Stephan Lichtsteiner

Photo credit: Arsenal.com

Arsenal’s head of recruitment leaving club after one year

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Sven Mislintat was appointed 14 months ago as Arsenal’s head of recruitment, a key component to the club’s plan heading into the post-Arsene Wenger era.

[ MORE: LAFC’s Carlos Vela leaves door open for Barcelona move ]

Fast-forward the second half of last season and the first half of the current season, and the former Borussia Dortmund mastermind is set to leave the club on Feb. 8, Arsenal announced on Monday.

Mislintat arrived at Arsenal when then-chief executive Ivan Gazidis was still calling the shots. Gazidis has himself since departed the club, for AC Milan in September, which has reportedly created some difference in opinions between those left behind.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo to plead guilty to tax fraud in Madrid court ]

Despite only spending roughly 14 months in the job, Mislintat will have done a great deal of work in re-shaping what was — but arguably still is — an aging squad requiring a full facelift before returning to the Gunners’ days of competing for — let alone winning — Premier League titles.

A full list of first-team players to come to Arsenal during Mislintat’s tenure reads as follows: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ($72 million), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (swap deal with Alexis Sanchez), Sokratis Papastathopoulos ($23 million), Lucas Torreira ($33 million), Bernd Leno ($24 million), Stephan Lichtsteiner (free) and Matteo Guendouzi ($9 million).

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir omitted at Lyon, Godin to Inter

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With a few teams already securing January moves, there’s plenty more talk going around. The title race in the Premier League is back on, with the battle for Champions League places and the relegation fight also quite close.

So, as teams look to fill holes big and small, we take a look at the biggest transfer gossip of the day.

With Liverpool now looking over its shoulder at a closing Manchester City, a familiar name has surfaced. Nabil Fekir was a summer Liverpool target, with news of the Reds chase quite public. He ultimately stayed at the French club, but with his contract expiring in 2020, the onus is on Lyon to sell before the club loses even more leverage.

Rumors have resurfaced this winter as Fekir was omitted from the Lyon squad to take on a fifth-tier club in the Coupe de France. It’s not anything terribly out of the ordinary, as Fekir’s minutes have been limited this season with the occasional rest, so it’s not too odd to see him held out of a matchup against a lower-tier club. Still, that has energized new rumors, as the belief is Lyon will see Fekir’s value drop should they wait to sell in the summer, and they could find a desperate buyer to drive up the price should they sell now.

Fekir has been solid this season, with four goals and two assists in 12 Ligue 1 appearances, plus three goals and two assists in five Champions League matches. Lyon sits third in a brutally tight battle for Champions League places in the Ligue 1 table, so losing Fekir could be tough to stomach, but holding onto him any longer could devalue his asking price considerably.


Arsenal and Chelsea have been linked countless times to Brazilian right-back Emerson, and those rumors have lit back up this winter, with his club Atletico Minero reportedly in some financial trouble, according to Brazilian publication UOL. Selling the 19-year-old could ease those burdens, and thus, January would be the perfect time to get talent-starved teams to bite. In addition, the Brazilian Serie A wrapped up its season on December 1, so the offseason could be the right time to let him leave. The club is reportedly looking to raise anywhere between $20 million and $30 million in player sales, and reports back in November mention Emerson would cost around $10 million.

According to a number of reports across the English tabloids, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Barcelona are the clubs most interested in his services. The Gunners especially are in need of full-backs, with Hector Bellerin injured and Stephan Lichtsteiner in poor form and at 34 years old.

Emerson made 23 league appearances for his club last season, scoring one goal and assisting another. Of those 23 appearances, 22 of them were starts, and he reached the full 90 minutes in all but one.


With lots of reports surrounding Aaron Ramsey‘s possible free transfer to Juventus, another marquee free transfer has flown under the radar. Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin is out of contract this summer, and at 32 years old, Atletico is expected to let him leave after eight decorated years with the club.

According to respected Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, Godin has already reached an agreement with his next club, signing a two-year deal with Inter Milan with an option for a third year. Inter’s defensive record is stellar this season, with 14 goals conceded in 19 matches, second only to table-toppers Juventus. Still, it would be hard to pass up a defender of Godin’s pedigree, as he would be a positive influence on emerging 23-year-old Milan Skriniar who has already racked up 2,000 minutes this season.

Di Marzio reports that the deal still needs to be “finalized” but that it is heading in that direction. It would allow Godin to link up with former teammate Miranda, with whom Godin won the La Liga title in 2014.


According to Belgian publication HLN, West Ham, Newcastle and Cardiff City are all interested in 22-year-old Brazilian striker Wesley, who currently plays at Belgian side Club Brugge.

