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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Arsenal

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In the eyes of Arsenal’s fans the 13-time champions of England have had a rough stretch the past decade, failing to add to the three Premier League titles Arsene Wenger delivered in his first eight years in charge of the Gunners.

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One of the best supported teams in England, and worldwide, their glistening Emirates Stadium is a beacon of all that’s right about modern day soccer.

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Hampered with the cost of that stadium for so long, Arsenal were unable to give Wenger significant transfer funds and he had to sell key players over the past decade. That time has now passed with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and now Granit Xhaka arriving for big money but with more money spent comes bigger expectations and Arsenal’s fans are perhaps the most expectant fans in the land.

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Anything other than a title this season will be seen as a disappointment as their failure to overtake surprise champs Leicester City last season led to protests from fans against Wenger and the board even though they finished in second place and qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the 19th-straight season. In the offseason Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis has reaffirmed the Gunners’ stance that they will not spend vasts sums of money to take on their PL rivals. That’s not what Arsenal’s fans will want to hear.

Why Arsenal will sweep all before them and win a first PL title since 2004: If Ozil runs the show and the likes of Olivier Giroud, Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all stay fit then the Gunners can have a real go. They’ll also need Petr Cech to have the season of his life in goal and Laurent Koscielny to dominate the defense with Per Mertesacker out injured. Too much to ask?

But they’ll probably just finish fourth by the skin of their teeth: Because, well, this is Arsenal, and this is the most likely outcome. Most likely we will see a misfiring Giroud, then Sanchez will do down injured and their defense will fall apart away from home. We’ve been here so many times before. Kudos to Wenger for delivering top four finishes for 20-straight seasons but in all honesty finishing in the top four this campaign would be a huge achievement. Revamped Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool will all push them hard.


Best possible XI

—– Cech —–

— Bellerin — Mertesacker — Koscielny — Monreal —

—- Wilshere — Xhaka —-

— Ozil — Ramsey — Sanchez —

—– Giroud —–


Transfers In: Granit Xhaka ($39.5 million, Borussia Monchengladbach), Rob Holding ($2.6 million, Bolton Wanderers), Takuma Asano (Undisclosed, Sanfreece Hiroshima)

Transfers Out: Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky (All released), Issac Hayden ($3.1 million, Newcastle United), Wellington Silva (Undisclosed, Fluminense)

Last season: The Gunners did their usual. They looked capable of winning the title up until February but then crumbled before recovering to finish second behind Leicester.

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-LIVERPOOL
(Photo by Getty Images)

Star player: Mesut Ozil – He tore apart the PL at times with 19 assists last season and after a good rest this summer he’ll aim to do the same. Penny has finally dropped for the playmaker in England. If it clicks again with Sanchez and Ramsey, those three could be devastating.

Coaches’ Corner: Arsene Wenger is still around but the longest-serving manager in the Premier League could be facing one of his toughest seasons to date. Fan unrest towards the end of the 2015-16 campaign proved he’s on a short leash and with just one year left on his contract the 66-year-old will have to exceed expectations this season (never easy at Arsenal) to get a bumper new deal. Sure, he will probably decide when he will leave Arsenal which is what upsets fans most, but just look at what’s happened to Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years with the constant chopping and changing of bosses. Be careful what you wish for, Arsenal fans.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal reacts during the Emirates FA Cup sixth round match between Arsenal and Watford at Emirates Stadium on March 13, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

PST predicts: A top four finish for Arsenal and they will be in the hunt for the title. The experience of last season will hold them in good stead and if Xhaka hits the ground running they finally have a midfield enforcer who can protect their back four and allow their silky playmakers to pour forward. Getting in a world-class striker remains the difference between Arsenal finishing in the top four and being clear favorites to win the title.

UCL, Live: Chelsea v. Bayern; Napoli v. Barcelona

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is back and the Round of 16 games continue this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Barcelona head to Napoli in what should be two epic battles.

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This is arguably the biggest test yet for Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea youngsters as they face the German giants Bayern who are in imperious form in Europe and have Robert Lewandowski leading their charge. What Chelsea lack in experience they make up for in talent and despite some attacking injuries, Lampard will be keen to take the game to Bayern at Stamford Bridge. Given Chelsea’s defensive flaws so far this season, their best form of defense is attack.

Lampard knows Chelsea must lock down Lewandowski and his battle with Antonio Rudiger is one, among many, we are really looking forward to.

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Elsewhere, Barcelona warmed up for their big trip to Napoli in fine style as Lionel Messi scored four times in a thumping win against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Messi, 32, will be Barca’s main men in the cauldron that is the Estadio San Paolo and despite their patchy form in Serie A, Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli are a dangerous proposition in the Champions League. Especially at home in Naples.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Napoli v. Barcelona

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

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Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams.

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Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
2. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 16
4. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
6. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 1
7. Dwight McNeil (Burnley) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 2
9. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
10. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Down 5
11. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – New entry
12. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 4
13. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – Down 9
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
15. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – New entry
16. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
17. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 9
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 12
19. Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – Down 7

Key battles: Chelsea v. Bayern; Real Madrid v. Man City

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Two Premier League teams play in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Man City head to Real Madrid in the first legs.

Which battles will determine the outcome of these games?

[ MORE: Predicting the UCL last 16 encounters ]

Below we take a look at three crucial head-to-head clashes which will be pivotal in deciding which teams will reach the quarterfinals.


Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski: The former has become a real threat from set pieces for Chelsea but his main role will be to stop the most lethal striker in Europe this season in Lewandowski’s. Bayern’s target man is ageing like a fine French win and has 40 goals to his name in all competitions for club and country. Chelsea’s defense has struggled at times this season and Lewa must be licking his chops in anticipation as he tries to win his first-ever Champions League title.

Jorginho v. Thiago Alcantara: Two pass-masters in central midfield will be a joy to watch. Jorginho has a more defensive role to play with N’Golo Kante out and the Italian will look to deliver perfectly weighted passes to get Chelsea’s attack going. As for Thiago, his vision works really well alongside some of Bayern’s more defensive midfielders and he is so assured in possession. The Spanish international has class on the ball and he and Jorginho are very similar. What a battle this should be.

Reece James v. Alphonso Davies: This is a battle we should all look forward to. Canadian star Davies has been a revelation at left back for Bayern and is encouraged to steam ahead and join in attacks whenever he can. James does exactly the same for Chelsea and has made the position his own in his debut season in the Premier League. These two players will be around at the top level and playing in the Champions League for a very long time and you can expect incisive runs up and down as they go head-to-head.

Real Madrid v. Man City

Casemiro v. Kevin De Bruyne: This will be one heck of a job for Real’s Brazilian destroyer. Of course, Casemiro can play too but his main role will be to shut down Kevin de Bruyne who has been in imperious form for Man City in recent weeks. When KDB is fit and firing on all cylinders he is almost unstoppable and he is a player who continues to be linked with a move to Real this summer amid the uncertainty over Man City’s two-season European ban.

Sergio Ramos v. Sergio Aguero: The master of the dark arts against the master of finishing will be fascinating viewing. The Sergio’s will put on a show and Aguero will fancy his chances of wriggling past Ramos and being the hero. That said, how many times have we written off Ramos in the past? The Real Madrid and Spain skipper seems to always find a way of coming out on top but he will be stretched to his limits as his Real defense try to put out fires all over the place with Aguero, KDB and Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus popping up.

Karim Benzema v. Aymeric Laporte: The latter has been influential since his return from injury and his absence is the main reason Man City are so far behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race. Benzema’s physicality could cause Laporte some issues and like Ramos, he is underrated for a player who has been pivotal in winning four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Laporte is good on the ball and Benzema’s clever turns and flicks means this battle will be more about brains than brawn.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

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LYON, France (AP) French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports