Tag Archives: injuries

Mkhitaryan Will Come Good

Rotation is part and parcel of the modern game.

With the majority of successful sides playing between 55-70 games in a season on average, a well-stocked squad is fundamental.

A lack of numbers in any position is sure to be exploited by the rigours of a domestic and European campaign – something we Arsenal fans can painfully attest to.

On more than a few occasions we have seen our defence brutally exposed by a succession of injuries – centre-backs, left and right-backs, none were safe, and it took the powers of adaptation and youth for us to be able to field a recognisable backline.

So, an ample squad is necessary.

It does have a negative though.

Players and managers often cite a lack of match rhythm for poor form. It seems that players need a run of successive games in order to attain the zenith of their skills and talents. Like fine-tuning a radio to oust the static, each minute inches the player ever closer to that halcyon slice of time that sees one of our players hit the purple zone and show us all exactly what they are capable of.

This seems to be the issue for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian has given us more than a few assists and goals since his arrival as part of the swap deal that saw wantaway Chilean Alexis go to United.

The player with the scrabble-winning surname has one goal and three assists at the time of writing (this was written on the cusp of us facing Wolves on 11 Nov), from 11 games. Not exactly terrible, but far from what his early form promised.

When Mkhitaryan arrived, he linked up instantly with former Dortmund brethren Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His displays against Everton and Watford particularly, were vibrant and intricate, full of texture and the air of a master locksmith. It looked like we had an excellent accomplice to Mesut Ozil.

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This season though, has seen Mkhi restricted to mostly Europa League and League cup appearances. The first three games saw him in the eleven, but since then he has started only three more – with only two of them coming in a row.

It means that our playmaker has not been able to edge toward his top level, and it has seen a small portion of fans round on him.

Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Mkhitaryan has already shown in flashes what he brings to the team. He has also shown at Dortmund and United what he can do at the top level – if given the chance.

Emery has already shown he has no hesitation to put Mkhi in for the big games – being selected for the Liverpool draw ahead of the in-form Iwobi speaks volumes.

Injuries will bite, and Mkhitaryan will get a run of starts in the near future – that much is certain.

What isn’t certain is will us fans keep in mind that the circumstances haven’t been kind to the attacker, and we are yet to see him fully stretch out and enjoy himself?

We will see the slide-rule passes, clever finishes and intricate boxwork, and it will become vital as the matches come thick and fast. He will play his part, and despite his lack of gametime, Mkhitaryan has not moaned. Instead he has knuckled down and kept training hard.

Mkhitaryan at his best is among the finest playmakers in the Premier League. We have a hell of a player on our books, and we most certainly got the better end of the swap deal with United.

Mkhitaryan will come good – and his clever play fits seamlessly with our style. Mkhi is most definitely a Gunner.

Cardiff Vs Arsenal Match News

Off the mark, but not out of the woods.

 

That would be a fair assessment of last week’s win over West Ham.

 

There are a few negatives to take from the victory last weekend over the Hammers, but there were far more positives to show that Unai Emery’s new regime is kicking into gear, although it is far from the finished article.

 

Our defence is probably the most worrisome point of conjecture. West Ham on more than one occasion took great delight in probing our high line, and while we held firm, Petr Cech saved us on a few openings we should never have had.

 

Still, it is a work in progress, and with a visit to shot-shy Cardiff, we can hold out hope that this game will see our first clean sheet of the season.

 

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To be honest though, three points and a decent performance would suffice for most!

 

Team News

 

Emery revealed in his press conference that Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson are still some way from being fit, with the Bosnian the nearest to returning to first-team training.

 

Mesut Ozil has recovered from illness and will most likely play a part, but will it be from the bench? The refreshing thing about Emery is that he is giving all players a chance, but poor performances are seeing changes – just ask Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil himself.

 

We could see the much heralded duo of  Lacazette and Aubameyang start together for the first time. With Neil Warnock enjoying two clean sheets from his first three league games, the emphasis will be on our side to break down a stubborn, rigid and packed defence.

 

I have a hunch that Torreira may make his first start ahead of Guendouzi, given the physical edge that Cardiff will exert on us. The Uruguayan will relish the battle.

 

That will be a lot easier with both our French and Gabon strikers on the pitch simultaneously.

 

Our Opponent

 

Warnock has two 0-0 draws and an opening day defeat so far, and midweek saw them humbled by Championship side Norwich. The experienced Bluebirds manager will see that Arsenal still haven’t cemented their defensive style, so set plays will be decisive.

 

He will have to make do without Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, after he was injured last weekend, and the pace he would have offered would have been a valuable outlet. No goals so far, but that isn’t to say they will be without a threat.

 

Predictions

 

Cardiff are looking not only for their first win, but their first goal of this Premier League season, and I’ve got a horrible feeling they’ll get it in some horrible mess of a scramble in our box.

 

I do think we’ll win though, and I think it will be comprehensive.  It all hinges on if we can break them early. Warnock will be keen to frustrate us, so an early goal would change the complexion of Warnock’s tactics.

 

If we score inside the first half – I think a 4-1 win.  If we don’t, then I’m going for a 2-1, and an awkward game for all concerned. It is no coincidence that Cardiff’s opponents in the last two games have had red cards. They know how to fight.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang

Southampton Vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Let’s get back in the winning habit.



The 3-1 defeat to Man United last week still rankles. The manner we lost in should have garnered all three points, but instead we’re looking back on a loss that widened the gap between us and the leading pack.


It does mean we’re still in rude health in terms of our play. The United result aside, the only other loss in that time – 12 games – is the anomalous loss to Koln and the defeat to Watford.


We do need to keep our heads up, especially with this game marking the start of the annual festive fixture congestion. We’ve now got seven games between now and the end of the month, so it’s a good thing that our fringe players are ready and firing – because they’ll be needed.


Our midweek hammering of BATE didn’t get the credit it deserved from the journalists – what a surprise. The quality of the opposition was poor, granted, but that’s never stopped us struggling before. We were quite excellent in attack, and Jack had one of those games that really highlights his talents.


In terms of our game against Saints, our team will be all changed most likely. Petr Cech will return in goal, and the stopper has been in fine form of late. In defence, Shkodran Mustafi will miss out after limping off against United. Laurent Koscielny will come in with Nacho Monreal, with one of Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers or Rob Holding replacing Mustafi.


In midfield, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will slot in the central roles, with Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac taking the wing-back roles.


Up top, we should have Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez back in the lineup. If the golden trio don’t pull it off, we’ll have Theo Walcott, Jack, Olivier and Danny Welbeck as an option from the bench. Most clubs can’t boast such strength.


Southampton are a Jekyll and Hyde team. From one week to the next, no one knows which side will turn up. They can go from sublime to mediocre in the space of minutes, but make no mistake, we should be wary.


Fraser Forster has been a pain in our backside on a few occasions, and definitely has the capacity to frustrate. How is this for a stat – Forster has conceded just one goal in five games, facing 30 shots on target in that time. They have ample threats too. 


Charlie Austin is a real handful and is in good goalscoring form of late. Nathon Redmond out wide can conjure up trouble, and Sofiane Boufal is the wildcard.


It is in midfield that Southampton have real strength, but it is all dependant on what combo they go for. They have Hojbjerg, Davis and Romeu who are well covered in both defensive and attacking tactics. It means they have a solid foundation to build on. With Virgil Van Dijk, Mario Lemina and the set-piece delivery of Ward-Prowse, Mauricio Pellegrino has all the makings of a top side.


Before the weekend, we were one point from the top 4. We need to keep up the pace, and we need to show the tenacity we showed in our last away game – the 1-0 win at Turf Moor.


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


Predicted scoreline – This will be a tight one, but 2-0 to The Arsenal.

Arsenal Vs Huddersfield Town Match Preview

This may seem one of those games that we could take our eye from and still get the points.

We are The Arsenal though. We know there are no gimmies.

Let us look at the facts.










Huddersfield lie in 11th spot. Their last game was a heartbreaking late loss to runaway leaders Manchester City, where the Terriers can feel aggrieved not to have picked up a point at the least.


David Wagner’s team have already beaten Man United this season, and are looking like they more than deserve their place in the top flight.


Aaron Mooy is the fourth  most successful crosser in the entire league this season, and the third most successful tackler. They have a disciplined attack, perhaps lacking a few goals of course, but they pose a threat. It is their defence that will be the tough part of the game, and we will need every bit of nous we can muster.


We cannot afford to shift concentration toward the weekend and our crunch game against Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. 


Huddersfield deserve more than that.


We will probably rotate our team to a degree though. We do have a squad that can allow a few changes without impacting too much on our strength.


Mesut Ozil will most likely miss a second consecutive game with illness. Our attack could well be heavily changed with the depth we have. Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck are players who can jump into the side without losing any attacking power. Theo 

Walcott should be back after illness, but a spot on the bench should beckon rather than an instant return to the side.


Our midfield could also see a few changes. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have been in great form of late, so a drop to the bench could disrupt our rhythm. Three games in a week however may be too much for them to be at optimum levels for the United game. This paves the way open for a combo from Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Jack Wilshere. Although Jack has primarily been used as an attacker, his natural role will be in the centre. This could be his chance to shine.


Laurent Koscielny has intermittent tendonitis issues, so a rest for the Frenchman makes good sense. Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding are vying for his spot in this game.


We toughed it out against Burnley, and we may have to do the same again. Huddersfield will clam up the midfield and look to utilise set plays a little more, as they lack the attacking players Burnley have. They don’t have any less grit and ambition though. 


They know they can get a result at The Emirates.


We need to knock the confidence they have out of them early on. An early goal could prove the difference. The later we leave it, the more buoyed they become, and the higher the panic rises in the stands.


The players that come in must perform higher than they have done in the last couple of Europa League games. If we are to continue our assault on the top 4 and keep our spot there, we need three points.


Lastly, we need the confidence for the United game. Our team normally feed from it, and we have to be at our best to beat Jose’s United, who will be as stubborn as ever.


Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Coquelin, Wilshere, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Iwobi, Giroud.


Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal.

Burnley Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

If last week was anything to go on, we should hold no fear of a visit to Burnley.


Last week saw a return to our best. We used our muscle when needed but the most important muscle of all, the brain, was the key to our victory over spurs. We were clever in possession and found the chinks in their armour, and we exploited them wonderfully. It was a masterful display that restored some faith in the players and their capabilities.


If we play like that against Burnley, then we will win. We all know though, that we often fail to rise to those heights with any consistency.


Then, our away form leaves us with more doubts. One sole win away from The Emirates in the league is just dire, and far removed from what we need to harbour any hopes of any concerted challenge for the top4. Yes, we are merely a point away currently, but we can plainly see that our away form is reason for concern.


Lastly, there is our opponent. Burnley are a real force this season, and they are just goal difference below us in the table. Sean Dyche has created a wonderfully optimised team that really make the most from their men, individually and collectively. They have a fantastic record at Turf Moor, and they will be ready for us as their last game was a week ago, and it was a comfortable 2-0 win over Swansea.


This game is a real test for us, make no bones about it. They have six clean sheets from 12 games, and will strangle our midfield so they can then overrun it. We need the Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey from last week, not the other side of them that we have seen too often so far. The midfield pair were everywhere last weekend, and we will need them to do the same thing against Jeff Hendrick, Gudmondssen, Cork and Defour.


The one weakness Burnley have is goals. They have 12 from 12 thus far, and their top scorer is Sam Vokes with just three. They will play aerially if they get no joy on the flanks, and with Robbie Brady willing to sling in crosses for fun, a switched on performance is required.


Burnley have never beaten us in the Premier League. Last season saw two incredibly tight games where we could count ourselves a little lucky to grab all the points. This current incarnation of the Clarets however, is different indeed – and better.


In terms of who will play, Arsene Wenger confirmed that we picked up no new injuries in our 1-0 loss to Cologne on Thursday. This means that only Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott will miss out, the England man is still suffering from illness. Danny Welbeck played 45 minutes but his subbing was merely a precaution, according to our Manager. He will probably get a spot on the bench.


The second string that turned out in Germany did nothing to say they should get a regular starting spot, so the team that won last week should be unchanged for this game. A winning team should never be changed, and this will most likely be the case at Turf Moor.


So, another chance to better our away record. Time to shine boys.


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


Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 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

Everton Vs Arsenal – Preview

The nature of the Premier League was surmised succinctly in one match last weekend.

Crystal Palace, slumped in last place with nary a point to their name, defeated champions Chelsea to gain their first win, their first points of the season.


It typified the unique challenge of our league, and sent out a warning to all teams that every single game must be treated with grave respect. Everyone can beat anyone, and as we face Everton, we should do well to remember it.




The Toffees are sitting just two points outside the relegation zone, with no wins in their last four games and are sitting at the bottom of their Europa League group. After being one of the biggest spenders in the summer, it is safe to say that this is falling some way below expectations.


They are languishing and this game should be one that a merciless, title-challenging team should win convincingly. The problem is though, that we too are falling some way below our expectations.


A win last weekend against Watford would have put us above Chelsea and into the top4. Instead, we turned in a performance we have seen repeatedly over the years and got what we deserved, which was nothing.


If we do the same again against Everton, then we will get the same return.


Then there is the problem with our away form. Only Crystal Palace have conceded more away goals than us in 2017. We are still looking for our first away win in the league, and this simply cannot continue.


We must step on this prone Everton team as they struggle to get back on their haunches. There are certain weaknesses in our team that will leave opponents with chances. Our midfield is under power as we have Granit Xhaka underperforming and out of position, with Aaron Ramsey unable to gain a real run of games. We need someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but we have an engine room that is running out of synch with the rest of the team.


We will still be without Shkodran Mustafi and the German is expected to be out until at least November. Danny Welbeck is out after limping off against Watford, but Laurent Koscielny has a chance of playing.


Aaron Ramsey will also face a fitness test most likely, but our Europa League heroes surely deserve a chance by now. Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere have shown they are up to speed, but with Alexandre Lacazette being a rare ray of hope for us so far and Jack Wilshere seemingly unable to shift Xhaka from his role, it seems unlikely things will change.


Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will surely return to the team, as will Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac. We will need all of them to be on song, as Everton will make life difficult for us.


James McCarthy looks likely to return to the side, and with Morgan Schneiderlin doubtful, he has a place lined up. Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney will come back in after being rotated for the Europa League, but it is goals Everton need. Everton have a goal difference of -8, and after spending so much money, replacing Romelu Lukaku has been far harder than imagined.


Another game, another must win match. Another away game that gives us the opportunity to buck this awful trend.


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

Predicted scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal


Liverpool Vs Arsenal Preview

Liverpool Vs Arsenal

Sunday 27/08/17 – 1600hrs GMT










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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Start here Arsene. Show us all what you see.

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

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsena

It’s Time To Hit The Road Jack

Club loyalty in football is a commodity rarer than a politician’s promise coming good. 

When a player genuinely loves the club he plays for, it shines through in the interviews he gives, the gestures you see on the pitch. It is unmistakable. It isn’t the flagrant badge kissing you see from all and sundry, even though they joined in January and are french-kissing the crest in February. 

These players that have the club in their hearts are held dear by fans. Their shortcomings are put to the side in most cases and we hope and pray that they end up becoming the legend they’ve dreamed of becoming.

Jack Wilshere falls into this bracket. The bow-legged midfielder burst into our vision in 2008. Yup, it was that long ago. The talent, the touch, the vision. Wilshere at his tender age was showing age was no barrier for supreme skill, and the bar was set so high that 99% of players would struggle to see it, never mind reach it.

It is a recurring tradition that England must sieze upon a promising youngster and heap unnecessary pressure onto their shoulders, and so it proved with Wilshere. This time though, it was warranted. It appeared that there was nothing he couldn’t do.

This burning flame of talent attracted injuries like curry to an alcoholic. Since his debut in 2008, Jack has played a full season just twice. Injuries have not only played havoc, they have left his hopes of reaching his peak perilously dangling.

Something had to give, and the unthinkable happened this season when Jack realised his injuries had left his playing chances hindered at Arsenal. He knew it was time to prove he could last an entire campaign, so a spell playing for another club was the answer he reached.

His loan deal with Bournemouth was meant to herald in the second coming of Jack Wilshere. He would be placed on a pedestal amongst his new lesser-talented teammates, as they looked to him for divine inspiration on the pitch. He would shock and amaze once more, like a stumpy David Copperfield.

Instead, he has been overshadowed by those that technically should not be able to hold a flame to him. Jack has been left out of the side sporadically – and some may claim that it was the kid gloves he was being handled with that saw him out of the team on occasion – but mostly it was tactical. Cherries boss Eddie Howe has seen fit to demote Jack from the Boy who would be King, to understudy to Harry Arter. 

What in fresh hell has happened? Jack should be lauded by everyone by now? 

He has flattered to deceive at Bournemouth. He has showed flashes of his potential, but his numbers do not lie. He has barely contributed to their totals, and even if he simply lacked the finishing touches, his dearth of MOTM awards is evidence of a player not making his presence felt.

Then, his bad luck rears its ugly head again, and the news of his hairline fracture is the ending of his season.

Is it the end of his Arsenal career too?

Jack has one year left on his current deal. He has not reached the heights we know he is capable of, and he seems utterly incapable of stringing more than four games together in a row before his pins buckle. Arsene Wenger has iterated his worries for Jack’s career, and the sole hope he has is that his fracture is due to heal in time so he can take part in pre-season.

He must ensure that the special measures both Arsenal and Bournemouth have gone to in order to increase his fitness are enough. What more can be done to keep Jack fit enough?

If Arsene retains his midfield playing staff, Jack has a real fight on his hands to prove his worth. 

Not that any of them are as talented as he is. But it seems that this time, talent doesn’t matter if he can’t show it. Jack is on his last chance, and if he can’t stay fit – and above all else show he is not just potential unmanifested – then the Gunners legend he and we want him to be will just be a pipedream. 

FA Cup Final Preview 2017

Kickoff – 1730hrs GMT

So, the chance to offset Arsenal’s Premier League disappointment is upon us today, as we go to Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

This is Arsenal’s 20th FA Cup Final appearance, which is a record. With an unlikely win here, we would also hold the record for most FA Cup wins, with 13.

I say it is unlikely, because we have navigated through a season without an injury crisis for the first time in years, and now before the biggest game in this campaign – and the last – we are plagued with injured defenders.

Laurent Koscielny foolishly received a red card in our last PL game last weekend against Everton and so the Frenchman is suspended. In the same game, Gabriel busted ligaments in his knee and looks to be out for two months, and we may be without Shkodran Mustafi who is still struggling with concussion. 

Who does that leave for our three man defence? Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding will take two of those slots, but we may have to rely on Per Mertesacker – who has not made a single appearance this season. People who are suddenly doubting the lanky German would do well to remember his pedigree and his talent. What is concerning with the potential utilisation of Mertesacker is the lack of match sharpness he will suffer from. Against the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, that could be fatal.

Kieran Gibbs is nursing a thigh injury and may miss out, and if he is absent, then the 3-5-2 we have been using may be put on the shelf for this game. It doesn’t end there either. Petr Cech suffered injury in training, so perennial backup Davide Ospina will likely play his last game for the Gunners. If you want an omen, Lukasz Fabianski also bowed out of Arsenal on a high too after playing in our 3-2 Final win over Hull in 2014……

There are rays of optimism to hold onto though. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit and should come straight back into the team after his useful showings at right-back in our new formation. Alexis Sanchez is also declared fit, and this could well be the last time we see him in an Arsenal shirt.

If that is the case, then the least he could do is leave us with a breathtaking performance and a cup win!

Another dilemma for Arsene Wenger – who also may be involved in his last Arsenal game – is who gets the striker spot. Danny Welbeck has been getting the nod of late, but Olivier Giroud is far more prolific. The England striker has been pretty dire in front of goal in the last few games, but his workrate, linkup play and pace may get him the shirt ahead of the bearded Gaul. 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has no such worries and will have a full squad at his disposal. His only headache will be who to play, and in particular, who of Pedro and Willian will get one of the flanks. Pedro had been preferred for the Premiership, where Willian has played in every round of the Cup. 
We are certainly up against it, that’s for sure. With our defence looking almost unrecognisable, our backup keeper taking the gloves and our opponent looking to complete the Double, our chances are certainly impacted. A Cup Final is certainly a leveller though, as form usually falls by the wayside.

KEY PLAYERS

Rob Holding

Much will fall on this young mans shoulders. His recent form spells out a bright future, but being bereft of Koscielny and possibly Mustafi will leave no margin for error for the inexperienced but talented Englishman. Can he step up and pull a performance out of the bag, and show what he has learned?
Granit Xhaka

The Swiss star has had a mixed bag in his first season. Much of the negativity has spawned from a mis-labelling, as the midfielder is not simply a DM. His long-range passing is probably his biggest strength, and we will need his radar to be on point to spring Alexis and Welbeck away when we are under pressure. 
Alexis

The Chile star is odds on to be at a new club in the summer. He has given nothing less than 100% so far this season though, and his talents could hold the key to unlocking a tight Chelsea defence. 
KEY STATS

Seven of the last eight FA Cup ties between these two teams have resulted in Arsenal wins.

The last time the teams played was a semi-final win for Chelsea in 2009. This is the only time Chelsea have beaten us in the Cup in 70 years.

We are unbeaten at Wembley since 2011. That includes seven games. 

Chelsea have won the last four Cup Finals they have appeared in – all by single goal margins. 

Antonio Conte as manager has had only one Cup Final. This was in 2012 as Juventus boss. He lost the game 2-0 to Napoli. 
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal!!