Wesley has scored seven goals and assisted six others among 19 appearances in Jupiler Pro League play, helping Club Brugge to second in the league through 21 matches. The report states Cardiff has already made an official bid for him but it was turned down. An amount was not given.

The report states the club would rather sell in the summer than let him go in the middle of the season, but that the situation is fluid and the club does have a price that would force its hand. Both Cardiff and Newcastle have struggled to create goals this season, and Wesley’s ability to both score and create chances.

Player ratings: Liverpool dismantle Arsenal at Anfield

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Liverpool put the sword to Arsenal on Saturday, thrashing the hapless Gunners to the tune of 5-1 at Anfield.

[ MORE: Liverpool go nine points clear with dismantling of Arsenal ]

It was a banner day for the Reds’ free-flowing attacking quartet; not so much for the porous Arsenal defense.

Liverpool

Alisson: 6 – Only asked to make two saves, he made one of them.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7 – Salah is brilliant on his own, no doubt, but TAA’s overlapping runs give him the freedom to roam the entire field, making him even more dangerous.
Dejan Lovren: 6 –
Virgil Van Dijk: 8 – An imperious mountain of a man, Van Dijk walked the field with Aubameyang tucked into his back pocket for 71 minutes.
Andrew Robertson: 6 – Completely lost track of his man on the game’s opening goal. Fortunately, it mattered very little in the end.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 7 – As solid as ever in midfield, Wijnaldum keeps the Liverpool clock ticking over minute after minute.
Fabinho: 8 – Quickly growing into his role as the midfield engine.
Mohamed Salah: 8 – One of the best, and simultaneously coolest, assists you’ll see all season (WATCH HERE). Affecting the game in so many ways beyond scoring goals.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6 – Given the contributions of his running mates, someone had to have the “quiet” game.
Sadio Mane: 7 – Scored goal no. 3 and wasn’t required to be brilliant.
Roberto Firmino: 9 – Genuinely unplayable in the first half, and that goal. Oh, this goal. Got his hat trick, albeit from the penalty spot, and deservedly so.


Arsenal

Bernd Leno: 4 – Despite giving up five goals, still made five saves.
Stephan Lichtsteiner: 3 – On a day of terrible defensive performances, Lichtsteiner made a strong case for the worst.
Shkodran Mustafi: 4 – Subbed off at halftime. In fairness, it was a tough game to return after three weeks out injured.
Sokratis: 3 – Gave away a penalty on a half-hearted challenge after being wildly out of position.
Sead Kolasinac: 4 – Arsenal’s best defender for 60 minutes, until he gave away a silly penalty of his own.
Lucas Torreira: 4 – Far and away his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt.
Granit Xhaka: 5 – Along with Torreira, completely and helplessly overrun by Liverpool’s attacking quartet.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 6 – Scored the game’s opening goal before disappearing, through little fault of his own.
Aaron Ramsey: 6 – Arsenal’s best player going forward should have scored early in the second half to make it 4-2.
Alex Iwobi: 5 – Assisted the opening goal and nearly scored one of his own.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5 – Thoroughly uninvolved, through little fault of his own.

PL Sunday preview: Manchester derby; Chelsea, Liverpool go for 12

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You could say that Sunday is a big day of Premier League fixtures, but you’d be massively under-selling a six-and-a-half-hour period that see four games played, featuring five of the PL’s “big six” sides.

[ MORE: Spurs grind out another win despite mounting injuries ]

Liverpool vs. Fulham — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

In the day’s first game, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool will seek to become the first side in the PL to reach a dozen games without a defeat. Doing so with a victory at Anfield would (temporarily) vault them ahead of Chelsea and Manchester City for top spot in the title race. A swift response will be required after a shocking defeat away to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday. It’s not the first time the Reds have lost away on the continent this season: after losing to Napoli last month, Liverpool returned to domestic play and secured a scoreless home draw with Man City.

While Tuesday’s hiccup might seem a disaster in Liverpool’s world, last-place Fulham would beg to differ. The Cottagers haven’t won since Aug. 26, game no. 3 of the season, and have managed just two points from the eight games they’ve played since. On the bright, they sit just three points adrift of 17th place and can drag themselves clear of the relegation zone with a few decent results. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side has had plenty of problems on both ends of the field — they’ve scored just four goals in their last seven games, simultaneously conceding 20 of the 29 they’ve given up on the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Fulham — OUT: None


Chelsea vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Very few foresaw a title challenge from Chelsea in Maurizio Sarri‘s first season in England, but the Blues sit second in the table (ahead of Liverpool on goal differential) nearly one-third of the way through the season, also yet to lose (in any competition) in 2018-19. Eden Hazard appears fully recovered from his back injury, which severely limited his minutes late last month, after playing 62 minutes in Thursday’s Europa League win away to BATE Borisov. The Belgian superstar is joint-top of the Golden Boot race with seven goals (plus four assists — tied-fourth most) and has been the best player in the PL, by a substantial margin. In comparison to City and Liverpool’s stingy number of goals conceded — four and five, respectively — Chelsea’s eight seems uninspiring, yet remains next-best by a good distance.

It’s been nearly five years (Dec. 4, 2013, against Manchester United) since Everton last won away to one of the PL’s “big six” sides. Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is merely the Toffees’ next opportunity to break their 30-game skid (0W-9D-21L), but it’s hardly a golden one. It’s been nearly as many tries, 23, since Everton last won away to the Blues (Nov. 26, 1994). Everton’s newly crowned talisman, Richarlison, has been made available for selection after being an injury doubt all week. Marco Silva won’s be so lucky in defense, though, as first-choice center back Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Everton — OUT: None


Man City vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The third and final — though first in the table — unbeaten side, Man City, will host a Man United side which has (somewhat predictably) fallen on hard times in Jose Mourinho’s third season at the club. Despite winning three of their last four league games, the Red Devils enter Sunday’s Manchester derby seven points (and four places) behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. However, Tuesday’s Champions League triumph away to Juventus will have United feeling full of confidence when they visit the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho has been strangely quiet this week — with regards to City, not Juve — offering few, if any, words about City’s financial fair play predicament or his side’s chances. Perhaps the red half of Manchester has begun to accept the city for its newfound blueness.

As for City, what’s to dislike about a side that has dropped just two points in its last 11 games (all competitions) and has shown no signs whatsoever of dropping off from last season’s record-setting performance? Sure, Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a couple months due to a knee injury, for the second time this season, but he’s appeared in just three league games thus far (started none — 82 total minutes), yet City have won 29 of a possible 33 points. There’s also a small matter of avenging the home loss of last season, which prevented Pep Guardiola‘s side clinching the title against its most bitter rivals.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles), Eliaquim Mangala (knee) | Man United — OUT: Antonio Valencia (undisclosed)


Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Since suffering defeat in each of their first two games this season, Arsenal have fancied themselves as one of the unbeatens, winning 13 and drawing three of their 16 games since. The somewhat troubling part of those impressive numbers, though, is the fact that the three draws have all come in the Gunners’ last four games (two in the PL, one in the Europa League). On the plus side, one of those league draws came against Liverpool last weekend, signaling the Gunners might just be credible peers to title contenders once again.

Their opponents on Sunday, Wolves, have struggled in recent weeks after a strong start to the season. Three straight losses have dropped Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to 11th in the table, and an inability to score from open play has been a key culprit. Wolves scored twice in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Tottenham, but each tally came from the penalty spot, after being held scoreless by Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion — not exactly defensive world-beaters. Still, to be seven points and seven spots clear of the relegation zone right now, in the club’s first season back in the PL since 2012, has been a dream start everyone involved with the club would have taken back in August.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Stephan Lichtsteiner (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Danny Welbeck (ankle) | Wolves — OUT: None

League Cup wrap: Chelsea, Arsenal outlast upset bids

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Six of eight quarterfinalists’ slots have been earned in the League Cup, with Arsenal and Chelsea each dodging Wednesday upset bids.

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings ]

Burton Albion and Bournemouth won Tuesday matches, with Leicester City-Southampton and Man City-Fulham still on the docket.

Chelsea 3-2 Derby County

All the fireworks came in the first half, with the visiting Rams responsible for two goals on each side of the scoreboard. Chelsea loanee Fiyoko Tomori and Richard Keogh both posted own goals that Derby answered through Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn.

But Cesc Fabregas deposited a Davide Zappacosta pass into the goal before halftime, and Chelsea survived to reach the quarters.

Marriott’s goal was assisted by another Blues loanee, Mason Mount, as Frank Lampard‘s feverish bid to upset his former club came up just short.

Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool

Stephan Lichtsteiner and Emile Smith-Rowe scored on either side of halftime, but the Gunners did not cruise to the win. Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi was sent off in the 56th minute, and Paudie O’Connor scored a 66th minute goal to put the Tangerines back in the mix. O’Connor then saw red himself in the 84th.

West Ham United 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs made a statement at the London Stadium, having played Man City just 48 hours prior. Heung-Min Son scored twice, and Fernando Llorente added a 75th minute goal four minutes after Lucas Perez pulled one back for the Irons.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Crystal Palace

Lewis Wing’s goal was enough for Tony Pulis to get one over on his former Premier League employers, as Palace left several big names out of the Starting XI including Wilfried Zaha, Luka Milivojevic, and Patrick Van Aanholt.