Friday, 10 February 2017

Arsenal still not sure if Hector Bellerin will play on Saturday


Arsenal will have to wait until hours before their game against Hull on Saturday before knowing whether Hector Bellerin will be able to feature.

The Spanish full-back was substituted early in the first half of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea after taking an elbow to the head from Marcos Alonso as the Blues wing-back scored the opener. 

Bellerin is still being assessed as part of the graduated return to play protocol for players who suffer concussion – manager Arsene Wenger confirmed after the defeat to Chelsea that the 21-year-old had been unaware of the score when he was taken off – and has yet to return to training.

Whilst Wenger’s options in midfield have been swelled by the return of Mohamed Elneny from the Africa Cup of Nations he will not be able to decide on Bellerin’s involvement until Friday at the earliest.

“From last Saturday we have Elneny back available in the squad,” Wenger said. “Apart from that, we have the question about Hector Bellerin.

“He’s going for tests and the process every day and we’ll only know tomorrow if he gets the green light from the medical people to practise or not. At the moment he has not practised.” 

With Arsenal taking on Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 four days after Hull’s visit Wenger will be reluctant to gamble on the preparedness of Bellerin, who is crucial to his side in attack and defence.

Should the Spaniard miss out then centre-back Gabriel would once more be expected to step in.

Elneny resumed training at London Colney on Wednesday after recovering from a calf injury that ruled him out of the Afcon semi-final.

The 24-year-old suffered heartache in the final, scoring the opener to set Egypt on course for an eighth continental title only to see Cameroon snatch the trophy with an 89th minute winner.

Wenger is backing Elneny to overcome his disappointment and will need him to swiftly settle back into the rhythm of club football, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the only other option to partner Francis Coquelin in Arsenal’s midfield on Saturday.

“He trained yesterday with the team. He’s fully focused and as always, a fantastic player with a great mentality.

“He is disappointed that Egypt lost in the final but we had a quality session yesterday.”

Arsene Wenger has refused to be drawn on whether he will sign a new contract


Arsene Wenger has refused to be drawn on whether he will sign a new contract with the club.

The Frenchman's current deal is due to expire at the end of the season but he has yet to commit to new terms and, asked again about the issue today at a press conference, Wenger would not confirm if he had even been offered a new deal.

"Look, what matters is ideally you want everybody to be happy, but as well I think Arsenal is made of special strengths and that strength is to be united when it doesn't go as well," he said.

"It's very nice for you to take care of how I feel, but it's not the most important. I am a professional and I have to do a job and that's what I want to do.

"My future is in front of me every time I make a half turn. What is important for me is that Arsenal football club goes well and I dedicate my whole energy for the club to do well. 

"Nothing has changed compared to last week and that's basically it. I've nothing to add to what I said last week." 

Reports in recent weeks have claimed that Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is in 'advanced talks" to replace Wenger at the Emirates this summer.

Hull City will provide "tough opposition" on Saturday says Arsene Wenger


Arsene Wenger has said that relegation-threatened Hull City will provide "tough opposition" when they visit the Emirates on Saturday.

The Tigers endured a tough first half of the season under Mike Phelan but have begun to find form under new manager Marco Silva, taking two wins and a draw from their last four Premier League games.

That run included a draw at Manchester United and a shock win over Liverpool last weekend, and although his side claimed a 4-1 victory at the KCOM earlier this season, Wenger is wary of coming up against an improved side.

"I felt they played well since the start of the season but they've not always had the results," he told reporters.

"The Premier League is difficult for everybody and they lost some games, a bit unluckily sometimes. They are a tough opposition for us.

"In the Premier League every team is absolutely difficult to beat, we know that. 

One of the very few positives we have learned from the last week is that every game is difficult, especially at the Emirates. 

We have to prepare well and to face a Hull team where there's more confidence than when we played them last, so we have to prepare well." 

Arsenal enter the game after back-to-back defeats in the league.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Arsenal v Hull City Match Preview


Arsenal must recover quickly from a damaging defeat to Chelsea as they look to keep their hopes of a Premier League top-four finish on track against Hull City.

The Gunners followed up a shock 2-1 home defeat to Watford by losing 3-1 against Chelsea on Saturday, leaving them 12 points behind Antonio Conte's title favourites with 14 games of the season remaining.

Arsene Wenger's men must pick themselves up from consecutive defeats as they welcome Hull to Emirates Stadium, though Marco Silva's side will be no pushovers - especially with Wenger still serving his touchline ban.

The Tigers drew against Manchester United at Old Trafford before beating Liverpool 2-0 at the KC Stadium on Saturday, and Arsenal will likely have to be on top form to avoid another home upset.

TEAM NEWS 

Hector Bellerin is "recovering well" from a suspected concussion suffered against Chelsea, though it remains to be seen whether the right-back will be passed fit for the Emirates clash.

Arsene Wenger's midfield options are still limited with Aaron Ramsey (calf) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) out, although Mohamed Elneny is returning after defeat in the African Cup of Nations final with Egypt.

Hull beat Liverpool despite Michael Dawson injuring his calf in the warm-up, and the captain is likely to miss the trip to Arsenal. 

Dawson will join fellow centre-back Curtis Davies (hamstring) on the sidelines, but Andrea Ranocchia - on loan from Inter Milan - will have another chance to impress following a fine display against Liverpool.

Ryan Mason remains out with a skull fracture, while Markus Henriksen (shoulder), Will Keane (ACL) and Moses Odubajo (patella) complete a lengthy Tigers injury list. 

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS

Arsenal: Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Hull: Jakupovic, Elabdellaoui, Ranocchia, Maguire, Robertson, Huddlestone, N'Diaye, Grosicki, Goebel, Clucas, Hernandez


Arsenal are reported to be lining up a move for Joe Hart


The Gunners are said to be on the look out for a new goalkeeper to replace Cech, who dropped a clanger against his former club Chelsea at the weekend, and Hart is said to be a target.

Hart has been a revelation while on loan with Italian side Torino, and he will not be short on offers come the end of the season as he heads for the City exit door.

Claudio Bravo has struggled in the City starting line up, but it would appear all bridges between Hart and Pep Guardiola have been burned, and he will be allowed to leave in the summer. 


Chelsea are also known to be interested as there is a chance Thibaut Coutois could head to Real Madrid, so Arsenal will have to move quickly if they are to land their man.

It has been suggested that a figure of £15million could be enough to secure a deal for the England international, who will be keen to stay in the Premier League.

Shkodran Mustafi still believes Arsenal can still win Premier League title

Shkodran Mustafi has claimed that his side can still go on to win the Premier League title this season.

The Gunners are 12 points behind league leaders Chelsea with 14 games to play after back-to-back defeats against Watford and the Blues.

Despite their deficit, however, Mustafi remains positive, telling Sky Sports News:

"I think it's going to be more difficult than it was before but I'm a believer. I don't give up.

"As long as it's possible we're going to fight for it, and in the end we will see and if we're lucky enough and good enough to go for it or not.

"The first game we lost at home to Watford was really disappointing. We woke up a bit late, conceded two quick goals and it was difficult to come back.

"We were disappointed as well with losing at Chelsea, which was a completely different game.

We knew it would be difficult at Stamford Bridge, but we knew as well it's possible to win. I think in the end we didn't do enough." 

Up next for Arsenal is a league clash against Hull City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Hector Bellerin is expected to miss game against Hull on Saturday


Hector Bellerin is set to miss the Gunners’ Premier League fixture against Hull City on Saturday, after suffering concussion in the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea.

The Spaniard was forced off after being caught with an elbow by Marcos Alonso in the incident which led to Chelsea’s opening goal.  
The 21-year-old has yet to rejoin full training with the rest of his teammates, as the club await the results of the MRI scan which was carried out at the weekend. 

However, even if the MRI scans give Bellerin the all-clear, Arsenal are unlikely to field him against Marco Silva’s side on Saturday, according to Football.London.

FA guidelines on treatment of players who have suffered such injuries state that no player who’s been cared for in an “enhanced care setting” should return to training for at least six days prior to the original incident.

Gabriel replaced Bellerin at Stamford Bridge, but Wenger could opt to field Carl Jenkinson against Hull after the Englishman was given a run-out at Everton on Monday night for Arsenal’s U23 side. 

Bellerin is expected to return to action in time for Arsenal’s Champions League knockout tie against Bayern Munich on February 14th.

Thierry Henry still has a desire to 'one day' manage Arsenal


Thierry Henry has reiterated his desire to one day manage Arsenal but accepts he is "far" from landing the job.

The club's all-time top scorer was set to to coach the Gunners' Under-18 this season, but rejected the offer after Arsene Wenger asked him to also step down from his punditry role with Sky Sports.

Henry was then appointed as part of Roberto Martinez's new-look coaching setup with the Belgium national team as he continues to gain experience within a backroom staff, but conceded he still thinks about stepping into the hotseat at the Emirates Stadium.

"I'm living my dream from day to day," Henry told RMC.

"The first time I scored a goal, it was like 'Oh, I scored a goal!' I lived my dream. "I will not say no to coaching Arsenal one day. If I say no,I would be lying.

I have to respect that there are people who are in place there already. I have not done anything as a coach yet.


"What I feel for Arsenal is true and I have felt it for a long time. I'm not going to say it does not make me cold or hot. I think about it, but I'm far from it.

When pressed on coaching France, Henry replied: "Like everyone else! But I can not pretend to say 'I will be coaching here or there'. The craft is hard. Let me learn and we'll see later."

Martin Keown believes Arsene Wenger has already decided to stay


Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has expressed his belief that Arsene Wenger has already made his mind up to stay at the club beyond the end of the season.

Speculation over Wenger's future has grown after back-to-back defeats left the Gunners 12 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea, with the Frenchman's contract at the Emirates set to expire this summer.

However, Keown argued that Wenger's 20 years in charge should give him the right to decide when he walks away, and the three-time Premier League-winning centre-back believes that he is not ready to call time on his Arsenal career just yet.

"The way that they are sort of losing their way now, the question comes again - does Arsene Wenger remain in the seat? Do they look to make a change?" he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I just feel the way the club is so pragmatic in its decision making, I don't see Arsene leaving. Whether he should or shouldn't, I don't think it will happen.

He will decide when he leaves the club. I do feel that is the situation and I do feel he has earned the right, in the same way that Sir Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United, to choose when he goes.

"I feel deep down he has already made his mind up to stay. It is just the timing of that announcement. 

Results like against Chelsea make that difficult for him to do. He doesn't make spur of the moment decisions. 

He has to make the best decision for Arsenal and not just for himself."

Arsenal currently sit fourth in the table and look set to extend their wait for a Premier League title to 13 years this season

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Thierry Henry dismisses Arsene Wenger's complaints after Arsenal's 3-1 loss to Chelsea


Thierry Henry has dismissed Arsene Wenger’s claims that Hector Bellerin was fouled in the build-up to Chelsea’s opening goal against Arsenal on Saturday.

The Spanish right-back was clattered to the ground by Marcos Alonso as the Chelsea defender headed home to put the Blues 1-0 up at Stamford Bridge in the 13th minute.

Bellerin had to be substituted after suffering a knock in the challenge, before goals from Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas put the result beyond doubt in west London.

Olivier Giroud netted a late consolation for Wenger’s men but it ended up being a humiliating loss for the Gunners.

Wenger claimed in this post-match interview that Bellerin was fouled by Alonso as the Spaniard scored Chelsea’s opener. 

However, Arsenal legend Henry was quick to dismiss those claims after the game. Speaking to Sky Sports after the final whistle, Henry said of Wenger’s comments: “He’s going to say that.

“If you’re a neutral, he attacked the ball like he should’ve attacked the ball.

He carries momentum, it looks bad, that’s what it is, but I think it’s a fair challenge.

“They are both looking at the ball, he jumps in the air, I think it’s a goal.

“Going back to what Arsene said, I can understand from the Arsenal corner that he’s going to say that – is that why you lost the game? I don’t think so.

“Things went your way the other game against Burnley, things are going to go your way against Everton, so, you know, things come and go.

“But the way they played today, we knew, be careful against Chelsea, you’re going to exposed on the counter if you don’t sense the counter quick enough, and that’s where I think they lost the game today.”

Laurent Koscielny questions Arsene Wenger's team selection


Laurent Koscielny has questioned Arsene Wenger's team selection following Arsenal's dismal showing in the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Saturday.

The Gunners were easily brushed aside by the league leaders and the French defender believes it was a combination of team selection and the players not performing as a unit that led to their downfall at Stamford Bridge.

Wenger made some questionable choices when he selected Alex Iwobi ahead of Danny Welbeck despite the former Manchester United striker, who is coming back from a long-term injury, being rested for the game in midweek.

The England international scored a brace in his first start against Southampton a week earlier, and it should have earned him a place ahead of the Nigerian forward.

Gabriel started for Arsenal against Watford with Wenger stating that the Brazilian was preferred to regular starter Hector Bellerin due to the height advantage he provides.

The Spaniard returned to the starting XI against Chelsea and it was his lack of height that allowed Marcos Alonso to open the scoring.
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The France international, who has captained the side in the league this season, admits that the north London club's title chances are all but over, but has urged his team to get back to winning ways and put up more of a fight in the coming games.

Three points will be vital for Arsenal when they face Hull City on Saturday with the race for the Champions League places heating up.

"I think we played some players in front of others and I think we should have played more as a team and there was space to do so. 

They hit us on the counter," Koscielny said, as quoted by the Mirror.

"It will be difficult now. Mathematically, nothing is done but we know that it is going to be very complicated.

"We need to come back to the quality of our game, our passing, movement," the France international added.

Arsenal lack leaders on the field claims Sol Campbell


Sol Campbell has expressed his belief that there are not enough players willing to take the lead on the pitch in the current squad. 

Campbell won two Premier League titles with the Gunners alongside the likes of Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams and more, but the club's wait for the top prize in English football looks set to extend to 13 years after their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday left them 12 points behind the leaders.

The former England international questioned whether Arsenal have the character required to win the league nowadays, and believes that they now face a fight to keep hold of their place in the top four this season.

"I don't know what's happening now, but when I was there we used to police it ourselves.

We had the characters to police it ourselves. We didn't allow the whole 45 minutes to go by, we would address it on the pitch because if you wait for 45 minutes and you are in, you might be 2-0 down," he told Sky Sports News.

"And we had the characters you know would say something, Patrick would say something, Tony, Martin Keown, David Seaman, all these guys, from the front Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, all these guys would chip in on the pitch while the game was going on. 

That's the key, you've got to have those characters on the pitch. The guys who will say something on the pitch, you don't need one, you need almost four or five saying their stuff if things are not going right.

"I think with Arsene Wenger I think he believes he can win the league. I think he starts every season saying, 'right, we can win the league playing this style of football'. 

Obviously reality kicks in halfway through the season. It's not that easy because you need the personnel on the pitch. And also even in the stands and the bench, you need guys who can come on and make that impact and make the difference or are hungry or fighting to get on to the pitch, so when they do get on the pitch they are ready.

I think it's the balance. "Top four, if they keep going like that, is going to be extremely hard to get because you've got Man United who are motoring now. 

Maybe they might just scrape it. Man United might run out of games. The might get that fourth spot, Arsenal." 

Arsenal, who now sit fourth in the table, will look to recover from back-to-back defeats when they host a resurgent Hull City on Saturday.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Hector Bellerin has reassured Arsenal fans he is "recovering well"


Hector Bellerin has reassured Arsenal fans he is "recovering well" following his clash with Marcos Alonso during Saturday's 3-1 loss at Chelsea.

The right-back received a heavy blow to the head when colliding with the fellow defender, as Chelsea took a 13th-minute lead at Stamford Bridge, and had to be withdrawn.

Arsene Wenger confirmed after the game that Bellerin was "concussed", with Gabriel replacing him as Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas wrapped up the three points in the second half.

“Thank you for all the messages," the right-back wrote on Instagram.

"I'm recovering well at home and will soon be back on the pitch to help the team fight back! Wenger was adamant after the game that Alonso's goal should not have stood following the collison, telling reporters: "Of course it was a foul but they allowed the goal. "

Bellerin didn't know the result of the game at the time."

Antonio Conte, however, felt the challenge is what he has come to expect in English football.

"Alonso jumped more than Bellerin," he said. "To hear this in England, I must be surprised that this is a foul. In Italy, maybe."

Arsenal will never give up title hope claims Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has conceded that the Premier League title is slipping "further out of our hands", but insists that Arsenal will continue to fight until the end.

The Gunners now find themselves 12 points off the pace following Saturday's 3-1 loss to leaders Chelsea, leaving many supporters to call for manager Arsene Wenger's head.

A 13th season without top-flight silverware now appears a certainty as far as Arsenal are concerned, but midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain has urged his teammates to continue battling until it becomes mathematically impossible to overhaul Chelsea.

"It's slipped further out of our hands and there's no hiding from that now," Sky Sports News quotes him as saying.

"The gap is much bigger and it's going to be hard. But we play for Arsenal football club; if we don't go until the end, we don't deserve to be here. We've got to keep doing that.

"At the top level, against a team like Chelsea, there's a good chance they'll punish you if you make mistakes and they did that.

That was disappointing. Then a mistake at the end killed the game for us. Olivier Giroud got one back but at the end it was too late." 

Arsenal, who will end the weekend fourth in the table, have now lost four of their last nine Premier League games.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Arsenal fans turn on Arsene Wenger after Chelsea dash title hopes


A pair of Arsenal fans turned on Arsene Wenger towards the end of the club's convincing 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Goals from Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas put the Blues 12 points clear at the top of the table and all-but ended Arsenal's pursuit of a first Premier League crown in 13 years.

The Gunners remain in the hunt for Champions League and FA Cup silverware this season, but their failure to maintain a Premier League title challenge frustrated members of the travelling support in west London.

Two Gunners fans brandished a mini-banner which read: "Enough is enough, time to go."

Wenger's current Arsenal contract is up in the summer and the Frenchman has indicated that the club's ability to compete on the field could determine his future.

Chelsea fans were heard chanting 'Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay' as they took command of a game which had been billed as a title tussle but in truth just emphasised the gulf between both sides.

Arsene Wenger is very unhappy that Chelsea's first goal stood


Arsene Wenger has criticised referee Martin Atkinson for allowing Chelsea's first goal to stand in his side's 3-1 loss at Stamford Bridge.

Marcos Alonso opened the scoring for the Blues 13 minutes in after reacting quickest to tower over Hector Bellerin and nod the ball in from a rebound.

The Spaniard did appear to lead with his arms as he leapt and caught Bellerin in the face, leaving his compatriot groggy and needing to be replaced by Gabriel Paulista following some on-field treatment.

Wenger says that he did not have to think twice before bringing off the full-back, but believes that the officials should have spotted the infringement in the build-up to the key opener.

"The decision to take him off was very quick," he told reporters. 

"You have to respect it's the head. One of the particularities of the game today is that referees are much more severe with tackles on the ground and let more go with elbows in the face.

"It is not only today. In many games I see that but it is more dangerous to hit the head. But we are maybe not good enough in possession to make our game more dangerous.

"We lost goals in positions where you cannot afford to lose it. It leaves us to focus and prepare on the next game.

It is very difficult to come out individually on players. We were not at our best in some positions."

Eden Hazard and former Gunner Cesc Fabregas went on to put Chelsea three goals ahead, before Olivier Giroud pulled one back for the visitors in added time.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Arsenal need more English players to win title claims Robert Pires


Robert Pires has claimed that his former side require 'more fight and more English players' if they are to end their long wait to lift the Premier League title.

The Gunners are likely to go a 13th year without prevailing in the top flight, as they currently trail runaway leaders Chelsea - who they face this weekend - by nine points.

Three defeats in their last eight outings has left Arsenal playing catch-up in the higher reaches of the division, but Pires - a member of the famous 'Invincibles' squad - insists that there could be a simple solution if the club are to finally get over the line.

"When I see the names in the squad, the quality is very high," he told The Telegraph.

"I don't know if it is better than the Invincibles but the most important for me is to win the title because this team can. They can play a very high level like the game against Chelsea at home but maybe they need more consistency.

"This is most important if you want to win the title, especially in the UK. Of course the games against Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man United and Man City are very important but sometimes when you play Watford, Sunderland, Middlesbrough; it is these games.

You need to win these games. I cannot compare some players, like Martin Keown or Lee Dixon to now.

"We make a lot of difference in my time but this is the past; a great past for Arsenal. Football has changed but, in your team, you need players like them. Like Ray Parlour or Tony Adams.

So maybe Arsenal they need – maybe – more fight. Or more English players."

Arsenal have won the title on three occasions, putting them behind Chelsea (4) and Manchester United (13) in the list of most-successful teams.

Arsenal players have to blame themselves claims Shkodran Mustafi


Shkodran Mustafi has admitted that he and his teammates only have themselves to blame for their failure to mount a serious Premier League title challenge this season.

The Gunners dropped further points in midweek to fall down to third place in the table, nine points adrift of leaders - and weekend opponents - Chelsea.

Defeat to Watford on Tuesday was the first suffered by Mustafi since joining in the summer, and the centre-back has echoed manager Arsene Wenger's thoughts by claiming that Arsenal were not mentally prepared for the match.

"Personally I think the first thing you do is blame yourself first," he told Sky Sports News.

"The most important thing is to look what you have done wrong in the game. Then blame others. The players are on the pitch, we blame ourselves before we blame the manager.

"We have to take that responsibility and then answer. It can only be mental. We know we can play better and we were sloppy at the start.

It's all about mentality, being there from the first minute and knowing the Premier League is a difficult competition and teams are going to go for the opportunity they have, which Watford did.

"They ran at us and defended well. We were not clever or concentrated enough to stop them. We were not there, they ran all over us, and we cannot be happy with that at home.

We have to bounce back, it's a big game against Chelsea, we will try to be there from the first minute to the last second."

Arsenal have lost three of their last eight league games - as many defeats as they suffered in their previous 30 top-flight matches.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Charlie Nicholas is critical of Arsene Wenger's failure to resolve futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez


Charlie Nicholas has criticised Arsenal for failing to secure the long-term futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window.

The Gunners have been in negotiations with their two key players over the past couple of months but neither Ozil nor Sanchez have put pen to paper on new contracts amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding Arsene Wenger’s future.

Arsenal signed Cohen Bramall from Hednesford as a talent for the future but Wenger didn’t bring in any established players to bolster his squad for the second half of the 2016-17 Premier League campaign.

Speaking to Sky Sports about Arsenal’s transfer business, the club’s former midfielder Nicholas was critical of Wenger for failing to resolve the futures of Ozil and Sanchez.

“Should they have done more? Yes. The loans all make sense but I’d have liked to have seen a couple of sales – Carl Jenkinson, Mathieu Debuchy, for example,” Nicholas said.

“That money could have gone towards what for me would have been two of the biggest deals this window: new contracts for Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

The greatest statement Arsenal could have made would have been to retain those two players and I’m disappointed they haven’t.”

The north London side were 5-0 winners in the FA Cup fourth round last weekend after Danny Welbeck scored twice and Theo Walcott netted a hat-trick against Southampton.

Arsenal lost 2-1 to struggling Watford in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night which was a hammer blow to their title chances.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to start in central midfield against Chelsea


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to start in central midfield for Arsenal against Chelsea on Saturday after Aaron Ramsey was ruled out with a calf injury.

The 23-year-old is predominantly a winger but he has repeatedly stated a preference for playing in the middle and manager Arsene Wenger has long since suggested that is where his future could lie. 

Oxlade-Chamberlain operated in a central role in last Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round win at Southampton and again as a substitute for Ramsey in Tuesday night’s defeat to Watford.

Ramsey limped off after just 19 minutes and Arsenal fear he could be sidelined for at least a fortnight.

The Gunners have few other midfield options with Mohamed Elneny away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Granit Xhaka suspended, Santi Cazorla injured and Jack Wilshere on loan at Bournemouth. Meanwhile, the club have dismissed one report this morning suggesting Wenger gave his players today and yesterday off after the Watford defeat.

The training schedule was set at the start of the week and not altered in response to the result.

Chelsea v Arsenal Match Preview


Chelsea are aiming to kill off any lingering Premier League title hopes Arsenal have when the London rivals meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Antonio Conte's Blues dropped two points with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday night, but Arsenal's shock 2-1 home defeat to Watford - coupled with Tottenham's Sunderland stalemate - meant Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table to nine points.

Chelsea increase take their advantage on Arsenal to 12 points with a win in Saturday's early kick-off, and the Gunners are up against it with Arsene Wenger's touchline ban and midfield injury problems mounting.

While a win would by no means seal the title for Chelsea as early as February, a victory for Arsenal would give the Gunners - and the rest of the chasing pack - hope that Conte's men can be caught.

TEAM NEWS 

David Luiz admitted after Chelsea's draw at Liverpool that he has been carrying a knee injury which means he cannot train every day, though the Brazilian still turned in an impressive display at Anfield with a superb free-kick goal.

Conte has no further injury concerns for Saturday's clash with Arsenal, although the Italian coach may privately be concerned with Eden Hazard's lacklustre displays of late, as well as a below-par performance from Victor Moses at Anfield.

Arsenal have midfield injury problems for the trip across London, with Aaron Ramsey a major doubt after coming off against Watford after just 20 minutes with a calf strain.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been used in central midfield with Wenger's options limited of late, though he himself was limping towards the end of the Emirates defeat on Tuesday. However, Wenger has confirmed the England international should be fit - a boost considering Santi Cazorla is still out and Mohamed Elneny remains at the African Cup of Nations.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Hazard, Pedro, Costa 

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Cesc Fabregas claims that Arsenal gave him everything


Cesc Fabregas has said that he will "forever be grateful" to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger for the role they played in shaping his career.

Fabregas moved to the Gunners in 2003 at the age of just 16 and quickly broke into the first team at Highbury, going on to be named captain at 21 and make more than 300 appearances for the club before returning to Barcelona in 2011.

Wenger turned down the option to re-sign the Spain international in 2014, with Fabregas instead moving to Chelsea, but he insists that he has only good things to say about his former club. "Yes, forever.

There's something that will never change. There's many things said about me, about Arsenal. I don't really care what people think about me any more. It's just about what I feel towards them," he told reporters.

"Arsenal will always be the team that believed in me the most. I was a young kid, 16 years old, playing for Barcelona. Arsene Wenger, especially, and Arsenal Football Club, gave me everything.

"Without them I would not be a World Cup winner, a European Championship winner. And I would not have experienced all of this that I'm doing in my life. I will always forever be grateful." 

Chelsea will host Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday looking to move 12 points clear of their London rivals.

Arsene Wenger has confidence in Oxlade-Chamberlain and Maitland-Niles midfield abilities


Arsene Wenger has thrown his backing behind Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and 19-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles to solve his midfield crisis at Chelsea.

Wenger goes into Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge with Arsenal’s title hopes on the line and Francis Coquelin his only available senior central midfielder.

Aaron Ramsey limped off with a calf strain in Tuesday’s shock home defeat by Watford, Granit Xhaka is suspended and Mohammed Elneny, carrying another injury, is still at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt.

Santi Cazorla is a long-term absentee. So Wenger is forced to find alternatives. Oxlade-Chamberlain, usually a winger, is likely to start in a game where Arsenal must cut the nine-point gap at the top.

Another option identified by Wenger is Maitland-Niles, who spent much of last season as a right back for Ipswich in the Championship.

Up against Antonio Conte’s well-drilled Premier League leaders, the Frenchman’s midfield looks a weak link but he has been impressed with his double-barrelled duo in the central roles of late.

‘Ainsley Maitland-Niles has played a lot on the flanks but I’ve seen qualities in him that tell me he can be useful in the middle and he can also be a defensive specialist,’ Wenger said.

So Wenger is forced to find alternatives. Oxlade-Chamberlain, usually a winger, is likely to start in a game where Arsenal must cut the nine-point gap at the top.

Another option identified by Wenger is Maitland-Niles, who spent much of last season as a right back for Ipswich in the Championship.

Up against Antonio Conte’s well-drilled Premier League leaders, the Frenchman’s midfield looks a weak link but he has been impressed with his double-barrelled duo in the central roles of late. 

‘Ainsley Maitland-Niles has played a lot on the flanks but I’ve seen qualities in him that tell me he can be useful in the middle and he can also be a defensive specialist,’ Wenger said.

Antonio Conte believes that Arsenal are still in hunt for Premier League title


Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has refused to rule Arsenal out of the Premier League title race, describing them as a "great team"

The Blues currently top the league table on 56 points, nine above Tottenham Hotspur and the Gunners, who they face at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

Despite his side being favourites for the trophy, Conte isn't underestimating Arsenal, to whom they lost 3-0 in the corresponding fixture at the Emirates Stadium earlier this term. 

"For sure we face another great team, because Arsenal can fight for the title," Conte told reporters. "Don't forget in the previous game we lost 3-0 away.

This could be a good chance for us to show that now we are a totally different team if you compare to the previous game.

"It will be another tough game, but we play at home, and this is very important.

This week is very important for us, and we want to finish this week in the right way by preparing very well for this Arsenal game." 

Chelsea last won the title in 2014-15, while Arsene Wenger's side last picked up the league trophy in 2003-04.

Arsenal defeat to Watford is a huge setback says Petr Cech


Petr Cech has admitted that his side's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Watford last night was a "huge setback" to their title hopes.

The Gunners found themselves two goals down inside 15 minutes at the Emirates Stadium - a deficit they were unable to recover despite Alex Iwobi pulling one back for the hosts in the second half.

The result sees Arsenal slip down to third in the Premier League table, now nine points adrift of Chelsea, and Cech acknowledged that his side were punished for a lacklustre start to the match.

"This was a huge setback because this was the game we wanted to win. We wanted to put ourselves in a better position going into the weekend.

I always say that at this level you cannot play 80 minutes, or 85. You have to play 90 minutes with full concentration and everybody on top of their game," he told Arsenal Player.

"We were second best in the first half. We made so many bad passes, we lost every challenge, we were simply second best, as I said. In the second half we improved, we had a lot of chances. I thought we were brilliant second half, but obviously we only scored one goal.

"We had a very bad start. We were unlucky with the first goal when it takes a big deflection and it goes in. Obviously it gave a lot of hope and motivation to Watford's side because this was something that lifted them up.

"But then I think we didn't play well at all. It was too much for us to take in the first half and it's very hard to say why because we were prepared.

We were on back-to-back wins, important wins, we had the momentum after the Burnley game and obviously the Southampton game went completely our way, exactly the way we wanted." 

Arsenal face league leaders Chelsea on Sunday looking to cut the gap at the top of the table back to six points.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

We were not mentally prepared for Watford Says Arsene Wenger


Arsene Wenger has admitted that his side "were not mentally prepared" for the visit of Watford to the Emirates Stadium this evening.

The Gunners' title hopes suffered a major setback as they slumped to their first ever Premier League defeat to the Hornets, failing to overturn two goals inside the opening 15 minutes from Younes Kaboul and Troy Deeney.

Wenger spent the match watching on from the stands as he served the second of his four-game touchline ban, and he admitted that he was unsure whether he could have had a greater impact from the dugout.

"I don't know, it's very difficult to know, it would be an excuse. We prepared for the game well.

We were warned that Watford would come and make it very physical. Looking at the preparation, I have no basic regret on how we prepared for the game. Did we think subconsciously that we could just turn up and it will work? I don't know," he told reporters.

"But from the stands, I agree with you that our first-half was not at the level that we wanted. I don't think we have a physical power problem.

We were not mentally prepared, we were not mentally ready to deal with these duels that we usually do.

You don't make 47 points in the Premier League after 23 games if you have no physical power, but you have to switch it on at 100% in the Premier League, that's what it's all about.

"I am responsible for the results of the team so I am frustrated that we did not win.

What the other teams do does not matter. What you want is to win the games and I am very frustrated not to win the game.

We are at home and we have a great opportunity, of course it's frustrating and we have to learn from that, respond quickly and in a very convincing way."

The defeat leaves Arsenal third in the Premier League table, now nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Arsenal's title hopes fade after shock home defeat


Arsenal were undone in all too familiar fashion at the Emirates as Watford snatched a 2-1 win in north London.

Younes Kaboul and Troy Deeny struck inside the first 13 minutes to leave Arsenal rocking and though Alex Iwobi struck early in the second half Arsene Wenger’s luck ran dry as his side were not able to conjure up another late goal to get some reward from an exceptionally poor performance.

Watford repeated a well-established trick against Arsenal in the first 45 minutes, hitting them hard high up the pitch from the off, and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Capoue, Deeney and Niang gave Arsenal’s backline not a moment to settle into possession and within the first 10 minute the hosts had given away a string of free-kicks in advanced areas.

It was former Tottenham captain Younes Kaboul who would make the lacklustre Gunners pay, hammering a low free-kick at goal.

A deflection off Aaron Ramsey unsighted Petr Cech as once more the Arsenal goalkeeper was beaten by a low effort down to his left.  

Rather than shut up shop after the opener Arsenal’s ‘midfield’ threw the doors wide open to their goal. Ramsey, who would go off soon after with a calf injury, allowed a free-kick to overrun and scarcely offered to track back as Capoue burst forward.

Francis Coquelin was bamboozled by a simple stepover, Shkodran Mustafi offered no challenge and Cech was forced to parry a low effort.

Deeney was on hand to tap home as crisis gripped Arsenal yet again. As if it couldn’t get any worse Ramsey was soon heading down the tunnel, though his latest injury did at least break up a midfield that once more proved itself to, at best, highlight the flaws in both players’ games.

Watford could have had more as Cech saved smartly from a Sebastian Prodl header and a Daryl Janmaat effort.

Arsenal, their touch heavy and their passing ponderous, created nothing of note before the interval though Nacho Monreal would be entitled to feel aggrieved after he fell under contact from Craig Cathcart and was handed a booking for diving.

Just as against Bournemouth earlier this month, when Wenger’s men rallied from an even greater deficit in less time, the Gunners looked a renewed force under pressure.

Heurelho Gomes kept Arsenal at bay for 13 minutes, saving superbly from Theo Walcott, on for Olivier Giroud at half-time, and Iwobi, but he could not stem the tide.

Alexis Sanchez burst along the byline and spotted the youngster in space. A perfect cross picked Iwobi out and his sidefooted shot trickled into the net.

Arsenal set up camp on the edge of the area but Watford’s wall would not be breached and the hosts rarely caught another glimpse of Gomes’ goal until the final 10 minutes.

Then substitute Lucas Perez saw a thumping volley hammer back off the bar but for once they couldn’t find an escape route at the death.

If Arsenal achieve anything less than victory at Chelsea on Saturday they will surely be out of the title race. Even that may not be enough after Wenger’s men threw away yet more points

No more further signings before the transfer window closes says Wenger


Arsene Wenger has ruled out the possibility of Arsenal making any signings before the January transfer window closes.

The Gunners have spent just £40,000 this month on Cohen Bramall from Hednesford Town as they have focused instead on renegotiating contracts for existing players.

Although the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez remain uncertain, the club have announced fresh agreements for Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny. Danny Welbeck marked his first start since April by netting a brace in Saturday’s 5-0 FA Cup win at Southampton and with Santi Cazorla now the only first-team player suffering a lengthy injury absence, Wenger believes there is no need to make further acquisitions before tomorrow’s 11pm deadline.

“On our front, we have a big squad,” said the Gunners boss.

“We are not in need of buying. On a general front it has been very quiet.

That shows that there are not many players available who can strengthen English teams.

It also shows that all the teams in England, especially the big teams, have big squads. That’s why not a lot happened.

“I believe that number-wise and quality-wise, we have what is required to do well. Now it’s down to us to perform and to produce with the quality of our focus, the quality of our ambition and desire to produce the performance in every single game.

“Danny’s return, the quality of all our players… on the offensive front we played at Southampton with Lucas Perez, Theo Walcott and Welbeck. 

Olivier Giroud was not involved, Alexis Sanchez was on the bench, Mesut Ozil did not play, so offensively we have a very strong squad.”

Arsenal v Watford Match Preview


With Liverpool and Chelsea facing off on Tuesday night, Arsenal will be looking to capitalise on any potential slip-ups from their Premier League rivals as they welcome Watford.

Arsene Wenger's Gunners sit eight points behind Chelsea with 16 games remaining, and need Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool to do them a favour and beat Antonio Conte's league leaders to open up the title race.

Arsenal must overcome Walter Mazzarri's Watford in a London derby at Emirates Stadium to put pressure on the Blues, and the Hornets are winless in seven league games.

Wenger will be serving the second game of his four-match touchline ban against Watford, but with a trip to Stamford Bridge up next for the Gunners, Arsenal do not their coach on the sidelines to remind them that Tuesday's encounter could be an important stepping stone to a potentially decisive title clash this weekend. 

TEAM NEWS


Santi Cazorla is now the only absentee for Arsenal, though the Spanish midfielder may be out for the rest of the season with his achilles injury. Danny Welbeck returned in style in the FA Cup, scoring the first two goals in a 5-0 away win against Southampton on Saturday to hand Wenger a striking dilemma regarding his front line.

The manager must decide whether to stick with the likes of Welbeck and Walcott - who scored a hat-trick against the Saints - or restore Olivier Giroud to the starting line-up against Watford.

With Mohamed Elneny still at the African Cup of Nations, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could continue in central midfield after an excellent showing at St Mary's.

Mazzarri will almost certainly be without Costel Pantilimon after the goalkeeper was injured in the FA cup exit at Millwall, but Heurelho Gomes was likely to start at the Emirates anyway. 

Christian Kabasele may return from injury, while Valon Behrami (hamstring), Nordin Amrabat (ankle) and Isaac Success (hamstring) are all doubts. Roberto Pereyra remains out with a serious knee injury.

New forwards Mauro Zarate and M'Baye Niang will both be pushing for a start at the Emirates, but may well be used off the bench in the second half.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; welbeck

Watford: Gomes, Kaboul, Prodl, Britos, Janmaat, Capoue, Doucoure, Holebas, Cleverley, Okaka, Deeney

Arsenal draw Sutton Utd away in 5th round of the FA Cup


Non-league outfit Sutton United have been drawn at home against Premier League giants Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup. 

The lowest-ranked side in the competition continued their dream run with a 1-0 victory over Leeds United on Sunday, a Jamie Collins penalty edging them into the last 16 of the competition. 

Their reward is a tie at Gander Green Lane against the 12-time winners, who share the record for clinching the most FA Cup trophies with Manchester United.

Lincoln City, the other non-league side left in the tournament, have also been given a Premier League opponent in round five, coming up against Burnley - who won the cup in 1914 - at Turf Moor.

None of the top-flight sides have been drawn against each other, and the five top-ranked sides in the competition are all away, meaning that each tie has the possibility of an upset.

Tottenham Hotspur have a London derby as they visit Fulham, Man United are at Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Manchester City are away at Huddersfield Town. 

Finally, Oxford United travel to the Riverside Stadium for a tie against Middlesbrough, while Millwall will host either Derby County or Leicester City.

FA Cup fifth-round draw in full:

Burnley vs. Lincoln City
Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Blackburn vs. Manchester United
Sutton United vs. Arsenal
Middlesbrough vs. Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City
Millwall vs. Derby County/Leicester City

Monday, 30 January 2017

Jermaine Jenas names Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's best position in the Arsenal side


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can have a real influence on the Arsenal team in central midfield, according to Jermaine Jenas.

The England international started alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide in the middle of park in Arsenal’s 5-0 win against Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round at St Mary’s on Saturday evening.

Oxlade-Chamberlain finished with one assist in the first half on the south coast, while the versatile midfielder touched the ball 88 times and finished with pass completion of 91 per cent.

The Arsenal star has struggled to tie down a regular starting spot in Arsene Wenger’s side after starting just eight Premier League games this season and making a further 10 appearances from the bench.


Speaking to BT Sport’s FA Cup Tonight show, former Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jenas discussed Oxlade-Chamberlain’s best position in the Arsenal team.

“I just enjoyed watch Oxlade-Chamberlain play in midfield. I said a while ago that’s where I think he is best suited not only for his style of play, but it will keep him away from injuries as well,” Jenas said.  

“It’s the explosive style of play on the wing – stop and go. That’s what Theo has struggled with all his life. Alex has started to get hamstring injuries. 

If he can try and cement his midfield role, he can have a real influence.”