Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta will miss Chelsea's Champions League clash with Bayern Munich after limping off in Saturday's 2-1 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.

Captain Azpilicueta pulled up with a hamstring injury five minutes after giving away a penalty that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted to kickstart Arsenal's comeback.

And Pulisic, the scorer of Chelsea's early opener at Wembley, also made way four minutes into the second half with an identical issue sustained as he was charging through on goal.

Pedro then suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder late on and Frank Lampard has ruled the trio out of next Saturday's last-16 second leg with Bayern, which Chelsea will start trailing 3-0 on aggregate.

"I don't know the full extent of the injuries, but I know its the hamstrings with Azpi and Christian," he said at his post-match news conference.

"They have to be scanned and assessed over the next few days. They clearly won't be fit for next week."

Pedro, who was given oxygen as he was stretchered off the field, is expected to join Roma on a free transfer when his Chelsea contract expires later this month.

"I believe it could be a dislocated shoulder but don't go too soon on that," Lampard said when asked for an update on the forward's condition.

"I've not seen him yet as he was whisked away so it's a disappointing end as that's probably going to be his last game for Chelsea.

"He's been an incredible servant and I'm disappointed for him."

Chelsea got off to a flyer through Pulisic's fifth-minute strike but Aubameyang added to his penalty with an impressive second to take Arsenal's record tally of triumphs in the competition to 14.

The Blues' hopes of scoring an equaliser were dented by a controversial second yellow card shown to Mateo Kovacic for a challenge on Granit Xhaka.

Replays showed Kovacic barely made contact with his opponent and Lampard questioned referee Anthony Taylor's decision to reach into his back pocket.

"The penalty was rightly awarded, but it wasn't a sending off, that was pretty clear," he said.

And Lampard insisted on another day the outcome could have been different for Chelsea, who finished fourth in the Premier League in the club legend's first season in charge.

"Today was not about not showing up. We made a great start and had control of the game," he said.

"Then we got sloppy and got slower in our game and that changes the tone of it. 

"If Christian goes through and scores instead of pulling his hamstring then things are different, although we didn't play well enough.

"I can't criticise the players and their approach in their desire to win this game. We can't be stuck on today - we have to look at the season."

Aubameyang ultimately proved the difference in the all-London final and Lampard admitted his side's defending could have been better on the day.

"He's scored two goals, one of those being a penalty which he earns," he said.

"I was clear with the players about the threat of Arsenal's long balls behind them. We allowed him in easily.

"Aubameyang's a top-class player. His second goal showed his ability. In moments like that Aubameyang can finish you off."

Mikel Arteta thanked Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola after Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final to give the head coach what he described as the best moment of his career.

Arteta left his position as City assistant in December after three years alongside Guardiola to take over from Unai Emery at Emirates Stadium.

The 38-year-old has enjoyed a successful first campaign at Arsenal, culminating in Saturday's win at Wembley to take their record tally of triumphs in the famous competition to 14.

And Arteta, who becomes the first Arsenal boss to win a major trophy in his first season in charge since George Graham in 1986-87, was quick to laud Guardiola.

"He has been a key figure in my development as a coach," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"He has my gratitude. I wouldn't be sitting here today without him. I have to thank him big time."

Arteta also had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to thank after his double turned the all-London final around following Christian Pulisic's early opener for Chelsea.

The Spaniard, who said after the match he is optimistic Aubameyang will sign a contract extension, praised the club captain for another match-winning display.

"Big games require big moments for big players - he did that in the semi-final and now today," he said. 

"People questioning whether he can do it in big games and he's done it today."

Arsenal finished eighth in the Premier League - their lowest position since 1994-95 - but have earned a place in next season's Europa League thanks to their win over Chelsea.

Arteta is pleased with the steps his players have taken in his first eight months at the helm and is hopeful that his side can build on their latest domestic cup success.

"I think this is the best moment of my career because I know the difficulties we've been through," he said.

"I had one mission - make the players and staff believe that we could do it. Seeing the change in the dressing room is what makes me more proud.

"I completely understood the needs of this football club. I knew the challenges I was facing when I made a decision to come here and the expectations we will always have. 

"This is the first one. Let's enjoy it today. My players have been fantastic and the staff and everyone upstairs."

Arteta, who only ended his playing career with Arsenal in 2016, added: "I could write a book on my time here. Everyday has presented something different. 

"I'm very lucky the people I have around me for every decision I had to make. Until you are sitting in this seat, you don't know the responsibility you have to make. 

"I'm proud of what we've done."

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard accepted his team got what they deserved as they lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, suffering major casualties along the way.

Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw Arsenal recover from the shock of going behind early on to Christian Pulisic's slick finish.

Lampard said Chelsea's season reached a "tipping point" as he pointed to the injury blows they suffered, with hamstring issues forcing captain Cesar Azpilicueta and the lively Pulisic off, before substitute Pedro was carried away with a suspected dislocated shoulder.

Chelsea also had Mateo Kovacic sent off after 73 minutes, damaging their hopes of getting back on level terms.

Lampard told BBC One: "We started well for 10 or 15 minutes, scored a goal, had other chances, controlled the game, and we could only blame ourselves from that point in football terms, because we decided to take control, as in 'let's get complacent, let's take our time on the ball, let's try and play short passes like it's a bit of a stroll'.

"A cup final can never be a stroll. We allowed them back into the game and when it's like that it's hard to get yourself back in the game.

"We did in the second half for big periods, but a lot of today was on us.

"We were slow, played back on ourselves, invited pressure. We didn't perform well enough to win a final.

"It all came together for us today, didn't it! We were below par after the start, two hamstrings, dislocated shoulder. Willian was injured yesterday and had to pull out of the game.

"We're at the end of a long, long season ... it felt like it came to the tipping point a bit today."

Mikel Arteta is confident Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will sign a new deal and intends to build Arsenal's squad around the striker following his FA Cup final heroics against Chelsea.

Aubameyang followed up his semi-final brace against Manchester City with two more goals in Saturday's 2-1 win over 10-man Chelsea as Arsenal recovered from an early Christian Pulisic strike.

The Gabon international's future has been shrouded in doubt amid reports he does not intend to sign a contract extension, with his current terms due to expire next year.

However, Arteta said on the eve of the final he does not expect Aubameyang to leave and he is now even more optimistic about Arsenal's chances of persuading their captain to stay.

"He knows what I think about him. I want to build the squad around him," Arteta told BBC One. "I think he wants to stay and it is just about getting the deal done.

"But I think these moments will help him to realise and believe that we are in the right path and he is a big part of that. 

 

"He is loved by everybody at the club. Hopefully he can continue with us."

Asked if he feels Aubameyang will put pen to paper on a new deal, Arteta replied: "I think he will, yes."

Arsenal showed good character to respond to Pulisic's fifth-minute goal at Wembley, with Aubameyang converting from the penalty spot before half-time and adding a second with an impressive solo strike in the second half.

And Arteta, who succeeded Unai Emery as Arsenal boss in December, believes his side kept one of their best displays of his tenure until the final game of the season.

"It was a difficult start when we conceded so early. If I know something about these players, it's that we weren't going to give up," he said.

"We played probably the best 30 minutes after since I arrived. I am so proud to represent these players and this club."

Arsenal finished the Premier League season in eighth place but will now play in the Europa League next season after lifting the FA Cup for a record-extending 14th time.

"It is a double reward for us. It is really important for this club in every way to be in Europe. We all did it so I am so happy," Arteta added.

"The players were completely knackered and they made a massive effort through the coronavirus to keep fit so I am so happy for them."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the FA Cup for Arsenal with his Wembley double but left Gunners fans guessing about his future.

The Gabon striker dropped the trophy amid the celebrations but it was his only clanger of the day, after his two goals guided Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Chelsea.

His first goal was a confident penalty and the second strike was one to savour, twisting by Kurt Zouma before lifting the ball over Willy Caballero.

Asked what he could say about his future, given his contract expires at the end of next season, Aubameyang told BBC One: "Nothing, just today, trophy, that's it."

It was a day he and Arsenal deservedly relished, and a place in next season's Europa League awaits them.

"We enjoyed today. We are all happy," Aubameyang said.

"Emi [goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez] is crying. That shows that he's really implicated in this game and in this trophy."

Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal as head coach in November, and Aubameyang hailed his impact.

"I think he deserved this win. I think he did a great job and we are happy to have him on board. We just follow him," said the 31-year-old.

Discussing his dazzling winning goal, Aubameyang said: "Zouma knows me well. He knows I'm right-footed so that's why I said, okay, I went on the left there."

The Gunners frontman said his winner was like "Wrighty in the 90s" when told Arsenal great Ian Wright was lapping up the action from the BBC studio at Wembley.

Wright described Aubameyang's impact as "amazing finishes from the top man, the man that we needed." 

"He's come up with the goods," the former England international added.

In an FA Cup final that felt like a signpost for where two clubs at the transitional beginnings of new eras might be heading, the contributions of those who might not follow the journey through weighed heavily.

Chelsea were ravenous in their pressing and insatiable in the midfield battles early on, laying a platform for Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic to sparkle. An eventual 2-1 defeat seemed improbable right then.

Both wide forwards were involved when Pulisic nimbly opened the scoring – the subtle shift of the ball with his left foot to make a dinked right-footed finish possible underlining the USA star's technical prowess.

Olivier Giroud was naturally on the spot against his former club, playing an inevitably shrewd hand. A rush of goals for the experienced striker has suggested a possible new twist on his immediate future. If Timo Werner thinks Chelsea's rippling, roughhousing centre forward is going anywhere quietly he should think again.

The prolific run of six goals in the seven matches preceding the cup final – including strikes in each of the past four – gave way to 2018 World Cup Giroud in that fifth-minute breakthrough. During that tournament, France's number nine contributed no goals, but provided the canvas for the celebrated artists around him to dazzle.

Having bustled into the box to occupy three Arsenal defenders, Giroud's impudent lay-off was deftly perfect. Pulisic almost made it 2-0 all by himself but his evening ended in the cruellest circumstances.

Comparisons between the 21-year-old and Eden Hazard sometimes felt lazy as his debut season at Stamford Bridge blossomed, but the close control and sureness of his dribbling to break free of the Gunners' backline early in the second half recalled the Belgian at his best.

It looked glidingly effortless, only Pulisic's hamstring begged to differ. Curiously, Frank Lampard – whose use of Chelsea's youth products has been so celebrated this term – opted for the soon to be out-of-contract Pedro, 32, as the replacement.

A worrying stoppage-time injury for the ex-Barcelona man means he has probably played his last game for the Blues, but Callum Hudson-Odoi must wonder what a future featuring Hakim Ziyech holds.

With Pulisic incapacitated, there could be little doubt over the prime attacking talent remaining on the field. And he was not wearing blue.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's big-game temperament has been called into question during a prolific stint with Arsenal. The Gabon international tweeted to show he was in on the joke after a brilliantly taken brace saw off Manchester City in the semi-final.

After Cesar Azpilicueta, who preceded Pulisic as a hamstring victim, hauled Aubameyang to ground in the area there were demons to face. At the same end of a populated Wembley, Arsenal's star striker had a stoppage-time penalty saved against Tottenham last season. For good measure, Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero was Manchester City's shootout hero between those same goalposts in the 2016 EFL Cup final.

Of course, the elite performers tend not to concern themselves with such peculiarities or feel the need to indulge in introspection. There can be no doubt Aubameyang belongs to such company. Caballero guessed wrong. Had he gone the right way, there was no chance of him saving a perfect penalty.

If the shift in first-half momentum felt like a sharp fork in the road, Arsenal turned the wheel of the second period in their favour more subtly. At its midway point, one of the finest winning goals to grace this showpiece arrived.

Aubameyang ghosted into ample room on the left-hand side of the Chelsea penalty area. As he stood 69 goals into his Arsenal career - soon to be 70 - the obvious question was how does a man so prolific slip into the danger zone without close attention time and again? It is certainly a gift worthy of the heftiest of contracts.

As it happened, he checked back, seemingly deciding to take on Kurt Zouma for his own amusement. Then came the finish, a beautiful chip to leave Caballero hopeless for a second time. The bedlam that would have unfolded under whatever normal circumstances used to be was easy to imagine.

A Europa League place and the associated uplift in budget means Arsenal might just have the means to negotiate the next pivotal point for the club's trajectory. There will be no spectators there then, either, But if Mikel Arteta can persuade Aubameyang to pick up a pen (without dropping it!) and sign a new contract, it would be even more significant than this first richly deserved trophy of his coaching career.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang produced a moment of magic to give Arsenal their 14th FA Cup triumph in a dramatic 2-1 Wembley win over 10-man Chelsea.

The striker, whose future with the Gunners remains uncertain, slotted in a first-half penalty to cancel out Christian Pulisic’s opener, before firing home a classy match-winning strike in the 67th minute.

It meant the battle of the rookie bosses was won by Mikel Arteta, with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea ending the game a man down following a red card for Mateo Kovacic.

Arsenal’s success means they earn a place in next season’s Europa League, having finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League.

An early breakthrough came after five minutes for Chelsea when Pulisic clipped in a neat close-range finish after former Arsenal battering ram Olivier Giroud cleverly eased the ball into his path.

It made Pulisic the first American to score in an FA Cup final, but his match would later end in injury agony.

Arsenal briefly thought they were level when Nicolas Pepe thrashed a fine 20-yard strike past Willy Caballero.

An offside flag saved Chelsea that time, but moments later, in the 26th minute, Arsenal had a penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta dragged down Aubameyang.

Aubameyang lashed the ball into the bottom right corner, and Chelsea captain Azpilicueta suffered a further blow five minutes later when an apparent hamstring injury ended his involvement.

Pulisic darted through in the first minute of the second half, racing from his own half to the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Glory was again in his sights but suddenly horror entered the Pennsylvanian’s eyes, a leg injury striking just as he shaped to shoot. As well as missing the target, Pulisic’s race was run, Pedro coming off the bench.

Where Pulisic had been Chelsea’s man most likely, there was no doubting who Arsenal were looking to, and Aubameyang delivered a delicious strike in the 67th minute.

Hector Bellerin charged out of defence and Pepe picked up possession, feeding Aubameyang, who had plenty of work left to do. The former Borussia Dortmund man made it look ridiculously easy as he zig-zagged past Kurt Zouma and floated a sweet finish over the diving Caballero.

Chelsea were in all sorts of trouble moments later when Kovacic received his second yellow card and subsequent red after he and Dani Ceballos battled for the ball, their challenge fading from that point.

Pedro was carried off in stoppage time to deal Chelsea another blow ahead of their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich next weekend.

Frank Lampard selected Kepa Arrizabalaga on the Chelsea bench for the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

Willy Caballero has been Chelsea's regular cup goalkeeper and retained the responsibility, six days after he was surprisingly picked ahead of Kepa on the final day of the Premier League season.

It was no great surprise that Kepa, the world's most expensive goalkeeper, was not picked to start Saturday's match behind closed doors at Wembley as his form has underwhelmed.

And head coach Lampard named an unchanged team from last Sunday's 2-0 home win over Wolves, with N'Golo Kante only fit enough for a place among the substitutes.

It meant Olivier Giroud was picked to lead the Chelsea attack against his former club.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made just one alteration to the side that beat Watford 3-2 at Emirates Stadium last weekend, with Hector Bellerin replacing Joe Willock.

Former Chelsea defender David Luiz was picked in their defence.

The Gunners are making a record 21st appearance in the FA Cup final, looking to add to their 13 victories.

For Lampard and Arteta it represents a first FA Cup final since they went into management, with both having won the competition in their playing days.

Arteta won with Arsenal in 2014 and 2015, while Lampard helped Chelsea to four FA Cup triumphs in five final appearances. The one defeat he experienced in an FA Cup final came in 2002 - against the Gunners.

For Arsenal, the match presented the chance to earn a place in next season's Europa League after they finished eighth in the Premier League.

Philippe Coutinho has reportedly been offered to two Premier League clubs, while Manchester City are eyeing Sergi Roberto.

Coutinho is expected to leave Barcelona on a permanent deal this close season.

A return to the Premier League has been mooted for the playmaker, and it could be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – COUTINHO OFFERED TO TWO PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS

Coutinho has been offered to both Arsenal and Tottenham, according to The Independent.

The report says Arsenal look the more likely to complete a deal for the Brazil international.

Coutinho has been on loan at Bayern Munich this season, having struggled since arriving at Barcelona from Liverpool in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are linked with a surprise deal. Sport reports the Premier League giants are interested in Barcelona's Sergi Roberto, who wants to remain at Camp Nou.

- Out of contract next year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been linked with a move from Arsenal. The Daily Mail reports Chelsea, who face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on Saturday, were sounded out about a move for the forward in January.

- Inter continue to be linked with a move for Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Serie A giants are offering star defender Milan Skriniar to Spurs in their bid to land Ndombele.

- After struggling at Manchester City, John Stones is reportedly set for a move. The Sun reports the defender is poised for a £20million move to West Ham, where he would reunite with former Everton manager David Moyes.

- Sami Khedira's time at Juventus could be over. CalcioMercato reports Juve are negotiating to terminate the midfielder's contract.

- Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon, who has been on loan at Sevilla, is attracting plenty of interest. Sky Sports says Everton lead the race for Reguilon after submitting a bid of £18million (€20m).

Alexandre Lacazette urged Arsenal to "save" their season by winning the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.

Arsenal have endured a difficult campaign, including finishing eighth in the Premier League and bowing out in the last 32 of the Europa League.

But Lacazette believes they can rescue their season at Wembley, where Arsenal are bidding to extend their record to 14 FA Cup titles.

"We know in the league we finished in a bad position, we lost against Olympiacos early in the Europa League, so we missed a few of our targets," the forward said.

"That's why I say it would save our season."

Lacazette is one of several Arsenal players linked with a move away, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among them.

The France international hopes Aubameyang, who is out of contract next year, commits to the Premier League club.

"I think it's obvious. He scored 44 goals in the league in the last two seasons," Lacazette said.

"I think he has the record at the club [the fastest man to score 50 Premier League goals]. He is our captain as well and everyone likes him, he has the love from the fans.

"I think it's obvious Arsenal should keep him but afterwards this is a conversation between him and the club and we are not involved with this."

Lacazette also backed head coach Mikel Arteta to turn Arsenal's fortunes around, with the club having not won the Premier League since 2004.

"As players and fans we have to trust the board. They give us confidence when they signed me and it’s going to be the same in the future. I think it will be more shiny for the team," he said.

"We know the coach is clear about coming here to put Arsenal on top of the league in the UK and win lots of trophies."

Frank Lampard is "obsessed" with succeeding at Chelsea as he tries to make sure the Blues do not go trophyless for the first time in four seasons.

Chelsea face Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley, with Lampard aiming to win his first medal as a head coach in a competition he won four times as a Blues player.

Given Chelsea trail Bayern Munich 3-0 after the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, the domestic showpiece against the Gunners represents their only realistic hope of ending Lampard's first campaign in charge with silverware.

Across the three seasons prior to 2019-20, Chelsea won the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League, though expectations were lowered for this term due to a transfer ban and the departure of Eden Hazard.

"I don't mind the pressure, I'm so used to it as a player," Lampard said.

"If you took that pressure away I think I would probably miss it. I don't mind that and I understand what comes with that.

"I put more pressure on myself than anything or anybody. I hope I can bring us forward to the point where expecting titles every year includes expecting Premier League titles.

"We're not at that position now and that's where I want us to get to and that's going to be a process."

Chelsea will be in the Champions League next season having finished fourth in the Premier League, though there was no congratulatory call from owner Roman Abramovich for Lampard.

The former England international said he would always welcome such communication, though, as he detailed his obsession with trying to succeed at Stamford Bridge.

"I'm a big boy, I'm in this job, I know there are demands," he said.

"I will always be very welcome to take any call or take any meeting because this is my life and I'm obsessed with how we can get to where we want to be.

"I don't need those calls but I'll be there if they are there to be had."

Such is Lampard's desire to succeed as his peers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have, even a Netflix binge during his downtime is out of the question.

"I can't go home and just put my laptop down and pick it up next morning," he said.

"At the moment my wife's working on TV, so she's doing her notes for two or three hours in an evening, I'm doing my prep for training the next day. That's how exciting our life looks at the minute.

"I feel like that's the only way that I can get success. When I look around – and I don't know what the top managers do when they go home – but I guess they're not flicking on Netflix and watching series after series.

"I think they're thinking about their team and how they can get better. I try to do as much as I can here at Chelsea to get us as good as we can be."

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from the winning mindset Chelsea have demonstrated amid upheaval at Stamford Bridge.

Arteta's Gunners face Frank Lampard's side in the FA Cup final on Saturday, with each looking to win the first trophy of their careers as head coaches.

Arsenal's last major trophy was the 2017 FA Cup, which they claimed after beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final, but the Blues have made more of a habit of winning silverware despite changes in management and personnel at the club.

They were Premier League champions in 2016-17, won the FA Cup a year later and beat Arsenal in the final of the Europa League last season, with Antonio Conte in charge for the first two triumphs and Maurizio Sarri the other.

Arteta believes Arsenal can learn from their London rivals when it comes to making winning trophies of paramount importance to the club.

"They have some very important core players in those winning teams and it's something that has probably given them the platform to be consistent," the Arsenal boss said in a news conference.

"They obviously have some really good players, managers and a really good structure at the football club.

