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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.

Arsenal Vs Crystal Palace – The Warm-Up

Boxing Day brought more than gifts, chocolate and vegetable-powered gas to Gooners – we returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over a stubborn West Brom side.

I was present in the stands for the game and the reaction afterward may have centred on our frustration to break down the Albion defence, but there was precious little left that we didn’t try in order to pry open the clam that was the Baggies backline.

Confidence was low, and that elusive thought process seems to make everything within the Arsenal team tick. With the win over Pulis’s defence-specialists, the confidence should be exactly where it needs to be – to play a team with the exact defensive mindset.

Crystal Palace now being managed by Sam Allardyce guarantees one thing, and that is a fight on the pitch. No inch will be given, and with Palace being the away team and not fully adjusted to Allardyce’s methods, the Eagles will rely fully on their swift ability to counter-attack.

So if we are to battle these counters, then it is timely we can welcome back the winning machine Shkodran Mustafi to the fold. He has recovered from his hamstring injury to be included in Arsene Wenger’s plans, but will he oust Gabriel as soon as he is fit? The Brazilian may have a reputation for rashness – well deserved at times – but his recent displays have been solid.

Another choice Wenger must deliberate over is whether Olivier Giroud will start again. His late match winner will no doubt help his cause, but he only started the game against West Brom thanks to Theo Walcott’s late injury. If we stick to the same approach, Alex Iwobi will start on the right and Alexis will shift to the left, and both players were the main troublemakers for our side on Boxing Day. 

Danny Welbeck is also in full training, but may require a few weeks yet before he returns to the side. Theo Walcott was ruled out of last weeks win, and he again misses out. Santi Cazorla is still a couple of months away, and with Mohamed Elneny taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations soon, it leaves the fitness of Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey as imperative as ever.A large blow is the loss of Keiran Gibbs to a knee injury, so Nacho Monreal will start. 

Palace should be able to call on James McArthur and Joe Ledley to bolster their midfield ranks, but if they are still unavailable, then a bromance reunion could be on the cards, with Mathieu Flamini taking to the pitch to follow Mesut Ozil like a puppy.

Allardyce has quite a list of walking wounded. James Tomkins and Loic Remy are just two that really could make an impact on their eleven, but injury has left the squad a little light. With Christian Benteke in the side though, if a supply line can be found then the Eagles could cause problems.

Palace have one win in their last six games and lie precariously close to the relegation zone. Their form is a worry, but with Allardyce at the helm, he is probably the best man to get the best out of the players. 

In terms of Arsenal? The gap at the top is exactly the same as it was prior to our win against West Brom. The gap below us is the same too. We must concentrate on our results, and the gaps will shrink and grow as we need them too. With winning comes confidence, and confidence lures the best out of our players.

It is a circle, but we must complete the circle before it starts moving. Another win is the only requirement. 

Oh yes, and fitness of key players, no suspensions and a sprinkling of luck. 

Predicted Team – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0

Flamini – Doling Out Justice

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Alan sat slumped in his highback leather chair, his bare feet surrounded by bubbling water as the new-fangled foot spa attempted to dissolve the stress that plagued him.

His brow, furrowed by the myriad of questions that his mind was furiously trying to answer, instantly snapped to smoothness, as the fax machine in his office chirped to life. The fax machine was reserved for transfer business, but the infernal window had closed. What could be coming through this dated piece of hardware?

He lifted his feet out of the spa, and wrapped his silk dragon kimono around his frame. He grabbed the remote for his office sound system and turned off the powerful melodies of Aswad. This wasn’t the time for reggae.

He ripped the fax sheet from the aperture in the grey lump of plastic. It was from his Head Scout, and it was mystifyingly short. 

“Guv, I’ve just witnessed Mathieu Flamini train on his own in a London Park. He did circuits for an hour, destroyed a bunch of youths with karate, and wildly gesticulated at a large rottweiler. He has still got it. Send the message boss, he’s waiting.”

Alan looked into his full length vanity mirror, dramatically took off his sunglasses that he always wore indoors, and hoarsely whispered, ” By God…”

He ran from his office, shedding his kimono and donning training gear as he ran. Within minutes, he was on Crystal Palace’s training ground roof.

He lifted the tarpaulin from the massive metal, round structure. He then switched it on, and a blitzing beam of light leapt out, reaching the dark night sky. 

There, amongst the plethora of twinkling stars and never-ending inky blackness, surrounded by a circle of white light, was a pointing hand……….

The next twenty four hours passed without extraordinary incident. Training, shiatsu, happy ending. Everything that encompassed his routine was still in place, despite the set of events he had put in place with the previous night’s actions. 

He wrapped himself in a club towel, and thanked Dolph the masseuse for his service. His feet flip-flopped to his office, where his mind once more darkened to his sides current plight. 

His now supple back reached the comfort of his chair, and a long sigh left his freshly moisturised mouth. He let his eyelids meet, but they didn’t have a chance for a long meeting.

A squalling, screeching noise broke the silence. He once more exited his fortress of solitude and donned the training gear he kept on a peg on the back of his door. 

He followed the noise, which led him, and a growing group of staff at the club, to the entrance of the training site.

Slowly, a strange image met their eyes.

A turtle head, inch by inch, revealed itself. It was not the garden variety of tortoise, but the large, Galapagos Island type, that was crawling its way to them. Attached to the edge of its giant shell, were a string of bobbling, severed heads. As the creature got nearer, they noticed that the heads were people they recognised. Lee Cattermole, Glenn Whelan, Nemanja Matic. All five of the heads had been detached from Premier League hatchet men……

Atop the massive shell, was a man. Nay, not a man. On top of the shell was an inspiration to man. Wearing nothing but a hessian sack with holes on each side for his limbs to poke out, was Mathieu Flamini.

Alan came forward from the gaggle of people staring at the Frenchman. 

He offered his hand, ” Mathieu, thank you for answering my call.”

Mathieu leapt from the turtle, Frankie Dettori style, observed the offered hand, and instead waggled his eyebrows three times, before touching his genitalia.

“I do not shake hands, it is not efficient energy usage. I am here to help Crystal Palace, and to ensure my bromance with the genius that is Mesut Ozil continues. Use my ‘skills’ as you wish. You will, however, have to adhere to my conditions.”

Pardew raised his eyebrow, but his desperation meant he was between a rock and a crazy place. In the eyes of efficiency, to signal his agreement, he simply let Flamini continue.

“One, all names used have to contain one syllable. Efficiency, you see.”
“Two, I must fight ecological crime at a moments notice. You cannot stop this.”

“Three. All sleeves MUST be short sleeve. Any long sleeves seen will be obliterated on sight.”

Alan nodded curtly. He was just keen to bolster his ranks with quality, and Flamini would add steel to the soft underbelly of his side. 

With that acknowledgment of agreement, Flamini uttered a cry surely summoned by some otherwordly force, and kung-fu kicked himself to the training pitch.

Pardew and Palace had the mercenary they needed…..

Arsenal Vs Crystal Palace – Match Preview

With Manchester City comprehensively thumping Chelsea at the Bridge yesterday, it leaves Arsenal in a familiar but unwanted position – 4th.

After yet another promising first half of the season, Arsenal have now limped toward a finish line which has appeared too far a distance for the team to reach. They still have targets although the title is beyond them, and to stop this campaign being the worst in Wenger’s era, they must first defeat Crystal Palace.


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Sanogo is off to Finishing School…..

Poor Yaya. A mere mention of his name is enough to incite resigned sighs and titters that contain little mirth. A stigma has been attached to our dear Postman. As Gus Caesar is synonymous with the mediocre amongst our Gooner circles and Chamakh is forever entwined with shoddy marksmanship – Sanogo has struggled in vain to ditch the moniker of ‘Sanogoal’ that was first bestowed upon him in the first few games of his quest to break his duck for our club.

Another former Gunner – John Jensen – had a primate that haunted his every move whilst playing for the Cannon. When he finally scored vs QPR, it was such a joyous occasion that t-shirts were made and every fan that was present on that day had a fantastic yarn to pass down to their grandchildren.

Continue reading Sanogo is off to Finishing School…..