Community Shield Team News: Welbeck, Ospina and Alexis

wembley-londonArsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield match against Chelsea:

on the team news…
Ospina has just come back to training today. Alexis is coming back next weekend. Everybody else should be available apart from Welbeck.

on whether the squad are ready after a shorter pre-season…
The preparation was compact, short, but physically we are not far away.

Chelsea have looked shaky in their preseason tour of the USA and with a game against Barcelona on Tuesday, they will arrive in the Uk sometime on Wednesday.

I am really curious to see how Chelsea cope with the Gunners speed at Wembley. Will Mourinho park the bus, knowing that an Arsenal win will give the Gunners loads of confidence heading into the season?

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Abou Diaby Heading To Marseille

diaby-afcLigue 1 giants Marseille announced on Tuesday that they have “agreed a deal in principle” to bring injury-prone former Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby to the Velodrome.

The club gave no details of the deal, that will bring the 29-year-old, who has been capped 16 times for France to Marseille, after a bitter-sweet spell at the Emirates where he had been since 2006 but after successive injuries of torn cruciate ligaments, another knee problem and then hamstring restricted his appearances over the past couple of seasons he was released in June.

His last match for the Gunners dates back to a League Cup tie last September, indeed he was injured for the equivalent of almost four years of his time in London.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted he has “enormous respect” for Diaby

“but each time he came back, we had to start again from zero because of another injury.”

“He is not a player who is fragile but just a victim of a violent tackle which went unpunished.”

Diaby, who at the weekend turned down an offer from Arsenal’s Premier League rivals West Brom, will be Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa’s second risky signing in recent days.

Former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra joined Marseille after a year-long spell out of the game. The 30-year-old, who won 28 caps in his career, has been without a club since leaving Lokomotiv Moscow last season.

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Arsenal To Sign Striker Fernando Llorente

Fernando-LlorenteAccording to L’Equipe. Arsenal are expected to complete the signing of Juventus striker Fernando Llorente in the next couple of days for a fee in region of €12 million

The Spain international striker who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham this summer after falling down the pecking order in Turin since joining Juventus, following the summer signings of Simone Zaza, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic and has been touted for a move to England over the last few weeks.

The 2010 World Cup winner has very similar qualities to Giroud, given his height and aerial prowess as shown by his 52% headed duel success rate last term, so it is difficult to understand where and how Wenger plans to use him.

Gunners fans will be hoping he can provide more goals than he managed in Serie A however, seven strikes in 31 games for the Serie A champions is all he had to show despite a successful 2014-15 campaign for the Old Lady.

What do you think of Llorente? Does he actually make the Gunners a better team?

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Theo Agrees To New Four-Year Deal At Arsenal

Theo-Walcott-newJohn Stammers in the Mirror is reporting that Theo Walcott has agreed a new contract at Arsenal and that the Gunners will fficially confirm the new contract in the next two weeks, certainly before the start of the Premier League season when they play West Ham at home.

The 26­-year­-old England international was set to enter the last year of his current deal, but after a summer of talks between the player and his representatives, negotiations ended successfully.

The deal will keep Walcott at the Emirates until 2019 and put his salary in the £100,000 a week bracket and make him one of the club’s highest earners.

Walcott missed a significant part of last season after injuring his knee against Tottenham in the FA Cup in January 2014. While he returned in January it took almost until the end of the season before we saw his pace or goalscoring touch return.

After a full preseason it is clear that Walcott is back 100% fit and Arsenal have no problems signing him to a new long-term deal.

Arsenal go into next Sunday’s Community Shield against Chelsea on the back of successive pre-season victories, securing a 1-0 win in the Emirates Cup against Wolfsburg having eased past Lyon 6-0 on Saturday. Walcott scored the only goal of the game against the Bundesliga runners-up, finishing past Diego Benaglio five minutes into the second half following excellent work from the French youngster Jeff Reine-Adelaide.

“Another goal for Theo and I’m not surprised by that because I played him through the middle,” said Wenger. “I’ve always said he’s a goalscorer because he has the movement, he has the timing of the finishing, the speed; he has an eye for taking his chances at the right moment. When he gets in these positions he can finish well. Yesterday when he came on he nearly scored, today he scored. That shows he will score goals.

“He has his own way. He’s not what you would call the aggressive striker, he’s the mobile striker. The striker who lives from the speed and quality of his movement, but he turns up in the right space in the box. He understands well, he anticipates quickly and, linked with his speed of execution, it makes him always dangerous.

“If you ask him where he loves to play, even he is not certain. Sometimes he prefers the left because when he makes a good run he can score goals as well. I think in his head he would love to play with a strong guy next to him, playing off him. But we have so many offensive players it is difficult to combine all this together.”

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Wenger Happy With Arsenal Performance At Emirates Cup

ox-giroudArsène Wenger says Arsenal’s defensive stability and incisive passing impressed him the most during the Emirates Cup.

The Gunners lifted the trophy on Sunday for the first time since 2010, after beating Lyon and Wolfsburg without conceding a single goal.

Arsenal scored six times in Saturday’s opener and, while the manager was happy with his team’s attacking verve, he was also pleased with their strength at the back.

“First of all our defensive stability was very good,” Wenger was quoted on the Arsenal website as saying.

“After that our game is well structured, we can create chances and our technical level is good.

“Physically we are already not far from a very good level and some young players have done extremely well. We could give them a chance and that’s very pleasing for our fans to see that as well.

“We had two different teams, two good games, everybody played well, we have no injuries and we had clean sheets. The young players who played were convincing as well so you could see that it’s a photo of the present and of the future as well. The team spirit is very good as well so everything is positive.

“It smells like we can score goals. That is something that is very positive. Around the box our passing looks incisive, dangerous, creative, and our finishing has not always been at the level that we want it to be in the last two days but we cannot complain.”

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Mesut Özil Performance Analysis

Why a well rested Özil is set to make a substantial impact for Arsenal this season.

Following the signing of Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona, Arsenal supporters were salivating at the prospect of the Chilean and Özil linking up in the Gunners attack, but were forced to wait until the turn of the year before the pairing could put a consistent run of form together. While they took some time to adjust to one another’s game, once Alexis and Özil struck up an understanding; supporters began to see the best of the latter, as one might expect.

In fact, since the beginning of 2015, only Alexis (7.75) and Francis Coquelin (7.71) gained better WhoScored ratings than Özil (7.68) of all Arsenal players. Özil, over his 22 league appearances, averaged more key passes per game (3.1) than any other Premier League player. His vision and creativity are, without question, his strongest assets, but it wasn’t until Özil was afforded a lengthy rest that Arsenal began to reap the rewards of both of these traits. Prior to his injury, he played significantly fewer key passes per game (2.3) than he did following his return (3.5).

Not only that, but having registered just 1 assist in his opening 540 minutes of action of the season, Özil managed to do so once every 330 minutes upon his return. 4 assists in 16 appearances is a modest return by his lofty standards, but, given the array of offensive talent at Wenger’s disposal, one would expect Özil to build on this in the upcoming campaign.

Given Wenger appears set on a 4-2-3-1 system with the German, Alexis and one of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a fluid offensive triumvirate behind the frontman, Özil, as the creative fulcrum, can finally perform at his maximum in a system that suits both player and club.

Following his personally underwhelming displays in a tested-and-quickly-dispatched-of 4-1-4-1 formation, the move to a more familiar looking 4-2-3-1 swiftly brought out the best in Özil. Given the success of the system it would be a tad harsh to overlook the impact of Coquelin, who performed above expectations following his return from Charlton. The Frenchman averaged more tackles per game (3.2) than any other Arsenal player last season, while his average of 3.7 interceptions per league match was the best in the Premier League.

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Arsenal Give Olivier Giroud A New Contract Extension

olivier-giroudWith all this talk about Arsenal signing a big name striker this summer, it is a little surprising to hear that the Gunners have given Olivier Giroud a new deal to keep him at the club until 2018.

The 28-year-old has established himself as a key member of the Arsenal side since joining the club from Montpellier in 2012, scoring 41 Premier League goals in 97 games since arriving in north London.

Giroud has welcome the prospect of increased competition, telling reporters last week:

“If there is a new striker it will be nice for all the team, because competition is good for everyone.

When Giroud first arrived at Arsenal I thought he was not the answer. Compared to the main strikers that Chelsea, City, United and Liverpool had a the time, Giroud did not seem up to their standards.

The first season he struggled, missing chance after chance, and not being clinical enough in front of goal. But to his credit, Giroud has worked really hard on his finishing and if he stays fit this season, he should get 20 goals.

What do you think of Giroud? Is he good enough to be Arsenal’s first choice center forward this season?

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Arsenal Director: Gunners Can Buy Anyone In The World

Arsenal FCArsenal director Lord Harris has backed Arsene Wenger to break the club transfer record on a new centre forward, with the long-serving board member revealing funds are available to sign ‘anyone but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’.

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema is understood to be top of Wenger’s wanted list and Lord Harris, who closely monitors the north London side’s finances, has told Sportsmail there is a healthy balance of more than £200million in the club’s accounts.

Harris admits that the development of the Emirates Stadium previously limited spending power but feels the Gunners are now in a position to cash in on their investment and challenge for major European titles.

‘Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it’s a lot freer now,’ said the 72-year-old.

‘We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are un-buyable. In the accounts, there’s over £200million in the bank. You could say to Arsene we’ve got no money and he wouldn’t worry, or you could give him £100m and he might not spend it.

‘At the moment there are no plans to sign anyone, unless he finds a real superstar like Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez. He’s looking for one of those but there aren’t many available. We would back him to break the club’s transfer record. If he wanted the man, he could have him. Apart from Messi and Ronaldo, he could have any player. We will probably have to break the club record to get the man he wants.’

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the carpet tycoon revealed that Wenger’s top target is keen to make the move to the UK. The Gunners have already signed goalkeeper Petr Cech, and Lord Harris revealed that the first enquiries were made last summer when Thibaut Courtois returned to Stamford Bridge.

‘We get a list of the players that Wenger wants,’ said Lord Harris. ‘On the list is a centre forward, but I’m not going to tell you who he is. You’ve got to get the other team to want to sell him, but I think he wants to come. It basically comes down to whether the other team can find a superstar to replace him, because they don’t have to sell.

‘He also wanted a top goalie, so we went out and got him. John Terry said that Cech will gain us 15 points a year, which would have won us the league last season. Since Jens Lehmann or David Seaman, we’ve not really had a world-class goalie. We made enquiries about Cech last summer but Chelsea couldn’t sell him because they didn’t know how Courtois was going to settle in.’

However having £200 million in the bank does not guarantee success. Drawing comparisons with their north London rivals, Lord Harris uses Tottenham’ s post-Gareth Bale spending as an example of how money does not always translate into points and trophies.

‘It’s not all about spending,’ said Lord Harris. ‘If you look at Tottenham, they sold a player for £80m and spent £110m and ended up worse off. Generally, Arsene doesn’t think you should fetch more than three first-team players in one season because it takes too long for them to link up. He knows how to produce players, too – we’ve got four or five very good youngsters who are coming through.

‘We’ve got a fantastic owner in Stan, who likes Arsene and lets you run the club. He wants to know the numbers and comes to every board meeting. We like to call it ‘The Arsenal Way'; even through our bad years, we always played nice football. Now, with a bit of luck around injuries, I think we can challenge strongly for the Premier League and the Champions League.’

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Walcott: I’ll Play Anywhere For Arsenal

Theo-Walcott-newArsenal star forward Theo Walcott has insisted to the club’s official website that he’ll play anywhere his manager wants him to after again impressing in a central role.

Walcott has for his entire time at Arsenal been played as a winger but in the short instances when he has played as a central forward for the Gunners, he’s done well.

In the final game of last season, Arsene Wenger started Walcott as a striker against West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates. He responded with a sublime hat-trick to cement Arsenal’s place in third.

He then earned himself a starting role in the FA Cup final, once again through the middle, and scored the opening goal during the 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

And during pre-season, he’s been played there and did well again – scoring against Everton in the Asia Trophy final on Saturday.

Now Walcott has admitted that he’s just happy to play wherever he’s asked to, as long as Arsenal benefit from it.

“In modern-day football the three up front tend to change around a lot,” said Walcott, before holding up the national team and Barcelona’s front three – arguably world football’s best attack currently – as examples of how fluid interchanging between attackers makes nominal positions less fixed in the modern game.

“You see it with England and with Barcelona, so we have that sort of trust in each other knowing that everyone can do that sort of role. It’s not a problem at all.

“I like it anywhere. I enjoy playing for this club. It’s well-documented where I want to play, but there’s a lot of competition in that front line. If I’m in a role then I have to do my best there, but it’s another option for the manager. It’s not a bad thought.”

Walcott scored just five goals in the Premier League last season because he struggled to get back from injury. In January 2014, the Englishman tore his knee ligaments but the pacey forward is back and looks as fresh as ever heading into the new term.

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Gunners Make €45m Bid For Benzema

tancrediItalian football journalist Tancredi Palmeri has revealed that Arsenal’s €45-million bid for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is true, but the Spanish club are not interested in the deal at the moment.

So illustrate how ludicrous Liverpool’s bid for Christian Benteke was, Benteke’s £32.5m release clause translates into about €47m. Is there a comparison between Benteke and Benzema?

The Gunners have been strongly linked with the prolific French striker and the journalist claims they have made an offer for the 27-year-old forward, who scored 15 goals in La Liga last term.

Benzema’s status at the Bernabeu is growing increasingly unclear as Rafa Benitez appears to prefer either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale as the main striker for his Los Blancos side this season.

The question though is whether Benzema is really an upgrade from Giroud? The stats from last season are very similar and considering that is it easier to score in La Liga than the Premier League I don’t see how Benzema is an improvement. Do you?

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