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Arsene Wenger’s happy accident may serve Arsenal well


Last season, during a dip in form, Arsene Wenger dropped the conventional back four in favour of a three and it made quite an impact at the tail end of the season. Not a radical or revolutionary idea in any sense, but it worked well and the side went on a decent run, clocking up a series of wins.

I termed that decision to alter the defensive formation from 4 to 3 a ‘happy accident’, because it was born out of desperation but it actually worked wonders for the team.

It hasn’t fared so well this year for one reason or another. Mainly because players have been out of salts and suffered injuries at key stages of the season and that continuous upheaval has caused inconsistencies, which morphed into a crisis of confidence.

It’s been an incredibly difficult spell for the club, one that has seen 41 goals hit the back of the Arsenal net and if that were to continue, it would be a rather unwelcome record for the under-pressure Gunners boss. Arsenal are in need of an urgent solution to their defensive deficiencies, having already tried all the various permutations and available personnel.

Against Watford, who were very much in the game for three-quarters of its duration, Wenger’s side gave as good as they got and were competitive enough to wear down their feisty opponents and close out the game with a decidedly flattering scoreline.

In truth, Watford made four glaring mistakes, three defensive lapses and a missed penalty, which saw the Gunners win comfortably. Xhaka and Elneny, in particular, looked the part in front of a back four and the Egyptian was extremely creative, linking up beautifully with Mesut Ozil.

Xhaka for his part was solid, more switched on and less wasteful with his passes. He kept it simple and in football, simple is best if you want to win and keep your opponents at bay. With AC Milan due at the Emirates on Thursday, could it be that Wenger has found a pairing that can settle into the side and make them less fragile?

It’s hard to judge by this one performance and against opponents like Watford, who are, let’s face it, no AC Milan but surely he must be tempted to keep the changes to a minimum because the side had a genuine flow about it. Maitland-Niles also looked assured with an exceptional performance on Sunday. He looked comfortable on the ball and was able to attack and defend as the situation developed with equal success.

There’s no doubt that he is one of the stars of the future but Wenger might consider overlooking Bellerin if fit because even though he played out of position, his contribution was composed and his distribution good. Bellerin, on the other hand, is great in attack but he drifts away and his positional awareness is poor at times, leaving him to rely on his speed to get him out of trouble.

Maitland-Niles seems more aware of the dangers, perhaps from his observations from a midfielders perspective but he has pace as well, so Wenger has a solid option in the right back position. Where this leaves Wilshere and Ramsey is arguable but one would assume that they will only appear as substitutes on Thursday and rightly so.

The team will obviously be missing Aubameyang, which is the main concern. The striker has settled in remarkably quickly and is starting to look like the attacking force that the Gunners have lacked for so long. What a pity he is cup-tied and Lacazette is still injured, this alone could cause major problems for the North London club because the only recognisable replacement is Danny Welbeck.

I like the enthusiasm Welbeck brings and he is a menace on the flanks, but he will not present AC Milan with the same threat. In fact, Welbeck requires ten chances per game to convert one opportunity which at this level is a liability.

His second half scuff against AC Milan summed up his ability for thousands of Gooners, who no doubt laughed out of embarrassment as he charged towards the area and cut in on his right to take a shot. Instead, he stubbed the ball firmly into the ground and watched as it rolled tamely into the Milan penalty area.

He looked up bemused and bewildered, then seemed to accuse the turf of foul play or perhaps the groundsman for not cutting the grass to the right length.
Whichever it was, Welbeck illustrated that he is more winger that striker. Wenger’s temptation is to make at least one extra change to accommodate the former United striker and if that’s the case, perhaps Ramsey will get the nod.

Lacazette can not return quickly enough and I’d go as far to say that success in the Europa league will depend on it.  Arsenal can get goals from elsewhere but chances may be few and Milan will certainly throw caution to the wind. We could all be in for another torrid evening at a three-quarters full Emirates.

Arsenal ready move to sign £34m AC Milan forward this summer


Arsenal are reportedly one of the clubs interested in sealing a summer agreement for AC Milan’s Portuguese striker Andre Silva.

The 22-year-old has failed to adjust to the Serie A since his move last year, and he has managed just one goal for the Rossoneri to date.

According to The Mirror, the Gunners are likely to be in a transfer tussle with Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are keen to strengthen their forward ranks upon potential promotion to the English top-flight next term.

Silva managed to end his long-wait for a Serie A goal during last weekend’s league triumph at Genoa, and this earned him a start against the Gunners in the Europa League round of 16, second-leg where he failed to impress.

The Portuguese is undoubtedly regarded as the first-choice in the national setup, but he was seemingly average with his movement during the Gunners game, where he was caught offside more than not in a key tie for the Rossoneri.

Around 10 months ago, Silva would no doubt have been the main target for the Gunners, but the arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are surely to have ended the club’s quest for another marksman.

Arsene Wenger is also said to have confidence in the abilities of deputy striker Danny Welbeck, and it is highly unlikely that the club will pursue a fourth striker in their ranks, considering the club are in need of strengthening in other positions.

A new central defender, goalkeeper and holding midfielder are deemed to be the club’s priorities during the summer, and it will be interesting to see the choice of players, given head of recruitment Sven Mislintat is likely to play a significant role over the summer arrivals.

Arsenal beat AC Milan to book quarter-final spot, but still need a lot of improvements

Welbeck and Lacazette

In the end, AC Milan proved to be easier opposition than anyone expected, with Arsenal’s passage to the next round virtually sealed in the first leg at the San Siro.

Milan arrived at the Emirates with it all to do and apart from a few close shaves, some inadequate finishing, a goalkeeping error and a penalty that was an embarrassing gift, Arsenal finished the job with a flattering flourish.

Arsenal lost Koscielny early in proceedings, making way for Callum Chambers but this proved to be an inconvenience rather than a catalyst for the usual collapse. Koscielny hasn’t been the defending colossus of three or four years ago and in all honesty, any of the replacements Wenger decided to use were equal to his current level.

Hakan Calhanoglu’s long-rocket left Ospina clutching at thin air as the Italians opened the scoring, sending a wave of jitters around the Emirates but Arsenal managed to soak up most of the pressure with ease and look for their own opportunities.

Wenger knew that if Arsenal got back on level terms, the tie would effectively be over, such was the scale of the task from the first leg in the Italians own backyard. They were back on terms surprising quickly, when Danny Welbeck pushed through into the box from a Mkhitaryan pass.

There was no threat as such as the ball seemed to be heading into a harmless position where at best, Welbeck could only feed it back into the box for a header or push it out for support from an advancing teammate. Instead, Milan’s Ricardo Rodriguez tried to get into a blocking position only to see the normally goal shy Welbeck stagger his stride and fall over.

If there was contact of any kind, it would have been the air between the players and perhaps the turbulence created by one player passing another was enough to send the Arsenal man heading towards the turf. Welbeck looked innocently at the official to the left of the Milan goal line and the ref capitulated in favour of his colleague’s opinion.

The former United striker had managed to sell off a cabbage as a gold brick and having mesmerised the refereeing fraternity, he slotted home the gift and put Arsenal back on course. Luck is an inevitable part of football and whatever decisions had gone against Arsenal this season, they were repaid in full this Thursday with a cherry on top.

Welbeck was on a roll and before the evening was finished, he added a second, after Xhaka had increased the lead by forcing Donnarumma into a classic goalkeeping gaffe. It was a best a speculative effort but Xhaka always hits the ball with conviction and power and the ball had enough on it for the young goalkeeper to slam it into the turf and watch as it spun behind him into the net.

An eye-catching performance by Jack Wilshere was complete when he went to the line, staggered his cross and delivered a beautiful airborne ball into the box for Ramsey. Somehow that effort stayed out only to pop up for the appreciative Welbeck to head in.

Two goals in a game is virtually a six-month haul for the former United man but it will not count for much when Lacazette is fit in a few weeks time. He tends to be better in an England shirt than an Arsenal strip and his call-up for the National side reminds you just how important and irreplaceable Harry Kane is.

So there was much to enjoy but there were still signs that more work needs to be done if Arsenal are to finish with a trophy. The defense, although more robust than usual, still gave away too much space in and outside the box and but for some schoolboy finishing, Milan could have changed the course of the game quite easily.

Xhaka continues to be a yard or two off any advancing player and had he been closer to Calhanoglu, the opening goal for Milan would have simply not happened.

The Gunners need to close down hard on those opportunities against more clinical and efficient sides if they are to advance further and pick up the only trophy they have a realistic chance of winning. In attack, Lacazette will always be the main option and hopefully, the stubborn Wenger will throw caution to the wind and put the Frenchman straight into the attack in place of the hit and miss Welbeck.

Hats off to Englishman, who bagged his first goals in three and a half years of European competition and duped the officials with some footwork that would have registered a very low score on Strictly come dancing. Wenger has a deserved win and the pressure is off for now, but he knows that even after three handsome wins in eight days, there is still a lot to do.

Manchester United make contact with £50m-rated Arsenal star’s representative

Hector Bellerin in Training

Manchester United have reportedly emerged as surprise candidates to lure Hector Bellerin from the Emirates at the end of the current campaign.

The Spain international has had another average season by his standards at Arsenal, and it is rumoured that the club could sanction his exit during the summer.

According to The Manchester Evening News, the Red Devils have made initial contact with the player’s representative, and they have requested to be up-to-date with the player’s developments during the summer.

Juventus have been long-linked with the Spaniard, but M.E.N suggests that Jose Mourinho’s side could make a surprise approach with the right-back position in need of sufficient strengthening heading into the 2018/19 season and beyond.

Antonio Valencia is approaching the twilight of his professional career with the Red Devils, and the Mancunian giants are seemingly looking for a replacement from outside despite possessing the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe in the club’s ranks.

Despite the speculation, it would come as a huge surprise, if the Gunners are to even consider a move from their arch-rivals.

A £50m fee has been noted as the benchmark for Bellerin’s proposed sale during the summer, but even then, the club’s hierarchy are likely to restrict any offers from United.

The Gunners board had little choice to part ways with Alexis Sanchez, who would have mostly left on a free during the summer.

However, Bellerin has more than five years left on his existing deal, which places the club in a strong position to snub offers not in their preference.

Arsenal ready to complete sensational move for £53m Real Madrid star this summer


Arsenal are reportedly plotting a sensational move to sign former Tottenham Hotpsur midfielder Luka Modric from Real Madrid at the end of the current campaign.

The Croatia international is apparently vying for a ‘less demanding challenge’ away from the Bernabeu, and he is seemingly said to favour a return to London, although it means to play for one of Spurs’ arch-rivals.

According to Don Balon, the 32-year-old has been identified as a suitable option to bolster the heart of the Gunners’ midfield, which has lacked the consistency over the course of an entire season.

The north London side have seen the likes of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have had plenty of off-days against the top sides in the Premier League, and Modric has been earmarked as a potential player, who may take up the Santi Cazorla role.

Cazorla has been the key orchestrator in the Gunners’ midfield prior to his series of Achilles injuries, and it appears that the Spaniard could be released from the Emirates during the summer, unless he manages to prove his fitness.

As a result, the Gunners are looking into bringing in another experience head in the centre of the park, and Don Balon suggests that the club could be willing to pay as much as £53m to bring the Croatian stalwart to the Emirates Stadium.

Modric has also been linked with an emotional return to Spurs in the past, but it is unclear whether they can match the financial package of their close rivals.

Liverpool have also been credited with an interest with Philippe Coutinho off their books whilst Emre Can could follow the exit door on a free transfer this summer.

“I think they have been busy”, Aaron Ramsey reveals update on Arsenal contract talks


Wales international Aaron Ramsey has revealed that Arsenal are yet to kickstart talks with his representative regarding a new long-term deal.

The 27-year-old is presently contracted to the Gunners until the summer of 2019.

Ramsey has struggled with numerous niggles since his double-leg break against Stoke back in 2010, and he has still remained hugely influential as a box-to-box midfielder, who has managed to score crucial winners in the FA Cup finals in 2014 and 2017.

Most recently, the Welshman put in a strong performance during the double-legged Europa League round of 16 tie versus AC Milan where he contributed a vital goal at San Siro, in addition to his assist for Granit Xhaka’s goal in the second-leg of a 5-1 aggregate triumph.

Arsenal have been in discussions over the futures of several players including Jack Wilshere of late, and when asked on his contract situation, Ramsey appeared to suggest that the hierarchy are more concerned about the former, who is approaching the final months of his deal.

“Nothing to comment on at the moment. I think they’ve been busy to tie up other contracts at the moment,” he told BT Sport.

Ramsey has received mixed reaction from the Gunners’ faithful over the years, but overall his performances have been in a positive note when he manages to maintain his fitness over an extended period of time.

Obviously, committing Wilshere to a new contract is vital with the Englishman just a couple of months away from potentially leaving on a free transfer, but the Gunners should avoid Ramsey entering the final year of his contract as well as it would bring the uncertainty, which brought an unpleasant atmosphere during the current campaign.

Both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez had found themselves with six months left on their respective contracts in January 2018, and though the former committed his future, the latter had to be swapped for Henrikh Mkhitaryan which has turned out to be a great deal for the Gunners.

Good news for Arsenal as Wenger confirms massive injury boost for Milan game


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he has an almost full squad to choose from ahead of tonight’s Europa League round of 16 second-leg versus AC Milan.

The Gunners had injury concerns to key defenders heading into the encounter, but every one of them appear to have passed the fitness test.

Speaking ahead of the Milan game, Wenger revealed that the club are back to near full strength, thus meaning that the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are in contention for the Rossoneri game.

Wenger, however, confirmed that Alexandre Lacazette won’t be able to make the encounter, having only recently gone through his first full session after his knee surgery, he said:

“Basically, some players had a test this morning. Everybody’s available apart from Lacazette who is coming back into training, but is too short to be available for tomorrow.”

Apart from the above-mentioned trio, the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey are also expected to feature on Thursday night after being completely rested for the weekend Premier League win over Watford.

With a two-week international break due to follow, Wenger has the opportunity to play the strongest possible line-up against Milan without the worries over the league schedule, and the team should progress to the quarter-final stage of the Europa League, barring a disaster.

The Gunners nearly succumbed to a shock Europa League exit at the hands of Ostersund during the previous round, but this should not happen with a full-strength side at the manager’s disposal, alongside a 2-0 advantage from the first-leg at San Siro.

Jack Wilshere ready to quit Arsenal as contract talks break down

Jack Wilshere

Negotiations between Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, his advisors and Arsenal football club are at a standstill, as per reports in the Metro. The clause that Arsenal implemented was one based on the Stars ability to stay fit, play or be available for a percentage of games.

It’s proved unpalatable to the player and those involved in the complex negotiations and it looks increasingly likely that things can no longer be resolved.

As a result of the impasse, Wilshere has been advised to call time on his Arsenal career, which would be a blow for the player but more importantly to the fans of the club.

Wilshere is a devoted Gooner in all senses but this latest offer has made him think twice about remaining at the Emirates when his departure could assist his club ambitions and England career.

It would seem that Arsenal’s belligerent attitude has narrowed the options available and agreeing to the terms would be perceived as a capitulation by one of the country’s top talents.

He wants to stay but at what price? He may, despite some solid performances, still not be one of the first names on the team sheet because more additions are expected to arrive in the summer.

It’s an odd situation from a supporters viewpoint because so many others have been permitted to sit in the stands or take residence on the treatment tables for much of their Arsenal careers.

Van Persie and Diaby are prime examples of money for old rope and limited appearances for the club, yet they were tolerated and cosseted to an unhealthy degree whilst inactive.

The contract offer is on the verge of being disrespectful and any player of Wilshere’s talent and untapped potential would probably have announced their intention to quit immediately.

Wilshere however, is emotionally attached to the club that he has supported as a boy and grown up in, to become a household name. How sad that in a world where clubs expect loyalty, that the loyalty of others goes unrewarded.

