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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.

La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad spoil Atletico Madrid’s perfect start

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Atletico Madrid’s first hiccup of the season headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Real Sociedad 2-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga had an upset of their own.

Atletico Madrid remain league leaders, but their undefeated record is no more after a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.

Both sides played to a quiet first half, but in the 58th minute Martin Odegaard opened the score in front of a packed Anoeta, as his left-footed shot was deflected by Stefan Savic.

Just two minutes later, in his Real Sociedad debut, longtime Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal tapped in a second chance inside the box, following an initial stretching save from Jan Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side pushed desperately in the latter stages of the game; not enough to get passed Miguel Moya, though.

La Reala sets their sights on Espanyol, while Los Colchoneros, with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at their heels, look to bounce back against Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid 3-2 Levante

Real Madrid conceded two goals in the second half in Saturday’s game, but their formidable first 45 minutes was enough to help them walk away a wet Santiago Bernabeu with three, precious points.

Coming on in the 60th minutes, Eden Hazard and Militao made their La Liga debuts with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

With two goals in six minutes, Karim Benzema gave the home side an early comfortable lead. Shortly before the halftime whistle, Casameiro added his own, following an assist from Vinicius Junior.

Despite falling short, Levante quickly got after evaporating Real Madrid’s first-half dominance. In the 49th minute, Borja Mayoral, cutting through Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, put one past Thibaut Courtois.

Following Benzema’s post-rattling shot and disallowed Real Madrid goal by VAR, Gonzalo Melero’s header gave the visiting side their final goal of the bout.

One point behind rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid look for another victory against Sevilla. Elsewhere, Levante, who are in decent shape, host Eibar next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Barcelona 5-2 Valencia

RCD Mallorca 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Leganes 0-3 Villareal

Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield

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Liverpool cooked poor, wasteful Arsenal to record the best result of their early season with a 3-1 win over the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday.

[ MORE: Three things | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah scored twice after Joel Matip broke Liverpool onto the score sheet, as the Reds will be the lone 3-0 team after three weeks of the young season. They were denied a clean sheet by Lucas Torreira‘s 84th minute goal.

Liverpool is off to Burnley next week, while Arsenal hosts Tottenham in the North London Derby.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 


Three key figures

  1. Alexander-Arnold will burn you — If teams like Arsenal are going to let Liverpool produce cross after cross to elite crosses like Trent Alexander-Arnold, well, they are going to get burnt. Never mind for a second that Alexander-Arnold’s assist came from a corner, the young English defender was given a limitless budget for his invitations by Arsenal. If you disagree with this, well, so does one of my co-workers.
  2. Salah still the one — The Egyptian wizard scored twice and was a menace all day. Make no mistake about it: However highly you rate Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane, this is the fella who makes Liverpool a threat to win any competition on Earth.
  3. Emery gets it wrong — We get that the idea of matching attack with Liverpool is daunting, but it could hardly have gone any worse had Unai Emery opted to start Alexandre Lacazette in addition to Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang. The way Arsenal allowed Liverpool to send in cross after cross after cross in the early stages, they wouldn’t have lost much by having a third forward. It’s no surprise that one of his subs, Torreira, got on the score sheet.

Man of the Match: Salah.


A lapse in communication between Virgil Van Dijk and Adrian allowed Arsenal a chance to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute. Fortunately for the Reds, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t loft the ball into the back of the goal from distance after failing to spot Nicolas Pepe in the 18.

At the other end, a horrible Dani Ceballos clearing attempt set up Liverpool in the 21st but Sadio Mane could only sting a shot that Bernd Leno did well to save.

Jordan Henderson made a terrible error in possession, allowing Pepe to race toward Adrian. The Spaniard bailed out his captain to keep it 0-0 in the 35th.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Matip thumped his header past Leno off an Alexander-Arnold corner kick before halftime.

The next scoring chance will come off a dead ball chance, as David Luiz pulled on Mohamed Salah’s shirt in the box. Salah finished emphatically.

Matip also saved Liverpool in his more traditional office, racing to stop Aubameyang on a breakaway when the Gabon striker took an extra touch.

Salah then skipped past a puzzled David Luiz and dribbled 40 yards too cook Nacho Monreal and Leno.

Aubameyang helped cue up Torreira for a well-taken concession goal with five minutes to play.

Classy Arsenal beat Burnley

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Arsenal beat Burnley 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to make it two wins from two to start the new season. It is the first time in 10 years Arsenal have won their opening two games of a Premier League season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

The Gunners took the lead early on through Alexandre Lacazette but a stubborn Burnley wouldn’t go away and Ashley Barnes equalized in a somewhat fortuitous manner before the break.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner as Dani Ceballos dazzled on his full debut in the Premier League.

Up next for the Gunners is a trip to Liverpool followed by a north London derby against Tottenham. It is then we will see just how good this Gunners side really is.


3 things we learned

1. Ceballos is the real deal: The Spanish midfielder worked so hard defensively and oozed class on the ball. He is the replacement for Aaron Ramsey and was absolutely sensational. If he keeps playing like this, Arsenal may not be able to afford to buy him permanently next summer…

2. Defensive issues remain: There were a few shaky moments at the back for the Gunners. David Luiz‘s first start saw him take a few risks on the ball, while Bernd Leno flapped at a few crosses. Arsenal looked better defensively with Guendouzi in front of the defense, but they are far from being a solid outfit.

3. Burnley were Burnley: Sean Dyche‘s side didn’t have much of the ball but they created dangerous chances from set pieces and as long as they were only one-goal down, they were always a threat.

Man of the Match: Dani Ceballos – He will become a firm fans favorite at the Emirates Stadium. Silky on the ball, the Spaniard dug deep defensively and dictated the tempo of the game. A fine home PL debut for the Real Madrid loanee, who whipped in the corner for Lacazette’s goal and then won the ball back to create Aubameyang’s goal.


Arsenal were rampant early on and after Lacazette’s header was denied by Nick Pope, the French striker wriggled free from the resulting corner and made it 1-0.

Ashley Barnes flashed an effort just wide soon after as Burnley responded well to going behind with several high balls into the Arsenal box causing the Gunners defense problems.

Before the break Ceballos, who was running the show, orchestrated a fine counter attack which ended in Pope denying Matteo Guendouzi. Moments later Burnley were level as Dwight McNeil‘s deflected shot found Barnes and he bundled the ball home under pressure from Guendouzi to equalize against the run of play.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Arsenal thought they’d retaken the lead right on half time but Nacho Monreal was flagged for offside as he pulled the ball back for Reiss Nelson to smash home. VAR checked the decision and no goal was given.

Nicolas Pepe came on at half time as Arsenal cranked through in the second half, with the home side dominating the play and Pope making several saves.

Ceballos, once again, was the heart of their game-winning goal as he won the ball back in a dangerous area and Aubameyang raced towards goal before curling home at the near post.

Ozil, Kolasinac available for Arsenal

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery will have two new starting options to consider this week, with the thankful return of Mesut Ozil and Saed Kolasinac.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After a security scare last week kept Ozil and Kolasinac from traveling north to face Newcastle, Arsenal confirmed that the pair will be available for selection against Burnley this Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.

“Am I pleased that they’re back? Of course,” Emery told reporters at a press conference. “For us, for me, first they’re a person and second they’re a player. We’re continuing our way with all the players who are ready with us and consistent every day in training. They came back on Tuesday and it’s the circumstance I told you. Mesut was sick yesterday but today is getting better. When they are training regularly every day and consistent every day it’s good news for us because we can choose them to help us in matches – and the first match is Saturday.”

Ozil and Kolasinac were victims of an attempted carjacking in July, though Kolasinac bravely fought off the offenders after jumping out of the car. However, a new threat emerged last week that was concerning enough that Arsenal felt it was safer to keep the pair in London.

According to Emery though, aside from Ozil recovering from illness, the pair feel safe at the training ground and are mentally ready to play.

“We are 100 percent with them,” Emery said, referring to the club being confident they are ready to play. “The mentality is now on focusing on us, for training and matches.”

The return of Ozil and Kolasinac gives Emery more pieces to use heading into the match with Burnley. Against Newcastle, Emery went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Nacho Monreal at left back and youngsters Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson starting in attacking midfield. Kolasinac could easily slot in at left back or even left wing back if Monreal stays in as a third defender, while Ozil can of course play anywhere along the front line.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Ozil after a rocky first year under Emery. Ozil went from being almost the first name on the teamsheet under Arsene Wenger to second-choice due to his lack of defensive prowess under Emery. Perhaps, with the German National Team in the rear-view mirror for Ozil, he has remodeled his game somewhat this preseason and is ready to contribute on both ends of the pitch.