Category Archives: Exclusive

Money strangling football – what can be done?

The football transfer window in recent years has ascended on the crest of a cash-infused wave, looming large over the sport.

It now stands so tall, that it is reaching the point of inevitability when all waves must crash, where the sheer weight cannot be supported. When this particular wave crashes, the ramifications will ripple throughout football.

We now stand at a point where singular transfers outweigh most clubs annual income. The select few continue to dip their reluctant toes in the market, but the top talents that would benefit any team are being purchased for fees that would crush the majority of top flight outfits.

Paris Saint Germain in the summer stepped into the market and made everyone notice. Their jewel-adorned cane pointed toward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, and the crowd could only watch on as the French club made it rain. No other club could enter the fray once PSG came calling, and they made the Neymar transfer possible only because they could pay money that equals most countries deficits.

The shockwaves created by PSG are being felt in the Premier League too. Before the Paris club were backed by bottomless pockets, the current TV deal in place for the Premiership meant we were bullying the lion’s share of Europe by chucking money at players. Now, prices are jacked up further whenever PSG or Man City are interested.

Simply because the selling club know whatever the price, they will get the fee.

The point where things become untenable is soon approaching though. Transfer fees on average are on the rise, and when it hits a certain level, the rules are going to have to change.

There are options to stop this. Transfer limits on each club, wage caps. These are all processes that have been bandied around for years. Maybe we have already seen the future and not been aware?

Kia Joorabchian was one of the money men who organised the ludicrous transfer of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to West Ham. Joorabchian owned the economic rights to both players, and perhaps something along this line may be the answer?

If players in the future had their interests represented in the form of shares, and interested parties purchased shares in the player so they could draft them in for the season? Perhaps loan deals up to a maximum of three years could solve the ongoing money problem?

Whatever the answer, the transfer window arrangement hasn’t helped. It induces panic in clubs and an itchy trigger finger is not the most valued asset when it comes to engineering transfers. The window is universally hated by all managers and for good reason.

Transfers need to change for the good of the game. The level of competitiveness is a healthy one in the Premiership right now, but if City and the big boys continue to spend and subsequently force other clubs to have to spend beyond their means, then that very competitiveness that makes the PL so special will soon wilt.

Virgil Van Dijk for £75m is just another sign that the massive wave is getting bigger. Plans need to be investigated so the future of our game can be guaranteed.

Arsenal Engine Room Needs a Service

This season has seen the continuation of an enigma that our manager seems unable to solve.

Our midfield is an unoptimised machine that jars and shudders at crucial times in games. In figurative winters for our midfield, we turn the ignition but there is no spark – we are immobile.


We can be bypassed with a simple cutting pass and the moving parts that comprise our engine room are out of synch. Muddy waters blur the roles for our midfield pairing, and Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have so far sought the mysterious substance that gels pairs together with little success.


Since Mikel Arteta departed from The Emirates and Santi Cazorla started to battle his plagued ankle, we have used various combos to little effect. When compared to Chelsea, Man United and even tottenham, our midfield pales in comparison.


Where does the problem lie though?


At the time of writing, Premier League stats showed that Granit Xhaka was the third highest successful pass maker in the entire League. The Swiss star seems to be a real conundrum for not only Wenger – but our entire fanbase. Some have already showed him the exit, others struggle to find his strength, then there are others who lay the blame for his failings at Wenger and his midfield partner.




Xhaka perhaps is being utilised wrongly. The midfielder is being moulded or stuck in a defensive midfield position – but Xhaka is not a DM. Not yet at least. He is described by those in the know as a deep-lying playmaker, much like how Jack Wilshere’s role when he played for England last and was awarded a string of MOTM performances.


His passing as mentioned previously is one of the best in the league, but his defensive leanings – and those of his Welsh partner Ramsey – are seriously lacking. And this is why our midfield is absent at times.


The Premier League stats do not lie, and Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have put in 34 successful tackles – combined – so far this season after eleven games. That is little more than three tackles per game total from both players.


No matter of high pressing can mask the fact that if we don’t win the ball back, if we don’t disrupt our opponents possession, it doesn’t matter how well we distribute the ball if we don’t have it.


To put this alarming stat into perspective – Roberto Firmino has made the same amount of tackles that Granit Xhaka has made. Mario Lemina has made more than both Xhaka and Ramsey.


A central midfielder is probably the most demanding of roles on the pitch. You need to be a master of both defence and attack, dictate play, keep a constant eye on your opponent and ensure you are in the right place at all times. Our midfield right now is not performing one side of their role – if they were in a real-world job, they would be in a meeting with their manager having a discussion about their failure to meet KPI’s.


The frustrating thing is that they are both capable of running the show – as displayed by our comprehensive victory over that lot down the road. They were everywhere and gave everything. 


Santi Cazorla is sorely missed not just for his infectious smile and insane two-footed skills. Despite his diminutive size, he gives his all in defence and can win the ball back. He tracks runners. We need an all-action midfielder.


If we are to continue with Granit Xhaka and Ramsey in midfield, then they both need to communicate and pivot. If one attacks, then the other sits back. It is such a basic requirement but it does appear that both players bunked this lesson. We all know that Ramsey has a penchant for attacking – he is rather good at those late runs that either distract defences or result in a goal. If the Welshman goes forward though, it is vital that Xhaka stays back and stands sentry.


The window is now open and we’ve tried valiantly to make this partnership work. 


If this basic part of midfield is not achieved, our gaping aperture in the centre of the park will continue to hinder any progress that we should be making. Our engine needs a service or a replacement. 

Who is the best backup in the business?

There are many credentials required in order to be classed as a true contender in football.

The majority of heavyweights who slug it out on the European stage normally have a wealthy benefactor, a half-decent pedigree and a squad peppered with talent.

It is the squad though, that perhaps best underlines the strength of a club. When an outfit hopes to fight on all fronts, they must rely on their lesser lights in order to remain relatively unscathed.

When Manchester United won the treble, they had four strikers who would have graced the majority of Europe’s top teams. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were a lethal combo, and Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provided a steady stream of goals.

When we won the Double in 2002, we had Thierry Henry – the greatest player in Europe -, the genius of Dennis Bergkamp, the efficiency of Sylvain Wiltord and the unpredictability of Nwankwo Kanu to fall back on.

These teams could boast such a huge array of striking talent to keep teams guessing and on the back foot, and this all happened nearly two decades ago.

They do provide a good yardstick though.

Do clubs now have the same depth that their more illustrious past brethren had?

United have Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as their two preferred attacking options. Now the sole striker formation is far more conventional than it was back in 1999 and 2002, it places less emphasis on needing four strikers. United still need backup though, and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they seem well armed on that front.

Our team is far weaker than during our golden generation. Now we have an adept and skilled Alexandre Lacazette, with a soon departing Alexis able to slot in to the forward line when the need arises. Our backup is Olivier Giroud, and the Frenchman has gone from ridicule to lavish praise during his Arsenal career.

I think it’s safe to say that we all appreciate how good Olivier is, and what a sterling job he’s done since finding a starting spot hard to maintain.

Who has the best backup though? Does Ibrahimovic have the edge now as well as having the far bigger trophy cabinet? Or does Olivier win it by a nose thanks to his lesser years?

This season has seen Olivier Giroud become the most prolific substitute for Arsenal, and he has bagged four goals thus far, compared to Zlatan’s none. It is worth mentioning that Giroud has played 276 more minutes than his Swedish opponent.

It is last season though, that is telling.

Zlatan played double the amount of minutes than Giroud did, as he was United’s main man last season before Lukaku came onto the scene. Yet Zlatan only bagged five more goals than Giroud did, scoring 17 to 12. He also only grabbed two more assists than the Frenchman.

Giroud was also more efficient in front of goal, with 59 percent shot accuracy compared to Zlatan’s 55 percent, and a superior aerial duel success rate.

So, it seems clear that despite a lack of minutes, Giroud can hold his head high and claim that he is indeed worthy of a start. Will that be elsewhere rather than at The Emirates though?

His situation is different to Zlatan’s. The tall Swede is in his twilight years and even though he hasn’t lost his effectiveness thanks to an excellent level of fitness, he realises his time at a top club may be on the wane. Zlatan could still do a fantastic job at most clubs.

Ibrahimovic has had one of the most glittering careers. League titles in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. His goalscoring record even at United is in keeping with his record elsewhere – 28 goals in 46 apps. Follow www.betfy.co.uk/ for more.

Giroud has never been as effective in front of goal as Ibrahimovic, but in terms of being an effective team player, then he’s every bit as valuable as the one that refers to himself in the third person.

Time to get rid of Alexis

Alexis Sanchez has been our saviour on many occasions.

That little moment of genius that separates games from the ignominy of the forgotten. The sprinkling of unpredictability that unlocks packed defences and rescues a game from the doldrums.


That has been our Chilean’s speciality since his arrival.


He is no longer our saviour though, he’s just a naughty boy.







This season has been telling in where Alexis’ heart lies, and it is apparent it isn’t at The Emirates.


On some level, we can’t blame him. His signing appeared to be the herald of a continued change of approach, a try at actually acting like the stature of club we purported to be. We had gone big again, one season after breaking our transfer record with the purchase of Mesut Ozil.


It hasn’t transpired. We’re still treading water, still a sizeable gap between us and the glory we should be tussling for each season.


We’ve won silverware, something some of our rivals who are reportedly doing better than us have failed to do for some time. It isn’t enough however.


We’ve dropped out of the Champions League places, we’ve still to rectify the middle of our midfield after so many seasons of inadequecy. Alexis would have joined the club with promises of duking it with the big boys, but it hasn’t materialised.


Still though, there is a big difference in performance from Alexis this season than in his previous campaigns.


Last season we saw a sometimes petulant Alexis. Giving off waves of frustration with every dropped head, every wild arm movement, every scream at his teammates for losing the ball.


He still proved the difference for us on many occasions. He still bagged a hatful of goals and assists though, even if he appeared to be desperately unhappy with things.


At least those small tantrums showed he cared though. The smirking Alexis on the bench we’ve seen on occasion is the direct opposite. 


The Alexis we have this season is a far cry from the one we tried so hard to keep this summer. His poor goal tally, his failure to exert himself on proceedings the way he is capable of, they are all signs that his mind is elsewhere. He is biding his time before going to grass that in his mind – is emerald green.


Six goals in 22 appearances. Only three assists. Those aren’t the figures we have come to expect of Alexis, and the old Alexis would be disgusted with himself with such poor numbers.


We have seen Alexis work his magic this season. His performance against tottenham reminded us that we still have a jewel in our midst. It has also contrasted with his mediocre season thus far.


His performance against Manchester United and then Southampton were awful. He lost the ball on 34 separate occasions against United, and the number was disgustingly similar against the Saints.


Losing possession that many times is unforgivable. He plays in a team that relies on possession, we need it to damage teams. So for him to travel down blind alleyways on the pitch and take on three more players than he needs to is downright irresponsible, and shows he doesn’t care for the team as much as he needs to.


Players of his ilk carry more weight of responsibility as they are looked to by teammates and fans to provide that key that unlocks any defence. When they no longer care for the team though and are just doing things on the pitch to stay in the mind of another manager, then we must look at allowing him to leave.


There are many options for his next club, but we could quite easily find a team that isn’t a domestic rival, and perhaps have a player that could benefit us in a swap? PSG and Julian Draxler srping to mind?


Alexis will leave, without a doubt. We need to get a transfer fee and look elsewhere to fill the void left by Alexis.


Not this season’s version though. This season has allowed us to tailor our play a little more and acclimatise to times without him. 


Last season’s Alexis inigh on impossible to replace, this season there are plenty to choose from. Time to get busy in the market. 

Chelsea Vs Arsenal Semi-Final Carabao Cup 1st Leg Preview

It may not be the best choice of opponent, but any match gives us the opportunity to erase the taste of our embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest.

If we could have chosen a team to face, Chelsea wouldn’t have been one we went for. The Blues are in fine form and we, quite simply, aren’t. Antonio Conte may well be rattled by the constant stream of Jose Mourinho bile, but our draw last week shows that he will take this match very seriously.

Funnily enough, the Italian coach nearly had the same fate befall him and his team in the weekend. Fresh from our 2-2 draw, we both went into our FA Cup matches against Championship opposition. The difference was that we lost convincingly, and Chelsea escaped with a 0-0 draw.

Conte also rested the majority of his big hitters, but his squad is a little stronger than ours. Yet they also put in a sub-par display against the Canaries.

Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata have all been rested, so will most likely line up against us. Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Willian will drop to the bench after failing to impress against Norwich.

In terms of our team, Alexis is still with us, for now, so should be back in the team. Mesut Ozil is also back in contention, but if any of the eleven who got humped against Forest make the eleven, they can think themselves very lucky. With our squad looking a little thin, then we might have to have at least one from Holding, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Walcott on the bench.

The whole team should conceivably be changed, but there are doubts hanging over Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. The biggest miss would be Mustafi right now, with Koscielny looking dicey on the fitness front, Holding low on confidence and Nacho still a month from fitness. If Xhaka misses out, then Elneny, the perhaps off-to-Valencia-Coquelin or even Ainslie Maitland-Niles could come in.

The Carabao Cup was prioritised by Wenger as we are in the latter stages. This makes sense of course, but if we were to be dumped out by the Blues, then his plan will have backfired, much like his weak bench he named for the Forest debacle. A two-legged affair with Chelsea is a tough hurdle to jump, and with a probable Final against City to come, we may have bet on the wrong horse here.

The Europa League has some big hitters in the draw, and with our Premier League top four spot in serious jeopardy, we are slipping towards the worst season in recent memory.

We have the capacity to defeat Chelsea, our FA Cup final win showed us that, as well as last week’s draw that could have went either way. It all hinges on which Arsenal show up. We were excellent in midfield and attack versus the Blues, but our defence was suspect, letting Morata have three one-on-ones is something we need to rectify.

We will need Koscielny and Mustafi if we are to stay in this tie for the second leg. Home factor may swing this though.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1.

Forest Vs Arsenal FA Cup Preview

With our league hopes suffering a battering of late, we welcome the return of the FA Cup as we take on Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round.





We are the holders, and as we also hold the record as the most successful FA Cup team – ever – we need to make a good stab of defending it. The first hurdle is this tricky tie.


Our recent Carabao Cup tie against fellow Championship outfit Norwich shows that we cannot afford to take Forest lightly, as we only just squeezed past the Canaries thanks to a brace from Eddie Nketiah.


Forest aren’t in a good place however. They recently sacked their manager, Mark Warburton, and it will be caretaker manager Gary Brazil that will oversee their attempt to cause an FA Cup upset.


Their last game was an admirable draw with Leeds United, but they are languishing in the bottom half of the Championship table and even at this halfway stage, they are in danger of either having nothing to play for – or getting sucked into the relegation mire.


They have some quality in their ranks in Michael Mancienne, Eric Lichaj and Liam Bridcutt and they also boast top flight experience, but Gary Brazil could opt to rotate his squad and concentrate on improving his side’s standing in the league, crazy as that may seem.


Rotating is something we must do, after a frenetic run of games recently. It demands we rest some of our men as there are a fair few that have played the majority – and some of our fringe players who have played precisely zero minutes and are gagging for some action.


With Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil, Alexis and a few others having the lions share of the many minutes of gametime in offer in December – we played nine games in all – some of our lesser lights with much to prove have a great opportunity to send a timely reminder to Wenger that they are still of use.


David Ospina should come into the side to take the gloves, and in defence there will be changes too. Mathieu Debuchy, Mohamed Elneny and Per Mertesacker are three that could comprise our backline, but it is all dependant on whether we play three or four at the back.


Reiss Nelson could take a full-back spot, and in midfield, Francis Coquelin and Jo Willock could do a job in containing Forest and put out any fires.


In attack, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi are suffering from a dip in confidence, so a full game and plenty of chances will do them the world of good.


Make no mistake, we all expect a comfortable win, but however we achieve it will be welcome. If it is another tight game but we achieve safe passage to the fourth round, then I’ll take it.


It’d be great to give players like Ben Sheaf, Josh DaSilva and Eddie Nketiah a good runout, but with our chances for silverware hanging on by a thread and only one bad match from disappearing in each competition, we need to prioritise. Cups need to be put 

in the front of our view, as well as our Premier League position.


Basically then, we need to concentrate on every match. This is what our poor form has done. We have no breathing space, and every game must be given our utmost attention.


Forest must feel the force, and our second string must do the job, otherwise our first teamers will be suffering from exhaustion far quicker than we expect.


Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Debuchy, Elneny, Mertesacker, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck


Predicted scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal’s new defensive signing!

Rejoice! We’ve made a signing! We can relax as our defence has been bolstered by reinforcements!

Not quite, but before the naysayers pour scorn over the capture of Konstantinos Mavropanos, what can we expect from the 20 year old Greek defender who has cost reportedly around £2m?

We signed the youth starlet from Greek side PAS Giannina in the Greek Super League, and football experts from his native homeland have been raving about him since his debut in 2016, when he was just a teenager.

More importantly though, he is reportedly the first player that our new Head of Recruitment, Sven Mislintat, has been responsible for highlighting as a potential star for our team.

Making his professional debut in November 2016, he has scored three goals in a little over a season, and at six foot four inches, he is robust enough to be able to adapt to the physical challenges that the Premier League will unleash upon any new players.

He is on the international selection radar for Greece, and has already earned two Under-21 caps. His rise to prominence has been compared to another recent Greek starlet, Panagiotis Retsos, who recently was snapped up by Bayer Leverkusen at the tender age of 19, breaking the Greek transfer record in the process.

His recent displays have alerted Greek giants Olympiacos and AEK Athens, but thanks to our eagle eyed Mislintat, we have nipped in and grabbed a player who has massive potential.

Potential though, sometimes doesn’t bear fruit. As a Gooner, we know this all too well. Daniel Crowley, Jon Toral, Gedion Zelalem in recent seasons have all flattered to deceive, despite the talent they possessed. They need to have the adequate work ethic to ally with any blessings they have in skill.

Without that, they will fade into insignificance. Will Konstantinos Mavropanos be any different?

It is far too early to say. Players like Alex Iwobi and Ainslie Maitland-Niles have had moments when the jury has been out on their development, but it is clear that they have what it takes, especially when it comes to working on their game. If Mavropanos can work hard and make it count on the pitch, there will be no reason why he couldn’t make it.

If he has been rubber stamped by Sven Mislintat, then that really should fill us Gooners with a little cheer. Sven spied some world class talent from nowhere when he was at Borussia Dortmund, such as Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembele – it proves his ‘diamond eye’ moniker is entirely deserved.

It is unavoidable that frustration will flow as our rivals inevitably strengthen their side with established names that can instantly boost the team. The window is an infernal pest that is an awful creation. We may well do more business yet. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

The odds on youngsters making the grade is low, but we can have high hopes for him. If he’s good enough for Mislintat – and if we can concede that Sven knows far more than we do – then he should be good enough for us.

If this comes good, then it could be another bargain in a long list we’ve had.

For now, let’s welcome Konstantinos Mavropanos to The Arsenal.

Arsenal Vs Chelsea – Match Preview

This game is a return to The Emirates for us, which should see us turn in a decent performance, right?


Currently, we have no idea what version of our side will turn up. Our performance in our last game – the 1-1 draw against West Brom – was slow and contained very little attacking threat. We will need to raise the level well above that if we’re to win this game, as Chelsea come to The Emirates on the back of some good form.


The Blues last game was a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke, and they can afford to rotate their attack and not feel any impact. Pedro, Fabregas and Willian are just three names that can come in after not featuring regularly and freshen up tired legs. Antonio Conte will have had this game in the forefront of his mind, so to see his team win at a canter in their last game would have afforded Conte breathing space with his substitutions and his selection.


We have some real worries on the injury front. The usual suspects – Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey – are still sidelined, but our 1-1 draw against the Baggies hurt more than just our league position.


Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac both limped off in the game, and Mesut Ozil failed to make the matchday squad. All three are integral to our side, so we will be sweating on them all the way until the eve of the match. Should these three miss out, then Per Mertesacker, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi all wait for selection.


Mesut Ozil will be especially missed for this match. His absence in the 1-1 draw against Pardew’s Albion saw us plod and look out of ideas in the final third. It was clear what the German brings to the side during the game, and his brain could prove the difference between victory and defeat.


If we are to make a dent in Chelsea’s team, then it could be in the centre of the park. Tiemoue Bakayoko is a really great player, but the midfielder is struggling to maintain the levels needed for the physicality of a whole Premier League campaign. If Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere both press him and have a blinder, we could run the game and keep the ball away from dangermen Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata.


The ominous facts are that Chelsea haven’t lost in six games, and haven’t conceded in the league for four matches. They have a settled backline and have been lucky enough to avoid key injuries. If Antonio Conte can name a similar side to the one that defeated Stoke, then we may find the going tough.


On the flipside though, we are the home side that needs the points more – in the recent wins we’ve had over Conte’s side we have shown that if we take the game to them from the first whistle, then we can win it – there is no room for the methodical, slow football that we are prone to at times. Chelsea will destroy that tactic quickly.


The league table doesn’t lie. The gap between us and the top of the table is a massive one, and the gap between us and the top 4 is widening. What is clear is that the first half of the season wasn’t good enough, and we need to improve if we are to have any hope of breaking back into the Champions League. That is the aim this season, as well as a decent punt at the Europa League. If 

we fail at either, then this season will have been the worst in Wenger’s tenure.


Time to be ruthless. Win or bust. Mike Dean and co may have a bearing in the future, but if we play well enough, it shouldn’t matter.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Chambers, Xhaka, Wilshere, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Welbeck, Alexis, Lacazette.


Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

West Brom Vs Arsenal Match Preview

Our 3-2 midweek win over Crystal Palace was only our third away win of our Premier League campaign. Now we have another away game hot on the heels of this victory, as we go to The Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion.

Our recent record at the Baggies is a poor one. We’ve lost the last two visits there, and we’re sure to find the same tactics this time around, despite the change in manager. Alan Pardew doesn’t normally rely on constricting formations to get results, but he is also aware of how to frustrate Arsenal, so we can expect two rigid banks of four standing in front of our attack for the majority.

In terms of our attack, with Olivier Giroud out until at least January, Alexandre Lacazette will most likely lead the line again. Perhaps though, rotation may come into play with another midweek game on the horizon in the shape of a crunch match against Chelsea. If that is the case, then Danny Welbeck may get the nod to play against the baggies and former teammate, Kieran Gibbs.

Midfield shouldn’t see too many changes, but again with the Chelsea game looming, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny could relieve either Jack Wilshere or Granit Xhaka so they remain fresh for the blues game.

In defence, we’ll again be missing Nacho Monreal. We have a few choices to fill the gap, and Calum Chambers did his chances no harm with his performance in the win over Crystal Palace. He may have been caught out a couple of times by the trickery of Wilfried Zaha, but on the whole he performed well facing the threat.

Alan Pardew has been experimenting in recent games with his attack and has played two up top on occasion, with Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon starting together. This game will see them play on the counter and rely on set plays to trouble us. After all, why mess with a winning formula? That would most likely mean that Rondon will get the nod. Matt Phillips gives them pace on the break, and they will employ either Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak or a combination of both to sit in front of the backline. Craig Dawson has also recently returned to give them an added threat in the air.

Chelsea and Liverpool both won yesterday, keeping the gap between us and them a healthy one. We need to stay primed for when they do stumble, and the only way to do that is to keep winning. The win over Palace midweek was deserved, despite the close scoreline. If we’re honest though, if we failed to pick up maximum points from Crystal Palace and West Brom, do we really deserve a higher spot in the league?

We need to show we are worthy of a top four spot. Just because it was ours for so long, doesn’t mean we automatically qualify for it or we deserve it. The league level has definitely risen this season, and we need to show we have improved with it.

We do have the return to form of Alexis to help us, although how long this particular service is available to us is unknown. I think we should sell him if an offer comes in, but only if a player of the ilk of Riyad Mahrez or Julian Draxler were to come in to fill the gap left by the departing Chilean. We need to use Alexis while we have him, so he should be playing all the games we have in the league. Let’s put him in the shop window, if he can win us some games in the meantime, then fantastic.

West Brom will be a tough cookie, and the result will most likely come down to one goal. We need to stay patient and keep playing the game we normally do. Spread the play, pass fast and our form players will do the rest.

Let’s pick up the points and then we can move onto the Chelsea game. If we lose this game, then the match against Conte’s Blues won’t matter so much anyway. We need to win them all.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Chambers, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Crystal Palace Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Firstly, I hope you all had a great Christmas. Secondly, this game has a fair amount of reasons why it will be a severe test for our side as we look to return to winning ways and keep up with the teams above us.

Selhurst Park brings with it a terrible nightmare from last season, when we turned in one of the worst performances in recent memory in losing 3-0. The home of the Eagles is perhaps one of the most vocal of home supports, and the atmosphere will be absolutely electric.


Roy Hodgson has his team on an impressive run. No losses in the last eight games is no small feat, especially when you consider he took over Crystal Palace with the side having lost seven from seven and failing to score in any of them.


The Eagles are flying right now. They tore apart Leicester City recently, and the form of Wilfried Zaha is crucial to the team playing effectively. It leaves players like Andros Townsend and Yohann Cabaye with less pressure to deliver, and Christian Benteke is beginning to hit some semblance of form.


Bottom line, we keep Zaha quiet, we clip the wings of the Eagles.


In terms of our team, Nacho Monreal limped off in our draw with Liverpool, and luckily for us, Shkodran Mustafi has just returned from injury, so we have a replacement to partner Laurent Koscielny. Olivier Giroud’s hamstring will keep him out until at least late January, so the reliance on Alexandre Lacazette will be a big one for goals.


Aaron Ramsey is still out, but the form of Jack Wilshere shows the Englishman has taken his chance with both hands. Jack has been excellent since slotting in after Ramsey’s injury, and when Rambo does return, he may find an instant return to the side a little harder than first imagined.


Goals don’t seem to be an issue, and we’ve gone on a run in previous games when our defence has been watertight. What is an immediate issue is our tempo. In some games we are devoid of it, and yet it is our greatest weapon. When we play with pace we ally it with our close control and intricate passing and it can be unstoppable. The trouble is, we rarely go through the gears for longer than five minutes.


This will have to change to silence the Palace crowd, who can really give the home players a boost. They will be aware of our atrocious away record – two away wins this Premier League season – and they will make life extremely difficult for our players.


This game needs to be the renaissance of our away performances. It needs to herald the turnaround if we are to catch Liverpool, tottenham and Chelsea. These teams all won on Boxing Day and the pressure is on us to grab the points.


We have another away game against West Brom this weekend, the games are coming thick and fast. The tests will continue, and we really need maximum points from both. If we fail to do this, then the gap will grow and we can foresee another season of missed targets.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis, Lacazette.


Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.