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Category: Football

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Arsène Wenger smiles better as he shakes off Arsenal hurt and suffering | David Hytner

FA Cup-winning manager says: ‘One thing you cannot question is my commitment … I have desire, I love my job, I love to win, I love to build’

More than anything, Arsène Wenger looked happy. For months, the Arsenal manager has furrowed his brow and tensed his body as the blows have rained down on him. He has sensed conspiracy at every turn; a trap in every question. There have been enemies everywhere, including within club ranks. It has been draining.

At Wembley on Saturday, the worry lines could finally soften and the enduring image of Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory over Chelsea was that of Wenger’s smile. Even those who have hounded and denounced him might have felt its warmth.

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Football transfer rumours: Ivan Perisic to Manchester United or Chelsea?

Today’s fluff would like to apologise for any inconvenience

Welcome to a special spring-bank-holiday edition of the Rumour Mill. Think of it in the same way you would another great British bank-holiday service, the rail replacement bus. It’s the same old journey, just even more tedious, long-winded and painful than usual. But we’ll get there in the end.

Related: Manchester City set to pay world record £34.9m for goalkeeper Ederson

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Francesco Totti brings down curtain on ‘something beautiful’ at Roma | Paolo Bandini

The 40-year-old attracted a sellout crowd to the Stadio Olimpico for his farewell but Genoa briefly looked like spoiling his party thanks to a player born in 2001

Francesco Totti tried to raise a smile. Striding out on to the Stadio Olimpico pitch for a farewell address at the end of his last-ever match for Roma, he shushed the home crowd and then teased that staying quiet “ought to be easy for you”.

Related: European football season review: how did your club do this season?

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Brendan Rodgers targets European progress after Celtic’s domestic treble

• Manager warns ’We’re 10 times behind budget-wise. You have to be realistic’
• Rodgers wants to be in European competition in second half of season

No sooner had Celtic completed their domestic treble by defeating Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final than discussion moved towards what exactly Brendan Rodgers can do next. Celtic are believed to be keen on four players – a centre-back, midfielder, winger and striker – as they plan for the new campaign.

Rodgers, who has seen his career rejuvenated in Glasgow, presided over a Celtic team that did not lose a domestic game all season; Saturday’s 2-1 triumph at Hampden, where Tom Rogic scored an injury-time winner, proved their toughest test. Rodgers speaks routinely about continuing improvement, with European football surely the true barometer of that. As the dust settled on Saturday’s win, Celtic’s manager warned competing with the Champions League’s elite is still a formidable challenge.

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Gary Cahill rues ‘crazy’ offside rule in wake of Chelsea’s FA Cup final defeat

• Defender says ‘maddest rule I have ever seen’ led to Arsenal’s opener
• ‘If Ramsey is not there, I can run out and get the ball,’ says Thibaut Courtois

Gary Cahill has described the current interpretation of the offside rule as “the maddest rule I have ever seen” as the Chelsea defender struggled to come to terms with the decision to award Alexis Sánchez’s opening goal in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Chelsea were also perplexed that the referee, Anthony Taylor, did not penalise the Arsenal forward for handball in the buildup. After that Aaron Ramsey’s initial movement towards the ball from an offside position prompted the assistant referee, Gary Beswick, to raise his flag. Yet while Ramsey’s presence may have been a distraction, the fact he did not touch the ball, directly interfere with an opponent or ensure his side gained an unfair advantage through his position meant Taylor eventually allowed the fifth-minute goal.

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Manchester City set to pay world record £34.9m for goalkeeper Ederson

• Benfica keeper is expected in Manchester for medical this week
• Fee would eclipse £32.6m Juventus paid for Gianluigi Buffon

Manchester City look set to sign the Benfica goalkeeper Ederson for a reported fee of £34.9m.

The 23-year-old, who has been followed by some of Europe’s biggest clubs this season, admitted on Sunday night that Benfica’s cup final victory over Vitoria was “probably my last game” for the club.

