Category Archives: derby

North London Derby Preview.

Could this match matter any more than it does?

No, and it amps up every season, especially with our neighbours starting to make a nasty habit of looking down on us.

This current North London Derby is no different, but the ramifications for the loser of this tussle are huge for either team.

We sit in sixth place, and four points behind spurs. If we lose this game,then we’ll have a massive seven point gap to traverse just to get to fifth spot. It would probably signal the end of our Champions League spot hopes, placing even more importance on our Europa League campaign.

So, it is quite obvious that we have a little more to lose than Pochettino’s lot.

They will still feel the burn should we do the double over them this season with victory.

A win for them could see them rise to the heights of 3rd spot, but should they lose, they’ll be likely five points from 3rd, and a mere point above us – with low confidence and a tough tie against Juventus in their midst.

One thing we have in our favour is that they did play in midweek. It may have been League Two opposition, but Newport County gave a fantastic account of themselves at Wembley, and tottenham used more than a few first team regulars in order to despatch their FA Cup opponent.

Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Heung Son-Min, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks were among the eleven, and should they be selected they’ll be lacking that ten percent of energy that we’ll have after our weeks rest.

In Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference, our manager revealed that Nacho Monreal will thankfully be fit to take his place in the side, but the jury is still out on Petr Cech who was injured during our 5-1 win over Everton last week. David Ospina stands by to deputise.

Wenger has a selection headache too.

Aaron Ramsey scored a hat-trick in his last outing and the Welshman is surely a shoe-in for a start in this game.

But who partners him in midfield?

Granit Xhaka has been on point when it comes to his distribution, but wedging him into the DM role that clearly doesn’t fit him isn’t working. We could try fitting in Mohamed Elneny in a three man central midfield, but what of Jack Wilshere? The England man has been one of our best players in recent weeks and with his passion for Arsenal – a start in the NLD is a must, surely?

Then there is our attack.

Our new boys, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, both hit the ground running, and their partnership is a huge plus for us. They start, and obviously Mesut Ozil does too,but that means Alexandre Lacazette could be on the bench again.The Frenchman has so much quality that he should be a guaranteed starter, but our attack already has three, if Lacazette starts alongside Aubameyang, Ozil and Mkhitaryan, then we need a formation change.

Will Wenger change things up after such a handsome win though? Changing a winning team is not something Arsene does often, so Lacazette may again start from the bench.

We need this win for our league hopes, never mind bragging rights. We’ve got enough in our locker to do it, but our 2-0 win earlier in the season showed that we need to have an active press, and attack using the speed we have.

Plus, we’ve got our Wembley record to maintain.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

West Ham Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

A London derby has a habit of destroying form books and league superiority. No matter where the opponent is in the table, the geographical closeness negates it and the atmosphere levels the playing field.

West Ham are coming off the back of a fantastic 1-0 win over Chelsea at the London Stadium. They were resolute at the back, industrious in the middle and effective up top. They have another home game, and the fans will be bang up for it.

Arsenal, on the other hand, scraped a somewhat fortunate 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, as our awful away record continued.

Southampton may have seen fewer of the ball, but the best chances fell to the feet of Charlie Austin, Ward-Prowse, Redmond and Boufal. We looked ponderous, with precious little movement in between the lines. We were the Arsenal that stutters and costs us points. We’ve seen this incarnation of our side many times, but it never gets any easier to deal with.

Now, we’ve got another away game, against a team buoyed by recent results. We need a performance, and now.

The festive fixture list is cramming games in every three days, so squad rotation will be key. This game comes three days after the Saints draw, and three days before we face struggling Newcastle at The Emirates. We need to keep pace and be ready to punce when our rivals drop points, rather than dropping them ourselves.

So, Giroud’s late leveller saved us from the ignominy of defeat at St Mary’s, and the Frenchman may be ideally suited to West Ham. The Hammers have some big boys in defence, and the presence of Giroud could keep them busy enough for our runners to slip in. Danny Welbeck is another option so we can keep Lacazette fresh.

Jack Wilshere also appeared as a substitute in the draw with Southampton to good effect, and he will be hopeful of a start, either in this game or certainly against Newcastle in the weekend. Much will depend on whether Ramsey is fit after he was limping against Saints in the weekend.

Shkodran Mustafi is still doubtful, so Mertesacker, Chambers and Holding will all be in with a shout for the next few games, as fatigue and injuries bite.

West Ham haven’t won at home against us since 2007. They have one other win since that time, a 2-0 win at The Emirates in 2015. 

Aside from those two occasions, it has been a goal fest for Arsenal.

I’d feel confident predicting an Arsenal win, but I’ve no idea what Gunners side will show up. We seem unable to string more than two victories together with regularity, and that is exactly what we need. It is our away record that is severely hampering us however.

Two wins on the road in the league is concerning. The 5-2 win over Everton was great, and the 1-0 win at Turf Moor was heartening, but we too often look brittle or we choose the wrong approach to the game. Our home attack is full of verve, and West Ham, if faced with the same, would struggle to keep us at bay.

So, we may make some changes, but it is not the lineup that concerns us too much. It is the style we showed in our draw with Southampton, our loss to Watford, to Stoke, to Liverpool. We need to eradicate this version of us if we are to keep pace with the Top4.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted sccoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal.

Arsenal 2-0 tottenham – What Power Shift?

What power shift?

Much of the talk before this game kicked off was centred on how tottenham were now the rulers of North London, but a powerhouse Arsenal performance served a reminder to our neighbours that one season of finishing above us after 21 of being in our shadow doesn’t constitute a shift in power.

Our side were far superior to spurs in every position during the 90, and Pochettino lost his first derby in the process. Wenger went for Lacazette to start alongside Alexis and Ozil in a front three and this attacking trio was key in how we put spurs to the sword. The attacking three were full of intent and running, tracking back and pressing and some really lovely touches.

It was our midfield that really had a point to prove though, and they gave everything to the cause. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka left it all on the pitch and strangled the life out of their spurs counterparts, Dembele and Sissokho. At both ends of the pitch, our engine room were on the pulse.

Shkodran Mustafi passed a recent fitness test to earn a recall to the side, and the German repelled everything spurs could muster, which wasn’t much. From the opening exchanges, we bossed every area of the pitch and Petr Cech was pretty much untroubled aside from a squirming Eriksen low shot that struck the outside of the near post.

This game didn’t feel like one of those games where we have untold amounts of possession and chances, only to flounder. It was our intensity that was troubling spurs, and they couldn’t keep up.

The deadlock was broken on the 36th minute. Alexis was found, being marked tightly by Davidson Sanchez. The Chilean headed past the spurs man and the defender put his arm across Alexis before having a slight tug of his Arsenal jersey. Mike Dean, rather surprisingly, gave us the decision and from the resulting set-piece, a perfect delivery from Mesut Ozil was met by Mustafi, who jumped higher than anyone to float a wonderful header past Lloris.

We didn’t have to wait long for the second and for our dominance to come to fruition. Alexandre Lacazette was actually given the ball in the channel with space to run into for once, and the Frenchman ate up the yards before finding Alexis with a low square pass. Alexis had plenty to do, but a great first touch allowed him to squeeze a high shot into the net and give Lloris no chance.

Half time came and went and although spurs were afforded more possession, the script was very much the same. Cech was still just as untroubled, we still had our boot firmly on spurs’ neck. Subs came and went around the 60-70th minute, but it changed nothing. No matter what Pochettino tried, our men on the field had the answers.

It was so refreshing to see us reach what is near our capabilities. So often we are bested thanks to our own inefficiencies, but not this time. For the whole game, we were at it all over the pitch. All of our players were on form and wanted this win – if we had failed to win this then a big gap would have been the result, even at this early stage of the season.

We weren’t finished either. Alexis could have grabbed another, and Alex Iwobi shot wide from a good position, sandwiching an Eric Dier header that produced a fingertip save from Cech – and that was the nearest that spurs were to come to registering a goal.

With this sort of display, frustration as well as joy can spring forth. Why can’t we do this more often? If we could do this for even 20 out of the 38 games, then we would be unstoppable. If we think like this though, we will never enjoy any moment. We know what we can do, all we can do though, is hope.

Spurs were bested, we pressed better than they did, we attacked quicker, we defended stouter. Their fans needed a reminder of where they actually stand in football after getting ahead of themselves recently.

We also needed a reminder. We needed to see our team show that not only can we produce displays of this nature still, but we can still want it more than our opponents.

Well played Arsenal – this was so good to see. #UTA

Arsenal Vs tottenham Match Preview

It’s that time in the season again when we battle with our North London neighbours and this season sees a depressingly familiar outlook for the match.

This season and last have seen tottenham enter the respective derby matches as favourites. After over two decades of Gunner domination, spurs can now call themselves favourites to win. Last year was the first time in 21 years that they had finished above Arsenal and the team they now put out is a real equal – or perhaps stronger – than the eleven that Arsene Wenger is capable of assembling.

We do have a strong home record to fall back on and it is this that must fire our boys to a win we so badly need. The last game was a loss to runaway leaders Man City that highlighted the gap now between us and the title challengers.

This game has to spark a revival and a charge up the table if we are to sustain a belief of a Champions League spot.

There will be many tasty battles on display in this game, which can be found in this Arsenal tactical report – and the one that will probably decide the fate of the result will occur right in the centre of the pitch.

Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have been the preferred duo to marshall the engine room this season, but gelling between the pair has been slow to muster. They have been effective at time, but we will need more if we are to harbour any hopes of victory. Especially if Pochettino goes with Dembele and Winks. This combo is quick to win the ball and just as rapid to offload to a marauding Alli, Eriksen and Kane.

In terms of injuries, Danny Welbeck may be back available for selection if he passes a fitness test and his workrate may give him an instant recall – especially if Alexis’ display in our last game is anything to go by. The Chilean appeared to have already left the club and if selection demanded form, then Sanchez would be out. This probably won’t be the case, but Welbeck could start ahead of Lacazette instead – omitting the Frenchman from our defeat to Man City was something that incensed our support and would likely have the same reaction this time around. Olivier Giroud is out after picking up a thigh injury on international duty, but it isn’t major.

Our defence should have Laurent Koscielny included, but Shkodran Mustafi will likely again be out. With Rob Holding stillnursing an injury, it appears as if Captain Mertesacker will have the job of snuffing out tottenham’s attack – something he has done countless times before. If aided by Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, we could have the perfect platform.

Harry Kane and Dele Alli were not available for England’s recent bout of friendlies and this has given them enough time to recover from injuries. Kane has a frightening record of scoring in derby games, and if he is fed by Eriksen, then Cech could have a busy 90 minutes.

Our team is more than good enough to win this, but what is worrying is that we all know we need to be at our best – and that is something that has been a fleeting occurrence this season. We will need every bit of passion, pressing and stamina to grab three points in this game and stop moods amongst our fanbase from plummeting even lower. November isn’t kind to Wenger – it is statistically his worst month in terms of points per game in his long tenure – but what a game to buck this alarming trend.

Keep the faith, we can do this.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – I have no idea…

Arsenal Vs tottenham Match Preview

Arsenal host bitter rivals Tottenham for a crucial North London derby on Saturday lunchtime and are in desperate need of a morale-boosting win. Defeat at the hands of Man City last time out left the Gunners 12 points off the top of the table and winning the league looks to be a pipe dream. Once more they look like having to settle for a scrap for fourth place and the bookmakers have them as outsiders in that race. Spurs have been on an upward curve for years now and finished comfortably ahead of Arsenal last season – the first time St Totteringham’s Day was not celebrated since the mid-1990s. Gooners must be sickened by the sight of Spurs sitting three places above them in the table once more, and nothing would lift the grim mood at The Emirates like taking three points from Mauricio Pocchetino’s men.

Arsenal go into the game as narrow favourites and that is solely down to having home advantage. Check out Intertops when wagering on game and you will see that the betting is exceptionally close. Tottenham have the league’s second best away record, having won four and lost one of their five games on the road this season. That defeat came in their last away game, when they lost 1-0 to Man Utd. Jose Mourinho laid down a blueprint for how to beat Tottenham, but Arsene Wenger is unlikely to follow it as he never really tailors his approach to specific opposition, preferring instead to send out his players in tried and tested fashion and hope for the best.

Since that Man Utd defeat, Spurs have spanked European champions Real Madrid and beaten Crystal Palace to move up to third in the Premiership table, so they will be full of confidence going into this game. Star striker Harry Kane is back and that makes grim reading for Arsenal fans, as the England forward loves playing in North London derbies and has a great goal scoring record against the Gunners.

However, Arsenal’s home form has been perfect this season. Their away performances have let them down, but at the Emirates they have won five out of five and scored 13 times in the process. That should buoy them for this massive game. There are key battles that will see this game won or lost for Arsenal. The most important will be the efforts to contain Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Arsenal let Sergio Aguero and co run riot against them at the Etihad and they will need to show a lot more organisation and discipline against Tottenham if they are to get a result. Fans will have to hope Francis Coquelin does not start in defence again as that was a disaster.

Tottenham have an extremely strong defence and Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette will have to use every ounce of their guile and creativity to penetrate it and create chances. Again, fans will have to hope all three start rather than Wenger giving the ineffectual Alex Iwobi the nod. Lacazette is Arsenal’s £52 million record signing and deserves the chance to start up top in the big games, with Sanchez instructed to wreak havoc from wide areas. The Chilean was poor once again in the City game and is not doing a great job of putting himself in the shop window, so if he plays he will need to buck his ideas up if he still wants to earn a move to high-flying Man City.

But the biggest challenge for Arsenal will be gaining a foothold in the middle of the park. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have failed to form an effective central midfield partnership thus far this season and it is a worry that neither is particularly disciplined. Neither is inclined to sit back and provide a screen for the defence, and neither can tackle, so Arsenal are often outfought and overrun in midfield. The likes of Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama are big, strong, tactically astute and good on the ball, so Ramsey and Xhaka will have to find another gear if they hope to win the midfield battle on Saturday. We can but hope.

tottenham Vs Arsenal – The NLD Preview

Kickoff – 1630 GMT

Not for quite some time have our neighbours gone into a North London Derby as such overwhelming favourites. 

It really is a good thing that form doesn’t apply in these fixtures. 

If it did, then tottenham would win handsomely and enjoy the superiority they currently enjoy in the Premiership table. Sitting in second spot and chasing Chelsea hard for the title, they have left Arsenal choking on their dust. The Gunners are sitting in sixth place and the gap of 14 points is a chasm and the biggest it has been in over two decades.

Arsene Wenger must set his team up accordingly. This may carry a whole heap of pressure, but it is also a great opportunity to win the last derby at White Hart Lane – a place which has been a happy hunting ground over the years.

Wenger will have to deal without Shkodran Mustafi again, but talismanic defender Laurent Koscielny has a “60% chance of playing” according to the Gunners boss in his last press conference. Arsenal’s hopes could well hinge on if Koscielny makes the team, but if he does, will Wenger continue with his recent experiment with 3 at the back?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be one who hopes so, as his performances have been excellent since the new formation has been implemented. The Ox was an unused sub in our last game, but could come straight back into the team. Theo Walcott or Hector Bellerin may be the men to make way. 

 Mauricio Pochettino is sweating on the fitness of Moussa Dembele, but if the Belgian misses out, then Eric Dier may come into the defensive midfield spot. Aside from Dembele and Danny Rose, spurs have a clean bill of health.

The title race may be filling the home side’s thoughts, but they won’t want to lose the last ever derby at their ground. They have recent derby results in their favour though, as Arsenal have one win in the last eight trips to White Hart Lane – which was in 2014. There may well be goals too, as despite the poor recent record, the Gunners have scored in 35 of their last 36 derby games. 

Arsenal players and Gooners know that if tottenham win, then for the first time in over 21 years they will finish above us. We cannot allow them this luxury. There are some stats worth remembering though.

This is Wengers 50th derby, and he has lost only seven so far. spurs have the only unbeaten home record left in the league, and have already amassed their best ever points total.  We meanwhile, have lost four of our last five away games and tottenham have won their last 8 league games. 

The man to watch out for? Christian Eriksen. He has been involved in 16 goals in his last 12 games, and the Dane is playing the best football of his career so far. Harry Kane – the mouth-breathing, non-annunciating goal-getter, has a great record against us too, so our newly-shaped defence must be drilled and prepped. 

It’s a good thing form doesn’t apply…….

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Monreal, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. 

Arsenal Vs tottenham – Before Kickoff

In amongst the plethora of fixtures Arsenal have played recently, this fixture stood out as the most important. 

And it is for good reason, as the North London Derby gives fans the opportunity to earn the bragging rights and dominion over their opposite number – or at least until the next one.

Spurs fans are a little different however. No matter that their team has failed to finish above us for over two decades. It matters little to them that they have failed to win a trophy of significance since 2009 (that was the EFL Cup, the trophy that they derided themselves), or that they have spent a shedload on players and had more managers than a branch of Sports Direct. 

They still remain convinced of their superiority, and that this season is the one that will finally see them usurp us.

Ok, well it sets up this match quite nicely.

In terms of what the teams will look like when they take to The Emirates pitch, both teams have doubts, but it is spurs who seem to be bereft of more of their squad.

Erik Lamela, Toby Alderweireld, Ben Davies and Moussa Dembele look to be ruled out, and closet Gooner Moussa Sissoko is banned. 

That lot have struggled in recent games, and part of that is due to missing their best striker Harry Kane. The mouth-breather extraordinaire has now been declared fit which will please their fans and Mauricio Pochettino, but match fitness is another issue. He may start – and with four in four against us you would think so – but lasting the whole game is another issue. 

For our team, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott all face fitness tests to gauge their readiness, but Hector Bellerin is set to return to the side, although his replacement Carl Jenkinson has let no one down in his stint in the side. 

The hot topic though, is will Arsene Wenger opt to stick to the attacking lineup which has seen them keep pace at the top of the league, or will he revert to type and utilise the strengths of the recently returned Olivier Giroud?

Alexis Sanchez will be in the side either way, but will it be on the left or will he play as the sole striker? Not only this, but will Alex Iwobi be in the side, or will The Ox be given a chance to continue his recent hot streak?

All of this is pure conjecture, and the only person who knows is the manager himself. The comforting thing to see was our Chilean superstar talking of this fixture and reinforcing to us Gooners that they are aware of how important this game is. 

Our winning streak has continued and tottenham’s poor form has seen them stumble in the league and in Europe, but as we are well aware, form has no bearing in derbies. The spoils will go to whoever wants them the most. 

Here are some interesting stats to whet the appetite. spurs have just one win in the last 26 at Arsenal in the league, in a run that goes back to May 1993. However, Arsenal have failed to win any game against tottenham in the last four games. 

Lastly, and most interestingly though, the last North London Derby to kickoff at midday was back in 2004, when we won 5-4…..

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Kos, Nacho, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal

Arsenal 3 – 0 Chelsea – 5 Things We Learned

Every now and then, life clicks. The variables that normally clash and crunch together, causing no end of problems and strife, suddenly meet harmoniously and your passage is smoother than a Mesut Ozil slide-rule pass.

One of these variables is the Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez triumvirate. All three have the qualities that benefit the other parts of the trinity, but thanks to injury and poor form, like a misfiring sports car, the full potential is rarely seen.

This game though, saw these three hugely talented players hit top gear and blast Chelsea with full force, and at half time, we were three goals to the good thanks to goals from all three. 

It wasn’t just the goals that made this game perfect viewing. Even in the mundane activities, we managed to rub Chelsea’s nose in it. We made them look ordinary, we did everything right. Even the match stats were wildly in our favour. Simply because in every minute, on every patch of the pitch – we were better. 

The first half is perhaps the best football that we have materialised for quite some time. The aesthetically pleasing Wengerball has been remiss for a while now, but it rose up into our eyeline like a majestic salmon, and chants of ‘Ole’ were ringing around The Emirates as our team toyed with Chelsea like a disintered cat pawing at a mouse that had quite clearly taken too many hits and was willing the pearly gates to appear.

What can we take from the game? So many things, as this game will be talked about for some time. It was so pleasing to see the passing formations come to fruition, and Chelsea’s approach was made irrelevant, as if they had brought their much fabled bus, we would have simply ripped it in half. 

Iwobi played on Tuesday in the EFL Cup, but no fatigue was prevalent, and he buzzed around the pitch. Mustafi and Koscielny are blooming together – any partnership that contends successfully with Costa has cause for celebration – and Hector Bellerin looks to have come out of his own mini-slump. 

In short, our team was on fire. For our fourth League win on the trot, we picked the best opponent to unsheath our finest play!

There was simply no stopping us in this game, but here are five key points from the game – 

This display will be used as a yardstick, and a stick to beat us

Much like Oxlade-Chamberlain, we know what we are capable of, so to see us underperform is frustrating. Now we have witnessed our excellent parts work as a beautiful machine? Well, we now want that in most matches, and when we fall below this bar, then criticism will follow. We played football that was packaged in pure silk, and it was used to bludgeon an opponent that had given us many scars. This performance gives us hope for the season, but it could also be a horrible reminder of what we could be. Let us hope for the former.

Coquelin still has a place

Before going off with injury in the 31st minute, Francis Coquelin was enjoying every minute, gleefully running around the blades of grass and destroying every part of Chelsea’s build-up play. He has his uses, and we all know his limitations toward attack, but in terms of his strengths? Not many in the league, never mind in our team, does what he does better. Let us hope he is back soon. Xhaka may be the present, and the future, but Coquelin is a player we need in our squad. 

Ozil is back on form.

The best players, even when the inevitable dips in form occur, can still contribute towards the game. Ozil has been well short of his own particular standards so far this campaign, but this could well rank as one of his finest 90 minutes in our shirt. His touch was pure sex, his awareness is derived from the gods. He was clearly enjoying every minute, and he was more than pumped for this game. He deceptively covers more ground than most people think, but he was tracking back with as much fervour as Alexis at times.  His goal, which he started by making Kante look like a lost little boy, needs to be watched repeatedly to remind any doubters what he does. We love you Mesut.

First Sanchez tapping the Cannon, now Ozil. So very happy with this.

Alexis to stay as a striker, for now

This issue has garnered much debate, but the results speak for themselves. Alexis may feel more comfortable on his native left, but he has the building blocks for a striker, and his numbers are evidence. As long as he continues to hit the net, then Giroud and Lucas may be twiddling their thumbs for a while longer. His finish to open the scoring was sumptuous, and answers any queries regarding where he can play. The little Chilean can play where he wants!

Theo is back

Theo divides opinion like Moses parted the Red Sea. He has had long periods, even seasons, when his form has seen him put in displays that have no part at the club. This season though, he has gone back to basics. Used his main strength in the right way, and he has made one simple change. He is working harder. As a result, he has stayed in the team, and is making things happen. On a consistency basis, Theo has been one of our best players so far this campaign. Like Marmite, whether you love or loathe him, you cannot argue he is effective. He may still lose the ball a little too much, but so does Alexis. Keep doing what you’re doing Walcott, and you will easily surpass your best ever season. Keep working hard.

Arsenal Vs Chelsea – Match Preview

On the back of our last two games, and Chelsea coming off the back of a tough EFL Cup game against Leicester and a comprehensive loss to Liverpool, bookies comprehending the odds would make us slight favourites.

Then, the aforementioned bookie would remember Arsene Wenger’s recent dire record against Chelsea, and the projected odds would be in turmoil once more.

A last-gasp win against Southampton, a backs against the wall draw in Paris, followed by two victories each gained by scoring four goals, represents great form for the Gunners. Not only that, but our squad is nearing full strength, so all pointers are looking towards a fantastic opportunity for a win against our London rivals.

In terms of naming the team, Wenger will give a late test to Olivier Giroud, who is nursing a toe injury. The game has come too soon for Aaron Ramsey, who is back in training but is not match fit yet. Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson are still unavailable.

Even if the French striker does make the cut, will he make the actual eleven? Despite many critics proclaiming that Alexis Sanchez doesn’t work as a sole frontman – and it is clear he isn’t as effective as when he performs in his natural role – the goals are flowing, and the results are there for all to see.

So, it’s a straight fight between the Chilean and the bearded Gaul for the striker spot, but Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech are all expected to come straight back into the side.

Another bone of contention is whether Granit Xhaka should start. The Swiss midfielder has impressed since joining, and his recent long range screamers have only served to act as a megaphone, proclaiming to all his talents. Wenger has stated that the reason Xhaka is currently getting splinters on the bench is cohesion, and that will take time to build. So, it looks like Cazorla and Coquelin will be given the job of marshalling the centre of the park.

Antonio Conte will have the League’s most effective villain in full force, with Diego Costa in rude form in front of goal – and causing controversy in every game he has played. The Spaniard/Brazilian reverse Benjamin Button will keep Koscielny and Mustafi on their toes. 

Will Cesc remain on the bench? Will Oscar be nominated to sit behind Costa? Conte has just as many players to choose from, and this clash – no matter how early it is in the season – will have a huge impact. If a side can emerge victorious, then the belief that will coarse through the side could propel them up the table.

Arsenal are the side in form though. Three wins on the bounce, and Conte seems to still be searching for his perfect gameplan. One clean sheet for the Italian in his League games thus far is not exactly the Italian masterclass in defending that Stamford Bridge would have been hoping for.

The bottom line though, is that for these games, form has never been much of a powerful variable. What will win this game is guts, tenacity, fitness, and a little sprinkling of genius. We have this in buckets. 

We will need to keep all of our men on the pitch though – our last two games we have succumbed to red mist and managed to get a player sent for an early bath.

One eerie indicator? Chelsea have enjoyed ruining Arsene Wengers milestones in the past. His 500th and 1000th games all coincided with Chelsea losses. It is high time to exorcise this blue demon. Seeing as Wenger is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the club, that doesn’t bode well.

The worst stat regarding this crunch game though? Sky Sports have revealed that in the last eight games that today’s match official Michael Oliver has taken charge of involving the Gunners, we have failed to win any of them. Chelsea though? They are unbeaten in the last thirteen games that Michael Oliver has officiated.


Predicted lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0. 

The Return of the Shadow Dwellers Part 2

Originally posted on Goonersphere

The General rested on his haunches, his now spattered armour creaking as he bent. The scene which tortured his eyes was one of bedlam and violence. The very floor on which his hands now leaned on was saturated with blood – of who it belonged to was a mystery.

For both sides had suffered losses, and the liquid spilled could have been from either. Bodies littered his eyeline, but that was not the destination for his vision.

He looked to the horizon, to where the Haven of Four twinkled its seductive light. Then, just below, what remained of the savage horde of Shadow Dwellers – who had gotten past the General’s men and now were free to taint that holiest of ground.

By the Gods, they had failed.

Continue reading The Return of the Shadow Dwellers Part 2