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Arsenal 1-2 Sevilla – Emirates Cup Review

Published on The Arsenal Review

Arsenal fell to a disappointing loss in their second and final game of the Emirates Cup, but still won the pre-season competition.


Sevilla were game opponents, but Arsene Wenger’s men could only blame themselves after failing to truly stretch the Spanish side.


Wenger opted for a much stronger side than the eleven that smacked five past Benfica the previous day. Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hector Bellerin, Mesut Özil and Alexander Lacazette all came into the side, and hopes were high that another goal-rich display was in the offing.


The moves on the pitch did not match the illustrious names in the team though. Our midfield – with young Jo Willock – was often easily bypassed, and our attacks too often were left wanting a decisive ball.


All of these criticisms can be amended with more match practice, and a percentage of our lackadaisical play can be attributed to the fact that it was a friendly game – so no real cause for alarm.


Still, it’s never nice seeing your side play at half capacity of what they’re capable of, and that was the theme of the match. The first half especially was a timid affair, but if any team had the better of the chances it was Sevilla. Cech was tested a couple of times, but nothing too strenuous – which was in line with the whole game.


Arsenal did eke out a few chances, with Hector Bellerin guilty of a glaring miss on the volley at the back post, but the general feel was that we never got out of second gear, and neither did our opponents. Bellerin was soon to come off though, with Cohen Bramall replacing him.


You could tell it was a pre-season warm-up game, and anyone who witnessed the game can say with some certainty that next week’s Community Shield game versus Chelsea will definitely see much more effort.


The first half petered out, but the second half soon saw a goal – unfortunately it went to Sevilla.


Ben Yedder was a player that was linked to us heavily last year, and it was the former Ligue Un player that made the difference with a great pass to Joaquin Correa, who put it past Cech.


The 60th minute saw the usual tradition of substitutions, but this time we only saw one, with Granit Xhaka coming on for the willing but out of his depth Jo Willock. The youngster has a tidy touch but was overrun in this game. His time will come though.












Only two minutes later, we had an equaliser, and it came from our new boy, Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman made the most of his first home start, as a cross from The Ox left the Sevilla defence all at sea, and Lacazette finished from close range.


A scoring team is always most at risk from conceding soon after, and this was the case again. Seven minutes after Lacazette’s goal, Steven N’Zonzi – he of Blackburn and Stoke at one time – picked the ball up outside the box and finished beautifully over Cech.


There was enough time to find another equaliser, and Arsene Wenger ordered reinforcements to find it, with Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi on for Lacazette and Elneny. The fresh legs did nothing to increase our goal threat though, and there was very little urgency.


The game finished at 2-1 to Sevilla, but Arsenal still won the Emirates Cup thanks to more goals scored than the La Liga side. It means very little, and the first acid test will be against Chelsea for the Community Shield.


All in all, the Emirates Cup provided ample game time for our youngsters and another step towards match sharpness for our first teamers. A worthwhile exercise, as this season demands improvement on the last.

Should we Bring Back Cesc?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Returning to the site of a former glory is never advised. 

Upon leaving after making your mark, the temptation looms large to attempt to recreate the halcyon days of the past.

The thing is though, that it rarely goes according to plan. The circumstances change and when you return, it is never how you remember. The very fibre of the place feels different somehow, even though visually things have stood in place from how you recall.

It is very much the case for football players. With the transfer windows orchestrating a crazed merry-go-round of sorts, it sees players often look to their former clubs for employment. With clubs involved in either the push for promotion or the desparate escape from the relegation trap door, managers often seek out the fillip that will aid their cause.

What a boost it would be too. The fans always enjoy a hero returning home, and memories of the heroics they had performed rise to prominence. There is no risk involved, surely?

When there is a legacy involved, tarnishing its lustre is often unavoidable. Can they return to the heights of the past?

Cesc Fabregas had forged a bond with Arsenal before he unceremoniously left in 2011 to return to his homeland. From his debut in 2003/04, to filling the gargantuan aperture left by Patrick Vieira in 2005/06, Cesc Fabregas embodied everything Arsenal attempted to do on the pitch.

Stylish, inventive and with a penchant for swift, ruthless attacks – Cesc was the tangible element of Arsene Wenger’s musings. As each year progressed, the Spaniards importance grew. From playmaker, to enforcer to captain – Cesc was the lynchpin of the club for the best part of five years.

To see a youngster evolve in front of your eyes is something to behold – and it endeared Cesc to the Arsenal faithful. His never say die attitude and fierce competitive edge, allied with the skills of a razor-sharp fencer, was everything Gooners wanted.

Which made his departure that little more accrid on the tongue.

It was understandable that he wanted to go back home to Barcelona. After winning the World Cup in 2010 with Spain, he was even forced to wear the Barcelona shirt by a teammate, such was the clamour for this wonderkid to come back to his roots.

So it happened, and Arsenal were left rudderless. The entire team had been built around Cesc, and Arsene had to adjust his plans quickly. Cesc soon found out though, that the grass is not always greener when  he signed for the Catalans.

His three years at the Camp Nou were mixed. The entrenched genius of Xavi and Iniesta saw his favoured position taken, which meant the new boy had to adapt.

Cesc played in a few positions, mostly in the forward line, but that impacted upon what he was capable of. He never truly showed his worth.

To add to Arsenal’s woes, Cesc left Barcelona for London rivals Chelsea in 2014. Some say that Cesc was offered back to Arsene before he went to Stamford Bridge, but Wenger opted for Mesut Ozil. Regardless, Cesc now plays for the Blues – and aside from his first season has never nailed down a spot in the team.

Now approaching thirty, Cesc is not playing regularly. This is the age when they should be playing as many games as possible as the peak for footballers is short-lived. Instead, he is seen as a change in approach mid-game for manager Antonio Conte.

During this time, Arsenal seem to be in a rut of sorts. Mesut Ozil is clearly not firing on all cylinders – and his protracted contract negotiations may be taking their toll on his effectiveness. Is he sure that he wants to stay? Is his mind made up? 

The perfect contingency plan is available if Ozil decides to depart from London. The player to come in speaks lovingly every year about his time at Arsenal – and even credits the club for everything he has achieved. Cesc is the man who may just be able to come back and actually enhance his reputation within the fans.

With Santi Cazorla increasingly injury-prone and coming close to his twilight years as a player, Cesc could slot into a setup he is already familiar with and with regular games he could really light up the team. Is this a possibility though?

If Jose Moutinho was still at Chelsea – the answer would be an emphatic no. Antonio Conte may just let Cesc leave though. It is clear that Fabregas is not part of his immediate plans, and would Cesc sign for us? I have no doubts he would.

Could a player return to a place of former glory and buck the trend? Could Cesc come back and boost our side? Most definitely. He has made twenty appearances at the time of writing. These appearances have not allowed for any rhythm whatsoever as they have been broken up. He has still amassed four goals and seven assists in those games. 

Just imagine what he would do with a constant stream of games.

When looking for players to prove that theory, just ask Thierry Henry about his loan spell back at Arsenal.

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith. 

Arsenal Vs Basel – Champions League Preview

Kickoff – 1945 GMT

Swiss champions Basel travel to The Emirates for tonights game, and there are a few twists in this match that gives it a little extra zest.

The second group game in our Champions League campaign sees a reunion of sorts, with Granit Xhaka given a chance to see former teammates a lot sooner than he realised. Not only that, but his brother will be on the other team too. 

Taulant Xhaka, older brother of Gunner Granit, will be part of the defence that will look to stifle Arsenal’s creativity, and on the evidence of their previous meeting at Euro2016 for their respective countries – there will be no room for sentiment on the pitch.

The links don’t end there. Our Egyptian, Mohamed Elneny, is also a former Basel player, and he will be champing at the bit to play a part in this game.

His chances of doing so improved dramatically during our comprehensive 3-0 win over Chelsea in the weekend. Francis Coquelin went off injured after 30minutes with a knee injury, so will not be part of the squad. Arsene Wenger reassured fans during his press conference for this game that the French battler has not suffered a long term injury and the prognosis is 3-4 weeks layoff – which isn’t exactly what Gooners want to hear after previous diagnosis of the same length….

Olivier Giroud is also not part of the squad, but it matters little after he was sent off in Paris in the previous CL game. So, will Alexis continue his excellent job upfront? Or will duties be shared with Lucas Perez? The Spaniard will be well suited to European endeavours over Premiership outings as he has yet to fully adapt to the rough and tumble of domestic fixtures, so Lucas may just get the nod ahead of the Chilean – although we are all painfully aware that Alexis does NOT like to be rested.

Will we continue with the ‘Cup Keeper’ premise? The initial reaction to include David Ospina in the team against PSG was derision and bewilderment, but his Man of the Match performance reminded us all what he is capable of. The Colombian will more than likely be given the gloves again, but what of the rest of the team?

Granit Xhaka is in prime position to continue his domination of midfield, and Mohamed Elneny will be looking to get on the teamsheet, with his only rival for the spot being Santi Cazorla – and the diminutive Spaniard has played in nearly every game so far, so a rest is overdue. 

With our next game being a trip to Turf Moor on Sunday, and no game is a gimme in the Premier League, Wenger may opt to rotate his men. The numbers at his disposal has never been greater, but he must take care not to shift focus from this game as Basel have experience in dishing out lessons to English teams – Man Utd and Liverpool can testify to this.

Yet another dilemma that the modern day manager faces, but Wenger has buckets of experience, and scars, that should put him in the right direction. 

The opposition are not to be underestimated, but what is most important is the continuation of the winning habit. Whether it be Champions League, EFL Cup or the Premier League, a loss can be hugely disruptive to the confidence of the team. 

We have been through the rough start, and those very early results were akin to a kid learning to ride a bike – we weaved, bobbed and shook, but now we’ve got the hang of it, and we are whizzing away. 

Let us just hope our sibling and friends don’t knock us off……

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Lucas Perez

Predicted score – 3-1

The Nacho Monreal Appreciation Society

Whisper it, but sometimes, just sometimes, karma does dish out its own form of retribution. Occasionally, the people who perform above and beyond the call of duty receive their just desserts.

Step forward Nacho Monreal.

With the recent news that the Spanish full-back has been awarded a contract extension, it would seem that if you need evidence that people get what they deserve, this is it.

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