Tag Archives: Walcott

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.

Team of the Decade Part Two

So, our team of the decade is well underway, with Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal comprising our backline.

Now onto our midfield and our attack. Despite our much-vaunted woes during this decade, and our slide away from constant contention, we have still been blessed with many talented players. So picking our best midfield and attack will be no easy task. If you disagree with any choices, let me know – this is very much down to opinion!

 

So, first up, our wingers.

Here’s the pool to choose from:

Theo Walcott

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Tomas Rosicky

Samir Nasri

Andriy Arshavin

Gervinho

Alex Iwobi

Reiss Nelson

Bukayo Saka

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Yossi Benayoun

 

The winners? Theo and Rosicky.

Rosicky

Theo

 

The reason this list isn’t longer? It comes down to the adaptation of the players in the squad. So many times we’ve had midfielders and strikers playing the wide roles, and with the use of 4-2-3-1, the conventional wideman has been replaced by wide forwards.

But the two above are more than deserving. If it weren’t for injury. Both would have an even higher standing amongst the fanbase.

Still, some will point to Walcott’s profligate finishing and lack of end product. Some will point to the meagre amount of games Rosicky played thanks to aforementioned injuries.

The stats don’t lie though. Theo amassed one game shy of 400 games for us, and scored 108 times, with 78 assists. That is nearly a goal involvement every two games – not bad for an inconsistent, one-dimensional player. He was much more than a speed merchant.

Then we come to Tomas. We all adored the little Czech, and for good reason. When free from injury, he would grace the pitch with beautiful touches and instinctive play that added to attacks effortlessly. He still made 248 appearances for the Gunners, scoring 29 times and making 22 assists, but it was the way his style embodied the way we aspired to play that we will remember.

 

Now for the engine room. It has been a bit ropey at times in the centre of the pitch, as the majority of the decade was taken up by a search for an effective defensive presence. Here’s what we have to choose from:

Santi Cazorla

Granit Xhaka

Aaron Ramsey

Jack Wilshere

Mohamed Elneny

Jo Willock

Lucas Torreira

Mesut Ozil

Mikel Arteta

Francis Coquelin

Lassana Diarra

Denilson

Alex Song

Mathieu Flamini

Cesc Fabregas

 

The judges choices? Santi and Aaron.

Cazorla and Ramsey

There were a few here who could have justified their place in the team of the decade. Jack Wilshere’s injuries left his impact far smaller than it should have been, but when fit, he was one of our best. Then there is the enigmatic Ozil, who can go from sublime to ectoplasmic in seconds.

But the chosen two were the most impactful. Ramsey scored 65 goals and registered 65 assists in his 371 games in our colours, and his specialty was scoring in big games. We’ll never forget his FA Cup final winners of 2014 and 2017, and while his midfield play was occasionally errant due to roving forward, he contributed far more than the others on the list – and is a missed player in our current ranks.

Santi is beloved for good reason. His first full season saw him pick up our player of the year award and wreak havoc in the Premier League. With Ozil’s introduction, he had to find another position but such is Santi’s talent, he repurposed himself as a box to box man, and he excelled. Truly two-footed and always played with a smile on his face, Cazorla made 180 appearances, scoring 29 times and making 45 assists.

 

Lastly, we have our strikers.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Eddie Nketiah

Alexandre Lacazette

Lucas Perez

Olivier Giroud

Lukas Podolski

Marouane Chamakh

Chuba Akpom

Yaya Sanogo

Danny Welbeck

 

This is a toughie. Aubameyang is in with a shout as his goal ratio since joining in 2018 is extraordinary. LAcazette’s goal involvement too is pretty impressive and was last season’s POTY. I’ve always had a soft spot for Welbeck and he always put in a shift whenever he played, but the two strikers for our team of the decade are;

Olivier Giroud and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Giroud

Just imagine these two as a pairing. Giroud excelled at incorporating others into our attack and Auba would thrive from the little flick-ons that Giroud specialised in.

Giroud may have sullied his name with his post-Europa League Final exploits, but let’s not forget what he did. 105 goals and 41 assists in 253 Arsenal games – that’s a ratio of a goal involvement every 1.73 games.  His highlight reel is a glorious one too, he scored so many beauties for us.

 

Auba

Auba is the man keeping us afloat right now. 43 goals in just 67 PL games, with 10 assists. That is perilously close to a goal involvement in EVERY game. 18 goals in 33 Europa League games. His goal threat cannot be underestimated and if it weren’t for Auba right now, we would be much further down the table. His instincts are sharp, his contributions are huge, Auba has to be in the team.

