Oxlade-Chamberlain: Make or Break

After a strong preseason from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following his return from an injury which saw him miss the Euro’s, the time has come for the 22-year-old to push on and stake his claim for a first team place.

Going in to the first game of the season without a recognised striker means it is likely that Alexis or Walcott will start up front against Liverpool on Sunday, potentially opening a space on the wing for young Ox.

Starting all of Arsenal’s preseason games, Wenger has got him firing on all cylinders and he comes in to the start of the season looking sharper than most.

There is little doubt that this is a crucial year for Chamberlain in his Arsenal career, following a couple of subpar seasons he has been unable to make the right-wing position his own, with even Ramsey and other more typically central players getting the nod ahead of him.

Like Walcott, the Ox has huge potential but has yet to cement down a permanent place in Arsene Wenger’s vision of the team.

Many questions were raised last season about his desire, maturity and confidence, but he looks as though as he has used his injury break to recollect himself and focus on improving his game.

Chamberlain looked as threatening as any Arsenal player during this summers friendlies, scoring a couple of fabulous goals.

He’ll face competition for his place in the team though, even without Giroud or Welbeck, after the sensational rise of Alex Iwobi during the ned of the last campaign.

It looks as though three of Chamberlain, Alexis, Walcott and Iwobi will line up, up top for Arsenal on Sunday.

Hopefully the Ox can take full advantage of the opportunity should he get it.

Granit Xhaka: All you need to know

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Granit Xhaka has joined Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach for a fee of £30m with possible add-ons in the future up to £35m. 

The facts:

  • 23-years-old
  • Born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, to Kosovo Albanian parents
  • His brother (25) plays for Albania
  • He has signed a 5-year-contract worth a reported £110,000 a week
  • “I was almost speechless when he called”, referring to Wenger’s first call to him.
  • Arsenal scouts have watched him play 30 times before signing him.
  • Xhaka made the Bundesliga Team of the Year last season, alongside Bayern stars Vidal, Muller and Lewandowski.
  • He captained Gladbach last year despite his age, and led them to fourth in the Bundesliga and played in the Champions League (although finished 4th behind Man City, Juventus and Sevilla in a tough group).
  • Granit also captained Switzerland at u17 and u21 age groups, winning the u17 World Cup and taking them to the u21 Euros final.
  • He has an aggressive side. Sent off 8 times in his career to date, he averages a booking every four games.
  • Nicknamed “the little Einstein”, he is not prolific with goals or assists, but similarly to Cazorla, helps break up the play and lays the foundations for attacks.
  • In his first interview with Arsenal he’s already speaking English, despite having never played in an English-speaking country. He can speak four languages, which could come in useful on the pitch.
  • All of the above show he is a leader. Aggressive, passionate, multi-linguist, communicator, winner.
  • In January he joked that he would take take Coquelin’s number 34 shirt if Arsenal signed him.
  • Xhaka won Gladbach’s goal of the year award in two of his three seasons there.
  • Ottmar Hitzfeld, former Switzerland boss and two-times Champions League winner, compared Xhaka to a “young Schweinsteiger”.
  • You can watch him in action for Switzerland at Euro 2016 this summer.

 

After joining, Xhaka told the clubs official website: “I’m very proud to be joining Arsenal. I cannot wait to move to London, represent this special club and play in the Premier League. I will give everything to help Arsenal win trophies and make the fans happy.”

Wilshere expects tough Villa challenge as he bids to beat Tottenham again

Jack Wilshere doesn’t want Tottenham to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 21 years on his watch, and claims knowing Spurs had lost, motivated them against Man City on Sunday.

“We all knew the Spurs result and of course that motivates us,” Wilshere said. “We want to finish above them and show we are the best team in north London.

“We expect to win our home games so hopefully Newcastle can do us a favour.”

However Newcastle could be relegated come Sunday afternoon, if Sunderland beat Everton on Wednesday. Here’s to hoping that the relegation battle goes down to the wire, and Newcastle are still in the fight when they play Tottenham.

“Obviously, then you are checking your phone in the dressing room. When we saw it finished 2-1 it gave us a real lift.

“The main thing was not to lose so it was still in our hands. After going 1-0 down and then 2-1 down, overall you would take a draw.

“It is a tough place to come and we showed good character – that’s what we can take from the game.”

Although Arsenal will be widely expected to take the three points v Villa, and secure at least third place, Wilshere expects a tough test from Aston Villa and suggests the team don’t get complacent about the game against the already relegated side.

“We like to think we can win most of our home games. I don’t know what happened to Aston Villa this season, but I don’t expect them to come and just let us beat them.

“We said a few weeks back that we don’t want to get fourth, we don’t want to have to face a qualifier,” he said.

“We want to be straight in there and enjoy the season without having to play a big game beforehand.”

Moving straight into the group stages of the Champions League presents an advantage over having to play a qualifier before the season has even begun for sure, yet this will be far from enough to appease the disgruntled Arsenal fans.

Finishing above Tottenham will be the only redeemer for Arsenal at the moment, and hopefully there is a chance of St Totteringham’s Day this Sunday.

 

England’s Euro 2016 Squad

Mr provisional squad for England ahead of Roy Hodgson’s announcement this Thursday:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton.

Defenders: Nathaniel Clyne, Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, John Stones, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Ryan Bertrand.

Midfielders: Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Mark Noble.

Strikers: Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck (if fit), Wayne Rooney.

Baring in mind I would probably use a 4-3-3 system. And play Vardy and Welbeck/Sturridge either side of Harry Kane.

So my Starting XI would be: Hart, Clyne, Smalling, Cahill, Bertrand, Dier, Wilshere, Alli, Vardy, Sturridge, Kane.

With Chamberlain injured and Walcott’s form abysmal, they had to be left out.

If as suspected it turns out Welbeck won’t be fit in time, I would replace him with Sterling, as he can also run the wing.

Then you have good replacements defensively, and in midfield, Noble is deserving of a place in my opinion. And there are also like for like replacements here. Where it gets tricky is on the wings, but I feel that some players like Lallana, have versatility to play out there if necessary.

Feel free to completely disagree with me, as I’m sure a lot of will you.

 

 

Arsenal need to finish above Tottenham to salvage any positives from this season

Heading into this weekends fixtures Arsenal have a huge game away to Man City at the Etihad. 

However, the Gunners top four place looks safe with Man City and Man United both dropping points last weekend.

Arsenal will have their sights ahead though, with moving above Tottenham still a real possibility.

Tottenham drew at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, and with Alli already out for the rest of the season and surely more suspensions to come, the prospect of overtaking them into second place is certainly on the cards still.

They must play Southampton, and away to in-form, relegation threatened, Newcastle. 

Neither of those games will be easy, but their superior goal difference means they will only need a win in one of the two, or for Arsenal to lose one of their own games (City or Villa).

Stranger things have happened though. Remember when Arsenal  overtook them on the last day of the season, after a dodgy lasagne meant half Spurs’ team couldn’t play?

Well this year they will be missing key players through their own impetulence. 

Perhaps there is still something left to fight for in this season. Though you wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal continued to squander any chance they get.

Man City present a tough task. But they will be focusing on their trip to the Bernabeu on Wednesday night, which will undoubtedly take its toll.

The enthralling entertainment we’ve seen this season, isn’t over just yet.