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Jadon Sancho sent Man Utd message, Paul Pogba transfer plan, Philippe Coutinho to Chelsea

Wednesday, April 1

  • Marcus Rashford wants Jadon Sancho at Manchester United
  • Philippe Coutinho could join Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham 
  • Paul Pogba is still determined to join Real Madrid 
  • Chelsea and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez has had informal talks with clubs
  • Kylian Mbappe to Liverpool won’t happen for one reason

Rashford sends Sancho message

Marcus Rashford has sent a not-so-subtle transfer message to England team-mate Jadon Sancho telling him to join Manchester United.

The Red Devils are keen on the Borussia Dortmund winger, who is rated at in excess of £100million, and are expected to launch a pursuit once the transfer window reopens.

“It would be good [if Sancho joined United],” Rashford said on an Instagram Live. “Sancho is a great player.

“He’s like the new generation player.

“It’s definitely exciting to watch the player he’s becoming — hopefully we can all play together. That would be good.

“He plays off the cuff. He’s imaginative.

“I think in this generation, they’re the things you need to be world class.”

Coutinho Premier League return

Philippe Coutinho to Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham is “possible” because of the player’s agent, according to Sky Sports transfer expert Kaveh Solhekol.

Barcelona want to sell Coutinho but are keen to recoup a significant fee for the Brazilian, which has poured doubt on Premier League clubs trying to sign the playmaker.

But Solhekol said: “Barcelona want more than £100m for a player who will be 28 in the summer. That means there will be little resale value for any interested clubs.

“Coutinho’s agent Kia Joorabchian has good contacts at Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.

“A move to those clubs is possible, but Barcelona would have to drop their asking price dramatically or it would have to be a loan with an option to buy deal.

“Interested clubs know that Barcelona want to sell him this summer. They know that it was a big mistake for Barcelona to spend £142m on him. I can’t see how this is going to end well for Barcelona.”

Mbappe to Liverpool a no-go

Kylian Mbappe would “destroy” the Liverpool wage structure if he moved to Anfield, claims European football expert Guillem Balague. 

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe has been linked with a move away from the French capital with Real Madrid targeting the France international but Liverpool are also reportedly interested in signing him.

“No [Liverpool won’t sign Mbappe],” Balague said on his YouTube channel.

“Obviously they like Mbappe but he would destroy the wage structure of Liverpool now.

“They’d have to invest a lot in getting him, so forget that one.”

Paul Pogba’s Real Madrid plan

Paul Pogba remains determined to join Real Madrid when the summer window opens, per 90min.

The France midfielder has endured a difficult campaign with Manchester United with injuries restricting him to just a handful of appearances.

But Real Madrid and Juventus have retained their interest in the 26-year-old and Pogba wants to join the former.

Pogba reportedly remains determined to link up with Zinedine Zidane, one of his idols growing up.

Juve, PSG and Bayern Munich are all keeping tabs on his situation, with Pogba out of contract in the summer of 2021, although United have the option to trigger an extra year in his deal.

Ceballos on Arsenal future

Arsenal midfielder Dani Ceballos insists it would be “irresponsible” to discuss his future at the minute.

The Spaniard is on loan with the Gunners from Real Madrid but will expectedly see out the season although his contract with the north London club ends in June.

Beyond that, there is uncertainty as to whether the 23-year-old will remain in Madrid or move elsewhere on a permanent deal.

“I finish my contract on June 30 but I would have to [continue to] play for Arsenal [when football resumes]. I don’t know how,” Ceballos told TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.

“It would be irresponsible from my side to talk about my future. The most important thing will be to be important for my new team.

“I came to Arsenal to be an important player but in the last month that all disappeared [due to the coronavirus].”

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F1 hailed over Project Pitlane as Mercedes, Red Bull and rivals help NHS fight coronavirus

F1 pundits Martin Brundle, Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button have hailed the efforts of the seven UK-based teams working to provide solutions to the coronavirus crisis. Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Williams, Racing Point and Haas have come together as part of Project Pitlane to develop and manufacturer medical equipment for the NHS.

Mercedes announced on Thursday that a breakthrough with University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospital had seen them produced the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device.

The reigning champions’ rivals are plugging away with their efforts, with F1 engineering expert Pat Symonds co-ordinating the project.

The F1 teams’ have now been praised, with former Benetton, Williams and McLaren driver Brundle believing the work is further proof of the sport’s innovative power.

“I’m really proud of F1, with what they’re doing,” Brundle told Sky Sports F1. “Having watched the whole saga in China and South Korea, I’m surprised we haven’t been asked to engage a few weeks before this.

“But it’s the whole essence of motorsport and Formula 1 in particular. The have a problem, a technical problem on a Sunday in a race [situation], have a solution by lunchtime on Monday.

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“You don’t convene meetings for later in the week. Get on to it and then have it in production by Wednesday because we have an absolute deadline at all times. And that’s the next time the start lights go out.

“So the can do, must do, will do sort of attitude. And I think applying that, as indeed companies like Williams and McLaren have done for years now anyway – applied technologies for transport and healthcare and all sorts of things that contribute to society.

“So it’s a perfect spot for Formula 1 to drop into and make things happen at the rate we are so used to them happening.”

Chandhok, who raced with HRT and Lotus in F1, says the teams’ efforts are being recognised as far afield as India.

“As Martin said, this is the amazing thing about Formula 1,” Chandhok said. “Delivering design and manufacturing within such a finite amount of time, sometimes between races.

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“You spot something on a competitor’s car and you’ve got to design it, manufacture it, validate it and then put it on to your car in three races’ time. We’ve seen that happen time and again on the track, so it’s great to see some of the most brilliant minds on the planet, [who] I believe work in our sport and we’re very lucky.

“It’s really important right now, because of the sheer scale, we need something like 30,000 ventilators in this country alone, it’s not the rest of the world that we’re looking at. So any solution they can come up with – Mercedes have gone down one path, Red Bull are looking for the next one along.

“I had a phone call this morning with a company in India who literally called me up to say: ‘Look, can you get in touch with F1? I’m willing to underwrite mass producing this in India. We’ve got 1.2billion people here. This is going to be a massive problem’.

“This is where F1 can help because we are a global sport. Yes, there are seven teams based in the UK and it’s a very UK-centric hub in terms of the engineering. But Formula 1’s a worldwide sport and I think we can help the world at large.”

2009 F1 champion Button, who now lives in California, has hailed the work and picked out Mercedes’ plans to produce 1000 devices a day as “unreal”.

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“It’s fantastic to see,” said Button. “There are some real brains in our sport. We also have the technology. We have the machines to build. And it’s really good to see them being used to help the millions out there.

“We’ve been entertaining millions for years and now we’re actually doing some proper good, which is really good. And I think it’s nice to see the whole community come together.

“And, churning out a thousand a day, that is unreal. There are not many companies around the world who can do that.

“Looking at what is needed in the States, in New York they’re hoping to have 140,000 ventilators. They’re nowhere that now, I think they’re at about 40,000. But our sport can do some real good here and I’m very proud of what Formula 1 is doing and what they can achieve.”

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Soccer

Mikel Arteta sends NHS message to Arsenal fans as he offers update after coronavirus scare

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has asked the club’s supporters to “try to help the NHS as much as possible” during the United Kingdom’s lockdown. There are now over 520,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide that have led to more than 23,000 deaths, including 578 deaths from over 11,000 cases in the UK.

That saw the country shut down for three weeks last Monday, with people urged to remain in their homes.

And Arsenal boss Arteta has relaid the message of the country’s government to respect the police-enforced lockdown, having suffered from COVID-19 himself.

The 38-year-old was the first Premier League figure to contract the flu-like illness, which led to the English top flight being postponed the following day.

The Spaniard has since fully recovered, but wants the Gunners’ fanbase to do their all to help the NHS, with the healthcare system expected to be stretched to the maximum in the months to come.

The UK government have urged people to only leave their homes to shop for basic necessities “as infrequently as possible” and to only take one form of exercise per day, either alone or with members of their household, to combat the spread of the deadly virus.

And offering a fresh update in an update on Arsenal’s official website, Arteta asked fans to do exactly that to try and “slow the process down”.

He said: “We are living in a unique situation, so I think all of us are trying to react to the situation that is coming on a daily basis and trying our best to overcome the situation.

“First of all I would like to send a message to all the people who have lost their loved ones, those who are suffering in hospitals, having difficult moments and are sick – we have a massive gratitude to everyone who is involved in healthcare, in hospitals, people in services, people trying to provide food, transportation, everything that is so relevant to us.

“And please to everybody [in the UK], we are a little bit behind other countries, for example Spain, where I know the situation they are living at the moment, and while we are having the opportunity a little bit to minimise the risk, I encourage everybody please to be responsible and stay at home as much as possible.

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“That is all we can do from our position, we don’t have the ability to help others in other circumstances, so please at least stay at home and do what is required.

“We have to try to help the NHS as much as possible and we have to give the opportunity to the elderly people who needs this more than anybody else to get the treatment they require.

“We have to slow the process down and the virus down, so please stay at home.”

On his own condition continued, Arteta said: “I am feeling completely recovered, it’s true I started having some symptoms when we got the phone call from the club to let us know that we might be exposed to the virus because of the owner of Olympiakos and in that moment… I don’t know, I felt something within me, that I had it.

“We had a game the following day against Manchester City, so I made a decision and called the doctor straight away and I asked him to drive home. I spoke with Raul [Sanllehi], Edu, Vinai [Venkatesham], Huss [Fahmy] and we set up a meeting together.

“I said, ‘Listen, we have a couple of players that have been exposed. There is a massive risk there and as well I am the first one feeling the symptoms, very clear symptoms.

“‘So if that is the case, all of the players and the people related to the club who are in contact with me on a daily basis are exposed. So we cannot make that decision, we have to speak to the Premier League, to Manchester City and we have to make the decision pretty quickly.'”

And the 37-year-old admitted he has been taken aback by how his colleagues have reacted in recent weeks.

Arteta added: “Well I’m really impressed and I feel proud of where I am.

“In difficult moments is where you really see the people and how they react, how they think and how they prioritise things.

“All the phone calls I’m having with all the members of the board and all my technical staff, all the coaching staff, all the players, how aware and how encouraged they all are to try to help, to try to be on board with the situation and to try to make things easier for the club has been amazing.

“To be fair I have to say that I’m very privileged to work with these people.”

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Racing

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari team-mate error slammed in Charles Leclerc, Kimi Raikkonen claim

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen’s time together at Ferrari should have ended earlier. That’s the verdict of former F1 team chief Flavio Briatore, who’s taken a swipe at the Finn while hailing Charles Leclerc.

Vettel has been the main man at Ferrari since 2015, when he filled the seat the departed Fernando Alonso had vacated.

The German, though, failed to replicate his World Drivers’ Championship-winning form during his first four seasons with F1’s most illustrious team.

It was not until his fifth season, however, that Vettel reached his lowest point since leaving Red Bull, where he won his four F1 titles.

Vettel was outshone by Leclerc who, having swapped teams with Raikkonen the previous winter, ended the 2019 campaign a place above his Ferrari team-mate in the final drivers’ standings.

Ferrari have since rewarded Leclerc with a five-year contract extension to show they’re placing their faith in him going forward.

Vettel, meanwhile, has been left to wait on a new deal, despite team principal Mattia Binotto insisting tying him down is a priority.

Briatore, who enjoyed immense success with Benetton and Renault during his career in F1, has now offered his verdict on Ferrari’s recent driver line-ups.

He’s claimed Ferrari made a mistake by sticking with Raikkonen and not promoting Leclerc from Sauber sooner.

“Leclerc is young, big balls, because he demonstrated it,” Briatore said, while appearing on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.

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“I believe if I was at Ferrari I’d put Leclerc already two years ago to replace Raikkonen because, you know, with Raikonnen, you go nowhere. You never win [anything] with him.

“At the time I [would have taken] the risk to put [in] Leclerc. Leclerc is a really, really strong guy.”

Briatore’s outlandish character made the Italian a divisive figure during his days in F1.

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes, though, that Ferrari could do with a leader like him right now.

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Ecclestone said: “They need someone in there who can make people understand that when you say something it happens. Not maybe. Or a discussion.

“I would have got Flavio Briatore to run Ferrari. Flavio would do what he always did with Benetton and Renault: he’d steal the best people from other teams.

“The problem is that in the end Flavio would have let people think Ferrari belonged to him.”

Vettel, Leclerc and Ferrari now face a wait until at least June to begin the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen the first eight Grands Prix of the year called off.

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Racing

Max Verstappen sets out Red Bull plan to end Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes dominance of F1

Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mates are eager to topple Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to become the new kings of F1. Verstappen is the hottest prospect in the world of motorsport and Red Bull locked the 22-year-old down to a new long-term deal which will run until 2023 over the winter.

The Dutchman’s not waiting around to set his sights on glory, though, and he wants this to be the year Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance of F1 ends.

Hamilton has won five of the past six World Drivers’ Championship titles to bring up his personal tally to six – just one shy of the legendary Michael Schumacher’s haul.

Mercedes also won the last drivers’ title Hamilton missed out on, with Nico Rosberg coming out on top in 2016 to, along with his replacement Valtteri Bottas, help contribute to their six successive World Constructors’ Championship wins.

Verstappen has now laid out Red Bull’s plans to knock Hamilton off his throne and end Mercedes’ reign in the process.

“You want to fight for the championship, so I hope we can,” Verstappen told Mobil 1 The Grid. “Looking at last year, we made really good steps.

“It’s now about, of course, putting all those things in place. In general, we always had a good end to the season so now we try to make sure that we start it well.”

Verstappen impressed during pre-season testing in February and he’s a big fan of the RB16 which Christian Horner’s team have developed for him.

“The car, so far, so far looks good,” Verstappen said. “It looks very racy again. We are happy with it.

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“I think what we’ve done over the winter time, we’re just starting to see if it’s enough compared to our competitors.

“Barcelona, mostly, is about testing the reliability of the car and just trying some things on the setup.

“But, especially the first week, it’s more important to just do a lot of laps.”

Verstappen had been set to begin his title fight in Australia earlier this month, only for the coronavirus pandemic to see the race cancelled and then wreak havoc on the first half of the 2020 season.

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Eight Grands Prix have been called off in all but Verstappen still has his mind focussed on making a strong start wherever the campaign gets going.

“One race is not gonna define what you’re gonna do for the rest of the season,” Verstappen said. “It doesn’t matter too much if you’re first, second or third.

“It would of course be very nice to win that race but as soon as you can see that we are competitive then it gets to be a very exciting season, even after only the first race.

“We want to win the championship this year. Everybody wants that and everybody is working very hard for that.”

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Sebastian Vettel to Renault door opens as Cyril Abiteboul makes Daniel Ricciardo statement

Sebastian Vettel might take Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at Renault next year after team principal Cyril Abiteboul opted against shutting down talk of the potential move. Vettel faces an uncertain future with Ferrari yet to tie up his future despite insisting he is the No 1 candidate to partner Charles Leclerc in 2021.

Vettel enjoyed the most successful spell of his F1 career while powered on by a Renault engine, with the French manufacturers supplying Red Bull for each of his four title-winning seasons.

Abiteboul has now recalled the partnership fondly and chose not to rule out Vettel joining Renault in Ricciardo’s place.

“I don’t want to say no because he’s a great driver, a great champion; we worked together on the engine part, we won together,” Abiteboul told French broadcasters Canal Plus.

“I aspire to work on the drivers of tomorrow rather than yesterday. It’s really hard to sum it up like that, please don’t sum it up like that on Sebastian.”

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Ricciardo, who was team-mates with Vettel at Red Bull, endured a disappointing first season at Renault as he and the team slipped down the drivers’ and constructors’ standings respectively.

Abiteboul admitted the Australian will be a wanted man in the driver market but suggested he’s not guaranteed a seat with Renault in 2021.

“[Ricciardo] should only be retained on a good basis – a shared basis,” Abiteboul said. “It’s the project that counts. It’s an answer without making an answer but I think we have to see the first races: have we taken a step [forward]?

“Are we getting back a little more confident than last year? Is he also continuing to integrate better into the team? And if we feel that we have a project that can last, why not?

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“[Ricciardo] will inevitably be very courted. There is going to be a subject, which is a calendar subject: I think that we, we would rather like to see, to take a little time for this analysis.

“I am afraid that things will happen very quickly, so we will have to be extremely alert in order not to lose these opportunities.

“But we have obviously started to discuss in broad outline, even if we have not expressed any definite wishes.

“But we still have a driver academy, drivers who may come out of it in 2021 or 2022.

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“We must also have that in mind because we created this academy in 2016 with the aim of releasing a driver in F1 in 2021. We’re going to be in 2021, we have to take it into account.

“Typically, there is Christian Lundgaard but he’s one option among others. He has his F2 season to do, we have our season to do with Daniel.

“I think Daniel is very attached to this choice with Renault, which has been very criticised by a certain press, British, which does not understand.

“This idea of building a project, humanly, technically, sportingly, is something that is close to his heart, he is someone who is [guided] by his emotions and he wants to show that he can be faithful to his choice, as long as it is demonstrated that it is a good choice.”

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Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher verdict dropped by Alain Prost as title warning sent

Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher cannot be compared because they have driven in different eras of F1. That is the verdict of four-time World Drivers’ Championship title-winner Alain Prost, who believes Hamilton is facing a battle to retain his F1 crown when the delayed 2020 season gets underway.

Hamilton underlined his status as the best driver on the grid last season by putting in dominant performance after dominant performance on the way to securing a sixth title.

The 35-year-old is now just seven wins adrift of Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 Grand Prix victories and would be well on the way to a seventh World Drivers’ Championship if he matched that feat.

Plenty of people in the world of F1 believe Hamilton has already surpassed Schumacher, while a whole host are adamant the German remains the sport’s greatest ever participant.

Prost, who drove for McLaren, Renault and Ferrari during his own storied F1 career, has now weighed in on the debate surrounding Hamilton and Schumacher.

While he would rather not compare the duo, he’s warned the Brit faces a fight to extend his reign at the top of F1 and match Schumacher’s race wins and title hauls.

“They are drivers of a different generation,” Prost told Dutch outlet NOS. “You should not compare them.

“What Hamilton has done with his team is without a doubt exceptional. Hamilton has a good chance [in the title race], but there will be more competition this season.”

Prost, who won his four World Drivers’ Championship titles during Bernie Ecclestone’s spell as the ruler of F1, is considered by some to have been a superior driver to Hamilton and Schumacher.

That is a belief shared by Ecclestone, who hailed the Frenchman, saying: “When they ask me who is the best, I always say Alain Prost. He barely had the support of a team in his day.

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“Today’s drivers get so much data from the engineers; they no longer have to think so much.”

Hamilton now faces a lengthy wait to resume his quest to match Schumacher and one day surpass the seven-time F1 champion.

The start of the 2020 season has been pushed back from March until at least the latter stages of May due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe.

The Australian and Chinese Grands Prix have been cancelled, races in Bahrain and Vietnam have been postponed and the same fate is set to befall May’s F1 meets in Holland and Spain.

May 24’s Monaco Grand Prix has been pencilled in to kick things off, but that is subject to change due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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How Arsenal could line up when Arteta has fully fit squad – Tierney starts, two big calls

Arsenal’s season being interrupted by the global coronavirus epidemic could allow Mikel Arteta to name his strongest possible side if the Premier League resumes its season in a few months’ time. But what might that XI look like?

The English top-flight campaign is currently scheduled to return on April 4, though there is serious doubt as to whether it will be able to do so given the ever-increasing spread of the virus.

Premier League clubs will meet next week for a second emergency meeting her the matter to discuss if they will finish the season, and how so.

Some suggestions are that with Euro 2020 set to be pushed back 12 months by UEFA, the league season could be concluded over the summer months, or even into the months when the 2020-21 campaign would begin.

And that would allow the Gunners to get back several players who are currently injured, not least the recently-sidelined Lucas Torreira.

The Uruguayan midfielder fractured his ankle in the FA Cup win over Portsmouth last month and was not expected back until May.

Arteta had said of the player’s season being over: “I wouldn’t like to rule him out.

“Lucas is really keen and would like to play again this season, whether that is realistic or not we will know in the next two or three weeks.

“It depends how the bone is healing and how he is doing with his rehab.”

But with it highly likely the Premier League season will be further postponed, Torreira could yet feature again this term – unless it is scrapped altogether.

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However, Torreira still does not make the line-up most likely to be used by Arteta when all of his players are fit and available.

Instead, former captain Granit Xhaka is the lynchpin of the Spaniard’s two-man midfield with Dani Ceballos trusted as the team’s orchestrator next to him, although Torreira is popular among supporters.

In defence, Hector Bellerin is the first-choice right-back although Sokratis Papastathopoulos has played in an unfamiliar role there.

But between the pair, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles also capable of taking up the right-back role but unfenced under Arteta, Bellerin is undoubtedly the favourite.

The Spaniard has not started week-in, week-out of late as he has battled a groin tear which he is having to take painkillers to play through, per reports.

At left-back, while Bukayo Saka has impressed while filling in there, Kieran Tierney is surely expected to be the long-term answer to the position once he can wrestle off his injury woes.

Signed for £25million from Celtic last summer, the Scot was an immediate hit with Gunners fans but has made just 11 senior appearances due to a hip injury and then a shoulder problem.

But the 22-year-old is a more balanced option than Sead Kolasinac and is capable of an excellent delivery from out wide.

At centre-back, the on-loan Pablo Mari has impressed in his first two matches under Arteta but the 37-year-old’s go-to duo has been the partnership of David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi.

The latter, once much maligned, has improved under Arteta and is likely to get the nod over Mari, although the Spaniard seems likely to be bought permanently from Flamengo for £8m at the end of the season.

Mustafi keeping out Mari is one of two big calls from the manager with Torreira being benched for Xhaka the other.

Elsewhere Bernd Leno, one of Arsenal’s best performers this season, is the obvious option between the sticks ahead of Emiliano Martinez and academy graduate Matt Macey.

The current team’s front four almost picks itself under Arteta, with Mesut Ozil now back in the picture having been exiled by predecessor Unai Emery.

Ozil is the team’s No 10 although he only has one goal and three assists from 23 appearances this season after just six goals and three assists in 35 games last year.

Contrast that with his previous seasons at Arsenal, producing 14 assists in both 2017-18 after 2016-17 and 20 the year before that, and it is easy to suggest the 31-year-old’s best days are behind him.

While Gabriel Martinelli has enjoyed a sublime inaugural season at the Emirates and Reiss Nelson has impressed of late, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang start on the right and left flanks respectively.

With Aubameyang out wide, Alexandre Lacazette should lead the line although now faces increased competition from Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah.

That eleven could change plenty by the time the 2020-21 season starts, however.

Predicted Arsenal XI under Mikel Arteta with fully-fit squad

(4-2-3-1) Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney; Xhaka, Ceballos; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette. 

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F1 chief Ross Brawn lifts lid on masterplan to save 2020 season from coronavirus wipeout

F1 chief Ross Brawn has confirmed foregoing the annual summer break in August and shortening race weekends down to two days might be the answer to dealing with the threat posed to the 2020 season by the coronavirus epidemic. The Australian Grand Prix followed April’s race in China in being axed on Friday morning – just hours before free practice was due to start in Melbourne.

Next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix and next month’s inaugural race in Vietnam have since been postponed due to coronavirus, with Liberty Media, F1 and the FIA now expecting to start the new campaign at the end of May.

That would mean postponing the Dutch Grand Prix – the first since 1985 – and the Spanish Grand Prix, with Monaco then providing a fitting place to begin the season on May 24.

Brawn has unveiled a masterplan to ensure too many races aren’t lost amid the chaos caused by coronavirus, with teams called upon to show flexibility to make the potential series of solutions work.

“Maybe we take a hiatus, we take a pause – and then we use that opportunity to say right, for this time at the beginning of the year we won’t have any races, we’ll look at relocating those races later in the year,” Brawn told Sky Sports F1.

“I think by freeing up the August break, we give ourselves several weekends where we can have a race. And I think we can build a pretty decent calendar for the rest of the year.

“It will look different, but it will still preserve a good number of races, and they’re exciting races. So the season’s going to start later, but I think it will be just as entertaining.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we can have a good 17-18 race championship or more. I think we can squeeze them in. But it depends on when the season will start.

“One thing we have been talking about is two-day weekends, and therefore if we have a triple header with two-day weekends, that could be an option.

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“I think what we need from the teams this year is flexibility, I think they’ve got to give some scope to do these things. Because we are in very unusual circumstances, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams.

“For sure we’re going to have a quiet start. I’m sure the teams will be flexible to allow us to fit those things in.”

The 2020 summer break is scheduled to run from after the Hungarian Grand Prix finishes on Sunday August 2 until the Belgian Grand Prix, with free practice for the race at Spa-Francorchamps due to begin on Friday August 28.

The races in Bahrain, Vietnam and Holland are understood to be the most likely to be rescheduled on the available dates that month, with the Australian, Chinese and Spanish Grands Prix left on the scrapheap.

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Max Verstappen warning fired to Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes F1 dominance branded ‘boring’

Max Verstappen is coming for Lewis Hamilton’s F1 title, according to the sport’s former supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Verstappen has been tipped to secure World Drivers’ Championship glory ever since he made the step up from Toro Rosso to Red Bull and won his first Grand Prix driving for them.

The 22-year-old is expected to take the fight to reigning champion Hamilton over the course of the 2020 season – the start of which has been delayed due to the impact of coronavirus.

Speaking ahead of the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, which was due to take place in Melbourne on Sunday, Ecclestone warned Verstappen represents a threat to Hamilton’s hopes of retaining his title.

And the 89-year-old tipped the Dutchman to one day surpass Hamilton, who is one World Drivers’ Championship away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record haul.

“[Hamilton] is very motivated to win his seventh world title,” Ecclestone told Dutch outlet NOS. “But there is someone who can and will beat him later. And that is Max Verstappen.”

Hamilton has played an integral role in making Mercedes the dominant force in modern-day F1, with five of his sixth titles coming during his time on their books.

The Silver Arrows have won drivers’ and constructors’ title doubles for the past six years, leading some to suggest the sport has become boring.

Ecclestone sympathises with that assessment, but admitted it provides the opportunity for a challenger to come up and knock the champions off their perch.

“That dominance has positive and negative sides,” Ecclestone said. “It can be boring. ‘Mercedes wins anyway’, is often the thought. The best car usually wins and that has always been the case in Formula 1.

“But it’s also good that you have someone like Lewis Hamilton. Compare him to the boxer Muhammad Ali. People want to be there when big champions are beaten. So they can say I was there.

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“The question is: Who is going to beat Hamilton? Not just winning from him, but who will give him driving lessons?”

Verstappen faces a wait until at least May before being able to start his 2020 title challenge, with the first four races of the season cancelled or postponed.

F1 chiefs pulled the plug on the Chinese Grand Prix due to the coronavirus outbreak last month, while the Australian Grand Prix was called off just hours before free practice was due to begin.

Next weekend’s race in Bahrain and April’s meet in Vietnam were axed on Friday, with May’s Dutch and Spanish Grands Prix in danger of being wiped off the schedule too.

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