Tag Archives: Gabriel

Welcome to Arsenal, Gabriel Martinelli!

The wait is over – we have finally signed a player this summer!

Brazilian teenager Gabriele Martinelli has signed from Sao Paolo-based Ituano, for a fee thought to be in the region of £5m -£6m.

Most people who claim to have knowledge of the kid will be lying through their teeth. TV coverage is hard to come by for Ituano fixtures, so what can we find out about this promising youngster that was courted so vigorously by Francis Cagigao and Edu Gaspar?

Well, Martinelli has a decent record for someone so young, which has led to him training with Barcelona in the past. The kid has been watched intensely via video, with Cagigao’s strong Brazilian links playing a pivotal part.


Image credit – Arseblog

It has been Martinelli’s displays in the Sao Paolo Championship though, that have alerted clubs to Martinelli’s ability to sniff out a goal. He was awarded Best Newcomer and the region’s team of the year.

Not only that, but he is Ituano’s youngest ever debutant. Not bad for a country famed for its continuous production line of talent.

Martinelli joins an illustrious list of Brazilians to have played for Arsenal. Gilberto Silva, Julio Baptista, Silvinho, Gabriel Paulista, Denilson and even Edu himself have all represented the Gunners.

Martinelli isn’t expected to be first-team ready this season, and will most likely be plying his trade for the Under-23 side, but he could feature in some pre-season friendlies, which could give him the opportunity to make his mark – and for us fans to see what he is capable of.

This signing is aligned with the club’s new strategy of youth first. Whether that be through foreign recruitment or progression through the Academy, Arsenal are focusing themselves on finding the right player and ensuring they blossom at the club.

Martinelli recently trained with the Brazilian national side. With a move to a top European club giving him the platform to make a bigger impact, Martinelli could well be featuring for the Selecao sooner rather than later – the ball is in his court.

When interviewed by the club, Martinelli sounded very ambitious, saying “It’s a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”

He also revealed that he models his game on Cristiano Ronaldo. If he manages to obtain that level, we can say this was an astute purchase!

We have now broken our duck for this transfer window, and it could prove to be a very exciting purchase.

Welcome to Arsenal Gabriel Martinelli!


Gabriel and Decisions

Published on Goonersphere.

For years, us Gooners were crying out for a bit of mettle on the pitch.

Season after season of matches where we folded like a wet pack of cards, in the face of the merest hint of physicality from our opposition.

With concerted pressing and a few choice kicks off the ball, our aesthetically pleasing football was reduced to a plodding display which lacked the dynamism to really optimise our footballing brain.

We needed a hatchet man.

Arsenal have always had that player that rode into view when our enemy were getting ideas above their station. When his teammates needed protecting, players like Peter Storey, the entire famous Back4, Patrick Vieira – that ilk of player that never backed down. Sometimes to the cost of a red card, but their strength inspired their cohorts, and they felt braver as a result.

So when Brazilian Gabriel was signed in 2015, the omens were good that we had a player to crack a few skulls when the time came to it.

The toothy defender joined from Villareal, and the Spanish side had been climbing La Liga thanks to their imperious defence. 

Along with Mateo Musacchio and Victor Ruiz, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ had proved the toughest nut to crack in Spain.

Gabriel had a reputation for no-nonsense defending, but could carry the ball if he was asked to. His transfer fee meant hopes were high amongst us all, and I went to the match which was his debut in an Arsenal shirt – the FA Cup tie versus Middlesbrough.

It was a 2-0 routine game which really should have seen Arsenal score more, but Gabriel stood out with his aerial prominence. He looked strong, and had the potential to form a bedrock should he be given the chance.

He made 21 appearances in the league that season, 19 the season after. There were also plenty of opportunities in the various cups too.

These numbers represent ample chances to prove his worth, to show he can handle the unique demands the Premier League offers.

What has been abundantly clear is that whilst Gabriel’s reactionary defences are strong, his decision-making is not up to par. When given the time, the Brazilian made constant rash decisions which gave away set-pieces.

There were periods when Gabriel looked the part. Last season he was called into the side to play as an emergency right-back, and he did not let us down. He was solid, his positioning was error-free – he did the job effectively.

He couldn’t keep his place though. Gabriel simply gives away too many fouls, goes to ground too often in last-gasp tackles that have a low percentage of success, and couldn’t bond with his defensive partners.

His much-vaunted troubles with the English language didn’t help, but we have had many foreign imports and they have all had to learn the dialect, so why was it so difficult for Gabriel?

Who knows. What is certain is that his departure, for slightly less than he was purchased for, was a dilemma of sorts.

Some cried out after he was sold, saying he was a great backup and we still need defensive numbers. The dilemma though, was that it was either Gabriel or Calum Chambers who would have left the club – and Chambers is a far better long-term option.

Firstly, the England man’s age weighs in his favour. Secondly, his Under-21 displays as Captain show what he is capable of – as well as his record under severe duress in his season on loan with a poor Middlesbrough side.

Chambers could still develop into a fantastic defender. He IS a fantastic defender, but needs a chance.

Gabriel had his chance, and whilst he could have forged a career in the Premiership, Arsenal deserved better than what he could give. It feels sad to say that because, above all else – Gabriel left everything on the pitch when he pulled on the shirt.

If we could have all of our current players have the same burning desire Gabriel showed in every minute he played for us, then we would have a squad that competes far more than it does right now.

Thank you Gabriel, and we all hope you find your way at Valencia.

Chambers and Holding are the Future

From the hottest temperatures are the most valuable of treasures born. The most precious metals are twisted and formed in unbelievably scorching heat, and under duress are beautiful objects crafted and hewn.

The same rule applies for footballers. 

Hector Bellerin – who some rate as the best right-back in the Premiership – had his debut in 2014 against a rampant Borussia Dortmund side and was taught the most severe lesson in a 2-0 defeat. The young Spaniard learned a years worth of lessons in ninety minutes. 

It was not just a baptism of fire, it was akin to tying him to a pyre.

Calum Chambers and Rob Holding went through a similar unveiling ceremony in the first game of last season, when Liverpool smelled a hint of blood and eviscerated the duo in a brutal – if slightly lucky – 4-3 win at The Emirates.

Arsenal were in control when the second half began, but Liverpool’s Mane, Coutinho and their cohorts took advantage of the green nature of the Gunners defensive centre, and cashed in opportunistically.

It was the harshest of lessons, but one that needed to be taught. Chambers was fresh from leading the England youngsters to victory as Captain in the Toulon tournament in the summer and his stock was high, as well as his confidence. An unceremonious bringing back down to earth meant that whatever illusions Chambers may or may not have had about having ‘made it’ were dissipated quickly.

The same goes for Rob Holding. He was making his competitive debut for Arsenal and he must have been counting his lucky stars. Snatched from the bowels of Bolton and now playing a Premier League fixture against Liverpool, Holding could well have thought this was where he deserved to be. 

The bottom line that was emphatically delivered to both is that the work had not yet finished for the starlets. The lesson they must learn is that the work NEVER finishes. All top class defenders will extoll this loudly when asked.

This is why defenders reach their peak later than their outfield compatriots. Different strikers bring different challenges and defenders must constantly shift and adapt to meet the task head on. 

In pre-season before the Liverpool game, Holding and Chambers saw plenty of minutes and with the pressure off to a degree, they shone. With Krystian Bielik as another youngster given the opportunity to play, the three young defenders gave great accounts of themselves. the level of competition and the lack of competitive heat was not present though. 

This is why Chambers going on loan was the best idea for his progress. With Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel and Mertesacker as rivals for the two central spots, Chambers’s development would have been hampered by a lack of gametime. With this season-long loan at Middlesbrough, we saw what he was capable of on a weekly basis. It was the perfect way to gauge whether he truly is up to the mark of playing for Arsenal.

