Tag Archives: fitness

Arsenal Vs Ostersunds Europa League Preview

This match might fall under the radar a bit.

We go into our second leg tie versus Ostersunds with a 3-0 advantage and the boost of playing at The Emirates, where our record is strong.

Then there is the small matter of this Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final versus Manchester City representing our best chance for silverware this season.

So we can be forgiven for placing less emphasis on this game.

Still, we’re in action and that means we get the chance to see our team in action, and our lineup will include vast changes from the first leg.

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey have been confirmed by Arsene Wenger to be missing out, and both face a race to be fit for the Carabao Cup Final with illness and injury doubts respectively.

Danny Welbeck will again take the striking berth with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette injured for the next few weeks. We could also see a bigger cameo for Eddie Nketiah, with little options up top.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will feature as he is cup-tied for this Sunday’s final, but with Ramsey out, there will be four players vying for two spots.

Mohamed Elneny, Jo Willock, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere will be up for playing, but with the vital tie against City so close, Jack Wilshere could miss out, especially with Ramsey so doubtful too.

Maitland-Niles played well in his preferred spot in the centre, but he could find himself again in a wing-back spot as Hector Bellerin could be rested. The same goes for Koscielny and Mustafi, but we have the likes of Holding, Chambers and Mertesacker as options to come in.

Ostersunds gave us the perfect headstart in the first forty-five minutes of the first leg. With their results at home being favourable, most expected us to struggle, but the frozen 3g pitch was no match for our attack. The second half showed what the Swedish are capable of, and if the late penalty from Petterson had crept in rather than have been saved by Ospina, then an early goal in this game could have been very disruptive.

As it is though, even a typical slow start from our boys would have to be a real nightmare for us to give Ostersunds a sniff of a comeback. As it is, Wenger can’t really win. If he takes the professional route and sees out a simple game but doesn’t thrash Ostersunds, then we took them lightly. If we smash them with a strong side, then it was bound to happen and it is nothing extraordinary.

There are some strong sides left in this competition, and we will know more when the draw for the next round is made. We should be aiming to win it, but such is the gap in the Premier League between us and the top4, we need to put some work in to make sure this isn’t the worst season yet under Wenger.

So, let’s go for it and hope this game sees goals (for us of course) and no injuries.

Predicted lineup – Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Elneny, Willock, Nelson, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. #UTA

Liverpool Vs Arsenal Preview

Liverpool Vs Arsenal

Sunday 27/08/17 – 1600hrs GMT

These two sides were separated by the finest of margins in the Premier League table last season, but that tiny difference saw the Reds claim the last Champions League spot, and it left Arsenal scratching around in fifth spot after finally succumbing to their awful spell from January to April.

Our fall from Europe’s elite competition was utterly deserved, and hopefully it was the wake-up call we needed, although after last week’s loss to Stoke – it may seem we have hit the snooze button again.

Last week saw some awful refereeing decisions which cost our side in a big way, but ultimately it was two familiar enemies that were our undoing. Our profligacy in front of goal and a lack of concentration at a crucial time saw the Potters once again take the points when facing us at their home. Old habits die hard it seems.

This match though, couldn’t be more different to last week.

Games against Liverpool guarantee goals. Goalless draws are as rare as a clean Paul Scholes challenge in this fixture, and even though our last win at Anfield was in 2012, we have a great chance to take the points away from Merseyside. 

We must first buck the awful trend of some dire results against bigger teams on the road first, and then concentrate on the fact we have one win – home and away – in the last six matches. 

Both teams are considered weak at the back, so it is a huge boost that we can include Laurent Koscielny back in our side. The Frenchman was suspended for our first two games, but can now come straight back into the team, which will make us far stronger.

Another name due to be recalled is Chilean marvel Alexis Sanchez. An injured abdomen has meant Sanchez has missed out against Leicester and Stoke, and we could really do with a firing Alexis in this game. Wenger in his latest press conference has intimated that he is fit to start, but the forward may not last the entire 90 minutes, so we must give him the ball early and put the Reds on the back foot from the first minute.

Jurgen Klopp isn’t able to include Philippe Coutinho in his side, and he will have the fact his men played in midweek in the back of his mind as he selects his eleven. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will stretch any team, and with Arsenal likely to maintain a 3-5-2 formation, so much focus will go on who is picked for wing-back.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will vie with Hector Bellerin for the right spot, although both have played on the left side occasionally. Sead Kolasinac has impressed so far and should be included, but will Wenger switch things up?

One thing is for sure, our away record against our rivals is nothing short of abysmal. If Arsene Wenger wants to send a message to say his squad is strong enough to challenge, the first port of call to convince us would be a win in a big game.

Start here Arsene. Show us all what you see.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsena

Sunderland Vs Arsenal – PL Match Preview

The regular slew of fixctures shows no sign of abating – well, at least until the next infernal international break – but Arsenal have managed to continue their winning run despite the demands placed upon them.

Midweek saw a much changed side from the norm, but the victory was still earned, thanks in no small part to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. His brace allowed EFL Cup progression over Reading, and The Ox may just have secured another start with his mature performance.

Next up is a trip to the Stadium of Light to face bottom of the table Sunderland, but the Black Cats will be no pushovers. Bookies, industry experts and pretty much anyone you are willing to listen to will make the Gunners overwhelming favourites – and rightly so. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the three points are already packed and winging their way back to London Colney however.

Sunderland boss David Moyes will be desperate to achieve his sides first win this season, and despite losing yet again in midweek in the EFL Cup at the hands of Arsenal’s next opponents in the competition – Southampton – they certainly put up far more fight than in previous attempts this season.

The old adage regarding no games being a gimme in this League is unerringly accurate, and the last couple of occasions Arsene Wenger and his men played a team they were heavily backed to destroy – Burnley and Middlesbrough – they got very lucky against one and drew a blank against the other.

So, this game is just another obstacle our team must overcome on the path to potential glory. It isn’t bigger or smaller, just something like all the games that they have to hurdle. 

In terms of team selection, Wenger will look to revert to the team which was frustrated against Boro last weekend, but there may just be a couple of significant changes.

Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott all face late fitness tests. With Keiran Gibbs and Mohamed Elneny both playing the last two games within four days, a third in seven may be too much. If Monreal and Santi both pass, they may just go straight into the side. Arsene Wenger intimated that Theo may just return next week against Ludogorets, so The Ox may yet get another chance to shine in Theo’s stead.

There is more good news on the injury front to go with the potential return of Cazorla and Nacho, with the news that Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to the reckoning. The French striker made a cameo in the EFL Cup win over Reading, and both players will be looking to acquire some valuable minutes. 

Lucas Perez will definitely be sidelined though. Wenger confirmed in his press conference for this game that the Spaniard will be out for a minimum of eight weeks with ankle ligament damage. A huge shame for the striker, who had impressed in his few showings so far. 

David Moyes will be missing Jan Kirchhoff in the centre of midfield, and he will be a big loss. Lee Cattermole faces a fitness test, but Jermain Defoe and Wahbi Kazri are both fit, and they will carry the main threat to Arsenal’s backline.

Both managers and teams are under pressure, albeit for contrasting reasons, so the game may revert to blood and thunder challenges, with the game being fought in the centre of the park. With the return of Giroud, we have a plan B that may allow us to possess a threat which can pierce a clogged Sunderland area. 

Our record is good against the Black Cats – only one loss in the last 25, and four of our last five trips to the Stadium of Light – but complacency has ever been the perennial spanner to title hopes. 

We have been lightly singed against Boro and Burnley. Let us hope that we are not foolish enough to burn ourselves properly with the same flame.
We climb to the top of the Premiership with a win. Our stay may be brief, but it will send a loud message. Let’s get it done. 
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Ozil, Ox, Sanchez.

Predicted Score – 1-0 Arsenal. 

Arsenal Vs Southampton – Match Preview

The first three games have been an even mix for Arsenal – one win, one draw and one defeat – but squad reinforcements have lightened the seemingly constant pressure and scrutiny on Arsene Wenger, and optimism can once more be found amongst Gooners.

The evident weaknesses in the Arsenal squad have been rectified, and this match against Southampton may allow fans to see a debut from the new signings. Shkodran Mustafi is fit and has been in first team training, as well as Lucas Perez. The German may have a better chance of making an appearance, as Per Mertesacker is still injured and Gabriel has only just returned to training – but Rob Holding was Laurent Koscielny’s partner in the last Premier League fixture – the victory over Watford – and Wenger may not be keen to upset the cohesion within the team.

Lucas Perez will also be keen to make his mark, but a lot will depend on the fitness of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean will be assessed after only recently returning from international duty. With the first Champions League fixture on Tuesday away to PSG, rotation and preservation may be key.

Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla impressed as a pairing against the Hornets, and it is expected that this duo will again provide the engine for the team, although Coquelin and Elneny will be ready and waiting if called upon. The same goes for fit-again Alex Iwobi, but Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined.

Southampton haven’t suffered a loss to Arsenal in the last six games, and the news of Fraser Forster declaring himself fit is not a good omen either for Gooners. Memories of a spectacularly one-sided game and umpteen world-class saves from the England stopper will still be fresh in the memory from last season.

The Saints have their own worries though. Still without a win, and having failed to keep a clean sheet in the last fifteen games poses a conundrum for Claude Puel. With record signing Sofiane Boufal still weeks away from making his debut, the French boss will be hoping that his giant keeper is on his best form to keep out the array of attacking talent that Arsenal possess.

Southampton still have their own threats to worry about. With Shane Long and Charlie Austin, they have enough to keep any defence busy, and if Pierre-Emille Hojbjerg continues his rate of improvement, then they have a midfield dynamo that will have bigger clubs sniffing next season. With Nathon Redmond added this summer, they have a squad capable of matching last seasons finish of sixth, but they must gel to their new boss’s tactics, and soon.

Wenger on the other hand, has a selection headache. Not only because of his plethora of choices in most positions, but with Paris Saint Germain on the horizon, he must split his attention and hope his players can show what they’re truly capable of. Fringe players will get their shot, and there is so much to play for, so standards should not slip.

First thing on the agenda though, is another three points. A march up to the top of the league is beckoning.

Expected Lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Holding, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0

Is Wengerball Finished?

Featured in the Gooner Fanzine – pick up your outside The Emirates on matchday!!

No matter how long we endure a barren run, we always had a weapon primed for severe cases of Banteritis.  Under rigorous negative focus, the majestic steed we rode into battle atop was always our flowing play.  We could unlock a packed defence with our masterful artisans.  We had passes up our sleeves that would flummox even the most astute defender. 

Wengerball.  It has been our most prized asset for some time.  Even during seasons past when our squad was being pilliaged by the tyrannical might of Manchester and Chelsea were enjoying the fruits from their siege-football, the way we set up on the pitch drew admiring glances not only from begrudging journalists – but from the footballing elite.

Continue reading Is Wengerball Finished?

Jack On Loan To Bournemouth – Wilshere-ly Be Back?

Every club has their fan favourites.

These players enjoy the adulation a little more than most, and the reason they can bask in the love varies.

Some of these idols bang in the goals with unerring frequency. Others typify the battling qualities that the fans identify with. Others fall into a ‘cult classic’ mould, due to their lenght of time with the club and lack of flair – a la Tony Hibbert.

Then you have players who have represented the club all the way through the youth ranks, and have an obvious love affair with the crest they carry on their chest.

That is Jack Wilshere.

News of his season-long loan departure has strains of positivity, but dominating the thoughts and feedback surrounding his move is one of regret and sadness.

Injury has ever been Wilshere’s nemesis, and his alarming stat of only making 119 Premier League starts in his entire career spells his problem out as clear as crystal.

His loan move to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth is the chance for Wilshere to finally remind the critics that his talent makes him England’s most talented midfielder. 

It is still difficult to make sense of though. Wilshere, meant to be one of the more talented of our squad, spending a season on loan at minnows Bournemouth? 

Who’d have thought it? The issue though, is memory. 

It is merely memory that fuels the criticism that follows Jack, or lack of it. We have to hark back to 2013-14 for a season relatively unhindered by injury – and Wilshere reinforcing belief that he can be Arsenal and England’s future.

Jack will join up with former Gunner and childhood friend Benik Afobe and it cannot be dismissed how important this factor is. All new surroundings (Jack having been at Arsenal his whole career), setting up home for a year, and the problem of commuting back to Hertfordshire to see his family will cause slight problems, so a friend to aid them in the lonely difficult times may allow Jack to concentrate on matters on the pitch.

 There is the small matter of adapting to a different style and requirements of him. One thing is for sure, if he maintains fitness – something that has been beyond him – then the men who are his positional rivals cannot hope to match his burst of speed, vision and transitional capabilities. 

One major asset of his move to the South Coast team is the manager. Eddie Howe has forged a reputation as a boss who utilises new ideas, and gets his team to play their own football, rather than reacting to opposition tactics. It is daring, but Jack can learn more from Howe. More importantly, he will be used in the correct way.

It seemed as if Wilshere was off to Roma to join fellow loanee Szczesny, but due to bad blood between the sides thanks to transfer negotiations for Roma defender Manolas going awry, Arsenal have opted for the Cherries.

It is a good thing too. Roma have Strootman, De Rossi, Paredes and Nianggolan in central midfield – and the whole point of Wilshere being loaned out is to gain minutes on the pitch.

Jack adores our club, and we adore him. The fact we have had fleeting glimpses of the man with the errant tongue has made this loan deal so bittersweet.

It is obvious it is for his benefit, it is clear that it could make him a better player. We know he needs minutes. 

To just see him in a different jersey will seem alien, but he needs a regular opportunity to test those troublesome limbs. If he had stayed, then he would continue to get sporadic minutes. Santi Cazorla is ahead of him, and there may be a chance to get in the starting lineup through injury, but at Roma, he will be leaving with the promise of more minutes.

Jack must return to cement the potential of legendary status he possesses. If fitness was no issue, then the captains armband would be adorning his arm, but alas, it hasn’t materialised. 

Bournemouth  beckons, and perhaps a last chance to grab a future at Arsenal. 

Good luck  Jack. Gooners everywhere will be following your every move. 

Arsenal Vs Norwich – Match Preview

The late kickoff today sees Arsenal take on Norwich at The Emirates, and events on the pitch have taken a back seat.

The news of a staged protest, involving placards, signs and banners, has taken centre stage – a surefire sign that results have been underwhelming of late.


Continue reading Arsenal Vs Norwich – Match Preview

Coming To America – Arsenal in 2016

Arsenal recently announced their plans for the pre-season of 2016-17 which involve two games played across the pond in the United States.


These two matches, one against the MLS All-Stars at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose on the twenty eighth of July at 9pm ( ET ), and the other against Chivas de Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles on July the thirty first, represent a welcome return to the States for Arsenal. The last trip to the US was in 2014 and involved a game versus New York Red Bulls, which was ridiculously well received.

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Watford Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

                                                                                     Kick-Off – 1730hrs


The late kick off today sees Gooners everywhere still riding the crest of a wave originating from Arsenal’s 3-0 thumping of Manchester United in their last league game before the international break.

Continue reading Watford Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Theo Walcott – The Boy Who Never Grew Up

Originally Posted in the Gooner Fanzine.

Think of Theo Walcott and an image of a fresh faced youngster eager to do well flashes in your mind. Racing down the right flank and terrorising his opposing full-back, providing ample threat and rapier pace. This jet-heeled youngster gave nightmares to a Barcelona team that blew a continent away. 

 This young man is now 26.

Continue reading Theo Walcott – The Boy Who Never Grew Up