Tag Archives: mustafi

Support Your Own

Villains arguably make a story.

Would Die Hard be as epic without Alan Rickman’s star turn as the super-slick Hans Gruber?

Would Anchorman be as complete without poor-man’s Ron Burgundy, Wes Mantooth?

What about the scene-stealing antics of Bricktop in Snatch?

A bad guy gets the best lines, a bad guy evokes emotion.

The same goes for sport, and those players that you just love to hate.

Gary Neville in his playing pomp used to play up to the Liverpool fans. He was Public Enemy Number One in the red half of Merseyside, and he loved every minute of it.

Our fanbase however, have taken this and gone into overdrive.

It is but a portion of Gooners that have chosen to concentrate their ire on one player.

The problem with this is that it is one of our own.

Football needs candidates we can boo and hiss at, those that as soon as they pick up the ball, we let them know in our own inimitable way, that they aren’t very welcome round these here parts.

To do it to one of our own players though, is simply ridiculous.

First it was Shkodran Mustafi who was the subject of vilification for his performances in red and white. The German’s propensity for high-profile boo-boo’s meant he was an easy target for mock-up’s, meme’s and general anger.

Now, criticism is part and parcel of being a fan. We are allowed to bestow compliments on those who do it week in and week out for our team, and the same goes when highlighting how erroneous a display has been.

If a player is dipping far below what is expected of them, then it is moronic to say we cannot hold them up and say “this is far from good enough.”

The same thing can be said for the treatment that has been doled out to both Mustafi and Granit Xhaka.

Xhaka and Luiz.jpg

Now Mustafi is out of the side, a portion of our fanbase needed another punch bag to aim their vitriol at. Step forward Granit Xhaka, and some out of context stats that show the Swiss star in a terrible light.

So far this season, he has been dribbled past the most, been tackled the most and his rash tackle on Son that gifted spurs a spot kick in our last North London Derby was yet another example of the weaknesses in Xhaka’s skillset.

It does hide the fact that when he doesn’t play, we so often lack a bridge between defence and attack and how prolific he is in sparking attacks from deep.

This article is not an affirmation of Xhaka for the first team. It is merely intended to highlight the awful critique he and Mustafi have to deal with from our own ‘fans.’

It goes far beyond ignorance. You can overlook the benefits of both players – Mustafi for example had better tackling and aerial battle stats than £80m man Harry Maguire last season – but the negativity aimed at both from people who purport to be Gooners?

Unforgivable.

Criticise, show that they have screwed up and we should play alternatives from now on – but when they are in our shirt, we must support.

That is the very essence of being a supporter. Through thick and thin, through awful players and soul-crushing losses. We continue to stand, to shout and to sing.

We represent the club, and at the moment, some of the hate that is directed toward our own players is at times shameful.

Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi obviously have their own failings and they are perhaps below what we need in our team right now.

But they both give their all for us and, Xhaka especially, continue to be picked by coaches that know far more than we do about the minutiae of the sport.

If they make a mistake in the future – and we all fear that there will be more to come – can we put a stop to the threats and hatred?

We have a squad that is capable of lifting us above the level we have been at recently. Let us unite behind our men and give them the support they need to elevate themselves further.

Players need backing just like we all do.

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?

Defensive Replacements Needed – Apply Within?

Sir Alex Ferguson became one of the greatest ever managers for many reasons.

His slew of Premier League titles and his two European Cups are the first things that jump up from his glittering C.V, but the bucketload of trophies aren’t what defines his career.

What really made him one of the finest exponents of management was his ability to repackage his team every five or so years.

Players such as Kanchelskis, Ince, McClair, Bruce and Pallister started his reign of terror upon English football, then there was the golden generation of Beckham, Butt, Giggs, Scholes and the Neville brothers that brought about another era of success. Then came Jaap Stam, Van Nistelrooy, Cole, Yorke, Ronaldo et al.

His eye for finding the perfect player was one thing, but he could almost smell when a player needed to be replaced. Like whipping off the top of a milk carton, his nostrils were able to decipher if a player had given his all and was passed his best.