The answer is yes, very much so. Chambers has been a pivotal member of the Boro back four which has put up a brave resistance. With their attacking threat being far less than the majority of teams in the Premiership, it has meant more time defending for the Teessiders. A real scrutiny has been on Chambers and he has passed with flying colours. 

Rob Holding was retained within the Gunners squad, and his sporadic appearances have been an indicator as to what type of player the former Trotter will be. He plays it safe, is not prone to panicking and makes correct decisions. There is much room for improvement, but at such a tender age, the signs on his progression are that the only way is up. Just look at his display in the FA Cup Final and his shackling of Chelsea’s malevolent force of Diego Costa – the boy done good.

Both players allow Arsenal to plana a little ahead. They represent the future of Arsenal’s defence, and if they can keep hold of Hector Bellerin, then many years of solidity stand in the Gunners future. What other clubs can boast of such things?

Crystal Palace Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Four points from the last six available in the Premiership means that the waters have steadied a little for Arsenal in recent weeks – but the storm clouds refuse to dissipate.

With Arsene Wenger refusing to confirm or deny his future and Alexis and Ozil still teetering on the exit door, the Gunners are still shrouded in uncertainty – and the chase for Champions League places next season remain fraught with worry.

At least displays on the pitch have improved. Both the draw against Manchester City and the handsome win over West Ham in midweek have shown our team still know how to roll up their sleeves and graft, as well as play around their opponent. For the majority of this season, we have been mired in sideways football and lacking a real sharpness which has seen us look blunted and unable to pierce even the most willing of defences.

It doesn’t get any easier though, as we travel to Selhurst Park to take on a resurgent Crystal Palace side who are eager to distance themselves from the relegation places.

With this being the 3rd game in a week for us, rotation may again reign supreme in our team. At least we have a raft of options to make this easier and not significantly weaken the team.

In goal, Petr Cech has a back injury and David Ospina has strained his calf, so Emiliano Martinez will again take the gloves as he did in the West Ham victory. With three clean sheets in his four starts for the team, a continuation of this impressive run would be a great platform for the team.

Captain Laurent Koscielny is again out with a niggling achilles, but he should be back in line for selection by the next game. Brazilian Gabriel will again deputise for the Frenchman alongside Shkodran Mustafi. 

It will be midfield that should be interesting. Mohamed Elneny slotted in to great effect against West Ham, and his reassuring presence allowed Granit Xhaka to play more like he is capable of. The Egyptian should start again, but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey fit again after minor layoffs, Elneny will need to keep his foot on the gas on the pitch if he wishes to stay in the team. Francis Coquelin also returns to the fold after missing the last fixture through personal reasons.

Danny Welbeck kept his place in the team for the last two games, but will three games in a week be too much for the England man? Olivier Giroud will be waiting in the wings to take his spot and hopefully recreate his scorpion kick goal which he scored against the same opponent. 

Mesut Ozil showed a welcome return to form against the Hammers, and the German could be the difference against a side who will be a formidably stout and stubborn opponent. A little bit of magic will be needed to unlock such obstinate foes, and Eagles boss Sam Allardyce will have them drilled well.

They do have a bit of a defensive crisis however. James Tomkins, Patrick Van Aanholt and Scott Dann will be out for the game, as well as James Mcarthur looking sketchy, but Joe Ledley will be back in the squad. Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke have linked up well in recent games and provide an aerial and ground threat, so Gabriel and company will have to be on their game to deny them.

The stats point to an Arsenal win – but we all know the game is not played on paper. Sam Allardyce has lost nine of his last ten against Wenger, and Crystal Palace have never beaten a Wenger side in the Premiership. In fact, the Eagles have won only two of their last 33 top-flight games against the Gunners. Form though, shows that the home side will be full of confidence. Four wins from their last five games is better than the away team, and they will give no inch on the pitch.

It will be a huge test for the Gunners, but this game is one that needs to be won in order to keep the pressure on the teams above us. Dropped points here, and we can say goodbye to genuine hope of anything in the League. We have given ourselves this position, and it’s only us who can get ourselves out of it.

Predicted team: Martinez, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Score – 2-1 Arsenal. 

Bournemouth Vs Arsenal – The Warm Up

Just two days after what historians will brand ‘Scorpion Day’ forevermore, after Olivier Giroud’s quite extraordinary goal against Crystal Palace, Arsenal have another Premier League game.

The Gunners travel to Bournemouth with barely time to rest, and this will lead to a side that may include some changes to allow for the inevitable fatigue that comes with two games in two days.

Arsene Wenger would have been pleased with the fighting qualities shown in the last two games – the hard-fought 1-0 win over West Brom on Boxing Day and the 2-0 win mentioned above – but Bournemouth pose an entirely different threat to the two opponents we have defeated.

Eddie Howe has always tried to play expansive football, and although they may opt for the counter-attack in the face of Arsenal’s possession-based football, they will have plenty of the ball – and chances – themselves. 

So Wenger could do with the best men at his disposal. In that regard, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott will again miss out, after missing the last two games through injury. This sees Nacho Monreal keep his place at left-back, which he deserves after he and Hector Bellerin tormented Crystal Palace. Mohamed Elneny is off to the Africa Cup of Nations so the midfield dynamic will change from the last match. Aaron Ramsey made a late substitute appearance in the same game, and with Granit Xhaka having played twice within a week, that leaves Francis Coquelin and the Welshman as the two freshest choices.

The most difficult choices come in attack. Alex Iwobi played in Mesut Ozil’s position on Sunday, with the German suffering with an illness. Iwobi excleed in his new role, and may just get another shot with Ozil still under the weather. Ozil may just recover in time, but it is comforting to know that we have another who can jump in when needed. Alexis will most likely start again on the left, as Olivier Giroud has started the last two games as striker and come up trumps on both occasions. 

Shkodran Mustafi may return to the side in place of Gabriel, but the Brazilian has made the most of his chance at centre-half and it would be harsh to immediately send him to the bench. He has also played a fair amount of games in a short space of time too however, so Mustafi may just get his place back by default. Seeing as he has never been part of a losing Arsenal side, this would not be  bad thing.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be looking to get a start as well, and has really started to flourish this season. Will he get a shout? Lucas played well on the right of attack on Boxing Day, but The Ox may just edge him out.

Bournemouth will have ex-Gunner Benik Afobe at their disposal, after he refused a call from DR Congo to play in the AFCON. Best mate and still a Gunner Jack Wilshere is unavailable for selection. Calum Wilson scored the last time these sides played, and he will again be chief threat with his pace.  Howe’s team are in ninth spot at the time of writing, and their last result was a handsome win against struggling Swansea City. Howe will be keen to rectify a poor record against the Gunners though, with all three previous games in the Premiership going to the Arsenal, and only one goal scored in favour of the Cherries.

Arsenal have a recent record they also want to change. Their last two away games they have lost, after going a goal up in each of them. If we have any hope of making ground at the top of the league, this is a game we must deal with ruthlessly. With Olivier on fire with eight goals in his last six starts, Alexis dictating play and talented individuals ready to be rotated into the side, we must be optimistic.

Our North London neighbours are once again breathing their sour breath down our necks, and it is up to us to keep up the pace. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1

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

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom – 5 Key Points 

After two successive defeats and losing precious ground with the top of the league, a win – any type of win – was always going to be the order of the day from this match.

This home victory provided the opportunity to put our season back on track, and despite the close scoreline, this performance was just what the doctor ordered. 

West Brom turned up to The Emirates with the aim of stifling the Gunners, and who can blame Tony Pulis? Despite being labelled as one of the managers who is capable of being a thorn in the side of Arsenal, Pulis’s record isn’t exactly impressive against Arsenal. The only thing that has worked in the past is the stoic approach, playing with two banks of four behind the ball. 

This is exactly what the Baggies lined up to execute, but it was to no avail in the end. Arsenal huffed and puffed at times, and there is a danger of overlooking the good points of our play, but West Brom really came close to claiming an undeserved point.

If not for Olivier Giroud’s 86th minute header, it was looking increasingly likely that more dropped points was on the Gunners menu. There was only ever one team that was going to score, but a combination of an errant final ball, hordes of West Brom players behind the ball and the woodwork meant that it took until the dying embers of the game for the points to be won.

Arsene Wenger had to shuffle his team before kickoff, as Theo Walcott was declared unfit, so Alexis was named on the left flank, and Olivier Giroud was named as the sole striker. Kieran Gibbs was also given the nod after a few shaky games from Nacho Monreal, so Arsenal could pose an aerial threat against a predominantly strong team with the ball in the air.

The Gunners though, seemed intent on playing on the deck, even though Giroud gave the side an asset in the box. The first half was a myriad of passes in and around the West Brom box, and Ozil and Sanchez looking to provide either the killer blow or pass. Conversely though, Baggies keeper Ben Foster wasn’t truly tested even in the face of such endeavours – there was only one shot on target in the entire 45 minutes.

The second half was a different story, although thankfully not as contrasting as our last two games. We played with more zip on the deck, intent to utilising West Brom’s lack of mobility compared to ours. 

Ben Foster, when not time wasting, was the man who was responsible for keeping his side in the game, but even he couldn’t touch Olivier Giroud’s header, which came from an Ozil cross. 

It was enough to win the game, but there was far more to write about during the ninety minutes. Here are the key points from the match:

Alex Iwobi getting back some form

The young Nigerian had been experiencing the inevitable dip that any starlet suffers from when bursting onto the scene. This game showed that amongst Iwobi’s strengths, he also has a steel spine to boast of. In the face of such criticism, he had not let it affect his game. He still was trying all sorts of flicks and backheels in order to pierce the Baggies backline, and it was he and Alexis that looked more likely to provide the inspiration. He looked the part, and this is also vitally important with our widemen missing this game. More of the same please!

Timewasting in the first half?

Just like Stoke City a few weeks back, West Brom knew they would have to employ more than a stubborn defence to take any points away from The Emirates, and it was their gamesmanship that was more frustrating than anything else. Ben Foster and on occasion some other players on the books at West Brom, were taking more than their sweet time for set plays. It was blindingly obvious to anyone other than the referee, but it spelled out exactly what Tony Pulis had instructed – Frsutrate Arsenal, and we can nick a point.
Bellerin and Gibbs so vital

Hector and Keiran both had license to run amok as their opponent seemed unwilling to venture any further than the halfway line. They really did give our attack another arrow, which we really did need to stretch a compact West Brom. They were solid when they needed to be, and they positioned themselves exactly where they were always needed. Great stuff.

Ozil always working

He will no doubt cop some heat again, as he didn’t perform sliding tackles, beat players with a rabona and score a screamer, but his work is there for all that want to see it. Against a Pulis side who were intent on shutting out all and sundry, he flitted around every nook and cranny that he could, trying to spark anything into life. We too, were static at times, so there were not many runners to pick out, but he had ridiculous amounts of the ball and whenever he could, he attempted to manipulate the opponent in order to create gaps. It was his 100th Premier League game, and he also recorded his 36th assist, which apparently is second only to Eric Cantona for assists recorded in 100 games. 

Giroud offers much, but there are limits

This was the Frenchman’s fourth goal of the season, and the majority of his season has been spent on the bench. We all know what Ollie brings to the table, and if a decent ball is whizzed into the box, then invariably Giroud will finish it – as shown with his goal. He doesn’t offer though, the movement of Alexis, and that is why the Chilean has prospered in the same position. Giroud is definitely useful and we must keep him, but he must adapt to his shifting role – which he has done thus far, offering much value from the bench when called upon. He is perfect for some games, not all. This game, he latched onto the only real chance that was presented to him. He did exactly what we needed. Job done.

