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Unai Emery Set to be Next Arsenal Boss

Former PSG and Sevilla manager, Unai Emery, looks to be the next Arsenal manager, according to BBC Sport.

David Ornstein, BBC Sport correspondent and the man who often breaks Arsenal news via social media, stated that the Arsenal Board have unanimously agreed on the 46 year old Emery, who is set to be announced by the club later this week.

Unai Emery, the next Arsenal manager

Sky Sports Spanish football correspondent Guillame Balague commented on the situation early yesterday, stating that Emery was in talks with Arsenal and was in London. With most already accepting Mikel Arteta as the next Gunners boss, this was surprising news.

Arteta is now out of the running – whether this is because he turned it down or if he was even offered the managers role is up for debate – and Emery is close to being confirmed, with an announcement expected within days.

Emery earned his stripes at Sevilla, winning three successive Europa League trophies with the Spanish club, during his stint from 2013-16, but he has seen success throughout his managerial career.

In his first job at Spanish side Lorca, he took the club to the second tier for the first time in their history. A move to Almeria beckoned, and he earned a first ever promotion with the Andalusians. They finished a respectable eighth in their first season in the top flight.

Then, a switch to the big boys. Emery replaced Ronald Koeman at Valencia in 2008. The club were in serious financial trouble, but he still guided them to European qualification. His second season then saw him achieve a fantastic top 3 finish in La Liga, which he again replicated the following season – even after selling his top stars Villa and Silva.

An ill-fated switch to Spartak Moscow – his spell lasted just six months, followed, but it was his return to Spanish football with Sevilla that underlined his managerial chops.

Three Europa League wins out of three seasons was the result for Emery, and two fifth place finishes. It was his electric brand of football that really excited though. Sevilla cut through opposition ruthlessly, and their counter-attacks were swift. They could defend stoutly, but their pacy attack was what grabbed the glory in Europe.

A move to PSG was a mixed bag for Emery, mainly because of the bottomless pockets meant that expectation could only be sated with lifting the Champions League trophy. He failed to win the cup, but his band of hastily strung-together stars still dominated Ligue Un.

Now he is set for Arsenal, with skillful players but a desperate need for new tactics – and a more taciturn defence.

Can he deliver? He has the nous and the experience at the top level – all we can do is back him to succeed.

Time to get rid of Alexis

Alexis Sanchez has been our saviour on many occasions.

That little moment of genius that separates games from the ignominy of the forgotten. The sprinkling of unpredictability that unlocks packed defences and rescues a game from the doldrums.

That has been our Chilean’s speciality since his arrival.

He is no longer our saviour though, he’s just a naughty boy.

This season has been telling in where Alexis’ heart lies, and it is apparent it isn’t at The Emirates.

On some level, we can’t blame him. His signing appeared to be the herald of a continued change of approach, a try at actually acting like the stature of club we purported to be. We had gone big again, one season after breaking our transfer record with the purchase of Mesut Ozil.

It hasn’t transpired. We’re still treading water, still a sizeable gap between us and the glory we should be tussling for each season.

We’ve won silverware, something some of our rivals who are reportedly doing better than us have failed to do for some time. It isn’t enough however.

We’ve dropped out of the Champions League places, we’ve still to rectify the middle of our midfield after so many seasons of inadequecy. Alexis would have joined the club with promises of duking it with the big boys, but it hasn’t materialised.

Still though, there is a big difference in performance from Alexis this season than in his previous campaigns.

Last season we saw a sometimes petulant Alexis. Giving off waves of frustration with every dropped head, every wild arm movement, every scream at his teammates for losing the ball.

He still proved the difference for us on many occasions. He still bagged a hatful of goals and assists though, even if he appeared to be desperately unhappy with things.

At least those small tantrums showed he cared though. The smirking Alexis on the bench we’ve seen on occasion is the direct opposite. 

The Alexis we have this season is a far cry from the one we tried so hard to keep this summer. His poor goal tally, his failure to exert himself on proceedings the way he is capable of, they are all signs that his mind is elsewhere. He is biding his time before going to grass that in his mind – is emerald green.

Six goals in 22 appearances. Only three assists. Those aren’t the figures we have come to expect of Alexis, and the old Alexis would be disgusted with himself with such poor numbers.

We have seen Alexis work his magic this season. His performance against tottenham reminded us that we still have a jewel in our midst. It has also contrasted with his mediocre season thus far.

His performance against Manchester United and then Southampton were awful. He lost the ball on 34 separate occasions against United, and the number was disgustingly similar against the Saints.

Losing possession that many times is unforgivable. He plays in a team that relies on possession, we need it to damage teams. So for him to travel down blind alleyways on the pitch and take on three more players than he needs to is downright irresponsible, and shows he doesn’t care for the team as much as he needs to.

Players of his ilk carry more weight of responsibility as they are looked to by teammates and fans to provide that key that unlocks any defence. When they no longer care for the team though and are just doing things on the pitch to stay in the mind of another manager, then we must look at allowing him to leave.

There are many options for his next club, but we could quite easily find a team that isn’t a domestic rival, and perhaps have a player that could benefit us in a swap? PSG and Julian Draxler srping to mind?

Alexis will leave, without a doubt. We need to get a transfer fee and look elsewhere to fill the void left by Alexis.

Not this season’s version though. This season has allowed us to tailor our play a little more and acclimatise to times without him. 

Last season’s Alexis inigh on impossible to replace, this season there are plenty to choose from. Time to get busy in the market. 

Arsenal 2-2 PSG – 5 Keypoints From The Match

The stakes were clear before kickoff – this game would likely decide who tops the group and therefore obtain easier passage in the knockout stages. 

The result did not go according to plan, as Arsenal’s old favourite – Own Goal – firstly came to our rescue and then switched sides to earn the Parisian side a draw and the slightly better head to head record – which leaves the Gunners hoping Ludogorets can pull off a miracle and take points in Paris in the last group game. 

The team selection for the game saw supersub Olivier Giroud take the strker spot, with Alexis thrust out on the right and Alex Iwobi given his usual role on the left. The more surprising selection was the return of Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park, alongside sentry Francis Coquelin. The dynamic in the middle of the park against United last weekend was sedentary at best with Coquelin and Elneny, so Wenger added a little mobility with the Welshman.

The away fixture at the Parc Des Princes saw PSG bully Arsenal across the pitch for 60 minutes but fail to take the victory, and this match began in the same fashion. Unai Emery’s side, although missing some big hitters, were invited by Arsenal to crash wave after wave of attack upon the home defence, and within 18 minutes, they had the lead.

Edinson Cavani, so profligate in the 1-1 draw previously between the two sides, tucked away Blaise Matuidi’s cross from close range, and it gave Arsene Wenger’s team plenty of work to do to avoid a first loss since the opening day of the season. 

The entire first half saw a recurring pattern; Arsenal fail to construct a move to escape from pressure, and PSG attempting to capitalise on their failings. It saw Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez drop ever deeper to try and affect the malfunctioning machine they were playing for.

It looked like it was going to be a long night, until the two players aforementioned teamed up to finally give home fans something to cheer. Mesut picked up the ball outside of the box, and a delicious reverse ball picked out Alexis, who jinked back inside his man and fall over a trailing leg. 

Olivier Giroud stepped up to put the spot kick away, and it was just before the half time whistle – the perfect time to score.

The second half was thankfully easier on the eye for Gooners, as the ramifications of finishing second in the group suddenly dawned upon them, or so it seemed. The movement that was bereft in the first half – and the last few weeks – returned, and they at least bared their teeth. The half was pretty even, but the initiative was with Arsenal, and on the hour, the Gunners took the lead.

The ball was pinged in from the right by Carl Jenkinson, and after a shot was blocked, the ball fizzed a short distance to Marco Verratti, who could do nothing to stop the ball bouncing off his leg and into the net. 

An own goal had come to the rescue again, but Lucas Moura’s free kick clipped the crossbar as PSG desperately attempted to claw their way back. 

They were worth at least a draw, and so it proved, as ‘own goal’ switched sides, as a cross found the head of Lucas Moura, and it deflected off Alex Iwobi and found its way past our keeper in the 77th minute. Iwobi had tried to clear but it went horribly wrong, and the anguished look on his face told the entire story. 

It could’ve been worse had Cavani been better in great positions, but the points were shared when the final whistle blew. There was far more to take from the game than the goals though. 

Here are 5 keypoints from the 90 minutes:

Ramsey can nail down a centre place

I was wrong. I have stated in the past that Aaron should not play in the centre and that he is best suited in the attack, but after only a few games back from injury, his effort, his distribution and willingness in both ends of the pitch shone through. He made mistakes, but he was always at the keen end of the blade, and he didn’t stop.  He still has some work to do, but Ramsey can be a solution in the centre, if he can find form and consistency. 

Jenkinson needs to put some hours in on the training pitch

Jenkinson was pretty reliable on the defensive side, but his passing was poor, and his decision making was lacking. If he is to create a long term future with the club of his dreams, then these mistakes must be ironed out. He has improved at the back, but at Arsenal, the full-backs are a vital piece of the attack. He must learn, and quickly.

Help Ozil and Alexis
The two most talented at the club looked like they were drowning at times. It is no coincidence that the majority of times we score, one of these two are responsible in some way. The same happened here when, against the run of play, it was Ozil’s vision and Alexis’s positioning that earned a penalty. The majority of the match saw them ply their trade far too deep to make the impact they are accustomed too though. Alexis was trying to make 30-40 yard passes, and Ozil was looking for runs that simply were not there. Our team need to feed from the inspiration they provide, rather than just watch them. 

Coquelin really needs to work on his passing

Francis is the destroyer, and he does it ever so well. The problem is though, that this is all he seems capable of doing. A lengthy debate with a fellow Gooner opened my eyes to this and  – whilst I am still of the belief that his role can be of value next to a midfielder who can run with the ball – Coquelin really needs to improve his passing. The team were ignoring his availability which is happening with alarming frequency, and this effectively puts the team a man down when we attack. Coquelin is excellent on sentry duty, but without Santi to pass and move for him, his limits are there for all to see. 

Second or first, we will have a tough tie.

We may be finishing as runners up in the group again, but it is not all doom and gloom. The chances are that Bayern Munich and Real Madrid may just be finishing in their respective runners up spot also, so we could avoid hellish ties with two giants. The other side of that coin is that we could still get Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Juventus. Any team we face in the Last16 will be difficult, but if we can avoid the big four of Real, Barca, Bayern and Atletico, then we should fancy ourselves for progression. As long as it isn’t in November.

There was more that was worth noting. Koscielny and Mustafi had played far better than this game, Koscielny in particular was off his game. Keiran Gibbs was substandard as an attacking outlet, and Iwobi must improve his decision making if he is to take his talent to the next level. 

So, we march on with still only one loss this season. We may be playing poorly on the whole, but the strength of character shown in these matches that we have failed to play well in is visible to all, and any previous season we would have crumbled. We need to look at the positives and there are still plenty, despite our play at times being incredibly frustrating.

It could be worse, we could be out of Europe, below our rivals and suffering from years of neglect and lack of Vitamin D – like tottenham…..

Arsenal Vs PSG – Champions League Preview

This match will decide who finishes top of Champions League Group A – and therefore has a better chance of progression in the knockout stages by avoiding the big guns.

Arsenal host Ligue Un champions Paris Saint Germain, and both teams will look to field their strongest sides despite fixture congestion starting to up the strain on squads in Europe.

So, the reward for victory is sizeable, but the sacrifices that must be made will come in the form of fatigue. Arsene Wenger’s squad is well covered in all positions, so the rigours of a game every three days should be well within their vast capabilities.

That being said, rotation will be key in the coming weeks, so the team that Wenger names will be strong, but may include the odd surprise after the insipid performance in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the weekend. 

Wenger’s continuation with ‘Cup Keepers’ will continue, so that means a return for David Ospina. The Colombian was the hero of the corresponding fixture, a 1-1 draw that was anything but equal on the pitch. PSG slayed the Gunners in everything but scoreline, but the one-man barricade otherwise known as Ospina blocked, deflected and stopped nearly everything that came his way – and that was a lot.

PSG will feel hard done by with not achieving victory the first time around, but they have another chance to rectify that result at The Emirates tonight. Surely our team will turn up this time around?

Our team will have to perform better than their last outings, as the draws with United and tottenham were toothless in nature. So, will Wenger ring the changes?

Aside from Ospina in for Cech, Bellerin and Santi Cazorla will still be missing from the lineup – as well as long-term absentees Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck. There is good news for Spanish forward Lucas Perez, who has returned to training well ahead of schedule, although a return to the first team may be some weeks yet.

In terms of who will take to the field, a similar team to the one who travelled to Old Trafford will be expected. The only bones of contention will be who plays on the left of attack – as Aaron Ramsey exhibited his rustiness against United. 

Will Ramsey be dropped altogether? Or could he be moved into midfield at the expense of either Mohamed Elneny or Francis Coquelin – who did not impose themselves in the same match. Granit Xhaka came on as a late substitute and will have some say on selection, but it was his fellow late swaps that have a larger claim to play in this game.

It was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who made the equaliser with his gumption and forward thinking – something we were severely lacking. His distribution found the lurking Olivier Giroud who finished well. Both players may just get the nod, but if Giroud does play, then Alexis will move to the left and The Ox will vie with Walcott for the right spot.

Alexis could be rested altogether, after a gruelling few weeks and a large amount of strapping applied to his thigh is testament that the Chilean wonder is hurting, even a little. An injured Alexis is not good news for the club, so a spell on the bench – at least for this match – may be on the cards. 

So many variables, and all this conjecture has done is confuse things. We can be sure that the team will be strong, and top spot is very much on the radar, and that is about it.

PSG won’t be able to call upon the services of Serge Aurier, as he was mystifyingly refused passage to the UK. The problems grow for the Parisians, as Angel Di Maria did not finish the weekend’s domestic game, and is a huge doubt for the game. With Adrien Rabiot and Javier Pastore both doubtful, the creative flow of PSG could be halted before kickoff. 

They will still be packed full of talent, but this match is a great opportunity to grab some much needed confidence and also to remind PSG that we are more than a match for them. 

Top spot in the group, pride, and a better set of odds for getting past the Last16 are all up for grabs. It is time to end the November blues. Let’s get back to winning ways.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Ox, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal. 

PSG 1-1 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

The first game of this seasons Champions League campaign took us to Paris, in what is arguably our toughest game of the group. PSG have had a great run in Europe’s premiere competition in recent years, and will be most bookies favourite for top spot, but with a new coach, lacklustre striking options and a defensive injury crisis, there was no better time to get this match out of the way.

Or so we thought. PSG scored the quickest goal against us in Champions League history – 42 seconds to be precise – and Mustafi will have nightmares after leaving Cavani unopposed to flick in a header. 

The rest of the game was pretty much one way traffic, as our tactics were wrong, and the man who shouldn’t have even been in the team – David Ospina – kept us in the game. Then, Giroud came on.

The bearded Frenchman’s cameo didn’t involve a goal, nor an assist, but it was as if we transformed and realised how we are supposed to play. Our first shot on target – in the 77th minute – led to our goal from Alexis Sanchez, and we left Paris with our incredible record playing in France intact – we still have never suffered a loss in France.

There was much to ponder during the ninety minutes, but here are five things that stood out from the game that will generate much consternation and hubbub on social networks. What do you think? – 

Three strange calls, but only one cannot be explained

Ospina named as keeper. Coquelin in ahead of Xhaka. Sanchez up front ahead of Giroud. Three calls that had fans scratching their heads, but only one could really call itself a mystery. Ospina pretty much answered all critics with a performance that kept us in the game. Surely a man of the match display, and despite some questionable distribution, he really put to rest the ghosts of his horror show in last seasons Champions League. With Sanchez instead of Giroud, surely if he was playing on the last shoulder of the defence, and running onto slide rule passes, he would prosper, but our tactics didn’t suit him. Nevertheless, you can see the method in the madness in naming him in the lineup. Leaving Xhaka out of the lineup, after doing the same against Southampton last weekend? I can see no justification. Xhaka must play. 

Ozil is only warming up

People will use his exquisite pass to Iwobi which eventually led to our equaliser, but on the whole, Ozil was lacking. He always contributes to any attack, and he is quite excellent at creating space with a simple pass, but he is expected to make the difference. Against Southampton and PSG, he was off the boil. He will improve, but right now, we need him firing. 

Sanchez has all the attributes, but must stay out wide

Sanchez had seventy minutes against Thiago Silva and Marquinhos in a central area, but didn’t make a dent. As soon as Giroud came on the field and Sanchez reverted to type, the growling, dangerous Chilean returned. He was easily contained when playing as a sole striker, but he has all the attributes to succeed.  What would help is if our football was played in a manner that suited him. He has electric pace, and if given space, he will score. If you whizz multiple crosses into the box, then Alexis will not prosper. The jury is out on whether he can play as a striker, but the team could at least help him!

Giroud needs to play

As mentioned above, we had seventy minutes of blunted, futile football. An hour and ten minutes where we seemed unable to hirt a team that on paper, is on a par with ours. Then, Giroud came on, and our play instantly clicked into gear. Love or loathe him, he has a great touch, he brings people into play, and our strengths suit him. He needs to play, until we learn how to adapt. Mind you, we will have to do without him for the next game, as he will be suspended. Should be a rocky ride!!

The Ox needs to step up
The Ox has had numerous opportunities, and arguably has had more runs in the team than Theo Walcott. Yet, his end product is just as woeful as in previous seasons. Yes, once in every ten mazy runs will reap a goal or set piece, but overall, he must utilise what talent he has, and practice efficiency. His stats are beyond dire, and any other player would have been jettisoned. Time is running out. 

PSG Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview

The curtain opener for our Champions League campaign begins in Paris, with an away match versus the French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Last season saw the French side motor to the semi-final stage of this competition and canter to yet another domestic title, but times are very different for our opponents.

Laurent Blanc was the coach in place last season, but this summer saw him replaced by Sevilla coach Unai Emery – something of a knockout competition specialisr after winning back-to-back Europa League cups with the Spanish side. 

Backed by heavy-hitting financial clout, the Paris side are odds-on favourites to start this seasons European opener with a win, but there are many other factors that perhaps may make bookies eat their words somewhat.

Firstly, PSG aren’t exactly rampant this season. Last campaign saw them take part in what was effectively a one-horse-race, but after four games, they lie in 7th spot, three points behind leaders Monaco. 

Not only are they searching for consistency, but they are looking for a solution to the injury problems which have suddenly beset them. 

Their last game was a 1-1 draw with St Etienne, and one of their shining lights this season, Layvin Kurzawa, was injured. So low are the defensive numbers for Emery to call upon, that he had to draft in midfielder Gregorz Krychowiak to replace the injured Frenchman. 

With defensive lynchpin Thiago Silva out with a hip injury, then fringe players such as Maxwell may be implemented. It isn’t only defence where PSG are struggling either. 

After last seasons top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed for the red half of Manchester, Jese from Real Madrid was brought in to bolster numbers. It leaves Edinson Cavani as the main striker, and the Uruguayan isn’t exactly pulling up trees for his side.

Whilst Cavani may be easier to deal with for our defenders, Arsenal may be bereft of perhaps their most important player this season – Laurent Koscielny. Late on in the 2-1 victory over Southampton, a stray boot left the Arsenal skipper crumpled on the deck and a doubt for this game. Rob Holding stands by to deputise, in what will be the youngsters biggest game to date.

Alexis Sanchez was on the bench for the game, and made a late cameo, but will surely be on the team sheet for tonight. Aaron Ramsey is approaching full fitness, but this game has come too soon for the Welshman, the same goes for Gabriel.

