WILSHERE LOANED TO BOURNEMOUTH

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere has completed his loan move to AFC Bournemouth, the Premier League club has announced, as the midfielder searches for first-team football.

With Arsenal adding new signing Granit Xhaka to the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin this summer, Wilshere’s route to the first team has been complicated further.

The 24-year-old was reportedly loan listed by the Gunners yesterday, as he held talks with both Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, meanwhile Serie A giants AS Roma and A.C. Milan also came in contact with Arsenal regarding a move, Sky Sports News reports.

Despite Roma’s strong interest, the north Londoners are thought to have pushed back the Italians’ offer due to their conduct in an apparent pursuit for Greek defender Kostas Manolas this summer.

Subsequently, both the Gunners and Wilshere agreed to the Englishman’s season-long loan to Bournemouth, which will see the midfielder reunited with ex-Arsenal academy player Benik Afobe, who joined the Cherries last season for £11.3 million in January 2015.

Wilshere made just 14 appearances in an injury-ravaged 2015/16 season, meanwhile the England international has since made two substitute appearances since the start of the new campaign.

MUSTAFI COMPLETES ARSENAL MOVE

Arsenal have confirmed the capture of Valencia centre back Skhodran Mustafi, a deal thought to be in the region of £35 million, as Calum Chambers agrees to join Premier League club Middlesbrough on loan.

The Gunners have been searching for a central defender more openly ever since the injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista, with Mustafi identified as the club’s primary target.

Under habitual circumstances, no details of the deal that takes the Germany international to the Emirates Stadium have been disclosed officially by the club as of yet, but outlets such as the Daily Mirror have moved to claim the so-often reported £35 million as his price tag.

Mustafi appeared 64 times in La Liga for Valencia during his two-year-spell in Spain, having joined from Italian club Sampdoria in the summer of 2014 for £6.8 million.

Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger had the following to say about his new signing: “He is at the right age. He has good experience. He is a very focused player who can play with the ball as well. We have taken a great player but have prepared well for the future.”

Mustafi joins the likes of Lucas Pérez, who also signed for the Gunners today, Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Takuma Asano and Kelechi Nwakali as the sixth signing made by the club this summer, meanwhile Chambers becomes the latest to leave north London in the past hour.

With first-team opportunities now limited further by Mustafi’s arrival, Arsenal have announced the completion of Chambers’ loan deal to newly-promoted Middlesbrough, a move that’ll see the 21-year-old play under Aitor Karanka’s side for the remainder of the season.

ARSENAL LAND LUCAS SIGNING

Arsenal have announced the signing of Deportivo de La Coruña forward Lucas Pérez, with no official word being made by the club on the details of the deal.

As per various reports last week, the Gunners were prepared to pay the Spaniard’s £17.1 million release clause to capture his services, as they beat Everton to the 27-year-old’s signature.

Lucas joins Arsenal on the back of a goal in Deportivo’s opening clash against Eibar in La Liga, whereas he was on target 17 times last season for the Galician outfit.

Arsenal’s latest recruit also matched Bebeto’s 22-year-old club record for goals in consecutive games, finding the back of the net against the likes of Barcelona and Atlético Madrid throughout his run of seven goals in as many games last season.

Gunners boss Arsène Wenger offered his description of the forward, stating: “He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a guy who combines well with partners, who can give a final ball and makes good runs. He’s got a good eye for goal and had an outstanding season last year.”

The signing of Lucas is widely-expected to be followed by the capture of Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi, meanwhile the likes of Calum Chambers, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry all reportedly brace themselves for new surroundings.

MATCH REPORT: WATFORD 1-3 ARSENAL

Exactly what Arsenal need most has been a popular subject of debate for years, mostly because the argument hasn’t really changed. Whether it’s a top striker or a top centre-back, Wenger is on the brink of acquiring two players he believes can answer critics on both sides of that debate. However, after just one point from the opening two games, whatever transpires between now and the close of the window, the thing Arsenal surely needed more than anything today was three points. Especially given that Arsenal’s recent record against Watford (in the league, at least) is flawless.

Arsenal started the game brightly, dominating possession and creating openings. Mesut Özil was rested for the opening fixture and brought on late in the second. Starting today, clearly fit, he looked imperious. When the team news was released an hour before kickoff, I’d be lying if I said the midfield three of Xhaka, Cazorla and Özil didn’t make me a little giddy. Xhaka’s presence also, even at this early age of the season, is a reassuring one. A midfielder who thinks defensively first, while possessing the range of passing he does, is something Arsenal’s midfield has long been crying out for. As Xhaka anchored, ahead of him Watford’s midfield were struggling to keep pace with the technical ability, passing and movement of Arsenal’s forward four. Alexis, starting as a central striker, naturally drifted left throughout the first half, causing Walcott, starting on the right, to continually drift centrally.

