Unai Emery has blamed bad decisions made by the club for his Arsenal exit and confirmed he favoured a move for Wilfried Zaha over Nicolas Pepe in his final season.

The 49-year-old spent 18 months in charge at Emirates Stadium before being sacked in November 2019 and subsequently replaced by Mikel Arteta.

He guided Arsenal to the Europa League final and a fifth-place finish in the Premier League in what proved to be his only full season in charge.

Arsenal spent a club-record £72million to bring in Pepe from Lille ahead of 2019-20, but Emery felt the Gunners should have instead moved for fellow Ivory Coast international Zaha.

"I usually want to sign first the players I know," he told Football.London. "When we played against Crystal Palace, Zaha showed he was a very good player.

"I also think Nicolas Pepe is a very good player. When you make the decision you have to decide how easy the adaption will be of some players.

"I was thinking the adaption was easier for Zaha because he was playing in the Premier League and you didn't know exactly how fast Nicolas Pepe can adapt to the Premier League because I know you can need some time to adapt.

"I was thinking at this time that the adaption of Zaha was probably easier and faster than Pepe."

Pepe has struggled in his year and a half with Arsenal, scoring and assisting a combined 13 goals in 42 Premier League appearances.

That compares to 17 goal involvements for Zaha across the same period in 11 more games, while the Palace winger also completes more dribbles per 90 minutes (3.68 compared to 2.92) and plays more passes into the final third (2.2 to 2).

Pepe's inability to make an impact on games was one of the contributing factors in Emery's exit and the Spaniard rued some of the decisions made during his second season in charge, though he reflects on his time in north London fondly.

"I was in Arsenal for a year and a half and first year I think was a very good season," he said.

"We achieved the Europa League final, we were at the last moment with the possibility to be in the top four and I think last year when I was there we recovered a lot of confidence for the club and the fans and for the players and I think we finished well that season.

"I was very happy, enjoying it and working very well. The club supported me and I was happy with the players, the atmosphere and the supporters – only the second six months of the second year when I finished in November I think we made some decisions not good for the club, but not for me, the decisions of the club.

"When the results were a little bit bad the situation changed but my first year in Arsenal I remember a lot of positive things, on the sidelines the same. I enjoyed being a coach of Arsenal and I'm very grateful for that moment I had in Arsenal.

"For me it's not negative, it was a positive experience and after I left the club the first month was not easy for me because I was running out of things [to do] but now I am very grateful to the owners, the club, the supporters, the players, the workers in Colney. 

"I now only remember the very good things there and the first year for me was a very good performance for us.

"I worked well with Mr [Stan] Kroenke, Raul [Sanllehi], [Ivan] Gazidis during the first months there. The results towards the end were the main problem but for me it was a positive experience and I'm grateful to Arsenal for the opportunity.

"This is football. Now I want the best for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, the supporters and everyone at the club."

Another player Emery failed to get the most out of is Mesut Ozil, who has since been completely frozen out of the picture by Arteta and looks set to leave Arsenal this month.

Only Kevin De Bruyne (75), David Silva (63) and Christian Eriksen (62) have provided more Premier League assists than Ozil's 54 since the start of 2013-14, but the German was regularly overlooked for selection.

Emery has defended his treatment of Ozil, however, by insisting he gave the playmaker all the guidance he could.

"I worked for one and a half years with Mesut and tried to help him, support him and achieve the performances for the team with him," said Emery, who was appointed as Villarreal head coach last July.

"Now I don't know what the problems are as I am very concentrated and focused with Villarreal. I follow every Arsenal match but I don't know what the problems are with the team or the players.

"I can only speak about Mesut Ozil when I was with him there and I tried to achieve the best performances with him."

Roy Hodgson is unsurprised by the transfer speculation around Wilfried Zaha, but he expects the star to stay at Crystal Palace.

Zaha is again linked with a move away from Palace amid reported interest from Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 28-year-old has scored eight goals and provided two assists in 14 Premier League games this season.

Palace manager Hodgson said he had grown used to talk about Zaha, who is contracted at the club until 2023.

"It's pure speculation. There's been so much speculation regarding Wilf over the years that these days I tend to let those concerns just disappear, as they often do," he told a news conference.

"Wilf's good, there's no doubt about that, it doesn't surprise me that there would be clubs out there that would like to sign him, but a lot of things have to be in place before a player leaves a club and joins a new one.

"I'm just happy at the moment that Wilf is playing as he is, showing the discipline, the concentration, his passion for football and for the club that he's been showing. I just work on the basis that until I'm given a reason otherwise I expect that to keep going."

Of players to have scored at least five Premier League goals this season, Zaha's big chance conversion percentage of 62.5 ranks eighth – slightly better than the likes of Jamie Vardy (61.1) and Harry Kane (60).

Palace are 15th in the table ahead of hosting Sheffield United on Saturday.

There is no let-up in the Premier League's hectic schedule this weekend as leaders Liverpool look to hold off the threat of Manchester United, who are lurking with intent in second place.

Jurgen Klopp's side face a tough test away at Southampton, who will be led by former Reds striker Danny Ings.

The Saints' main man is joined by Wilfried Zaha and Harvey Barnes in our Opta-powered Premier League fantasy picks for what promises to be another enthralling matchweek.


NICK POPE

Burnley have won three of their previous five Premier League games, with goalkeeper Pope central to their success.

Since the beginning of November, the England international has the competition's highest save percentage at 91 per cent.

No goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than his five in that period, either. Good luck finding a way past him, Fulham.

JOHN STONES

Stones' Manchester City career looked to be over ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but the England man has enjoyed a renaissance of late.

The 26-year-old has started six games for the club in the Premier League this season – four of which came in December – with City keeping clean sheets in five of those appearances and conceding just one goal in the other.

That compares to just two clean sheets and 11 goals conceded when he has not played. Up next for City and Stones? A visit to Chelsea.

BEN CHILWELL

Trying to get the better of Stones will be Chelsea left-back Chilwell, who has arguably been the most successful of Frank Lamaprd's signings ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

No defender has been involved in more goals (two scored, four assisted) than the former Leicester City left-back, with only Liverpool's Andy Robertson registering more assists (five).

Only two defenders have scored more goals: Southampton's Jannik Vestergaard and Chilwell's Chelsea team-mate Kurt Zouma.

GYLFI SIGURDSSON 

Like Stones, Sigurdsson has been brought in from the cold in recent weeks by Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti.

He is up against one of his favourite opponents next so expect the Iceland international to get some points on the board.

Sigurdsson has been involved in more Premier League goals against West Ham for Everton than any other opponent (two goals, two assists), scoring or assisting in each of his four appearances for the Toffees against the Hammers.

WILFRIED ZAHA

It has not been a stellar start to the season for Crystal Palace, who face rock-bottom Sheffield United on Saturday, but their talismanic forward has been in fine form.

Zaha has scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances this season, twice as many as in the 2019-20 campaign (four in 38 appearances).

Indeed, Zaha is looking to reach double figures in a top-flight campaign for only the second time in his career, also doing so in 2018-19 (10 goals in 34 games).

HARVEY BARNES

Leicester winger Barnes has been attracting admiring glances from some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs this season and it is not hard to see why.

The 23-year-old, who takes on Newcastle United next, has scored eight goals in 21 appearances in all competitions in 2020-21, one more than he did in 42 games last term.

Only in 2018-19 (10) has the midfielder netted more goals in all competitions across a single campaign.

DANNY INGS

Ings faces off against former club Liverpool on Monday looking to continue his superb form over the past two years.

Since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge of Southampton in December 2018, Ings has been directly involved in 38 goals in the Premier League (31 scored, seven assisted).

That is 16 more than James Ward-Prowse, who has the next most at the club with 22 goal involvements in the same period.

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Sergio Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, while Georginio Wijnaldum is set to decide his future.

Ramos, 34, is coming out of contract at Madrid at the end of the season.

With the defender yet to re-sign, he has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM KEEPING AN EYE ON RAMOS

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, according to the Evening Standard.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos at Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Ramos has been at the Spanish giants since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract at season's end, Wijnaldum is set to make a decision on his Liverpool future. Sky Sports reports the midfielder will decide this week whether to sign a new deal with the Premier League champions amid links to Barcelona.

