Gun­ning for Mbappe

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON play­ers happy. I want play­ers ready to fight and to try to put them­selves in the team, to try to win to­gether.

“Then, if you are happy or un­happy, I don’t care.”

Hav­ing won Serie A five times with Ju­ven­tus, Conte knows how to in­su­late his play­ers from the pres­sures of the ti­tle bat­tle and it would be a ma­jor sur­prise if they sur­ren­der their four-point lead over Tot­ten­ham.

The 47-year-old isn’t tak­ing any­thing for granted how­ever and urged his play­ers to fo­cus on beat­ing Mid­dles­brough rather than look­ing ahead to a po­ten­tial ti­tle cel­e­bra­tion later in the week.

“For me it’s not the first time to win the ti­tle. I have a good ex­pe­ri­ence to face this type of sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

“But it won’t be easy un­til the end. My ex­pec­ta­tion for this game is we must play a great game against Mid­dles­brough.

“They are strug­gling to avoid rel­e­ga­tion. We must be ready to fight, ready to find the right way to take three points.”

With only one win in their last 18 matches, sec­ond-bot­tom Mid­dles­brough must win on Mon­day and hope other re­sults go their way to have any chance of a dra­matic es­cape from rel­e­ga­tion.

“We’ve not had much luck this sea­son. If that comes our way over the next few days, then we’ll take it,” Mid­dles­brough man­ager Steve Agnew said. AFP LON­DON: Ar­se­nal have not given up chas­ing Monaco’s teenage star­let Kylian

Mbappe even though there is an ac­cep­tance within the club that the con­tin­ued un­cer­tainty over Arsene Wenger’s fu­ture means that they could end up at the back of the queue for sum­mer sign­ings.

Monaco will de­mand €100mil­lion (RM477 mil­lion) for the 18-year-old who has been the out­stand­ing teenager in the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son but with Real Madrid, Ju­ven­tus and Manch­ester United all keen, Ar­se­nal are likely to find them­selves frus­trated once again.

How­ever, Ar­se­nal in­sid­ers say that they would pay the re­quired amount – which would amount to more than dou­ble the cur­rent trans­fer record of £40 mil­lion (RM225 mil­lion) paid for Me­sut Ozil.

Their pitch to Mbappe will be that he will play every week at Ar­se­nal — which is un­likely at Real Madrid — and that he will play as a cen­tre for­ward, where he may be forced out wide at other clubs.

Ar­se­nal’s only other hope is that they at­tempted to sign the player when he was 16 and have wanted him for three years now. Wenger last week told beIN Sports that he vis­ited Mbappe's home last year to per­suade him to come Ar­se­nal.

How­ever, given the cal­i­bre of clubs now in­ter­ested and Ar­se­nal’s di­min­ished sta­tus, with Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball un­likely, that is likely to count for lit­tle.

Ar­se­nal will chase a cen­tre for­ward and will make fresh ap­proaches to Borus­sia Dort­mund’s Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang, es­pe­cially if Alexis Sanchez joins Paris Saint-Ger­main in the sum­mer.

Again, Ar­se­nal would have to find £70mil­lion to sign the 27year-old. They also need to sign a re­serve right back but have al­ready se­cured Schalke's Sead Ko­lasinac at left back. They are ex­pected to add a mid­fielder as well.

Mean­while, Wenger him­self has in­sisted he will not turn on his play­ers and crit­i­cise them pub­licly de­spite their un­der­achieve­ment this sea­son, as they take on Manch­ester United on Sun­day at­tempt­ing to keep their feint Cham­pi­ons League hopes alive.

And he in­sists that the Ar­se­nal play­ers will be de­ter­mined to demon­strate their de­sire against United, de­spite their limp de­feat by Tot­ten­ham in the north Lon­don derby last week and a run of just four wins in 11 Pre­mier League games.

An­to­nio Conte

Kylian Mbappe

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