Mesut Ozil

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PL Preview: Sheffield United v. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal has 1 loss in its last 11 Monday matches
  • Sheffield United has 7 goals this PL season from 7 different goalscorers
  • The Blades have not lost 4 home league games in a row since 1965

Arsenal has the opportunity to jump third in the Premier League table and earn early title considerations as they visit pesky Sheffield United on Monday, with kickoff set for 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Sheffield United v. Arsenal ]

The Gunners are currently fifth with 15 points but can leap in front of both Chelsea and Leicester City with victory at Bramall Lane. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in fabulous goalscoring form with seven strikes through the first eight matches of the Premier League season, set to lead the lines again on the road.

Unai Emery has one big question ahead of the match, with Alexandre Lacazette close to a return from his ankle injury but still unsure of his fitness level. The Frenchman netted twice in three matches to start the season but has not featured since September 1. If he is only fit for the bench, 18-year-old Bukayo Saka could see another start on the wing after a bright performance against Bournemouth, or Emery could choose to move Dani Ceballos out to the wing and slide Lucas Torreira into the midfield. Mesut Ozil could also be an option but he has been a periphery player for Emery this year.

Sheffield United sits 15th in the table, just a point above the relegation zone, but the Blades have been a difficult out for Liverpool, Chelsea, and Leicester City already this season and seem poised to pull off a surprising result at some point soon. A trio of internationals returned from duty this past week with injuries, leaving Chris Wilder with some decisions to make. The most obvious seems to be leaving striker Oli McBurnie on the sidelines having been charged with a DUI over the last 24 hours as well as picking up a knee problem over the international break. That would most see either Lys Mousset or Billy Sharp to take the striker role alongside Callum Robinson.

The Blades have been better on the road than at home, having lost their last three at Bramall Lane. Wilder must figure out how to galvanize his team to play in front of the home fans instead of just playing road spoiler where they almost seem more comfortable.

Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: QUESTIONABLE – John Fleck (knee), Oli McBurnie (knee), David McGoldrick (groin).

Arsenal: QUESTIONABLE – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle).


Projected lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Stevens, O’Connell, Egan, Basham, Baldock; Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram; Robinson, Sharp.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Bellerin; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ceballos; Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe.


What they’re saying

Sheffield United manager Wilder on team form: “I thought we played well against Liverpool but we need to pick up something from the game this time and we believe we can do that. We went after Liverpool when we could and picked our times, and we will do that against Arsenal.”

Arsenal boss Emery on Mesut Ozil: “I am really happy with the players. The last two, three, four weeks, every player – and Mesut Ozil – is working very well. This is why we can be positive and we can think we are going to do something important this year.”


Prediction

This game has the potential to be a lot of fun as both sides play a fluid style of possession and pace. Arsenal will have to keep an eye on Robinson as the 24-year-old has the ability to find spaces between defenders, and David Luiz in particular hasn’t been in great form. Still, Sheffield United has a few key injuries that threaten the midfield, and that will ultimately doom them to a 3-1 loss as Aubameyang picks up two more goals.

Ozil: ‘I was scared about my wife,’ but Kolasinac ‘was really, really brave’

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Three months after the terrifying incident, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has opened up about the evening that he, alongside his wife and teammate Sead Kolasinac, was targeted by knife-wielding carjackers on the streets of London.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Son happy South Korea “unscathed” in North Korea qualifier ]

Ozil says that above all else he was scared for the safety of his wife, Amine, and recognizes how brave and heroic the actions of Kolasinac were that day. If not for Kolasinac’s instant reaction to jump out of the car and go after the attackers, Ozil fears they would have entered the car through the passenger door, where his wife was sitting — quotes from the Athletic (subscription required):

“Sead’s reaction was really, really brave because he attacked one of the attackers. The second one was in front of my car on his moped so I couldn’t drive.

“We were newly wed and I was scared about my wife. I was scared about Sead. I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was worried they were going to open my wife’s door and they tried, so I reached across her to keep it closed.

“Nothing happened to us, that’s the most important thing. We were worried these guys had been targeting us, but the police said they found them and, a few hours earlier, they tried to robbed other people nearby in a similar way.”

Since the incident, Kolasinac has returned as a first-team regular (when healthy), while Ozil has remained just on the outside of Unai Emery‘s squad. The 31-year-old German international has made just one Premier League appearance this season, now more than a month ago, on Sept. 15. Though there has been much speculation over his future, Ozil insists he only sees himself remaining an Arsenal player for the foreseeable future.

“I have a contract until the summer of 2021 and I will be staying until then. When I signed the new deal, I thought about it very carefully and said it was one of the most important decisions of my footballing career.

“I didn’t want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit my future to Arsenal and the club wanted me to do the same. You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away.”

Report: Granit Xhaka named permanent Arsenal captain

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According to a report by David Ornstein of the BBC, Arsenal coach Unai Emery has named midfielder Granit Xhaka as permanent captain, a position that had been vacant since Laurent Koscielny‘s departure this summer.

The Frenchman had held the position since early 2016 when handed the armband by Arsene Wenger with Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta both in the twilight of their Arsenal careers.

Emery has notably dragged out deciding on who to name as permanent captain despite handing Xhaka the armband in six of their eight matches to this point. Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil have also both served as captain once, both coming with Xhaka out of the lineup, although Monreal has since departed the club. Ornstein reports that a vice-captain has not yet been chosen, with strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both in consideration.

Xhaka, who turns 27 years old today, is considered to be a contentious choice by Emery given his up and down performances for the club since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016. His first season was dreadful, with the midfielder twice sent off in his first season of Premier League play. He had raised his level of performance since, proving an important piece of the puzzle last season, but early this season his performances have again dipped, with Gunner fans voicing their displeasure on his withdrawal on 72 minutes in the narrow win over Aston Villa.

Defender Rob Holding confirmed after the Villa win that Emery has presented a group of five players to the rest of the squad to be voted on. “He likes his five captains,” Holding said. “We all did a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named. It was just a case of writing names down and then giving them to the manager and he will go through them – obviously with his input – and we’ll see what happens.”

Holding called it a “good environment” with a lot of players able to “get more input.” He also pointed out David Luiz as someone who has taken up a sort of leadership role.

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men meet Braga at the Molineux, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Watch Live: Watford v. Arsenal

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Mesut Ozil makes his first start of the season as Arsenal visits Watford and new/old manager Quique Sanchez Flores on Sunday at Vicarage Road (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Ozil has two goals and four assists in nine appearances against Watford.

Dani Ceballos is also starting for the Gunners, who will be without Alexandre Lacazette for the next few weeks.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gerard Deulofeu heads into the Starting XI for the Hornets, who will have in-form Will Hughes on the other side of the field.


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