There was much more to write about. Gabriel had perhaps his best game in an Arsenal shirt, offering a calm outlet when harrying Baggies players came rushing, and he was great aerially against Salomon Rondon. Xhaka and Coquelin were safe, but relatively untroubled so could spend the majority of their time in the opposition half, and Petr Cech finally ended a run of eight games without a clean sheet.

The most important thing amongst the words above though, is that we picked up the points. We were tough, and we kept at it. With City, Chelsea and United all winning, anything else wsould have been calamitous. 

Onwards we march. Well done boys. 

Arsenal Vs West Brom – The Warm Up

It’s Christmas Eve, but despite the festivities elsewhere, there are precious few who are full of good cheer as Gooners.

Two consecutive defeats have happened before in our past, but few of our losses have been so surrendered so voluntarily as when we lost to Everton and Manchester City.

It has left many who follow our club wondering if the positive start we had made in the season was another false dawn, and that the same frailties that have blighted our seasons gone by still course throughout our team.

One of the few things to raise optimism is that with the defeats coming in the thick of the fixture congestion, we have an opportunity to remedy the losing run in quick fashion. 

Next up is West Bromwich Albion.

Our two losses have coincided with the loss to injury of Shkodran Mustafi, who will again be out of the team. Gabriel is again expected to deputise. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out with a hamstring injury, but Aaron Ramsey has recovered from a similiar ailment and is in full training. It may come too soon for the Welshman, but a spot on the bench is not beyond his hopes. 

Danny Welbeck is another who has returned to training, and what the England striker brings to the team cannot be underestimated. This game will not be within his sights, but a first team recall is nearing after not playing since April. With The Ox out and Welbeck still nearing a return, it should mean that Alex Iwobi has another chance to return to a semblance of form, and the same goes for Mesut Ozil.

The German has been firing this season, but a player of his talent was strangely anonymous in our last two games – both of them we lost. A player such as he has been through critical moments before and will return to his best, but it is not unfair to expect a little more from a man who is capable of destroying a whole team with one pass or movement. He has had a great season so far, but all eyes will be in him to see if he rises above the critics as he has done before.

The opponent could have been easier, as any team managed by Tony Pulis will test the fibres of their opponents, and the Baggies are a threat at both ends of the pitch.

West Brom have a reputation of a rock solid defence, but have only one clean sheet in their last fourteen. They will be helped by the return of Jonny Evans however, although James Morrison looks to be out. Salomon Rondon will carry the weight of goal expectation for the away side, and aerially, he will run the rule over Gabriel to see if he has the mettle to survive in the Premiership. If he dominates, then Rondon could very well see the long term prospects of the Brazilian at Arsenal hampered.

Arsenal also have a problem keeping clean sheets, and Petr Cech hasn’t managed one in his last eight – his worst run in his career. If the Gunners manage to keep out the Baggies, it will be a well deserved end to that run of leakiness. 

Let us not forget last season when Cazorla missed a last minute penalty to earn a paltry point – West Brom will ensure we put in everything to win. 

West Brom in their defeat to United last week really tested Mourinho’s team, and were ridiculously well drilled. It was only down to an Ibrahimovic moment of brilliance, and a deflected shot that Pulis’s men were undone. They will rock up to The Emirates with a gameplan, and the perfect way to undo this would be an early goal.

An early goal would also dispel any negativity in the stands, so Arsene Wenger must instruct his team to go full throttle from the off. That is when we see the best of our side, so hopefully a win and an entertaining show are in store. 

Chelsea are nine points clear, and Liverpool and City have overtaken us. Not only this, tottenham are but one point behind. Three points or bust.

I will be at the game, and an in-depth review will follow the game. It would be much easier to write about a win….

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal

Predicted Team – Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis

Everton 2-1 Arsenal – 5 Keypoints From The Game

Everton ended their recent woeful run with a tight 2-1 victory over Arsenal, as Chelsea and the rest of the Gunners title rivals looked on with undoubted glee.

Toffees boss Ronald Koeman has never lost to Arsenal at home with any of the sides he has managed, and he kept up this record with a win earned by way of Ashley Williams first for his new club in the 86th minute.

Arsenal meanwhile, see their run without loss ended with this lacklustre result, which was devoid of any of the spark which has been the signature of their last three games.

Too many of our stars had a rare off day for this game, with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott in particular shackled well, but the Gunners did take the lead through Alexis and a devilishly deflected free-kick which fooled Marten Stekelenburg.

Everton though managed to level the game at a crucial time which probably changed the game, as Seamus Coleman stole in to head in Leighton Baines cross in the 44th minute.

The second half was a largely frustrating affair, with play being stilted thanks to unforced errors in passing, and not just from the home side who were low on confidence. Arsenal’s midfield were working hard but they could not inject the side with impetus as possession was regularly gifted to Everton.

In the end, Arsenal got what they were asking for, as Ashley Williams capitalised on some poor zonal marking to grab the winner, leaving minutes for the Gunners to salvage something.

Second half sub Olivier Giroud nearly performed heroics, but his effort was blocked on the goal line, and it meant that Everton maintain their unbeaten home record, Arsenal lose ground in the league, and confidence will be dented with our next fixrure at The Etihad carrying more pressure than ever.

There were a lot of talking points in the game, but here are five that seem the most pertinent:

We let Everton back in

The first 20 or so minutes, Everton were as bad as their run suggested. They were ripe for plucking, but we seemed reluctant to press them into errors. Instead, we slowly loosened our grip and it seemed as if we invited them to attack. They were still awful, but we tried to match them for mistakes. Our midfield misplaced SO many passes. If we had cut out at least 40-50% of our misdirected passes, we would have had at least a point.

Where was the rest of the injury time?

Leighton Baines, Stekelenburg and Olviier Giroud all had to recieve treatment, and injury time should have been racked up. Instead, we got the regulation four minutes. What about the lengthy stoppages? Did Clattenburg forget to put on his casio digital and had to use his Transformers talking watch instead? In injury time we almost scored, what could we have done with the extra three minutes we should have had?

Defence is better, but it needs to improve

We have a world class keeper in Cech, and Mustafi has indeed boosted our backline, but no clean sheets in eleven games tells its own story. Whether it be zonal marking or simply a lack of concentration, it needs to improve if we are to truly break our duck this season.

It was a matter of time, but the manner was disappointing

With our run, it had to end at some point. The manner in which we allowed it to happen is very frustrating though. We loaded the gun and gave it to Everton. We did not click and our opponent was punch drunk for the first part of the game! Ruthlessness would have seen the points bagged.

We must not let negativity take over 

We have lost, and the performance was wanting, but we are still in contention and our record is still impressive. While we hope this doesn’t snowball and we bounce back against City, we should have full confidence they will as their performances on the pitch have earned our trust. We have been burned so many times, but let’s try to be optimistic even if the ninety minutes we just watched felt rather downcast.
There was a lot more to write about, such as Monreal being exposed again, and our widemen really flattering to deceive, but I really don’t fancy going into any more detail about a game that will be consigned to the recycling bin of most of our minds. Like a dog turd in long grass, the lawnmower in our brain will quickly dispatch the offending article and leave no trace. 

Everton Vs Arsenal – The Warm-Up

Since our opening day loss to Liverpool, Arsenal have gone on to record 14 Premier League games without a loss. To continue that run, they must overcome Everton at Goodison Park.

There has only been one other defeat since Liverpool sneaked a 4-3 win at The Emirates – the quarter-final loss to Southampton in the EFL Cup – and Arsene Wenger will have to shuffle his pack as the Gunners face five games in 22 days.

Shkodran Mustafi tweaked his hamstring in our 3-1 win over Stoke three days ago and faces at least three weeks out. This means the flurry of games Arsenal are now heading into, Mustafi will miss all of them. Thankfully, the footballing gods have shined upon us a little, as Hector Bellerin has returned at the exact moment Mustafi was ruled out. This means that Gabriel can stand in for the German as opposed to filling in on the right of defence.

Arsenal will still be without their longer term injured. Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck are all at varying stages of recovery but will not be able to be called upon until the New Year at best.

It isn’t only injuries that see Wenger potentially rotating his eleven. With so many games on the horizon, it is the squad strength that will see dropped points kept to a minimum. The next game is a crucial trip to The Etihad, so the midfield and attack will invariably see some changes.

The midfield combo of Coquelin and Xhaka worked well against Stoke, and the Xhaka/Ramsey collective also worked wonders in the win over Basel, so who gets the nod for today’s game? With the test of a wounded City coming up, will one get a rest so they can be fresh for Sunday? Mohamed Elneny will surely get some minutes in midfield with so many games coming up.

It is in attack that Arsenal really have a great opportunity to maintain form and still rotate. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has failed to live up to his talent on thw hole since his move to Arsenal, has finally started to show consistency in his game, and it is between him and Alex Iwobi for the left hand spot of the forward line. Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez seem nailed on for starts, and their numbers show why. 

Olivier Giroud has bided his time whilst Alexis fires goals left, right and centre, but this month will see the bearded Frenchman come into the equation more than ever this season. Giroud has been effective coming from the bench, but he could come in to start this game, especially as Alexis was stamped on brutally by the thuggish actions of Charlie Adam. Wenger did not intimate any injury to the Chilean, but preserving Arsenal’s main man this season must be high on the agenda. Alexis has had a hand in more goals than ANYONE this season – 11 goals, five assists – so his wellbeing is on the mind of every Gooner!

What of the opponents? The Toffees have suffered after a bright start to Ronald Koeman’s tenure, and two points from their last five games has seen them slump to ninth in the table. This does highlight a strange parallel which Le King, Thierry Henry, highlighted on Sky Sports yesterday, which was that this run of form matches Koeman’s at Southampton last season before they faced Arsenal –  a game they won in emphatic fashion 4-0.

They still remain in touching sitance of the Europa League places, and with hitman Romelu Lukaku bagging a brace in their last game – a 3-2 loss to Watford – they will pose a very real threat. Yannick Bolasie has been ruled out for the rest of the season, so Gerard Deulofeu will get the chance to nail down a starting spot. With Kevin Mirallas also in their forward line, they will be a real test for Gabriel, Koscielny and co, and if Arsenal are to leave Goodison with maximum points they must be switched on for the full 90.

The last time the Gunners played at Everton was in March, and we were victorious in a 2-0 win. Another scoreline similar to this would leave the travelling support in a merry mood as Christmas festivities start to heat up, but despite Everton’s recent woes, they still remain unbeaten at home. So a win would really send a message to all our rivals.

With Liverpool dropping points to West Ham, City losing and tottenham also tasting defeat, it left a gap between us and the rest. Chelsea maintained their push with a 1-0 win over West Brom, and all the runners and riders are at different points in their season. Tottenham need to instill some confidence after successive losses, City look to be at breaking point with John Stones being the only recognised centreback on the field during their loss to Leicester, and Liverpool still have a goalkeeper and defender headache, not to mention missing Phillippe Coutinho.

With no end to the fixture congestion in sight, these problems will only be exacerbated. All the teams will drop points, as the top of the league becomes a competition to see who can run through the gauntlet with less scars than the rest. With every team holding the potential to beat one another, every game will test the strength of the men who comprise the squads.

Arsenal have depth, and seem to be motoring along nicely. As Gooners, we take nothing for granted though. Long may our run continue.

Predicted lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis

Predicted Score – 2-1 Arsenal.