Arsenal overcome Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League

It’s been a mixed few days for Arsenal. Thursday saw the Gunners lose out to Rennes, but they recovered from that setback to beat Manchester United 2-0 today.

Thursday night started well for Arsenal, as Alex Iwobi put them ahead after just four minutes. However, Sokratis’ first half dismissal marked the beginning of the Gunners’ capitulation, as goals from Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr as well as an own goal from Nacho Monreal gave Rennes a two goal lead to take into the second leg.

Meanwhile, Manchester United had one of their greatest nights in years on Wednesday. They overturned a two goal deficit at the Parc de Princes to overcome PSG in the Champions League thanks to Rashford’s late penalty.

However, there was a role reversal for the teams this afternoon. Arsenal’s character is often questioned but they showed plenty of that today to overcome Thursday’s mishap, against a side who have been prolific opponents since Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s arrival.

There was a similarity between this game and the one in France though, as the Gunners established an early lead. Granit Xhaka struck a speculative effort from outside the box 12 minutes into the match. Many would have expected David de Gea to be equal to it -considering the strike wasn’t carrying an extraordinary amount of pace- but the swerve the Swiss international put on the ball fooled the keeper. The ball hit the back of the net, putting the Gunners 1-0 up.

The Red Devils did have chances to bring the scores level. However, the likes of Romelu Lukaku, who had been so prolific in Paris, were unable to put their chances away. In the 69th minute they were made to pay for their lack of clinical edge when Fred was adjudged to have fouled Alexandre Lacazette in the box. The Frenchman gave the ball to his strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had missed from the spot in the dying moments of the recent North London Derby draw. He made no mistake this time though, as he coolly passed the ball into the net, sending de Gea the wrong way.

Despite the game being fairly even there was never the feeling that United would get back into the game following that moment. There were no more goals in the game, as the Gunners won 2-0, inflicting Solskjær’s first league defeat as Manchester United manager.

This result sees Arsenal go fourth in the league with just seven games of the season remaining. They aren’t able to look too far forward yet though, as Thursday sees them partake in another incredibly important match. They will play the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie against Rennes, needing to come from behind as they did in the last round against BATE Borisov.

Following on from that, their next Premier League match will be at home against Newcastle United on April 1st, after the international break.


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Granit Xhaka mistake not reflective of midfielder’s season so far

Arguably, it was the worst result of Unai Emery’s short reign as Arsenal manager to date. The Gunners have made progress under their new coach, but until this weekend their results had followed the form book. They’d lost to Manchester City and Chelsea, drawing with Liverpool, whilst beating the likes of Everton, Leicester City and Fulham. This changed on Sunday, though.

The 1-1 draw against Wolves was a poor result. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have exceeded expectations this season following their promotion from the Championship, but nonetheless, as a team with top four aspirations Arsenal must have expected to have brushed them aside, particularly at the Emirates Stadium.


As things turned out, the Gunners were lucky to even get one point, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring late on to salvage things. Emery’s side were left chasing the game by a mistake from Granit Xhaka, whose decision to dummy a ball allowed Ivan Cavaleiro to score the opener for the away side.

This certainly wasn’t the first time that the Swiss midfielder has been a target for the Arsenal support. Generally speaking, Xhaka has failed to live up to his billing since making the move to North London from Borussia Monchengladbach two and a half years ago, but he delivers something of a free pass this time.

“He has a big commitment with us and also character,” Emery explained after the match, defending Xhaka for his error. “His performance with his quality is good for us. We need everybody. For me and for the team, we need more consistency. I think the most important thing is to build with confidence and creating little by little with very big work. I think we are doing it and Xhaka is doing this also.”

Emery is right to stand up for his player given his performances so far this season. Xhaka finally looks comfortable in his surroundings, clear in his role in the Arsenal team. Alongside Lucas Torreira, the Swiss international has given the Gunners a solid midfield partnership. He is crucial in the way Arsenal have come to play under Emery, driving the ball forward into the final third where the likes of Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang take over.

Xhaka is just one of the players at the Emirates Stadium who looks to have been rejuvenated by Emery this season and one mistake, albeit a costly one, shouldn’t mask the progress that he has made. Arsenal finally have a structure and a system, and Xhaka is thriving in that environment.

Lessons must be learned from Arsenal’s home draw against Wolves, but they must recognise how far they have come in the space of just a few months. Xhaka mustn’t be too hard on himself because he has shown more than enough this season to vindicate his place in the side. Cut out the mistakes and he’ll be fine.

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Lucas Torreira must replace Granit Xhaka in Arsenal team

Arsenal’s summer transfer strategy was a peculiar one to work out. The Gunners clearly needed an overhaul of their squad, with the departure of Arsene Wenger at the end of last season opening up the opportunity for them to go through with this. And yet few of their signings caught the eye.

