Backpage Roundup: O’Neill Sees Brady in Wilshere, Wenger Shocked by Match-Fixing Scandal, Vermaelen Talks up Arsenal Quality, Sakho’s Threat and More

 

O’Neill Sees Brady in Wilshere

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has heaped praise on Jack Wilshere for the quality he has shown since returning to action this season and likened him to Arsenal legend Liam Brady.

The 21-year-old midfielder finally recovered from his foot-related injuries earlier this season and has been one of Arsenal’s best performers since then. He also played a starring role in England’s recent 2-1 win over Brazil at Wembley and O’Neill believes that the Gunners have a player of real quality on their hands.

Ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash with the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light, O’Neill told the press: “He’s [Wilshere] come on in leaps and bounds. He’s come back from the injury and he’s certainly added another dimension to his game. He’s got that little burst of pace which kind of reminds me of Liam Brady – and if he ends up having the same career as Liam Brady, he will be pretty sensational.”

About the Arsenal side as a whole, he added: “They have some really, really talented young players now coming to the fore – Wilshere, the improvement in his game now is there for all to see. They are just very, very fine players and will cause us problems.”

 

Wenger Shocked by Europol’s Match-Fixing Scandal

Arsene Wenger says that he was shocked to hear about the findings of the latest Europol match-fixing investigation and has urged the concerned authorities to take action and clean up the game from such scandals.

According to the aforementioned report, some 380 football matches from the past few European seasons were fixed and the Arsenal boss finds corruption at such a mass level totally unacceptable.

Wenger said: “It was absolutely a surprise (to hear) the number of games that have been fixed. For me, it is a real tsunami and a real shock. I cannot accept it. I always was a believer that there is a lot of cheating going on in our game and that we are not strong enough with what happens, nor with the doping, nor with the corruption of the referees, nor with the match-fixing.

“It is time that we tackle this problem in a very serious way and that people who cheat are punished in a very severe way as well. Sport is full of legends who are in fact cheats. We had a recent example again (in cyclist Lance Armstrong) and we all have that responsibility to fight against that.

“You cannot accept when somebody who works the whole week and decides to spend his money to go to a game, that you then cheat him because everything is decided before he gets to the stadium. I cannot stand up for that. We cannot accept that.”

One of Liverpool’s matches from their 2009/10 Champions League campaign is also under investigation but Wenger doesn’t believe that any match-fixing takes place in England.

He added: “I don’t think at all it is a problem in the English game, and that is why it is maybe a shock for us. We are convinced we live in a world in England where although it is not a perfect world, I don’t think cheating or match-fixing is a problem. In fairness I give you [press] some credit for that because the English media would be very harsh against that.

“I personally feel English football is clean of cheating 100 per cent. I don’t think referees are corrupt. It happened in Europe before, that is my belief, where referees were not always fair, there is history, especially in some countries, but you always have to be cautious, have your own beliefs, prove it, and that becomes more difficult.”

 

Vermaelen Talks Up Arsenal Quality

Thomas Vermaelen believes that Arsenal have what it takes to beat any of the top sides in the Premier League even though recent results contradict his belief.

The Gunners dropped back-to-back league games to Manchester City and Chelsea last month in disappointing fashion but the Arsenal captain is still confident that his side can hang with the big boys of the division.

In a recent interview with Arsenal.com, Vermaelen said: “You could see it from the start of the season that his team has a lot of potential. We have enough quality in this team to beat anybody. I think you could see that in the games we played against top teams. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but I think in some parts of the games we played well.”

About Arsenal’s Saturday-afternoon encounter with Sunderland, the Belgian added: “Sunderland away is always a tough game. I think we did well in the first game of the season at home against Sunderland (a 0-0 draw). We couldn’t score but we were the better team and had the better chances.”

 

Arsenal Target Sakho Threatens to Leave PSG

Long-term Arsenal target Mamadou Sakho has threatened that he will quit his current club Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, if his playing time is not increased.

The 22-year-old defender was once considered an integral part of PSG’s backline but the arrival of Thiago Silva and Alex in recent years has reduced his role in the first-team. He has now alerted his potential suitors that he might be available for a transfer next summer, if things don’t improve for him in Paris between now and May.

I will do everything to play at the 2014 World Cup, but I need to be playing week in, week out. I cannot accept playing just a few minutes this season and next because this is a decisive moment in my career. At the end of the season I will sit down with my agent and club officials and clear up the situation. If I have to leave PSG to keep my place in the France national team, then I have no choice but to leave,” said Sakho.

I adore the English Premier League,” he added.

 

Ox Won’t Get Impatient with Bench Role

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has assured Arsenal fans that he is happy to wait for his turn and will not lose focus when he is not a regular starter for the club.

The 19-year-old winger often starts from the bench for Arsenal these days but instead of complaining about it, he says that he understands the management’s decision.

In an interview with Arsenal.com, Oxlade-Chamberlain said: “I’m only 19 years of age and I’m at Arsenal Football Club. I know I’ve got to bide my time, and maybe this is one of those times. Just to get a start was really important to me, and I know that when I get the opportunity, I’ve got to make sure I try and take it.

“It’s always nice for the confidence when you get a run of games. I had a few a couple of weeks ago, I think I played maybe five or six games on the spin and that was nice. I’ve got to expect to sometimes be pulled out because we’ve got so many talented players at this football club.

“Everybody wants to play so you’ve got to take being taken out of the team sometimes, let someone else have a go and make sure you’re ready to come off the bench and affect the games and help the team.”

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