Tag Archives: Elneny

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!

Mohamed Elneny – Contract Extension Deserved?

There are many different roles that comprise a squad.

You need a sprinkling of the mercurial. there must be a liberal dollop of fighting spirit and you won’t garner success without a smidgin of ruthlessness.

Mohamed Elneny makes up perhaps the most overlooked of ingredients though.

Professionalism.

The Egyptian recently was awarded a contract extension for his consummate consistency and professional outlook in the face of a less than certain place in the team.

In fact, the first half of the season saw the midfielder consigned to a bit-part role that contained Europa League games and the odd domestic cup appearance.

Yet, we didn’t hear a negative tweet, comment or noise coming from the Elneny camp. No, when he did play, he was his normal solid self and put his personal concerns behind him to make sure he performed in his role, at the very least adequately.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Egyptian. I’ve always thought of him as limited, but I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The departure of Francis Coquelin has pushed him further into the reckoning, and when he’s played, crucially, he’s been utilised in the right way.

You see, Elneny is perhaps the best midfielder we have in terms of the dirty work. Tracking runners, putting in the tackles when necessary, Elneny has put in a shift when others around him have let the side down. The midfielder hasn’t put a foot wrong and in terms of value, he has proved his worth.

Put it this way – is he as blessed as Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere? Is his passing as good as Xhaka’s? No to both. But does he show his worth in every game? Does he add to our defensive side? Yes to both.

Some may see his success as a signal of the weakness of our squad. Would ‘Mo’ have seen any action in previous years? Is he a step down in terms of what we should be used to? It’s an undeniable fact that he isn’t a world beater, and we are accustomed to seeing players with better equipped skillsets on display.

That isn’t to say Elneny isn’t good enough – far from it.

But isn’t it refreshing to have a midfielder who is more adept at the defensive side of the game, and be happy about it? Who doesn’t seek the Hollywood pass, who prefers to make the simple pass to keep possession?

More importantly, isn’t it great to have a player who is so evidently happy at being at the club, despite not having a starting place nailed down?

He possesses a decent shot, he has the physical strength to deal with the majority of the burlier players around, and tactically, he seems pretty astute. He is also the squad member happiest to be the band-aid – that player that comes in when the first choice players are injured. His appearances in central defence show both his willingness to put the club before his own merits and also his tactical nous. It isn’t easy to switch to not only a different position but an entirely different third of the pitch.

Elneny has done it and done it well.

Mohamed Elneny can progress to being the shield in behind our somewhat porous midfield. The Egyptian signing an extension – with a figurative and literal smile on his face – is a great addition to our squad.

His presence makes us stronger and better equipped to deal with the rigours of top-flight football.

Arsenal Vs Burnley – PL Preview

This match sees Arsene Wenger take charge of his last match at the stadium he oversaw the creation of. It’s also an opportunity to attempt to forget our exit of the Europa League Semi-Final on Thursday versus Atletico Madrid.

Our loss against Diego Simeone’s side was expected but not taken lightly. We huffed and puffed but very little was created seeing as everything was on the line. It was more of a whimper than a roar, and it kept the theme of our season.

Perhaps the only decent upside of our campaign so far has been our home form, and this game is our last home showing this season, against the only team that can overtake us in sixth spot.

Arsenal take on Burnley at The Emirates

Fighting for this lowly position is a wake up call, and shows us all how far we’ve fallen away this time around, Burnley have had a great season so far, and will surely pose a threat to our record. Sean Dyche has crafted a team that is built on a sound defence, with Nick Pope and James Tarkowski the standout performers. They’ve got threats up top too, with Ashley Barnes sure to give our defenders a few concerns.

Regarding our defence, we’ll be without Laurent Koscielny for the foreseeable future as the defender tore his achilles in Madrid. He’ll miss the next six months most likely, so Calum Chambers now has ample time to set out his stall for his first team future. David Ospina is likely to keep the gloves in goal, with Cech a doubt.

Nacho Monreal may be rested if Sead Kolasinac is fit, and Mesut Ozil is another who may be absent if previous Premier League games are to go by. Henrikh Mkhitaryan should play though, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will come back into the lineup. Will that mean a spot on the bench for Alexandre Lacazette? Or could both play together like they did a few weeks ago?

Midfield sees the absence of Mohamed Elneny, but the Egyptian is expected to be back before the end of the season. It’ll mean that Granit Xhaka will play alongside Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere.

Another really welcome return on the cards – though not for this game – is Santi Cazorla. The fan-favourite Spaniard has returned to training for the first time in 19 months, and the fleet-footed midfielder has been sorely missed.

We’ve only lost twice at home all season and if it weren’t for this great record, we’d be fighting relegation, given our away form is probably among the worst in the league.

A win in this game will see of the challenge of Burnley and confirm sixth spot for us, leaving only games against Leicester City on Wednesday and Huddersfield next weekend.

We will also be celebrating Wenger in this game, with t-shirts and other events planned at the end of the game. Let’s hope we don’t forget that there’s a match to win, that will be what Wenger wants to see the most.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 to The Arsenal

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 Vs Brighton – Premiership Preview

Kickoff – Sunday, 1200 GMT. The Emirates.

The recovery seems very much in motion in recent weeks.

Five wins and one draw against Chelsea sees us climbing the League, topping our Europa League group and restoring some confidence in our men and in the stands to some degree.

Three clean sheets on the trot has also allowed us to maintain a solid foundation on the pitch. There have been some shaky moments of course, but that only serves to underline our defensive stats. No goals conceded in three games means that Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are forging a strong triumvirate.

The trio have faced stronger attacks in the past, but the beauty of the Premiership is that no matter the position of the opposition in the league, they can still steal away points. This is very much the case with the visiting Brighton side.

Bereft of their striking options, they may well be forced to play a winger as a striker but don’t let that fool you. We as Gooners are more than aware that it doesn’t matter if our foes are playing with a lonely gibbon up front, they could still catch us cold. 

Chris Hughton will have his side working hard in midfield and he will pack the final third and attempt to play on the break and earn a few set-plays. We have succumbed to this tactic before, but the Gulls have shown they can be teak-tough to break down.

Manchester City rocked up to the Amex recently and it took them an hour to finally break the resistance of Hughton’s team, finally winning 2-0. We will have to be patient and continue to play our game, and we can at least feel safe in the knowledge our defence has been equally as tough or more so recently.

With our rivals all winning regularly, we cannot allow our slow start to be an albatross around our necks, stretching the gap into a yawning chasm before we even hit the halfway mark of the season. Win, and then win some more is what is needed, and our squad is more than capable of this after seemingly overcoming the curse of the Europa League.

The fixture scheduling for competing teams in the Europa League has often been the death knell for sides in the Premiership. Everton, tottenham, Southampton and others have felt the pinch when playing on Thursday and then the weekend. Our squad size is large enough to cope though, and the fringe players have been excellent on Thursdays thus far. 

This leaves our supposed first-team refreshed enough to leave it all on the field each matchday in the Premiership. Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly make changes for this game, but there are a few conundrums to sort out.

Last weeks win over West Brom saw Aaron Ramsey pushed forward into the front three, with Mohamed Elneny partnering Granit Xhaka in the centre. After the Egyptian then played in Thursday’s win over BATE Borisov, will our manager continue with the Welshman in attack, or will he rest Elneny and revert back to the Ramsey/Xhaka duo?

Also, Mesut Ozil is fit and ready, but does he come back into the side? If not, then Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez may be partnered with Alex Iwobi instead. Ozil should come back in, but a winning side shouldn’t be tinkered with too much.

Our team other than these two points of thought pretty much pick itself. There are no new injury concerns, the good news that Santi will be back in January is a huge boost, and our team is looking in great nick for the rest of the season.

We will look to Lacazette for goals most likely. His four goals have all come at home so far and the Frenchman is acclimatising well to the demands of our domestic league. Brighton may be tough to break down, but will they be able to keep quiet our crafty striker? Laca to score for me I think. 

Positives are important, they must be grasped when times are tough. Our next few fixtures are against teams we should be looking to beat, and this is the time to build more confidence, more momentum to carry into the games against rhe big guns.

The bottom line though, is that we are at home again, against a promoted side and we have a nearly fully-fit squad. No excuses. 

Let’s just enjoy the game, we have two weeks of international football coming up, so savour every minute.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – screw it. 3-0 to The Arsenal 

Elneny – A Good Fit For Defence?

Arsene Wenger has had his fair share of success and failure. This is inevitable after such a long career and more opportunities for error and calling things correctly. 

Broad shoulders are needed when making decisions on a big stage. There are plenty who are lying in wait for crumbs of a mistake, and when it does happen, Wenger is rightfully grilled on the reasons why he opted for that call, rather than other avenues.

We can all pore over many litres of spilt milk, but there are many other decisions made by Wenger that have been perfectly timed. Those thoughts that manifested themself into a seamless correlation on the pitch. Some of these have been the adaptation of the players he has signed.

Those men that have been signed to do a certain job and through intense scrutiny on the training field, have been earmarked for an entirely different role. Those that spring to mind are Lauren Etame Bisan Meyer, Emmanuel Petit, Kolo Toure and of course, Thierry Henry. These players had forged a strong reputation – with the exception of Toure – in their respective countries and they signed for Arsenal thanks to their strong displays in different positions. 

Yet Wenger saw something in them that made him mark them for an entirely new venture.

This pre-season just passed saw another player dip their toes into a new place in the team, and Mohamed Elneny did a fair job considering the change in disciplines. How is this different to when Nacho Monreal plays in the heart of defence though?

It is down to Elneny’s place in the squad. Since joining from Basel in 2016 the Egyptian has not let anyone down and can hold his head high. His days at central midfield though, have been limited thanks to the rivals he has for those two spots in the middle of the park.

Elneny is not a spectacular player. He is not the type that pings passes from deep, and he isn’t one to carry the ball around two or three players. He keeps it simple, is effective with possession and has a great shot when the fancy takes him. He is a typical squad player, but could versatility help him land more starts?

Being able to play in defence means he is twice as likely to get a game, given the propensity for injuries in the modern game. Has he the game for this different set of requirements though?

He does indeed. Think back to Kolo Toure, is Elneny any less talented with the ball than the Ivorian? He may lack the recovery pace that Kolo had in his pomp, but Elneny’s experience in central midfield means that he has the tactical acumen required to place himself in a superior position – thus negating the need for that burst of speed. 

It works for Per Mertesacker.

When asked recently about Elneny’s chances of playing in defence, Wenger said to Metro –

 ” Elneny is a player who has a fantastic attitude and mentality, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there, of course he does extremely well. Of course he needs to learn the defensive side, but I always felt that a good central midfielder can be a good centre back. With the fact of course that when you’re playing in the back four you have to be decisive in the challenges, you have a bit more flexibility in the middle of a back three. He can do that.”

So the boss plans on utilising this new found adaptability from Elneny. Let us not forget that a firm bid was lodged from Leicester City for the Egyptian, which the player himself refused. He seems intent on making a success of himself on Arsenal’s stage, and if it be at the back or in the engine room, Elneny is the type that will give his all to the cause.

Trimming The Fat of the Squad

Published on Goonersphere.​

If there is one thing us Gooners have learned over the past few seasons, is that squad depth is paramount in launching – and maintaining – a push for silverware.

Every campaign in recent memory has seen a period of consistent results which has seen us primed for a push at glory, and yet the wheels have come off time and again when the gruelling amount of games starts to snap at our heels.


Injuries to Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and a raft of defenders has repeatedly vanquished our dreams, as our side has been forced to field back up players who have failed to match the level of excellence we require.


It places a focus on those very fringe players, and it shows that every single signing that is made is just as important as the marquee transfers which capture our imagination. It is a cause for optimism when we sign players of the ilk of Alexandre Lacazette, but it is just as mandatory having a man like Danny Welbeck waiting in the wings to cover any injuries or tactical changes.


Some players, if bad luck strikes, are irreplaceable and will leave a chasm in the team regardless of who slots in to replace them, but with an able and adequate understudy, we can breathe a little easier every time an opposing player clatters into our star men.


We endured the years when our squad was so shallow that even the first eleven was below par, but now we can look upon our squad and have the luxury to say that our fringe men could get into the majority of PL teams.


There are weaknesses in our pool though, and with our numbers fit to bursting and in need of some thinning if we are to strengthen again, which players need to be mercilessly culled in order for progress to be made?


Our players who can operate at wing-back are of particular importance, seeing as our recent switch to three at the back has placed more importance on these transitional players. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal continue to play huge parts in the team, and new boy Sead Kolasinac looks to be a shrewd signing. We have a few though, that have their heads on the block.


Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers all seem to be set for a role on the periphery this coming season, but are they actually good enough to slot in when they are inevitably called upon?


Debuchy seems the most likely to be discarded, with the Frenchman having been a ghost in the team since his unlucky debut season. Carl Jenkinson, whilst a fan favourite is dispensable. 


Kieran Gibbs has done an admirable job of coming into the team whenever called upon, so what of Calum Chambers?


His age and his recent loan spell at Boro should be reasons enough to keep him, but what if Chambers wants more? His recent exploits with the England Under 21 side mean his stock is high, and his progress could be halted if he is used as a utility player. His chances in his favoured position of centre-back look pretty slim, so it is down to 

Chambers himself if he should want to go.

We have promising youngsters coming through in the form of Krystian Bielik, Ainslie MAitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Rob Holding. Shouldn’t these promising youngsters be given the chance to play those 10-12 games in a season when injuries mount?


We cry out for driftwood to be chopped, but nearly every player has good reasons to keep them. The only reason we should sell any of them – Debuchy aside – is if we can acquire better. If we can, then there is one other question.


Will these prospective new signings be happy with a bit-part role?


Let us be honest, the majority of our side is nailed down, and whilst rotation has a place in modern football,  a constantly shifting eleven does not promote consistency. We need to have players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud champing at the bit, waiting for their positional rivals to slip. This is the motivation that our players need to pull elite performances out of the bag.







Do Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin put enough pressure on Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park? Whilst they may have their uses, are they first team material? If not, then how difficult will it be to find a player willing to be the equivalent of a new goldfish – sitting and waiting in a bag whilst they become acclimatised?


We all cry out for signings, but with so many different facets to consider, whilst we all wait for David Ornstein to give us a morsel of info, we need to look at the bigger picture. Signings are much harder than they look and we all forget this from time to time.


The chopping block is in place and the axe has been sharpened – but who should go?

Arsenal’s Summer Rebuilding

Published in Arsenal Mania.

There are many uncertainties surrounding Arsenal Football Club at this present moment. For a club that prides itself on its stability in the shifting tides of the game, Arsenal normally stand as the last bastion of routine and conviction.

As of right now though, the ever-moving cogs of the rumour mill are geared toward the management at Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger’s long-standing tenure.

Over two decades of Wenger and his particular brand have led to respectability and an elevated expectation, but staleness seems to have set into the club. No one can honestly say for sure whether Wenger will choose to take the offer of an extension already extended to him – or whether he will decide enough is enough and cut the ties which hold him so tightly.

Underneath the broiling waters though, a threat just as alarming is developing – and it threatens to undermine any plans a new or existing manager may hatch.

Arsenal’s midfield has been bereft of the wonderfully talented Santi Cazorla for the majority of the season, and it has recently been announced the Spanish midfielder will miss the rest of the campaign through his long-standing injury. This is not the first time Cazorla has been on the treatment table, and each time he has been missing from the side – Arsenal have suffered greatly.

Santi Cazorla remains the only player in the Gunners ranks who can transform defensive pressure into positive possession. His low centre of gravity and tight turning circle means he is a nightmare to dispossess – and his true two-footedness is a trait incredibly rare to find and/or cultivate.

Arsene has had to cope with this huge gap in his teams repertoire since October, and with his squad being stronger than in recent memory, he has had the bodies needed to try and rectify the situation.

The trouble is, the remaining central midfielders do not fit the bill – or are simply not good enough.

Aaron Ramsey has a wealth of talent, but his own injury problems and a certain weakness on the defensive side of his game mean he is not well balanced to be the barometer of the side.

Francis Coquelin’s hunger for possession is greater than the rest, and his tackling ability is up there with the best of the defensive midfielders in the PL. His increasingly erratic positioning are starting to overshadow his strengths however, and his inability to pass effectively is a shortcoming that cannot sit well with Wenger’s passing ethics.

Then there is Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has performed well when called upon, but he has cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines for the most part. Even when he has enjoyed a rare run in the team, Elneny has been solid – but unspectacular. He is clearly not the answer to the missing Spaniard. Elneny is a squad player.

What of new recruit Granit Xhaka? The Bundesliga-seasoned midfielder was supposed to be the all-round weapon and toughnut that soft-centred Arsenal needed. Instead, his tendency to lunge in with ill-timed tackles has cost his side dearly, and his mobility has been somewhat less than rapid. 

With Jack Wilshere on loan and seeking assurances on his future – this means that Arsenal’s centre of their team is light in number – and deficient in the top quality needed to push the team forward.

The summer will need a complete focus on the Gunners midfield. If whoever takes charge next season goes into the new campaign with the current midfield ranks – then the Top 4 may be a distant dream. 

Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace – 5 Key Points

​Boxing Day brought us the win we craved after two successive defeats, and this 2-0 win gave us the gift of returning form – as well as another vital win.

For Sam Allardyce, it was only the second opportunity for him to gauge what reinforcements he would need in the January transfer window. While Zaha, Cabaye, Benteke and their teammates were trying to adjust to new team orders, Arsene Wenger also had to shuffle his pack and change things up a little.

With Olivier Giroud scoring the late winner last week against West Brom, and with Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both suffering with varying grades of injury – The Ox made it to the bench – it meant Giroud had another start to assert himself.

And boy, didn’t he do just that.

The other news before the game was that Mesut Ozil wasn’t just missing from the side – he wasn’t even in the squad! Lots of buzz revolved around the German and a departure, or a fallout – but such is the nature of the beast, neither were correct. Ozil simply had what millions of us regular people have suffered from recently – the cold. 

Alexis played in his spot, with Lucas excitingly drafted in and Alex Iwobi completed the three behind Olivier. Francis Coquelin was left out for Mohamed Elneny, which would be his last match before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, and Gabriel stayed in the team even with the return of Shkodran Mustafi to fitness.

Crystal Palace included former Gunner hatchet man Mathieu Flamini in their side, but a reunion with his best bud Mesut Ozil was taken from the French midfielder. 

Instead, he was given the runaround by Xhaka and Elneny.

There was so much to take from this game, but here are five key points from the ninety minutes, that I felt were the most pertinent;




That goal must be revelled in…































Olivier Giroud is much more than a simple target man. We have been privy to his fine front-post finishes for some time now and we have seen that he has finesse as well as tenacity. This goal though, deserves its place amongst the pantheon of simply amazing Arsenal goals. Just enjoy it. He may not be everyone’s Alan Smith or Ian Wright, but he is damn effective. 



Mentality is just as important

Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka have been virtually untested as a duo, and that would have spelled trouble in previous months/years. They played though, with unrestricted passion and movement, whilst not forgetting their defensive duties. It was a great performance from the pair, and proof that if they click into the positivity that the attack brings, they can overcome a lack of chemistry.


Elneny is away

Before this game, I was beginning to forget how effective our Egyptian can be. He hadn’t shown it this season, but how frustrating it is he picks this game to have his best of the season. Elneny always kept it moving, shackled any runs from Cabaye and weighed in to attacks when he could. Xhaka was a great counterweight, and it was so pleasant to see things simply work out for a change!



Alex Iwobi has responded













The young Nigerian inevitably slumped a little after blazing onto the scene last season. His touch evaded him, and the tricks and flicks that had worked so well were now like wet fireworks. His last two games have seen him back to his best, making the difference in tight areas and buzzing around the box, hungry for possession. He was fearless and must be applauded. He will make errors, but players who try the audacious always will.



Lucas starts!

It has been a while! We have pleaded for more game time for the talented Spaniard, and this was the result. He looked pumped, and his direct runs were a menace to James Tomkins, Scott Dann and co. He may not have grabbed a goal, but he showed enough to assuage any doubts for now. He hugged the wing when he needed space, and made intelligent runs when he could. A satisfying display.

There was far more from the game. Alex Iwobi’s goal showed great composure, Gabriel played extremely well and has improved with the extra game time – no surprise there – and Bellerin was tireless in both halves of the pitch. It is reassuring he has recently signed a contract extension! Cech also had a second consecutive clean sheet, and he earned his corn with a string of saves just after we scored our second goal

A comfortable win, a good performance and three points to put us ahead of City. I’ll take that!!

Basel Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview

Upon first inspection, this game could be viewed as something of a dead rubber.

Arsenal travel to Switzerland safe in the knowledge that they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Basel entertain the Gunners having notched only two points from the group. Not only that, but even if Arsene Wenger’s side leave St Jakob Park with all three points it will matter little if PSG match their result against Ludogorets.

There is still a small chance that the Gunners could finish top of their group though, and while that remains, Wenger could field what will be a very strong side.

Common sense should dictate otherwise, especially as on Saturday we take on a resurgent Stoke side – and three days later we travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. With these matches posing far more of a threat to our hopes of success, the squad will come into play fully over the next week.

This fixture flurry would have been a larger cause for concern in years gone by, but the pool of players we can choose from is stronger than before and this will be reflected in the teamsheets for the aforementioned games. 

Coming fresh from the 5-1 thumping of West Ham should fill the team full of confidence, and compensate for the disruption that is inevitably caused by rotating the playing staff.

Hat-trick hero Alexis Sanchez could well be rested for this game, and this could give a great opportunity to Lucas Perez who has recently returned from injury. The other choice would be the fit-again Olivier Giroud who has ample experience in the competition. 

What is perhaps most telling is Arsene Wenger’s own comments from the pre-match press conference. He spoke of his sides preperation and about finishing second or first in the group. He said ” We’ll see. PSG are favourites to beat Ludogorets at home and win the group, but we can assess that scoreline at half-time and see where we go.” 

The part regarding assessing the scoreline at half-time could be construed that he plans to name his strongest players for the game, and if PSG have wrapped up their game then he will make the necessary changes. Or maybe he is holding his cards close to his chest?

Regardless, players such as Mohamed Elneny, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi can expect some form of involvement, such is the wealth of talent we possess within our ranks. Elneny and Granit Xhaka in particular will be hoping to make the team to face off against their former club. Xhaka faced off against his former teammates and his brother Taulant in the corresponding fixture which the Gunners won 2-0 at The Emirates and he will surely be hoping for a repeat result. Theo Walcott scored a first half brace to win that game, but will he be rested with the Stoke game in the corner of Arsene’s eye? Can we afford to bench too many of our established stars?

Basel will be a real test though. They have won their last three home games against English sides, and the Gunners have not finished a group campaign unbeaten since 2005/06. Objectively though, Arsenal have never finished on the losing side against Swiss opposition. One of these records have to budge – especially when you consider that the Gunners have not had a 0-0 draw in the Champions League groups since 2007. 

So Arsene has a dilemma, but one that should be easy enough to solve. The squad strength should allow him to hedge his bets even a little for this game, while simultaneously being able to preserve his side for the game against the Potters in the weekend. 

A loss will be harmful, but an injury to key personnel would be potentially fatal to our hopes of any silverware. Sensible rotation is key.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal