Alexandre Lacazette

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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.

PL Sunday Preview: Bournemouth hosts Everton; Arsenal visits Watford

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The Premier League’s Matchweek 5 is going to keep on giving, with two matches lined up for Sunday.

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Bournemouth v. Everton — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Following a sluggish start, an up-to-speed Everton, powered by Richarlison, Alex Iwobi and Moise Keane, look to continue on the same path, with similar speed. 

In their first league starts, Keane and Iwobi contributed positively in the Toffees’ three-goal performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Couple Marco Silva‘s new arrivals with Richarlison and Gyfi Sigurdson, and the side’s current attacking prowess is what the side desperately needed when the season first kicked off. It now seems like Everton’s lucrative investments on their attack is paying dividends.

With Bournemouth’s defensive struggles in mind, things can be worse than a trip to the southern tip of England for Everton.

Despite a win against Aston Villa earlier this season, injury-ravaged Bournemouth are struggling to stay afloat. In their last three league matches, the Cherries have allowed 18 shots on target, seven goals. The attack isn’t compensating for the lack of defensive stability either, scoring four goals in the team’s five competitive matches this season. 

There is a small silver lining for Eddie Howe and Co. ahead of Sunday, though. Midfielder Lewis Cook, 22, is slated to make his Dean Court return, following a lengthy injury.

INJURIES: Bournemouth —  OUT: David Brooks (ankle), Dan Gosling (hip), Charlie Daniels (knee), Arnaut Danjuma (foot), Junior Stanislas (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Simon Francis (knee), Lloyd Kelly (ankle) | Everton  — OUT: Jonas Lössl (calf), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: None


Watford v. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

For a second time at Vicarage Road, the Quique Sanchez Flores era is on. 

The 54-year-old’s official return to Watford comes after three years away in Spain and in China. This time, though, the stakes are much higher and the room for error is much slimmer. The table says it all.

With only a point to their name after four bouts, the Hornets are quickly morphing into the league’s bottom dwellers. Will the Spaniard be able to overturn a disastrous defense and a lackluster attack that has only produced two goals? Unlike other teams in the league, Watford’s manager has a nearly-healthy team, and is only a few weeks away from regaining captain Troy Deeney from a knee injury.

That said, there is a stack of work to be done, and taking on Arsenal and Manchester City back-to-back is probably not going to help Watford’s frail state.

Coming in, Arsenal aren’t as feeble as their counterparts, but their confidence (and standing on the table) can use some help, following a loss to Liverpool and a draw to Tottenham in their last two league matches.

The Gunners, who in three weeks will play seven matches, will be without Alexandre Lacazette, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang becomes the team’s lone center-forward option with experience. Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, too, are not expected to dress on Sunday, although manager Unai Emery hinted that their returns are imminent (a defensive boost, in theory).

Given their far-from-ideal situation, improvement is not something Arsenal are going to shy away from on Sunday against a transitioning and vulnerable Watford.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: Troy Deeney (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Craig Cathcart (thigh) | Arsenal  — OUT: Hector Bellerín (knee), Kieran Tierney (groin), Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin); QUESTIONABLE: None

Lacazette ruled out through injury

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Well, that excitement about seeing Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pepe playing together didn’t last long, did it?

Arsenal have confirmed that star striker Lacazette will be out until October with a left ankle injury.

Lacazette, 28, has been playing through the pain but in a statement on Friday the north London club confirmed he will miss the Premier League game at Watford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and the rest of this month.

“After assessments to an ongoing ankle issue, we have advised that Alex will need to rest and strengthen his ankle to regain full fitness. Alex has been playing through this injury for several weeks. He is likely to be back in action in October.”

How big of a blow is this to Arsenal?

They have Aubameyang and Pepe up top, so should be set for a goal threat, but Lacazette’s sharpness in and around the box has been evident early in the season as he scored against Tottenham and Burnley and his ability to pop up with a goal when Arsenal need it most will be missed.

This injury update also explains why Emery left Lacazette out of the team against Liverpool.

The Frenchman has been nursing this problem for quite some time and has battled through the pain barrier, but now is not the right time to take a risk with his long-term fitness. It is a marathon, not a sprint, as Arsenal’s top four hopes and possible UEFA Europa League glory hinge on a fully-fit Lacazette delivering 20-25 goals.

Defensively the Gunners have Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Dinos Mavropanos back in full training, so there is good news on that score, but Emery will be frustrated that he cannot unleash his full-strength attack on Watford, Aston Villa and Manchester United in their next three PL games.

Arsenal erases 2-goal deficit in thrilling derby

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s late goal helped Arsenal complete a two-goal comeback in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the first North London Derby of the season.

[ MORE: Three Four things we learned ]

Sunday’s match at the Emirates Stadium had a bit of everything: reckless tackles, creative playmaking, tremendous saves, and smashed finishes.

Alexandre Lacazette also scored for Arsenal, whose assists came from Nicolas Pepe and Matteo Guendouzi.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen had Spurs goals, with Tottenham heading into the international break with five points. That’s ninth in the Premier League, two behind fifth place Arsenal.


Three big stats (and three things we learned)

    1. Thirteen — Both goalkeepers were very, very good despite the three goals conceded, and Bernd Leno registered seven saves in defeat. Several of the saves, maybe more than half, were of the show-stopping variety.
    2. Sixty-seven — The amount of minutes Arsenal had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, and Alexandre Lacazette on the bench before the scorer subbed out of the match for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
    3. Ten — Spurs’ star striker is now the all-time leading scorer in NLD history after his first half penalty gave him 10 goals against the Gunners, and he just missed a second with a rocket off the post near the hour mark.

Man of the Match: Leno.


Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac teamed up to give Nicolas Pepe the first chance of the match, the Ivorian curling wide from 18 yards.

Eriksen rewarded Mauricio Pochettino when he raced to the back post to pop a rebound into the gaping frame. Harry Kane won a header at midfield and Heung-Min Son did well to produce the play past a sleepy David Luiz. Erik Lamela hit the shot that wound up on Eriksen’s path via Bernd Leno’s save.

Kolasniac then fell down before he could hit a quality cross in the 13th minutes. Nerves were plenty.

Leno then made an insane save on Son’s 18th minute rip to keep the deficit to one.

Son earned a penalty off an insane challenge by Granit Xhaka in the 38th minute, sending Kane to the spot. That’s almost always meant a goal, and it did again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Hugo Lloris made a pair of fine saves that were overshadowed by Lacazette breaking through the Spurs back line.

He was aided by a sensational bit of creativity from Nicolas Pepe, whose outside of the boot masterpiece allowed Lacazette to blast past Lloris.

Both sides had their chances in a more even second half, and Kane smashed the post in the 59th minute.

Arsenal got its equalizer when Matteo Guendouzi, who put in a spirited shift, sent a swirling cross into the mixer for Aubameyang to redirect past Lloris.

Could Arsenal finally start Pepe, Auba, Lacazette?

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Arsenal fans could finally see the forward trio they’ve been waiting for.

With Alexandre Lacazette almost recovered from an ankle injury, he could start up top in a front three including fellow Frenchmen Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and new signing Nicolas Pepe. It’s just in time, as Arsenal faces Tottenham in the first edition of the North London derby this season.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League Picks]

“I think they can start together and they can play also during the match as all three, it depends how we decide our gameplan,” Emery said. “But I am very optimistic for that situation, but not also those three players, also Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Willock, Ozil. We need to be able to make the best decisions, but above all, to have different possibilities with the players.”

Arsenal fans have been waiting with baited breath to see the speed, skill, and technique of Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Pepe playing together. It obviously gives Arsenal an issue defensively, because the trio aren’t exactly known for their defending. But if Arsenal can move forward on the break, and if Emery can find the overall balance of the squad, it could bring tremendous results.

Going up against Tottenham at the Emirates is also a special occasion. The players have added motivation to succeed and should be ready to put on a show in front of the home crowd. It will be interesting to see what kind of chemistry Lacazette and Aubameyang have built early on with Pepe, and if they score, what their celebration will be.