Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang emulated an unwanted feat last achieved by his current head coach, Mikel Arteta, when he was sent off in Arsenal's Premier League match at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

After opening the scoring for the Gunners in the first half, Aubameyang was sent off midway through the second period with the score at 1-1. 

A poor tackle from the Arsenal captain on Max Meyer was initially punished by referee Paul Tierney with a yellow card, but a VAR review resulted in Aubameyang being sent off.

As a result, Aubameyang became only the third Arsenal player to score and be dismissed in the same Premier League match and the first since Arteta also saw red at Selhurst Park in October 2013.

 

One story is dominating the sporting agenda in Spain on Saturday: Xavi's potential return to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants have reportedly earmarked the club great to take over from the under-pressure Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, and held informal discussions with him on Friday in Doha.

Xavi, 39, is currently coach at Al Sadd but would likely relish a return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering playing career.

A strong affinity with a club is not a guarantee of success, however, and we have taken a look at eight other examples of players returning to manage teams they starred for.

 

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job. He is now back in Serie A and thriving with the Old Lady's bitter rivals Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Like Lampard, Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for AC Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league finish in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Xavi seems set to return to Barcelona as head coach, replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde is under pressure again at the helm of the LaLiga giants after Thursday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid.

And, it seems Barca are wasting no time finding a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OFFER XAVI DEAL TO REPLACE VALVERDE

Barcelona have offered Al Sadd boss Xavi a two-and-a-half-year deal to replace Valverde, according to AS.

Xavi's potential return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues in a glittering playing career, is dominating headlines in Spain.

The cover of Sport reads 'Earthquake Xavi', while Marca also reports that Barcelona have offered the job to the former midfielder.

ROUND-UP

- Bruno Fernandes. Manchester United. Here we go again. Record reports Sporting CP officials met with the Premier League club with a move potentially going ahead in January. The Daily Mail says United are considering a £55m (€64.6m) move for Fernandes, who they were reportedly interested in during the close season.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Sun reports Manchester United are eyeing a £40m move for West Ham defender Issa Diop, who is also apparently a target for Chelsea.

- Manchester United are at the centre of plenty of speculation this month, including a potential exit for Ashley Young. CalcioMercato reports Inter want the 34-year-old and the Serie A side are offering Young – who is out of contract at season's end – a deal until 2021.

- Gedson Fernandes is seemingly set for a move to London, but to which club remains to be seen. The Guardian reports West Ham fear they will miss out on the Benfica midfielder to Tottenham.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Hugo Vallejo appears set for a Malaga exit. AS reports Real Madrid are considering making a move for the forward this month before sending the 19-year-old out on loan until the end of 2019-20. Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia are also reportedly interested in Vallejo.

- Meanwhile, Barca have had an offer of €6m for midfielder Matheus Fernandes rejected by Palmeiras, according to Globo Esporte.

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard insisted he had no plans to sell Pedro despite the forward's lack of game time.

Pedro, 32, has made just five Premier League appearances this season and, with his contract expiring at the end of the campaign, has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge.

But Lampard, whose side host Burnley on Saturday, said he wanted the former Barcelona attacker to stay.

"He is part of my plans and I started the season and Pedro was in the team and unfortunately he got injured at Norwich before the game and I had to make a change to the starting line-up," he told a news conference on Friday.

"He was out for a while and I do have competition in that area so Peds has had some games here and there. I know he wants more games but he certainly has something he can contribute to us here in his experience and his ability to break lines and run behind people and maybe got those goals in and around the box.

"He's here, I know his contract is up at the end of the season but I'm not even looking that far ahead, he's here and I need everybody because football can change very quickly.

"There can be a period of games where you're on the bench, out of the squad, something changes and then that's the moment when you have to come in and produce and I've got no winners in this game, I want the club to be the winner.

"People come in and do well, they'll stay in the team."

Chelsea are fourth in the table – four points clear of fifth-placed Sheffield United – ahead of their clash with Burnley.

Mesut Ozil was "surprised" to see Mikel Arteta take over at Arsenal, but praised the head coach for restoring the club's values.

Arteta was appointed in December last year and has overseen two wins in his four games in charge ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace.

Ozil admitted he was surprised by the arrival of his former team-mate, who landed his first senior job after a spell as Manchester City assistant coach.

"I was a bit surprised but on the other hand, time flies quite quickly and I remember when he went to work with Pep Guardiola at Man City, it was quite obvious he would become a manager soon," the playmaker said.

"I am really happy that he is here with us at the moment because this is the right time. We are all happy to have him here.

"We have a normal relationship. We were team-mates. We respected each other a lot and he was already a team captain at the time so in general players respected him and now he has just continued building up on that.

"As a playmaker, I need a lot of space. His playing style allows me to get that space and it is so important to be successful."

Arsenal are trying to climb the Premier League table, sitting 10th and nine points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Ozil praised Arteta for trying to bring back Arsenal's old approach and said it had created a happier squad, who are coming off wins over Manchester United and Leeds United.

"It is basically getting us back to the old Arsenal virtues. Having the possession, being in control of the game, having the ball all the time," Ozil said.

"These are the things that he is working on with us and you can see it – everyone is smiling, laughing, enjoying their time at the moment and this has made us be successful now.

"We are really enjoying everything at the moment. You can see we have a structure on the pitch now. Everyone knows what their job is on the pitch and we are very happy to have won these two games."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he was forthright with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward regarding transfers.

United, who are sixth in the Premier League, are expected to strengthen their squad in January as they face an injury crisis.

And Solskjaer said he was direct with Woodward when it came to United's approach in the transfer market

"Of course I am [forthright]. We have got open discussions and, of course, we're open and honest and we talk," he told UK newspapers.

"But I wouldn't say to you what I say to him. I would never say I need this and this player out of the club to you.

"We are building towards something and I'm almost getting bored myself talking about this, and the fans will definitely be bored listening to me talk about what we have as a vision and a plan, but it doesn't change from September 1 to now. It's impossible for that to change. Ask [Woodward] if I am.

"I am not going to protect myself. I am going to do what is best for the club, what I think and we feel is right for the club, and I will never put myself before the club. This is Man United and there is no 'I' in Manchester and, for me, there is no 'I' in this team and I could never, ever do that."

Solskjaer, whose side host Norwich City on Saturday, said he was happy with his squad despite the club potentially looking to make moves this month.

"I have those conversations with Ed all the time. And we are looking at how we are going to look in one month's time, five months' time, in the longer period," he said.

"He knows my feelings and we know our feelings. I am very happy with these players."

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea's Tammy Abraham is more than capable of filling the void Harry Kane's injury will create in the England team.

Tottenham striker and England captain Kane is expected to be out until at least April due to a hamstring injury.

It means the forward will miss friendlies against Italy and Denmark in March. If there are no complications with his recovery, however, Kane should be fit to feature in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad.

In the meantime, Lampard insists Chelsea's leading scorer Abraham, who has 12 Premier League goals to his name this term, can thrive for the national team.

"I think he should always be thinking that. He's not silly, you know who your competitors are, whether it's trying to get into our team or the England team," Lampard told a news conference when asked if Abraham should be thinking of replacing Kane.

"The thing I love about Tammy is it won't just be Kane – he'll do well to look at Kane and take some markers from his game – but I know Tammy will be watching every type of striker and trying to improve himself at all times.

"That's the only important thing, that he concentrates himself because the rest will fall into place if he does that."

Lampard also thinks Abraham has lived up to the billing as Chelsea's number nine, and is glad he took the decision to hand the youngster the squad number.

"Really impressed. It was my decision to give it to him purely on his personality in pre-season," Lampard added.

"His personality looked like one that was like 'Yes please I want that, I want to be Chelsea's number nine'. That's an easy thing at that point to say and to feel, but to then go and produce like he has done is a great start.

"It's probably at that stage where everyone expects Tammy to play well to affect games in a big way. That brings a new challenge and that's his one now."

Declan Rice claimed "pretty much every Premier League player" wants the VAR system kicked out of football after West Ham were denied a last-gasp equaliser against Sheffield United.

Rice looked like he had set up Robert Snodgrass' leveller in stoppage time at Bramall Lane, only for the video assistant referee to disallow the goal due to an accidental handball from the England international.

Although Rice accepts the rules implemented for this season were applied correctly, he believes it was a "crazy" decision and insists top-flight players would like VAR to be scrapped.

"Livid. It's a really tough place to come and play. I thought we did well. A point on the road here would have been good for us," Rice told Sky Sports.

"I've just watched it back before coming on camera. [The defender] has knocked the ball into my hand. I know I'm in a forward running motion, but he's headed the ball into my hand and of course if you're running with your arms out then it's handball in the rules but I've not intentionally meant to handball it.

"Of course you play on, Michael [Oliver, the referee] hasn't seen it. The VAR checks it and it's a real kick in the teeth.

"I don't think it's just me. It's the thought of pretty much every Premier League player. I don't think anybody wants to have VAR in the game.

"There's been so many decisions this season that have been crazy. Obviously sometimes it works but you see there, they're celebrating VAR like it's a goal. Football shouldn't be like that. The emotions there that the West Ham fans showed when we equalised, that's real emotion.

"I don't think we're all too happy with it to be honest, but it's in the game now and we've just got to get on with it.

"I just can't get over it, the way he's knocked it into my hand. I've not intentionally meant to handball it. I can't get over it, it's crazy."

Rice's sentiment was largely echoed by West Ham manager David Moyes, who believed his side, beaten 1-0 on the night, would have been worthy of a point.