Key midfielder Granit Xhaka was rested for this game after his exploits for Switzerland, and Coquelin is expected to make way so the burgeoning partnership between the Swiss star and Santi Cazorla can blossom further.

It will be in the heart of the pitch that this match is won, and sparks will fly between two combative players. Xhaka and Marco Verratti will line up against each other and the victor will determine who gets the upper hand on the pitch. 

There will be other key battles all over the pitch, and it will be fascinating to see if Mesut Ozil can escape the shackles of Krychowiak to find the space he needs to wreak his own brand of havoc. Can Monreal keep tabs on Lucas Moura? Can Serge Aurier keep Theo and Alexis quiet?

The chance to finally grab top spot in our group is their for the taking, and perhaps avoiding a rough draw for the Last 16. This game will be vital in determining who will sit in pole position for that lucrative position. 

Also, a win in Paris against one of the favourites for the whole competition would send a message to future opponents – and fill our players with that magical substance that enable our play to come alive. Confidence.

Another season in the Champions League was minimum reward for last seasons efforts, but now is the time to ensure we make the most of this opportunity. 

Our squad is more than capable of going on a run. Now is the time we can make a mark on the pinnacle of club competition. 

This match in Paris will be a huge test, but a win could be the catalyst for something very special, in Europe and back in the Premier League, with Hull City next up on Saturday. 

Time to shine. 

Matuidi: France’s true midfield maestro?

In recent times, Blaise Matuidi’s contributions for the national side have been slightly overshadowed, mainly by highly-touted Juventus star Paul Pogba. At this summer’s European Championship, his performances were overlooked once again as the likes of Dimitri Payet, Moussa Sissoko and Antoine Griezmann stole the show. However, not even Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante could displace Matuidi in the centre of midfield – and Didier Deschamps was right to keep him in the side throughout the competition.

If truth be told, Matuidi outplayed Pogba at Euro 2016, he really did. Pogba was slightly disappointing and may have been put off by constant rumours about his future in the media but that’s no excuse when you’re carrying the weight of a nation on your shoulders. The 23-year-old is France’s “golden boy” and he should be able to deal with the pressure and expectation. Unfortunately for the hosts, he wasn’t able to live up to the hype and Matuidi was forced to step up to the plate… but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
And while the PSG man doesn’t set the world on fire, he does the simple stuff very well; a trait that makes him devastatingly effective without standing out. For example, UEFA’s online statistics show that Matuidi had a 92% pass success rate throughout the tournament, with 345 successful passes from 376 attempts. Meanwhile, Pogba was languishing at 88% – with 389 accurate attempts from 433 passes. Ultimately, this shows just how effective Matuidi was at keeping possession whilst Pogba was perhaps trying to force things a little too hard.

At times, it looked like Pogba was trying to impress – but that helped Matuidi’s impressive efforts to stand out even further. Manchester United are currently trying to re-sign the current Juventus man but they might be chasing the wrong French midfielder. On his day, Matuidi is a rock at the heart of Paris Saint-Germain’s midfield and United should potentially consider going for the 29-year-old rather than the relatively unproven Pogba. After all, there’s a reason why Sir Alex Ferguson allowed him to walk away so easily in 2012…
As of July 14th, United are priced at 7/2 to win the Premier League in Bet365’s football betting odds and Jose Mourinho’s men could do with Matuidi’s skillset to give them the best possible chance of achieving that goal. While he doesn’t boast a back catalogue of incredible 25-yard scorchers, he is perhaps the ideal man to slot into Mourinho’s midfield. Just look what he did with Nemanja Matic at Chelsea; Matuidi could be his Matic and more at Old Trafford – IF the Red Devils offer PSG enough money.

But for now, let’s just appreciate Matuidi’s phenomenal performance at Euro 2016. The France man was one of their unsung heroes this summer and it is only a matter of time before one of Europe’s elite clubs enquire about his services. Appreciate his talent before he’s gone; and Les Bleus must remember that whilst Pogba is a top prospect, Matuidi is the real deal. Do NOT take him and his skillset for granted…

Written by Ben Sutherland