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Santi Cazorla: Why the Spaniard’s Return Is Crucial for Stuttering Arsenal

Santi CazorlaArsene Wenger had just witnessed Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud all try but fail to find a way past Southampton’s Fraser Forster on Tuesday night when he was telling referee Lee Mason “it is always the same with you”.

His opposing number Ronald Koeman then intervened, saying “and it always the same with you”, telling Wenger that the officials were the wrong target of his chagrin on the night his attack fired a third league blank in a row.

Arsenal: Why the Gunners Will Be Crowned Premier League Champions

ArsenalArsene Wenger conceded after the frustrating Southampton stalemate on Tuesday night that their title hopes were stuttering, with local adversaries Tottenham Hotspur climbing above them in the Premier League table.

However, in this topsy-turvy season, even Manchester United – who currently sit ten points behind league leaders Leicester City – cannot be written off, so it is safe to say Arsenal may still go on to clinch their first title since 2003/2004.


Return of Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin

Francis Coquelin limped off 14 minutes into the 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on November 21, and the Gunners midfield had been bossed in his absence, no matter who the opponents were. Though the results were in their favour during his layoff, the double pivot of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey failed to shut down almost everyone whom they faced, most notably Emre Can and Francesc Fabregas.

The former Charlton Athletic loanee will likely start at Dean Court this weekend after returning to action in the fourth round Football Association Cup against Burnley. Alongside Aaron Ramsey – who would then get more liberty going forward – he should be able to propel Arsenal into dominance in the middle of the park again.

Another long-term absentee in Alexis Sanchez also started in the 2-1 defeat of Burnley but, unlike Coquelin, he was handed a start in the Saints clash that followed. Though the London club failed to beat Fraser Forster, the Chilean winger and Mesut Ozil offered consolation with their remarkable link-up play as they combined to create 15 chances (three more from the rest of the squad) – a huge improvement from the team’s eight against Chelsea and six at Britannia Stadium.

Having finally rediscovered their creative acumen, the Gunners can be touted to emulate their early season goal-scoring form.


Hope and handicapped Manchester City

Hoping that Leicester’s fairytale run ends at least before gameweek 38, Manchester City are the only credible title contenders (as Tottenham Hotspur are destined to be in Arsenal’s shadow). The Citizens’ creative department is now on the injury table with Jesus Navas being the latest to their permanently long injury list after limping off in the Sunderland rout.

Kevin de Bruyne who has had a direct hand in 26 goals this season seemed a strong contestant for the POTY award. However, he will not be available for selection until mid-April thanks to his lateral collateral ligament injury.

In addition, Samir Nasri is pencilled in to return only on April 2, thus leaving the title favourites handicapped on the creative front.


Guaranteed 16 points out of possible 18

In the worst case scenario, Arsenal would be sitting fourth behind the current top three by the end of February. Given the unpredictability of this campaign, Arsene Wenger can still steer his men to Premier League glory as he faces somewhat easy sides in March and April.

Emirates Stadium plays host to Watford, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Aston Villa whilst Arsenal travel to Sunderland, West Ham United and City in the last two months. The men in red and white have comfortably defeated these sides barring the Canaries in the reverse fixtures, notching 2.14 and shipping a meagre 0.58 goals per game.

Furthermore, four of the above-mentioned seven sides are currently languishing in the bottom of the table, and the Community Shield winners will likely win hands down.


Plan B

Mohamed Elneny clearly offers something different from Mathieu Flamini and Coquelin as it is evident from his display against Sean Dyche’s men that he is strong, positionally intelligent and has an eye for long-range shots. Besides, Arsene Wenger has already made it public that he would be deployed as a box-to-box midfielder.

When operating alongside Coquelin, the Egyptian midfielder will ostensibly augment solidity in the middle and could be a major asset whilst playing offensive sides such as Everton and City.

Though his involvement will likely be limited in the forthcoming weeks, he offers a much-needed alternative plan that could win games without having to play the Arsenal way.

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Written by Praveen Paramasivam

Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen

First Published:

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South Africa Toyota: De Villiers in Prime Position for Stage 1 of Dakar 2016

ToyotaROSARIO, ARGENTINA - Dakar 2016 is under way! On January 2nd the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team completed the ceremonial start in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, before taking part in the 11 km-long prologue. The prologue was used to determine the starting positions for Stage 1, and for Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, could hardly have done better.

"These short stages are tricky. If you push too hard, you can lose the race before it even starts," explained De Villiers from the bivouac at Rosario after bringing his Toyota Hilux safely to the end. "At the same time, you need to make sure that you don't lose too much time to the leaders. To me, anywhere in the top ten was ideal."

Ford GT Drivers Revealed for World Endurance Battle


Toyota Racing
GREATWORTH PARK, U.K., Jan. 5, 2016 - Ford Chip Ganassi Racing today revealed that Marino Franchitti, Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla and Andy Priaulx have been selected to race in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the wheel of the all-new Ford GT.

Ford is running two cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship and two in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The intention is for the two teams to come together in June for a four-car effort at arguably the most famous endurance race in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hours, fifty years after its historic 1-2-3 finish. The FIA WEC will visit a further three locations in Europe, Silverstone (UK), Nurburgring (Germany) and Spa (Belgium).

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Read more: Ford GT Drivers Revealed for World Endurance Battle

The English Premier League kicks off on BBC Africa August 8

Man UnitedFrom Saturday 8 August, football fans in Africa can follow the exciting live action of the new season of the Barclays Premier League in four languages. BBC Africa will bring commentary from matches of the world-famous league to football fans across the continent - in French, Hausa, Somali and Swahili.

Broadcasts are available on BBC FM stations and partner radio networks. The programmes provide live match commentary and also interaction with pundits and fans across the continent via satellite links, telephone, SMS and social-media channels.

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Read more: The English Premier League kicks off on BBC Africa August 8 @2009 - 2014 The Maravi Post an Eltas EnterPrises INC Publishing Company
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