Arsenal 3-1 Stoke: Ozil triple threat as Gunners set-pieces sink Stoke (video)

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Mesut Ozil continued to shine for his new London club, grabbing all three assists on set-pieces as Arsenal thumped Stoke City at the Emirates 3-1 on Sunday.

The win is their seventh straight in all competitions, as all of a sudden the Gunners are now top of the table in the Barclays Premier League.

Arsenal pressed early, and Stoke did all they could not to break.  The early defensive effort was not enough for the visitors though. Mesut Ozil crashed a free kick on goal which Asmir Begovic parried, but only in the path of Ramsey who touched home for the opener in under five minutes.

Jack Wilshire proved a physical presence in the midfield early on for Arsenal, although some of his challenges were less than advisable.  Stoke slowly played themselves into the game, gaining a bit more of possession around the 20th minute mark.

It was the counter that earned Stoke their equalizer.  An absolutely beautiful lofted ball from Steve Nzonzi up to Marouane Chamakh saw the Belgian clatter the left post of Szczesny’s goal, but American Geoff Cameron was there for the rebound, which he put on the opposite end of the net and no chance for the Polish keeper.

With Theo Walcott proving unfit just before the match for the Gunners, 18-year-old Serge Gnabry got his first Premier League start.  The youngster was heavily involved, with Arsene Wenger choosing to build mostly from the right flank with Ramsey and Gnabry combining well.

Arsenal continued to be dangerous on set-pieces, coming close on a number of corners and free-kicks.  That was exactly where they reestablished their lead from, as Ozil delivered a great corner in the 35th minute and Per Mertesacker – always a threat on those plays – headed home from long range.  Laurent Koscienly actually had a chance to redirect the header to be sure it goes in.  He missed, but the ball went past Begovic anyways.

The first chance of the second half fell to Arsenal, as Olivier Giroud almost scored his fifth goal of the young season.  Gnabry did well to pick off a pass in the attacking half and lay off the ball to Giroud who took the 2-on-1 situation himself, firing a laser beam at the top right corner which Begovic did very well to save full-stretch.

The third Arsenal goal came again on a free kick in the 73rd minute, as Ozil delivered a long ball over the pack of players in the box to Bacary Sagna on the far side, who looped his header over Begovic into the far corner.  It was a lovely header from the defender, not someone you’d normally back to score like you would a more aerial threat such as Mertesacker.

Stoke have had a decent start under Mark Hughes and didn’t look totally hapless, but in the end were outclassed by a team clicking on all cylinders.  Hughes’ side remains on 7 points hovering around mid-table.

Goals:

Arsenal – Ramsey 5′, Mertesacker 36′, Sagna 72′
Stoke – Cameron 26′

Lineups:

Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielney, Gibbs; Flamini, Ramsey; Wilshire, Ozil (Arteta, 80′), Gnabry; Giroud.

Stoke – Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters (Palacios, 67′); Walters, Wilson, Nzonzi, Adam (Ireland, 59′), Arnautovic; Jones (Pennant, 75′).

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.