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Jaap Stam confident Reading can handle pressure of £170m play-off final

• Manager believes his side were toughened by FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford
• Huddersfield coach David Wagner: ‘This game can decide all of our futures’

Jaap Stam has insisted Reading will not freeze on the big stage when his side take on Huddersfield Town at Wembley on Monday, as they seek a passage to the Premier League and the biggest financial prize in football. According to Deloitte, promotion is worth a guaranteed £170m, a figure that could rise to £290m if the club retain their top-flight status.

Stam has previously dismissed the significance of his own big-game experience, saying there is only so much he can do from the touchline, and he believes his players have toughened from prevailing in important matches this season. “I think they have learned throughout the season, they have made progress during the season and we have had several games where we needed to do it and needed to win and they have done it,” Stam said. “The last two games against Fulham [in the play‑offs] for example, the game at home to Leeds [a 1-0 win] or away at Sheffield Wednesday [a 2-0 win].

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Arsène Wenger says Arsenal FA Cup win should answer questions over future

• Board meeting will decide manager’s future after almost 21 years at club
• ‘Best presentation I could make is for board to watch Cup final again’

Arsène Wenger will tell Arsenal’s directors to watch a recording of Saturday’s FA Cup final victory over Chelsea if they have any doubt about his suitability to stay on as the club’s manager.

The saga of Wenger’s future will finally be resolved this week, with an announcement set for Wednesday – the day after a meeting of the full board, which Wenger himself will attend as usual. Wenger has made it clear he thinks he ought to be allowed to continue into what would be his 22nd season at the club while he says he knows “what I would like to happen”.

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Departing John Terry urges Chelsea to spend big on their squad

The former captain of many triumphs said the club need to invest heavily in the transfer market to compete in the Champions League

First rewind almost eight years to the day and John Terry had stood confronted by massed ranks of dictaphone wielding media, deep in the bowels of Wembley stadium, contemplating what Chelsea must do next. The names that had tripped off his tongue that afternoon were David Villa and Franck Ribéry, “the kind of players we want to attract, the best out there”, with the senior pros sensing the current crop might fall marginally short when it came to Europe.

A year on and, with the club having recruited only Yuri Zhirkov of note in the interim, the captain’s rhetoric remained steadfast. “The big four need to strengthen next year because everyone’s become closer,” he had said before the successful defence of the FA Cup which would complete Carlo Ancelotti’s Double in his first season in charge. The established quartet were coming to terms with Manchester City’s new financial strength and, this time, Chelsea would react. Ramires, David Luiz and Fernando Torres arrived over the next seven months for a combined £90m, an eye-watering outlay at the time. Two years later the team would lift the European Cup in Munich.

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Departing John Terry urges Chelsea to spend big on their squad

The former captain of many triumphs said the club need to invest heavily in the transfer market to compete in the Champions League

First rewind almost eight years to the day and John Terry had stood confronted by massed ranks of dictaphone wielding media, deep in the bowels of Wembley stadium, contemplating what Chelsea must do next. The names that had tripped off his tongue that afternoon were David Villa and Franck Ribéry, “the kind of players we want to attract, the best out there”, with the senior pros sensing the current crop might fall marginally short when it came to Europe.

A year on and, with the club having recruited only Yuri Zhirkov of note in the interim, the captain’s rhetoric remained steadfast. “The big four need to strengthen next year because everyone’s become closer,” he had said before the successful defence of the FA Cup which would complete Carlo Ancelotti’s Double in his first season in charge. The established quartet were coming to terms with Manchester City’s new financial strength and, this time, Chelsea would react. Ramires, David Luiz and Fernando Torres arrived over the next seven months for a combined £90m, an eye-watering outlay at the time. Two years later the team would lift the European Cup in Munich.

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Reading’s Chris Gunter: ‘In one match, it is two years of your life’

As Reading’s Wales defender prepares for his 57th match of season in the Championship play-off final against Huddersfield, he says: ‘These types of games can change people’s lives’

As Chris Gunter rattles through the names of the friends and family who will be sat – perhaps stood, celebrating – inside Wembley on Monday, the very sense of occasion becomes abundantly clear. In the absence of Paul McShane, Gunter will captain Reading against Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final, where both teams will fight it out for a place in the Premier League.

Moments before this interview at Reading’s Hogwood Park training ground Gunter is doing the mental maths, double-checking with Lynne, the club’s football administrator, that his loved ones have the necessary tickets. He is no stranger to this situation, having been part of the Wales team that reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals. “This is a lot easier than last summer,” the 27-year-old says, smiling as he alludes to factoring-in flights, differing time zones and his brother Marc’s wedding in Mexico.

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Blackpool’s Mark Cullen sinks Exeter City in League Two play-off final

Blackpool bounced back to League One at the first time of asking with victory over Exeter City in the League Two play-off final at Wembley, with Mark Cullen poking home the winner midway through the second half to spark joyous scenes in the Tangerine half of the stadium. Well, a corner of it anyway.

That so few Blackpool fans – little more than 5,000 – were here to witness what should have been a celebratory occasion is testament to the depth of resentment against the Oyston family’s ownership of the club. This result will prompt mixed feelings for those on the Fylde coast who fear a victory for the team is a victory for the regime.

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Blackpool’s Mark Cullen sinks Exeter City in League Two play-off final

Blackpool bounced back to League One at the first time of asking with victory over Exeter City in the League Two play-off final at Wembley, with Mark Cullen poking home the winner midway through the second half to spark joyous scenes in the Tangerine half of the stadium. Well, a corner of it anyway.

That so few Blackpool fans – little more than 5,000 – were here to witness what should have been a celebratory occasion is testament to the depth of resentment against the Oyston family’s ownership of the club. This result will prompt mixed feelings for those on the Fylde coast who fear a victory for the team is a victory for the regime.

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Blackpool v Exeter City: League Two play-off final – live!

• Latest action and score from Wembley
• Email Rob at rob.smyth@theguardian.com
Blackpool fans boycott play-off final against Exeter’s jolly volunteers

3.09pm BST

9 min “Just looking at the teams’ line-ups,” says Kevin Ryan. “Blackpool have won this already by some way. Those last four substitutes: Flores, Osayi-Samuel, Delfouneso and Gnanduillet. Magnificent! What superb names! Fashion note: The Dude here is wearing a faded blue-green tee shirt by George, sun bleached blue Weird Fish cargo shorts and busted out New Balance trainers. Paul Tisdale eat your heart out!”

3.09pm BST

8 min Daniel’s cross is put behind for a Blackpool corner. Nothing comes of it. Let’s just move on.

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Blackpool v Exeter City: League Two play-off final – live!

• Latest action and score from Wembley
• Email Rob at rob.smyth@theguardian.com
Blackpool fans boycott play-off final against Exeter’s jolly volunteers

3.09pm BST

9 min “Just looking at the teams’ line-ups,” says Kevin Ryan. “Blackpool have won this already by some way. Those last four substitutes: Flores, Osayi-Samuel, Delfouneso and Gnanduillet. Magnificent! What superb names! Fashion note: The Dude here is wearing a faded blue-green tee shirt by George, sun bleached blue Weird Fish cargo shorts and busted out New Balance trainers. Paul Tisdale eat your heart out!”

3.09pm BST

8 min Daniel’s cross is put behind for a Blackpool corner. Nothing comes of it. Let’s just move on.

Continue reading…

0

Blackpool v Exeter City: League Two play-off final – live!

• Latest action and score from Wembley
• Email Rob at rob.smyth@theguardian.com
Blackpool fans boycott play-off final against Exeter’s jolly volunteers

3.09pm BST

9 min “Just looking at the teams’ line-ups,” says Kevin Ryan. “Blackpool have won this already by some way. Those last four substitutes: Flores, Osayi-Samuel, Delfouneso and Gnanduillet. Magnificent! What superb names! Fashion note: The Dude here is wearing a faded blue-green tee shirt by George, sun bleached blue Weird Fish cargo shorts and busted out New Balance trainers. Paul Tisdale eat your heart out!”

3.09pm BST

8 min Daniel’s cross is put behind for a Blackpool corner. Nothing comes of it. Let’s just move on.

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Arsène Wenger got strategy spot on from back to front in Arsenal win | Michael Cox

Manager deserves praise for switch in strategy which won the FA Cup final as he outfoxed Antonio Conte’s efforts to reshape his lineup

Regardless of the result, this felt like a fitting end to the campaign – a match between two sides lining up with a three-man defence. It had, of course, been a 3-0 defeat at the Emirates in September which encouraged Antonio Conte to switch to his 3-4-3 system, and then Chelsea’s astonishing run of form seemingly encouraged Arsène Wenger to follow suit.

For all the pre-match speculation about Arsenal’s defensive problems and the controversial decision to play David Ospina rather than Petr Cech, Wenger’s key decision here was up front. For the 4-0 FA Cup final victory over Aston Villa two years ago, Wenger elected for the speed of Theo Walcott and omitted Olivier Giroud, and the extra pace forced Aston Villa’s defence to play deeper, creating space between the lines when their midfield tried to press, allowing Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil to run riot. Here, an almost identical thing happened – albeit with Danny Welbeck, rather than Walcott.

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Huddersfield’s David Wagner tightly bonds players on road to Wembley | Louise Taylor

Manager uses unconventional methods to keep his squad’s minds firmly rooted in buildup to Monday’s Championship play-off final against Reading

Lunchtime beckons at Huddersfield Town’s attractive, canalside, training ground, and a tableau capable of turning Arsène Wenger, José Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and company apoplectic is fast unfolding.

David Wagner’s players are happily queuing up alongside members of the public as they wait to be served by cheerful cafeteria staff.

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Huddersfield’s Christopher Schindler: The hardest season of my life

Playing in the Premier League is the dream the Championship play-off finalists’ defender reveals as his first season in England reaches its climax

When asked about the biggest difference between his everyday life in England and the one he was accustomed to in Germany before joining Huddersfield Town last summer, Christopher Schindler smiles and replies: “Handymen. In Germany if you’ve got a problem, you call somebody and they solve it. Here, you call someone, they come out and two weeks later you’ve got another problem. Maybe they just want to come back to have a chat with you or something?”

Or maybe those handymen are just conducting a test, trying to find out if it is possible to rile a good-humoured 27-year-old whose serene authority in central defence has been a key feature of Huddersfield’s extraordinary rise this season? On Monday, that season could reach a climax few foresaw, as Huddersfield take on Reading at Wembley in the play-off final for a place in the Premier League. On the pitch, at least, Schindler has found an efficiency that he seldom experienced in Germany, where the club he was at for 17 years, 1860 Munich, became a byword for instability, stuck in the second division for the past 13 years and churning through at least two managers per season.

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Marcelo and Dani Alves make Champions League final a battle of the full-backs | Sid Lowe

Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Dani Alves of Juventus have redefined their position while bringing plenty of trophies to their clubs in the past 10 years

“Three months ago some people wanted to strangle him,” Massimiliano Allegri said with a smile, but that night they just wanted to hug him. The story goes that when Dani Alves arrived at Juventus, Gigi Buffon took him to one side and asked him to teach them how to win the Champions League. He might not be able to do that exactly but Allegri was speaking just after Alves had taken them to Cardiff, delivering the pass for the first goal and volleying home the second in Monaco. He had already provided two assists in the first leg of the semi-final in Turin, one with a superb backheel. Juventus were in the final again, two years after they lost to Barcelona in Berlin– when Alves was on the other team.

On the other side this time, facing him, will be Marcelo, who after Real Madrid’s recent clásico defeat bemoaned: “It’s my fault.” His crime: not committing the foul that might have prevented Lionel Messi from winning it. Few noticed then that he had provided the late assist for James Rodríguez to equalise in the first place – but they did when six days later he scored late to tighten Madrid’s grip on the title. Five days before that, he had finally broken Bayern Munich, in the 109th minute of the Champions League quarter-final, weaving through, hurdling challenges and leaving Ronaldo an open goal to finish off the German champions.

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