 

So, our team of the decade is:

 

Wojciech Szczesny

Bacary Sagna

Per Mertesacker

Laurent Koscielny

Nacho Monreal

Aaron Ramsey

Santi Cazorla

Tomas Rosicky

Theo Walcott

Olivier Giroud

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

 

Not bad.

What do you think? Drop me your shout in the comments below!

#UTA

Our New British Core

The British core remains only as a memory of the image of the group sat at a desk, resplendent in club gear, simultaneously signing their contracts. Overshadowed by Arsene Wenger who had masterminded their presence in the first team, it was meant to represent a new, homegrown dawn for Arsenal.

One by one they fell by the wayside, leaving probably the least likely to remain as the sole representative of this golden generation. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson could have potentially formed the spine of Arsenal for years to come, but thanks to varying reasons – some unlucky and some simply because they lacked the minerals to fight at the very top – they were sold from Arsenal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first to go, expressing an interest to shake off the comfort zone that saw him make 25-30 appearances but never quite hold down a regular spot. His flexibility was one of the reasons that ‘The Ox’ never quite put his stamp on our eleven, and another was his maddening inconsistency. With one game he would slalom past a handful of challenges and succeed with a netbuster. The next game he would lose the ball like it was a personal hobby. He moved to Liverpool to progress but thanks to injury – another frequent blight on his time here – he currently stands in the same spot he had as a Gunner – bit-part utility man.

Jack Wilshere carried perhaps the most expectation as a player. His virtuoso display as a teenager against the best midfield in the world, Barcelona, exhibited the ceiling his talents had, but the diminutive baller never scaled those heights again. Injuries curtailed his ambitions and his time as an Arsenal man, and he is now a Hammer.

The rest, aside from Aaron Ramsey, were ousted from the squad as we found superior replacements. Time had seen us move on but these players didn’t match the step count, and they lagged behind.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have another batch of homegrown players. The majority of these kids have been schooled by the Academy and are steeped in ‘The Arsenal Way.’ There is a big difference between the two groups of players though.

The original gaggle of players had already had a number of seasons under their belt before their talent had shone through to lead people to declare them our core.

The current group? They are just starting on their journey – and they are making waves in the first team ahead of some truly established international stars.

Wilshere, Gibbs etc of course had some truly special players in their midst, but they had their first team spot more or less made theirs whenever they were fit for the most part.

Whereas Jo Willock, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have had some imposing figures in front of them, and have still established themselves as contenders for their respective spots.

British Core

Well, to varying degrees anyway. Jo Willock and Rob Holding are probably the closest to having their spots tied down, and both have serious competition in their way – which makes their progress even more spectacular.

What is evident is that these kids really DO have the chance to become the rigid spine that Arsenal have needed for some time. Time though, is the only true yardstick for this group. It is only as matches and a few seasons go by that we will see if these special talents really are as good as they appear to be – and if they can go on to forge themselves as homegrown Arsenal legends – something that we haven’t had for quite some time.

Over to you boys.

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

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 Vs Watford – The Warm-Up

The last week has been dominated by FA Cup matters, but today sees a return to the bread and butter of our season, as Watford visit The Emirates in our next Premier League match tonight.

Our last match was a satisfying one to say the least. An emphatic 5-0 scoreline, a return to fitness and form for two of our foremost attackers and the defeat of a team who had developed the knack for dumping us out of competitions meant that it was smiles all round – even for the absent Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners gaffer will again be missing from the dugout as this is his second match of four that he will miss through his four match touchline ban. His absence didn’t seem to affect his players though, even though Wenger will have done all of the preparation for the game before kickoff. 

Wenger will have been given some headaches after the 5-0 FA Cup win, as he will have some big shouts from some of his players to start this game. 

Theo Walcott returned to the side in style with a treble, and we have played our best football with the England man in the team. Will two games in four days be too much for his calf? This workload will probably mean the other hero from the weekend – Danny Welbeck – will be rested. 

Mohamed Elneny’s Egypt have continued their AFCON adventure, so it means Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey are the only recognised central midfielders in stock -if you discount who comprised our engine room against Southampton.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ainslie Maitland-Niles were ever so effective together, but more than likely they will both be out of the side for the aforementioned midfielders. Lucas Perez was also in excellent form, but Olivier Giroud and Alexis will likely return to the team, as well as Mesut Ozil.

