Mancini backs Zaniolo to become key for Italy

By Sports Desk May 15, 2020

Roberto Mancini hopes Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo can become an important player for Italy.

Zaniolo was set to miss Euro 2020 after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in January, but the 20-year-old could benefit from the tournament being pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The highly rated Zaniolo has scored two goals in five games for Italy and coach Mancini believes he could develop into a vital player for his country.

"Zaniolo may be a very important player. He is also very young, he will have one more year to improve," he told Rai Sport on Friday.

"My hope is to have all the players available and have difficulty in making choices.

"I think the team can improve. We came from many games played well and won and there was great enthusiasm. It would have been great to play now."

Mancini has helped turn Italy around since taking over in 2018, leading them to 13 wins in 19 games in charge.

The former Inter and Manchester City coach had Italy as among the favourites for the European Championship, but acknowledged the postponement changed things.

"There will be difficulties because this is something that has never happened before," Mancini said.

"Starting again will not be easy."

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  • Flick 'not entirely happy' with Bayern display in 4-0 win Flick 'not entirely happy' with Bayern display in 4-0 win

    Hansi Flick can still see room for improvement from his Bayern Munich side despite brushing aside Schalke 4-0 to move seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

    The reigning champions capitalised on RB Leipzig's shock defeat at Mainz by seeing off Schalke, the division's bottom side, at the Veltins-Arena on Sunday.

    Thomas Muller scored either side of Robert Lewandowski's record-breaking goal - netting in an eighth successive away league match - before David Alaba got in on the act in the final minute.

    Bayern did not have things all their own way in the first half, though, with Manuel Neuer reacting well to keep out Mark Uth's header from the best of Schalke's opportunities.

    Flick is pleased his side have rediscovered their form with three wins in a row since suffering back-to-back losses earlier this month, but he acknowledged there is still more to come.

    "I'm not entirely happy with what we showed," he told Sky Sport. "We scored four goals, but we should have done better, especially with the way we positioned ourselves.

    "However, I am very satisfied with the nine points with have obtained from the last three games. After defeats to Holstein Kiel [in the DFB-Pokal] and Monchengladbach, it was important to find stability.

    "We now have a certain cushion, but it is still important that we approach every game the way we have approached the last few games, that we perform 100 per cent. 

    "We're going to take two days off now. This is important to clear your head from time to time. From Wednesday, we will then prepare intensively for Hoffenheim."

    Bayern have now kept clean sheets in successive league games for the first time this term, with Neuer making three saves in total - all in the first half.

    Neuer's 197th shutout is a new Bundesliga record, surpassing Bayern great Oliver Kahn, but it was bittersweet coming against his beleaguered boyhood club.

    Schalke are bottom of the division with one win from 18 games but Neuer is hopeful they can avoid the drop.

    "Obviously, it's difficult for them against teams like us," he said. "I think that they have to beat two or three clubs that are in the lower half of the table, one after the other.

    "I wish the Schalke players luck that they can stay in the league and that they can still turn the tide. Of course, I'll keep my fingers crossed for that."

    Of his own team's display, which saw Bayern register a season-high 31 shots, Neuer said: "We improved and still had one or two more scoring chances. 

    "We certainly would have signed for a 4-0 win beforehand."

    Meanwhile, Muller's double took him to nine goals in 18 Bundesliga games this season, already beating his tally from the entirety of 2019-20.

    The forward, who scored a clinical header in each half, echoed the thoughts of Flick in saying his side were slightly flattered by the margin of the scoreline.

    "We neglected some aspects of our game," Muller said. "We besieged the opposing goal in the first half, played a few chances well, but the last action was missing.

    "Overall, you noticed that when we increased the pace and played our game, we were always able to get ourselves into good final positions. 

    "We have won all three games this week and made a giant leap forward in the table. That is what counts."

  • Lampard defends Kepa and Werner after FA Cup mistakes Lampard defends Kepa and Werner after FA Cup mistakes

    Frank Lampard spared Kepa Arrizabalaga from criticism and said he has no doubt Timo Werner will come good after Chelsea's unconvincing FA Cup win over Luton Town.

    Tammy Abraham's hat-trick was ultimately enough for Chelsea to overcome Championship side Luton 3-1 on Sunday and take their place in the fifth round.

    A mistake at 2-0 up from goalkeeper Kepa – who has been demoted to second choice following Edouard Mendy's arrival at Stamford Bridge – enabled Jordan Clark to pull one back for Luton.

    However, Kepa made amends with a fine save from Harry Cornick early in the second half, with Abraham's tap-in then rounding off the win.

    Werner, who has scored just once in 16 games across all competitions, missed a late penalty as his frustrating run in front of goal continued.

    Since he last scored in the league – on November 7 – Werner has attempted 21 shots, with just seven hitting the target, while the Germany international has missed seven big chances.

    Lampard, however, stood by both Kepa and Werner, insisting the goalkeeper was not solely to blame for Luton's goal, while reiterating his confidence in Chelsea's misfiring striker.

    "Kepa makes a really top save in the second half to make sure it doesn't go to 2-2," Lampard told a news conference.

    "It is very easy for people to sort of hone in on that but Kepa is not playing so regularly. He comes in after training well and he is a good goalkeeper and I will certainly give him that one in the first half.

    "I am as annoyed that we let someone stand in our box in space and get a shot away when we shouldn't have done. I think it was a general team moment of complacency with how we were at 2-0 which is not good enough.

    "So, we got back to it very quickly and dominated the game and it made us slightly nervous to not have the two-goal lead that makes it comfortable. Once we got that back again, which we should have got a lot earlier, then the game was comfortable.

    "With Timo, I'm disappointed for him. He gave a lot to the performance today. He was a threat, his link-up with Tammy, with people around him, it's just one of those things.

    "When it's not going for you, it can happen. I missed penalties, I know the feeling. I know he will feel despondent, maybe now and the last few minutes of the game, but he shouldn't be.

    "It's my job and his team-mates' job to lift him and he will be fine. It was almost a sign of what's going on for Timo at the minute, it's not quite dropping for him.

    "But there will be a time when he takes penalties and hits the back of the net without thinking about it. At the moment that's not quite the time for Timo, but it will come and hopefully soon."

    Chelsea lost 2-0 to Leicester City in the league on Tuesday, but have now won 52 of their last 54 FA Cup ties against sides from a lower division, with Barnsley up next in the competition.

    "I always need the results," said Lampard, who has been under mounting scrutiny. "People expect a lot from our league position.

    "People will look at it and look very closely at the moment but I look at the bigger picture. Of course, I wanted the result today. It is a nice air of positivity around the club to get to the next round. We are in two cup competitions with the Champions League, FA Cup, and we want to win more points in the league.

    "That's a good three wins in four games, I'm happy to quote that one because in the modern day people will very much look at the short-term stats that can be flipped in different directions.

    "It's nice for us in the short term that we have done that. The scrutiny on a club like Chelsea is normal. The job for us is not to get too caught up in how many games we won recently or where we are in the table."

  • No grudges! Ozil urges Arsenal to stay classy as he bids sad farewell No grudges! Ozil urges Arsenal to stay classy as he bids sad farewell

    Mesut Ozil said he would bear "no grudges" after his Arsenal career went into the nosedive that led him to join Fenerbahce.

    In a letter addressed to "Gunners", Ozil recalled the "big mix of ups and downs" during his time with the Premier League club, whom he joined from Real Madrid in September 2013.

    The midfielder's long-trailed switch to the Turkish Super Lig was confirmed on Sunday.

    Ozil detailed his "love" for Arsenal, his connection with the local community and his pride in seeing youngsters from the club's Hale End academy reach the first team, and promised he would be "a Gunner for life".

    But the German World Cup winner also made reference to his recent time in the wilderness at Arsenal, after being left out of this season's Premier League and Europa League squads by manager Mikel Arteta.

    He said it was vital that the club's "principles of class, respect and dignity must never be forgotten", and explained that from his perspective recent times at Arsenal "haven't been the easiest".

    "But it is important to look for the positives in life and not the negative, which is why I try to live with no regrets and holding no grudges," Ozil added.

    Ozil said that in a difficult season for Arsenal, who are sitting in mid-table in the Premier League and out of the FA Cup, everyone connected to the club "must all back the current squad and staff no matter the results".

     

    Mesut Ozil's letter in full

    Dear Gunners,

    7.5 years. Nearly 3,000 days. It feels strange to be writing this message after such a long time here in London. Since the moment I arrived, it has felt like home. I was welcomed with open arms by all the Arsenal staff, my teammates, and most importantly the incredible fans. I will always be grateful for the trust placed in me by Arsene Wenger in September of 2013. I've grown up as an adult in North London, a place I can always call home. I'll never forget that.

    Being with Arsenal for so long has meant I've experienced a big mix of ups and downs. Over 250 games, 44 goals and 71 assists later, it's time that Arsenal and I finally part ways.
    Together, we ended the club's 9-year trophy drought, and brought long needed silverware back to the fans who deserved it.

    It is difficult for me to put into words the love I feel for this club and the fans. How could I possibly describe 8 years of gratitude in a single letter? Whilst I may be no longer playing for the club, I will continue to support them in every game they play. I will be a Gunner for life - no doubt about that. Now more than ever we must all be behind the team. This season is a tough one for every team in the Premier League, and that is why we must all back the current squad and staff no matter the results.

    For me it's been amazing to see some of the boys from Hale End coming through into the first team setup. As we all know, they are the future of the club, and I wish them every success!

    Hearing my name chanted around the Emirates will forever give me goosebumps, and the memories I've made putting on this jersey will stick with me for life. Much has been written about my time at Arsenal, especially in recent months. Arsenal is a club of class and prestige, something that I felt every time I walked onto the pitch. Players, staff and management always come and go - but the club's values and fans will remain forever.

    The principles of class, respect and dignity must never be forgotten. It is the responsibility of every single person from the club to make sure they carry out their job in the name of these values.

    As I said, the past few months haven't been the easiest. Like every player, I want to play every minute of football for my team. In life however, things do not always play out how we expect or want them to. But it is important to look for the positives in life and not the negative, which is why I try to live with no regrets and holding no grudges. Being at Arsenal was more than just football, it was about community. As much as I tried to assist on the pitch, I tried to be part of the London community as much as I could too.

    North London took me in as one of its own, and every season I embarked on a different project to bring happiness to this incredible community. Although I might be leaving North London, this will not stop.

    It might be the end of a chapter, but my connection with this amazing club will never fade. It might be goodbye for now, but it's not goodbye forever.

    To the Arsenal fans around the world: YaGunnersYa

    Mesut.

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