"But what you mentioned before, they weren't a winning team, and they managed to do that and change that mindset and convince players, and put the pressure towards everybody at the club that the only aim and the only thing that was allowed at this football club was to win. And when that happens, everybody performs better.

"I think we have some really good core players. We need to add certain things, but we have the possibility tomorrow to win a trophy, so that tells us we're close."

Arteta was captain of the Arsenal side that came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 in the 2014 final and end a nine-year wait for silverware under Arsene Wenger.

"Probably we had too much energy on the day," Arteta recalled. "We wanted it that much that we were probably too excited and we were shocked when we started losing the game.

"When I mention Arsene [Wenger], it's because we really felt the responsibility to respond to him because he really deserved it, the way he defended us, the way he treated us and the way he protected all of the players through some difficult moments. It was a moment of gratitude towards him to say, 'He deserves it, and the best possible way to help him is to win that trophy'."

Arteta is keen not to put too much pressure on his own players ahead of Saturday's clash despite the importance of the game, with Arsenal not only seeking a trophy but also a route back into Europe next season.

"They don't need any more pressure," Arteta said. "They need to go there and enjoy the moment as well, be free in their minds. What they have to do on the pitch is be clear. Then, just go and express yourselves, compete and be a team.

"You don't need to talk to them about [Europe and the financial benefits]. They are aware of it. That's it - I don’t want to add any extra pressure to them in terms of that. They are preparing really well this week, they look ready to go, and what you have to drive them forwards [with] is the energy and the ambition to grab that cup at the end of the 90 minutes, and that's it."

With the 2020-21 Premier League season due to start on September 12, there will be little time for players to rest and recover before returning for training after the final.

Arteta says Arsenal are also in talks with league officials and the UK government about the risk of coronavirus infections if players choose to take a holiday abroad.

"It's something we're addressing with the Premier League as well – what we can do, what we cannot do – and we need to get into a common-sense situation in order to provide what we need, to value what the players have done as well and to be a little bit flexible," Arteta said. "Because we live probably in the most protected environment of any industry in the country with the amount of tests and precautions and protocols that we have in place.

"It affects everything and that's why we're in conversation with the Premier League and also the government to try to do the right thing."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has "matured" since being made captain and is "an important one to keep" for Arsenal, says former Gunners defender Kolo Toure.

Since making his Arsenal debut in February 2018, no player has scored more Premier League goals than Aubameyang, whose return of 68 is matched only by Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

The Gabon forward's importance to the club was emphasised when former boss Unai Emery handed him the captaincy in November, a job he kept when Mikel Arteta took over a month later.

Aubameyang's long-term future at the Emirates Stadium remains shrouded in doubt with the 31-year-old into the final year of his contract and yet to commit to fresh terms, although Arteta has stated his belief their prized asset can be persuaded to stay.

Toure, a member of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' title-winning team of 2003-04, said Aubameyang has shown the qualities needed to be a leader and is crucial for the Gunners.

"He's a top player. I saw him grow. I can see that he's matured now," Toure told Stats Perform News.

"You can see as a captain he's a leader, leading by example. He's very focused. He's working hard for the team.

"He's a great captain and a great example. It's really easy to talk but what are you showing us? Are you willing to fight for every ball? That's what [Steven] Gerrard, [Patrick] Vieira, those great captains did.

"He's an important one to keep."

Arteta assumed the reigns after Emery's tenure was ended 18 months on from being chosen as the successor to Arsene Wenger.

Toure believes Arteta has changed the culture at the club and the players are knuckling down for each other.

"I watched his first games. I was intrigued to see. I had an idea. In my mind I was thinking that the players were not playing together," he said.

"You could see the attacking players and midfield were trying to press, but there was a big gap between midfield and the defence. That's what he changed. When Arsenal press, they do so with high intensity.

"The back four are really high and the strikers are putting pressure to players on the ball, which is great.

"And culture – you can see every player is involved 100 per cent. They press together, when they defend deep, they defend all together. The strikers help.

"When they have the ball they can counter unbelievably with Aubameyang's speed.

"He's brought the team spirit and the mentality; 'we are in this together'. No one can cheat in the team, this is non-negotiable. That's the word he's used."

On Saturday, Arteta has the chance to win his first silverware as a head coach when Arsenal play the FA Cup final against Chelsea, for whom Frank Lampard is also aiming to end his maiden campaign in the Blues dugout with a trophy.

Toure is impressed by how both men have adapted to the touchline from their playing days.

"It's unbelievable either could win a trophy in their first year. For ex-players to do that is unbelievable," Toure said.

"Being an ex-player does not mean you are going to be a good manager. Their intelligence and understanding of the game, it's different to being a player.

"Where you are on the pitch, you have to make quick decisions. The touchline is different. You have to analyse the game and be able to see things to improve your team.

"You have to plan and spot weaknesses. They are an inspiration for us. It gives me the belief that when you've been a player you can make a career as a manager."

Bayer Leverkusen have not received any offers for Kai Havertz despite persistent speculation linking him with Chelsea, sporting director Simon Rolfes has revealed.

Havertz, 21, has been a revelation in the Bundesliga ever since making his breakthrough as a 17-year-old in the 2016-17 campaign.

The midfielder, who has been played in an increasingly attacking role over the past two years, has scored 29 Bundesliga goals since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, while his haul of 12 this term came alongside six assists.

Widespread speculation suggests it is unlikely he will remain with Leverkusen – who failed to qualify for the Champions League – next term, while Chelsea are said to have positioned themselves as frontrunners for his signature.

Leverkusen are reported to be demanding at least €78million (£70m) for the Germany international, whose national team colleague Timo Werner has already made the switch to Stamford Bridge.

But Rolfes, a former Leverkusen midfielder who is now in charge of sporting decisions at the club, insists no club has made an offer for Havertz yet.

"So far we have no offer," Rolfes told Sky Germany. "We know about the interest of clubs, but there is no official offer.

"We have said several times that we will end the season with our entire squad, and that includes Kai. That goes without saying for us."

Although the Bundesliga season is over, with Leverkusen finishing fifth, Die Werkself are still in the Europa League.

They are due to face Rangers at home next Thursday in the second leg of their last-16 tie, having won 3-1 in Scotland five months ago, prior to the coronavirus pandemic bringing a temporary halt to European football.

Should they get past Rangers, Leverkusen will face either Inter or Getafe in the quarter-finals.

At this point the competition will become a mini-tournament made up of single-legged ties - rather than the usual two-legged contests - after UEFA moved the latter stages to neutral venues in Germany due to the pandemic.

Bayer Leverkusen will be powerless to resist selling Kai Havertz to Chelsea if the Blues' billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wants the German at Stamford Bridge, according to the Premier League club's former manager Avram Grant.

Havertz, 21, has been a revelation in the Bundesliga ever since making his breakthrough as a 17-year-old in the 2016-17 campaign.

The midfielder, who has been played in an increasingly attack-minded role over the past two years, has scored 29 Bundesliga goals since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, while his haul of 12 this term was added to with six assists.

Already a Germany international, Havertz is widely expected to leave Leverkusen in the coming weeks, with Chelsea said to be his most likely destination.

The financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic, combined with Chelsea's recent deals for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, have led to suggestions the club might not be willing to meet Leverkusen's apparent €78million (£70m) asking price.

But Grant, a friend of Abramovich and a former Chelsea manager, thinks the Blues will sign anyone if the owner wants them.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Grant said: "Abramovich didn't have a problem with money before! When he wants something, he buys it.

"He doesn't do things to save money. Whether they have more or less money, I don't think it's important.

"What I think is important is that they started to use the academy. They spent so much money on it and they didn't give anyone a chance [before]. My policy at Chelsea was that we wanted one third of the squad as under-21 players, because you cannot invest a lot into the academy and not give them a chance.

"Now, not as a policy, they gave them a chance, and Frank has done a great job. Michael Emenalo, a director, was always complaining that we invested a lot of money in them [academy players] but we don't give them a chance.

"When you have a good young player, they can develop a lot and there are a lot of good talents at Chelsea, and we're in a good phase for the coming years.

"With a good signing they can compete with Liverpool or Man City. [Havertz] has the quality. We need to wait and see [if he's the one to bridge the gap]."

The signings of Ziyech and Werner, from Ajax and RB Leipzig respectively, have been widely applauded, particularly given they were both secured well before the conclusion of the season.

But Grant did urge caution, highlighting that many big signings in a short period does not always guarantee success.

"On paper they look like good signings and that they can make the team stronger, but we need to wait and see," Grant said. "We've seen years ago, Tottenham bought a lot of players but they bought too much and many didn't perform well - eventually Harry Redknapp saved them and did a very good job.

"I think you need to be careful when you sign a player, whether they will be good for the squad, but I'm sure they've checked this. It's not only about quality."

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