Laurent Koscielny was rested for the weekend, with a view to this crucial Premier League double header with Watford and Chelsea. Petr Cech will also come back into the team, and he will be facing his former side on Saturday. A return to his previous form would be a plus.

Watford are falling quickly down the table, and Hornets boss Walter Mazzarri has dumped some sandbags to lighten the load. Odion Ighallo has been sold for the ludicrous amount of £20m, and Adlene Guedioura is off to Hull City. They did bolster their side though, with a loan move for AC Milan attacker M’Baye Niang and Mauro Zarate who has had spells at Birmingham City and West Ham.

Watford are a real test, and we have seen the devastating effects that taking our foot off the pedal can incur. We cannot take this lightly with one eye on the Chelsea fixture. Dropped points here and the game at Stamford Bridge will matter little. Chelsea play Liverpool in midweek, and this carries a real possibility of dropped points for the League leaders. It is imperative we can close the gap if the chance arises. 

Arsenal are in deceptively good form though. We haven’t conceded from open play in seven home games, and Watford have not won in seven games home or away. This means on paper that this should be a home banker.

The problem is, we are Arsenal fans and that means we all know there are no such things. 

If we play well, then we should go into Saturday’s crunch match full of confidence. 

Predicted Lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline: 3-0 to Arsenal. 

Southampton 0-5 Arsenal: 5 Keypoints From the FA Cup Tie

Wow, talk about a contrast.

Last week we saw our full strength side scrap and scrape a 2-1 win over Burnley at home, thanks to a 97th minute penalty.

This week, we saw a supposed understrength side absolutely take Southampton to the cleaners in their own digs, to the tune of five unanswered goals.

As expected, Arsene Wenger made a host of changes for this tie – ten in total – before he left the team in the hands of his Assistant Manager Steve Bould. His four match ban after his dealings with the fourth official started with this match, and with an unfamiliar side named and a somewhat bogey side to face, things were looking dicey.

Claude Puel also rang the changes with ten differences from midweek, but he and his talented youngsters could not have foreseen what was to come. 

Arsenal fans rejoiced as their was the long-awaited first start since last season for Danny Welbeck, and he started up top. There was also an immediate return to action for the fit-again Theo Walcott, and both were to show they were worthy of inclusion.

Keiran Gibbs, Rob Holding, Lucas Perez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles and The Jeff himself were all part of the side, and The Ox and Maitland-Niles formed an unusual central midfield pairing. They would face Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jordie Clasie in the centre of the park – and absolutely boss it.

Arsenal started on the front foot, and it took only fifteen minutes for ‘Dat Guy’ to make his mark. He showed good control to take Lucas’s pass, and his high finish off the crossbar showed excellent composure. 

Seven minutes later, he had a brace. The source was The Ox this time, but the result was the same; good control and smart finish.

With ten minutes left, Arsenal killed the game. Super Danny Welbeck was again heavily involved, but he wasn’t the finisher. He instead showed great awareness to cross for the lurking Theo Walcott for a close range finish.

There were more chances for the Gunners, and it seemed as if they would put the tie to bed before the half time whistle, but at half time, the score remained 3-0. The Saints were not at the races, but even if they were bang on form, Arsenal would have quelled their force.

The second half saw no revival, nor a collapse from the Gunners. It was again more of the same, as the away team kept their boot firmly on the jugular of the home side. They continued to create and run at Southampton, who had no answer to this incredible show of force. Danny Welbeck was withdrawn from the action on 64 minutes before he could grab a fairytale hat-trick, but there would be a treble in the game.

On 69 minutes, Theo grabbed his second. Alexis, a second half sub, picked him out in the box and a smart first time finish into the far corner gave Arsenal the fourth. Florian Gardos and Jack Stephens – the Saints centre-backs – were left spinning by the artistry of Lucas and Alexis, and the rampaging runs of Theo and Welbeck.

Theo grabbed his hat-trick and his 99th Arsenal goal, when Lucas’s ball from a Southampton attack found a running Alexis. He had two men on his tail, but he held up play until Theo was in the box. Another first time finish and he had the match ball. 

That was that, and Arsenal were emphatically through into the Fifth round of the Cup. Here are some hot talking points from the game;



Competition fires the side

This team, Theo aside, have been on the outskirts of the first eleven this season. They would have lacked rhythm, sharpness and cohesion. They showed that hunger is one of the most important traits of all, perhaps more so than the others aforementioned. They were all on fire and wanted to put on a show. Rotation may just be necessary as we have a large squad, but also because these players need to play to give a reminder to the manager.


Maximum effort gains reward

At 4-0 up and the game signed, sealed and delivered, Southampton started to foray into Arsenal territory. The sight that warmed my heart more than the goals and the win, more than anything really, was seeing The Ox and Theo chasing back to help out with the defending in their own box. It was these young men showing they had grown up and they want to play a big part and they are willing to put in the hard yards. This is exactly what we need.


Lucas is so effective

Eight starts, and eight times he has been involved directly in a goal. He grabbed an assist this time, and he looks so assured on the ball. His cool head and great touch should be utilised more often as the season progresses, and I’m confident he will not let us down. His assist for Welbeck was sumptuous.


Welbeck to play a big part 












Whenever he has put on our shirt, Welbeck has given his all. This is the reason why our fans universally adore him. His pace, his favouring of balls ahead of him rather than to feet, his touch and his defensive qualities make him a true asset. If his fitness holds, then he could very well nail down a starting spot. Even if he doesn’t start all the games, he will have a huge bearing on our season. Love you Welbz – and that celebration!


Holding holds his own again

What a prospect. He again showed nous way beyond his years in this performance. He will have tougher games, but he is looking every inch an England player for the future. If he continues this growth, then a starting spot for Arsenal when Koscielny steps down could be on the cards. One step at a time at the moment though. He needs to continue what he is doing, but you can’t fail to be excited by what he is capable of.

There was a lot going on during this set of ninety minutes, far more than the above. Particularly impressive was Ainslie Maitland-Niles starting in the centre. He seems to have the confidence of the boss after starting a few cup games this season, and he has a great touch, as well as physical strength for a slight frame. The Ox played well in the centre too, and he appears to have grown this season. 

Next up is a game against Watford on Tuesday, before we travel to Stamford Bridge in the weekend. Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Coquelin, Ramsey, and co. Be aware of the competition breathing down your neck, step it up like they have. 

Southampton Vs Arsenal – FA Cup Warm-Up

After Arsenal’s last-gasp victory over Burnley last week, it would be extremely well received by Gooners everywhere if we could have a game that didn’t cause a coronary.

That wouldn’t be Arsenal though, would it?

This weekend’s bout of panic is brought to us by the FA Cup, as the Gunners take on Southampton for the right to progress to the next round. Our team will have to do so without the presence of our manager, as Wenger was slapped with a four game touchline ban to go with his £25k fine. 

This means that Steve Bould will be belting out the instructions from the touchline, and woe betide anyone who ignores the Assistant Manager with the steely glare. It is debateable what difference will be made without Wenger and his infamous coat, but the instruction for the whole team will already be in place beforehand.

Team selection may vary a little from last-weeks agonising win. There is also more to choose from in recent games as Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy have returned to full training. They will more than likely not be part of the squad as match fitness will still be an issue, but Danny Welbeck may just be handed his first start since his return. Theo Walcott is also back in contention.

David Ospina has been the cup keeper this season so he will likely be installed between the sticks, but as far as the rest of the lineup will resemble, it is unclear. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez may be prime candidates to sit out the match with Chelsea on the horizon, but there is plenty of time for recovery. Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be pushing for starts, and Olivier Giroud should keep his place, but it is all hearsay until the lineup is announced.

Saints boss Claude Puel will be in buoyant mood after dumping Liverpool out of the EFL Cup and nabbing a final place. He will though, have to deal with a host of injuries.

Virgil Van Dijk, Charlie Austin, James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez, Florin Gardos, Jeremy Pied, Matt Targett and Sofiane Boufal are all missing. That is one long list, but Puel still has plenty to choose from, as shown from his teams excellent victory over Liverpool in midweek.

Whoever Puel plumps for, they will be a confident bunch, and not because of the booked trip to Wembley. They have a great record against the Gunners, and en route to the EFL Cup Final, they have knocked Arsenal out. So they have previous for dumping us out of cups. 

They are in great form overall against us, as they have kept four clean sheets from the last five we have played. There is some consolation for Gooners before kickoff however. 

Southampton have never – NEVER – beaten us in the FA Cup. The last time we met in this famous competition? 2003. The Final. We won 1-0 thanks to a Bobbi Pires goal. So, yeah, there is something to hang onto.

This match is going to be hellishly tough. If we want to keep in this trophy, then we must play far better than we have done recently, and we must get over the fact we will be missing a fair few midfielders from our ranks. 

We could do with some of our top players rising to form to make the difference. It is high time we stopped relying on Alexis or Giroud to bail us out. 

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – I’m feeling strangely optimistic. 2-0 Arsenal. 

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke: 5 Key Points From The Match

Forget about our recent thumpings of West Ham and Basel; if Arsenal fans are looking for real reasons for optimism – THIS win showed that the Gunners are up for the fight.

A goal down and an injury to one of our starting defenders put us in an awkward position, but we pushed on to grab victory. 

Goals from Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil and Alex Iwobi saw Arsenal come back from a goal behind to emphatically grab all 3 points – and go top of the Premier League in the process.


The match began well, with the home side bossing possession, and Stoke looking to utilise Arnautovic and Shaqiri on the break. The Gunners were edging the game and going through the gears, before Shkodran Mustafi went down with a suspected hamstring injury.

Only just declared fit, Hector Bellerin came on and replaced Gabriel on the right of defence, who took the spot vacated by Mustafi. Three minutes later, Stoke were ahead.

Against the run of play, Stoke were gifted a penalty, as Joe Allen ghosted into the box ahead of Xhaka, who was set to clear. Allen was brought down, and Charlie Adam converted from the spot.

Arsenal were behind, and had only been behind for 73 minutes this season in total. This was proving to be a crunch match, a decisive moment. 

Bellerin made an instant difference, and it was his first time ball into the box which saw a vibrant Theo finish well and equalise. It was Walcott’s 100th goal for Arsenal, and his 50th at The Emirates.

The second half saw the Gunners bring extra gunpowder. The Ox and Theo in particular, were terrorising Stoke’s backline, and they had the Potters stricken in their own last third. 

It took only three minutes for Wenger’s side to convert their dominance into the lead, and it was a thing of beauty.

The Ox had the ball in the centre of Stoke’s half and picked out Özil who had made a run into the box. He then proceeded to lob the ball over Lee Grant, the away keeper, with his head and the ball sailed over the timewasting keeper and into his goal.

It wasn’t over though. Arsenal were playing well and toying with Stoke, who did have a few chances but Cech was equal to them.

Alex Iwobi tied up the points, as referee played advantage with Sanchez being fouled. Iwobi had continued his run and a low finish across Grant made it 3-1.

The game had ample chances and lots of incident, so here are the 5 key points from the 90 minutes;


Bellerin Changed the game







Before the young Spaniard was introduced, Arsenal were having the better of the game. Upon his arrival, he found his team a goal down instantly, but Bellerin showed no signs of rust after his layoff. His constant availability and running was a nightmare to track and it was his ball that brought about our equaliser. Gabriel has been solid, but my, how we’ve missed Bellerin’s fizz.

Özil operates on a different stratosphere

The special players of this world are capable of magic, and Özil’s header was certainly that. Not many players would have opted for his lobbed heads finish, as it was technically difficult, but Mesut made it look like child’s play. Time seemed to stand still, but it certainly wasn’t and he had milliseconds to first decide, and then implement, his plan. Wonderful.

A tip of the hat to the referee.

The match officials get a crapload of stick, so when they make a correct decision that the majority of their colleagues would fail on, it is important to commend them. Lee Mason saw the obvious foul on Alexis as he was looking to get into the box, but had enough savvy to see Iwobi could pick up the pieces of the attack. Fair play.

Stoke may be prettier, but they’re still the kings of Gamesmanship

They may not play constant 80yrd passes, but the fact that Stoke were persistently wasting time – in the first half – tells you all you need to know about their game plan. Arsenal heads kept cool though, which is another plus.

Top of the league – for 24 hours at least

We have been in promising positions before, but regardless, we sit top of the Premier League until Chelsea play later. We have also banged in more goals than any side, and our current league run is the best we’ve enjoyed for six years. If we can’t enjoy being a Gooner now, then when can we?

There was a lot more to write about as well.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing consistency and lowering his rate of error, and he was excellent in this game. Coquelin kept it simple, and Xhaka was the bridge between defence and attack. We coped ever so well with whatever Stoke threw at us and we looked like we could break them open at will.
Oh yes, I also called the correct score line in my match preview. You may call me your oracle now. 

Next up is a trip to Goodison Park on Tuesday. On this form, we will be a real test for anyone. 

#UTA