Arsene Wenger

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Arsenal’s Wenger played to his advantages in Swedish blowout

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You know that argument we make on behalf of preseason MLS teams when they face Liga MX sides in the CONCACAF Champions League?

[ RECAP: Ostersunds 0-3 Arsenal ]

Imagine you’re a Swedish club and instead of Pachuca, it’s Arsenal on the other side.

Ostersunds staged its second match since Dec. 7, and was overwhelmed by the speed and press of Arsenal from moment one as the Gunners claimed a 3-0 first leg win in the Europa League’s Round of 32.

“Overall we played a serious game, so job done,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “They looked very nervous and we took advantage of it.”

Ostersunds’ only other competitive match of 2018 was a Swedish Cup game on Feb. 9.

Nacho Monreal and an Ostersunds goal had it 2-0 by halftime, and Mesut Ozil put the finishing touch on the scoreline in the second half.

Ostersunds’ 2017 Allsvenskan schedule wrapped up in November, leaving only the Europa League group stage fixtures and the aforementioned Cup game to keep them sharp for the Europa League Round of 32.

The club won’t play outside the UEL until after the Arsenal tie is over, and doesn’t begin the 2018 Allsvenskan schedule until April 1.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan forced the own goal with a hard cross, and says Arsenal was prepped to pressure the out-of-sync hosts.

“It was their first game after a while, because we are in the league and keep playing maybe we are more practiced,” Mkhitaryan said. “They are a good team, tried to play, but we scored two in the beginning.”

Mkhitaryan said, “Why not?” when asked if Arsenal could win the whole thing.

“We have to focus on every game regardless of this result to ensure more success. Even with the League Cup final, I think we have to play with the same team and win at home.”

Wenger: Arsenal should have beat Tottenham by half time

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LONDON — Arsenal lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Saturday as Arsene Wenger‘s men saw their top four chances slip further away.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Harry Kane scored the only goal of the game to take his tally to seven goals in seven Premier League games against the Gunners, as the local lad once again haunted Arsenal, the club who released him at the age of eight.

Speaking to reporters after the game Wenger believed his Arsenal side should have won the game by half time, even if Spurs dominated after the break.

“Possession is 50-50, basically, in this game. The game should have been finished at half time. We missed opportunities on counter attacks which are not missable at our level, with the final ball,” Wenger said. “In the second half, we should have lost the game in the early part of the second half by more than one goal. We were destabilized by the goal they scored and they had two or three opportunities they could have scored. In the final part of the game we should have come back to 1-1, which was maybe not enough but better than 1-0 down. Overall it’s a bit mixed feelings because for long periods in the first half, with a bit more quality in the first half and final pass we win this game.”

He does have a point about how dangerous Arsenal looked on the counter in the first half.

Mesut Ozil, Hector Bellerin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang raced forward time and time again but that final ball or final shot was wayward. Still, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Arsenal should have wrapped the game up.

Kane missed a glorious chance in the first half and Spurs were so dominant after they went ahead, Mauricio Pochettino could feel aggrieved not to have won by three or four goals.

Asked about Arsenal’s top four hopes, Wenger conceded that the Gunners are up against as they will be at least six points from the top four by the end of the weekend and possibly more if Chelsea and Liverpool take care of business.

“What happens today, it is a game we couldn’t afford to lose,” Wenger said. “That makes it much more difficult now but we have to fight. As long as we have a mathematical chance, that’s why you come out with a game like that, where you know there is more at stake than just the derby. I said that before the game. That’s why it is so disappointing, to lose the game the way we lost it.”

Despite their slack second half display, Alexandre Lacazette missed a glorious chance in stoppage time when he was clean through but slotted wide of Hugo Lloris‘ far post and given Spurs’ wastefulness you got the sense Arsenal were going to nick a point.

Wenger was then asked if Arsenal were close to the point where they could forget about finishing in the top four and focus instead on winning the Europa League and qualifying for the Champions League that way.

Let’s just say he’s not a fan of that route.

“It’s too early. Football is not about switching off for three games and switch it on for one game. Man United decided that once they were in the semifinal. We are far from the semifinal. We have to fight to have a chance to come back and overall for me it is a very disappointing result because the priority is to be in the Champions League through the Premier League. I am not a great fan of being a Europa League qualifier for the Champions League. I don’t think it is right. If it’s an opportunity we will have to take it as well, but the priority is to be in the Premier League.”

Debuchy blasts Wenger for failed Man United move

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Mathieu Debuchy did not play a single Premier League minute for Arsenal this season, and that seems to be eating away at the Frenchman.

Despite moving to St. Etienne on a free, Debuchy lashed out at Arsene Wenger for not allowing him to make a much more high-profile move.

“I would have liked to have left Arsenal earlier and to have played for a different club,” Debuchy told French media outlet RMC Sport. “There were moments when I was angry with the manager.”

[ MORE: Chelsea falls to Watford 4-1 after Bakayoko red ]

The 32-year-old says a much more high-profile transfer was on the cards. “I had an opportunity, on loan at Manchester United, that he [Wenger] refused me because he did not want to strengthen a direct competitor at the time.”

In December, Wenger praised Debuchy for his value to the team, calling the Frenchman “mentally strong” and saying his value is in his fortitude as a backup, always ready to jump in for his chance. “Not many can do that, but Mathieu can do that,” Wenger said.

However, Debuchy did not appear in league play this season, and played just once for the Gunners in 2018, an FA Cup appearance against Nottingham Forest where he logged 87 minutes. He also has two EFL Cup matches under his belt this season, and four appearances in Europa League play.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Everton

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  • Arsenal won 5-2 at Everton on Oct. 22
  • Everton last won at Arsenal in Jan. 1996
  • Arsenal leads all-time 104W-45D-60L

Arsenal’s newly-flipped squad hosts hopeful Everton as the marquee match-up of Saturday’s Premier League action at 12:30 p.m. ET (Watch live on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Theo Walcott returns to Arsenal for the first time since Everton bought him, bringing the fine form of a brace against Leicester City.

“He’ll be doing the team talk tomorrow,” said Everton boss Sam Allardyce. “I think he is looking forward to it. I am sure he will get a good reception when he goes back to the Emirates considering the time he spent there.

“Everyone can understand why he has left because now he has the opportunity to be one of the key players for Everton now. I think he saw that was going to be the case (for Arsenal) last season when he played 30-plus games and scored 19 goals. Then all of a sudden this season that hasn’t been the case, but he can be a pivotal figure for us in the future. Hopefully he can go and perform as well as he did on Wednesday night.”

Having passed one big test with that win over the Foxes, Allardyce hopes to prove himself as capable of leading Everton higher up the table with a trip to the Emirates Stadium.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will start while Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Jack Wilshere are both hopeful of playing despite sickness.

Allardyce says Eliaquim Mangala, on loan from Man City, could play down the left for Everton.

The Toffees are now eight points clear of the drop zone and 11 behind sixth place Arsenal, who themselves have slipped eight points behind the Top Four.

What they’re saying

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger on Mesut Ozil’s new deal“He has committed his future to the club in a period where we are in a trick position on that front, in qualifying for the Champions League. You expect that he becomes the leader and takes the responsibility to lead the team to success.”

Everton’s Michael Keane on building on Leicester win““It’s a big confidence boost. It was a massive game against Leicester because we had to get ourselves away from the pack behind us, as they were creeping up on us. We feel we can go to Arsenal and play with a bit more freedom. We will go there to win the game and there is no reason why we can’t. Swansea showed this week that Arsenal can be beaten. We will go there confident after Wednesday and hopefully we can pick up some points.”

Prediction

Walcott gets involved in an Everton goal, but so does Mkhitaryan. It finishes 2-2.

Wenger: “We were not good enough” in loss at Swansea

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(Mostly) putting off transfer questions until Deadline Day, Arsene Wenger went over his team’s miserable performance in a 3-1 loss at Swansea City on Tuesday.

[ RECAP: Swans 3-1 Arsenal ]

Wenger admitted that Olivier Giroud‘s substitute appearance could be his last for Arsenal ahead of Wednesday, and wouldn’t say anything about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang other than it’s going down to the wire.

As for another poor loss — Arsenal has now lost to Swans, Bournemouth, Watford, and Stoke City this season — Wenger had trouble rationalizing the poor performance. Certainly the absence of an ill but very much in form Jack Wilshere hurt, but the England man wouldn’t have been on the back line. From the BBC:

“I felt defensively we were very poor and made big mistakes,” Wenger said. “It’s better not to talk about the second or third goals.”

“Swansea were sharp, disciplined and hungry. Unfortunately I believe we were not good enough, I believe we were not disciplined enough. I don’t want to talk about second or third goals.”

Swans boss Carlos Carvalhal, on the other hand, was pretty pleased with the result and offered a hilarious extended metaphor on his side’s plight near the bottom of the table.