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Forest Vs Arsenal FA Cup Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Man City Vs Arsenal – Preview of Mission Implausible

We all know this is going to be a tough nut to crack. Manchester City have the best offence and second best defence this season in terms of goals scored and conceded. They also have nine wins and one draw from ten league games.

Then we have our team. One away win this season from our league games and some wildly varying performances have left us guessing about what team will show up from one game to the next. We can eviscerate teams with our attack like we did against Everton, or we can be completely insipid and act like a doormat like we did against Liverpool.

It is our average performances that we need to concentrate on. They also provide us with very little ability to predict. We have our strangely shocked display when we lost to Watford where we seemed unable to comprehend our opponent fighting back. Then we have games like Swansea last week where we didn’t play well but our tenacity rose to the surface.

We will need that in buckets if we are to escape from The Eitihad with anything.

Another thing we will need is positional discipline. Our team will be allowed to play if they can avoid the press of City. We must remember to avoid going all-out like we have a propensity to do, and thus leave us open for City’s lightning forward line.

Our full-backs must be switched on when roaming forward and have their counterparts position in their mind at all times. So it is great news we will have Sead Kolasinac fit and ready for this game after injuring his hip last week.

Manchester City will most likely recall David Silva and Gabriel Jesus after resting them against Napoli. Jesus played a cameo but he will be refreshed and could partner Sergio Aguero up top. then they have the mercurial Spaniard Silva attacking from midfield with Kevin DeBruyne and Raheem Sterling. Then they have Leroy Sane if they can find room in their team, who has played his part in 11 goals in his last seven games.

Whew, that is one hell of a task for our defence. We have shown we can keep it tight at times, but this stern examination will be our toughest test this season.

We have a great record against City recently. They have just one win in the last nine games against us, and we have scored twice in eight of our last ten games against them.

This game will have goals, and plenty of them. City have 21 goals in five home games so far. Quite a scary stat for us. City also managed the most passes ever recorded since Opta Stats began, in their win over West Brom last week. Both teams own the highest averages of possession so far this season too.

We do have a potent attack ourselves, although it is easy to forget when you look at City this season. Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can really hurt Pep Guardiola’s men, but they will need to be on fire if we are to grab all three points.

In terms of injuries, Santi Cazorla, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck are ruled out of the game.

Optimism can be found when we look to our better performances. Ignorance is the best option when we look at our failings. Let us try and enjoy what is bound to be a match filled with goalmouth action.

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

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Manchester City – The Match Warm-Up

An international break is normally not welcomed by fans, but last weeks hiatus from Arsenal was a relief for most.

Two wins in the last seven games – and those were earned against non-league opposition – has seen the sharks circling around the club, smelling blood. With Arsene Wenger still to declare his future and our best players assessing their options, our slide down the table has taken something of a back seat.

The Premier League is back today though, and tomorrow sees our league position put in the balance as we take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

With Everton playing before us, we could well be in 7th place before we take to the pitch, and with our opponents already seven points ahead of us, there really seems no other viable alternative but victory if we are going to kickstart our rise up the table. No more false starts. No more underwhelming displays. Anything less than 100% will see us defeated again and eating the Top 6’s dust. 

We have some injuries to contend with as well as the crippling lack of confidence that is rife through our squad. Petr Cech suffered a calf injury in our last game, so David Ospina will take the gloves for this game. Lucas Perez is another who will miss out – although even when fit he doesn’t play – but Mesut Ozil is expected to come back into the side after a reported back injury.

City will still be without starlet Gabriel Jesus after he broke his metatarsal, but with Sergio Aguero in their squad, it’s not as if the Brazilian’s absence will be heavily felt. They may have to do without playmaker Kevin DeBruyne as well, but their strength in depth is one of the best in the league, and with David Silva in their team, they will not be impacted too much.

The Gunners have lost their last two Premiership games 3-1 – Liverpool and West Brom were the opponents – and the players on show during these games were far from at their best. Lacking fight and verve, they have been ripped apart at times. The West Brom game was particularly damning. Seventy percent of possession and just two shots on target tells everyone that something is missing. At times we made look the Baggies look like world-beaters, and top of the agenda must be arresting this awful run.

Next up would be sorting out an established midfield. Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka have all been rotated, used with other players and there has been a distinct lack of gelling. A run of games for a prospective pairing must start soon if we are to start climbing up the table.

We have plenty of options in attack for this game, and Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck will be fighting to start the game. Alexis Sanchez is a surefire start – even though his ankle was in dubious condition before he played two games for Chile – but whether he will go on the left of attack and leave the striker berth for Olivier or Danny is up for discussion. With City’s backline their one obvious weakness, a correct selection could well be the difference between defeat and victory.

We must get back on track – and now. The room for error is now gone, it’s time to show our pedigree.

Predicted lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Predicted Scoreline – Screw it, I’m going for a 2-1 win for us. 

Watford Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wenger has some decisions to make before kickoff.

Predicted lineup: 

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

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal.

Arsenal Vs Liverpool – Match Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Lineup – 

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

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

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

Arsenal Vs Stoke – A Preview

Finally, after what seems like an extraordinary amount of time passing – Arsenal return to action this weekend.

We have had the tumultuous transfer window, and been left the scraps of international football to gnaw on whilst we waited for the Premiership to once more kick into gear. It was only four games into the season before the infernal international break gave us a hiatus from domestic football that wasn’t entirely welcome, but from here on in, the games come thick and fast.

Continue reading Arsenal Vs Stoke – A Preview