Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Getty Images

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Burnley

Leave a comment

Arsenal host Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as both teams aim to stay perfect after wins to open up the new season.

The Gunners won 1-0 at Newcastle last week, while Burnley hammered Southampton at home, and Unai Emery’s men are red-hot favorites to make it two wins from two as their attacking stars start to find their groove.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

In team news Arsenal start David Luiz and Dani Ceballos, while Alexandre Lacazette returns from injury. Henrikh Mkhitaryan drops to the bench and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe is also named as a sub. Mesut Ozil misses our through illness.

Burnley start with the same team that beat Southampton 3-0 last weekend, as Jay Rodriguez and Aaron Lennon are handy attacking options to have on the bench.

LINEUPS

Solskjaer: Alexis will play more often than many think

Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is feeling good about Manchester United’s depth, and thinks there will be plenty of contributions from it.

Case in point: The Red Devils manager believes fans will see a lot of Alexis Sanchez despite the Chilean’s absence from the lineup against Chelsea and perceived status as a desired transfer.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City-Spurs ]

Solskjaer noted that his leaving Alexis, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Fred out of the 18 on Opening Day, and pointed to the former Arsenal playmaker in particular.

Alexis hurt his hamstring at Copa America but is getting back up to speed. From Sky Sports:

“Alexis is such a professional. He comes in working every single day, really hard. He wants to be part of this. These stories that he’s been put in the reserves – of course he hasn’t. He’s part of our squad and he’s a very good player. He’s a few weeks behind the rest but he’s very close to being part of it.

“We don’t have the biggest forward line so Alexis might end up playing a lot more games than you expect. We expect him to come good at this club. He’s quality.”

Solskjaer would love Alexis to turn things around, especially since Jesse Lingard also struggled last season and Juan Mata isn’t getting any younger (Andreas Pereira, while well-regarded, didn’t light the Premier League on fire last season, either).

Alexis has five goals and nine assists in 45 appearances for United since arriving in a swap deal with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Last season saw him manage just one goal and three assists in 877 PL minutes.

Arsenal eye Coutinho, defenders ahead of transfer deadline

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Let’s start with the big one: A report from L’Equipe in France states that Arsenal are closing in a season-long loan move for Philippe Coutinho.

The Barcelona and Brazil star, 27, has struggled since swapping Anfield for the Nou Camp and the former Liverpool superstar is reportedly keen on a move back to the Premier League.

Per the report, Coutinho will spend the season on loan at Arsenal and will not be heading to Paris Saint-Germain, the club he has been linked to on numerous occasions as Neymar has been linked with a move back to Barcelona all summer long.

After signing Nicolas Pepe for $87 million, adding Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid and still having Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on board, quite why Arsenal would want another mercurial playmaker is beyond pretty much everyone.

Except, most importantly, Arsenal.


The Gunners finally appear to be willing to sign a new central defender. But is it too late?

With just over 48 hours to go until the transfer window shuts for Premier League clubs, Arsenal have been linked with moves for two center backs.

RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and Juventus’ Daniele Rugani are the two players mentioned in a report from the Guardian.

The former would be a tricky deal given the fact that Leipzig want $85 million for their 20-year-old central defender, plus Upamecano is keen to play in the UEFA Champions League for the Bundesliga side this season.

As for Rugani, it is believed Juve are open to an initial loan deal and then selling him next summer which could suit the Gunners as they reportedly have just over $50 million to spend this summer. Those reports broke before a record-breaking $87 million move for winger Pepe, but remember, that deal is to be paid in several instalments.

One thing is certain: Arsenal need help defensively. And they have done for about a decade now.

Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin will return from injury this season to boost Unai Emery‘s options but with Laurent Koscielny heading to Bordeaux and the likes of Shkodran Mustafi still around, Arsenal are looking at the likes of Sokratis and Callum Chambers to step up in defense this season. They did buy William Saliba, 18, this summer but he has gone back on loan to Saint-Etienne for the upcoming campaign, so they are no better off than least season when their leaky defense cost them finishing in the top four.

Like Manchester United, it has been pretty comical to see Arsenal blatantly ignore their need to sign new defenders in recent seasons and instead prioritize buying attacking player after attacking player.

Rugani, 25, would seem more likely to arrive and if that does happen, all of a sudden the Gunners are in the conversation for having one of the best transfer windows for PL clubs this summer.

Arsenal sign Nicolas Pepe for $87 million

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nicolas Pepe is officially an Arsenal player.

The Ivory Coast winger, 24, has arrived for a club-record fee believed to be in the region of $87 million.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Arsenal will pay this huge transfer fee in instalments, as previously their transfer kitty for this summer was rumored to be around $55 million.

Pepe was unveiled by the Gunners on Thursday and will wear the No.19 shirt, and his new manager Unai Emery seems incredibly excited to welcome the attacker to the Emirates Stadium.

“Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” Emery said. “Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining. He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team.”

Asked about his emotions upon signing for Arsenal, Pepe revealed that he has admired their French players from afar for many years and is delighted to arrive in the Premier League.

“Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me. I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward,” Pepe said.

The Ivory Coast star burst onto the scene last season at Lille, scoring 22 goals in Ligue 1 as they finished second and qualified for the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal’s attack will now boast Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Pepe, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and youngster Eddie Nketiah. Talk about options.

“When I knew I was coming to Arsenal, I immediately thought of the French guys who play here,” Pepe said. “I thought of Ozil, the world champions, Lacazette, Aubameyang and many more. Of course, these are the players who sprang to mind because I used to watch them when I was at Lille. Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him. It will be an honor to play alongside him.”

After hearing about this signing many will point to the fact that the Gunners have been trying to shore up their leaky defense for years, but that’s not Pepe’s problem.

One of the most exciting wingers in the game right now has arrived at Arsenal and this is a huge statement of intent from the club which finished fifth in the Premier League last season, agonizingly missing out on UCL qualification via the league and by losing in the UEFA Europa League final to London rivals Chelsea.

Majority owner Stan Kroenke has been lambasted for failing to spend big money at Arsenal in recent years but after spending a combined $200 million on transfer fees alone on Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang, can the Gunners faithful finally cut him some slack?

Probably not.

And that’s probably because Arsenal are still two defensive players away from being a real force in the Premier League this season and beyond. Kieran Tierney could arrive at left back, while the return from injury of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding will boost their defensive options. But with Laurent Koscielny on his way out, the Gunners still look short of options defensively.

Still, it seems like Emery’s plan is now to win games 6-4 or 5-3 and neutrals everywhere will be keen to watch that with Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang in full flow as Dani Ceballos and Mesut Ozil tee them up.

One way or another, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch Arsenal play this season.

Report: Nicolas Pepe agrees to Arsenal move

Getty Images
1 Comment

Nicolas Pepe is set to become an Arsenal player this week in a club-record transfer.

The Ivory Coast international, 24, has returned from his break following the Africa Cup of Nations and Lille are said to have agreed $87 million deals with both Arsenal and Napoli to sell him this summer.

Pepe is also said to be attracting a late bid from Paris Saint-Germain, but Sky Sports say that Pepe has decided he will move to Arsenal. The report adds that he will undergo a medical in London in the coming days.

What’s that? Oh yes, we thought Arsenal didn’t have any money to spend this summer. Apparently they do.

The $87 million deal for Pepe will be paid in several instalments by Arsenal in order to fit into their financial plans, with Unai Emery‘s side winning the race for his signature.

Pepe scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season as Lille finished second behind PSG, and only Kylian Mbappe was involved in more goals as the tricky winger (who can also play as a center forward) added 11 assists in the league.

But do Arsenal really need another attacking player? It would appear the one area of their squad which is well-stocked with options, but when a player of Pepe’s ability, and potential, becomes available then you have to snap him up.

The Gunners never got close to the $100 million valuation Crystal Palace wanted for Wilfried Zaha, but it is clear that Emery wants a speedy winger to link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack. What this means for the futures of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains to be seen, but Pepe’s arrival is a major coup as Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich were all linked with signing Pepe.

If the signing of Dani Ceballos on a season-long from Real Madrid excited Arsenal’s fans, this deal for Pepe will knock their socks off. In addition, signing highly-rated teenage center back William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for $33 million then loaning him back for this season is another positive move. That last transfer doesn’t help Arsenal where they need help most (defense) this season, and that is still the concern regarding their chances of finishing in the top four.

They conceded 51 PL goals last season, the third most of teams who finished in the top 10, and they’ve also seen club captain Laurent Koscielny refuse to go on their U.S. tour during preseason as he wants a move away from the club. However, Rob Holding‘s return from injury is a big boost and Hector Bellerin is also set to come back soon after a lengthy spell out.

Emery has to deliver a top four finish this season and now that he’s had an entire campaign to bed in his ideas, he must deliver a return to the Champions League for the Gunners. Pepe will help that push in a big way, but Arsenal must get better defensively if they’re going to be a success under Emery.