Bernd Leno

Arteta vows to keep Aubameyang: ‘Our most important player’

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Arsenal completed a hectic week with a hectic win prodded by its two top performers of the season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and Bernd Leno made key late saves as the exhausted Gunners outlasted Everton 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was effusive in his praise, relatively speaking, for both players. He said that Leno “saved” Arsenal, and went long on Aubameyang when asked how important the player is to the club’s future.

“Incredible,” Arteta said. “The amount of work he’s doing. Before I had my questions, (but he’s) shown the commitment that he’s shown to his teammates and the club. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it, or do it physically. So it’s either you want to do it or don’t.

“He’s our most important player. Stats wise, there’s no question. As much as I can and the club can, we will try to convince him to stay with us.”

Arteta also appreciates the effort his men put in against an energetic Everton side three days after outlasting Olympiacos in Greece.

“Coming back from Europe, three games in seven days, conceding a goal in the first minute, the way we reacted, the way we played for 60-65 minutes was exactly what I wasn’t from my team,” Arteta preened. “The resilience some of the players showed when they were absolutely knackered and kept going and going. This was exactly what I wanted. … Everybody was looking at me, saying ‘I’m cramping. I’m doing this, doing that.’ We could only change two players. I tried to condense the midfield and have a little bit more energy.”

Leno was very happy with Arsenal’s effort.

The Gunners have been much better since Arteta implemented his system, even if their 270-minute shutout streak died in the first minute on Sunday.

“You could see that our power was at the end,” Leno said. “We were fighting. You can see how happy everyone was after this game because we deserve this and we have to keep going.”

Aubameyang praised his keeper.

“We are always happy to have him. He saved us a couple of times at the right moment. We’re proud of him and we know that we can count on him. He gives us more energy to push.”

The ninth-place Gunners are four points off fifth place and, of course, still alive for a Champions League berth through the Europa League.

Staying in the Champions League is probably their only path to keeping Aubameyang, and Arteta’s description of the Gabonese star doesn’t try to disguise the need to keep him in North London.

Aubameyang fires Arsenal past Everton

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang climbed atop the Premier League’s goal-scoring list as Arsenal beat Everton 3-2 on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.

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Eddie Nketiah also scored for Mikel Arteta‘s men, who allowed a first-minute goal but rebounded to move ninth. The Gunners are four points off fifth.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richalrison scored for Everton, which sits a point behind the Gunners in 11th.


Three things we learned

1. Aubameyang’s class permanent: There’s a new name joining Jamie Vardy atop the Premier League’s goal scoring leaderboard, as Aubameyang bagged his 16th and 17th goals of the season. The Gabonese striker scored with his left foot and his head in putting himself one goal from 50 in his PL career.

2. Leno continues to make Best XI case: The majority of voters have probably used a permanent marker to put Alisson Becker into their teams of the year, but Bernd Leno has been an absolute marvel behind Arsenal’s suspect defense (which returned Sunday after a 270-minute shutout streak).

It’s not just about his shot-stopping, which is supremely good (and yes we know he allowed two on Sunday). Leno connected on five of seven long passes and passed at 90 percent. We know Mikel Arteta wants a ball-mover like Ederson. Leno fits the bill.

3. English youngsters deliver for both teams: Calvert-Lewin may have only converted one of his three prime chances, including a stoppage-time header wide of the goal, but the big Everton striker remains in the midst of his career year. The hosts got a ninth assist in all comps from Bukayo Saka (18) on a first PL goal from Eddie Nketiah, who’s just two years older than the English U-19 star.

That’s not even mentioning another decent-enough day from Mason Holgate, who’s improved dramatically under Ancelotti.

Man of the Match: Aubameyang.


Calvert-Lewin was the beneficiary of miserable Arsenal defending on a first-minute free kick, as Sead Kolasinac followed his mark into the box and David Luiz popped a header into the path of the scorer.

Djibril Sidibe then closed down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the Gabonese was played deep into the Everton third.

Kolasinac had injury added to his insult, his jersey sleeve a makeshift sling for his shoulder as he made way for Bukayo Saka in the 18th minute.

Eddie Nketiah sent Nicolas Pepe into the 18, but the Ivorian’s rocket blasted over the arms of leaping Jordan Pickford.

The Everton keeper would save Pepe in the 26th, but he couldn’t stop Nketiah a minute later. The Englishman leaped to knock in a terrific Saka cross for 1-1.

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The goals kept coming, as Luiz played Aubameyang through the Everton backline for a smashing finish in the 33rd, only to see Yerry Mina cue up Richarlison‘s stoppage-time finish.

The second half saw Arsenal score within a minute of the restart, Aubameyang heading a Pepe cross past Pickford.

Everton began to put pressure on the Gunners, and Leno made an incredible close-range save on Calvert-Lewin in the 73rd.

Leno made another big save when Richarlison trapped a low Delph drive and turned toward the goal.

Granit Xhaka picked off a poor Jordan Pickford pass and Nketiah struck the crossbar in the 86th.

Bernd Leno: Europa League, FA Cup important for Arsenal

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Bernd Leno thinks Arsenal’s Europa League battle can help the team expedite its return to contention.

The Gunners are unlikely to reclaim a Champions League berth via the top four, currently 10 points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

And possible obstacles to winning the Europa League include Inter Milan, Manchester United, Wolves, Sevilla, and Ajax amongst others.

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But Leno says a trophy, whether the FA Cup or UEL, would be huge. But even if the Gunners don’t manage to reach another final, the big moments against top competition will help strengthen their nerve.

From Football.London:

“In the Europa League and FA Cup we have so many difficult games, so many big games because we saw last season that in the Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals you get Champions League teams. They are all playing for the title and the final was Arsenal against Chelsea [last season], so it was a very, very big game.

“We want to have this final again and also in the FA Cup. Everybody told me that the FA Cup final at Wembley is unbelievable with the atmosphere and it is also a trophy, a title and we are looking forward to playing these games. Hopefully we can win a title this season.”

It’s especially true for stars-in-waiting Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, and Bukayo Saka, and follows the same logic as sending Emile Smith-Rowe on loan to Huddersfield Town. Play in important spots for your side, and grow.

Arsenal is in training camp in the Middle East for its winter break, and will return to host Newcastle in the Premier League before beginning the Europa League Round of 32 tie with Olympiacos. Its next FA Cup opponent is Portsmouth on March 2, so it’s reasonable to figure Arsenal will take the next step toward silverware in both competitions.

Leno has been sensational for the Gunners this season, and he wasn’t bad in his first season after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, either. Even if his top four prediction in December isn’t going according to plan.

Burnley holds Arsenal in sloppy draw at Turf Moor

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Arsenal split points for the 13th time this year in a disappointing 0-0 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday.

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The Gunners move 10th as one of four teams with 31 points. Burnley is also one of those teams, 11th on goal differential.


Three things we learned

1. The Arsenal rebuild project is truly difficult: Perhaps, like with the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United, the exit of Arsene Wenger has left super long-lasting reverberations throughout the Emirates Stadium. Mikel Arteta has a good mind and the Arsenal spirit. He’s solidified the Arsenal defense, and there’s talent in the squad. Not being able to break down Burnley for a league-best 13th draw.

2. McNeil shines again: Burnley’s 20-year-old wide midfielder was again tough and influential, and it seems only a matter of time before he either gets a chance with the England national team or has to angle to a move for a bigger club in order to do so. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

3. On the bright side for Mikel Arteta, he probably shouldn’t have gotten a point: After the first 15 minutes, almost all of the match’s bright chances were produced by Burnley. That includes Jay Rodriguez’s lash off the bottom of the bar.

Man of the Match: McNeil.


Arsenal might’ve been up 1-0 in the second minute, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s cross was thumped wide of the near post by the head of a point-blank Alexandre Lacazette.

Jay Rodriguez took a Chris Wood lay-off and forced a remarkable palm save from Bernd Leno.

The match played into Burnley’s playbook, as Arsenal’s choices with the ball were poor and the Clarets scrapped forward when given the opportunity.

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They got their best chances this way, a dangerous free kick whipped in but nodded wide in the 58th.

Lucas Torreira tore into a shot from distance, caught by Nick Pope, and the Gunners next effort was nowhere near the frame.

Rodriguez thumped a shot off the bottom of the bar from class range

Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

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Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.

The match was Mike Dean’s 500th Premier League match, and not without controversy. Dean neglected to award a penalty when Nicolas Pepe was chopped down in the box, but VAR stayed with him.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

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The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.