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Emile Smith Rowe's goal at Chelsea is reminiscent of Arsenal's 'old days' and could be a catalyst for the top four

There are glimmers of hope and promise in this Arsenal team, with Smith Rowe possessing the aura of someone who can do anything with a football (Author: Gardener)

Emile Smith Rowe'sSTAMFORD BRIDGE - "Just like the old days, there's nobody here," chanted Arsenal fans as the game began and large stretches of empty seats could be seen high up in the stands at Stamford Bridge. And there was a sense of bygone years, better days, in that hugely entertaining, unexpected, error-ridden derby. While Liverpool v Manchester United the night before at Anfield exposed the tragic rift between two old, great rivals that almost made one feel sorry for what Manchester United has become, there was openness towards Chelsea v Arsenal, a mess, a feeling that anything could happen - and anything happened. It could be tasted in the nostalgia that settled over every element of Arsenal's second goal, which started in their own box and ended after a lightning-fast multi-pass thrust with a Thierry Henry-esque finish from Emile Smith Rowe. It started with Granit Xhaka (obviously) fighting his way out of Chelsea's high pressing, continued as Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka traded passes and ended with Odegaard rolling the ball in Smith Rowe's path for the attacking midfielder with a nice lateral foot in Edouard Mendy's butt slipped left corner. It is probably the first time since Ronaldinho's visit to Barcelona in 2005 that a ball has been put so majestically into the net from outside the penalty area at Stamford Bridge. Only time will tell if this is a sign of things to come or just the result thrown by the randomness of a derby meeting. If the new ownership of Chelsea and the departure of Roman Abramovich, who willingly poured billions into the club before Financial Fair Play existed, will tip the scales in Arsenal's favour. If one day we're going to see a Chelsea and Arsenal manager again, like we saw Arsene Wenger tower over Jose Mourinho like two math teachers after one drink too many at the end of the term in 2014. Fleet-footed Saka, already one of the best right winger or full-back in the country, took the penalty in added time to seal the win. Can Eddie Nketiah be promoted permanently if Alexandre Lacazette, who was benched after revealing he has spoken to 'many clubs' as his contract expires this summer, leaves? Nketiah was gifted the opening goal by Andreas Christensen, a player who might have been halfway to Las Ramblas, where a move to Barcelona is imminent and came on at half-time. Although a poor back pass from the Chelsea defender sent Nketiah on target, it was still a good finish. His second - Arsenal's third - consisted of tenacious luck and dogged determination, the ball bouncing off Chelsea's toes before Nketiah swung a leg out to punch Mendy. The 22-year-old, who had gone 367 days without a league goal, became the first Arsenal player to score twice against Chelsea since Robin van Persie in 2011. Nketiah just wants to play. Fortune also touched on Chelsea's two goals, equalizing each time to level it at 2-2 by the break. And there were appeals for a foul from Mason Mount before whipping in the ball, which Cesar Azpilicueta spun past Ramsdale with a sweet touch. In a game riddled with mistakes, it could have been the perfect conditions for Romelu Lukaku to bounce back from his recent poor form. The result will matter little to Chelsea, too far from the top two for a realistic title challenge and - barring a complete collapse - too far from fifth place to jeopardize Champions League qualification. But the three points are significant for fifth-placed side now trailing rivals Tottenham Hotspur only on goal difference. Remember when Wenger was mocked for years for only repeatedly securing top four finishes? Just like the old days, they remain on the hunt for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years, which would be considered a huge success today.

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Premier League result, full time standings and reaction tonight

Follow the action live from Stamford Bridge (Author: Gardener)

tonightFollow all the action tonight as Chelsea host Arsenal in the Premier League. After falling out of the Champions League, Thomas Tuchel's side bounced back with a comfortable 2-0 win over Crystal Palace to reach the FA Cup final. Mikel Arteta's side have lost four of their last five league games, undoing as much progress the Spaniard appears to have made this season, while Alexandre Lacazette has failed to take the scoring burden up front. Arsenal's last loss to Southampton last weekend was perhaps their most dismal, but the Gunners are still struggling for a coveted Champions League spot, thanks largely to stumbling blocks from their rivals. They enter the game three points behind Tottenham, having played a game fewer than Antonio Conte's side. 57' - Nketiah scores again and puts Arsenal back in front 18' - Timo Werner equalized for Chelsea with a deflected shot on target from 90+5 mins: What an Arsenal performance. They had to win to assert themselves in the hunt for Champions League places and they came to Stamford Bridge and pumped four past Edouard Mendy. Thomas Tuchel looks thoughtful on the sidelines but his team was simply outplayed tonight. Arsenal draw level on points with Tottenham and have yet to play Antonio Conte's men. 90+2 mins: Mendy dives to the right and Saka slides him to the left of the keeper. With two minutes to go, Arsenal are two goals up! 90 mins: Cesar Azpilicueta knocks Bukayo Saka down in the Chelsea box and Arsenal have a penalty to win the game! 87 mins: Gabriel Martinelli corners the ball from Malang Sarr and goes to carry it into the box, but Thiago Silva steps forward to parry it and win the ball back for Chelsea. 84 mins: A long ball down the right side of the field sees Arsenal substitute Cedric Soares under the ball and charges into the box. He cuts back to Nuno Tavares, who fires his shot wide of the near post! 81 mins: Marcos Alonso hooked on Hakim Ziyech as Thomas Tuchel tackles another attacker as Chelsea look for the third equalizer of the game. 78 mins: Arsenal are heading for a big win here at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea haven't created much since falling behind again and are just struggling to break Arsenal's defence. For their part, the Gunners have plenty of men to defend and keep Chelsea at bay. Xhaka honks the ball out of his own penalty area and almost plays Martinelli in the butt. The forward manages to win the ball but it splashes backwards and is won by Saka after Thiago Silva lunged to clear it. Saka takes it to Odegaard, who sprints down the right channel, and he smacks the ball into the box before hastily passing it across the area. 70 mins: Eddie Nketiah's two goals put Arsenal in control of the game but their race is over when Mikel Arteta calls for fresh legs. Gabriel Martinelli replaced him for the last 20 minutes of the game at Stamford Bridge. 67 mins: Arsenal had more to defend in this half and were up to the task. They were solid and held their form well to use Smith Rowe and Saka's pace to put them ahead on counterattacks. Reece James drills a low shot on goal from the right side of the box and finds Aaron Ramsdale. The Arsenal goalkeeper drops low to keep him away but he spills the ball and he bounces to Marcos Alonso. He snaps for a quick shot, but Gabriel gets the block in and the ball goes wide! 60 mins: Romelu Lukaku's night is over as Kai Havertz comes on from Thomas Tuchel to give Chelsea more pace. 57 mins: It's random and rough but Eddie Nketiah scores again for the Gunners! Nuno Tavares bombards the left wing and passes the ball inside to Nketiah, who turns nicely to put the ball in the box. Thiago Silva knocks the ball away from him but it hits the incoming Malang Sarr and bounces back to the Arsenal striker. He smashes a quick shot past Edouard Mendy and sends Arsenal back in front! 54 mins: Arsenal win a corner which Bukayo whips Saka into the center of the box. It just slides over Eddie Nketiah's head and Romelu Lukaku nods it away before the whistle blows for a foul inside the box and Chelsea win a free-kick. 51 minutes: Chelsea started the second half faster. Lukaku receives the ball and pushes it to Werner, who drifted into the right channel. He rolls a low pass into the box for Lukaku to run into, but the forward is blocked by Xhaka, who holds him up long enough for Ramsdale to pick up the loose ball. 48 mins: Ruben Loftus-Cheek flicks the ball down the right side and tries to play Romelu Lukaku behind. However, the forward halts his run when he is caught offside and Aaron Ramsdale comes out to clean up for Arsenal. Kick off: Thiago Silva comes on for Chelsea and replaces Andreas Christensen in defence. Mason Mount restarts the match with a pass back to Reece James. Arsenal fly forward with the press, but Chelsea play around the attackers and work the ball down the left side. Mount pushes Werner into the box and he shoots early into the side netting. Emile Smith Rowe (10) is only the second Arsenal player aged 21 or under, after Nicolas Anelka in 1998/99 (17), to score more than 10 Premier League goals in a single season. Chelsea v Arsenal have both sides twice in the first 32 minutes, the earliest in a Premier League game in which both teams have scored twice since Liverpool v Leeds on opening day 2020/21 (30th minute). The first half played back and forth beautifully as Eddie Nketiah scored the opening goal before Timo Werner equalized minutes later. Emile Smith Rowe batted to put the Gunners back in front but Cesar Azpilicueta scored to send the teams level at the break. 45+2 mins: A blistering half of football comes to an end with neither team taking advantage at the break. Arsenal will arguably be the happier side as they have been lacking goals lately but looked sharp in front of goal. Thomas Tuchel will drill his players to fix the mistakes. If the game goes on like this, it's open to the team that wants to win more. 45 minutes: Two minutes of stoppage time at the end of this first half. Edouard Mendy gets the ball, Arsenal pushes onto the field. He tries to pass it to Reece James but is wide of the target and eventually knocks the ball out for a throw-in. 42 mins: Arsenal win a free-kick in the Chelsea half but don't use it much as Mohamed Elneny is chipped A pass into the box is easily mastered by the home side. Saka drives forward on the right and passes the ball across to Ödegaard. He slides it into the front of the box for Smith Rowe, who flaps around two or three defenders and sees his shot just wide of the target! 39 mins: Timo Werner has a good game for Chelsea. He sprints back to capture the ball and then launches an attack that leads to another erratic shot from Marcos Alonso. 36 mins: It's a confident game from Arsenal despite having the lead cut off twice. They pass the ball quickly and get into decent areas in the last third. Mason Mount laces a diagonal ball to Marcos Alonso, who controls it in the penalty area and fires his shot wide of the target. 32 mins: It came sooner than I thought but Chelsea equalize for the second time! Marcos Alonso sends a throw-in down the left to Mason Mount, who is disowned by Ben White. White then loses the ball to a pressing Timo Werner who pushes it back to Mount. He swings a cross at the near post where Cesar Azpilicueta comes up to put the ball in the net! 30 mins: Half an hour played at Stamford Bridge and this game is developing well. Chelsea remain in possession and Arsenal have made a few mistakes at the back - with Rob Holding in particular struggling to keep up with the pace of the game. There are definitely more goals in this game. 27 minutes: Arsenal back in front! A messy defense by Rob Holding goes unpunished by Chelsea and Granit Xhaka manages to run the ball out of his own box. He threads it all the way to Martin Odegaard, who again shoves Bukayo Saka into space on the right. Saka takes the ball into the box and returns it to Odegaard, who puts down a first touch pass that Emile Smith Rowe can run to. He hits the ball 18 yards from goal and shoots with his sidefoot into the bottom far corner! 24 mins: Nice footwork from Bukayo Saka, who is played down the line by Martin Odegaard. He carries the ball across the field and into the penalty area before taking on Marcos Alonso and spinning around the left-back. Saka passes the ball into Eddie Nketiah but he misses his chance. 21 mins: It's been a decent competition so far with Chelsea likely improving things in terms of possession and chances created. Nuno Tavares and Mason Mount come together on Chelsea's right, with the Arsenal man seemingly faring worse. 18 minutes: Arsenal's lead didn't last long. Timo Werner collects the ball on the left wing and shoots inside. He does so from just outside the box and the attempt deflects off Granit Xhaka, narrowly dodging the jumping Aaron Ramsdale and landing in the back of the net. 15 mins: It was a great finish from Nketiah, picked ahead of Alexandre Lacazette tonight. The 22-year-old has been vocal about wanting to play more for the Gunners and tonight repays Mikel Arteta's faith in him. 13 minutes: It's a shocker from Andreas Christensen and Arsenal take the lead! The ball is chipped down the left side for Eddie Nketiah to pursue. Christensen initially does well to come over and put him on the ball, but under pressure from the forward, he smashes his pass back, leaving the ball to Nketiah to run to. He slides it in front of Malang Sarr and coolly nestles his shot past Edouard Mendy to find the near bottom corner! 12 mins: Rob Holding gets lucky after passing the ball to Romelu Lukaku. He puts it down to Mason Mount, who embezzles a through ball for Timo Werner, allowing Arsenal to quickly get back on form. Werner gets into trouble and passes the ball back to N'Golo Kante, who runs out of options and has to withdraw. 9 mins: Gabriel remains on the pitch after an Arsenal set piece was cleared from the Chelsea box. It is won back by Granit Xhaka, who throws the ball into the penalty area and plays it into the defender. Gabriel takes the ball to the touchline before squared it into the six-yard box and sent it into the arms of Edouard Mendy. Chelsea wins the first corner of the game and she is whipped to the center of the box and falls to Romelu Lukaku. His back is to goal and he can put the ball straight to Marcos Alonso, who shoots and sees his shot deflected into the side netting. He flaps for the ball but misses and for a moment it looks like Chelsea might score, but Gabriel is positioned well near the back post to head the ball off the line! N'Golo Kante puts the ball through midfield but loses it to Mohamed Elneny. The ball loosens and rolls to Mason Mount, who pushes it into the penalty area for Timo Werner. Martin Odegaard starts the game for Arsenal. The visitors work it down the right flank and send the ball for an early Chelsea throw-in. Arsenal appear to be set up with a back three, using Nuno Tavares and Bukayo Saka at full-back to make it five when Chelsea have possession. Arsenal can draw level with Tottenham if they win tonight. Chelsea would have a firmer grip on third place if they took all three points. Warm-up practice is over at Stamford Bridge and kick-off is just over five minutes away. Elsewhere in the Premier League tonight, Everton take on Leicester and Newcastle as hosts Crystal Palace. Those two games also start at 19:45 before Manchester City look to reclaim the top spot with a win over Brighton at 20:00. Thiago Silva is set to become the oldest outfield player to represent Chelsea in the Premier League - aged 37 years and 210 days - but he starts on the bench tonight. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel speaking to Sky Sports about a start for striker Romelu Lukaku: "They asked so much for him, so I finally used him! Also a bit that he played well in the first leg. Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum expects "mistakes made to be dealt with appropriately" if he seeks recourse after being sanctioned by the UK government. Tenenbaum was hit with an asset freeze by Downing Street on April 14 over his longstanding association with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum: 'I don't hold Mr Abramovich's fortune' Bukayo Saka is the only England player to have at least 50 shots and created at least 50 chances in the top flight in 2021-22. Mason Mount has fewer than 100 Premier League games. With 23 goals and 18 assists, he was involved in more goals in the first 100 Premier League games for the Blues than any other English player. A win would see Arsenal become the third club to record 250 away wins in the Premier League, emulating Manchester United and Chelsea. But Mikel Arteta's side have lost eight of nine league games as they conceded their first goal this season. They have to start fast if they want to win at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta spoke to Sky Sports ahead of the game to discuss his goals for tonight's game and whether Alexandre Lacazette could be included. "Every game we play to win and we try to find the best way to win the game." He said: "I expect a tough game against the Champions League champions. He's only had a short practice session and wasn't feeling well, but he wanted to be available to the team.” Arsenal have lost four of their last five Premier League games, having previously lost just one in 11. Chelsea could lose three straight home games for the first time since November 1993, when the third game in that row was a 2–0 loss to Arsenal. Still, the Blues have won six of their last seven league games and kept five clean sheets. Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek said he was enjoying his new role as full-back under manager Thomas Tuchel after impressive performances in the last two games. Loftus-Cheek started last weekend's Premier League game at Southampton on the right and was involved in four goals as Chelsea won 6-0. The 26-year-old then excelled in the same role at the Santiago Bernabeu as Chelsea beat Real Madrid 3-2 in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, although that result wasn't enough to see them through to the next round. Chelsea ended a triple losing streak against Arsenal in all competitions with a 2-0 away win in August, but Arsenal's 1-0 win last May was the first of nine Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (two draw, six losses). Tonight's win would see Chelsea need just seven points from the remaining 21 points available to secure a top-four finish and make it into the Champions League next season. Thomas Tuchel has admitted Reece James is so good he would happily pick him twice. Chelsea manager Tuchel admitted he can't decide whether England defender James is better as a right-back or a right-back. Tuchel revealed that deploying James on the right flank of a three-man defense has not only helped tackle standout left opponents in recent weeks but has also helped keep the 22-year-old fresh. "He can play both positions excellently, but we can only pick him once," said Tuchel. Thomas Tuchel wishes he could twice name the 'brilliant' Reece James in the Chelsea line-up. Thomas Tuchel makes four changes to the Chelsea side who started against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup over the weekend. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N'Golo Kante replace Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho in midfield with Romelu Lukaku up front in place of Kai Havertz. Cedric Soares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Gabriel Martinelli are all absent, while Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith Rowe and Rob Holding came on. Joe Cole believes Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has just six weeks to salvage his career at the Premier League club. The Belgium international has had an overwhelming time with the Blues since signing for £97.5million from Inter Milan in the summer, falling out of favor with manager Thomas Tuchel and suffering from a series of injuries. The striker came off the bench in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace but was only able to hit the post from point-blank range. Speaking on ITV, Cole said: "Lukaku has six weeks to salvage his Chelsea career. Lukaku wants to be that focal point, but he missed an opportunity. Stamford Bridge are hosting the London Derby tonight and it's going to be a good night for it. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said their rivals for Champions League places had failed to capitalize on the "huge advantage" they were given after exiting the cup early so they could focus on the race for the top four could concentrate. Chelsea have reached the finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup, as well as the quarter-finals of the Champions League and have played more games this season than any other Premier League club. Despite their intense schedule, Chelsea have a firm grip on third place in the league, five points clear of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and having played two games fewer. Arsenal and Manchester United are another three points behind. Tottenham and Arsenal had a 'huge advantage' over Chelsea after being eliminated from the cup, says Tuchel. "We're not here anymore," said Tuchel about the striker's form at the beginning of the season. "For us it is clear that we can play with Romelu and that we can be very strong with Romelu. We're going to push him as far as we can and as long as the player maintains the mentality it takes to bring a team forward, he can still be a crucial player." More from Mikel Arteta, who laid out why it was for Arsenal this season is so important to finish in the Champions League. "The Champions League, above all, brings the club much closer to where we want to be," said the Gunners boss: "Playing in a competition that has a great history and connection with our club. "And secondly it obviously improves every situation, with the sponsors, financially, the expectations, the ability to nurture our players and expose them to another dimension of a competition and that's where we want to be, so it's a game changer. "The Champions League brings you together with the best sides in Europe and we definitely want to be there." Arsenal are going through a difficult period of results and the pressure is on for manager Mikel Arteta to get a positive result against Chelsea tonight. “[It was] very difficult because this club is all about winning and they were three different games but with the same result. "We're extremely unhappy with that, we know that, we're suffering, but at the same time we know how we lost and what we earned in those games isn't reflected in the number of points we took away. “We need to understand why we lost those games too, but there is nothing to look back on. Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal took a risk in delaying contract talks with Alexandre Lacazette until the summer - with the captain now revealing he has started talks with other clubs. Lacazette's contract expires at the end of the current season and the 30-year-old is currently expected to leave the Emirates Stadium. Speaking to Canal Plus earlier in the week, Lacazette said he was "in talks with a lot of clubs", adding that he "missed" playing in the Champions League and that he "never cut ties" with Lyon , to whom he went, joined Arsenal five years ago. The comments could not come at a worse time for the Gunners, who face London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night and see their top-four Premier League hopes falter. Arsenal have now lost their last three games - against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton - and sit sixth ahead of their brief dip through the capital. Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic will be out for two weeks after picking up an ankle injury in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace and Callum Hudson-Odoi is out with an Achilles problem. Ben Chilwell is also out for a long time after knee surgery. Arsenal will continue to monitor striker Alexandre Lacazette, who sat out the Southampton defeat after testing positive for Covid but could return tonight. As does Takehiro Tomiyasu, who has a calf problem although manager Mikel Arteta believes this game could be too soon for his return. Chelsea responded to Champions League elimination by Real Madrid (5-4 on aggregate) by beating Crystal Palace 2-0 to reach the FA Cup final at the weekend. Last time out in the league the Blues beat Southampton 6-0 and hope to do a similar job at Arsenal tonight. After six unbeaten league games - including five wins in this series - they have won just once in their last five games. Arsenal have scored just one goal so far in April and are beaten by Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton but are still in the hunt for a place in the top four and will draw level with fourth-placed Spurs if they win tonight. Welcome to The Independent's coverage of Chelsea's derby clash with Arsenal as the two London sides meet in the Premier League tonight. Thomas Tuchel's men come into play after an impressive 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup where they reached the final and have a chance of winning silver this season. They are five points clear of Tottenham (4th) in the league, have a place in the top four and have at least one game in hand against those next in the table. Arsenal, on the other hand, are rocking after losing a Champions League spot to their north London rivals after three consecutive defeats. They are currently fifth in the league but have one game in hand against Spurs and could draw level with them on points if they manage to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight. Manager Mikel Arteta needs a win and is hoping to grab one against the Gunners' London rivals tonight.

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The top Sunderland and South Tyneside cop is retiring after 27 years on the job

Sarah Pitt will retire at the end of the month after a 27-year career with Northumbria Police Service which has seen many ups and downs over the past three decades (Author: Gardener)

SunderlandA longtime Northeast police chief is retiring after spending more than half her life fighting crime. Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, Area Commander for Sunderland and South Tyneside, joined the force in 1995 - and has had a multitude of experiences, high and low, over her 27-year career. The 49-year-old South Tyneside resident is looking forward to retirement but has said she will miss doing a job she loves so much. Read more: 'We will not tolerate it': How police are working with the Benwell community to fight back crime gangs Speaking to ChronicleLive at Northumbria Police Station in Station Road, South Shields, Ch Supt Pitt said: ' It's not an appeal.” Isn't it, police? I think it's seven days a week, 365 days a year, regardless of whether you're on annual leave. "I will miss the work environment, I will miss the people I work with - not just in terms of my colleagues but also the communities and partners we have worked with over many, many years and made some great friendships. Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, Area Commander for Sunderland and South Tyneside, who is retiring after 27 years with Northumbria Police Service During her career as a police officer, Ch Supt Pitt has had many opportunities as an area commander - from overseeing match days for Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC every weekend to organizing set up for the annual Sunderland Air Show which she attended as a child On her experience with Northumbria Police she added: 'I've done a lot of things over the years but I take real pride in always being forward/public and in our local communities to work. “I've worked across a number of Area Commands, Sunderland and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle and also worked in our operations department covering our naval unit, firearms and things like that. “Very forward looking in terms of working in Area Command and the departments covering mainly Sunderland and South Tyneside for the past five years and being here as Area Commander. "Very challenging in terms of the role but very rewarding in terms of what you do and whenever you work you have bad days but I've had more good days. Ch Supt Pitt says policing has changed a lot over the humble beginnings of her career from 1995 to 2022, but she said the changes have been mostly positive and stressed the importance of keeping up with the times . She continued: "There have been some significant changes in policing in the last 27 years compared to what I have seen and what I think everyone who has ever worked in policing has seen. Times are changing and communities are changing and it's important that we change in policing to adapt." Ch Supt Pitt added: "When I started there was one or two women on a shift .There weren't many senior officers who were women - not just in Northumbria but across the police force.There is now a significant difference in terms of it's very much more mixed and balanced in terms of men and women among officers, staff and our volunteers who work in policing. We are seeing a significant change in policing for the better, I would say in terms of real representation of our communities." Sarah's last shift on the clock is Friday April 29th - when she will say goodbye to a long and successful career with Northumbria Police.

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Fulham want promotion but need to sharpen up for Premier League survival

Marco Silva's entertainers have dominated the championship but thoughts will quickly turn to the end of yo-yo status (Author: Gardener)

FulhamAn unnervingly satisfying and trouble-free season for Fulham has reached exactly the climax everyone was expecting with heartfelt messages of congratulations and celebration after a leisurely return to the Premier League. In the end, it wasn't quite the serene walk across the finish line most imagined, but they've rarely been troubled, always well-hung - they've failed to score in just four league games this season - and the procession is complete and the Promotion complete, the question is whether Fulham will round things off by blasting their way to a century of goals (they have 98) in the remaining four games and, more relevantly, whether they will maintain their reputation as Jo- Jo team when returning to the top can get rid of table? The brutal reality is that Marco Silva's attention will soon turn to becoming at least the 17th best team in England. Fulham have had a lot of fun this season. With 40 goals, Aleksandar Mitrovic alone has surpassed Barnsley, Peterborough and Hull and Fulham have twice this season five, six and seven behind their opponents, the seven without reply on both occasions. Mitrovic, who is on course to break Guy Whittingham's post-war record of 42 League Two goals, will take home the Championship Player of the Year award later this month, but his team-mates have kept him energized. Harry Wilson, a £12million signing from Liverpool, has been revived from loans and shone as part of Mitrovic's supporting cast, alongside Fabio Carvalho and Neeskens Kebano, who is arguably enjoying his best form six years after signing. The arrival of Neco Williams, on loan from Liverpool in February, strengthened Fulham's hand, the versatile Welsh full-back who turned 21 last week and has played at left flank for his country and excelled as a marauding right-back. It's no surprise that the best squad with the biggest budget have conquered the league and will be back at the top for the third time in five years, but Silva (whose right-hand man is former Fulham favorite Luís) has Boa Morte to thank for that ) for taking her there with such panache. They were electrifying at times, more stimulating than the teams promoted under Slavisa Jokanovic and Scott Parker, whose Bournemouth side could yet join them. The trouble for Fulham is that they already have to replace one of their star players this summer as Carvalho is ready to join Liverpool on July 1 when his contract expires. Silva has alluded to the difficulties the club faced in trying to get the Portuguese youngster to extend his stay, but Fulham were powerless as the teenager took center stage, scoring nine goals and seven this season provided templates. Carvalho's former youth side Balham, from whom he joined Fulham in 2015, will also benefit. But as with Olise, the Football Association faces the challenge of getting its grip on Carvalho, who was born in Lisbon but grew up in south London and represents England at Under-18 level. "We helped him grow as a man and also as a player and he reacted really well on the pitch," said Silva. There was a tricky spell leading up to Christmas - five games without a win - while recent straight defeats kept the champagne on hold on Good Friday for the first time this season. The closest thing to disaster was probably Wilson, who somehow managed not to score his second goal and what would certainly have been an injury-time winner in a draw at Barnsley last month, when he found a strong contender minutes after a peach submitted for the season's miss, which goes wide if unmarked a few yards away. Fulham have long been preparing for a return to the top flight and Silva will know they need to improve if they are to survive, even if he has refused to say too much about the kind of blow he believes is coming that his team could beat next season. Mitrovic has scored 43 goals in 48 games for club and country this season, but the Serbia striker has previously struggled to replicate that form in the top flight - he scored three league goals last season - and relying on him could prove itself prove to be a dangerous game. The defensive partnership of Tosin Adarabioyo and Tim Ream, who recently made 250 appearances in a Fulham shirt, was revealed last season and proved rather hellish given their recent Premier League visit, raising concerns as to how It is understandable that Fulham will fare around this time. But Silva has already shown he can keep it from becoming a drudgery.

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Does Marco Silva's side have what it takes to survive in the Premier League?

Fulham reclaim their Premier League spot for the 2022/23 season; Marco Silva will be in charge of a top club for the fourth time after stints at Hull, Watford and Everton; Cottagers looking to buck the recent yo-yo trend (Author: Gardener)

Marco Silva'sThe Premier League race is filled with drama, excitement and often suspense each season. But this year Fulham have pulled themselves far enough ahead of the competition to declare themselves the winners with four games to go. A place in the Premier League for the 2022/23 season. After 13 consecutive Premier League seasons between 2001 and 2014, Fulham's fortunes have been somewhat less stable in recent years, with the last five campaigns ending in either promotion or relegation. And once again it took the London team just one league season to fulfill their potential as a top-flight club, but questions remain about their longevity. Here we look at how Fulham can ditch their yo-yo past in favor of a sustained run as a true Premier League entity. With the mathematically secured promotion, Marco Silva will have one or maybe even two eyes next season. In Silva, Fulham have a leader with Premier League know-how. His Premier League win ratio (35.71) may be a bit overwhelming, but it counts for something when you consider his predecessors - Slavisa Jokanovic and Scott Parker - started their respective top campaigns from scratch. Fulham have also led the Championship since mid-January and have known their fate for weeks despite a delay in their promotion parade with some poor results - notably against Coventry City and Derby County. Any breakaway from now on will surely only serve to tarnish their league title credentials rather than derail them, allowing for a more measured approach in preparing for the 2022/23 season. Fulham have tried to spend big in the past with limited success and need to play smart in the summer transfer market to ensure they strengthen their squad in the areas they lack most. This time, Fulham are ahead of the competition with assured automatic promotion without the need for the play-offs. This security can pave the way for player trading earlier in the window and give newcomers more time to fall asleep. Fulham's recruitment policy has been flawed in recent years, at times over-relying on borrowers. They spent over £100m on 12 players ahead of 2018/19 before being forced onto the January market for a short-term solution to salvage their ill-fated season. A more thoughtful plan of attack, focusing on two or three key targets in specific weak spots, along with pragmatic fine-tuning of the current squad, offer a better platform for success - a model that has been well implemented by both Leeds and Brentford in recent seasons. Aleksandar Mitrovic is undoubtedly Fulham's talisman, although question marks remain over his Premier League suitability. Regardless, Silva seems to know how to get the most out of his record-breaking striker. In March, Mitrovic broke Ivan Toney's championship record by scoring his 32nd and 33rd league goals of the season in a win over Peterborough. Since then, the Serb has scored another seven goals to break the 40-goal mark. There is a very clear correlation between Mitrovic's bounty and Fulham's net worth. In 2020/21 the striker scored more international goals for Serbia (7) than at club level (4) as Fulham were relegated after netting just 27 times all season. It is clear that Mitrovic has much more potency under Silva. He's gotten better at going deep and connecting the game and is much more of a full striker, registering another seven assists. It's also no surprise that Fulham own the league's richest provider in Harry Wilson - 14 assists averaging 0.41 per 90 minutes played. To dictate the outcome of Premier League games, Fulham need to find a formula that puts their valuable asset, shortlisted for Championship Player of the Season alongside his pal Wilson, at the heart of the action. Championship winners tend to fare better than play-off winners - although Norwich City remains an exception to this rule. Fulham therefore need to take the momentum from such a successful season and use it wisely at the start of the new tenure. Leeds, Wolves and Burnley are examples of clubs that have won the league title in recent years and demonstrated staying power in the top flight through the wave of promotion. This won't last forever - as demonstrated by the departure of Sheffield United in their second season - but could serve to provide a positive start to the new tenure. Teenage sensation Fabio Carvalho, who is due to leave for Liverpool in the summer, will leave a void but there is a clear wealth of talent among Fulham's youngsters who have won the Premier League 2 (Division 2) title to fill the gap Quality within the supplement First Team. If Mitrovic and Wilson can reach the same heights and deliver a comparable amount of firepower in the Premier League, it's perfectly reasonable to predict that Fulham's stay in the top flight will last beyond a single season.

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Fulham and the Premier League: back again

In today's Fiver: Fulham, Manchester United and many more (Author: Gardener)

FulhamIt would be lazy and unoriginal to suggest that Fulham's win over Preston on Tuesday guaranteed relegation from next season's Premier League, so needless to say The Fiver will do just that. When push comes to shove, when they don't bother doing something more interesting than being relegated and re-promoted from the top flight to the Championship season after season, season after season, season after season, season after season, that's us damn if we can bother coming up with new, increasingly condescending gags about the almost psychotic lengths she and Norwich City will go to to avoid ever having to play each other again. 'WE ARE FIRST LEAGUE!' chanted Fulham's adoring players and fans at Craven Cottage, a refrain they had previously sung in 2018 and 2020 only to tumble like Boris Johnson's approval rating when he reached the promised land. Things could be different this time around though because - Fiver pulls the lever of sarcasm - it's not like their current generation of players like Tom Cairney, Tim Ream, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tosin Aderabioyo - not to mention manager Marco Silva - would be tainted by relegation from the Premier League. "It feels fantastic to get this club back to where it belongs," cheered Silva, presumably referring to that odd Nowheresville limbo where they've secured promotion but aren't officially licensed yet with a specific team from Carrow Road have exchanged. "It will be a big challenge for us but we have to do the right things to prepare. When you achieve something so important early in the season you have time to prepare properly and that's what we have to do." In Mitrovic, Fulham have a striker who has netted 40 league goals this season, a fine feat that some armchair critics have said to flag the ridiculous three goals scored by the Serbia international in the top flight last season and label him a flat track bully. And when the ridiculous rabble representing Manchester United are currently sixth in the self-proclaimed Best League In The World™, Silva could be forgiven for wondering how difficult that can be. Join Rob Smyth for hot MBM coverage of Chelsea 3-1 v Arsenal in the Premier League from 19:45 BST while John Brewin is available for coverage on o'clock. "We can't be beaten 4-0. It's really embarrassing. It's terrible. It's terrible for the fans. You can feel the pain when we're on the pitch and you can see the goal line. It's really disappointing. All we can do is apologize" - perhaps after consulting the fans' unusual mood charts, Jesse Lingard appears in front of MUTV cameras to crouch again to apologize for the 4-0 thrashing at Anfield. A New Formation: How Black British Footballers Shaped Modern Football. Tickets for the live event featuring Jonathan Liew, Andrew Cole and Hope Powell are on sale now. Listen to the latest Football Weekly. Speaking of which, Max, Barry and the Pod team are back on tour. Tickets for live shows in June and July are available here, so get going. The Fiver has a new sister email folks! You don't need to be told it's smarter and funnier than us - so sign up. “At Anfield we were offered pure professionalism at the highest level. "You're rotting, Manchester United. You finally made it. You finally broke Roy Keane. Today's winner of our award letter of the day is... Mark McFadden. Iceland's Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir is feeling appropriately upset at the prospect of Euro 2022 games at Manchester City Academy Stadium. "I don't know what's on their minds or if they're following women's football at all." Pep Guardiola has revealed Manchester City may need an army of medics to keep the Premier League and Big Cup on track. "Our physios did 71 treatments between Atlético Madrid and the semi-final against Liverpool," he said. "At Millwall [City's Cup semi-final training base] we had six massage tables off the pitch for the players." Tommy T thinks Manchester United, Arsenal and Spurs should have done better in the race for Big Cup qualification as they all dropped out of the cup early on. Burnley's search for a replacement for Sean Dyche is clearly going well as U-23 boss Mike Jackson will officiate another important game, this time against Southampton. "I spoke to the [Chief Suit] the other day [and] here we are," he babbled. And the president of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales, has lashed out in the media over allegations of misconduct over his deal to move the Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. “There are hundreds of business projects with Spanish companies in Saudi Arabia. Why can't football do that?” This week's lore takes a deep dive into teams playing every game in every competition, the origins of sh!thousery, and when players use corner flags as weapons. Sure Fulham are back in the Premier League but the battle to stay begins now, writes Ben Fisher. Chris Evans (no, not that one) takes us back 25 years to a time when Chesterfield came so close to reaching the FA Cup Final. And if it's your thing... you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace.

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Can Fulham buck the trend of staying in the Premier League?

Up, down, up, down, up… is this when Fulham will finally avoid the tumble and achieve Premier League survival? (Author: Gardener)

FulhamWill 2022-23 be the season when Fulham finally avoid relegation and achieve Premier League survival? Marco Silva's side have fought their way through the league with ruthless efficiency - led by the unstoppable Aleksandar Mitrovic with a record-breaking 40 league goals (and counting). But Mitrovic and his team-mates have faltered when faced with the Premier League's more clinical finishers, tougher defense and overall higher intensity. So what is different about Silva's team and do they have what it takes to finally break the relegation curse? Paul Parker, who played for the club from 1982 to 1987 before returning briefly 10 years later, believes a lot needs to change if he is to avoid relegation. "Fulham need to change how they want to play, they play at a very slow pace," he said. The runaway leaders have won 26 of their 42 games and a league title now seems inevitable with four games remaining and only Bournemouth able to catch them. The stunning return of Serbian striker Mitrovic, who broke Ivan Toney's record of 31 goals in a single league season, embodies Silva's team's attacking intent. Mitrovic's 82 goals in 122 league games stands in stark contrast to his 24 in 104 Premier League games for Newcastle and Fulham. Parker believes Silva needs to bring real quality to the side to get the best out of his star striker, with striker Fabio Carvalho likely to leave the club in the summer and impressive Liverpool right-back Neco Williams coming to an end on loan. "You need players who have played at a high level of football, in the Premier League or a top league abroad," said the former Manchester United right-back. "Mitrovic needs a better caliber of players around him. When he played in the Premier League [for Fulham] he was on bad teams." Parker believes Silva could take inspiration from Bruno Lage and Nuno Espirito Santo before him at Wolves, who have recruited players like Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez, Rui Patricio and Pedro Neto from clubs in Portugal. BBC Radio London's Jamie Reid believes Fulham could get 'lucky for the third time' and stay up if they add the right reinforcements next season. "They need support for Mitrovic in the final third. They also need to replace Fabio Carvalho, he's had a brilliant season too, it's a shame he's leaving the club but Tony Khan and his recruitment team are already working on replacement options." . “Signing Neco on a permanent basis would be the aim and I think the team would benefit from at least one more centre-back as you need strong competition in the Premier League. They need players to sign to continue to bolster what is a talented and motivated group." Before leaving when Fulham were relegated at the end of last season, former boss Scott Parker said the club "must try To get off this rollercoaster we're on". Fulham banished the heartache of losing to eventual runners-up Reading in the 2016-17 season in the play-off semifinals to recover and all the way the following year Slavisa Jokanovic's expansive side finished two points behind second-placed Cardiff in third - and their 79 goals were surpassed only by league winners Wolves, who scored 82. Starlet Ryan Sessegnon, then 17, scored 15 en route to promotion Goals Captain Tom Cairney scored before the Cottagers sent off Denis Odoi to beat Dean Smith's Aston Villa at Wembley Jokanovic's time as Fulham manager ended in November 2018 when his team bottomed out in the Premier League after 12 games and without a win in nine games. Leicester title-winner Claudio Ranieri was brought in to change the club's fortunes but stayed in the job for just 106 days before being replaced by interim boss Parker. Relegation was confirmed in a 4-1 win at Watford with five games to play. Victory in their last three games saw them finish the season with a more respectable 26 points in 19th place, only Huddersfield below them. Despite losing his first five games as a temporary player, Parker earned the permanent role and guided the club to fourth place in the Championship, setting a play-off semi-final against Cardiff. The Cottagers continued to make progress despite a 2-1 loss at home, beating the Bluebirds 2-0 in the second leg with goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano and setting up an All West London final against Brentford at Wembley. The final pitted the two top scorers in the championship – Mitrovic and Ollie Watkins, who finished the season with 26 goals each. A tense game ended goalless before two goals from Joe Bryan in extra time sealed victory for Fulham. Five wins, 27 goals in favor, 53 goals conceded and 28 points overall - two more than they had accumulated in their previous top season - made for a dismal record as the Cottagers were relegated with three games to go. Bobby Decordova-Reid was the club's top scorer with five goals, while Mitrovic scored just three in the league, with the Serb claiming the club "didn't deserve to stay up" in a scathing tally of the season. Parker opted to leave the club for Championship rivals Bournemouth, with former Watford and Everton manager Silva taking over. In their 42 games so far they have recorded 26 wins and 98 goals. Fulham simply blew the competition away as they stormed to the top of the league and promotion with four games to go. The prolific side have scored five goals or more six times, including 7-0 victories at Blackburn and Reading. They became the first English side in 88 years to score six or more goals in three consecutive games, with 6-2 victories over Bristol City and Birmingham after beating the Royals 7-0, giving them a staggering 19 goals - Yield bestowed. Silva will now be tasked with achieving what Jokanovic, Ranieri and Parker could not - surviving the Premier League.

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Can Fulham buck the trend of staying in the Premier League?

Up, down, up, down, up… is this when Fulham will finally avoid the tumble and achieve Premier League survival? (Author: Gardener)

FulhamWill 2022-23 be the season when Fulham finally avoid relegation and achieve Premier League survival? Marco Silva's side have fought their way through the league with ruthless efficiency - led by the unstoppable Aleksandar Mitrovic with a record-breaking 40 league goals (and counting). But Mitrovic and his team-mates have faltered when faced with the Premier League's more clinical finishers, tougher defense and overall higher intensity. So what is different about Silva's team and do they have what it takes to finally break the relegation curse? Paul Parker, who played for the club from 1982 to 1987 before returning briefly 10 years later, believes a lot needs to change if he is to avoid relegation. "Fulham need to change how they want to play, they play at a very slow pace," he said. The runaway leaders have won 26 of their 42 games and a league title now seems inevitable with four games remaining and only Bournemouth able to catch them. The stunning return of Serbian striker Mitrovic, who broke Ivan Toney's record of 31 goals in a single league season, embodies Silva's team's attacking intent. Mitrovic's 82 goals in 122 league games stands in stark contrast to his 24 in 104 Premier League games for Newcastle and Fulham. Parker believes Silva needs to bring real quality to the side to get the best out of his star striker, with striker Fabio Carvalho likely to leave the club in the summer and impressive Liverpool right-back Neco Williams coming to an end on loan. "You need players who have played at a high level of football, in the Premier League or a top league abroad," said the former Manchester United right-back. "Mitrovic needs a better caliber of players around him. When he played in the Premier League [for Fulham] he was on bad teams." Parker believes Silva could take inspiration from Bruno Lage and Nuno Espirito Santo before him at Wolves, who have recruited players like Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez, Rui Patricio and Pedro Neto from clubs in Portugal. BBC Radio London's Jamie Reid believes Fulham could get 'lucky for the third time' and stay up if they add the right reinforcements next season. "They need support for Mitrovic in the final third. They also need to replace Fabio Carvalho, he's had a brilliant season too, it's a shame he's leaving the club but Tony Khan and his recruitment team are already working on replacement options." . “Signing Neco on a permanent basis would be the aim and I think the team would benefit from at least one more centre-back as you need strong competition in the Premier League. They need players to sign to continue to bolster what is a talented and motivated group." Before leaving when Fulham were relegated at the end of last season, former boss Scott Parker said the club "must try To get off this rollercoaster we're on". Fulham banished the heartache of losing to eventual runners-up Reading in the 2016-17 season in the play-off semifinals to recover and all the way the following year Slavisa Jokanovic's expansive side finished two points behind second-placed Cardiff in third - and their 79 goals were surpassed only by league winners Wolves, who scored 82. Starlet Ryan Sessegnon, then 17, scored 15 en route to promotion Goals Captain Tom Cairney scored before the Cottagers sent off Denis Odoi to beat Dean Smith's Aston Villa at Wembley Jokanovic's time as Fulham manager ended in November 2018 when his team bottomed out in the Premier League after 12 games and without a win in nine games. Leicester title-winner Claudio Ranieri was brought in to change the club's fortunes but stayed in the job for just 106 days before being replaced by interim boss Parker. Relegation was confirmed in a 4-1 win at Watford with five games to play. Victory in their last three games saw them finish the season with a more respectable 26 points in 19th place, only Huddersfield below them. Despite losing his first five games as a temporary player, Parker earned the permanent role and guided the club to fourth place in the Championship, setting a play-off semi-final against Cardiff. The Cottagers continued to make progress despite a 2-1 loss at home, beating the Bluebirds 2-0 in the second leg with goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano and setting up an All West London final against Brentford at Wembley. The final pitted the two top scorers in the championship – Mitrovic and Ollie Watkins, who finished the season with 26 goals each. A tense game ended goalless before two goals from Joe Bryan in extra time sealed victory for Fulham. Five wins, 27 goals in favor, 53 goals conceded and 28 points overall - two more than they had accumulated in their previous top season - made for a dismal record as the Cottagers were relegated with three games to go. Bobby Decordova-Reid was the club's top scorer with five goals, while Mitrovic scored just three in the league, with the Serb claiming the club "didn't deserve to stay up" in a scathing tally of the season. Parker opted to leave the club for Championship rivals Bournemouth, with former Watford and Everton manager Silva taking over. In their 42 games so far they have recorded 26 wins and 98 goals. Fulham simply blew the competition away as they stormed to the top of the league and promotion with four games to go. The prolific side have scored five goals or more six times, including 7-0 victories at Blackburn and Reading. They became the first English side in 88 years to score six or more goals in three consecutive games, with 6-2 victories over Bristol City and Birmingham after beating the Royals 7-0, giving them a staggering 19 goals - Yield bestowed. Silva will now be tasked with achieving what Jokanovic, Ranieri and Parker could not - surviving the Premier League.

Read

Can Fulham buck the trend of staying in the Premier League?

Up, down, up, down, up… is this when Fulham will finally avoid the tumble and achieve Premier League survival? (Author: Gardener)

FulhamWill 2022-23 be the season when Fulham finally avoid relegation and achieve Premier League survival? Marco Silva's side have fought their way through the league with ruthless efficiency - led by the unstoppable Aleksandar Mitrovic with a record-breaking 40 league goals (and counting). But Mitrovic and his team-mates have faltered when faced with the Premier League's more clinical finishers, tougher defense and overall higher intensity. So what is different about Silva's team and do they have what it takes to finally break the relegation curse? Paul Parker, who played for the club from 1982 to 1987 before returning briefly 10 years later, believes a lot needs to change if he is to avoid relegation. "Fulham need to change how they want to play, they play at a very slow pace," he said. The runaway leaders have won 26 of their 42 games and a league title now seems inevitable with four games remaining and only Bournemouth able to catch them. The stunning return of Serbian striker Mitrovic, who broke Ivan Toney's record of 31 goals in a single league season, embodies Silva's team's attacking intent. Mitrovic's 82 goals in 122 league games stands in stark contrast to his 24 in 104 Premier League games for Newcastle and Fulham. Parker believes Silva needs to bring real quality to the side to get the best out of his star striker, with striker Fabio Carvalho likely to leave the club in the summer and impressive Liverpool right-back Neco Williams coming to an end on loan. "You need players who have played at a high level of football, in the Premier League or a top league abroad," said the former Manchester United right-back. "Mitrovic needs a better caliber of players around him. When he played in the Premier League [for Fulham] he was on bad teams." Parker believes Silva could take inspiration from Bruno Lage and Nuno Espirito Santo before him at Wolves, who have recruited players like Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez, Rui Patricio and Pedro Neto from clubs in Portugal. BBC Radio London's Jamie Reid believes Fulham could get 'lucky for the third time' and stay up if they add the right reinforcements next season. "They need support for Mitrovic in the final third. They also need to replace Fabio Carvalho, he's had a brilliant season too, it's a shame he's leaving the club but Tony Khan and his recruitment team are already working on replacement options." . “Signing Neco on a permanent basis would be the aim and I think the team would benefit from at least one more centre-back as you need strong competition in the Premier League. They need players to sign to continue to bolster what is a talented and motivated group." Before leaving when Fulham were relegated at the end of last season, former boss Scott Parker said the club "must try To get off this rollercoaster we're on". Fulham banished the heartache of losing to eventual runners-up Reading in the 2016-17 season in the play-off semifinals to recover and all the way the following year Slavisa Jokanovic's expansive side finished two points behind second-placed Cardiff in third - and their 79 goals were surpassed only by league winners Wolves, who scored 82. Starlet Ryan Sessegnon, then 17, scored 15 en route to promotion Goals Captain Tom Cairney scored before the Cottagers sent off Denis Odoi to beat Dean Smith's Aston Villa at Wembley Jokanovic's time as Fulham manager ended in November 2018 when his team bottomed out in the Premier League after 12 games and without a win in nine games. Leicester title-winner Claudio Ranieri was brought in to change the club's fortunes but stayed in the job for just 106 days before being replaced by interim boss Parker. Relegation was confirmed in a 4-1 win at Watford with five games to play. Victory in their last three games saw them finish the season with a more respectable 26 points in 19th place, only Huddersfield below them. Despite losing his first five games as a temporary player, Parker earned the permanent role and guided the club to fourth place in the Championship, setting a play-off semi-final against Cardiff. The Cottagers continued to make progress despite a 2-1 loss at home, beating the Bluebirds 2-0 in the second leg with goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano and setting up an All West London final against Brentford at Wembley. The final pitted the two top scorers in the championship – Mitrovic and Ollie Watkins, who finished the season with 26 goals each. A tense game ended goalless before two goals from Joe Bryan in extra time sealed victory for Fulham. Five wins, 27 goals in favor, 53 goals conceded and 28 points overall - two more than they had accumulated in their previous top season - made for a dismal record as the Cottagers were relegated with three games to go. Bobby Decordova-Reid was the club's top scorer with five goals, while Mitrovic scored just three in the league, with the Serb claiming the club "didn't deserve to stay up" in a scathing tally of the season. Parker opted to leave the club for Championship rivals Bournemouth, with former Watford and Everton manager Silva taking over. In their 42 games so far they have recorded 26 wins and 98 goals. Fulham simply blew the competition away as they stormed to the top of the league and promotion with four games to go. The prolific side have scored five goals or more six times, including 7-0 victories at Blackburn and Reading. They became the first English side in 88 years to score six or more goals in three consecutive games, with 6-2 victories over Bristol City and Birmingham after beating the Royals 7-0, giving them a staggering 19 goals - Yield bestowed. Silva will now be tasked with achieving what Jokanovic, Ranieri and Parker could not - surviving the Premier League.

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Pique "likes to be the talk of the town" but Barcelona coach Xavi has full confidence in his former team-mate

Gerard Pique is embroiled in a controversy that also involves RFEF President Luis Rubiales. (Author: Gardener)

BarcelonaXavi is full of confidence Gerard Pique won't hamper his performances with off-field matters as he has hinted the Barcelona defender will be motivated by the criticism that is his way. Pique has had to defend himself in recent days after it was revealed he negotiated a €24m commission when the 2020 Supercopa de Espana was moved to Saudi Arabia. Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), defended himself at a press conference on Wednesday, two days after Pique told a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we've done is legal." Another leaked discussion between Pique and Rubiales concerned the centre-back who would potentially go to the Tokyo Olympics as part of Spain's squad. Despite admitting the situation is difficult, Xavi insists he trusts Pique's intentions around the Supercopa while claiming his former team-mate will be motivated by the controversy to perform better. "He's outgoing and likes to be on everyone's lips," Xavi said at a press conference ahead of Barca's La Liga meeting with Real Sociedad. I know him. If he wasn't focused I would warn him, but it [attention] gives him fuel. It's literally like a drug. He's focused. "Pique's Twitch didn't bother me, it [would] bother me if he hadn't given it his all or not played by the rules. It's Gerard and I know him. I know how to deal with him and he needs it. "It's very difficult, my opinion doesn't change. I know Rubiales well, he's a noble fellow. He has to explain himself and [so has] Pique. I think they were looking for the good of the vast majority. Away from Pique, Xavi his own problems to think about.Barca have lost their last two games and have suffered back-to-back home defeats in all competitions since April 2003, following Europa League defeats by Eintracht Frankfurt and LaLiga by Cadiz.The latter defeat left Barca 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who can gain an 18-point lead with a win over Osasuna ahead of the Blaugrana's clash with La Real the next day."There was no anger but I made things clear to them," said Xavi when he was asked what he said to his players after losing to Cadiz: "You have to be better, the game had to be won." I like to win, but I have to face reality. I won't change what I believe. In the league we were on a good run until Cadiz." Barca were on a good run, going unbeaten in 15 LaLiga games before suffering a 1-0 defeat at the Camp Nou on Monday. However, Barca are in their last 11 league games unbeaten the Basque side and haven't lost in their last 12 away LaLiga games.

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