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We Need Our Torreira Back

It has gone quiet, but this season especially has shown us that our defensive midfield issues have not quite been put to bed just yet.

With the signings of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira especially, the clamourings to sign a potent defensive midfielder were hushed, and with both players hitting the ground running, our worries were sated for a time.

Guendouzi has shown a hunger for possession that has led him to hounding the opposition in all areas of the pitch.

Torreira made a huge impact from the very start of his Arsenal career, and montages of his terrier-like tackling prowess and his never-say-die attitude manifesting itself on the pitch filled us all with absolute joy.

We had the answer we had been looking for since the departure of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. We had that player who would protect the backline and stand sentry, letting no enemy pass without at least a stiff examination of their credentials.

Or so it seemed.

This season has seen some strange goings on in our tactics and the way we line up.

Firstly, the sparing use of Lucas Torreira, even in the big games, really does leave us scratching our heads. When played, he always gives no less than 100%, but at least 50% of our matches he has spent on the bench.

When he does play, the tigerish displays we have come to adore have been replaced with a lasses-faire attitude to defending. It comes down to his positioning, which has been far more forward than last season, and a large amount of time he has been amongst the most forward on the pitch.

This kind of leaves us hamstrung when it comes to defending, as the aperture where Torreira should be protecting is open, and like the Gates of Thermopylae, our enemy harness it to great effect.

It leaves them streaming forward, and our defence backing off. Acres of space, and it leads to a shot. So many in fact, that we have led the way in Europe with regards to shots faced.

Guendouzi has been his all-action self – his display against Tottenham was frighteningly good – but the boy is still just 20, and needs a pivot partner to truly get the most out of what he brings, which is pretty much everything.

We need Torreira to do what he does best, and that is get the ball back, harass, breath down their necks. Instead, it looks like he has been let off a leash, and that is down to instruction.

Torreira Protest.jpg

Is Emery content with letting Torreira off the hook in a footballing sense? Are the instructions he is giving the Uruguayan to go forward and assist the attack?

If so, that means Emery is leaving us dangerously lopsided, and open to barrages of attacks.

Torreira, if disciplined, can be the lynchpin of the side, the cornerstone that holds the side together. Take it away and you have what he have seen against Watford, Liverpool and Tottenham in the first half.

A blow-away, powderpuff side that can’t stand straight under scrutiny from a decent attack.

We need Torreira to stand in front of advancing hordes and use his abilities to stem the tide.

We don’t need another Alex Song – we need our Torreira back!

Who Is Matteo Guendouzi?

It flew under the radar a little, but we made our fifth summer signing just after the Lucas Torreira announcement, and it looks to be an exciting one for the future for Arsenal.

The young French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi signed on the dotted line for the Gunners, and the purchase from Ligue 2 Lorient shows that Sven Mislntat and his backroom team were intent on providing Arsenal with a long term midfield option that could prove to be a bargain.

Guendouzi is a ball-carrying midfielder who made his first team breakthrough with Lorient two seasons ago, and last season settled into a first eleven role, and with Lorient playing in the second tier, the French club were in the right position to sell their brightest talent.

What do we know of Guendouzi? This purchase took some research. I had heard of the name but never seen him play, but the French football experts certainly rate him, and liken him to an earlier transfer target of ours – Yancine Adli.

Physically strong and adept at transitioning play with the ball at his feet, Guendouzi is just as much at home at the base of the midfield as he is a box to box role.

Guendouzi made 18 appearances for Lorient as they just missed out on an immediate return to Ligue Un. His career started in Paris however, as he began his youth career with PSG. The 19 year old has already played for France U18, U19 and U20 level.

Guendouzi is not without his risks though. He had a run-in with the coaching team last season after being hooked at half time during a game, and our new Under23 coach Freddie Ljungberg will have to instill the famous Arsenal team values if Guendouzi is to prosper here.

The transfer fee of 7m is a modest one for a highly coveted 19 year old, but it also speaks of a player who could make a massive difference should the environment suit him.

What does next season hold for the 19 year old? Well, a run in the Under23’s looks likely, to gauge how close to a first team debut the Frenchman is. He has already played a smidgen of top-tier football, but the difference between that and making a mark on the Premier League is a chasm.

Unai Emery has commented on the young signing, and his words reveal that Guendouzi is very much part of his immediate plans;

We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”

With Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny and fellow youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles vying for midfield spots, Guendouzi will really have to shine to get the starts he will be craving, but with a full schedule of games and potential injuries to contend with, this signing very much makes sense.

Identifying talent at a young age is pretty much what Sven Mislintat is renowned for – and what we hired him to do. This signing though, will be the first time that the German has really put his name on a transfer, so it will be very interesting to see how Guendouzi prospers.

It’s an exciting time for us Gunners. This summer’s purchases has reaped experience, proven winners, tenacity, strength and a sprinkling of promise. Guendouzi seems to firmly fall into the latter, but with each display, we will see if he can offer what he promises.
Welcome to Arsenal Matteo Guendouzi!

Welcome To Arsenal – Lucas Torreira!

It’s official – Lucas Torreira is an Arsenal player.

Arsenal unveiled Torreira yesterday, with photos and videos aplenty coming from the Arsenal media team. His signing heralds a new dawn for our club, it seems to be the moment we have finally purchased a player who can cure the ills of our midfield of late.

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Torreira’s signing has cost the club in the region of 25m Euros, and with stats like his, it’s easy to see why.

Unai Emery was there to welcome the Uruguayan to London Colney, and told the Arsenal media team;
In Lucas Torreira, we have signed a young player who is a very bright talent in the game. A midfielder with great quality, I have enjoyed watching his performances for Sampdoria in the past two seasons, and we all saw him do very well for Uruguay in the World Cup. He is a young player already with good experience, but who wants to keep on growing. We welcome Lucas to Arsenal and look forward to him joining us soon for pre-season.”

Emery touched upon the diminutive midfielder’s amazing displays at Sampdoria, where he made more tackles than anyone in the last two seasons, showing he is consistent as well as combative – two qualities we have lacked at times.

He is no one-trick pony either, as he amassed 87% pass completion and averaged a chance created per game last season, showing he can mix it in the final third too.

Being only 22, he may need a period of acclimatization after he joins up with the squad in August, but when he picks up the pace of the Premier League, he has all the skills necessary to provide our team with the perfect destroyer in the centre of the park.

Torreira showed he has levels too, which may negate the need for a month or two of finding his feet. He appeared in all five of Uruguay’s games in their run to the World Cup Quarter-Final’s, and his displays were full of verve and strength, not once did he look out of place.

Torreira will wear the No11 shirt when he finally dons the jersey, and we may have to wait to see him make his debut, but we can rest assured that he is finally confirmed and he is definitely ours, after weeks of hearsay.

Welcome to Arsenal, Lucas Torreira!

Summer Clearout? Or Second Chance?

Published in Arsenal Mania.

At the start of this season, the majority lauded what we perceived to be the finished article. Finally, after what had seemed an age, our squad had the necessary tools to compete with the very best in our league.

Year after year of putting up with strict budgets and excuses from the Board and Arsene Wenger had begun to take its toll on our patience. Promises made and subsequently broken regarding our competitiveness only served to push our tolerance levels to their highest.

It was time, and like a Hollywood script, we finally rode into the screen in the nick of time with the winning formula.

Granit Xhaka had performed admirably for Switzerland in Euro2016, and his displays in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach had the experts purring about his talent. Our midfield had been crying out for a potent mixture of pugilist and transitional master, and Xhaka from deep had shown he was adept at both.

We had all been painfully aware of our defensive shortcomings, with Mertesacker getting no younger and Gabriel yet to prove his worth. When we finally met the asking price Valencia were asking for German international Shkodran Mustafi, it appeared excellent business.

Mustafi was in La Liga’s team of the year in his time with Valencia. He was a regular in Joachim Low’s Germany squad. In his first months as a Gunner, he did not taste defeat.

It appeared as though we had finally found the secret recipe. Our patience had been rewarded. 

The cherry on the cake was Lucas Perez. 

The striker from Deportivo La Corun had an impressive goal return, and his clever touches in and around the box looked like we had the perfect attacker to complement our style of play.

Fast forward to the present day, and a large percentage of our fans think our players are suddenly not good enough.

What has changed, aside from results? 

Results are the currency on which football lives on. When we are not achieving results, then everything is open for discussion. 

Our level of talent in the squad has not changed, so why do a large percentage of our fans now think we need a clearout?

It is down to mentality.

When the chips are down, it is the competitiveness, the desire for victory that picks up players from their haunches and ensures they carry on. Well, an unacceptable run of results from January through April cost us dearly and have left this season as the worst under Wenger, but nearly every player has at times appeared to be downtrodden and lacking the spirit to fight their way out of this problem.

And it is exactly this that we need. That Arsene Wenger needs in order for our team to start crawling back up the league. As the players seem unable to reverse the fortunes on the pitch and sometimes don’t appear as if they want to – does the blame for this fall at the manager’s or the players feet?

Both. The players we have at our disposal are far better than results suggest, and it is quite obvious the current regimen does not fit well for our players. They have seemed ill at ease. Our players don’t look like they want to put in the effort.

Whether that is because they are assured of their place and have lost their edge, or it is down to tactics is unanswerable. The only people who know the root cause of our apparent demise are the ones who are in our dressing room every week.

A clearout of our players may be a bit hasty though. Early in the season, they were good enough in all of our eyes, as results were of a sufficient standard to see us near where we perceive them to be. Now the results have dried up, but these are the same players as before.

A different manager may just be the exact ingredient needed to summon the best from the players who are not doing the business for us right now. It may need someone in the squad to finally step up and give them the tongue-lashing they sorely need. 

It may require this group to wake up and realise they are doing our club and our badge a great disservice, and they MUST do better.

Either way, we have seen they are capable of doing better than they are right now. Have we all become unable to discern what is simply bad form and what is a lack of skill?

Some players have worn out their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, and some deserve the benefit of the doubt. A lot will happen in the summer and pre-season, and it will tell us if these men have the fire in their bellies that we need, or if the fire has been put out. 

Arsenal Vs Lincoln City – FA Cup Preview

The sooner we can all forget the mess that was Bayern Munich – both legs – the better, and this match offers us all the comforting opportunity for a little happiness.

The 10-2 hammering at the hands of the German giants on paper looks as if we are further than ever from actually challenging at the top end of not only European competition, but domestically too – but there were positives to grasp at.

Our first half performances in both legs were competitive and full of attacking impetus which carved out plenty of chances, but it is our resolve and lack of fight which sees us look up at our competitors rather than on an even footing.

The Champions League is now consigned to the past thankfully, and firmly in our sights is the only chance for silverware we have this season – the FA Cup.

The first hurdle we have is Lincoln City – giantkillers they may be, but an opponent that should be steamrollered. Whilst there is a chance for an upset though, we need to be ruthless and approach this game like it were top-flight opposition.

The moment we think we already have this won is the moment we could fall to the most embarrassing defeat in FA Cup history. 

There are obstacles in our way that make this tie a lot more difficult than it appears.

There is the sickness bug which has ruled out Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, and has debilitated Mesut Ozil in recent weeks. Ozil hasn’t been declared unfit yet, but the German may not be risked with our Premier League campaign in severe need of resurrection.

Santi Cazorla is out for the entire season and Mohamed Elneny is also ruled out, but we should have enough in the tank.

Aside from those above, it is all systems go. David Ospina, being the cup keeper, will likely keep his place in goal if he overcomes an ankle complaint, and Arsene Wenger will be well aware of how important the Cup is this season, so a strong side will be out in force.

Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez will be hopeful of playing from the start, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been particularly effective in the last few months so could get the nod. Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are the likeliest to benefit from a bout of rotation, as the Champions League game may have rendered some fatigued.

Kieran Gibbs could come in for Nacho Monreal, but the midfield combo of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey seemed to have a positive effect on the Swiss star, perhaps because carrying Coquelin through the last few games has a distracting effect? 

National League leaders Lincoln have an FA Trophy Semi-Final in their midst, and sitting top of the league brings its own demands, but this tie represents the match of a lifetime for Danny Cowley’s men – and they will be unbelievably pumped for this  game.

The Imps have only lost two of their last 34 games, and are in great form, but there can be no excuses for anything other than a win. No matter how we win, don’t expect any plaudits from the press. 

If we win handsomely – it is merely what we should have done.

If we win by a one or two goal margin – we made tough work of it and we are a laughing stock.

If we draw – heaven forbid.

If we lose – Pray to Bergkamp.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Gabriel, Gibbs, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, The Jeff, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – Arsenal 3-0

Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich – The Preview

This match is exactly what the football doctor ordered. 

After our poor performance at Anfield in the weekend, falling out of the Champions League places and our star player reportedly rowing with the rest of the squad, the visit of German giants Bayern Munich is not the best opportunity for returning to some semblance of form.

The first leg of this Last16 tie saw hope quickly vanish for the Gunners once Laurent Koscielny went off through injury, as within nine minutes of the captain leaving the field, Bayern had scored three goals.

This tie is beyond any realistic hope of rescue, but a win over Ancelotti’s men could restore some pride and some momentum after recent results have ground the cannon to a halt.

Arsenal will more than likely play their strongest side, even if this game could be perceived as a dead rubber. Mesut Ozil has been ruled out again through illness, but what of Alexis Sanchez? Surely, even if the Chilean is at odds with some teammates, Sanchez must play?

Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka did not put up a good account of themselves against Liverpool, and with Aaron Ramsey now fit and raring to go, the Welshman must be a good shout for a start. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also playing well, could we see a wholly different midfield combo? 

Alex Iwobi has been indifferent of late, but with regular playmaker Ozil already confirmed as missing, the man known as ‘Big17’ will more than likely retain his place. Olivier Giroud returned to the side in our last match, but a lack of service did not help the Frenchman in his bid to hold down a spot. Will Arsene again opt for a direct approach?

Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez have performed admirably in their last appearances, and the England striker and Spaniard must be hoping for a chance. They cannot do much more, although with Welbeck having played only three days ago, Wenger may opt to conserve his fitness.

On the face of things, with our squad so strong in numbers, the odds of rotation and to include hungry players is strong. Perhaps a shake up to remind some players their place isn’t guaranteed is exactly what is needed.

There are no signs Carlo Ancelotti is taking this tie lightly despite already having one foot in the Quarter-Finals. Mats Hummels, Franck Ribery, Xabi Alonso and Arjen Robben were all rested in the weekend and all are expected to feature. 

Arsenal do possess a great record at The Emirates in the Champions League, but the majority of the losses they have incurred have been in the knockout stages. There is a sliver of hope though, as Bayern have won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. 

Slim our hopes may be, but we have beaten them before, and we can do again. We will not progress, that chance was dropped in the first leg, but we can win and remind everyone – including our own players – that we are capable of so much more.

A protest is planned before the game and banners will apparently be displayed during the game. Whether we agree or not with the methods, we have all witnessed a lot of games where we have been sub-par. We are all at our limit, and some display their displeasure in different ways. As long as the team is supported during the game then that is all that matters.

I will be attending the game and you can expect a detailed match report after the match, and I can expect a hoarse voice the next day as I will do what I always do when I go to the game – I will sing and chant until my throat cannot take any more.

Predicted Lineup; Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – Call me crazy, but I’m going for a 2-0 win. 

Arsenal 1-2 Watford – 5 Lessons to Learn

Yet again, we have been burned by our inability to start strongly.

Or rather our refusal to. We have seen the destruction our team can cause when we go at teams from the first whistle, yet we continue to hold back and invite pressure. We allow teams to breathe, to dictate – and the result is there for all to see.

This result though, is probably our worst this season. Watford were on the back of seven winless games. They were a lame dog, turning up to the home of title-chasing Arsenal. They would have been expecting an onslaught, to sit back and soak up the pressure, and hopefully pose a problem on the break.

Instead, our lack of impetus meant that the Hornets were given the freedom of The Emirates. Within ten minutes, they had grabbed the lead. 

A free-kick given away needlessly by Gabriel meant that Younes Kaboul was given license to swing away with his boot. It knicked a deflection from Aaron Ramsey and it spun away from Cech’s despairing dive. 

Watford had grabbed the initiative, as it seemed to all and sundry as if Arsenal really didn’t want to. Then, three minutes later saw Watford double their lead.

Etienne Capoue was bossing the centre of the park, and his drive toward Arsenal’s box was unhindered. He let fly and was denied by Cech, but he could only parry to Troy Deeney, who was waiting with intent three yards out. 

Two goals to the good – and the only positive that could be grabbed was that it had happened so early in the game it allowed the Gunners plenty of time to get back into the game.

Instead, the rest of the half comprised of Watford going close to extending their lead. 

This was insipid stuff from the home side. The half time whistle blew, and boos rang out from the stands. It was deserved.

The second half saw the expected and needed revival from Arsenal. Whatever Arsene had said in the dressing room worked, as the gears clicked and Watford were camped in their own third.

Chances for Alex Iwobi and second half sub Theo Walcott were saved, and Mesut Ozil was also denied by Gomes in the Watford goal. 

Where were these players in the first half? Where was this vibrancy we can just choose to flick on and off? Why turn it off in the first place?

Arsenal did grab a goal, as Alexis crossed for Iwobi to put away the chance, but we would not grab an equaliser. Lucas Perez – who also came on in the second half for Francis Coquelin – was denied by the crossbar.

We now sit nine points behind Chelsea, and we play them in the weekend. If we play anything like this, then our title hopes are over before they have even began. As it stands, we are on the periphery. Win or bust at The Bridge.

There was plenty to ruminate on in this game, but here are five lessons we must learn from:

Coquelin and Ramsey do not work together still

Coquelin was hooked early, and that speaks volumes. It may be due to putting in extra attacking resources with Lucas, but Coquelin had a rare off-day where he didn’t do what he normally does, and that is to provide an extra line of defence. Then there is the partnership with Ramsey. It was devoid of pace, and the duo does not take it in tandem to attack and defend. The chemistry just isn’t there. Ramsey needs the right partner to allow his best play – but more often than not he is found wanting. Coquelin does the defensive work well – normally – but is severely limited everywhere else. He is a great squad option, but in terms of central midfield – we need an overhaul. 

Gabriel has not evolved

The Brazilian is still the athletic but slow to react defender that we bought two years ago. He was rash then and he still is which is a massive weakness in this league. He can duke it out with the most physical strikers in the Premiership, but when it comes to defensive nous, positioning and using your head? Gabriel is found wanting.

Lucas and Theo need to start 

The Spaniard has capitalised on every rare occasion he has taken to the field. Theo offers us something no one else does in our team. It is clear our attack needs a bit of a lift, and these two deserve a run in the side. 

Bench Ozil and Alexis




















Before you lynch me, please read what I have to say. These two players are capable of destroying anyone in European football almost single-handedly. So when they put in performances of which we have just witnessed, it is clear something is missing. Both were rested in the weekend, so fatigue is not an issue. It may have been just a bad game, but when Lucas, Theo and Welbeck are pushing for games as hard as they are right now, then maybe a wake-up call is needed. If a starting berth is guaranteed, then maybe displays will dip every now and then by 5%. Alexis has done more than most this season, so this latest game and his efforts really do seem far worse by comparison. Mesut Ozil flitted and passed and looked for openings, but where is that player that eviscerates defences with a single pass? Where have his goals gone? It is time to play players on form.

Cech back on form

Cech kept the scoreline in the first half to a level where thousands of Gooners did not spontaneously combust. If it weren’t for the Gunners keeper, Watford would have strolled to the dressing room leading by four goals. Can you imagine? Cech’s save from Sebastian Prodl’s header was spectacular, and his denial of Daryl Janmaat was vital. He may be awful at stopping spot kicks, but Cech’s mastery in between the sticks should not be ignored. He never lost it. 

There was more to dwell on, but we lost and I feel it is best to not focus too much. There is need for change in the team though. With Ramsey injured, it means Oxlade-Chamberlain will be in the centre of midfield. He has shown massive improvement this season, and his dynamism may prove to be the shot in the arm we need.

Up next – top of the league Chelsea. I hate football. 

Southampton 0-5 Arsenal: 5 Keypoints From the FA Cup Tie

Wow, talk about a contrast.

Last week we saw our full strength side scrap and scrape a 2-1 win over Burnley at home, thanks to a 97th minute penalty.

This week, we saw a supposed understrength side absolutely take Southampton to the cleaners in their own digs, to the tune of five unanswered goals.

As expected, Arsene Wenger made a host of changes for this tie – ten in total – before he left the team in the hands of his Assistant Manager Steve Bould. His four match ban after his dealings with the fourth official started with this match, and with an unfamiliar side named and a somewhat bogey side to face, things were looking dicey.

Claude Puel also rang the changes with ten differences from midweek, but he and his talented youngsters could not have foreseen what was to come. 

Arsenal fans rejoiced as their was the long-awaited first start since last season for Danny Welbeck, and he started up top. There was also an immediate return to action for the fit-again Theo Walcott, and both were to show they were worthy of inclusion.

Keiran Gibbs, Rob Holding, Lucas Perez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles and The Jeff himself were all part of the side, and The Ox and Maitland-Niles formed an unusual central midfield pairing. They would face Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jordie Clasie in the centre of the park – and absolutely boss it.

Arsenal started on the front foot, and it took only fifteen minutes for ‘Dat Guy’ to make his mark. He showed good control to take Lucas’s pass, and his high finish off the crossbar showed excellent composure. 

Seven minutes later, he had a brace. The source was The Ox this time, but the result was the same; good control and smart finish.

With ten minutes left, Arsenal killed the game. Super Danny Welbeck was again heavily involved, but he wasn’t the finisher. He instead showed great awareness to cross for the lurking Theo Walcott for a close range finish.

There were more chances for the Gunners, and it seemed as if they would put the tie to bed before the half time whistle, but at half time, the score remained 3-0. The Saints were not at the races, but even if they were bang on form, Arsenal would have quelled their force.

The second half saw no revival, nor a collapse from the Gunners. It was again more of the same, as the away team kept their boot firmly on the jugular of the home side. They continued to create and run at Southampton, who had no answer to this incredible show of force. Danny Welbeck was withdrawn from the action on 64 minutes before he could grab a fairytale hat-trick, but there would be a treble in the game.

On 69 minutes, Theo grabbed his second. Alexis, a second half sub, picked him out in the box and a smart first time finish into the far corner gave Arsenal the fourth. Florian Gardos and Jack Stephens – the Saints centre-backs – were left spinning by the artistry of Lucas and Alexis, and the rampaging runs of Theo and Welbeck.

Theo grabbed his hat-trick and his 99th Arsenal goal, when Lucas’s ball from a Southampton attack found a running Alexis. He had two men on his tail, but he held up play until Theo was in the box. Another first time finish and he had the match ball. 

That was that, and Arsenal were emphatically through into the Fifth round of the Cup. Here are some hot talking points from the game;



Competition fires the side

This team, Theo aside, have been on the outskirts of the first eleven this season. They would have lacked rhythm, sharpness and cohesion. They showed that hunger is one of the most important traits of all, perhaps more so than the others aforementioned. They were all on fire and wanted to put on a show. Rotation may just be necessary as we have a large squad, but also because these players need to play to give a reminder to the manager.


Maximum effort gains reward

At 4-0 up and the game signed, sealed and delivered, Southampton started to foray into Arsenal territory. The sight that warmed my heart more than the goals and the win, more than anything really, was seeing The Ox and Theo chasing back to help out with the defending in their own box. It was these young men showing they had grown up and they want to play a big part and they are willing to put in the hard yards. This is exactly what we need.


Lucas is so effective

Eight starts, and eight times he has been involved directly in a goal. He grabbed an assist this time, and he looks so assured on the ball. His cool head and great touch should be utilised more often as the season progresses, and I’m confident he will not let us down. His assist for Welbeck was sumptuous.


Welbeck to play a big part 












Whenever he has put on our shirt, Welbeck has given his all. This is the reason why our fans universally adore him. His pace, his favouring of balls ahead of him rather than to feet, his touch and his defensive qualities make him a true asset. If his fitness holds, then he could very well nail down a starting spot. Even if he doesn’t start all the games, he will have a huge bearing on our season. Love you Welbz – and that celebration!


Holding holds his own again

What a prospect. He again showed nous way beyond his years in this performance. He will have tougher games, but he is looking every inch an England player for the future. If he continues this growth, then a starting spot for Arsenal when Koscielny steps down could be on the cards. One step at a time at the moment though. He needs to continue what he is doing, but you can’t fail to be excited by what he is capable of.

There was a lot going on during this set of ninety minutes, far more than the above. Particularly impressive was Ainslie Maitland-Niles starting in the centre. He seems to have the confidence of the boss after starting a few cup games this season, and he has a great touch, as well as physical strength for a slight frame. The Ox played well in the centre too, and he appears to have grown this season. 

Next up is a game against Watford on Tuesday, before we travel to Stamford Bridge in the weekend. Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Coquelin, Ramsey, and co. Be aware of the competition breathing down your neck, step it up like they have. 

Southampton Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Warm-Up

After Arsenal’s last-gasp victory over Burnley last week, it would be extremely well received by Gooners everywhere if we could have a game that didn’t cause a coronary.

That wouldn’t be Arsenal though, would it?

This weekend’s bout of panic is brought to us by the FA Cup, as the Gunners take on Southampton for the right to progress to the next round. Our team will have to do so without the presence of our manager, as Wenger was slapped with a four game touchline ban to go with his £25k fine. 

This means that Steve Bould will be belting out the instructions from the touchline, and woe betide anyone who ignores the Assistant Manager with the steely glare. It is debateable what difference will be made without Wenger and his infamous coat, but the instruction for the whole team will already be in place beforehand.

Team selection may vary a little from last-weeks agonising win. There is also more to choose from in recent games as Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy have returned to full training. They will more than likely not be part of the squad as match fitness will still be an issue, but Danny Welbeck may just be handed his first start since his return. Theo Walcott is also back in contention.

David Ospina has been the cup keeper this season so he will likely be installed between the sticks, but as far as the rest of the lineup will resemble, it is unclear. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez may be prime candidates to sit out the match with Chelsea on the horizon, but there is plenty of time for recovery. Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be pushing for starts, and Olivier Giroud should keep his place, but it is all hearsay until the lineup is announced.

Saints boss Claude Puel will be in buoyant mood after dumping Liverpool out of the EFL Cup and nabbing a final place. He will though, have to deal with a host of injuries.

Virgil Van Dijk, Charlie Austin, James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez, Florin Gardos, Jeremy Pied, Matt Targett and Sofiane Boufal are all missing. That is one long list, but Puel still has plenty to choose from, as shown from his teams excellent victory over Liverpool in midweek.

Whoever Puel plumps for, they will be a confident bunch, and not because of the booked trip to Wembley. They have a great record against the Gunners, and en route to the EFL Cup Final, they have knocked Arsenal out. So they have previous for dumping us out of cups. 

They are in great form overall against us, as they have kept four clean sheets from the last five we have played. There is some consolation for Gooners before kickoff however. 

Southampton have never – NEVER – beaten us in the FA Cup. The last time we met in this famous competition? 2003. The Final. We won 1-0 thanks to a Bobbi Pires goal. So, yeah, there is something to hang onto.

This match is going to be hellishly tough. If we want to keep in this trophy, then we must play far better than we have done recently, and we must get over the fact we will be missing a fair few midfielders from our ranks. 

We could do with some of our top players rising to form to make the difference. It is high time we stopped relying on Alexis or Giroud to bail us out. 

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – I’m feeling strangely optimistic. 2-0 Arsenal. 

Preston 1-2 Arsenal – FA Cup Keypoints

It would appear that the Good Ship Arsenal has hit a form-storm again.

November always brings the blues for the Gunners, but after two consecutive away defeats, losing ground in the league, grabbing a quite frankly ridiculous draw against Bournemouth – and now escaping from Preston with cup progression – it would seem the respite in December was a false dawn.

Make no mistake, just as Bournemouth should have seen out a win in our last league game, Championship side Preston North End should have put this 3rd round cup tie to bed before half time.

Callum Robinson put the home side ahead in just the seventh minute, after yet another sluggish start from the Gunners. Slack defending saw the vibrant Robinson slot home, and from there, it was pretty much one way traffic as the Deepdale crowd roared their side on.

Callum Robinson could have had a hat-trick and Ben Pearson, Hugill and McGeady all had opportunities to cause a huge cupset. A combination of poor finishing, David Ospina and the offside flag saved Arsenals blushes, and aside from a solitary chance, Arsene Wenger’s side were limping like a lame dog to the half time break.

The second half was remarkable in its contrast. It was as if Arsenal finally realised their superior quality and began to play like they should. Within seconds, they had drawn level, as Aaron Ramsey fired home from the edge of the area. From nowhere they were level.

Arsenal were well on top for the second forty five, and Preston – from ripping Arsenal open at will – did not register a single shot on target for the entire half. the away side did not want a replay, and they fought to grab the winner.

Was anyone surprised that it was Olivier Giroud that grabbed it? In the dying embers of the game, Lucas Perez had the composure and presence of mind to backheel to Giroud, who fired in via a deflection and put Arsenal into the 4th round. 

There was much more that occurred in the game, but here are the key points from this tense fixture:



Giroud loves the big occasions


















Step forward Olivier. He certainly has a habit for it. Sunderland, United, Palace, Bournemouth, West Brom and now Preston are just recent examples of times Olivier Giroud has rescued us with his goals. He was pretty ineffective along with the majority of the team in the first half, but his record speaks for itself. If there are any doubters about his effectiveness, then they are ignoring cold hard fact. The stand-in captain for this game was our saviour yet again.



Lucas Perez working his way into view

If there was a bright spot in the first half, it was Lucas. His every touch was sensible, and correct. He uses the ball well, and is always on the front foot. His assist for Giroud’s winner was beautiful, and he now has six goals and five assists this season, despite featuring in fleeting glimpses. Lucas is the real deal, just imagine what he can do with a run in the side?



Welbeck is back, and he will be huge for Arsenal

His fitness has been severely hampered since joining, but when he has enjoyed a run in the side, he has offered so much. Either from the flank or centrally, Welbeck’s workrate, intelligent running and awareness will be welcome now he has returned, after he came from the bench in the 83rd minute after missing out since April. 



Sloppy starts continue to hamper

In the last match review, and I think many others, I have mentioned that our continual tendency to come out of the blocks with all the urgency of a constipated snail is a huge hindrance, and this match proved it yet again. Why oh why is it occurring? We know how we can destroy opponents in a whirlwind of passing and movement, but why do we only do it on about three or four occasions a season? It is perhaps the most frustrating element about our play. a remedy, or an answer would be great.



Maitland-Niles has a future at Arsenal

There is a reason that Ainslie Maitland-Niles has been used more than any youth team player this season. His versatility helps, but he has shown he can deal with the pressure of stepping up. He was severely tested by Preston in the first half, and he could have done better on a few occasions, but he kept his cool and was always willing to take possession. Promising signs from the youngster.

There was a lot more to write about, but the most important thing is that we have kept up our record in the FA Cup of not losing in the 3rd Round since 1996. It was close, but we scraped through. 

With our league position, the cup may just be our best bet for success this season. It’s a good thing we got through then!

We have to do better!!!!!