Emile Smith-Rowe

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Bernd Leno: Europa League, FA Cup important for Arsenal

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Bernd Leno thinks Arsenal’s Europa League battle can help the team expedite its return to contention.

The Gunners are unlikely to reclaim a Champions League berth via the top four, currently 10 points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

And possible obstacles to winning the Europa League include Inter Milan, Manchester United, Wolves, Sevilla, and Ajax amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

But Leno says a trophy, whether the FA Cup or UEL, would be huge. But even if the Gunners don’t manage to reach another final, the big moments against top competition will help strengthen their nerve.

From Football.London:

“In the Europa League and FA Cup we have so many difficult games, so many big games because we saw last season that in the Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals you get Champions League teams. They are all playing for the title and the final was Arsenal against Chelsea [last season], so it was a very, very big game.

“We want to have this final again and also in the FA Cup. Everybody told me that the FA Cup final at Wembley is unbelievable with the atmosphere and it is also a trophy, a title and we are looking forward to playing these games. Hopefully we can win a title this season.”

It’s especially true for stars-in-waiting Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, and Bukayo Saka, and follows the same logic as sending Emile Smith-Rowe on loan to Huddersfield Town. Play in important spots for your side, and grow.

Arsenal is in training camp in the Middle East for its winter break, and will return to host Newcastle in the Premier League before beginning the Europa League Round of 32 tie with Olympiacos. Its next FA Cup opponent is Portsmouth on March 2, so it’s reasonable to figure Arsenal will take the next step toward silverware in both competitions.

Leno has been sensational for the Gunners this season, and he wasn’t bad in his first season after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, either. Even if his top four prediction in December isn’t going according to plan.

Transfer Tracker: Every January done deal in Premier League

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Below are all the completed incoming and outgoing first-team transfers by Premier League teams this winter. This January transfer tracker will be updated in real time to reflect completed transfers that make it through to confirmation before the window shuts.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Player names with clickable links will send you to the story for that particular signing.

ARSENAL

IN
Pablo Mari – loan, Flamengo
Cedric – loan, Southampton

OUT
Konstantinos Mavropanos – loan, Nurnberg
Emile Smith-Rowe – loan, Huddersfield Town

ASTON VILLA

IN
Mbwana Samatta – $15.7m, KRC Genk
Danny Drinkwater – loan, Chelsea
Pepe Reina – loan, AC Milan
Borja Baston – undisclosed, Swansea City

OUT
Jonathan Kodija – $4.4m, Al Gharafa
Scott Hogan – loan, Birmingham City

BOURNEMOUTH

IN
[none]

OUT
Asmir Begovic – loan, AC Milan

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

IN
Aaron Mooy – $9m, Huddersfield Town
Tariq Lamptey – undisclosed, Chelsea

OUT
Anders Dreyer – undisclosed, FC Midtjylland

BURNLEY

IN
Josh Brownhill – $11.8m, Bristol City

OUT
Nahki Wells – $6.6m, Bristol City

CHELSEA

IN
[none]

OUT
Danny Drinkwater – loan, Aston Villa
Victor Moses – loan, AC Milan
Michael Hector – $8.8m, Fulham
Tariq Lamptey – undisclosed, Brighton

CRYSTAL PALACE

IN
Cenk Tosun – loan, Everton

OUT
[none]

EVERTON

IN
[none]

OUT
Cenk Tosun – loan, Crystal Palace

LEICESTER CITY

IN
Ryan Bennett – loan, Wolves

OUT
Andy King – loan, Huddersfield Town

LIVERPOOL

IN
Takumi Minamino – $12.7m, RB Leipzig

OUT
Rhian Brewster – loan, Swansea City

MANCHESTER CITY

IN
[none]

OUT
Patrick Roberts – loan, Middlesbrough
Lukas Nmecha – loan, Middlesbrough

MANCHESTER UNITED

IN
Bruno Fernandes – $88m, Sporting CP
Nathan Bishop – undisclosed, Southend United
Odion Ighalo – loan, Shanghai Shenhua

