Tag Archives: injury

Missing Personnel – Do We Finally Have Squad Depth?

Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.

After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.

Not easy to do after the way last season ended.

The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.

None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.

The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.

Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.

With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.

Holding and Bellerin

The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.

Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.

It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.

This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.

Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?

Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?

What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?

One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?

We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.

Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?

For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.

It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.

I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…

The Best of Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny’s injury suffered during our Europa League Semi-Final not only ended his season, but his World Cup dream.

He had to watch from the sidelines as his compatriots enjoyed the perfect World Cup, lifting the famous trophy to be crowned World Champions.

All while Koscielny was nursing himself nearer to a return to the pitch.

It must have been pretty difficult to overcome the knowledge that if it weren’t for his achilles injury, the defender would have gotten his hands on the World Cup. It is a thought that is perfectly designed to torment for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

Koscielny stuck gamely to his task and now we have our club captain back and available for selection – but is his Arsenal career now merely passing the torch to his students?

Koscielny has been a fine defender for us. His arrival in 2011 was pretty unheralded, despite the relatively high transfer fee. We saw a rough but adept defender, who resembled Kolo Toure in style, but with a shorter temper.


Koscielny always had a tendency to jump into tackles, giving away needless set-plays thanks to his penchant for going to ground. It took years to coach out of him, but for the last five seasons, Koscielny, has been amongst the greatest defenders to grace the Premier League.

His reading of the game benefitted from partnering the sage Per Mertesacker. His aerial ability has always been strong, and his strength belies his streamlined physique. Koscielny’s greatest asset though?

His undying loyalty.

The Frenchman stayed with us through the miasma of struggles we have endured. In the seven years he has been with us, approaching eight, Kos has seen many stars depart for greener pastures, he has seen seasons crumble into the abyss, he has been humbled by the odd thrashing.

Yet, much like how we herald the fact that the likes of Rosicky stayed during times of distress and precious little success, Kos too did the same thing. He stayed because he loves the club, and we adore him too.

This is why we must keep Kos in amongst the squad. He has much to teach the likes of Medley, Holding, Chambers and others pushing through. He can show them what it means to put on the jersey, he can show them about recovering from a mistake, or when a partner leaves a path open.

Kos can pass on his learnings from seasons of under-par partners, from under-strength squads. He may have lost the peak abilities he once had, but he still has enough to see he is one of our stronger defenders, and is well worthy of a place.

We may have seen the best of Koscielny, but no one wants to see him go just yet. He deserves every bit of our respect.

The Ozil Agenda

World Cup coverage of Germany’s downfall and the continuation of the Champions Curse centred mainly on one man.

Was this just? With Loew’s team falling way short of the standard that is expected, was one man really responsible? Or was it the media having an agenda that garners the most engagement?

No domestic football means a real shortage of actual football to generate headlines, and it means that with less news, the quality of stories coming from the mainstream media is watered down a tad.

A great example of this is the lines zoning in on a certain Mesut Ozil. The player that journo’s love to write about. His lackadaisical mannerisms are manna from heaven, and it is easy to wrap stories around this, painting a picture of an entitled enigma, a player who rarely puts in a shift, and his injury woes toward the end of the season were illustrated to look like the German was taking a break rather than attempting to recover from a back injury.

At the time, a large majority of us questioned Ozil’s absence. An abrupt omission from the squad in the last few games of the season did raise some eyebrows, but his back problem was confirmed by both Arsene Wenger and Joachim Loew, and Ozil was forced to take it easy in the run up to the World Cup.

Ozil in action for Germany's ill-fated defence of the World Cup

Ozil’s recent poor form though, is now being used as a stick to beat the playmaker, and recent TV coverage of Germany’s loss to South Korea had German fans actually blaming Ozil for their country’s early exit.

Radio stations, newspapers, websites, all have shone the light of blame on Ozil, his petulant behaviour and failure to exert his influence on proceedings are the sack that has been flung over Ozil and used to chuck him out to sea.

The thing is though, is that Ozil performed his job against South Korea, and he did it very well.

One key stat is the purest evidence of this, and one that was hidden from the majority, for fear of destroying the shroud of blame that currently hangs over Ozil.

The German number 10 is the creator, he is on the pitch to make chances.

Well, he made more chances in the loss versus South Korea, than any player in the entire World Cup had made so far.

That’s right. The underperforming, misfiring misfit that is Ozil, hung out to dry by all and sundry, made more opportunities for his team than any player at the entire tournament had made in total.

Yet Ozil was the reason Germany limped out.

Every piece of visual coverage that looked at Germany’s losses to both Mexico and South Korea went predominantly with an image of a tired-looking Ozil. His image attached to the misfortunes of his national side.

Forget Mats Hummels, who seemed to forget he was a defender in all 3 games. Forget Manuel Neuer, who has only just returned from serious injury and his insistence on playing in midfield cost Germany their second goal.

Forget about Khedira, Boateng, Timo Werner, Mario Gomez. These players were severely under-par, and yet not one finger points at them and demands they face the baying mobs.

No, because their face doesn’t fit the agenda. Mesut Ozil bashing gets headlines, clicks, calls on the radio show. When Ozil gets lambasted, then engagement levels go up.

It can be the only reason for it, given Ozil performed way above what he was given scant credit for.

Then there was the reports that Ozil suffered racial abuse from his own fans. From World Cup hero and Germany’s Player of the Year on many occasions, to derided zero, now not worth an iota of support.

It’s hard to think of another player right now that suffers in the same way. Is this targeting of Mesut simply down to his lack of emotion? If so, there are other players who come across like an automaton on the pitch and in interviews, yet they don’t suffer in the same way. Is it his effortless style? Because his neck veins don’t rise to the surface while straining every sinew?

The naysayers point out the 2-1 win over Sweden when Ozil was dropped. They say that this shows that Joachim Low was carrying Ozil, and as soon as the number 10 came back into the side, they lost again.

Well, anyone who watched Germany versus South Korea could testify that Ozil wasn’t to blame.

The whole team were utterly abject.

So, as Gooners, retain some common sense. We should be glad Ozil will at least now get some rest before what is sure to be a huge season for Arsenal. We should back our man. He could do with the support. Who knows, it could just pay off.

Will Santi Cazorla come back?

Posted on Goonersphere.

On the eve of his team’s game against Chelsea, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho lauded himself for not repeatedly moaning about Paul Pogba’s absence.

The Portuguese manager told the attending press that it would be easy to continuously mention being unable to call on the French midfielder.

Pogba has missed two months of the season so far. Santi Cazorla has missed a little over a year.

The tiny Spaniard has attracted a fair amount of interest in the last few weeks, even though he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for quite some time. Cazorla’s blighted ankle has been big news, aided by the image of the suspect joint that leaves viewers in no uncertain terms what the midfielder has had to endure.

Pogba may have the ridiculous transfer fee and his whole career ahead of him, but Cazorla is no less important to Arsenal. This may be a sad indictment of our team, how over-reliant we are on a 33 year old, but it’s still the truth.

Santi Cazorla’s transformation from playmaker to midfield all-rounder was aided by his versatility. The man with a right foot as good as his left showed he can run a midfield as well as cut open defences with his wits. It is his intelligence that is so important to our team though. The reason he works so well in the engine room is because he knows exactly when to make his move. He rarely leaves us wide open as he can read the game so well.

Since his departure, we have looked so brittle at times. Trying to forge the chemistry between two players takes time, so we won’t see the best of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey for a while. The ebb and flow of a pivot is still jarring at points in a game and it is costing us.

Santi Cazorla is a complete player, and we can only lament the fact he is on the cusp of the end of his career. A fit and firing Santi, five years younger, would dominate games and win awards.

It took a couple of seasons to see this version of our Spaniard. His first season saw him in his preferred spot of creator, but the arrival of Mesut Ozil meant a switch to a wide berth and he was starved of the thing that makes him come alive – the ball.

It was only when he took a central midfield spot that we saw he can not only supply a striker, he can also win the ball.

Santi is a complete player. His injury has meant Mesut Ozil has to drop deeper to claim possession in an attempt to galvanise our attack. He is missing the bridge that Santi provided.

The gruesome image of Cazorla’s tattooed arm skin grafted onto his ankle highlights how far he is away from returning – if he does so at all. We talk all the time about irreplaceable players, and Santi Cazorla fits into that category.

If the Spaniard was in our team now, then we would have a team that was fully firing in all sectors, instead of a midfield that is hindered by a lack of chemistry.

Yet, Arsene Wenger rarely mentions his injury other than when directly questioned. Perhaps it is because he has had ample time to find a replacement, or maybe it is because he prefers to concentrate on the players in the team. Either way, Santi is attempting to make a comeback with the full support of the club.

There aren’t many players that can hold a candle to Cazorla’s talent. If we are lucky enough to see him in our midfield again, we should thank our lucky stars and enjoy our inevitable upsurge in results and form.

Santi makes us tick like no one else. 

Stoke Vs Arsenal Preview

The Premiership came back with a bang last week, and Arsenal’s win over Leicester showed the good and bad of the League.

A hatful of goals and some diabolical defending – mostly from our own motley crew – meant we were left biting our nails for the whole match, with late goals sealing the points.

While we can castigate our side over our naivety regarding Leicester’s ‘highly original’ gameplan, we must remember a couple of things.

Firstly, the defence that lined up was a patchwork quilt of a backline, with our three first choice central defenders out through a combination of injury and suspension.

Secondly, the defending may be partially blamed on Arsene Wenger, but he can also take credit for the inspired substitutions which grabbed us the points. Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud snaffled us the points from a losing position, but will they be part of the team?

If Giroud gets a spot, that would mean either Alexandre Lacazette being benched or we change formation. Wenger isn’t a big fan of changing a winning team, and rightfully so. Lacazette also scored last week, and the new French striker should get the chance to pit himself against the quintessential English defence in Stoke.

Aaron Ramsey though, should have a better chance of coming back into the side, at the expense of Mohamed Elneny. It wasn’t a case of the Egyptian having a bad game, but more that Ramsey and Xhaka look like the first choice pairing and Wenger will want to play them together as much as possible to forge a stronger bond between the pair.

Alexis Sanchez’s story looks like it will never end, with his Instagram antics being extrapolated in a vain bid to find out where his future lies. His immediate future is not in the side though, as his abdominal strain will keep him out again. Wenger stated in his Presser though, that he should be OK for next week against Liverpool at Anfield.

Mesut Ozil was not effective against Leicester, and looked way off the pace. Every game will give him a step nearer to where he needs to be, so expect the German to play. In regards to our defence, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi should be fit to play against Stoke, so a firmer rearguard is on the horizon, although Koscielny is still suspended.

Stoke have some players to hurt us, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan able to play at the highest level, but consistency evades them. 

However, on their day they are a handful and we must be watchful. It is their defence though, that looks strongest.

With Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea and Ryan Shawcross an excellent aerial defender, the Potters are equipped to not only stave off set-pieces, but also pose a threat from their own. 

They also have in their ranks Jese on loan from PSG, so their attack may be hard to predict. Will Peter Crouch bombard us? Or will the Spanish new boy be given a shot?

We have a record at the Britannia that must be improved. Two wins from ten games shows a weakness when visiting the Potteries, and Mark Hughes will be keen to extend this. A win for the Gunners though, could show that this season is where our backbone has become evident and where it needs to be to be considered a title contender.

We may all be consumed with ins and outs at The Emirates, but let us not lose sight of the real reason we obsess over signings – and that is to win games. We have a game, an important one. Let us forget about the infernal window and support the team.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – Stoke 0-2 Arsenal

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. 

The Evolution of The Ox

Published on Goonersphere

The focus placed on development of youth at clubs has changed rapidly in the last decade, and is now almost as important as any other department within a top club.

From the vast scouting network which casts a wide net around the world in a hope of snaring big game, to the myriad of staff employed to cover every aspect of a hopeful candidate’s life, it’s clear that the polishing of these rough diamonds takes precedence over the majority of other requirements.

Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal for over two decades now, and has seen the revolving door at London Colney spin round more often than Jamie Carragher facing a fleet-footed Thierry Henry. He has seen the majority of the young charges fail to make an impact upon his first-team plans, but there have been successes. Jack Wilshere is held up as a shining beacon of what can be achieved by a youngster who matches his talent with graft, and if these traits are intertwined with fitness – then age is simply a number.

