinental Cup: 1

2007-2012: Fabio Da Silva

Premier League: 1

2012-?: Robin van Persie

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Aug 162012
 

It was reported last night that Manchester United and Arsenal have agreed a £24m fee to take last season’s Premier League top scorer to the North West.

This is the fourth time in seven years that Arsenal’s captain has left the club, with Van Persie following in the footsteps of Patrick Vieira (Juventus), Thierry Henry (Barcelona) and Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona).

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Jul 252012
 

Not since the days of Pierre van Hooijdonk have we seen the threat of industrial action loom over English football like it has in the last few days. That’s not entirely true; there have been strikers before and since. Who can forget Carlos Tevez’s golfing tour of Argentina (apart from Mancini of course)? But van Hooijdonk’s actions are the ones that stick in my mind the most in current times. During the pre-season, angered that his club had not strengthened the team and were now reneging on a promise to let him go, van Hooijdonk took matters into his own hands and simply walked out. It all sounds eerily familiar.

Van Hooijdonk lost that battle, Nottingham Forest stuck to their guns and the player came back, but it was never the same. His teammates refused to celebrate with him, the fans had turned on him and with his indifferent form Forest found themselves relegated. Arsenal and Spurs may not have to worry about the threat of relegation just yet but if the claims are true and their star players are on the verge of mutiny, if not already there, it’s a huge blow to the North London teams.

Arsenal’s mutineer in question is of course the lethal Robin Van Persie; Mr “Scores when he wants”. Unfortunately for the fans that revered him, he may not score WHEN he wants but likely will score WHERE he wants. With just a year left on his contract, RVP has indicated he has no intention of signing another and Arsenal’s bargaining position has been left desolate as circumstance. RVP has been extremely injury prone, a fact his team’s fans had ignored all season until it dawned on them he was leaving, he’s 29 years old and he’ll want a big payday.

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Jul 092012
 

The day after England crashed out of Euro 2012, Daniel Taylor, chief football writer at The Guardian, wrote about England’s inability to keep possession and how this would cost them in the long term. It wasn’t the first time this problem was mentioned though, with an article making exactly the same point following England’s draw with France.

“I don’t regard statistics, especially possession statistics, as being particularly important,” Hodgson said after the game, which was fairly alarming. Whilst too much emphasis can be put on statistics at times, particularly when they are manipulated to prove a particular point, surely it has to be regarded as important to look at how often a player on your team can find another member of his team when picking out a pass.

Still, England are never going to be Spain, so can reaching the quarter finals, after losing to eventual finalist Italy on penalties, be considered an achievement? Taylor shares his thoughts on the matter.

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Jul 052012
 

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has a history of categorically stating that players will not leave the club, only for them to request a transfer and sign elsewhere shortly afterwards.

This summer’s players were Robin van Persie and Alex Song and they are the latest of a long line of ex-Arsenal players that the manager was certain would stay.

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