"We're disappointed in the end that we scored a really good goal and it didn't count," Moyes told Sky Sports.

"It was a good goal, wasn't it. Whoever was checking it, I think they've got it wrong because it was a really good bit of play by Declan Rice. Where do you put your hands, tie them behind your back? I saw nothing wrong with it at all."

Mikel Arteta insists it must be the aim of everybody at Arsenal to "be the best", and he is not afraid to confront his players to get more out of them.

With Arsenal having been outplayed by Championship side Leeds United in the first half of Monday's FA Cup meeting, Alexandre Lacazette claimed Arteta shouted at his squad during the interval.

Arteta's anger paid dividends, with a much-improved performance following after the restart as Reiss Nelson's goal secured a 1-0 win and a place in the fourth round.

The former Manchester City assistant acknowledged he is still learning about Arsenal's squad – and they are still getting to know him – but is adamant he will fight for the Gunners to be the best they can possibly be.

"Probably they've seen a different reaction from me," Arteta told a news conference when asked about his reaction at half-time in the Leeds match.

"It's a process both ways. Probably a few were a bit surprised but I was surprised too, with the first half. We have to react naturally depending on the situation and the context.

"I love winning. I can only work to win and this is what this club deserves. I want to be the best. I want excellence from all of my players and everyone in the organisation so I will fight for that. If we don't reach it's because we're not good enough, it's okay, but we have to try at least with that aim."

Arteta has won two of his four matches in charge so far, with Arsenal – who have let young midfielder Emile Smith Rowe join Huddersfield Town on loan – facing Crystal Palace on Saturday, and one player that has stood out for the Spaniard has been defender David Luiz.

"He's a player that has won more trophies than anyone else in the dressing room and I wanted to use that in a very powerful way," Arteta said.

"I wanted him to step up, put all of the qualities – his personality and experiences – towards the team, and he's made a big step forward. I'm very pleased with him.

"The games he has played under me so far has been terrific. His attitude in training, the way he communicates with his team-mates, has been superb so I'm delighted with him."

Dani Ceballos is also nearing a return to fitness following a lengthy injury absence, and Arteta is looking forward to having the Real Madrid loanee available.

"I know him well from Spain, I've watched him many times. He's a player that can fit our style, now he needs to make things difficult for me in my selection," Arteta added.

"I think now he's ready to step in. I like him more when he's closer to the box, rather than coming deep to collect the ball. He's a very creative player, a player who can cause problems in the final third, always wants the ball, has a big personality, I like him."

Chris Wilder celebrated signing a new contract as his Sheffield United side beat West Ham 1-0 - with Robert Snodgrass denied a last-gasp equaliser by VAR.

Manager Wilder secured a fresh four-and-a-half-year deal with the Blades on Friday and his side moved up to fifth place in the Premier League thanks to Oli McBurnie's 53rd-minute goal, which came after David Martin's error.

Snodgrass later squeezed in a stoppage-time finish after being teed up by Declan Rice, only for the goal to be disallowed for handball against Rice after a VAR check, to the dismay of West Ham and manager David Moyes.

West Ham substitute goalkeeper Martin – who replaced the injured Lukasz Fabianski early in the first half – paved the way for the home team's winner, with his dreadful pass providing John Fleck with the chance to tee up McBurnie.

West Ham's Sebastien Haller had a goal correctly disallowed for offside before Martin's fine save from Lys Mousset set the stage for a tense finish, which looked to have culminated in joy for the visitors with Snodgrass' late strike.

But West Ham's elation turned to despair as VAR spotted a seemingly accidental handball from Rice as Moyes suffered a first defeat of his second spell in charge.

Patrick Cutrone has left Wolves and returned to Italy, signing for Fiorentina on loan.

Fiorentina stated the loan was for two years and included an obligation to buy, while a release from Wolves detailed it as an 18-month deal with a purchase option.

Wolves shelled out a reported £16million to sign Cutrone from Milan in July and the striker made 24 appearances in all competitions.

However, the Italy international started just nine games in all competitions and failed to complete the 90 minutes once.

Cutrone, who scored three goals for the club, was picked in Nuno Espirito Santo's starting line-up once in the past 15 matches and has opted to return to Serie A.

Fiorentina will hope Cutrone can rediscover his best form in familiar surroundings, with the club sitting 15th in Serie A, four points above the relegation zone.

The 22-year-old made his professional debut for Milan in May 2017 and went on to score 27 goals in 90 appearances.

Cutrone's only senior international cap came against Argentina in March 2018. He has more recently been part of the Under-21 set-up.

Chris Wilder has signed a new contract with Premier League surprise package Sheffield United, keeping him in charge of the Blades until 2024.

United have impressed under manager Wilder on their return to the English top flight this season, and they sat in eighth place ahead of Friday's encounter with West Ham.

