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)

How to Fix Arsenal’s Defensive Issues: A 5-Step Plan

 

New season, same Arsenal. The Gunners have added a defender in Sead Kolasinac and had an entire summer to straighten things out on the training pitch, but four goals conceded in the opening two games suggests the defense is as porous as ever. Here are five steps Arsene Wenger and his side can take to patch up the leaky backline.

1. Play defenders in the correct positions

Stoke-City-v-Arsenal-Premier-League

Sounds obvious, right?

Wrong. Arsene Wenger’s latest defensive stunt is the refusal to play center-backs, instead puzzlingly choosing to start left-backs Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac at center-back for Arsenal’s first two Premier League fixtures.

It’s not as if the squad has been ravaged by injury. Per Mertesacker, the club captain, was fit to play against Stoke last weekend yet remained on the bench. Rob Holding was dropped from the squad altogether after a shaky opening day performance against Leicester, as was Calum Chambers, who appears to be out of favor despite an impressive loan spell with Middlesborough last season.

There’s usually some sort of rhyme or reason to Arsene Wenger’s team selections, but it’s difficult to understand the manager’s thinking when he plays a back five that consists of four players out of position. Nacho Monreal works quite well as the left center-back in a back three, but is evidently uncomfortable as the centermost one. Sead Kolasinac, the left-back in the 2016-17 Bundesliga Team of the Season, was presumably signed to play in that position—so why play him at center-back while Hector Bellerin, a right-back, plays at left wing-back?

At the moment, the defense feels topsy-turvy when it doesn’t have to be. The first step to fixing Arsenal’s leaky backline is really quite simple.

 

2. Give Per Mertesacker a chance

40DDB12500000578-4548914-image-a-124_1495929943959

Arsenal’s defense is crying out for leadership and organization—two qualities that Per Mertesacker embodies. Now in his final season as a professional footballer before taking on a role as Arsenal’s academy manager next year, he deserves the chance to be a part of the first team setup once again.

Although he’s 32, Mertesacker’s game has never relied on pace—if anything, age adds to his expertise in reading the game and marshaling fellow teammates. His performance for the ages in the FA Cup final against Chelsea reaffirmed the German’s quality. Not only was Mertesacker stellar, but Rob Holding and Nacho Monreal fed off of his experience and solidity, resulting in one of Arsenal’s best defensive displays in recent memory.

The success of the 3-4-2-1 formation relies on the centermost center-back’s capability. If Arsene Wenger allows his club captain to anchor the back three, he might find the rest of the defense steadier as a result.

 

3. Find a balanced midfield partnership

Aaron-Ramsey-Granit-Xhaka

The sole goal that Arsenal conceded against Stoke last weekend was as much the fault of the defense as it was the midfield. With Aaron Ramsey the furthest man forward, Granit Xhaka carelessly lost the ball before failing in an attempt to win it back, leaving Arsenal’s backline completely exposed.

The defense should have dealt with the ensuing attack, but they wouldn’t have been in such a scenario in the first place if there was a stable midfield in front of them. The partnership between Xhaka and Ramsey has a lot of promise, but it also contains some inherent flaws. While Ramsey’s forays forward are the best aspect of his game, they often leave Xhaka in situations he isn’t comfortable dealing with, putting even more pressure on the defense.

Arsene Wenger needs to either coach Xhaka and Ramsey to have more balance and understanding in their partnership, or look elsewhere bring stability to his midfield—whether it be internal or external.

 

4. Hire a new defensive coach

Assistant-manager-Steve-Bould-gestures

Individual errors have played a big part in the Gunners’ recent defensive shortcomings, but the system they’re set up in certainly doesn’t help. Arsenal’s backline looks like a group of strangers figuring things out as they go rather than a cohesive unit, and much of that is a result of the coaching and work done on the training ground.

When Steve Bould was appointed as Arsene Wenger’s assistant manager in 2012, fans expected the former Arsenal stalwart to inject some of his own toughness and strength into the defense. The side’s defending has improved in spells here and there, but the “Bould effect” has not been what was initially imagined.

Arsenal could use another coach to bring fresh ideas and improved organization to a backline evidently lacking guidance.

 

5. Sign a center-back

a.espncdn

It may sound like a simple solution, but Arsenal are in a precarious situation with their current center-backs. Per Mertesacker is in his final year while Laurent Koscielny and his dodgy achilles’ are 32 next month, leaving Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, and Calum Chambers as the club’s remaining central defenders.

On paper, Arsenal have plenty of center-backs. The reality, however, is that there will be a massive gap to fill once the club’s senior defenders begin to age. Are Holding (21), Mustafi (25), and Chambers (22) prepared to fill that gap? Perhaps one day, but in the meantime Arsenal could use a player with sufficient experience and defensive nous—say, Virgil Van Dijk—to be the lynchpin of the backline in the not-so-distant future.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MattCelly

 

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED

Arsenal have kept their top four aspirations alive after defeating Europa League hopefuls Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

Two second half goals in quick succession from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck set the victory up for Arsène Wenger’s men, taking the North Londoners above 6th-placed Man United and within three points of 4th-placed Manchester City.

Wenger placed his trust in Welbeck to reignite the club’s top four bid, but it was the opposition’s forward line who had the first taste of a goal scoring opportunity, as Wayne Rooney found Anthony Martial beyond Arsenal’s backline before the Frenchman’s toe poke was denied by Petr Čech in the 4th minute.

Alexis Sanchez replied for the hosts by playing Aaron Ramsey in on goal, who was later denied by a strong David De Gea palm from a shot across goal in the 8th minute.

On the half-hour mark, renewed pressure from Arsenal kept them in control of proceedings, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looking to make their dominance count with a shot from range that was parried away by the United keeper.

Miscommunication at the other end, however, almost gifted the visitors the lead, as Rooney looked to capitalise on a loose pass from Rob Holding but, ultimately, failed to overcome Čech from close range.

Into the second period, Granit Xhaka trusted his ability to strike the ball from distance, cashing in on a wicked deflection off Ander Herrera that beat De Gea on its way in for Arsenal’s first goal in the 53rd minute.

In no time, the Gunners fired back with a second, as Danny Welbeck utilised the space afforded to him by his former teammates to head in Chamberlain’s cross and double the hosts’ lead just three minutes later.

Rooney tried his luck from a free-kick just past the hour-mark, with Čech doing a good job of safeguarding his goal upon United’s response to going two goals down.

The United captain had a couple more measured attempts from distance, each floating past the goal, as the Red Devils grew restless in the face of defeat.

A couple of goals would separate the two sides at the final whistle, with Wenger claiming his first ever league win over José Mourinho to bring Man United’s 25-game unbeaten run to an end.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Granit Xhaka (7), Kieran Gibbs (5); Mesut Özil (6), Danny Welbeck (6), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Subs: Héctor Bellerín (5), Olivier Giroud (4), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-1 BURNLEY

An 11th hour penalty from Alexis Sánchez was enough to guide 10-man Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Burnley at the Emirates Stadium, having seen the visitors equalise midway through stoppage time.

The Gunners, who were reduced to 10 after Granit Xhaka’s red card, looked braced to share the spoils after Shkodran Mustafi’s header and Andre Gray’s 93rd minute penalty, but Sanchez’s spot-kick just seconds away from the final whistle sees the north Londoners take full advantage of the results around them to move up to second place in the Premier League.

Following a tense introduction into the match, it was the hosts who registered the first chance of the game, as Mesut Özil’s low drive required Tom Heaton to push the strike away from goal in the 14th minute.

After a flurry of half chances from the subsequent corner, Burnley responded through Ashley Barnes at the other end, but Petr Čech remained equal to the forward’s effort.

Özil was on hand to try his luck again from the edge of the box, as a half-volley in the 21st minute dragged itself slightly wide of the target.

Sánchez emerged to a greater extent into the game as the game approached half time, finding himself enough space in the 42nd minute after some intricate trickery on George Boyd to fire wide of the target.

The Chilean commenced the second period in much the same vein, cutting in early into proceedings before launching a venomous strike just over the bar.

Arsène Wenger’s men were left claiming a penalty in the 55th minute, as Gray came crashing into Mustafi inside the box before the referee, John Moss, overlooked the calls.

The German centre back took centre stage once more just four minutes later, as he rose highest to flick on Özil’s corner and score his first goal in an Arsenal shirt, subsequently giving the home side a 1-0 lead.

Arsenal were dealt a big blow soon after as Xhaka was called up for a foul committed on Steven Defour, with the Swiss being left perplexed by the official’s decision to send him off in the 64th minute.

Burnley’s Defour warmed up the hands of Čech in the 71st minute with a well-struck free kick, whereas it was Laurent Koscielny who took all the plaudits 10 minutes later with a crucially-timed block on Barnes volley inside the box, with the latter reduced to poking the rebound harmlessly into Čech’s hands.

Arsenal were rocked in the 93rd minute, however, as the Clarets earned themselves a penalty for Francis Coquelin’s trip on Barnes inside the box. Gray stepped up to the plate and claimed what had appeared to have been a late equaliser for Sean Dyche’s side.

The drama ensued at the other end, as Koscielny took a boot to the face and saw the Gunners earn the chance to rob all three points, despite attacking the ball from an offside position.

Sánchez took full advantage of the spot-kick with a cool chip down the middle to give Arsenal a 2-1 victory, which takes them a point above third placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Player Ratings

Petr Čech (7); Gabriel (8), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (9), Nacho Monreal (6); Granit Xhaka (7), Aaron Ramsey (7), Alex Iwobi (7), Mesut Özil (8), Alexis Sánchez (8); Olivier Giroud (6)

Subs: Francis Coquelin (5), Danny Welbeck (5), Hector Bellerin (5)

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 3-2 SWANSEA CITY

Ten-man Arsenal were able to edge past Swansea City in a 3-2 victory at the Emirates Stadium this Saturday, as the Gunners’ sixth consecutive victory in the Premier League sees them rise up to second in the table.

A first-half brace from Theo Walcott and a volley from Mesut Özil sent Arsenal on their way to gaining three more points, but a goal from Borja Bastón in the 66th minute, followed by Granit Xhaka’s dismissal four minutes later, set up a nervy end to proceedings in north London.

Arsène Wenger named an unchanged first-team for Swansea’s visit, following the late show at Turf Moor versus Burnley before the international break, and it didn’t take long for Arsenal to dominate proceedings early on.

The Gunners came close through Shkodran Mustafi’s near-post header against the bar in the 12th minute, but the visitors were also on hand to cause the odd spot of bother thanks to Leroy Fer, as his shot sailed over Petr Čech’s goal from the edge of the box.

Arsenal’s dominance continued and it wasn’t long before they made their large share of possession count, as Walcott put Wenger’s men ahead. A hopeful ball into the box from Alexis Sánchez found its way to Héctor Bellerín, but the Spaniard’s tame knock-down wasn’t dealt with by the Swans’ defence and left for Walcott to poke home the opener from three yards out.

walcottgoal

The Englishman then continued to hand Bob Bradley a rude welcoming to the Premier League in the 27th minute, doubling his account and that of his team. With the visitors struggling to cope with Arsenal’s set-pieces, Walcott was on hand once more to take full advantage and fire home the Gunners’ second inside the area on the half-turn.

The Welsh outfit were handed an avenue back into the game, however, with half-time over the horizon, as Xhaka’s loss of possession on the edge of Arsenal’s box invited Gylfi Sigurðsson to fire in a curling effort on his left foot in the 38th minute.

Swansea might even feel as though they should have gone into the break level, as Jordi Amat’s header on the brink of half-time fell straight into Čech’s grasp.

The visitors’ threat persisted in the early exchanges of the second half, but it was the Gunners who landed the first significant strike at goal through Walcott in the 56th minute.

After a dazzling run from Alex Iwobi, his cross eventually found its way to Walcott dead-centre inside the box, but the winger’s first-time effort lacked the direction required to take it away from Arsenal’s old boy Łukasz Fabiański between the sticks.

The north Londoners were back little more than a minute later for some more action in the final third, only this time they’d come away with the desired result, as Özil amplified the scoring. With space on the edge of the box, a looped pass from Sanchez into the German’s path was thrashed in with a back-post volley.

Bradley made his first change soon after when bringing on Borja Baston for Leon Britton and the substitution proved to be an inspired one, as he finished off a move orchestrated by Modou Barrow in the 64th minute.

xhakared

Arsenal’s route to victory was complicated further with 20 minutes to go, with Barrow again the centre of attention as he was brought down by a cynical tackle from Xhaka. The Emirates was left left stunned, as referee John Moss brandished a red card for the Switzerland international’s actions.

With the game opening up, Walcott came close to finishing off a counter-attacking move when his placed effort kissed the post in the 83rd minute, meanwhile at the other end, a header inside the box from Leroy Fer lacked the power to trouble Čech.

Swansea’s Federico Fernández fell to the same fate under similar circumstances shortly after, whereas Walcott was presented with one more chance for a hat-trick via Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the 27-year-old failed to keep his effort on target from close range in the last attack of a thrilling encounter.

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (6), Hector Bellerín (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (7), Nacho Monreal (5), Granit Xhaka (5), Santi Cazorla (7), Theo Walcott (8), Mesut Özil (7), Alex Iwobi (7), Alexis Sánchez (6).

Subs: Coquelin (6), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Gibbs (6)

MATCH PREVIEW: ARSENAL VS FC BASEL

After waiting five years for their first win over rivals Chelsea, Arsenal will be looking to take their good league form into the UEFA Champions League clash versus F.C. Basel at the Emirates Stadium this Wednesday.

The Gunners shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes earlier this month and will be hoping to earn all three points this time around in order to ensure momentary control of Group A, with the French club standing as out and out favourites for their game against Bulgarian side Ludogorets in the same fixture.

Despite Basel failing to win in each of their last five Champions League games, winning against them will be easier said than done, as the Swiss champions leave an envious trail of defeated English clubs behind them since 2011.

The former club of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League Group Stages back in 2011, whereas it was Liverpool, as well as Chelsea before them, who received the same treatment two years ago.

On top of that, Arsenal will have to be wary of Basel’s impressive domestic form, coming into the encounter with a 100% record in the Raiffeisen Super League so far this season, but the Gunners will also be able to point towards their own unbeaten feat versus Swiss opposition, with their latest triumph coming against F.C. Thun in 2006.

Fresh from his widely-celebrated 20th year anniversary in command of Arsenal, Arsène Wenger will be without the Francis Coquelin after a knee injury cut his participation in the Chelsea win short last Saturday.

Coquelin is added to the likes of Aaron Ramsey, scheduled to return shortly after the international break, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson on the sidelines, which could pave way for Xhaka’s introduction into the Arsenal XI.

Should Arsenal’s summer signing start, he’ll be up against his older brother, Taulant Xhaka, for the first time since Switzerland’s Euro 2016 group game against Albania, whereas there’s also the possibility that Wenger acquiesces to David Ospina’s desires by handing him a second consecutive start in the Champions League.

Predicted Line-up: David Ospina; Héctor Bellerín, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla; Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, Alex Iwobi; Alexis Sánchez

ROUNDING UP ARSENAL’S 2016 SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW

The 2016 summer transfer window has been one of monumental, record-breaking change in the football world.

With English clubs now having an unprecedented amount of money due to the Premier League’s lucrative TV deal, total spending for the window is set to reach £1 billion for the first time ever. Thirteen out of the 20 Premier League clubs have broken their transfer record this summer, including Manchester United’s world-record £89 million signing of Paul Pogba from Juventus.

So where do Arsenal fit into all of this?

It’s been a typically testing summer, with the club yet again waiting until later in the window to take care of business and, as a result, leaving the team looking undercooked for the start of the season. Thankfully Arsenal got the required business done in the end, but at the cost of a potential 5 points.

With the window finally shut, here are Arsenal’s notable ins and outs from this summer. The key word here is notable—keep in mind that I’ve only included significant transfers of first team players.

INS

Granit Xhaka, central midfielder, £30m from Borussia Monchengladbach

With all the fuss about how desperately Arsenal needed a striker and a center-back this summer, the signing of Granit Xhaka went under the radar a bit. The Swiss midfielder seems to enjoy pinging diagonal long balls as much as he does charging into a 50-50, obtaining a fascinating blend of tenacity and craft to his play.

The 24-year-old gave a glimpse of what he’s all about against Watford and it already seems like he’ll be a key player for the Gunners this season.

Takuma Asano, striker, £800,000 from Sanfrecce Hiroshima

I can’t pretend to know much about the little-known Japanese striker besides the fact that his name is quite fun to say, but winning the J League’s “Rookie of the Year” award and a pair of goals scored at the Olympics for Japan is certainly promising.

After failing to obtain a work permit to play in England, the 21-year-old will go on loan to Stuttgart for the season. Wenger has said that Asano is “one for the future,” so keep an eye out for him in Germany.

Rob Holding, center back, £2m from Bolton Wanderers

After a baptism of fire in the form of a 4-3 home defeat to Liverpool on the opening day of the season, Holding has put in some impressive performances alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the Arsenal defense. With an experienced partner next to him, the 20-year-old has settled into Arsenal’s back line with surprising ease, already dealing with the likes of Jamie Vardy, Troy Deeney, and Odion Ighalo.

Considering his age, Holding looks remarkably poised and assured at the back. It’s early days, but £2 million looks like an absolute bargain for the young Englishman. Hats off to Wenger for this one.

Lucas Pérez, striker, £17.1m from Deportivo La CoruñaPerezAFC

While Lucas might not be THE striker Arsenal fans have been craving for years, he’s an exciting signing nonetheless. Not only does he offer the Gunners a much-needed alternative to Olivier Giroud, but his versatility means he can play anywhere across the front line.

Having only just proven himself at hometown club Deportivo La Coruña with a 19-goal season after years of being loaned out, the 27-year-old will be hungry to prove himself on the biggest stage of his career thus far. The Spaniard’s explosive pace and nasty streak have led some to call him “the Galician Jamie Vardy,” but it remains to be seen how he adapts to English football.

Shkodran Mustafi, center back, £35m from Valencia CF

Not only did Arsene Wenger spend more than £30 million on one player this summer, but he did it twice!

£35 million might be a lot for a defender, but it seems like money well spent when you consider the fact that Chelsea spent £32 million to bring back David Luiz after refusing to pay an absurd £60 million for Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.

At the prime age of 24, Mustafi can be the natural heir to Per Mertesacker as Koscielny’s defensive partner. First, however, he’ll have to get Rob Holding out of the team.

OUTS

Wojciech Szczesny, AS Roma, season-long loan

Arsenal’s Polish keeper will spend a second consecutive season on loan at Roma after making 34 Serie A appearances for the club in 2015-16.

At 26 years of age, Szczesny still appears to lack the professionalism and attitude to succeed at Arsenal as he was yet again caught smoking last season following Roma’s 6-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona. His recent moment of madness in a Champions League qualifier against Porto reminds us that he still hasn’t ironed the propensity to commit costly errors out of his game.

Joel Campbell, Sporting Lisbon, season-long loan

Campbell

The loaning out of Joel Campbell was a move that left a number of fans scratching their heads. During the limited play time that he was given last season, the Costa Rican always worked hard both to create something going forward and to win the ball back in defense, making him an extremely useful squad player.

It turns out that Campbell’s loan move abroad—the 5th in his Arsenal career—came from his desire to play first team football rather than Wenger’s lack of faith in the player. Respect to Campbell for wanting to play more, and let’s hope he does well with Sporting Lisbon.

Calum Chambers, Middlesbrough, season-long loan

It became clear that Chambers had fallen down the pecking order at the Emirates when Wenger picked new signing Rob Holding to start alongside Laurent Koscielny in Arsenal’s last two Premier League matches.

Still just 21, the former Southampton man is extremely young for a center back and still has a long way to go in his career. A loan spell at another Premier League club and the consistent playing time that comes with it should give Arsenal a better sense of where Chambers currently is in his development.

Serge Gnabry, Werder Bremen, undisclosed fee

A transfer that came out of left field, as Gnabry was expected to stay at Arsenal this season and fight for his place after tearing up the Olympics in Rio with six goals for Germany.

Instead, the 21-year-old will ply his trade at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. It’s a shame to see an exciting youngster depart on a permanent basis, but we wish Gnabry the best as he returns to his homeland.

Jack Wilshere, AFC Bournemouth, season-long loan

Rarely has there been a transfer that made Arsenal fans feel as many emotions as they felt regarding Jack Wilshere’s loan move to AFC Bournemouth. There’s something surreal and slightly sad about seeing the Arsenal midfielder hold up a Bournemouth jersey on deadline day. No disrespect to Bournemouth—an incredible club with a brilliant story—but remember that Wilshere won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2011 (!) and was supposed to be much further down the line in his career by now.

Alas, injuries have taken their toll on the 24-year-old and he now finds himself in need of some serious playing time to get back on his feet and playing to his full potential. It’s a testament to Arsenal’s options in the middle of the park, too, that the club felt the need to loan Wilshere out in order for him to play regularly. After all, he’d have to compete with Mesut Özil, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, and Mohamed Elneny to get into Arsenal’s midfield—that’s quite a tall order.

While it would’ve been great to watch Wilshere break into the Arsenal starting XI, at the end of the day it’s in Wilshere’s best interest to spend a season somewhere he can consistently play Premier League football and get his career back on track.

Best of luck, Jack.

Overall Grade: B+

While Arsenal didn’t get the coveted marquee striker that fans wanted, they did sign a central midfielder and a center back—two key areas that needed strengthening. Granit Xhaka could very well anchor the Gunners’ midfield for years to come, while Shkodran Mustafi is as good of a center back as we could have wished for. The purchase of Rob Holding looks quite clever, too, and Lucas Perez might raise a few eyebrows this season.

Although some of the last-minute loan departures leave the squad a bit lacking in terms of attacking options, most gooners will be satisfied with this transfer window and excited for the season that lies ahead.

Follow me on Twitter: @Gunner_NYC

JACK WILSHERE PRAISES “NATURAL LEADER” GRANIT XHAKA

 

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has praised new signing Granit Xhaka following the Swiss midfielder’s arrival at Arsenal.

Xhaka, 23, completed his move to North London in May for a fee in the region of £34m, after captaining German side Borussia Möchengladbach to the top-four finish in the Bundesliga last season.

Speaking with Geoff Shreeves on Sky Sports News at the Premier League Launch Day at Market Road, Islington, Wilshere said, “He’s a good player. Sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s only 23. He’s been around for years.”

Wilshere recalled the time he faced Xhaka while on international duty with England, “I played against him on his debut for Switzerland at Wembley and you could tell then he had something about him.”

Xhaka has been highly impressive for Arsenal in pre-season. After a brilliant 45 minute cameo on his first appearance for the club against the MLS All-Stars, the young midfielder hasn’t looked back since and now looks set to start in Arsenal’s Premier League opener versus Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Sunday.

Wilshere added, “He’s really calm on the ball and he breaks up play. You get the feeling he’s a natural leader. He gives that aura off that he’s calm and I think he’ll be a great addition to our squad.”

Xhaka article