- Diego Costa is set to leave Atletico Madrid, who are eyeing a replacement. Marca reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is best placed to replace Costa.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is again linked with a move. The Sun reports Serie A leaders AC Milan are chasing Zaha in January.

- Arsenal look set to be busy in January. The Sun reports the Premier League club want Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan in a £32million (€35.3m) move. Meanwhile, The Athletic says Arsenal are unlikely to rekindle their interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

- Could Marcos Alonso be returning to Spain? The Independent reports Atletico Madrid are in talks to sign full-back Alonso on loan from Chelsea in January. Alonso has played just three Premier League games for Chelsea this season.

International football is largely over for 2020 and the Premier League is returning for the run-up to Christmas.

The next five weeks are jam-packed with action both domestically and in Europe, and hitting the ground running this weekend could give plenty of sides a timely boost.

If you're getting that fantasy team primed once more, cast your eye over our Opta-powered top tips...

 

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy finally conceded a goal in the Premier League in his last appearance, although the Blues still recovered to beat Sheffield United 4-1.

There's no reason to lose faith in the Senegal international ahead of the visit to Newcastle United this weekend.

In fact, Mendy has saved six of the seven shots on target he has faced in England's top flight, giving him a save percentage of 85.7. No keeper in the division can boast such a figure this season.

 

BEN CHILWELL

Chelsea's new-found stability means filling the backline with Blues defenders is no longer a risk to your fantasy success.

Of course, Ben Chilwell is someone who can provide plenty of points regardless of doing any actual defending.

He has been directly involved in four goals (two scored, two assisted) in five league games this season, more than any other defender.

AARON CRESSWELL

However, the prize for 2020-21's most creative defender goes to West Ham's Aaron Cresswell.

His three assists and 17 chances created are the top figures in the competition among defenders and he has been a part of three clean sheets to boot.

With the Hammers facing struggling Sheffield United this weekend, Cresswell is well worth considering.

 

JACK GREALISH

Now that doubts about his place in the England team appear well and truly dismissed, Jack Grealish can focus on the more improbable task of keeping Aston Villa in the race for Europe.

Only Harry Kane (eight) has more assists this term than Grealish (five), and only Mohamed Salah (20) has created more chances from open play (17). The Liverpool star is also the only player with more touches in the opposition box (85) than the Villa captain (70).

What's more, Grealish has scored in each of his past four appearances in all competitions against Brighton and Hove Albion, including in all three meetings last season. They are his favourite opposition.

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace's four wins from their first eight games owes much to the form of Wilfried Zaha.

With five goals and two assists, he has already equalled the number of goal involvements that he managed in 38 league games in 2019-20.

Palace face winless Burnley on Monday.

 

GABRIEL JESUS

No Sergio Aguero? No problem. Gabriel Jesus has been involved in 11 goals in his past 11 matches in all competitions (eight scored, three assisted).

The Brazil striker has also scored in each of his previous three games and will look to stretch that run to four for the first time since April 2018 when Manchester City face Tottenham.

 

PATRICK BAMFORD

Only four players have scored more goals in the Premier League this season than Patrick Bamford - and they are only one ahead of the Leeds United striker.

Bamford has hit seven in his eight league games in 2020-21, a scoring run not seen at the club since the days that Mark Viduka graced Elland Road (he managed nine in his first eight appearances).

Given Arsenal's inconsistencies, there is every chance Bamford will pick up where he left off prior to the international break.

Merseyside rivals Everton and Liverpool will be looking to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sadio Mane respectively to maintain their excellent starts to the Premier League campaign this weekend. 

The Toffees, who are ahead of Jurgen Klopp's side at the Premier League summit on goal difference, travel to Newcastle United, while their city rivals host West Ham – sides that Calvert-Lewin and Mane have excellent recent records against.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will be confident of picking up three points at struggling Burnley, given Frank Lampard can call on a couple of the Premier League's most in-form players in Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell. 

Finally, Crystal Palace and Southampton will hope Wilfried Zaha and Che Adams can continue their hot streaks when they face Wolves and Aston Villa respectively.

EDOUARD MENDY

Edouard Mendy has impressed for Chelsea since taking over the gloves from the error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The former Rennes man travels to Burnley at the weekend looking to become the first Chelsea goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in each of his first three Premier League appearances for the Blues since Petr Cech in August 2004.

Given Sean Dyche's side have scored just three goals in their opening five games this season, do not bet against him achieving it.

 

BEN CHILWELL

Ben Chilwell has played in just three of Chelsea's six Premier League games this season but he has already created more chances (nine) than any other Blues players. 

The former Leicester City left-back has been directly involved in three goals in those three appearances, with one goal and two assists, and has contributed to two clean sheets.

Burnley look like they will have their work cut out trying to stop the marauding England international at the weekend.

 

MICHAEL KEANE

Everton's forwards have received most of the plaudits for the Toffees' superb start to the season, but there is a man at the back who has certainly contributed to their success. 

Since the Premier League resumed in June, centre-back Michael Keane is the competition's top-scoring defender with three goals.

Two of those have come this season and he heads to Newcastle United this weekend looking to add to that tally. 

 

WILFRIED ZAHA

Wilfried Zaha has brushed aside any disappointment at not getting a move to a Champions League club, starting the 2020-21 season in electrifying form. 

The Ivorian – who faces Wolves on Friday – has scored five goals already this season, which is one more than he managed in 38 appearances last term. 

With five goals and one assist to his name, he is also just one goal or assist away from matching his goal involvement total from last season.

 

SADIO MANE

Sadio Mane will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing West Ham this weekend. 

The Liverpool forward has scored in his last four games against the Hammers and boasts eight goal involvements (five goals, three assists) in eight meetings with them.

He has also been directly involved in five goals in his last four Premier League fixtures (four goals, one assist), which is more than in his previous 10 outings, when he scored just four goals.

 

CHE ADAMS

Southampton visit high-flying Aston Villa and former Birmingham City striker Che Adams will be hoping to get one over on his former arch rivals. 

After failing to score in his first 24 Premier League games, Adams has now scored six in his last 12, including goals in each of his last two appearances. 

He has not found the net in three successive games since he did for the Blues in early 2019. Villa have been warned.

 

DOMINIC CALVERT-LEWIN

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been in red-hot form this season and sits second in the Premier League's scoring charts with seven goals from six appearances. 

Expect him to add to that tally when Everton visit Newcastle, given his recent form against Steve Bruce's side. 

The England international has scored against the Magpies more than any other opponent in the top flight, with all four of his goals coming in his last three games against them.

Roy Hodgson is hopeful talisman Wilfried Zaha will still be at Crystal Palace when the transfer window closes on Monday.

Zaha has made an excellent start to the season, scoring the only goal of the game against Southampton before coming up with a match-winning double in a 3-1 Premier League victory at Manchester United.

The Ivory Coast international has frequently been the subject of speculation that he could leave Selhurst Park for a second time.

Yet Palace boss Hodgson is optimistic the 27-year-old forward will not be on the move.

Hodgson said: "I have been told, and I think Wilf has had it made clear to him, that we are not interested in late bids.

"If it was going to happen, it would need to happen in a time frame which would give us a chance to see what we would want to do with the money.

"So close to the end of the transfer window, I would certainly hope it will not happen now and I want to continue working with him."

Free agent Nathaniel Clyne has been training with Palace and could be set to sign a deal with the club where he started his career.

"We believe and hope he is getting back to his best," Hodgson said of the right-back.

"In the coming days, we will reassess because it is a position where we are not covered at the moment because the young lad [Nathan Ferguson] we brought in to play in that position is still struggling with a knee injury.

"There is an opportunity I think for someone like Nathaniel to come into the club if that is what everyone at the club wants and thinks is the right thing to do. Certainly I have been impressed."

With an international break on the horizon, this is the last opportunity for a couple of weeks for fantasy football manager to get some significant points on the board.

It's been a tricky season for predictions so far as well, making it a bit hazardous for picking fantasy teams, with home advantage seemingly going out of the window.

While there were five home wins on matchday two, matchday three produced just two of them.

Even just a single player change can have a massive points swing in fantasy football, so ahead of the weekend action, take a look at our Opta-powered picks – they might just give you the advantage in your league.

KARL DARLOW

With Burnley visiting St James' Park this weekend, Newcastle United fans might just fancy their chances of a clean sheet.

Given Karl Darlow's start to the season, you can see why. He has made more saves (18) than any other goalkeeper, while he also boasts the best saves per 90 minutes average (six).

Only Emiliano Martinez has a better save percentage (100 per cent) than Darlow (81 per cent) – but the Argentinian has played just one game. Burnley have only scored twice this term, so Newcastle will surely be confident.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON

Liverpool's left-back needs little introduction – over the past few years he will have certainly been among the most popular players in fantasy football given he is routinely part of a good defence but also impacts the game in attack.

He is in one of the most impressive periods of his career as well. He has had a hand in seven goals in his past eight Premier League games for the Reds (two goals, five assists).

Since the 2019-20 season restarted in June, he has six assists in total – that's more than any other player in the division, but Sunday's hosts Aston Villa are yet to concede a goal this term.

TIMOTHY CASTAGNE

Wing-backs are always a popular choice in fantasy football as they are often a great bet for attacking and defensive points – Timothy Castagne encapsulates that.

In three Premier League games since joining from Atalanta, he already has a goal and two assists (the same amounts he managed in all of 2019-20) – that makes him the most productive defender this season.

Leicester have won all three of their matches and host West Ham next. The Hammers showed they are not to be underestimated against Wolves, though the Foxes will expect to have too much for them.

 

WILFRIED ZAHA

If ever you consider sticking Wilfried Zaha in your team, history suggests it should be before games against Chelsea.

With three goals and three assists in 12 games against the Blues, they are his favoured opposition in the Premier League along with Leicester.

It's also worth considering that Chelsea have been shaky defensively so far, conceding six times in three matches.

SADIO MANE

Expensive he may well be, but if you have Sadio Mane in your team, there's always a strong chance you're going to rake in a few points.

He's already got three in as many games this term, while the stats show that he loves playing against Aston Villa, scoring six times and setting up another two in just six meetings with them.

Southampton fans in particular might remember three of those goals, as they came in a spell of just two minutes and 56 seconds in May 2015, and that remains the Premier League's quickest hat-trick.

 

CHE ADAMS

Danny Ings isn't the only Southampton striker in good form – Che Adams is worth a look given his recent output.

In his past five Premier League games, Adams has scored three times and got an assist. Overall, that's one more goal involvement in his previous 28 top-flight games.

Saints host West Brom next, the leakiest defence in the league, so introducing Adams – a low-cost option for the time being – could be a masterstroke.

 

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE

Predicting Mikel Arteta's choices in attack have proven a little difficult since he took over from Unai Emery. Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah have both been used as that focal point, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also lining up.

But Lacazette is in particularly fine fettle this season, the Frenchman having scored in all three of Arsenal's Premier League matches.

On top of that, he has been involved in six goals (four scored, two set up) in his past seven home matches in the competition. Sheffield United are up next, and given their struggles in recent weeks, Lacazette looks a solid option.

The Premier League is in full swing after its second weekend of the 2020-21 season. How did we do without it for… about a month?

While fans remain barred from joining the players in the stadiums – which could yet be the case for much of the season – supporters are at least being treated to plenty of entertainment on TV.

The action certainly picked up where it left off from the previous week, as Saturday provided us with 21 goals across four matches, and that was followed by another 18 in Sunday's four – that's an average of nearly five per game.

Among those goals we saw James 'not Premier League proven' Rodriguez continue to impress and open his account for Everton, Wilfried Zaha down Manchester United and Son Heung-min score four, with each one set up by Harry Kane, remarkably.

An enthralling weekend brought about plenty of talking points and stats – read on for some of the quirkiest facts we could find with the help of Opta.

JAMES FINDS HIS RANGE

From the moment James arrived on Merseyside, the Colombian looked destined to provide plenty of excitement for Carlo Ancelotti's men.

His lovely 20-yard strike into the bottom-right corner during the Toffees' 5-2 win over West Brom meant 18 of his 53 goals scored in Europe's top five leagues have been from outside the penalty area. That's 34 per cent.

A fine record, though it's some way off the Premier League's deadliest from distance. Tom Huddlestone (10 of 12) has scored the greatest proportion of his top-flight goals (83.3 per cent) from outside the area among players to have reached double digits, while Frank Lampard (41) has the largest total.

 

DE GEA'S PENALTY WOES

When Zaha stepped up to a 74th-minute penalty in the hope of making it 2-0 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, few will have been banking on David de Gea's chances of making a save – not because the Palace star is great from the spot, but because of the Spaniard's shocking record in such scenarios.

Stopping a penalty is obviously tough, that's literally the point, but, after conceding Zaha's, De Gea has saved just 7.1 per cent (two of 28), with Paul Robinson (three from 49 for 6.1 per cent) the only goalkeeper to have a worse record among those who've faced 25 or more in the Premier League.

By contrast, Simon Mignolet faced the same number as De Gea but produced six more saves, giving him a 28.6 per cent save rate.

 

AWAY DAYS IN 'GOD'S OWN COUNTRY'

Yorkshire, or 'God's own country' as it is playfully dubbed by locals, is usually renowned for being friendly and welcoming – but perhaps less so when football's involved.

The omens weren't great for Fulham ahead of Saturday's trip to Leeds United, and as it happened they lost 4-3 in a belting contest, meaning they have lost eight successive Premier League matches away to Yorkshire clubs since their first – a 1-0 win at Elland Road in 2002.

Of clubs from outside the region, only Oldham Athletic (0) have a worse points-per-game record than Fulham (0.33). Newcastle United boast the best record of teams to have played more than 10 matches in Yorkshire, winning 1.76 points on average across their 29 games.

In a blow to religion fans everywhere, the Red Devils also tend to do pretty well in 'God's own country' - United have averaged 1.68 points in their 34 Yorkshire away days, losing just nine.

 

KNOWING ME, KNOWING UNITED (ZAHA)

Zaha had the decisive impact against his former club United on Saturday, with his brace effectively the difference in the 3-1 win Palace deservedly clinched.

Not only were they his first goal involvements against United in the league, he became the first player to net a brace against the Red Devils having previously represented them in the competition.

Zaha is now the joint-most prolific former United player in games against them, having drawn level with Fraizer Campbell, Keith Gillespie, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Danny Welbeck on two goals.

JAMAL LEWSES

Although Jamal Lewis impressed for Norwich City as they were relegated last season, he became rather familiar with home Premier League defeats and that has continued since moving to Newcastle.

A 3-0 loss to visitors Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday means Lewis has lost 12 of his 16 home matches in the top-flight – that's 75 per cent, and a joint-record for players with at least 15 home games played in the Premier League.

Kevin Kyle (20 games, 15 defeats) is other player with a 75 per cent losing rate, while Tommy Miller (18 games, 13 defeats – 72.2 per cent), Bruce Dyer (21 games, 15 defeats – 71.4 per cent) and Terence Kongolo (23 games, 16 defeats – 69.6 per cent) round out the bottom five.

Wilfried Zaha said "I can't control everything everyone does" in response to a video on Instagram in which he appears to point to a 'Zaha to Arsenal' sign. 

The Crystal Palace winger was heavily linked with a switch to Arsenal, the club he supported as a youngster, prior to the 2019-20 season but the Gunners instead spent big to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille. 

In the Instagram story, which went viral on social media, Zaha was seen in a club in front of the sign in the background alongside the caption "So me and Wilfried Zaha have a message for you guys @Arsenal". 

Zaha has since posted a story on his own account, playing down his involvement by writing: "I'm just enjoying my time off and can't control everything everyone does." 

The same user who posted the original video later added a message to say Zaha "had no partake in the banter." 

Zaha's long-term future at Selhurst Park has long been in doubt, with Everton having been credited with an interest in the January transfer window. 

Speaking last month, Palace boss Roy Hodgson admitted Zaha had revealed his desire to seek a new challenge. 

"Wilf has made it clear, ever since I came to the club really, that he would relish a move and would like to move on and find some pastures new," Hodgson said. 

"But he's a very valuable player and the club realises his value and appreciates his value and so really everything will depend I guess – as it always does – [on] what sort of offers the club is going to receive for him and how they will equate that with the need to keep him or the need, maybe, to satisfy his wishes, and allow him to go after giving good service to the club for a period of time."

