Ainsley Maitland-Niles is close to reaching an agreement to join Roma on loan from Arsenal for the remainder of the season.
Roma need reinforcements in the full-back positions in Jose Mourinho’s squad but have not budgeted to spend large amounts of money in the January transfer window, so the Serie A club are exploring the loan market.
Maitland-Niles, 24, has made eight Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season, but has not featured for the Gunners since November.
The feeling at Roma is Mourinho will be able to help Maitland-Niles rediscover his best form, as has happened with Tammy Abraham, who joined in the summer from Chelsea and has scored 12 times in 25 games in all competitions since arriving at the Stadio Olimpico.
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The utility player, who can operate across midfield or in both full-back positions, wanted to join Everton in the summer having spent the second half of last term on loan at West Brom.
During the summer transfer window, Maitland-Niles made a plea on social media for a move, but the Gunners opted against sanctioning a departure and he ended up agreeing to stay on until January.
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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s 5-0 win at Norwich in the Premier League
Writing on Instagram in August, he said: “All I want to do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m going to play.”
A graduate of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, Maitland-Niles has registered 132 appearances for the club and won three FA Cups over the course of his career at the Emirates Stadium. His Arsenal contract expires in 2023.
Meanwhile, speculation is continuing to mount over the futures of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, whose contracts expire in the summer, while Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was recently stripped of the captaincy following a disciplinary breach.
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The Soccer Special panel get into a heated debate over the future of Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, with the 22-year-old set to be out of contract in the summer
Arteta wants to clear ‘cloud’ hanging over Arsenal strikers
Mikel Arteta has revealed he is trying to resolve what he sees as a “cloud” of varying issues hanging over his Arsenal forward options.
The Arsenal manager said: “We have a cloud and the cloud is there. At the moment we’re not able to change it.
“We’re working on it to try to make it as small as possible and as clear as possible but it’s the situation we are in because contracts have details, the timing of them is tricky and we are trying to resolve it.
“It depends on every single case, depends on the player’s situation, the minutes he’s playing, his willingness or the [contract] offer that you have, but it’s something that you have to consider.”
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone faced increased pressure after the La Liga champions slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat by Granada on Wednesday.
With Atletico having lost four successive league matches for the first time since Simeone took charge in 2011, the Argentinian’s role has come under scrutiny from club supporters and Spanish media.
It took less than two minutes for Joao Felix to fire Atletico ahead with a perfect low shot from the edge of the box, with the goal demonstrating why the fans had been urging Simeone to play the Portuguese striker from the start more often.
But Granada equalised 15 minutes later with a stupendous long shot from Darwin Machis.
Felix desperately tried to score a second goal but he was frustrated by an equally determined Granada, who found the winner midway through the second half thanks to Jorge Molina.
Granada survived a frenzied final 20 minutes during which Atletico desperately tried to score an equaliser without success. It was Granada’s first win against Atletico since 1973, ending a 25-game winless streak.
Simeone’s judgment is being questioned as Atletico’s usually rock-solid defence has now leaked in 22 goals in 18 games this season, with the champions keeping only five clean sheets in La Liga during that time. In contrast, they had conceded only eight goals at the same stage last season.
Atletico sit fifth in the standings with 29 points after 18 games, 17 points behind Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema scored two goals in the opening seven minutes to send leaders Real Madrid eight points clear at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.
Real, who were missing eight players due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the club, stretched their unbeaten run to 15 matches in all competitions.
Benzema broke the 400-goal mark in his professional career with a stunning strike from just outside the box in the fourth minute before adding another just three minutes later when an Athletic defender missed a clearance.
Oihan Sancet stopped Real’s momentum with a sensational goal in the 10th minute. The hosts put up a fight but Real held on to secure all three points.
Serie A – Napoli stunned by Spezia
Third-place Napoli dropped seven points behind Serie A leaders Inter after losing 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Spezia, who benefited from an own-goal from Napoli defender Juan Jesus.
Napoli were missing captain Lorenzo Insigne, who tested positive for Covid-19, while Spezia did not produce a single shot on goal.
Inter Milan concluded the year with a 1-0 win over Torino to remain top of the league heading into the winter break
Denzel Dumfries scored from the edge of the area, finishing a counter-attack after taking a backheel pass from Edin Dzeko during the first half at the San Siro. It was the third goal in four matches for the Netherlands right-back.
AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie played a starring role by scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Empoli, leaving the Rossoneri second in Serie A at the midway stage of the season.
