Category Archives: Football

Boreham Wood 0 Arsenal 2: The Gunners Kick Start their Preseason on a High

Puma’s away kits. not bad

Meadow Park (Friendly)

Arsenal 2 (Olsson 68′, Afobe (pen 86′)) – Boreham Wood 0

Player Ratings (via Fresh Arsenal)Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

Arsenal began the game with a perfect blend of youth and experience as the players came out for the first time donning the new Puma kit with Aaron Ramsey leading the line.

As expected, Szczesny started in goal and he had a defensive setup featuring Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson on the flanks while Semi Ajayi and Isaac Hayden played in the heart of the defense. In midfield, Ramsey and Francis Coquelin played as the double pivot while Gedion Zelalem played ahead of them. The attacking triumvirate was made up of Yaya Sanogo in the middle with Jon Toral and Chris Willock providing support.

Coquelin swept up play in midfield before teeing up Toral. The young Spaniard waltzed with the ball before finding Ramsey that knocked an intelligent cushioned pass for Jenkinson. The fullback launched a cross for Sanogo but the goalie latched onto the ball before the lanky French forward. Shortly afterwards, Monreal fed Ramsey that made a run to the edge of the area but he chose to pass the ball to Sanogo that lashed his tame shot wide. Sanogo continued to probe the opposition and he had a great chance to score but his effort was saved by Russell.

Ramsey linked up with Zelalem and was afforded a chance at goal. The Welsh maestro fancied his chances and blasted a ball tha went wide off the mark. Arsenal continued to ask questions of the Boreham Wood defense and the Gunners almost broke the deadlock when Toral carved the defense open with the lovely ball to Sanogo. The French forward chose to return the favor and Toral’s one-timed shot clipped the post and went wide.

Sanogo’s unfortunate day in front of goal continued when Le Coq dinked a ball that fell kindly to his path from a poor defensive header but he blasted the ball at Russell.

In the second half, Arsene Wenger for fresh sets of legs as Damian Martinez manned the sticks while Kieran Gibbs, Ignasi Miquel, Julio Pleguezuelo and Hector Bellerin formed the new look back line. Abou Diaby, yes, the real Abou Diaby played alongside Mathieu Flamini in the holding role with Tomas Rosicky playing as the creative hub. Kris Olsson, Chuba Akpom and Benik Afobe formed the attacking trio.

Arsenal’s first meaningful attack of the half came when Bellerin and Olsson exchanged passes superbly on the right but Olsson’s lobbed effort was headed over the goal. The moment Arsenal fans would have cherished almost arrived when the Gunners interchanged some passes before the ball fell to Diaby’s path in the edge of the box. The Frenchman used his left foot to fire his effort over the bar. I’m pretty sure that many would have loved to see Diaby on the score sheet.

Akpom was the next player to sting the goalie’s palm with a hot shot after a neat pass from Rosicky. Little Mozart was orchestrating things in the middle yet again when he mesmerized the opposition in the middle of the park before sending the ball to Bellerin bu the fullback’s cross was intercepted by Russell. It was no surprise when Rosicky, yet again, meandered his way through the ball before releasing a peach of a pass to Olsson that matched the buildup with a brilliant chipped finish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDlWUVSM-eg

After Gibbs had spurned the chance Akpom created for him, the Nig-English youngster darted forward and blasted a shot that was saved by Russell. Akpom was to have a hand in the match clincher when he executed a brilliant piece of skill to leave two Boreham Wood defenders for dead before crossing the ball and with Afobe impeded in the box, the ref pointed to the spot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBb2LvUvmk4

Afobe’s run up to the spot was awkward but he still placed the ball past Russell to put the game beyond doubt. At the end, it was a good run out for the lads and had the goalie, Russell, not been in top form, the scoreline wouldn’t have been this flattering.

The clash against New York Red Bulls comes up next.

Sayonara.

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Boreham Wood Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs

Can Ramsey build on his successes from last season

As we all know, Arsene Wenger has returned to London Colney to begin training with the lads and we would have a chance to witness the Puma kit for the first time when the Gunners take on lowly Boreham Wood today. Boreham Wood plays in the Conference South, which is the sixth tier of English football and they would come up against a strong Arsenal that still has a couple of players recuperating from an exhilarating World Cup.

There are more friendly matches lined up for the Gunners as they take on Thierry Henry and his New York Red Bulls before shining the Emirates alight with its annual Emirates Cup contest. The official website published photos of some first-team players training ahead of today’s clash and there were a couple of household names with some youngsters here and there.

The tickets for this fixture has been sold out and 4,500 lucky fans will get to witness the Gunners strut their stuff in Meadow Park. Arsene Wenger is odds on to chose from his players that missed out on an opportunity to play for their respective nations in the concluded World Cup.

My expectations for the game aren’t high and like every preseason fixture against a minnow, I expect the Gunners to run around in pedestrian fashion and they’d probably knock a hatful of goals past Boreham Wood. Yaya Sanogo is one player that couldn’t find the back of the 14 games he featured for the Gunners last season, and for his sake, I hope he gets among the goals today.

To injuries, Abou Diaby is surprisingly fit but there has been some progress in the Walcott’s knee situation as provided from the horse’s mouth, Arsene Wenger,

“He’s progressing very well. He’s worked very hard during the summer and we expect him to be back in full training at the end of August. Once he’s back in full training it can be very quick. He has a good basis, which is what he’s working on now.”

The player himself has been buzzing since Alexis Sanchez arrived at the club and he has stated that he can’t wait to play alongside the Chilean sensation. With the club relatively stocked in attacking options, it would be wise to ease Walcott into the thick of things because he’s vital to Arsenal’s cause this season.

Theo Walcott

Walcott modeling the alternate kit.

Aaron Ramsey has also been on the news lately, revealing that winning a trophy last season has lifted some burden off the manager and the team, but they’re not going to rest on their laurels.

“I think we have a great opportunity,” he told Arsenal.com. “Hopefully all the people that have played at the World Cup come back strong and fit and we can hit the ground running when the season starts.

“The feeling we got after winning the FA Cup was something special and I’m sure that everybody wants the same thing again this season. We’ll be giving it everything to win a few things this year.

“The media were always saying things like ‘Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for this many years’. The number kept getting higher so it was important to win something to take that burden away. It takes the pressure off us.

“I think the team has come on a long way in the last couple of seasons. We’ve grown a lot – there’s a great team spirit here, everybody wants to work for each other so we’ll give it a good go.”

The Gunners would have another stint at silverware when they take on Manchester City in the Community Shield, a club that pummeled them at the Etihad last season and salvaged a draw at the Emirates. With more signings imminent, the feel-good factor is back in the team and we can only hope that it culminates into another victory which would also help the Gunners psychologically. Arsenal had just two victories against the top six teams last season, and that was the home and away triumph over Tottenham, They drew with the other five at home and conceded 21 goals away. That was shocking.

To team news, the team basically picks itself for this contest with the experienced heads probably getting a run out from the onset before the Young Guns take their places in the second half.

Wojciech Szczesny would be the custodian between the sticks and he’d probably be replaced by Damian Martinez in the second half. Martinez last game for the Gunners was that enthralling 7-5 win over Reading in the Capital One cup and I’m pretty sure that he didn’t convince Arsene Wenger. Rumors of Colombia’s David Ospina has been gathering momentum but we will see how things pan out in the coming weeks.

In defense, there would be no Mertesielny axis of awesome in the heart of the back but with the defensive duo of Ignasi Miquel and Seyi Ajayi returning from loan spells at the Championship, they’ll be odds on to feature for the Gunners. I still have a concern with this position because Thomas Vermaelen cannot be relied upon to stay fit, he just has a sad penchant for getting injured. In the full back positions, Wenger would have the luxury of shuffling between Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal and I envisage that they’d get 45 minutes each. With new signing, Matt Debuchy, still on holiday, Carl Jenkinson will have another chance to show what his made off.

In holding midfield, the experienced duo of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini will hold the fort while Aaron Ramsey would be given the license to roam further forward as the creative hub of the team, a position he struggled to make an impact in the 2011/12 season but with his amazing goal haul in the last campaign, I expect him to be in bullish mode. In attack, I’d expect Yaya Sanogo to spearhead the front line with Serge Gnabry and Tomas Rosicky supporting him from the flanks.

My predicted lineup would look like this,

football formation

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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Revealing the Benefits of Signing Mathieu Debuchy

Mathieu Debuchy

So one of the most kept transfer secrets have finally been made official – Newcastle’s Matt Debuchy is now a Gunner, and he has taken the No. 2 jersey, a traditional right back’s number. The full back joins the club after a good World Cup under his belt and instead of arriving as a late transfer deadline day signing, Debuchy would have the time to blend in with his new teammates, as well as getting accustomed to the Arsenal way.

Debuchy’s career began when he joined LOSC Lille Metropole at the tender age of eight, before breaking into the first team setup several years later. He made his debut in the 2003/04 campaign and went on to make 300 appearances (scored 18 goals) in 10 seasons for the French-based outfit before leaving in January 2013 to join another French-infested squad in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. After 18 months with Newcastle, he has joined the Gunners for an undisclosed fee.

With the era of Bacary Sagna gone, a new era has began with Debuchy leading the ranks at the right back position with Carl Jenkinson and / or Hector Bellerin serving as his able deputies. The Gunners linked with moves for Seamus Coleman and Serge Aurier but Arsene Wenger in his infinite wisdom opted for some French delight.

What makes Matt Debuchy stand out? Gooner Daily reveals the benefits of signing the French star.

Statistical Review of Debuchy, Compared with Sagna and other Arsenal Transfer Targets

According to stats king, WhoScored, the table below shows the overall stats of these right backs,

STAT (League Only)* Debuchy Coleman Aurier Sagna
Appearances (Subs) 28 (1) 36 (0)                    34 (0) 34 (1)
Goals 1 6 6 1
Assists 3 2 6 2
Bookings (Yellow / Red) (8/1) (3/0) (11/0) (6/0)
Aerial Duels Won /Attempted 4 per game (115/165) 0.4 per game (15/27) 2.7 per game (91/150) 3.5 per game (122/180)
Man of the Match Awards won 6 1 6 1
Who Scored Rating 7.42 7.32 7.43 7.20

From the table above, all four players were first team regulars in their respective clubs last season, but Seamus Coleman and Serge Aurier scored a boatload of goals (six each) unlike Debuchy and his French compatriot, Sagna, that managed only one goal all season long. Aurier picked up the most bookings from the lot and it can be attributed to his inexperience, rash style of play and probably late tackles due to his suspect positioning, as we witnessed in the concluded World Cup.

One significant area Debuchy excels from this table is his aerial ability and for a player with a height of 177 cm, Debuchy knows how to leap off the ground to challenge for the ball. This Route One tactic was employed by Arsenal last season, with Wojciech Szczesny always distributing the ball to Sagna’s direction to build up attacks. This means that with Debuchy taking Sagna’s place in the right hand side of defense, the trend will continue with Szczesny punting the balls to his direction – a feat either Aurier or Coleman would have been able to achieve had they joined the Gunners.

Debuchy doing his thing against some bloke from Honduras

Defensive Stats

Looking at the defensive side of their games, which is obviously their primary jobs, listed below are their stats from WhoScored,

STAT (League Only)* Debuchy Coleman Aurier Sagna
Tackles (per game) 95 (3.3) 71 (2) 94 (2.8) 58 (1.7)
Interceptions (per game) 69 (2.4) 47 (1.3) 75 (2.2) 51 (1.5)
Fouls Committed (per game) 41 (1.4) 25 (0.7) 38 (1.1) 23 (0.7)
Offsides Won (per game) 3 (0.1) 14 (0.4) 2 (0.1) 15 (0.4)
Clearances (per game) 138 (4.8) 88 (2.4) 102 (3) 175 (5)
Dribbled by Others (per game) 24 (0.8) 18 (0.5) 21 (0.6) 14 (0.4)
Blocked Shots (per game) 12 (0.4) 9 (0.3) 9 (0.3) 7 (0.2)
Own Goals committed 1 1 0 0

Judging from the stats, Debuchy made more tackles than his peers (really close tie with Aurier) but the Ivorian edged past Debuchy in terms of interceptions. The Frenchman also committed a lot of fouls which would be attributed to his eight yellow cards and one red card last season. Sagna made more clearances with five per game but Debuchy wasn’t far off wit 4.8 per game to his name. He also had a lot of blocked shots, which shows his enthusiasm in the back.

Having a player like Debuchy is really great because he has proved that he can do a very sound job at the back. There’s a reason he was selected ahead of Sagna in the starting lineup of the French national team. In the World Cup, Debuchy put up consistent performances in France’s first two games before he was rested for Sagna in a dead rubber fixture against Ecuador. In the knockout stages, he resumed his normal duties before his nation was eliminated by the eventual winners, Germany.

Enemies last month, buddies this month

Attacking Stats

From an attacking perspective, Serge Aurier excels admirably because of the license he has to bomb forward. Seamus Coleman was a winger that was converted to a full back, so it was expected for him to contribute immensely to Everton’s attack. It was no surprise that both players scored six goals each.

STAT (League Only)* Debuchy Coleman Aurier Sagna
Goals 1 6 6 1
Assists 3 2 6 2
Shots (per game) 35 (1.2) 30 (0.8) 58 (1.7) 16 (0.5)
Key Passes (per game) 23 (0.8) 45 (1.3) 32 (0.9) 21 (0.6)
Successful Dribbles (per game) 16 (0.6) 64 (1.8) 47 (1.4) 8 (0.2)
Fouled by Others (per game) 23 (0.8) 31 (0.9) 56 (1.6) 27 (0.8)
Times Caught Offside (per game) 5 (0.2) 2 (0.1) 7 (0.2) 0 (0)
Times Dispossessed (per game) 15 (0.5) 37 (1) 76 (2.2) 24 (0.7)
Turnovers (per game) 28 (1) 23 (0.7) 45 (1.3) 13 (0.4)

The downside to Aurier and Coleman’s attacking play was that they were vulnerable to counter attacks and teams capitalized on that flaw to punish them. Debuchy on the other hand, takes a more conservative approach to his offensive play and his off the ball movement is superb. In the World Cup, he worked in tandem with Matt Valbuena and they wreaked havoc on the right hand side.

Imagine him doing the same with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Serge Gnabry. Lord!!!

Premier League Experience

Debuchy spent 18 months in the Premier League and amassed 46 games for Newcastle. In his short stint with the club, he was a consistent performer and an ever present figure in Alan Pardew’s starting XI.

Debuchy scored his only Newcastle goal against Sunderland

With his move to Arsenal, Debuchy wouldn’t need any adaptation period of any sort because he’s already a seasoned professional in the Premier League. At 28, he’s at his prime, so he can give his best years to the club while a youngster like Carl Jenkinson would be learning the ropes.

The good times are back again.

Welcome Matt Debuchy, or Dorobuchy, as some Nigerians have likened his name to.

Sayonara.

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Reviewing the World Cup from an Arsenal Perspective

Germany lift the World Cup.

After one month of non-stop exhilarating football action, the world’s greatest football competition  has come to an end in the most dramatic fashion – a Mario Gotze goal that waltzed past Sergio Romero before he realized where the ball was. With 171 goals scored, this World Cup equaled the goals that were banged in France 98′ and it can be attributed to the mauling the Germans handed to Brazil in their own turf.

Germany began the tournament with the decimation of Portugal and this was followed with a feisty contest with Ghana. After narrowing past the United States, the Germans received a slight scare when they locked horns with a vibrant and energetic Algerian side. The quarterfinals saw Germany edge past France before destroying the host nation in the semis. The final game was always going to be nervy encounter but all it took was a strike in extra time to hand the Germans their first international trophy sicne Euro 96.

In recent times, Germany has come pretty close to winning silverware but unfortunately, there have been a lot of near misses for Die Mannshaft - losing in the 2002 World Cup finals to Brazil, a third place finish in the World Cup the nation hosted in 2006, losing to Spain in the Euro 2008 final, another third place finish in the 2010 World Cup and a semifinal berth in Euro 2012. With that kind of consistency, they were going to get rewarded for their good works.

In the 2014 World Cup, Arsenal like every other football club, had its own contingent that represented their nations. Some Gunners performed admirably giving themselves a tourney to remember while others failed to move past first gear.

Johan Djourou may have switched his footballing allegiance to Hamburg SV but at the start of the World Cup, he was a Gunner. He featured consistently for his country and he played in all the four games the Swiss featured in the course of the tournament.

Benzema ran the show when both nations met

While he was immense in the game against Argentina when the Swiss lost with a solitary goal, Djourou reached his nadir when Switzerland played France and alongside ex-Gunner, Phillippe Senderos, he had a game to forget.

Joel Campbell was one player everyone had a keen eye on at the start of the tournament and after his goal against Uruguay many Arsenal fans set their sights on his progress in the course of the tournament. However, as the games went on for Costa Rica, Campbell’s performances somewhat dwindled and he was always targeted by the opposition.

Campbell and his Costa Rica were the surprise team of the tournament

Costa Rica went on to top a group that had three world champions and they showed how penalties were meant to be played when they took on Greece in the Round of 16. However, lightening didn’t strike twice as they lost on penalties to the Netherlands. Campbell has returned to the club this season and many feel that he might be on his way on loan again.

Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were called up by Roy Hodgson for the tournament but surprisingly, Wilshere turned out to be a bit-part player in the tournament as he lost his place to Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. England were shambolic in the World Cup but Wilshere managed to get some game time in the dead rubber clash against Costa Rica.

Wilshere started his first game against Costa Rica

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled with injuries and he didn’t feature in any game. I hope his injury problems are now behind him because with Campbell and the “new signing” arriving at the club, he may be further down the pecking order but you may never know.

Thomas Vermaelen struggled to hold down a first team berth at the club last season, and it affected his performances on international level as he lost his place in the central defense to Daniel van Buyten and the left full back position to Jan Verthongen. He finally got to feature against Russia but it was a familiar tale as injury struck the Arsenal skipper yet again.

Verminator’s world cup was cut short by injury

There has been some speculation on Vermaelen’s future linking him with a shock move to Manchester United and with the World Cup over, I’m sure that speculation would gain momentum and we will see how things pan out.

Olivier Giroud, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny were first team regulars at Arsenal last season but in Didier Deschamps infinite wisdom, they weren’t good enough to command a first team place.

At least, Giroud got a goal

With Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane being Deschamps’ first choice pairing, Kos managed a couple of meager appearances while Giroud managed to start (and score) against Switzerland. Bacary Sagna spent a considerable chunk of his World Cup campaign on the bench, as he lost his place to Matt Debuchy, a player touted to replace him at Arsenal.

Alexis Sanchez, yes, the Gunner, was a class act in the tournament for Chile scoring two goals against Australia and Brazil. He wowed the crowd with his dazzling moves and brilliant off the ball movement, making him a very difficult player to mark.

He had a great World Cup by his standards

Chile was touted to be eliminated from a group that had the Netherlands and Spain but the South Americans 2-0 win over the defending champions was the final nail in their coffin. However, Sanchez was made to rue his missed spot kick in the Round of 16  as Chile crashed out of the tournament.

In a country with a vast amount of talent like Spain, one must wonder how unfortunate Santi Cazorla is, as he cannot secure a first team spot for his nation. Spain was humiliated in their first game against the Netherlands and they became the first team to be eliminated from the tournament after losing to Chile.

At least, Cazorla got some game time in the dead rubber fixture against Australia where the Spaniards managed to salvage some pride.

Finally, Arsenal’s World Cup winning trio, Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski played their respective roles for their nation with Ozil getting the most game time from the aforementioned trio. Mertesacker began the group stage fixtures but he saw himself on the fringes in the knockout stage. As for Podolski, it was a familiar feeling as he resumed his benchwarming duties.

Germany lift the World Cup trophy for the fourth time.

