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.”

Shkodran Mustafi determined to achieve Arsenal target


Shkodran Mustafi says he is determined to maintain his unbeaten record as an Arsenal player until the end of the 2016-17 season. 

The Germany international hasn’t lost a game since his move to Arsenal in a £35m deal from La Liga outfit Valencia in the summer transfer window.

Mustafi has established a promising partnership with France international Laurent Koscielny at centre-half in Arsene Wenger’s side.

The ex-Everton defender missed a number of games over the festive period as Arsenal suffered defeats on the road at Everton and Manchester City. 

Mustafi returned from his fitness setback in 2017 and Arsenal have remained unbeaten despite the prospect of losing at Bournemouth before three late goals rescued a 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium earlier this month.


Speaking to Sky Sports about his impressive record in the Arsenal side, Mustafi outlined his plans to preserve his unbeaten streak in Wenger’s line-up.

“I hope I can keep that statistic until the end of the season,” he said. 

“It’ll be difficult but for me personally but I just go from game to game and try to give the maximum and improve, then the results come,” 

Mustafi said. “When I lose I sometimes just don’t come home and stay at the hotel, because I don’t want to listen to all that. But I’m happier for the other people than me that I haven’t lost yet. 

“When I go into a game I’m not thinking about losing, I’m there because I want to win. If I do something I do it properly, I’m a footballer because I want to improve and win games, that’s why I’m sometimes difficult when I lose.”

Arsene Wenger is delighted with attacking options he has now


Arsene Wenger has said that the return to fitness of Danny Welbeck is akin to having a new signing available to him.

The 26-year-old has spent a large chunk of the past two years sidelined with serious knee injuries, but has recently returned to action and scored his first goals in eight months to help Arsenal to a 5-0 rout of Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Theo Walcott also hit a hat-trick at St Mary's and, with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez also at his disposal, Wenger is pleased with the attacking options in his squad. 

"Yes it feels like I have many new strikers because I think Perez played very well as well and I left Giroud at home," he told reporters.

"The problem will now be to find the right combination which will use them well in games.

The result is strong with the balance of the team. When you look around you on the bench and you have this sort of player Welbeck coming on or when he starts it is somebody else.

He gives us more quality going forward.

"We look tonight and Perez and Walcott and Danny Welbeck and I have Sanchez on the bench, it is an exceptional quality. 

For a long time we did not have the offensive quality available." 

Arsenal host Watford on Tuesday looking for a fifth consecutive win in all competitions.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Arsene Wenger feared Danny Welbeck would lose sharpness after injuries


Arsene Wenger feared he may never have seen the best of Danny Welbeck again after the Arsenal striker suffered two serious knee injuries in 20 months.

Welbeck returned to Arsenal’s starting XI in style on Saturday, scoring two in the first 22 minutes to set his side on course for a 5-0 win where Theo Walcott added a hat-trick.

The 26-year-old only returned to Arsenal training last month after a second major surgery on his knees, the latter to fix cartilage damage in his right leg, and had played just 21 minutes across three substitute appearances prior to the FA Cup fourth round tie.

Wenger noted that Welbeck’s willingness to keep fighting after two major setbacks, the latter of which ruled him out of Euro 2016, had earned him the respect of his Arsenal team-mates, who delighted in his brace.

“You do wonder,” Wenger said when asked whether he feared Welbeck may never be the same player.

“I wondered first of all would he be solid enough mentally to cope with that.

“Then secondly you hope he will go well after he comes back after the second surgery.

“He worked very hard, he went through some moments of very deep disappointment. 

Because when he had the setback and he had to go in again, as a professional player that's very difficult.

Southampton will always be in my heart says Theo Walcott


Theo Walcott has revealed that he will always have a soft spot for Southampton and admits that he will cheer them on in the League Cup final.

The former Saints player bagged a hat-trick against his former side as the Gunners claimed a 5-0 win at St Mary's in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Walcott told BT Sport after Saturday's match: "Southampton tend to be our bogey side but from the word go we were ready.

"We came out of the blocks running and Danny Welbeck came back with a bang. 

We created a lot of chances and it was nice to have the clean sheet. 

"Southampton will always be in my heart - I have some great memories here, they are a strong team and I will cheer them on in the EFL Cup final." 

Claude Puel's side will face Manchester United in the first cup final of the season at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, February 26.

Arsene Wenger was proud of his "dynamic, explosive" Arsenal


Arsene Wenger has praised his "dynamic and explosive" Arsenal side for thrashing Southampton 5-0 in their FA Cup fourth-round tie at St Mary's Stadium.

Theo Walcott bagged a hat-trick against his former side on Saturday, while Danny Welbeck struck a brace to help the Gunners reach the last 16 of the competition.

Wenger told BT Sport: "We were very dynamic, explosive and overall we had a good consistent performance over 90 minutes and everybody played well.

"Welbeck has been out for such a long time, I didn't expect him to score straight away and it shows the desire is there.

"People say I make changes but I bring in Walcott, Welbeck and Lucas Perez, all top quality players.

After that I try to find the best balance for the team."

Wenger was forced to watch from the stands as he began a four-match touchline ban.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Theo Walcott hat-trick helps Arsenal into last 16 of FA Cup


Arsenal have booked their spot in the last 16 of the FA Cup by comfortably seeing off fellow Premier League side Southampton 5-0 at St Mary's Stadium.

Both teams showed 10 changes apiece from last time out but it was the Gunners who eased their way to victory, secured thanks to two goals from Danny Welbeck and three from Theo Walcott on their respective returns from injury.

Welbeck bagged his first brace in this competition with less than a quarter of the game played, on what was his first start in 265 days, while Walcott - out for the past month - ensured that his side avenged their 4-0 thrashing here 13 months ago by adding three of his own in the remaining time.

There was a sign of things to come for the hosts pretty much from the off, as the lively Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both picked out in good positions inside the opening five minutes.

Neither player could make their shots count, but Welbeck had no such trouble soon after as he rounded off a 16-pass move by finding the net via the crossbar to put Arsenal ahead.

A second for the Englishman was not long coming, either, as he this time latched on to a ball over the top from Oxlade-Chamberlain and rather scuffed his shot under the body of Harry Lewis.

That finally sparked some sort of response from Southampton, who saw a Shane Long strike kept out by an otherwise untested David Ospina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg volley over the bar from a good position.

The Gunners may have taken their foot off the gas slightly but, moments after Shkodran Mustafi - the one survivor from last time out - glanced wide from close range, Walcott prodded the ball home after being picked out by two-goal Welbeck.

Ominously for the home side, Arsenal were quick to click into gear in the second half and they remained on top throughout, without troubling Lewis on too many occasions until the final quarter. 

Hector Bellerin sent a shot down the middle for the youngster to keep out, but the next attempt did not arrive until 21 minutes from time when Walcott found a way through for his second of the evening.

It was a near-instant impact from Alexis Sanchez, who came off the bench and picked out his teammate to sweep the fourth of the match into the back of the net and signal the end of the contest for good.

There was still time for Walcott to register a hat-trick against his former club - his fifth for Arsenal - by getting on the end of a nicely-weighted pass from Sanchez to tuck past Lewis, who perhaps could have done better to keep it out.

Lucas Perez should have added a sixth in the final minutes, only to be denied by Lewis in this more one-sided repeat of the 2003 final between the two sides in Cardiff.

A sixth successive away win in this famous competition for the first time in Arsenal's history was never in doubt, as the Saints failed to find any sort of response to see their mini-resurgence come to a halt.

Ray Parlour is confident of an Arsenal victory in today's game against Southampton


Ray Parlour is confident Arsenal can capitalise on Virgil van Dijk’s injury and beat Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday evening.

The Gunners were 2-1 winners against Burnley last weekend in dramatic fashion after Alexis Sanchez scored a late winner from the penalty spot following Andre Grey’s added-time equaliser from the spot.

Southampton suffered a blow during the 3-0 win against Leicester City after star defender Van Dijk picked up a serious ankle injury which is set to sideline the centre-half for a few weeks.

The Saints managed to dig deep and book their place in the EFL Cup final, though, easing to a 2-0 aggregate win against Liverpool in the last four.

Indeed, Republic of Ireland international Shane Long scored an added-time winner to seal a 1-0 win at Anfield on Wednesday night.

Speaking to the Alan Brazil Up Front podcast, ex-Arsenal midfielder Parlour claimed that Van Dijk’s absence could prove the difference in the fourth-round clash at St Mary’s on Saturday evening.

“I’m going Arsenal with Virgil van Dijk being out. I’m going Arsenal to win. They’re a good cup team,” Parlour said.

Claude Puel has a lot of respect for former manager Arsene Wenger


Claude Puel is eagerly awaiting the chance to lock horns with managerial mentor Arsene Wenger once more as Arsenal travel to Southampton in the FA Cup.

Wenger coached Puel at AS Monaco between 1987 and 1995, the pair winning the Ligue 1 title in the now-Arsenal manager’s debut season.

In two meetings as Premier League managers so far results have been balanced, Arsenal winning in the league and Southampton knocking the Gunners out of the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage in November.

On both occasions Southampton proved formidable opponents for Arsenal, with only a last-minute penalty from Santi Cazorla securing all three points for Wenger’s men when the two sides met at the Emirates in September.

When the Saints visited the Emirates in the EFL Cup in November they were even more impressive, Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand securing a comfortable 2-0 win.

“I have a lot of respect for my former trainer,”Puel said. “It’s a pleasure to see him again – for the first game in the EFL Cup it was a good thing for us.

“I imagine he’ll come to Southampton with a strong will to take a good result. All the competition is on the pitch, off the pitch I respect Arsene Wenger a lot.”

Arsenal travel to the south coast without the suspended Granit Xhaka and injured Santi Cazorla but with former Southampton forward Theo Walcott back in the squad after over a month out with a calf injury.

Wenger’s numbers have also been swelled by the returning Danny Welbeck, Kieran Gibbs and Hector Bellerin whilst Puel noted his own sizeable injury list, the second longest in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger has been handed a four-game touchline ban


Arsene Wenger has received a four-game touchline ban from the Football Association.

During added-on time of his side's fixture with Burnley on Sunday afternoon, Wenger was dismissed from the dugout for his reaction to the Clarets being awarded a penalty, before pushing the fourth official as he refused to walk down the tunnel.


Wenger later apologised for his actions but he was soon hit with a misconduct charge from the FA, and it has now been revealed that Wenger will spend four matches in the stands.

It means that Wenger will be absent from the dugout for the games with Southampton, Watford, Chelsea and Hull City, with the Frenchman not due back on the bench until a potential fifth round fixture in the FA Cup.

Wenger has also been handed a fine of £25,000 as a consequence of the incident.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Mathieu Debuchy is free to find himself another club


Arsene Wenger has told Mathieu Debuchy that he can look for a new club after playing just 16 minutes of Premier League football this season. 

Since joining the Gunners from Newcastle United in 2014, injuries have hampered the Frenchman's progress at the Emirates.

As a result, Hector Bellerin has emerged as first choice at right-back, therefore pushing Debuchy down the pecking order.

The 31-year-old, who spent half of last season on loan at Bordeaux, is due to return to training after recovering from a hamstring injury, but his long-term future at Arsenal is uncertain.

"I didn't close the door because there's a lot of competition on the right flank," The Mirror quotes Wenger as saying.

"Now Gabriel has been convincing on the right side as well, so I don't close the door.

"What I just want to say is Debuchy is fully fit now and so he is available to play and maybe even to have an experience somewhere else."

In December, Wenger accused the right-back of lying when he claimed that Arsenal blocked a summer transfer for him.

The former Lille player also claimed that he and his manager had barely spoken for almost a year.

Arsene Wenger confirms that Arsenal are not close to signing anyone


Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal are not close to signing anyone in the January transfer window but are willing to allow the likes of Carl Jenkinson and Mathieu Debuchy to leave if the right offer presents itself.

The Gunners are extremely light in midfield with Santi Cazorla out injured, while Mohamed Elneny is unavailable due to his involvement in the African Cup of Nations. Granit Xhaka is suspended for the next four games after his second sending off in the league where his two footed tackle against Burnley was deemed to be dangerous by referee Jon Moss in consultation with the linesman.

Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin are the only two midfielders available for the Gunners but Wenger insists that he is not close to filling that gap with any new additions this window

"We are not on the verge of signing anyone," Wenger told Arsenal's official website.

The Gunners signed Elneny last January to avert their crisis in the middle of the park while they averted a similar situation a season before when Coquelin came back from loan to fill an important peg in midfield.

They also signed Kim Kallstrom on loan on deadline day but the midfielder was injured and unable to make an immediate impact. 

Meanwhile, the manager was all praise for Southampton, who made their way to the final of the EFL Cup at the expense of Liverpool.

The Saints had beaten Arsenal on their way to the final, where they will face Manchester United, who sneaked past Hull City on aggregate after losing the game 2-1 at the KCOM stadium.

Nwankwo Kanu thinks Arsene Wenger is still the right man for Arsenal



Premier League title winner Nwankwo Kanu insists Arsene Wenger has “always been the right man for Arsenal” and should be offered the opportunity to prolong his stay with the Gunners. 

The Frenchman is due to reach the end of his current contract in the summer, after more than 20 years in the dugout.

He has enjoyed considerable success during that time, but questions have been raised in recent years as to his suitability for the role heading forward.

There is no question in Kanu’s mind, though, that a club legend remains the ideal candidate to lead the club towards a bright future. 

The former Nigeria international, who spent six years in north London between 1998 and 2004, told the press:

“Wenger has always been the right man for Arsenal, there is never any question.

“They are second this season, they are not exactly doing badly – and they have a fantastic team. “I am friends with everybody from that team and time.

I always try and keep in touch and it is very easy to talk to Wenger. We have been there and done that and we have lots of good memories.”

Arsene Wenger could request personal hearing in bid to minimise FA misconduct charge


Arsene Wenger could request a personal hearing in a bid to minimise the punishment he faces for his FA misconduct charge. 

The Frenchman was sanctioned after pushing fourth official Anthony Taylor and insulting referee Jon Moss towards the end of Sunday’s 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium.

Wenger is yet to respond and although he is unlikely to contest the charge itself, he could try to talk down the severity of the suspension.

A touchline ban would enable him to conduct pre and post-match duties, as well as speaking to the team at half-time, but a stadium ban would cut off contact completely on matchday.

“It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that.”

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Arsene Wenger thinks Granit Xhaka has a fantastic attitude


Arsene Wenger has praised the "marvellous" dedication from Granit Xhaka following a week of negativity surrounding the midfielder.

The 24-year-old, who joined the Gunners in a £30m deal from Borussia Monchengladbach last summer, has been hit with a four-game ban after getting sent off for a two-footed tackle on Steven Defour in last weekend's 2-1 win over Burnley.

The Switzerland international, who has now been sent off twice this season, was also recently questioned by police over an allegation that he racially abused an airline staff member at Heathrow Airport.  
Wenger has confirmed that he has spoken to Xhaka about the incident, insisting that his player refutes the accusations.

"He denies completely the incident at Heathrow, I have spoken to him about it," Wenger told reporters in Thursday's press conference.

"I can only say about him since the start, he has a fantastic attitude. He has been absolutely marvellous.

"Focus, dedication and we never have a bad noise about him. He is naturally not a great tackler and in his decision making. It is more the way he tackles that is not convincing.

I would encourage him not to tackle, to stay on his feet."

Xhaka has started 15 Premier League games and three Champions League matches this season.

Olivier Giroud’s response when asked how Arsenal striker has improved

Olivier Giroud has expressed his delight at being able to score important late goals to help Arsenal remain on course in the Premier League title race.


The France international fell down the pecking order at the start of the 2016-17 Premier League season after Arsene Wenger opted to start with Alexis Sanchez in a centre-forward role this term. 

However, Giroud has managed to force his way into the Arsenal manager’s first-team after a series of vital late goals against Sunderland and Manchester United on the road.

The 28-year-old centre-forward started his first Premier League game of the season when he scored a late winner in a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion before Giroud went on to find the back of the net in goals against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Preston North End and Swansea City. 

Speaking to Arsenal’s website about his form in the current campaign, Giroud explained what has changed about his game this season. 

 “I’ve obviously improved myself since I signed for Arsenal, but I always try to be stronger [physically] and stronger in my head as well.

“It’s never easy to be injured and as I told you, to watch the game in front when you are injured and you can’t play is frustrating. That’s why I was so happy to come back on the pitch after these injuries.

“I’ve always tried to bring something to the team and I was very pleased to score important goals, especially in the final minutes. 

But as I’ve said before, we need to be stronger at the beginning of the games because I’m not going to score goals in the last minute every week!”

Aston Villa to secure loan deal for Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom


Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom has reportedly emerged as a loan target for Aston Villa. 

Akpom remained at the Emirates Stadium during the summer in a bid to break into the first team, but he has only featured in the EFL Cup tie with Nottingham Forest. 

It has led to the 21-year-old being made available during the January transfer window and according to the Birmingham Mail, Villa are keen on taking the forward to the West Midlands.

If completed, the transfer would see manager Steve Bruce reunited with a player who made 35 appearances for Hull City during their promotion-winning year during the 2014-15 campaign.

After making his Arsenal debut in September 2013, Akpom has only added another three matches to his tally in the Premier League.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Danny Welbeck could be key to Arsenal clawing back at Chelsea's advantage


Had Danny Welbeck been just a little bit sharper, the thrilling finale of Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Burnley might never have happened. 

Just as the game entered stoppage time, fellow substitute Francis Coquelin clipped an excellent pass in Welbeck's direction. 

At his best, the England forward would have surely taken the ball under control before slotting under the advancing Tom Heaton.

As it was, his touch illustrated his rustiness and the opportunity evaporated. However, Welbeck's darting movement showed just how much he has to offer.

When he regains match fitness, he will surely be a major contributor to this Arsenal side's attempts to claw back Chelsea's advantage in the Premier League.

Welbeck has quickly worked his way back into Arsene Wenger's plans. Since returning to full training, the former Manchester United man has been involved in three consecutive Arsenal games. 

He didn't play a single minute with the second string, instead being thrown straight into the senior side.

That gives some indication as to the esteem in which Wenger holds him; Arsenal are not short of attacking talent, yet Welbeck has seemingly immediately leapfrogged the likes of Lucas Perez in the pecking order.

The fact that Welbeck came on against Burnley speaks for itself. 

With the match finely poised, Wenger could have brought on Perez or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to help Arsenal see the game through. Instead, he opted for Welbeck.

Wenger seems to have an implicit trust in the striker and he's not the first; throughout his career, Welbeck has been a favourite with several managers.

His value lies partly in his tactical discipline. He plays without ego, constantly working for the benefit of the team.

Even against Burnley, he rotated out to the left flank when required, showing his selflessness and versatility when Alexis Sanchez sought to take up central positions.

Few players could count on more support on the comeback trail. Despite his links to United, Welbeck is enormously popular with the fans.

In conversation with the Telegraph, Wenger explains the "Welbz" phenomenon thus:

"First of all he is hugely popular because he did very well with England before he got injured, he was the centre-forward of England.

England failed at the European Championship and you cannot stop people from thinking,If Welbeck was there he would have helped us win against Iceland.

"Secondly, he is a young, promising striker -- he has a fantastic spirit and people sense that.

He is genuine, committed and humble and you do not find that too many times together.

Maybe as well people feel sorry for a guy who hasn't played for two years basically, and he is rightly, hugely popular

Southampton v Arsenal Fourth Round Emirates FA Cup Preview


Arsenal will be looking for a better start than they have made of late in a bid to beat Southampton on their home turf in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday. 

The Gunners needed a last-gasp Alexis Sanchez 'Panenka' penalty to beat Burnley 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday, but have lost Granit Xhaka for as many as four games after the midfielder's second straight red card of the season.

Arsene Wenger's presence at St Mary's is also in doubt, with the manager facing a potential ban after being charged with misconduct by the Football Association after clashing with fourth official Anthony Taylor.

Wenger could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and Claude Puel's Saints will want to exploit the slow starts made by the Gunners in recent weeks in a bid to reach the next stage of the competition.

TEAM NEWS 

Arsenal will be without Granit Xhaka following his red card against Burnley, with the Gunners unlikely to appeal the midfielder's dismissal. 

While the Swiss international is out along with the injured Santi Cazorla, Wenger was boosted by Francis Coquelin's return in last weekend's win against the Clarets.

Hector Bellerin also returned off the bench in the same game, and could start to give the Gunners more width and pace than Gabriel has been offering on the right flank.

Danny Welbeck is pushing for his first start since returning from a long-term knee injury, while Kieran Gibbs may also be handed a role on the left flank should Wenger decide to rest the likes of Nacho Monreal and Olivier Giroud.

Theo Walcott (calf), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Per Mertesacker (knee) are all expected to remain sidelined until the end of the month. 

Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk is a slight doubt with an ankle injury, as are Sofiane Boufal (knee) and Steven Davis (knock).

Charlie Austin remains out until April with a shoulder injury.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS 

Southampton: Forster, Soares, Yoshida, Van Dijk, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Rodriguez, Tadic 

Arsenal: Ospina: Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Coquelin; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Ian Wright has a message for Granit Xhaka


Arsenal legend Ian Wright has berated midfielder Granit Xhaka for his reckless sending off against Burnley.

Granit Xhaka was shown a straight red card by referee John Moss for his lunging challenge on Burnley's Steven Defour at the weekend.

The sending off was his ninth in three seasons, meaning the Swiss midfielder has the worst disciplinary record in Europe.

And former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has claimed it is about time the 24-year-old sorted his game out and stopped being so reckless. 

“When you see his tackle, he is very lax on the ball at the time," Wright told BBC Radio 5Live.

“He launched himself into it. I don’t think he caught the player as much as it looked like it. It was dangerous. “He has to start thinking about that.

"You can’t afford to go down to 10 men, especially at home where you have to win the game.

“He has to start learning from the fact that people are constantly pointing the finger and he is reckless.”

Xhaka has made 27 appearances for the Gunners this season and has picked up three yellow and two red cards.

Arsene Wenger is backing Arsenal to continue their push for the Premier League title


Arsene Wenger has promised Arsenal fans that the Gunners will not give up hope in their bid to win the Premier League title this season – despite trailing leaders Chelsea by eight points.

The north London side secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Burnley at The Emirates on Sunday thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s late penalty to move up to second place in the top-flight table.

Arsenal are looking to win the Premier League title this term after their second-placed finish last season, but face an uphill struggle in trying to catch Chelsea in the race for the trophy.

The north Londoners will take on Antonio Conte’s Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge on 4 February as they look for a win to cut the gap to their London rivals.

And Wenger has promised Arsenal fans that the Gunners will do everything they can to embark on a consistent run in the coming weeks.

Speaking to Arsenal’s website after Sunday’s win, Wenger said: “It was an important game, but not a decisive game.

“I think at the moment what is more important is for us to build a run, to have a consistency in our results.

That is more important than to look at the table, because I think we have built a strong run after we lost two games.

“Now we are in a position where we have to build up a run, so every game of course helps to create confidence and belief.”

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Mohamed Elneny wants to become an Arsenal legend


Mohamed Elneny aspires to be a legend at Arsenal little over a year after he joined the club.

The Egyptian midfielder arrived in a £7million deal from Basel last January and has established himself as a regular presence in Arsene Wenger’s squad without ever quite carving out a place in the Arsenal starting XI. 

Elneny has started just six games in the Premier League this season but the 24-year-old has lofty ambitions for the remainder of his Arsenal career.

“I want to be a legend at this club,” Elneny told the Daily Mail. 

“Like Thierry Henry. I mean, obviously not exactly like him. I have my own personality, my own character. I want to be different to anyone that’s gone before.


“But since I got here, I’ve always had that in mind. I wanted to become an Arsenal legend. 

Elneny is currently at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt, who play their final group game on Friday and need just a point against Ghana to qualify for the last eight.

However Elneny is missing perhaps his best chance for an extended run in the Arsenal side this season.

With Granit Xhaka facing a four game ban Arsene Wenger’s midfield stock is depleted, leaving the uncomfortable pairing of Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey to soldier through until their team-mate’s return.

Aaron Ramsey heaps praise on Alexis Sanchez after the striker's stunning penalty


Aaron Ramsey heaped praise on Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean scored Arsenal’s dramatic late winner from the penalty spot for the Gunners against Burnley on Sunday afternoon. 

Arsenal went ahead Shkodran Mustafi’s header from a corner shortly after half-time, but Andre Gray netted an equaliser for the visitors deep into stoppage time from the penalty spot after Francis Coquelin conceded the spot-kick.

However, it was Sanchez who had the final say, when he stepped up to duly convert his penalty with cheeky chip down the middle after Laurent Koscielny was fouled in the box, despite the defender appearing to be offside in the build-up.

Ramsey was full of praise for Sanchez after he scored his 15th Premier League goal of the season for the Gunners, and the midfielder is hoping to see more goals from the attacker in the coming weeks and months. Speaking to Arsenal’s website after the game, Ramsey said of Sanchez’s penalty:

“That just sums up the quality and the confidence that he has to do that in the last minute.

“Hopefully he can keep scoring now until the end of the season.”

Arsenal had to show a different side of their character against Burnley, insists Laurent Koscielny


Arsenal had to show a different side of their character in Sunday's victory over Burnley, according to Laurent Koscielny.

Shkodran Mustafi's first goal for Arsenal looked set to send the Gunners towards a comfortable victory at Emirates Stadium.

But Andre Gray equalised from the spot in the 93rd minute, prompting frantic scenes on the touchline as Arsene Wenger was dismissed.

Alexis Sanchez eventually fired home a last-gasp 'Panenka' penalty to secure a crucial victory for the hosts and Koscielny is adamant Arsenal proved they can dig in and grind out results when they need to. 

"We needed to show another character - not just play nice football but fight together," he told Arsenal's official website.

"We did the job well defensively. We didn’t just play well with passes, sometimes you need to work hard for your club, for your team-mates.

"You need to win your duels and the second balls, and I think we did it.

"We pushed ourselves more to have the three points and it’s good for our confidence to have a win like this.”

Arsenal's victory helped the north Londoners cling onto the coattails of pacesetters Chelsea, who boast an eight-point lead at the top of the table.

But it could be costly for Wenger, who has been charged with misconduct after clashing with fourth official Anthony Taylor in the tunnel.

The Frenchman has until Thursday to respond to the FA

Jack Wilshere is still deliberating over his Arsenal future


Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe has revealed that his teammate Jack Wilshere will make a decision over his future at the end of the season.

The midfielder joined the Cherries last summer on a loan deal from Arsenal in order to pick up regular game time following numerous injury setbacks.

The 25-year-old, who came through the Gunners' academy in 2008, has 18 months remaining on his current deal at the Emirates and is yet to be offered fresh terms.

"To be honest I don't think even he knows what he is going to be doing," The Mirror quotes Afobe as saying.

"We have convos all the time and he just wants to play week in week out and take it month by month and see what happens at the end of the season.

The main thing for him is about getting his confidence back and staying injury free."

AC Milan are believed to be considering a move for Wilshere, while Bournemouth are keen to keep hold of the midfielder for next season. 

The England international has made 17 Premier League appearances, 15 of which have been starts, for the Cherries.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Arsene Wenger has been hit with a misconduct charge


The Football Association has charged Arsene Wenger with misconduct after an incident during the closing stages of Arsenal's game with Burnley on Sunday afternoon.

After Burnley were awarded a penalty in added-on time, Wenger was dismissed for his reaction in the technical area, and after refusing to walk down the tunnel, he pushed the fourth official on three occasions.

Wenger apologised for his actions after the match, but it has not stopped the FA from punishing the Gunners boss, who could face a touchline ban if reports are to be believed.

A statement read: "Arsene Wenger has been charged for misconduct following Arsenal's game against Burnley on Sunday 22 January 2017. 

"It is alleged that in or around the 92nd minute, he used abusive and/or insulting words towards the fourth official.

It is further alleged that following his dismissal from the technical area, his behaviour in remaining in the tunnel area and making physical contact with the fourth official amounted to improper conduct.

"He has until 6pm on 26 January 2017 to respond to the charge."

Granit Xhaka has to control his game says Arsene Wenger


Arsene Wenger has urged for more control from Granit Xhaka after the midfielder picked up his ninth red card in three years against Burnley.

The Swiss international saw red during the Gunners' 2-1 victory and might have cost his team two points, but for a late winner from Alexis Sanchez at the Emirates.

"Xhaka's red card, honestly I have to look at it again, but the noises I heard suggest it was a red card," said Wenger.

"He has to control his game, and not punish the team with his lack of control and his tackling.

"We don't encourage our midfielders to go down in tackles, we want them to stand up and not make these kind of fouls.

So if it is a bad tackle then it is a red card."

Arsenal currently occupy second spot in the standings with 47 points from 22 games.

Aaron Ramsey thinks Arsenal got what they deserved with late victory


Aaron Ramsey has suggested that his side got what they deserved following a late 2-1 victory over Burnley in the Premier League. 

Following an opener from defender Shkodran Mustafi, Burnley thought they had earned a point when Andre Gray notched a late penalty, only for the Gunners to snatch a memorable win as Alexis Sanchez finished off a penalty of his own eight minutes into additional time.

"It was a lot of minutes added on but we dug in. It's not easy when you go down to 10 men. We kept fighting and we got what I thought we deserved in the end," Ramsey told Sky Sports News. 

"We're confident in the way we play. We know that we can create goals, even with 10 men." Arsenal return to action when they face Southampton in the FA Cup next weekend.

Shkodran Mustafi hails fighting spirit following late win over Burnley


Shkodran Mustafi has praised his side's determination after they battled to claim a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Burnley in the Premier League.

The Germany international had originally given the Gunners the lead at the Emirates before Andre Gray looked to have equalised from the spot late on, only for Arsenal to win a penalty of their own in the eighth minute of injury time, allowing Alexis Sanchez to slot home all three points.

"We played in their half for most of the game and then suddenly you are one man down," Mustafi told Sky Sports News after the game.

"It becomes difficult but we did well. "Even after the equaliser and in the last games we've played we never give up and we always come back. I think that's credit to the team."

The Gunners currently hold second spot in the league standings, eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Burnley Manager Sean Dyche unhappy with Arsenal winner


Burnley manager Sean Dyche has bemoaned the way in which his side suffered a last-minute defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates this afternoon.

The ten-man hosts had been leading 1-0 until a hectic final seven minutes, which saw Burnley score a penalty, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger sent off and Arsenal edge back ahead with a penalty of their own.

The result meant that the Clarets maintain their status as the Premier League's worst away side, with just one point collected from their 10 trips away from Turf Moor this season.

Speaking after the game, Dyche said that he believes his side were worthy of a point from the encounter and questioned the validity of the late penalty by hinting that Laurent Koscielny was offside when caught by the boot of Ben Mee.

"It's a tough day for us in the end. To lose a game in that fashion, with an offside not given is tough, particularly when you come to tough places like this," he told Sky Sports News.

"We never take anything for granted. We know how tough this division is but you need officials to make the right decisions and that is the shame today.

They have to be brave have officials at places like this, I understand that, but you've got to think it has to be given[offside."

The result sees Burnley stay firm at 13th in the table, 10 points above the relegation zone.

I should have shut up states Arsene Wenger


Arsene Wenger has admitted that he "should have shut up" after he was sent off during the Gunners' dramatic 2-1 victory over Burnley on Sunday afternoon.

The hosts took the lead on the hour-mark though Shkodran Mustafi but soon saw themselves reduced to ten men when Granit Xhaka went in with both feet on Steven Defour.

Arsenal held firm and were heading for the three points until the 89th minute, when Sean Dyche's side were awarded a penalty, much to the annoyance of Wenger.

The Frenchman was given his marching orders and appeared to manhandle the fourth official moments after Andre Gray had successfully dispatched the spot kick.

There was to be one last twist in the tale, however, as Alex Sanchez put the hosts back ahead with a penalty deep into injury time.

"We finally got the win but of course it was very difficult for us," Wenger told Sky Sports News afterwards.


"We couldn't get the second goal, we played with 10 men and they played well as well. In the end we got the three points we wanted. 

"Burnley are well organised, they make the game simple but efficient. We won there in the last second and we one again in the last second today. Every week and every game is an unbelievable fight for everybody."

Asked about his sending-off, he added: "I didn't see any penalty from the outside but I should have shut up and I apologise, even if I was frustrated."

The result lifted Arsenal to second in the Premier League table, five points behind leaders Chelsea ahead of the Blues' late kickoff with Hull City.