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Arsenal fire Emery after worst run in decades

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Unai Emery’s troubled tenure in charge of Arsenal ended with the sack with the club presently on its worst run since 1992 of seven matches without a win

LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 29 – Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager on Friday after less than two years in charge and with the club without a win in seven games, their worst run since 1992.

The 48-year-old Spaniard was fired following the 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Thursday’s Europa League match.

His assistant Freddie Ljungberg takes over as interim manager during the search for a permanent replacement.

Arsenal fans had demanded “decisive action” from directors with the club’s run of five draws and two defeats just one match off equalling George Graham’s run of eight without a win in 1992.

Club directors responded by axing the man appointed in May 2018 to revive a club stagnating after two decades under Frenchman Arsene Wenger.

“We announce today that the decision has been taken to part company with our head coach Unai Emery and his coaching team,” read the statement.

“We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach.

“The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete.”

Ljungberg will be the first Swedish manager to take charge of a Premier League game since Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose last game in the competition came in May 2008 in charge of Manchester City.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has won 11 trophies with Juventus in five seasons.

Among those in the mix for the permanent job include former Gunners star Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s assistant at champions Manchester City, ex-Juventus handler Massimiliano Allegri — Sky Sports reported there had been contact between the two parties — and Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who is at Wolves.

Napoli’s coach Carlo Ancelotti is another name that has entered the reckoning — he won the domestic double in the 2009/10 campaign when in charge of Chelsea — but Nuno is the early bookies favourite at 11/10.

However, Nuno, 45, has had two spells in charge of relatively high profile clubs at Valencia and Porto and did not enjoy success.

 – ‘Rejuvenation’ –

Emery’s cause has not been helped by the controversy over Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international swore at Gunners fans when Emery took him off against Crystal Palace last month. Emery responded by stripping Xhaka of the captaincy.

Pepe, Arsenal’s record signing, has been a huge disappointment since his £72 million ($93 million) move from French Ligue 1 outfit Lille in the close season. Under Emery the club has spent at least £200 million.

An animated Unai Emery saw his Arsenal side stretch their winless streak to more than a month with defeat to Eintrach Frankfurt

Emery’s position had looked shaky enough when north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur sacked Mauricio Pochettino last week only months after he took Spurs to the Champions League final.

Emery’s first season ended in disappointment. Arsenal blew two chances for a return to the Champions League, winning just one of their last five games to finish fifth in the Premier League and then losing the Europa League final 4-1 to Chelsea.

“Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand,” read the club statement.

“We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.

“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.”

Supporters see the board, and especially unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke as part of the problem.

The influential Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, the official supporters’ club, issued a statement welcoming the departure of Emery but calling for further radical changes.

“Emery’s departure is the easy part,” read their statement.

“The more difficult challenge is to recruit a suitable successor.

“We are far from certain that Arsenal has the right personnel to lead this process.

“If Arsenal are to genuinely move forward from today it requires not only a new head coach appointment but also a rejuvenation of the boardroom.”

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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