More trophies

At least, these Gunners can take some pride in the fact that they are world champions, which means that another medal has been added to their mini cabinets. This would be placed alongside the FA Cup winner’s medal they won in May.

Here’s to a great tournament.

Time to focus on club football, transfer madness and of course, another shot at winning a trophy – the Community Shield.

Sayonara.

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Why Signing a Holding Midfielder Should be a Top Priority this Summer

A new DM like Lars Bender would be a welcome addition

Anytime I think about the Invincibles, I reminisce on how strong Arsenal was in every playing position – Mad Jens Lehmann was a commanding presence in the box, the defensive pairing of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure was a match made in the stars, the attacking wing play of Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg was a frightening prospect for the opposition and of course, the goals from Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp did the damage. However, I deliberate forgot to add the influence from the heart of the midfield with Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva pulling all the strings.

As the years went by, the key components of the Invincibles squad were shipped away and the era of the Fantastic Four in midfield began. In the 2007/08 season, Arsenal came really close to winning the Premier League and many would be quick to point out that it was the season Emmanuel Adebayor scored 30 goals and had a boatload of misses, but the collective performances of Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Aliaksandr Hleb and Tomas Rosicky was vital to the team’s surge for a title that season.

After Flamini departed on a Bosman to AC Milan, a void was created in holding midfield and albeit temporarily, Alexandre Song, seemed to be the man to tick all the boxes and served as the solution to Arsenal’s holding midfield problems. He had the imposing physical presence and his overall play was quite impressive, as he was an expert in breaking up play and handing the ball over to the folks that knew what to do with it.

Surprisingly, Alex Song had a different tactical style of play (maybe he was instructed by Wenger) with the arrival of Mikel Arteta in the 2011/12 season transfer deadline day. With the Spaniard having the football intelligence to cover admirably in midfield, Song started making forays forward, and there were two sides to his newly-found attacking verve – on the good side, he started raking up the assists and his overall play in the final third improved. On the bad side, he was always caught out of position and counter attacking teams punished Arsenal as they exploited the space vacated by Song.

With Song departing for the warm sunny bench in Catalonia, Arsene Wenger had the option of replacing him with a holding midfielder of equal or better quality and the media vultures reported that a deal for Rennes’ Yann M’Vila was 99.99999999999999999% done. There was no M’Vila at the start of the 2012/13 campaign and Wenger chose to play Arteta predominantly as his holding midfielder.

In fairness to the Spaniard, he has given the club the best of his abilities in the past two seasons as a holding midfielder and many Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that a new holding midfielder was needed. With no quality replacement (no disrespect to Francis Coquelin and co.), Arteta played far too many games (43) and at the start of the 2013/14 campaign, he suffered a thigh injury that sidelined him for some weeks, but Wenger opted to re-sign Flamini on a free transfer.

Having Flamini around was good for squad depth and all, but his carefree attitude earned him some suspensions as the season progressed. He added steel to the midfield but his lack of agility was exploited at times, and as I stated earlier, he had far too many bookings for my liking.

When I remember those horrific drubbings in the hands of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, I vividly remember how the midfield was open and the opposition got into Arsenal’s defensive positions way too easily. The lessons ought to have been learned but apparently, the games proved that they weren’t. Arsenal needs a holding midfielder that would instill fear in the eyes of the opposition when they see him. We may never have another Vieira (please don’t give me that Abou Diaby can be his replacement bullcrap) but there are some holding midfielders out there that would improve the team.

The most recent midfielders to be linked with the Gunners are Morgan Schneiderlein, Lars Bender and Sami Khedira. Without blinking twice, Bender would be my most obvious choice. His age (25) is perfect and his performances were bright sparks in a relatively dark Leverkusen campaign. Bender made 3.7 tackles per game in the Bundesliga last season with 1.8 interceptions but there has to be some improvement in his passing range as he managed a meager 77.7% while Arteta averaged 92.1%.

With Arteta turning 32 and having just one year left on his deal to run, one might be feeling that he’s living on borrowed time.

There’s money in the bank.

Arsenal has to make signing a holding midfielder a priority.

Sayonara.

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