LeBron James dismissed talk about the Los Angeles Clippers following their NBA playoff exit as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar marvelled at upcoming opponents the Denver Nuggets.

A blockbuster all-Los Angeles Western Conference final was quashed by the rallying Nuggets, who overturned a 3-1 series deficit against the second-seeded Clippers to set up a Lakers clash.

Asked about not playing Kawhi Leonard's Clippers for a place in the NBA Finals, three-time champion James told reporters on Thursday: "I don't have a comment about it really.

"I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature. I was also [watching] as a scout, scouting both teams at the same time."

A follow-up question centred on the Lakers and Clippers settling their battle for supremacy in Los Angeles but James replied: "What were we settling?"

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis added: "We aren't focused on any other team but the Lakers. That's kind of been us, our whole thing the entire season. We focused on our own team.

"Our focus isn't on the Clippers or the 'Battle of L.A.' It's more so what can we do to finish our season strong."

James and Davis were speaking on the eve of Game 1 between top seeds the Lakers and the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said as he lauded the third-seeded Nuggets.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

The Miami Heat earned a commanding lead over the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs after coming back to win 106-101 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

In another tense battle at Walt Disney World Resort, the red-hot Heat sensationally prevailed to move 2-0 ahead in the race to the NBA Finals on Thursday.

The Heat trailed by 17 points in the second quarter and were down by 13 at half-time but overcame the deficit to seize control against the Celtics thanks to Bam Adebayo, who erupted for 15 third-quarter points.

Goran Dragic led the way with 25 points, and Miami's supporting cast contributed across the board to take down the Celtics again in Orlando, Florida, where the Heat are on track to reach their first NBA Finals since 2014.

Adebayo finished with 21 points, Duncan Robinson had 18, Jimmy Butler scored 14, Jae Crowder put up 12 and Tyler Herro added 11 of his own.

Kemba Walker posted 23 points for the Celtics, who had a chance to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining but Jaylen Brown (21) missed a three-pointer as Butler sealed Miami's victory via a pair of free throws.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum also had 21 points, with Boston now turning their attention to Saturday's Game 3.

 

Nuggets face Lakers

The Denver Nuggets and top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will open their Western Conference finals series on Friday. Denver are coming off a stunning Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Victoria Azarenka produced a memorable performance as she destroyed Sofia Kenin 6-0 6-0 at the Internazionali d'Italia on Thursday.

Azarenka, beaten in the US Open final less than a week ago, has transitioned to the clay courts in impressive fashion after beating Venus Williams and now, more impressively, Kenin.

The Australian Open champion had no answer to Azarenka's ruthlessness and near-perfection out on court in Rome, with the Belarusian claiming victory in just an hour and one minute.

Azarenka faced no break points in the entire match and made only one unforced error as she emphatically took the first set against a player who was her US Open doubles partner.

Kenin improved in the second set, forcing some long games – particularly the second, which was at deuce on five different occasions.

But Azarenka – who faces Russian Daria Kasatkina in the last 16 – simply had too much for the American and cruised to a sensational victory over the third seed,

"I think my consistency was the key to the scoreline," Azarenka told reporters. "I feel like I played really smart tennis today: I was able to use a lot of court; I was able to use a lot of different pace.

"So, I'm very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with."

She added, according to the WTA Tour website: "I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court, than on what she does well. So, I think that was the difference, I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace."

Earlier, Garbine Muguruza managed to outlast American sensation Coco Gauff 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 in an absorbing contest.

Gauff, 16, appeared to be in control of the decider after an early break of serve.

But three double faults in the following game gifted Spaniard Muguruza an instant break in return, giving her the initiative to go on and seal victory.

Johanna Konta saw off Irina-Camelia Begu in fine fashion, the seventh-seeded Briton emerging 6-0 6-4, but Kiki Bertens and Petra Martic were not so impressive.

Bertens, seeded fifth, fell 6-4 6-4 to Polona Hercog, while eighth seed Martic succumbed to Yulia Putintseva in a gruelling three-hour contest, the latter eventually winning 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

Marketa Vondrousova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were among the other victors on the day.

Tottenham should make an ambitious bid to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid alongside Gareth Bale, according to their former manager Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp was Spurs boss when they qualified for the Champions League with Modric and Bale in the team before both departed for Madrid.

The pair have proven hugely successful in Spain, winning Europe's elite club competition on four occasions.

But Bale, who scored in two Champions League finals for Madrid, has fallen out of favour in recent seasons at Madrid and is now in talks over a move back to Tottenham.

As Spurs thrash out the finer details in that blockbuster transfer, Redknapp urged chairman Daniel Levy to go back to the Santiago Bernabeu for a further shock swoop.

"I'd go and see if I could get Luka Modric back," he told Stats Perform News. "Take the pair of them, Bale and Modric.

"That would be a great coup. Luka is still a fantastic player. That would be amazing.

"I still feel they need somebody there; they've got the forward players, but they need somebody to supply the bullets.

"That's where someone like Luka Modric can play killer passes, into great movement up front. They lack a player like that."

While Redknapp remains concerned by Tottenham's midfield, the prospect of seeing Bale join Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in an attacking three excites him.

"That is a scary forward line," he said. "I could see them playing Harry central and Son and Gareth coming off the line and playing.

"I had a silly spell at Tottenham towards the end where I played Gareth on the right and the Tottenham fans were singing, 'He's Gareth Bale and he plays on the left'.

"Well, he's never played on the left since then. He played for Wales through the middle.

"Really him and Son are two players who you'd just want to let go and play and do damage wherever they pop up on the pitch in any of those forward positions.

"It's a bit like at Liverpool, like they do with their front three. They interchange positions fantastically well. And I think they'll do the same at Tottenham."

Thiago Alcantara has said farewell to his Bayern Munich team-mates ahead of his expected transfer to Liverpool, with Hansi Flick congratulating Jurgen Klopp on the signing.

After months of speculation about his future, Thiago finally appears set to depart treble winners Bayern and join Klopp's Premier League champions.

Stats Perform News understands the two clubs have agreed a deal that could eventually be worth £25million (€27.5m), with Liverpool due to pay £20m up front for the 29-year-old.

Bayern boss Flick has lauded the departing Spaniard, whose contract was due to run out next year, and told Klopp he is getting a star.

"Thiago is an exceptional player who spent seven hugely successful years here," he told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

"He's a wonderful person and an outstanding professional. It was very emotional today when he said goodbye to us all.

"I can only congratulate Jurgen Klopp. We are in good spirits that we can still do something in the transfer market. We lost a lot of quality with him."

Uncertainty over whether Thiago would stay or go had rumbled on for months and Flick confirmed he had tried to persuade the former Barcelona man to remain in Bavaria.

However, after winning seven Bundesliga titles, a Champions League and the DFB-Pokal on four occasions during his seven seasons with the club, Thiago informed his coach he was keen to continue his career elsewhere.

"I tried to change his mind," added Flick, whose team begin their Bundesliga title defence against Schalke on Friday.

"The farewell was difficult, he told me that he was looking for another challenge."

Flick is keen not to say goodbye to another key member of his treble-winning side, with the Bayern boss desperate to get the versatile David Alaba to extend his contract beyond the end of the forthcoming campaign.

Alaba was "hurt" by comments from Bayern's former president Uli Hoeness, who accused his agent of being a "greedy piranha" only motivated by money.

"I can really only say the best about him," Flick said of Alaba. 

"He is extremely important to us not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch. When I think of the small group training sessions, he pulled every player with him. 

"He's one of the best in this new position as a central defender, he's taken the position to a new level. 

"I would like both sides to approach each other and also take some sharpness out."

Jose Mourinho kept his cards close to his chest on the possibility of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham, as negotiations continue with Real Madrid.

Bale left Spurs to join Madrid in a €100million (£85m) move in 2013, after several outstanding seasons at White Hart Lane.

However, despite having gone on to win numerous honours – including four Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles – the Welshman has seen his game time become increasingly limited under Zinedine Zidane.

Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett on Friday confirmed talks between Madrid and Spurs were ongoing, telling Stats Perform News: "We're negotiating at the moment, that's all. I won't discuss [how close it is]."

In his news conference ahead of Tottenham's Europa League clash with Lokomotiv Plovdiv on Thursday, Mourinho insisted he would not comment on the situation of a player at another club.

"Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, I don't comment on players from another club," said Mourinho.

"That's not my job to have contact with agents or honestly, I don't want to comment on that. Especially on players for other clubs.

"I don't comment on hypothetical stuff. Again, I repeat, I'm not going to comment on Gareth Bale. He's a Real Madrid player and I have to respect that."

Jamal Murray demanded the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley start giving the Denver Nuggets "some damn respect" after their Western Conference semi-final heroics.

The Nuggets dominated the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Orlando on Tuesday to progress from an all-or-nothing Game 7, becoming the first team to recover from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same postseason.

Few tipped the third-seeded Nuggets to get past a Clippers team comprising the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, particularly when the team found themselves in such a precarious position.

"You got [Shaquille O'Neal], you got Charles [Barkley], I think Zach Lowe … Stephen A. [Smith], all y'all better start giving this team some damn respect," Murray said. 

"Because we put in the work. We shouldn't have been down 3-1, but to come back down 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement, so it's fun just to change that narrative."

Murray was influential for the Nuggets, putting up 40 points, and he feels the star-studded Clippers failed to cope with Denver's enthusiasm.

"We've got a lot of energy, and we brought it and they didn't match that," Murray said. 

"They've got who they got. They've got a talented squad. They've got Doc [Rivers], too. They've got assistant coaches who are about to be head coaches. 

"We know what they have, we just outworked them a little bit with our young legs."

Nikola Jokic had promised head coach Michael Malone one of two presents on his 49th birthday prior to the game: "I'm either going to get you home or get you to the Western Conference Finals." 

After it proved to be the latter, Jokic said the Nuggets are relishing proving the doubters wrong.

"Nobody wants us here. Nobody thinks we can do something. We proved ourselves and proved [to] everybody we can do something," he said.

"This is a really interesting team. We don't have many superstars."

Next up is a daunting task against an in-form Los Angeles Lakers side led by LeBron James, but Jokic said: "They gotta worry about us, too."

The Denver Nuggets made history by completing another stunning comeback as they reached the Western Conference finals after blitzing the Los Angeles Clippers in their NBA series decider.

Denver won Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals 104-89 on Tuesday to set up a blockbuster playoff showdown against top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Trailing 56-54 at half-time, the Nuggets outscored Kawhi Leonard's Clippers 50-33 in the second half in Orlando, Florida, where Denver will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat dramatically prevailed 117-114 after overtime against the Boston Celtics in the opening game of their Eastern Conference final.

Jimmy Butler's three-pointer put the Heat ahead with 12 seconds remaining and Heat team-mate Bam Adebayo made an incredible block on Jayson Tatum to deny the Celtics star a game-tying dunk at the death.

 

Jokic and Murray fuel Nuggets

Just like they did in the first round of the playoffs, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver's comeback. The duo completed the fightback against the Clippers, with Murray posting a game-high 40 points. Jokic became the first player in NBA playoff history to record a 20-plus rebound triple-double. Prior to Jokic, no player had put up a triple-double through three quarters of a Game 7 over the last 25 years. He finished with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists.

The Heat flexed their muscles with a team performance at Walt Disney World Resort. Starters Goran Dragic (29), Jae Crowder (22), Butler and Adebayo (18) all reached double-digit points. Tatum had 30 points and 14 rebounds but it was not enough for the Celtics, while Marcus Smart scored 26 of his own.

 

Clippers crumble

Poised to meet the Lakers in an all-Los Angeles Conference final, the Clippers capitulated against the Nuggets. Their woes were amplified on Tuesday. Two-time NBA champion Leonard was just six of 22 from the field for 14 points. He was only two of seven from three-point range. All-Star team-mate Paul George had 10 points on four-of-16 shooting from the field, while he made just two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc. As a team, the Clippers were just 37.8 per cent from the field and 25.7 per cent from three-point territory.

 

Heat face Celtics

There will be no playoff action until the Heat and Celtics go head-to-head in Game 2 on Thursday.

Australia coach Justin Langer has admitted the team could have discussed continuing a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, during the ongoing tour of England, but insists there was no disrespect or disregard meant.

Legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding was recently critical of both teams, as he pointed out that they had ditched the symbolic taking a knee gesture during the ongoing series. England and the West Indies showed support for the movement before all three Tests at the start of the season, and the practice continued for the one-day series against Ireland. It has not been seen for the visits of Pakistan and Australia.

While insisting that the team had not forgotten the issue, Langer pointed out that Australia had simply been focused on the series and unusual circumstances, but that in retrospect there could have been more discussions surrounding the issue.

“When Mikey says what he says, it’s certainly worth listening to. In terms of taking a knee, to be completely honest, we could have talked more about it perhaps leading up to the first game,” Langer said.

“There was so much going on leading up to us getting here, maybe we should have talked more about it,” he added.

“What we do talk about within the team was that we want to have a response that is sustained and powerful and that it can go not just in one action but a sustained period. Not just throughout this series and the summer but throughout time.

“I just hope if it looked like there was a lack of respect, it wasn’t the intention of our team. We were very aware of it.”

England pace bowler Jofra Archer had issued a much sharper response, insisting that England had not forgotten the issue and that Holding should have “done his research”.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has ended speculation over his future by signing a new three-year contract with Arsenal.

The Gunners captain's previous deal was due to expire next June, but he has agreed to re-sign with the Premier League club.

Prolific striker Aubameyang has scored 72 goals in 111 appearances since joining Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of £56million in January 2018.

"Signing for this special club was never in doubt," Aubameyang told Arsenal's official website.

"It's thanks to our fans, my team-mates, my family and everybody at this club that I feel like I belong here.

"I believe in Arsenal. We can achieve big things together. We have something exciting here and I believe the best is to come for Arsenal."

In his first full season with Arsenal in 2018-19, Aubameyang scored 22 goals to be a joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot.

Last term, the 31-year-old enjoyed another superb campaign, with 29 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions.

He scored both of the Gunners' goals in each of their respective FA Cup semi-final and final victories over Manchester City and Chelsea and continued his superb Wembley form with a fabulous strike in last month's Community Shield encounter with Liverpool, which Mikel Arteta's side won on penalties.

As speculation mounted over Aubameyang's future, Arteta expressed confidence he would sign renewed terms and the manager is delighted to have got his man.

"It was important for Pierre-Emerick to stay with us," he said. "He’s a superb player with an incredible mentality.

"Being the player to have taken the least amount of time to reach 50 goals with this club tells you everything you need to know about him and his way of working. 

"He's an important leader for the team and a big part of what we're building. He wants to be up there with the best players in the world and leave his mark. He can achieve that here."

Arsenal began their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage, where Aubameyang completed the scoring, and they are back in action at home to West Ham on Saturday.

Nick Nurse is staying with the Toronto Raptors after agreeing a "multi-year" contract extension, the NBA team announced on Tuesday.

The coach who led his team to the 2019 NBA championship could not mastermind a repeat this year as the Raptors were beaten in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final by the Boston Celtics.

But Dwane Casey's former assistant, named NBA coach of the year in August, is the man Toronto want to lead them forward having made an overwhelmingly positive contribution in his two seasons in charge.

The Raptors went 53-19 in the regular season as they put up a spirited defence of their first championship.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said: "Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we've experienced together.

"The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team’s history - first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long-term to the fight against racism and for social justice.

"Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life, and we're looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future."

Nurse, who coached a number of British Basketball League teams including the Manchester Giants and London Towers, got his big break in the NBA in 2013 when he joined Casey's staff in Toronto.

The 53-year-old Iowa native said: "Toronto has been my home for the past seven years, and I look forward to it being home for many more. I've watched this franchise grow and reach the pinnacle, and I look forward to the challenge of helping us win another championship."

