Tag Archives: guardiola

Arsenal’s Near Future

The gulf has stretched in the last decade, transforming into a hungry chasm.

Manchester City and Liverpool have both taken the initiative over the last two to three years and left the chasing pack with nothing but dust clouds to latch onto. Chelsea only won the Premier League three seasons ago and yet if we inspect their current situation – it is enough to dispirit even the most ardent optimist.

Chelsea possess some truly world-class players. Ngolo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, Kepa – all wouldn’t look out of place in most top European teams.

But heed their failures and you can see what it really takes to establish yourself with success in the modern era – an era which barely resembles its old self from a decade ago.

Replacing a player of the ilk of Eden Hazard was always going to be difficult, but they also failed to replace mercurial midfield talent too. The likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas could conjure something from nothing, but instead they have the more industrial strengths of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. Not without their merits, but very different players.

A change in coach has heralded a change in tack from Chelsea – and most importantly, Roman Abramovich. No longer are they completely reliant on the Roubles he provides. They want to be self-sustaining – or as near as they can be without their new stadium plans. That means a certain air of frugality in the transfer market in comparison to how they acted in order to escape the realms of obscurity when he took over.

However, they’ve also recruited wisely. Timo Werner and Ziyech look like astute purchases.

All this combined has led to Chelsea still fighting near the top – but unable to keep up with Klopp and Guardiola.

As Gooners, we are also seeing two managers at the top of their game, duking it out at the same time, leaving others not so qualified or talented, feeding from the scraps left by the German and the Spaniard.

It makes for some pretty depressing reading when you look at the face of things. We all are hoping that the decision to bring in the fresh-faced Arteta, his belief in our values and most importantly, the testimonials of those who have worked with him, that this move will bear precious fruit if given time.

We see promising signs. Our destruction of United this season showed exactly the cornerstones of what Arteta wants. Pressure on the ball. Obtain possession high up the pitch and attack and defend as one. Responsible positioning – but most importantly, clear instructions for the players.

Something that was apparently lacking during Unai Emery’s tenure.

We are still in recovery, but can we hold out hope of a title challenge any time soon?

arteta training ground

Next season – after this season in terms of growth for Arteta and the embedding of his tactics – will probably come too soon, but improvement is key. A top four finish and a shrinking of the gap would suffice for the majority – and it would also give his charges the evidence that this is working. Belief is key – but the proof is in the pudding… or top four.

A decent – and first – pre-season for Arteta could prove crucial. The more time he spends with his squad, the better we will become. You get the feeling that all of the players are completely behind him and his staff – and that is an excellent foundation to build from.

Pep Guardiola normally gets an itch and searches for pastures or challenges new after a few seasons and this is well overdue. For Jurgen Klopp? He’s now won the PL this season, his job will be mission accomplished and he will be so sought after, that he will definitely have his head turned by one of the bigger Euro teams.

Chelsea are rebuilding. Man United will look to plug some big gaps and will always have the resources to do so. It is vitally important that after our hiatus from the Champions League that we regain that position sooner rather than later. We are living off of our reputation right now when it comes to luring talent.

If you also take into consideration that our young stars will be one year older and wiser – and with a season of growth behind them – we will be stronger regardless of who is signed and who isn’t.

It is time to make some new memories.

The good times are coming, but we will need patience to see it bloom.

Arsenal Revive the FA Cup

Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.

The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.

The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.

It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.

It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.

Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.

Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.

Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.

Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.

The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.

It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.

The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.

Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.

We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.

It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.

Arsenal Vs Manchester City – PL Match Preview

With the Carabao Cup final humbling still fresh in the memory, the perfect fixture to erase those nightmarish visions is……Manchester City.

The display that our team put in as we were taken apart by Pep Guardiola’s men seems to have resonated more than most defeats – and we’ve had a fair few this season.

Seven to be exact. This year.

Gary Neville’s comments especially, during and after the match, have struck a chord as they were what most were thinking. Why did our players show such an insipid level of effort? Why were none busting a gut? Did none of them recognise this was a cup final?

So, today’s game at The Emirates is far from what we needed. What we need is a win. Then another, And then another. The chances of us winning against City are low, and with us being ten points of spurs who are in 4th spot, two defeats at the hands of the blue half of Manchester could sound the death knell of any prospective success, and condemn us to our worst ever season under Wenger.

Wenger opted for three at the back in the Cup Final,which was suggested by many before the game. We also had Wilshere and Ramsey in the same team for the first time in quite some time.

Surely he has to change the approach? But does that mean the players in the eleven?

Anyone who watched the travesty on Sunday can concur that it wasn’t the choice of personnel that was the problem. It was our strongest side and should be enough of a match to give us a shout.

The problem was the application of any form of tactic. We lost possession frequently, we didn’t pressure their possession strongly enough, and we looked absolutely clueless when we did have the ball.

The first thing we need to do is actually put in a modicum of effort instead of hoping our play will suffice. Without effort, the result is what we saw at Wembley.

There will be changes in the side, although they will be enforced. Nacho Monreal looks to be ruled out for this game and the trip to the Amex Stadium, possibly longer. That means if we stay with three at the back, we’ve got less central defensive options, but Sead Kolasinac is primed for the left-back spot.

What about central midfield though? Granit Xhaka is a cultured midfielder, but he is no DM. He seems unable to track any runners, but if he starts, then he really must learn. Alternatively, we have Mohamed Elneny to fill in.

Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are both fit, but fitting them both into the team may require one of them to play in the attacking three behind Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck are viable options to play, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in the team after being cup-tied on Sunday.

Pep has to deal with Fernandinho being unavailable, so Ilkay Gundogan will have a new partner in midfield. this could play into our hands if our engine room kicks into life. City may have Raheem Sterling back after being ruled out on Sunday, and Gabriel Jesus is back from a knee injury.

If we are to avoid catastrophe this season, we need to go on a run, and there’s no better time to start than now. We know we’re capable, it’d just be good to see us show it for once. We have a great record at The Emirates, let’s keep it going. #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Elneny, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – Let’s do this, 2-1 to The Arsenal

Man City Vs Arsenal – Preview of Mission Implausible

We all know this is going to be a tough nut to crack. Manchester City have the best offence and second best defence this season in terms of goals scored and conceded. They also have nine wins and one draw from ten league games.

Then we have our team. One away win this season from our league games and some wildly varying performances have left us guessing about what team will show up from one game to the next. We can eviscerate teams with our attack like we did against Everton, or we can be completely insipid and act like a doormat like we did against Liverpool.

It is our average performances that we need to concentrate on. They also provide us with very little ability to predict. We have our strangely shocked display when we lost to Watford where we seemed unable to comprehend our opponent fighting back. Then we have games like Swansea last week where we didn’t play well but our tenacity rose to the surface.

We will need that in buckets if we are to escape from The Eitihad with anything.

Another thing we will need is positional discipline. Our team will be allowed to play if they can avoid the press of City. We must remember to avoid going all-out like we have a propensity to do, and thus leave us open for City’s lightning forward line.

Our full-backs must be switched on when roaming forward and have their counterparts position in their mind at all times. So it is great news we will have Sead Kolasinac fit and ready for this game after injuring his hip last week.

Manchester City will most likely recall David Silva and Gabriel Jesus after resting them against Napoli. Jesus played a cameo but he will be refreshed and could partner Sergio Aguero up top. then they have the mercurial Spaniard Silva attacking from midfield with Kevin DeBruyne and Raheem Sterling. Then they have Leroy Sane if they can find room in their team, who has played his part in 11 goals in his last seven games.

Whew, that is one hell of a task for our defence. We have shown we can keep it tight at times, but this stern examination will be our toughest test this season.

We have a great record against City recently. They have just one win in the last nine games against us, and we have scored twice in eight of our last ten games against them.

This game will have goals, and plenty of them. City have 21 goals in five home games so far. Quite a scary stat for us. City also managed the most passes ever recorded since Opta Stats began, in their win over West Brom last week. Both teams own the highest averages of possession so far this season too.

We do have a potent attack ourselves, although it is easy to forget when you look at City this season. Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can really hurt Pep Guardiola’s men, but they will need to be on fire if we are to grab all three points.

In terms of injuries, Santi Cazorla, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck are ruled out of the game.

Optimism can be found when we look to our better performances. Ignorance is the best option when we look at our failings. Let us try and enjoy what is bound to be a match filled with goalmouth action.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Welcome To The Premiership Pep

It seems there may just be a little more substance to the claim that the Premiership is the toughest League in Europe after all. 

Pep Guardiola, fresh from constructing what many profess to be the greatest club side in recent memory – Barcelona circa 2009 – and leading Bayern Munich to another inevitable Bundesliga, his arrival at Manchester City was meant to signal the herald of a new era of domination at The Etihad. 

With seemingly bottomless funds to acquire the cream of Europe’s talent, and a manager that had crushed all comers who foolishly stood in his way in Spain, Germany and the rest of the continent, it was the portents of doom for the rest of the Premier League.

No one told them though.

As of this current moment, Manchester City stand not at the zenith of the competition they were supposed to win, but eight points away from the top. 

This sees Pep Guardiola in uncharted territory, as he not only struggles to keep his side’s credentials as title contenders, but also to ensure a vital Champions League spot for next season. The fallout from City not achieving a top four spot should be earth shattering, but the underlying fact of the matter is that this is not the perfect storm that sometimes befalls an unwitting manager. 

It is entirely his own doing.

Pep joining City was the worst kept secret in football, and the club announcing his acquisition during the previous season whilst Manuel Pellegrini was still at the helm was a bad PR exercise and harmful to the team when there was still much to play for.

It did mean that Guardiola could identify targets before he took the wheel at The Etihad, and that would give him ample time to construct a side that could play the style he wanted. The possession-based football which had garnered so much adulation and silverware.

Guardiola utilised City’s powerful chequebook and signed John Stones, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo and Nolito to the tune of just over £170m. He also felt he had seen enough of England goalkeeper Joe Hart to judge that he was incapable of playing out from the back to a sufficient standard, and loaned Hart to Torino.

The only defensive signing he made was John Stones – for nearly £50m. This was the same Stones who the season before had been left out of the Everton side due to poor form. Stones had only played two full seasons at the top level, so a £50m fee was a bit steep even if Stones had shown glimpses of real potential. 

With City’s backline creaking in Pellegrini’s last season before being replaced by Pep, the new manager’s first error was overlooking the one weakness that could derail his grand plan before he could fully implement it. 

Vincent Kompany, the lynchpin of City’s two title wins, had played less than half of their games in 2015-16. His injuries were totting up and showed no signs of being rectified, so an experienced head in the centre of defence was required to help Stones tow the line. Another centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, was allowed to leave on loan to Valencia, as defensive troops thinned yet further.

This left Nicolas Otamendi and Stones as their first choice pairing. The aging Pablo Zabaleta was still effective but was far below the level he had set himself previously, and Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were solid, but also were not at the level they had shown in years gone by. Then there was Aleksander Kolarov, who could take a mean free kick but defensively was not the most watertight in a positional sense.

These were the men who would be charged with providing the solid foundation on which Pep’s mesmerising football would sit on. Then there was Claudio Bravo.

The keeper who had played under Pep at Barca could spark attacks with his passing from his box, and was drafted in as first choice in place of Joe Hart – a tried and tested Premier League keeper who had shared the golden glove award in the season before. 

It is a move which has backfired terribly. Claudio Bravo has looked anything but assured in the frenetic pace of the Premiership, and this change of speed has seen his normally cool dealings with the ball morph into bouts of hot panic amongst the City faithful.

Despite these errors of judgement by Guardiola, it seemed as if the side had enough about them – especially in attack – as by the end of September, they were without loss in the league and sat above their rivals. It led to the media waxing lyrical about the manager and declare an early end to league proceedings, as Guardiola had began in ominous fashion and would surely continue in the same fashion that he had done in Spain and Germany?

Many great football icons and minds have said that it is easy to win when you’re already winning, but getting back on the horse is a far more difficult job once you’ve been dumped unceremoniously on your backside. A true test of mettle would be how Guardiola and his men would deal with a loss. 

The month of October saw City fall to tottenham, draw with Everton, get humped by Barca, draw with Southampton and lose to Man United before ending the month with a face-saving win at West Brom. One loss had snowballed into five games without a win. Pep was feeling the heat and it appeared as if teams had figured out that City were still a side in transit. They were trying to play in the manner that their manager wished, but the Premier League does not allow for a recovery period or a term of adjustment. It kicks you when you’re down and taunts you for trying to get back up.

Since then, City have dropped points a further five times, and yet the media have pointed at the fact that the Spaniard is still coming to terms with a new country, a new league, a new squad. What has been overlooked is his financial outlay, his terrible planning in terms of transfers, and his indignant refusal to switch tactics.

Pep has had ample cash to rectify the shortcomings he now faces in his team’s defence. He instead opted to go with what he already had at his disposal, aside from John Stones. There would always be a period when Stones’ lack of experience would cost him, and with a lack of cover and Pep seemingly unable to choose a settled back four, it has seen performances littered with errors. 

Then we have the fact that the side he inherited is more than capable of winning the league. The man he replaced at The Etihad – Pellegrini – had to put up with the fact he was embarrasingly replaced as boss before his last season had ended and yet he still took his side to the top four. They have riches in their side that would walk into the majority of teams across the continent. 

The media’s refusal to unleash these criticism’s that they would have no hesitation to fling at his rivals has seen a rise of ignorance toward Guardiola’s failings. The man who was apparently infallible is now overseeing a team which is not performing at their best – and has not done since September. They have lost to big teams and small, and in Europe they may have progressed to the latter stages again, but isn’t this the least that should be expected? 

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp. These managers have made a rod for their own back by their continued standards. If they slip, then to varying degrees they will face the heat from the flashing bulbs and myriad of questions from the paparazzi. By an extension of their own excellence, they now have to answer to all and sundry when there is even the tiniest of slips.

Pep Guardiola oversaw football from the gods at the Nou Camp, and maintained the superiority that Bayern had cultivated in Germany. With each of these sides though, he was picking up a team which was already crafted. He has never built a side from the ground up, or even had to patch up a squad that was severely wounded.

He has been allowed to concentrate solely on tactics as he has taken over a team which already comprised all of the parts needed. At Barca, Frank Rijkaard had won La Liga twice and the European Cup. The Dutchman had overhauled an underachieving side with a subtle blend of youth and new signings, and the trophies that were netted were a signal of the work that Rijkaard had done. When Guardiola took over, the side he inherited were already present. He obviously made some changes and took them to the next level, but fundamentally, the foundations were already there. 

When he arrived at Munich, he was handed a side that had just won a treble of German Cup, Bundesliga and the Champions League! 

At City, he had a team that needed a little TLC, but he was still given a team that was worthy of contending for honours. He wasn’t exactly given a team that needed a radical overhaul. 

He has never been at a post that required him to change a side, or to even patch it up. All the sides he has managed have had a sqwuad that is more than capable of cutting it at the top. This City side is the nearest he has come to performing all the tasks that every manager at every other club has to contend with, and he is showing his relative lack of experience. 

The Premier League is another factor in the equation which sees Pep struggle. In Spain, he had to contend with the giants of Real Madrid, but other than their perennial rivals, they had precious little in the way of obstacles to stop them on their way to La Liga. Similarly in Germany, it is another two horse race.

In the Premiership, it may have been the same case a few years back, but in the last ten or so years, there have been at least three or four sides at the beginning of each campaign that could have potentially gone on to win the competition. This season, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, tottenham and United will all be in the mix for the top four. All viable opponents which stand in the way of not only the title, but enabling City to sit at the top table in Europe.

His recent press conferences have seen the Spanish boss become rankled with questions that Wenger, Klopp, Mourinho and the rest are old hands at batting away. These queries are not exactly barbed, but yet the clipped responses and bristling words that Guardiola have thrown back are classic signs that the man is on the back foot. 

Pep will get the time he needs to oversee the changes he needs to make in order for City to play in the fashion which saw Pep’s Barca rule Europe, but in the meantime, his stubbornness to change his tactics as his men struggle to adapt has seen other teams take advantage. Change is good, but more often than not, it needs to be done incrementally. Just ask David Moyes.

Guardiola is still a top manager, but for the first time he has work to do. The time and funds he needs will be provided to him, but if he refuses to adapt his tactics and continues to ignore the gaps in his defence, then time and money will matter little.

The crown on Pep’s bald head is slipping. Welcome to the Premier League. 

Manchester City Vs Arsenal: The Warm-Up

For some it was a mild malady that can be easily remedied with a victory, but for others, it was a stark symptom of the deficiencies that run through the team. 

Regardless of what our loss to Everton underlined, tomorrow’s match at The Etihad against title rivals Manchester City doesn’t require more riding on the result – for either team.

Arsenal slipped up for only the second time in the league with the 2-1 reverse at Goodison in midweek, and the dropped points were compounded when all the teams in the mix at the top of the table took three points. It served to embolden how tough this league at the cutting edge really is, and also highlighted what high standards must be maintained in every single fixture.

These standards will be the least that is needed to overcome Pep Guardiola’s City side, who will be expected to pick up the points at home, and get back on track their own bid which has been waylaid recently with some erratic results.

For Arsene Wenger, he would’ve liked an easier fixture to restore some confidence, but sometimes the toughest tests bring out the best in teams, and this match will see some titanic match-ups.

Wenger will have the majority of his squad to call upon, but the longer term absentees in Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck are still unavailable – although Welbeck is a week away from first team training, which is a massive boost for the team. Aaron Ramsey and Shkodran Mustafi will both be sidelined also. Gabriel will once again stand in for Mustafi, and our midfield will be comprised of two from Coquelin, Elneny and Xhaka. 

Ilkay Gundogan severely injured his troublesome knee in City’s midweek win over Watford, and he looks to be out for the season. Guardiola is also bereft of Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Kompany, through suspension and injury respectively. It leaves the Spanish boss with a need to shuffle, rather than rotate through a well packed squad. Their defence comprised of three defenders who were not centre-backs against Watford, but they will be boosted by the return of Nicolas Otamendi, and he will partner John Stones in defence.

The Citizens have been weak in defence, and Claudio Bravo has not aided this. His uncertainty and errors have been cause for concern, and aerially is an area that Arsenal could find gold. Our strongest threat in the air is Olivier Giroud but it looks as if the Frenchman will be on the bench. Giroud has a great record against City, and he has scored in his last four appearances against the blue half of Manchester.

We have plenty of options to attack City, but one bone of contention is who should be our starter on the left of attack? Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both thrown down markers, but in recent weeks, The Ox has begun to show Gooners that one elusive skill he has never obtained – consistency. Whoever starts, they will have to go for the jugular from the outset, as we all know what happens when Arsenal give their opponents the opportunity to dictate play.

The Gunners have enjoyed a good record in this fixture – unbeaten in six – and must look to take all points, especially as spurs and United have both done the same thing this season. Chelsea will play today and if they extend their winning run, they will be a huge nine points above us before we play. It is mandatory we shrink that gap.

Petr Cech is one who will be vital to our hopes, and he will be more than aware that he has failed to keep a clean sheet for seven games – he has never gone eight games without a shut out. The Czech has not shown any poor form, but a top drawer Cech can be a huge difference and he will need to be in great form to keep out Sterling, Iheanacho, De Bruyne and Silva.

Before every Premier League game, the ramifications for defeat are discussed and what is clear is that we cannot afford to drop points. It is inevitable we will, but when we do slip up, it cannot snowball into a larger malaise. 

We have slipped against Everton, but this is the perfect opportunity to get back on track and remind everyone that our credentials this term are far stronger than before. The same goes for our widemen, who were pretty anonymous and must exert their influence more on the game. 

I fancy us for the win. Pep does not do defensive football, and both teams will go toe-to-toe. Both defences are missing key personnel and it will be down to who is sharpest in attack. 

In that department, we enjoy a smidgin of superiority this season. Let us hope we show it in this game.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal

Predicted Lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Ozil, The Ox, Sanchez. 

Man City 2-3 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Two days prior to this fixture, Arsenal ran out easy victors to the tune of an eight goal victory, over an outplayed Viking Stavanger side.

Despite the handsome level of win, most eyes were on this match as the true barometer in regards of where we stand for the Premier League opener versus Liverpool on the 14th of this month.

Well, on the face of this win, we seem to have found our stride.

Friendly matches are difficult to gauge, but if this match had ended in a loss, make no mistake, panic would have washed over our fanbase like a high tide. So, with a win, we should allow ourselves a little optimism. 

This was still a Pep Guardiola-led team, and it still had an embarassment of riches within its ranks. David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Nolito and the quite excellent Sergio Aguero were at the tip of City’s spear, but their bench screamed money, with De Bruyne, Navas and Yaya Toure waiting in the wings. 

Our own team weren’t exactly paupers though. We had the much heralded Granit Xhaka starting in the centre, along with Francis Coquelin, and more intriguingly, the returning Alexis Sanchez started up top. Another player to return to our squad after their summer heroics was Aaron Ramsey, who played in the No10 role. 

The Ox was given another opportunity on the right of the attack, and in defence, we had Gabriel and Rob Holding. Our lineup looked a little more finalised, with more established starters within the framework, so this game was primed to give spectators a taste of the coming season. 

Could we keep pace with City? Would it become evident that we were severely lacking in numbers? Here is five things that we can take from the ninety minutes that unfolded on the pitch:

Our gameplan is nearing completion

There were signs of it in the preceding friendly matches, but the neat interchanges, the rapid passages of play and the transition from defence to attack were prevalent in our game, especially in the second half. We gave City so many problems, and even when we were penned in, we always looked able to convert pressure into opportunity. It may have been tagged a friendly game, but there was plenty of will to win from both sides – and no love lost. Fernando perhaps should have been sent off, after a shirt pull and swearing at the ref in two separate incidents. So, both teams wanted to win. The performance we put in though, showed we could carve them open if we wished. Very pleasing, and we appear to be ready for the 14th of August and the visit of Liverpool.

Ramsey, Santi and Xhaka aren’t quite ready…..yet

It was great to see Rambo return with eagerness to our side, but a gargantuan effort at the Euro’s for his country, and a minimal break have left the Welshman with a bit of catching up to do in terms of sharpness. He isn’t far away, and he will have a huge part to play when he does hit his stride. Ditto for Santi and Xhaka, who both have shown they will be certain starters, once they gain their edge.

Theo Walcott has his part to play

Written off repeatedly, and consigned to the exit by the majority, but Theo has faced this before, and silenced the haters. Low confidence, changing positions and injuries have all taken their toll, and he had to start from the ground up to get back to any semblance of form. He still isn’t there yet, but his forty five minute showing against a fellow Premier League contender will have his few fans purring. His goal was absolutely brilliant too. Turning away from his marker, a burst of pace, a give and go, continuing his run into the box and dinking the ball over an onrushing Hart. It was so quick, and so lethal. I will put my neck on the line – as I have done in the last few entries – and will say that if he can stay fit, and get a run of games, Theo will leave his mark. He harried defenders, assisted Alex Iwobi’s goal, and was a menace. He needs to attain consistency, but he is nearing full throttle. After such a long time, he needs to.

Sanchez to have a huge season

No one can say what injuries will befall us during a hard slog of a campaign, but if Sanchez manages to avoid the lunges, studs-up challenges, and desperate attempts to stifle him through the dark arts of football – he will have a stormer for us. This was his first match for us since returning from a victorious Copa tournament, and he tormented the whole of the City backline. We are more than accustomed to his non-stop manner, but this was allied with a keen edge which always opened up options. It is enough to whet the appetite for the coming season. He is champing at the bit.

Elneny and Coquelin are back to speed

Both players were immense in this game. Both hounded the opposition, but both were so hungry for possession. Their reactions at times seemed half a second quicker than everyone else on the pitch, and they are surely winning the race to start in the middle of the pitch against Liverpool for our first game of the season. Wenger may start with Xhaka, but Elneny and Coquelin are proving that in central midfield, every game will be a selection headache for their manager. 

The game ended on a sour note, after Gabriel suffered what looked to be a serious injury. Crumpled on the deck for at least ten minutes, and leaving the ground in a protective boot does not lend itself toward optimism for his prognosis – leaving Chambers, Holding and Bielik as our only fit centre-backs.. Of course, Wenger must buy a defender, as cover is pretty thin on the ground, but Monreal filled in well when asked to play in the centre, and he could do again. Last resorts it may be, but an experienced head next to one of these young charges may just be the remedy.

The Ox looked pumped for this game before being replaced, and Alex Iwobi again proved why it is just as important to blood youngsters as it is to buy in the window. The young Nigerian was fantastic, showing all aspects of attack in his game, but most importantly, composure on the ball. He has taken his chance with both hands, and we have a real player on our hands – who has an unbelievable capacity for improvement.

It wouldn’t be a pre-season fixture without a Chuba Akpom goal, and his amazing record will only serve to push him closer to either a first team squad place, or a more attractive loan destination. Other reasons to be cheerful were that Chambers in the second half looked assured, and Petr Cech pulled off a wonderful save, but ultimately, the team performance was the real headline. We looked good, and posed many problems, as well as quelled many attacks. If we can keep the belief up, and reproduce such a conducive display in the weekend, we will do just fine.

So, we appear to be ready. Roll on the 14th of August.