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Arsenal’s Home Comforts

We know a home crowd has a huge effect on players. We know it changes the course of decisions for referees – home teams are nearly twice as likely to get a big decision than the away team.

Is it truly the 12th man though?

It seems that way for Arsenal right now, and last season too for that matter.

The contrast between our home and away form is quite startling. Since December (this is written in the aftermath of our 1-0 loss to Everton at Goodison) we have won a solitary game away from The Emirates in the Premier League. That victory was at bottom of the table Huddersfield, and we have had five away wins since the start of 2018 – Cardiff, Newcastle, Fulham, Bournemouth and Huddersfield.

Add to that our lack of a clean sheet away from home – the ONLY team to not have one this season – and you have a severe case of travel sickness.

It would be a case of relegation if it weren’t for our impressive home form. Only Manchester City have more home points banked than us, and it has seen us stay in contention for the top four.

Is our home crowd that vociferous that we need it to buoy us? Even Lacazette has twice as many home goals than away. Does our team require the home crowd more than we think?

As good as we can be at home sometimes, our crowd at The Emirates is probably not the answer. So why do our teams come out and play like artists at The Emirates, and yet fingerpaint away from home?

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Losses against West Ham, Everton, Southampton and draws against Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester United have all been games where we have failed to show up, or failed to push home the final blow.

The Hammers, Gulls, Saints and Everton results were devoid of anything remotely Arsenal-esque, and all shared the same fact – Our star-striking duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette didn’t start simultaneously alongside Mesut Ozil. Against United and Tottenham, our attacking threat was enough, but we failed to put away our chances, and it cost us.

When all three start, our results have been staggering, without loss this season. Mesut Ozil took his time to adapt to the ways of Unai Emery but has recently been involved in the starting eleven with increasing frequency.

Ultimately, that is down to the Manager and his selection.

It appears as if Emery favours attack as the best approach when at home, with our star three playing more often at The Emirates. When it comes to away from home though, one of our two strikers is usually selected, with Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and / or Ramsey behind them. Emery is going conservative, trying to keep things a little tighter and emphasize the focus on closing down spaces rather than all-out attack.

The thing is though, when we do go for it at home, no matter the calibre of opponent, we create so much that we invariably have enough chances to win the game. We may concede a few – although in 2019 we have conceded less than all but Manchester City – but we seem capable of outscoring the majority.

Our knockout phase wins in the Europa League highlight the disparity of our home and away form.

Away from home against BATE Borisov, we fell to a 1-0 loss – the first English team to lose in Belarus.

Bring them back to The Emirates, we take them apart easily 3-0.

Same with Rennes – 3-1 loss in France, 3-0 win at The Emirates.

Let’s be straight here – these two clubs shouldn’t be able to hold a candle to us home OR away, yet they defeated us and left us to rely on our home advantage.

It seems then, that our malaise is down to a different approach, a lack of confidence to replicate our sizzling home form, and quite simply not playing well.

For this to carry over from last season shows that we need to change something, although there have been plenty of changes since Emery took over. The very fact we are still in with a shout of the top four shows we have improved from Wenger’s last season.

We have to hope we find the answer soon, otherwise it could cost us dearly.

Any ideas?

 

2006-07 – A New Home, But Familiar Territory

First published in the Gooner Fanzine.

Arsenal had left Highbury. The 2006-07 season was the campaign that saw the Gunners move home from our beloved Marble Halls to the capacious Emirates stadium. Nothing could ever replace the memories forged and glory acquired at Highbury, but us packing our things and moving the short distance to our new home was necessary to keep up with our competitors – or so we were promised.

There were other changes too, and they too were sizeable. Our Iceman, the player who typified our club for ten years, Dennis Bergkamp, was no longer in our ranks. Other notable departures were fellow Invincibles Robert Pires, Lauren and Sol Campbell, as we attempted to move toward the future with a mix of youth and promise.

Another Invincible’s departure was not so warmly sent off. Ashley Cole’s acrimonious departure to Chelsea left an acrid taste and would do for years to come. We had bolstered the squad in order to fill the gaping apertures left by these players though, but could they come close to replicating the impact that these legends had made?

Tomas Rosicky, the diminutive Czech playmaker, was drafted in, as well as burly forward Julio Baptista, Chelsea defender William Gallas and Brazilian youngster Denilson. If we were going to enjoy an assault on the league, then these players would have to step up – and gel quickly.

The first match at The Emirates was versus a decent Aston Villa side, and they would take the honour of being the first team to score a competitive goal at our home – Olaf Mellberg being the player to take the plaudits. We scrabbled for an equaliser, and effervescent teen Theo Walcott crossed for Gilberto to smash home and take a share of the points.

Gilberto scores the first Arsenal goal at The Emirates
The only other match we had in August saw us take on Manchester City and lose to a Joey Barton penalty, and from two games we had just the one point.

After the international break, Arsenal returned home and ground out a dire draw against a Boro side that shouldn’t have been able to hold a candle to our side, but they still took a point and it left us with another slow start to a season, one that saw us playing catch-up at a ridiculously early stage.

We did start to fire though, and we enjoyed a rare win at Old Trafford in our next game, with Adebayor scoring the only goal. We defended stoutly and the result injected fresh optimism into the fanbase. We had the minerals to duke it out with our competitors.

It sparked a run for our boys, with wins earned against Sheffield United, Charlton (thanks to a Robin Van Persie volley that needs to be on loop), Watford and Reading. We had soared up the table after our less than palatable start, and we were looking dangerous – even without our talisman Thierry Henry, who was suffering with a succession of niggly injuries.

Thierry Henry 06-07

A slight slip in the form of a draw with Everton was compounded with a defeat to West Ham in the next game. The way in which we fell to defeat was to become all too familiar, as we peppered the goal of the Hammers, only for Robert Green to summon the spirit of Lev Yashin to deny us repeatedly. It would be a pattern that would haunt us for years to come.

We redeemed ourselves in the next match however, by hammering Liverpool 3-0 at our new abode. Mathieu Flamini opened the scoring, and further goals by Kolo Toure and new central defensive partner William Gallas bagged the points and sent the Scousers packing.

We weren’t out of the woods though, as a draw to Newcastle and damaging 3-1 defeats to Bolton and a 2-1 loss to Fulham left us with a haul of one win from five games in November. The loss to the Trotters was also another opportunity for journo’s to spread the old adage that this aesthetically pleasing Arsenal side ‘don’t like it up ‘em.’

What acts as the perfect recovery to a bad spell? That’s right, spanking our neighbours and reminding them of our superiority never gets tiresome, and a handsome 3-0 win over that lot down the road went down a real treat after the horror show that was November.

Another London derby didn’t quite go to plan next up, as Michael Essien’s rocket saved Chelsea a point at the Bridge.

We sneaked a 1-0 away win against Wigan in the next game, but clumsily dropped more points against Pompey thereafter.

December’s games were coming thick and fast, and we destroyed Blackburn Rovers 6-2 next up, although Rovers would have the last laugh that season, as they unceremoniously dumped us out of the FA Cup in the Quarter-Finals.

On Boxing Day, we scraped a 2-1 win over Watford thanks to a late RVP goal, but in the last game of 2006, we lost 1-0 at Bramall Lane to the Blades.

Just past the halfway stage in the season, and we had already accrued five losses, hardly title-winning form. In truth, the Championship was never really in our sights from a very early stage, and Chelsea and United were both battling it out in a two horse race. We were once again fighting for a Champions League place – a narrative that would run for the better part of a decade as the lucrative European money was too tasty for our club to resist.

We kicked off 2007 with a spanking of Charlton to the tune of 4-0, and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, although we did so with ten men for the near entirety of the match, with Gilberto getting his marching orders on the 13th minute.

