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Chelsea Vs Arsenal PL Match Preview

An opening loss against Manchester City makes this game that little bit tougher, as we go to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea.

 

The fixture list wasn’t kind to Arsenal, and had no reprieve for Unai Emery’s new regime, with the last two winners of the Premier League as our opening two opponents. It means Unai Emery may be waiting a wee while before getting his first win.

 

Still, Blues boss Mauricio Sarri is also dealing with a new club and new players, so this game will be a truer vision of where we stand for this current campaign. We have a better chance in this game than against a rampant and unmatched City team, and Emery will have watched Chelsea’s opening day win over Huddersfield very closely for any signs of weakness that we can exploit.

 

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We could change a few things in our team, but one of them won’t be who takes the gloves. Emery alluded to the fact that Cech will again start the game in his press conference, ahead of summer signing Bernd Leno, so the Czech stopper will get the chance to play against his former team.

 

Our defence will be boosted by the return of Nacho Monreal – and just in the nick of time. With Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles out for the foreseeable, the Spaniard will be a welcome addition. Stephan Lichtsteiner played well on the left, and his solidarity and experience at the back may just oust Hector Bellerin in this tough away fixture.

 

In midfield, another summer signing, Lucas Torreira, may come in to tighten things up in the face of Jorginho and Kante. Matteo Guendouzi played well against City despite his errors, and his mobility and transitional play were a highlight, and could be vital at The Bridge.

 

A lot has been said about incorporating Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette into the same side, but this game may see Lacazette remain on the bench, and Emery may wait to unleash both players together for a slightly less fraught game where defensive solidarity will be just as important as firepower.

 

It will see Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil play just behind the Gabon striker, and our bench should be a strong one, with Lacazette, Iwobi, Welbeck and perhaps Xhaka waiting to come on when needed.

 

Our recent record versus Chelsea is strong, but on our last six visits to Stamford Bridge, we have one point, with very few goals to show for it too. We have lacked in away games versus the so called ‘Top6’ in the last few seasons – a win here would show that Emery is making good progress on our squad.

 

Our new coach will be looking to squeeze the best out of his squad, but this will take some time to achieve, so a tight game is on the cards. Expect Chelsea to hit us hard, and with Hazard ready to start after appearing as a late sub last weekend, we know how we could be hurt if we lose concentration.

 

Then there is the small matter of Olivier Giroud making an appearance, with most fans still affectionate for the French striker. Giroud may start too, as Morata is desperately short of confidence in front of goal.

 

Three points is a big ask, but with an attack as potent as ours, if we click then we can take the win. We will have to utilise our pressing and make precious few errors though, as Chelsea looked in great shape in their win over Huddersfield.

 

Keep the faith Gooners – and remember that we need patience to see the fruits of Emery’s work. UTA.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang.

 

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Alexis and the possession problem

Published originally on Goonersphere.

This blog is born from a startling stat.

Stay with me. I know some are less than fixated with numbers, but this is quite the eyebrow-raiser.


Our 3-1 loss to Manchester United had many moments of interest. The joint-record high of 14 shots saved by the mercurial David De Gea. The two ironclad penalties denied us by referee Andre Marriner. The red card rightly given to Paul Pogba that was argued by many so-called experts.


The fact that Alexis lost possession of the ball 34 times however, got lost amidst the drama.


34 occasions, our Chilean gave the ball away. More than once every three minutes, the ball was gifted to our opponent.









We all know the talismanic effects that Alexis can have with the ball, he is capable of the unthinkable at times.


At what point though, does the negative outweigh the positive?


At the time of writing, Sanchez has 4 Premier League goals from 12 games. We can all see though, that he is far removed from the impactful player we have had in the past.


We can all surmise the reasons for this, but it is clear that Alexis is not the ‘get out of jail free’ card we had in the past.


Perhaps this was an anomaly though? Maybe this game was just an off day for Alexis? Surely he can’t lose the ball that often all the time?


I’ve delved deep to find out if this is just a one-off, or if it’s endemic of the player. We are a team that is built on possession, so to have a part of the system that frequently breaks plans down, that requires a fix, no?


So I set up a comparison matrix on Squawka. It offers in depth stats on a myriad of things. I used Eden Hazard, David Silva and Dele Alli as comparisons, and I looked at possession score, successful take-ons, tackles lost and pass completion.


This season, Alexis has a negative score for possession. To offer contrast, Alexis registers -11.69, and Eden Hazard and David Silva have a possession score of 75.56 and 272.20 respectively.


Hazard and Silva also have a higher take on percentage. Alexis is taking on players with a success rate of around 70 percent – not that bad really.


It is his passing that seems to lose him possession so frequently though. The Chilean has a 73 percent success rate, the lowest of the quartet of players.


It isn’t just this season either.


Last season, Alexis registered a possession score of minus 243. To offer perspective, Silva had a score of plus 443, and Hazard plus 333. Even Dele Alli had a higher score than our man. 


In fact, Alexis was the worst player in the entire league last season for losing the ball, according to this stat article. 


So, Alexis has a problem with losing the ball. We have to offset this with the fact that Alexis is so often the man to unlock tight defences because he tries something audacious. He crafts the key that opens defences. In order to do this, he is going to lose the ball.


This offers some clarity to proceedings. Alexis needs to have a bit of slack offered to him, as we need players who try different things in order to break down stubborn backline’s. Alexis is exactly this type of player.


Still, the stats and the Manchester United game particularly show him to be – in brutal terms – a liability with the ball.


So often he is our saviour, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and changing it in our favour. When he isn’t doing that though, we are left with a player who is trying, but regularly breaking down our attacks and gifting possession back to our opponents.


At what point does a player’s negatives outweigh his positives?


I think in the case of Alexis, this season is the tipping point.


We can get a player who can grab us 15-20 goals and 10 assists without giving the ball away so often. We know this is a byproduct of being a creative player, but the stats show he is losing the ball far more than his artisan brethren.


Alexis is no longer making the difference. 

Chelsea Vs Arsenal Semi-Final Carabao Cup 1st Leg Preview

It may not be the best choice of opponent, but any match gives us the opportunity to erase the taste of our embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest.

If we could have chosen a team to face, Chelsea wouldn’t have been one we went for. The Blues are in fine form and we, quite simply, aren’t. Antonio Conte may well be rattled by the constant stream of Jose Mourinho bile, but our draw last week shows that he will take this match very seriously.

Funnily enough, the Italian coach nearly had the same fate befall him and his team in the weekend. Fresh from our 2-2 draw, we both went into our FA Cup matches against Championship opposition. The difference was that we lost convincingly, and Chelsea escaped with a 0-0 draw.

Conte also rested the majority of his big hitters, but his squad is a little stronger than ours. Yet they also put in a sub-par display against the Canaries.

Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata have all been rested, so will most likely line up against us. Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Willian will drop to the bench after failing to impress against Norwich.

In terms of our team, Alexis is still with us, for now, so should be back in the team. Mesut Ozil is also back in contention, but if any of the eleven who got humped against Forest make the eleven, they can think themselves very lucky. With our squad looking a little thin, then we might have to have at least one from Holding, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Walcott on the bench.

The whole team should conceivably be changed, but there are doubts hanging over Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. The biggest miss would be Mustafi right now, with Koscielny looking dicey on the fitness front, Holding low on confidence and Nacho still a month from fitness. If Xhaka misses out, then Elneny, the perhaps off-to-Valencia-Coquelin or even Ainslie Maitland-Niles could come in.

The Carabao Cup was prioritised by Wenger as we are in the latter stages. This makes sense of course, but if we were to be dumped out by the Blues, then his plan will have backfired, much like his weak bench he named for the Forest debacle. A two-legged affair with Chelsea is a tough hurdle to jump, and with a probable Final against City to come, we may have bet on the wrong horse here.

The Europa League has some big hitters in the draw, and with our Premier League top four spot in serious jeopardy, we are slipping towards the worst season in recent memory.

We have the capacity to defeat Chelsea, our FA Cup final win showed us that, as well as last week’s draw that could have went either way. It all hinges on which Arsenal show up. We were excellent in midfield and attack versus the Blues, but our defence was suspect, letting Morata have three one-on-ones is something we need to rectify.

We will need Koscielny and Mustafi if we are to stay in this tie for the second leg. Home factor may swing this though.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1.

Chelsea Vs Arsenal PL Preview

Two wins in our last two games have allowed the green shoots of recovery to sprout, but now we have our toughest test so far this season to truly test whether this is another false dawn. 

Do we have what it takes to end our awful away record?

In the last thirteen games away from home versus the Top6 sides, we have failed to win ANY of them. Not exactly the form befitting of contenders. Then there is the small matter of seven defeats in the last eight visits to Stamford Bridge.

There are reasons to be cheerful though, at least three of them. 

We have defeated Antonio Conte’s team in three of the last four times we have faced them. The problem is though, is that the one defeat from that four was at the Bridge.

So, Arsene Wenger’s choice of tactics will certainly be in focus. Can he muster the team which goes for the jugular from the first whistle? Or will it be the ponderous, plodding Arsenal which are merely reactive rather than proactive?

Wenger at least has a nearly full bill of health in his squad. The only injuries are Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. In his latest press conference, the Arsenal coach said that Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil should make the team after picking up slight knocks. There will be many changes to his side after defeating FC Koln in the Europa League in midweek however.

The strength of our squad was on show against the Germans on Thursday, but the team which does battle with Chelsea today will most likely closely resemble the team which defeated Bournemouth last weekend.

The only point of consternation is regarding Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez.

Welbeck is this seasons top scorer and even without his goals, his team play and work rate is second to none. Does he deserve to keep his place? Definitely. Will he? Alexis may have something to say about that.

The Chilean’s fight for match sharpness reached new highs so far this campaign against Cologne. His excellent goal showed exactly what he brings to the table, and it may well give him the edge over the England striker. 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will likely have Eden Hazard available, and the Belgian winger is in line to make his first start of the season. It is the new boys that are really firing the Blues so far though. Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko are showing great signs of melding into the Italian’s way of thinking, and the blistering form of Alvaro Morata means Laurent Koscielny and co will have their hands full.

No clean sheets in twelve games at the home of the Blues could perhaps be telling too. Petr Cech must relive his former glories, as well as the defence ahead of him really keeping tabs on the Chelsea attackers. The first goal could prove huge, and a clean sheet will go a long way to providing a foundation for a decent result.

It is easy to type, far harder to achieve though. Part of our frustrations is knowing what our team are capable of, but only seeing it come to fruition on very rare occasions. We have lost our only two away games this season, and a loss here could compound our malaise. 

It really is win or bust, and at such an early stage this season that shows how far we have dropped. It won’t mean an end to our hopes, but the mental effect it could have would have far deeper ramifications.

Time to send a message that the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. Forever the optimist.

Spotlight on Ozil Brighter than Most

Published on Arsenal Mania.

Football has changed inexorably in the last decade. It has made the sport far more popular as access to every singular movement of a player is now accessible with a solitary click. Social networks provide ample platform for opinions, ideas and highlights to get an airing – rightly or wrongly. 

Along with the opportunity for every fan to have their say and for everything that occurs on the pitch to be viewed from a plethora of angles, the money involved in the sport has also transformed football as we knew it. 

The Premier League now attracts the finest exponents of football, be that players or managers. They come to these shores lured by the lucre and as a result, the heat of competition rises notch by notch. Every single game now carries more significance than before, as final standings mean more money, and better performances by the players also means more moolah. It’s a cash-fest.

Money unfortunately makes the world go round, and football is no different. Just look at the Chinese Super League in the last year for the purest of proof.Arsenal have not escaped this all-enncompassing money-malaise, and the club is a tightly run business with revenue streams rising to prominence alongside results on the pitch.

