Arsenal welcome back Mesut Özil, predict German will be “Player of the Season” next year

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Arsenal’s good week just got better, as $63 million man Mesut Özil is back fit and raring to go.

The German international has been missing since Arsenal’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League on March 11 after suffering a hamstring injury.

Özil, 25, had come under increased pressure after a string of poor performances coincided with Arsenal’s recent fall from grace at the top of the Premier League standings. However after missing his main offensive weapon for over a month, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is pleased to have him available for selection.

“It’s good to have him [Özil] back because he is one of our main players offensively,” Wenger said. “We are a team who are used to score goals and recently, away from home, we have not scored much. It is important we get our offensive potential back.  We have had so many offensive players out, he gives you always opportunities to score and I have to test him physically tomorrow and Saturday to see if he can travel.”

With Özil on the mend, Wenger was asked many questions as to why his form dipped so suddenly after a stunning start to life at the Emirates. Wenger couldn’t quite point his finger on it, but did suggest because Özil had never played in England, he wasn’t quite used to not having a winter break.

Arsenal’s manager also put plenty of pressure on the German to perform next season, as Wenger expects big things. “Özil had a jaded period but I will put him on the list to be Player of the Season next season,” Wenger said matter-of-factly.

We all know Özil is a special talent and on his day he can tear teams apart, but physically he struggles to influence Premier League games. The German attacker scored his last Premier League goal on December 8, 2013 against Everton and has been in a huge rut. Yet if he can recover in the final four games of the season and play well in the FA Cup final to help the Gunners seal their first piece of silverware since 2005, his poor finish to the season may be forgotten.

Time will tell if Wenger’s prediction of Özil dominating the PL next season is legit, you hope for his and Arsenal’s sake that his Sophomore year is much better than a roller-coaster Rookie campaign.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.