The Death of Football

Footballing memories are always remembered with a story, a meaning, a triumphant finale or a tragic end. There is always the folklore that exists around a rivalry, a furore that manifests in the build up to a game, a tradition and a history of the beautiful game as played in the eyes of the beholder. This is what I feel now and what I’ve felt throughout my footballing life as a fan, and whilst there are some things changing with the modernisation of the game, the majority  of the above still rings true for a lot of fans.

The creation, therefore, of a European super league would absolutely massacre the sanctity of what is good and right about our beautiful game. And that’s the point, it’s OURS. I’ve spoken to so many fans and seen such an outpouring of apathy towards anything resembling a breakaway league, that if indeed it did happen so many of these fans would turn away from following the sport. It may have some global appeal for a short while because all shiny new things do, but the essence of any club involved will be lost forever.

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When you think of the super clubs’ head honchos meeting to discuss what a European super league might look like and chucking in stipulations such as relegation not being possible for a certain 11 clubs (one of which is said to be Arsenal) it is the definition of the “rich getting richer”. Leaving the other so called lesser clubs to fend for themselves in a league with much less global appeal and money flowing through it also screams of ethics being chucked out of the window. It reminds me of when I once heard Stan Collymore on talksport mention that “all the big clubs like Villa, Forrest, Everton, Leeds, and the like shouldn’t ever be relegated from the Premier League”. When he said those words I laughed out loud and he was rightly derided as nonsensical. A European version of this is the same, but worse. The thought of it is fairly sickening and any identity we have with our clubs is at risk here. I’m fairly sure that every fan (both in and out of the super league teams) feels this way.

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A short term approach to anything in life always has repercussions that come back to bite fairly quickly and it’s hard to see past apathy and disinterest. Yes we would have some incredible fixtures at all times to look forward to but just not that many fixtures in total. The rumours suggest that there would be 16 teams involved with 4 groups. Even if we were to win the damn thing we could hope for a maximum of 11 fixtures. How does that even work over the course of a year? It just doesn’t even make any logistical sense. The whole thing feels like non football people making football decisions, or trying to at least, and if true they are failing us all miserably.

Think of a world without any derbies, any cup finals, any rivalry…and the worst thing of all, it would give Sp*rs an actual chance of winning the league. Nothing good can come of this if it goes ahead and the logical, reasonable thing to happen would be for the idea to be thrown out. But logic and reason have long since been passed up by the powers that be, and for that reason we should remain both worried and cautious. We need to ensure that if there is a place where our voices as fans can be heard then we must voice our wants and needs clearly to the club/s that we follow. Why let the corrupt take what we created? I for sure know I’d lose all my real feeling towards the club I love if we joined any such league.

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My favourite memory as a fan has to be at the 2014 FA Cup Final. Being there to see us comeback vs Hull was the single greatest moment as my life as a fan of Arsenal Football Club. The opportunity for future fans to create such a memory could be taken away from them boy the formation of a super league. No one wants it. I want the derby day bragging rights, I want the cup finals, I want the Premier League.

“Things change. Friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” as goes the famous quote, and yet this feels like we would be throwing our friends under a bus and forcing ourselves to enjoy both the fact that our friends are dead as well as the fact that we’re not on a bus, but a plane. Sounds weird right? That’s because the whole concept is weird and one that absolutely will not work.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

A late Alexandre Lacazette strike earned Arsenal a point at the Emirates Stadium, as both the Gunners and Liverpool kept their unbeaten runs intact with a 1-1 draw, this evening.

Following an intense first half, the Reds broke the deadlock midway through the second period via James Milner.

Alexandre Lacazette would steal the headlines in the 82nd minute, however, with his 6th goal of the season, as the North Londoners made it 13 games without defeat.

There were a couple of surprises in store for Arsenal at the back before the game, as Héctor Bellerín made his return to the first-team, followed by a first involvement for Sead Kolasinac in the Premier League.

The Bosnian was alert early on to supply Lacazette with a low cross at the near post, with the Frenchman unable to get enough behind his subtle first-time effort to overcome Alisson.

Arsenal unlocked the Liverpool back-line once more in the 14th minute, courtesy of Mesut Özil’s dummy through to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who’d see his shot blocked dangerously into the side-netting by Joe Gomez.

The former Borussia Dortmund man turned provider moments later for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 15th minute, popping up alone inside the box before heading just wide in the presence of the on-rushing Alisson.

Liverpool could and should’ve taken the lead through Sadio Mané in the 18th minute, however, as he followed up Roberto Firmino’s effort off the post, but the linesman was quick to chalk the goal off for an incorrect offside decision.

Jürgen Klopp’s men doubled up on the danger posed with a ball over the top for Virgil van Dijk to bring down and take aim at goal, prior to Bernd Leno’s stop.

Arsenal pressed on again in the latter stages of the first half, with Lacazette going close with a shot across goal from an acute angle before van Dijk could offer the Emirates another scare with a flick-on against the post, forcing both sides to settle for the stalemate going into the break.

The Gunners grew further in authority in the second period, but it was Liverpool, against the run of play, who broke he deadlock on the hour-mark, as Milner picked up the scraps from Leno’s miscalculated intervention from a cross to fire in from the edge of the box.

Arsenal replied through Torreira almost immediately, breaking through the Reds midfield before lacking the direction behind his lofted strike to beat Alisson.

Van Dijk threatened again inside the Arsenal area, rising highest in the 74th minute before seeing Leno tip the ball over the bar for another Liverpool corner.

Joy for the Gunners finally came in the 82nd minute, as Alex Iwobi set Lacazette up to take a touch away from Alisson and the goal, before returning to smash a shot deep into the back of the net.

The hosts sensed there was more in the game for them, as Özil layed Bellerín off with a cute cut-back prior to the defender’s curler roaming wide, but neither side would manage to go beyond a 1-1 draw come full-time.

By Patrick Ribeiro (@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Bernd Leno (6) – Héctor Bellerín (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Rob Holding (7), Sead Kolasinac (7) – Lucas Torreira (8), Granit Xhaka (7) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (5), Mesut Özil (7), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (7) – Alexandre Lacazette (6)

Subs: Alex Iwobi (7), Aaron Ramsey (6), Danny Welbeck (5)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool

Arsenal have booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after defeating Blackpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium, despite playing much of the second half down to 10 men.

The Gunners took the lead through Stephan Lichtsteiner, with Emile Smith-Rowe adding greater comfort to Arsenal’s night with a second in the 50th minute.

Blackpool pulled it back to 2-1 shortly after Matteo Guendouzi’s red card for Arsenal, but with Tangerines also going down to ten men late on, Unai Emery’s men were able to hold onto their lead come full-time.

A whole host of changes saw only Shkodran Mustafi and Guendouzi keep their places in Emery’s starting line-up, with special attention been giving to Carl Jenkinson’s and Julio Pleguezuelo’s introduction into the Arsenal backline.

For all the possession enjoyed in the early stages of the game, the Gunners would struggle to create much by the way of chances, but they would eventually take the lead with their first genuine opportunity in the 33rd minute.

With Guendouzi collecting the ball within the final third, the Frenchman was able to spot the run of Stephan Lichtsteiner emerging inside the area, who added the finishing touch to the midfielder’s pass with an outstretched leg, finding the bottom-left corner.

The hosts pressed for a second and may have had one in the 44th minute via Aaron Ramsey, with the Welshman succumbing to the bounce on Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross before floating an effort back over the bar.

Smith-Rowe was on hand to double Arsenal’s lead coming into the second half, as Blackpool’s goalkeeper failed to clear Carl Jenkinson’s cross prior to the youngster’s finish inside the box, volleying home off the ground.

The Tangerines replied through Paudie O’Connor’s header from a corner in the 53rd minute, beating Petr Čech in the air before being denied by the top of the crossbar.

Mustafi then neared a third for Arsenal when glancing a header wide moments later, just as Emery’s task complicated itself following Guendouzi’s second yellow card, leaving the Gunners to defend a 2-0 lead with 10 men for the remaining 35 minutes of normal time.

The pressure was ramped up on the North Londoners in the 66th minute when O’Connor made his second crack at goal count with a headed finish low into Čech’s net, cutting Arsenal’s lead down to 2-1.

O’Connor’s night soured, however, after a late challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned the former Leeds United defender a straight red card, setting up a ten versus ten scenario for the final 12 minutes.

Regaining control, the Gunners were able to see out their opponents and cement a 2-1 victory at the Emirates.

By Patrick Ribeiro (@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (5) – Stephan Lichtsteiner (6), Shkodran Mustafi (8), Julio Pleguezuelo (7), Carl Jenkinson (6) – Matteo Guendouzi (7), Aaron Ramsey (7) – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5), Emile Smith-Rowe (7), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6) – Danny Welbeck (6)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Alex Iwobi (6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6)

 

MATCH REPORT: Crystal Palace 2-2 Arsenal

Arsenal’s 11-game winning streak has been brought to an end at Selhurst Park after an 82nd minute Luka Milivojevic penalty earned Crystal Palace a 2-2 draw.

The Serbian midfielder fired the hosts into the lead in the first half, but that advantage was soon overturned in the second period through Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang strikes.

A second penalty would bring Palace back level, however, as Milivojevic earned himself a brace late on, securing a point each for both sides at full time.

Xhaka held his place at left-back, with Aubameyang also joining the Swiss midfielder on the flank in the starting eleven at Selhurst Park.

Palace sought the danger early on through Wilfried Zaha, getting on the end of Andros Townsend’s cross in the 16th minute before striking the outside of Bernd Leno’s near post.

Just a minute later, Townsend scuppered the chance to tuck away a well-worked move from the hosts, as Patrick Van Aanholt’s cut-back was steered wide of the mark from close range.

Arsenal’s response came via Alexandre Lacazette’s off-balance strike at goal in the 23rd minute, with the Frenchman firing wide on his way down from the edge of the box.

With the game braced for deadlock going into the break, Shkodran Mustafi’s late challenge on Cheikhou Kouyate, who placed himself between the player and ball, earned Palace the chance to go a goal up just before half-time.

Milivojevic claimed full responsibility from the 12-yard-mark and would make no mistake when stroking the penalty into the bottom-left corner, as Roy Hodgson’s men edged themselves in front.

The Gunners reported back with purpose in the second half, with Xhaka finding the top corner with an acute free-kick to equalise for his team in the 52nd minute.

Arsenal flipped the script in the 56th minute, amid shouts of a Lacazette handball in the build-up, as Aubameyang popped up at the back-post to stab in a second for his side.

Palace looked to respond with the likes of Max Meyer and Alexander Sørloth entering the field of play, as Emery’s side began to struggle with the inclination of the game.

With ten minutes on the clock, the hosts looked to Zaha to inspire some magic, as the Ivory Coast international skipped past Xhaka before tumbling to win a second penalty for the Eagles.

Milivojevic was on hand to repeat the dosage from the spot, as the Serbian made it 2-2 in the 82nd minute.

Arsenal could’ve bowed out on another twist with two minutes of normal time still to play, after Xhaka lifted a cross for the on-rushing Aaron Ramsey to attack, but the Welshman would fail to get anything behind his flick-on.

The two London clubs wouldn’t go beyond a share of the spoils, however, as Arsenal’s winning streak came to an end with a 2-2 score-line.

By Patrick Ribeiro (@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Bernd Leno (6) – Héctor Bellerín (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Rob Holding (7), Granit Xhaka (7) – Lucas Torreira (7), Matteo Guendouzi (6) – Alex Iwobi (5), Mesut Özil (6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6) – Alexandre Lacazette (5)

Subs: Stephan Lichtsteiner (5), Danny Welbeck (5), Aaron Ramsey (5)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City

Arsenal have made it ten wins on the spin with a 3-1 victory at home to Leicester City for the Premier League, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang jumped off the bench to bag a brace and push his team back into the top four.

The North Londoners started on the back foot, with Leicester taking the lead through Héctor Bellerín’s own goal before Mesut Özil could claw back an equaliser just before half-time.

Aubameyang was then unleashed on the Foxes in the second period, crowning two wonderfully-crafted moves with a couple of goals to seal a 3-1 win.

In Arsenal’s return to Premier League action, Unai Emery opted against fielding the club’s record signing Aubameyang, as Alexandre Lacazette led the attack with Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan flanking.

Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho claimed the first two opportunities within the first five minutes of the game, calling Bernd Leno into action on his second attempt at goal with a curling effort.

With Arsenal struggling to settle, the Foxes had another go at Leno’s goal, as the German positioned himself well to deny Harry Maguire’s back-post header in the 19th minute.

Claude Puel’s men required a slice of luck to eventually break the deadlock on the half-hour mark, with Héctor Bellerín’s block from Ben Chilwell’s cross betraying Leno and trickling into the back of the net.

Arsenal replied moments later through Granit Xhaka’s free-kick, but Kasper Schmeichel kept his focus to tip the Swiss international’s effort over for a corner.

The Gunners continued to raise the bar towards the end of the first period, with Özil rewarding his team with a cool first-time finish from Bellerín’s cross to level the game on the brink of half-time.

Picking up where they left off, Mkhitaryan neared Arsenal’s second in the 50th minute with an acrobatic effort floating wide, as Emery’s side began to pile on the pressure.

Wilfred Ndidi threatened to pull the score back the other way with a header crashing against the bar on the hour mark, but, with Aubameyang already on the pitch, Arsenal were able to ease the mood a little when Özil placed Bellerín in a prime position to cut back, gifting the ex-Borussia Dortmund man with an assist for an easy finish.

The Gunners bettered their previous effort just three minutes later to go 3-1 up, as Özil latched onto Lacazette’s weighted pass into the box to feed Aubameyang for another casual tap-in in the 66th minute.

Lacazette scuppered his chance to get his name on the scoresheet in 78th minute, having gotten on the end of Özil’s cut-back with the goal at his mercy, but the Frenchman instead found a way to place the ball within Schmeichel’s grasp.

The ex-Olympique Lyonnaise striker added to his frustrating night with a shot over the bar from Iwobi’s pick-out in the 83rd minute, as the Gunners cruised through the latter stages of the affair.

Arsenal wouldn’t need a fourth, however, with the game at the Emirates Stadium concluding itself at 3-1.

By Patrick Ribeiro (@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Bernd Leno (8) – Héctor Bellerín (8), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Rob Holding (6), Stephan Lichtsteiner (5) – Lucas Torreira (7), Granit Xhaka (6) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (5), Mesut Özil (9), Alex Iwobi (7) – Alexandre Lacazette (6)

Subs: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (7), Matteo Guendouzi (6), Aaron Ramsey (-)

MATCH REPORT: Cardiff City 2-3 Arsenal

Arsenal have landed their first away victory of the season in a five-goal-thriller versus Cardiff City, as the Gunners rose to defeat Neil Warnock’s side 3-2 in Cardiff, this afternoon.

A goal apiece saw both sides go into the break locked at 1-1, but the Gunners later pulled in front through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second half.

The Bluebirds battled to claw a second equaliser through Danny Ward, but it was Alexandre Lacazette who’d have the final say in the 82nd minute, firing the Gunners to a late win.

A return to the starting eleven was on the cards for Mesut Özil, who was followed into Unai Emery’s plans by the introduction of Lacazette, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi missed out.

Nervy moments at the back almost allowed Cardiff to find the opener early on, as Harry Arter intercepted Petr Čech’s pass before blazing a good opportunity over in the 7th minute.

Arsenal hit back at the other end, with Aaron Ramsey latching onto Lacazette’s flick to force Neil Etheridge into an uncomfortable save.

A goal came soon after for Emery’s men, as Mustafi edged ahead of his marker to power Granit Xhaka’s corner into the back of the net with his head, giving the Gunners the lead in the 12th minute.

Chaos at the back for the Bluebirds almost allowed Arsenal to grab a second, as Nacho Monreal struggled to overcome Etheridge following Bruno Ecuele-Manga’s gift.

Cardiff’s Danny Ward came inches away from finding an equaliser in the 19th minute, arriving just a fraction too late to Bobby Reid’s low cross, with Junior Hoilett later missing the target from the follow-up.

With half-an-hour of the game gone, Lacazette came close to doubling Arsenal’s lead with a right-footed shot from the edge of the box, hitting the face of the post before the ball was cleared to safety.

The visitors’ lead wouldn’t last until the break, however, as Hoilett intercepted Xhaka’s cross-field pass to send Joe Bennett down the left flank, as Victor Camarasa popped up on the receiving end of the full-back’s cross before thrashing a shot past Čech.

It was through Lacazette that the danger resumed in the second period, with the French striker firing over acrobatically from close range in the 50th minute.

Mustafi was out to repeat the dosage from the first-half, this time sneaking in behind Sol Bamba to head at goal prior to Etheridge’s save in the 53rd minute.

No less than ten minutes later, Arsenal found themselves back in front through Aubameyang, as the Gabonese forward slotted his shot into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box to get off the mark this season.

Cardiff’s bounce-back trailed the North Londoners’ lead once more, however, as Ward reacted first to a loose ball inside the box by heading an effort in off the inside of the post, with 20 minutes of normal time left on the clock.

But the twists kept coming at the Cardiff City Stadium, with Arsenal reclaiming the lead for a third time through Lacazette in the 82nd minute, rifling his shot past Etheridge from a tight angle.

The danger still lurked in Arsenal’s box, but Sean Morrison rose to head his effort over the bar in Cardiff’s best opportunity to salvage a point, as the Gunners dragged a 3-2 away victory over the line.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (6) – Héctor Bellerín (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Sokratis (6), Nacho Monreal (6) – Mattéo Guendouzi (6), Granit Xhaka (6) – Mesut Özil (7), Aaron Ramsey (7), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6) – Alexandre Lacazette (8)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Danny Welbeck (-), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (-)

Growing Pains

Identity. Personality. A playing style. It’s something that’s been lost over the last few seasons and the true #Wengerball of old was only seen in fits and spurts. For a while Wenger and his players seemed to be trying anything and everything to rediscover our USP as a football club, in terms of playing style. For 95% of the Wenger era, we as fans as well as the opposition, knew what to expect: total football with a tinge of brittle. The tinge grew and grew over time and began to supersede the total football aspect. Enter Unai Emery, the so called ‘catalyst for change’ that Gazidis had spoken of, on a number of occasions previously.

He is ripping up the playbook and trying to ingrain something completely new, which as we all know will require some time. What we maybe didn’t anticipate is the lengths that he might be willing to go to get there. There’s already rumours of rifts between our star man Ozil and captain fantastic Ramsey in that they aren’t willing to commit to the style or are falling short of the standards required for the style. Coupled with the dinosaurs of the football world laying their boot in on how playing out from the back is folly when up against Man City and Chelsea. Emery needs to have his Kevlar well and truly strapped on as the pressure exerted on him will only increase. At the moment he has the good will of the fans on his side, though at 1-0 down vs West Ham this weekend just gone the thought did enter my mind as to how long we as fans could go before results became more important than the identity.

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In my heart of hearts I truly want us to get the identity bit right first and foremost, however wanting to win at all costs is an emotion that takes over when in the emotion of the game. As it turned we were (just about) able to turn the game around and bring home all 3 points. It means that slowly but surely the players will start to believe the approach and hopefully drown out the noise that the tactically misguided fans make from the sidelines. I get that some people are crying out for pragmatism above all else, however they are the same people that were crying out for change in the first instance. Patience is the key, as we can’t have everything in this imperfect world.

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Emery seems to be keen on deploying a 4-3-3 formation and the key problem he has to solve to make the rest of the team work is the midfield three. He’s tried a multitude of variations with this, however has not yet started our most defensive minded midfielder in Lucas Torriera. My inclination is that prior to a ball being kicked his preferred midfield three would have included Torreira, Xhaka and Ramsey. Guendouzi, however, has had different ideas and has been a stand out for us thus far. I do feel that at the tender age of 19, he shouldn’t be someone that we totally depend upon for the season. It’s not fair to him nor the club in all honesty. He may well be big enough to cope with the pressure, however for his own sake as a player it’s important to bed into a club and a philosophy over a lengthy period of time to ensure the best for both the player and the club.

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While the season is still young, it seems that Torreira is being given time to fully recover from his World Cup exploits with Uruguay and therefore might be why we haven’t seen as much of him. Though losing track of Alonso vs Chelsea can’t have helped his cause as our first choice defensive midfielder. One thing that has become abundantly clear with Unai Emery at the helm is this; he will not take an ounce of slacking from any player as well as the fact that he’s not afraid to adapt to in game situations if it means sacrificing our star men to achieve the result. He substituted Ozil with 20 minutes to play vs Chelsea, made half time substitutions to adapt to in game situations and in turn has fueled the rumours that Ozil hasn’t been working hard enough and therefore wasn’t in the squad for West Ham. It’s quite the ‘rap sheet’ so to speak within the first 3 games of a new Premier League campaign.

Ozil

With the new style of play we have to consider where indeed Ozil might fit into the system. We’ve signed him up for the next few years at Arsenal and thereafter brought in a coach who we might have thought would be able to get the best out of our star man. Currently it doesn’t quite look as though Emery has worked this one out and that in itself is worrying. It would be acceptable to believe that Ozil is a player you would build your team around as a new man coming in, however sickness or no sickness, his position in the team remains unclear. It comes back to the midfield compilation and trying to find one that gives us the right balance, enough of a balance to include the likes of Ozil in the team to go ahead and create.

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Time

The process, system, personnel, style and most of all, identity will take time to instill. We should therefore be patient regardless of what Sam Allardyce might tell us to do. I did quite enjoy Phil McNulty, a BBC Sport correspondent, tweeting that Big Sam might not be the best authority from which to glean any advice on playing Man City, having been 3-0 down at half time to them with Everton and registering a record breaking low 18% possession throughout the game. Time will tell whether he is indeed a good appointment for this club, but we as fans need to be patient with him. Wenger said it best, support these players through it all, as they really do deserve it. Don’t fall into the click-bait trap of crisis, drama and rumour when we have the chance to support our great club. Let’s not waste the good will on what ifs, rather use it on pushing the team forward. Lord knows the players will require it as they grow into their new roles within the team.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United

Arsenal have claimed their first official victory of Unai Emery’s reign after defeating West Ham United 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium, this afternoon.

The visitors took the lead through Arnautovic in the first half before Arsenal could bite back via Nacho Monreal’s 30th minute finish, as the two sides entered the break locked at 1-1.

Some fortune then saw the Gunners take the lead in the 70th minute, somewhat against the run of play, from Issa Diop’s own goal, with Danny Welbeck later turning up to amplify a 3-1 victory.

On Jack Wilshere’s return to the Emirates Stadium, now as a West Ham player, Arsenal had to make do without one of their prized playmakers, Mesut Özil, with the German paving way for Aaron Ramsey’s return to the first team after being declared ill.

It was the Welshman who first found the back of the net in the 11th minute, nodding in on the rebound from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s strike at goal, but the midfielder was swiftly flagged for offside to maintain the stalemate.

The Hammers provided an immediate response, as Arnautovic found the space inside the box to strike at goal before finding the side-netting.

The Austrian’s second strike at goal would find a different destination, however, as he worked the ball with Felipe Anderson on the edge of the box before firing low into the bottom-left corner, 26 minutes in.

West Ham’s goal served to shake the Gunners up, who’d draw level just four minutes later, as Héctor Bellerín’s cross from the byline made it all the way through to the back-post, where Monreal was on hand to thrash a shot past Łukasz Fabianski.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side could’ve edged in front  just before half-time, as Michail Antonio’s slotted pass, intended for Arnautovic, found its way into Robert Snodgrass’ path inside the box before Petr Čech’s crucial save.

Unai Emery banked on Alexandre Lacazette to shake things up in the second half, with the Frenchman replacing Alex Iwobi to join Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack.

Arsenal were still forced to deal with the same culprits, however, as Anderson took off down the left flank before feeding Arnautovic for a tame first-time effort in the 55th minute, gathered up by Čech.

Lacazette went close in the 57th minute, turning Diop inside the box before firing at Fabianski’s goal, with the ex-Arsenal goalkeeper palming the striker’s effort away with success.

At the other end, Anderson was creating more havoc from the left in the 69th minute, as the Brazilian cut inside before letting rip from range to bring Čech into action.

Requiring a slice of luck, Arsenal took the lead a minute later through Diop’s own-goal, as the former Toulouse man was left hopeless against Lacazette’s cut-back, deflecting off the defender and in.

Diop would soon redeem himself, however, as Ramsey set Aubameyang for a first-time finish inside the box prior to the defender’s crucial block in the 73rd minute.

Fabianksi starred once more between the sticks in the 82nd minute, denying Ramsey’s half-volley from outside the box, aimed at the bottom-left corner.

A nervy end saw Arsenal survive a couple of scares with crosses across the face of goal, with West Ham unable to make contact with both attempts before Welbeck could kill the game off following a second Bellerín assist, as the Englishman dispatched his shot from close range to secure a 3-1 win.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (7), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Sokratis (5), Nacho Monreal (7) – Mattéo Guendouzi (6), Granit Xhaka (6) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7), Aaron Ramsey (7), Alex Iwobi (5) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Alexandre Lacazette (7), Danny Welbeck (6)

MATCH REPORT: Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

Arsenal have picked up second consecutive Premier League defeat after losing 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, this evening.

The Gunners were facing an uphill battle early on, as two first-half goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata placed Chelsea two goals up.

Unai Emery’s men bit back in a spirited fashion, however, with two goals of their own before half-time, as the two sides took to the interval locked at 2-2.

Chelsea’s dominance in the second half was telling, granting them the final say in the clash, as Marcos Alonso’s 80th minute finish snatched all three points for his side in a five-goal-thriller.

Among the changes in Emery’s ranks was Iwobi’s introduction, coming in for the benched Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile Nacho Monreal marked his return to the first-team following Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ injury last week.

The Arsenal full-back came close to delivering for the visitors early doors, as his cross from the left was glanced on by Mesut Özil on the volley before skipping just wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal.

Chelsea’s response was fatal, however, as Jorginho freed Marcos Alonso in behind the Arsenal defence before setting Pedro up for a first-time finish past Čech, placing Maurizio Sarri’s team 1-0 up by the 9th minute.

The Gunners should’ve bounced back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 19th minute, found by Héctor Bellerín’s cut-back, but the Gabonese striker’s effort floated way over the bar with much of the goal at his mercy.

Once more, Chelsea were able to flaunt their clinical eye for goal through Alvaro Morata’s first goal of the season, as the Spaniard peeled away from the Arsenal backline to run through on goal, shifting Shkodran Mustafi out of his way and finishing in the 20th minute.

Another golden opportunity came the North Londoners’ way, this time falling to Mkhitaryan following Iwobi’s good work down the by-line, but the Armenian would suffer from the same fate as his ex-Dortmund teammate Aubameyang when blazing an effort over from a prime position.

Mkhitaryan was quick to make amends, however, drilling a loose ball from the edge of the box into the back of the net in the 37th minute, as Arsenal pulled a goal back.

At the other end, Morata was bringing Čech into action with an arced effort, requiring the veteran goalkeeper to tip the Spaniard’s effort over the bar.

Low crosses continued to cause chaos in the Chelsea box, with Arsenal finally making one count through Iwobi’s finish inside the area to level the game in the 41st minute.

A chance each for Iwobi and Aubameyang threatened to complete the turnaround for the Gunners on the brink of half-time, as the two London rivals entered the interval tied at 2-2.

Chelsea emerged rejuvenated for the second half, enjoying large spells of possession before Ross Barkley looked to force his way through in the 56th minute, as Čech got a strong and important hand to the ex-Everton man’s low strike.

Čech was there again to deny David Luiz from a free-kick position in the 74th minute, with Chelsea attempting to squeeze the Gunners in for the final 15 minutes, in search of a winner.

Ramsey aimed to drag some life into Arsenal’s attack with a cross-shot at the other end, as Kepa kept things tight for his side.

But Chelsea’s dominance soon translated itself into a goal, with Eden Hazard waltzing past Alexandre Lacazette down the wing to feed Alonso inside the box, who made no mistake when squeezing a shot under the goalkeeper and putting the Blues ahead in the 80th minute.

Arsenal old boy Giroud neared a killer blow against his former side with a measured left-footed strike, but Čech stood firm to deny another attempt at goal.

Ramsey was later on hand to offer the hosts a final fright, volleying just over the bar from Mkhitaryan’s knock-down before Arsenal surrendered to a 3-2 defeat.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (4), Shkodran Mustafi (5), Sokratis (5), Nacho Monreal (6) – Mattéo Guendouzi (7), Granit Xhaka (4) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6), Mesut Özil (5), Alex Iwobi (7) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Lucas Torreira (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Alexandre Lacazette (5)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

Unai Emery kicked off his tenure at Arsenal with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League, as goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva gave the title holders the victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Sterling made Man City’s first-half dominance count with an opening goal in the 13th minute, giving Pep Guardiola’s men a 1-0 lead going into half-time.

The story promised to be different in the second-half, with Arsenal growing into the game, but Bernardo Silva’s second-half strike, somewhat against the run of play, complicated matters for the hosts, who’d eventually succumb to a 2-0 defeat.

Sterling didn’t take long to cause chaos, as the England international danced his way into the box before pulling a save out of Petr Čech at his near-post, eight minutes in.

The Arsenal goalkeeper could do little to keep out the ex-Liverpool winger in the 13th minute, however, with Sterling finding the opening goal with a strike from the edge of the box, cutting in from the left.

City pressed on, prompting Čech to a double-save from Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick and Aymeric Laporte’s follow-up, as the Gunners looked to tame the Premier League champions.

A better finish to the half saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flash a shot from range wide in the 44th minute, as Emery’s men entered the break a goal down.

Arsenal picked up where they left off in the second period, with Alexandre Lacazette coming close to making an instant impact from the bench in the 57th minute with a measured volley roaming wide from the edge of the area.

City looked to take advantage of a Guendouzi misjudgment past the half-hour mark, as Sergio Agüero raced through on goal before another important save from Čech kept things at 1-0.

Guardiola’s men wouldn’t be so forgiving a couple of minutes later, however, as Benjamin Mendy picked out Bernardo Silva with a cut-back before the Portuguese playmaker’s left-footed strike doubled the visitors’ lead.

Despite some encouraging signs, with Mesut Özil and Lacazette in the mix, Arsenal would fail to land any blows on City, as the Manchester outfit walked away from the Emirates with a 2-0 victory.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Starting Line-up: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Sokratis (5), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5) – Granit Xhaka (5), Mattéo Guendouzi (6), Aaron Ramsey (5) – Mesut Özil (5), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (4) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (4)

Subs: Stephan Lichtsteiner (6), Alexandre Lacazette (5), Lucas Torreira (6)