Schalke have relieved head coach David Wagner of his duties, terminating his contract with immediate effect.
Former Huddersfield manager Wagner leaves Schalke with the club bottom of the Bundesliga and without a win in 18 league matches, a run that stretches back to January.
His side lost for the fifth time in a row at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday – a loss that came just a week after they were humiliated 8-0 on the opening weekend at the hands of last season’s champions Bayern Munich.
The club announced via their official website that they have parted ways with the 48-year-old. Christoph Bühler and Frank Fröhling, Wagner’s assistant coaches, have also been placed on gardening leave.
Jochen Schneider, Schalke’s head of sport, said: “We had all hoped that we could improve on the pitch together with David Wagner. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the right performances and results from the first two games of the season for this to happen.
“We have therefore decided to make a fresh start. Despite the disappointing results, this wasn’t an easy decision for us to make. I would like to thank David Wagner, Christoph Bühler and Frank Fröhling, who, up until their departure, have done everything they can to get Schalke back on track.”
Wagner took charge of the club at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign following their worst league season for 36 years.
He initially impressed as his side lost just twice in the Bundesliga before the winter break, reaching fifth place. However, a dismal run to end the season included ten league defeats and ensured that they finished in 12th place, just seven points clear of a relegation play-off position.
Schalke could announce a successor before next Saturday’s clash with RB Leipzig.
It looks as if Real Madrid are still feeling the effects of a hangover after finally wrestling La Liga from Barcelona in the summer, but having drawn a blank at Real Sociedad on the opening day, Saturday evening saw them return to winning ways in Andalusia.
It wasn’t fluid, it wasn’t pretty, and after the home side had come from behind to lead at half-time, it looked like it wouldn’t be happening at all. But after an Emerson own goal had got them back into it, a penalty from – you guessed it – Sergio Ramos stole all three points for the functional champions.
A red card for the Brazilian right-back made things a little easier for Zinedine Zidane’s visitors, who will be happy to be off the mark after a difficult start.
Let’s get into some player ratings!
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 6/10 – Might have been disappointed to let William Carvalho’s strike sneak past him, but otherwise the Belgian was steady and made a couple of key stops.
Daniel Carvajal (RB) – 6/10 – Reliable as ever down the right flank. Found himself booked for a cynical challenge on Nabil Fekir as his side trailed but played a big part in the equalising goal – swings and roundabouts.
Raphael Varane (CB) – 5/10 – Unusually shaky looking at times and was beaten all ends up by Aissa Mandi for Betis’ equaliser. Wasn’t his imposing self by any means.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – 7/10 – There’s no other player on the planet you’d rather have on a 82nd minute match-winning penalty. The man’s bottle knows no bounds.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – 6/10 – Involved in a few promising attacks and did his job defensively. Seems like he’s now the first choice at left-back which will encourage him.
Casemiro (CDM) – 7/10 – Found himself in a real scrap with Carvalho and Nabil Fekir but relished the battle and came out on top – just about. Real still have no other player who can do what he does in the engine room. Federico Valverde (CM) – 8/10 – The Uruguayan is one of the most complete midfielders in football. He defends as well as anyone, runs himself into the ground between the lines, and isn’t shy from a goal or two – as he showed with an ice-cool finish to open the scoring. Toni Kroos (CM) – 5/10 – Didn’t look himself and was withdrawn before half-time with an apparent injury. There’s not much else to say.
Martin Odegaard (CAM) – 5/10 – Doubts remain over whether he’s good enough for Los Blancos at present and his performance here unfortunately didn’t help. Struggled to find space to get on the ball and didn’t make it out for the second half.
Karim Benzema (CF) – 8/10 – How does he keep getting better? Yet to open his account for 2020/21 but the selfless French striker continues to set the pace and lead by example. A busy, ceaseless performance typified by his role in the opener, where he left the entire Betis defence in his wake to set up Valverde. Luka Jovic (CF) – 7/10 – Fielded a lot of criticism so far, but d’you know what? He was actually good here. Made his presence felt with some clever movement, effectively got Emerson sent off by himself, and was unlucky to be subbed for the final 20 minutes.
Reigning Premier League champions Liverpool host Arsenal on Monday night in the first of two meetings between the clubs in the space of four days.
The familiar foes duked it out in the season opening Community Shield at the end of August, which saw Arsenal walk away as victors after a penalty shootout. Mikel Arteta’s side travel to Anfield in the league on Monday before returning to the same iconic venue for Carabao Cup duties later in the week.
Since Jürgen Klopp’s arrival in Merseyside, Liverpool boasted a decidedly one-sided record in meetings with the Gunners – the German coach was unbeaten in his first nine matches against Arsenal in charge of the Reds. However, that run ended when the north Londoners defeated their newly crowned opponents in July last season, capitalising upon some rare errors at the back.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, Klopp warned that Liverpool ‘want to strike back’, a declaration made all the more ominous given the sharp start the Reds have made to the new campaign.
When Is Kick Off? Monday 28 September What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (BST) Where Is it Being Played? Anfield TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports (UK) Referee? Craig Pawson
Liverpool’s Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho filled in superbly at centre back against Chelsea last Sunday and may very well be forced to reprise the role on Monday night. Natural central defender Joël Matip has been ruled out until mid-October and Joe Gomez is a doubt as he recovers from a knee injury.
Club captain Jordan Henderson is also likely to miss out after picking up a thigh strain in the win over Chelsea though James Milner may overcome a knock to feature in the squad. There will be no reunion for former Arsenal player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who is still out with a knee injury.
Alongside long-term absentees Gabriel Martinelli and Calum Chambers, Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi and Emile Smith-Rowe are likely to miss out with injury. Defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Cedric Soares are also doubts while Kieran Tierney – who sat out the West Ham fixture last Monday – is still nursing a hip injury.
After losing by the narrowest of margins to Arsenal in the curtain-raiser, Liverpool played out a thrilling 4-3 win against Leeds United – a scoreline which somewhat flattered their white-shirted visitors.
Klopp’s side then swiftly banished any lingering memories of the dip in form their endured after securing the title last season, by swatting aside Chelsea with a convincing 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have also taken maximum points from their opening Premier League fixtures. However, the Gunners followed up a routine victory against newly promoted Fulham with a shaky 2-1 win at home to West Ham which Arteta generously described as ‘a little bit lucky’.
Here’s how each side has fared in their last five outings.
Lincoln City 2-7 Liverpool (24/9) Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool (20/9) Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United (12/9) Arsenal 1-1 (6-5) Liverpool (29/8) Newcastle United 1-3 Liverpool (26/7)
Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal (23/9) Arsenal 2-1 West Ham United (19/9) Fulham 0-3 Arsenal (12/9) Arsenal 1-1 (6-5) Liverpool (29/8) Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea (1/8)
Klopp may have dished out a pre-match warning for Arsenal but the revered German coach also described his opposite number on Monday as ‘a pretty exceptional football manager’. Arteta will have to live up to that billing if he is to pull off an upset and lead Arsenal to victory at Anfield on Monday night.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 60 Premier League home matches and only dropped points at the famous ground once in the entirety of the previous league season.
If Arteta ends this run, he would become the first Arsenal manager to win his first match at Liverpool since Tom Whittaker in 1947.
Arsenal with their renewed organisation under Arteta have fared well against the bigger sides of late but a fully-focussed Liverpool – bolstered by the added dimension Thiago brings to their midfield – will likely prove too much for the Gunners, and many other teams this season.
The Premier League will call an emergency meeting to discuss the continued financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, amid fears fans will not be allowed to return to stadiums until March 2021.
There were small trials during pre-season which saw around 5,000 fans permitted to return to games, but the UK Government have introduced fresh restrictions in an attempt to tackle a rise in COVID-19 cases which has forced the Premier League back to square one.
League officials have contested the decision, believing that the return of fans can be handled safely, and according to the Daily Mail, a large part of the frustration comes from the feeling that the Government are simply expecting the Premier League to bail out the rest of the Football League.
The cost of playing behind closed doors is expected to reach close to the £250m mark, and there are fears that the Premier League will have to front the bill despite making major losses themselves.
To discuss the issue, all 20 Premier League sides will meet on Tuesday to figure out a way forward, but a solution is not expected to be found until there is more information from the Government.
Some league officials believe as though the Government have ignored data from the Premier League’s test events and the fact that most stadiums can accommodate social distancing and track and trace systems. Most UK pubs have been allowed to stay open without even following most of the guidelines.
“I think the PL and EFL have been discussing it [National League bailout],” said Brighton executive Paul Barber. “It is difficult for PL clubs, but the biggest concern is down the pyramid. It is something that the PL and EFL need to address.
“But we have to invest and spend in players to generate the TV interest. We have to make sure our business survives and the pyramid survives too. It is not long ago that Brighton were in that lower level.
“One way is to try and bring fans back, that would allow us to stand on our own two feet. We held a test event and there was no risk, and there are other totally unregulated events that are allowed to occur. We are going to appeal to the Government to allow football clubs to run their businesses.”
Gareth Bale says he is delighted to be back at Tottenham, a club he ‘loves with all his heart’, and is prepared to play wherever José Mourinho needs him to as he looks to make an impression in his second spell in north London.
Bale signed on a season-long loan from Real Madrid but is yet to make his bow at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as he recovers from a niggling injury.
“I am happy to be back and love this club with all my heart,” he said in an interview with Sky Sports. “I’ve had great memories here and l feel very happy and confident. My energy levels have gone up.”
His exit from Real was long awaited – especially for Bale, who was no longer enjoying his football after his proposed move to China fell through a year ago.
“It was time for a change. I wanted to change for a little while but it hadn’t materialised. This club means so much to me, it gave me my opportunities, and I felt it was a good time to come back. I feel the club is still going in a great direction and I wanted to be part of that.
“I just want to enjoy my football. In Madrid it was a bit flat for a while, which l think everyone could see. When you are not happy, it’s difficult to play at your highest level.”
Bale isn’t the orthodox central striker Mourinho has asked for, but does give the Portuguese boss another exciting attacking option. That versatility will come in useful as Spurs negotiate an impossibly tight fixture schedule.
When asked where he will play, he said: “Anywhere across the front. I’m comfortable on the right where l have played most of my career, behind the striker where l have played a lot, and I’ve played on the left a lot.”