Tag Archives: jeff

Smith-Rowe and Kid Gloves

You know those nights out that you have been planning for weeks? For once, the whole gang have been corralled into being free for this one night. Everyone will be there, we all know the score, and we’re heading to a very exclusive venue.

It’s going to be one of those events we will all remember, it will live long in the memory.

The trouble is, the weight of expectation crushes it – as well as your pal Terry who was well and truly trolleyed at least three hours before you even reached the club

You’ve built this up sky-high, and it means that your expectations will never match up to the actual night – leaving you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Well, the same goes – mostly – for young footballers.

These bright young things burst into our field of vision with a searing white heat, emblazoning their name upon your retina and your memory. Your first glimpses of these starlets set the bar high, and you know that they have the potential to be even better.

These teenagers are nowhere near their peak years, and yet they’re already mindblowingly good. They take the ball and they confront defenders, impudently asking them questions that season upon season of cynical fouling and defensive coaching hasn’t quite destroyed yet.

It is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to the wonders of social media, their name and their display soon spreads, like a Russian plot behind a Trump campaign. Soon, they appropriate a phrase, one that is often the nadir of any hopes they – and you  – once had of seeing these prospects fully realising their talents.

They become ‘The Next Big Thing.’

At Arsenal, we’ve had this many times over the years in the Wenger era. The Frenchman had a penchant for finding a diamond in the rough in the hope that a bit of spit and elbow grease can coax out every bit of promise.

Sometimes it worked. Cesc Fabregas was a surefire hit. Nicolas Anelka was a real find. Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were tracked all the way through the youth systems. Aaron Ramsey was a first-teamer early on, but he has come on leaps and bounds from the fresh-faced teenager that turned down Manchester United to come to London Colney.

There are others too though, that fell by the wayside. Quite a few actually.

For every Anelka, we had a Daniel Crowley. For every Cesc, we had a Jeremie Aliadiere or a Yaya Sanogo.

It shows that talent isn’t everything that comprises a top-flight success. The amount of careers that started at a major club and the majority of their professional lives were spent in lower leagues is evidence enough to show how tough it is to make that next step from starlet to bona fide first teamer.

It is why expectations should be scaled back a little.

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It is why Emile Smith-Rowe should be cherished, but avoid the heavy burden of our heavy breathing as we salivate over what could be.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide was in the exact same position only a couple of seasons ago. The Emirates Cup was buzzing as fans were able to catch a glimpse of the player given the moniker, ‘The Jeff.’

Big things were expected, and the rare sightings we had of him and the comments from coaches and teammates were indicating that he was the real deal.

Yet, on the day Emile Smith-Rowe made his first big splash upon our senses, the very same day Jeff Reine-Adelaide had signed a permanent deal for Ligue Un minnows Angers.

Apparently, it was a mix of money demands and first team requests that drove Jeff to move from the club, but either way, it is another player who has failed to reach the heights we know they can reach, at our club.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been making waves for the youth teams since last season, big enough for the discerning Gooner to be aware of his presence. But it was his inclusion in the Singapore squad and his subsequent fantastic solo effort against Atletico Madrid that showed we may have a real gem in our ranks.

It seems that he has the world at his feet, but we’ve been burned before. We should hold back on placing so much emphasis on the development of Smith-Rowe, as Crowley, Reine-Adelaide and others have shown that talent isn’t everything.

If Smith-Rowe shows the same level of intensity and dedication that recent youth converts Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have shown – then Smith-Rowe could well be too dazzling for words.

The thing is though, is it is very uncertain right now. We have no idea what will happen.

All we can do is trust the framework at the club to treat the kid with kid gloves, and his rare forays in cup games are enough to avoid stunting his growth but also enough to let him shine.

We could place far too much weight on the kid, and most likely we will do.

But Smith-Rowe is that good.

Slow and steady everyone.

Arsenal Vs Southampton – EFL Cup Preview

The EFL Cup Quarter-Finals are next up on the agenda for Arsenal, and with the trophy a mere three wins away, a strong team selection will be on the cards for the Gunners.

The importance of the tie is one reason, but the squad depth is another reason why Arsenal’s lineup will be stronger than in previous years. Established players will be champing at the bit to be involved, and this will benefit Arsene Wenger’s bid to lift this trophy for the first time in his distinguished career at the helm of Arsenal.

The opposition travelling to The Emirates will not exactly give easy passage to the Semi-Finals however. Claude Puel’s Southampton are a strong unit, and the seemingly endless procession of talented youngsters coming from the South Coast will be pumped for the game, as well as some of their own bigger stars. Arsenal were victorious in their Premier League meeting at The Emirates in September – running out 2-1 winners – but league form doesn’t apply in the majority of cup games, and this will be no different.

In terms of who will make up the home team, the EFL Cup and its previous incarnations have always provided a small portal for the masses of Gooners to view the potential future of the club, and despite the many players who will want to play, Arsene Wenger will no doubt include at least a couple of the second string kids.

One who is a strong shout to play is Ainslie Maitland-Niles, and his versatility has seen him play at right-back and in centre midfield so far in previous rounds. Another who may play is Rob Holding, who has more than impressed since his summer move from Bolton Wanderers.The much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide played in the last round, and the talented Frenchman should get the nod this time around. 

Emiliano Martinez has played all of the EFL Cup games so far, and the 24yr old will no doubt keep the gloves for this game, but the rest of the team is harder to decipher.

A surprise inclusion is the return of Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has shown remarkable powers of recovery to be included in the plans for this game, and Wenger has said he is ready to go during his latest press conference. The striker could well get the striker spot, but one player who must be included is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Ox scored both goals in the previous round’s win over Reading, and he has scored the last three goals the club have scored in this competition. Whilst his confidence may be low after a sub-par performance in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth, the best remedy for such a malaise is a strong showing in the next game.

Claude Puel will no doubt fancy his chances in this Cup, and his team selection will be more than a match for the home team. Despite Southampton exiting the cup at this stage in their last seven attempts, the brand of football they play will always grant them chances. Arsenal’s shuffled defence will have to be switched on to safeguard their own hopes. 

Josh Sims, 19, will miss the trip to The Emirates, and his livewire debut game in the 1-0 win over Everton in the weekend showcased the latest prodigy to hail from the club. James Ward-Prowse, Matt Targett, Sam McQueen and Sofiane Boufal could all play, and Boufal in particular will pose a real threat. The mazy French wideman is highly rated for good reason, and returns from injury to make the squad.

So, yet another match, but a golden opportunity to make the semi-finals of a competition we haven’t lifted since 1993. Key players will be rested for this game, so the players who do take to the pitch have a great chance to extend their playing time. 

No harm can come from progression. Success breeds success and winning is a habit. 

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Lucas

Predicted scoreline – 3-2 Arsenal

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – 5 Key Stats From The Game

Arsenal progressed serenely to the Quarter-Final stage of the EFL Cup, with a straightforward victory over Jaap Stam’s Reading side, as Arsene Wenger gave many of his young talents a chance to shine on the big stage.

I was lucky enough to attend this game, and after the pilgrimage to Piebury and The Tollington, myself,  @GreeneBantern and @SimplyEnigmatic made our way to the stadium. 

Just as we left the watering hole, the team was announced, and it was fair to say the biggest surprise was seeing Ainslie Maitland-Niles named in the centre of midfield. Whilst the talent is there, to be given a central role is a huge responsibility and it must have been an honour and extra pressure simultaneously for the youngster.

Just before we entered The Emirates, I must add that I saw a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. A fellow Gooner and an erudite chap, it was honestly great to shoot the breeze after so long. 

Arsenal really does have the capacity to improve your day! 

Back to the game, and Martinez once again started in goal, but it was in defence that perhaps carried most danger. 

The seats we had in the East Stand allowed for excellent viewing, and they provided us with the chance to really dissect each performance. It was like a FIFA game, as we were level with the halfway line, as opposed to our usual seats in the North Bank. 

The promising Rob Holding was alongside Gabriel in the heart of the backline. Normally the requirement for an inexperienced defender is to be partnered with a seasoned veteran, and the rash Brazilian is not exactly the sage influence that would soothe a fretting 21 year old.

We needn’t have worried.

Mohamed Elneny continued in the centre of midfield, and the attack looked full of vibrancy, with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide just behind Lucas Perez as the sole striker.

The last few occasions we have faced the Royals, they have provided the sternest of tests, but new coach Jaap Stam seems to have instructed his team to play calmly and play out from the back, which played into the hands of the Gunners.

We started well, and fan favourite Carl Jenkinson had a great chance to break the deadlock, only for Royals keeper Ali Al-Habsi to parry, and Jenkinson could only head the second chance over.

Reading stood off Arsenal, inviting the young home team to try and play around them – and on a few occasions we did.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the man who put Arsenal a goal up, and it was the away teams insistence on starting moves from the back which gave The Ox a chance to shoot as two Reading defenders backed off – and he simply picked out the far corner. 

It stemmed from the pressure we put on a flustered defence, but the pressing died a little as Reading started to push a little, but it seemed as if Arsenal could break through at will.

The Ox’s second goal came from Rob Holding beating his man on the right of the penalty area, and when second half substitute Olivier Giroud laid the ball off, The Ox fired a bullet toward goal. A deflection meant it eluded Al-Habsi – and the key deflection may just have come from Alex Iwobi.

There was much more to see during the ninety minutes, but here are five points that occurred on the pitch that are worth reading about:




Elneny Man of the Match

The Egyptian’s first start Vs Middlesbrough in the weekend showed how rusty from lack of minutes Elneny was. This game required a steady hand on the tiller though. So many kids on the pitch that need an experienced colleague to dictate when required, and Elneny was that man. So often he was the player who put his foot on the ball and sprayed it wide to stretch play. So often he won possession when Reading were just starting to build a head of steam. Elneny was the player we needed, and he showed that he is more than able.




The Ox deserves some credit

Too often I have written of the Ox’s failures, but his display in this match showed his maturity and initiative. We are all aware he has the talent, but in this game, he was the player who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the flat spots of play, and he made things happen. He was also defensively diligent, which is a rare occurrence. I dearly hope this is a turned corner, as he was a delight to watch.




Rob Holding is all that

With a central defensive pairing of Gabriel and Holding, the potential for disaster was high. Not that they are incompetent, but chemistry is a huge factor for centre-backs, and these two have not played together since pre-season. Plus, Gabriel is known to be a tad on the rash side, but this game needed him to be the wise head for his younger partner. However, Holding showed positional astuteness, great instincts, and his physicality was just as good as his Brazilian colleague. Holding looked like a defender about six or seven years his senior. If he continues his trajectory, then greatness beckons. A really classy game for Holding.




Reading should have pressed

If the Royals had adjusted their game plan according to the Arsenal teamsheet, then they would have harried their opposition. A less-experienced player is usually more inclined to panic on the big stage, but Reading kept to their gameplan, which meant they would invite pressure and when in possession, attempt to pass and move. They didn’t, thankfully, give Arsenal as many nightmares as in previous cup games, but to be fair to Arsenal, I think that they would have coped. Still, Jaap Stam could have thrown caution to the wind.





Lucas Perez looks tasty

The swarthy Spaniard was given another shot as he was in the previous round, and although he didn’t register on the scoresheet or provide an assist, this performance was maybe a little more telling. Lucas was industrious, and harried as much as he could in his lone role. He had little to work with, but his endeavours were worthy of a reward he never received in the form of a goal. If he continues to put in as much effort as he did in this game, then he will be a fantastic asset.

There was much more to write about. Much has been made of the man known only as ‘Jeff,’ and he was tidy enough in possession, but there was little thrills or spills from the exciting talent. His time will come. Alex Iwobi looked a little tired but that is completely understandable, and Jenkinson impressed on the right of defence. Also worth noting is Keiran Gibbs, who played in the stalemate in the weekend, but showed no ill-effects. He led the line well as Skipper.

All in all, a comfortable enough victory, but not without a spirited if uninspired opposition. The future rounds will be tougher, but the fact we are still in the cup should be celebrated. It gives our fringe players a vital runout, and any chance for silverware should be embraced.

Arsenal Vs Reading – EFL Cup Preview

Three days after a disappointing draw against Middlesbrough in the Premier League, Arsenal have the chance to return to winning ways immediately, with this EFL Cup meeting at home versus Reading.

Despite dropping points at home, other results featuring our title rivals ended favourably, which leaves the Gunners primed near the top – and with a list of priorities as full as our squad list.

Arsene Wenger yesterday was at the club’s AGM, which clashed with training, but he insisted that the club would fight on all fronts, including this competition – which is one he has failed to win in his two decades at Arsenal.

The EFL cup used to be derided by the major teams, us included, but any silverware to show off to the fans at the end of the season is to be celebrated, and so all major Premier League teams now focus on the competition a lot more than in previous years – to prove it, just look at the teams that will be named.

In terms of Arsenal and who will make the team, it is rather exciting trying to guess who will make the lineup – and even more so being able to see some of the lesser seen players being able to strut their stuff. 

Damian Martinez started the last EFL Cup round, and will be expected to wear the gloves again. After that, it is a case of educated estimation.

A host of fringe players will be champing at the bit to get some valuable game time. Gabriel, Rob Holding, Carl Jenkinson, Jeff-Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Elneny will be eagerly awaiting Wenger’s decision, and they all stand a great chance of lining up against the Royals. 

Mohamed Elneny in particular will be looking to get up to speed as quickly as possible, with Santi Cazorla perhaps sidelined for longer than projected, the Egyptian will be looking to take his chance with both hands, and that means putting in performances that make it harder for Cazorla to instantly return to the side.

It isn’t just the players who aren’t part of the first team that are looking to get on the team sheet. 

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to first team training, and all that is missing is match sharpness, so it isn’t a huge leap to think that the Frenchman will indeed take to the pitch tonight at some stage, although Ramsey may just miss out.

This would mean that this experimental lineup will be peppered with genuine experience and class, as well as youthful hunger. I will be attending the game, and cannot wait to cheer to the rafters whoever wears the jersey.

We are of course favourites to win it, but Reading are no pushovers. Everyone will remember the 7-5 epic tie in this competition from a few years ago, and with Jaap Stam as coach, they will have defensive solidity as a priority. 

The Royals will pose a threat, but with the dazzling array of talent we can call upon to fill the side, we should have no excuses.

Reading have not beaten Arsenal in thirteen attempts, and the Gunners haven’t lost at home to lower league opposition in this competition since 1963, so hopefully this continues! There is a cursory note though, as Arsenal have lost their last two home games in this competition – and we have never lost three in a row. 

This tie is there to be won, and handsomely. Let us continue with the great run we have been enjoying, and in turn, stay in contention for the cup.

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Jeff, Ox, Lucas, Akpom.

Predicted Score – 4-1

EFL Cup: Nottm Forest 0 – 4 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Seen as a gamble before kickoff, the heavy mix of youth with a few experienced heads paid dividends as Arsenal dumped Forest out of the EFL Cup and made their way to the Quarter-Finals.

A Lucas Perez double – his first goals for the club – a Granit Xhaka exocet and The Ox from a Lucas assist, gave Arsenal the win, and there were a few of the youngsters who really impressed, as well as some who are trying to force their way from the bench to the first team.

Xhaka and Elneny mixed well, and did their prospects no harm, and Chuba Akpom was involved in most of the moves which broke through the Forest defence. Lucas Perez in only his second start was effective, and despite a few shaky moments, the defence as a whole coped with the variables of unfamiliarity and lack of minutes, to keep out the home side.

The team was liberally sprinkled with youthful talent, and perhaps more so than in recent years, but the experienced pro’s that were in the team gave the side a real edge.

Lucas Perez started only his second game since arriving in August, and the midfield base of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny – who represent some fans optimum central combo, provided the foundation for prolonged spells of possession. In defence, Gabriel returned from injury to partner the promising Rob Holding, and Kieran Gibbs provided a certain reliability on the left of the backline. 

The Ox was given another chance to impress, on the right of attack, and Chuba Akpom started on the left of attack. Most surprisingly, and pleasantly, was the choice to include the much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide in the Number10 position, and this was the best chance fans have had in quite some time to get a close look at the young Frenchman. It was also his biggest opportunity for the first team to date. ‘The Jeff,’ in flashes, showed that the hype could be deserved. Good vision, allied with excellent control, if he can improve his strength and his concentration, he will be part of the long term future of the club.

Oxlade-Chamberlain again flattered to deceive, and patience has to be running a little thin, as it is in the stands. Frustrations toward the England man is mainly due to knowing what he can do, but his lack of consistency, and his lack of growth, means The Ox is more or less the same player we signed. His goal was a great finish, and it provided that little flash and reminder of what he can do, but his whole display could again be better. It seems the best of him always comes to the surface when the pressure is off and the game is in the bag.

There was plenty more to pick out from within the ninety minutes, but here are 5 key points from the game:


Lord Bendtner has still got it, good and bad – 

Within twenty minutes, we saw the best and worst of our former striker. He put a chance on a plate for Patjim Kasami who screwed wide, held the ball up well and had a great effort just off target, but also put in a tackle on Granit Xhaka that was verging on X-rated. The Dane was bombed out of Wolfsburg in the summer, and was branded a ‘menace’ by the Board at the German club, but he certainly still has something to offer, but he needs to rein in his flamboyant ego if he is to resurrect his career.


Granit Xhaka has dynamite in his boots

The Swiss star has the backing of nigh on every single Gooner in regards to being in the first XI, and we are all more than aware of how effective his passing is, and how destructive he can be in the face of opposition attacks. What is maybe less known is his ability to shoot from distance. Last weekend he scored our 4th goal in our win over Hull City with a howitzer from 30yards, and he opened the scoring in this tie with a shot from similar distance. It took a slight deflection, but it seemed to be going in anyway, even when the keeper made contact with it! The clean connection he seems to obtain means that his boots could yet be a viable option of attack. If Wenger allows long range shots that is!


Chuba Akpom may just have an Arsenal future

Named on the left of attack, it was going to be interesting to see how the young England lad fared out wide and cutting in, but we needn’t have feared. He had an early chance which the Forest keeper did well to stop, and his link-up play, which comes to the fore far more out wide, was impressive. It was he who also latched onto a through ball which allowed Lucas Perez to score his first Arsenal goal, via a penalty. He isn’t a one-trick pony, he can do more than score goals, but it is how many times he hits the net that he will be judged upon. It is nigh-on impossible to decide if he will be given a shot in the seasons to come, but on this display, he’s giving it everything he has got. 


Gibbs was the right choice for Captain

The boy – although he’s far from a boy now – has been at the club since 2007 and is the second longest serving player behind Theo Walcott. It isn’t simply his tenure that means the armband was warranted though. He has been in and out of the side for two years now, and it is ongoing. Have you ever heard him moan via the media though? He has been the utmost professional, and he isn’t just picking up his paycheque either. Whenever called upon, he has done a solid job, and if given a run in the side, he would not let anyone down. He isn’t the vociferous type, but the youngsters on the field can look to Gibbs for the example to follow, and aside from the early mistake which allowed Bendtner to set up Kasami, Gibbs did the shirt, and the captaincy, proud.

We may have another viable penalty taker – and Lucas is it

Alexis may be able to give defenders twisted blood, and he may be able to play as a striker ( time will tell ) but he cannot be considered for penalty taking duty. Santi Cazorla is the nominated spot-kick man, but Lucas Perez scored his first goal for the club in this game, through an accomplished penalty that indicated he is a reliable option if the need arises. On the whole, Lucas played well, but the service again wasn’t exactly plentiful. His movement was ok though, which Ozil will enjoy, and getting off the mark will relieve a lot of pressure.His second goal also exhibited his strength, as he shrugged off Michael Mancienne and had the composure to round the keeper before tapping home. He then registered an assist, a slide rule pass for Oxlade-Chamberlain to finish, and it was a great display from the hitman from Deportivo.  Let’s see how he goes from here. The next penalty earned should be a straight fight between the two Spaniards. 

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.

The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.

Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.

This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year. 

You cannot have both.

So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players. 

David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.

In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.

Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.

In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch. 

Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.

Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.

Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.

In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours. 

‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.

We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.

Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal. 

First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda. 

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal