Jack Wilshere

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Wenger lauds Arsenal, wants to “avoid Atletico Madrid” in quarters

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Lots of managers and players like to act as if tournament draws shouldn’t matter, or that there shouldn’t be teams to avoid.

And we all know that’s garbage.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-1 (5-1 agg.) AC Milan ]

Arsene Wenger‘s not going to bother trying to fool you as Arsenal earned a spot in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals with a decisive win over AC Milan on Thursday.

Anybody but Atleti.

“We would certainly want to avoid Atletico Madrid, but we will see, we have no influence over that,” Wenger said.

The Gunners were very good aside from a world-class goal from Hakan Calhanoglu, winning the tie 5-1 and the leg 3-1 thanks to a pair from Danny Welbeck and a Granit Xhaka goal. From the BBC:

“We have to improve defensively, but overall we are team with technical quality which is more offense-minded.

“We struggle a bit more when we have to defend. We finished the game more compact and more solid.”

Welbeck won a penalty for the first goal with a fairly blatant embellishment — he was even looking to the fourth official before he hit the deck — but the Gunners definitely deserved to be on the winning end of the Round of 16 tie.

Jack Wilshere was celebrating the win as well as an England call-up, and said the result was an impressive one.

“We needed it,” Wilshere said. “We set the level last week in Milan. It was about getting the job done tonight and being professional. We didn’t start well but it woke us up. They got a good goal early on and made us work for it. We are happy to be through to the next round and we will see who we get.”

The quarterfinal draw is set for 8 a.m. ET Friday. You can find the full field here.

Four uncapped players named in Southgate’s England squad

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Gareth Southgate has decided to take a look at some up and coming names in his final training camp with friendlies before the 2018 World Cup.

Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Nick Pope, Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook were all named on Thursday to Gareth Southgate’s 27-man squad set to meet up at St. George’s Park next week. England visits the Amsterdam Arena to face the Netherlands on March 23 before returning home to Wembley Stadium to take on Italy on March 27. Perhaps coincidentally, though both historical powers, neither the Netherlands or Italy will be at the 2018 World Cup, making these interesting games from a preparation approach.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

There have been plenty of calls for Southgate to give the likes of Mawson, Pope and Tarkowski a look, while Lewis Cook has excelled with Bournemouth this season and looks to make the jump after appearing numerous times for the Three Lions at youth level.

There are plenty of veterans in this squad as well. West Ham’s Joe Hart, coming off a rough performance at club level, earned a call-up, and the likes of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere have more than 30 caps each to their name.

Coming off a two-goal performance in the Premier League for Manchester United, Marcus Rashford makes the squad as a forward along with Danny Welbeck and Jamie Vardy.

Notable absences include the injured Harry Kane, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Jermain Defoe, as Southgate looks to test his fringe players on who will make the plane to Russia.

Arsenal 3-0 Watford: Cech gets milestone

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  • Mustafi scores 1,000th Arsenal home PL-era goal
  • Mkhitaryan to Aubameyang for 2-0
  • Cech stops Deeney penalty
  • Arsenal ends three-match losing run

Petr Cech stopped a penalty and kept his 200th clean sheet as Arsenal ended a league losing skid with a 3-0 win over Watford at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan assisted each other’s goals, an Shkrodan Mustafi opened the scoring for Arsenal.

Arsenal sits in sixth, 10 points back of the Top Four, while Watford is nine points clear of the drop zone in 10th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Mesut Ozil slipped Aubameyang through on goal in the second minute, but the Gabonese striker hit the ball at Orestis Karnezis.

The Gunners went ahead in the 8th, as Mustafi headed an Ozil free kick across goal.

Sead Kolasinac just missed a sliding Aubameyang with a ball through the six in the 17th minute.

Watford missed a sitter in the 27th minute after Richarlison‘s free kick was parried to Roberto Pereyra, who blazed his effort over the bar.

Karnezis then made an outstanding leg save on Ozil within a minute.

Watford won a corner when Rob Holding intervened to stop a dangerous chance, but the Hornets couldn’t find a way past Cech. The Czech goalkeeper also denied Richarlison’s header deep into first half stoppage.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Aubameyang found an insurance goal through old pal Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who cut a ball between the lines to find the striker. Aubameyang walked around Karnezis and passed home to give him his third Premier League goal.

It was less than a minute when Pereyra cut between Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi to win a penalty, but Cech denied Deeney’s shot down the middle.

Adrian Mariappa escaped punishment despite going cleat-to-ankle on Mkhitaryan in the 64th minute.

Mkhitaryan got a deserved goal in the 77th, spinning a Mkhitaryan pass off Karnezis and home.

Danny Welbeck was saved by Karnezis off a Jack Wilshere feed in the 86th.

Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Scattershot Gunners

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  • Dunk scores first top flight goal, 7′
  • Gross sets up two goals
  • Aubameyang gets one back
  • Gunners losers of five in six

Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray scored first half goals to power Brighton and Hove Albion to a memorable 2-1 win over free-falling Arsenal at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled Arsenal to within one, but the Gunners fell for the fifth time in six matches across all competitions. They are still comfortably sixth in the Premier League, eight back of fifth and five ahead of seventh.

Brighton pulls into 10th, seven points clear of the Premier League drop zone.

Arsenal’s next match? A Europa League first leg at an emotional AC Milan, who will no doubt be celebrating the life of deceased alum Davide Astori.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The fourth minute saw Mesut Ozil curl a left-footer just over the bar in a bid to end his seven-match scoreless run.

Brighton took the lead through Dunk in the 7th minute, a set piece goal headed back across goal after Petr Cech failed to claim at the back post. It was 1-0 against the run of play.

Pascal Gross sent in that corner kick, and he blasted a shot that required a diving save from Cech. The ensuing corner was poorly defended by Arsenal, but Jose Izquierdo show low and wide.

Cech had to collect from Knockaert, but was soon picking the ball out of his goal for a second time when Murray nodded Gross’ cross past him.

The Gunners got one back through Aubameyang, redirecting a Granit Xhaka pass off Mat Ryan and into the goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Cech had to punch an Ezequiel Schelotto speculation over the bar 10 minutes into the second half.

Ozil worked a 1-2 with Aubameyang to open up an effort that Ryan pushed out for a corner.

And Jack Wilshere earned a dangerous free kick when Dale Stephens made a sliding intervention around the hour mark. That led to a corner, but Ryan eventually eased the danger.

Sead Kolasinac‘s hard challenge on Schelotto led to the calling of a stretcher but no sending off. Schelotto was reportedly knocked out by the brutal bodycheck.

Izquierdo dribbled down the left flank and cut to the middle before curling wide of the near post as the game hit minute No. 71.

Seven minutes of stoppage time delivered an opportunity for Arsenal to steal a point, but Ryan collected Aubameyang’s shot through traffic.

PL Sunday Preview: Man City v. Chelsea, Brighton v. Arsenal

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Two Premier League games take place on Sunday, with three of the top six in action and a clash between the reigning champs and the champions elect.

[ LIVE: Stream every PLgame ]

Below we take a closer look at both games.

Brighton & Hove Albion v. Arsenal – 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

This has an upset written all over it. After Arsenal’s awful week which saw them hammered 3-0 by Man City in both the League Cup final and then four days later in the Premier League at home, Arsene Wenger is under pressure. Again.

Finishing in the top four isn’t a realistic possibility anymore (they are 13 points away from fourth), with the Gunners now surely having to go all-in on winning the UEFA Europa League to get back to the UEFA Champions League next season.

It is time for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to step up. That said, they’re traveling to a Brighton side who are in fine form in recent weeks (four games unbeaten) and are edging closer to securing their Premier League status in their debut campaign in the PL.

Glenn Murray is the man of the moment for the Seagulls with four goals in his last four games, but Chris Hughton‘s side have struggled against the big boys this season with no victories in their seven games against the current top six.

Jack Wilshere is a big doubt for Arsenal and Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette will both miss the trip to the South Coast, while Brighton have no injury concerns.

Manchester City v. Chelsea – 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

What a game this promises to be. Man City look like they’re going to beat every team they play by at least three goals right now, with Pep Guardiola‘s men knowing five more wins will secure the Premier League title.

Guardiola’s men are set for a record-breaking season in nearly every metric possible and they want to wrap up the PL title as soon as possible to focus on success in Europe. City lost at home to Chelsea in a fiery encounter last season, but they will dominate possession and can expect Chelsea to try and hit them on the counter with a solid defensive gameplan.

As for the team they’ll be taking the title from, Chelsea have been struggling of late. Antonio Conte has once again questioned the hierarchy and their ambition, with the Italian coach not expected to remain at Stamford Bridge beyond this season.

Finishing in the top four is what it’s all about for the Blues (they’re five points off fourth place heading into this game) but they aren’t in great form with three defeats in their last four PL games.

In team news Chelsea will be without Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ethan Ampadu and David Luiz, while Ross Barkley will be available after missing the defeat at Manchester United last Sunday. Fernandinho (injury) and Fabian Delph (suspension) are definitely out, while Raheem Sterling is a doubt and Kyle Walker could miss out.