Declan Rice lauded praise on England midfield partner Kobbie Mainoo for his leadership qualities during his run in the side at Euro 2024. 

Mainoo has started alongside Rice in the Three Lions' three knockout games against Slovakia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. 

The Manchester United midfielder, who enjoyed a breakthrough season under Erik ten Hag, made history in England's semi-final win over Ronald Koeman's side. 

At 19 years and 82 days, Mainoo became the youngest player to play for England in the semi-final of a major tournament.

Mainoo received the man of the match award, starring in midfield as he made more tackles (two) and interceptions (two) than any other Three Lions player in Dortmund. 

"You can just see. You speak to him and just feel his calm presence that he has and what I like about him is that he is not scared to say it how it is," said Rice.

"There was something towards the end [against the Netherlands] when he gave me a pass between the lines and I got sold short for it.

"We had to sprint back and we had bit at each other - but that is good because you need that relationship. At 19, I can't imagine many saying that to older players and that's what I love about him.

"That is what the lads love about him as well. He gets that respect, he has that leadership and the way he takes the ball and is comfortable.

"The conversations we've been having daily with each other and on the training pitch have brought us together, and we have become a nice partnership."

Rice has had another influential tournament with England, having played a major role in Gareth Southgate's side in their run to the delayed Euro 2020 final against Italy.

In Germany, the Arsenal midfielder has had more touches (300) and completed more passes (236) while under high pressure than any other player at the tournament.

He’s also made seven line breaking passes that have led to a shot within 10 seconds, more than any other England player, showcasing his ability in the forward areas. 

Rice was previously partnered with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher during the group games at the tournament but insists he has found a nice balance with Mainoo ahead of their meeting with Spain on Sunday.

"I think when you're playing with a midfield partner, you need to understand each other's game. You need to play close to each other.

"That's why you see us playing a couple of little passes to each other in games. You know, those little first pass connections are so important. And we've been working really well together on the training pitch.

"So this boy is going to go on to be massive. He's destined for great things. And what I love about him as well is that he isn't big-headed. He's got a great family around him. You see his family in the stands after the game. They're so happy, smiley, speak to people. 

"Man United have got a top player on their hands for the next decade, I'm sure."

Declan Rice wants to take inspiration from the Lionesses' European Championships success when England face Spain in the Euro 2024 final on Sunday.

England's women won their first major trophy at Euro 2022, dramatically beating Germany 2-1 in extra time to earn the country's first title since the men won the 1966 World Cup.

The Three Lions had come close to ending the trophy drought themselves the year before but lost on penalties to Italy in the delayed Euro 2020 final.

Having reached the final for the second consecutive Euros, Rice is aiming to build on the legacy created by the Lionesses.

"Yeah, it would mean everything I think to win something for your country,” Rice said.

"We saw when the women's team won it, what it meant to them and what it meant to the nation. I'm lucky enough now to see a lot of the girls who are in the Arsenal squad and to this day they still speak about it.

"You know that's what we want now as a men's team, you know we want it. We want to win; we want to make the nation proud. We want to make the fans proud.

"And it's a chance to create our own little bit of history. So yeah, look, we're ready. But like I said, it's another game of football and may the best team win."

As well as reaching the final in both European Championships under Gareth Southgate, England also reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 respectively.

However, the manager had come under criticism at the tournament in the early stages after lacklustre performances from the side, especially in the group stages.

"I can't speak highly enough of Gareth," Rice added. "I think he deserves it more than anyone.

"I think the England manager's job is probably one of the most scrutinised jobs in the world, but you look at what he's done for us in tournaments.

"Obviously, after the group games it was tough, the boos, people chucking stuff on the pitch, you have to see that, and you have to be calm in those moments.

"For him as the manager, he has to be calm and the way he still reacted with us after that, how calm he was, even though if he would have been feeling a different way, it still made us feel really calm. And we always still had a vision and a belief that we could go and do special things.

"Now we're feeling that love, that confidence, and we can't thank everyone enough for that and, yeah, just keep with us one more game. And, hopefully, we can do something special and give memories to you all for forever."

Declan Rice says England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy will "haunt him forever" and has urged the team to use it as motivation against Spain on Sunday.

England booked their place in the Euro 2024 showpiece with a last-gasp 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday.

In their last such final, they were beaten 3-2 on penalties at Wembley after playing out a 1-1 draw with Italy over 120 minutes.

Rice was one of those in the team that lost three years ago, and he is keen to put that result behind them by going one better this time around.

"Seeing Italy lift that trophy will haunt me forever," said Rice.

"We are now presented with another opportunity where we can write our own history, but we are up against another top side who we have to massively respect.

"Hopefully, now we can do it. Not only for each other but also for the manager. I think he deserves it."

Under Gareth Southgate, England have now reached at least the semi-final stage three times, and Sunday's match in Berlin is their first-ever major tournament final on foreign soil.

This time, they will come up against three-time winners Spain, and the Three Lions manager says there is no room for error if they want to come out on top.

"They would be rightly favourites for what they have done this tournament. They have been the best team," said Southgate.

“They have got a day longer and in the past three finals, maybe more, it has been quite significant, so we have got to get our recovery spot on.

“Tactically we will have to be perfect as they are such a good side. But, you know, we are here."

England avoided an early exit at Euro 2024 after last-gasp Jude Bellingham heroics and Declan Rice says the Three Lions "would do anything to protect" manager Gareth Southgate.

Ivan Schranz's first-half opener seemed to have Slovakia on course for a shock last-16 upset, only for Bellingham to rifle home a remarkable 94th-minute leveller in Gelsenkirchen.

Bellingham's eye-catching overhead kick sent the tie to extra time, in which Harry Kane headed home just 50 seconds into the additional 30 minutes at Arena AufSchalke on Sunday.

England have now won their last four games having conceded first at the European Championship, after losing their first six such matches, and Rice says that battling performance was for the under-fire Southgate.

"I cannot describe the feeling representing England in the European Championship round of 16, you look up at the clock and you think 'we could be going home here'," Rice told BBC Sport.

"Players are saying that to each other with one minute to go and there is that inner fight and spirit in us.

"We have got that togetherness tonight, we would do anything to protect this manager. Keep going and keep fighting, it is an honour to be a part of it – we are going to keep going."

Bellingham's stunning leveller, timed at 94 minutes and 34 seconds, marked England's latest goal at the European Championship.

Arsenal midfielder Rice says that only serves to highlight the bravery of Bellingham, who etched his name into England folklore with what Kane earlier described as one of the country's best goals in history.

"It is crazy because if that was me that was going over the bar," Rice joked.

"It was a big moment for him, at 21 years old that takes a lot of guts. People don't understand what you have to go through to get over the line.

"We are not playing against invisible men. They are top footballers, they kept going after us. It is about waiting for those moments as the game got stretched we created more.

"The fans tonight I cannot speak highly enough of them. So grateful they are all here to experience that."

Rice was part of a confrontation with Slovakia manager Francesco Calzona at full-time, with England in celebratory mood after setting up a last-eight meeting with Switzerland on Saturday in Dusseldorf.

Calzona was left disheartened, too, after feeling his side were equal to Southgate's men.

"We played on par basically with England, we almost qualified," Calzona told reporters. "We were very nearly there, unfortunately things went the way they did.

"I'm very proud to see this team do so well, the other team sending on defenders to preserve their result."

England are "desperate" to win Euro 2024, but Declan Rice feels the Three Lions "put too much pressure on ourselves".

Gareth Southgate and his team have faced plenty of scrutiny in the media following unconvincing displays in their matches so far.

England beat Serbia 1-0 in their Group C opener before drawing 1-1 with Denmark on Thursday.

While they sit in pole position to progress as group winners ahead of facing Slovenia, England – particularly in attack – do not look up to the standard of some of the other teams to have impressed so far at the tournament.

But Rice believes adding extra pressure does not help.

He said: "We are all so desperate to win, to be leaders, to go out there and give people memories for lifetimes and sometimes I maybe feel like we put too much pressure on ourselves where we could just go out there and let it just take care of ourselves.

"We know we can be better in and out of possession and there is lots to improve on, which is a positive in a way.

"I think there is probably more pressure now from the outside just because of the seasons some of our players have had.

"If you look at the goals that our front four have scored this year, it’s over 100 between them. Of course, there is expectation because they are the best players in the world. And that goes for everyone throughout the team.

"There's going to be that pressure. This is England [at] a major tournament. But this is our job and this is what we have to deal with."

England's questionable displays have seen them drop from being Euro 2024 favourites, at least according to Opta's supercomputer, to the third-most likely team to win the tournament, behind France and hosts Germany.

England round out their Group C campaign against Slovenia on Tuesday.

Adam Wharton does not expect age to be a barrier to his England hopes at Euro 2024 as the midfielder revelled in a "surreal feeling" ahead of the major tournament.

Crystal Palace's Wharton was playing Championship football with Blackburn Rovers until his January move to the Premier League.

The next step on his seismic rise comes this month after making Gareth Southgate's final squad for the upcoming European Championship.

That reward followed after a remarkable second half to the season for Wharton, who is already attracting interest from Europe's elite clubs following his impressive showings for Oliver Glasner's Palace.

Wharton, aged just 20 for this UEFA tournament in Germany, wants to leave his mark and believes chances are there to be taken, despite his relative inexperience compared to his team-mates.

"There are still players that have been in the team for a long time and some top young players in the team... I think it's good to have that little mix," Wharton said on Wednesday.

"If you're good enough, you're old enough.

"It's a surreal feeling. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. Just a dream come true. Every kid who grows up playing football wants to play in the Premier League, and play for their country.

"I got to play for the team I supported to begin with, really enjoyed that and then it has continued since. Moving to the Premier League, now here, so it's all been very fast but I wouldn't want it any other way.

"I have really enjoyed the last six months and I just want to keep playing, getting better."

Wharton will battle with Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher and Kobbie Mainoo for a role in Southgate's midfield, while Jude Bellingham remains an option if moved deeper.

That does not concern the 20-year-old, however, as Wharton realises his dreams on the international scene.

"I am just absolutely delighted," he added. "I get to do what I love on the top stage, you can't beat it."

Declan Rice is confident that England can do something really special at Euro 2024 as the team set off for Germany on Monday. 

The Arsenal midfielder was part of the side that fell short in the tournament three years ago against Italy at Wembley, and has since become a mainstay in the side under Gareth Southgate. 

This will be Rice's third international tournament for the Three Lions, and he believes that the current squad have what it takes to lift the trophy in Berlin on July 14. 

“We want to make history,” the 25-year-old said on England’s departure show on YouTube. “We say it all the time, but genuinely we have a group, a manager, that really believes.

“We have a confidence that we can go there and do something really special and, of course, with that comes hard work.

"That is going to be the main thing – the hard work as a team, unity, togetherness and with everyone behind us at home. We’re going to feel that for sure, so stick with us, be positive and let’s see what happens.”

England's preparations for the tournament concluded last week and head into their Group C opener with Serbia off the back of a 1-0 defeat to Iceland at Wembley. 

But Rice says the disappointment does not detract from what was a beneficial 10-day training camp, hoping to build on his impressive debut season with Arsenal. 

“It’s obviously difficult when you finish the league. Your body completely shuts down when you have a break, because we’re made to just play all the time,” 

“When we have a rest, our body shuts down and it’s hard to get going again. But last week was really beneficial, to be honest with you, I think for everyone.

“We’ve got another full week now until the game, so we’ll be in a really good spot.”

Declan Rice insists there are positives England can take from Friday's friendly loss to Iceland, also saying the result should not affect Kobbie Mainoo's chances of partnering him in midfield.

England were booed off as they lost their final Euro 2024 warm-up fixture 1-0 at Wembley Stadium, Jon Thorsteinsson's 12th-minute strike proving decisive.

Gareth Southgate's team managed just one shot on target as Iceland sat deep and invited pressure, with Harry Kane and Ivan Toney both fluffing their lines from promising positions.

It was their fewest shots on target in any game since a goalless draw with Scotland in the group stage at Euro 2020 (also one).

The Three Lions were also criticised for a lethargic performance on that occasion, only to reach the final of that tournament.

While Rice was disappointed with Friday's result, he is sure England will learn from their mistakes in time for Group C fixtures against Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia.

"I think when we have that much of the ball and have a couple of really clear-cut chances, and obviously getting beat 1-0 at home just before a Euros isn't ideal, but I am going to take the positives from it as well," Rice told Channel 4. 

"There were a lot of promising performances tonight. I felt on the pitch we played with a good tempo, always tried to play forward and be attacking and a threat. 

"In the end it becomes a frustrating game because you are chasing your tail a little bit, you're likely to get caught on the counterattack and that is where we have to be a little bit more savvy. 

"Going into a tournament, it is not ideal that we lost, but also there are some good learning curves from tonight that we can build on as a team."

This is the first time England have lost their final game prior to a major international tournament since Euro 1968, when they fell at the first hurdle in a four-team competition after going down to West Germany in their final warm-up fixture.

After losing 1-0 to Brazil in March, they have also failed to score in two of their last three matches at Wembley, as many blanks as they fired in their previous 31 outings at the national stadium.

Rice partnered Manchester United youngster Mainoo in the heart of midfield, and his team-mate came in for some criticism from supporters as the Three Lions were routinely caught out on the counterattack.

Rice, however, remains excited about Mainoo's potential, saying: "We did it in March, and it was really positive.

"I can imagine tonight because we lost tonight some people are saying stuff, but that's football these days. Kobbie's young, I am young, our midfield options are young. 

"We are going to learn every game and that is the beauty of football, that every game you play there is a chance to improve and get better."

Declan Rice deserves to be in contention for the Premier League's Player of the Season award and has proven to be the best signing of the campaign, says former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour.

Rice joined Arsenal from West Ham in a £105million deal last July and has had a transformative impact, helping Mikel Arteta's side push Manchester City all the way in the title race.

On Thursday, Rice – alongside Arsenal team-mate Martin Odegaard – was named as one of eight nominees for the Premier League's Player of the Season prize, with the likes of Phil Foden, Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk also on the shortlist.

As well as helping Arsenal maintain the Premier League's best defensive record in 2023-24, Rice has carried the ball further than any other player in the competition (7,520m), while only seven players have bettered his 147 carries progressing the ball at least 10 yards upfield.

Parlour says Rice's style reminds him of former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson, describing the Gunners man as a true box-to-box midfielder.

Parlour, an ambassador for NetBet, told Stats Perform: "Mark Noble's not too far away from me and I'd always ask, 'Mark, is Declan coming to Arsenal?' He'd always say, 'I don't think you can afford him!' 

"I'm so pleased they stumped up the money and he's been brilliant. I never doubted him really because I know his attitude is very good. He wants to learn, he wants to get better.

"I think with [Thomas] Partey coming in as well, he can get forward a little bit more. He's a little bit more dangerous. He's got a good way of passing, he can probably score more goals if I'm being honest. 

"The way he plays is like the old-fashioned midfielders. I go back to the older era with people like Bryan Robson, where you'd have to go box-to-box, and he can do that. 

"He's got the energy to do that, so I like him to get forward a little bit more, but he's been absolutely superb this year and he's certainly my player of the season."

Defender William Saliba has joined Bukayo Saka in being nominated for Young Player of the Year honours, and Parlour believes the Frenchman is one of several Gunners worthy of recognition.

"There's been a lot of good performances, though. The two centre-backs have stayed fit this year and they've been excellent, Gabriel and Saliba," He added.

"Martin Odegaard has been absolutely brilliant as well, he always wants the ball, his vision is very, very good. 

"But I think Declan has certainly stood out as the signing of the season and then probably player of the season for Arsenal."

Ray Parlour was speaking on behalf of NetBet Sports Betting https://sport.netbet.co.uk

Declan Rice's absence is to blame for a number of heavy West Ham defeats this season, according to manager David Moyes.

West Ham sold captain and influential midfielder Rice to Arsenal last July for a club-record fee rising to £105million with add-ons.

The Hammers have seen results nosedive since the turn of the year, most recently crashing to a 5-0 defeat away at Chelsea on Sunday.

That was the sixth time West Ham have conceded four or more goals away from home this season, and their fifth loss in six away games overall.

Asked at his post-match press conference exactly why his side are on the end of heavy losses so frequently of late, Moyes said: "Declan Rice."

The Scotsman, due to be out of contract next month, added: "You get the best midfield player in the country, protecting, making sure the moments and times you limit maybe 50 per cent of the attacks.

"It makes you a much better defensive team when you get that. We've lacked protection in front of the back four; we've lacked good enough defending; we've not been good enough on those things in many games.

"You've got to be careful. You're talking about a team sitting in a really, really strong position. We've had a couple of bad days away from home, which we have to try and eradicate and make better.

"I'm trying to put a bit of mental toughness when we need it. The teams I normally prepare would normally have it. You could always lose the way you lose."

West Ham have won just one of their past nine Premier League games, seeing them slip down to ninth place and now out of the top-six running.

United have also failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their past 16 in the competition - only the second time they have done so in a single Premier League season.

The poor run of form, which also includes elimination from the Europa League at the hands of a strong Bayer Leverkusen side, has raised doubts over Moyes' future at London Stadium.

Amid suggestions that former Real Madrid and Spain boss Julen Lopetegui has already been lined up, Moyes reiterated he will wait until after the season to hold talks over his future.

"I'm going to talk to the board at the end of the season, so we’ll do that then," he said.

Mikel Arteta lauded the consistency of Bukayo Saka and his increased hunger to win after Saturday's routine 3-0 victory over Bournemouth at Etihad Stadium.

The Gunners swept aside Bournemouth as Saka's penalty opened the scoring before late second-half finishes from Leandro Trossard and Declan Rice sealed another much-needed victory.

With two games to spare, Arsenal have equalled their Premier League win tally from last season (26), only in 1930-31 (28) and 1970-71 (29) have the Gunners won more games in a single top-flight campaign.

That is in large part thanks to Saka, who became the first player to score 20 goals for Arsenal in a season (all competitions) since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2019-20 (29 goals).

He is also the first Englishman to do so for the club since Theo Walcott in 2012-13 (21 goals) and Arteta was quick to praise star winger Saka.

"The level of consistency compared to last year is very similar," the Arsenal manager said at his post-match press conference. 

"There are areas he's better in. I see a different edge to him in the way he competes. He loves winning more than three months ago."

Kai Haverz won Saka's first-half penalty, though Bournemouth may feel the Arsenal forward triggered contact with goalkeeper Mark Travers.

The Cherries also had a goal disallowed at 2-0 down when Dominic Solanke was adjudged to have fouled David Raya before Antoine Semenyo turned into an empty net.

A lengthy VAR check followed both decisions but Arteta refused to comment on either incident, suggesting he had not seen them back yet.

"The honest answer is I haven't seen any of the incidents because I knew you were going to ask me," he added.

"They said do you want to see it and I said no so I can give you an honest answer!"

All 10 of Arsenal’s outfield starters attempted at least one shot in this game, the first time this has happened in a Premier League game for the Gunners since January 2022 against Burnley.

Gabriel Magalhaes almost got in the act but his strike was ruled out late on for offside, before Rice managed to add gloss to a dominant performance.

Rice was playing for West Ham last season as Arsenal capitulated in the title race against Man City, though the England international is hoping for a different outcome this time around.

"I wasn't here last year but I can sense that we are embracing it," the Arsenal midfielder told TNT Sports as Man City prepare to host Wolves later on Saturday.

"Man City are a machine and they don't lose many. Anything can happen in football. Surprises can happen and miracles can happen and we just have to stay focused."

Arsenal will continue to go about their business in hope of Man City slipping up, the Gunners have won 14 of their 16 Premier League games in 2024 (D1 L1), scoring 51 goals and conceding just eight in reply.

Indeed, the Gunners have won the most points in the competition since the turn of the year (43), but Arteta's side remain reliant on favours from elsewhere in the title race.

Arsenal put the pressure back onto Manchester City in the Premier League title race after their comprehensive 3-0 triumph over Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium.

Mikel Arteta's side moved four points clear at the league summit with this victory but Man City have two games in hand, the first of which comes at home to Wolves later on Saturday.

Bukayo Saka opened the scoring from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time, with Arsenal securing a deserved reward for their first-half dominance.

Leandro Trossard and Declan Rice made sure of three points with late finishes as defeat left Bournemouth – who had an Antoine Semenyo strike ruled out in the closing stages – 10th in the table.

A flowing Arsenal move almost ended in Trossard converting Ben White's 10th-minute cross, only for a last-gasp Marcos Senesi block to thwart the Belgium forward.

Bournemouth had Mark Travers to thank soon after as the goalkeeper denied fizzing efforts from Kai Havertz and Saka, as well as a one-on-one with William Saliba.

Travers' one-man resistance continued when pushing away Thomas Partey's low left-footed curling attempt before Rice fired narrowly wide following Havertz's delicate header.

Yet Arsenal finally got their breakthrough as Travers felled the marauding Havertz – with the VAR confirming the spot-kick decision – before Saka coolly swept into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards.

Saka should have doubled his tally after the interval but arrowed a glorious opportunity straight at Travers following a smart offload from Havertz, who went close minutes later.

The otherwise unneeded David Raya was forced into action at the other end to deny Dominic Solanke after 53 minutes, while Justin Kluivert whipped a free-kick just over.

That spell of Bournemouth pressure came to an abrupt end with 20 minutes to go when Rice twisted to play through for Trossard, who slotted a smart right-footed finish into the bottom-right corner.

The Cherries thought they had snatched a goal back just three minutes later but Semenyo's rebounded strike after Ryan Christie hit the crossbar was ruled out for a Solanke foul on Raya, with the VAR confirming the on-field decision.

Arsenal then suffered a similar fate with the officials as Gabriel Magalhaes' rocketed volley was disallowed for offside, but Rice was not to be denied in stoppage-time as he fired Gabriel Jesus' throughball under the helpless Travers.

Advantage Arsenal thanks to super Saka

Arsenal have won 14 of their 16 Premier League games so far in 2024, dropping points only against Man City (0-0) and Aston Villa (0-2) this year.

That incredible run of form ensures a tantalising title race will continue towards the final two games of the season, when Arsenal travel to Manchester United and then host Everton on the last day.

Their success this term can be somewhat apportioned to star winger Saka, who became the first player to score 20 goals for Arsenal in a season across all competitions since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2019-20 (29 goals).

Saka is also the first Englishman to do so for the club since Theo Walcott in 2012-13 (21 goals) as the England international continues to deliver in key moments for the Gunners.

Cherries blunted by dominant Gunners

Bournemouth had won 1-0 at Wolves and 3-0 against Brighton in their last two Premier League games before this – but they have never triumphed in three consecutive top-flight games without conceding.

A wait for three straight such victories will go on into next season, though Andoni Iraola will look back on this campaign with fond memories.

They have never won more matches in a top-flight season than their 13 in 2023-24 (also 13 in 2018-19) and – despite this underwhelming performance – will have another chance to set an outright club record when they host Brentford before visiting Chelsea on the final day, with a top-half finish still possible.

Jamaica international and Manchester City striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw has achieved another remarkable feat in a dazzling career that has left her heat filled with pride and gratitude.

The 26-year-old, whose journey from humble beginnings in Spanish Town, St Catherine to stardom for both club and country, has been nothing short of triumph of talent and tenacity, and copping the Footballer Writers' Association's (FWA) Women’s Footballer of the Year for 2023-24, is another testament of her unwavering determination and indomitable spirit to rise above challenges.

Shaw won the women’s Footballer of the Year award with almost 80 per cent of the voters opting for either the Manchester City striker or Chelsea’s Lauren James.

James finished runner-up with another Manchester City standout Alex Greenwood finishing third. Yui Hasegawa, Elisabeth Terland and Khiara Keating completed the top six.

The prolific Shaw scored 21 goals and got three assists in 18 Women’s Super League (WSL) games for her side who are on the brink of securing their first WSL title since 2016.

“I am very proud and privileged to have received this award and to be recognised in this way is a special honour," Shaw, who recently did a season-ending surgery for a broken leg, said in a statement.

"I want to also thank all of my teammates. They provide me with the chances to score goals and I could not have won this award without them. I also owe a lot to Gareth [Taylor], the rest of the coaching team and everyone else here at City. It’s a pleasure to be part of such a special group.

“Many thanks to all who voted for me and to my fellow nominees. It means such a lot to have won this award. Hopefully the side can now finish off the season in style and give everyone special cause to celebrate,” she added

Meanwhile, another Manchester City stalwart, Phil Foden, copped the Male Player of the Year award.

Foden has enjoyed a fantastic campaign with Manchester City, scoring 24 goals in all competitions so far. He garnered more than 42 per cent of the votes with teammate Rodri, and Arsenal's Declan Rice, named as runners-up.

"Being named the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year is a huge honour. I’m very, very happy to receive this award but I could not have done it without the help of my teammates. We have a very special squad of players at City, and I’m privileged to be a part of that group. I want to thank all my team-mates as well as Pep and the coaches for all the support and advice they have given me," Foden said in his statement.
 
"I strive to be the best that I can be every single day and that is all down to the way the manager and my colleagues always seek to improve and get better. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted for me as well as my fellow nominees. I’m immensely proud to have won this award. Now I am focused on seeking to finish the season as strongly as possible and to try to help City win more trophies," he noted.

It is the second time that two City players have won the men’s and women’s awards. Raheem Sterling and Nikita Parris picked up the prizes in 2019.

Mauricio Pochettino believes it is unfair to compare the impact of Enzo Fernandez at Chelsea to that of Arsenal’s Declan Rice, as the teams prepare to face each other at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

England international Rice joined Mikel Arteta’s side from West Ham last summer for £100million, less than the £107m it cost to take World Cup winner Fernandez from Benfica to Stamford Bridge in January 2023.

The fee for the Argentinian was a British record at the time, though the club have since surpassed it in signing fellow midfielder Moises Caicedo from Brighton for £115m.

Rice has won plaudits for his transformational effect on Arsenal’s midfield, helping to forge a sturdier, more cohesive side than the one that fell away in the final weeks of last season’s Premier League title race.

By contrast, Chelsea’s league position has not markedly improved in the 15 months since Fernandez arrived in west London, and despite clear flashes of his obvious talent and range of passing, question marks have remained over whether the club got value for money.

However, his countryman Pochettino called for perspective on the obstacles that his player has had to contend with since arriving in England.

“Declan Rice was playing for West Ham, an English guy who knows the Premier League, knows the language,” said the 52-year-old.

“For Enzo, after the World Cup to arrive here, in a team that was inconsistent, difficult to get positive results, always it was really difficult.

“In summer he was involved in too many games and he arrived late in pre-season, hasn’t had a holiday in the last two years.

“Too many negative things happened. (It was) difficult for him to adapt, his family. It’s not easy to adapt and perform so quick.”

Fernandez was responsible for creating Chelsea’s best chance of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City, hitting an incisive, raking pass from deep that sent Nicolas Jackson through on goal, but the striker could not finish.

He has scored three Premier League goals and made four assists since moving from Portugal in the immediate aftermath of Argentina’s 2022 World Cup triumph, but Pochettino insisted the best is yet to come from the 23-year-old.

“For sure he is going to be much better next season, after the experience of the whole season in this squad and this team,” he said.

“He’s more experienced, he gets better feelings. The whole season is good for him to learn. Even if he is a world champion, he needs to adapt to the Premier League and to this club. For me, there is no doubt that he is going to be much better.”

Pochettino said there have been no discussions over the future of striker Romelu Lukaku, currently on a season-long loan at Roma, but appeared to hint that the door could be open for a return.

The 30-year-old has scored 18 goals for the Serie A side this campaign after telling Chelsea last summer that he wanted to leave.

“He’s a Chelsea player, so for sure we will pay attention,” said Pochettino. “It’s an option. But still we did not take any decision.”

Arsenal’s form in April looks like costing them dearly again this season after they exited the Champions League and fell behind in the title race.

After costly defeats to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich, the PA news agency looks at the Gunners’ recurring failings at this time of year.

Same old story

Manager Mikel Arteta backed his side to “write our story very differently” against Bayern and had previously called on them to recreate the aura of the 2003-04 “Invincibles”, who won the league without losing a game.

They may instead be following the pattern of Arsenal teams since then who have narrowly missed out on success, particularly last season when they began April eight points clear.

They maintained that margin by beating Leeds on April 1 but drew their next three games and then lost to eventual champions Manchester City as they finished five points behind.

Consecutive league defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in April 2022 contributed to Arsenal missing out on the Champions League.

This season, they were top after beating the Seagulls but defeat to Villa left them two points behind City. That was sandwiched between the two legs of the Bayern tie, a 2-2 draw at home and Wednesday night’s 1-0 defeat in Germany, leaving them needing to end a three-game winless run when they face Wolves on Saturday.

It is not a new phenomenon either – as far back as 2007-08, Arsenal finished four points off the top after winning only one of eight games from February 23 to April 13.

They took one point from four games in the run-in to end their 2009-10 title challenge and five from the final six games in 2010-11 to finish down in fourth, and winning their final five games in 2013-14 was not enough after they took two points from the previous four. They were top of the league for more days that season than any other team, as was the case last year with a record 248.

Same old faces

The PA news agency understands there are some concerns within Arsenal over tiredness and fatigue taking their toll on the players, and their playing time paints a stark picture.

Eight of Wednesday night’s starting XI – David Raya, Ben White, Gabriel, William Saliba, Declan Rice, captain Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Kai Havertz – have played over 3,000 minutes in all competitions this season.

Those figures exclude stoppage-time and are already more than for either of the previous two campaigns, with six league games still to play.

White, Gabriel, Odegaard and Saka have all hit that threshold in each of the last three seasons for totals in excess of 10,000, with Gabriel leading the way at 11,220. His emergence with Brazil means all bar White are now also regulars for their respective countries.

Gabriel Martinelli could yet add a ninth name to this season’s list and Arteta must work out a way to keep his star men fresh and avoid their now traditional springtime slump.

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