Wenger now has a self-made miasma on his hands, and we will find out if he can do the same.

This does a little bit of a disservice to our current manager. Wenger has proved countless times in the past that he knows exactly when is the best time to get rid of a player. Vieira, Pires, Overmars, Petit – they all never reached the heights they did when wearing our shirt. Wenger knew, but what faces him now is a far tougher challenge.

Our defence in its current state is nothing short of a shambles for a team supposedly setting out to fight for top honours. We’re conceding to all manner of teams – relegation candidates, top4 chasers, european minnows, Championship teams. No matter what level teams are playing at, they go into a match with us confident they can cause us problems.

This is far from good enough, but why?

Personnel isn’t the issue. Injury woes or not, Laurent Koscielny is still one of the best defenders in the league. Shkodran Mustafi may need to improve his decision making, but he has all the cornerstones you need from a top defender, and Nacho Monreal is nothing short of a footballing marvel and severely underappreciated by experts.

The problem we have is they are not future-proofed.

Laurent Koscielny is 32 and will be 33 this year. He has missed a fair amount of games this season as his troublesome tendonitis problem rears its ugly head a little more often than before. It requires kid gloves and more recuperation than ever before, and the problem will only worsen.

Then there is Nacho Monreal. At 32, the Spaniard is only on a downward curve physically. He’s proved he’s adept at centre-back as well as at full-back, but in terms of playing on? We could maybe get one more quality season out of him.

We have Calum Chambers and Rob Holding waiting in the wings, and if they’re going to make it at Arsenal, then next season will be their litmus test. they will have more games to hone their skills, but they can’t wait for a more experienced partner or blame inexperience. They need to show they’re ready now.

If we don’t persevere with these two English lads, then we need to buy. There are plenty of talented centre-backs out there that have shown they could fill the considerable void left by Monreal and Koscielny, but what will Wenger decide?

Wenger’s biggest problem is that he shows far too much faith to players. Our defenders in question deserve a little to be fair, but football is a ruthless game, and they shouldn’t be playing if they will present a weakness. Can we honestly say that Wenger will replace them?

Our defence has nearly run its course and we need to be looking to replace them. If we don’t then the gap we see between us and the top will only grow. This summer is the time to do it.

Ferguson never rested on his laurels, no matter how much a player had achieved. If they were past the crest, then he would dispense of their services. Wenger must do the same.

Chelsea Vs Arsenal Semi-Final Carabao Cup 1st Leg Preview

It may not be the best choice of opponent, but any match gives us the opportunity to erase the taste of our embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest.

If we could have chosen a team to face, Chelsea wouldn’t have been one we went for. The Blues are in fine form and we, quite simply, aren’t. Antonio Conte may well be rattled by the constant stream of Jose Mourinho bile, but our draw last week shows that he will take this match very seriously.

Funnily enough, the Italian coach nearly had the same fate befall him and his team in the weekend. Fresh from our 2-2 draw, we both went into our FA Cup matches against Championship opposition. The difference was that we lost convincingly, and Chelsea escaped with a 0-0 draw.

Conte also rested the majority of his big hitters, but his squad is a little stronger than ours. Yet they also put in a sub-par display against the Canaries.

Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata have all been rested, so will most likely line up against us. Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Willian will drop to the bench after failing to impress against Norwich.

In terms of our team, Alexis is still with us, for now, so should be back in the team. Mesut Ozil is also back in contention, but if any of the eleven who got humped against Forest make the eleven, they can think themselves very lucky. With our squad looking a little thin, then we might have to have at least one from Holding, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Walcott on the bench.

The whole team should conceivably be changed, but there are doubts hanging over Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. The biggest miss would be Mustafi right now, with Koscielny looking dicey on the fitness front, Holding low on confidence and Nacho still a month from fitness. If Xhaka misses out, then Elneny, the perhaps off-to-Valencia-Coquelin or even Ainslie Maitland-Niles could come in.

