BAYER LEVERKUSEN are eyeing Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah for free on a pre-contract, SunSport can exclusively reveal.

Leverkusen would like Nketiah to commit now and may push him to sign this week to head off interest from rivals, led by Crystal Palace.

Elsewhere, the Gunners could reportedly miss out on Philippe Coutinho – as the Brazilian wants move to a club 'he loves'.

The Barcelona star could be therefore set for a return to Brazil, with Flamengo the apparent frontrunners.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that Arsenal are monitoring Brighton full-back Tariq Lamptey who has shined in recent weeks after returning from long-term injury.

And Bukayo Saka is a shock target for Liverpool, according to reports.

The England star is fast becoming one of Arsenal's most prized assets but the Reds are reportedly keeping tabs on him with two of their own forwards set to leave.

We've also the very latest on Luka Jovic, with the Real Madrid flop set for a January loan away from the Bernabeu.

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  • Joshua Mbu

    Morning, Arsenal fans

    Gunners' assistant boss Albert Stuivenberg was  'proud and frustrated' after their last-gasp 2-1 home defeat against runaway leaders Manchester City.

    Stuivenberg, standing in for Covid victim Mikel Arteta, claimed ten-man Arsenal deserved to win not lose.

    Martin Odegaard was denied a penalty despite City keeper Ederson sending him tumbling.

    Gabriel Magalhaes saw red for two soft bookings in quick succession.

    And Bernardo Silva was branded a 'diver' even before he won a soft spot-kick leveller for Riyad Mahrez.

    Rodri then nicked City's 93rd minute clincher.

    Stuivenberg believes Odegaard should have had a penalty and added: "I'm very frustrated… because we should have won the game.

    "We are very very proud. We see a lot of progress in this team."

    Off the pitch, German giants Bayer Leverkusen fancy Arsenal hotshot Eddie Nketiah on a pre-contract.

    And Aston Villa's Brazil midfielder Douglas Luiz is now rated a prime target for Arteta.  

  • Ian Tuckey

    Stuivenberg 'proud in defeat

    Assistant boss Albert Stuivenberg claims Arsenal should have had a penalty and deserved to beat Manchester City rather than lose 2-1 at the death.

    Stuivenberg – standing in for Covid victim Mikel Arteta -was 'proud' of and frustrated' for 10-man Arsenal at the Emirates

    Martin Odegaard was denied a spot-kick despite Ederson sending him tumbling.

    Stuivenberg said: "I think it's a penalty but what I'm looking for is consistency.

    "I'm very frustrated… because we should have won the game.

    "We are very very proud. We see a lot of progress in this team."

  • Ian Tuckey

    Leverkusen want Nketiah

    EXCLUSIVE: German giants Bayer Leverkusen are keen to sign Arsenal hot shot Eddie Nketiah on a pre-contract.

    The Bundesliga outfit are famed for bringing through young talent and they have their sights on the young Gunner who is a free agent in the summer.

    Leverkusen would like Nketiah to commit now and may push him to sign this week to head off interest from rivals, led by Crystal Palace.

    Nketiah and his advisers will pick a lucrative pay day in Germany and those figures – on top of a transfer fee – make it hard for the Eagles to compete.

    However, Palace could offer the 22-year-old first-team football and that might entice him south of the river.

    West Ham and Brighton were also linked with a move for the striker prior to the transfer window opening.

    And should Nketiah leave this month Arsenal might be able to sign a replacement.

    Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic has been heavily linked to The Emirates.

  • Ian Tuckey

    Cesc blasts Gunners' penalty snub

    Cesc Fabregas in the furious Arsenal protests after their controversial defeat by Man City on New Year's Day.

    Gunners fans were left outraged as two important VAR decisions both went against them as footage seemed to show they were robbed.

    In the first half, the referee's controversial decision not to award a penalty after Ederson's challenge on Martin Odegaard inside the City box was not overturned despite being reviewed.

    And slow-motion footage has left fans seething as it shows Ederson taking out Odegaard WITHOUT the Brazilian goalkeeper touching the ball.

    Then to add insult to injury, Bernardo Silva went down inside the Arsenal box while under pressure by Xhaka.

    Attwell ordered Silva to get up but VAR official Jarred Gillet advised the ref to reconsider and a spot-kick was awarded.

    Former Gunners midfielder Fabregas tweeted: "That’s never a pen. Terrible decision."

  • Ian Tuckey

    JT wants Ashley Cole and Sol honoured

    Chelsea legend John Terry can’t believe Manchester United legends David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes haven’t been honoured – as well as ex-Arsenal defenders Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell.

    JT claimed ‘we are talking the BEST of the Best ever’ – and interestingly included Nicky Butt, Jamie Carragher and the Neville brothers on his nine-man list.

    But Gary Neville scoffed at the idea of him being either worthy enough OR willing to receive something from a Government he is no admirer of.

    He responded to Terry’s post by saying: “I don’t think I’m anywhere near but I’d rather have a most improved player award for a sunday team than an award off this lot.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    The hand of Pod

    Arsenal assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg has revealed he had an 'indirect line' with boss Mikel Arteta during the 2-1 defeat against Manchester City.

    The Dutchman, 51, was in charge this afternoon after Arteta tested positive for coronavirus.

    And the Gunners were unlucky not to beat Pep Guardiola's side in North London as Riyad Mahrez scored a controversial penalty, before Rodri poked home at the death.

    Stuivenberg – nicknamed 'AirPod Albert' for his use of wearing the Apple wireless headphones on the sidelines – failed to wear them against City. Instead, young Spanish coach Carlos Cuesta was spotted wearing the AirPods at the Emirates to maintain contact with Arteta.

    Asked if he himself was in direct contact with the former Arsenal captain, he said: "No, during the game there was no direct line with Mikel, we are always in contact with each other.

    "I do believe I’m famous for the AirPods, so normally I’m in that situation that we’re always in contact with somebody from upstairs, or, in this case, from further away.

    "This was the same for the Norwich game, people not involved in the stadium and we have contact there.

    "Not a direct line, but an indirect line with Mikel and in between of course, at half-time, before the game and after the game Mikel has been in touch because he needs to be involved."

  • Ian Tuckey

    Gunners' fans rage at ref Att-ack

    Arsenal fans were left raging with referee Stuart Attwell as they accused him of 'screening' Gabriel Martinelli before the Brazilian's shocking miss in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.

    With City having equalised moments earlier, Aymeric Laporte almost scored a comical own goal when he headed over his own keeper Ederson.

    Somehow Nathan Ake cleared the ball off the line, but he could only hook it into the path of Martinelli.

    Yet with the goal gaping, the in-form Arsenal man sliced his effort off the outside of the post.

    But when watching the replay, some Gunners fans took to social media to point out that referee Attwell appeared to cut across Martinelli and make the chance more difficult for him.

    Reacting to the clip, the original poster said: "How can the ref set a screen on Martinelli before his missed chance???"

    And a host of other Arsenal fans then poured in to vocalise their anger at Attwell's movements.

    One said: "The only person who should be making a run like that is a striker, not a referee."

  • Ian Tuckey

    Merson's crisp finish is own goal

    Jeff Stelling apologised to Sky Sports viewers after Paul Merson was heard munching on his crisps live on air.

    Presenter Stelling, 66, was still reading out the half-time scores when he was distracted by colleague Merson.

    Jeff Stelling forced to apologise after Paul Merson crunches Sweet Chilli crisps in background on Soccer Saturday

    Viewers could hear rustling in the background and Stelling revealed it was Merson tucking into a refreshment.

    Stelling said: "The noise you could hear in the background was that of sweet chilli and pepper crisps from Paul Merson.

    "You can see in front of him on the desk it's not just one packet there's two!

    "And before we came on the air Merson said 'im on a diet as from now'.

    "Well that's one new year's resolution that went really well! Before 4 o'clock on New Years Day and it is caput!"

    It is not the first time Merson has interfered by eating crisps this season.

    He did so in November – again when half-time scores were being read out, and Stelling called him out for it.

    Stelling held up the packet of Proper Chips to the camera, and joked: "You may have briefly heard some interference as we were going to the commercial break and I was finishing with the scores… and this is the reason.

    "They were in Paul Merson's hands at the time – he was eating his crisps.

    "And do you know what the worst thing about it is? Look, they are BBQ lentil!

    "What happened to salt and vinegar for goodness sake! What kind of man are you these days?"

  • Ian Tuckey

    Arteta digs Doug

    Arsenal could pursue Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz as Mikel Arteta targets a new holding midfielder. 

    Boss Arteta is chasing more proven ability in the centre and up front.

    And nine-cap Brazil star Luiz is tipped as a major option after a brilliant first half to the season.

    Villa would expect a huge sum for the 23-year-old after his surge in influence since arriving from Manchester City for £15million two years ago.

    But Gunners legend Ian Wright believes Luiz is just what Arteta needs.

    After Villa won 3-0 at the Emirates in November 2020, Wrighty said: “Someone like Douglas Luiz, he is ready to be one of the best midfield players in the Premier League. He is so under-rated.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    Reffing was so Lacs

    Alexandre Lacazette hit out at referee Stuart Atwell's decisions in Arsenal's last-gasp 2-1 home win loss to Manchester City.

    The 10-man Gunners fell to a controversially-awarded Riyad Mahrez penalty and a stoppage-time winner from Rodri.

    Mikel Arteta's side were denied a stonewall penalty by VAR in the first half following an Ederson foul on Martin Odegaard, a decision that enraged France international Lacazette.

    He wrote on Instagram: "Don’t think we deserved those decisions but I’m proud of my team and thank you fans for never giving up on us, you were amazing!

    "On to the next."

    An impressive Arsenal took the lead in the 31st minute through Bukayo Saka before Mahrez put the visitors back on level terms in the 57th minute.

    Things went from bad to worse for the Gunners two minutes later when Gabriel undid his all side's good work with a second booking.

    After the match, Assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg – who took charge of the match due to Arteta's Covid isolation – said: "Mikel has the same feelings as me."

  • Ian Tuckey

    Fab tells defenders how to deal with KDB

    Cesc Fabregas has revealed a practical way of dealing with Kevin De Bruyne after watching the Manchester City star inspire his side to victory over Arsenal.

    De Bruyne pulled the strings as City recorded a thrilling 2-1 win at the Emirates on Saturday.

    But the match was shrouded in controversy after Arsenal, who took the lead, were undone by two huge VAR calls for penalties in both boxes.

    Key defender Gabriel was then sent off after quick-fire yellow cards.

    And City midfielder Rodri sneaked in a last-gasp winner before being pelted by bottles for celebrating in front of home supporters.

    It was De Bruyne’s ball which sparked the penalty area scramble resulting in Rodri’s winner.

    And former Gunner Fabregas has now revealed how Arsenal defenders could have prevented De Bruyne from creating City’s golden chance.

    Fabregas tweeted: “When De Bruyne has an open ball in the final third, as a defender you need to start dropping off immediately.

    “City are very good at running in behind the last line.”

  • Ian Tuckey

    Rio blasts 'stupid, immature' Gabriel

    Arsenal defender Gabriel has been blasted as 'stupid, immature and petulant' by Rio Ferdinand following his red card in the 2-1 defeat against Manchester City.

    The Brazilian centre-back, 24, was sent off in the 59th minute at the Emirates following two quick bookable offences at 1-1.

    Gabriel was initially shown his first caution after scuffing the penalty spot and making a comment to the referee after Bernardo Silva won a controversial spot-kick having skipped past Granit Xhaka.

    Gunners assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg revealed after the defeat that the ex-Lille ace was first booked for a remark he made to referee Stuart Attwell.

    He said: "He made a remark to the referee. A normal comment. The players confirmed that and he gave a yellow card."

    Just two minutes after Riyad Mahrez equalised, Gabriel was given his marching orders after clattering into compatriot Gabriel Jesus on the halfway line.

    And his reckless foul didn't impress Manchester United legend Ferdinand, who slammed the player for failing to keep a cool head.

    Speaking on BT Sport, Man Utd legend Ferdinand remarked: "This is stupid, immature, petulant… penalty against your team, what do you think you are achieving with doing that?"

    He added: "From this point on, this is where the stupidity enhances itself. He's [Jesus] not going in on goal, he's not a threat, he's in the middle of the pitch.

    "Straight away after that incident you commit a silly foul like that. And then you're in disbelief I don't understand it."

  • Ian Tuckey

    Tears for Piers

    Piers Morgan 'smashed his head against a wall' and slammed Bernardo Silva for 'diving like Tom Daley' as Manchester City nicked a last-gasp win at Arsenal.

    The TV celebrity labelled the 10-man Gunners' 2-1 defeat a 'shocking injustice' as City went 11 points clear at the top.

    Bukayo Saka deservedly fired Arsenal in front but Riyad Mahrez hit a controversial penalty equaliser, Gabriel Magalhaes saw red for two soft bookings and Rodri bundled City's 93rd minute winner.

    Gunners' fan Morgan posted: "Now I've stopped smashing my head against the wall at the shocking injustice of that 'loss', I'm very proud of that Arsenal performance.

    "We went toe-to-toe with the best team in the world & should have won it.

    "I'm beginning to believe in Arteta's process."

    But Morgan fumed at VAR for failing to give Arsenal a 'clear penalty' after Martin Odegaard was sent tumbling by City keeper Ederson's challenge.

    Ederson appeared to get a toe to the ball and the video assistant backed on-field referee Stuart Attwell's verdict of no penalty.

    Former Good Morning Britain host and Britain's Got Talent judge said: "So we get denied a clear penalty and City get one when Silva was already diving like Tom Daley? Ridiculous" – plus three angry emojis."

  • Justin Lawrence

    Arsenal see red for 100th time

    Arsenal have become the first team in Premier League history to be shown 100 red cards – with the club having an horrendous disciplinary record under Mikel Arteta.

    The Gunners threw away a first-half lead to lose 2-1 at home to Manchester City on New Year's Day, with Gabriel Magalhaes sent-off on the hour-mark.

    The Brazilian defender, 24, was shown two, quick-fire yellow cards to trudge off for an early bath.

    And in seeing red, Gabriel saw Arsenal's Premier League red card tally tick over into three figures.

    Ahead of the game, the Gunners were level with Everton on 99 sendings off since the Prem's inception in 1992.

    Newcastle sit third in the all-time list on 90 reds, with Chelsea in fourth on 82 and West Ham completing the top five on 77.

  • Justin Lawrence

    Arsenal eye Douglas Luiz

    Arsenal could pursue Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz as Mikel Arteta targets a new holding midfielder. 

    Boss Arteta is chasing more proven ability in the centre and up front.

    And nine-cap Brazil star Luiz is tipped as a major option after a brilliant first half to the season.

    Villa would expect a huge sum for the 23-year-old after his surge in influence since arriving from Manchester City for £15million two years ago.

    But Gunners legend Ian Wright believes Luiz is just what Arteta needs.

    After Villa won 3-0 at the Emirates in November 2020, Wrighty said: “Someone like Douglas Luiz, he is ready to be one of the best midfield players in the Premier League. He is so under-rated."

  • Justin Lawrence

    Gabriel breaks red card silence

    Arsenal star Gabriel Magalhaes expressed his frustration after getting sent off against Man City.

    Gabriel received his marching orders following his second yellow card as the Gunners gave away a 1-0 lead to end up losing 2-1 to City.

    But despite having an afternoon to forget, Gabriel vowed to fight for the Gunners until the death in future.

    He rallied on Twitter: "Hard to accept it, but only God knows everything !
    Proud to be part of this team!!! Amazing spirit !

    "We will keep working together , fighting until the end !! For this team I will run until I die !! Let’s keep improving in 2022!!!"

  • Justin Lawrence

    Guardiola admits Arsenal were better

    Man City boss Pep Guardiola admitted that Arsenal were the better team even though they lost 2-1 to his side today.

    He also praised the Gunners for their resurgence this season under Mikel Arteta.

    Pep said after the game: “Arsenal were better. We face a team that in recent years has struggled to be in the top four.

    “They start this season bottom, bottom, bottom. They have six days after beating Norwich, we have two days. It was so tough for us to come back.

    “We had no energy. They is why we pout one more player in the middle to get more control and passes. We know in transitions and physicality they have it can be difficult.”

  • Justin Lawrence

    Gunners have made 'huge progress'

    Michael Owen has praised Arsenal for their display against Man City despite losing the game 2-1.

    The Gunners took the lead but City fought back with goals from Mahrez and a late winner by Rodri.

    But the North London club can hold their heads high after the defeat, Owen believes.

    He tweeted: "Huge progress from Arsenal lately. So unlucky not to get anything out of the game. Couple of tough decisions to take and a couple of silly mistakes they need to learn from."

  • Justin Lawrence

    Rodri pelted by Arsenal fans

    Arsenal fans hurled a barrage of rubbish at Manchester City midfielder Rodri after he stole victory for the Premier League champions.

    The Spaniard poached the winning goal for City in stoppage time to hand the visitors a 2-1 victory at the Emirates.

    An elated Rodri ripped off his top and ran over to celebrate in front of the dejected Arsenal fans.

    The corner of the Emirates that Rodri celebrated in front of burst in a rage of fury and attempted to pelt the midfielder with bottles and other items.

    The crowd threw so much rubbish at Rodri that bottles were littered across the corner.

    Arsenal's stadium staff quickly cleared the mess and the game eventually resumed.

  • Justin Lawrence

    Pat on the back

    Rio Ferdinand expects 2022 to be the year Arsenal youngster Charlie Patino becomes a breakthrough star.

    Patino, 18, burst onto the scene in a big way last week when he made his senior debut during a 5-1 triumph over Sunderland in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the Emirates.

    The midfielder only spent 10 minutes on the pitch and still got a goal during stoppage time and Ferdinand expects great things from him.

    At No87, Patino became the highest squad number ever to score for the north Londoners – beating Bukayo Saka’s previous record when he played with No77.

    The Manchester United legend firmly believes the Watford lad will evolve into a star and urged Gunners fans to watch highlights of his youth career on YouTube.

  • Justin Lawrence

    'Modern day Shakespeare'

    Footy fans have trolled Martin Keown after he compared Kevin De Bruyne's feet to PAINTBRUSHES during Manchester City's match with Arsenal.

    The former Gunners defender sang the City playmaker's praises during the big clash on Saturday afternoon.

    Keown said of the Belgian's creativity: “It’s always a joy to watch De Brune play.

    “I’ve always said it – his feet are like paintbrushes. He’s an artist on a football pitch – he really is.”

    Fellow pundit Steve McManaman was left perplexed and asked: “Paintbrushes?”

    Keown replied: “Canvasses created by the shape. Each foot is like a paintbrush.”

    The pundit's bizarre comparison spread like wildfire on Twitter and prompted a slew of comments.

  • Justin Lawrence

    Rodri late-strike sinks Arsenal

    Rodri has scored a last-gasp winner for Manchester City in a bonkers match against Arsenal.

    Riyad Mahrez fired home a penalty to give City a controversial equaliser.

    In a crazy two minutes of football, Granit Xhaka had a penalty awarded against him after a soft challenge on Bernaro Silva but the Swiss midfielder had hold of his opponent's shirt.

    In the seconds following Mahrez's equaliser, Arsenal had a header cleared off the line, only for Gabriel to get sent off for a second yellow card after dragging down Gabriel Jesus.

    Bukayo Saka had given Arsenal a well-deserved lead in a pulsating clash with Manchester City.

  • Justin Lawrence

    Gooners rage at penalty denials

    Arsenal fans were left raging at two massive VAR calls that both went against them.

    In the first half, the referee's controversial decision not to award a penalty after Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson's challenge on Martin Odegaard inside the City box was not overturned despite being reviewed.

    And then in the second period, a challenge by Granit Xhaka which was not initially punished was overturned by VAR leading to Man City scoring an equaliser from the spot.

    Fans were soon chanting: "How much are they paying you" at the officials.

    The Odegaard decision saw the Arsenal man appear to nudge the ball away from the Brazilian keeper's boot just as he came sliding out, sending the Gunners playmaker crashing to the floor.

    It looked like there was clear contact but there was a question of whether Ederson got the ball first before tackling the Norway international.

    Referee Stuart Atwell believed the Brazil international played the ball and VAR agreed with him.

  • Justin Lawrence

    Arsenal Prem red card record

    Arsenal have become the first Prem club to reach 100 red cards following Gabriel's dismissal against Man City.

    Gabriel was initially booked for scuffing up the penalty spot before Riyad Mahrez took his kick.

    The moments later the Gunners star received his marching orders for flattening Gabriel Jesus in the middle of the pitch.

    The Brazilian's omission from proceedings saw the Gunners overtake Everton who have 99 red cards.

  • Justin Lawrence

    First half facts and figures

    Arsenal lead against Man City after Bukayo Saka broke the deadlock in the first-half.

    City have clocked up 67% possession and 304 passes in the first half, but are yet to register a shot on target.

    Meanwhile, four of Arsenal's 12 tackles were made by the influential Thomas Partey.

    City have been lethargic by their high standards, and Pep Guardiola will surely have plenty to say in the dressing room.

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