Tag Archives: Koscielny

Bellerin For Captain?

Last season saw plenty of changes in what was Unai Emery’s first season in charge.

We saw the constant switching between three and five at the back. We saw the first eleven tinkered with in order to find that special slice of chemistry. We saw our press activate and disengage within minutes.

All signs of a fledgling regime, but another change was very much up for questioning.

The decision to grant the captains armband to Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil was examined closely by all and sundry. With Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech missing out on chunks of the season through injury and selection reasons, it left three men leading the team out for the majority.

Granit Xhaka, love him or loath him, is one of the few who show true leadership qualities on the field and warranted the captaincy, and Aaron Ramsey’s association with the club was a lengthy one and he held the respect of his teammates.

Mesut Ozil perhaps was awarded the armband on occasion to give him the confidence he desired, a clear signal of intent that he was needed and had a specific role to play. Lead by example, show the others what they need to do.

Did the decision to split captaincy responsibilities work?

That depends who you ask, but it could be a work in progress.

What about next season though?

With both Cech and Ramsey both having left the club, it leaves three from last season who wore the armband.

When you take into consideration that official club captain Laurent Koscielny has gone on strike to engineer a move away from Arsenal?

That whittles it down to two.

Mesut Ozil is not a typical captain, but will command the respect from his comrades, but are there others who would be leaders and could help elevate performance with their own take on what captains should do on the pitch.

One candidate who has been spoken about at length is Hector Bellerin.

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The Spaniard has been with the club since 2013 and counts as a homegrown player. His affection for the club is evident through his social media activity and his desire on and off the pitch has driven him to great things.

Just look at how he took to Emery’s new regime at the start, before his horror injury. He was one of the standout performers, one that took his game to the next level. He was a massive threat up top, facilitating our attackers, and his defensive side had tightened considerably.

He could command the eleven and ensure instructions are carried out. He is the ideal middle man, a conduit between Emery and his men.

Bellerin is due to return from injury early in the season, and stands alone in regard to the right-back spot. Maitland-Niles did an admirable job last season filling in and has done his future at the club no harm whatsoever, but Bellerin will no doubt pick up where he left off.

Sokratis is another player who could lead the players, but in terms of style, it would be a more vocal approach from the Greek – and Bellerin has plenty of years in the tank yet to push his legacy at the club. Sokratis is more of a short-term fillip we need to hold our defence together.

Hector’s values align with our own, he is progressive and he wants the club to achieve – he cares. Isn’t that fundamentally what pushes all captains?

Bellerin is one of the few players who is intrinsically linked with the fibre of the club woven deep. He will wear the armband with pride and rightfully so. He will deserve it. Age is just  a number, Bellerin has earned the shot to lead the team out – and it could be a masterstroke.

Skipper On Our Shopping List

The summer transfer window may cure some ills for Arsenal, but at least one of our failings may well be carried over into next season.

It will require targeting from our recruitment team to rectify the situation, otherwise our next campaign we will still be bereft of a true captain.

Unai Emery changed much in his first season, and one of the myriad of variants he brought in to dispel the old era was to appoint five nominated skippers. All five brought a little something different to the table and perhaps combined, they made one true leader.

Mesut Ozil brought a true example to look up to for the younger players, and his ice-cool temperament is a skill that many could need.

Petr Cech is a born winner and has been victorious in every club competition he has entered.

Granit Xhaka is a motivator, rallying the troops vocally and attempting to rouse the warrior within them all.

Aaron Ramsey is the consummate professional and is the prime example of where hard work can take a young prospect as the Welshman is the purest evidence of this.

Then there is Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has been at Arsenal for eight years and has put his injury-ravaged body on the line every time he has put on the shirt. He is still probably our best defender at a tender 33 years of age and the squad look to him for a mixture of all of the above.

Next season is a different story though. At times we have missed a captain of the ilk of our previous luminaries. Players who can grab their teammates and the match itself by the scruff of the neck and change things.

Koscielny deserves the armband, but is he vocal enough? Does he have the right mixture of fear, adulation and respect?

Only the squad can answer that, but at times last season we looked a little rudderless, games slipping from our grasp because of our sloppiness, mistakes that could have been weeded out by a captain who makes sure everyone is accountable.

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When was the last time we had a skipper who gave the team that 5% that lifted them above the ignominy of another poor show?

Previously, we awarded the armband to our stars as a makeweight of sorts, another thing to add to the plate that is offered to a star that is looking at pastures new; “Instead of leaving, please stay, you can be the captain of the team.”

Patrick Vieira then, was probably the last time we had someone who was the embodiment of a captain, someone who naturally has an air that lends itself to turning heads, opening ears, inspiring performances.

Koscielny is the nearest we have to that in our squad. He never lets the side down, he gives his all. Those are mandatory for the captain, they need to show the level that is expected.

We may need to look for a player in the window that has the DNA strand that is true leadership though. With Koscielny on his last legs and Rambo no longer a Gooner, we are in more need than ever of a player to take the armband.

Our rivals have players of that ilk, or at least captains who can scream a player into playing a little better. Cesar Azpilicueta and Vincent Kompany especially are true leaders and give their sides that little extra when they struggle.

Now Raul Sanllehi and Emery must put someone on their shopping list that isn’t weighed down by the armband. Instead, they see it as an honour and use it to eke everything than can out of themselves and their comrades.

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.

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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.

Sokratis – Just What We Needed

Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge was blighted by poor form, which led to his lowest ever finish as Arsenal boss.

This was a symptom of a brittle weakness that saw us carved open by teams who smelled blood, pouring from our soft underbelly. Teams who had no right, on paper, to destroy us in the manner that they did.

It was our defence, from monitoring runs in midfield through to naive offside traps, woeful zonal marking and a general lack of organisation. This was the culprit that saw Wenger’s reign end in such circumstances.

The very same players are available to Unai Emery in his first match in charge. Both men couldn’t be more contrasting in their approach, and one thing that can fill us with optimism is the Spaniard’s dedication to looking at our opponents.

Still, all the video’s in the world looking at the minutiae of another team’s attack won’t be of any use if the personnel expected to act on Emery’s commands are inept.

Laurent Koscielny is 32 and will be out for the first half of the season through injury.

Shkodran Mustafi has strengths, but in terms of organisation and maintaining concentration he very much failed last season.

Konstandinos Mavropanos looks a real steal, but has made just a handful of appearances. A dip will come, and we don’t know when, how long it will last, or what it could cost us. One for the future.

Rob Holding had a fantastic debut season, but last season showed how far he still has to go before he makes it. Looks increasingly likely to go on loan to get the first team games he needs.

Then there is Calum Chambers. The England prospect looked to be on borrowed time until the latter half of last season, but Chambers excelled when called upon, and an extended contract is a symbol of the faith placed upon him. He looked to be the chosen one to lead this defence forward – but if he is, he’ll have to wait until next season after going on loan to Fulham for the campaign.

Sokratis at former club BVB

Sokratis Papastathopoulos is a recruit straight from the contacts book of a certain Sven Mislintat. The former Dortmund man is a seasoned veteran in terms of seasons spent in the top flight, having been with BVB for five seasons. Before that, he was at Werder Bremen for three seasons.

Interestingly, he was at AC Milan for two seasons, having been bought after impressing at Genoa. He made just five appearances in two years at the San Siro however, but what it does show is that he has experience from different leagues, which only serves to highlight why he will be so important.

Sokratis is now thirty years old. It means he will be our first choice centre back for probably a maximum of three to four years. What he can teach Holding and Mavropanos though, is invaluable. He has the potential to be a real hit in the teaching stakes, and the kids could soar next to such a grizzled warrior.

Sokratis is aerially strong and isn’t too rash either, something we can level at a host of other defenders in our past, and perhaps in our present. The partnership with Mustafi perhaps has shades of Campbell and Toure about it, with each defender performing different tasks. While Mustafi may not have the pace of Toure in his pomp, he is more than athletic, and is no slouch, as shownoften in recovering some messes he created himself in his time with us.

Sokratis has the physical edge we have been looking for, and he also is one who knows the seedier part of the game, a cynical slant, which will wipe the happiness from strikers faces, as opposed to before when they held no fear.

This signing is exactly what we need. Sokratis may only have a limited amount of miles on the clock, but if used right, and with the right partner, this could be a stroke of genius from our recruitment team.

Selling Bellerin to Solve Our Defensive Woes?

This season has been a calamitous one at best.

Our Premier League campaign is the worst we’ve had under Arsene Wenger, and we’re set for the lowest finishing position in his tenure.
It all points to a manager that has lost his grip on what it takes at the cutting edge of the game, and a squad that quite clearly needs a drastic overhaul.

But does it? Or is the fault mainly in our defence that is as porous as a sponge?
Well, our attack is as potent as Tottenham’s, United’s and Chelsea’s in terms of goals scored, and we have proven world class talent in the form of Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Our defence however, is a different story.

We have conceded more goals than the rest of the teams in the top 7, this is the reason that as of 15/04/18, we had lost exactly one third of our total league games this season – and owned the worst away record of ANY team in the top 4 leagues in England.

Our best defenders are Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. Both are the wrong side of thirty and Koscielny suffers from chronic tendonitis. There is only one way for them to go from here.

We do have an answer though.

Hector Bellerin to Barca?

Hector Bellerin is 23 and the Catalan-born defender is under contract until 2022. It is common knowledge that he isn’t short of admirers. His price tag would be a handsome one.

If we did dispense of his services, with whatever funds are currently at our disposal, we could add to it with a rather tidy sum and it could replenish our depleted numbers.

With the World Cup, most transfer fees will be grossly inflated, and we could really do with a few extra pennies to spend, as our backline isn’t merely on its last legs, it really needs a new foundation.

Rob Holding and Calum Chambers have shown enough to merit some faith in their future and with more games, they will improve. Shkodran Mustafi has been a failed purchase thus far, and Per Mertesacker is retiring. We need at least three new faces in defence, and they can’t be works in progress either – they will need to be established players who have top-flight experience.

Hector Bellerin has not exactly been fantastic this season. In attack he is a great outlet, but defensively, he hasn’t improved since his first full season. The Spaniard is still making mistakes with the timing of his forward runs and he is still beaten a little too easily when one on one.

Plus, we’ve now got a ready-made replacement in Stefan Lichtsteiner.

Should Barcelona come in with a £50m bid, would we be fools not to take it? Of course we wouldn’t. We’d be retaining a player with bags of talent that could vastly improve. If we sold him though, and we actually invested the money? It could be the reinvention our defence sorely needs.

Next season the competition will only get tougher, and with the gap between us and the top 6 stretching, it’s time to stop what we’re doing and change things up – what we’ve been doing isn’t working and at the root of this – Wenger aside – is our defence.

One player sold, and we could solve so many of our problems. Let’s face it, Hector will be going to Barca in 2-3 seasons maximum anyway.

Shouldn’t we cash in?

What would you do? Would you sell Bellerin?

Who should be our Captain?

There has been plenty of talk surrounding our club of late – and for good reason.

The winds of change are sweeping around The Emirates, and Unai Emery’s appointment has sent the media into a froth over the inevitable variances that will occur after over two decades under one man’s stewardship.

One thing that hasn’t really come into focus is who will lead our men on the pitch.

The subject of our next skipper is an important one. The person who wears the armband next season will be the link between Emery in the dugout and the enacting of his demands.Not only this, but when it comes time to dig our heels in, the captain is the man who leads from the front.

Jack, Xhaka and Ramsey - who is our next captain?

Many think that Aaron Ramsey is the perfect candidate. The model professional who leads from the front, there is no denying he is the perfect example for our youth for triumph in the face of adversity, and never giving up.

Does the Welshman have the chops though? Many say that vocality is a dying trait when it comes to wearing the armband, and all that is needed is someone to lead from the front with their talents.

I would have to disagree. We have had those types of leaders before, back during the time when we dished out the armband as a lure to wantaway players – it didn’t work.

Captains need to have the ability to pick players up when they’re either having an abysmal game or if they’re making errors. They need to have that extra clout to be able to say what needs to be said, without recrimination. The players will listen because he is the leader, without fail.

If it isn’t Rambo though, who should it be? It isn’t as if we are stocked to the rafters with leaders – many people would say this is one of the many reasons we have struggled over previous seasons.

We have had a decent skipper recently though, but Mertesacker’s lack of minutes on the pitch undermined his strength. We need a player who will play the majority of our games.

Perhaps Granit Xhaka? Yes, his displays were erratic last campaign, but his will to win and his place in the team are strong. He seems to have the respect of his comrades and with a new man in charge, Xhaka could actually be played to his strengths rather than made to fit.

Other than these two players, we don’t have anyone who should shoulder this immense responsibility. Laurent Koscielny is a fantastic servant for the club, but leader he certainly isn’t. Plus, he is set to miss the first half of the season through injury. Nacho Monreal is the embodiment of consistency, but does he have what it takes to lead the team in difficult circumstances?

Then there is Jack Wilshere. His love for the club is undeniable, and we know he is certainly not lacking in making himself heard, but his future is uncertain – as well as his place in the team. If Jack stayed and picked up his game a little, then he would be a viable choice.

It would seem right now though, that it is a choice of two – and after last season and with a danger of Ramsey not signing a new deal, the Captains’ armband could well be the sweetener Rambo needs to commit his future.

Arsenal Vs Burnley – PL Preview

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

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

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

Arsenal take on Burnley at The Emirates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 to The Arsenal

CSKA Moscow Vs Arsenal: Europa League Match Preview

We travel to Moscow for the second leg of our Europa League Quarter-Final to take on CSKA Moscow again, with a valuable 4-1 scoreline giving us clear sight of the Semi-Finals.

CSKA Vs Arsenal 2nd Leg of our Quarter-Final

The first leg score may be advantageous, but it is not conclusive. The away goal scored by Golovin direct from a free kick was deserved if we are honest, as they caused us problems regularly, usually through the vibrant Ahmed Musa. On a different night they could have had two or three, and it is good evidence that they could score an early goal and heap the pressure on.

With a partisan atmosphere to contend with and the pressure of an attacking team bearing down on us, the night could get messy.

Objectively, we could and should have scored six or seven. We created chances at will seemingly, and our opponents had no answer to the creativity of Mesut Ozil for the majority of the game.

The bottom line for this fixture is that if we attack early on, and we score, CSKA will then need four goals to force extra time.

We need to be on the front foot – especially seeing as the combined age of their defence is the actual age of creatures hailing from the Cretaceous era. We can kill this game off early and then rotate for a tough game this Sunday at Newcastle. We have won three away games in the League all season and we need every resource we have in order to better that.

If we score in Moscow, the game is over.
Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are set to return to the side, and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Alexandre Lacazette is our go-to Europa League striker. Granit Xhaka didn’t travel with the squad as he is sick with flu, so Elneny or Jack could start alongside Ramsey.

Two players who have played their way into contention are Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi. their respective displays against a spirited Southampton side last weekend were welcome returns to form for the pair, and they almost single-handedly rescued us from dropping points. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for what looks like the remainder of the season, they both are in with a shout of a start.

David Ospina is still out, so Petr Cech will take the gloves instead of our designated cup keeper. Aside from these changes, the lineup pretty much picks itself. One piece of good news for the coming weekend though, is that the red card Mohamed Elneny received in our win over Southampton last week has been rescinded by the FA, and it dissolves the three match ban the Egyptian was due to suffer.

CSKA will have to attack to salvage anything from this tie, but an early goal changes the whole game. We’ll need to be on our game at both ends of the pitch, but we can cut them to ribbons if we need to. Let’s hope we kill their hopes early and save all of us Gooners the coronaries that normally come with a high-stakes tie.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Southampton PL Match Preview

Five wins on the bounce. Two months ago that seemed like a pipedream, but on the eve of our Premier League match against Southampton, we seem to have recovered from our slump.

And yet, the hard work has only just begun, and reports of our resurrection have been greatly embellished.

Of course, two wins against a strong Milan side, comprehensive victories over Watford and Stoke and now our thumping of CSKA are far better fare than our losses against Brighton, City and Ostersunds, but while we may have one foot in the Europa League Semi-Finals, our Premier League placing is still lower than we’d like. Far lower.

With just seven games left, we are a distant 13 points from fourth spot and our rivals spurs. Even fifth spot is five points away from us. We are closer to Burnley and Leicester than we are Liverpool, spurs and United. There is no escaping our poor domestic form, and while there is a chance of redemption – no matter how miniscule – then we must fight for it.

Our two League wins have helped to steady a ship that was in danger of capsizing, but we need to make haste now. A home match against lowly Southampton seems perfect to gain more momentum, but we should heed the warning signs.

Mark Hughes has been a thorn in our side before, and so have the Saints. Despite their relegation zone woes, they still have quality players that can hurt us and as we showed against CSKA on Thursday, a simple mistake can lead to a goal.

Our team will be switched up from the one that defeated Moscow midweek. Laurent Koscielny may be rested for the second leg next week, with Calum Chambers dropping into central defence most likely.

Mohamed Elneny is another who should come back into the side, with either Granit Xhaka or Aaron Ramsey rested.

Then we have our attack, and there’s a few things to ponder.

Firstly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks to be ruled out for the foreseeable, so who plays in his stead? Alex Iwobi came on for him after he was injured against CSKA, and we have the effervescence of Danny Welbeck who gives good value playing out wide. Jack Wilshere is another who can come into the attacking quartet, but now the Armenian is out, rotation will have to be limited.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will surely come into the side after being cup-tied for our European adventures, and Lacazette will most likely make way, unless Wenger acts on his recent comments and plays Auba out wide, with Lacazette retaining his central spot.

Mark Hughes has seen his side lose their last two games in the league to the tune of 3-0 scorelines. Their only win in the last five was an unconvincing win in the FA Cup over Wigan. They have the players to hurt us though.

Charlie Austin is a real threat aerially that Mustafi will do well to contain, and James Ward-Prowse can be deadly from set-pieces. Manolo Gabbiadini is a good foil for Austin and with Bertrand and Cedric at full-back, they have the capacity to stretch us. Mario Lemina faces a fitness test but him aside, they have a clean bill of health and in Nathon Redmond and Sofiane Boufal, some unpredictability that can change games.

We really can’t rest on our haunches, because one single loss can render our recent wins a moot point. We drastically need to improve our league placing, as having all of our eggs in a Europa League basket is risky, especially with Atletico Madrid being overwhelming cup favourites.

While we have a small chance, we need to keep plugging away. #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs CSKA Moscow Europa League Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal