Unai Emery

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Arteta urges Xhaka to reject transfer to Hertha Berlin

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Mikel Arteta has urged former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka to reject a proposed move to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin and remain with the Premier League club beyond the January transfer window.

[ MORE: West Ham brings back David Moyes to replace Manuel Pellegrini ]

Xhaka, who was stripped of the captaincy in the wake of his confrontational response to Arsenal fans booing him back in October, has reportedly already agreed to contract terms with Hertha, but Arteta will be hoping that his last-minute appeal could persuade the 27-year-old Swiss midfielder to stay.

After he was previously frozen out of the team by then-manager Unai Emery, Xhaka has come back into the fold since Arteta’s appointment earlier this month. Asked whether or not Xhaka will leave when the transfer window opens in three days, Arteta had the following to say — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I hope not. He played at Bournemouth and did really well — very committed — and played a really good game.

“After the game, he started to feel ill and temperature. He was not feeling good and has been in bed for two days and that is why not selected.”

According to reports, the two clubs are yet to agree a transfer fee should Xhaka give his seal of approval. Arsenal paid $46 million to sign him in 2016, and they intend to recoup most, if not all, of that fee.

Premier League midseason grades

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We are at the halfway point of the Premier League season, so now seems like a good time to dish out grades to each team.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Based on the opening half of the 2019-20 campaign, which teams have impressed? Who should be doing better?

Below we give grades on all 20 teams and evaluate their first half of the season.


Arsenal: F
Unai Emery was fired, defensively they are all over the place and Arsenal currently sit closer to the bottom three than the top four. A terrible season so far and former captain Mikel Arteta has a huge job on his hands to make them competitive again. The only saving grace is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to bang in the goals. Aside from that, shambles.


Aston Villa: D-
A decent enough start as Dean Smith‘s side showed plenty of promise after big spending in the summer but things have unraveled very quickly. Jack Grealish is doing his best but Wesley has struggled and defensively they are weak. A relegation battle beckons for Villa, and that was not expected. Smith is on borrowed time.


Bournemouth: D
Eddie Howe‘s side are in their toughest stretch since being promoted in 2015 and aside from their defensive injuries, the biggest concern is that they no longer seem capable of scoring at least two goals every game. The Cherries are slumping and it may be tough for them to turn this around. Losing Brooks to injury was a huge blow, while Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have gone off the boil.


Brighton and Hove Albion: B+
Graham Potter has had a huge impact. Brighton have gone from being one of the worst teams in the PL to watch to one of the best. Trossard and Maupay have been big attacking additions and the Seagulls should be clear of the relegation scrap. A brave hire in Potter has paid off, as he’s already signed a new deal at the Amex.


Burnley: C+
Typically Burnley. Tough to play against, grinding out wins at home and they’ve gone back to being solid defensively. Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez and Ashley Barnes give them extra firepower and the Clarets should be battling for a top 10 finish.


Chelsea: B+
A proper Jekyll and Hyde season for the Blues who have lost at home against some very poor teams but won at Spurs, Arsenal and have pushed the big boys all the way. Frank Lampard has kept faith in the youngsters with Abraham, Mount and Tomori ever present, while Pulisic is coming in to his own. A UCL last 16 berth was a huge bonus and sitting in the top four at midway is much better than many expected. They now have the added bonus of being able to buy new players in January.


Crystal Palace: B+
Roy Hodgson continues to work miracles with a banged up squad and the fact Wilfried Zaha is finally refocused (close to the January transfer window…) has pushed them away from the bottom three. Palace need to spend some money in January to help them stay midtable, while Gary Cahill has been the bargain of the season so far as a free agent.


Everton: C-
Marco Silva was a disaster and had he stayed, the Toffees were likely going down. Duncan Ferguson galvanized the squad as interim boss and made them hard to beat, while Carlo Ancelotti has arrived to add his experience. Big names players will arrive in January and the summer. Things are looking up for Everton who have too much quality to go down.


Leicester City: A+
Pretty much the perfect season so far as Brendan Rodgers side have a 9-0 win on the board, Jamie Vardy is in the form of his life and the Foxes sit second in the table and are looking good for a top four finish with a young, talented squad also in the League Cup semifinals. Their title hopes are done and dusted but a top four finish would be a superb return, especially after selling Harry Maguire in the summer.


Liverpool: A+
Talking of perfect seasons… Liverpool could legitimately go the entire campaign unbeaten and even though they probably played better last season they are grinding out wins this season. Jurgen Klopp‘s side have that psychological edge over the rest of the PL and even though they have had some injuries to key players, they’ve dealt with it with ease. 17 wins from 18 games is incredible and Sadio Mane has been the star man for the newly-crowned World Club Cup champs. They will soon become the PL champs as their title procession has begun.


Manchester City: B-
Their inability to sign a new center back in the summer has come back to hit them hard. Kompany left and Aymeric Laporte‘s injury means that Fernandinho has had to play as a center back, and Otamendi and Stones just haven’t been good enough. Full back is also an issue and even though Kevin De Bruyne is firing on all cylinders and they look great in attack, City are back to the team they were in Pep Guardiola‘s first season in charge. They will soon go all-in on the Champions League.


Manchester United: B
Very similar to Chelsea as their young side have shown glimpses of brilliance but they’ve lost against Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Watford and Bournemouth. Defensively they are still coughing up easy goals and David De Gea is having a poor season, by his high standards. That said, Rashford, Martial and James are looking very good as a trio, while Maguire and Wan-Bissaka have slotted in seamlessly. Finding the right balance in central midfield in the second half of the season will be key if they are going to finish in the top four, but wins against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Leicester, plus their draw against Liverpool, prove they can mix it with the big boys. Finding consistency has to be their biggest aim for 2020.


Newcastle United: B+
Results wise it has been an amazing first half of the season for the Magpies and much-maligned boss Steve Bruce. They aren’t great to watch, at all, but Newcastle are almost closing in on the magic 40-point marker and are solid defensively. For now the natives at St James’ Park are on their side and Bruce has weathered the early storm. Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton need to produce more goals and if they do, Newcastle can push for the top 10.


Norwich City: C
The Canaries are punching above their weight week in, week out. Daniel Farke is a very good coach and he’s getting the best out of his limited squad, while Teemu Pukki is getting the goals to keep them competitive. Todd Cantwell is a gem and Norwich have had to deal with lots of injuries defensively. The only major negative is that they have been playing really well and attacking teams but they are a little naive and have been punished in plenty of games. It will be a huge surprise if they stay up.


Sheffield United: A-
Another newly-promoted team who have been open and attacking but the Blades have the defensive stability to get results. Chris Wilder‘s side are pushing for a top six finish and have only lost once away from home, at Man City, in the opening half of the season. From their overlapping center backs to Mousset, McGoldrick and McBurnie up top, they have been a wonderful addition to the PL. Fleck, Lundstram and Norwood are all so underrated too. Basically you can praise this entire team as Wilder has done a wonderful job keeping their identity intact while adapting to the PL.


Southampton: C
Probably where they should be at, just above the relegation zone. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have recovered well from the 9-0 hammering at home by Leicester and in Danny Ings they have a Matt Le Tissier-esque savior. Ings scores almost every game and in Moussa Djenepo they have another top attacking talent. Saints need defensive reinforcements in January and if they can add quality at the back they should kick on in the second half of the season and be clear of danger. That said, the ownership need to realize that a relegation scrap will be the outcome each season until they make more funds available to spend.


Tottenham Hotspur: C+
Where do we even start with Spurs? Mauricio Pochettino was fired after a terrible start to the league season as problems brewing with players not signing new deals and Daniel Levy over transfers carried over from the summer months. Step in, the Special One. Jose Mourinho has added a cutting edge to this Spurs side and he’s refocused them. Defensively they are shambolic and they miss captain Hugo Lloris. Mourinho’s main aim is a top four finish and to go on another deep run in the UCL.


Watford: D-
The Hornets are on their third manager of the season and they’ve finally got going. Javi Gracia was fired quickly after a poor end to last season and a poor start this time around, then former boss Quique Sanchez Flores didn’t last long before Nigel Pearson arrived. Big wins against Man United and Aston Villa have followed and has them within touching distance of safety but it is still a tough road ahead. Troy Deeney‘s return to fitness is a boost and Watford believe now they can stay up with veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster in fine form.


West Ham United: F
The Hammers have hired David Moyes to replace the man who replaced him, Manuel Pellegrini. This will be very interesting. West Ham had a great start but have wavered badly and that has coincided with Lukasz Fabianski‘s injury. Now he is back and Moyes has returned they will be tougher to beat and Anderson, Haller, Antonio and Fornals have the quality to unlock opposition defenses. Still, a relegation battle is coming up and the Hammers ownership would have wanted a top six finish. They are underachieving massively.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-
Could they build on last season? Yep. They are probably better. Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore have improved in attack and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side will be in the top four hunt this season. They are in the Europa League last 32 after a gruelling run of qualifiers and Thursday-Sunday action but their main focus will be on qualifying for the Champions League. They can take it to the top teams in the PL but how long can they keep going with a relatively small squad?

Arteta urges Arsenal to rebuild connection with fans

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Mikel Arteta‘s first game in charge of Arsenal was a fairly uninspiring 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

That said, the new Arsenal boss was happy with the support his players received from the away section and believes rebuilding that relationship between fans and players is key.

Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s clash against London rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Arteta has urged for togetherness.

“I was really pleased with how the fans treated the players [at Bournemouth],” Arteta said. “I was happy that the players went to see the fans after the game as well because we need that connection. Slowly we need to build that back to where it was because it’s going to be very powerful for us to use that.”

That fractured relationship dates back to the final few seasons of Arsene Wenger‘s reign at Arsenal and anger from the stands reared its ugly head throughout Unai Emery‘s 18-month spell in charge of the Gunners.

Arteta was keen to remind his players that their duty is to play for the fans in the stands and try to bring more enjoyment to the life of every Gunners supporter around the world.

“We play for them [the fans]. At the end of the day, they’re expecting a lot from us. We have to give them enjoyment, we have to make their lives better and when we win, they will be better because they will be happier. It’s our responsibility and we have to do everything we can to achieve that,” Arteta said. “First, I think I need the players and if I can convince the players, afterwards we can convince the fans. I think it’s a very, very important part of my job. Energy is everything, in life, in football and in sports. If we are able to generate this, it will give us a lift.”

Powerful stuff from the former Arsenal captain who has certainly impressed with his media appearances during his first week as a head coach.

With a run of games coming up against Chelsea (twice), Leeds in the FA Cup and then Man United, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United who all sit close to them in the table, Arteta needs to hit the ground running and he needs the help of Arsenal’s fans to drag the team through to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top four, as somehow they are only eight points off the Champions League places.

Bournemouth holds Arsenal on rain-drenched Boxing Day

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Arsenal was the more dangerous team on the day, but couldn’t find a second goal in a rain-drenched 1-1 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

Dan Gosling scored for the second-straight game as the Cherries again gained a result against a traditional London power.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang poked home an equalizer, but Mikel Arteta only saw a single point from his Arsenal managerial debut.

Bournemouth now sits 16th with 20 points, four behind 11th place Arsenal.


Three things we learned

1. Cherries get another big point: Bournemouth’s season has been disappointing, but Thursday saw another surprise from Eddie Howe‘s men. They were quite good versus Arsenal after beating Chelsea at the weekend, whereas the Cherries used to control the little guys and fail against the traditional powers.

Gosling is having a week, now with goals in a 1-0 win over Chelsea and 1-1 draw versus Arsenal.

2. Ozil suspect, and no Pepe, no party? Maybe Arsenal is trying to drive some sort of value into their German playmaker, but Mesut Ozil drew another start and was far from his best. He had played well in consecutive starts against bottom dwellers Saints and Norwich, but has struggled to impact the game since. Fair play on four key passes, but Ozil didn’t threaten the goal himself and failed in his only dribble attempt. He was replaced by Joe Willock in the 75th minute.

This leads us to another player he helped keep on the bench (until the 82nd minute). I can only imagine that one day we’ll learn that Nicolas Pepe hides all the toilet paper at the training ground and puts toothpaste in the salad dressing or something. Mikel Arteta has now joined Freddie Ljungberg and Unai Emery in keeping the dynamic playmaker out of the Starting XI.

3. Xhaka rewards faith of new boss: Mikel Arteta used his first pre-match presser as Arsenal boss to speak of his admiration for Granit Xhaka. Arteta said he wanted the midfielder at Man City, and the Swiss big man was strong in the center of the park. Xhaka completed 11 of 12 long balls and passed at 93 percent, paired with Lucas Torreira at the back of the midfield.

Man of the Match: Jack Stacey had a nice match at right back in the rain, just edging Xhaka.


There is no question Arsenal was the better side over the first half-hour, but the Gunners defense let them down again.

Stacey wound up deep in the Arsenal box and cut back into a sea of players, Gosling’s foot the first to the ball.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Aubameyang found the equalizer in the 64th minute, starting and finishing a play after Reiss Nelson‘s shot was deflected onto his path.

The rains grew heavier and Lacazette was deprived a goal from a nice David Luiz set-up.

Arteta confirms Ljungberg remains on Arsenal staff

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Just as Carlo Ancelotti did with Duncan Ferguson, so too will Mikel Arteta keep Freddie Ljungberg on staff at Arsenal.

The former Arsenal player impressed and endeared himself to fans during his time as interim manager, taking charge following the dismissal of Unai Emery and seeing the club to five points across his five Premier League matches in charge. Arteta took note, and has made sure to carve out a space for Ljungberg on his new Arsenal staff.

[ MORE: Lamela set for Spurs return ]

“I spoke to Freddie after the [Everton] game,” Arteta said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday’s game against Bournemouth, his first match in charge of the club. “I told him my ideas about the people I want to bring to form my coaching staff, the roles and responsibilities of each of them and I wanted to know what he was feeling. I wanted to know what he had in mind and what his expectations were. We talk and we made a decision that the best thing was for him to carry on with us.”

With all the changes of late at Arsenal, a bit of continuity can be helpful and Arteta confirmed as much. “I think he can be very valuable, he knows the players, he knows the situation, he knows the history and where we’re coming from. As well, his knowledge of the game is going to help us get better.”

Arteta was also asked about Mesut Ozil, and while he mostly danced around the question regarding the German international, he did seem to indicate Ozil would be given a clean slate.

“It’s a question for him [Freddie],” Arteta said in response to a question about Ljungberg’s previous indication that he wouldn’t have picked Ozil even if he had been fit. “I just wanted him to pick the best possible lineup for the game.”

“You’re not going to be judged on what you done in the past, positive or negative,” Arteta said later when pressed on Ozil. “We will try to put the most competitive team out, we are to be ready and nullify them [Bournemouth] as much as possible.”