The Ivory Coast international was deployed in a more advanced attacking midfield position, and excelled in the role by striking twice before half-time, either side of Nedim Bajrami’s goal for Empoli.
An Alessandro Florenzi free-kick and a Theo Hernandez goal extended the visitors’ lead, before Andrea Pinamonti pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot.
Manolo Gabbiadini scored 10 minutes from time to secure a 1-1 draw for Sampdoria at Roma.
Eldor Shomurodov had put Roma ahead eight minutes earlier. Gabbiadini then scored from close range following a corner.
Roma are level on points with seventh-place Fiorentina, who drew 1-1 at Hellas Verona. Gaetano Castrovilli equalised for the Viola with a diving header following an opener from Kevin Lasagna.
Lazio won 3-1 at Venezia despite missing striker Ciro Immobile, who has coronavirus. Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Luis Alberto scored for the Roman club.
Also, Bologna won 3-0 at Sassuolo with goals from Riccardo Orsolini, Aaron Hickey and Federico Santander. It was the fourth goal this season for Scottish midfielder Hickey.
Ligue 1 – Ramos sent off as PSG salvage draw
Mauro Icardi’s stoppage-time strike helped 10-man Paris Saint-Germain salvage a fortunate 1-1 draw at lowly Lorient in a dismal performance.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who had Sergio Ramos sent off, have 46 points from 19 games with Nice in second place 13 points behind after a 2-1 comeback win at home against RC Lens.
Third-placed Marseille, who have a game in hand, trail Nice on goal difference after being caught cold at the Velodrome in a 1-1 draw against Reims, Dimitri Payet salvaging a point with a penalty eight minutes into injury-time.
Rennes are fourth on 31 points after a 2-1 defeat at Monaco.
Elsewhere, Montpellier consolidated their fifth place with a convincing 4-1 home victory against mid-table Angers and champions Lille moved up to eighth when Jonathan David’s late goal gave them a 3-2 victory at Bordeaux.
The game between Clermont and Racing Strasbourg was postponed because of foggy conditions.
A stunning late goal from 19-year-old substitute Nico gave Barcelona three precious points as they beat Elche 3-2 at the Nou Camp in La Liga on Saturday.
After two league games without a win and a humiliating 3-0 loss to Bayern that knocked them out of the Champions League in the group stage for the first time in almost two decades, Barca’s coach Xavi Hernandez was desperate for a win to take some of the pressure off his player’s shoulders.
Xavi’s bet on his younger players appeared to pay off as Spanish youngsters Ferran Junglat and Gavi both scored early on to give Barca a 2-0 lead.
But in the second half, Elche scored twice in two minutes through Tete Morente and Pere Milla.
Nico’s superb strike in the 85th minute saved the day, however, helping Barca climb one spot in the standings to seventh, two points off the European qualifying places but still 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, a Lucas Ocampos strike in the final minutes of the match gave second-placed Sevilla a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid.
In a feisty match between two sides that are trying to stay in contention with league leaders Real Madrid, Sevilla came out on top.
They now have 37 points, putting them five behind Real, while Atleti fall to fifth place on 29 points, leapfrogged by surprise team Rayo Vallecano, who beat Alaves 2-0 earlier in the day and remain unbeaten at home this season.
Ivan Rakitic gave Sevilla the lead early in the first half with a fabulous long-range strike that could be a contender for goal of the season.
Felipe equalised from a corner, timing his jump perfectly and thumping his header past Sevilla goalkeeper Bono.
But right before stoppage time, Ocampos reacted quickly to smash in a shot after a Thomas Delaney header came off the crossbar.
Serie A: Abraham helps Roma beat Atalanta
Tammy Abraham scored two goals as Roma put on a counter-attacking clinic to stun Atalanta with a 4-1 win and climb to fifth place in Serie A.
Jose Mourinho’s side finished the game with 29 per cent possession and eight shots to Atalanta’s 17, but they were far more efficient with their chances.
England striker Abraham scored inside the opening minute with a deflected strike, and Nicolo Zaniolo doubled Roma’s lead by finishing off a quick counter-attack for his first league goal of the season.
Gian Piero Gasperini was quick to make a change, bringing on Luis Muriel after 34 minutes, and the Colombia international’s strike cannoned off Roma’s Bryan Cristante for an own goal that got the hosts back into the match on the brink of half-time.
Atalanta pushed for a leveller and thought they had it when Jose Luis Palomino nodded in from close range at a corner, but he was offside.
Mourinho’s team scored a third four minutes later when Chris Smalling volleyed home his second goal in two games, marking the first time in Serie A history that two different English players have scored in the same game.
Abraham swept in his second of the afternoon with eight minutes remaining to take his tally for the season to six goals in Serie A.
Goals from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado either side of half-time gave Juventus a 2-0 win at Bologna in thick fog to lift the Turin club to sixth place in Serie A.
Morata fired home a first-time finish after six minutes to put the visitors in front, but they were second best for much of the match as Bologna dictated the tempo.
Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side could not make their possession count, however, and Colombia defender Cuadrado punished them when his deflected strike flew into the top corner midway through the second half.
Bundesliga: Dortmund end 2021 with defeat
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Highlights of the Bundesliga match between Hertha Berlin and Borussia Dortmund
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund slumped to a year-ending 3-2 defeat at Hertha Berlin on Saturday to go into the winter break nine points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
Hertha’s Marco Richter struck twice in the second half as Hertha came from a goal down to score three times against a makeshift Dortmund defence.
The visitors, looking to close the gap with Bayern following their 4-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg on Friday, enjoyed a strong start even though in-form Jude Bellingham was missing due to suspension, and central defender Mats Hummels and ‘keeper Gregor Kobel because of illness.
They could have scored with a string of good chances before Julian Brandt cleverly dinked the ball over keeper Alexander Schwolow to put the visitors in front in the 31st minute.
The hosts, however, equalised six minutes after half-time when Ishak Belfoldil slotted the ball under reserve ‘keeper Marwin Hitz.
Richter put Hertha 2-1 up in the 57th with an outstanding finish, placing the ball into the top far corner.
The 24-year-old forward then thundered home on the rebound in the 69th with the Dortmund defence in chaos after an error by Brandt on the edge of the box.
Substitute Steffen Tiggen rose high to drill in a header and cut the deficit seven minutes from time
Dortmund are second on 34 points, with Bayern top on 43. Bayer Leverkusen, third on 28, are in action on Saturday against Freiburg. Hertha’s win moved them away from the relegation zone and into 11th place on 21 points.
RB Leipzig’s hopes of a fresh start under a new coach are fading after losing at home to 10-man Arminia Bielefeld 2-0.
Japanese midfielder Masaya Okugawa scored the second goal in the 75th minute, not long after Fabian Klos was sent off for a bad challenge on Leipzig defender Willi Orban.
Janni Serra put Bielefeld in front from a rebound, and Leipzig were unable to make their undoubted attacking prowess count, with Andre Silva, Angelino, Christopher Nkunku and Benjamin Henrichs all missing chances.
It was the first loss in three games for new Leipzig coach Domenico Tedesco, who took over after the club dismissed Jesse Marsch. It leaves Leipzig in ninth, far from the Champions League qualification places.
Hoffenheim defender Kevin Akpoguma scored in injury time to deny Borussia Monchengladbach their first win after a run of four defeats, drawing 1-1. Breel Embolo had the visitors on their way to victory, but they failed to stop Akpoguma equalising in the 91st minute.
A brilliant early goal from Max Kruse was enough for Union Berlin to finish the year on a high after winning 1-0 at Bochum. Kruse got married on Thursday and fired home the winner in the 16th minute when he met Grischa Promel’s lay-off with a half volley inside the top left corner.
Eintracht Frankfurt earned a 1-0 victory over visiting Mainz to make it three Bundesliga wins in a row as they climbed to fifth place before the start of the winter break.
Jesper Lindstrom slotted home the winner in the 35th minute, with the Dane scoring for the third consecutive match.
Robert Lewandowski scored twice, including a second-half penalty, to guide the German champions Bayern Munich to a crucial 3-2 victory at title rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday and a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.
The Pole opened his account in the ninth minute to level after Dortmund had taken an early lead through Julian Brandt, and then converted a controversial 77th-minute spot-kick to seal victory with his 16th goal of the campaign.
Kingsley Coman had put Bayern in front a minute before the break before Erling Haaland equalised for the hosts with a superbly curled effort in the 48th.
In an action-packed encounter, Dortmund coach Marco Rose was sent off with a second booking for dissent following the penalty decision.
Bayern, chasing a record-extending 10th league crown, move up to 34 points with this sixth straight league win over their rivals, leaving Dortmund in second place on 30. Bayer Leverkusen are in third place on 27.
“I think we deserved to win but I also understand the discussions over the two penalty situations,” Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said.
