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Who is Besiktas’ Tolgay Arslan, being touted as a replacement for Arsenal’s Alex Chamberlain?

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The Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain transfer saga has drawn the interest of football supporters both inside and outside of the Arsenal contingency.

It seemed for all the world that the former Southampton youngster was bound for Chelsea, following the Blues’ £40 million agreement on a deal with the Gunners, only for the player himself to turn down the chance of a move across the capital,  with Liverpool the preferred destination, as reported by BBC Sport.

Negotiations as far as this deal is concerned are likely to rumble on into deadline day, but with it still hanging over the head of Arsene Wenger, as well as the future of Alexis Sanchez still coming no closer to a resolution, the Frenchman is being linked with Besiktas midfield man Tolgay Arslan by Turkish outlet Fanatik, as he looks to strengthen his hand before the transfer window closes.

Wenger missed out on bringing the 27-year-old German to North London back in 2015, with Arslan instead opting to sign for Besiktas over the Gunners whilst still playing at Bundesliga club, Hamburg. He recently signed a new five-year contract with the Istanbul outfit, but with Besiktas slapping a measly £9.5 million price-tag on the player, that has done little to quell speculation over a move across Europe.

The Gunners will face competition from Italian giants Inter Milan if they are to secure his signature, according to the source, but despite Arslan struggling for game-time at Besiktas with the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Gary Medel, and Oguzhan Ozyakup all ahead of him in the pecking order, could the German offer something tangible to Arsenal at this point in time, particularly with the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain nearing an exit?

Oxlade-Chamberlain is far from prolific, and Arslan judging on his record wouldn’t be the type of player brought in to score goals either.

The winger, dubbed ‘The Ox’, has netted 20 goals and registered 32 assists in 198 appearances in the past six years, whilst Arslan has netted 10 career goals and clocked up 12 assists in 203 career appearances for Hamburg and Besiktas, as well as during a loan spell in Germany with Alemannia Aachen.

One of these goals will render him somewhat familiar to English football fans though: Arslan netted a vital goal on 26 February 2015 in Besiktas’ eventual penalty shootout win over Liverpool in the last 32 Second Leg of the Europa League, whilst current West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was in charge of the side.

Arslan has also been capped at Under-19 through to Under-21 level for both Turkey and Germany, although he is yet to make an appearance for the senior side of either national team. He does, however, have two Turkish Super Lig title medals to his name with Besiktas.

Last season he made a total of 30 appearances, the second best tally of his career (the first being 32 appearances for Hamburg in 2013/14), and has already featured in three matches for Besiktas this campaign, with two of those coming from the bench. 12 of his 18 appearances in the league alone last year were also from the bench.

With Arslan, therefore, seeming to have had less of a chance to start games compared with Oxlade-Chamberlain, it seems justified that the German should be given a fairer crack of the whip elsewhere, especially given he is already 27.

With Oxlade-Chamberlain having age on his side, however, the knives are still out in the sense that he has not improved anywhere near as much as was anticipated after he first broke into the Arsenal team in 2011, and it may just be time for a change.

Although Arslan may be equally unconvincing in front of goal judging on statistics, his strengths lie in something else Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoys: dribbling. Arslan is a direct player who always looks to break forward, but he is also renowned for his passing ability and tendency to retain possession, something which would very much suit Arsenal’s style of play under Wenger.

Despite Oxlade-Chamberlain possessing many similar attributes, when venturing inside he opts to play a short pass rather than look for goal, whereas Arslan- whilst always looking to build-up play- also likes to take a snapshot at goal, and Arsenal are currently lacking in personnel who play with such directness, which could add a more unexpected and dangerous element to their game, and one they are alarmingly lacking.

Despite shading possession at 51.4% during their 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, they had only eight shots on goal compared to Liverpool’s 18, with none on target. A player with no fear to let fly, and he certainly doesn’t given the quality of his goal against Liverpool two years ago, would at least be a start.

With Arslan there also comes the added bonus that he is sure of his best position. Though a centre-midfielder by trade, Arslan comes with the versatility of playing the box-to-box role and running the channels when required.

Winger, wing-back or centre-midfielder, Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t particularly excelled in either position, and after six years it is still a headache for Wenger on where to deploy him, an issue that the Arsenal boss wouldn’t have with Arslan.

With Arsenal also lacking in the defensive-midfield area, the German may slip into the side nicely, given that Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, and Aaron Ramsey are all notably more attack-minded, and Francis Coquelin struggling to re-establish himself after injury problems.

The only downside to Arslan is that, as of yet, he is relatively untested in the wing-back role which Oxlade-Chamberlain played well in during the season opener against Leicester, although arguably Wenger already has a player ready to slot into that position in the shape of Sead Kolasinac.

Injuries is another issue that is well avoided in Arslan’s case. His lack of appearances have mainly come from him starting as a substitute, whilst Wenger has had to deal with injury woes throughout the squad in recent years. None more so than with Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has missed a total of 82 matches with injury problems.

That considered, if Arsene Wenger can ship out the capped England international for anything near the £35 million Chelsea initially offered, he’ll have pulled off a shrewd piece of business, particularly with Arslan available for a fraction of that.

Time will tell if Wenger will make an approach with the deadline fast approaching, but with Arslan at a good age, knowing his best position and showing some promise despite limited minutes on the pitch, the Gunners could seemingly do far worse.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Arsenal

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech

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Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

A barnstorming first-half performance against Crystal Palace saw Arsenal record their first victory of 2018. Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all scored in the opening 22 minutes to stun Crystal Palace. Arsenal could not add to their tally as the visitors stemmed the bleeding and replied with a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic.

This was a much-needed victory for Arsenal, whose ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League have taken a blow in recent weeks. Palace meanwhile, have been in impressive form since Roy Hodgson took charge, but this defeat has checked their progress. Here are three talking points from the Emirates…

Mesut Ozil steps up in Alexis Sanchez’s absence

With Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United rumoured to be nearing completion, this was a chance for Arsenal supporters to see how the team might shape up without him. Sanchez was excluded from the side that lost to Bournemouth last weekend, but his absence was hardly felt here.

That might have had something to do with the return of Mesut Ozil from injury. The Germany international was influential throughout, particularly in partnership with the rejuvenated Jack Wilshere. Ozil is sometimes accused of drifting in and out of games against top-quality opposition, but when he is given licence to express himself without defensive responsibility, there are few better players to watch in the Premier League.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Ozil showed Gunners fans that there can be life after Sanchez. It should not be forgotten that Ozil is another Arsenal player in the final six months of his contract. Tying him down to a new deal must be a priority for the club.

A reality check for lacklustre Palace

After losing their first seven Premier League matches – without scoring a goal in the process – relegation seemed nailed on for Palace. The appointment of Hodgson was largely derided, but the former England boss has had a remarkable impact in a relatively short space of time at Selhurst Park.

Survival is by no means guaranteed, but such has been their upturn in form that it is hard to imagine the Eagles being sucked back into trouble. It says a lot about their progress that many thought an upset might have been on the cards. Palace, however, were left shell-shocked after Arsenal’s four-goal burst.

When the Gunners click, they can be irresistible. Palace fans need not be too alarmed, even if their defending was lax. In fact, they should be heartened that their players did not capitulate in the second period, with the game effectively over. Although Milivojevic’s goal was too, little too late, it was just reward for a much-improved second-half performance.

Lacazette issues a timely reminder 

With a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes, Arsenal were in cruise control. But it was Lacazette’s goal, rounding off a superb team move to make it 4-0, that would have provided the biggest cheer. After hitting the ground running following his big-money transfer from Lyon last summer, the 26-year-old had endured a goal drought that stretched all the way back to December 2.

With questions being asked about his form, amid speculation that Arsenal are set to launch a raid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this was a timely reminder that Lacazette has plenty to offer. His overall record of nine Premier League goals from 24 appearances is more than respectable for a newcomer to the English game.

Lacazette will hope that his goal against Palace can be the catalyst for another scoring run. Without Sanchez, the burden rests more heavily on the France international and if a move for Aubameyang does not materialise, he will have a big part to play in Arsenal’s push for the top four.

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Why Everton are the perfect club for Theo Walcott to rebuild his career

Rob Meech

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Theo Walcott

It is hard to believe Theo Walcott is only 28 years old. He burst on to the scene aged 16 for Southampton in League One and was snapped up by Arsenal shortly afterwards. His inexplicable selection for England’s 2006 World Cup squad, without playing in a single Premier League game, transformed him into an overnight star.

Big things have been expected of Walcott ever since. It’s fair to say that, despite winning 47 caps for England and making 397 appearances for Arsenal, he has failed to live up to the hype. Now, after 12 years, Walcott is bidding farewell to the Emirates and hoping to revive his flagging career under Sam Allardyce at Everton, whom he has joined for £20 million after agreeing terms on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

Speculation that Walcott’s days at Arsenal were numbered had persisted for several years, but his desire to prove himself at the club kept him in north London even when admirers came calling. His 21 goals in all competitions in the 2012/13 campaign suggested he had cracked it, but that proved to be a false dawn.

In truth, Walcott’s decision to sign for Everton was probably a no-brainer. Now in the prime of his career, he simply has to be playing regularly. The reality of how far down the pecking order he had fallen at Arsenal struck this season, when he often failed to make Arsene Wenger’s match-day squad. His last appearance for the Gunners came as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth.

