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Premier League: Manchester City deserve their title, but Arsenal can take hope as they build for future

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London, May 20 (IANS) Manchester City’s fourth consecutive Premier League title says it all about Pep Guardiola’s side, as they came good when they needed to and kept their nerve to hold off a strong challenge from Arsenal to lift the title. Once again, Guardiola, for all his talk of leaving at the end of next season, has shown himself to be the master of the game, tweaking a team that had a couple of low moments in the season, but had the football, the footballers and the experience to hold off their rivals in the finishing straight.

Erling Haaland, for all the criticism of his contribution outside of the penalty area, showed there is nobody in the world more reliable in front of goal, while Kevin de Bruyne is still a master of the creative football arts, even if he is starting to slow down.

And if De Bruyne slows down, the Premier League’s Player of the Season, Phil Foden, continues to develop as arguably the most exciting English player of his generation, with 19 goals this season, including the first two on Sunday, reports Xinhua.

City may have missed the silky midfield talents of Ilkay Gundogan after his move to Barcelona. Still, Guardiola’s constant evolution saw him adapt the shape of his side, give extra responsibility to players such as John Stones. At the same time, 22-year-old Josko Gvardiol has had an excellent first campaign at the club, looking calm on the ball and even scoring key goals at the end of the campaign.

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Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta must feel frustrated at seeing his side fall just short after they too produced a brilliant finishing run to the campaign. It’s hard to believe that both Arsenal and Manchester City won nine of their last 10 games, with the only points dropped coming in a 0-0 draw between the two sides in Manchester back in March.

The fact Arsenal held their nerve means they can wave goodbye to the tag of ‘bottle merchants’ — a team that loses its nerve at key moments — and that is partly due to the arrival of England midfielder Declan Rice. Rice cost over 100 million pounds, but it looks like money well-spent, as he added both control and creativity in midfield. Meanwhile, Kai Havertz is another huge success for Arteta, finally finding his place as a floating No. 9 giving even more mobility to a team packed with the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, and Gabriel Jesus.

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A reliable left-back and a specialist striker might make Arsenal’s title challenge for next season almost impossible to resist.

It was the end of an era at Liverpool where Jurgen Klopp stepped down with Arne Slot to step in as his replacement. Klopp always said it would be a transitional year, and Liverpool’s cause wasn’t helped by a long injury list, but the good news for Slot is that youngsters such as Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot and Jarell Quansah should be the building blocks for his team next season.

Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino had a long, hard season at Chelsea with an expensive, but young and disparate squad of players that only started to play as a team in the last two months of the season. After spending part of the season in the bottom half, Chelsea rallied to finish sixth, and there should be more to come from them next season if the club keeps faith in the coach.

Ange Postecoglou was a breath of fresh air for a Tottenham side that faced life without Harry Kane, and although they just fell short of the line in their efforts to reach the Champions League, Tottenham have a base to push on and a style of play that will win over a lot of neutrals. The fact Spurs finished fifth and not fourth was due to Unai Emery’s excellent work at Aston Villa, where players such as Pau Torres kept them solid in defense, while Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey gave them a spark in attack.

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Villa’s challenge now will be to build a squad to compete at home and abroad as they began to look stretched in the final weeks of this campaign.

And then there was Manchester United, who took two steps back in Erik ten Hag’s second season in charge and who will miss out on Europe unless they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup next weekend — an outcome that doesn’t seem likely. United end the season with everything up in the air as Sir Jim Ratcliffe ponders his options with both coach and a squad that will probably look very different at the start of next season.

–IANS

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Detroit Pistons fire head coach Monty Williams: Reports

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Detroit, June 19 (IANS)The Detroit Pistons have reportedly fired coach Monty Williams after just one season. This surprising move comes despite Williams having a hefty $65 million remaining on his contract which will be paid to the veteran over the next five years.

However, with a new front office led by President Trajan Langdon, the Pistons are charting a new course. According to a report by ESPN, this decision to let Williams go stemmed from ownership. Detroit will now embark on another coaching search.

During Williams’ first year as head coach for the Pistons, the team lost 28 straight games, the longest losing streak within one season in NBA history. The side finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and held the worst record (14-68) in the league having won only 14 of their 82 games

Williams, a respected coach with two Coach of the Year awards, arrived in Detroit last year with a massive six-year deal after leaving the Phoenix Suns. He initially planned a sabbatical due to his wife’s cancer diagnosis but ultimately joined the Pistons’ rebuild project under GM Troy Weaver.

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In other news, ESPN also reported that 2019 NBA winner Pascal Siakam will be signing a new four-year, $189.5 million maximum contract to return to the Indiana Pacers. Siakam plans to sign the deal once the league’s free agency moratorium ends on July 6.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Kenjige, Maharaj called in as USA elect to field first against SA

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North Sound (Antigua), June 19 (IANS) The USA won the toss and elected to bowl first against South Africa in the Super 8 match in Group 2 of the T20 World Cup at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Wednesday.

Considering the conditions are expected to aid spin bowing, South Africa have included Keshav Maharaj in place of pacer Othniel Baartman as Nosthush Kenjige comes in for the USA.

USA captain Aaron Jones said, “We are going to have a bowl first. It’s going to be a good wicket so we want the seamers to exploit (it) first. Extra spinner for us today, Kenjige in.”

South Africa captain Aiden Markram said, “(It) Doesn’t look too bad. We weren’t really sure of what to do for the toss. Probably we were leaning towards bowling but don’t mind batting first. Extra spinner today for us. Unfortunately, Ottneil Baartman misses out purely on conditions, Keshav comes in.”

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Playing XIs:

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram (c), Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Tristan Stubbs, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

United States: Shayan Jahangir, Steven Taylor, Andries Gous (wk), Aaron Jones (c), Nitish Kumar, Corey Anderson, Harmeet Singh, Jasdeep Singh, Nosthush Kenjige, Ali Khan, Saurabh Netravalkar

–IANS

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Essex sign pacer Eathan Bosch for four County Championship matches

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Chelmsford, June 19 (IANS) Essex has secured the services of South African fast-bowling all-rounder Eathan Bosch on a short-term deal, encompassing four Vitality County Championship matches.

This timely addition comes as Essex sits just two points behind leaders Surrey at the halfway mark of the competition, with a crucial fixture against Durham looming at Chelmsford.

Bosch, 26, brings a wealth of experience and talent to the Essex squad. Since making his first-class debut for KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, he has claimed an impressive 92 wickets in 38 matches. Additionally, Bosch has shown considerable prowess with the bat, amassing 1,053 runs at an average of 22.89, including a century and seven fifties.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the new opportunity, Bosch said, “I’m super excited to be here. It was a pretty easy deal to accept, and I’m looking forward to my time with the Eagles. It will be nice to play outside of South Africa and see what my skills can bring to the table. It will definitely be a learning experience, but I’m looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the country, and especially Chelmsford!” said in a statement released by the club.

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Essex’s Head Coach Anthony McGrath shared his excitement about Bosch’s arrival, stating, “Eathan is a terrific addition to us, and we’re delighted to welcome him to the team. There’s huge value in a well-stocked seam bowling cupboard, and with his experience of bowling in different conditions, he will add a new dimension to our attack. He will also be able to push everyone around him to new heights, which will be extremely beneficial as the Championship season heads towards its finale.”

Bosch’s signing is particularly strategic given recent squad movements. Fellow seamer Ben Allison has been loaned to Worcestershire for two Championship fixtures, a repeat of a similar short-term move made at the end of the 2023 season. McGrath emphasized the developmental benefits of this arrangement for Allison, stating,

“This is an excellent opportunity for Ben to get game time while not compromising on the quality of cricket he will play. He is still developing as a cricketer, and the most important thing for him now is simply to be playing; as such, this is a great chance for him, and we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on,” he said.

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Bosch’s arrival at Chelmsford comes at a pivotal time for Essex. As they prepare to face Durham, his addition to the squad is expected to enhance their bowling attack significantly. With the Championship title race heating up, Bosch’s ability to contribute both with the ball and the bat could prove crucial in Essex’s quest for glory.

–IANS

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AIFF invites applications for senior men’s and U 23 team head coach position

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New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Wednesday released an announcement hiring for the vacant head coach position for both the men’s national team and the U 23 squad as well.

The head coach, the men’s senior/U 23 national team will report to the AIFF secretary general and will be accountable for the performance of the team in all matches and competitions it participates in during the term of the coach’s contract.

The head Coach will work closely with the national team department, the national team director, technical director, to strengthen the position and performances of the men’s senior national team.

The AIFF also released a list stating the responsibilities that will come with the important job.

The primary purpose of the position will be to select, monitor, and prepare the senior men’s national team and the U23 men’s national team for the various matches and competitions with qualification to FIFA World Cup/AFC Asian Cup/SAFF Championship and AFC U-23 Championship and a remarkable preparation and performance in the Asian Games 2026 among key targets.

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The coach will report regularly to the AIFF secretary general and the technical committee and work in close cooperation with the national team department, the national team director, technical director. To provide advice to the secretary general and the technical director in respect of technical matters.

The new coach will also have to attend and lead the team at all matches, training sessions, and camps of the relevant national team and provide direction, support, and advice to coaching staff on all on-field matters relating to the National Team.

Alongside the responsibilities, a list of requirements have also been provided which include a minimum of 10-15 years of coaching experience at the elite youth and senior level football. Experience as the first team coach (head coach) of the senior national team will be preferred with experience of coaching in the World Cup and continental championship qualifiers an advantage and minimum of AFC/UEFA Pro license or equivalent will be required.

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Interested candidates have been asked to mail their applications to the AIFF along with CVs, cover letter, and proof of relevant qualification.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: It will be a good battle between Farooqi and Indian top-order, says Ian Bishop

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Bridgetown, June 19 (IANS) Former West Indies cricketer Ian Bishop believes the match-up between Afghanistan’s left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi and the Indian top-order will be a good battle during the Super Eight clash of 2024 men’s T20 World Cup at the Kensington Oval on Thursday.

With his skills to move the ball both ways, Farooqi is the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 12 scalps, seven of which have came in the power-play. His battle against India’s top-order of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant under sunny Barbados skies could prove to be one of the decisive subplots in deciding the India-Afghanistan game.

“If the ball swings, Fazalhaq Farooqi will obviously be a handful when he comes up against any opposition. If it doesn’t swing, he’s not become impotent, but he loses a little bit of that bite. But I think they’ll be able to handle that well.”

“They’ve seen swing before, whether it’s left-arm or right-arm. So, I think it will be a good battle, but I think the class of India in particular is something that looks lot more true,” said Bishop while replying to an IANS query on the Star Sports Press Room show.

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Entering into the Super Eights of a T20 World Cup for the first time is a continuation of Afghanistan’s remarkable story in international cricket, whose first appearance in the tournament’s history came all the way back in 2010 in the Caribbean.

Apart from Farooqi, opener-keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz is the leading run-getter, while he and Ibrahim Zadran have teamed up to smash two century-plus opening stands for Afghanistan in the competition.

Bishop appreciated Afghanistan for continuing to be a force to reckon with in international cricket, but feels that bulk of scoring being done by Gurbaz and Zadran so far is a pocket of weakness for them ahead of the clash against India.

“I think Afghanistan are a very good team. They are a continuously growing force in the world game, and particularly when they get conditions that are suitable to them. They’ve got a good, world-class spin bowling unit, and then they’ve got some good seam bowlers, particularly when they all have a lot of slower balls.”

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“And you slowly can swing it when there is atmospheric conditions that align viscerally, and of course, Fazalhaq Farooqi and (Azmatullah) Omarzai. So, my one question with Afghanistan is that the opening batters seem to have to carry a lot of workload for them, whereas when you’ve got other teams, some of the better full-member nations have batters from top to all the way down to nine or ten.”

From an Indian perspective, spearhead pacer Jasprit Bumrah has been at his searing best in the tournament, seen from him picking back-to-back Player-of-the-Match awards against Ireland (2/6) and Pakistan (3/14), where his dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan laid the base for the Rohit Sharma-led side to claw back into the match and win by six runs.

Bishop believes batters are apprehensive of taking the attack to Bumrah due to a combination of what he can do and the reputation he’s carved since his international debut in 2016.

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“Jasprit is smart, a good communicator who thinks about the game. It starts from the foundation, but he has also developed variations and knows better than most bowlers when to use his variations. You hear him say, it’s not every day I go hunting for wickets.”

“There are days I bowl my yorker at the stumps, days I bowl a wide yorker; there are days when I assess conditions and bowl my slower ball into the pitch or use my bouncer. In addition to that, he has other ingredients.

“He has a unique action where the ball gets on to you a lot quicker than batters anticipate, the full toss (that got Iftikhar Ahmed out) is because of that. Sometimes they don’t get smashed because they get on to you.”

“Of course, when you develop that reputation, like when I bowled with Curtly Ambrose, Matthew (Hayden) never put a foot wrong against Curtly because of his reputation, but he’d look to smash me. This guy is a generational bowler,” he concluded.

–IANS

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