Miralem Pjanic is fulfilling a dream by sharing a dressing room with Barcelona legend Lionel Messi and cannot believe his luck having also previously played with Francesco Totti and Cristiano Ronaldo.

New €60million signing Pjanic was belatedly presented as a Barca player on Tuesday, having tested positive for COVID-19 in August which meant the 30-year-old had to go into quarantine.

That delayed the midfielder's arrival in Barcelona until last week, with him working out at the club's training ground for the first time on Saturday prior to their friendly against Gimnastic.

A tumultuous transfer window for Barca saw Messi ask to leave the club before ultimately staying, a decision Pjanic both expected and relished.

"I have met with him two or three days ago," Pjanic told reporters about Messi.

"I have played with Totti, Cristiano and now Messi. That is fortunate, to have players like this as team-mates. They are athletes who have given a lot to football. 

"Today I have the opportunity to share the dressing room with an alien and it will be beautiful. 

"Sharing a dressing room with Messi and not only with Messi, with others too, is a dream for me. 

"But we will be a squad of 25 and all 25 will be important.

"I have played in great teams and I have respected my teams, but today a dream comes true. It is the ultimate dream. I will give everything I can to leave a good memory of me."

Of the transfer saga, which saw Barca refuse to allow the Argentina international leave for free, Pjanic added: "I followed everything that happened about Messi. 

"But I don't see Messi outside of this club. He has made an incredible story for the team and I think this story will end well. Leo is a winner, an achiever. 

"I only imagined Messi at Barca because this is his home. He is perhaps the best player of all time and for us having him is a great asset.

"Messi has grown up here and I've seen him happy. Everyone is going to have a good time here.

"He has made an incredible history with this club and all will be well.

"My will was to play with this player and I had no doubt that it would happen. I did not imagine him being in other colours or a different shirt."

Jurgen Klopp hailed Mohamed Salah as a "very special" player after the Liverpool star scored a hat-trick in a thrilling victory over Leeds United.

Marcelo Bielsa's newly promoted side pushed defending Premier League champions Liverpool all the way at Anfield on Saturday, but Salah had the final say when he converted his second penalty of the game to seal a 4-3 win.

Salah had opened the scoring from the spot early on after Robin Koch's handball, though Jack Harrison switfly equalised.

A frantic start continued as Virgil van Dijk swung the game back in Liverpool's favour, only to then gift Patrick Bamford an equaliser prior to a stunning strike from Salah restoring the Reds' lead, which was then cancelled out once more by Mateusz Klich.

It was Salah who settled matters from 12 yards with two minutes remaining and Klopp believes the Egypt forward's all-round display showed the true quality of Liverpool's talisman.

"First and foremost congratulations to him because he's a very special player very, very special player," said the Reds boss.

"The numbers tell the story a little bit, all the rest you probably don't know. But today's a very good example as he put three more goals on his score list, but the performance all-round was absolutely exceptional in a game like this.

"So he deserved the goals, 100 per cent, yes two were penalties, one was a sensational finish, but he deserved these goals because he was constantly present, causing the opponent massive problems.

"He was top in one-on-one situations, played football. With all the good performances he's had for us, obviously this was for sure one of the better ones and so he should be proud of that because it's very special to have these kinds of numbers. Long may it continue."

While Salah spearheaded Liverpool's fearsome attack, the Reds looked unusually ordinary at the back, with Van Dijk in particular struggling to find his rhythm.

Klopp, however, is not concerned, and suggested the fact all of his starting defenders had been away on international duty could have impacted their performance.

"I didn't really see us struggling defensively, it's just the way they play you cannot defend it 100 per cent all the time," Klopp said.

"The first goal both full-backs were deeper than the centre-halves, that should never have happened. The second goal I think was a misunderstanding between Virgil and Alisson, it was one of the things that can happen. It should not, but it can happen. I don't think we will see these situations very often.

"So that's defending, but it's not an excuse, it was just an explanation. And maybe I don't have to give explanations, but the last line played for England, Holland, and Scotland, four days ago or whatever.

"So, all top teams but different ways of defending and it can happen and if the things are not really settled, which we are in the early stages of the season.

"I know people say they played 500 games together, but defending is not like riding a bike. You have to work on it constantly. So space for improvement, all good."

Jamaica international Michael Hector lost on English Premier League (EPL) debut for promoted Fulham United, but for the player, the fixture itself marked the end of a long journey to topflight football that took 11 seasons and 15 clubs.

The 28-year-old centre half, who has featured for Jamaica in recent Gold Cup campaigns, was first signed for Reading in 2009 but amazingly went out on loan every season for his six years at the club.  While at Reading, where he resigned in 2012, Hector was loaned to Bracknell Town, Didcot Town, Havant & Waterlooville, Oxford City, Horsham, Dundalk, Barnet, Shrewsbury Town, Aldershot Town, Cheltenham Town, and Aberdeen.

In 2015, things seemed to be looking up for the player when he was snapped up by then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho on deadline day, after watching him on loan at Aberdeen.  It seemed the much-travelled defender was now destined to appear in the topflight.

 Hector was, however, immediately loaned back to Reading.  He returned to Chelsea and trained with the first team ahead of the new season but was loaned out to German club Eintracht Frankfurt.  Next up for Hector, was a loan spell at Hull City and he joined Sheffield Wednesday the following season.  He, however, impressed at Sheffield and was named the club's Player of the Year at end of that season.

In December of last year, he joined Fulham for an undisclosed fee.  He settled well into the new team and on August 5th, 2020, he started the 2020 EFL Championship play-off final, which promoted Fulham back to the Premier League.  The player started again for Fulham on the team’s debut, on Saturday, and despite a 3-0 loss to Arsenal must feel some amount of satisfaction to be playing his first match in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta believes Willian is the player who can drive Arsenal towards a push for more silverware and a top-four finish.

Willian, 32, signed a three-year deal with Arsenal in August after leaving Chelsea as a free agent.

The playmaker – who joined Chelsea from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 – scored 37 goals and provided 33 assists in 234 Premier League appearances for the Blues.

Arteta thinks the Brazil international will provide Arsenal's squad with much-needed balance, and he has no concerns over Willian's age or ambition.

"With all the conversations I've had with him, the thing that stands out is his ambition that he wants to be the man who can drive this team forward," Arteta told a news conference.

"Another thing with him is he is always available. Last season at Chelsea, you can see the amount of games he has played.

"I am not concerned at all. We need some balance in this squad. We have some really young talent.

"We need some experienced players who can just put the shirt on and start performing. If he is able to perform at that level for another three years, I think he has a great chance of achieving that but time will tell."

Arteta retired from playing in 2016 at the age of 34, with the former Everton and Arsenal midfielder having struggled with injuries in the final stages of his career, though he insisted Willian's situation is in no way comparable.

"He is much fitter [than I was]. Don't compare him with me, I am a bad example!" Arteta joked.

"We need to know our context. For us to sign that type of player at 20 or 21 at the moment is impossible. We need to adapt here.

"We need some players that can hit the ground straight away and others we need to develop them, and they need top players around them because that will increase their performance and their value."

While Willian will add further guile and experience to Arsenal's attack, Arteta may have a headache in regards to the other end of the pitch, with Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez – who impressed at the end of last season – fighting for a spot in goal.

Arteta, whose side start their league campaign against Fulham on Saturday, is not concerned over either player being unhappy playing second fiddle, though reports on Friday suggested Martinez may be nearing a move to Aston Villa.

"The positive thing is we have a goalkeeper in Emiliano who for 10 years has been so patient, he has made some difficult choices to earn the right where he is at the moment," Arteta said.

"Since I joined he has been superb, his performance increased dramatically and he helped us to win titles. For me it's a really good problem to have.

"They both need to know their roles. At the end of the day the other one has to support the one who is playing 100 per cent. If you cannot do that you cannot be part of a top squad and you should not be here."

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