Mesut Özil is one of those players who seem to find time and space on the ball that others can’t. In one such instance, he was able to lift his head, see an unmarked Alexis moving towards the penalty spot and dink a delightfully weighted pass in his direction. Alexis was clattered by Nordin Amrabat, elbowed across the head and thrown to the floor. As the commentators on my feed debated the validity of one of the simplest penalty decisions I’ve ever seen, Santi Cazorla dispatched it for his first goal in almost 18 months.

The pace of the game understandably dropped after the goal, as Arsenal afforded Watford a little more time and space, while also remaining completely untroubled. Watford however, started to ease into the game, threatening from counter attacks. The pressure gradually built until a rapid Watford counter attack forced an impressive reaction save out of Cech, to stop Koscielny volleying into his own goal. The incident seemingly sparked Arsenal back into life.

Everything was going down Arsenal’s left. Alexis was looking as tireless as ever, but with a level of added conviction he’d lacked in the opening two fixtures. The space formed on the right was allowing Hector Bellerín (who was excellent today, by the way) to roam forward and link up well with Theo Walcott. Theo also displayed an impressive work-rate throughout and it was his well-placed pass across the face of goal that Alexis was able to, somewhat awkwardly, tap home on 40 minutes. Five minutes later, on the stroke of half-time, Alexis turned provider – floating a precise cross from the left into the path of the onrushing Özil, who headed home. Arsenal were playing slick, incisive football and getting their rewards. Even if the points weren’t yet guaranteed, this was the performance Arsenal needed.

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The second half was an entirely different one from the first. Rather than exercising damage limitation, Watford boss, Walter Mazzarri made an attacking change and his team showed a great deal more attacking intent as a result. Arsenal seemed unready for it and the waves of attacking pressure proved too much for Arsenal’s defence after 57 minutes. After a series of blocked attempts, Watford’s summer signing, Roberto Pereyra found the net to give the Hornets hope.

Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny have done well to develop any kind of coherent central defensive pairing in such a short amount of time. The pair that kept a clean sheet at Leicester last week impressed again here. Holding’s stock amongst Arsenal fans and others alike continues to rise. That said, the work done by Granit Xhaka to guard them ensured they had little to do.

Mazzarri had clearly identified Arsenal’s left as the base for their attack and for a period, Nacho Monreal admirably weathered the storm of pressure. After 70 minutes, Jack Wilshere and Mohammed Elneny were brought on to establish midfield authority and reclaim some possession – Özil and Oxlade-Chamberlain departed. At least that was what I assumed was the intent, until both of them were caught out charging forward minutes later with an unsuccessful counter of their own. By the time Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal – on 74 minutes – the game was stretched, but out of Watford’s reach.

In truth, Arsenal had killed the game off before half-time and Watford’s fightback, though admirable, was futile. Clear-cut chances were few and far between in the final quarter and Arsenal, in relative comfort thanks to and devastating first half, held on. Whisper it, but there has emerged a feint whiff of optimism around Arsenal this week. With the arrival of a new centre-back and striker imminent, and the first win of the season in the bag, there are at least causes for optimism. The side’s first half performance today, particularly the standout displays of Özil, Xhaka, Alexis, Walcott and Bellerín will surely embolden that optimism. But, like I said, whisper it.

MATCH PREVIEW: WATFORD VS ARSENAL

Arsenal will take on Watford away from in the Premier League this Saturday, with both London clubs still looking for their first win of the season ahead of September’s international break.

On one side we have an Arsenal team desperate to not fall further behind its league title competitors, whereas the Hornets, due to form, will be eyeing up their clash with the north Londoners as one of their most favourable, with Manchester United at home just around the corner.

The Gunners can, however, take confidence away from the fact that the last time they were defeated by Watford at Vicarage Road was in November 1987, having won 3-0 (away) and 4-0 (home) in the league last season.

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The Gunners defeated Watford 3-0 away from home with goals from Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey.

Watford come into the game with a defeat at the hands of Gillingham in the EFL Cup. Complacency stands as new boss Walter Mazzarri’s biggest fear, having seen his side lead in each of their three clashes this season.

Seeing Arsenal in current form might be a bit of a relief, however, as the Gunners lost 4-3 to Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium, much to the disgruntlement of the home support, whereas the same disappointment was evident in the stalemate against Premier League champions Leicester City.

With no defensive reinforcement to back them up, the responsibility of keeping Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney falls on the shoulders of young Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny, who both did well in safeguarding Petr Čech’s goal from Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki last weekend.