With the rude health Arsenal are in, it has allowed the Gunners to flash the cash a little. Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have all arrived at the club in recent years, and their transfer fees – whilst not record-breaking in the face of flagrant spending by others – still means that these flagship signings are expected to illuminate the stadium with their excellence. 

A judge of their worth is often made within a few games, such is the fickle nature of some. Pundits often court controversy which only serves to exacerbate readers and listeners and also greases the wheels of their own brand. It is self-serving, but it is where football is right now. 

Mesut Ozil is one who has seen his every languid move scrutinised by all and sundry. The German World Cup winner seemed to deal with the intense attention on his performances for the majority of his Arsenal career, but this season has seen a dip in his displays, and the concentration of eyes on Ozil has now become a maelstrom of ridicule, doubt and fierce judgment.

Does Ozil warrant this? He is still Arsenal’s record purchase and has been touted as one of the worlds best playmakers. When he has been on song, he has exhibited the deftest of touches and vision only matched by the Hubble Telescope. His high’s are so lofty that any fall will contrast starkly.

Ozil is also suffering from a loss of form. He isn’t merely on a plateau, he is well below what he is expected to do. This is undeniable, but does Ozil cop it a little worse than others?

Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have at times this season gone missing. Silva especially, for games at a time, can produce no end product in terms of goals and assists. Yet, do they dominate back pages? Do their sub-par performances earn hours of talk on radio and TV?

Eden Hazard is a prime example. Last season he was a passenger for 35 games of Chelsea’s mediocre season – and the backlash from him giving Chelsea precious little bang for their buck pales into comparison when placed alongside the weekly reaction regarding our German enabler.

The one decisive factor regarding Ozil’s dip, is the loss of Santi Cazorla. When the Spaniard was fit and in the team, Ozil was firing away goals and laying chances on a plate with high frequency. Since Cazorla has been injured however, Ozil has had to shift his role to get the amount of ball he needs. Mesut Ozil and his assets of mass destruction can nulify any team – just look at his performances against Bayern last season and Chelsea this season – but he needs Santi there to transition defence to attack.

Ozil is the surgery knife, but Santi is the handle. Without him, Ozil is severely hampered.

Ozil’s class is undeniable, but we should be able to criticise when he is off of his game. There is a line in the sand though, where constructive criticism becomes lambasting to keep in with the rest. It’s peer pressure amongst pundits. 

A retrospective look at what has been written and said by ‘experts’ would help, so they could see that it really has become a witch-hunt. Especially when you consider his positional brethren who escape the flak on a regular basis.

Ozil deserves both sides of what the spotlight brings, but who could blame him if he departs? 

Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal – Men Vs Boys

Sometimes, you can make the right calls, all the correct decisions – but it doesn’t matter.

This game saw Chelsea throw down the challenge to the rest of the so-called challengers – to try and stop them marching on to another title. They toyed with the Gunners and at times it was painful to watch. 

Arsenal’s weak title challenge was ended once Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for full-time – but it had flattered to deceive the whole time. Arsenal have not applied any real pressure on the top of the league, and they have not shown form that is worthy of the label ‘contenders.’

It is incredibly painful for me to write this, but the stark contrast between the teams was there for all to see – and the difference will be in May when Chelsea will be holding the Premiership title.

Arsenal opted to leave Olivier Giroud on the bench and go for Theo Walcott and Alexis sharing striking duties. It was the correct decision as Giroud would have gotten short shrift from Chelsea’s defence. 

To maximise this offensive change and cause Chelsea damage, we needed runs though. 

We started well, and the faded, disjointed first halves that have been a staple for this season did not appear. We pressed the home side and Alex Iwobi very nearly gave Arsenal the lead inside five minutes, shooting just wide after he and his cohorts squeezed the Chelsea defence.

Chelsea soon got to grips with Arsenal, and our pressing became diluted. This lack of covering saw Chelsea grab the lead.

A cross from Pedro saw Diego Costa rise highest and his header smacked against the crossbar with Cech beaten. The ball spun off the bar into the air, waiting for someone to claim it. Marcos Alonso did so and headed into the empty net, via knocking Hector Bellerin to the ground with his elbow.

Some say it was a foul, some don’t. The facts are he led with his elbow and it WAS a foul. 

Regardless, Chelsea went into the break a goal up, and the old script of previous encounters with Chelsea seemed to be in place again.

Eight minutes after the restart, Conte’s men put the game to bed, and end Arsenal’s slim hopes. 

Eden Hazard went on a slalom run, and his marker Oxlade-Chamberlain let him. What it needed was a cynical challenge to stop the Belgian, but it didn’t come. Instead he was allowed to continue, and after bamboozling Koscielny, he slotted into the corner. 

Chelsea were looking imperious. Arsenal had put in plenty of effort, but a shifting attention to pressing and poor covering of runs meant that their opponents in blue always had the edge.

Then, insult was added to grievous injury. Cesc Fabregas had only been on the field for a minute, but he capitalised on a ridculously poor Petr Cech clearance to lob into the net over the stranded keeper. 

Laughable. Humiliating. Deserved.

Giroud was a sub in the second half and he grabbed a consolation late on from a Monreal cross, but the truth is – this match had been over from the first minute.

Here are five things that really need to change on the pitch, from this moment onwards;

Maintain the Press

We started so well, but with each passing minute, our grips on Chelsea’s midfield weakened. By the end, they had the freedom of the pitch. If we are to press, then we need to do so as a team. We also need to keep up the effort. 

Switching off is not condoned

Some of our players looked visibly sapped by the end of the game. Some of them looked that way DURING the game. This was not only a derby, but it was the game which would either let us dream or destroy our bid for another season. There is no room for passengers.  This was not good enough at all.

The Ox and Gabriel are surplus

Gabriel, time and again, has shown that he is not Arsenal standard. He does not track, he is rash, and he leaks goals. The Ox has had ample time to grow. He has shown promising glimpses of what he can do, which  has lengthened his Arsenal career. He is inconsistent though, and has been from the start. Some will argue that he has not had enough games, but he has made over 115 appearances in the Premier League alone since he joined in 2011. He was markedly out of his depth in this game and he cannot be depended on.

Petr Cech needs to step up

It may be form, but this season has been Cech’s worst in the Premier League. He has looked rigid, unable to flex for saves – and his normally unshakeable hold on his box has looked anything but steady. His mistake for Chelsea’s third was something I can’t recall seeing from Cech. His own high standards will tell him that he is letting his club – and himself – down in a big way.

Where is the edge?








Eden Hazard, when scoring his goal, could have been brought down by Coquelin and a couple of other players. He could have been halted. He wasn’t and look what happened. Alexis did the same thing for us, and Nemanja Matic went into the book for stopping his progress. There is the difference. Chelsea are professional. They play great football when it calls for it, but when the game is dirty and it needs a firm hand, then they do that too. We looked like a promoted side in the face of Chelsea’s approach. We need to toughen up – but not in the way that Granit Xhaka has attempted to do.

I’m going to wrap this up, as I really am not enjoying this.

Bayern Munich in the Champions League means our Euro hopes are up against it. Chelsea have destroyed us in the Premier League. If we play like we have in our last two games, then Sutton will be ending our FA Cup dreams.

I need a drink. 

Is Mesut Ozil Underperforming?

Every club possesses a star player. The one his teammates look to when matters on the pitch are on the slide. These men have within their grasp that sprinkling of stardust that illuminates the darkness and opens up previously locked doors.

They pull up their cohorts by their very eyes, showing them that anything is possible even in the most difficult of circumstances. Inspiration is the key ingredient that is liberally stored in their pockets, and the manager knows that every minute spent on the pitch is another possibility that something could materialise. 

They offer hope and salvation from the dregs of misery. Every club is lucky enough to have one in their ranks, and some clubs have two or three. 

Manchester City have Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. Chelsea have Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, Liverpool have Philippe Coutinho and United have Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. At Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil provide the sparks for the team, but what happens when there is no flicker of light? 

Last season for Ozil saw him exhibit exactly what makes him one of the finest playmakers in world football, and coveted by clubs all over the world. Despite the static nature of first choice striker Olivier Giroud, Ozil registered 19 assists for the season. He missed the chance to set a new record at Arsenal for amount of assists in a season, but for the majority of the year, his deft touch was the key for the Gunners attack to unlock even the most stubborn defence.

He finished above his positional rivals in terms of chances created and assists, and thus proved his superiority. You see, stats may lie in the eye of the beholder, but they still underline facts. His greater numbers showed that his productivity was better than those players who were supposed to be on a par with the German. 

When there is no productivity however, it undermines most arguments. Mesut Ozil is a player that even when his velvet touch is quavering and his radar is on the fritz, he still instigates attacks. He is still integral to every move Arsenal conjure. The problem with this is that pre-assists are not counted, and his excellent positioning is not registered. All that matter are numbers.

Ozil has also had to adapt to a style change at the club. Since his blockbuster move to Arsenal in 2014, his bullseye has been Olivier Giroud. Ozil prospers when his boot can hone in on runners into the box, but Giroud’s primary strength is with his back to goal, laying off the ball and then finding a nick of space in the box. Ozil, to find his optimum level, needs a Freddie Ljungberg/Bobbi Pires type. A player who constantly makes intelligent runs.

So to still get 19 assists last season was a real feat. This season should be even better then, considering he has the effervescent Alexis Sanchez and the fit and firing Theo Walcott to aim for?

This hasn’t transpired. He is still making things click to a degree in the final third, but this season has seen him and our other source of inspiration Alexis, drop ever deeper in an effort to ignite our play. How much of this is down to a drop in form for our German though?

Comparing him to the aforementioned playmakers at our rivals, Ozil’s lustre diminishes a little so far this campaign. De Bruyne leads the way for assists at the time of writing (Dec 1st) with seven, closely followed by Coutinho with five. Ozil has a paltry one.

What about chances created? He may not be getting assists, but that may be down to the profligacy of our strikeforce? Well, out of four players (De Bruyne, Hazard and Coutinho), Ozil is third in terms of chances created, with De Bruyne and Coutinho again earning better numbers.

Ozil has been more of a goal threat this season – Arsene Wenger has mentioned his wanting for Mesut to fire in more goals this term – but he again lags behind two of the four, with Hazard and Coutinho bagging more than Mesut.

One stat that is quite telling is the number of key passes –  This shows that Ozil is still the heartbeat of our attack, as his number surpasses all three of his rivals so far. 

It also highlights that he is lacking the keen edge of the assassins knife that is his signature. He is still seeing as much of the ball, but the numbers don’t lie, he is not producing his beautiful passing in the right area. 

It seems unfair that we expect so much from him – and Alexis – when our team are not exactly firing on all cylinders, but these players are a step up from the norm and should rightfully warrant the elevated expectations. 

At the moment he is a Lamborghini, but he is being driven around the one-way system in Norwich. We are not utilising him where he can be most potent – or is it down to Ozil himself that he is dropping deeper rather than at the cutting edge of play?

We need his productivity to increase. He is still finding teammates with the ball, but if they are thirty five yards away from goal, it matters little. Ozil needs to exert his influence in the final third and remind everyone again that his boot is capable of slitting open any opponent. 

At the moment his knife is too far away from the enemy to create any lasting damage. 

Footballing Brothers – Unfair Share of Talent?

Amidst the daily flotsam left strewn haphazardly by the torrent of transfer links and signing rumours, you could be forgiven for missing the elusive glint that represents a story that genuinely piques the interest.

A player purchased by Dundee United certainly alerted people’s eyebrows to raised at least to mid-forehead. The Tannadice club had signed the younger brother of Dutch superstar Wesley Sniejder, Rodney.

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