OUT
Ashley Young – loan, Inter Milan
Marcos Rojo – loan, Estudiantes

NEWCASTLE UNITED

IN
Nabil Bentaleb – loan, Schalke
Valentino Lazaro – loan, Inter Milan
Danny Rose – loan, Tottenham Hotspur

OUT
Ki Sung-yeung – Release
Rolando Aarons – loan, Motherwell

NORWICH CITY

IN
Ondrej Duda – loan, Hertha Berlin
Lukas Rupp – $747k, Hoffenheim

OUT
Carlton Morris – loan, MK Dons
Denis Srbeny – undisclosed, Paderborn

SHEFFIELD UNITED

IN
Sander Berge – $26m, Genk
Jack Rodwell – unattached
Jack Robinson – undisclosed, Nottingham Forest

OUT
Callum Robinson – loan, West Bromwich Albion

SOUTHAMPTON

IN
Kyle Walker-Peters – loan, Tottenham Hotspur

OUT
Josh Sims – loan, New York Red Bulls
Cedric – loan, Arsenal
Maya Yoshida – loan, Sampdoria

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

IN
Steven Bergwijn – $44.8m, PSV Eindhoven
Gedson Fernandes – loan, Benfica
Giovani Lo Celso – triggered option to buy at $35m, Real Betis

OUT
Christian Eriksen – $22.8 million, Inter Milan
Kyle Walker-Peters – loan, Southampton
Cameron Carter-Vickers – loan, Luton Town

WATFORD

IN
Ignacio Pussetto – $12m, Udinese
Joao Pedro – $5.9m, Fluminense

OUT
Marvin Zeegelaar – $3m, Udinese
Dimitri Foulquier – loan, Granada

WEST HAM UNITED

IN
Darren Randolph – $7m, Middlesbrough
Tomas Soucek – loan, Slavia Prague
Jarrod Bowen – $24m, Hull City

OUT
Roberto – loan, Alaves

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

IN
Daniel Podence – $29.2m, Olympiakos
Leonardo Campana – free, Barcelona
Enzo Loiodice – loan, Dijon

OUT
Patrick Cutrone – loan, Fiorentina
Ivan Cavaleiro – trigger option to buy $17.6m, Fulham
Rafa Mir – loan, Huesca
Jesus Vallejo – loan, Granada
Ryan Bennett – loan, Leicester City

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal issue injury update

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Arsenal have issued an injury update on several players after their win at West Ham on Monday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg will have an injury headache to sort out, especially at full back, as Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney were both injured before and during the 3-1 win at the London Stadium.

Bellerin felt his hamstring go in the warm up and the Spaniard was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who performed well.

“Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up and we took the decision. Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%,” Ljungberg said. “It was a straight swap on that with Ainsley. Ainsley has been out in the cold a little bit but came in and did really well. I’m really proud of him.”

As for Tierney, who suffered a shoulder injury during the game, the prognosis on the Scottish left back doesn’t appear as positive as Bellerin.

“It’s something with his shoulder but I don’t know exactly what that is. We obviously had to take him off. He’s going to hospital to get it checked,” Ljungberg added.

The Gunners have enough defensive issues as it is without throwing a few injuries to arguably their best right and left backs.

Arsenal have plenty of walking wounded right now, as Rob Holding wasn’t in the squad to face West Ham due to a knee injury flaring up, while Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith-Rowe are still working their way back to full fitness.

Remarkably, Arsenal are just seven points off the top four given the firing of Unai Emery, their woeful defensive displays and their worst-ever start to a season.

Ljungberg’s boys host Man City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) which looks like being a straight shootout between two teams who can score at will but can’t keep them out at the other end.

The Gunners are great to watch for the neutrals, but these defensive injuries continue to hamper any recovery post-Emery.

Manchester United, Arsenal both desperate at Old Trafford

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Two teams with Top Four expectations meet sitting mid-table in an Old Trafford clash on Monday at 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and live online at NBCSports.com.

There is a different feeling surrounding this meeting of bitter Premier League enemies. They are both immeasurably desperate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery are in very precarious positions as they guide two fallen giants hoping to avoid further depths of despair. A loss here could doom one of these squads to a long, hard season of little gain, while a draw would confirm the equal plights of both rival clubs that long for a return to glory that seems so far out of reach.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

The future is now for Manchester United, as Mason Greenwood could see his first Premier League start with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both sidelined with injuries. Paul Pogba‘s status is questionable thanks to an ankle injury he re-aggrivated midweek in cup action, the same ailment bothering Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette who will likely miss out. The Gunners will, however, have Kieran Tierney available for selection having yet to make his Premier League debut.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Marcus Rashford (hip), Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Paul Pogba (ankle).
Arsenal: OUT – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Emile Smith-Rowe (concussion).


Projected Lineups:

Man United: De Gea; Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Matic, Mata; James, Greenwood, Pereira.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Saka, Ceballos, Pepe; Aubameyang.


What they’re saying

Man United manager Solskjaer on struggles thus far: “You evaluate every single game and look through the games, but I’m not doubting myself, no. If I doubt myself, then the rest of the world would as well. We have loads of discussions, so we believe in what we’re doing.”

Arsenal manager Emery on rivalry:  “Each match when I watched in Spain, Arsenal v Manchester United, Manchester United v Arsenal, was a special moment. I think Monday at eight o’clock, all around the world, if someone wants to watch a football match, it’s this one. We really want to play matches where we can do something important. We are preparing well. The players are wishing to play the next match – we know it’s a very big opportunity for us to get three points.”


Three key battles

  1. Daniel James v. Ainsley Maitland-Niles – The young Arsenal right-back was sent off last time out against Aston Villa with two yellow cards, and should he get a chance to start and redeem himself, he will need to bounce right back against one of the more in-form wingers in the league. Daniel James has been one of the few bright spots in attack for Manchester United this season, and Maitland-Niles will have his hands full. Should Emery decide against going with the 22-year-old at right-back, he could give Hector Bellerin a chance to return to favor, leading even more intrigue to this matchup on the Manchester United left flank.
  2. Dani Cabellos v. Nemanja Matic – Manchester United fans won’t be worried about Scott McTominay holding his own in front of the Red Devils back line, as the 22-year-old has been fantastic for the club since earning a starting place in the middle of last year. Instead, if Cabellos is to trouble the Man United midfield it will likely be at the expense of Nemanja Matic who has looked off the pace at times this season, both on the ball and off it. If Cabellos gets a hold of the midfield and has room to make magic, the Manchester United back line could be forced to pick up the slack, which means good news for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who would clean up the scraps.
  3. Mason Greenwood v. David Luiz/Sokratis – The 17-year-old Manchester United striker has earned praise from all corners of Red Devil land for his performances in other competitions, and it is time for his first Premier League start. The Arsenal defense, meanwhile, hasn’t done much to cover itself in glory this season, and that could mean a feast for the teenager at the Theater of Dreams. Will Greenwood reward the faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown in his young talent?

Prediction

These two teams are hungry for a result, and when desperate sides meet, the neutrals benefit from what could likely become an electric affair. Goals and big moments are to be expected, and that makes for an exciting matchup. Ultimately the fear of losing could outweigh the glory of victory, which could lead to a lack of attacking mentality late, but I like Arsenal to shock the hosts in their fortress thanks to the host of injuries Manchester United is dealing with at the moment; the loss of Paul Pogba is more troubling than most Red Devil fans care to admit. Look for Dani Cabellos to shine as Arsenal takes it in an exciting 2-1 affair that goes down to the wire with Mason Greenwood finding the back of the net in a losing effort.