Wilfried Zaha is proud to see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford being vocal in the fight against racial discrimination but believes social media platforms must do more to tackle abuse.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha has long been targeted by racist trolls online, revealing he was first sent abusive messages approximately 10 years ago.

With social media platforms growing in popularity over the past decade, it has become something of a regular occurrence to see top-level athletes sharing screenshots of abuse they have received.

England internationals Sterling and Rashford have both found themselves in such scenarios, while Zaha took similar action earlier in July – with a 12-year-old boy arrested on that occasion.

The current generation of players are taking a stand, highlighting abuse in hope of creating change, and Zaha is glad to be witnessing such action.

"Yes, we are [aiming to effect change]," he told CNN Sport. "I'm so happy when I see these other young black players just not having it anymore.

"I'm proud to see it because it's been too long. You can't just sit back and accept it. Enough is enough.

"How are you cheering me when I'm scoring? Then if I'm not doing what you're happy with, I'm a monkey again? How does that make any sense?

"So, I'm proud to see Raheem and Marcus speaking up and making a change."

But Zaha is convinced social media companies must take greater responsibility with respect to eliminating racist abuse.

"Even after the 12-year-old, I reported 50 accounts that I was racially abused from that week," Zaha added. "What happens? Those accounts get blocked then they just make a new one straight afterwards?

"With everything that we register for these days, we have to give some sort of I.D. Why is it not the same for Instagram, or Twitter? Because that's where people tend to say what they really feel about people, no matter how hurtful or racist it is.

"I've gone through my Instagram account and there's a section where you can block certain words.

"I've had to go and write racist words that I don't want to see on my account - the monkey sign, 'black this', 'black that'. All of it. I've tried myself because the social media platforms are obviously not doing enough.

"I know I speak for the majority of people going through this. I've seen Ian Wright and Raheem speak about it. It's not okay. Things have to be done. Words are not enough now. No more statements.

"You can register as a nine-year-old on Instagram and they [the company] wouldn't know. What age is it to register? Thirteen. The boy who abused me is 12. How does he even get on there? What checks are they making?"

Following the Premier League's resumption in June, the competition supported the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained traction after George Floyd – an African-American man – died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Club jerseys were adorned with a 'Black Lives Matter' patch, while all players and officials took a knee at the start of every match until the end of the season, but Zaha is bemused that such lengths have to be taken in 2020.

"We shouldn't have to put Black Lives Matter to show that we matter on the back of our shirts," he continued.

"It's 2020. Why is it even in dispute? We shouldn't still be sat here saying we matter and giving reasons why.

"So, yes, it's nice to see this effort now being put towards it, but I hope that pressure is sustained. There's no point me having a full-blown interview here and then going back to racial abuse on my phone again."

Juventus could be getting closer to landing Arkadiusz Milik, while Arthur may have played his last game for Barcelona.

After winning a ninth straight Serie A title, Juve are linked with several forwards.

They may have taken a step closer to bringing one in.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS AGREE TERMS WITH MILIK

Juventus have agreed preliminary terms with Napoli forward Milik, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

However, the report says Juve are yet to reach an agreement with Napoli, who are said to have expressed an interest in Federico Bernardeschi.

Milik, 26, has scored 14 goals in 33 games in all competitions for Napoli this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- One player heading to Juventus is Arthur. The midfielder was expected to finish the season with Barcelona, but Sport reports the Brazil international does not want to play for the LaLiga giants – who are still in the Champions League – again and wants to join Juve at the end of August.

- Manchester City are seemingly getting closer to signing Valencia attacker Ferran Torres. Goal and SPOX report Torres has agreed to a five-year deal with City, but the clubs are yet to agree to a fee.

- Coming out of contract at season's end, Willian was expected to leave Chelsea. However, Sky Sports reports the winger could agree to a new deal with Chelsea before the end of the week after a breakthrough was found.

- Chris Smalling's future remains uncertain. CalcioMercato reports Manchester United want €20million (£18.3m) from Roma for the defender, who has been on loan at the Serie A club. Tottenham are also reportedly interested in Smalling.

- Arsenal are seemingly still trying to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey. Get French Football News reports Arsenal attempted to include Matteo Guendouzi in a part-exchange deal for Partey, but the offer was rejected.

- Bayern Munich could be set to make a surprise signing. Sky Sport Austria reports the Bundesliga champions are interested in Norwich City right-back Max Aarons.

- Wilfried Zaha looks likely to be at the centre of transfer speculation once again. The Mirror reports Crystal Palace are set to listen to offers for the attacker, with Everton said to be interested.

Manchester United rising star Aaron Wan-Bissaka says it was an eye-opener when he first faced Wilfried Zaha in training – as the pair prepare to do battle in the Premier League.

Former Crystal Palace team-mates Wan-Bissaka and Zaha are set to be on rival sides on Thursday when United travel to Selhurst Park.

And that means full-back Wan-Bissaka will be charged with stopping the Palace winger's mazy runs, which as he once discovered on the practice pitch is no easy task.

Wan-Bissaka was converted from a striker to a defender while a youngster with Palace, a gradual process that included a spell on the wing.

"Then it started from a training session when someone had to fill in at right-back," Wan-Bissaka told United's official website.

"Training against Wilf, I think he sort of prepared me for what it is like playing in the Premier League.

"I learned a lot from him. He's an unpredictable player and tests like that are ones that made me a better player."

Zaha has terrified defences in Palace colours, but a stint at United did not work out earlier in his career and he soon rejoined the Eagles.

For Wan-Bissaka, the long-term prospects look bright with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team, but the 22-year-old will always look back fondly on his time with Palace, who stunned United 2-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

He predicted it would feel strange to return to Selhurst Park, particularly given a near-empty stadium awaited, but added: "Palace mean a lot to me.

"They are the team that brought me through the system and, without them, I don't think I'd be here. They've given me chances to show what I am capable of doing."

Sheffield United will work with authorities to ensure the person behind racist abuse aimed at striker David McGoldrick is "brought to justice".

McGoldrick shared an image on Instagram highlighting a sickening message he received after scoring twice in his side's 3-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

He added the caption "2020 and this is life" with a speechless expression.

"As a club we will support David McGoldrick and will do all we can to find the perpetrator of this disgusting message," the Blades said in a statement.

"We will work with the relevant authorities to ensure the person behind this post is brought to justice. This cannot continue. Something needs to change."

The abuse shared by McGoldrick came in addition to West Midlands Police arresting a 12-year-old boy after Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha received racist messages ahead of Sunday's match against Aston Villa. 

Zaha thanked authorities for the prompt action, as he insisted action and education was needed to tackle racism, not just condemnation.

"I would like to thank West Midlands police for their swift action in making an arrest, " he said on Monday in a social media post.

"People need to understand that whatever your age, that your behaviour and your words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media.

"It is important social media platforms do as they did [on Sunday] and seek out these individuals and remove them.

"This is not the first time I have received messages like this, nor am I the only player to receive messages like this - it happens every day.

"I want to thank everyone for the love and support but enough is enough. It is not enough to be disgusted by these messages I received and move on. It isn't enough to just say #notoracism. 

"We need action, we need education, things need to change."

West Midlands Police have arrested a 12-year-old boy after Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha shared racist messages he was sent ahead of Sunday's game against Aston Villa. 

Zaha posted on Twitter ahead of the Premier League fixture to show screenshots he received from an Instagram account bearing the handle @jackdolan_avfc. 

The first image showed a message that read: "You better not score tomorrow you black c***. Or I'll come to your house dressed as a ghost." 

Further abusive messages featured a mocked-up image of a man in blackface on a cereal box, alongside a vile racial slur, and a picture of a Ku Klux Klan rally. 

Zaha presented the images with the caption: "Woke up to this today." 

A statement tweeted by West Midlands Police following Palace's 2-0 loss at Villa Park read: "We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy. 

"The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken into custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won't be tolerated." 

Since the Premier League returned from its suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams have worn 'Black Lives Matter' logos on their kits, with players taking a knee before kick-off in each match to show solidarity with the movement.

In a short statement on their official Twitter account, Palace said: "This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening.

"We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse."

Villa issued their own response, stating they intended to issue a lifetime ban when the perpetrator was identified.

They tweeted: "We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to @wilfriedzaha. We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with @CPFC.

"We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban."

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