Tag Archives: Theo

The Walcott Consensus

We’ve been blessed with strikers.

The best of the best belong not only in our Hall of Fame, but amongst the finest o have kicked a ball on these shores.

Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright. Three household names, each one conjuring up instant images for us all of the heroics they entranced us with on the pitch.

It doesn’t stop there though.

Alan Smith, Robin Van Persie – they both performed above and beyond in our colours. While the Dutchman may have sullied his reputation with his departure and the term surrounding it, his numbers and performances were exactly what we have come to expect from a player pulling on an Arsenal jersey. He pulled average players up a few notches, he was the man that the team revolved around in his last two seasons.

Arsenal have others too, that on paper, certainly warrant respect and gratitude for what they achieved during their stint. Short or extended, they banged in the goals while they were with us. Eduardo, Olivier Giroud, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they have held the line for us and left us with memories of some spectacular moments.

It is obvious that some will split the fanbase. Some will have the stock of a player higher than others.

And that is very much the case for Theo Walcott.

The speedy wideman will result in some very contrasting opinions from whomever you ask.

This article is here to say though, that he undeniably deserves to be amongst the best in The Emirates era.

Skill-wise, he won’t quite register amongst the heavy hitters.

But let’s look at the facts – and let’s take his name out of the equation and look at the numbers ina  transparent way. Let’s look at the stats with a mindset of a scout, or an unknowing fan.

Or perhaps even better, let’s say this is a pub quiz – and here are the questions:

What Arsenal player has the sixth most goals for the club in the Premier League?

What Arsenal player has the 7th most assists for the club in the Premier League?

What Arsenal player averaged a goal or assist every two games?

What Arsenal player has the eighth most appearances for the club in the Premier League?

Walcott scores

These numbers scream of a player who made an impact. Who made a difference while they played for us.

We all know that Walcott at times infuriated us. We know that there was a time when the player insisted that they should play in a different position, despite his coach knowing that a wide forward position would get the most from him.

Despite all that though, for us he gave his all and was the consummate professional in the eleven years he played in the red and white.

Walcott also had a handy knack of scoring in the big games – a mark of a player who belongs in amongst the best.

His first goal for the club? A cup final (the League Cup final of 2007).

He scored in an FA Cup Final, Semi-Finals, he petrified Barcelona and scored against the Catalan giants. He scored against Liverpool, Man Utd, a hatful against Chelsea – and we can all remember his contributions against the enemy too.

When we needed him, for the majority of his time, he came up with the goods.

Goals, assists, showing up in big games, surely he deserves a little more recognition than he currently gets?

I’m not here to say he was one of the best in recent memory, because he wasn’t.

But was he better than his reputation?

I hope this might go a little way in changing at least one person’s opinion.

Buy and Sell – Trimming the Fat in the Transfer Window

This latest transfer window was viewed as a success by the majority, even though the need for a centre-back and a holding midfielder was glaringly overlooked.

Such was the strength of our additions, our paucity for defensive and midfield options didn’t really impact on the optimism in regards to our transfer actions. Bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan represented shrewd and much needed purchases, and puts our attack at the very front when it comes to goal threats.

There was another element that made this window a surefire winner though, and it was the fact we cleared our squad of the driftwood that contributed little to our results.

Coquelin in a Valencia shirt
Walcott left for Everton

Managing to cut loose Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin freed up valuable squad space that could be filled with superior options, or a chance for a promising youngster to come through the ranks.

Losing Alexis Sanchez would hurt any side, and the Chilean going to a rival only added to the burn, but having Alexis in the side means we had to play a certain way and limited our options. Plus, Alexis broke the record for amount of times a player has lost possession in one game in United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield recently. A record he previously held.

It is no coincidence that since he joined, we have lost our regular ability to thrill the crowd and generate moves that draw gasps from the purists and fans alike. The first match we played without Alexis and with our new boys? We played the football that we’re famous for.

Of course it’s early days, we shouldn’t get too carried away, but having our goal threat spread out over Mesut Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Aubameyang is in-keeping with the passing moves we implement. We rely on runners into the box, rather than waiting for one man to produce.

Another loss that could hamper us is Olivier Giroud. The much-loved Frenchman has also departed for a rival, but Giroud’s role was selfless and his introduction into proceedings gave us something different to what we currently possess. We can cope, but having him to call on benefitted us. It would have been selfish to keep him as he needs to play with the World Cup looming, but I fear we may miss Giroud more than we miss the mercurial talents of Alexis.

Mathieu Debuchy and Theo Walcott hadn’t started a league game this season. Francis Coquelin wasn’t playing either. They get first team football, we get a squad place and some cash to reinvest, whether that is through a fee or recouping wages.

Debuchy in a free transfer to St Etienne

Recruiting wisely as we have done, and selling the squad players who were not playing, means we’ve trimmed the fat and not lost any ability to put out a strong side. We still have those players that can come in and do a job and help with rotation, and every man we have in the group can make a difference.

For once, we’ve ticked the majority of boxes and ended a window far stronger than when we started.

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

Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln – Away Fans, Howlers and Alexis is Back

An hours delay is not the best start to a game in a competition most deride as superfluous. 

Someone said that to David Ospina, and the Colombian decided he would try and beat it.

Thanks to masses of Koln fans making the trip to London without a ticket and trying to cram into the Clock End – and succeeding to a degree – it meant that safety was compromised and kickoff could not take place until 2105hrs – over an hour after it was designated.

Still, when our fans did all manage to take their seats, they were treated to the sight of our goalkeeper going a little unhinged and allowing the equally crazed Koln fans the opportunity to make more noise and set off more flares.

Our Cup Keeper raced out of his box to snaffle up a ball over the top of our defence. The problem wans’t that he didn’t get to it first. Oh no, Ospina was the proverbial greyhound. No, the problem was what he did when he got the ball.

The South American goalkeeper booted it flatly and straight to the opposition, and Ospina’s fellow countryman Cordoba lifted it over our keeper who was in No Man”s Land from all of 40 yards. 

1-0, and the first half was now a chase.

We did make chances when we were not busy wasting the opportunity for a final ball, but Koln’s Timo Horn was equal to Olivier Giroud’s header, and Theo Walcott wasted a good chance when found in a good position.

The first half was frustrating, and the boos that followed our players trudging off the pitch were born from a performance that was quite flat at times.

The second half was different though. With a much changed side, we began to find our verve, and it took five minutes to get the equaliser. 

Theo Walcott was at the centre of the action, and his finishing may have been wayward, but his positioning and running could not be faulted. He was found with a superb ball from Mohamed Elneny, and his touch took him wide. His cross was deflected upwards, and the rampaging bull that is Sead Kolasinac took just one touch to lash a volley past the Koln keeper Timo Horn.

From there, it was all Arsenal, and we were looking fully intent on getting the win, as opposed to the first half when there was just vague interest. 

Then, there was a sight to behold for all Gooners to rejoice in. Something that has the potential to change our season dramatically.

It wasn’t Jack Wilshere making an appearance, although he could make a huge dent.

It was the return of Alexis.

Sure, he has made appearances this season, but the goal he scored in this game was pure Chilean spice.

Taking the ball from out wide, he drifted inside, beat two players and from 25 yards, curled an exquisite effort into the top corner, where no goalkeeper’s fingers dare to tread. It was beautiful, it was Alexis.

Whilst he may still want to leave, my love for him will be compromised. However, I say we play him until his legs fall off. Make use of him in the short space of time we have him. 

There was time for one more goal, and it was Hector Bellerin who scored it. Theo Walcott was again involved. Alexis and Big Sead interchanged well, and the Bosnian crossed in. Jack Wilshere dummied it and left it for Theo who took a shot which Horn saved well. The rebound though, fell for the onrushing Bellerin who did manage to beat the German.

A job well done, and the Europa League has been started well. We can really make a go of this competition and it was a big plus that we fought back against a team who were better than their domestic form suggested.

Not only that, our team was massively different than the one we saw last weekend – and very different to the one that will line up against Chelsea this Sunday. 

The way we deal with the short recovery time will be crucial, but we have good form against the Blues recently. Time to convert that to a performance away from home for once. 

Theo Walcott – The Facts

Published on Goonersphere

Amidst the maelstrom of transfer rumours, one of the particular gusts of hot air pertained to the interest of West Ham for two of our players.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were the players in question, and whilst the actual story was about as truthful as a Time Magazine cover featuring Donal Trump, the reaction on social media was a fascinating look at the barometer of opinion on the attacking pair.

There was a potent mix of shouts to both keep and sell Giroud, with most looking to improve our attack with wholesale changes. There was a fair percentage who could acknowledge the Frenchman’s talents though, and his effectiveness as an alternative option from the bench.

The concensus on Theo Walcott though, was heavily in favour of letting the England man go.

Throughout last season and through to this latest link to his exit, our fanbase have not exactly been impressed with our longest serving player. When pressed, most indicated his poor control, his lack of endeavour in tracking back and his wastefulness as key reasons why he is not a player who improves us.

I disagree though, and have done for some time.

If you give me until the end of this article, I hope to at least show you why Walcott is far more than loose debris we need to shake from the rug at London Colney.

Firstly, Walcott scores goals when he plays.

The first nine games last season saw Theo score five times. with two assists. He then missed one game versus Sunderland through a slight injury, and then played the next seven, scoring three. The winger was then injured for five games, but when he did return, we all expected him to hit the ground running again. It took him another five games to hit the net.

It is his slow starts when his rhythm is disrupted that cost him dearly. With many players able to cover his position, it means there can be no adjustment periods. Every player must perform every week and any dip means a spell on the sidelines. 

This is the sole criticism that can be levelled at Walcott. He should be more than acclimatised for returning from injury, but he does take some time to wind up before he begins to hit top gear. Think of him like a car with an awful gearbox but with a fantastic top speed.

The Crystal Palace fiasco then saw him relegated to a bit part role, and no player can produce their best when they are unsure if they will get even the slightest of cameos. Sound like I’m fighting a losing battle?

Stay with me.

19 goals last season. That return is not to be sniffed at. Especially when he was utilised primarily as a wide man and he still bagged three more than his handsome striking counterpart Giroud. What cannot be underestimated is how difficult it is to maintain that elusive sharpness that all goalscorers desire when they are getting splinters in their shorts on the bench.

What about Walcott’s perceived lack of fight and tracking back then?

When placing Walcott, Alexis, The Ox and Raheem Sterling (to add some perception) into a comparison matrix for last season, some surprising numbers popped up.

Well, Theo scored more interceptions than a player famed for his desire and running – Alex Olade-Chamberlain. Walcott also outperformed Raheem Sterling in successful tackles. This is all despite playing less games than both of these players. Interceptions and tackles would not be accrued by sitting on your heels and waiting for possession to come to you. Theo has been working.

Then there is shot percentage. Theo Walcott was equal best with our top scorer Alexis with 58% of all of his shots being on target. As for being wasteful, his percentage of take-ons falls just below The Ox and far above Sterling. His passing percentage is also higher than Alexis’s too.

So, Theo isn’t quite the waste of space people would have you believe. this is not to say the winger is infallible. Far from it, he is still one of the most likely to induce screaming and blood from your eyes through sheer rage. His passing choices are still in question, and he often goes missing.

What is now hopefully clear though, is that Theo is useful. His 19 goals should have been enough to spell that out, but he is a player we could well need next season. 

Why? He makes things happen. He may be completely ineffective for 85 minutes, but Walcott can score a goal even when he has appeared to let the game pass him by. There have been many players who do not add much to the game other than goals, but Walcott gets far more criticism than most.

He is a luxury player, but he is also the Ace in the deck that completely rips up the form guide and changes losing hands into winning ones. Theo Walcott is a far better player than most give him credit for, and we should get behind him.

If he stays fit, then he will get goals. 

Arsenal 5-2 Benfica – The 2017 Emirates Cup

Posted on The Arsenal Review

Arsenal laid on the goals in the first day of the Emirates Cup, with Portuguese champions Benfica hit for five.


The last time Benfica played in this warm-up competition, Yaya Sanogo blitzed them with four goals as Arsenal ran out 5-1 winners. This was a similar story – but without the inspired underdog story of the now departed French striker.


This pre-season tournament is the next step on the way to being fully prepared for the coming season, and the tempo this game was played in suggested Arsene Wenger made sure his troops were fully aware of the need to put their all into this performance. 


The opponents too, played in a gear not familiar with a friendly match, and although they were not victorious, Rui Vitoria will be pleased they managed such a vigorous exercise.


This game saw the debut of our new, blue, away kit. Not to everyone’s taste, at least it was clearly visible on the pristine Emirates pitch. Arsene Wenger went for an experimental lineup – if he cannot do it in a friendly game, then when can he? – but it was not to hold the Gunners back.


David Ospina took the gloves, and again the 3-5-2 formation was implemented. Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker and Sead Kolasinac were the men who formed the backline, and in the all-important wing-back spots were two of our youngsters – Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson.


Midfield was comprised of Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka, with Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi just behind lone striker Olivier Giroud.


The equilibrium may not have quite set on the team, but at times, the click that all managers seek was on display. Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott were always on the front foot and took the game to Benfica defenders Luisao and Eliseu, but it was another who took the plaudits.












Young Reiss Nelson grabbed everyone’s attention on the pre-season tour in Asia, with his no fear approach which cut out chances and he really made things happen. This match though, was like a personal highlights reel for the 17 year old. Full of industry, Nelson never wasted a ball, and his close control at times overshadowed his more experienced and illustrious teammates.


However, it was Benfica who took the lead.


The Portuguese champions had made the early running, and Cervi took a shot which deflected off of Mertesacker. The ball diverted in direction enough to deceive Ospina, and the home side were a goal down.


Only for 13 minutes though.


Sead Kolasinac was making his Emirates bow, and he did enough to show home fans that he will have a positive impact. It was down to the Bosnian defender that Arsenal grabbed the equaliser, not giving up on a lost cause, keeping the ball in play and crossing for Theo Walcott, who volleyed into the net from inside the box.


Eight minutes later, the Gunners had the lead. It was Kolasinac again who was involved, this time he linked up well with Coquelin, who squared for an ominously lurking Walcott to finish easily.


The first half still had legs though, and a defensive lapse saw Benfica pull the score back to 2-2.


Xhaka and Elneny – a first half replacement for the injured Coquelin – were nowhere to be seen as the away team launched an attack. It was left to Mertesacker to show initiative. The German’s last-ditch tackle nearly worked, but the ball fell kindly for Salvio, and another deflection put paid to Ospina’s attempt to save.


The second half was a much more complete display from Arsenal. We held off Benfica’s intermittent attacks with relative ease, and it was only eight minutes until we regained the lead.


It was Theo Walcott again, his cross-cum-shot was put into his own net by Lisandro Lopez, and it was the least we deserved. Theo could have clinched his hat-trick seconds later, but after Giroud laid off the ball well, Walcott could only smack the ball well over.


















Soon enough, it was four for Arsenal. This was all Reiss Nelson. The youngster flicked the ball to make room for a effervescent cross which Giroud diverted past the Benfica goalkeeper Julio Cesar with an outstretched boot.


Then it was five. Giroud used his body well to make room for Iwobi who absolutely pummelled the ball into the net.


Game over, and then, the raft of subs came which took the speed out of the match.


The Ox came on for the impressive Nelson, Lacazette replaced Walcott, Nacho swapped with Maitland-Niles, Mesut Ozil was on for Alex Iwobi and Ramsey took to the field for Granit Xhaka.


Arsenal saw out the game comfortably, and they can look back on a display which shows they are slowly improving their sharpness and pace. Not only that, but the fans were given a great show to whet the appetite for the coming campaign.


Let us not forget the class of opposition too. Benfica had their part to play for this hectic game, but they couldn’t handle the sharp interchanges in and around the box.


Next up is Sevilla, who defeated RB Leipzig 1-0. It’ll be another tough fixture against a pedigree foe, but there are still players who haven’t featured, so the lineup will be vastly different – as inferred by Wenger in his Press Conference before the tournament began.


So while the talk continues to centre on Alexis Sanchez and his future, Gooners can at least find solace in the fact that Arsenal are firing. 

Arsenal Vs Sunderland Preview

Kickoff – 1945GMT

Despite our impressive recent run in the League, the illustrious top4 spot is out of our hands after Liverpool crushed West Ham 4-0 on Sunday.

It means that even if we win our last two games, if Klopp’s team beat Middlesbrough in their last game in the weekend, then we will miss out on the Champions League next season. 

It doesn’t look rosy for our prospects, and our returning form has come a little too late to rescue our bid for European Cup qualification. While there is a chance though, the games we have must be won, so next up is already relegated Sunderland.

The temptation to take the foot off the gas when facing a team already consigned to relegation is large, but the Black Cats showed when they faced Hull that now the pressure is off, they are more than capable of producing something.  

This is also the fifth game in just 17 days, so rotation may well come into play. Will the players give everything to the cause in a bid to earn a starting spot for the FA Cup Final? Or will they seek to preserve themselves and avoid any injury before such a big game? 

One worry is Alexis Sanchez. In imperious form against Stoke, the Chilean faces a fitness test before the game tonight, but Laurent Koscielny returned to the team against Stoke, whether he will be risked again is another thing. Wenger stated that Koscielny has a little reoccurrence of the calf injury which kept him out of the Southampton game – I would hazard a guess that Gabriel may slot in to keep Koscielny wrapped in cotton wool before Everton and Chelsea.

Rob Holding performed exceptionally well against the Potters, and we fans have a new song for the impressive youngster. The second season syndrome may kick in for Holding, but his composure and talent is shining right now, and he has fully earned his spot in the team. Kieran Gibbs is back in contention but The Ox is still out with his hamstring. 

This game gives a few the chance to get back into favour, and Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin could all start the game. The health of our squad is strong, but they should know they have underperformed this campaign. 

Sunderland boss David Moyes will be looking for his charges to prove to him they are worth keeping, and the ones looking to escape will be looking to put themselves in the shop window. The Black Cats will be up for the game and it is not a foregone conclusion, even if us Gooners will be fully expecting maximum points.

We need the win if we are to take the top4 fight into the final game. Sunderland have won just one game in their last six, and scored four goals in the process. David Moyes is facing the heat from Mackem fans, but the continuity in place if he stays will stand them in good stead in the choppy waters of the Championship. He also will be keen to keep hold of some of the players who have not let him down, such as Khazri, Watmore and Cattermole. It is a foregone conclusion that his starman, Jermain Defoe, will be on the move in the summer though. The 34 year old striker has proved that even in a struggling team he can find the net with regularity, and teams in the PL know that finding a striker who can give them regular goals is a hard task indeed. A bidding war in the summer?

So, Arsene Wenger needs another win to keep up the chase on Liverpool. Our form and Sunderland’s spell out only one possible result, but we all know the Premier League doesn’t work out like that!

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Holding, Gabriel, Coquelin, Ramsey, Bellerin, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Hull City – The Warm-Up

Our last two games will not show up on this season’s highlight reel, but the best way to ease the awful images of those awful games is to win. 

We’ve had to endure one week of misery, but Hull City visit The Emirates and it gives us the chance to rectify our wretched recent run. As we have learned to our cost so far this campaign though, it will be far from an easy task.

The stadium may well be half empty if rumours of a ‘stayaway’ are to be believed on Twitter. Will they be missing a welcome return to form? Or something more sinister like last week?

Arsene Wenger has been grilled by the Press since last week, and his conferences have revealed that Hector Bellerin may well miss out after having Marcus Alonso’s elbow nearly took his head off in the 3-1 defeat last weekend. The Spaniard will have a fitness test before the game to determine his availability, with Gabriel again waiting to stand in.

There is a boost as Mohamed Elneny has returned to London Colney after playing for Egypt in the AFCON. The Egyptian may well go straight into the side, as Granit Xhaka is still suspended and Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are out through injury. This leaves Elneny, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain as the only viable choices for the central midfield roles, as well as impressive youngster Ainslie Maitland-Niles. 

Alexis Sanchez has been in impressive form in the past against the Tigers. In three games, he has had a hand in six goals (five goals and one assist) and the Chilean will again be the main threat for us. Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott all wait for the teamsheet to find out if they will have a role in the team, but who will get the nod? Fans are clamouring for a Lucas Perez start, Theo and Welbeck have shown they play extremely well together, and Giroud has been enjoying a great run of goals. 

Our squad may be in rude health in attacking numbers, but it has mattered little in terms of cohesion recently. Hull have toughened up under new boss Marco Silva, and our pool of talent may well be hard pushed to break the resistance that the away team will show up with. They did this to Liverpool to great effect, but will have to make do without skipper Michael Dawson and Abel Hernandez.

Silva has previous for wins at The Emirates – he was in charge of Olympiacos when they won 3-2 in the Champions League here last season, so the Portuguese boss is well aware of what makes our side tick. 

Hull have an atrocious record against the Gunners – winless in thirteen games in all competitions – and the last win they recorded against us was in their first season in the Premiership back in 2008.

They recruited well in January though, and Lazar Markovic will return to the side after being ineligible to play against his parent club Liverpool. Ahmed Elmohamady will also return after playing alongside Elneny in Egypts run to the AFCON final. His pinpoint deliveries will provide excellent service from set-plays – something that they will look to capitalise on.

With Liverpool a point behind us – and amazingly Manchester United only two points behind us as well, we need a win. Any kind of win. A comprehensive thrashing would provide a salve of sorts after a hellish last week, but three points no matter how we achieve it, will be more than crucial.

Manchester City leapfrogged us, and with tottenham three points ahead of us and looking dangerous, we must ride through this storm and find form quickly.

The only way to get back our mojo is to grab victory.

Next up, we have Bayern Munich!!

Estimated Lineup: Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Estimated Scoreline: I’ve been off form lately, but I’m going for a 3-0 win. 

Chelsea Vs Arsenal – The Warm-Up

With the disappointing – and quite frankly anger-inducing – loss to Watford, this game at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea could not carry any more weight.

It is feasible to suggest that if the Gunners fail to win this game and it is lights out for this season’s title challenge – in February.

Arsene Wenger will again be missing from the touchline, and he takes a security team with him as he will be sitting in the away section of Chelsea’s home. This game is the third of four games he must be absent from the dugout, and how his team will fare without him in the heat of the enemy’s support is up for debate.

Arsenal will have to do without a host of central midfield options for this game. Granit Xhaka is suspended, Mohamed Elneny is still wth his country competing in the AFCON, Santi Cazorla is no nearer to making a comeback from his injury woes – and now Aaron Ramsey is out for this game after straining his calf. The Welshman is expected to be out for three weeks, so his replacement is thought to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox himself had a fitness test, but is expected to make the team.

Besides, who else can do it? Francis Coquelin is the only available recognised central midfielder, so a central partnership of The Ox and Coquelin will be taking to the pitch at Stamford Bridge. Ainslie Maitland-Niles played well last weekend against Southampton, but the opposition is a level up from what he has previously faced. 

Who else will be missing? Olivier Giroud is another Gunner to have faced a fitness test, but Danny Welbeck will be available, as will Theo Walcott. So who plays in our attack? Welbeck and Walcott are very much in form, and their pace and movement will be a nightmare for David Luiz and co. So will Wenger stick with what he knows and include Giroud again? The Frenchman has proved his worth time and again, but what he brings to the table is very much what Chelsea’s defence are extremely adept at dealing with.that sort of battle.

Could they stymie a combined attack of Walcott, Welbeck and Alexis? 

It will also bring the best out of Mesut Ozil, who has been sub-par of late. The German is the best player to spot the abundant runs of the trio above, but it is Wenger’s call. Does he opt for the cut and thrust of the Arsenal of old? Do we finally take the handbrake off? It has seldom been taken off recently.

Elsewhere in the side, Petr Cech returns to the location where he was a huge success. The big Czech criticised his teammates this week regarding their mentality, and the goalkeeper certainly recognises a winning outlook when he sees it. He will be between the sticks for the game, and the recognised Arsenal back four of Bellerin,. Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal are all ready and raring to go.Mustafi was nursing a knock midweek, but should make the game.

The defence will be well versed with the chief threat in the Chelsea camp. Diego Costa has made his presence felt in more ways than goals in previous encounters. Koscielny won the battle in the last fixture between the two – can he do so again?

We have a poor recent record at Stamford Bridge, and with literally our Premier League campaign on the line – it is high time we rectified the situation.

Time for this squad to show what they are made of. 

Predicted Lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Precited Scoreline – 2-0 to Arsenal.

Arsenal 1-2 Watford – 5 Lessons to Learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coquelin and Ramsey do not work together still

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

Gabriel has not evolved

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

Lucas and Theo need to start 

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

Bench Ozil and Alexis




















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

Cech back on form

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

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

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