With the top five in their sights, United have been handed a timely boost by news of Wilder's new four-and-a-half-year deal.

"Naturally, I'm delighted to sign a new deal until 2024 and commit to the club that is close to my heart," Wilder told the club's official website.

"I am grateful to [the owner] Prince Abdullah for taking the initiative and offering this contract, we've had a great few years and hopefully we can continue the upward curve - let's see how far we can go on this journey."

Wilder, who started his career with the Blades and had two spells there as a player, took over as manager of the club in 2016, guiding them to the League One title and promotion to the Championship the following season.

He was rewarded for helping United reach the Premier League with a three-year deal in July last year, since when the 52-year-old's stock has continued to rise.

Pep Guardiola rejected any suggestion it has been strange dealing with Leroy Sane amid an apparent desire to leave Manchester City.

Sane appeared likely to move to Bayern Munich in the previous transfer window, but the Germany forward suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in City's Community Shield clash with Liverpool in August.

He has yet to sign a new contract with City, with his current deal expiring at the end of next season.

Bayern will not attempt to lure Sane to the Allianz Arena this month, and Guardiola is adamant talk of a move for the 23-year-old has not put any strain on their relationship.

Asked if it had been awkward or strange since Sane's injury ended the prospect of a move to Bayern before the season, Guardiola replied: "Not at all, it's awkward because I cannot see him on the pitch.

"He's in the gym and making recovery, that is awkward for all of us. He's a nice person, I know him quite well. I was the guy who pushed the club and convinced him to come here when he didn't play in Schalke regularly.

"No doubts about him and his quality, each one has his own family, desires, dreams, about that I cannot do anything else."

Pressed on whether the situation had been upsetting for him personally, Guardiola replied: "Absolutely not, where you are now is not the same as three years ago.

"I'm not the same guy I was when I arrived here, so for the players the same, they have dreams and after the dreams are accomplished they need another thing so I don't know.

"Now what I want is for him to come back. I said last week his knee looks really good and after that it's not my business. In terms of what the club, the player, his agent want to do with his own future, it's not in my hands."

Guardiola has not spoken with the club over how they would potentially replace Sane, adding: "I didn't think about that.

"We spoke a little bit about what happened this season, what positions we have to reinforce for next season, but more than that it's honestly not my job. I don't have time to think about that, I'm so busy."

Daniel Farke has insisted Norwich City have no intention of selling promising defender Max Aarons, who has been linked with Tottenham, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund.

Aarons has made 19 Premier League appearances for Norwich this season, with the 20-year-old impressing despite the Canaries' struggles at the bottom of the table.

The full-back's performances have reportedly resulted in interest from Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton, while Bundesliga side Dortmund are the latest club to be linked.

However, Farke – who also confirmed Norwich's key man Teemu Pukki is to miss Saturday's clash with Manchester United due to a hamstring injury – is adamant Aarons will be going nowhere this month.

"I wouldn't spend too much energy listening to all these rumours. Max is a young guy and he still has four-and-a-half years of his contract left," Farke told a news conference.

"I think it's not the right time for him to even think about a move. I would also be doubtful when too many clubs are linked with him. 

"He is totally at the right place here, he's played nearly 20 Premier League games, now leave him alone and let him play some football."

Jose Mourinho said it would be like having "two new players" as he confirmed Hugo Lloris and Ben Davies should be back in action for Tottenham by the end of January.

Spurs are going through a difficult period, having won only once in their past five matches and lost key players Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko to serious injuries.

But head coach Mourinho is expecting to have first-choice goalkeeper Lloris and left-back Davies on the pitch by the end of January.

Lloris suffered an elbow injury at the start of October, meaning Paolo Gazzaniga has had to deputise, while Davies has been missing since sustaining ankle ligament damage in Mourinho's first match at the helm on November 23.

"The good news is that before the end of the month we have two new players, Hugo Lloris and Ben Davies. This is good news," Mourinho said in Friday's news conference ahead of facing Liverpool.

"Lloris never played a game for me, Ben played one, and very, very well in a system we were trying to develop, which was only possible with him because he's the one left-back that can play in that inside position, as Danny Rose is a pure left-back, Jan Vertonghen is not a left-back and Ryan Sessegnon is learning how to be a left-back.

"So, Ben is very important for our project. So, it's good news.

"[Lloris' return] is very important. He's the captain with Harry. We lose one, it's nice to recover the other.

"The experience, the way he plays, speaking - it's very important for a goalkeeper to play and speak at the same time.

"We have a goalkeeper that's doing his best and we have confidence in him. For Hugo to be back after such an important injury is good and it opens space in the medical department.

"Some people are leaving the medical room, some people are coming in. Is there an area in the medical department with a plate saying Hugo Lloris? Because he's there every day for the past three months."

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