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Arsenal Euro 2016 Update: Xhaka Brothers Clash, Ramsey Goes Top and Wilshere Shares Spoils

The thing about tournaments like this is that when the football starts rolling, it never stops. It took forever for France to hit the ground running with the match opener against Romania but things kicked off yesterday with our new boy, Granit Xhaka, locking horn against his brother, Taulant, as Switzerland played Albania. Another former Gunner, Johan Djourou, was part of the Swiss squad that that gained victory in a rather tough encounter.

The game featured a lot of hard tackling and the things you’d wish for in a football game. Xhaka admitted that it was bizarre coming up against his brother,

“It was a very special moment for my family, it was rather bizarre,” he said, after being named Man of the Match.

“I think we played very well, we gave everything for our country and we’re very happy. Maybe me a little bit more!

“We knew it would be a difficult game, Albania are a great side, very compact and solid. We wanted to score as early as possible.

“There was a lot of pressure on our shoulders but it was great that me and my brother pushed back our limits. I don’t think anyone can hold anything against us. We fought against one another, and it was a football match, nothing more.”

Xhaka had an awesome game, creating three chances, winning five aerial duels, completing close to a century of passes and having 129 touches to his name. This earned him the man of the match award.

 

Switzerland’s victory brings them level on points with hosts, France, as both teams are doing their bit to take ownership of that group. Xhaka’s next game is against Romania on the 15th of June.

Moving over to the next game that had some Arsenal focus, Aaron Ramsey and his Welsh Dragons came up against Slovakia to open up the football in Group B. Chris Coleman played 3-5-2 that switched to 5-3-2 when the Welsh were defending and it was a no brainer when the scoreline was opened that the man that literally brought the Welsh to the competition, Gareth Bale. The Slovaks leveled the tie from a bloke called Duda.

Ramsey had a glorious opportunity to pull another goal back for the Welsh when he was left unmarked in the box but his header glanced over the bar. Then there was the counter attack for Wales that saw Bale cover quite some ground with his raw reserves of pace but after feeding Ramsey, the chance went begging, much to everyone’s dismay.

Ramsey saved the best for last as he had the decisive touch late on for Hal Robson-Kanu whose scrappy effort skipped past Kozacik to give the Welsh all three points.

Finally, England clashed with Russia for the last game of the day but there was some crowd trouble before and after the game. The game itself saw Russia do more of the defending but England failed to take advantage of the chances afforded to them. However, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, an unlikely source, curled in a lovely effort that breezed past Igor Akinfeev. Right at the death, a late effort from Vasili Berezutski halted England’s hopes of going level with Wales, which makes the encounter with the Welsh very tasty.

Sayonara.

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Aaron Ramsey: Will Changing his Number Change his Fortunes?

 

 

 

Ramsey's kit on Arsenal Direct

Ramsey’s kit on Arsenal Direct

As we anticipate the start of the new campaign, there’s the business of the European Championships taking center stage. Arsenal, like other big European teams out there, have their fair contingent of talent representing their respective nations and the Welsh national team will have Aaron Ramsey in their ranks, that finished last season with six goals in 40 appearances.

Ramsey is a player that has grown in confidence since that horrific incident in 2010 and he was undoubtedly Arsenal’s player in the 2013/14 season. After achieving a personal best of 16 goals in 34 games in that campaign, a lot was expected of the Welsh Jesus but in the last two campaigns, he has struggled to make his mark on the team. He featured predominantly as a right sided midfielder in more or less the entirety of the 2014/15 season but Santi Cazorla’s unfortunate knee injury paved the way for the midfielder to get a run-out in his ‘favored’ central midfield position.

Yes, he scored some good goals with the one at White Hart Lane standing out but many fans can attest to the fact that Ramsey played like a liability and eventually lost his place in the team to Mohamed Elneny before returning to the first team setup when Elneny brushed off Francis Coquelin as the chief holding midfielder.

At the start of this campaign, many would expect the 35 million pound man, Granit Xhaka, to walk into the team and it’s widely expected that a fit-again Cazorla would be his partner in central midfield. Since it’s going to be a long campaign that could potential see the Gunners playing up to 50 – 60 games, I can still expect Coquelin, Elneny and Jack Wilshere to get their chances in the squad but I have a hunch that Arsenal doesn’t buy any winger, Aaron Ramsey will contend with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott for the right wing berth because Alexis Sanchez won’t have any opposition for his place on the left flank.

It has been announced by the Arsenal Twitter handle that Ramsey has taken the No. 8 jersey vacated by Mikel Arteta. The Welsh midfielder is following Alexis Sanchez’s footsteps, as the Chilean maverick has taken over the sacred No. 7 jersey worn by saints like Liam Brady, Robert Pires and most recently, Tomas Rosicky.

Will this number switch change Ramsey’s fortunes for the better? I hope so.

I know that the lad is hugely favored by the boss, and he’s one of those players that is always on the first team sheet when he’s fit. My prayers for Ramsey is for him to ‘keep things simple’ this season, because that’s what he needs to win the fans back. Sometimes he’s so hell bent on goalscoring that he tends to neglect his basic duties as a midfielder, which can be very disappointing, bearing in mind that it’s not every time he shoots that he hits the target.

With Arsenal’s rivals strengthening themselves ahead of the exciting 2016/17 (welcome Friday night football), players like Ramsey would have to be at their very best if he wants to be consistently selected in the starting XI for Arsenal. He has scored 43 goals in 265 games for Arsenal. You can bet your smart money that he’d hit the 50-goal mark next season.

I wish him the very best in the Euros.

Sayonara.

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Good News on Injuries as Arsenal Trio Set to Return

Ramsey and Bellerin are expected to be back for the weekend’s game against West Brom

For a team challenging on many fronts like Arsenal, the manager, Arsene Wenger, would always want to have his best players at his disposal. So when the squad becomes plagued with injuries, it’s always a challenge. Before the international break, Arsenal had seven major injuries to the following players – Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (groin) and Theo Walcott (calf).

Jack Wilshere has recently spoken about his frustrations of missing out of being part of the team due to his niggling injuries and he hopes to return to full fitness sooner rather than later. The optimists say that he could return at Christmas but judging from Wilshere’s injuries in the past, I’d say early 2016. Theo Walcott’s calf injury is a rather strange as it didn’t look that bad on that fateful night in Hillborough. Some say he might be out till December and it’s really scary that Olivier Giroud could suffer some fatigue with no replacement in attack. We can try Alexis Sanchez there but he has his own fitness concerns to contend with. As for Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky, their knee surgeries were successful and they will be sidelined till early 2016 at best.

That leaves us with Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin. Ramsey twanged his hamstring in the Bayern win and Ox suffered his own hamstring injury in the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. Hector Bellerin’s injury surfaced from the Swansea game. They have been replaced by Joel Campbell and Matt Debuchy but both players have put up hot and cold performances. Campbell marked his return to the team with a good goal against Swansea but he was piss poor in the games against Bayern Munich and Tottenham, to the point he was replaced by a defender, Kieran Gibbsm that salvaged a point in the North London Derby. Debuchy on the other hand struggled like the rest of his teammates at the Allianz Arena but he put up an improved performance against Spurs.

The Gunners will be boosted with the news that Ramsey, Ox and Bellerin will be returning to full fitness and will be available for selection in this weekend’s West Brom game. Their return brings back that much-needed competition for places and the duo of Campbell and Debuchy would have to be on their toes if they want to keep their places in the squad. The return of Ramsey and Bellerin is particularly key, as both players have combined superbly this season, offering the Gunners some guile and width down the right hand flank. With Campbell and Debuchy, most attacks have been built from the opposite flanks.

Bellerin recently won the Young Catalan Player of the Year award and the statisticians also tell us that he has created the most chances in the team. He’s clearly above Debuchy in the pecking order and his return is welcome.

It’s good to have them back.

Sayonara.

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