The addition of Lucas Torreira was the one exception, though. The Uruguayan became something of a star at the World Cup, showing fans why Arsenal were so keen to sign him for £26.5 million from Sampdoria. He is the type of central midfielder that the Gunners have needed for a long, long time. Torreira has the potential to be Arsenal’s very own N’Golo Kante.


But so far Unai Emery has kept Torreira on the bench. The 22-year-old has yet to make a single start in the Premier League this season, coming on as a substitute in all four of Arsenal’s opening four games of the new campaign. Instead, Emery has favoured a midfield partnership of Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka, with Aaron Ramsey slightly further up the pitch as more of an attacking midfielder.

Guendouzi is a different sort of midfield operator to Torreira, with the French youngster more of a pass master, a tempo setter. Guendouzi isn’t costing Torreira his place in the Arsenal team, but Xhaka is. As things stand, the Swiss midfielder is ahead of the Gunners’ big summer signing in the pecking order.

Xhaka divides opinion, even among his own fans. The 25-year-old has failed to live up to his billing in his two years since joining Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016, but every so often there is a glimpse of what he can do. Of why he was once considered one of the best young midfielders in the Bundesliga.

Emery, it would seem, is a fan of Xhaka. But by picking the Swiss over Torreira, he is robbing Arsenal of the energy the Uruguayan would bring in the centre of the pitch. Torreira is similar to Kante in the way he covers so much ground, from left to right, top to bottom – he is irrepressible.

He is a nightmare to play against and Arsenal desperately need more of those sort of figures in their team. Stephan Lichtsteiner is another one of those figures and yet he too has so far failed to win a place in Emery’s starting lineup since signing as a free agent from Juventus in the summer.

Arsenal have been criticised for their soft centre for years. That is a problem that long predates Emery. But in picking Xhaka over Torreira, the new man in the job at the Emirates is only accentuating this issue. Torreira won’t fix all Arsenal’s problems, but he would at least help address one of them.

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Hector Bellerin needs Unai Emery’s backing to smooth out rough edges

Bellerin-Emery (1)

Hector Bellerin has received as much flak as any Arsenal player since the start of the Premier League season and, to an extent, deservedly so.

In the opening losses against Manchester City and Chelsea, he often looked a headless chicken. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso had a Team of the Week performance against him, scoring the Blues’ winner in the 3-2 thriller from his side of the pitch. Interestingly, the Citizens’ goals in the 2-0 loss in London also came from his flank. Continue reading

Rating the ten most expensive summer signings so far

arsene wenger

The summer transfer market is just passed halfway, as it started on July 1 and ends on August 31. Some teams have made big moves, while others have lost star players and even others have done little to nothing.

Therefore, let’s rate the ten most expensive summer signings so far!

1. Gonzalo Higuain: from Napoli to Juventus – €90 million

Is it an overpay? Yes. But is it a massive deal for Juventus? Definitely yes. Higuain scored a record 36 goals in Serie A last season and joins the club that has won the last five Italian championships. The Old Lady weaken Napoli, their biggest rival from last season and finally feature a world class striker again.

Rating: A-

2. Leroy Sane: from Schalke 04 to Man City – €50m

The Citizens brought in Nolito to an already established wing attack, featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas, David Silva and Raheem Sterling. The transfer of Sane makes sense in regard to the future, but spending a massive amount on a 20-year-old that is primed to ride the bench most of the season? For now, not convincing.

Rating: C+

3. Granit Xhaka: from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Arsenal – €45m

Arsenal have made just one big signing this summer but it was a good one. Xhaka will give the Gunners’ midfield much more quality, stability and versatility. The Swiss international won’t rock the stats sheet but he’ll do his job, work hard, and fire his team-mates up. His fee was pretty heavy but all in all, great business by Arsenal.

Rating: B+

4. Henrikh Mkhitaryan: from Borussia Dortmund to Man United – €42m

Another Bundesliga player making the switch to the Premier League. This might be the deal of the summer transfer market so far, as Mkhitaryan is considered one of the best playmakers in the game today and United were in dire need of one. Simple.

Rating: A

5. Sadio Mane: from Southampton to Liverpool – €41.2m

Liverpool have been lagging behind a bit when it comes to making big moves this summer. However, they did sign Mane from the Saints for a hefty transfer fee. Too hefty. The winger registered two fine seasons at Southampton but that doesn’t justify the Reds overpaying massively for him. Mane might work out at Anfield, but his price tag will always be too big.

Rating: C

6. Michy Batshuayi: from Marseille to Chelsea – €39m

Chelsea needed young blood upfront and struck a big deal with Marseille for Batshuayi, who impressed many during his two seasons in Ligue 1. There’s a feeling that the Belgium international could be gold at Stamford Bridge due to his warrior mentality, but €39m for a player that has started just one full season at Marseille? Big price for potential.

Rating: B-

7. Mats Hummels: from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern – €38m

When Bayern do business on the transfer market, they do it right on almost every ocassion. Getting Hummels, one of the best defenders in the world, back from Borussia Dortmund will help them retain their mega status in European football. The fee was pretty large but Hummels is one of the few defenders that are able to justify it.

Rating: A

8. Eric Bailly: from Villarreal to Man United – €38m

Talking about a defender that can’t justify spending €38m is… Bailly goes down as Jose Mourinho’s first signing in charge of Manchester United but one that really didn’t make any sense. Sure, the Red Devils needed defensive help but this massive amount for a 22-year-old from Villarreal? Yikes!

Rating: D

9. N’Golo Kante: from Leicester to Chelsea – €35.8m

Chelsea endured their worst season in years and needed reinforcements, especially on the defensive end. The Blues were able to land surprise star Kante from champions Leicester City for a reasonable price, beating the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus in the process. Kante gives Antonio Conte all the skills he needs from a defensive midfielder.

Rating: B+

10. Andre Gomes: from Valencia to Barcelona – €35m

Barcelona were in need of some fresh blood and got more than one talented young gun this summer. They paid the biggest fee for Gomes, a player that disappointed at Euro 2016 and was just decent at Valencia. The 22-year-old could develop into a valuable player with the Blaugrana but that’s more hope than reality at the moment.

Rating: C

Granit Xhaka ideally suited to Arsenal

arsene wenger

The one major piece of business that Arsenal have completed in the transfer market this summer has been the £34m signing of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Wenger impressed by Xhaka

The 23-year-old holding midfielder made his debut for the Gunners as he came off the bench to play the second half of their recent 2-1 pre-season friendly win over the MLS All-Stars.

There was much to admire in terms of the manner in which Xhaka immediately stamped his authority on the game, as he seamlessly settled into Arsenal’s midfield by producing a robust performance, which met with the approval of Arsene Wenger.

“He (Xhaka) adjusted very well, his passing was clean and technically he did very well. Overall, I believe for a first game it is very encouraging,” Wenger revealed in his post match press conference to MLS, after he witnessed Xhaka demonstrate his all action approach which will undoubtedly be a major asset to Arsenal’s midfield, into which the player himself believes he can seamlessly integrate.

“I’ve been welcomed really well. I have the trust of my team mates. The club fits to me and I fit to it. Arsenal play attractive football and I enjoy that,” revealed Xhaka in an interview with Goal.

Many attributes to Xhaka’s game

As well as being composed and intelligent in possession, Xhaka reads the game extremely well, which enables him to make key interceptions and tackles, as does his aggressive and combative style. Whilst that is a major strength of Xhaka’s game, it can at times prove to be a weakness, with the Swiss internationalist having a tendency to be both overzealous and ill-disciplined.

Specifically in the last 73 Bundesliga games that Xhaka played for Monchengladbach, he collected 32 yellow and four red, cards, as the Swiss internationalist frequently allowed himself to be wound up by opponents.

Therefore controlling a fiery temper without taking the edge of his play is a challenge that Xhaka will be required to overcome in order to efficiently adjust to the demands of the English Premier League, which he is unquestionably capable of doing.

Blessed with a wonderful range of passing, natural leadership skills and an inbuilt desire to always demand the ball, Xhaka appears to be the ideal candidate to hold Arsenal’s midfield together, as indicated by his new team-mate Jack Wilshere.

“He’s a leader, he can hold the midfield together and get things going from back to front. He’s a good signing,” FourFourTwo has quoted Wilshere saying of Xhaka, who is vastly experienced despite only being 23.

Building an excellent career

After emerging through the youth ranks at Basle, Xhaka made his senior debut for the club in the first leg of their 2010-2011 Champions League third qualifying round tie against Debrecen. Xhaka capped a fine debut performance by scoring the second goal in his team’s 2-0 win.

Subsequently, he went on to win two Swiss Super League titles, a Swiss Cup and the Young Swiss Player of the Season award in 2012, before moving to Monchengladbach later that year.

During four seasons with the Bundesliga club, Xhaka made 140 appearances in all competitions and scored 9 times. As such, adding more goals to his game is likely to represent an ambition for Xhaka whilst playing for Arsenal.

In addition to having enjoyed an excellent club career to date, he has also performed brilliantly on the international stage, after making his senior debut for Switzerland aged just 18. That was against England at Wembley in 2011 during a 2-2 UEFA Euro 2012 Qualification draw between the sides, with Wilshere also featuring in that game, whilst so too did Arsenal‘s former Swiss central defensive pairing of Johann Djourou and Phillipe Senderos.

Just over five years on, Xhaka has now amassed 44 caps and is firmly established as Switzerland’s captain, having played every minute of his country’s Euro 2016 campaign. That ended in devastating circumstances for Xhaka as following Switzerland’s last 16 1-1 draw with Poland, they were eliminated on penalties, with him being the only player failing to score in the penalty shoot-out.

Set to prosper for Arsenal

Nevertheless given his strength of character and resolve, Xhaka is well equipped to recover from that disappointment to play a key role in helping Arsenal to enjoy an extremely successful 2016-2017 season, which they will start with a home game against Liverpool on 13 August.






Arsenal new-boy Granit Xhaka in Switzerland’s Euro 2016 squad


Days after signing for Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach, midfielder Granit Xhaka will showcase his talents on the grand stage after making Switzerland’s squad for this summer’s European Championship. Having already made more than 40 caps for his country by the age of 23, Xhaka’s place in the side wasn’t in doubt, but his new fans will be able to see exactly what he will bring to the Arsenal side in 2016/17.

Boasting the strength and defensive discipline of Nemanja Matic (Chelsea), as well as the vision and balance of Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Xhaka is a curious player. He’s very combative and has been guilty of crossing the line with his challenges at times, but he has a fantastic eye for a pass when he gets his head up. The former FC Basel man is a key player in the Switzerland, regarded as one of their best imports since Xherdan Shaqiri.

Xhaka wears the #10 shirt for his country, and is given more freedom to affect the game in the final third at times. He’s scored six goals for Switzerland, and will be one of the side’s chief creators with his range of passing. The Arsenal man has enjoyed international success with the Swiss national team too, winning the U17 World Cup in 2009 and the U21 European Championships in 2011.

Switzerland are dark horses in this summer’s Euros, enjoying an outstanding qualifying campaign to make it this far – 10 games, 7 wins – so they shouldn’t be underestimated. The combative qualities and rugged attributes of Granit Xhaka will ensure Switzerland don’t have a soft, exploitable centre this summer, and Arsenal fans are sure to enjoy watching his performances. Racking up the tackles and interceptions, Xhaka will be providing the protection to the defence that Arsenal have sorely lacked for many years.

Despite still being only 23, the defensive midfielder is one of the most experienced players in the squad with how many games he’s played for Switzerland in such a short space of time. His first international appearance came in 2011, and now he sees the likes of Gokhan Inler (Leicester City) unable to make the squad, partly due to his rise to prominence in a similar role.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is sure to be paying attention to the £30M-man’s fortunes in this summer’s European Championships too, so he’ll be hoping Granit Xhaka enjoys a good tournament and keeps fit ahead of his switch to the Emirates Stadium.

Granit Xhaka: The Swiss Bastian Schweinsteiger

Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka has enjoyed a standout campaign in the German Bundesliga this season, with the former Basle man showcasing his all-round abilities in the middle of the park that is sure to get him noticed by some elite European clubs. Dubbed the Swiss Bastian Schweinsteiger due to playing similarities, Bayern may be one of many teams who look to the Switzerland international to replace their ageing star.

Xhaka, 22, has been a regular in the Monchengladbach side throughout the campaign, making 29 league appearances, scoring two goals. He is more of a deep-lying player who protects the back-line, than somebody who will be creating chances in the final third. The youngster ensures the opposition are nullified, and when in possession he lays the ball onto more creative teammates.

His role in the side sounds simplified and understated, but it is arguably the most important in the Monchengladbach team. Averaging a tackle or interception every 20 minutes, the 22-year-old is fast becoming one of the best midfielders of his ilk in Europe, and this summer he is expected to be the subject of a lot of interest.

With former side Basel, Xhaka was used to winning titles and other domestic honours, so his initial period in Germany has been a struggle. He has since transformed himself into a key player in the team, and one the manager is desperate to hold on to. While Mochengladbach are enjoying a fantastic season, the lack of silverware and sheer distance from Bundesliga champions Bayern suggest Xhaka will never win anything with his current side.

There will not be a shortage of interest from clubs this summer, so he could be forced into making a big decision about his future. His asking price will have considerably risen from the €8.5M fee Monchengladbach paid to sign him back in 2012, which reflects his impressive development with the club.

AC Milan were linked in the winter transfer window, and Atletico Madrid and Manchester United are said to have thrown their hats into the ring recently too. Plenty of choices for the youngster, but the possibility of winning trophies is an important factor in his next move. His ability is not in question, and he does not want to waste the best years of his career without any additional silverware to show for it.