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Farewell, Jon Toral

We never quite got to know the REAL Jon Toral.

Precisely zero appearances for the first team smacks of a player that never quite made the grade at our club, but there is a tinge of sadness with the Spaniard signing a permanent deal at Hull City.

Toral, still only 22, seemed destined for the biggest stage when he signed with us back in 2014. His showings for the Reserves were impressive, and loan spells soon followed for the youngster to truly test the midfielder and see whether he could convert his bags of potential into that sprinkling of magic that all top players have.

Brentford and Birmingham City were his first ports of call, both season-long loans designed to check his progress. Both times he left the clubs with glowing references. At Birmingham especially, he returned to Arsenal with the Goal of the Season and the Players and Supporters Player of the Year awards safely tucked in his belt.

His showings smacked of a clever player with composure, who could work openings. The Spaniard had been hewn from La Masia stock, and his touch and passing reeked of Catalonia. He looked to be the real deal.

Injuries had hampered the youngster a tad, but crucially he did not take long to get back to speed after a layoff. An injury in a loan spell is usually the death knell to any opportunity, so in cahoots with his talent, he also had a mental resolve that was required too.

The next season though, was when Toral hit a hurdle or two. 

Another loan spell beckoned, and it was a step up from his spells in the Championship. Granada in LaLiga was the destination, and it started so well, but his loan was cut short halfway through the season after only six appearances. 

Keen to keep his place on the progress chart, he chose to spend the second half of last season on loan at Rangers. He managed 15 showings and 3 goals, but he couldn’t quite manage the sparkle he managed in the previous season.

Injuries did play a part, but what was hindering him most is that at Granada and Rangers, he couldn’t hold down a regular spot.

It meant that the jury was still out on Toral back at Arsenal, so this summer, it was either another loan spell, stay at the club and hope his performances for the Reserves would attract Wenger’s attention – or leave.

Hull City and Leonid Slutsky came calling, and we cannot blame Toral for his decision. He is eager to progress and play regularly, and at the KC Stadium he will have that opportunity. Could we have been a little premature on the decision?

It has left many questions regarding Toral, and a feeling that he could well flourish and come back to haunt us in the future. 

A buyback clause would have been ideal – let Toral grow and then bring him back into the fold when he is ready. 

Unfortunately, yet another young player with bags of talent has left the club. None of us will know if Toral would have cut it at Arsenal, but it would have been great to give him that chance. He seemed the archetypal Arsenal player, but when hunger for gametime kicks in, no one can begrudge a youngster the chance to make hay whilst the sun shines. 

Good luck Jon Toral, Gooners everywhere wish for you nothing but the best – aside from when you play us!

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City: 5 Key Points From the Win.

Regardless of the performance, Arsenal have returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Marco Silva’s resurgent Hull City.

The game was scrappy and the Gunners toiled for the three points, but the win was the only thing that mattered, especially with Bayern Munich looming closely next week.

After back to back losses to Watford and Chelsea, the league table made depressing viewing. With Chelsea off in the distance, the hunting pack were either getting their noses in front of us, or breathing down our necks. Points were needed and Arsenal duly obliged.

The team did not alter much from last week’s defeat against Chelsea, with only one change. Kieran Gibbs came in for Nacho Monreal on the left of defence, but the rest of the team were given the chance for redemption, or part absolvement.

The first half was a messy affair, but there was no shortage of effort. Arsenal were at least haring around the pitch, when chasing for possession or trying to conjure an opening. Hull City are a much more formidable outfit than a month or so ago, and they were not content to sit back and soak up pressure. Oumar Niasse was testing the relaible Koscielny, and his header which Petr Cech saved well from was the first opening of note.

Arsenal tested Eldin Jakupovic in the Tigers goal immediately, but it wasn’t until the 34th minute that the Gunners’ slowly upped pressure would tell.

Kieran Gibbs had popped up in the opposition box, and his shot was blocked. The ricochet went unclaimed in the six yard box, where the quickest ro react was of course Alexis. He stabbed toward goal, but Jakupovic managed to parry the effort. Alexis had chosen to follow up his effort and the combination of Jakupovic’s save and Alexis’s forward momentum saw the ball hit the Chilean’s hand. There was little he could do, but the ball went over the line and he wheeled away to celebrate.