Arsenal will make big announcement this week, claims Charlie Nicholas

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger is about to make an announcement this coming Friday, according to Sky Pundit and former Arsenal striker, Charlie Nicholas.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Nicholas said:

“I have a feeling that there might be an announcement by the manager either on Friday or over the weekend to confirm that he is going to step down in the summer, perhaps going upstairs, easing the tension and allowing the team to have a go for the Europa League without the same strain.

“He knows the fans don’t hate him, they’re just angry with him, but it was the first time I’ve heard him use the word ‘hate’ and I just think he’s realising he needs to do something to ease the anger.

“I think when he looks up and sees 25,000 fans in the stadium he created that he’ll come to a decision that something has to change.”

Perhaps Nicholas has the inside track and information regarding the Arsenal boss that the rest of us mere mortals are not privy to. Maybe it’s a hunch or wishful thinking but before the ‘Wenger out’ brigade start popping champagne corks, let’s consider the Wenger we all know.

He has never contemplated leaving before a contract has expired and having been a large part in Arsenal’s disintegration last term, by not declaring his own intentions, you would think that such an unprecedented action wouldn’t be an option.

Wenger declaring that he will be leaving at the end of the campaign would be nothing short of suicide for the troubled club and would have a significant impact on the remaining games.

Arsenal play Milan on Thursday, their only opportunity to win a trophy and qualify for the Champions League. They have two away goals and barring disasters are good value to go forward.

They seem to be recovering from a devastating run of poor form and could now end the season on a decent run of results. So should we expect to believe the stubborn Frenchman will call it a day in the middle of this? No, not really, if anything, he would quit at the end of the season, especially whilst the North London club are still in with a shout of winning the Europa League.

Wenger is obviously concerned by his dwindling support base within the club hierarchy and from the rows of empty seats at an almost ghostly Emirates. He perhaps realises that his time has come, that results will erode his reputation and standing to such a degree that the next post may be hard to find.

The board have finally come to their senses and it appears that their faith in the Frenchman is at an all-time low but they will not push him to resign at this stage of the season. Much more likely, is that they will amicably find a resolution after the final whistle of the final game but even then, all parties will sit around a table to discuss how and when.

Arsenal are a club of tradition and they will want to handle this situation in a sensitive fashion to save face. Wenger still has his supporters, those who have seen him fill stadiums old and new and fill the squad with superstars and emerging talents on a scale never seen before.

They are still loyal to him, even if it is at an emotional level but even they realise that the longer he stays, the more complicated the situation becomes. The harder it is to sever the ties, the greater the chance of stagnation and how difficult it will be to re-establish the side on a domestic level and on the World stage.

‘Still playing piano, Top performance’: Arsenal fans troll Sanchez’s performance


Arsenal supporters had particular delight at the showing of Alexis Sanchez during last night’s Champions League outing between Manchester United and Sevilla in the round of 16, second-leg at Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho’s side were heavily fancied to come up triumphs in the encounter, but they were surprised by their Spanish counterparts, who counted upon the advances of Wissan Ben Yedder to secure them a 2-1 aggregate win.

Following the game, the Gunners’ faithful were undoubtedly pleased with the inability of their ex-player to show up on the night, and the Chilean has now notched just one goal and two assists in the last 10 games in all competitions.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has in the same period, contributed two goals and six assists in eight games, and the supporters were also keen to highlight the difference between their overall impact since their winter swap.




Obviously, Sanchez is a world-class player possessing the ability to create chances out of nowhere, but he has just not adapted to the style of play under the guidance of Mourinho.

The Chile international has given the ball away too often, which was a similar sight with the Gunners, but it appears that he is suffering from a confidence issue, which saw a number of wayward crosses versus Sevilla.

Back to Arsenal, we have a key Europa League round of 16, second-leg tie versus AC Milan on Thursday night, and the team needs to maintain their focus and guard against any complacency.

Arsene Wenger is due to name a strong squad which may include the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, and Aaron Ramsey, and the recent winning momentum should drive the club to another triumph over the Rossoneri, who struggled to cope with the possession game in the first-leg at San Siro.