Newcastle have had to temporarily close their training ground after even more COVID-19 cases were recorded at the club, and fear the situation could put Friday’s trip to Aston Villa in doubt.
The club announced last week that two players and a member of staff were having to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus, and that tally was taken to five two further cases were later confirmed.
The infectious nature of the virus means that is always likely to rise further as more players and staff are tested, however, and The Telegraph report that a ‘significant’ number of new cases have been found. The club have closed their training ground until at least Tuesday morning as they look to get a handle on the situation.
The overnight closure is the best case scenario, however. The situation may not be resolved any time soon, and the report notes that Friday’s trip to the Midlands may be postponed, or even forfeited, as a result.
The report stops short of confirming the precise number of new cases but it is thought to be enough that the club are not confident of resuming full training this week.
It comes after Steve Bruce acknowledged it had been a ‘difficult’ week following Newcastle’s narrow victory over Crystal Palace.
“It’s been a tough week,” he said after his side rallied for a late 2-0 win. “Can we avoid a bigger outbreak? We sincerely hope so but it’s difficult at the minute. It’s a concern and difficult to manage. But we’re trying our best to control the situation; we’re trying to stay as safe as we can be.
“My concern is not just for the welfare of my players – which is, of course, vitally important – but my staff too. I’m a bit anxious.”
West Ham recorded their third successive Premier League win as Jarrod Bowen’s second-half header secured all three points against Aston Villa at the London Stadium on Monday night.
It took less than two minutes for the home side to take the lead, with Angelo Ogbonna towering above Matt Targett to head home Bowen’s corner.
The early setback spurred the visitors on as they took control of the game, and Jack Grealish’s superb strike midway through the first half deservedly saw them draw level.
David Moyes rung the changes at half time and the newly introduced Said Benrahma had an instant impact, picking out Bowen who found the bottom corner with a deft flicked header.
With little under 20 minutes remaining, the visitors were handed a glorious opportunity to level the scores after Declan Rice was adjudged to have pulled back Trezeguet in the area, though Ollie Watkins could only find the crossbar with the resulting spot kick.
Watkins looked to have redeemed himself with an injury time strike, though VAR denied him his goal following a marginal offside and it was the Hammers who secured the points.
That’s the match highlights out of the way, now to the West Ham and Aston Villa player ratings.
Lukasz Fabianski (GK) – 7/10 – Produced a number of solid saves including one from Conor Hourihane’s whipped free kick in the first half. Little he could do about Grealish’s goal.
Fabian Balbuena (CB) – 6/10 – Looked composed stepping forward but his distribution was found wanting on more than one occasion.
Angelo Ogbonna (CB) – 7/10 – Lovely bit of movement to engineer himself space in the lead up to West Ham’s opener. Rarely troubled by Watkins despite the former Brentford man’s mobility.
Aaron Cresswell (CB) – 7/10 – Despite playing on the left of a back three, he still looked to advance forward where possible and produced a number of threatening balls into the box.
Vladimir Coufal (RWB) – 5/10 – Did his best to provide a constant outlet on the Hammers right but struggled to impact the game.
Declan Rice (CM) – 7/10 – Battled well all game and did a good job of stifling the busy John McGinn. Perhaps unlucky to concede a penalty for a slight shirt tug, but even so another good performance from a midfielder enjoying a stellar start to the campaign.
Tomas Soucek (CM) – 5/10 – Neglected his defensive duties for the Villa equaliser as he was left chasing Grealish’s shadow having advanced up the pitch. Slightly overshadowed by his midfield partner.
Arthur Masuaku (LWB) – 5/10 – Lasted just 45 minutes after a fairly ineffective performance. Couldn’t pick out a man whenever he was given the chance to deliver.
Jarrod Bowen (RW) – 7/10 – Nice ball for the game’s opener and a lovely flicked header to restore his side’s lead in the second half. Very good display from the wide man.
Michail Antonio (ST) – 5/10 – Afforded a start in place of last week’s match winner Sebastien Haller but was hooked at half time. Clearly off the pace and lacking match sharpness.
Pablo Fornals (LW) – 6/10 – Switched to the Hammers right following the introduction of Benrahma and looked much more comfortable having barely had a kick in the first half.
Said Benrahma (LW) – 7/10
Sebastien Haller (ST) – 5/10
Mark Noble (CM) – 6/10
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 6/10 – Little he could do about either of the West Ham goals. Solid handling when called upon but given very little to do other than pick the ball out of his net.
Matty Cash (RB) – 5/10 – Not his usual probing self down the Villa right. Struggled to contain the lively Benrahma following his half-time introduction.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 6/10 – Will be disappointed to his team conceded two headers having looked relatively secure for the rest of the evening. Not caused a lot of trouble by either Michail Antonio or Sebastien Haller.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 7/10 – His usual colossal self at the heart of the Villa backline. More emphasis should have been put on moving into midfield as the game wore on but defensively sound.
Matt Targett (LB) – 6/10 – Left completely isolated as Ogbonna towered above him to head home West Ham’s opener. Picked himself up to produce a solid display, always looking to surge forward and linked up well with Jack Grealish.
John McGinn (CM) – 7/10 – Fascinating battle between the Scotsman and Declan Rice, with both having success in the tussle and refusing to give up. Should have done better when given a sight of goal shortly after going 2-1 down, but a good performance nonetheless.
Douglas Luiz (CM) – 7/10 – Never looked flustered in the centre of the pitch and was always willing to receive the ball from the Villa backline. The kind of velvet performance we’ve come to expect from the Brazilian.
Conor Hourihane (CM) – 6/10 – Looked a constant threat from set pieces and could have found himself on the scoresheet were it not for a smart save from Lukasz Fabianski. Struggled to get into the game set pieces aside.
Trezeguet (RW) – 6/10 – Perhaps the benefactor of the Hammers paying such close attention to Grealish. Popped up in a number of threatening areas and was busy all evening, but couldn’t find a finish having been played in by Watkins.
Ollie Watkins (ST) – 4/10 – Found himself a little isolated in the first half but did well receiving the ball to feet. Should have done better with a close-range effort after Trezeguet had manufactured an opportunity. A miserable night was compounded after he failed to hit the target from the spot and saw his late equaliser disallowed for offside.
Jack Grealish (LW) – 9/10 – An all-action display full of creativity and guile. Regularly drifted in from the Villa left as he looked to impact proceedings, a move which saw him restore parity on the evening with his fifth Premier League goal of the season.
Juventus host Dynamo Kyiv at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday in their penultimate match of the Champions League group stage.
Andrea Pirlo has already seen his side qualify for the last 16 and can afford to relax knowing they are through no matter what happens on Wednesday, though are still fighting with Barcelona for top spot.
Dynamo Kyiv are playing for pride now in a campaign that has seen them struck down with a high number of positive COVID-19 cases, meaning they’ve never really gotten their European campaign going.
When Is Kick Off? Wednesday 2 December What Time Is Kick Off? 8PM (GMT) Where Is It Played? Allianz Stadium TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK) Referee? Stephanie Frappart
With qualification already wrapped up, Pirlo is likely to give a few players a rest. Adrien Rabiot and Arthur are likely to sit out with Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie in with a shout of starting. Juve will be without Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral at the back.
Gianluigi Buffon could play in his 124th Champions League match if he starts, which would take him level with Paul Scholes. Ex-Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was sent off at the weekend against Torino and will likely start this game due to his impending suspension in the league, and Cristiano Ronaldo should return after missing out in their weekend draw at Benevento.
Dynamo Kyiv are without Oleksandr Tymchyk, Nazariy Rusyn, Mykyta Burda and Volodymyr Kostevych through injury. Dynamo were glad to see key Viktor Tsyhankov return to action at the weekend and will be boosted massively by his return to fitness.
Dynamo Kyiv: Bushchan; Kedziora, Popov, Zabarnyi, Mykolenko, Andriyevskyi, Shaparenko; Tsygankov, Shepelev, De Pena; Verbic.
Juventus have only dropped points in one game in the Champions League this season, coming in a loss to Barcelona. They have beaten Dynamo Kyiv once already and have beaten Ferencvaros on both occasions.
Pirlo’s men go into Wednesday’s game on a six match unbeaten run – they have only been beaten once all season and currently sit fourth in Serie A. They have done well to qualify early and can now shift their focus to preserving player fitness.
Dynamo Kyiv are still winless in the Champions League this season, with their only points coming against Ferencvaros. The draw wasn’t kind to Dynamo – being drawn with Barcelona and Juventus has made their first appearance in the Champions League since the 2016/17 season a difficult one.
Still, at least they’re top of the Ukrainian Premier League…
Premier League stadiums in Tier 2 will be allowed to serve alcohol to fans when they reopen from 2 December, but only while seated in the concourse or in hospitality areas.
The nation-wide lockdown will be lifted later this week with a return to the tiered system that was in place in October coming into force. The government confirmed that in Tier 1 and 2 areas, a limited amount of supporters – up to 4,000 – will be permitted back into stadia.
It will be the first time since March that competitive football in England has welcomed spectators and clubs have been hard at work to ensure that the first step towards normality is taken successfully. Rules on masks and social distancing will follow what is in place in the hospitality industry, with attending supporters not permitted to socialise outside of their ‘bubble’.
One area of contention has been the consumption of alcohol within stadiums. Pubs and restaurants are restricted in what they can and can’t serve, and it hadn’t been clear until now what sort of restrictions would be in place at the football.
The Times report that, as was the case even before lockdown, fans will not be allowed to drink alcohol in the stands. They can be served alcohol, however, so long as they drink it seated in the concourse.
As things stand, Liverpool will be allowed to bring 2,000 fans back to Anfield, while Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Southampton, Spurs and West Ham all fall into Tier 2, so will be allowed to reopen to spectators.
No Premier League clubs fall into Tier 1, so the remaining 10 Premier League stadia will remain closed until at least the next review, which will take place on 23 December.
England is the only country in the UK allowing the phased return of fans to begin in December, though clubs in Scotland are piling increasing pressure onto Holyrood to follow Westminster’s lead.
One of the most annoying things about modern football is that the manager is often the last guy to cop the blame during a difficult run.
We see it every time Manchester United lose a game and the consensus emerges that ‘these players just can’t defend’ – ignoring the fact that it’s a certain somebody’s job to organise them into a defensive unit in training.
More annoyingly, however, it is actually justified on a few rare occasions, and, even worse, if there is very little that the manager can do to improve the team you support, it’s probably time to worry – you’ve got a dysfunctional club on your hands.
All of this isn’t to suggest that this is the exact situation at Arsenal right now, who after a giddy dream of a first season under Mikel Arteta find themselves 14th in the Premier League after a chastening loss to Wolves, but at the same time it’s becoming an increasingly easier conclusion to make.
For the sake of balance, it’s necessary to point out that the Spaniard, in his first managerial job, has been far from blameless. Despite scooping up two trophies (one and a half trophies, maybe) in a remarkably short space of time, there have been errors of judgment during his tenure.
It would be impossible not to mention his clashes with various players, from Mesut Ozil to Matteo Guendouzi – as a manager just starting out in the game, Arteta might reflect that squaring up to these polarising players with enormous personalities just wasn’t worth the trouble, especially given that the two of them have stuck around and provided critics with ammunition after every drab defeat.
Tactically, Arteta was slow to think beyond using Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a left-winger, despite the evidence that unless the Gabon international was banging in every shot it simply stifled any movement within the forward line.
These are two things that you can chalk down to inexperience, but they should not be as damning as they ultimately have been. The reason that Aubameyang and Ozil have been the two spectres which have haunted match after match for Arsenal is because of the lack of any structure which would support or validate Arteta’s decisions at the club.
Even without the big injury layoffs at the club right now – and boy, would Arsenal find life a lot easier if just one of Thomas Partey or Gabriel Martinelli were available – the club’s failing infrastructure has made things so difficult that it feels like the most that any manager can do there is effectively what Arteta has done and stabilise them
Though there is an absence of style in the Arsenal side, short of a compact(-ish) defensive structure, and creativity is becoming increasingly nonexistent, Arteta made the most logical use of his resources possible against Wolves – Aubameyang was central, Bukayo Saka, the closest approximation of a left winger available, played as a winger and Joe Willock, the closest approximation of a number ten, was their most advanced playmaker.
However, on account of Arteta’s squad being made up of approximations rather than players who can fulfil specific tactical roles, Arsenal lost and looked awful. Willock wasn’t a ten, Saka wasn’t a left winger, and the likes of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos in midfield were unable to play a line-breaking pass.
Short of maybe sticking Nicolas Pepe in this lineup, how do you solve it? We’re very close to seeing Arsenal’s best eleven, and yet it is full of square pegs in round holes – the supposedly game changing experienced players in Willian and Aubameyang, who might provide the quality which would override these contradictions, are both in their 30s.
What must be most galling for Arteta is that Arsenal criminally missed an opportunity to add a creator in midfield in Houssem Aouar, a ball-progression machine who was the fifth-most succesful dribbler in Ligue 1 last season, after the Gunners baulked at Lyon’s asking price.
They never even looked particularly close, additionally, to adding a bustling, physical forward who could replace the lacklustre Alexandre Lacazette, culminating in the bleak scenario where Spurs signed a Harry Kane backup (Carlos Vinicius), who would most likely start in the red half of North London.
But most importantly, the powers that be at Arsenal have failed to validate any of the big calls that Arteta has made – there’s no way that Ozil would be trending on Twitter after every defeat if the club had made a move for a Jack Grealish-style creator who can operate wide. But instead what might have been some savvy man-management from Arteta has been fashioned into another cudgel to attack him with, as he unsuccessfully tries to coax Rui Costa out of tidy box-to-box midfielders.
If just a few changes were made to Arsenal’s lineup, you’d be surprised how quickly the outlook at the Emirates would change – the former City assistant’s greatest success has been to give Arsenal a robust base to win football matches and go toe-to-toe with other top teams. He now needs better players to move beyond this base.
The alternative to giving Arteta these players is to tempt a manager like Julian Nagelsmann or (dare I say it) Mauricio Pochettino to the club, and, to put it plainly, would either be bothered? With the backing that Arteta has received, is there much evidence that they could take Arsenal further than they took Leipzig or Spurs respectively?
Arteta has undoubtedly made some rookie mistakes and struggled to impose his will, but the mess at Arsenal is thoroughly of the club’s own making, and they have to own it.