Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is growing in confidence when it comes to his Gunners’ chances in England and Europe, and it’s not hard to see why.
Four days after Arsenal battered Chelsea 3-0 in Premier League action, the Gunners went out and handled FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League.
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Theo Walcott scored both goals in the 2-0 win, and there could’ve been so many more. Arsenal was fast, deliberate, creative, and dangerous. The finishing was not ideal, but the promise was massive.
Perhaps more important, the Gunners posted a third-straight clean sheet and have allowed just four goals in eight matches since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool that opened the PL season.
And Wenger acknowledges that his side can do big things, provided it doesn’t get too full of itself after solid performances. From Arsenal.com:
“It looks like the team has interesting potential. We have to be ambitious and, as you know, keep our feet on the ground to continue to develop. We know exactly how we want to play football and we have to continue to stick to that and get better at it. That demands big focus and some leadership inside the squad. It also requires humility.”
Arsenal has a very winnable run in the Premier League, and could be right there with Manchester City by the end of October. And with a winnable UCL group, who knows what the Gunners could do with a decent knockout round draw?
The Colorado Rapids scooped up a Designated Player on Deadline Day, as MLS buzzed with activity almost as much as any top flight in Europe.
The name is Shkëlzen Gashi, and he’s the twice-reigning leading scorer in the Swiss League, where he spent the last two seasons with Basel. The 27-year-old Albanian has one goal in 10 caps for his country, scoring against Armenia in 2016 Euro qualifying.
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The Rapids have seen plenty of roster tumult and transfer gossip action this offseason, with Clint Irwin and Drew Moor finding new homes and names like Ale Bedoya and Tim Howard linked with Colorado.
“Shkëlzen was our top attacking target this offseason,” said Paul Bravo, Technical Director and VP of Soccer Operations. “He has proven to be a prolific goalscorer in his club’s domestic and European success. In addition he has been instrumental in his national team’s qualification campaign for Euro 2016. We are delighted to sign him on a permanent transfer and look forward to seeing him in burgundy.”
Gashi joins forward Kevin Doyle in the ranks of DPs in Colorado. He was the Footballer of the Year in Switzerland for 2014.
The move is extremely interesting in making a comparison between the status of the Swiss Super League and Major League Soccer. In form, Gashi is a nice litmus test for those of us interested in a status report.
And judging by the picture, Colorado’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man.
Arsenal are all set to complete one of the first signings of the January transfer window, as midfielder Mohamed Elneny has reportedly passed a medical with the Gunners.
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Elneny, who’s 23 and currently plays his club ball for Swiss powerhouse Basel, is close to completing his move to the Emirates Stadium for a few of just under $11 million, according to reports. Elneny’s move remains subject to the granting of a UK work permit, which should prove to be no problem for the 39-times capped Egyptian midfielder.
With midfield stalwarts Francis Coquelin (knee) and Santi Cazorla (knee) both out with long-term injuries, and Jack Wilshere still a long way from making his 2015-16 season debut, Elneny figures to go straight into an Arsenal first team making its first real Premier League title challenge since topping the league in 2003-04.
[ MORE: 2015 end-of-year table — Arsenal are January-to-December champions ]
Elneny will, however, not be eligible to play for Arsenal in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League after making a number of appearances for Basel in this year’s tournament.
Liverpool looks set for its fifth signing of the summer as multiple reports claim Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne is set for a move to Anfield. Brendan Rodgers has already brought in James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, and Adam Bogdan, but they appear to be heading back to the Southampton pipeline to bring in a new right-back.
A report from The Independent says Southampton have accepted a $20 million bid for the 24-year-old England international. With Glen Johnson moving on after the expiry of his contract, Clyne would likely slide into contention for a starting role. BBC reporter Ben Smith has corroborated that report.
Another big story in the Premier League rumor circuit involves a Saints defender. Atletico Madrid central defender Toby Alderweireld, who spent last season on loan at Southampton, is reportedly close to a move to Tottenham Hotspur. The 26-year-old Belgian is currently in Bali on his honeymoon after getting married last week, but when he returns, The Telegraph reports he is expected to continue talks in London.
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The report concedes that other teams are still interested in Alderweireld, including Southampton and Chelsea – with the latter being a favorite of Atletico Madrid as they look to use the Belgian as bait to try and resign Filipe Luis – but Spurs are apparently the leaders with a fee almost agreed upon.
One confirmed transfer represents a major step up for 32-year-old Austrian striker Marc Janko, who signed with Swiss champions Basel. It marks a likely return to Champions League play for the first time since 2010 for Janko, who made six appearances in the European competition for Ajax. Janko has three goals in Euro 2016 qualification for Austria, who leads its qualification group.
Other transfer news from today includes:
–Bayern Munich have reportedly agreed to a massive $39 million deal for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa
–Marseille have released an angry statement confirming midfielder Dimitri Poyet is close to a move to West Ham
–Everton has announced the permanent signing of Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu for an $8 million fee
Two teams advanced into the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday in markedly-different fashion.
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Porto absolutely smashed Swiss champs Basel from the competition, while Real Madrid had to withstand a Schalke attack that came one goal from a startling upset.
Real Madrid 3-4 (5-4) Schalke – RECAP
Roberto Di Matteo’s visitors just wouldn’t go away, scoring goal after goal to keep the hopes of an historic upset alive. Schalke took 1-0, 2-0 and 4-3 leads in the match yet never equalized on aggregate, as Real Madrid’s 2-0 road win from leg No. 1 held up.
Which isn’t to say Los Merengues didn’t have their moments. Cristiano Ronaldo provided the first two equalizers of the night before Karim Benzema gave Real an all-too-brief 3-2 lead.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored twice for Schalke while Christian Fuchs opened the scoring and teenage striker Leroy Sane added the fourth.
Basel 4-0 (5-1) Porto – RECAP
This one wasn’t close at all. While Basel held Porto at bay for most of the first leg, Portugal was an entirely different party, one where the hosts ripped shots from every angle into the Swiss goal.
Tomáš Vaclík was spectator on the first Basel goal, Yacine Brahimi’s free kick tracing the top of the Basel wall before leaving the keeper flat-footed. Distance goals followed from Casemiro, his a stunning free kick, as well as Hector Herrera and Vincent Aboubakar.
See Brahimi’s goal here, and the other three here.