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Forest Vs Arsenal FA Cup Preview

With our league hopes suffering a battering of late, we welcome the return of the FA Cup as we take on Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round.

We are the holders, and as we also hold the record as the most successful FA Cup team – ever – we need to make a good stab of defending it. The first hurdle is this tricky tie.

Our recent Carabao Cup tie against fellow Championship outfit Norwich shows that we cannot afford to take Forest lightly, as we only just squeezed past the Canaries thanks to a brace from Eddie Nketiah.

Forest aren’t in a good place however. They recently sacked their manager, Mark Warburton, and it will be caretaker manager Gary Brazil that will oversee their attempt to cause an FA Cup upset.

Their last game was an admirable draw with Leeds United, but they are languishing in the bottom half of the Championship table and even at this halfway stage, they are in danger of either having nothing to play for – or getting sucked into the relegation mire.

They have some quality in their ranks in Michael Mancienne, Eric Lichaj and Liam Bridcutt and they also boast top flight experience, but Gary Brazil could opt to rotate his squad and concentrate on improving his side’s standing in the league, crazy as that may seem.

Rotating is something we must do, after a frenetic run of games recently. It demands we rest some of our men as there are a fair few that have played the majority – and some of our fringe players who have played precisely zero minutes and are gagging for some action.

With Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil, Alexis and a few others having the lions share of the many minutes of gametime in offer in December – we played nine games in all – some of our lesser lights with much to prove have a great opportunity to send a timely reminder to Wenger that they are still of use.

David Ospina should come into the side to take the gloves, and in defence there will be changes too. Mathieu Debuchy, Mohamed Elneny and Per Mertesacker are three that could comprise our backline, but it is all dependant on whether we play three or four at the back.

Reiss Nelson could take a full-back spot, and in midfield, Francis Coquelin and Jo Willock could do a job in containing Forest and put out any fires.

In attack, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi are suffering from a dip in confidence, so a full game and plenty of chances will do them the world of good.

Make no mistake, we all expect a comfortable win, but however we achieve it will be welcome. If it is another tight game but we achieve safe passage to the fourth round, then I’ll take it.

It’d be great to give players like Ben Sheaf, Josh DaSilva and Eddie Nketiah a good runout, but with our chances for silverware hanging on by a thread and only one bad match from disappearing in each competition, we need to prioritise. Cups need to be put 

in the front of our view, as well as our Premier League position.

Basically then, we need to concentrate on every match. This is what our poor form has done. We have no breathing space, and every game must be given our utmost attention.

Forest must feel the force, and our second string must do the job, otherwise our first teamers will be suffering from exhaustion far quicker than we expect.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Debuchy, Elneny, Mertesacker, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck

Predicted scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Sunderland Preview

Kickoff – 1945GMT

Despite our impressive recent run in the League, the illustrious top4 spot is out of our hands after Liverpool crushed West Ham 4-0 on Sunday.

It means that even if we win our last two games, if Klopp’s team beat Middlesbrough in their last game in the weekend, then we will miss out on the Champions League next season. 

It doesn’t look rosy for our prospects, and our returning form has come a little too late to rescue our bid for European Cup qualification. While there is a chance though, the games we have must be won, so next up is already relegated Sunderland.

The temptation to take the foot off the gas when facing a team already consigned to relegation is large, but the Black Cats showed when they faced Hull that now the pressure is off, they are more than capable of producing something.  

This is also the fifth game in just 17 days, so rotation may well come into play. Will the players give everything to the cause in a bid to earn a starting spot for the FA Cup Final? Or will they seek to preserve themselves and avoid any injury before such a big game? 

One worry is Alexis Sanchez. In imperious form against Stoke, the Chilean faces a fitness test before the game tonight, but Laurent Koscielny returned to the team against Stoke, whether he will be risked again is another thing. Wenger stated that Koscielny has a little reoccurrence of the calf injury which kept him out of the Southampton game – I would hazard a guess that Gabriel may slot in to keep Koscielny wrapped in cotton wool before Everton and Chelsea.

Rob Holding performed exceptionally well against the Potters, and we fans have a new song for the impressive youngster. The second season syndrome may kick in for Holding, but his composure and talent is shining right now, and he has fully earned his spot in the team. Kieran Gibbs is back in contention but The Ox is still out with his hamstring. 

This game gives a few the chance to get back into favour, and Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin could all start the game. The health of our squad is strong, but they should know they have underperformed this campaign. 

Sunderland boss David Moyes will be looking for his charges to prove to him they are worth keeping, and the ones looking to escape will be looking to put themselves in the shop window. The Black Cats will be up for the game and it is not a foregone conclusion, even if us Gooners will be fully expecting maximum points.

We need the win if we are to take the top4 fight into the final game. Sunderland have won just one game in their last six, and scored four goals in the process. David Moyes is facing the heat from Mackem fans, but the continuity in place if he stays will stand them in good stead in the choppy waters of the Championship. He also will be keen to keep hold of some of the players who have not let him down, such as Khazri, Watmore and Cattermole. It is a foregone conclusion that his starman, Jermain Defoe, will be on the move in the summer though. The 34 year old striker has proved that even in a struggling team he can find the net with regularity, and teams in the PL know that finding a striker who can give them regular goals is a hard task indeed. A bidding war in the summer?

So, Arsene Wenger needs another win to keep up the chase on Liverpool. Our form and Sunderland’s spell out only one possible result, but we all know the Premier League doesn’t work out like that!

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Holding, Gabriel, Coquelin, Ramsey, Bellerin, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal

West Brom Vs Arsenal Match Preview

The last few weeks have seen protests, mounting pressure and a fog of mystery surrounding our key players and manager. This return to Premeirship action at least could offer Gooner some respite from the constant stories, rumours and furore. 

Manager Arsene Wenger can at least reflect on a victory last week rather than a loss, and last weekend’s FA Cup victory over non-league Lincoln City has given Arsenal some optimism as they can now look forward to a trip to Wembley and a real chance for silverware.

We currently sit in fifth spot  in the league, with five points separating us from Liverpool in 4th spot. Although we have two games in hand over the Reds, those two games must be won to enable us to stay with the chasing pack. 

All provided that the Gunners defeat West Brom.

This won’t be an easy. Tony Pulis has taken the Baggies to 7th place in the table. They may have lsot their last two games, but West Brom will be rigid, organised and a threat. 

Not to mention the corresponding fixture, where we eked out a scrappy 1-0 win, thanks to ill-suited tactics. Opting for Olivier Giroud against aerially adept defenders who are petrified of pace and movement was the main reason why we struggled to break the Baggies down. 

Arsenal will have few injury worries. Mohamed Elneny has returned from his ankle injury and could be involved in the squad, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs will have fitness tests before the game to judge whether they can take part.

Aside from this, Arsene Wenger can afford to rotate his team, but with their last game a week ago, every player should be fit and raring to go. This means a return to fitness for Mesut Ozil after a bout of sickness which has ruled him out or restricted to cameo rules for the last few weeks. 

Tony Pulis is sweating on the fitness of one of his brightest lights this season. Winger Matty Phillips looks to be out of the game with a hamstring injury, but striker Salomon Rondon will be ready to give our back four a rigorous examination. 

The Gunners have lost three of their last four Premiership games, and are in real danger of losing ground on those coveted spots in the top four.

West Brom could well decide much for Arsenal, and for our manager’s future. If the win is not achieved, then the already huge pressure could become obstructive. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal 

Arsenal Vs Crystal Palace – The Warm-Up

Boxing Day brought more than gifts, chocolate and vegetable-powered gas to Gooners – we returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over a stubborn West Brom side.

I was present in the stands for the game and the reaction afterward may have centred on our frustration to break down the Albion defence, but there was precious little left that we didn’t try in order to pry open the clam that was the Baggies backline.

Confidence was low, and that elusive thought process seems to make everything within the Arsenal team tick. With the win over Pulis’s defence-specialists, the confidence should be exactly where it needs to be – to play a team with the exact defensive mindset.

Crystal Palace now being managed by Sam Allardyce guarantees one thing, and that is a fight on the pitch. No inch will be given, and with Palace being the away team and not fully adjusted to Allardyce’s methods, the Eagles will rely fully on their swift ability to counter-attack.

So if we are to battle these counters, then it is timely we can welcome back the winning machine Shkodran Mustafi to the fold. He has recovered from his hamstring injury to be included in Arsene Wenger’s plans, but will he oust Gabriel as soon as he is fit? The Brazilian may have a reputation for rashness – well deserved at times – but his recent displays have been solid.

Another choice Wenger must deliberate over is whether Olivier Giroud will start again. His late match winner will no doubt help his cause, but he only started the game against West Brom thanks to Theo Walcott’s late injury. If we stick to the same approach, Alex Iwobi will start on the right and Alexis will shift to the left, and both players were the main troublemakers for our side on Boxing Day. 

Danny Welbeck is also in full training, but may require a few weeks yet before he returns to the side. Theo Walcott was ruled out of last weeks win, and he again misses out. Santi Cazorla is still a couple of months away, and with Mohamed Elneny taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations soon, it leaves the fitness of Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey as imperative as ever.A large blow is the loss of Keiran Gibbs to a knee injury, so Nacho Monreal will start. 

Palace should be able to call on James McArthur and Joe Ledley to bolster their midfield ranks, but if they are still unavailable, then a bromance reunion could be on the cards, with Mathieu Flamini taking to the pitch to follow Mesut Ozil like a puppy.

Allardyce has quite a list of walking wounded. James Tomkins and Loic Remy are just two that really could make an impact on their eleven, but injury has left the squad a little light. With Christian Benteke in the side though, if a supply line can be found then the Eagles could cause problems.

Palace have one win in their last six games and lie precariously close to the relegation zone. Their form is a worry, but with Allardyce at the helm, he is probably the best man to get the best out of the players. 

In terms of Arsenal? The gap at the top is exactly the same as it was prior to our win against West Brom. The gap below us is the same too. We must concentrate on our results, and the gaps will shrink and grow as we need them too. With winning comes confidence, and confidence lures the best out of our players.

It is a circle, but we must complete the circle before it starts moving. Another win is the only requirement. 

Oh yes, and fitness of key players, no suspensions and a sprinkling of luck. 

Predicted Team – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0

Watford Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Two games into the season, and the voices of dissent can already be heard. 

Defeat in the first game of the season against Liverpool, followed by a hard fought goalless draw away to champions Leicester have seen Arsenal fail to register a win – and now trail the clubs at the top of the table by five points.

Victory over Watford therefore, is imperative, but the Hornets will be no pushover. 

Walter Mazzarri’s side pushed Antonio Conte’s Chelsea all the way last week, slipping to an agonising late 2-1 loss, and the Italian will ensure that the Gunners will have to up their game if they wish to gain maximum points.

In terms of team news, Arsene Wenger will continue to be without Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey, both injured in the first game of the season, adding to the already crocked Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Gabriel.

In terms of team changes, it is unclear whether Mesut Ozil will have acquired enough match fitness to start the game, after making a cameo in the stalemate at the King Power stadium last weekend, but he and Olivier Giroud have every chance of jumping straight into the team.
When asked about the duo, Wenger yesterday said he had a decision to make on whether Ozil starts, but that Giroud was a little behind in terms of fitness.

Joel Campbell is now on loan at Sporting Lisbon, and there are murmurs of Calum Chambers being allowed to acquire minutes elsewhere on loan also, so expect Rob Holding to continue alongside the imperious Laurent Koscielny.

Alexis Sanchez will be in the team in one position or another, be it the sole frontman, or on his more familiar wide role. The Chilean has lacked a cutting edge thus far, but as ever it is not through a lack of effort. Expect a big game from the South American.

Led by Quique Sanches Flores last season, they pushed us hard before succumbing in both games, as well as dumping us out of the FA Cup, with more or less the same squad they possess now.

Odion Ighallo will continue to lead the line, and is off the mark for the season after netting in their defeat at the hands of Gillingham in the EFL Cup. Etienne Capoue is enjoying a purple patch too, with two goals in two PL games, so whoever is on sentry duty in an Arsenal shirt will have to be fully aware of his position.

It is unclear whether new signings Roberto Pereyra and Daryl Janmaat will make their debuts for the Hornets, but whoever makes the team, what is underlined is that three points must be taken from Vicarage Road.

Jack Wilshere was the third substitute alongside Giroud and Ozil last week, and the England man will be keen to get more minutes today, but Mohamed Elneny, Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin will be in pole position to play in his central midfield position. Plenty of options in the centre of the park, but a selection headache is exactly what top clubs need to navigate a gruelling season.

Wenger has some decisions to make before kickoff.

Predicted lineup: 

Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal.

Leicester City Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Can we start again?

Last weekends season opener was not the start that a title hopeful should be making – but it is a trend that has started to take root.

Only one opening day win in the last six years does not exactly pave the way to success, and winning is a habit that may be hard to break, but also equally hard to begin.

For seventy minutes, the Gunners played well, passing well and generally keeping their opponents at arms length. Twenty minutes was all it took for Arsenal’s defensive inexperience to show, and four goals shipped in that time highlight the need for a seasoned warrior to lead the backline.

Next up is champions Leicester, so the going will not be letting up any time soon. 

There are rays of optimism however, not all is lost.

Firstly, Leicester and Arsenal matches bring happy memories – think the Invincibles clincher, and Danny Welbeck’s emotional winner last term.

The only team to win both league matches against the Foxes in their amazing campaign, we may just have the gameplan to foil the counter-attacking team led by wily Italian Claudio Ranieri.

Both teams will be aiming to recover from losses, Leicester surprisingly lost to undermanned Hull City and were profligate in front of goal. 

Arsene Wenger needs to roll the dice before kickoff – Laurent Koscielny is back in the reckoning after his Euro2016 exploits, and he may just get the nod to slot straight back in. Chambers and Holding held their own for a large portion of the game against Liverpool – but a lack of experience really told. 

Another back in the fold may be Olivier Giroud – or a t least a spot on the bench. Alexis may also revert back to a wide berth, as injuries have already begun to bite.

Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey were both injured in the loss to the Merseysiders, and they both were given the dreaded four week layoff. Something of an inside joke amongst Gooners, as so often a player has been given the same diagnosis – only for them to miss the rest of the season…..

Hopefully this will not be the same, but regardless, they will both miss this match, so Joel Campbell may just get the chance his pre-season deserves. Alexis may move back to his familiar left hand spot, with Theo Walcott given a spot up top. 

With the Number10 spot vacant, and Mesut Ozil mysteriously still absent despite playing less in Euro2016 than both Koscielny and Giroud, Santi Cazorla has an opportunity to gain fitness and to show what he is capable of. 

Purely conjecture, of course. None of us know for sure who will play aside from the beleaguered boss himself, but there are certain players who appear to be higher in the pecking order than others. 

With many starting players missing, then the opportunity to throw down the gauntlet and hold down a spot is there, and they must take it – take heed Walcott, Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Play well, and you may just stay in the side.

For Leicester, Wes Morgan’s regular partner Robert Huth returns after seeing out his suspension which overran from last season. Morgan will no doubt be pleased, as Ranieri’s defence was as porous as it has ever been in the defeat to the Tigers last weekend.

They still retain the threat on the counter attack, maybe even more so with the addition of the effervescent Ahmed Musa. Whoever plays in the centre of Arsenal’s defence, they will have to be on high alert for the full 90.

Where Leicester may just be lacking a little, is invention behind the strikers. If the quick ball for Vardy and Musa to chase is stifled, then aside from the newly signed up Mahrez, they may just struggle to create. 

An intriguing battle will take place in the centre of the park. With N’Golo Kante plying his trade for Chelsea, it has given Welshman Andy King the chance to show Ranieri he can be the readymade replacement for the Frenchman, and an acid test to his claim may come against the Gunners.

Francis Coquelin, at times, was the wall Arsenal needed against a rapid Liverpool team last week, but errant positioning left his teammates too open at times – criminal when Rob Holding and Calum Chambers had a combined age of 41.

Will he pay for his errors? Granit Xhaka is thought to be the first choice for defensive midfield duties, and if he is up to speed and fit, then he will surely get the nod, but his partner could well be Mohamed Elneny – and the Egyptian will deserve it. He has been up to task whenever called upon, and his dynamism from midfield will be required to break down a clogged final third.

To end, here are some stats that could have some bearing in the game:

Leicester haven’t beaten Arsenal in 14 games

They do though, boast the most penalties earned and scored in the last year, so no rash tackles in the box please!

No defending champions have lost both opening games since Villa in 1981

First scorer? Worth a punt may be Alexis. He has four goals in two games at the King Power Stadium.

Predicted Lineup

Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Xhaka, Alexis, Cazorla, Walcott. (A prediction only, may I remind you all that I know precious little).

Predicted scoreline? 2-1 to Arsenal, with Alexis and Theo to score.

Arsenal Vs Liverpool – Match Preview

Finally, the first match of the Premier League season is upon us, and the infernal transfer window can take a back seat for at least a day or two.

The curtain opener for our season could have been a lot easier, but a match against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will be a good indicator to see whether Arsenal’s pre-season truly has the Gunners up to the required speed for the Premier League.

This Sunday kickoff sees both sides with genuine aspirations of improvement on their previous campaigns efforts. Both managers have dipped into the transfer market – one with a little more gusto than the other – and team lineups may be difficult to predict.

Arsene Wenger faces a defensive headache with Per Mertesacker and Gabriel injured in warmup games, and Laurent Koscielny rested after his Euro2016 efforts. This leaves the young Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik as the candidates for the centre of defence. They all played well in the friendly matches, but can they withstand a Premiership attack?

The other option is Nacho Monreal, who covered in this position last term ably. If that is the case, expect Kieran Gibbs to fill in on the left of defence. 

In midfield is where the biggest selection conundrum can be found. The clamour to start Granit Xhaka will be loud, but Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have shown they are well within their rights to expect a start in the heart of the pitch. They both work so hard, but Coquelin has the edge on the darker arts of the game, and Elneny is more adept in the final third of the pitch.

Throw into the mixer Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, and Wenger will be mulling this over for some time. Santi Cazorla, if fit, surely must play in some capacity. Be it on the flank, in the number ten role, or as a box-to-box midfielder, the Spanish magician makes his side tick. Ramsey is coming off the back of a mercurial Euro2016 campaign for his country, and he too will want some action.

Up front, and Theo Walcott has started a few games in pre-season, but in the last friendly – a 3-2 win over Manchester City – the returning Alexis assumed this role. Expect one of these two to play in the lone striker role, with Chuba Akpom surely earning a spot on the bench after his friendly heroics?

Then there is Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi. Both have been immense this summer, and if Alexis does move from the left into the centre, this leaves the left spot open for Iwobi to continue to impress. 

Joel Campbell has shown that he is far more than a squad player, his vision and touch would surely earn him a starring role with most other Premier League clubs, but if all are fit at Arsenal, he will surely be on the bench. Lucky for the Costa Rican then, that the Gunners normally have a full treatment room. 

Predicted Lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Xhaka, Coquelin, Iwobi, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis.
Klopp can boast some impressive transfers this summer, and chief among them is Sadio Mane, the former Saint who terrorised defences will now be doing so in the red of Liverpool. Also, Georgino Wijnaldum has jumped from the sinking ship of Newcastle, and he will be an asset for the Reds. 

One of their new recruits which may have slipped under the radar is Joel Matip. The former Schalke defender will add a touch of organisation to an at times messy ‘Pool defence. Something that fans will be thankful for with the questionable Mignolet and Lovren in the team.
Both teams will want to kick off the season with a win, but the atmosphere at The Emirates may turn rapidly toxic if anything other than three points is grabbed. The doubts surrounding the manager are reaching fever pitch with every day that passes without the needed reinforcements. 

It may be far too early for vitriol and catcalls from the stands, but let us all hope that our pre-season form transfers to League action. 
Prediction – 2-1 Arsenal. 

Arsenal Vs Aston Villa – Match Preview

Well, we have finally reached the end of the 2015-16 season, and the majority of Gooners will be mightily relieved this is the case.

This campaign has seen more missed opportunities than an Ade Akinbiyi season, not to take away the fabulous achievements of Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City. With a squad more than capable of constructing a title challenge, yet in the home straight, Arsenal were staving off challenges from the Manchester clubs for the coveted Top4 spots.


Continue reading Arsenal Vs Aston Villa – Match Preview

Hull City Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Preview

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

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


Continue reading Hull City Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Preview

Arsenal Vs Hull City – FA Cup Preview

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

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


Continue reading Arsenal Vs Hull City – FA Cup Preview