Mikel Arteta felt there was "a lot of disconnection" when he took over at Arsenal late last year.

A former captain of Arsenal, Arteta was named head coach in December last year, replacing Unai Emery.

Arteta, who oversaw eight wins and six draws from 16 games in charge before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, said it was difficult to find the club in the position it was in.

"Obviously coming into the club in that moment wasn't easy, but you mentioned a key word which is energy," he told club great Ian Wright in an interview for Adidas.

"I felt that the energy at the training ground, the stadium, wasn't right for this magnificent club and I've been here.

"I was lucky to play here so everybody has to feel first of all in that way and there was a lot of disconnection in many areas and I wanted to bring everybody together.

"First, to understand how lucky we are to be here and then a very clear direction of where we want to be."

Arsenal were ninth in the table, eight points adrift of fourth, when the Premier League season was suspended due to COVID-19.

Arteta said he was eager to return to action, but feels education around coronavirus would be key.

"I think the hardest thing is going to be to educate the players and everybody involved at the training grounds and matchdays that this is different," he said.

"We have to be very strict with the protocols. Common sense will dictate when we can go to the next step and the next step and the next.

"We cannot rush it, we are all aiming to play, we need to play, we are willing to play, it's important for us, for the society, for the economy.

"We have that responsibility so we just have to be ready whenever they say go ahead, open that door and hit the gas."

Discussions relating to the return of Premier League football have been held in "constructive meetings", according to the United Kingdom government's foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

The Premier League has been on hiatus for almost two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted much of the world and brought professional sport to a standstill.

'Project Restart', as it has been dubbed, is being planned by the Premier League, as decision-makers look to determine the best way to resume matches.

According to reports, numerous ideas are being considered, such as playing the remaining matches behind closed doors at neutral venues, while Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor has suggested matches could even be shortened.

Raab confirmed the government has already held talks with sporting bodies with regards to allowing athletes and players to resume training, and while he suggested discussions are going well, he stressed safety is the priority.

"I think it would lift the spirit of the nation," Raab said in the government's daily briefing on Tuesday.

"The government has had constructive meetings with sports bodies over plans for athletes to resume training when it's safe to do so.

"The culture secretary has also been working on a plan to get sports played behind closed doors when we move to the second phase.

"We can only do it when the medical and scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably, but that is certainly something under active consideration."

The UK has had almost 195,000 confirmed cases of the virus, while the death toll has reached 29,427, the largest total in Europe.

Andre Villas-Boas has eased the worries of Marseille fans who interpreted a recent social media post as a farewell but insists he will not stay at the club if they cannot match his ambitions.

Former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham coach Villas-Boas moved to Marseille at the start of the season, replacing Rudi Garcia after he could only guide them to a fifth-place finish.

An improvement under Villas-Boas was not instant, as they won just four of their first 12 matches of the season across all competitions, but a 16-match unbeaten run followed.

That helped propel them to what would be their final position in the Ligue 1 table, as Marseille were confirmed as runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain last week when the 2019-20 season was cancelled.

A recent Instagram post by Villas-Boas saw him pay tribute to his players, the fans and the club's hierarchy for bringing him to the club, which some supporters interpreted as a potential goodbye.

Although Villas-Boas was adamant that was not his intention, he also stressed he will not stay at Marseille if he does not like the project.

"In the world of football there are several good coaches, it is not with this second-place finish that I will become the best coach in the world, nor the worst," he told RMC Sport.

"I remain as I am. I already said at a press conference that you could find me [in a few months] closer to the Dakar desert [competing in the Dakar Rally] than to a Premier League club or elsewhere. I have ambitions that are limitless geographically - I still have to do Japan, I want to discover Japanese culture and Japanese football.

"I say it sincerely, I'm fine in Marseille, I don't want to look for other clubs or other options. I want to play the Champions League with Marseille, but I want to know how much we are economically dependent on our project.

"That means, if we don't have the conditions to do a good job, it is not worth it, I think. It's normal for a coach to seek such assurances. I think Jacques-Henri [Eyraud, Marseille president] will have answers, like Andoni [Zubizarreta, sporting director] and Frank [McCourt, club owner] will, obviously.

"Then, if there are differences between us, Jacques-Henri and I are honest enough to say.

"On my side, I am open, but it is necessary that we have the opportunity with Andoni to have a quality transfer window, in conditions that will not be the best, but that will allow us to be competitive. We are not so naive as to forget the economic situation of the club.

"[I just want to] understand where we are going, understand how much we can make in investments, if the club wants me, or if it does not want me, and in this case no problem."

Whenever English football is able to resume following the coronavirus pandemic, things will undoubtedly be different.

Spectators are seemingly unlikely to be inside stadiums to see the action unfold, while Premier League players and staff may need to be quarantined away from families for their safety. Seasons may still be played out to a conclusion, but just not when we quite expected on the calendar.

However, could shorter games also be the future?

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor suggested as much during an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday.

"We don't know the future, what we do know is what propositions have been put, what ideas have been put, the possibility of having more substitutes, games possibly not being the full 45 minutes each way," he said.

With Taylor's comments causing quite a stir on social media, Opta worked out how the Premier League table would look right now if teams had played 80-minute matches instead - and the revised standings made for interesting reading.

 

Liverpool still remain well clear at the summit, of course, yet their 25-point lead over Manchester City would be whittled down to 15. The top four remains the same as the current table in terms of positions, though Manchester United close the gap to Chelsea for the final Champions League spot.

Arsenal receive a welcome bump up from ninth to sixth after gaining three points, just ahead of Crystal Palace and comfortably clear of rivals Tottenham, who slip into the bottom half.

Not going for the full 90 works out nicely for Aston Villa and Bournemouth, though, as they gain six and four points respectively to climb out of the relegation places. Watford are another to benefit, moving further clear of danger.

The team to suffer under the change are Newcastle United, as a deduction of seven points sees them slip to 19th, sandwiched by Brighton and Hove Albion and Norwich City. The Canaries do actually add five points to their current tally, yet still prop up the rest.

Such a scenario is hardly Taylor made for potential new owners at Newcastle, although they would still have games to play to get out of trouble.

Dean Smith says Aston Villa could be without two players if the Premier League season is able to resume.

Football remains suspended in England amid the coronavirus pandemic, although the Premier League has been looking at ways to get back playing as part of plans they have termed "Project Restart".

Matches played behind closed doors and possibly at neutral venues have been discussed with some reports suggesting games could begin again by June 12.

Villa boss Smith discussed the complications around resuming on Sky Sports' 'The Football Show', explaining one player in his squad is asthmatic and another has a vulnerable family member living at his home.

"Everybody wants to get back into training but they also want to see what the medical protocols are first," he said. 

"There's a certain risk attached to the return to training for all players and I think they want to make sure they tick the boxes so it's safe to do so.

"We've got a player who is asthmatic, we've got a player whose mother-in-law is in remission and living with the family. You have to be very careful, certainly the transmission knows no boundaries.

"From what I'm told, we have to be led by the government at the moment. There's a lot of hypothetical questions out there at the moment but until we get the guidance from the government about how they want to move forward out of this lockdown there are a lot more questions than there are answers at this moment.

"The players' health and safety is paramount and if they're not comfortable to return then you have to return without them, when it's safe to do so. 

"We have to listen to our players, we have to listen to their concerns. If the protocols say we can move forward then the ones who can do will do so."

Villa were 19th in the table, two points from safety but with a game in hand prior to the suspension of the league.

Cancelling relegation from the Premier League this season would outrage Championship clubs, according to Rick Parry, the EFL chairman.

Parry added that the 2019-20 campaign needs to be finished by July 31 for sides outside the top flight.

Former Liverpool and Premier League chief executive Parry was giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Professional football in England has been suspended since March, with Parry revealing that clubs below the top flight are facing a £200million shortfall by the end of September as a result.

"Our end date realistically is 31 July because of the situation with contracts," said Parry of when the season needs to come to a close. "We can't go beyond July.

"Players and staff have been furloughed and to expect clubs to bring them back in now, to forgo the furlough, only to then find in a month they can't play would be a complete mess.

"We need within days to be taking decisions.

"We have a great deal of uncertainty around next season and the undetermined matter of when we'll be able to return with crowds, which for the EFL is absolutely critical.

"We're much more dependent upon the revenue and atmosphere generated by crowds than the Premier League."

Some Premier League clubs are reportedly uneasy about the competitive disadvantage of playing behind closed doors at neutral venues as they battle relegation, believing the drop into the Championship should be taken off the table.

However, Parry said: "The Premier League is aware of our position on that. There would be a degree of outrage from a number of clubs in the Championship and it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement."

Parry added that "lawyers are going to get wealthy" if relegation is scrapped.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth were in the relegation places when the season was halted. West Ham and Watford were only outside the bottom three on goal difference, with Brighton and Hove Albion two points clear of the drop.

Gordon Taylor has revealed playing less than 45 minutes per half has been proposed ahead of the return of football in England.

There has been no professional football in England since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and players' union boss Taylor does not envisage a return until at least the middle of June.

The Premier League launched 'Project Restart' in a bid to conclude the 2019/20 campaign, with games potentially played at neutral venues in England or even overseas.

World governing body FIFA has proposed increasing the number of substitutions in an attempt to ease players' workload, with the prospect of a hectic schedule to come if the action gets under way again.

Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Taylor says reducing the duration of matches has also been discussed.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't know the future, what we do know is what propositions have been put, what ideas have been put, the possibility of having more substitutes, games possibly not being the full 45 minutes each way.

"We've talked of neutral stadiums, there's lots of things been put forward, try and wait and see what the proposals are and then have the courtesy to let the managers and coaches and players come to a considered view."

Taylor believes it would be unrealistic to expect games to take place before the middle of next month.

He added: "I wouldn't expect games to be played, if everything was positive and promising, you wouldn't be thinking of matches being played until around about the middle of June."

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero said players are "scared" to return and Taylor stated it is their choice over whether they take to the field.

The long-serving PFA boss said: "Sergio is a top-class player and is entitled to his opinion of course.

"It's not a question of being scared, it's a question of being fully informed and for the relevant authorities to try and make sure it's as safe as it possibly can be to return, and to pick out any particular statements or choose any parts of that process is not really fair until we've looked at the whole menu."

Taylor added: "They are professional sportsmen and professional sportswomen and of course they are concerned about their own safety, they are not stupid and neither are they naive, so they have to be satisfied that it is safe to return and it is their choice."

Eduardo Camavinga, Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba have been among the names linked to Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid want to strengthen their squad.

However, Madrid's recruitment is reportedly not that straightforward.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PRIORITISING SALES

Real Madrid must sell before they can buy players as the LaLiga giants eye the likes of Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Madrid and their transfer plans have dominated headlines, but the report claims the Spanish powerhouse have to reduce the size of their squad amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been linked with moves away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Tuesday's Diario Sport reports Barcelona are "very close" to signing Inter star Lautaro Martinez. The LaLiga champions are willing to pay €60million up front, plus two players. It comes as Marca claims Arturo Vidal is happy to leave Barca.

- The Guardian says Liverpool have stalled their pursuit of RB Leipzig star Timo Werner. The Champions League holders reportedly told Werner's representatives that the club need more time due to the COVID-19 crisis.

- Mundo Deportivo says Neymar has turned down a €100million proposal from Paris Saint-Germain as he looks to return to Barca.

Thomas Partey wants to swap Atletico Madrid for Arsenal, according to The Telegraph. The Ghanaian has also been linked to Manchester United.

- Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is set for talks over a new deal, according to the Daily Mail. Madrid and PSG are believed to be monitoring the situation.

Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks has suggested a large number of Premier League players are opposed to playing games behind closed doors.

Over recent days, reports have emerged detailing aspects of 'Project Restart' – the fledgling plans to restart England's top flight at neutral venues without fans present, ideally by mid-June as the game aims to return despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But England international Winks feels any games would be significantly diminished without the presence of supporters.

"It's a possibility of course and that could happen. It's probably something that not every Premier League player wants to do," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It's a strange situation not having the fans there. That's what makes football, that's what makes the atmosphere.

"It's what everybody plays for and lives for, it's for the fans. When you can't hear chanting, when you can't hear the crowd it's going to be a strange situation."

Winks experienced something similar when Croatia were forced to play their Nations League home game against England behind closed doors in 2018 and he was not a fan.

He said: "We had it last season with Croatia away and it was a very strange situation to be involved in.

"It's not something that I like and I know a lot of players feel the same way. It's not something that anybody really wants to do but if it's the necessary action that's got to be done, it has to be done."

Spurs captain Hugo Lloris concurs with Winks but also feels a compromise will have to be reached due to the economic pressures that the lockdown is placing upon clubs.

"It will be weird wherever it happens. Football is not a closed-door sport," he told L'Equipe.

"Without spectators, it is not the same sport. This is not how I see football. We are here together, to share our emotions. We all want full stadiums, with atmosphere, fans, colour and songs.

"But we must take the context into consideration. There are major economic issues that need to be understood at the level of clubs and federations. Everyone has to find the right compromise between health above all else and the need to finish this season."

Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius has "terminated" his two-year loan spell at Besiktas amid a disagreement over the payment of his wages.

Karius has been with the Turkish Super League club since August 2018 but announced the end of his stay in an Instagram post on Monday, saying "it is a shame it comes to an end like this".

The 26-year-old will return to Anfield having racked up 67 appearances for Besiktas across all competitions.

He reported Besiktas to FIFA last month, the second time he has done so due to a clash with the club over alleged unpaid wages.

Karius' departure ends a stay that had previously been tipped to end in a permanent transfer.

"You should know that I have tried everything to solve this situation without any problems," Karius added in his post, which was accompanied with a video of some of his memorable moments with Besiktas.

"I was very patient for months telling the board over and over again. Same things happened already last year.

"Unfortunately they haven’t tried to solve this situational problem and even refused my suggestion to help by taking a pay cut."

Karius, who joined Liverpool from Mainz in 2016, did express his gratitude to the Besiktas players, coaching staff and supporters.

"It's important to me that you know I really enjoyed playing for this club a lot," he said.

"Besiktas can be proud having such passionate fans behind them always giving amazing support. You always supported me in good and bad times and I will always remember you in the best way!

"Also I want to say thank you to all my team-mates, coaching staff, including all people working for the club. You welcomed me with arms wide open from day one – thank you so much!”

Paul Pogba should be a target for Inter if they have the financial capabilities to put a deal together, according to Nerazzurri great Giuseppe Bergomi. 

Manchester United star Pogba has long been linked with an Old Trafford exit with Real Madrid and former club Juventus thought to be chief among his suitors.

Inter coach Antonio Conte, who worked with Pogba at Juve, has done plenty of business with Premier League clubs since returning to Italy, bringing Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Christian Eriksen and Ashley Young to San Siro, while Victor Moses cut short his loan at Fenerbahce to link up with his ex-Chelsea boss.

Bergomi, who won a Serie A title, a Coppa Italia and three UEFA Cups during his glorious Inter career, thinks Pogba fits the profile for the kind of talent the club ought to be targeting.

"If you have the economic strength to go and get him, you have to do it immediately," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's true that he hasn't been at his best in recent seasons, but he would return to a football he knows well. 

"He doesn't need to adapt and could immediately leave a mark. Beyond his technical abilities, with the physique he has, he would still be dominant in Serie A.

"There are few players like him around. Pogba is 27 and would return to Italy in time for his last leap in quality."

Pogba's first stint in Italy saw him win four Serie A titles and the Coppa Italia twice, while he played under Conte for two seasons in Turin before the coach departed to take over Italy's national team.

"Conte can bring out the best in him, like in the past," Bergomi added.

"For Inter, it would be a coup to help them challenge immediately, but I guess they will have to sacrifice something. 

"If they aim to build something for the long run, I remain convinced about the idea of investing in players like [Sandro] Tonali or [Manuel] Locatelli."

Bruno Fernandes says he has modelled his game around that of Barcelona great Andres Iniesta, while Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo are his biggest footballing heroes.

The midfielder has impressed since signing for Manchester United from Sporting CP during the January transfer window and is already a favourite among the club's supporters.

Former Brazil star Ronaldinho and his Portugal team-mate Ronaldo were two players the 25-year-old idolised growing up.

It was playmaker Iniesta, though, who Fernandes revealed he has attempted to model his game on the most.

"The one I liked to watch and follow was Iniesta, because Iniesta is a mix between an eight and a 10," Fernandes told United's official website in a question and answer session.

"It is the way I can play better, between eight and 10. It is the guy who always likes to have the ball, take the risks, and I think Iniesta was one of the best in the world. 

"How Iniesta finished his career without the Ballon d'Or, with everything he won, it is difficult for me to understand!"

Of his heroes when he was younger, Fernandes added: "I have a lot of players I like to see. For example, in my first few years, the player I think is the one everyone liked and always will like is Ronaldinho. 

"For me, he is the player with the capacity to take you and put you in front of the TV, and you will stay for hours. For hours! Because he had that energy and happiness. 

"He was happy in everything he did. You enjoy it when you see guys playing like that, so for the first few years Ronaldinho was my favourite player. 

"After this, I have already said that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the players. As a professional player, he is the best you can follow."

Japhet Tanganga thinks it is unfair to suggest Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho does not give young players a chance.

Spurs defender Tanganga, 21, was given his professional debut by Mourinho in January's Premier League match against leaders Liverpool.

He feels there is past evidence of the ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager giving other youth players the opportunity to make a breakthrough, despite critics often hitting out at the Portuguese's record in that department.

"Even before, I'm pretty sure that when he was at Real Madrid, Raphael Varane was very young and in the team," Tanganga told reporters.

"The same at United, Scott McTominay came through there.

"He's the same as every manager – they want to give young players a chance but it's up to the young player to show them they're capable of coping in whatever league they're in, Premier League or LaLiga.

"It's not just down to the manager wanting to play you, it's down to the young player showing the determination to the manager that they want to play as well.

"He has taught me a lot. In training he's given me a lot of information, a lot of details, ways to improve. How to defend one v one, how to defend set-pieces or work in wide areas and at corners. 

"He's given me a lot of information and I feel playing right-back and left-back has added to my game and allowed me to be adaptable and defend in all areas of the pitch, not just at centre-half.

"He has really been very helpful."

Tanganga has remained part of Mourinho's plans and now has 11 first-team appearances to his name, with an England call-up another of his targets having previously played at youth level for his country.

He added: "In life you have to have goals and one of my goals is to be capped at senior level for England. For me, all I can do is what I can on the pitch and leave it with the England manager to select me.

"All I'm doing at the moment is following the guidelines and waiting for the government to decide when we can go back to football or not. Right now, that's all I'm focusing on.

"Fikayo [Tomori] has done that and now I'm in a similar position. I see it as an opportunity and an example to follow and hopefully one day I can get capped and achieve one of my goals."

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes will become "the biggest enemy" of any friend he has when they line-up against one another.

Fernandes joined United from Sporting CP in January in a deal worth up to £67.6million (€80m) and played a role in seven goals (three scored, four assisted) in nine appearances before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Portugal international was named the Premier League Player of the Month for February, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying he had brought an "X-factor" to the club.

Fernandes' strong mentality has been highlighted publicly by Solskjaer and team-mates including captain Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay.

Asked for the word that best describes him as a player, Fernandes told United's official website: "Warrior - because for me every game is a battle. You need to go out to the game and just understand you need to beat your opponent.

"You play with all of the respect, because you need to have respect for your opponent, but you need to beat them. If you don't beat them, they will beat you.

"It doesn't matter who is on the other team. If it is a friend, because I have friends playing in the Premier League, I don't care. At that moment I will be the biggest enemy they can have."

Fernandes made his United debut just two days after signing a five-and-a-half-year contract at Old Trafford, playing the full 90 minutes in a goalless draw with Wolves, and he was touched by the welcome he received from the supporters.

He added: "It is difficult to say just one thing that is inspiring about Manchester United.

"Going out at Old Trafford, everybody knows about the stadium and the atmosphere. But when you have the kit of Manchester United, all red, with your black shorts, and you feel the atmosphere of the stadium, and you feel everything, you feel the support of your fans, it is something special. 

"For me, for example, when I came from Sporting, I arrived and I was in Manchester for two days. I played against Wolves and they already had a song for me.

"I had just arrived and the fans already gave me the support I need to be confident and be at home. I think this is the most important thing, that atmosphere and love you feel from your supporters."

Neymar seems eager for a return to Barcelona – and he is reportedly prepared to show just how keen he is.

The Brazil international has been linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he left for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

But amid doubts over whether Barca could get a deal done, it seems Neymar is ready to make a huge sacrifice.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARED TO CUT SALARY IN HALF FOR BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar would cut his salary in half to return to Barcelona but wants guarantees, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says Neymar has rejected a renewal offer from Paris Saint-Germain as he eyes a return to the LaLiga giants.

Neymar scored 18 goals in 22 games for PSG this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ligue 1 later called off.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are making their move. The cover of AS says Madrid have made their first approach for Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, the 17-year-old they reportedly see as a substitute for Casemiro.

- Linked with a stunning move to Liverpool, Kalidou Koulibaly could find it hard to leave Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli are unwilling to negotiate a lower price for the star defender, who is also said to be a target for Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. Napoli have been reported to want £90m (€102.4m) for the defender.

- Luka Jovic has struggled in his first season at Real Madrid, leading to transfer talk. But Mundo Deportivo reports Madrid are maintaining confidence in the forward for at least one more season despite links to Newcastle United.

- With Thiago Silva seemingly set to leave, Paris Saint-Germain are targeting Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti as his replacement, according to Sport. Silva is out of contract at the end of the season and Umtiti has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

- A player linked to Barcelona is Tanguy Ndombele. However, The Telegraph reports the midfielder is determined to stay at Tottenham despite the LaLiga giants' interest.

- There could be plenty of movement at Barcelona, but Sport reports the club want to keep Carles Alena, 22, while Riqui Puig, 20, is set to get his chance with the first team.

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