There are of course, far more than the injury-cursed Wilshere to laud in terms of youth progress and holding their own despite their tender years, but would you include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in that bracket?

The Ox has on the whole, been consistently inconsistent since his joining from the Southampton youth product conveyor belt. A mere mention of his much-shorter moniker of ‘The Ox’ is enough to materialise grimaces of frustration from Gooners within earshot. 

Now every young player should be allowed a certain amount of errors in their game, as mistakes are how we all learn and gain experience. For The Ox especially, there should be a larger margin for error as his style is purely confrontational, which in turn will see more possession conversions.

In short, he takes people on, makes things happen. That will see a higher rate of possession being switched, as the high risk – high reward style that The Ox favours requires him to pull a few tricks out of the bag to outwit opposition.

This site has published many articles on the lad, and we could all talk about how his numbers and end product are far from good enough. It is common knowledge that he needs to step his game up if he is to cement a future at Arsenal and indeed, England. He has rarely had a run in the team some will say, but the reason for this when he has been fit is that when he has been given an opportunity, for all to see he has let it slip through his fingers. Why play a player when he clearly doesn’t have a case for a start above others?

In 171 games for Arsenal (correct at the time of writing) he has scored 20 goals and given 27 assists. What really underlines his requirement for improving his end product is how often he is found in a dangerous area. The Ox really has a talent for finding the best position in attacks, but more often than not he hits the first man with a cross, or it will miss its target. 

This season though, there has been a shift on the pitch. 

He has scored six times and bagged six assists already this campaign. A straight fight between The Ox and Alex Iwobi has seen a rise in productivity and more charged performances from the man named after a bovine species. He has utilised the ball better, there have been rarer moments of induced groaning. 

A promising run in the centre of midfield was his reward, and he took the chance with both hands. The Ox began to deliver the most elusive of traits – consistency.

The flowering of Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to have finally begun. Potential is great, but if it stays as potential and doesn’t begin to sprout life, even the most patient of managers will lose faith. Wenger has stuck by The Ox and his elevated performances are evidence that the faith he placed in the England winger wasn’t so blind after all.

It is still early days, but we are roughly halfway through the season and he has scored and assisted more than any other season he has played in. If he maintains this and continues to his consistency, then The Ox may just earn the established starting role he so craves.

Alex is not the youngster that can deflect criticism with excuses of lack of experience anymore. He has played against the cream of Europe, he plays international football and he has world class talent to learn from every day on the training pitch. Is this all starting to have an effect on The Ox?

Do you take stock from statistics? Oxlade-Chamberlain’s give off the impression that the padawan has finally started to flourish. Is he a fully fledged Jedi yet? oh no, learn more he must. 

Arsenal’s Squad Depth

​We are just past the halfway mark through the season, and the front runners have started to ease away from the rest of the pack, establishing a peloton of sorts. 

A small herd of teams who see only the finish line and their bloody-mindedness to win at all costs has carved open a gap that the chasers will find exhausting to close.

It is simply a case of the cream rising to the top. The clubs who come to the fore when the business end of the season kicks in. Most telling though, is the effect that fixture congestion has on the Premier League.

During December and January, there were five games played in England’s top division. That is not counting the EFL Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League to contend with. In April, there are a crazy six Premier League games to play. 

The slew of fixtures demands the finest training and preparation, lessening the impact that the wear and tear of frenetic minutes on the pitch brings. Some things cannot be avoided though, and the chance of injury blatantly increase with the more time played. 

This is when club rosters come into play. 

Rotation will occur at every club, but it is the quality of backup that will affect results. 

Clubs from the bottom of the table to the top can claim confidently that their first choice eleven can battle with any team and have a chance of snatching a result. 

The exorbitant money that comes from the TV deal has allowed previous minnows to swim upstream with their bigger brothers. 

Can they cope with losing their star players however? This is the hurdle that sees nearly every team struggle to cope.

Even those with genuine European aspirations cannot hope to deal with being bereft of their brightest players.

 If Everton lost Lukaku and Bolasie, would they still bring as much of a threat? If Southampton lost Virgil Van Dijk and Dusan Tadic for a few months, would they maintain their position in the league?

Only a small handful of clubs can battle through such bad luck – and coincidentally – it is those who currently reside in the leading pack.

Of course, if Manchester City were to lose Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne for a while, they would find it a hell of a lot tougher to sweep past opponents, but in their depth they have adequate players to lessen the blow of losing such talent.

Arsenal now – finally – are at this point. 

Although, we haven’t exactly maximised this so far.

In seasons past, if we were to see an injury to Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor or Koscielny, then our results would capitulate along with our campaign. Fast forward to the present day, and not only can we cope better with injury, our star players are of a higher calibre than before – as well as the replacements.

The key players in our squad – Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech – represent a strong spine. A spine that is on level terms with any in world football. It has been painful to watch, but we have painstakingly built a team to compete at the highest level. This is what we demanded and we have got our wish. 

More importantly though, we have a squad that can fill cracks and gaps as they appear. It is common knowledge that the Premier League is the most gruelling in Europe. Coupled with the lack of a winter break – the winter is when the fixtures are practically every three days – then you have a burning need for players who can do a job without building up rhythm and playing every game.

The Arsenal midfield has been without Santi Cazorla recently, and the players that have come in to shore up his aperture have been international class. Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have all had stints in the centre, and with Jack Wilshere on loan, it shows a healthy amount of options.

Of course our hopes would be damaged if Mesut Ozil and Alexis were to be lost through injury. What team in the world wouldn’t be stunted by such a loss? We can now say though, that we have adequate backup. 

If Alexis were to sit out a few games, we have Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Lucas and Danny Welbeck who can play through the centre. If Mesut Ozil were to be sidelined, then our playmaker options are Santi Cazorla, or even Aaron Ramsey who can play just off the main striker as he sometimes does for Wales with aplomb.

Can Liverpool say they could cope with losing Coutinho and Firmino? They still lack a first class keeper! Could Chelsea deal with losing Costa and Hazard? 

Any player that is missing in our team, we have enough to say we can bandage the wound and carry on. This in turn inspires competition for places that dispels any lack of motivation.

In terms of playing staff, we are stronger than we ever have been but we have not had the results to match.

The squad is exactly where it needs to be. This means that there are no logical excuses left for Wenger. Time to deliver now that you have the men at your disposal. 

Ludogorets Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview

Only in action three days ago, Arsenal continue to plough through the fixture congestion with another match, this time in the Champions League versus Ludogorets.

The corresponding fixture at The Emirates saw a hatful of goals for the Gunners, and the 6-0 scoreline will see the Bulgarian champions keen to avoid such a massacre in front of their own fans.

Mesut Ozil was the architect that night, scoring his first hat-trick in professional football, and the German will be at the forefront of Arsenal’s pursuit of top spot in the group

With such a large amount of matches, the team sheet will no doubt see changes – especially as the weekend’s Premier League game is the North London Derby. Arsene Wenger will no doubt have one eye on this game, but he has ample players at his disposal and rotation should mean both games can be tackled with confidence.

Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud made their welcome returns from injury last week, and both could start this game, as their positional rivals have played three games in a week. Alexis Sanchez and Mohamed Elneny may just miss out as over-exertion could be an issue, or Francis Coquelin could be benched. The centre of midfield is hotly contested, with those three plus Granit Xhaka vying for roles – the Swiss international has seen out his three match ban and will be looking to play as soon as possible.

There are injury doubts however. Santi Cazorla had a fitness test in the weekend and didn’t travel with the squad, and Theo Walcott is another who was left home in order to keep fitness levels topped up and injuries fully healed.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has deputised well in Walcott’s absence, and he seems to have found consistency to ally with his tremendous talent. He should retain his place in the side, as well as Alex Iwobi. Carl Jenkinson made his first appearance of the season in last weeks EFL Cup win over Reading, and he may just get the nod over Hector Bellerin – such is the Spaniard’s importance to the team and the fact that Wenger intimated in his press conference that he may well be rested. 

David Ospina will continue as the club’s Champions League goalkeeper, and Nacho Monreal has returned to full fitness, although Kieran Gibbs should keep his place.

So many players to choose from, which means Wenger can shuffle accordingly and put out teams for the hotly contested London derby on Saturday, as well as this fixture in Sofia that will have a huge bearing on who nabs that important top spot in the group. 

Even with all of these prospective changes, it is testament to Arsenal’s strength in depth that all positions have more than adequate cover, which allows a breather for the game changers in the team.

Ludogorets, despite the first fixture ending in humiliating defeat, are no pushovers, and will be looking for revenge. They have some players who can cause real damage, and Jonathan Cafu will be looking to add a few extra zero’s to his potential transfer figure.

The Gunners have maintained their excellent run, but Gooners are painfully aware that November usually brings an annual dose of misery – it is Wenger’s least successful month on average.

Can Arsenal end their November hoodoo? Can they continue to go toe-to-toe with PSG in the pursuit of their Champions League group top spot?

This season shows no sign of slowing down, and the action continues tonight!

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Elneny, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.

Jack On Loan To Bournemouth – Wilshere-ly Be Back?

Every club has their fan favourites.

These players enjoy the adulation a little more than most, and the reason they can bask in the love varies.

Some of these idols bang in the goals with unerring frequency. Others typify the battling qualities that the fans identify with. Others fall into a ‘cult classic’ mould, due to their lenght of time with the club and lack of flair – a la Tony Hibbert.

Then you have players who have represented the club all the way through the youth ranks, and have an obvious love affair with the crest they carry on their chest.

That is Jack Wilshere.

News of his season-long loan departure has strains of positivity, but dominating the thoughts and feedback surrounding his move is one of regret and sadness.

Injury has ever been Wilshere’s nemesis, and his alarming stat of only making 119 Premier League starts in his entire career spells his problem out as clear as crystal.

His loan move to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth is the chance for Wilshere to finally remind the critics that his talent makes him England’s most talented midfielder. 

It is still difficult to make sense of though. Wilshere, meant to be one of the more talented of our squad, spending a season on loan at minnows Bournemouth? 

Who’d have thought it? The issue though, is memory. 

It is merely memory that fuels the criticism that follows Jack, or lack of it. We have to hark back to 2013-14 for a season relatively unhindered by injury – and Wilshere reinforcing belief that he can be Arsenal and England’s future.

Jack will join up with former Gunner and childhood friend Benik Afobe and it cannot be dismissed how important this factor is. All new surroundings (Jack having been at Arsenal his whole career), setting up home for a year, and the problem of commuting back to Hertfordshire to see his family will cause slight problems, so a friend to aid them in the lonely difficult times may allow Jack to concentrate on matters on the pitch.

 There is the small matter of adapting to a different style and requirements of him. One thing is for sure, if he maintains fitness – something that has been beyond him – then the men who are his positional rivals cannot hope to match his burst of speed, vision and transitional capabilities. 

One major asset of his move to the South Coast team is the manager. Eddie Howe has forged a reputation as a boss who utilises new ideas, and gets his team to play their own football, rather than reacting to opposition tactics. It is daring, but Jack can learn more from Howe. More importantly, he will be used in the correct way.

It seemed as if Wilshere was off to Roma to join fellow loanee Szczesny, but due to bad blood between the sides thanks to transfer negotiations for Roma defender Manolas going awry, Arsenal have opted for the Cherries.

It is a good thing too. Roma have Strootman, De Rossi, Paredes and Nianggolan in central midfield – and the whole point of Wilshere being loaned out is to gain minutes on the pitch.

Jack adores our club, and we adore him. The fact we have had fleeting glimpses of the man with the errant tongue has made this loan deal so bittersweet.

It is obvious it is for his benefit, it is clear that it could make him a better player. We know he needs minutes. 

To just see him in a different jersey will seem alien, but he needs a regular opportunity to test those troublesome limbs. If he had stayed, then he would continue to get sporadic minutes. Santi Cazorla is ahead of him, and there may be a chance to get in the starting lineup through injury, but at Roma, he will be leaving with the promise of more minutes.

Jack must return to cement the potential of legendary status he possesses. If fitness was no issue, then the captains armband would be adorning his arm, but alas, it hasn’t materialised. 

Bournemouth  beckons, and perhaps a last chance to grab a future at Arsenal. 

Good luck  Jack. Gooners everywhere will be following your every move.