Tag Archives: trophy

The Anti-Arsenal Agenda

The media agenda has never been clearer.

We should have seen it before, cried out at the injustice of the journalists and experts who have continuously hitched a ride on the Arsenal train to boost their flagging numbers.

Let us look at recent attempts to discolour the truth.

Never happier than during our trophy drought – repeated focus on our nine years without silverware, despite their darlings Liverpool being without a trophy since 2012, and tottenham bereft of anything to put inside their dusty cabinet since 2008 – the League Cup – writers held up our barren run as something that was not acceptable.

When we did hold aloft the FA Cup in 2014 to end the terrible run, newspapers, radio hosts et al then switched their gaze upon our lack of a Premier League since 2004. Like the FA Cup was an insignificant piece of history, as if it didn’t register in the annals of footballing history. This switch even though Liverpool and tottenham have NEVER won a Premier League trophy.

When Manchester United won the FA Cup in 2016, it was lauded as a significant step in the recovery of the Red Devils. Yet we had won it two years on the spin before United achieved their win at Wembley.

The Wenger era was faltering, there could be no doubt, but we had won silverware. It mattered little though, as our failings rather than our success that fed the media machine. When we did stumble? Manna from heaven for the journalists.

When we eventually fell out of the Champions League reckoning? It was only  a matter of time. Every year, every publication, every show, they all predicted the final positions of each coming season. For five years prior to us finishing fifth in 2016, the lions share of experts would predict that we would finish well out of the top4. When it did happen many years later, it wasn’t seen as an epic fail or egg on the face of those that are supposed to know – it was used as vindication.

Of course Arsenal finished outside of the top4 – look, we’ve been saying it for years!!!

Now we have a new man at the helm. After more than two decades at Arsenal, Wenger had left the club and we had Unai Emery who was tasked with returning the Gunners to the top table of English and European football. Change after such a long time is difficult, and the level-headed ones amongst us recognised this and were optimistic, yet guarded. It would take time to instill Emery’s values, tactics and framework. The Spaniard’s processes would differ from Wenger’s inevitably, and a period of adjustment would be needed.

Emery-team-talk

After the first two games of the season we were pointless, and the stories surrounding us all were loving every minute. Emery stuck gamely to his principles though, and even though we still have plenty to work on, Emery oversaw a fantastic run that helped us up the table and progress in the Europa League.

The blemish-free run was in the face of a squad that were adapting to new measures and ways that would hamper any attempt to hit top gear – and yet we were winning.

The focus in the news?

Our shaky defence. The amount of chances we were presenting. All genuine causes for concern but the actual main thread?

All the while, Liverpool and tottenham struggled in the Champions League.

How were their efforts described?

Unlucky. Brave. Heroic. Full of effort.

It shows that no matter what we do, unless Emery masterminds a blitz toward the title,the external opinions surrounding our club from outsiders will always be tainted. It also highlights that both the Reds and spurs enjoy a certain leeway from writers and presenters who are meant to be delivering honest assessments.

What has overtaken real news is attention. Clicks and hits.

What gets clicks and hits? Disgruntled Arsenal fans.

During my research for my book about the title-winning team of 1990/91, I found that George Graham commented on this even back then, saying that the anti-Arsenal bias existed even in the days of pre-internet.

This isn’t a new thing, yet it is getting worse.

Match Of The Day never highlight our excellent passages of play, yet always remember to showcase other clubs.

When Stewart Robson comes out with another pearl regarding how poor Arsenal are, pay him no heed.

The next time Neil Ashton or Adrian Durham spew forth some bile regarding Arsenal’s bleak future or lowering targets? Ignorance is bliss.

Courting controversy is what they are doing, and we are playing our part too, by feeling the need to vent our spleens at such idiotic content.

Let us just enjoy the Emery revolution and constantly remind ourselves that impartiality is predominantly dead, and if you do find a writer whose opinion you respect?

Those are the clicks we should be giving away. Rewarding those who present us with agenda-free content.

Promises and Savouring the Journey

The season, Unai Emery’s first and the beginning of a new era of Arsenal, is in full swing.

 

The football is in a transitory stage, and when the dust settles, an Unai Emery modelled team will indeed make us a far tougher outfit than before. We can already see the seeds of Emery’s free-flowing attack in flashes – the non-stop movement and team-built moves that were the foundation of his success with Sevilla.

 

We also have a squad that is better equipped than in previous seasons. Defensive inequities remain, but this isn’t down to the personnel like in years before.

 

The future is bright, but for some, the future isn’t good enough.

 

Success is never quite close enough, glory always on the horizon but never within grasp.

 

images (1)

 

We are filled with promises from politicians that carry as much weight as the flakiest pastry, it is becoming the norm where someone’s word is worth nothing. So is it really surprising that we hold no optimism where the future is concerned?

 

Unai Emery will be painfully aware that he needs a modicum of success if he is to etch his name permanently into the annals of Arsenal. If he fails then he will be just another managerial casualty.

 

The requirements are simple, far simpler than at the majority of clubs. Do what Arsene failed to do in his last two seasons – reach the Champions League.

 

This means ousting two from Man United, Chelsea, tottenham, Liverpool and City. the Champions. Seeing as two of these teams look to be ahead of the chasing pack, that leaves two teams from four, including us.

 

The League is getting tougher and tougher to get at those pesky top four spots, but Emery’s prime objective could be fulfilled another way.

 

As aforementioned, our squad has been bolstered beyond what means we had for our last foray into the Europa League. We reached the Semi-Final then, with a tired team that couldn’t fully motivate in what was Wenger’s last season.

 

We now have a coach who is somewhat of a specialist in this competition. Like it or not too, if we were to lift this trophy, it would be our biggest European triumph. If Emery were to recreate his winning with Sevilla, it would be more than enough to sate the doubters and also the Board.

 

The Top4 may be a big leap, and so is the Europa League, but fighting on both fronts is a must. Emery is equipped to bring glory to the team, but his first season is a building effort. Targets may be in place but we must also realise that if we fall short, there are reasons why.

 

We aren’t where we need to be. We are building, pushing towards an accumulated effort which takes time.

 

We could lift a cup, we might not, but we need to enjoy the journey, as we are on the right path and progress is being made. If it doesn’t happen this season, we can at least rest assured that this is a lesson we need to learn to achieve more.

 

Patience is indeed a virtue, but we need to stop being so short-sighted and only see the struggle. Obstacles make the journey more exciting and for once, we need to have faith in the promises being made.

 

The struggle is real, but so are the words being spoken. We are on our way to silverware again.

What Makes A Good Season For Emery?

The slate has been wiped clean.

 

No preconceptions, no existing variables that can temper an end result.

 

This season will be hard to gauge for this very reason, but what constitutes a good season for Unai Emery’s new regime?

Unai-Emery-716003

The Spaniard has spent a moderate amount of money to reinforce a squad that appeared threadbare in Wenger’s final season. Normally, the amount spent correlates to a certain amount of pressure on the coach, but Emery seems to be exempt from this.

 

The reason for this? Probably because of what Emery inherited. He had a team that could only crane their neck upwards at the top places. We had certain top quality players, but we were lopsided. If the squad stayed as it was from last season, then any coach would struggle to contend for a Champions League place.

 

So, is that the barometer now for Emery? Does the Spanish coach need to reach the top4 in order for this season to be gauged a success?

 

Maybe not.

 

Whatever is achieved or not, whether Emery’s first campaign is viewed as successful is entirely subjective.  Some may view a mere improvement on last season as a good season for us.

 

Some may demand a return to European football’s pinnacle in order for our new coach to be able to claim progress.

 

What of a trophy though?

 

If we simply maintained our position of 6th from last term, but we lifted either the FA Cup or, preferably, the Europa League?  Would this constitute success to most of us?

 

Emery has a battle on his hands in terms of duking it out on the league front, with our rivals reinforcing their sides from the ones who finished above us last season. If he brought us Champions League football then it would be a return to where we belong, but it would also be a return to a competition that we have no real chance of winning.

 

The Europa League is a breath of fresh air as we are going into it with genuine hopes of winning the trophy. It would also be the biggest European trophy we will have won. It’s a wonderful feeling, the intoxicating nights midweek when knockout football means all or nothing, but we have a fair chance of actually progressing to the next round.

 

Emery is a well-documented specialist in this competition – the rest schedule, the level required – and he will indeed push his squad to make the most of the chance to give us memories we can’t forget.

 

If Emery was to win a trophy in his first season, it would make his debut campaign instantly memorable. His new tactics are taking time to bed in though, so should we take this into account?

 

Patience is hard to apply when losses are coming thick and fast. but we haven’t merely changed a manager. Our whole style on the pitch is changing. Pressing, moving, fitness, defence, passing – all changing, and this demands time. When the finished article is present and polished, then we can judge, but right  now?

 

That’s like going to view your new car when it’s being constructed – and then passing judgement over it.

 

We are a work in progress, and if we are competing with our rivals, then that could be viewed as satisfactory for this season.

 

What constitutes a success for Emery then this season?

 

Get us back to where we can go into a game against the clubs expected to finish above us, and have a sliver of optimism that doesn’t feel ludicrous to suggest out loud. We want Arsenal back where we belong.

 

A trophy would be nice, but this season neews to show the buds of new beginnings. That should be enough for the majority of us.

Carabao Cup Final – Arsenal Vs Man City Preview

Despite our inability to muster any form of consistency throughout a turbulent season, we’ve somehow got a great chance at some silverware.

The League Cup has been derided for many years, but in recent seasons, some of the elite have gone all out to claim the trophy. And what’s not to desire?

It is a Wembley trip for fans, it’s a trophy in what is becoming a lethal battleground for glory. to win a cup is harder than ever, so Arsene Wenger must be delighted we’re just one game away from lifting silverware.

It also represents the only domestic trophy he has never won, and winning it would mean he joins an elite group of managers. His opponent that blocks his path to the annals of history though, couldn’t be much tougher.

Pep Guardiola’s City side are walking away with the title and are looking a tasty bet for the Champions League, although it is rather early to say. We’ve only beaten them once in the last five games and we sit a massive 27 points behind them in the Premier League table.

There are strands of optimism to latch onto though.

Claudio Bravo will be taking City’s goalkeeping spot ahead of the effervescent Ederson, and the former Barca man may be talented, but his own way of commanding his area has not translated well to our shores. He represents a weakness in the City juggernaut.

Then there is the defence. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are well covered by Pep’s attention to detail and his need for an effective press, but when pressured, their insistence to play out from the back can be preyed upon.

Still, we need to be at our best to use these weaknesses as weapons, and we haven’t been anywhere near that for some time. We’ve hit splashes of form – our North London Derby win earlier in the season was particularly effective, and our games against Chelsea have shown we can knuckle down and play a different way.

They’ve been few and far between though.

In terms of team news, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied, so it looks as if Jack Wilshere will take his place in the side. Mesut Ozil should return after illness and Aaron Ramsey – he who is making a welcome habit of having an impact in cup finals – looks set to return too.

In defence, we should be able to recall Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal to our defence. That is a huge boost as without them we are as weak as kittens fighting off any form of attack – and City have one of the best.

Gabriel Jesus is available for selection, but with Aguero on form it may be a place on the bench for the fit-again Brazilian. Kevin DeBruyne will provide the ammo, but Raheem Sterling is nursing a muscle strain and could miss out. Fabian Delph is suspended.

There will be many key areas that we need to win on the pitch if we’re to harbour any hope of upsetting the odds. Midfield is certainly the most important.

If Granit Xhaka and Rambo can take control in the engine room, then they can make sure that City’s defence is kept in a pressure cooker, and when they play out from deep, we can keep a high line and eke out mistakes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is vital to this plan.

The Gabon striker is lightning-heeled, and if he presses effectively, then the likes of Otamendi, Stones or Laporte and Gundogan could be pushed into corners. Pivotal to City is David Silva.

The little Spaniard so often provides the link between DeBruyne and midfield, and if he’s allowed any space, then the battle is lost. Xhaka needs to pick up his runners more effectively, and if he does then half the battle is won.

Another talking point has been whether to use a 3-man defence. It seems to be better suited to combat City’s attack, and when Nacho is more central, then we seem a little tougher to beat.

This could prove to be a turning point in our season, a catalyst. Or it could be a false dawn. Either way, we should be giving everything to this cause – something our players can’t claim to have done for a while.

Predicted scoreline – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Aubameyang

Predicted scoreline – 3-2 to The Arsenal. #UTA

The Europa League – Arsenal In It To Win It?

For many, it was fair game for years. A laugh-inducing tool of procrastination, poking fun at our neighbours whilst looking down our noses from the highest of perches – the Champions League.

‘Thursday is Spursday’ was a typical favourite, and we all took part in dishing out digs, whilst we engaged in brandy and cigars with the power people in rooms behind closed doors. The Champions League is the desire of all teams who aspire to glory, and it was hilarious that tottenham continually missed out.


Eventually though, our grip loosened. The membership card we had for this exclusive soiree expired. We looked on at the entrance as the former butt of our jokes flashed a smug grin and was welcomed in.


The roles have been reversed, and the only door that is open for us is the Europa League – the very destination that generated hilarious memes and jokes aimed squarely at spurs.


Should we take this tournament a little more seriously however?










The Europa League’s stock has risen in recent years, through many different factors. Firstly, the number of Champions League-worthy teams has risen as money has poured into European football. A plethora of rivals in every domestic competition – none more so than the Premier League – means it is harder than ever to force our way into Europe’s premiere competition.


It has also helped that UEFA has decided to grant the winner of the Europa League a spot in the Champions League.


It has resulted in this 2nd class tournament elevating itself in its standing. Plus, with recent winners being Chelsea and Manchester United, if it is good enough for them, why can’t it be good enough for us to at least take seriously?


Whilst we see our team amongst the hierarchy in terms of European clubs, in terms of honours, we flag behind our esteemed brethren.


If we gauge in terms of European honours, then our Fairs Cup win in 1970 and our Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1994 are our sole baubles, on a tree that is sorely lacking in decorations.


Of course, it could have been so different if Paris had gone a little different, or even Copenhagen in 2000. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but what is clear is that our club needs to add to our accolades, especially in European competition.


The Champions League has been the table we have dined at for decades, and yet can we say it has been an enjoyable experience in the last ten years? Entering a place where you know you have a strict time limit before you are unceremoniously dumped out the door?


No, it hasn’t been fun at all. Thumpings at the hands of the clubs we claim to want to stand toe-to-toe with, which only serve to highlight the gulf in between us.


The Europa League gives us a chance to be the big fish for once, rather than swimming in a pond, fearful of being eaten with every movement.


The competition is more hotly contested than ever, but we should  be able to progress to the latter stages whilst simultaneously rotating our squad to deal with the more important Premier League fixtures. Let us not get twisted here, the Premiership should be our main focus, but there is no reason why we cannot fight on two fronts.


There will be difficulties of course. The fixture scheduling will take some getting used to, playing on a Thursday and then the following Sunday/Monday will be a task that requires all the skills of the myriad of backroom staff we currently employ. We have the squad to do it though.


Our group stage consists of BATE Borisov, FC Koln and Red Star Belgrade. Two difficult away trips, but there should be nothing there that should outwit us. Players such as Jack Wilshere, Reiss Nelson, David Ospina, Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud have all been used sparingly this season, and they have more than enough in their locker to match and surpass these teams.


We currently do not have enough in our trophy cabinet to snub this competition. The Europa League, if we won it, would be one of the finest triumphs in our history. We have some amazing memories, but in terms of European honours, we could really do with this trophy in our cabinet.


If we were lucky enough to do so, then the European Super Cup beckons, and also, the Champions League again.


There could be some glittering memories made under the floodlights in The Emirates during a successful run to the final.

Our stadium sorely needs things like this, as the shadow of Highbury still looms over it. 

Arsenal Win 2017 Community Shield! 

Published on The Arsenal Review.

Arsenal came from behind to defeat Chelsea on penalties and win the 2017 Community Shield.

Whilst some denounce the Community Shield as nothing more than just another friendly, there are some reasons that unfolded on the pitch to suggest Arsenal can be quietly confident this coming season. 

Arsene Wenger was unable to call on leading lights Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, as well as Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, so his selected eleven was a weaker one than he would have preferred. 

Alex Iwobi came into the team and Danny Welbeck was in the attacking three also. Per Mertesacker came into the team to once again haunt Chelsea, with Mohamed Elneny taking Rambo’s midfield spot.

Antonio Conte had the luxury of a nearly complete squad, with only Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko missing. It meant Chelsea went into the game as favourites, but just like the FA Cup Final – Arsenal paid no heed to their underdog tag.

The Gunners were faster out of the blocks, with Alexandre Lacazette looking in good touch and Hector Bellerin getting forward to great effect.

It would be Lacazette who would have the best chance too, linking up well with Bellerin before curling an effort onto the post with Courtois beaten. 

Before that, Gary Cahill smashed his elbow into the nose of Per Mertesacker, forcing the German off with blood pouring from the wound. On came new boy Sead Kolasinac, and the Bosnian would make a big difference. 

Chelsea did have one opportunity, and one they claimed should have been a penalty. William went down and referee Bobby Maddely booked the Brazilian for simulation. Upon close inspection, it could have gone either way as there was contact, but Willian did make the most of it.

Half time came and went and it was Chelsea who started the better in the second half, and Victor Moses broke the deadlock.

The Nigerian, the villain of the FA Cup Final in May, chested down a header from Cahill and slotted past Cech. 

The Blues started to gain confidence, but the ten minutes of pressure after the goal they exerted came to nothing.

It would cost them dearly.

Granit Xhaka stretched Courtois with a ferocious long range strike, but Gooners had to wait until the 82nd minute for the equaliser their team deserved.

The 80th minute saw Pedro plant his studs on the Achilles of Elneny, and the Spaniard was sent off. The resultant set-piece saw Xhaka float in a tantalising ball which Sead Kolasinac met and he headed into the far corner.

There would be no extra time, so penalties were the order of the day. This would be the first fixture where the order of the takers would switch to the new ‘ABBA’ format. The reason? 60% of the sides who took the first penalty in the old format would win.

So, history was made, and Arsenal again were successful in a shootout, with Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata missing their efforts and Arsenal converting all of theirs.

The Shield was won, and again they had won a trophy with holes in their side. It was the display which pleased most of us though. Tough but swift in attack at times, Arsenal look well equipped for the coming season. 

This may or may not constitute a trophy, but it is definitely a great start. 

Community Shield Preview

Published on The Arsenal Review

The season finally gets underway with this fixture. The Community Shield has been the curtain-raiser for many years, and this season starts with a London derby with plenty of expected fireworks to look forward to.

Last season saw the Gunners edge out their West London opponents in terms of amount of victories – one apiece in League wins, with Arsenal grabbing the decider with their victory in the FA Cup Final – but Antonio Conte winning the title in his first season means the Blues will start this fixture as favourites.









Last season means precious little however. Both sides will be fit and raring to go after both clubs have enjoyed extensive series of matches home and abroad, so there should be no lack of rhythm or final ball. 

This event is meant to be a friendly, but it will be anything but as both sides will be eager to score psychological points over the other. Both outfits will be expected to be near the top come the end of the season, and a winning start over a rival is something that may be a big boost – and a huge dent for the other.

Both sides have already met in pre-season, with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners in Asia. It may have smarted, but this game carries far more weight.

Arsene Wenger has said in his Press Conference that his squad is nearly completely injury free, so the Gunners boss has some difficult calls to make. The only omissions from the squad will be Santi Cazorla and Gabriel, as well as Francis Coquelin. Will Wenger opt for the 3-5-2? Or will he fall back on his old faithful – the 4-2-3-1?

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were carrying knocks but are expected to make it, but what of Alexis? The Chilean has just returned to training, will he come straight back into the team? In truth, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack for Wenger, with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette all vying for the striker spot.

If Wenger does go for three at the back, will Shkodran Mustafi miss out? The German has missed the majority of training, but is technically fit and available for selection. If Mustafi does miss out, will it be Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny or Per Mertesacker that will partner Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal?

So many questions, but Antonio Conte has just as many quandaries. With Alvaro Morata, Kevin Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko added to an already bulging roster, what will Chelsea’s eleven look like? Will the success of last season dictate Conte’s selection? Or will Morata and co get a baptism of fire? He will have to make do without Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury.

Whoever makes the team at Wembley, they will surely know that this is no ordinary ‘friendly.’ Both sets of fans will want this trophy badly, as will the Managers, although they will be loath to declare their wanting. This match matters though, make no mistake.

Chelsea are favourites for this game, but they were overwhelming favourites in May – and look how that turned out.

Potential Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.


Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.

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 Odds On For Success In May?

Predicting the future is pretty much impossible – no matter what that lady in the tent in Blackpool told you. 

Predicting the Premier League though, is as difficult as gravel-throated Sean Dyche singing falsetto. 

Fear not though, there are certain pointers and clues between the lines that can shorten the odds and ease your mental anguish.

Fourteen games into the thirty eight that consist of a Premier League season, it is as typically tight as ever. Can Arsenal finally break their thirteen year hiatus from the title? The football odds suggest so.

The clues are there, but how much faith can we place in them when Leicester City won the title last year? The Foxes pretty much cantered the league and the season prior, they escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. Can form really last over a whole season like it did with Ranieri’s men?

One thing Leicester did well was deal with the big teams. The clubs who begin every season with genuine title aspirations were undone by Vardy, Mahrez and company as their pragmatic style and switched-on defending were the rocks which Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and pretty much every other team crashed upon.

Everyone but Arsenal, that is. 

The Gunners – and Liverpool once – were the only teams to break down the equation that was Leicester’s gameplan and Arsenal did it both home and away. Yet Arsene Wenger’s team finished a distant ten points behind the Foxes in second place – and lost four more games than the eventual champions.

The fact remains though, that it is usually how you deal with the big games that keeps your ship on the correct course. Those that crumble on the big occasions can be found in a heap, crawling towards the Europa League.

On that front, approaching the halfway point, Arsenal are faring well. In four matches against their traditional rivals (United, tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool) hey have picked up five points from a possible twelve. Not exactly fanfare-inducing, but crucially, they have lost only once – the first game of the season against Liverpool with a makeshift backline.

Jose Mourinho has made a career from playing crunch fixtures with the mantra ‘Do not lose.’ He sends his troops into battle happy to play for a point, and they will get back to winning ways against the weaker swimmers. It has served him well and even with an unsettled team at United, his eleven are still a formidable test.

Arsene Wenger has assembled a far stronger unit that in previous seasons,  and possess one of the most lethal strikers in the league in Alexis Sanchez.

Last season the Chilean was out on the left which is his preferred position, but this campaign has seen a move to a central striking spot – and Alexis now sits atop the scoring charts. Every title challenger needs a prolific goalscorer and Arsene Wenger has once again worked his magic and made some subtle changes to create a goalscoring threat.

Just one of the reasons why Arsenal are vastly improved from last season, and one of the biggest lies with the Gunners annual malaise come each November.

Their yearly wobbles have seen them first clumsily stumble, then cruelly trip over their own feet in years gone by in the eleventh month of the year. This season, as well as their more stoic outlook in the bigger games, has seen that stiff upper lip affect their statistically weakest moments.

Three Premier League matches were played by Arsenal in November – and none were lost. They weren’t pretty, in fact they were the antithesis of what Arsenal represent, but they did not taste defeat. One win and two draws were bagged and if we were to count cup games as well, then there would be only one loss in six.

They kept pace with Chelsea at the top of the league, they present a much stiffer challenge to their title rivals, and their squad is well stocked in all positions. 

These are the pointers, the clues between the lines, that say that Arsenal are nearer than ever to holding aloft the trophy they haven’t touched in thirteen years. There are huge hurdles to overcome yet – at least twenty four of them – but Gooners everywhere can be filled with optimism that they are on the right track.

The bookies see Arsenal as one of the favourites as well as a few others. Perhaps they might be onto something. 

Meeting Wrighty and the Premiership Trophy

Opportunities, when they present themselves, must be grasped firmly. Regret is a poison that can be avoided as long as these chances are taken when they arise.

Meeting bonafide Arsenal icon Ian Wright is one of these very opportunities.

Thanks to a good friend ( Josh, I owe you! ) and Barclays, I was invited, along with a group of Leicester City and Spurs fans, to meet heroes from each respective club, offer our opinions on our prospective title chances and get some snaps alongside the most shiny of baubles – the Premier League trophy.

image

Continue reading Meeting Wrighty and the Premiership Trophy