Welcome to the daily Arsenal column here at Soccerlens where we delve into all things Arsenal. Ranging from all the news stories and transfer gossip to the latest updates on the Gunners on international duty, you will find it all here. Today’s big stories include Alexis Sanchez’s goalscoring exploits for Chile, while there is positive news on the injury of Laurent Koscielny as well as quotes from manager Arsene Wenger. Those and a lot more in today’s Arsenal round-up.
Sanchez Stars in Chile Win
The journey to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia has started, and in the wee hours of today, Alexis Sanchez’s Chile took on Brazil in Santiago to kick start the qualification campaign in the CONMEBOL region. Despite the pre-match injury worries for the in-form Sanchez, the 26-year-old started the game and played the full 90 minutes and even scored the clinching goal in a 2-0 win.
The win takes Chile to the top of the qualification table, as Sanchez continued his goalscoring exploits against a Brazil side featuring the likes of Hulk, Oscar and Douglas Costa among others. Sanchez has now netted seven goals in his last four games for both club and country, and judging by his current form, he is clearly turning into one of the game’s prime forwards. Injury, eh?
Koscielny Injury Boost
According to ESPN FC, Laurent Koscielny could return from his injury layoff quicker than previously anticipated and could be fit for the Gunners’ all-important Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on the 20th of October. The Frenchman, who suffered a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s loss to Olympiakos last month, was earlier expected to be out for three weeks but has now recovered well to raise hopes of a comeback against Bayern.
According to the report, Arsenal’s medical staff are working hard to help Koscielny return to full fitness in time for the Bayern game, which is a must-win for the Gunners, having already lost both their previous group stage games against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos. Koscielny will also miss the France games in the ongoing international break, while next weekend’s Premier League game against Watford will be too early for him to return to the first team fold.
Wenger Admits To Cazorla Gamble
Manager Arsene Wenger has admitted to the gamble of signing key midfielder Santi Cazorla, as he had reservations about the Spaniard’s ability to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League. Wenger, who was helped by former Gunner Robert Pires in scouting Cazorla, revealed the quality of the 30-year-old convinced him to take the gamble, and the rest, as we say, is history. Cazorla has turned into one of the indispensable assets of the Arsenal squad.
Speaking to Arsenal’s official website, Wenger said: “You could question whether he was physically equipped to play in the tough Premier League. It’s true that I had that doubt, but his quality was so big that I was ready to take that gamble. His technical quality, his right foot, left foot, his availability, his vision and the quality of his passing made me go for it. I thought, ‘If there is a team in the Premier League where he has a chance to make it, it’s with us.’ That’s why I went for it.”
“I think I first saw him when he was about 20 or 21. He was not a regular player, but in some games we watched you could see he had talent. After that Robert Pires moved to Villarreal and played with him. Sometimes I asked Robert, ‘Are there any good players there?’ He said to me straight away, ‘Cazorla is a fantastic player’. So Robert was a scout for me! He at least confirmed the impression I already had about Santi,” Wenger revealed how Pires helped him scout Cazorla while at Villarreal.
Gunners International Watch
Apart from Sanchez, quite a few other Gunners also made their mark in the ongoing international break. Mesut Ozil started for Germany in Dublin in a Euro 2016 qualifier last night, but failed to inspire the world champions as they slumped to a 1-0 loss against the Republic of Ireland. Germany still sit atop group D, but their lead has now been cut to just a point.
Alex Iwobi, who this week signed a new contract at the club, made his international bow for Nigeria but was on the wrong end of a 2-0 result against DR Congo in an international friendly. Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin was an unused substitute in Georgia, as Spain Under-21s romped to a 5-2 win over Georgia Under-21s in a World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi.
Cech Emphasises Wenger-Mourinho Similarity
Petr Cech has shed some light on the reasons for the frequent clashes between Wenger and his Chelsea counterpart, Jose Mourinho. The Czech goalkeeper, who is on international duty, has played for both managers during his illustrious career, and believes the two managers’ will to win makes them difficult to come to terms with each other.
“The similarity is that everybody wants to win. If you ask Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger if they want to win everything – yes they do. You can see they don’t like losing games, and I think this is something you need to have in you if you want to be successful. Sometimes two pluses doesn’t make a plus,” Cech said to talkSPORT.
Fines For Arsenal and Chelsea
Both Arsenal and Chelsea have been retrospectively fined following the ugly unfolding of events during their league clash at Stamford Bridge last month, which the Gunners lost 2-0 after being reduced to nine men following the sendings-off of Gabriel Paulista and Cazorla.
A statement on the FA’s official website read: “Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, Chelsea and Arsenal have been fined £40,000 and £30,000 respectively and warned as to their future conduct after both clubs admitted a breach of FA Rule E20.
“The charge was for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion from the 44th to the 47th minute of the game at Stamford Bridge on 19 September 2015.”
Fixture Changes For Arsenal
Four of Arsenal’s Premier League games have been rescheduled owing to TV selections, and the club’s official website has kept the fans updated on the latest developments. Following is the list of the fixtures that have been moved.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Sunday, December 13
Arsenal v Manchester City
Monday, December 21
Southampton v Arsenal
Saturday, December 26
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth
Monday, December 28
Kick-off: 5.30pm (originally 3.00pm)
According to Daily Mail, Gunners goalkeeper David Ospina could be switching clubs in January as there is no shortage of potential suitors for the Colombian international. Ospina, who has been under pressure at Arsenal following his error-strewn performance in the Champions League against Olympiakos, is reportedly interesting Besiktas, Getafe, Genoa and Palermo.
Meanwhile, Sevilla’s holding midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, who was believed to be a prime Arsenal target in the summer, will have his buy-out price increased according to Spanish publication AS. The motive of this latest move by the Andalusian club is primarily to avoid being strong-armed by the bigger clubs should they come in for the player in January or next summer, as Sevilla will be in a better position to negotiate if his buy-out clause is increased.
Social Media Arsenal
Pacey right-back Hector Bellerin has rose to prominence over the last year for the Gunners, and the young Spaniard is deservedly enjoying some downtime with his girlfriend following his solid start to the 2015/16 campaign. As mentioned earlier, Bellerin was an unused substitute for Spain Under-21s against Georgia Under-21s, and he has put his spare time to some good effect, seemingly.