Arsenal 3-2 Southampton: Welbeck gets last laugh

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  • Saints take early lead
  • Gunners claim advantage by halftime
  • Southampton remains 18th

Danny Welbeck‘s brace helped Arsenal defy the efforts of desperate Southampton in a 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Welbeck had just missed a sitter when he connected with the winner, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also scored for the Gunners.

Arsenal moves to within two points of fifth place Chelsea ahead of the Blues match with West Ham United (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Shane Long and Charlie Austin scored for Saints, who led 1-0 and drew level at 2-2 in the second half. Southampton remains three points back of safety.

Jack Stephens was sent off for Saints in stoppage time, and Mohamed Elneny was also shown a red card in the aftermath of the same scrum.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A goal line clearance came early, with James Ward-Prowse taking a feed from Shane Long and beating Petr Cech but not Calum Chambers.

And Long again threatened for pace moments later as Saints pressed for an opener.

So it was fitting when Long put Saints ahead, taking advantage of a sleeping Shkrodan Mustafi to cut to the near post and redirect a cross beyond the reach of Cech.

Arenal leveld in the 29th minute, with Aubameyang chopped the ball off the ground for a clever nutmegged finish past Alex McCarthy.

Welbeck made it 2-1 in the 38th, leaving McCarthy helpless with a deflected shot from an Alex Iwobi feed.

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Both Aubameyang and Granit Xhaka forced top end saves out of McCarthy in the first three minutes of the second half.

Long looked like he had restored the deadlock and the away support had a moment’s joy only to see the flag up. The Irish striker was offside.

Wesley Hoedt then forced Cech into a flying save with a 30-yard effort which may have been destined for the post.

Austin then scored a lunchpail goal, cutting into the box within 80 seconds of subbing into the game to force 2-2. It was a deserved equalizer.

Welbeck missed a sitter when Iwobi spied Wilshere at the back post. The ex-Manchester United man couldn’t get his leg in position to get the ball over the line (with Aubameyang ready for a tap-in, unbeknownst to Welbeck).

He’d get his goal in the 81st minute, stabbing home a header at the back post from an Iwobi cross.

Scouting report: Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny much more than a destroyer

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Following Arsenal’s $11 million capture of Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel last week, many Gunners fans will be wondering what to expect from the central midfielder.

Elneny, 23, has excelled in Switzerland over the past three years and that led Arsene Wenger to snap him up for a relatively modest fee during the January window.

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The rangy midfielder was in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for their 0-0 draw at Stoke City last Sunday but didn’t get on so everyone is still waiting to get a glimpse of him in action.

This week I tracked down a man who knows Elneny better than most: former USMNT and Egypt coach, Bob Bradley. Bradley 57, is currently the head coach of French side Le Havre AC who are chasing promotion to France’s Ligue 1 and currently sit in third spot in France’s second-tier.

Bradley helped nurture Elneny from the youth teams into a full international as he appeared for Egypt’s U-23 side at the 2012 Olympics and has gone on to become an influential figure for the Pharaohs. The experienced American coach believes that Arsenal fans expecting Elneny to be only a true destroyer in central midfield will be pleasantly surprised.

“He is an all-round midfielder capable of playing different roles. He reads the game, he moves well and he can play a little bit deeper,” Bradley explained. “He’s an all-round midfielder who can play deeper when needed, he can move forward and shoot from distance but he’s not just a guy who stays in there and breaks up plays.”

Elneny is said to be smooth on the ball, has an impressive range of passing and can link defense and attack seamlessly. He sounds like a very Arsenal-esque acquisition and could complement Francis Coquelin rather than replace him. So the questions surrounding where he will slot in to this Arsenal side may have changed a little.

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However, one of the big question marks surrounding players who have played on the European continent but then arrive in England is: “can they handle the pace of the Premier League?”

“It is an adjustment for anybody but I think that his experience of playing against Premier League teams in the Champions League and Europa League is going to help,” Bradley said.

Dia El-Sayed, the coach of Egypt’s U-20 team while Bradley was in charge of the Pharaohs from 2011-13, played a huge role in the development of Elneny and his teammate at El Mokawloon El Arab Sporting Club and then at Basel, former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah. Under his tutelage Elneny, the boy from the small northern Egyptian town of El-Mahalla, grew into a man.

Around the time of Elneny’s emergence into the full Egyptian national team, the Port Said Massacre occurred in Feb. 2012 meaning that the Egyptian league was cancelled indefinitely amid the violent uprising against the government.

That meant the Egyptian players had nowhere to play, so Bradley often took his national team squad and several youngsters out of the country for trips to train and play friendlies in the likes of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Tripoli and Lebanon ahead of 2014 World Cup qualifying. El-Sayed — someone who Bradley describes as his “brother” and said everything he achieved with the national team wouldn’t have been possible without the coach by his side — was instrumental in setting up those trips with plenty of his young stars making their way through under Bradley.

To start with Elneny was tentative, but the more Bradley saw him the more he liked him.

“When Elneny started he was still young, he was only 19, but you could see that he trained really well every day. In the training he was improving technically. You could tell how he worked and how he wanted to get better. Little by little he became an important part of our team,” Bradley said. “His passing got sharper. He started to improve his ability with long passes. He was always a player who didn’t hesitate to shoot from distance and at that time it wasn’t always that he was scoring a lot, but you could see all these starting points.”

With Salah heading to FC Basel in 2012, Elneny followed him in 2013 with Bradley speaking to the Swiss club direct (sporting director George Heitz to be exact) to help arrange the moves for his players who were still without regular action as the nationwide ban on professional soccer continued in Egypt. Those restrictions helped the likes of Salah and Elneny move to Europe and they haven’t looked back since.

“Salah went first to Basel and then at some point when I spoke to the people at Basel we mentioned Elneny,” Bradley said. “We said that he is a player who is on the way up. He trains hard, he is improving. They waited six months after Salah had gone and then were able to get him as they were both at the same team in Egypt, El Mokawloon El Arab Sporting Club. When he got to Basel it was over that time that he matured a little bit. He covers a lot of ground and can play a more defensive role, he is an all-round midfielder, has a good passing range and has ability to score from outside of the box. Most of all, I think he is still improving. The thing that was very good for him at Basel was the experience in Champions League and Europa League.”

With a few Egyptians flourishing in the PL for short periods of time in the past — Mido and Amir Zaki spring to mind, while Salah has spent two spells on loan before moving permanently to Roma from Chelsea — Bradley expects Elneny to grab the chance with both hands and revealed a little about his character and his journey to the Emirates Stadium from Egypt.

“Now is a great opportunity and I know how excited he is,” Bradley revealed. “His English — Salah went to Basel and learnt English quickly — he hasn’t learned as fast. But that will come. He is a good guy, he is married. And if you remember, there is a scene in American Pharaoh (PBS documentary on Bradley’s time coaching Egypt) when we were all together playing the final matches of World Cup qualifying Elneny’s wife gave birth to a son, Malik Mohamed Elneny. There is the scene in the documentary where we are all cutting the cake and all cheering for Elneny.

“You think about this young guy that Dia knew so well, he came into the national team and how he grew and we were obviously able to help with the move to Basel and how he has continued to improve. For Dia, myself, my coaching staff in Egypt and all the Egyptians, this is something that everyone feels very good about and we are excited for him to have his chance.”

Elneny unveiled by Arsenal: “I promise I will contribute positively”

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The long-awaited and “complicated” deal to bring Mohamed Elneny from Basel to Arsenal is finally complete.

Elneny is a 23-year-old box-to-box Egyptian midfielder has 39 caps with three goals on the international stage, and played more than 140 games for Basel. A quarter of those came in European competition.

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And the midfielder is very happy to join the Emirates Stadium set, where he could debut on Sunday at Stoke City.

From Arsenal.com:

“Mr Wenger is a highly respected manager and one of the world’s best managers. It is my honour to be trained under his management.

“It is one the biggest clubs in the world, I know everything about it and its players.

“I would like to tell [the fans] that, although you have not seen much of me, I promise I will contribute positively with the team. I am hoping that we win the Premier League and cup this season, and the Champions League as well.”

Lofty goals for Elneny, who could be a critical component in filling the gap caused by Francis Coquelin’s knee injury.

Arsenal close to sealing “complicated” deal for Elneny

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Arsenal are closing in on making their first signing of the January transfer window.

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Speaking to the media ahead of the Gunners’ FA Cup third round clash against Premier League rivals Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, manager Arsene Wenger revealed the deal for FC Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny is nearing completion.

Wenger revealed there’s been a bit of a hold up but expects everything to be sorted out in the next few days.

“It is complicated a little bit but we are working hard on it and hopefully in the next two or three days we will get to the end of it,” Wenger said.

The Arsenal boss also admitted other additions may arrive in January but that getting the Egyptian defensive midfielder on board is key.

“I don’t rule out anyone else, but he [Elneny] will be at least one signing that comes into an area where we are short at the moment,” Wenger added.

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Elneny, 23, is a true destructive central midfielder who is also good on the ball. With injuries to Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla in the lead up to the festive period, Arsenal have looked short in midfield as Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey have failed to hold down the two holding positions in the absence of Coquelin and Cazorla.

With Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky edging close to returns from long-term injury, plus the addition of Elneny, the center of Arsenal’s midfield will soon look well stocked.

The Premier League leaders will need all the squad depth they can get if they’re going to seriously battle with Manchester City for the title in the next next five months and dding at least two or three players in January (Elneny, more cover up front and a competent center back) should be the aim.