The Carabao Cup was prioritised by Wenger as we are in the latter stages. This makes sense of course, but if we were to be dumped out by the Blues, then his plan will have backfired, much like his weak bench he named for the Forest debacle. A two-legged affair with Chelsea is a tough hurdle to jump, and with a probable Final against City to come, we may have bet on the wrong horse here.

The Europa League has some big hitters in the draw, and with our Premier League top four spot in serious jeopardy, we are slipping towards the worst season in recent memory.

We have the capacity to defeat Chelsea, our FA Cup final win showed us that, as well as last week’s draw that could have went either way. It all hinges on which Arsenal show up. We were excellent in midfield and attack versus the Blues, but our defence was suspect, letting Morata have three one-on-ones is something we need to rectify.

We will need Koscielny and Mustafi if we are to stay in this tie for the second leg. Home factor may swing this though.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1.

Crystal Palace Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Firstly, I hope you all had a great Christmas. Secondly, this game has a fair amount of reasons why it will be a severe test for our side as we look to return to winning ways and keep up with the teams above us.

Selhurst Park brings with it a terrible nightmare from last season, when we turned in one of the worst performances in recent memory in losing 3-0. The home of the Eagles is perhaps one of the most vocal of home supports, and the atmosphere will be absolutely electric.


Roy Hodgson has his team on an impressive run. No losses in the last eight games is no small feat, especially when you consider he took over Crystal Palace with the side having lost seven from seven and failing to score in any of them.


The Eagles are flying right now. They tore apart Leicester City recently, and the form of Wilfried Zaha is crucial to the team playing effectively. It leaves players like Andros Townsend and Yohann Cabaye with less pressure to deliver, and Christian Benteke is beginning to hit some semblance of form.


Bottom line, we keep Zaha quiet, we clip the wings of the Eagles.


In terms of our team, Nacho Monreal limped off in our draw with Liverpool, and luckily for us, Shkodran Mustafi has just returned from injury, so we have a replacement to partner Laurent Koscielny. Olivier Giroud’s hamstring will keep him out until at least late January, so the reliance on Alexandre Lacazette will be a big one for goals.


Aaron Ramsey is still out, but the form of Jack Wilshere shows the Englishman has taken his chance with both hands. Jack has been excellent since slotting in after Ramsey’s injury, and when Rambo does return, he may find an instant return to the side a little harder than first imagined.


Goals don’t seem to be an issue, and we’ve gone on a run in previous games when our defence has been watertight. What is an immediate issue is our tempo. In some games we are devoid of it, and yet it is our greatest weapon. When we play with pace we ally it with our close control and intricate passing and it can be unstoppable. The trouble is, we rarely go through the gears for longer than five minutes.


This will have to change to silence the Palace crowd, who can really give the home players a boost. They will be aware of our atrocious away record – two away wins this Premier League season – and they will make life extremely difficult for our players.


This game needs to be the renaissance of our away performances. It needs to herald the turnaround if we are to catch Liverpool, tottenham and Chelsea. These teams all won on Boxing Day and the pressure is on us to grab the points.


We have another away game against West Brom this weekend, the games are coming thick and fast. The tests will continue, and we really need maximum points from both. If we fail to do this, then the gap will grow and we can foresee another season of missed targets.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis, Lacazette.


Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.

Southampton Vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Let’s get back in the winning habit.



The 3-1 defeat to Man United last week still rankles. The manner we lost in should have garnered all three points, but instead we’re looking back on a loss that widened the gap between us and the leading pack.


It does mean we’re still in rude health in terms of our play. The United result aside, the only other loss in that time – 12 games – is the anomalous loss to Koln and the defeat to Watford.


We do need to keep our heads up, especially with this game marking the start of the annual festive fixture congestion. We’ve now got seven games between now and the end of the month, so it’s a good thing that our fringe players are ready and firing – because they’ll be needed.


Our midweek hammering of BATE didn’t get the credit it deserved from the journalists – what a surprise. The quality of the opposition was poor, granted, but that’s never stopped us struggling before. We were quite excellent in attack, and Jack had one of those games that really highlights his talents.


In terms of our game against Saints, our team will be all changed most likely. Petr Cech will return in goal, and the stopper has been in fine form of late. In defence, Shkodran Mustafi will miss out after limping off against United. Laurent Koscielny will come in with Nacho Monreal, with one of Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers or Rob Holding replacing Mustafi.


In midfield, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will slot in the central roles, with Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac taking the wing-back roles.


Up top, we should have Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez back in the lineup. If the golden trio don’t pull it off, we’ll have Theo Walcott, Jack, Olivier and Danny Welbeck as an option from the bench. Most clubs can’t boast such strength.


Southampton are a Jekyll and Hyde team. From one week to the next, no one knows which side will turn up. They can go from sublime to mediocre in the space of minutes, but make no mistake, we should be wary.


Fraser Forster has been a pain in our backside on a few occasions, and definitely has the capacity to frustrate. How is this for a stat – Forster has conceded just one goal in five games, facing 30 shots on target in that time. They have ample threats too. 


Charlie Austin is a real handful and is in good goalscoring form of late. Nathon Redmond out wide can conjure up trouble, and Sofiane Boufal is the wildcard.


It is in midfield that Southampton have real strength, but it is all dependant on what combo they go for. They have Hojbjerg, Davis and Romeu who are well covered in both defensive and attacking tactics. It means they have a solid foundation to build on. With Virgil Van Dijk, Mario Lemina and the set-piece delivery of Ward-Prowse, Mauricio Pellegrino has all the makings of a top side.


Before the weekend, we were one point from the top 4. We need to keep up the pace, and we need to show the tenacity we showed in our last away game – the 1-0 win at Turf Moor.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.


Predicted scoreline – This will be a tight one, but 2-0 to The Arsenal.

Arsenal 2-0 tottenham – What Power Shift?

What power shift?

Much of the talk before this game kicked off was centred on how tottenham were now the rulers of North London, but a powerhouse Arsenal performance served a reminder to our neighbours that one season of finishing above us after 21 of being in our shadow doesn’t constitute a shift in power.


Our side were far superior to spurs in every position during the 90, and Pochettino lost his first derby in the process. Wenger went for Lacazette to start alongside Alexis and Ozil in a front three and this attacking trio was key in how we put spurs to the sword. The attacking three were full of intent and running, tracking back and pressing and some really lovely touches.


It was our midfield that really had a point to prove though, and they gave everything to the cause. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka left it all on the pitch and strangled the life out of their spurs counterparts, Dembele and Sissokho. At both ends of the pitch, our engine room were on the pulse.


Shkodran Mustafi passed a recent fitness test to earn a recall to the side, and the German repelled everything spurs could muster, which wasn’t much. From the opening exchanges, we bossed every area of the pitch and Petr Cech was pretty much untroubled aside from a squirming Eriksen low shot that struck the outside of the near post.


This game didn’t feel like one of those games where we have untold amounts of possession and chances, only to flounder. It was our intensity that was troubling spurs, and they couldn’t keep up.









The deadlock was broken on the 36th minute. Alexis was found, being marked tightly by Davidson Sanchez. The Chilean headed past the spurs man and the defender put his arm across Alexis before having a slight tug of his Arsenal jersey. Mike Dean, rather surprisingly, gave us the decision and from the resulting set-piece, a perfect delivery from Mesut Ozil was met by Mustafi, who jumped higher than anyone to float a wonderful header past Lloris.


We didn’t have to wait long for the second and for our dominance to come to fruition. Alexandre Lacazette was actually given the ball in the channel with space to run into for once, and the Frenchman ate up the yards before finding Alexis with a low square pass. Alexis had plenty to do, but a great first touch allowed him to squeeze a high shot into the net and give Lloris no chance.






Half time came and went and although spurs were afforded more possession, the script was very much the same. Cech was still just as untroubled, we still had our boot firmly on spurs’ neck. Subs came and went around the 60-70th minute, but it changed nothing. No matter what Pochettino tried, our men on the field had the answers.


It was so refreshing to see us reach what is near our capabilities. So often we are bested thanks to our own inefficiencies, but not this time. For the whole game, we were at it all over the pitch. All of our players were on form and wanted this win – if we had failed to win this then a big gap would have been the result, even at this early stage of the season.


We weren’t finished either. Alexis could have grabbed another, and Alex Iwobi shot wide from a good position, sandwiching an Eric Dier header that produced a fingertip save from Cech – and that was the nearest that spurs were to come to registering a goal.


With this sort of display, frustration as well as joy can spring forth. Why can’t we do this more often? If we could do this for even 20 out of the 38 games, then we would be unstoppable. If we think like this though, we will never enjoy any moment. We know what we can do, all we can do though, is hope.


Spurs were bested, we pressed better than they did, we attacked quicker, we defended stouter. Their fans needed a reminder of where they actually stand in football after getting ahead of themselves recently.


We also needed a reminder. We needed to see our team show that not only can we produce displays of this nature still, but we can still want it more than our opponents.


Well played Arsenal – this was so good to see. #UTA

Gabriel and Decisions

Published on Goonersphere.

For years, us Gooners were crying out for a bit of mettle on the pitch.


Season after season of matches where we folded like a wet pack of cards, in the face of the merest hint of physicality from our opposition.


With concerted pressing and a few choice kicks off the ball, our aesthetically pleasing football was reduced to a plodding display which lacked the dynamism to really optimise our footballing brain.


We needed a hatchet man.


Arsenal have always had that player that rode into view when our enemy were getting ideas above their station. When his teammates needed protecting, players like Peter Storey, the entire famous Back4, Patrick Vieira – that ilk of player that never backed down. Sometimes to the cost of a red card, but their strength inspired their cohorts, and they felt braver as a result.


So when Brazilian Gabriel was signed in 2015, the omens were good that we had a player to crack a few skulls when the time came to it.








The toothy defender joined from Villareal, and the Spanish side had been climbing La Liga thanks to their imperious defence. 


Along with Mateo Musacchio and Victor Ruiz, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ had proved the toughest nut to crack in Spain.


Gabriel had a reputation for no-nonsense defending, but could carry the ball if he was asked to. His transfer fee meant hopes were high amongst us all, and I went to the match which was his debut in an Arsenal shirt – the FA Cup tie versus Middlesbrough.


It was a 2-0 routine game which really should have seen Arsenal score more, but Gabriel stood out with his aerial prominence. He looked strong, and had the potential to form a bedrock should he be given the chance.


He made 21 appearances in the league that season, 19 the season after. There were also plenty of opportunities in the various cups too.


These numbers represent ample chances to prove his worth, to show he can handle the unique demands the Premier League offers.


What has been abundantly clear is that whilst Gabriel’s reactionary defences are strong, his decision-making is not up to par. When given the time, the Brazilian made constant rash decisions which gave away set-pieces.


There were periods when Gabriel looked the part. Last season he was called into the side to play as an emergency right-back, and he did not let us down. He was solid, his positioning was error-free – he did the job effectively.


He couldn’t keep his place though. Gabriel simply gives away too many fouls, goes to ground too often in last-gasp tackles that have a low percentage of success, and couldn’t bond with his defensive partners.


His much-vaunted troubles with the English language didn’t help, but we have had many foreign imports and they have all had to learn the dialect, so why was it so difficult for Gabriel?


Who knows. What is certain is that his departure, for slightly less than he was purchased for, was a dilemma of sorts.


Some cried out after he was sold, saying he was a great backup and we still need defensive numbers. The dilemma though, was that it was either Gabriel or Calum Chambers who would have left the club – and Chambers is a far better long-term option.


Firstly, the England man’s age weighs in his favour. Secondly, his Under-21 displays as Captain show what he is capable of – as well as his record under severe duress in his season on loan with a poor Middlesbrough side.


Chambers could still develop into a fantastic defender. He IS a fantastic defender, but needs a chance.


Gabriel had his chance, and whilst he could have forged a career in the Premiership, Arsenal deserved better than what he could give. It feels sad to say that because, above all else – Gabriel left everything on the pitch when he pulled on the shirt.

If we could have all of our current players have the same burning desire Gabriel showed in every minute he played for us, then we would have a squad that competes far more than it does right now.


Thank you Gabriel, and we all hope you find your way at Valencia.

Stoke Vs Arsenal Preview

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Predicted Scoreline – Stoke 0-2 Arsenal

Chambers and Holding are the Future

From the hottest temperatures are the most valuable of treasures born. The most precious metals are twisted and formed in unbelievably scorching heat, and under duress are beautiful objects crafted and hewn.

The same rule applies for footballers. 

Hector Bellerin – who some rate as the best right-back in the Premiership – had his debut in 2014 against a rampant Borussia Dortmund side and was taught the most severe lesson in a 2-0 defeat. The young Spaniard learned a years worth of lessons in ninety minutes. 

It was not just a baptism of fire, it was akin to tying him to a pyre.

Calum Chambers and Rob Holding went through a similar unveiling ceremony in the first game of last season, when Liverpool smelled a hint of blood and eviscerated the duo in a brutal – if slightly lucky – 4-3 win at The Emirates.

Arsenal were in control when the second half began, but Liverpool’s Mane, Coutinho and their cohorts took advantage of the green nature of the Gunners defensive centre, and cashed in opportunistically.

It was the harshest of lessons, but one that needed to be taught. Chambers was fresh from leading the England youngsters to victory as Captain in the Toulon tournament in the summer and his stock was high, as well as his confidence. An unceremonious bringing back down to earth meant that whatever illusions Chambers may or may not have had about having ‘made it’ were dissipated quickly.

The same goes for Rob Holding. He was making his competitive debut for Arsenal and he must have been counting his lucky stars. Snatched from the bowels of Bolton and now playing a Premier League fixture against Liverpool, Holding could well have thought this was where he deserved to be. 

The bottom line that was emphatically delivered to both is that the work had not yet finished for the starlets. The lesson they must learn is that the work NEVER finishes. All top class defenders will extoll this loudly when asked.

This is why defenders reach their peak later than their outfield compatriots. Different strikers bring different challenges and defenders must constantly shift and adapt to meet the task head on. 

In pre-season before the Liverpool game, Holding and Chambers saw plenty of minutes and with the pressure off to a degree, they shone. With Krystian Bielik as another youngster given the opportunity to play, the three young defenders gave great accounts of themselves. the level of competition and the lack of competitive heat was not present though. 

This is why Chambers going on loan was the best idea for his progress. With Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel and Mertesacker as rivals for the two central spots, Chambers’s development would have been hampered by a lack of gametime. With this season-long loan at Middlesbrough, we saw what he was capable of on a weekly basis. It was the perfect way to gauge whether he truly is up to the mark of playing for Arsenal.

The answer is yes, very much so. Chambers has been a pivotal member of the Boro back four which has put up a brave resistance. With their attacking threat being far less than the majority of teams in the Premiership, it has meant more time defending for the Teessiders. A real scrutiny has been on Chambers and he has passed with flying colours. 

Rob Holding was retained within the Gunners squad, and his sporadic appearances have been an indicator as to what type of player the former Trotter will be. He plays it safe, is not prone to panicking and makes correct decisions. There is much room for improvement, but at such a tender age, the signs on his progression are that the only way is up. Just look at his display in the FA Cup Final and his shackling of Chelsea’s malevolent force of Diego Costa – the boy done good.

Both players allow Arsenal to plana a little ahead. They represent the future of Arsenal’s defence, and if they can keep hold of Hector Bellerin, then many years of solidity stand in the Gunners future. What other clubs can boast of such things?