Category Archives: matchday

Stoke Vs Arsenal Preview

The Premiership came back with a bang last week, and Arsenal’s win over Leicester showed the good and bad of the League.

A hatful of goals and some diabolical defending – mostly from our own motley crew – meant we were left biting our nails for the whole match, with late goals sealing the points.

While we can castigate our side over our naivety regarding Leicester’s ‘highly original’ gameplan, we must remember a couple of things.

Firstly, the defence that lined up was a patchwork quilt of a backline, with our three first choice central defenders out through a combination of injury and suspension.

Secondly, the defending may be partially blamed on Arsene Wenger, but he can also take credit for the inspired substitutions which grabbed us the points. Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud snaffled us the points from a losing position, but will they be part of the team?

If Giroud gets a spot, that would mean either Alexandre Lacazette being benched or we change formation. Wenger isn’t a big fan of changing a winning team, and rightfully so. Lacazette also scored last week, and the new French striker should get the chance to pit himself against the quintessential English defence in Stoke.

Aaron Ramsey though, should have a better chance of coming back into the side, at the expense of Mohamed Elneny. It wasn’t a case of the Egyptian having a bad game, but more that Ramsey and Xhaka look like the first choice pairing and Wenger will want to play them together as much as possible to forge a stronger bond between the pair.

Alexis Sanchez’s story looks like it will never end, with his Instagram antics being extrapolated in a vain bid to find out where his future lies. His immediate future is not in the side though, as his abdominal strain will keep him out again. Wenger stated in his Presser though, that he should be OK for next week against Liverpool at Anfield.

Mesut Ozil was not effective against Leicester, and looked way off the pace. Every game will give him a step nearer to where he needs to be, so expect the German to play. In regards to our defence, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi should be fit to play against Stoke, so a firmer rearguard is on the horizon, although Koscielny is still suspended.

Stoke have some players to hurt us, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan able to play at the highest level, but consistency evades them. 

However, on their day they are a handful and we must be watchful. It is their defence though, that looks strongest.

With Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea and Ryan Shawcross an excellent aerial defender, the Potters are equipped to not only stave off set-pieces, but also pose a threat from their own. 

They also have in their ranks Jese on loan from PSG, so their attack may be hard to predict. Will Peter Crouch bombard us? Or will the Spanish new boy be given a shot?

We have a record at the Britannia that must be improved. Two wins from ten games shows a weakness when visiting the Potteries, and Mark Hughes will be keen to extend this. A win for the Gunners though, could show that this season is where our backbone has become evident and where it needs to be to be considered a title contender.

We may all be consumed with ins and outs at The Emirates, but let us not lose sight of the real reason we obsess over signings – and that is to win games. We have a game, an important one. Let us forget about the infernal window and support the team.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – Stoke 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – 5 Key Stats From The Game

Arsenal progressed serenely to the Quarter-Final stage of the EFL Cup, with a straightforward victory over Jaap Stam’s Reading side, as Arsene Wenger gave many of his young talents a chance to shine on the big stage.

I was lucky enough to attend this game, and after the pilgrimage to Piebury and The Tollington, myself,  @GreeneBantern and @SimplyEnigmatic made our way to the stadium. 

Just as we left the watering hole, the team was announced, and it was fair to say the biggest surprise was seeing Ainslie Maitland-Niles named in the centre of midfield. Whilst the talent is there, to be given a central role is a huge responsibility and it must have been an honour and extra pressure simultaneously for the youngster.

Just before we entered The Emirates, I must add that I saw a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. A fellow Gooner and an erudite chap, it was honestly great to shoot the breeze after so long. 

Arsenal really does have the capacity to improve your day! 

Back to the game, and Martinez once again started in goal, but it was in defence that perhaps carried most danger. 

The seats we had in the East Stand allowed for excellent viewing, and they provided us with the chance to really dissect each performance. It was like a FIFA game, as we were level with the halfway line, as opposed to our usual seats in the North Bank. 

The promising Rob Holding was alongside Gabriel in the heart of the backline. Normally the requirement for an inexperienced defender is to be partnered with a seasoned veteran, and the rash Brazilian is not exactly the sage influence that would soothe a fretting 21 year old.

We needn’t have worried.

Mohamed Elneny continued in the centre of midfield, and the attack looked full of vibrancy, with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide just behind Lucas Perez as the sole striker.

The last few occasions we have faced the Royals, they have provided the sternest of tests, but new coach Jaap Stam seems to have instructed his team to play calmly and play out from the back, which played into the hands of the Gunners.

We started well, and fan favourite Carl Jenkinson had a great chance to break the deadlock, only for Royals keeper Ali Al-Habsi to parry, and Jenkinson could only head the second chance over.

Reading stood off Arsenal, inviting the young home team to try and play around them – and on a few occasions we did.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the man who put Arsenal a goal up, and it was the away teams insistence on starting moves from the back which gave The Ox a chance to shoot as two Reading defenders backed off – and he simply picked out the far corner. 

It stemmed from the pressure we put on a flustered defence, but the pressing died a little as Reading started to push a little, but it seemed as if Arsenal could break through at will.

The Ox’s second goal came from Rob Holding beating his man on the right of the penalty area, and when second half substitute Olivier Giroud laid the ball off, The Ox fired a bullet toward goal. A deflection meant it eluded Al-Habsi – and the key deflection may just have come from Alex Iwobi.

There was much more to see during the ninety minutes, but here are five points that occurred on the pitch that are worth reading about:

Elneny Man of the Match

The Egyptian’s first start Vs Middlesbrough in the weekend showed how rusty from lack of minutes Elneny was. This game required a steady hand on the tiller though. So many kids on the pitch that need an experienced colleague to dictate when required, and Elneny was that man. So often he was the player who put his foot on the ball and sprayed it wide to stretch play. So often he won possession when Reading were just starting to build a head of steam. Elneny was the player we needed, and he showed that he is more than able.

The Ox deserves some credit

Too often I have written of the Ox’s failures, but his display in this match showed his maturity and initiative. We are all aware he has the talent, but in this game, he was the player who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the flat spots of play, and he made things happen. He was also defensively diligent, which is a rare occurrence. I dearly hope this is a turned corner, as he was a delight to watch.

Rob Holding is all that

With a central defensive pairing of Gabriel and Holding, the potential for disaster was high. Not that they are incompetent, but chemistry is a huge factor for centre-backs, and these two have not played together since pre-season. Plus, Gabriel is known to be a tad on the rash side, but this game needed him to be the wise head for his younger partner. However, Holding showed positional astuteness, great instincts, and his physicality was just as good as his Brazilian colleague. Holding looked like a defender about six or seven years his senior. If he continues his trajectory, then greatness beckons. A really classy game for Holding.

Reading should have pressed

If the Royals had adjusted their game plan according to the Arsenal teamsheet, then they would have harried their opposition. A less-experienced player is usually more inclined to panic on the big stage, but Reading kept to their gameplan, which meant they would invite pressure and when in possession, attempt to pass and move. They didn’t, thankfully, give Arsenal as many nightmares as in previous cup games, but to be fair to Arsenal, I think that they would have coped. Still, Jaap Stam could have thrown caution to the wind.

Lucas Perez looks tasty

The swarthy Spaniard was given another shot as he was in the previous round, and although he didn’t register on the scoresheet or provide an assist, this performance was maybe a little more telling. Lucas was industrious, and harried as much as he could in his lone role. He had little to work with, but his endeavours were worthy of a reward he never received in the form of a goal. If he continues to put in as much effort as he did in this game, then he will be a fantastic asset.

There was much more to write about. Much has been made of the man known only as ‘Jeff,’ and he was tidy enough in possession, but there was little thrills or spills from the exciting talent. His time will come. Alex Iwobi looked a little tired but that is completely understandable, and Jenkinson impressed on the right of defence. Also worth noting is Keiran Gibbs, who played in the stalemate in the weekend, but showed no ill-effects. He led the line well as Skipper.

All in all, a comfortable enough victory, but not without a spirited if uninspired opposition. The future rounds will be tougher, but the fact we are still in the cup should be celebrated. It gives our fringe players a vital runout, and any chance for silverware should be embraced.

Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool – A Little Perspective 

The feeling around the fans prior to kickoff wasn’t exactly laden with optimism, but none could have foreseen the crazy second half which proved our undoing.

Much of the consternation was located at our defence – and who would play with the absences of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.

Wenger, after making several points about experience being required in the back line – then went with 20-year-old Rob Holding and 21-year-old Calum Chambers. 

Left-back Nacho Monreal was expected to slot inside to lend a hand, but was named in his usual position. 

It was to prove decisive.

The first half went according to plan for the Gunners. Klopp’s men were shackled well by the youthful exuberance of Holding and Chambers, and when chances were created – they were ours.

Theo Walcott, the man facing a big fight to win over his doubters, started well. Tracking back, fighting for every ball – and making his marker Alberto Moreno look a fool repeatedly.

It was this mismatch that granted us a penalty, as Moreno lunged at the ball which had changed direction suddenly thanks to Theo’s first touch. 

It was Theo who dusted himself off to take the penalty. Simon Mignolet was his equal though, but in truth the penalty was at an optimal height for the Belgian.

Only two minutes later though, Walcott wasn’t to be denied. It speaks volumes for his spirit that he took Alex Iwobi’s pass with a great touch, and finished so well into the far corner.

The rest of the half played out with the Gunners in control, right up until Philippe Coutinho was granted a free kick 25yds out and curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

Justice? Hardly, but what was to come in the second half would be far worse….

Four minutes after the restart, Adam Lallana chested a pass down and finished into the far corner. He took it well, but after a strong first half, Calum Chambers was pulled out of position too easily. 

Seven minutes later, Coutinho had his second. Nineteen passes were involved in the buildup to the goal, with the Brazilian slotting home.

The ire from the fans started to build, and soon enough, reached a crescendo.

Sadio Mane drove at Arsenal’s defence, cutting in and leaving Monreal for dead. A thunderous finish left Cech no chance, and droves of the crowd left the stadium in disgust. Boos rang out from the crowd.

Within twenty minutes, our inexperience had cost us dearly. Blitzed. They had coped admirably but they couldn’t cope with the one spell of dominance Liverpool had.

A minute later, after Rambo and Iwobi had come off injured to add to Wenger’s woes, one of the substitutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain, finally showed what he is capable of, with a good run and finish to pull a goal back.

On the seventy-fifth minute, another goal was pulled back. Santi Cazorla whizzed a free kick into the danger zone and Chambers glanced past Mignolet.

Despite the twenty minute horror show, the spirit to come back and make a fist of it was good to see. The comeback was not to be completed, but there were performances to raise levels of hope a little.

There needs to be a cold, hard look at our lack of investment. There needs to be inspection upon our tactics after we concede. 

Our season isn’t over though, and players shouldn’t be consigned to the exit for the portion of play that lost us the game. 

What is clear is that these mistakes cannot continue if we are to push on.  

What is clear is that conceding four goals at home is hardly the mark of belief and talent that our Manager purports we possess. 

One centre back was making his debut in the Premier League. The other has a severe lack of experience – but neither can be earmarked as not good enough. Not yet. 

The blame for this lies at Wenger’s feet. He has the power to rectify. 

Wenger, it’s all on you. 

Premier League Preview 2016/17 – With Dohyo, the Prediction App.

This season promises to be the most hotly contested yet – but every season we think this, so why does this campaign look like the most unpredictable, and fierce yet?

Leicester upsetting nigh-on insurmountable odds to become Champions last season was a complete fairytale, and who is to say that a repeat isn’t on the cards? Well, the much anticipated battle of the managers may have something to say about that. 

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola pick up their weapons that they last brandished in LaLiga for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, but now fighting for the opposite sides of Manchester. Then, you have Claudio Ranieri, Antonio Conte, Wenger and Pochettino, Koeman at Everton……

Not only do we have the above duking it out, we have had a blitz in the transfer window. Money being hurled around as if it is going out of fashion, as each team seeks the players that will give them the edge in the league. So many big-money moves that leaves the fans salivating for the moment they get to see their teams marquee signing in action.

So, can we with any accuracy, predict where the teams will finish? Which outfits will be in the title fight? Who will be finishing in the European places and who will be fighting tooth and nail to avoid the trapdoor? If you think you have what it takes, then Premier League prediction app, Dohyo, let’s you set up leagues with your mates to see who is the top dog and who is their groups Jon Snow.

Are there any pointers that may aid us to peer into the future – or at least May next year? Poring over the teams, managers and players may hold the answer…..

Will the Managers make the difference?

The headlines have been dominated for once by the men who take the helm of their clubs, as the cream of European football have gravitated toward the Premier League. The two men who dominated LaLiga in their time – Mourinho and Guardiola – have grabbed the reins at Manchester United and Manchester City, and will renew the rivalry which set Spain alight. Both men have found themselves at clubs which allow them freedom in terms of spending too, which means that the revolving door at both clubs has seen some action. 

The manager who no one could hate, Claudio Ranieri, will have his work cut out to repeat the unrepeatable at Leicester City. His first title win, and transforming his side from relegation fodder to Champions, is Hollywood stuff, but can he do it again? He concocted a system which worked so effectively last term, but will teams have found a way to combat the lightning-quick countering which was the Foxes weapon? 

Then we have Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino. For so long last season, the young Argentine looked like he had cracked the secret formula to finishing above Arsenal – something Spurs have searched for for twenty years. All the way from January until the last game of the season, Tottenham destroyed their opponents with the lethal Harry Kane, the mercurial Dele Alli and a rock-solid defence, but they spluttered over the line and left their neighbours open to snatch the runners-up spot and gain superiority once again. Will Pochettino have learned from his mistakes? Will Wenger finally be able to avoid the slump which derails his side year after year? 

Then we have Antonio Conte. His brave Italy side performed so well at Euro2016, and the Italian taskmaster will have his work cut out at Chelsea. The Blues finished tenth after previously winning the Premiership, and their season was over before it begun. Conte can look forward to a strong squad though, and he has made additions.An absence of European football may just give him the edge too.

Another manager who can look forward to an uncluttered fixture schedule is Jurgen Klopp. He has also stated that the side he has constructed is finally one of his own, so this season should see an improvement on the previous one. Klopp had his first pre-season with Liverpool and his players would have been put through their paces to acclimatise to his physically sapping ‘Gegenpress’ tactic. Liverpool look odds on to push on from their last campaign.

The other side of Merseyside have had a change of manager. Everton fell away sharply last season under Roberto Martinez, and wasted no time bringing in Ronald Koeman, himself fresh from overachieivng at Southampton. The Toffees fans may be bereft of Romelu Lukaku, if the expected happens and he moves back to Chelsea, but brighter times are expected.

Then we have Alan Pardew constructing a strong squad at Crystal Palace, Slaven Bilic will be keen to right last terms wrongs by moving his West Ham side into the Champions League places, and Mark Hughes saw enough improvement to believe that his Stoke side can make their presence felt. 

Whew. Plenty going on, but what business will make the difference for each side? Has their been a player transfer that is destined to justify the exorbitant faith placed upon them? Read on….

Signings, money and squads

The window has seen many headlines, but chief among them has been the protracted sage of Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United for a reported £89million. The Frenchman is highly rated, and could alone make a huge change for the positive to United’s midfield. His seasons for Juventus have been evidence that whilst the price tag may be the biggest ever paid by a British team, Mourinho may have pulled a masterstroke, if the Frenchman can continue to boss his area as he did in Turin.

It isn’t just Pogba that Jose has written cheques for though. Eric Bailly in defence, the big personality and frame of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the invention of Henrik Mkhitaryan are the four big names, and when allied with David De Gea, Rooney, Smalling and Rashford, a strong spine has been formed. United will go close.

Guardiola hasn’t exactly been shopping in the bargain bucket either. Leroy Sane, the highly prized German winger, has been brought in for just over twenty five million, and Ilkay Gundogan from Dortmund joins up, to bolster what is already a strong midfield. If Sergio Aguero stays fit, new boy Nolito can add a few goals and they can adapt to Guardiola’s tactics, then City will again be contenders.

What of the others? Liverpool have been very busy, with Sadio Mane, Joel Matip, and Georgino Wijnaldum the big names coming in. With an already strong squad, Klopp may have the final puzzle pieces in place. 

Arsenal have spent big on Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, and he adds to a huge list of midfielders that most teams would die for. A striker would still be a good move, but there is nothing on the cards….yet.

Leicester have signed pacy Nigerian Ahmed Musa in attack to lighten the load on Jamie Vardy, who opted to stay rather than take Arsenal up on their offer of employment. They did however, allow N’golo Kante to join Chelsea, the midfielder who many pundits think was the driving force behind their title win. Noises still circulate around their other star performer – Riyhad Mahrez – but if they can keep hold of the Algerian, they can look forward to another season of optimism.

Other moves that may have slipped under the radar were Marten De Roon to Middlesbrough, the tough tackling midfielder from Atalanta, and lethal Spaniard Alvaro Negredo from Valencia. Crystal Palace have bought well, with Andros Townsend and James Tomkins coming in to patch up weaknesses in the squad. 

Tottenham have snapped up Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar, the sought after Dutch striker. Swansea have another striker to pin their hopes on like when Michu lit the Liberty Stadium up a few years ago, as Fernando Llorente has moved to Wales. 

Southampton appear to have been picked apart once more, but new manager Claude Puel has acted quickly to bring in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich and Nathan Redmond from Norwich, and the livewire winger will have to bring his A game to ensure the Saints don’t fall below last seasons level.

There are others that may be the surprise that is a catalyst to their teams efforts, but these are the moves that have lit up their respective fanbases. The most amazing fact about all this is, that there is still two weeks before the transfer window shuts!
The last day of the window always brings drama, and most teams will be keeping their eye open for last minute bargains, which makes any predictions extremely hard to make. 

Sticking my neck out, my prediction for next season is as follows:

1.Manchester City

2.Manchester United






8.West Ham


10. Southampton


12. Crystal Palace

13. Stoke City

14. Swansea

15. Sunderland

16. Bournemouth

17. West Brom

18. Watford

19. Burnley

20. Hull City

Think you can do better? Make your weekly predictions on Dohyo, and use your knowledge to best your friends! I hope the tips above help, and good luck!

It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……

We had plenty of time to adjust to it.

Any occasion in which events go against the grain, it is difficult to acclimatise to the new settings.

We had the whole of the second half of this season to wrap our heads around the fact that our neighbours – who for so long squirmed under our boot – had finally wriggled free of our supremacy and were going to reverse tradition.

Continue reading It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……

Old Trafford Chance Blown

I was able to go to Old Trafford to witness the game yesterday first hand. Needless to say, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.

A five hour road journey with none other than @thedanielcowan saw us eventually get to Old Trafford and we took to the away section with hope and excitement. The United lineup lacked experience, talent and should have been easy pickings for a near full-strength Arsenal side.

How wrong could I have been…..


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Arsenal Vs Man Utd – Match Preview – #AFCLive

A return to Premier League action after a two week absence, is a tonic that will hopefully rid Arsenal of recent ills.

In the fortnight’s hiatus, there has been two cup ties that have left Gooners a little nonplussed at the distinct lack of goals, but a visit to a Manchester United who have struggled in the League could provide the answer to our misfiring team.

There is also the small matter of a winless run at Old Trafford in the Premiership that goes back eight games.





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Arsenal 0-0 Hull City – A Needless Exercise In Frustration

To say that it was expected for Arsenal to make safe passage would be fair, as Championship leaders Hull City travelled to The Emirates and a replay was the last thing that both Managers would have wanted.

Well, that was exactly what they were rewarded with, after Hull City showed little to no aspirations in attack and Arsenal put in a disjointed display which meant that a stalemate was always on the cards.

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Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham – Not On Our Worst Day. A Match Report

At first glance, a 1-1 draw against your bitter rivals is a satisfactory result. This was in stark contrast to the end of the game when Arsenal’s opponents, despite being in control of the majority of the game, were utilising all manner of timewasting techniques in order to salvage a point.

There again was a disparity in emotions at half time, when if any Gooners were asked if they would take a point, they would have snapped up the offer. Tottenham bossed the first forty-five minutes and there was little for any home fans to latch onto to boost optimism. I was in attendance in the Upper East Stand and the half time whistle brought with it only dismay.

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A Record Breaking FA Cup Triumph and Eating The Emirates Turf

This match was the key.

What every Gooner across the world sought after was improvement. The purchases of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez brought excitement, but with an expectation of success. Top talent such as these players expect silverware and so do the fans.

On Saturday the thirtieth of May 2015, improvement was achieved.


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