Rob Holding

Getty Images

Report: Granit Xhaka named permanent Arsenal captain

Leave a comment

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.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 6

Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

Is there anything more challenging in the Premier League than picking the sides capable of sustaining a run that can challenge for the Top Six?

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

Leicester City did it out of nowhere in 2015/16 and it’s the most remarkable example, but look at the others to have slid into the Top Six’s DMs in the past decade: Saints (6th) the same season as Leicester. Everton in 2012/13 and 2013/14 was predictable, but Newcastle in 2011/12? Please.

The point is: It’s way more difficult these days to estimate the table. Last year, Watford v. Wolves was a massive fixture. This year, so far, it’s an after thought.

Saturday’s tilt between Bournemouth and West Ham on the other hand? Now we’re talking…

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

20. Watford — Six months ago, a match-up between the Hornets and Wolves was for seventh-place in the Premier League. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can change, but also an inspiration for both sides because, well, how quickly things can change…
Last week: 20
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 8-0 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Wolves

19. Newcastle United — The Magpies midfield against Brighton was about as disorganized as a unit can look, both before and after Steve Bruce switched up the formation. Maybe they should just throw Joelinton, Andy Carroll, Miguel Almiron, and Allan Saint-Maximin together in a front four and roll with six defenders and four forwards. Relegation quality right now.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Brighton and Hove Albion — As poor as Newcastle played, the Seagulls didn’t convert any of their myriad chances. Also relegation quality right now.
Last week: 18
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

(Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

17. Wolverhampton Wanderers — Something’s gotta give, and Wolves better hope it’s the reappearance of old foes Watford on the docket.
Last week: 17
Season high: 7
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

16. Southampton — Hard to read, and a match-up with mercurial old mate Mauricio Pochettino on the horizon.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 475-minute start to the season without a goal or assist is his longest drought since February 2018. Bad news for the Canaries?
Last week: 16
Season high: 14
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

14. Everton — Have taken an amazing start of fixtures to start the season and managed a whopping seven points and the joint third-worst goal different in the league. Remarkably disappointing, but there are some encouraging stat lines. For one thing, only Man City is allowing fewer shots per match. Now if the Toffees could stop the few shots they do allow from being pure gifts to the opposition, or start to get some big moments out of the 15th-ranked goalkeeper in the Premier League, they’d be onto something.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 14
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

13. Norwich City — Back to Earth after the remarkable Man City win, and possibly back in the Bottom Three if they can’t do work on Saturday at Selhurst Park.
Last week: 10
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Burnley
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Crystal Palace

12. Burnley — An all-claret tussle with Villa this week will tell us a bit about whether the Clarets are relegation fodder or not.
Last week: 15
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Aston Villa

11. Aston Villa — Dean Smith‘s men should’ve found a way to hold on for a point against 10-man Arsenal, but bad things happen to first-year teams. Big chance to re-assert strength when Burnley visits on Saturday.
Last week: 11
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 3-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

10. Sheffield United — The Southampton loss is the only score on their season list that looks bad. Otherwise, Chris Wilder‘s men are holding their own with some in-form teams.
Last week: 14
Season high: 10
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Liverpool

(Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

9. Manchester United — Asking us to drop them lower, but the returns of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial should make Monday a beauty.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-0 at West Ham
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday v. Arsenal

8. Tottenham Hotspur — This week has felt a lot like last season’s three-loss week against West Ham, Ajax, and Bournemouth. The good news is that that turned out alright in the end. A visit from Southampton should help things, but will it? A refreshed Harry Kane should arrive on Saturday.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 8
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Leicester
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Saints

7. Chelsea — Probably not as far off the pack as you think, and should’ve almost certainly had a point against Liverpool. Brighton should be concerned about this week’s trip to the Bridge.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton

6. Bournemouth — Flying. Eddie Howe‘s men have us daydreaming again, but they let us down last year after inspiring similar thoughts. Monumental litmus test when the Irons visit on Saturday in what’s one of the matches of the weekend.
Last week: 9
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-1 at Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

5. West Ham United — Beat Bournemouth on Saturday and we’ll be thinking legitimately about a Top Six finish for Manuel Pellegrini‘s guys.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates with teammates Felipe Anderson and Declan Rice  (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

4. Arsenal — Another team whose mercurial performances — Watford, anyone? — probably betrays how much promise they’ve shown overall. Let’s see how Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, and Rob Holding reshape the defense.
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 7
Last match: Won 3-2 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday at Manchester United

3. Leicester City — The real deal, with real depth. Brendan Rodgers has dealt well with the departure of Harry Maguire, and the Foxes should run cleanly through the Magpies to a meeting with ol’ pals Liverpool at Anfield on Oct. 5.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Newcastle

2. Manchester City — Pep Guardiola didn’t know the Premier League single season record for goals was 8. Now he does. Food for thought.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 8-0 v. Watford
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Everton

1. Liverpool — Look, we realize this team won the Champions League last season and that it looks even better in attack and is even more refined in its system.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United


Emery: Arsenal targeting League Cup success; Injured trio shines

Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Unai Emery is targeting silverware one way or another, and is pleased that Arsenal pumped Nottingham Forest 5-0 on Tuesday at the Emirates Stadium.

Teen striker Gabriel Martinelli scored twice, and Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, and Joe Willock also scored as Arsenal cruised into the fourth round and saw a rival exit the competition.

[ MORE: League Cup roundup ]

“We played on Sunday but we want to do something important in this competition,” Emery said, via the BBC. “This was a very good opportunity to play with different players and those who didn’t play much in the last match. Nottingham Forest are playing well in the Championship and we had to use our capacity.”

It was a feel-good night for Arsenal, with Holding scoring after a year-long injury layoff, and Hector Bellerin returning to the field for the first time when he took the place of Kieran Tierney… who was making his Arsenal debut after injury.

“It has been a long process with a lot of long days in the gym,” Holding said. “I couldn’t have written it better myself, how it panned out was just brilliant.”

Bellerin assisted on Willock’s goal in his first action since January.

League Cup: Spurs shocked by Colchester United; Saints win derby

Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A fierce derby returned after years away, and a League Two side outlasted a Champions League finalist while another fourth-tier entrant clinched a spot in the Round of 16 as well.

[ MORE: JPW at Fratton Park ]

The League Cup delivered the goods on Tuesday.

Colchester United 0-0 (4-3, penalties) Tottenham Hotspur

Lucas Moura smashed the cross bar with Spurs’ fifth penalty kick, and Paulo Gazzaniga couldn’t get to Tom Lapslie’s effort as the U’s advanced to the fourth round and supporters stormed the pitch.

Dean Gerkin stopped Christian Eriksen‘s opening penalty kick to start the extra set, but Jevani Brown’s miss leveled things in the third round.

Spurs were the better side by far despite a lineup with two regular starters in Davinson Sanchez and Dele Alli, as Spurs lined up: Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Sanchez, Tanganga, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Skipp, Dele, Lucas, and Parrott.

The U’s had not attempted a shot by the hour mark, with Spurs taking a dozen. It was a departure from their defeat of Crystal Palace in the last round, when they went hit for hit with the Premier League mainstays and emerged with a win in penalties.

Courtney Senior was a bright spot for the U’s, lashing a shot wide in the 89th.

Portsmouth 0-4 Southampton

This is certainly one of Danny Ings‘ favorite memories since returning home to the South Coast, as the Winchester-born striker scored twice in the first half to give Saints a halftime lead in the first South Coast Derby match in close to a decade.

The game, like most between the heated rivals, was a busy one, as Kenny Jackett’s League One side Pompey punched above their weight and even out-attempted the visitors for some time. But Cedric Soares and Nathan Redmond scored late as Saints outlasted Pompey’s adrenaline to assert their class.

Preston North End 0-3 Manchester City

There was no doubt about this one, though the Championship side put up a better fight than Watford at the weekend.

And to be fair to Watford, City started a much weakened lineup. Seventeen-year-old Taylor Harwood-Bellis started, and mostly impressed, alongside fellow teen Eric Garcia.

Garcia assisted Raheem Sterling on the opener, with Sterling in turn setting up Gabriel Jesus for 2-0. An own goal made it 3-0 before halftime.


Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest – Gabriel Martinelli scored his first two Arsenal goals, while Emile Smith-Rowe was stretchered off after apparent head injury. Rob Holding, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson also scored as Kieran Tierney made his Gunners debut in the shutout.

Crawley Town 1-1 (5-3, penalties) Stoke City – Goals traded in first half as Potters go down to 10 men in 61st minute. Stoke goal scorer Sam Vokes cracked the side’s first penalty off the bar,

Luton Town 0-4 Leicester City – Pretty easy for the Foxes, who rested most of its main men for a Premier League date with Newcastle United. James Justin scores in return to hometown club. Demarai Gray was at the double while Youri Tielemans also scored.

Watford 2-1 Swansea City – Danny Welbeck gets first Hornets goal, but Watford needed a late goal from Roberto Pereyra to push past Swans.435

Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Everton – Two early goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin quickly put upset hopes to bed as Marco Silva gets some relief.

Arsenal ‘too scared’ of Watford in collapse

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were “too scared” of Watford as they collapsed in the second half.

Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal were totally outplayed in the second half as Watford roared back to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Xhaka said the Arsenal players were not confident enough to see out the game.

“No-one wanted the ball. In the end we are happy to take a point,” Xhaka said. “We didn’t show our game in the second half, we were too scared… Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score but you have to keep calm, to show good character, to be mentally strong. We weren’t today.”

If only this was a rare occurrence for Arsenal.

Under Unai Emery their defensive collapses have been frequent, and this issue even dates back to Arsene Wenger‘s final few seasons in charge.

Arsenal were their own worst enemies on Sunday.

Instead of playing the ball out of dangerous areas they tried to play short goal kicks time and time again and were caught in possession on several occasions. David Luiz gave away a penalty kick, Xhaka and Mateo Guendouzi were overrun in central midfield in the second half and in the end they were lucky to grab a point.

Trying the same things time and time again and expecting different results is just bonkers, and that is what this Arsenal squad is going.

Luiz, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Xhaka are players Arsenal have built their defensive core around, and the same issues keep cropping up when they are in the team. Adding Luiz to the mix after losing Laurent Koscielny was a risk and it seems like a move which will backfire for the Gunners.

It is true that defenders Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are all close to returning from injury, so when that happens perhaps we will see a newfound defensive solidity and things will improve.

Then again, it’s likely neutral everywhere will be grabbing their popcorn whenever Arsenal play this season because you’re guaranteed entertainment at both ends of the pitch.