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Arsenal overcomes outrageous Milan goal to advance in Europa League (video)

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Danny Welbeck scored twice as Arsenal advanced to the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-1 win, 5-1 on aggregate, over AC Milan on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored a wonderful goal to give Milan hope, but Welbeck won a very questionable penalty and converted it moments later.

Granit Xhaka also scored for Arsenal, which is hoping to win the tournament for a spot in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

The draw for the quarterfinals will be held at 8 a.m. ET Friday morning.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal could’ve given one of those goals back in the first minute, as Andre Silva found himself alone with a cutback inside the 18 only to hit his attempt off the outside of the net.

Danny Welbeck couldn’t beat Gianluigi Donnarumma at the other end, and Arsenal grew into control of the match.

Yet Milan went ahead, and did it in style through Calhanoglu’s rip from distance.

Arsenal quickly bid to answer, with Donnarumma making an outstanding save on Aaron Ramsey. And a penalty was given to the Gunners soon via a Welbeck dive.

Welbeck got Donnarumma going the wrong way to level the leg at 1.

Calum Chambers then saw a ball off his elbow inside the Arsenal box, but no penalty was given to Milan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s diving header of a Welbeck pass almost made it a three-goal difference on aggregate before the break, but the ball headed wide of the post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Donnarumma was again needed to thwart a Mkhitaryan shot in the 49th minute, and Shkrodan Mustafi nodded over the bar on the ensuing corner kick.

Suso dragged a shot wide as Milan endeavored to come back and substitute Nikola Kalinic then headed an inviting cross to a stooped Ospina.

For all the good he did, Donnarumma committed a howler in allowing Xhaka’s effort with 20 minutes to play. That effectively sealed it for the hosts.

Arsenal joins Man City in League Cup Final

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  • Hazard scores early
  • Freak own goal makes it 1-1
  • Xhaka puts Arsenal ahead

Granit Xhaka‘s second half goals snapped a 1-1 tie and sent Arsenal into the League Cup Final, as Arsene Wenger‘s Gunners topped Chelsea on Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium.

A goofy double-deflection which will go down as an Antonio Rudiger own goal was Arsenal’s other goal, and Eden Hazard opened the scoring for Chelsea. The clubs played a scoreless first leg at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

Arsenal has won three FA Cups in four seasons, but has not won the League Cup since 1993.

Man City will be the opponent in League Cup Final on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pedro had the ball in the goal five minutes into the match, but was offside when he darted onto Cesar Azpilicueta’s perfectly-weighted ball.

Hazard was within the rules when he cut between Shkrodan Mustafi and Laurent Koscileny to meet Pedro’s pass and it was 1-0 in the seventh.

Wily Caballero was injured two minutes later when he stopped Jack Wilshere‘s in-tight bid to equalize for Arsenal.

The Gunners did make it 1-1 in the 12th off the ensuing corner kick, as Monreal’s header turned off the heads of Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger en route to goal. A freak play, but 1-1 nonetheless.

Willian was injured and Ross Barkley hit the pitch in his new blue No. 8. The ex-Everton star was then chopped down by a yellow-card earning Wilshere.

Mesut Ozil’s deflected effort in stoppage time, set up by Wilshere, just missed the far post.

Arsenal went ahead before the game was an hour old, as Xhaka got his boot between Caballero and the ball to prod home the Gunners’ second after Alexandre Lacazette‘s pass bounded into his path.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It’s time for Arsenal to hit the reset button

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John Cross of the Mirror wrote yesterday that this is the worst Arsenal team in 20 years. He’s right, and that means it’s time to blow the squad up.

Sitting in 6th and coming off an embarrassing 2-1 loss at 13th placed Bourneouth, there is no quick fix to return this club to Champions League caliber, having slowly emaciated through years of poor transfer policy and miserable contract management.

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and even Jack Wilshere could all potentially leave this summer for zero return, the loss of prime talent at the height of its monetary value. Even if Sanchez does leave this January, which looks likely, he’ll leave for a cut-rate price.

In recent years, Arsenal has failed to prepare for the stark decline of defensive stalwarts Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, left with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, and occasionally an out of position Nacho Monreal at the back. In Holding’s five Premier League starts this season, Arsenal has conceded 11 goals; Chambers has started the last four games, with just one win and seven goals conceded.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

It doesn’t end there. With Francis Coquelin failing to live up to his sky-high potential shown early in his career, the Gunners brought in Granit Xhaka, who has been utterly useless, succeeding more at reducing his side to 10 men than he has in providing defensive cover or possessional strength. The 25-year-old Swiss is rated the 21st-best midfielder in the Premier League this season according to Squawka’s player ratings, behind guys like West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini and Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucore.

