Laurent Koscielny

Arsenal take positives from winning “total battle” at Chelsea

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LONDON — Arsenal took the moral victory at Chelsea on Sunday in a bruising draw against their London rivals at Stamford Bridge.

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They have yet to win a game away at a top six rival since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City back in January 2015 but the display on Sunday proved they have a blueprint for success away from home against the top teams.

Call it a moral victory, if you will.

Arsene Wenger‘s 3-4-3 formation has made the Gunners, overall, look more solid against a counter-attacking unit as they recovered from their ghastly defensive display away at Liverpool before the international break and thwarted Chelsea for the third time in as many games since the end of last season.

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Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with the mental toughness of his players in what he called a “total battle” in the sun in west London.

“I felt it was a game of total intensity where two teams went for it and it was a battle all over the pitch,” Wenger said. “We responded well in domains where we were questioned. I like when a team shows that kind of response. Overall, I feel that it is a deserved point. With a bit more freedom and inhibition we could have really won it. Overall it was important for us not to lose today and you could feel that in the team in the last 20 minutes with a little bit of that in our mind.”

Following their 4-0 mauling at Liverpool and defeat at Stoke City, it was understandable that any positive result away from home would have been welcomed.

Stopping a five-game losing streak at Chelsea in the PL was welcomed as Arsenal carried on where they left off from their FA Cup and Community Shield victories at Wembley against their London rivals.

“People forget that two months ago we beat Chelsea in a cup final and they don’t give you a cup, you know?” Wenger smiled. “It is true that you have to accept that when you deliver the kind of performance we had at Liverpool that you are criticized. You have only one way to respond. That’s on the pitch and that’s what we did today. Of course it was a question today of what will happen at least with the attitude, response and determination, it was vital for us, even above the result, to come out with a solid performance on that front.”

Wenger saw Shkodran Mustafi put in a solid, dominant display in central defense as he and Laurent Koscielny shackled Alvaro Morata and the Gunners had the better chances to win the game with Aaron Ramsey hitting the post, Alexandre Lacazette knocking the follow up over and Mustafi having a header correctly disallowed for offside.

Chelsea were frustrated in their first 0-0 draw since February 2016 as they were outbattled by Arsenal with David Luiz sent off late on as he lunged into a challenge on Saed Kolasinac and you could feel the Blues’ temper rising as the Gunners continued their shut down of Chelsea’s usually effective counter-attacks.

Antonio Conte brushed aside questions about Arsenal’s physicality knocking Chelsea out of their stride and reminded the assembled media of the Gunners’ quality.

“We suffered a bit in the middle of the first half but don’t forget, sometimes you forgot that Arsenal is one of the top six in England. For this reason we all know the type of game we have to face today against them,” Conte said. “Arsenal is a really good team, a strong team and they have a lot of top players. It is normal to find this situation when you play against them.”

Yet, this wasn’t a normal Arsenal performance as Wenger and his players substituted their usual panache for grit and their admirable free spirit for concentration.

The atmosphere among Arsenal’s players, fans and manager at the end of the game was far from euphoric but this felt like a step forward for Wenger’s men.

Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: Chippy affair ends scoreless

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  • Ozil out
  • Sanchez, Hazard don’t start
  • Luiz sent off, 88′

Arsenal supporters will be heartened by its club’s even performance at Stamford Bridge as the Gunners drew reigning champions Chelsea 0-0 on Sunday.

Chelsea’s 10 points are three back of leaders Manchester City, while Arsenal’s seven place it 12th.

David Luiz was given a straight red card in the 87th minute, and will miss the next three matches.

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Petr Cech was tested twice in the first three minutes, the second a low lash from Pedro, as Chelsea came out of the gates with vigor.

Alvaro Morata then turned a header toward goal off a cross from the right in what’s becoming a trademark for the Spaniard, but the flag was up.

Arsenal hit Chelsea on the counter, and Danny Welbeck came very close to heading Hector Bellerin‘s cross into the upper 90. And Thibaut Courtois had to get low to block an Alexandre Lacazette shot moments later.

The Gunners had grown into the game, and Sead Kolasinac troubled Courtois with a shot through traffic in the 20th minute.

That said, Pedro soon looked to be 1v1 with Cech, though his trouble in controlling the ball helped Laurent Koscielny hamper the breakaway and keep things scoreless.

Aaron Ramsey‘s incredible, physical dribble found him hitting the post in the 41st minute, with Lacazette missing horribly with a wide-open doorstep rebound.

David Luiz plowed into the advertising boards before halftime and needed help to stand while tenderly holding his wrist.

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He returned, and saw yellow when his overhead kick attempt made contact with Koscielny’s head.

Willian dribbled into a dangerous place off a quickly played free kick by Cesc Fabregas, but hit an arrow over the bar.

Shkrodan Mustafi claimed to have Arsenal ahead with a header and wild celebration in the 75th minute, but the flag was up.

Substitute Eden Hazard forced Cech into a save in the 79th.

Forget a second yellow, Luiz was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Kolasinac in the 87th minute. The Brazilian chopped at the Arsenal defender, catching his ankle studs-up.

Transfer rumor wrap: Bale to Man United; Mbappe to PSG

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Spanish outlet Don Balon claim Manchester United have bid $118 million for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.

Despite Bale, 28, insisting he wants to stay at Real and club president Florentino Perez saying he is going nowhere, Bale was jeered by Real’s fans once again on Sunday as he missed multiple chances in their 2-2 draw against Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale has five years left on his current contract at Real Madrid (he only signed a big new extension last October) but Jose Mourinho previously said he would “be waiting at the airport” for Bale if his situation changed with Real.

The Welsh wizard has scored 68 goals in 154 appearances for Real over the past five seasons but with Marco Asensio and Lucas Vasquez challenging to become first team regulars, Bale has a little more competition this season with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karem Benzema guaranteed starters for the reigning European and Spanish champions.

Mourinho has made no secret that United are said to be looking for a wide player for much of the summer with a move for Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic seemingly falling by the wayside. Yet with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mhitaryan and Jesse Lingard, how many wide players does Mourinho need?

Is it time Bale returned to the Premier League after winning everything he can at Real? That still seems like a year or two away, if it happens at all, but Bale being booed by his own supporters will be music to the ears of the PL’s big boys who hope to pry him away from the Spanish capital.


Arsenal could lose German center back Shkodran Mustafi to Inter Milan.

Sky Italy say that Mustafi, 25, has agreed personal terms with Inter and believe that an agreement over an initial loan deal is close between the two clubs.

Mustafi joined Arsenal from Valencia for $45 million last summer and the German international impressed for the Gunners despite their fifth-place finish in the Premier League table.

Composed on the ball and able to play in a flat back four or as one of three central defenders, quite why Arsenal would let Mustafi leave is a bit mind-boggling.

With the rise of Rob Holding, plus Nacho Monreal playing as a center back, perhaps Wenger thinks he has sufficient cover at center back with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker also around.

The deal for Mustafi is believed to be a loan deal with an option to buy.


Kylian Mbappe’s move to Paris Saint-Germain is edging closer with the French national team teenager arriving for national team duty.

Mbappe, 18, is said to have had a medical with PSG while the finer points of the massive $214 million deal are sorted out.

Per multiple reports Monaco will loan Mbappe to PSG for the 2017-18 season and then the deal will be made permanent next summer.

That is due to PSG’s world-record $262 million deal for Neymar earlier this month, as Les Parisiens are concerned another $200 million-plus will, obviously, see them struggle to met UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

Mbappe is set for a 2,000 percent pay rise which will see him paid $387,000 per week.

The teenage talent burst onto the scenes last season with Monaco, scoring 27 times in his first full season in the pro game as he led the Ligue 1 club to the French title, the UEFA Champions League semifinals and also made his debut for France.


Leicester City are said to have had a bid of $27.1 million turned down by West Bromwich Albion for their captain Jonny Evans and it is believed the Baggies want $38 million for Evans.

The Northern Ireland national team defender has missed West Brom’s last two games with an injured hamstring and despite stating in the matchday programme before West Brom’s 1-1 draw vs. Stoke on Sunday that he wants to stay, another bid has arrived from the Foxes.

Evans has been a target for both Manchester City and Leicester over the past few weeks as the former Manchester United defender has quietly become one of the star defenders in the league over the past 12 months.

Despite Tony Pulis stating Evans will remain at the Hawthorns, if a huge bid arrives from Man City or Leicester in the final days of the window, can the Baggies really turn it down?

Leicester have already improved their defense drastically this summer by adding Harry Maguire from Hull City with the center back handed his first England national team call-up last week. Man City are said to be chasing Evans with one eye on his status as a “homegrown player” under PL rules.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Arsenal’s newfound fighting spirit continues to lead rebound

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LONDON — With Arsenal languishing outside of the top four, dumped out of the UEFA Champions League in humiliating fashion, the future’s of star players uncertain and protests gathering considerable steam against Arsene Wenger, the Gunners hit rock bottom last Spring.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

For the first time in his 21-year reign Wenger’s time appeared to be over. Arsenal had to hit rock bottom to start the climb back to the top.

Many will scoff at the assumption that beating Leicester City 4-3 in a pulsating, yet error-riddled game, on the opening day of the 2017-18 Premier League season means Arsenal will now win the title and sweep all that lay before them. That likely won’t happen but the Gunners have shown that they’re now at least up for the fight.

[ MORE: Giroud lauded by Wenger

So many times in the past Arsenal rolled over in the face of adversity with the club synonymous with the finest play in the land but no substance to back it up. There are signs the fighting spirit is returning. It has taken time to rebuild the confidence but a win in this fashion will do wonders for belief.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk when he believes things started to turn around, Wenger pointed towards the fine finish to last season which gave his team the confidence to continue their fight back from the depths of despair.

“I am convinced that when we won 10 of the last 11 games in the Premier League [last season], we won against Man City in the semifinal and the FA Cup final against Chelsea and overall I am convinced that the team is focused and I see that every day in training,” Wenger told Pro Soccer Talk.

On Friday the odds were stacked against Arsenal even though they were the clear favorites to beat Leicester.

Their star man, Alexis Sanchez, was out injured and has yet to play in preseason. They were missing Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker in defense. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil had been struggling with knocks and with 23 minutes to go he was forced into a huge defensive reshuffle which saw a winger at right back, two left backs at center back and a right back at left back.

Despite all of that Wenger, who must be praised for chucking on Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey who proved pivotal, was delighted with the spirit of his team and pointed to the chances they created rather than the slack defending which Leicester punished ruthlessly.

“We kept going and the spirit of the team was absolutely outstanding,” Wenger said. “Overall you could saw we were punished on every single mistake tonight by a Leicester team who was very efficient going forward. You could see that this team has quality and is used to playing together. 70 percent possession. We had 27 shots on goal and Leicester had three shots on target and scored three goals. That shows your how efficient they are.

“If you look at it from a neutrals point of view, for a first game it was a top quality game. You want the Premier League to be the best league in the world, I think it has to produce this type of game to produce interest and quality. People will say we conceded three goals, yes, but we scored four as well, the game was of quality.”

Arsenal have always had quality but now they appear to have the required spirit to dig deep and grind out results from improbable positions. That quality will serve them well in a season which will push them to their limits with a PL title push augmented by a Europa League campaign. The Thursday-Sunday grind is no joke.

Nobody is laughing at Arsenal anymore, at least not right now.

Momentum continues to build with Arsenal now winning 12 of their last 13 Premier League games, plus picking up the FA Cup and Community Shield at Wembley.

The “Wenger Out” brigade are eerily quiet. For now.