Mesut Özil

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Watch Live: Bournemouth vs. Arsenal

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Arsenal’s Top Four fight heads south Sunday to battle a Bournemouth side just a point above the drop zone (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

There’s neither Alexis Sanchez (unknown) nor Mesut Ozil (injury) in the squad for Arsenal, sure to fuel more speculation regarding Sanchez’s status with the club in January and beyond.

As for Bournemouth, in-form Ryan Fraser gets the call in a trident with Jordon Ibe and Callum Wilson.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Begovic, Daniels, S. Cook, Ake, Francis, A. Smith, L. Cook, Gosling, Ibe, Wilson, Fraser. Subs: Boruc, Simpson, Surman, Arter, Pugh, Mousset, Afobe.

Arsenal: Cech, Chambers, Mustafi, Holding, Bellerin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Ospina, Kolasinac, Mertesacker, Elneny, Ramsey, Walcott, Nketiah.

Transfer rumor roundup: Liverpool demand $220m for Coutinho

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year deceptive, draining, trying time of the Premier League campaign: transfer speculation season.

[ MORE: Wenger appears resigned to losing Sanchez, Ozil this summer ]

Manchester United’s search for their full backs of the future could lead to a $70-million bid (release clause) for Napoli left back Faouzi Ghoulam, according to Portuguese publication Record, which also states 22-year-old Spaniard Alex Grimaldo would then move to Napoli for $35 million. The 23-year-old Algerian international has been on the radars of Man United-sized clubs for a couple years now, but is still only just entering the prime of his career.

Arsene Wenger appears resigned to the fact that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will leave Arsenal this summer, for free, but insists that no offers have been made to acquire either of the Gunners’ star attackers this month.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Whenever If Philippe Coutinho makes his long-rumored move from Liverpool to Barcelona, he will only be allowed to do so for a fee of nearly $220 million — only $43 million short of Neymar’s world-record transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

Huddersfield Town are reportedly “in talks” to sign 23-year-old Monaco defender Terence Kongolo. The Dutch international only moved from Feyenoord to Ligue 1 in the summer, for $15 million. UPDATE: Huddersfield have announced the loan signing of Kongolo.

Stoke City have rejected West Ham United’s offer for midfielder Joe Allen, according to ESPN UK. The Potters will reportedly continue to reject any bids, at any price, that come in for the 27-year-old Welshman.

Wenger: Alexis, Ozil not the first big players to leave Arsenal

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Arsene Wenger appears resigned — and ready to spin — the fact that, with each passing day, Arsenal look likelier and likelier to lose Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, for nothing, this summer.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Of course, should Arsenal decide that recouping a bit of money is a wise strategy only six months too late, either player could be sold at a bargain price during the now-open January transfer window. More likely, though, is the troublesome, arduous process of playing out the final few months of their current contracts before leaving on free transfers after June 30.

Wenger has been asked about the superstar duo, which could have fetched as much as $200 million at any point during the last 18 months, all season. He has been laying the groundwork — the pre-spin, if you will — for months. Now, with Sanchez and Ozil officially able to negotiate a pre-arranged contract with other clubs, Wenger wants you to believe it’s perfectly normal, and not at all alarming, for a pair of top-20-in-the-world attacking talents to leave the same club in the same summer… once again, for free — quotes from the Telegraph:

“We have not lost them yet and secondly we will respond to that by bringing in players of top quality. My focus is on tomorrow’s game. After that, this club has lost many, many big players and has always responded well. Massive players have left this club and the club will always be in a strong position. You want to keep your best players.”

Indeed, they wouldn’t even be the first Gunners stars this decade to leave the club after running their contracts into the final 12 months. With just one year remaining on his contract, Robin Van Persie left Arsenal in the summer of 2012 for just $32 million; he joined Manchester United, scored 26 goals that season and won his first PL title… finally. All he had to do was leave Arsenal for immediate dividends.

[ MORE: January transfer plans for Mourinho, Man United? ]

At this point, it seems a foregone conclusion Sanchez will finally join Man City this summer and, barring a seismic shift of PL power, Arsenal fans will be watching their former hero win the title immediately after leaving, while they continue shuffling between fourth and sixth.

Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal

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  • Palace won fixture 3-0 last season
  • Lone win in last 14 vs. Gunners
  • Arsenal leads all-time 26W-11D-4L

Arsenal needs a win to keep up with its Top Four rivals when it visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Thursday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Palace has rebounded dramatically under manager Roy Hodgson, from zero wins to 18 points and a place outside the relegation zone.

The test is amongst the, if not the, biggest challenges for Hodgson since it opened an eight-match unbeaten run in league play with a 2-2 home draw with Everton. The Eagles boast an impressive 3-0 win at Leicester, but topping Arsenal for a second successive season at Selhurst would be significant.

What they’re saying

Palace boss Hodgson on Arsenal“I watched their game last Friday night and I thought they were extremely good and their game against Manchester United which they lost but I thought they played exceptionally well, their attacking play was stupendous. We know that’s what we’ve got coming, that’s what we’ve got to try to find a way of trying to deal with and the only advantage we have is the fact that it is at home where our fans do give us enormous support and also they’re sensible fans they realise that we have got a big job on our hands, they will be expecting us to give our all against Arsenal.”

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere on playing with Mesut OzilI’ve said before that’s where I want to play. I like playing through the middle, whether it’s deeper or it’s in the number 10. With a player like Mesut, we’ve been playing next to each other, it makes it easy. If you make a run, he’ll find a ball for you and with Granit sitting in behind it’s working quite well. We’re looking to build on that, we can improve definitely, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Prediction

There’s real potential for some festive fireworks here, and we won’t be surprised to see both Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez get on the scoreboard. But it can also be a day for Wilfried Zaha and ex-North London Derby thorn Andros Townsend against Arsenal’s back line. Laurent Koscielny‘s had a bit of a rough patch in particular, and we bet the Eagles find the back of the goal in a 2-1 or 3-1 loss.

Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool: Thriller in London

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  • What in the world did we just see?
  • Reds dominate first 45
  • Coutinho, Salah open 2-0 lead
  • Arsenal answers with three between 53rd-58th 

The festive fixtures got a frenetic start, as Liverpool saved some blushes after allowing three goals in six minutes in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Friday.

Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez, and Mesut Ozl scored to erase a 2-0 Liverpool lead produced by Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho. Roberto Firmino later equalized for the Reds.

Liverpool will meet Christmas in third place, their 35 points one better than Arsenal (unless Burnley hangs a 15-goal win on Tottenham).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jurgen Klopp last his captain Jordan Henderson after just 10 minutes, though he didn’t lose a ton when James Milner entered for the man with the band.

Soon after, our first real chance of the match: Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho combining for the Brazilian to rip wide of the frame.

Petr Cech was back post to stop a point blank header from Roberto Firmino off another terrific cross from Andrew Robertson.

Coutinho went to the dirty places to male it 1-0, as Salah showed that fine form leads to luck. Following really nice rondo work off a throw-in, Coutinho’s lung-busting run led him into the six to a deflected Salah cross. The Brazilian nodded over Cech with a deft header.

Firmino curled a shot from inside the 18 over the bar and off the back stanchion as Liverpool asked most of the questions.

A slip allowed Salah to test Cech, and the Czech keeper made a save followed by a Mane flying volley over the goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

An injured Nacho Monreal left the match at halftime for Arsenal.

Salah saw a trademarked long dribble end with another fine save by Cech, and Coutinho put an ensuing move wide of the frame.

Fittingly, the Egyptian made it 2-0 after the Reds found gaps in the Arsenal formation and Salah blasted a shot around a diving Cech.

Sanchez made it 2-1 within moments, though, as he ran in front of an awkward Joe Gomez to head a Hector Bellerin cross between the legs of Simon Mignolet. Don’t ignore the touch in traffic from Xhaka during the build-up.

Liverpool’s dominance was erased when Mignolet butchered his parry attempt of a rocket shot from Xhaka. 2-2.

(Insert TV pitchmaster’s voice) But wait, there’s more! Ozil worked a delightful 1-2 with Alexandre Lacazette to lift the Gunners from 0-2 to 3-2 within six minutes!

Klavan interceded to stop Lacazette’s shout at 4-2, but the Gunners had a corner. Ozil’s offering was headed clear for a counter attack.

The Reds leveled it at 3 with 20 minutes to go, as Cech could only get a hand to Firmino’s blast through traffic. Cech had otherwise been very good.