Referee Mark Clattenburg consulted with his linesman as he was unsure what had happened amidst Hull protests, but the goal was given. According to Football Association law, a deliberate handball is when;

‘There must be movement of the hand towards the ball.’ Also, ‘the distance between the ball and hand must be considered.’

So, according to the letter of the law – it was not a deliberate handball. That is that cleared up then.

Arsenal pressed for a second, but the half time whistle blew and we had a lead to protect.

The second half saw some handbags between Theo Walcott and Harry Maguire, where Theo was mystifyingly booked, and the pressure was rising quickly from the home team. It would be Hull that would go closest next though.

Lazar Markovic was chasing a flick on, and the ball was in the air. He slowed to chest it down, and Kieran Gibbs was his sole marker. He shouldered Markovic to the ground, and he was booked for the challenge. The Tigers players wanted a red card, but Clattenburg produced a yellow. Perhaps a little fortunate for Gibbs, but there was a fair distance between Markovic and the goal.

Diomande for Hull had a header which he sent over, but Arsenal were looking to extend their advantage and they wrapped up the points when Alexis was sent racing clear. Eldin Jakupovic came out of his box to close him down and he was rounded. Alexis crossed into the box for Lucas and the Spaniards header was blocked on the line by Sam CLucas’s arm.

Red card for Clucas, and Alexis finished low under the Hull keeper from the spot to allow Arsenal to relax a little after Hull had huffed and puffed to gain an equaliser.

These are some keypoints from the game:

Coquelin on song

He has his detractors, but his display against a far larger opponent in N’Diaye. He tussled and never allowed the physical superiority to become a factor. He was a complete engine. In a tough game where the second balls are the decisive factor, a terrier like Coquelin will thrive. 

The Ox taking his chance

A run in the centre of the side, and The Ox is coming good. He still tries the elaborate when there is no need, but he helped at both ends of the pitch and if he continues to show this sort of form, he may just earn this spot for longer. He must start against Bayern. Great to see.

Ozil off-par

The German looked knackered, and he ran his socks off. He just has no discernible form to speak of. His touch is unusually errant, his passing is not laser-guided as he is capable of – and he is not making the difference. Maybe a bigger stage is what he needs, and with Bayern Munich our next opponents, it would be a great time to find his feet again. Dropping deep and getting more of the ball is great, but we want you in the danger zone Mesut.

Koscielny imperious

He was battered, but Koscielny does not falter. He is the French Terminator. He was excellent in the many aerial duels, and on a few occasions, his fantastic positioning was key to cutting out some dangerous low crosses. He will be far busier on Wednesday, but it is good to see at least one of our players at their peak.

Cech earned his clean sheet.

Petr Cech cleared the ball about ten times in this game, and there was no sign of last weeks calamitous effort that gifted Cesc Fabregas Chelsea’s third goal. He made two saves of note, and they were at key times of the game. They were good saves too, particularly the second, which was a smart low save from Niasse. He can still move, regardless of the doommongers who say he is finished. 

There was a lot more going on, such as Iwobi looking busy and Bellerin showing no ill-effects from his injury last week. The five points above hopefully paint the picture of the game a little clearer. 

The game transpired to be a tale of two handballs, and even though there was a slice of luck involved, be under no illusion that we deserved the win.

So, onward to the Allianz Arena. We are back to winning ways, but this Euro tie is a distinct step up, so we must rise to the occasion.

Today was simply a job done that top clubs do every week. 

Arsenal Vs Hull City – The Warm-Up

Our last two games will not show up on this season’s highlight reel, but the best way to ease the awful images of those awful games is to win. 

We’ve had to endure one week of misery, but Hull City visit The Emirates and it gives us the chance to rectify our wretched recent run. As we have learned to our cost so far this campaign though, it will be far from an easy task.

The stadium may well be half empty if rumours of a ‘stayaway’ are to be believed on Twitter. Will they be missing a welcome return to form? Or something more sinister like last week?

Arsene Wenger has been grilled by the Press since last week, and his conferences have revealed that Hector Bellerin may well miss out after having Marcus Alonso’s elbow nearly took his head off in the 3-1 defeat last weekend. The Spaniard will have a fitness test before the game to determine his availability, with Gabriel again waiting to stand in.

There is a boost as Mohamed Elneny has returned to London Colney after playing for Egypt in the AFCON. The Egyptian may well go straight into the side, as Granit Xhaka is still suspended and Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are out through injury. This leaves Elneny, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain as the only viable choices for the central midfield roles, as well as impressive youngster Ainslie Maitland-Niles. 

Alexis Sanchez has been in impressive form in the past against the Tigers. In three games, he has had a hand in six goals (five goals and one assist) and the Chilean will again be the main threat for us. Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott all wait for the teamsheet to find out if they will have a role in the team, but who will get the nod? Fans are clamouring for a Lucas Perez start, Theo and Welbeck have shown they play extremely well together, and Giroud has been enjoying a great run of goals. 

Our squad may be in rude health in attacking numbers, but it has mattered little in terms of cohesion recently. Hull have toughened up under new boss Marco Silva, and our pool of talent may well be hard pushed to break the resistance that the away team will show up with. They did this to Liverpool to great effect, but will have to make do without skipper Michael Dawson and Abel Hernandez.

Silva has previous for wins at The Emirates – he was in charge of Olympiacos when they won 3-2 in the Champions League here last season, so the Portuguese boss is well aware of what makes our side tick. 

Hull have an atrocious record against the Gunners – winless in thirteen games in all competitions – and the last win they recorded against us was in their first season in the Premiership back in 2008.

They recruited well in January though, and Lazar Markovic will return to the side after being ineligible to play against his parent club Liverpool. Ahmed Elmohamady will also return after playing alongside Elneny in Egypts run to the AFCON final. His pinpoint deliveries will provide excellent service from set-plays – something that they will look to capitalise on.

With Liverpool a point behind us – and amazingly Manchester United only two points behind us as well, we need a win. Any kind of win. A comprehensive thrashing would provide a salve of sorts after a hellish last week, but three points no matter how we achieve it, will be more than crucial.

Manchester City leapfrogged us, and with tottenham three points ahead of us and looking dangerous, we must ride through this storm and find form quickly.

The only way to get back our mojo is to grab victory.

Next up, we have Bayern Munich!!

Estimated Lineup: Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Estimated Scoreline: I’ve been off form lately, but I’m going for a 3-0 win. 

Hull City 1-4 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

The previous two results were difficult viewing, despite the generally positive scorelines.

Scraping a narrow win over Southampton, and a valuable away point in Paris overruled the overall performance in both games, which were of a disjointed and awkward nature.

This 4-1 win however, rectifies some of the worries that were manifesting after these games. 

Always in control, and despite some characteristically wobbly moments – the missed penalty and then conceding at a potentially important time in the game – the Gunners showed that the contentious decisions over team selection should really be consigned to the bottom paragraphs, rather than the headline.

It was pleasing to finally see the passing and movement that are our signature signs on the pitch. There are players that are still searching for top form, but crucially, there are also men on the pitch that are performing well to make up for it. 

There is much to take from this game. For example, our squad is exactly where we all demanded it should be, and our customary late substitutions proved it. Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Lucas Perez were our replacements, and not many sides can boast of such depth. Bearing in mind that Giroud, Ramsey and Mertesacker weren’t even included in the squad, and it tells of a healthy team more than equipped to deal with the rigours of a full season. 

Also, it would have been great to see a bit more of Lucas, a five minute cameo didn’t sate the desire to see more of him in action, but his time will surely come, just like Granit Xhaka, who scored the fourth goal in spectacular fashion. If you haven’t seen it, then where have you been? Then  there was Theo in the thick of things, which was great to see, but he still needs a few more games before we see the best of him.
So, here are five other key factors that arose from the game:

Alexis has all components necessary to play ANY attacking position

Much has been made of Arsene Wengers insistence on playing Sanchez as the lone striker, and the majority of opinions are of the negative side. However, the Chilean now has three goals in two games. Alexis, if the service is present, can be a striker. It is not his optimal position, and we have other strkers who can do the job, but make no mistake, surely we have all seen that he has enough attacking nous that he can make his mark as a frontman? Regardless, Wenger thinks so and it doesn’t seem as if he doubts Sanchez in the slightest.

Ozil not at the races. For now...

Mesut makes a difference irrespective of his level of form. He is like Ferrero Rocher. If you spot these delectable treats at a social gathering, then your opinion of the party is automatically raised. Ozil is operating at 75% capacity, and he orchestrates proceedings even though he isn’t as finely tuned as normal. He is lacking the edge he requires to make the killer move, and we need him to regain it. The problem is, our games are coming thick and fast, and is it beneficial to play him as much as we can so he can get into the groove? Or do we need to rest him so he can find that keen cut that he possesses? It’s not easy being a manager…..

Iwobi can make the difference

The young Nigerian broke through last season thanks mainly to injury, and hasn’t looked back. He has proved he is not a flash in the pan with his consistently great performances and he looks like he will be a part of this team for quite some time. He has exemplary vision, a fantastic touch which belies his age, but it is his mentality that shines through as a fine example to all youngsters. He suffers the lows and enjoys the highs, but seems completely unflappable. He made the difference in this game, with the assist for the breakthrough goal and his excellent backheel for our third. His build-up play, especially for his second assist, warrants mentioning and if he can maintain fitness, then the sky is the limit. Hopefully he can learn to track back a little in that time!!

Coquelin shouldn’t be forgotten

With Granit Xhaka not gaining the minutes his talent perhaps deserves, and Santi Cazorla proving why he should be in the side, our resident hatchet man Francis Coquelin has fallen in favour somewhat. Yes, his positional discipline sometimes deserts him, and he joins the attack a little too much for a DM, but even though he is guilty of this – and he did the same during this game – his stats fro the game show that he is performing the role we expect him to under the radar. We cannot pick up everything every player does, and he is still the tackling beast we all fell in love with two seasons ago. His numbers for the game were  – 98 passes, 98% pass completion, 7 ball recoveries, 4 tackles won, and 4 interceptions. Beast mode still intact and we still have this underrated Frenchman to rely on when times are tough and out backs are against the wall. 

The game after a Champions League fixture is always difficult, so credit where it’s due

We are all painfully aware of how difficult it is to navigate through a season, and the potential banana skin that is the domestic fixture that follows a Champions League game. So many sides have suffered this hoodoo, and we have seen us slip up on more than a few occasions after enjoying a midweek game in Europe. So, to return from such a physically sapping 90 minutes in Paris and then win an away game in the Premier League is a huge deal. This facet will be underplayed in the media, and we will have been ‘expected’ to have done away with the Tigers, but their start thus far from a meagre squad shows they would provide a tough test. We won, we won handsomely and it was far tougher than we made it look. Kudos to us.

Hull City Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

The last two results for Arsenal can be read completely differently, dependent on your outlook.
Both games – the last-gasp victory over Southampton last weekend and the difficult but valuable draw in Paris midweek – could be perceived to be lucky in nature, with tactics that allowed our opponents to be far more dangerous than they ought to be. 

Lacking a killer edge up front, with defensive lapses that could perhaps have been far costlier than they proved to be.

Alternatively, it could also be the mark of a potentially successful season, the old adage of playing poorly yet snatching results hopefully ringing true.

Either way you look at it, we have failed to hit top gear, and the rest of the season cannot be played with such methods. There will come a time when the talent in our team must rise to the fore, to make the difference in tight games, and put them where they belong. If not, then a season of mediocrity beckons.

Next up on the fixture list is Hull City, a team in flux, but their start proves that no game can be taken for granted. Caretaker boss Mike Phelan has reportedly been offered the position full-time, but negotiations are ongoing, so the uncertaintly continues. 

In terms of team news, it seems more difficult to pick a potential lineup in recent weeks. Arsene Wenger has made some team choices that few would have predicted, and with the PSG game so fresh, there could be many changes.

Petr Cech was left out for the Champions League fixture in midweek, but will be expected to regain his spot in the side from David Ospina, despite a Man of the Match performance from the South American stopper.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were also left out of the side for the same match, and both require a fitness test before kickoff. Will this mean Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gets another chance to shine? Will Lucas Perez perhaps be named? Or will ALexis Sanchez be named as the striker, even though he was ineffective in that position until he reverted back to type against PSG?

Santi Cazorla may well be rested after playing both games, and three games in a week when we have a wealth of central midfielders would be uncalled for. The flipside to this though, is that the Spaniard has scored two and provided two so far this season, and is in great form. Alternatives to Cazorla could be Mohamed Elneny, the underplayed Granit Xhaka, or Francis Coquelin. 

There are a few certainties. Aaron Ramsey and Gabriel have returned to full training, but will both miss this fixture, and Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are still some way to rejoining the squad. 

The flurry of games may have adverse effects on fitness, but it can also benefit a player who is searching for form. Mesut Ozil, The Ox, and our new recruits will find this congested fixture list a blessing rather than a curse, and it represents another chance to find the zone that allows their best play to come to the fore.

Hull have many new faces, and one of them may be making his bow for the Tigers. Dieumerci Mbokani, who was on loan at Norwich last season, is now on loan at Hull and could be Mike Phelan’s choice to play up top. The rest of the team may not differ that much from their last game – the 1-1 draw against Burnley – and they have named an unchanged lineup for the first four games. This was a necessity rather than choice, and with a few new boys champing at the bit, there could be changes afoot. 

Hull have a pretty diabolical record against the Gunners on the face of things. One win in eighteen is not a fact to give Hull fans much reason for cheer, but many recent tussles have been relatively tight and with both teams form the way it is, then another match in the same mould should be expected. 

One interesting stat for this game? The last three games between the teams have had no goals at the halfway mark and have had a goal scored in the 90th minute or after.  

There may be fireworks at the KCOM Stadium….

Expected Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Perez.

Predicted Score – 3-1 Arsenal. Yes, I’m an eternal optimist. 

Arsenal Vs Watford – FA Cup Quarter-Final Preview

Hang on, didn’t we play Hull in the FA Cup a week ago?

Yes, and thanks to fixture congestion and some scheduling from the FA, Arsenal once more dust themselves off to defend the Cup they have held since 2014. Tomorrow’s opponent? Quique Sanchez Flores’s Hornets side.


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Hull City Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Preview

The matches continue to come thick and fast as today brings the FA Cup Replay which sees Arsenal travel to Hull to take on Steve Bruce’s Hull City.

A little over two weeks ago saw the first attempt of finding a winner in this tie end in stalemate, much to Gooners chagrin. It wasn’t through lack of trying on Arsenal’s part, but the Tiger’s stand-in keeper Eldin Jakupovic produced a one-man shield to deny the Gunners and add one more troublesome fixture into an already stacked schedule.


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Arsenal 0-0 Hull City – A Needless Exercise In Frustration

To say that it was expected for Arsenal to make safe passage would be fair, as Championship leaders Hull City travelled to The Emirates and a replay was the last thing that both Managers would have wanted.

Well, that was exactly what they were rewarded with, after Hull City showed little to no aspirations in attack and Arsenal put in a disjointed display which meant that a stalemate was always on the cards.

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Arsenal Vs Hull City – FA Cup Preview

For the third consecutive year, Arsenal have been drawn against Hull City.

Some take it as an omen, as the two previous years this has occurred, The Gunners have gone on to win the famous trophy – most memorably in 2014 when they defeated the very same opponents in the final at Wembley.


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Match Preview – Hull City Vs Arsenal

Originally posted on Dohyo App.
Arsenal visit last seasons F.A Cup final opposition Hull City on Monday evening, hoping to eradicate last weekends frustrating 0-0 draw against Chelsea from their minds.

Whilst this game will no doubt carry a little less drama than last seasons domestic cup finale, there is still a huge amount left in the pot for both teams to battle for.

The Tigers battle against the drop is well documented – at the time of writing they had a four point cushion that separated them from the trapdoor that leads to Championship ignominy. This could have been a lot worse had Steve Bruce’s men not snatched three points from Liverpool last Tuesday, with Michael Dawson grabbing the vital winner in a tight 1-0 win. The men from Humberside will be buoyed by this fantastic result and January recruit N’Doye has bagged 5 goals in 11 games to give them a much needed edge up front.
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