The Gunners will also have to be wary of the threat posed by Watford’s new signing from Juventus, Roberto Pereyra, who’s been cleared to face Arsène Wenger’s side after being granted a work permit.

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Could Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud be about to start versus Watford?

Arsenal’s laboured attacking moves could be rescued by the introduction of Mesut Özil, meanwhile greater involvement from Olivier Giroud is also expected.

Predicted Line-up: Petr Čech; Héctor Béllerin, Rob Holding, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny; Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis Sánchez

 

ARSENAL CLOSE IN ON DOUBLE SWOOP

Arsenal look set to complete the transfers of Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez from Deportivo de La Coruña, with the two due in for medicals today, according to BBC Sport.

After weeks of to and fro, it appears Arsenal have finally agreed terms with Valencia over Mustafi, as the Gunners prepare to pay up in excess of £35 million for the Germany international.

Deportivo forward Pérez should also follow the World Cup-winning centre back to the Emirates Stadium, despite suggestions in the Spanish press yesterday that Arsenal had failed in a bid to pay the Spaniard’s release clause in two separate instalments.

Pérez will cost the Gunners £17.1 million, the overall price of his release clause, which would take Arsenal’s total spending for this summer close to £100 million.

Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger admitted today in his press conference prior to the away clash versus Watford that the north Londoners are “working on deals” and that he was “99% confident” on their conclusions.

LUCAS PEREZ: THE STRIKER ARSENAL NEED?

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For years the Gunners faithful have pleaded with Arsene Wenger to sign a striker they so desperately crave. Wenger has answered their prayers.. Or has he? There are arguments to make both ways when profiling the Spaniard.

At 27 years old, Lucas Perez is certainly what you would regard as a late bloomer, enjoying the season of his life in 2015/16, scoring 17 goals, and attaining 8 assists in La Liga. Starting off his career plying his trade for Atletico Madrid’s C team in the Tercera Division, returning a modest 18 goals in 55 games for his services. Following his two years in Atletico’s C team, he found himself at numerous such as  Rayo Vallecano and Ukrainian sides Karpaty Lviv and Dynamo Kiev, once again with modest goal tallies, but not anything that would suggest he would make it as a forward at the top level. It’s when Deportivo acquired the Spaniard’s services that he truly began to blossom. In 2014/15 he was used as a winger, thus his goal tally is an inaccurate representation of the talent he possesses. However, in 2015/16, in Deportivo’s flat 4-4-2 formation he shone. As the catalyst of the Deportivo side, he dragged the Spanish outfit clear of relegation, rightfully earning him praise for the Spanish press.

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Perez’s class and guile was crucial to Depor

Having been linked with Barcelona this summer, he clearly isn’t a stop gap signing that Arsenal fans would be dreading, however, what are his strengths and weaknesses.

Arsene has clearly targeted a specific type of striker this summer, a pacey, clinical one. From Vardy’s denial to the rejected bid(s) for Alexandre Lacazette, the search for a striker has clearly been focused on finding an alternative style of player to Olivier Giroud. Perez is a forward who loves to break past the defensive line, stretching the opposition back four with cleverly time runs, not only creating goal-scoring opportunities for himself, but for others. The Spaniard also possesses extreme fitness levels and desire for the game. Not the aimless headless running that the British media absolutely adore, the running that has left English football in the dire state it’s in. The running I am referring to is intense pressing, tactical pressing and the right times in the game. However, if Lucas is to lose the ball, there is no doubt that he will make a 50 yard recovery run to ensure the ball is back in his possession. A trait that will certainly appeal to the Gunners faithful.

That said, the 27 year old does have his flaws. At 5ft 11″ he is not the greatest in the air. Fortunately for Arsenal, Perez’s hold up play is superb when considering his physique, unlike Arsenal’s prior CF option in the form of Theo Walcott, who has accepted his best position is as a right winger.

Some fans will feel the need to reserve their excitement, stating that 2015/16 was Perez’s first outstanding season as a professional footballer. That said, all taken into consideration, at £17 million, surely the risk is minimal in comparison to the potential reward?

 

WHO IS SHKODRAN MUSTAFI?

With Wenger looking for experience and value, Mustafi is a near perfect option. Half a century of Serie A appearances for Sampdoria saw him gain a move to Spain, Valencia picking up the German international for a bargain price; a rumoured €8m. His quickly put together partnership with Nicolas Otamendi sought plaudits from those watching on, Mustafi even a slight bright spark in what was a dim past season for the Valencian club.

The 24-year-old is mature in his decision making, trusted by his club and international coaches. His relaxed nature allows him to deal with pressure, keeping his head and passing confidently from the back. Using his intelligence, Mustafi is rarely out of position or late to the tackle. The German asserts a sense of authoritative calm on the field and is well rounded in his qualities, capable of performing a number of tasks in a number of roles.

Despite his moderate age Mustafi has a vast footballing education and a wealth of experience. His youth experiences in Germany and in England, with Everton, helped him develop a combative spirit whilst spells in Italy and Spain have refined his intelligence and passing abilities.

Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – JULY 13: Mesut Oezil of Germany holds the World Cup trophy while celebrating with teammates Kevin Grosskreutz, Roman Weidenfeller, Matthias Ginter, Shkodran Mustafi and Erik Durm of Germany after defeating Argentina 1-0 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Marco Reus’ misfortune was Mustafi’s advantage, taking the forwards place in the Germany squad for the 2014 World Cup. Subbed in twice in central defence, Mustafi coped extremely well and was even trusted to play right-back in the round of 16 but was unfortunate as injury cut his tournament short. Two years later he started against Ukraine in EURO 2016, heading home the opener for his country.

With a shortage of senior central defenders in the squad, Arsenal have struck gold. The combination of experience, utility and calmness makes Shkodran Mustafi’s transfer a no-brainer for Arsene Wenger and his men. Mustafi would look to consolidate his place in central defence but his dependability at right back would have been looked at and appreciated.

Follow me on Twitter: @ElliottM95

 

ARSENAL’S LUCAS PÉREZ BID REJECTED

Arsenal’s bid for Deportivo de La Coruña’s Lucas Pérez has been rejected, according to Cadena Ser (via the Daily Mail), as the Gunners join Everton in the race to sign the centre foward.

The north Londoners are believed to have offered to pay Lucas’ £17.1 million release clause in two instalments; an offer deemed as “unnacceptable” by Deportivo who want the complete figure.

Arsenal have thus far missed out on reported targets such as Álvaro Morata, Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette this summer, as the club’s search to bolster their attack continues.

Reports from Marca and El Confidencial today claimed there was “total agreement” between Arsenal and Deportivo on the prospect of Lucas’ sale, with more bold statements revealing a deal will “almost certainly” take place.

BBC Sport understands Arsenal are indeed interested in signing Lucas, meanwhile Everton and Valencia are also in the hunt.

However, the 27-year-old, according to Sky Sports News, is thought to favour Champions League football, as the Spanish press move to place Arsenal as favourites to land him.

As per Spanish paper AS, Lucas holds a great deal of gratitude towards Deportivo, partially responsible for his recent rise to prominence, and the striker will only look to leave the La Liga club for a “big project”.

Everton aren’t thought to be deemed by Lucas and his camp as the talked about “project”, despite talks regarding a move to the Toffees being at a more advanced stage.

Negotiations between Arsenal and the Galician club are still in its initial stages, however.

Lucas hit 17 La Liga goals last season, attracting reported interest from Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion and even Barcelona this summer.

BLOG: MOHAMED ELNENY – IMPACT

Arsenal from January onwards was rife with disappointment and the new year brought with it a sense of underwhelming. The signing of Mohamed Elneny hardly captured imaginations for many and did little to immediately appease the disgruntled.

The Egyptian international took it all in his stride, the club so assured of his capabilities. Assurance is what Elneny brings, effectively bringing the ball forward and safely moving it about. His affect on the club was instant and composed. Elneny made his debut in late January but was quick to settle. His immediate influence saw him pick up Arsenal’s Player of the Month award for both March and April.

Bringing with him a sense of security he helped Arsenal to solidify their team play as the season drew to a close. On the ball the midfielder helps the team tick, mixing simplicity and calmness with energy and dependability. The 24-year-old seems to always be available, either for selection or on the pitch. Finding space so effectively and using the ball in the same way.

Elneny’s energy and pressing is just as impressive and set the tempo for Arsenal’s play in pre-season. A good passing range, supreme stamina and a willingness to put the collective above himself has seen Elneny become a vital member of the squad and with the arrival of Granit Xhaka he could be seen more in a box-to-box role.

Much like Borussia Monchengladbach’s setup last season, Xhaka could sit the deeper of the two with Elneny just in front. The Swiss midfielder controlling the game and switching the play whilst Elneny, the more mobile player, helps Arsenal to press and bring the ball forward.

Elneny will be hoping to maintain his consistent impact for Arsenal in the coming season, his first full season at the club. In five months the Egyptian settled, broke Premier League passing records and developed into a well-rounded squad member. Mohamed Elneny’s early Arsenal career is an admirable base to build upon as the new season looms.

Follow me on Twitter: @ElliottM95