Why Unai Emery says Arsenal are outsiders to finish in Premier League top four

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Unai Emery believes Arsenal are outsiders to finish in the Premier League top four this season.

The Gunners currently sit sixth in the table but are just three points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, with a resurgent Manchester United a point ahead.

Defeat to title-chasing Manchester City last weekend has left Emery’s side without an away league win since November.

City are battling with Liverpool and Tottenham for the title and Emery admits Arsenal cannot catch the top three – and are the underdogs in the race for Champions League qualification.

“Now, yes,” the Spaniard replied when asked if Arsenal are the outsiders for the top four.

“Because we are sixth. It’s practical but it is like that. I trust in our capacity to (finish fourth) but it is like that.

“There are teams now better than us. They have an advantage to us. And we need to be calm and also very demanding of ourselves in our minds for work and to be consistent over 38 matches.

“Now Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, also – there is big difference between us.

“But Chelsea and Manchester United, very big teams, also have a difference (to the top three) but they are closer than us.”

Emery takes his side to bottom club Huddersfield on Saturday and, while he concedes a top-four finish will be challenging, the Arsenal head coach will send his players out to keep those hopes alive.

“I think we need to continue thinking in our capacity to be in the top four but knowing it’s difficult,” he added.

“It’s the reason that the players are very concerned that we are with this possibility and the opportunity on Saturday is a very big opportunity.

“It’s not to think we’re playing under pressure, it’s to be demanding and also with ambition to be in the top four. Also knowing other teams, they have an advantage to us.”

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Mark Noble can follow in footsteps of West Ham legend Billy Bonds, says Pellegrini

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Manuel Pellegrini feels Mark Noble can follow in the footsteps of Billy Bonds and write his name in West Ham folklore.

This week the Hammers announced they are naming a stand at the London Stadium after former captain and manager Bonds.

During 21 years at West Ham, as a full-back, centre-half and midfielder, Bonds made a club-record 799 appearances and led them to two FA Cup triumphs.

The 72-year-old will now join fellow Hammers heroes Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking in having his name on a stand in Stratford.

Boss Pellegrini said: “As much as the new generation know about the players and history of the club, it’s always good for them to have recognition.

“Players like Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking need to be remembered forever, so I’m very pleased for him to have the stand named after him.

“He had a great career, he scored a lot of goals and made more appearances than anybody here at this club, so he deserves it.”

Bonds played his final game for the club against Southampton in April 1988 at the age of 41 years and 226 days.

Noble, West Ham’s current skipper, has 453 appearances to his name and, according to Pellegrini, has plenty more miles left in the tank.

“Mark Noble is our captain. He made his complete career here at West Ham. Probably he will finish here also,” added Pellegrini.

“After he retires the club must decide what he deserves. But in the history of West Ham Mark will be an important player also.

“You can’t compare. They are different times. But both of them are very important players for West Ham.

“Mark must be focused on the next year, to continue to win and improving what he has done for this club.

“He’s done a lot of things but he is just 31 and has a lot more history to write for this club.”

West Ham will unveil the Billy Bonds Stand at a ceremony prior to their Premier League game against Newcastle on March 2.

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Claudio Ranieri says Fulham cannot rely on one result lifting their troubled season

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Claudio Ranieri has told his Fulham players their battle against relegation will not be settled against Manchester United and they therefore cannot rely on one result lifting their troubled season.

Of Fulham’s coming seven fixtures, three are away from Craven Cottage – they are yet to record an away league victory this season – and the other four against United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

By the end of that run survival could be beyond Fulham’s reach, with the club already seven points adrift of safety, but Ranieri is adamant they have to retain their belief if they are to have any hope of succeeding.

Given the difficulty of that run the Cottagers had been relying on victory last weekend at Crystal Palace, when they again lost, yet while that result appeared defining their manager knows it is a succession of results they require.

It was an unexpected victory at City that gave Fulham the belief to survive when they were struggling under Roy Hodgson in 2008, but perhaps acknowledging their present circumstances are considerably bleaker, Ranieri said: “We don’t need one match to change the mood. We need more matches to change the mood.

Ryan Sessegnon

“Of course, if there’s a good result against United, the mood could be changed, but you have to see the next match.

“The inspiration I have is that if you continue to fight, you maybe have one opportunity to be safe.

It’s not sure. But if you don’t fight, you don’t have that last opportunity. It’s important to fight. After, if they’re better than you, it’s a pity, and we restart next season.

“It’s contagious. Together it’s easier. If you see the team, you don’t see a team that’s not involved in the relegation fight. No, we are fighting, but we lose some matches. Not because we don’t fight; because the little details are against us.”

Teenager Ryan Sessegnon has been among Fulham’s most consistent performers when he has been selected, but under Ranieri he has become increasingly peripheral.

Last month’s arrivals of Ryan Babel and Lazar Markovic have provided the 18-year-old with further competition for selection, and the Italian questions whether Sessegnon has the experience and physical maturity to play every week.

“He is a lad,” said Ranieri, who at Chelsea oversaw John Terry’s development into a first-team player. “It’s his first time in the Premier League and sometimes it’s not possible to stay every time at the top of your condition.

“(But) now he is getting better and then he can play on Saturday. For me he is a very good player.”

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