Nacho Monreal

Getty Images

Report: Granit Xhaka named permanent Arsenal captain

Leave a comment

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.

Stade Rennes beats Arsenal in first leg (video)

AP Photo / David Vincent
Leave a comment
  • Iwobi scores within three minutes
  • Sokratis sent off after second yellow
  • Bourigeaud scores terrific equalizer
  • Monreal own goal puts Rennes in front

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr scored and Arsenal conceded an own goal in a soft 3-1 loss to Stade Rennes at Rhazoan Park in the first leg of the Europa League’s Round of 16 on Thursday.

Alex Iwobi scored what could be a critical away goal should Arsenal regroup for Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It started so well, with Iwobi’s mishit cross skipping off the post and into the goal following a 1-2 with Nacho Monreal in the 4th minute.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos then saw yellow for a foul on the edge of the area, a precursor to his sending off under 10 minutes later.

Hatem Ben Arfa sent Ismaila Sarr toward Sokratis, and the Greek defender took down the young Senegalese striker for his second yellow.

That’s when Rennes struck, with Bourigeaud collecting a free kick rebound off the wall and sending a beauty past Petr Cech.

Beauty may be an understatement.

Monreal turned a Mehdi Zeffane cross into his own goal to give Rennes its first lead of the afternoon.

James Lea Siliki completed the scoring with a cross that Sarr turned beyond Cech with a strong header.

Aguero hits three, Man City sinks Arsenal (video)

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Leave a comment
  • Aguero nets 10th PL hat trick
  • Sterling influential in win
  • Koscielny scores for Arsenal
  • City outshoots Arsenal 19-4

Manchester City put a little more heat on Liverpool with a 3-1 defeat of Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.Sergio Aguero scores all three City goals as the club went second, two points back of Liverpool. The Reds play West Ham on Monday.

Arsenal is now sixth, a point back of Manchester United following the Red Devils defeat of Leicester City.

Aguero is one league hat trick away from matching Alan Shearer’s Premier League record of 11.

Raheem Sterling‘s two assists put him level with Eden Hazard for the league lead.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Man City raged out of the gates, and Arsenal was very much under siege.

Aguero’s goal happened in double the time it took him to open the scoring at Newcastle, the dawdler, with his 48-second header serving as his 18th goal in all competitions and 12th in Premier League play.

He could’ve won a penalty on an ensuing Kevin De Bruyne ball, and Bernd Leno was busy early.

Arsenal made it 1-1 via a corner kick. Nacho Monreal beat Bernardo Silva to flick Sead Kolasinac‘s service back post, where Koscielny darted in front of Kevin De Bruyne to head home. Insane start.

Nicolas Otamendi stung an 18th minute shot at Leno, who caught it on the hop.

The teams continued to excite over the next 35 minutes, but few scoring chances really challenged either keeper.

That changed with Aguero’s second, as Raheem Sterling was key to a fluid team goal. The English winger took a diagonal dime from Fernandinho before working a 1-2 and passing across for Aguero to finish his 13th league goal.

De Bruyne then just missed a sliding Sterling with a spinning pass to the back post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Leno made a fine stop on De Bruyne 10 minutes into a second half that began with plenty of City control.

Sterling was excellent in the build-up to Aguero’s hat trick goal, his cross taking a turn off Leno before hitting the Argentine’s arm and skittering across the line.

Arsenal fears broken jaw for Koscielny

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Things are getting worse for Arsenal on the injury front as their defensive line continues to take hits from all angles.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery said they fear Laurent Koscielny has suffered a broken jaw after a clash with Romelu Lukaku in the 3-1 FA Cup loss to Manchester United.

Koscielny departed in the 64th minute after falling hard in a tangle with Lukaku. He received treatment on the field that resulted in a lengthy delay, and it was clear he was struggling with a facial injury.

The Frenchman’s injury is an even bigger blow to Arsenal considering fellow central defender Sokratis was forced off in the first half with an ankle injury from landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge. That, coupled with Hector Bellerin‘s lengthy absence from a torn ACL suffered just a few weeks ago, has left the Arsenal defense in tatters.

It’s not the first time this season that the Gunners have struggled with injuries to their back line. Rob Holding, like Bellerin, is out for the year with an ACL tear. Koscielny himself missed nearly the entire first half of the season after recovering from his own ACL tear, while Sead Kolasinac dealt with a knee injury that left him sidelined for the first three months. Nacho Monreal missed nearly two full months with a hamstring injury, and 21-year-old Konstantinos Mavropanos has struggled with a groin problem for most of the season. Shkodran Mustafi missed three matches in December with a hamstring problem, while Sokratis has been one of the more consistent presences for Arsenal this season, but has had ankle problems crop up this season before his injury on Friday.

Arsenal has even suffered injury problems to its defensive line before this season, with Arsene Wenger facing the same situation in his final few years in charge. Monreal, a left-back naturally, was forced deputized in central defense for a significant portion of Wenger’s final season in charge of Arsenal.

Nacho Monreal in talks to renew Arsenal contract

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nacho Monreal‘s contract at Arsenal is up this summer, and while the 32-year-old has yet to officially state he’s staying on beyond that, he has confirmed that talks are ongoing.

“We are in contact in any moment so don’t worry about that,” Monreal told the Evening Standard ahead of Arsenal’s match on Saturday at Newcastle. “I am happy here. That is the most important thing.”

Monreal is one of the longest tenured Gunners on the squad, having arrived in early 2013 from Spanish club Malaga. He has made 215 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions, scoring 10 goals and assisting 13.

“My idea is to play in football until my body says ‘Nacho, so sorry but that’s the end’. But I think it is far [away]. I hope so. You never know because your body, sometimes you start with some problems, some injuries and you can’t continue giving 100 per cent. But at the moment I feel good so I am not thinking of my retirement.”

Arsenal has had a long-standing policy against signing players over 30 to a contract extension, but recently they have relaxed that guideline. For example, the Gunners signed 33-year-old captain Laurent Koscielny to a 2-1/2 year contract extension in January. The club also signed two new defenders this summer over 30 years old in Stephen Lichtsteiner and Sokratis.