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Arsenal Vs Leicester City Preview

Arsenal kick off their Premier League season by welcoming Leicester City to The Emirates, and Arsene Wenger will be keen to arrest one startling stat.

The Gunners have won just once in the last eight opening day games – a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace two seasons previously – and maximum points in this game will be huge with so many rivals jostling for honours this year.











Our win over Chelsea in lifting the Community Shield will have filled our players with belief and confidence, but we will have to make do without some of our big names.

Alexis Sanchez is sidelined with an abdominal strain and could miss the next game against Stoke City also. Mesut Ozil is a doubt with an ankle complaint as well, but by beating Chelsea without our stars, we showed that we can cope without them if we need to. Aaron Ramsey is another who is a doubt, and Shkodran Mustafi’s lack of minutes in pre-season could put paid to his hopes of starting the game.

With Gabriel still missing and Laurent Koscielny suspended, it means Per Mertesacker will be given every chance to prove his fitness after his facial injury from last weekend. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are both making good progress in their respective injury returns, but both are not near to being considered for selection.

Arsene Wenger mentioned in his press conference that his focus will be fielding a side that has had as many minutes in pre-season as possible, with perhaps one or two inclusions that are a doubt. We may see Mesut Ozil after all….

Foxes boss Craig Shakespeare is sweating on the fitness of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho, but in Jamie Vardy he has an able body to fulfill striking duties. Fellow new boy Harry Maguire will line up in the centre of defence with Robert Huth out, and Alexandre Lacazette will be given a real test of his physicality with Maguire and Morgan facing him.

Arsenal in recent years have found the games against Leicester tight affairs, with a goalless draw and a 1-0 win the results against them last season. Then there was the fairtytale extra-time ending from two years ago when Danny Welbeck scored a 93rd minute winner. Make no mistake, this game will be a toughie.

A winning start is imperative, but then again, we could say the same before every game of the season. The bottom line though, is that winning is a habit. We know that when we are on a roll, we get better and better. It is the starting of the winning habit that is hard to pick up. Let us hope we grab the three points tonight and start a roll that is hard to arrest.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Elneny, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.

Jens Lehmann Comes Back To Arsenal

After such an unparalleled achievement as ‘The Invincible Season,’ the raft of documentaries, reading material and general content surrounding the exploits of the unbeaten Arsenal team of 2003/04, it means we have been treated to all angles of the gold-trophy winning campaign.

The majority of the men who made it possible have given their views and anecdotes on what occurred during that halcyon time, and watching them all speak about their teammates and the incidents which transpired on the pitch is still fascinating.

What gives these teams who achieve the impossible, an edge over their opponents? Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry et al have given their musings on the special blend of ingredients in the squad, and there was one common strand which was highlighted by many of these heroes.

It was the fiery, bubbling rapport which often erupted in vigorous, no-holds-barred training sessions. Every player gave their all and never held back, such was the winning mentality running deep within them all.

There was one man though, that perhaps was the embodiment of this competitive habit. 

Jens Lehmann was talked about with a wry smile by many of the players as one who would never back down, and often being the spark which would ignite some heated moments. 

Ray Parlour mentioned Lehmann’s disgust for any who attempted to lob him, and the many times in which players would attempt to do the very thing which would manifest Jen’s rage. It was Lehmann’s pride and his search for excellence which would not allow any such slights against his name. 

 The German  – aptly nicknamed ‘Mad’ by fans – already had a reputation for his exploits with opponents on the pitch, but these soundbites from his fellow Invincibles showed that no matter if it was a crunch game against Manchester United or 5 vs 5 on the pitches at London Colney – he would take every goal personally.

So, the news that Mad Jens is back at Arsenal in a First Team Coach capacity is something we should all be pleased with.

There have been many quarters who have talked of Arsene Wenger’s iron grip behind the scenes, and his need for absolute sway when decisions are made. With Lehmann being given such a prominent role in Wenger’s team, this could well mean that Wenger will have far more discussions about tactics and such than he has ever had before. 

Not only this, but with Wenger personally inviting him into the fold, does this mean that the Frenchman is finally acknowledging the need for a shakeup at ground level?

Lehmann on the training pitch will be exactly the same as Lehmann with his gloves on. He will not allow any quarter to be given by the players, nor will he expect anything other than the squad seeking to improve, rather than plateau.

The German is an excellent addition, and any former heroes should have an open invite to work with the club. Respect is earned, and the players will be aware of Lehmann’s achievements. This commands each and every man to listen that little bit more, to really soak in Lehmann’s advice. With Wenger recruiting Lehmann, it gives each training session that little bit more gravitas.

Not that any man should be taking any session lightly. If any of them were skating by, then that is surely a thing of the past. 

Who would want to cross Mad Jens Lehmann?

Arsenal and tottenham Combined XI

Published on Arsenal Mania

There is always a fair amount of hype in the build-up to a much-anticipated fixture. The majority of it is to ride the crest of the wave as fans look forward to the game, but some is simply filler designed only to ruffle feathers and guarantee a reaction.


The North London Derby is no different, but the parameters for this last bout have changed. For over twenty years, Arsenal have governed this constituency, but this game saw tottenham in the ascendency. They were favourites – and for good reason.


So much so, that a recent Combined XI from respective club legends Ledley King and Thierry Henry recently for Sky Sports, saw just one Arsenal player in this amalgamated team.

Just one.


Is this fair?


Here is a more balanced version of an eleven made up from spurs and Gunners players. What do you think?











Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris?

Verdict – Hugo Lloris

Petr Cech has been a bastion of excellence and reliability ever since he came to the Premier League, but this season has seen a slip below his usual standards. Facts are facts, and he has 14 clean sheets to Cech’s 9, and has conceded 13 goals less. Hugo Lloris has maintained his performances, and his athleticism racing from his line sees him take the gloves for this team.


Hector Bellerin or Kyle Walker?

Verdict – Hector Bellerin

Kyle Walker seems to have the England spot nailed down, and his rapier speed has long been his trademark. Walker’s control has been his weakness, but he has really shaped up this season. Does it see him rise above Bellerin? Walker has more assists this season, but Hector’s passing percentage is higher. It really is closer than it was a couple of seasons ago. Hector’s haircut seemed to coincide with a drop in form, but he is faster than Walker, and his control is good enough to see him make the Spain squad. Bellerin for the win.


Toby Alderweireld or Shkodran Mustafi?

Verdict – Toby Alderweireld

The Belgian defender is a threat in the air on set pieces, and has strength and positional awareness in stock. Mustafi had a great start to his Arsenal career, but a drop in confidence for the whole team saw the German start to make errors. In spite of this, this is closer than most would give Mustafi credit for. He has more goals than Alderweireld, and has more aerial success than the Belgian. It is defensive stats that Alderweireld edges the German though. More clearances, more blocks and he makes less fouls. It is close, but in short, Mustafi is often shrugged off the ball, but how often have you seen Alderweireld suffer the same fate? Toby grabs the shirt.


Laurent Koscielny or Jan Vertonghen?

Verdict – Koscielny

Koscielny is viewed as a mandatory name in the side, and in the last few seasons, he has elevated himself and his displays so much that it wouldn’t be unfair to class him amongst the best in his position in Europe. Vertonghen is consistent, he is tough and when he is not in the spurs side, they look a little lost. But who should play? Koscielny scores more goals, and is a big-game player. He has a superior tackling percentage, makes less fouls and has played more minutes. Vertonghen makes more clearances and blocks, but he is blocked out of this eleven.


Nacho or Danny Rose?

Verdict – Danny Rose

Once the figure of ridicule, Rose has really improved. Up and down the left flank tirelessly, Rose is perhaps the most improved player in the spurs team. Nacho has been recalled into the Spain squad, and his attacking prowess is a real asset for Arsenal. Despite this, Rose has more goals in the League, and more clearances and blocks, as well as a superior tackling percentage. Rose has more than double the amount of bookings, but this Rose is planted into the eleven.


Eric Dier or Granit Xhaka?

Verdict – Eric Dier

The Swiss star is still adapting to the League, and his tackling style is continuing to get him unwanted attention from match officials. Eric Dier is adaptable, playing all across the backline and in defensive midfield, and the England man is strong aerially too. He has the edge in the defensive side of the game, with more clearances, blocks and less fouls. In terms of passing though, Xhaka obliterates his rival. Long balls, crosses, key passes are all in favour of Arsenal’s man. So who takes the shirt? Seeing as it is a defensive role, Dier edges it.


Santi Cazorla or Moussa Dembele?

Verdict – Santi Cazorla

Of course, the Spaniard is injured and has missed half of the season, but we are comparing teams, and Santi is undeniably part of this Arsenal side. Cazorla has played far less than his counterpart, and yet still has more goals and assists, as well as key passes. Dembele takes the defensive side of the duel, but Santi isn’t far behind, despite giving away so much in terms of physicality. Santi would benefit any team, this is a no-brainer. If it wasn’t for injury, this wouldn’t be a contest.


Theo Walcott or Heung-Min Son?

Verdict – Son

This is a toughie. The South Korean has more goals and assists than Walcott, but Theo better dribbling percentages, is dispossessed less, and has a higher match rating. Son is super-efficient in terms of chances though, and Son just gets the nod.


Christian Eriksen or Mesut Ozil?

Verdict – Eriksen

This is an oft-debated issue. Mesut Ozil has a fine pedigree, and his reputation precedes him. Eriksen’s star is still rising, and although last season he was eclipsed by Ozil, this season is a different story. The all-important assist totals is a one-sided battle, with Eriksen registering 12 to Ozil’s 6. Ozil has a better passing percentage, but Eriksen has more goals. The Dane has played six more games than the German, but this season has seen him become more dangerous, where Ozil has had to change his role with Cazorla missing. In terms of talent, Ozil bests Eriksen, but this season, Eriksen is in the eleven.


Dele Alli or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Verdict – Alli

This is a toughie. Arsenal’s left side is often changed, with no one really holding down the spot.
So, we go with the player who has played most from all the candidates, and that is The Ox. Here is a surprising stat; The Ox has the same amount of assists as Alli, even though he has made far less appearances. He also has a better passing percentage too. He has improved so much this season, but Alli has been talismanic. For such a young player, his threat in front of goal is huge. Alli must go into the team, but The Ox has pushed him hard.


Harry Kane or Alexis?

Verdict – Alexis

Both players are their teams leading goal-getters, and Kane is top of the charts when it comes to goals. In terms of assists though, Alexis leads the way with 9 so far. The Chilean also has better passing, key passes and shots per game. Although Kane has more goals, Alexis offers more than just goals. How can you leave out Alexis?

So, to surmise, here is the current combined XI –

Lloris

Bellerin

Alderweireld

Koscielny

Rose

Dier

Santi

Son

Eriksen

Alli

Alexis


This is viewed by some as the tipping point for North London. This season has finally seen tottenham emerge from Arsenal’s shadow. This is their best ever Premier League season, and they fully deserve to be where they are. Will this mean that from here, tottenham are the bigger team?

No. They may kick off a few seasons of superiority or they may not. Much depends on transfer activity and how spurs play at Wembley. For them to usurp Arsenal’s dominance in North London though they must first win the title, then win it at The Emirates twice, win more FA Cups and continue to be a presence in the Champions League.

Enjoy this season spurs, but this is not over. 

FA Cup Final Preview 2017

Kickoff – 1730hrs GMT

So, the chance to offset Arsenal’s Premier League disappointment is upon us today, as we go to Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

This is Arsenal’s 20th FA Cup Final appearance, which is a record. With an unlikely win here, we would also hold the record for most FA Cup wins, with 13.

I say it is unlikely, because we have navigated through a season without an injury crisis for the first time in years, and now before the biggest game in this campaign – and the last – we are plagued with injured defenders.

Laurent Koscielny foolishly received a red card in our last PL game last weekend against Everton and so the Frenchman is suspended. In the same game, Gabriel busted ligaments in his knee and looks to be out for two months, and we may be without Shkodran Mustafi who is still struggling with concussion. 

Who does that leave for our three man defence? Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding will take two of those slots, but we may have to rely on Per Mertesacker – who has not made a single appearance this season. People who are suddenly doubting the lanky German would do well to remember his pedigree and his talent. What is concerning with the potential utilisation of Mertesacker is the lack of match sharpness he will suffer from. Against the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, that could be fatal.

Kieran Gibbs is nursing a thigh injury and may miss out, and if he is absent, then the 3-5-2 we have been using may be put on the shelf for this game. It doesn’t end there either. Petr Cech suffered injury in training, so perennial backup Davide Ospina will likely play his last game for the Gunners. If you want an omen, Lukasz Fabianski also bowed out of Arsenal on a high too after playing in our 3-2 Final win over Hull in 2014……

There are rays of optimism to hold onto though. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit and should come straight back into the team after his useful showings at right-back in our new formation. Alexis Sanchez is also declared fit, and this could well be the last time we see him in an Arsenal shirt.

If that is the case, then the least he could do is leave us with a breathtaking performance and a cup win!

Another dilemma for Arsene Wenger – who also may be involved in his last Arsenal game – is who gets the striker spot. Danny Welbeck has been getting the nod of late, but Olivier Giroud is far more prolific. The England striker has been pretty dire in front of goal in the last few games, but his workrate, linkup play and pace may get him the shirt ahead of the bearded Gaul. 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has no such worries and will have a full squad at his disposal. His only headache will be who to play, and in particular, who of Pedro and Willian will get one of the flanks. Pedro had been preferred for the Premiership, where Willian has played in every round of the Cup. 
We are certainly up against it, that’s for sure. With our defence looking almost unrecognisable, our backup keeper taking the gloves and our opponent looking to complete the Double, our chances are certainly impacted. A Cup Final is certainly a leveller though, as form usually falls by the wayside.

KEY PLAYERS

Rob Holding

Much will fall on this young mans shoulders. His recent form spells out a bright future, but being bereft of Koscielny and possibly Mustafi will leave no margin for error for the inexperienced but talented Englishman. Can he step up and pull a performance out of the bag, and show what he has learned?
Granit Xhaka

The Swiss star has had a mixed bag in his first season. Much of the negativity has spawned from a mis-labelling, as the midfielder is not simply a DM. His long-range passing is probably his biggest strength, and we will need his radar to be on point to spring Alexis and Welbeck away when we are under pressure. 
Alexis

The Chile star is odds on to be at a new club in the summer. He has given nothing less than 100% so far this season though, and his talents could hold the key to unlocking a tight Chelsea defence. 
KEY STATS

Seven of the last eight FA Cup ties between these two teams have resulted in Arsenal wins.

The last time the teams played was a semi-final win for Chelsea in 2009. This is the only time Chelsea have beaten us in the Cup in 70 years.

We are unbeaten at Wembley since 2011. That includes seven games. 

Chelsea have won the last four Cup Finals they have appeared in – all by single goal margins. 

Antonio Conte as manager has had only one Cup Final. This was in 2012 as Juventus boss. He lost the game 2-0 to Napoli. 
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal!!

Arsenal Vs Everton Preview

So here we are, the final game of the Premier League season. After 37 matches, here is where things stand;

We need to win our game against Everton, and hope Liverpool drop points to already relegated Middlesbrough. Even longer odds on Manchester City losing their game at Watford and us overturning a plus three variant in goal difference.

Liverpool appear the more likely of the two to give us what we desire, the Top4 spot. They have had a season littered  with occasions when they have dropped the ball to sides they should be defeating. This is the hope we are grasping on to. Liverpool have had all week to concentrate on this game though, and chances are we will be out of the top4 placings for the first time under Arsene Wenger. Not only that, this could well be the last game Wenger oversees as Manager. Probably not though. 

We have been on a great run of form recently, but it may just have come a little too late. We have won our last four games and in our last eleven final day fixtures, we have come up trumps. We must not underestimate Everton though – even if they have not won an away game for seven matches.

In terms of team news, Laurent Koscielny is extremely doubtful with the same calf niggle as the last game. Aaron Ramsey should be fit though after coming off against Sunderland. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of contention though, and he may miss the Cup Final next week. 

Olivier Giroud could well play this game, having scored four goals in his last three games against today’s opponents. Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott remain interesting alternatives, but Giroud may well get the nod. Will this be a precursor for the Cup Final? Giroud against the Chelsea backline has not reaped dividends in the past, so he could start today with Welbeck primed for Chelsea. 

We have good history against the Toffees. We are unbeaten against them in 20 league games, although the game at Goodison earlier this season saw Everton win 2-1, so if we have one eye on events at Anfield or Vicarage Road, we may pay heavily. 

Everton also have romelu Lukaku gunning for the Golden Boot. He is now behind Harry Kane and hasn’t scored in his last four so will be champing at the bit to hit the net – as will Alexis who is still in with a shout if he gets a few today. 

We have a glimmer of hope, and we can dream, but we can’t get carried away. In all likeliness, we will miss out on the Champions League spot. 

Worse still though, in a week’s time, the season is over. No football. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 Arsenal 

Arsenal Vs Man Utd – Match Preview

Kickoff – 1600GMT

Before our humbling at the hands of our North London neighbours last weekend, the situation was clear;

Win the rest of our games or the lucrative and vital Top4 slot is out of our grasp.

Now, our team stand on the precipice of our worst season under Arsene Wenger. To make matters worse, he next faces a manager who he has never defeated in the Premier League.

Tomorrow’s match versus Manchester United now leaves us with the daunting reality that we could win the rest of our games and still be barred from entering the VIP section that is Champions League qualification. 

Five games remain in our league campaign, and all five must be victories. We then must sit on the edge of our seats and wait for Liverpool, City and United to slip up. The way things are right now, this is quite easily our worst season. 

So, how do we defeat United and salvage any semblance of hope?

Firstly, United have a huge task in fielding a competitive team that isn’t suffering from fatigue or injury. After defeating Celta Vigo in Spain on Thursday, Jose Mourinho has intimated that he may rest some of his first teamers as the Europa League takes priority. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Ashley Young ruled out through a combination of injury and suspension, and Marcus Rashford looking to be in pain when he was substituted on Thursday, Mourinho will surely ring the changes. 

Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney may well be part of his plans and so too should be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. The England pair were thought to be injured, but it has been revealed that they will be in the squad for the game. 

Arsene Wenger will also have his own players returning from injury, with David Ospina and Shkodran Mustafi both back in training. Will the German defender’s return to action see Wenger shift back to a back four? Or will we continue with the Back 3 experiment? The jury is out in regards to fan’s opinion, but no one can predict what Wenger will go with. 

A big dilemma is what our midfield will look like for this game. In his last press conference, Wenger said that Granit Xhaka only has a ‘little chance of playing.’ That leaves Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny to fight it out for the two spots, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed since playing as a wing-back in our new formation. 

A lot will depend on Alexis. The Chilean has been responsible for keeping our slim hopes alive, but his record versus the big boys leaves a lot to be desired. He has just one goal in the last nine games against the teams above us, and Sanchez must finally show everyone what he can do against top class opposition – even if it is to entice another team.

United have won the last four games that have followed Europa League games, so they will be prepared. They will also come to the Emirates well drilled and hard to break down. We must utilise pace and movement and abandon the plodding, sedate passing of more recent seasons. We must find the Arsenal of old if Arsene Wenger is to finally vanquish Mourinho and Arsenal are to keep up the chase. 

Twenty four games it has been since United tasted defeat. It is going to take an almighty effort for that to be broken, but break it we must. The least we expect is effort. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ramsey, Gibbs, Theo, Ozil, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline – Screw it – 2-0 to The Arsenal #UTA

Arsenal Vs Leicester City – Match Preview

For the first time in a while, we are looking to a Premier League fixture with a dash of optimism. 

Our win over Manchester City in the FA Cup showed guts and character – traits we have been painfully short of – and hopefully it sparks a run of positive results that we so desperately need.

It isn’t just confidence that we will take from our Semi-Final win – tired legs will be an issue as well as the players left everything out on the field at Wembley. Rotation may come into the equation so players who have been on the sidelines may figure against a resurgent Leicester City side. 

There was no fresh injuries incurred in the weekend, but Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez and David Ospina are again out. What is of interest is the players who may come into the side. Danny Welbeck was originally thought to be out of the game against City, but was fit enough to make the bench. With Olivier Giroud registering a blank in his last game, could Welbeck again return to lead the attack? His pace could be key against a Foxes defence who will be without captain Wes Morgan. 

Alexis is pretty much undroppable at present, as is Mesut Ozil, and both were industrious and key against City. One player who has really enjoyed some form of late is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his excellent grasp of our new formation has seen The Ox rise to prominence. His deliveries, his running at the defence, has been chief among reasons why we have won our last two games. 

Theo Walcott has missed out in those two games, despite his excellent run of goals. The speedy attacker may just come back into the side in order to keep legs as fresh as possible, and with our next game being the North London Derby, eyes may drift toward the weekend rather than this game. 

Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi may all feature in this game as it is the least demanding when compared to the next two – which is tottenham and Man United. Objectively, should our peak-fitness footballers be able to hack these fixtures in such a small space of time?

Shkodran Mustafi is one who looks to be out for the game, and with our switch to 3-5-2 coinciding with his time out of the team, will the German find a passage back into the team as easy as before? Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Rob Holding have taken to the tactical switch like ducks to water, and with the formation still new, a change in lineup at the back may be detrimental to performance.

One thing is for sure, the game won’t be easy. The Foxes have been in imperious form, and Jamie Vardy has rediscovered his touch in front of goal as well. We failed to beat them in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, and now they have found their form again, a real test to grab all three points is on the cards.

With the negativity of recent months just a bad result away and our European hopes resting on every ninety minutes, it will be the true characters who come to the rescue in every game. We need every one of them to stand up and be counted. 

One thing to note, Leicester have not won in their last four games in all competitions and their record against us is pretty awful – one win in the EPL in 21 attempts. Then again, so was Palace’s record against us and look how much that counted for. 

A win here would be the first time in over three months we win back to back PL games. That is something that needs to be rectified immediately.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0

Arsenal Vs Manchester City – FA Cup Semi-Final Preview

The green shoots of recovery were on show in our battling 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on Monday. 

The performance was hardly fluid, but our desire to win the game was enough to see off a desperate Boro team, and this will hopefully be enough to remind our players of what they are capable of before we travel to Wembley for the Cup Semi against a dangerous City side.

This tie must be treated with the utmost of importance as the Cup is intrinsically linked to Arsenal. We have won it more than any other team – we are tied with United on 12 Cups – and this season has been so desolate in terms of high spots, we could really do with a Cup final to hold onto.

A lot of the talk on our win over Boro was Wenger’s apparent switch to a 3-man defence – and he will have to look at this option again as Shkodran Mustafi is again injured. David Ospina is still out along with Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez. 

Pep Guardiola may just have young Brazilian saviour Gabriel Jesus back in the ranks after hsi rapid recovery from a broken bone in his foot. Sergio Aguero should again lead the line, but watch out for a possible cameo from the youngster. John Stones is still out, so Nicolas Otamendi will again partner recently fit Vincent Kompany. 

There are some interesting stats to grasp onto that may give us all a strand of optimism. We have faced City four times in the FA Cup. The last time was in 1971, when we went on to win the Double. The last time we faced City at Wembley was in 2014, when we won the Charity Shield 3-0. So it may be in the stars. Let’s hope this run continues!

The league games this season have been tight affairs, with City winning the first 2-1 and the second game ended in a 2-2 draw. If we are to stand a chance in the face of City’s attacking talent, we will have to be at our best at the back, so a lot hinges on young Rob Holding – the kid has impressed in his first season but this is surely his biggest match to date.

Our club has made the most appearances in the Cup Semi-final, and a win here would really act as a salve for us Gooners, we really could do with something to cheer! 

There is also the small matter of the game against Leicester City in midweek, so rotation will be key. Granit Xhaka will likely play, but who will partner him? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was effective on the right against Boro, but he has also played well in the centre so The Ox is an option. Ramsey may well be first choice though, but with the games coming thick and fast, we will need every player. Theo Walcott missed out in our last game and he may well be utilised.

Both Managers need this for vastly different reasons, and players will want the chance for silverware. This game should not need more motivation for the players. 

So, the stage is set. Let us hope we have a great game to watch, and the result matches the entertainment value. 

Liverpool Vs Arsenal – The Pre-Match Warm-Up

After nearly a month since our last Premiership match, Arsenal return to league matters today with a difficult trip to Anfield.

It was a 2-0 win over Hull city which was our aforementioned previous league game, but since then, the small matter of a humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich has resulted in a severe loss of confidence in the side. 

The dearth of matches may not be great for us fans, but it does at least give our players some much needed respite – from the physical demands and also the scrutiny they are under. Recent form and the title slipping away yet again before the business end of the season has seen disenchantment rise amongst fans, and the media have fixed their spotlight on the club.

This game against Liverpool doesn’t exactly give us the best opportunity to overturn our poor form against the so-called big clubs either. Our recent record at Anfield is poor, and Liverpool’s record against their Top4 rivals is strong in contrast.

This is illustrated by their excellent victory over tottenham in February, which was sandwiched between lacklustre losses to Hull and Leicester. Liverpool seem to have a problem geeing themselves up for the lesser lights of the league – but this means they will be primed for our visit.

Arsene Wenger confirmed in his latest press conference that Mesut Ozil missed training during the week through illness but should be available for selection. Aaron Ramsey has returned to first team training but a lack of match fitness should see him on the bench. Aside from Santi Cazorla, Wenger should have a full squad to pick from.

There can be no excuses this time around, as opposed to the corresponding fixture at the start of the season, when an inexperienced defence cost us in a 4-3 loss. We have nearly everybody fit and raring to go. Maybe a shake up in attack could do the trick?

Alex Iwobi is off-form, and Lucas Perez has displayed his readiness in every cameo he has made. A start for Lucas at the expense of the young Nigerian makes perfect sense for both players, but will Wenger choose to drop Iwobi?

Klopp is well aware of his side’s defensive failings, so Lucas Leiva may slot into midfield to add extra cover against our plethora of attacking options. The key will be Alexis and Walcott. If Alexis is on song, then it will take two defenders to contend with him. If Theo is on form and firing, then his pace is unrivalled within the Reds defensive numbers. 

the first twenty minutes will tell all. We are notoriously slow starters aside from those rare games when we finally click. Those halcyon matches shine brightly amidst the gloom, and we get about two of those matches a season. We have had one already with our win against Chelsea earlier this season, can we reproduce it again?

It is high time we bucked our trend against our big rivals. If we do not, then a battle to stay in the Champions League places becomes a dogfight.

After our recent match hiatus, the fixtures start to fly after this game. We need every single one of our players to finally find some form, and some spirit if we are to achieve anything this season.

It begins today at Anfield.

Predicted Lineup; Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Lucas, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline; 2-1 Arsenal. 

Arsenal Vs Stoke – Team News, Preview and Stats

Finishing top of their group, scoring nine goals in their last two games and in the knowledge that a win by two clear goals in this match will see the Gunners top of the table – for 24hrs at least – should ensure that Arsene Wenger’s team go into this match against Stoke surfing on a tidal wave of confidence.

Arsenal currently lie in second place, and after successfully negotiating our annual November jitters, the fixtures show no sign of slowing. Just three days later Arsenal travel to Goodison Park, and then four days pass before we take on Pep Guardiola’s City team at The Etihad.

Phew. That is one tough schedule, but if the last few games have taught us anything, it is that we have the adequate depth to succeed in even the most dire of circumstances. The team was amply rotated for the 4-1 win over Basel, and there is the added bonus of a prospective return for Hector Bellerin.

The Spanish whizzkid has seemingly returned early from his ankle injury and is in the reckoning to return for the visit of Stoke, but with Everton and City on the near horizon, Gabriel and Carl Jenkinson should still be ahead of Bellerin for first choice today.

In terms of our other walking wounded, Per Mertesacker is progressing nicely but has set his sights on a return next year, and Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla continue their rehabilitation. Santi put up a picture of himself recovering from his recent ankle op on a hospital bed, so he will be missing from the team through the festive congestion.

This game may appear the easier of the next three, but Stoke will not roll over. They have lost just once in their last nine, and Xherdan Shaqiri continues to materialise openings and goals. They will be especially keen to end an awful run at the home of Arsenal – where they haven’t won since 1981.

Stoke will be missing a few faces, and club captain Ryan Shawcross is chief among them. Geoff Cameron is also missing, but they will have the services of Marko Arnautovic and Bruno Martins-Indi, who were carrying knocks from their previous match – a 2-0 win over Burnley.

Stoke are a different prospect at The Brittania, where they hold sway over Arsenal, but the Gunners have won their last 14 home games over the Potters. The Gunners are in great form in the Premiership, and are still proudly holding on to the fact that they have lost just once, which was a desperately unlucky opening day loss to Liverpool.

The Gunners look to have more substance this season, which comes from fresher legs and new personnel and competition. One of the players who offers such substance is Francis Coquelin, who returns from suspension for this game. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey combined well against Basel and while Santi is away they look to be the premium duo, but with three games in eight days, Coquelin and Elneny can look forward to some action.

Shkodran Mustafi was rested for the Champions League win over Basel and should come straight back into the team, and Keiran Gibbs did himself no harm with his excellent performance in midweek. He and Nacho Monreal look to be on an even keel, will they share games as the fatigue bites?

Lucas Perez is another who enhanced his cry for minutes with a treble against the Swiss side, and while he may be back on the bench for todays game, the Spaniard has shown he can be called upon to make a difference. 

All the signs are good, and Arsenal are in a great place. With so many games coming up, it is easy to slip and snowball under the sudden negativity, but if we continue as we have done, we look strong. 

First up, Stoke. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal