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Arsenal Euro 2016 Update: Giroud Opens Scoring as France Beat Romania

There is always that measure of pressure that comes playing an international tournament in front of your own turf. For the case of Olivier Giroud, there was some extra pressure as he was favored ahead of Karim Benzema, which divided opinions among the French fans.

A lot of chances fell his way and he gnashed his teeth in anguish as he failed to capitalize on most of them but in the second half, he got his reward for his sheer persistence as he reacted after the Romanian goalie fluffed at his chance to catch the ball and France was one goal to the good.

Les Bleus were in control of the game and seemed to be doing just fine but they took their feet off the pedal and allowed to the visitors to come back to the game when Patrice Evra clumsily fouled some chap in the box, leaving experienced Hungarian ref, Victor Kassai, no chance but to point to the spot. Star midfielder, Nicolae Stanciu, sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way and the visitors levelled the contest. Despite France’s incessant wave of attacking, Romania had a very clear cut chance to actually open the scoring but it took a point blank save from Lloris to deny a Romanian chap from scoring the maiden goal in the tournament.

Late on, Dimitri Payet showed his class again with a magnificent volley from quite some distance leaving the keeper rooted to the spot. Payet was substituted minutes after his match winner and the reception he got from the crowd was quite raucous, making him feel very emotional as a tear or two was seen creeping down his eyes.

This is what we ‘neutrals’ expected from the tournament and my keen focus will remain on the Gunners featuring in the competition.

Another Gunner is bracing himself for action as Switzerland take on Albania today.


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Thoughts on Koscielny’s Link with Madrid and Schneiderlin Off to Man Utd?


The Copa America has been serving as a good distraction this summer with Chile and Peru advancing to the semifinals and they await the winners of the Argentina vs. Colombia and Brazil vs. Paraguay games. However, it’s transfer news that has been dominating the back pages with the usual bits and bobs here and there.

Morgan Schneiderlin is a player that has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal for as long as I can remember and it’s evident that Southampton is resigned to allowing the player leave this summer but the Saints have placed a price tag of £25 million for one of their prized asset. The Mirror has reported that LVG has given Ed Woodward the go-ahead to make a bid for the midfielder and from all indications, Manchester United is ready to meet Southampton’s asking price. The club spent close to £150 million last summer and they’d continue in that vein as they have been linked with a host of players, including Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.

If Schneiderlin makes the proposed move to Manchester United, some Arsenal fans would be hoping that Wenger has plans to get a quality holding midfielder to support Francis Coquelin next season. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are candidates to play the role of backup to Le Coq but we know that they are past their primes. Coquelin was regarded as a major success story last season but many fans believe that he cannot play every game in the forthcoming season but we will see how things pan out as the weeks progress.

Elsewhere, amid the uncertainty surrounding Sergio Ramos’ future, the Mirror has reported that Real Madrid has identified Laurent Koscielny as a possible replacement. It’s been reported that the Spanish juggernaut are set to offer the Gunners a fee worth £21 million for the Boss. Koscielny has been at Arsenal for five years and has grown from strength to strength to become an indispensable member of the squad.

According to Squawka, Koscielny won 56 percent of his headed duels in the Premier League last season and, in typical Arsenal fashion, maintained an impressive passing accuracy of 89 per cent across his 27 appearances. The centre-back’s 93 interceptions demonstrates his excellent reading of the game, while his total of 166 successful clearances hints at the calming influence he has on his fellow defenders.

When the French defender was out injured for a considerable chunk of the campaign, Arsenal struggled defensively as Arsene Wenger featured the likes of Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers and even Matt Debuchy to play alongside Per Mertesacker. With his return to the team, Arsenal’s fortune changed for good and as expected, the club finished the season strongly as well as winning the FA Cup to crown their efforts.

Arsenal is now at the peak of their financial powers and I don’t believe that they’d be swayed by Real Madrid’s advances. The only challenge would come if Koscielny opts out, like Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and co. Then again, what do I know.

I’d monitor the situation in the coming weeks.


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Rating Arsenal’s Defenders Performances in the 2014/15 Season

Arsenal conceded 36 goals in the Premier League (almost a goal per game), four goals in five FA Cup games on the road to the final, nine goals in 10 Champions League games and two goals in the only Capital One Cup fixture they featured in. This ultimately means that the Gunners averaged conceding at least one goal a game in every competition they played this season.

Gooner Daily analyses the performances of the defenders in the course of the campaign.

Nacho Monreal (37 appearances, one goal, six yellow cards)

Monreal has been a transformed player this season. When he arrived in January 2013, it took him a while to get a hang of things before he acclimatized to the rigors of the Premier League. He joined as Kieran Gibbs deputy but injuries to Kieran Gibbs paved the way for the Spaniard to get an extended run of games. This season, Monreal deputized as a center back when the club was faced in a defensive crisis and he played admirably in Laurent Koscielny’s absence.

With Kieran Gibbs suffering more fitness troubles, Monreal marauded the left back position with such confidence and made the role his own, even after Gibbs returned to full fitness. To crown up his efforts in the campaign, he scored a goal in the victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford – a goal any striker would have been proud of.

Rating: 8/10

Mathieu Debuchy (14 appearances, one goal, three yellow cards, one red card)

There was so much speculation about the right back that was coming in to replace Bacary Sagna when he left the club to join Manchester City’s bench. Names like Serge Aurier and Seamus Coleman were mentioned but Arsene Wenger opted for Newcastle’s Matt Debuchy that looked to settle in Arsenal like water off a duck’s back.

However, Debuchy suffered two long-term injuries on his ankle and his shoulder that just reduced him to a merger 14 appearances in his debut season with the Gunners. He showed off his temperamental side when he was sent off in the Champions League playoffs against Galatasaray but he managed to score his first Arsenal goal with his head when he featured in an unorthodox center back position when the Gunners visited Anfield.

With the emergence of Hector Bellerin and Carl Jenkinson returning from loan, Debuchy has it all to do if he wants to retain his status at the club’s primary right back next season.

Rating: 6/10

Kieran Gibbs (31 appearances, one goal, three yellow cards)

At the start of this campaign, Gibbs changed his jersey number to 3, which was vacated due to Sagna’s departure for the petro-greens. Gibbs had featured a career-best 41 times in the previous campaign and the assumption was that his injury problems are now behind him. He featured consistently as the season progressed and even managed to get on the score sheet with a vital equalizer against Anderlecht when it seemed as the Gunners were resigned to a defeat.

However, injury struck again and Gibbs lost his place in the team to Monreal. With the Spaniard in good form, Wenger chose not to feature Gibbs but handed him a couple of starts in the Cup fixtures. With Monreal ending the campaign on a high, Gibbs will face a battle in his hands to win his place back in the team. He has already stated that he’s ready to fight for his place. Such competition will be beneficial to Arsenal.

Rating: 6/10

Per Mertesacker (44 appearances, one goal, no yellow card)

With Mikel Arteta consistently out of the team due to injuries, the BFG has led the Gunners in almost every game he played. After featuring a career-high 52 times last season, the BFG joined his German side to Brazil and won the World Cup, which essentially meant that he didn’t get any time to recharge his batteries with Germany going into the latter stages of the tournament.

This season, the BFG has seen his ardent fans swing to the other direction as he put up some questionable performances with the Round of 16 clash against Monaco being his nadir. Nonetheless, he was efficient as always in his many games and he looked more at home when he featured alongside Laurent Koscielny. Injuries to the French defender saw Mertesacker play alongside the likes of Monreal, Calum Chambers and even Debuchy, but he remained steadfast in his duties.

Now that he has retired from international football, let’s see if his career can be prolonged like John Terry.

Rating: 7/10

Gabriel Paulista (seven appearances, no goal, two yellow cards)

In my honest opinion, it was a travesty not replacing Thomas Vermaelen when he left for FC Barcelona in the summer. Arsenal was just an injury away from disaster in central defense and it happened when Koscielny was out injured. Wenger acknowledged that set back and signed a relatively unknown center back from Villarreal, Gabriel Paulista.

After making his debut for the club in the FA Cup fixture against Middlesbrough, Gabriel featured in his first Premier League game that will forever be remembered for that tackle on Romelu Lukaku. His presence allowed the boss to alternate between his first-choice central pairing as the Brazilian settled in to life in North London.

I’d expect him to feature in more games next season, as well as being a good backup in any injury crisis.

Rating: 7/10

Laurent Koscielny (36 appearances, three goals, four yellow cards)

Koscielny has grown from strength to strength in the heart of Arsenal’s defense, making him indispensable to the team. He scored the opening goal of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace and when he suffered an Achilles injury, his absence from the squad was hugely felt. He made his return after several weeks and Mertesacker played better when his rightful partner was available.

Koscielny went on to score against Stoke and Leicester to take his tally to three for the campaign but his all-action, high-octane yet efficient style of play was exemplary all season long.

Rating: 9/10

Calum Chambers (36 appearances, one goal, eight yellow cards, one red card)

For what its worth, this is the first time in Chambers career that he has played this much games. Arsenal’s injury woes allowed him to get a run of games as a center back and he was lauded for his mature performances. He continued that good form and even scored his first professional goal against Burnley.

With Nacho Monreal featuring in the middle alongside Mertesacker, Chambers was drafted to right back and he struggled terribly in the defeat to Swansea. With more off form performances in the coming weeks which included a red card in the defeat to Stoke, he lost his place to Hector Bellerin and spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench.

It’s going to be interesting to see if he’d feature regularly next season when everyone’s fit.

Rating: 6/10

Hector Bellerin (27 appearances, two goals, seven yellow cards)

Like Francis Coquelin, Bellerin has been one of the finds of the season. Injuries to several players paved the way for the young Spaniard to get his debut in the Signal Iduna Park at Dortmund and as the weeks progressed, he made the right back position his own, shoving off the threat of Chambers.

Bellerin has his raw reserves of blistering pace as well as a keen eye for goal, and this season, he found the back of the net on two occasions against Aston Villa and Liverpool. With Jenkinson returning from West Ham and Debuchy on his way back to full fitness, the battle for the right back spot will be very intense but Bellerin must be commended for the great shift he put this season.


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