Dortmund were fuming about the penalty decision in favour of Bayern after having been denied a VAR review in a penalty claim of their own earlier.
“It was a very tight game that was worthy of its reputation. We could have scored more in the first half,” Nagelsmann said. “Dortmund did it well early in the second half but we found our rhythm again and had good control.”
Elsewhere, Patrik Schick scored four times in 27 minutes as Bayer Leverkusen crushed Greuther Fuerth 7-1 to make it three wins in a row and climb into third place in the Bundesliga.
The 25-year-old Czech striker took his season tally to 12 league goals after scoring all of his four goals in a remarkable second-half performance, to stretch Leverkusen’s unbeaten run to four consecutive league games and lift them to 27 points.
Serie A: Inter thrash Roma as Mourinho suffers reunion to forget
AS Roma collapsed to a 3-0 defeat at home to manager Jose Mourinho’s former club Inter Milan on Saturday as the champions climbed to second in Serie A and inflicted a fourth defeat in six league games on the capital club.
Mourinho led Inter to an unprecedented treble in 2010 but his first meeting with them as an opposing coach ended with the second Serie A home defeat of his career in his 46th match — the other coming against AC Milan in October.
The Portuguese pointed to his side’s absentees, who included the suspended Tammy Abraham and Rick Karsdorp and injured captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, after a comprehensive defeat.
“Inter are stronger than us in normal circumstances, in these circumstances, they are much stronger,” Mourinho told DAZN.
“Today between injuries and suspensions it was a very limited selection. Our attacking potential was practically zero, we had three chances and didn’t score,” Mourinho added.
“When you play with a new defensive system you can’t concede goals like the first and third.”
Elsewhere, Napoli surrendered the lead to lose 3-2 at home to Atalanta, dropping from first to third as the gap between the top four sides in Serie A was squeezed to four points.
Luciano Spallettis hosts recovered from a goal down and went in front early in the second half, only for the visiting Bergamo club to mount a comeback of their own and inflict a second league defeat of the season on the hosts.
The result saw Napoli, who had led the title race since week four, remain on 36 points, two behind new leaders AC Milan, one behind Inter Milan and two ahead of fourth-placed Atalanta.
Meanwhile, AC Milan climbed to the top of the Serie A table with a comfortable 2-0 win over bottom side Salernitana, thanks to early goals from Franck Kessie and Alexis Saelemaekers.
The Rossoneri dominated at San Siro to gain a victory that sent them provisionally into first place on 38 points, two clear of second-placed Napoli, who host Atalanta later in the day.
Milan’s current points tally of 38 is their highest after 16 league games since 2003/04, when they won the title.
La Liga: Barcelona, Atletico beaten as Real win
Barcelona were stunned by Juanmi’s late goal for Real Betis that secured a 1-0 win in LaLiga on Saturday and ended home coach Xavi Hernandez’s honeymoon at the club as he suffered his first defeat since coming back to the Nou Camp three weeks ago.
It was Betis’ first win at Barca in more than three years and took them up to third place with 30 points, six points behind leaders Real Madrid who play later on Saturday at Real Sociedad. Barcelona are languishing in seventh on 23 points.
With Barca’s decisive Champions League match away to Bayern Munich coming up on Wednesday, Xavi rested three of his most important players – Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele – but the decision backfired.
Betis were dangerous on the counter-attack and Juanmi, who earlier had a goal disallowed by VAR for a close offside call, struck a clean finish past keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after fine build-up play by Sergio Canales and this one did count.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid conceded a goal by Mallorca’s Takefusa Kubo in added time in a shock 2-1 La Liga home defeat that will be remembered on the Mediterranean island for years.
In an electrifying match in the Spanish capital, Atletico went in front through a Matheus Cunha strike in the 68th minute.
However, with 10 minutes left and Atletico looking in control of the match, Mallorca equalised with a header from Argentine defender Franco Russo, who outjumped Mario Hermoso from a free-kick and finished with precision past Jan Oblak.
Eight of the 15 goals conceded by Atletico this season have come when they have been defending set-pieces.
As the clock ticked down in stoppage time substitute Kubo, on loan at Mallorca from Real Madrid, received a perfect through pass from Angel Rodriguez behind the defensive line and the 20-year-old Japan striker calmly slotted the ball under Oblak.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid travelled north to San Sebastian and left with a statement 2-0 win against Real Sociedad on Saturday to move eight points clear at the top of La Liga.
With Karim Benzema forced off after 17 minutes with a hamstring injury, it was once again Vinicius Jr who stood out by scoring his 10th goal of the season and driving the home side’s defence crazy with his boldness and audacity.
Real’s man of the hour, 21-year-old ‘Vini’ has been one of the standout players in Europe during this campaign and is two goals behind Benzema at the top of LaLigas scoring charts.
Luka Jovic, who replaced the injured Benzema, enjoyed his best game as a Real Madrid player, assisting Vinicius for the first goal and scoring the second with a diving header.
Ligue 1: Wijnaldum salvages draw for PSG
Georginio Wijnaldum came to the rescue with a last-gasp goal as Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain salvaged a fortunate 1-1 draw at RC Lens on Saturday.
The Dutch midfielder headed home two minutes into stoppage time to cancel out Seko Fofana’s second-half opener and put PSG on 42 points from 17 games.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who once again looked severely short of ideas, lead second-placed Olympique de Marseille by 13 points after OM slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home against Stade Brestois earlier on Saturday.
Lens, who missed several chances to wrap it up before Wijnaldum’s equaliser, stayed fifth on 27 points.
With Kylian Mbappe on the bench as Pochettino sought to rest the France forward, PSG had the first clear chance when Lionel Messi’s curled shot struck the post in the 19th minute.
But it was Lens who dominated, with opportunities through Jonathan Clauss and Arnaud Kalimiuendo before the interval.
The hosts were rewarded in the 62nd minute when Keylor Navas’s blunder allowed Fofana to score with a floating strike from just outside the box.
Seven minutes later, Pereira Da Costa’s shot hit Navas’s post before landing in the PSG keeper’s arms as Lens continued to push.
Przemyslaw Frankowski tested Navas again at the end of a sharp counter-attack but PSG held out.
Florian Sotoca’s attempt went just wide nine minutes from time and it proved to be Lens’s last clear chance before Mbappe, who came on as a 70th-minute substitute, found Wijnaldum with a fine cross.
The Dutchman timed his jump to perfection to beat Jean-Louis Leca with a header that went into the top corner to give PSG their only satisfaction of the night.
On Sunday, Stade Rennais could move into second place, 11 points off the pace, if they beat bottom side St Etienne at Geoffroy Cuichard.
Fourth-placed Nice host Racing Strasbourg and could themselves go into second place if they win and Rennes do not.
Roma striker Tammy Abraham believes Jose Mourinho has turned him into a “monster” and a more aggressive player.
Abraham left Chelsea to move to the Italian capital in the summer and has hit five goals so far this season.
A dip in form for Roma has coincided with a barren spell for Abraham, with just one goal in his last eight games.
But the 24-year-old’s decision to leave the Premier League continues to be vindicated at international level – with Abraham involved in England’s win over Albania on Friday.
Asked what Mourinho had taught him at the Stadio Olimpico so far, Abraham replied: “Just be a monster really!
“I think one of the things he said was I was too much of a nice player and that you have to show that aggressiveness as you’re getting older as a striker.
“It’s not always about being nice on the pitch. You need that character, you need that presence to frighten defenders and I think that’s something I’m learning and getting better at.
“It’s always tough, moving and going to experience a different country and different culture.
“I felt the sooner I settled in the better, and started learning different types of football and different styles. I’ve gone to spread my wings and hopefully I can keep up the level of performances I need to stay in the team.
“Of course (the World Cup) was in the back of my mind but really I just wanted to play football. For me, it’s still a young career and I just felt I needed to go out and play some games to improve and hit the highest levels and hopefully I can keep striving on.”
Abraham came off the bench to replace hat-trick hero Harry Kane in Friday’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania at Wembley.
He now has nine caps and two goals for England and will be hoping for a rare start when England face San Marino on Monday night, knowing a draw would guarantee them a place at next year’s World Cup.
“Yes, of course, I’m always someone who backs myself and believes in myself and you have to be ready because anything can happen in football,” he said when asked if he is determined to become the go-to man to replace captain Kane when needed.
“For me it’s about always trying to be ready. Of course players go through injury and bad spells etc but as a player you have to be ready and that’s something you have to be ready for, whenever the call is and the opportunities come.
“(Kane is) phenomenal. Everyone is so delighted for him, especially on the bench, every time he scored. It just shows that he’s world-class.
“He got into certain positions where the odds are not in his favour, apparently, but he puts them away like he always does.
“You know he’s striving and striving and trying to get better every game. He’s someone I really look up to and hopefully he can get many more.”