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Arsenal Vs PSG – Champions League Preview

This match will decide who finishes top of Champions League Group A – and therefore has a better chance of progression in the knockout stages by avoiding the big guns.

Arsenal host Ligue Un champions Paris Saint Germain, and both teams will look to field their strongest sides despite fixture congestion starting to up the strain on squads in Europe.

So, the reward for victory is sizeable, but the sacrifices that must be made will come in the form of fatigue. Arsene Wenger’s squad is well covered in all positions, so the rigours of a game every three days should be well within their vast capabilities.

That being said, rotation will be key in the coming weeks, so the team that Wenger names will be strong, but may include the odd surprise after the insipid performance in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the weekend. 

Wenger’s continuation with ‘Cup Keepers’ will continue, so that means a return for David Ospina. The Colombian was the hero of the corresponding fixture, a 1-1 draw that was anything but equal on the pitch. PSG slayed the Gunners in everything but scoreline, but the one-man barricade otherwise known as Ospina blocked, deflected and stopped nearly everything that came his way – and that was a lot.

PSG will feel hard done by with not achieving victory the first time around, but they have another chance to rectify that result at The Emirates tonight. Surely our team will turn up this time around?

Our team will have to perform better than their last outings, as the draws with United and tottenham were toothless in nature. So, will Wenger ring the changes?

Aside from Ospina in for Cech, Bellerin and Santi Cazorla will still be missing from the lineup – as well as long-term absentees Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck. There is good news for Spanish forward Lucas Perez, who has returned to training well ahead of schedule, although a return to the first team may be some weeks yet.

In terms of who will take to the field, a similar team to the one who travelled to Old Trafford will be expected. The only bones of contention will be who plays on the left of attack – as Aaron Ramsey exhibited his rustiness against United. 

Will Ramsey be dropped altogether? Or could he be moved into midfield at the expense of either Mohamed Elneny or Francis Coquelin – who did not impose themselves in the same match. Granit Xhaka came on as a late substitute and will have some say on selection, but it was his fellow late swaps that have a larger claim to play in this game.

It was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who made the equaliser with his gumption and forward thinking – something we were severely lacking. His distribution found the lurking Olivier Giroud who finished well. Both players may just get the nod, but if Giroud does play, then Alexis will move to the left and The Ox will vie with Walcott for the right spot.

Alexis could be rested altogether, after a gruelling few weeks and a large amount of strapping applied to his thigh is testament that the Chilean wonder is hurting, even a little. An injured Alexis is not good news for the club, so a spell on the bench – at least for this match – may be on the cards. 

So many variables, and all this conjecture has done is confuse things. We can be sure that the team will be strong, and top spot is very much on the radar, and that is about it.

PSG won’t be able to call upon the services of Serge Aurier, as he was mystifyingly refused passage to the UK. The problems grow for the Parisians, as Angel Di Maria did not finish the weekend’s domestic game, and is a huge doubt for the game. With Adrien Rabiot and Javier Pastore both doubtful, the creative flow of PSG could be halted before kickoff. 

They will still be packed full of talent, but this match is a great opportunity to grab some much needed confidence and also to remind PSG that we are more than a match for them. 

Top spot in the group, pride, and a better set of odds for getting past the Last16 are all up for grabs. It is time to end the November blues. Let’s get back to winning ways.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Ox, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal. 

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

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

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

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

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

You cannot have both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

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

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal

Goodbye Szczesny, and thanks for the memories….

Original post on Goonersphere

On the 5th of August, there was a piece of transfer news that slipped under the radar somewhat regarding Arsenal.

A player had left the Gunners fold, one who is held in high regard by fans. Wojicech Szczesny was declared to have left Arsenal on loan once more as he did last season – the destination once more was Roma.

This felt a little different to last season however. Szczesny moved initially to ensure minutes on the pitch, with a view to reminding Arsene Wenger what he is capable of. Thirty four appearances and a third placed Serie A finish later, Szczesny could look back on an accomplished campaign.

He must have returned to Colney with renewed hope of ousting current first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, or at least enjoying a duel with the Czech stopper. The news he must have received though, could not have been to his taste, as he once more looks to play in Rome for the season.

A second season long loan indicates that Szczesny’s Arsenal career is hanging by a thread. The situation he finds himself in is that the position he desires is unattainable at present. Petr Cech holds – and deserves to – the first choice goalkeeping slot. Does Wojicech have the patience to wait for his dream to come to fruition?

The Pole has never been short of confidence, which in turn has been his strength and his greatest weakness. In the 2013/14 season he shared the Golden Glove award with the same man who blocks his passage at Arsenal – Cech – and his future seemed assured. The next season saw Szczesny lose concentration on a number of occasions and his rise to prominence was halted a little.

Szczesny’s Arsenal career has been a series of peaks and troughs. A season of dependable displays and assured displays were surely followed by a campaign which was evidence of the chinks in his armour. 

There has never been doubts surrounding his talent, but his mentality has been subject to scrutiny. The position he so craves at the club he clearly adores was in his grasp – twice – but mistakes made were to plant doubt in the manager’s mind. This was swiftly followed by a spell on the bench – or a new goalkeeper coming in.

Reportedly, Roma have a clause inserted into the loan deal which allows them the first look at a permanent deal for Wojicech. A second season at the Stadio Olimpico shows that Luciano Spalletti rates him highly, and Szczesny will no doubt enjoy the fact he is the undisputed number one for his team. 

So all things appear to point toward a departure from Arsenal for our Polish keeper. If a poll asked one hundred Gooners about their opinions regarding him, would he be rated above David Ospina? The Colombian has rarely put a foot wrong since joining, but doesn’t enjoy the bond with the fans that Szczesny has. Will Szczesny be missed?

Szczesny has been responsible for some fantastic memories – none more so than his celebrations after a North London derby victory – and his antics via social media have been a tenable link between fans and the players we laud on the pitch. He enjoyed the spotlight we shone on him, and he in turn gave us something we all enjoyed, which was a player we could relate to. We could all see the fan in him, that aspect of him that took great joy from victory, just like us.

He is a fantastic shot stopper, and has no problem owning his box. He has also shown he can attain consistency over a whole season. It is when he has no one breathing down his neck that Wojicech suffers with blips in his performance. A second season in Serie A will undoubtedly benefit him, but if we were to recall him, would he be content with the Number two slot?

Petr Cech has plenty of life in him, but David Ospina will surely look to other offers with a second season as deputy. That would mean a spot opening up on the Arsenal goalkeeping roster, but will Szczesny’s ego allow him to sit in the shadows for a season or two, until the first choice opening becomes available?

For now, we must keep an eye on his results in Rome, and when this season ends, it is his choice to make. Utilise patience, and allow himself the chance to be a Gunners icon for many seasons? Or choose to leave? 

tottenham 2-2 Arsenal – Frantic Action, but Gunners Show Desire – Match Report

Before Michael Oliver blew on his whistle to begin this match, all the talk was about yet another power shift in North London. A signal, much like many before, that our neighbours were ready to wrestle the power away from Arsenal for the first time in decades.

Well, you can’t blame the assorted experts, pundits and journalists for thinking that the Gunners days were numbered. No wins in four games, repeated insipid displays and players so woefully off-colour that they looked lost on the pitch.

This game saw the return of Arsenal’s belief and hunger.

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Continue reading tottenham 2-2 Arsenal – Frantic Action, but Gunners Show Desire – Match Report

Petr Cech – The Final Piece in the Jigsaw?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Last seasons excellent run of form coincided with the emergence of a certain Francis Coquelin. The much-travelled Gaul evidenced every asset that fans and indeed the team – were crying out for. Prior to his surprise inclusion we had looked similar to previous seasons efforts – pleasing on the eye, capable of running rings around any team, but brittle in the heat of battle.

The ‘Coq Block’ proved to be ridiculously effective. Those that are interested in stats marvelled at his numbers as he repelled wave after wave of attack with bared teeth and trademark grimace. The fact he had been one of our recruits for a number of years and not a £25million superstar holding midfielder was a stumbling block for a lot of Gooners but week after week, his performances were so complete that he convinced the majority that he was the answer to the conundrum which had plagued Arsenal for some time. He was the midfielder we had been lacking. That’s not to say he could do with a little help perhaps…..

We were close to the complete team. Now all we needed was an accomplished goalkeeper…..

Continue reading Petr Cech – The Final Piece in the Jigsaw?

Ospina Cech’s Out of Arsenal?

Eight clean sheets in eighteen League games hardly screams incompetent, does it?

So the rumours gathering pace today surrounding our Columbian shot-stopper David Ospina being given an escape route from the ignominy of being benched to Fenerbahce give an air of the unbelievable.

Yet, I released a blog surrounding Cech, Ospina and Szczesny only two months ago and the prospective chances of Cech joining, Ospina holding the No.1 jersey and Szczesny reclaiming it.

Bearing in mind, it is still in the rumour stage, but there is a sliver of credence to this story. Petr Cech, he of the fantastic collection of Golden Glove awards, has been linked so heavily with Arsenal that bookies have now stopped taking bets on the Czech goalkeeper donning a red and white safety cap next season. Continue reading Ospina Cech’s Out of Arsenal?

Ospina has the Gloves, has Szczesny dropped the ball?

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

David Seaman. Bob Wilson. Jack Kelsey. Pat Jennings. Jens Lehmann.
These are the names that current goalkeeping glove fillers David Ospina and Wojicech Szczesny must aspire to. To be able to match the achievements of these heroic men that guarded the Arsenal goal – Ospina and Szczesny have to eliminate the doubts that linger around them.

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Continue reading Ospina has the Gloves, has Szczesny dropped the ball?