Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Arsenal


Arsenal will once again be contenders for the Premier League title during the 2015-16 season, as the Gunners look to win their first PL crown since 2004.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

Progress has been the key word around the Emirates Stadium over the past few seasons, as Arsenal have won back-to-back FA Cups and finished third in the PL last season, as big-money has been spent on star players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

The north London club share a bitter rivalry with neighbors Tottenham Hotspur and under manager Arsene Wenger they have won three PL titles, six FA Cups and reached the final of the UEFA Champions League during the PL era.

Best possible XI:

—– Cech—–

— Bellerin — Mertesacker — Koscielny — Monreal —

— Wilshere —– Cazorla —

—– Ozil —-  Ramsey —- Sanchez —-

—— Giroud —–

Transfers In: Petr Cech ($12 million, Chelsea), Jeffe Reine-Adelaide and Yassin Fortune ($5 million, RC Lens), Jordi Osei-Tutu (Undisclosed, Reading), Vlad Dragomir (Undisclosed, Poli Timisoara)

Transfers Out: Abou Diaby (Released), Jack Jebb (Released), Austin Lipman (Released), Josh Vickers (Released), Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (Free, Swindon Town), Semi Ajayi (Free, Cardiff City), Ryo Miyaichi (Free, St. Pauli), Lukas Podolski ($3 million, Galatasaray)

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Arsenal v Stoke City – Premier League

Last season: Third place PL finish, FA Cup winners – Arsenal got off to a poor start but were sensational in the second half of the season with a renewed defensive approach as Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla held down the midfield. Alexis Sanchez was sublime and despite cashing out of the UEFA Champions League to Monaco early in the knockout rounds, it was a successful campaign.

Star player: Alexis Sanchez – The Chilean superstar scored 25 times during his debut season in England and his powerful running, ability to swerve shoots in from tight angles and relentless work rate have turned Alexis into a cult hero. The attacking midfielder will be rested early on in the season due to his involvement in the Copa America with Chile, but he will be the main man if Arsenal are crowned champions at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.

Coaches’ Corner: Wenger is the longest tenured manger in the PL and although he has been heavily criticized in recent seasons for worrying too much about “fancy football” rather than getting results, the Frenchman has seen an upturn in his fortunes since 2013. With the debt for moving to the Emirates Stadium now paid off, the Gunners can afford to splash out on top talents and Wenger has been handed some top-class attackers and now a goalkeeper in Cech. With a few more additions this summer and a little bit of luck, Arsenal’s fans will be more hopeful than ever that they can once again rule England. Plus, not having the dreaded Champions League playoff early in the season will help them concentrate on the PL. Wenger is a legendary manager. Can the 65-year-old lead Arsenal to another league title?


PST predicts: The Gunners are on the up, there’s no questioning that. Defensively there appears to be a few frailties and although they are stacked with world class midfielders and attackers, keeping everybody happy will be a big concern for Wenger. If either Danny Welbeck or Olivier Giroud go down injured there could be major problems. Expect Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey to step up big this season to drive the Gunners on from midfield, while Francis Coquelin will have a big part to play, especially away from home.

LIVE, FA Cup 4th round: Spurs visit Southampton in all-PL tie

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The fourth round of the FA Cup is set to get into full swing at 10 a.m. ET, with eight ties kicking off simultaneously, including a pair of all-Premier League clashes.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Southampton host Tottenham Hotspur in the premier matchup of the time slot, with Jose Mourinho desperate for Cup success amid a difficult run of results at Tottenham. Elsewhere, Burnley will host Norwich City at Turf Moor. Fellow PL sides West Ham United, Newcastle United and Sheffield United are also in action.

Check the schedule of fixtures below, and hit the link above to follow along with the scores and results. As always, check back on PST for recaps and a roundup of all the action.

Saturday’s FA Cup schedule (all games at 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise noted)

Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley v. Norwich City
West Ham United
v. West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United v. Oxford United
Millwall v. Sheffield United
Portsmouth v. Barnsley
Coventry City v. Birmingham City
Reading v. Cardiff City
Hull City v. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET

FA Cup: Leicester survive trip to Brentford, reach 5th round (video)

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Brendan Rodgers made nine changes, but Leicester City were simply too much for an equally rotated Brentford side in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Griffin Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Leicester took an early lead through Kelechi Iheanacho with just four minutes on the clock, and that was all the Premier League’s third-place side needed to see off the EFL Championship’s third-place side. Dennis Praet gets no official credit for the goal, but it was the Belgian midfielder’s seeing-eye through ball that carved the Bees up and found James Justin for the routine cross followed by Iheanacho’s tap-in finish.

It was far from easy or straightforward for the Foxes, though, as Brentford turned things around following the first-half whistle an so nearly pulled level just past the hour mark. Emiliano Marcondes whipped in a curling, in-swinging cross that needed the slightest of redirects to find the back of the net, but Halil Dervisoglu couldn’t get a toe on the ball and watched helplessly as it hit the inside of the post and settled on the ground a yard or two off the goal line.

Bryan Mbeumo came off the bench and put the ball into the back of Leicester’s goal with his first touch, but the Frenchman was correctly ruled offside when Rico Henry looped the ball over the Foxes’ defense.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Eriksen

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After months of posturing and working the back channels, it would appear that Christian Eriksen is close to getting his transfer away from Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

After months of posturing and holding firm, it would appear that Tottenham are close to getting their desired transfer fee for Eriksen despite his contract having only six months remaining.

After months of posturing and unsettling the 27-year-old star, it would appear that Inter Milan are close to getting their Danish international playmaker.

In the end, it would appear that everyone is going to get what they want, only no one truly gets what they want. Spurs spent the last year trying to sign Eriksen to a new contract; Eriksen wanted to leave in the summer and will feel like they wasted six months of his career; much like Inter would have been desperate to bolster their squad in the summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

$22 million — the amount Spurs will reportedly receive from Inter — will hardly be enough to replace such an influential player, therefore Spurs come out of this long-running saga the worst of the bunch.

As for Eriksen and Inter, it’ll be a challenge for the player to immediately find his footing and shine ever so brightly in the midst of a title race, especially after the side has already slumped to back-to-back draws and fallen four points back of Juventus. Though, reportedly tripling his wages from Spurs to Inter leaves Eriksen the biggest winner in a mostly no-win situation.

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.