Hector Bellerin has declined for two seasons straight. Petr Cech looks all of his 35 years old, leaving fans longing for Wojciech Szczesny, who has performed his backup duties to Gianluigi Buffon to perfection (six goals conceded in 10 Serie A appearances). Lucas Perez lasted one season before being shipped out on loan. Mohamed Elneny can’t even beat out Xhaka for a starting spot. Gabriel Paulista was a flop; Mathieu Debuchy too.

The miserable squad makeup has forced youth products Alex Iwobi, Chuba Akpom, Yaya Sanogo, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles into spot starts over the last few years, with none of the above able to grab a foothold among Premier League competition.

Meanwhile, on the outgoing side, the club has sold players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has been revived under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. They let Szczesny leave for Italy. Even back to the Robin Van Persie sale in the summer of 2012, they handed a top talent to a Premier League rival where he won a title. Arsenal hasn’t broken its record sale since shipping Marc Overmars to Barcelona in 2000 for $49 million, proving they can’t cash in on top talent when necessary. Allowing Alexis Sanchez to leave for pennies on the dollar (if anything) is a disaster of epic proportions, but not the first – they held onto players like Lukas Podolski too long, eventually saying goodbye far past peak value for little return.

And so, the Gunners have no other option. They must completely blow up the squad and start over. It will take some time, it will take heavy investment given the lack of assets at the club, and it might take a painful season or two. But it is what must be done. They only need to look north to Anfield to get a solid blueprint of what a top club grinding out a successful rebuild looks like.

Liverpool was in the same situation in 2015. The squad was aging, the transfer policy was poor, and aside from a 2nd place finish the year before which masked some of the problems plaguing the club, they hadn’t qualified for the Champions League since 2010. So, Fenway Sports Group blew the whole thing up. They sold Raheem Sterling, who would take years to finally blossom under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, for top dollar. They saw Steven Gerrard, Luis Enrique, and Pepe Reina out. They got rid of failures like Mario Balotelli and Lazar Markovic. They used money from the painful but necessary sale of Luis Suarez to bring in Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. They swung and missed on Christian Benteke, but righted that wrong quickly and got most of their money back. They brought in a veteran grinder in James Milner on a free. Eventually, smart money was spent on Emre Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah, and they found a gem in Philippe Coutinho for just $16 million.

The key however, through all that, was the home run hire of Jurgen Klopp, who has had plenty of growing pains in the Premier League, but is the perfect manager for a rebuild. A loyal and enigmatic character who grooms young players brilliantly, Klopp has mixed cheap veterans with promising youngsters with amazing touch, and can tactically mask squad weaknesses with the best of them. The Reds still have a ways to go as they slowly climb the ladder to perennial Champions League contender, still sporting massive holes at defense and goalkeeper, but shrewd decision-making at the top now has Liverpool with the resources to patch holes while still allowing the stars of the squad to shine.

No rebuild is perfect, and no rebuild is without pain and mistakes, but it is preferable to the alternative in the long-run. Manchester United has been able to avoid a full-on squad nuke when left in a similar position after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, but only because of near-unlimited resources and the hiring of managers who mask deficiencies with short-term band-aids such as negative tactics which infuriate supporters and yet fail to achieve the heights the club once reached on a regular basis.

It’s clear that Arsenal must follow Liverpool’s example and sacrifice a few battles to win the war. The first step is letting go of Arsene Wenger and finding someone to lead them through the muck and still be there on the other side. While Carlo Ancelotti would be a big-name get, he wouldn’t fit a long-term plan as snug as someone like Diego Simeone.

The next step – which is no cake walk – would be to retool the squad without many assets of value on hand. Players like Jack Wilshere must be retained, while recent transfers Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have shown enough promise and work rate to build around. The rest are expendable, and departures are required to both raise funds and provide turnover. Aaron Ramsey would be a rare example of someone who could net a solid return while also proving replaceable, as would Hector Bellerin at just 22 years old. Expired has-beens over 30 in Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Debuchy are all immediately out the door despite minimal return, while keeping Olivier Giroud and Nacho Monreal would provide valuable veteran leaders who can still produce on the field.

These aren’t all the answers, and it can’t all be done at once, but it’s a starting point. As is, the Gunners are slowly bleeding out, and instead of layers and layers of gauze, upper management should invest in wide-scale surgery for the long-term health of the club.

Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United: Wenger tops Mourinho

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  • Xhaka’s deflected strike hit 57 mins in
  • Welbeck headed in a second 3 minutes later
  • Arsenal stays alive for top 4

Thanks to goals from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck, Arsene Wenger has beaten Jose Mourinho for the first time ever in Premier League play, a 2-0 result that keeps Arsenal’s faint hopes for a Champions League place alive and puts Manchester United in a weaker position in that same race.

United had the first big chance of the game as Wayne Rooney fed through Anthony Martial, but the Frenchman’s effort was stymied at close range by Petr Cech. The Gunners went down the other end minutes later, and Aaron Ramsey forced a save from David De Gea.

The proceedings went back and forth as neither side gained full control. Rooney had a header just wide off a corner, while Ramsey’s 30th minute pull-back was blocked with a pair of Gunners waiting. Ramsey and Ozil were both wide open on the end of an Alexis Sanchez far-post cross, but it was just out of reach with the goal gaping.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Rooney had the game’s biggest chance down the other end after picking out Rob Holding‘s back-pass, but he was smothered by Cech with no one else back.

With the score untouched at halftime, the game seemed to take a dip after the break as both teams looked to have hit the reset button. Then, out of nowhere, the Gunners led. Xhaka took aim from a huge distance out, and a massive stroke of fortune came his way as the shot struck the back of Ander Herrera and looped perfectly into the top corner.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The game sprung to life after the goal, and the Gunners doubled their lead. A cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the right touchline floated over the head of Chris Smalling and right to Welbeck who blasted his header off the underside of the crossbar and in.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Once down 2-0, Manchester United struggled to produce the chances they had in the first half. The Gunners were forced into a change as Xhaka was left with his seat on the turf, and he was replaced by Francis Coquelin on 75 minutes.

United looked for a way back in, but they had little to offer Cech’s goal as Arsenal did well to hamper them on the ball. Axel Tuanzebe delivered an impressive volley in stoppage time but it was too close to the Gunners’ shot-stopper.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The win for Arsenal keeps their very faint top four hopes mathematically alive. On 63 points, they sit two back of Manchester United in fifth and six behind Manchester City for that final Champions League place. The Gunners have four matches remaining, which gives them a game in hand on the rest of the competition.

Manchester United falls back in the race, on 65 points, four back of Manchester City after the club’s first loss since October, ending a run of 25 matches. Jose Mourinho has publicly claimed they are prioritizing the Europa League, and rested a number of usual starters for this game as a result.

Report: Granit Xhaka accused of racial abuse

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Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has not had the best 48 hours of his life.

[ MORE: Coutinho key to Liverpool? ]

Xhaka, 24, was sent off for the ninth time in his career on Sunday for a two-footed lunge in Arsenal’s dramatic 2-1 win against Burnley.

It has new been reported by the Telegraph that Granit Xhaka has been accused of racially abusing a member of staff at Heathrow Airport on Monday, just over 24 hours after being sent off.

The Swiss midfielder, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach for $43.8 million in the summer, was reported by a third party for abusing the staff member as he dropped off a friend at Heathrow airport but they were then refused entry to security after turning up late for the flight.

Xhaka is said to have abused the staff member in German but he refutes the claim.

“Police were called at 19:29hrs on Monday, 23 January following an allegation that a member of staff had been racially abused at Heathrow Airport, Terminal Five. The allegation was made by a third party. Officers attended and spoke with a man in his 20s. He was not arrested. He voluntarily attended a west London police station where he was interviewed under caution. Enquires continue.”

Arsenal have no comment on what they call “a private matter” according to Sky Sports, but it has certainly not been a great 48 hours for the club who also had manager Arsene Wenger hit with a misconduct charge by the FA after being sent to the stands for his reaction at a late penalty kick was awarded to Burnley.

Wenger is also being investigated for an apparent push on fourth official Anthony Taylor as he watched from the tunnel area with many expecting Arsenal’s manager to receive a touchline ban.

Again, not a vintage 48 hours for Arsenal as they sit eight points clear of Chelsea and prepare for a pivotal week in their Premier League title hopes which culminates with a battle against their London rivals on Feb. 4 at Stamford Bridge.