Everton’s interest in Walcott emerged only recently, but he was clearly one of Allardyce’s top targets. One look at the Toffees’ recent form underlines why. After an immediate upturn in fortunes after the former England boss’s appointment, Everton have embarked on a winless streak that stretches back to December 18.

Lack of pace is a pressing concern and this is an attribute that Walcott possesses in abundance. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson are intelligent footballers, but not the type that will blitz opposition defenders. Instead, they have relied on chipping balls over the top for the striker to chase. As such, Everton are one-dimensional and easy to play against, with no player capable of launching a counter-attack.

Also highlighting their urgent need for more firepower is the grim statistic that only rock-bottom Swansea have had fewer shots than Everton this season. New big-money signing Cenk Tosun has increased competition in the striking department but may take time to settle, whereas Walcott’s Premier League pedigree means no transitional period will be needed.

The former Southampton man’s versatility makes him an attractive proposition. For Arsenal, he predominantly featured on the right wing – either in a four-man midfield or a three-man attack – but he is equally adept at playing up top on his own, a position where he tried but ultimately failed to establish himself at the Emirates.

Potential is a word that has long been associated with Walcott. It is no longer applicable. At 28, this is possibly his final chance to realise his ambitions, both domestically and internationally. Everton, a sleeping giant, are a perfect fit. Under the auspices of major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, plans are in the pipeline for a brand-spanking new stadium to enable them to compete alongside the Premier League’s elite.

After being a peripheral figure at Arsenal for so long, Walcott has become the forgotten man of English football. For the sake of his career, he simply had to leave north London. By joining Everton, Walcott, who will wear the number 11 shirt, has the security of working under a manager who rates him highly. Now, he has the opportunity to become the player he always promised to be.

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Bournemouth 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Vitality Stadium

Rob Meech

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Bournemouth
Photo: Reuters

Bournemouth came from behind to claim a much-needed victory over Arsenal, whose hopes of qualifying for the Champions League have suffered another blow.

After an insipid opening period at the Vitality Stadium, the action sparked into life when Hector Bellerin broke the deadlock on 52 minutes.

But Arsenal’s lead was short-lived, as goals from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe – his first for the club – secured the Cherries’ fourth home win of the season, which lifted them to 13th in the table.

Arsenal, meanwhile, slipped further adrift in the battle to finish in the top four after their third consecutive league game without a win. Here are three talking points…

Alexis Sanchez moves closer to the Emirates exit door

All the pre-match talk centred on a player who wasn’t involved in the contest. Not only was Alexis Sanchez not named in the starting XI, he wasn’t even on the bench having not travelled to the south coast.

Manager Arsene Wenger was ambiguous when pressed on this in the aftermath of the defeat, but the insinuation was clear; the want-away Chilean will not be an Arsenal player come the end of the transfer window.

Both Manchester City and Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for Sanchez, whose contract at the Emirates expires in the summer. Despite his uncertain future, this match was crying out for his never-say-die attitude.

Arsenal controlled the first half and deserved to be in front when Bellerin fired home. However, the Gunners were unable to add a second and Bournemouth capitalised with two late efforts. Arsene Wenger’s side are now without a win in four games in 2018 as their troubles mount.

Bournemouth buck the trend against the ‘Big Six’

Before this fixture, Bournemouth had lost all of their matches against the ‘Big Six’ this season, scoring only one goal in seven outings.

While those are not necessarily the games that will define their campaign, it was a worrying statistic that Eddie Howe needed to address. Facing an Arsenal team without Sanchez or Mesut Ozil looked like being the Cherries’ best opportunity to buck that trend, and so it proved.

With only nine points separating all the teams in the bottom half, an unexpected win can do so much to alter the picture. The Cherries didn’t fold after going a goal behind and they merited the three points for an enterprising second-half display.

Having beaten Arsenal for the first time in their history, Bournemouth are now four points clear of the drop-zone. They are by no means safe because of this result, but the psychological impact could be immense.

Jack Wilshere getting back to his best

Returning to the club at which he spent last season on loan, this was not the afternoon Jack Wilshere would have hoped for. Though it didn’t go well from a team perspective, the 26-year-old was close to his best at the Vitality Stadium.

He touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch and also completed more passes. After a frustrating start to the campaign where he struggled for minutes in the Premier League, Wilshere is now establishing himself in the starting XI.

He was Arsenal’s best player against Bournemouth and in a team that lacks leaders, he was one of the few who looked like he wanted the ball. Wilshere ran the show in midfield and was always keen to move forward with purpose.

England manager Gareth Southgate surely can’t ignore Wilshere’s form and, fitness permitting, he must be a shoo-in for the next squad. In a World Cup year, Wilshere is peaking at just the right time.

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