Cesar Azpilicueta appeared to catch Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish in the face in the 89th minute of Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Villa Park; Spain defender will no longer face a three-match ban at start of next season
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has had the red card he was given against Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season overturned following an appeal.
The defender was sent off for violent conduct after appearing to catch Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish in the face in the 89th minute on Sunday at Villa Park.
Azpilicueta, 31, will no longer face a three-match ban at the start of next season.
Chelsea secured fourth place in the Premier League and Champions League qualification despite the 2-1 defeat.
The Blues face Premier League champions Manchester City in the Champions League final on Saturday.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel takes blame after making seven changes to line-up in Arsenal defeat on Wednesday night: “I’m not happy with my line-up. It’s easy to say afterwards. But it was too many changes, I should not have done it like this”
Tuchel suffered only the second defeat since taking charge at Stamford Bridge with the Blues unable to cut through a defensive Arsenal side who hung onto their 16th-minute opener, scored by Emile Smith Rowe after a Jorginho defensive howler.
That defeat, which opens the door for Liverpool to cut their cushion inside the top four to only a point, came less than three days before Tuchel will lead his side out at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final to face Leicester, who will enjoy a day more of rest having played Manchester United on Tuesday.
Having already made five changes to face Manchester City at the weekend from the side that beat Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, Tuchel kept only four players from that game to face the Gunners on Wednesday night – and admitted it had been a step too far.
“I’m not happy with my line-up. It’s easy to say afterwards. But it was too many changes, I should not have done it like this. It’s something in particular – but I will not tell you.
“I felt it a little bit coming yesterday in training. I’m a bit unlucky that it’s proven today on the pitch. I regret… but it’s like this. ‘We could have [done this], we could have [done that]’, and that’s what it’s all about.
“I did not feel us in the same way involved, sharp with intensity and energy like the last game and these are the per cents who are missing today.”
Tuchel further suggested his line-up may have provided a psychological shock to his team ahead of Saturday’s final, telling his post-match press conference: “We all lacked concentration and focus, that is very unusual.
“Maybe I gave some signs to the team that Saturday is on my mind, even if it’s only five per cent, or one per cent, that is not how you approach things and you get punished, because you cannot be naive.”
Chelsea’s result opens the door to both West Ham and Liverpool, who will sit three and one point behind them if they win their respective games in hand, but the manager took solace from the fact his side’s fortunes are still in their own hands with only two games left to play.
“It was always a big fight,” he said. “It’s still in our hands. Another chance missed. But we had some good results so we have to cope now with a loss.”
Manchester United’s Premier League game against Liverpool was postponed after about 200 fans broke into Old Trafford to protest against the Glazer family’s ownership of the club.
The fixture was scheduled to kick off at 16:30 BST on Sunday.
“This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities,” said the Premier League.
Police said two officers had been injured during the protests.
It is the first time a Premier League match has been postponed because of fan protests.
Fans had gathered outside the ground and scores of green and gold flares – the colours of United’s first shirts when they were formed as Newton Heath in 1878, and of the original anti-Glazer protests in 2010 – were set off at 14:00.
The protests follow United’s decision, along with five fellow Premier League clubs, to join the European Super League (ESL) last month, before subsequently all pulling out.
Supporters are currently not allowed into grounds because of the coronavirus pandemic but some United fans got onto the Old Trafford pitch to protest and, even though they were removed, some then made it back onto the grass later on.
“The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance,” added the Premier League.
“We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches.
“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.”
The Football Association will be liaising with United, the Premier League and safety authorities to find out exactly what happened and the reasons for it.
Both clubs had submitted their team line-ups for the hotly anticipated fixture but neither had left their hotels to go to the ground prior to the game being called off at just after 17:35.
United fans had also gathered at the Lowry Hotel where their side’s players were staying prior to the match.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are currently second in the Premier League and a Liverpool win on Sunday would have handed Manchester City the title for the third time in four seasons.
Talks will now take place about rearranging the game.
Although Manchester City’s official club statement came before Chelsea’s on Tuesday night, the club were the first of the 12 rebels to signal their intent to pull out.
The club’s statement read: “As reported earlier this evening, Chelsea Football Club can confirm that it has begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group developing plans for a European Super League.
“Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the club, our supporters or the wider football community.”
The absence of the Gabon captain did not stop Mikel Arteta’s side from cruising to a crucial win at Bramall Lane
Following their 3-0 hammering of Sheffield United, Arsenal have now won four of their six Premier League matches without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this season.
They have won 66.6 per cent of their six league matches without Aubameyang – four wins, a draw and a loss compared to 36 per cent of nine wins in the 25 league games he has featured in so far in this campaign.
The 31-year-old reportedly missed Sunday’s game at Bramall Lane with the flu, but his absence did not stop Arsenal from ending their four-game winless run in all competitions.
Alexandre Lacazette’s double and Gabriel Martinelli’s effort secured maximum points for the Gunners which saw them move to ninth in the Premier League table.
Ivory Coast’s Nicolas Pepe and Ghana’s Thomas Partey played the entire duration for the visitors while Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny came off the bench to replace Martinelli in the 83rd minute.
Sunday’s triumph also came as a relief for Arsenal as they grabbed their first-ever Premier League win at Bramall Lane at the fifth attempt since April 1991.
Despite his absence, Aubameyang remains a key player in Mikel Arteta’s set-up and he is the Gunners’ second top scorer after Lacazette with 14 goals across all competitions, including nine Premier League efforts.
It remains to be seen if the Gabon international will be fully fit for Arsenal’s important Europa League quarter-final return fixture against Slavia Prague on Thursday.
They were held to a 1-1 draw by their Czech visitors last week at the Emirates Stadium. Next up for Arsenal after the continental outing, is a Premier League home fixture against Fulham on April 18.
The 31-year-old missed the Gunners’ emphatic victory at Sheffield but he is expected to be in contention for Thursday’s crucial outing in Prague
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has disclosed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for their Europa League trip to Slavia Prague on Thursday.
Aubameyang did not make the Gunners’ trip to Bramall Lane on Sunday because he felt ‘unwell’ a day before their Premier League match against Sheffield United.
In his absence, Alexandre Lacazette’s brace and Gabriel Martinelli’s lone goal steered Arsenal to a comfortable 3-0 away win.
Last week, they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium after a stoppage-time header from Tomas Holes cancelled out Nicolas Pepe’s opener.
When asked if Aubameyang will make the trip to Prague this week, Arteta told the club website : “I hope so yes. He was unwell yesterday, he could not train, he could not be available today but hopefully in the next day or two he will be feeling better and he will be available to get picked.”
Aubameyang started last Thursday’s game on the bench but he was later introduced in the 78th minute and he provided the assist that helped Pepe break the deadlock.
The Gabon captain is yet to find the back of the net for Arsenal since his opening goal in a 1-1 Premier League draw with Burnley on March 6.
Despite his struggles in front of goal, the 31-year-old’s presence might be a boost for Arteta’s side as he is the second top scorer in the team, after Lacazette, with 14 goals scored so far in all competitions.
Arsenal are faced with a growing injury list after Bukayo Saka limped off with a thigh injury against Sheffield United. While Martin Odegaard is a doubt, David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are ruled out of Thursday’s crucial game.
Arteta continued: “Yes [I feel unlucky]. I don’t know the extent [of Bukayo’s injury]. I think for certain David will be out. Kieran will be out and then with Martin, we don’t know yet. Bukayo, we’ll see how he develops in the next few days.”
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may once again be the club’s top scorer this season – but that may no longer guarantee him a place in the starting XI. Aubameyang is off it compared to his usual high standard, having netted just 14 goals in all competitions this term. His great mate and direct rival Alexandre Lacazette is one behind on 13 but offers the side so much more.
Uproar from Arsenal fans quickly turned to joy as the Gunners beat their local rivals 2-1 without the Gabon international stepping onto the pitch.
Arsenal have relied on Aubameyang in recent seasons and he almost single-handedly led them to last season’s FA Cup triumph.
But it may well have come to the time where the unthinkable happens and Arteta does not view the 31-year-old as part of his best X
The match against Spurs was a perfect example of that. Arsenal put in one of their best performances of the campaign and should have won by more than a one-goal margin.
Emile Smith Rowe was sensational drifting in off the left-hand side, allowing Kieran Tierney to bomb on as he does so well.
Martin Odegaard has started to show why Real Madrid signed him as a 16-year-old, and despite an off-colour couple of matches, Bukayo Saka remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
The future of Lacazette remains doubtful, with the Frenchman turning 30 in May and with his contract expiring next year.
Granit Xhaka came in for criticism for his role in the goal Arsenal conceded against Burnley at the weekend.
With the Gunners 1-0 up at Turf Moor and looking rather comfortable, Xhaka received the ball from Bernd Leno in his own penalty box and attempted to switch the ball out to his right-hand side in the direction of David Luiz.
However, the Swiss did not get enough on his attempted pass and could only watch on in horror as the ball cannoned against Chris Wood’s hip and into the back of Leno’s net.
With that said, there has been a debate as to who was at fault between Leno and Xhaka.
“I think ultimately goalkeepers play better than some outfield players would have done 20 years ago,” he said on The Gary Neville Podcast. “The game has changed and it should change. We should welcome these changes.
“Gone are the days now where I sit on Monday Night Football and would criticise Xhaka. I would criticise him for the execution, but not for the principle.
“For me what we are seeing is that this is normality – that players are going to play out from their own box, but the execution was wrong.
“The idea that he was given a bad pass by his goalkeeper, I don’t go along with that. That pass was expected to be given, they’re coached to give that pass there. Xhaka just gets it wrong.”