One of the highlights of this season was doing the double over United, and we completed this by winning 2-1 at The Emirates, with King Henry playing the part of our hero once again.

We then dropped points at Boro, before beating Wigan and Reading by the same scoreline, 2-1. A fourth win on the bounce was a 1-0 away win over Villa, with the lesser-spotted Abou Diaby providing the winner. Our run ended in the next game, as Andy Johnson scored a late winner for Everton, to wake us up to our limitations once again.

We had reached the League Cup Final with a team full of talented youths, but the final versus Chelsea saw Wenger use some more of our established stars, but the Champions edged us out 2-1 to take the cup, and deny us our best chance of a trophy that season.

We were still potent in attack, and we showed in fits and bursts that we could roll our sleeves up and fight for a result, but we seemed brittle at times and after the Invincibles, this nightmare would be a recurring one for Gooners. To underline this perfectly, we then completed an undesirable double by losing to the other half of Merseyside, this time the score was 4-1 and Peter Crouch bagged a treble, making him the happiest telegraph pole in all the land.

The telescopic-legged Crouch is an obvious aerial threat, and our failure to keep him quiet was excellent evidence of how our defensive woes would be our undoing. We then earned ANOTHER double in the season, as West Ham became the first away team to win at our new home, with a 1-0 win that saw the Hammers beat us home and away, and also give us our third straight loss.

We fought for a 0-0 draw in Newcastle next up, but our confidence was sapped. We needed a win quickly if we were to achieve a decent position, and a 2-1 win over Bolton showed we were prepared to give it our best. It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.

Another home game, another win – this time versus City – was followed by a 2-2 draw at the hovel down the Seven Sisters road, and we ended the season with a win over Fulham, and draws against Chelsea and Pompey. We finished in fourth spot, mere goal difference below Liverpool in 3rd.

A Cup final defeat to Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers dumping us out of the FA Cup and a weak PSV side victorious in the Last16 of the Champions League was not the best return for us all, but there were highlights, particularly the wins over United, Liverpool and tottenham. As a whole though? It was distinctly underwhelming, and getting used to this after dining out on the finest teams in the last ten years would be hard to swallow.

Arsenal Vs West Ham Match Preview

What appears to be Unai Emery’s true test of how far he has taken this squad is now about to start.

 

After our first two games pitted us against the reigning champions and then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Emery will be keen to see how we fare against more run-of-the-mill opposition – as will we all.

 

West Ham actually are in a similar position to us, including league position. Both winless from our first two games, both clubs have a new regime in place, both teams have a fair amount of new personnel – West Ham significantly more so.

 

The Hammers spent a fair wedge this summer, and Manuel Pellegrini is tasked with the gelling of the team. The signings have been impressive – Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko alone would make most European squads, but mashing them into a team is another matter entirely, and the Hammers have suffered so far.

Still, it’s early days for both clubs, but there can be no underestimating how big this game is. Whoever comes out of this fixture with the L will have zero points from three games, and the pressure mounts.

Plus, we’ve got the added drama of Jack coming back to The Emirates – let’s hope it’s not a happy reunion.

 

 

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TEAM NEWS

 

Emery is without Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac for this fixture and the foreseeable future – all defenders.

 

The same central defensive pairing should play this game, as Emery will be keen to forge some form of partnership between Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, although they both need to grasp these new instructions a bit firmer if we are to hold out hope of shutting out the Hammers.

 

In midfield, Emery was quick to sub Granit Xhaka at half time in our loss to Chelsea, so we could see new boy Lucas Torreira line up with Matteo Guendouzi – a very young but incredibly vibrant engine room.

 

We are all waiting to see if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will line up alongside Alexandre Lacazette, and with both such shining talents, our future must include both on the pitch at the same time, at least when we are not expected to struggle too much. Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are raring to go in attack, but Alex Iwobi played well last time out and could push for another start.

 

Prediction

 

It is incredibly hard to assess how this game will pan out, but with both teams struggling in defence, there is a chance this could rain goals. Both eleven’s will be resplendent with attacking jewels, and the best form of defence is attack.

 

We do have to be wary of the old pals act – namely Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez. It is a common thing for ex-players to come back and haunt their old clubs, and this would smart just a little. Wilshere will most likely start this game at his old home, and Lucas will be pushing to play a part too.

 

Cech has impressed in goal since getting the nod over new boy Bernd Leno and he could be busy, but if our attack comes good, then we should grab the points.

 

I’m plumping for a 3-1 win today. I think both Auba and Laca will break their ducks for the season too, if they play I don’t think West Ham have enough defensively to quieten them for 90 minutes.

 

I do think West Ham will score though, and it could be a nail-biting afternoon, but I hope to see the Guendouzi who has impressed since joining, and Lucas Torreira doing what he does best.

 

We should have enough to grab the points here and get Emery’s era off to a proper start.

 

Arsenal Vs City PL Match Preview

Finally, the new season begins.

 

Finally, the new Arsenal era begins.

 

Unai Emery’s first step in his Gunners journey to take the club back to the top of the game sees perhaps his toughest test of the season – against Champions Manchester City.

 

Emery has acted early in his efforts to fill the gaps in the squad, with five signings early in the window, and those signings may well be involved in some capacity, if our pre-season results are anything to go by.

 

That’s the kicker – for the first time in quite some time, we have no idea what formation or lineup Arsenal will have before they kickoff – and it’s mighty refreshing.

 

Emery has a hell of a task to get off to a winning start, but if there is a right time to play City, it is right now.

 

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With a host of their players either only just returning, or still on leave after their World Cup efforts, they will have a mixture of a weak and tired team, and they will be far from their strongest.

 

Still, a point would be good enough, especially as this is Emery’s first proper game in charge.

 

Let the games begin!

 

Team News

 

Emery will be unable to call upon club captain Laurent Koscielny until at least December, and Sead Kolasinac is out for around ten weeks. In terms of other injuries, Nacho Monreal has returned to first team training, but will not be risked, with Emery declaring in his first press conference that youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be given the job of holding down the left flank. Aaron Ramsey should be fit for the game.

 

In terms of who makes the team, who knows? If Emery is looking to keep it tight and hit on the break, then Lichtsteiner will be preferred to Bellerin. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis look to be the preferred pairing in the centre, with AMN coming in on the left.

 

In midfield, Matteo Guendouzi has impressed, and Lucas Torreira will most likely be eventual first choice defensive midfielder, but both will be an outside bet of making the eleven. Guendouzi’s lack of experience will cost him, although a spot on the bench is still testament to how good he is and how highly he is rated. Lucas Torreira has not been in training for long enough to be a guaranteed start, so it could well be last season’s pairing of Ramsey and Xhaka – but Xhaka should benefit from a much clearer idea of his role this season.

 

We have an embarrassment of riches up top, but it is unclear who will play after some heavy rotation by Emery in pre-season. Most likely will be that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be a wide forward, with Lacazette playing as a more traditional number 9, both being supplemented by the able talents of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil.

 

City will have the force of Aguero and Jesus available, and both Silva’s should be able to be called upon, although Mahrez should get the nod too, with Sterling still unavailable.

 

Pep has only signed Mahrez thus far, but his squad was already filled with talent, so a heavy recruitment drive was never on the cards. They will arrive at The Emirates with a gameplan, and we need to apply Emery’s instructions to the letter if we are to succeed.

 

We lost emphatically on three occasions to City last season, as we stumbled to 6th place and lost in the League Cup final. Things are a little different now, and we should at least provide a stiffer test than what we produced back then.

Let’s embrace the unknown!

 

Fingers crossed the Emery Era begins with a bang – and 3 points! UTA

 

Predicted Lineup – Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, AMN, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-2

The Arsenal Shirt – Part of the Fabric of our Club

Some things go hand in hand with a football club.

It can be their rickety stadium, their vociferous fans or it could be one of their luminaries that changed the sport. Whatever it is, there are things that embody a football club. It is their brand and they should cherish it.

Probably the most iconic thing about a football club is their jersey, and Arsenal’s red and white combo is instantly recognisable the world over. No matter the manufacturer of the kit, the white sleeves and red torso on the Gunners shirts are part of the fabric of the club.

Never has this been clearer, than recently when pictures of next seasons kit were leaked – reportedly.

Arsenal's reported new kit from 2018/19

The outcry on social media was fierce, and it propelled a legend or two to comment on the travesty that is our projected home kit for 2018/19. Ian Wright tweeted and posted on Instagram to decry this planned jersey, and rightfully so.

While it maintains the red and white we so hold dear, the manner in which the design is welded together leaves many to think that a lack of care was put into the process that Puma implemented when they gathered round the table to discuss the Gunners shirt.

The relationship with Puma has been a rocky one to say the least. The designs which have been thrust upon us have split the crowd, and for every hit (this seasons black and pink number is quite fetching) there has been a glaring miss (the abomination that is this seasons away kit).

It has led to many of us musing on whether the kit is actually cursed, the ugly piece of kit may well be doing all it can to put its own bad juju on proceedings.

Stories of parts of the kit coming away in the wash and fading of colours have done nothing to inspire confidence in Puma’s wares, and we have all harked back to more recent successes that our players have worn – the yellow kit from Nike’s last season with us was classic, and faithfully upheld our values in the most fitting way.

Arsenal's away kit from 2013/14 - a beautiful design faithfully upholding our values

Then we see teams like Newcastle United sporting the very same designs that we are now wearing – it gives off a fair whiff of laziness coming from Puma’s direction. We are The Arsenal, and we shouldn’t be sharing designs with anyone.

The shirt should be a form of muse for our players. It should inspire new heights for our men, and instill a sense of awe and fear in our opponents. It should also be aesthetically pleasing enough to push us into forking out the copious amounts of dough to purchase them – it would be very insightful to find out sales figures for our blue kit this season in comparison to others.

The book – The Arsenal Shirt – by James Elkin and Simon Shakeshaft did a fantastic job of highlighting what the shirt means to us all. There were a few amid the outcry recently that questioned the level of response toward what is essentially only a shirt, but if you read this wonderful book, it tells you with every glorious page turn, why our shirt is so important.

Some may see it as trivial, but every part of our club’s history is what makes us The Arsenal. Every strand is woven intricately into what comprises us, what makes us unique. We need to hold our values dear and protect them, otherwise the current hunger for business will engulf the character of each and every club.

The new shirt may well be used next season, and it will still sell, but hopefully, Puma’s social media presence will pick up on our displeasure and go back to the drawing board.

If not, then we can cross our fingers that from the season after, our new kit manufacturers ensure they are well versed in Arsenal lore before they put pen to paper.

It isn’t just a shirt, it never is.

It’s part of who we are.

Arsenal Vs Burnley – PL Preview

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

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

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

Arsenal take on Burnley at The Emirates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid Europa Lge Semi Preview

Arsene Wenger placed this season’s emphasis on the Europa League well before he declared his intention to leave at the end of the season.

And now it is the only chance we have of silverware that is available, and it’s also the only chance we’ve got left to give Wenger a fitting au revoir.

We line up against Atletico Madrid in this Semi-Final first leg at The Emirates with a severe defensive problem. It isn’t through injury though, it’s simply that we can’t keep a clean sheet.

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid in the Europa League Semi-Finals

In a tie where away goals are worth their weight in gold, this means that Diego Simeone’s side will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Shkodran Mustafi and co – and maybe just putting one foot into the final in the process.

Our defence at least has no injury woes to deal with, so Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal should be the four that lines up to face Diego Costa, Griezmann and the rest of Atleti. Petr Cech is still injured and David Ospina will most likely take the gloves should Cech fail to prove his fitness.

Arsene Wenger named the side most likely to play Atletico against West Ham, in order to gain fluency and battle-readiness. So that would mean starts for Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, but there are a few variables that might shift the side.

Firstly, there is the injury to Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian could well be out for a few weeks and this means that Granit Xhaka will have no defensive cover compared to when he partners Elneny, so the Swiss midfielder will have to be at his very best to combat the runs of Saul Niguez.

Then there is Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. Both missed the hammering of the Hammers in the weekend – Ozil through illness and Jack via a knock – and with Mkhitaryan still not fit – it means that if Ozil is still not recovered, we could have a playmaker shortage. If Jack can’t prove his fitness, then our midfield could be short too.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles proved that he is an able stand-in when he came on to replace the injured Elneny, and the youngster could well get the nod to give our side that much-needed cover at the back. Wenger will know a single away goal could rule out any dreams of a final shot, so he could keep it tight and pack the midfield.

Atletico were going to be bereft of Diego Costa, but the former Chelsea man has miraculously recovered to take his place back in the side. Juan is definitely out though so at least if we spread the play to the flanks we could get some joy.

This game could be decided in the first leg. If we have one of our games where we concentrate on our attack and our press – you know the games where we pull a result out of the bag and get a win when we’re very much expected to lose – then we could take a very favourable scoreline into the tie at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

If we concede though, we could crumble.

There is at least an air of excitement in the fanbase though, with a last four Euro tie being somewhat of a novelty of late. Let’s hope we can continue our adventure and pull one of our famous results out of the bag.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

In Sickness and Health, We’re Still All Gooners

Supporting a club is intrinsically linked to matters of the heart.

We take joy from victory, and we mire ourselves in misery when things take a turn for the worst on the pitch.

This season has been a particularly tough one for us Gooners, as our Premier League campaign has hit the skids as soon as it started – we’ve never been further away from bidding for a first title since 2004.

This season is by far the worst under Arsene Wenger, and has seemingly been the watershed moment for the majority as it is unavoidably clear that in order to move forward, we require a change in direction to shake us from the reverie we seem to be in. That change is now happening this summer.

Another change this season though, has seen another alarming rise in negativity.

There seems to be far more people who take what appears to be glee from defeat, as each demoralising defeat pushes Wenger one step closer to a corner he cannot escape. We have a large portion of so-called fans, that rear their heads whenever we lose, and use it as a catalyst to push their hate-filled agenda against Wenger.

The bottom line is clear – and always has been for Gooners.

A defeat is not to be sought, and anyone who enjoys the opportunities that come from us losing, is surely supporting the wrong club.

We enjoy it when our rivals lose, especially now that tottenham seem to be enjoying their moment in the sun. When they, United, Chelsea and Liverpool lose, it is always a positive, and normally allows us to either catch up, or in recent seasons, overhaul them for a superior position. So for one of our own to what can only be described as ‘revelling in’ it when we are beaten?

That is not supporting your club.

The vitriol aimed at Wenger has been disgraceful at times. Yes, the Frenchman seemed too stubborn to recognise that this is the time to go, and his enduring stay could well end up being a detriment to our season, and beyond. But the names and words involved have been horrible, and have no place directed at our own manager.

The very reason you are so disappointed, is the high standards you now expect. Those same standards have been instilled by Wenger. Without him, then you wouldn’t be as hurt, or angry.

Criticism is just, and some of the fare served up thus far has been dire, and deserved booing, as well as calling Wenger out on some decisions. His failure to address certain long-term issues have been a massive reason why we’re playing catch-up with the rest.

He doesn’t deserve hatred though.

Anger? Of course, and if you can’t separate the two, then you may have missed a year or two of education. It is quite easy to express displeasure without wishing harm on someone, or calling them hateful names.

Wenger has had his chips at Arsenal, and a better suited man is being lined up to come in, but Arsene should always have our respect. Even the most outspoken of our critics can see that. Lee Dixon and Ian Wright have spoken of our malaise and how Wenger needs to go, but notice the omissions of shocking language, and the need to pour scorn on the man himself.

Wenger’s results haven’t been good enough, but the man himself doesn’t warrant anyone destroying him. His capacity to do the job, perhaps, but not of himself. He has always carried himself with the utmost dignity, such is the Arsenal Way, and even in the face of some terrible results and fierce questions from the press, he has always done everything with class.

We could learn a thing or two from that approach.

It is his time to go, and at the end of the season we will face the decision to replace him. Until he goes, we judge what happens on the pitch. So let him know if things weren’t good enough, but refrain from verbally attacking him, either with keyboard or voice. It isn’t how Arsenal conducts itself.

It is hard to avoid how bad we’ve been, and he knows more than anyone how bad we’ve been. Just because he stops short of laying into his players, doesn’t mean he is oblivious to it. Picking out positives where he can is his way of maintaining what semblance of confidence he can for his players, who need that in order to play better.

Plus, if fans are stopping short of doing the same, it doesn’t mean we are crazy Wenger fanboys. We all pretty much recognise this is the end, it doesn’t mean we aren’t a little nostalgic, and even a little sad.

We want better just like the outspoken people do.

Let us unite behind the team until the time comes. Heaven knows, our team could do with the support.

Arsenal Vs CSKA Moscow Europa League Preview

It was pretty clear from our patient 3-0 win over Stoke in the weekend, that our priorities lie in the Europa League.

On the eve of our first leg tie against CSKA Moscow, our lineup against Stoke gave us plenty of pointers for this important Europa League Quarter-final. We left out many players to make sure they’re fighting fit to give it their all. It’s vital that we take an advantage back to Russia for the second leg, and we’ll need our returning players to make that happen.

Laurent Koscielny was rested against Stoke and Calum Chambers slotted in seamlessly, but the Frenchman is primed for an instant recall to lend his experience to our defence, alongside Shkodran Mustafi.

Mohamed Elneny was another who was drafted in to face the Potters, and Granit Xhaka made way. The Swiss midfielder should come straight back in at the Egyptian’s expense, likely partnering Aaron Ramsey in the centre of midfield.

The most welcome news though, is the return of Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman has been out for some time, and our Europa League campaign has been spearheaded by the effective, if goalshy, Danny Welbeck. Lacazette returning means we now have a sharper edge to our attack should chances come his way, and the striker will be more than pleased with the gametime with the World Cup looming and limited time to book his ticket in Didier Deschamps French squad.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Lacazette’s return is heaven-sent news. Henrik Mkhitaryan was another to be saved the slings and arrows of Stoke opponents, and the Armenian was instrumental in our win over AC Milan in the last round, let’s hope he can recreate that form in this tie.

With Lacazette in front of Mkhitaryan and Ozil, we’ve got an attack that can pierce most defences. We will probably go with either Jack or Welbeck in the one remaining slot in our forward line, and we’ll need some guile to build up a decent advantage before we face the cauldron of CSKA’s home ground.

Our opponents have some dangermen in their side. Alan Dzagoev, Golovkin and former Leicester striker Ahmed Musa will pose a threat, and with Berezutski in defence, they have experience at the back to give us a test.

CSKA are in the midst of a battle in the Russian top-flight. They lie in third spot, behind Lokomotiv and Spartak and just ahead of Zenit and FC Krasnodar. It’ll mean they’ll be well placed to deal with a tussle, and we’ll really need to make sure we don’t concede – an away goal could be pretty disastrous.

We’ve got Southampton next up, only three days after our CSKA tie. We showed against Stoke we can rotate effectively and without losing any real strength in our side. With our team at least a little rested, we should be looking to take a positive scoreline to Moscow next week. The Europa League is our last hope of success, let’s make a real fist of it.

Predicted lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Wilshere, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

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