Category Archives: injuries

The Nearly Men XI

It’s sometimes better to not have experienced something, if all you are ever going to get is a tantalising glimpse.

We have had players at Arsenal that have burned brightly, but their light was extinguished all too quickly. It leaves us with that frustrating feeling of ‘what could have been.’

That feeling is bittersweet, as we latch onto those moments where these players showed us that they were capable of lifting entire teams on their shoulders, or being a beacon of excellence in their position. It is juxtaposed with longing, as we wish that the unfortunate circumstances that winked their light out was a little more forgiving.

Now that we have entered a new decade, nostalgia is stronger than ever, as we look back at the events of ten years. But how about we look back on the players that we wish were still in our colours, and had the opportunity to unfurl their potential a little more than their last attempt?

Here is the team of ‘What Could Have Been.’ An entire eleven who we saw soar high, but far too briefly.

 

GK – Wojciech Szczesny

The Pole showed us exactly what he could do in his time here, but ill-discipline cost him the number one jersey for consecutive seasons. He loved the club and his celebrations post NLD victory only served to endear him to us more. So when he was sold to Juventus, and then went on to become number one at the famous Turin club, it only exacerbated those feelings of ‘what could have been.’ He should be putting those performances in for us – but alas.

 

RB – Mathieu Debuchy

The Frenchman arrived from Newcastle after putting in consistently excellent seasons on Tyneside. A French international, he began on the front foot with us and showed us all that the purchase was an astute one, but a shoulder injury in his first season was the start of his downfall, and when he returned from his lengthy layoff, he had Hector Bellerin in his way. When he did find his way back into the team, he exhibited again why he was such a great player, only in a different manner as he filled in at centreback. Injuries would again hamper him though, and Debuchy eventually limped out of the club to join St Etienne. He made only 13 appearances for us in four years.

 

CB – Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgian got off to a wondrous start as an Arsenal man, scoring plenty and leading from the front. He was a cultured defender and could play out from the back, so much so that he was touted by many to be a fine alternative to our defensive midfield problems at the time. Vermaelen was a great example to younger players, but again, injuries bit hard. His performances dropped as he struggled to reach the heights of his first two seasons, and he eventually left for, incredibly, Barca.

 

CB – Chris Whyte

There will be a few unfamiliar with Whyte, but the Arsenal schoolboy had plenty of rave reviews as he broke into the Arsenal first team in 1981. He earned caps at U-21 level for England and under the wing of David O’Leary, he seemed destined to make a big name for himself.

A change in manager and a new signing left Whyte out in the cold though, and Tony Adams emergence only further dropped Whyte down the pecking order.

He left on a free transfer, but with no takers for his services, he left for the USA indoor league. After two years, West Brom offered him a deal and in his first season, he was their Player of the Year. A transfer to Leeds Utd followed, and he was a constant presence for the next three seasons, and a top-flight title winner. If we had kept hold of him, it was evident that Whyte had the talent. Right man, wrong time.

 

LB – Silvinho

The Brazilian joined Arsene Wenger’s revolution in 1999 and spent only two seasons at the club, but the unearthing of Ashley Cole served to put him in the backup role. He didn’t put a foot wrong as a player, and scored a wonderful goal against Chelsea that will live long in the memory. He became a full international with Brazil in his time at our club and was also in the PFA team of the year. He went on to join Celta Vigo and then Barcelona, where he twice won the Champions League.

 

LM – Tomas Rosicky

Little Mozart. Arsene Wenger once said “If you love football, then you love Rosicky.” Everyone who saw him play for us could see what he gave us. Truly blessed with a velvet touch, a howitzer of a shot and an astute footballing brain, injuries curtailed the amount of times he played for us, but in a decade at the club, he gave us memories to cherish. Trouble is, it should have been more. What a special player.

 

CM – Abou Diaby

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He could’ve been a world-class box-to-box midfielder, but a dirty tackle by no-mark Dan Smith of Sunderland, crumpled his ankle and he was never the same again. His time on the injury books was ridiculous, but Arsenal were loath to give up on such a special talent. In the end, it was clear he would never come back, and Diaby is perhaps the one player who we missed the most of. He could have been our dynamic force for years.

 

CM – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst

The Dutch man was used as a wing-back and a winger in his short time at Arsenal and did nothing really spectacular in his time with us. He then left and joined Barca, won a Champions League and captained his country to a World Cup Final. We missed a trick here.

RW – Santi Cazorla

The Spanish magician is still revered by those who saw him. Truly two-footed, his talent meant he could have played anywhere on the pitch, but it was his first – and his last season where we saw him shine brightest. In his debut season he was utilised as a number ten and he was our Player of the Season. In his last full season he was paired with Francis Coquelin in the centre and showed tenacity as well as exceptional ball-carrying to give us new life. A horror injury threatened his very career but at the ripe age of 35 he is still doing it at the top level. We never got to say goodbye though.

 

CF – Eduardo

Only 41 appearances, and only 8 goals, but there was a short spell, just before that unforgettably nightmarish injury he suffered, where everything he touched turned to gold. An expert marksmen, he scored goals wherever he went and no one can be in any doubt that if it weren’t for the injury, he would have racked up the goals for many seasons.

 

CF – Nicolas Anelka

If only this young man wasn’t so badly advised, we would have had a goal machine for years. Anelka was the reason why Wrighty left, cutting the icon’s appearances down so that he felt he must leave to get more games. The youngster went on to bang them in with alacrity, being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year in the process. Real Madrid came calling for big money and we cashed in as Anelka wanted to leave and while he achieved success elsewhere, if he had stayed he could have become a legend. Still, maybe it’s a good thing he left as a certain French compatriot joined soon after to fill the void…

 

Am I missing anyone? Was there a player you think is missing?

 

Give me a shout!

Missing Personnel – Do We Finally Have Squad Depth?

Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.

After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.

Not easy to do after the way last season ended.

The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.

None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.

The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.

Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.

With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.

Holding and Bellerin

The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.

Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.

It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.

This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.

Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?

Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?

What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?

One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?

We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.

Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?

For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.

It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.

I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…

The Best of Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny’s injury suffered during our Europa League Semi-Final not only ended his season, but his World Cup dream.

He had to watch from the sidelines as his compatriots enjoyed the perfect World Cup, lifting the famous trophy to be crowned World Champions.

All while Koscielny was nursing himself nearer to a return to the pitch.

It must have been pretty difficult to overcome the knowledge that if it weren’t for his achilles injury, the defender would have gotten his hands on the World Cup. It is a thought that is perfectly designed to torment for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

Koscielny stuck gamely to his task and now we have our club captain back and available for selection – but is his Arsenal career now merely passing the torch to his students?

Koscielny has been a fine defender for us. His arrival in 2011 was pretty unheralded, despite the relatively high transfer fee. We saw a rough but adept defender, who resembled Kolo Toure in style, but with a shorter temper.

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Koscielny always had a tendency to jump into tackles, giving away needless set-plays thanks to his penchant for going to ground. It took years to coach out of him, but for the last five seasons, Koscielny, has been amongst the greatest defenders to grace the Premier League.

His reading of the game benefitted from partnering the sage Per Mertesacker. His aerial ability has always been strong, and his strength belies his streamlined physique. Koscielny’s greatest asset though?

His undying loyalty.

The Frenchman stayed with us through the miasma of struggles we have endured. In the seven years he has been with us, approaching eight, Kos has seen many stars depart for greener pastures, he has seen seasons crumble into the abyss, he has been humbled by the odd thrashing.

Yet, much like how we herald the fact that the likes of Rosicky stayed during times of distress and precious little success, Kos too did the same thing. He stayed because he loves the club, and we adore him too.

This is why we must keep Kos in amongst the squad. He has much to teach the likes of Medley, Holding, Chambers and others pushing through. He can show them what it means to put on the jersey, he can show them about recovering from a mistake, or when a partner leaves a path open.

Kos can pass on his learnings from seasons of under-par partners, from under-strength squads. He may have lost the peak abilities he once had, but he still has enough to see he is one of our stronger defenders, and is well worthy of a place.

We may have seen the best of Koscielny, but no one wants to see him go just yet. He deserves every bit of our respect.

Square Pegs In Round Holes – Xhaka at LB?

Injury fiasco’s are commonplace for football clubs.

Especially if you’re an Arsenal fan.

We know exactly what it takes when ailments, suspensions and plain bad luck conspire to rob you of a recognised position. In the past five or six seasons, we have seen players shoehorned into a slot that is a stranger to them. We’ve seen Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal use their defensive nous at centre-back. We have also had Mohamed Elneny play in the centre of defence, as well as Bacary Sagna.

As you can see, it has been in defence that we have mainly suffered. Of course, we have had our fair share of crises in midfield and attack, but when it comes to contorting a player so they fit into an alien position? It is always in the backline.

It has happened again this season, as we have been blighted by injury at full-back.

So much so, that Granit Xhaka has been chosen to play at left-back on more than one occasion.

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What is it though, that made Unai Emery choose our Swiss midfielder to play in the role?

Perhaps the answer can be found with the aforementioned previous instances.

When Sagna, Elneny, Debuchy and Monreal were chosen by Wenger to fulfill a role in the heart of defence, it was because they were well versed in the defensive script. Debuchy had a fantastic aerial ability for a player of average height. Monreal is a classy player who can adapt to most roles, Sagna was strong in the tackle, and Elneny?

The Egyptian is a solid player, one who will always give his all and never let the side down. He is also decent in the air and at winning the ball. A switch to the centre of defence is a natural move for Elneny given his playing style.

But Xhaka playing at full-back? Especially when our team methods involve a heavy amount of metronome-like activity from the left and right-backs?

Xhaka isn’t blessed with the ability to track runners. The Swiss man though, has an excellent tank on him, and can win the ball if given the opportunity. Since Emery arrived, Xhaka has been transformed too.

Xhaka has confessed that the arrival of Lucas Torreira has allowed him to play his natural game, which links up defence and attack with a swift ball. Does that translate to left-back though?

A certain amount of Unai’s decision to make Xhaka the left-back comes down to the commitment that Xhaka gives. He takes his role as part-Skipper seriously, and his desire to win is clear for all to see.

The proof is in the pudding though. How did Xhaka perform in his unfamiliar role?

He didn’t let anyone down and was solid, if unspectacular. There was no bombing forward a la Monreal and Kolasinac, although he did get forward at times. He put defending first and foremost, and there were precious few opportunities from the left flank that Xhaka gave away.

The decision still causes a few head scratches. Alex Iwobi (yes, Iwobi. The boy tracks back,) Zach Medley, Carl Jenkinson, Elneny. Just a few names that would have appeared a little higher in a list of prospective left-backs. Yet Xhaka was named and he did a decent job.

It just shows that the coach knows more than we do!

Newcastle Vs Arsenal PL Preview – What You Need To Know

The inane international break is over, and we can now look forward to proper football returning.

 

We travel to St James Park to take on Newcastle, who haven’t enjoyed the best start to their season, and are currently winless.

 

That only tells half the story though.

 

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Rafa Benitez has overseen a horrible run of just one win in nine games, and on paper this is a great chance to pick up a valuable away win.

 

If we want to get a taste of how tough this game will be, we just need to look at their last game – a narrow 2-1 loss to Champions City. The toon were mightily unlucky not to grab a point in this game, and their defence is looking a darn sight tougher than our own.

 

With our defence, even a slightly toothless attack like Newcastle’s have a chance – as we will probably gift them opportunities like we have in every one of our games thus far. In fact, we are averaging an exact two goals conceded in every game.

 

We only have ourselves to blame as we struggle to adapt to Emery’s tactics, but Newcastle will look to hit on the break. If our midfield doesn’t track back, we could open the door for the home team.

 

Team News

 

Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Laurent Koscielny are all ahead of schedule in their fight to start first team training, but are not close to making this game or the next few for that matter. Alex Iwobi is back for selection after missing our win over Cardiff with illness. The question is though, will Lacazette and Aubameyang start together again and strengthen their bond? Or will Emery play it safe for a hard away trip?

 

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez will be glad to have the services of Jonjo Shelvey again, and Matt Ritchie is also back. These two will likely represent the best chance the home team have of causing us problems, and they will be looking to feed Joselu, as Salomon Rondon only returned from international duty a few days ago.

 

Predictions

 

This game could be a real banana skin for us. Jonjo Shelvey returning could inspire the Toon, and the last time we played them at St James Park we lost 2-1 back in October.

 

Benitez has set his team up to frustrate and the fact that Newcastle have the lowest number of passes this season is evidence of a teak-tough team.

 

We may need a better defensive presence than Granit Xhaka, so Lucas Torreira could come in and mark the England midfielder. Matteo Guendouzi could make way, but it isn’t in midfield that our fans will be looking at in team selection.

 

Will Auba and Laca start? Which one will drop?

 

If Emery is keeping things tight, then Iwobi could come straight in at the expense of one of our star strikers, with an option on the bench to change things should the game get ugly.

 

Either way, we will need our star men to shine if we are to leave St James Park with the points and continue our recovery.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette

 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Cardiff Vs Arsenal Match News

Off the mark, but not out of the woods.

 

That would be a fair assessment of last week’s win over West Ham.

 

There are a few negatives to take from the victory last weekend over the Hammers, but there were far more positives to show that Unai Emery’s new regime is kicking into gear, although it is far from the finished article.

 

Our defence is probably the most worrisome point of conjecture. West Ham on more than one occasion took great delight in probing our high line, and while we held firm, Petr Cech saved us on a few openings we should never have had.

 

Still, it is a work in progress, and with a visit to shot-shy Cardiff, we can hold out hope that this game will see our first clean sheet of the season.

 

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To be honest though, three points and a decent performance would suffice for most!

 

Team News

 

Emery revealed in his press conference that Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson are still some way from being fit, with the Bosnian the nearest to returning to first-team training.

 

Mesut Ozil has recovered from illness and will most likely play a part, but will it be from the bench? The refreshing thing about Emery is that he is giving all players a chance, but poor performances are seeing changes – just ask Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil himself.

 

We could see the much heralded duo of  Lacazette and Aubameyang start together for the first time. With Neil Warnock enjoying two clean sheets from his first three league games, the emphasis will be on our side to break down a stubborn, rigid and packed defence.

 

I have a hunch that Torreira may make his first start ahead of Guendouzi, given the physical edge that Cardiff will exert on us. The Uruguayan will relish the battle.

 

That will be a lot easier with both our French and Gabon strikers on the pitch simultaneously.

 

Our Opponent

 

Warnock has two 0-0 draws and an opening day defeat so far, and midweek saw them humbled by Championship side Norwich. The experienced Bluebirds manager will see that Arsenal still haven’t cemented their defensive style, so set plays will be decisive.

 

He will have to make do without Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, after he was injured last weekend, and the pace he would have offered would have been a valuable outlet. No goals so far, but that isn’t to say they will be without a threat.

 

Predictions

 

Cardiff are looking not only for their first win, but their first goal of this Premier League season, and I’ve got a horrible feeling they’ll get it in some horrible mess of a scramble in our box.

 

I do think we’ll win though, and I think it will be comprehensive.  It all hinges on if we can break them early. Warnock will be keen to frustrate us, so an early goal would change the complexion of Warnock’s tactics.

 

If we score inside the first half – I think a 4-1 win.  If we don’t, then I’m going for a 2-1, and an awkward game for all concerned. It is no coincidence that Cardiff’s opponents in the last two games have had red cards. They know how to fight.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang

Arsenal Vs West Ham Match Preview

What appears to be Unai Emery’s true test of how far he has taken this squad is now about to start.

 

After our first two games pitted us against the reigning champions and then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Emery will be keen to see how we fare against more run-of-the-mill opposition – as will we all.

 

West Ham actually are in a similar position to us, including league position. Both winless from our first two games, both clubs have a new regime in place, both teams have a fair amount of new personnel – West Ham significantly more so.

 

The Hammers spent a fair wedge this summer, and Manuel Pellegrini is tasked with the gelling of the team. The signings have been impressive – Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko alone would make most European squads, but mashing them into a team is another matter entirely, and the Hammers have suffered so far.

Still, it’s early days for both clubs, but there can be no underestimating how big this game is. Whoever comes out of this fixture with the L will have zero points from three games, and the pressure mounts.

Plus, we’ve got the added drama of Jack coming back to The Emirates – let’s hope it’s not a happy reunion.

 

 

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TEAM NEWS

 

Emery is without Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac for this fixture and the foreseeable future – all defenders.

 

The same central defensive pairing should play this game, as Emery will be keen to forge some form of partnership between Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, although they both need to grasp these new instructions a bit firmer if we are to hold out hope of shutting out the Hammers.

 

In midfield, Emery was quick to sub Granit Xhaka at half time in our loss to Chelsea, so we could see new boy Lucas Torreira line up with Matteo Guendouzi – a very young but incredibly vibrant engine room.

 

We are all waiting to see if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will line up alongside Alexandre Lacazette, and with both such shining talents, our future must include both on the pitch at the same time, at least when we are not expected to struggle too much. Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are raring to go in attack, but Alex Iwobi played well last time out and could push for another start.

 

Prediction

 

It is incredibly hard to assess how this game will pan out, but with both teams struggling in defence, there is a chance this could rain goals. Both eleven’s will be resplendent with attacking jewels, and the best form of defence is attack.

 

We do have to be wary of the old pals act – namely Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez. It is a common thing for ex-players to come back and haunt their old clubs, and this would smart just a little. Wilshere will most likely start this game at his old home, and Lucas will be pushing to play a part too.

 

Cech has impressed in goal since getting the nod over new boy Bernd Leno and he could be busy, but if our attack comes good, then we should grab the points.

 

I’m plumping for a 3-1 win today. I think both Auba and Laca will break their ducks for the season too, if they play I don’t think West Ham have enough defensively to quieten them for 90 minutes.

 

I do think West Ham will score though, and it could be a nail-biting afternoon, but I hope to see the Guendouzi who has impressed since joining, and Lucas Torreira doing what he does best.

 

We should have enough to grab the points here and get Emery’s era off to a proper start.

 

Chelsea Vs Arsenal PL Match Preview

An opening loss against Manchester City makes this game that little bit tougher, as we go to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea.

 

The fixture list wasn’t kind to Arsenal, and had no reprieve for Unai Emery’s new regime, with the last two winners of the Premier League as our opening two opponents. It means Unai Emery may be waiting a wee while before getting his first win.

 

Still, Blues boss Mauricio Sarri is also dealing with a new club and new players, so this game will be a truer vision of where we stand for this current campaign. We have a better chance in this game than against a rampant and unmatched City team, and Emery will have watched Chelsea’s opening day win over Huddersfield very closely for any signs of weakness that we can exploit.

 

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We could change a few things in our team, but one of them won’t be who takes the gloves. Emery alluded to the fact that Cech will again start the game in his press conference, ahead of summer signing Bernd Leno, so the Czech stopper will get the chance to play against his former team.

 

Our defence will be boosted by the return of Nacho Monreal – and just in the nick of time. With Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles out for the foreseeable, the Spaniard will be a welcome addition. Stephan Lichtsteiner played well on the left, and his solidarity and experience at the back may just oust Hector Bellerin in this tough away fixture.

 

In midfield, another summer signing, Lucas Torreira, may come in to tighten things up in the face of Jorginho and Kante. Matteo Guendouzi played well against City despite his errors, and his mobility and transitional play were a highlight, and could be vital at The Bridge.

 

A lot has been said about incorporating Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette into the same side, but this game may see Lacazette remain on the bench, and Emery may wait to unleash both players together for a slightly less fraught game where defensive solidarity will be just as important as firepower.

 

It will see Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil play just behind the Gabon striker, and our bench should be a strong one, with Lacazette, Iwobi, Welbeck and perhaps Xhaka waiting to come on when needed.

 

Our recent record versus Chelsea is strong, but on our last six visits to Stamford Bridge, we have one point, with very few goals to show for it too. We have lacked in away games versus the so called ‘Top6’ in the last few seasons – a win here would show that Emery is making good progress on our squad.

 

Our new coach will be looking to squeeze the best out of his squad, but this will take some time to achieve, so a tight game is on the cards. Expect Chelsea to hit us hard, and with Hazard ready to start after appearing as a late sub last weekend, we know how we could be hurt if we lose concentration.

 

Then there is the small matter of Olivier Giroud making an appearance, with most fans still affectionate for the French striker. Giroud may start too, as Morata is desperately short of confidence in front of goal.

 

Three points is a big ask, but with an attack as potent as ours, if we click then we can take the win. We will have to utilise our pressing and make precious few errors though, as Chelsea looked in great shape in their win over Huddersfield.

 

Keep the faith Gooners – and remember that we need patience to see the fruits of Emery’s work. UTA.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang.

 

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Welbeck the Team Player

We Gooners can be an affectionate bunch.

The term ‘fan favourite’ is one that can be applied to many of our past and present players, and the parameters to attain this level of adoration – for Arsenal players – are wider than most fanbases.

Remember John Jensen? The Dane came to Arsenal off the back of an incredible Euro92 campaign with Denmark, and proceeded to score a solitary goal in his four years as a Gunner. Yes, he was a decent tackler, but in the cold light of day, it wasn’t his performances that keep him memorable.

The same can be said of a few others, where their skills on the turf may not have been made tangible for all of us to see, but the mere mention of their name brings forth a nostalgic grin.

Danny Welbeck is not one of those players who never showed us what he can do. On the contrary, ‘Dat Guy’ was full of nifty touches in and around the box, with a decent awareness and a hell of a tank on him to boot, that allowed him to mercilessly track up and down whatever flank he was tasked with.

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The bottom line for a striker though, is goals – and Welbeck never got close to what was needed in this one area.

Welbz did however, score some memorable and important goals. Who can forget his Cup goal versus his former team? Or his goal after returning from a nightmare injury – a five minute cameo that gave us a late win over Champions-to-be Leicester?

Welbeck came up with the goods in so many ways, just not the way that a striker is judged on – and now with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and young upstart Eddie Nketiah all vying for a striking spot in this new regime – do we have room for affection?

Olivier Giroud was a prime example of this. The Frenchman gave so much more than goals – his hold up play and touch to bring in others were superb. When compared to Welbeck he could even be described as prolific – but his lack of a killer edge in the box meant he was surplus to requirements, despite the love we had – and still do – for him.

Welbeck has scored 15 goals in 80 appearances in our shirt. Yet for England, he has a ratio of nearly a goal every other game. The way he is utilised is key – when donning the three lions, he is first and foremost a striker – but at Arsenal, he is so much more.

Welbeck’s performances and talents for our club benefit the whole team. Play him on the left or the right and you keep it far tighter than if you were to play another wide forward, and your attack is knitted together that little more succinctly too. He constantly runs, stretching defences who are forced to track his tireless darting, and this means space that our more ruthless attackers can profit from.

Sometimes, you need players who are selfless. Welbeck in the eleven means better cohesion. Doesn’t it speak volumes that he can play across the whole forward line and still make a massive difference? Welbeck is a squad player we can trust – and one we have faith in – just not in front of goal.

If an offer comes in for the England man, no one could have any qualms with him moving on in search of minutes on the pitch.

Still, if we could offload Joel Campbell and a few others rather than Welbeck, then our squad – especially when the games come thick and fast – would wholly benefit and be stronger for Welbeck’s inclusion.

He is Dat Guy for a reason.

Arsenal Vs City PL Match Preview

Finally, the new season begins.

 

Finally, the new Arsenal era begins.

 

Unai Emery’s first step in his Gunners journey to take the club back to the top of the game sees perhaps his toughest test of the season – against Champions Manchester City.

 

Emery has acted early in his efforts to fill the gaps in the squad, with five signings early in the window, and those signings may well be involved in some capacity, if our pre-season results are anything to go by.

 

That’s the kicker – for the first time in quite some time, we have no idea what formation or lineup Arsenal will have before they kickoff – and it’s mighty refreshing.

 

Emery has a hell of a task to get off to a winning start, but if there is a right time to play City, it is right now.

 

Unai-Emery-to-Arsenal-963894

 

With a host of their players either only just returning, or still on leave after their World Cup efforts, they will have a mixture of a weak and tired team, and they will be far from their strongest.

 

Still, a point would be good enough, especially as this is Emery’s first proper game in charge.

 

Let the games begin!

 

Team News

 

Emery will be unable to call upon club captain Laurent Koscielny until at least December, and Sead Kolasinac is out for around ten weeks. In terms of other injuries, Nacho Monreal has returned to first team training, but will not be risked, with Emery declaring in his first press conference that youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be given the job of holding down the left flank. Aaron Ramsey should be fit for the game.

 

In terms of who makes the team, who knows? If Emery is looking to keep it tight and hit on the break, then Lichtsteiner will be preferred to Bellerin. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis look to be the preferred pairing in the centre, with AMN coming in on the left.

 

In midfield, Matteo Guendouzi has impressed, and Lucas Torreira will most likely be eventual first choice defensive midfielder, but both will be an outside bet of making the eleven. Guendouzi’s lack of experience will cost him, although a spot on the bench is still testament to how good he is and how highly he is rated. Lucas Torreira has not been in training for long enough to be a guaranteed start, so it could well be last season’s pairing of Ramsey and Xhaka – but Xhaka should benefit from a much clearer idea of his role this season.

 

We have an embarrassment of riches up top, but it is unclear who will play after some heavy rotation by Emery in pre-season. Most likely will be that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be a wide forward, with Lacazette playing as a more traditional number 9, both being supplemented by the able talents of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil.

 

City will have the force of Aguero and Jesus available, and both Silva’s should be able to be called upon, although Mahrez should get the nod too, with Sterling still unavailable.

 

Pep has only signed Mahrez thus far, but his squad was already filled with talent, so a heavy recruitment drive was never on the cards. They will arrive at The Emirates with a gameplan, and we need to apply Emery’s instructions to the letter if we are to succeed.

 

We lost emphatically on three occasions to City last season, as we stumbled to 6th place and lost in the League Cup final. Things are a little different now, and we should at least provide a stiffer test than what we produced back then.

Let’s embrace the unknown!

 

Fingers crossed the Emery Era begins with a bang – and 3 points! UTA

 

Predicted Lineup – Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, AMN, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-2