Arsenal Defender Ruled Out Zagreb Clash

Koscielny And MertArsene Wenger says Per Mertesacker will not be ready to travel to Croatia to face Dynamo Zagreb on Wednesday.

The German defender has been out of action since August 16 with a chest infection that has seen him miss Arsenal’s last three Premier League games. Mertesacker has now returned to full training but despite an extended rest over the international break he has still not reached full fitness.

Gabriel has started in the 30-year-old’s place and has performed well in the vice-captain’s absence. And the Brazilian looks likely to be called upon again in the Champions League as Wenger says it is unlikely that Mertesacker travels with the squad.

“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if Mertesacker would play against Zagreb. “He was in bed for 18 days – not tired, he had a chest infection. “It was a serious condition and he is not ready today to play. “I believe the end of next week he should be much better. Every day he is getting stronger. “He is training but when you are 18 days out with an infection, you start from zero. It was a viral thing.”


Champions League: Dinamo Zagreb v Arsenal Background

updated-champions-league-trophyArsenal kick of their 2015-16 European campaign with a trip to Dinamo Zagreb. It is a game that the Gunners should win, but with a mouthwatering clash with a struggling Chelsea next weekend, will Arsene Wenger’s side have an eye on the trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime?

Previous meetings
Dinamo were beaten 5-1 on aggregate by Arsenal in the 2006/07 third qualifying round, losing 3-0 at home and 2-1 away.

Match background

• The Croatian champions have never previously qualified from the group stage in their four previous attempts – 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2011/12 and 2012/13.

• In fact in all ten previous UEFA club competition group stages – six in the UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup – Dinamo have yet to make it through to the next phase.

• They began in 2012/13 with a 2-0 home defeat against FC Porto and continued to lose every game without scoring until matchday six when they drew 1-1 at home to FC Dynamo Kyiv.

• They have scored only four goals in their last 12 UEFA Champions League group fixtures and have not won since matchday three in 1999/2000 – 3-0 at home to SK Sturm Graz – a run of 15 games with only two draws.

• The Zagreb team qualified after a 4-1 home win (6-2 on aggregate) in the play-offs against KF Skënderbeu.

• They were held 1-1 at home by both CS Fola Esch in the second qualifying round (4-1 aggregate) and Molde FK (4-4 aggregate, Dinamo win on away goals) in the third qualifying round.

• Dinamo have lost the last three home games with English visitors, have lost all the last six home and away, and have yet to win against Premier League opponents, drawing twice and losing seven times.

• This is the Gunners’ 18th successive group stage campaign. Last term they reached the round of 16 for the 15th time in a row but again deparated at that stage – as in the previous four campaigns.

Arsenal began 2014/15 with a 2-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund, the first time they had lost in 11 matchday one fixtures (winning eight). With wins in their other two group away games, they finished second in Group G with 13 points, the same as Dortmund.

• A 3-1 home defeat by AS Monaco FC put them on the back foot in the round of 16, a 2-0 away victory not enough to keep them in the competition.

• Play-offs included, Arsène Wenger’s side have won seven and lost only two of their last 11 away fixtures in the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal also faced HNK Hajduk Split in the 1978/79 UEFA Cup second round, losing 2-1 in Split but winning 1-0 at home.

Match facts
Dinamo Zagreb

• Gonçalo Santos is suspended after being sent off in the play-off second leg against Skënderbeu.

• The Croatian champions are 41 matches unbeaten in all competitions since succumbing 1-0 to FC Astra Giurgiu in the UEFA Europa League group stage on 27 November 2014.

• Dinamo have not lost in the league since a 2-1 reverse at NK Istra 1961 on 10 May 2014. Last season they became the first team to go through a Prva Liga campaign unbeaten.

• El Arbi Hilal Soudani has scored six goals in his last five appearances for club and country.

• Soudani is the joint top marksman in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying with four goals after registering twice in the Desert Foxes’ 3-1 victory away to Lesotho on 6 September.

• Marko Pjaca made his competitive debut for Croatia in the 0-0 UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying draw against Azerbaijan.

Arsenal profited from decisive own goals in both their first two league victories this season – 2-1 at Crystal Palace FC on 16 August and 1-0 away to Newcastle United FC 13 days later.

• The Gunners failed to score in their first two home league fixtures this term but broke their duck in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Stoke City FC.

• Jack Wilshere was ruled out for six to eight weeks after sustaining a hairline fracture to his right ankle in training on 1 August.

• Danny Welbeck, who has not played since 26 April because of a knee injury, had an operation on 3 September and is expected to be sidelined until December.

• Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started England’s 6-0 victory over San Marino on 5 September – a win that confirmed their place at UEFA EURO 2016 – and the 2-0 triumph over Switzerland three days later. Theo Walcott scored twice in the former fixture after coming on midway through the second half.

• Petr Čech featured for the Czech Republic as they qualified for next summer’s finals by defeating Latvia 2-1 in Riga on 6 September.

• Alexis Sánchez started every game of Chile’s triumphant Copa América campaign on home soil in June and July, scoring once.


Wenger Walcott Showed Why We Did Not Need To Buy A Striker

arsene-wenger-afcArsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes Theo Walcott justified his faith in his striking capabilities with a goal in the 2-0 win over Stoke.

Wenger was criticised for refusing to add to his strike options during the transfer window, but both Walcott and his replacement Olivier Giroud were on target at the Emirates Stadium as the Gunners moved second in the fledgling Premier League table.

“If Walcott plays and scores everybody says Walcott is good,” Wenger said. “But before the game everybody says ‘why did you not buy a striker?’

“If I bought a striker Walcott would not have played. It’s always a vicious circle.

“At some stage you’ve just to believe in your players and give them a chance.”

Walcott’s first Arsenal goal of the season, after his double for England at San Marino, came after 31 minutes but he might have had a hat-trick before then.

“I believe he can be a prolific goalscorer because you come out of the game and think how many chances he had,” Wenger said.

“The bigger the belief he will have to score, the more he will score. He gets in good situations.

“He scored a great goal, I must say. He needed technical quality to do it and calm in the finishing. It’s good that Giroud came on and scored as well.”

The Gunners poured forwards time and again but could not get the goals their dominant performance deserved.

Wenger, though, was never unduly concerned after a third successive clean sheet and a first home win following the opening day loss to West Ham and goalless draw with Liverpool.

He said: “If you want to be a bit critical, you could say there’s too big a difference between number of chances created and number of goals scored but that can come quickly once you win games at home.

“We had 30 shots on goal today and continuously we created chances from the first to the last minute.

“Players have the quality to score so at some stage that will come. We have stabilised our defensive record.”

Walcott may not keep his place in a big week for the Gunners, who begin their Champions League campaign at Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night and travel to the reeling reigning Premier League champions Chelsea next Saturday.

“We play every three days for three weeks,” Wenger said.

“I will have to rotate the strikers without letting them drop their confidence.”

What did you think of the Gunners performance?


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Arsenal Name 25-Man Premier League Squad

Emirates_NightThe Gunners have named their squad for the upcoming season and it has a familiar look to it, as Petr Cech was the only fresh face through the door of the Emirates this summer, thus being the only new player on the list.

Arsenal fans have expressed their anger at the club’s inability to sign a new striker over the summer, meaning Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott are the striking options.

Players such as Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs are included in the U21 squad list, along with a host of other youngsters who are eligible for selection.

Here is the full squad…

25 Squad players (*=Home grown)
Armando De Abreu, Gabriel
Arteta Amatriain, Mikel
Campbell, Joel
Cazorla, Santiago
Cech, Petr
*Coquelin, Francis
Debuchy, Mathieu
Flamini, Mathieu
*Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo
Giroud, Olivier
Koscielny, Laurent
Mertesacker, Per
Monreal, Ignacio
Ospina, David
*Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander Mark David
Ozil, Mesut
*Ramsey, Aaron James
Rosicky, Tomas
Sanchez, Alexis
*Walcott, Theo James
*Welbeck, Daniel
*Wilshere, Jack Andrew

Under-21 players (Contract and Scholars)
Agyei-Tabi, Marcus
Akpom, Chuba
Bellerin, Hector
Bennacer, Ismael
Bielik, Krystian
Bola, Marc Joel
Bola, Tolaji
Chambers, Calum
Chatzitheodoridis, Ilias
Crowley, Daniel
Da Graca, Kristopher Santos
Dasilva, Pelenda Joshua Tunga
Donovan, Harry
Eyoma, Aaron Jordan
Fortune, Yassin Enzo
Gilmour, Charlie Ian
Gnabry, Serge David
Hayden, Isaac Scot
Hinds, Kaylen Miles
Huddart, Ryan David
Iliev, Deyan
Iwobi, Alex
Johnson, Chiori
Kamara, Glen
Keto, Hugo Oliver
Macey, Matthew Ryan
Maitland-Niles, Ainsley
Mavididi, Stephy Alvaro
Moore, Tafari Lalibela
Mourgos, Savvas
Nketiah, Edward
O’Connor, Stefan Ramone Sewell
Osei-Tutu, Jordi
Pileas, Kostas
Pleguezuelo, Julio Jose
Reine-Adelaide, Jeff
Robinson, Tyrell
Sheaf, Ben
Tella, Nathan
Toral, Jon-Miquel
Willock, Christopher
Zelalem, Gedion

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Now Welbeck Out Until Christmas?

dannywelbeck2Why do the Gunners have so many problems with players developing long-term injuries? We have went through this time and time again and not it is Danny Welbeck’s turn.

Arsenal have announced that Welbeck is expected to be out until Christmas after having a knee operation.

“The injury to his cartilage did not respond as well as hoped and the decision was taken last week for him to undergo surgery,” said an Arsenal statement.

England international Welbeck, who joined from Manchester United in 2014, picked up the injury to his left knee after coming on as a substitute in Arsenal’s 0-0 home draw with Chelsea in late April.

The injury was not considered serious at the time as Wenger said in the lead-up to the FA Cup Final that Welbeck’s knee problem was likely to rule him out of the final and could put a question mark over whether the striker will be fit for England’s upcoming friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and the EURO 2016 qualifier away to Slovenia.

Five months after Wenger says that Welbeck is a doubt for two upcoming internationals he is undergoing surgery. How did we get to this point?

As I said about Wilshere, this happens to often with Arsenal players. That they break down during rehabilitation from an injury and are out for much longer than expected.

Also, the Arsenal statement says that the decision to put Welbeck under the knife was made last week, giving Arsenal the final week of the transfer window to bring in a replacement. Making the lack if transfer activity even more inexcusable.


Wenger Defends Transfer Policy

arsene-wenger-beachArsene Wenger defended his transfer policy on Wednesday night — despite Arsenal’s failure to buy a senior outfield player during the summer window.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech was his only capture in the window, signing in an £11million deal from Chelsea.

In fact Wenger’s Arsenal were the only club in Europe’s top five leagues (Premier, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1) not to buy an outfield player.

Even Spanish champions Barcelona, who are currently under a transfer ban, managed to sign two big-name players.

The Gunners’ lack of activity in the transfer window has prompted the Arsenal Supporters Trust to call for an enquiry into the club’s transfer policy.

But a defiant Wenger, who was in Nyon, Switzerland on Wednesday to take part in the UEFA 2015 Elite Club Coaches Forum where he came into contact with old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson, said:

‘Am I happy with the investment I make? Yes, every time.

‘I bought (Alexis) Sanchez, I bought (Mesut) Ozil, I bought Cech, I bought Gabriel last year.

‘The problem at the moment is finding the players who guarantee you are a better team after, and that example last night shows you very well.’

Wenger was referring to the £36m Manchester United spent to sign France youngster Anthony Martial on deadline day.


What Did You Think Of Arsenal’s Transfer Dealings?

sumemr-spend-by-teamThe summer transfer window has closed and Arsenal are the only club in the top five European leagues to add an outfield player to their squad.

With Petr Cech Arsene Wenger’s only summer signing, the Gunners ended up with a net transfer spend of £10.7m, good for 15th place in the Premier League.

Arsenal’s Signing
Petr Cech (Chelsea) – €14m

Arsenal’s Sales
Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray) -€2.5m

Arsenal were the best team in the Premier League the second half of last season, and ended the season on a high winning back-to-back FA Cups. This then was the summer for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal to make a statement and bring in 2-3 top quality players that will allow Arsenal to close that 15 gap to Chelsea.

The Gunners went into the summer with three needs:

  • Top Quality Goalkeper – Cech
  • Top Quality Holding Midfield Player – None
  • World Class Striker – None

For me, this is transfer window was a wasted opportunity. Everything was all set for Arsenal to add a couple of top quality players that would then to close to gap on the likes of Chelsea and City in the league and Bayern and Barcelona in Europe. But they blew it and that is inexcusable to me.

What did you think of Arsenal’s inactivity in the summer transfer market?


Wenger Uncertain Over Any Potential Transfer Deals

unhappy-wengerArsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he is unsure whether he will be able to bring in any more new signings before the end of the transfer window.

With Tuesday’s deadline approaching, Wenger is under mounting pressure to bolster his squad in his efforts to add a 14th English title to the north London club’s collection, 11 years after their most recent.

The victory against the Magpies on Saturday has been judge by many Arsenal supporters as hugely unconvincing, after the Gunners failed to create and convert clear-cut chances to put themselves in-front, and had to make do with an unintended help from Fabricio Coloccini for the only goal on the day.

Speaking to the press at the St James’ Park after the game, Wenger admitted his side’s poor showing in front of goal, before announcing that he could add an exceptional player to his attacking options before the end of the transfer window.

“We are open and we are looking,” said Wenger, who has brought in only goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea since the end of last season.

“We have not fired offensively, our finishing has not been clinical and we have to improve on that.

“If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it.”

Arsenal have been linked to a handful of star strikers over the summer including Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Gonzalo Higuain and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But as we get closer to deadline day, those deals look increasingly unlikely, and will the Gunners end up settling for someone like Charlie Austin from QPR who is available for “only” £15m?

Do you think Arsenal will sign a striker before the transfer window closes?

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Wenger Post Match Reaction: “We Are Happy To Have The Three Points”

Wenger-New4-AFCArsène Wenger faced the media after Arsenal’s 1-0 win against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday and here are some of his comments:

on whether patience was key…
Patience and nerves. I believe that we needed to not rush our game, to wait for our chances and to take one of them. I must say that Newcastle decided from the start to make the game quite physical and we had to keep our nerves and not become a little bit aggressive as well. I thought we did that well. Afterwards it was a strange game. You play away from home, 11 against 10, and you know that they will play 15 yards deeper, you play 10 against nine in the final third, the crowd is behind their team which puts pressure on the referee, and then it’s very difficult. We didn’t find the space. They defended well and they’ve shown why they didn’t concede at Manchester United as well. We are happy to have the three points and to win 1-0.

on Aleksandar Mitrovic’s red card…
Honestly during the game I didn’t see. Just seeing the game on television, unfortunately it was a red card. He didn’t play the ball at all.

on whether Arsenal got enough protection from the referee…
I don’t know. I think the referee did alright but Newcastle wanted to stop us from playing, from moving the ball quickly and to stop our game. They tried that from the start on. Mitrovic went a bit overboard maybe, and maybe a bit unlucky. Did he do it on purpose or not? I don’t know.

on transfers…
We are open and we are in the transfer market. If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it. At the moment I don’t know if something will happen or not.

on whether it was a perfect away performance…
It was important. We know we’ll turn it round at home so it was important mathematically not to drop points today, not to be too far from the top teams. It was important mentally as well because we dropped points at home. We had two different away games at Newcastle and Crystal Palace but we’ve got six points. That is very good.

on whether the red card changed his game plan…
Yes. I expected more space for Theo Walcott. At the start it looked quite promising but after 15 minutes it was a different problem for us. There was no space behind their defenders, the service through their lines was very difficult and they defended very well.



Not Pretty But Gunners Beat Newcastle 1-0

nufc-red-cardAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s deflected strike off Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini was enough to give the Gunners all three points. While not a classic Arsenal performance they managed to beat 10-man Newcastle to maintain a fine run of away form. And winning is ultimately what matters.

The Gunners are unbeaten now in eight league games on the road since February, winning seven of them, which some might argue takes some grit, or even character.

But they were certainly assisted here by a self-imploding Newcastle, specifically summer signing Aleksandr Mitrovic, who got a straight red card for a studs-up challenge in the 16th minute.

Wenger made three changes from the starting line-up help to a goalless draw at the Emirates last time out. Calum Chambers made way in defence for the returning Laurent Koscielny. Mesut Ozil is out with a knee problem and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in, while Olivier Giroud was benched as Theo Walcott started up front.

Newcastle also made three changes from their last league game, also a 0-0 draw, at Manchester United. Steven Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Ayoze Perez were all benched as Daryl Janmaat, Moussa Sissoko and Florian Thauvin came in.

Sissoko made an early impression of the wrong kind went he was booked inside three minutes for a late challenge on Nacho Monreal. The powerful French midfielder made partial amends with some strong runs through the first half, albeit to little avail. He went close with one shot dragged across goal.

Cech easily held the first potentially dangerous ball into Arsenal’s area, from Thauvin, then Walcott at the other end, fed by Hector Bellerin, forced a save from Tim Krul with a shot from the centre.

The complexion of the match changed in the 16th minute when Mitrovic, the 20-year-old Serbian striker signed for £12.5m from Anderlecht this summer got a straight red card.

In little over two hours of competitive action for Newcastle he has now been sent off once and booked twice. His manager admitted after his Toon debut that he was fortunate not to be sent off within seconds for a clattering challenge on Southampton’s Matt Targett followed in short order by an elbow on Maya Yoshida.

His red card here was not soft. That doesn’t mean anyone at Newcastle will find it anything less than harsh. But the challenge on Francis Coquelin that earned it was studs-up, albeit low on the leg and not with tremendous force. Studs-up constitutes grave foul play by the letter of the law and Andre Marriner was within his rights to show red for that.

Thauvin was arguably fortunate to avoid sterner punishment from the referee when he also caught Coquelin 10 minutes after his team-mate had gone off for his early shower.

Arsenal should have stamped on Newcastle’s neck at this point – figuratively speaking, of course. As Neville might wrily note, they have a dearth of players these days who go in hard and pick up their own reds at the rate of Wenger’s sides of earlier years.

In fact Arsenal should have been ahead by at least a goal by half time, but Walcott fluffed an absolute sitter just after the half-hour mark. Alexis Sanchez’s shot was parried into Walcott’s path just a few yards out and with an open goal in front of him, and somehow he managed to scoop it over the bar.

It took another 20 minutes for the breakthrough. The goal came via another parry, and some luck. Sanchez’s shot was blocked, Aaron Ramsey’s follow-up was pushed clear by Krul, Oxlade-Chamberlain thumped his own effort diagonally in from the right, and the ball ended up in the net via a deflection off Newcastle’s captain, Fabricio Coloccini.

Krul prevented Sanchez from extending the lead with a good save six minutes later. Walcott was then replaced by Giroud, whose best effort went wide.