Tag Archives: wilshere

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.

Head Over Heart

Every day, every part of the routine, didn’t feel monotonous like the daily grind should.

That had something to do with the fact he loved every single minute.

From a young child he was schooled in the ways of The Arsenal, first by his parents – both diehard Gooners – and then from his tutelage at the club.

He was like most children at that age, singularly obsessed with football. With or without friends, he would kick the ball. At goal, in the street, off the wall. His dad said that practice was the key, so he stuck gamely to his task. This is where he differed from most kids – he was driven, he wouldn’t let up. His mum sometimes worried about the fact that wherever he went, he had a ball with him, but she needn’t have fretted. It paid off big time.

He was enrolled in the youth team from an early age, and despite interest from other clubs, there was only one he would sign for. The moment he put pen to paper is still crystallised in the form of a framed photo on top of the mantelpiece at his mums house.

That was where the hard work really began. For eight years, he clambered up the ranks, the age groups. International recognition came for the Under-18’s, Under-21’s, but this was a mere flicker in the eye of time. By the time he had made his debut for the Under-21’s, full international caps came calling.

That was because his debut for Arsenal was packed with fireworks. He had seven minutes to make the coach and fans sit up and take notice, and he did so in spades. A goal and hanging the opposition’s right-back out to dry on at least three occasions meant that when the next season came, he was firmly in contention.

That was the beginning of his halcyon season – and the sole reason he was still at Arsenal. He played through the entire campaign, he grabbed goals, winners, made more respected colleagues look like they were wading through treacle. Experts and teammates, other coaches all commented on his meteoric rise.

It was his display against one of the best teams in the world though, that meant he was predicted to be a game changer not only for Arsenal, but for England too. He ran the show, weaving a mesmeric web that won plaudits around the world.

The footballing world was his oyster, but he never saw himself anywhere but The Arsenal. His faith and promise were rewarded as well, when injury bit.

It bit hard too. A whole season missed, then half a season. He couldn’t quite get back to where he was. Every time he scaled the insurmountable mountain of recovery, at the peak he fell down the other side. Critics were mounting, ‘sicknote’ tags were sticking.

Seasons were going by and he was no longer the promising kid who had the world at his feet. He now had to prove himself again. It wasn’t enough to have shown he had what it takes to run with the big boys. After his injury record, people doubted whether he could reach that height again.

Most importantly, the fans and the club he loved were beginning to worry about him too.

Fitness slowly crept back, and so did his appearances. Fleeting glimpses of form came and went, so did runs of matches.

Now came the time where his contract was running out. An offer was on the table, and it was once the case that whatever was on the table, he would have signed it, a la Tony Adams.

Now, after a conversation with the coach, he had a decision to make. He needed gametime. His stock was low, international honours was a dot on the horizon. He had played last season, but he was far from where he thought he’d be.

He felt superfluous, a groupie. A biscuit on the side of an extravagant coffee. He was not the main act, but he didn’t want that. He merely wanted to be a vital cog in the machine. At the moment, he wasn’t adding value, worth.

Now the coach has told him that he could stay and try to force his way into proceedings, but at this moment in time, he would be firmly in the ‘backup’ category.

He had spoken to his agent, his parents, his friends, his wife. All said that he owed his club nothing, he had done all he could. He needed to be selfish and do what he needed to do. His career was short, and if he stayed he would be on good money, but he could get more elsewhere and most importantly – he could get back into the international fold as he would play.

Stay at the club he loves? Fight for the badge and your career? Or move on for more minutes and perhaps a little better in terms of contract?

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Where does loyalty rank in terms of significance in decision-making? At what price does the heart come into things? When does business run the rule over matters of sentimentality?

If you were in this position – what would you do?

Smith-Rowe and Kid Gloves

You know those nights out that you have been planning for weeks? For once, the whole gang have been corralled into being free for this one night. Everyone will be there, we all know the score, and we’re heading to a very exclusive venue.

It’s going to be one of those events we will all remember, it will live long in the memory.

The trouble is, the weight of expectation crushes it – as well as your pal Terry who was well and truly trolleyed at least three hours before you even reached the club

You’ve built this up sky-high, and it means that your expectations will never match up to the actual night – leaving you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Well, the same goes – mostly – for young footballers.

These bright young things burst into our field of vision with a searing white heat, emblazoning their name upon your retina and your memory. Your first glimpses of these starlets set the bar high, and you know that they have the potential to be even better.

These teenagers are nowhere near their peak years, and yet they’re already mindblowingly good. They take the ball and they confront defenders, impudently asking them questions that season upon season of cynical fouling and defensive coaching hasn’t quite destroyed yet.

It is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to the wonders of social media, their name and their display soon spreads, like a Russian plot behind a Trump campaign. Soon, they appropriate a phrase, one that is often the nadir of any hopes they – and you  – once had of seeing these prospects fully realising their talents.

They become ‘The Next Big Thing.’

At Arsenal, we’ve had this many times over the years in the Wenger era. The Frenchman had a penchant for finding a diamond in the rough in the hope that a bit of spit and elbow grease can coax out every bit of promise.

Sometimes it worked. Cesc Fabregas was a surefire hit. Nicolas Anelka was a real find. Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were tracked all the way through the youth systems. Aaron Ramsey was a first-teamer early on, but he has come on leaps and bounds from the fresh-faced teenager that turned down Manchester United to come to London Colney.

There are others too though, that fell by the wayside. Quite a few actually.

For every Anelka, we had a Daniel Crowley. For every Cesc, we had a Jeremie Aliadiere or a Yaya Sanogo.

It shows that talent isn’t everything that comprises a top-flight success. The amount of careers that started at a major club and the majority of their professional lives were spent in lower leagues is evidence enough to show how tough it is to make that next step from starlet to bona fide first teamer.

It is why expectations should be scaled back a little.

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It is why Emile Smith-Rowe should be cherished, but avoid the heavy burden of our heavy breathing as we salivate over what could be.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide was in the exact same position only a couple of seasons ago. The Emirates Cup was buzzing as fans were able to catch a glimpse of the player given the moniker, ‘The Jeff.’

Big things were expected, and the rare sightings we had of him and the comments from coaches and teammates were indicating that he was the real deal.

Yet, on the day Emile Smith-Rowe made his first big splash upon our senses, the very same day Jeff Reine-Adelaide had signed a permanent deal for Ligue Un minnows Angers.

Apparently, it was a mix of money demands and first team requests that drove Jeff to move from the club, but either way, it is another player who has failed to reach the heights we know they can reach, at our club.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been making waves for the youth teams since last season, big enough for the discerning Gooner to be aware of his presence. But it was his inclusion in the Singapore squad and his subsequent fantastic solo effort against Atletico Madrid that showed we may have a real gem in our ranks.

It seems that he has the world at his feet, but we’ve been burned before. We should hold back on placing so much emphasis on the development of Smith-Rowe, as Crowley, Reine-Adelaide and others have shown that talent isn’t everything.

If Smith-Rowe shows the same level of intensity and dedication that recent youth converts Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have shown – then Smith-Rowe could well be too dazzling for words.

The thing is though, is it is very uncertain right now. We have no idea what will happen.

All we can do is trust the framework at the club to treat the kid with kid gloves, and his rare forays in cup games are enough to avoid stunting his growth but also enough to let him shine.

We could place far too much weight on the kid, and most likely we will do.

But Smith-Rowe is that good.

Slow and steady everyone.

Arsenal Vs West Ham Match Preview

What appears to be Unai Emery’s true test of how far he has taken this squad is now about to start.

 

After our first two games pitted us against the reigning champions and then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Emery will be keen to see how we fare against more run-of-the-mill opposition – as will we all.

 

West Ham actually are in a similar position to us, including league position. Both winless from our first two games, both clubs have a new regime in place, both teams have a fair amount of new personnel – West Ham significantly more so.

 

The Hammers spent a fair wedge this summer, and Manuel Pellegrini is tasked with the gelling of the team. The signings have been impressive – Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko alone would make most European squads, but mashing them into a team is another matter entirely, and the Hammers have suffered so far.

Still, it’s early days for both clubs, but there can be no underestimating how big this game is. Whoever comes out of this fixture with the L will have zero points from three games, and the pressure mounts.

Plus, we’ve got the added drama of Jack coming back to The Emirates – let’s hope it’s not a happy reunion.

 

 

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TEAM NEWS

 

Emery is without Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac for this fixture and the foreseeable future – all defenders.

 

The same central defensive pairing should play this game, as Emery will be keen to forge some form of partnership between Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, although they both need to grasp these new instructions a bit firmer if we are to hold out hope of shutting out the Hammers.

 

In midfield, Emery was quick to sub Granit Xhaka at half time in our loss to Chelsea, so we could see new boy Lucas Torreira line up with Matteo Guendouzi – a very young but incredibly vibrant engine room.

 

We are all waiting to see if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will line up alongside Alexandre Lacazette, and with both such shining talents, our future must include both on the pitch at the same time, at least when we are not expected to struggle too much. Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are raring to go in attack, but Alex Iwobi played well last time out and could push for another start.

 

Prediction

 

It is incredibly hard to assess how this game will pan out, but with both teams struggling in defence, there is a chance this could rain goals. Both eleven’s will be resplendent with attacking jewels, and the best form of defence is attack.

 

We do have to be wary of the old pals act – namely Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez. It is a common thing for ex-players to come back and haunt their old clubs, and this would smart just a little. Wilshere will most likely start this game at his old home, and Lucas will be pushing to play a part too.

 

Cech has impressed in goal since getting the nod over new boy Bernd Leno and he could be busy, but if our attack comes good, then we should grab the points.

 

I’m plumping for a 3-1 win today. I think both Auba and Laca will break their ducks for the season too, if they play I don’t think West Ham have enough defensively to quieten them for 90 minutes.

 

I do think West Ham will score though, and it could be a nail-biting afternoon, but I hope to see the Guendouzi who has impressed since joining, and Lucas Torreira doing what he does best.

 

We should have enough to grab the points here and get Emery’s era off to a proper start.

 

Who should be our Captain?

There has been plenty of talk surrounding our club of late – and for good reason.

The winds of change are sweeping around The Emirates, and Unai Emery’s appointment has sent the media into a froth over the inevitable variances that will occur after over two decades under one man’s stewardship.

One thing that hasn’t really come into focus is who will lead our men on the pitch.

The subject of our next skipper is an important one. The person who wears the armband next season will be the link between Emery in the dugout and the enacting of his demands.Not only this, but when it comes time to dig our heels in, the captain is the man who leads from the front.

Jack, Xhaka and Ramsey - who is our next captain?

Many think that Aaron Ramsey is the perfect candidate. The model professional who leads from the front, there is no denying he is the perfect example for our youth for triumph in the face of adversity, and never giving up.

Does the Welshman have the chops though? Many say that vocality is a dying trait when it comes to wearing the armband, and all that is needed is someone to lead from the front with their talents.

I would have to disagree. We have had those types of leaders before, back during the time when we dished out the armband as a lure to wantaway players – it didn’t work.

Captains need to have the ability to pick players up when they’re either having an abysmal game or if they’re making errors. They need to have that extra clout to be able to say what needs to be said, without recrimination. The players will listen because he is the leader, without fail.

If it isn’t Rambo though, who should it be? It isn’t as if we are stocked to the rafters with leaders – many people would say this is one of the many reasons we have struggled over previous seasons.

We have had a decent skipper recently though, but Mertesacker’s lack of minutes on the pitch undermined his strength. We need a player who will play the majority of our games.

Perhaps Granit Xhaka? Yes, his displays were erratic last campaign, but his will to win and his place in the team are strong. He seems to have the respect of his comrades and with a new man in charge, Xhaka could actually be played to his strengths rather than made to fit.

Other than these two players, we don’t have anyone who should shoulder this immense responsibility. Laurent Koscielny is a fantastic servant for the club, but leader he certainly isn’t. Plus, he is set to miss the first half of the season through injury. Nacho Monreal is the embodiment of consistency, but does he have what it takes to lead the team in difficult circumstances?

Then there is Jack Wilshere. His love for the club is undeniable, and we know he is certainly not lacking in making himself heard, but his future is uncertain – as well as his place in the team. If Jack stayed and picked up his game a little, then he would be a viable choice.

It would seem right now though, that it is a choice of two – and after last season and with a danger of Ramsey not signing a new deal, the Captains’ armband could well be the sweetener Rambo needs to commit his future.

Leicester City Vs Arsenal – PL Preview

We go to Leicester tonight, in a bid to finally end our torrid away record. We have two away games left in our season – can we win away from The Emirates in 2018?

After the fantastic send-off we gave Arsene Wenger at our last home game this season – the weekend’s 5-0 thumping of Burnley was a perfect display of football that Wenger adores – these remaining two games can seem a tad pointless.

But with an away record like ours, this needs rectifying. Now.

Foxes Vs Gunners

Also, this game is the perfect opportunity to blood our youngsters further, against top opposition. We can see them playing at the level they need to in order to make it at our club, and they could well represent our future.

Two players who seem like they have a bright future in the red and white are Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The Man United loss a week ago was a close tun thing, and these two youngsters stole the show with their discipline and performance way above their years. The Greek defender should get the nod again as he did in the last two PL games, and with Koscielny out for six months, this could see a budding partnership with Calum Chambers.

Then there is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He started the season as a member of the squad, filling in at full-back. His displays are such, that he’s ending the season as a viable choice in central midfield.

With the contract situations hanging over Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, it’s a good thing AMN is showing his talents.

Mesut Ozil has probably played his last game this season, after Wenger confirmed his back complaint will end his season prematurely. That means there is a spot in our attack free too, and that could mean a start for Reiss Nelson, although he could also be used at full-back.

Jo Willock is another youth who could get the nod, and starting alongside Granit Xhaka means there will be an emphasis on his defensive duties. Wenger can have some fun with his selection here, although if he wants to destroy the away curse, then a strong side is the way to go. Our attack should be at full strength, with both Aubameyang and Lacazette set to start together again.

Then again, if he doesn’t give the kids a chance, then there will be the inevitable detractors who think this is the ideal chance for the kids to shine. With Santi Cazorla and Mohamed Elneny also out, then the very least he can do is give some of them the first half.

For Leicester, Claude Puel is going backwards after a promising start as Foxes boss. They’ve lost their last few, and a home game against an undercooked Arsenal backline could be just what the Foxes ordered. They have the capacity to pack the midfield and clog our runners, and then with Jamie Vardy in their ranks, they have the perfect counter-attacking blade to slice us with.

Eight goals conceded in our last four away games, and just three scored. That’s what we have to contend with. Low confidence, tactics set to stifle, and poor form. With our win over Burnley, hopefully we have the wind in our sails.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mavropanos, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Manchester City – PL Match Preview

With the Carabao Cup final humbling still fresh in the memory, the perfect fixture to erase those nightmarish visions is……Manchester City.

The display that our team put in as we were taken apart by Pep Guardiola’s men seems to have resonated more than most defeats – and we’ve had a fair few this season.

Seven to be exact. This year.

Gary Neville’s comments especially, during and after the match, have struck a chord as they were what most were thinking. Why did our players show such an insipid level of effort? Why were none busting a gut? Did none of them recognise this was a cup final?

So, today’s game at The Emirates is far from what we needed. What we need is a win. Then another, And then another. The chances of us winning against City are low, and with us being ten points of spurs who are in 4th spot, two defeats at the hands of the blue half of Manchester could sound the death knell of any prospective success, and condemn us to our worst ever season under Wenger.

Wenger opted for three at the back in the Cup Final,which was suggested by many before the game. We also had Wilshere and Ramsey in the same team for the first time in quite some time.

Surely he has to change the approach? But does that mean the players in the eleven?

Anyone who watched the travesty on Sunday can concur that it wasn’t the choice of personnel that was the problem. It was our strongest side and should be enough of a match to give us a shout.

The problem was the application of any form of tactic. We lost possession frequently, we didn’t pressure their possession strongly enough, and we looked absolutely clueless when we did have the ball.

The first thing we need to do is actually put in a modicum of effort instead of hoping our play will suffice. Without effort, the result is what we saw at Wembley.

There will be changes in the side, although they will be enforced. Nacho Monreal looks to be ruled out for this game and the trip to the Amex Stadium, possibly longer. That means if we stay with three at the back, we’ve got less central defensive options, but Sead Kolasinac is primed for the left-back spot.

What about central midfield though? Granit Xhaka is a cultured midfielder, but he is no DM. He seems unable to track any runners, but if he starts, then he really must learn. Alternatively, we have Mohamed Elneny to fill in.

Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are both fit, but fitting them both into the team may require one of them to play in the attacking three behind Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck are viable options to play, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in the team after being cup-tied on Sunday.

Pep has to deal with Fernandinho being unavailable, so Ilkay Gundogan will have a new partner in midfield. this could play into our hands if our engine room kicks into life. City may have Raheem Sterling back after being ruled out on Sunday, and Gabriel Jesus is back from a knee injury.

If we are to avoid catastrophe this season, we need to go on a run, and there’s no better time to start than now. We know we’re capable, it’d just be good to see us show it for once. We have a great record at The Emirates, let’s keep it going. #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Elneny, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – Let’s do this, 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Ostersunds Europa League Preview

This match might fall under the radar a bit.

We go into our second leg tie versus Ostersunds with a 3-0 advantage and the boost of playing at The Emirates, where our record is strong.

Then there is the small matter of this Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final versus Manchester City representing our best chance for silverware this season.

So we can be forgiven for placing less emphasis on this game.

Still, we’re in action and that means we get the chance to see our team in action, and our lineup will include vast changes from the first leg.

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey have been confirmed by Arsene Wenger to be missing out, and both face a race to be fit for the Carabao Cup Final with illness and injury doubts respectively.

Danny Welbeck will again take the striking berth with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette injured for the next few weeks. We could also see a bigger cameo for Eddie Nketiah, with little options up top.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will feature as he is cup-tied for this Sunday’s final, but with Ramsey out, there will be four players vying for two spots.

Mohamed Elneny, Jo Willock, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere will be up for playing, but with the vital tie against City so close, Jack Wilshere could miss out, especially with Ramsey so doubtful too.

Maitland-Niles played well in his preferred spot in the centre, but he could find himself again in a wing-back spot as Hector Bellerin could be rested. The same goes for Koscielny and Mustafi, but we have the likes of Holding, Chambers and Mertesacker as options to come in.

Ostersunds gave us the perfect headstart in the first forty-five minutes of the first leg. With their results at home being favourable, most expected us to struggle, but the frozen 3g pitch was no match for our attack. The second half showed what the Swedish are capable of, and if the late penalty from Petterson had crept in rather than have been saved by Ospina, then an early goal in this game could have been very disruptive.

As it is though, even a typical slow start from our boys would have to be a real nightmare for us to give Ostersunds a sniff of a comeback. As it is, Wenger can’t really win. If he takes the professional route and sees out a simple game but doesn’t thrash Ostersunds, then we took them lightly. If we smash them with a strong side, then it was bound to happen and it is nothing extraordinary.

There are some strong sides left in this competition, and we will know more when the draw for the next round is made. We should be aiming to win it, but such is the gap in the Premier League between us and the top4, we need to put some work in to make sure this isn’t the worst season yet under Wenger.

So, let’s go for it and hope this game sees goals (for us of course) and no injuries.

Predicted lineup – Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Elneny, Willock, Nelson, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. #UTA

North London Derby Preview.

Could this match matter any more than it does?

No, and it amps up every season, especially with our neighbours starting to make a nasty habit of looking down on us.

This current North London Derby is no different, but the ramifications for the loser of this tussle are huge for either team.

We sit in sixth place, and four points behind spurs. If we lose this game,then we’ll have a massive seven point gap to traverse just to get to fifth spot. It would probably signal the end of our Champions League spot hopes, placing even more importance on our Europa League campaign.

So, it is quite obvious that we have a little more to lose than Pochettino’s lot.

They will still feel the burn should we do the double over them this season with victory.

A win for them could see them rise to the heights of 3rd spot, but should they lose, they’ll be likely five points from 3rd, and a mere point above us – with low confidence and a tough tie against Juventus in their midst.

One thing we have in our favour is that they did play in midweek. It may have been League Two opposition, but Newport County gave a fantastic account of themselves at Wembley, and tottenham used more than a few first team regulars in order to despatch their FA Cup opponent.

Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Heung Son-Min, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks were among the eleven, and should they be selected they’ll be lacking that ten percent of energy that we’ll have after our weeks rest.

In Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference, our manager revealed that Nacho Monreal will thankfully be fit to take his place in the side, but the jury is still out on Petr Cech who was injured during our 5-1 win over Everton last week. David Ospina stands by to deputise.

Wenger has a selection headache too.

Aaron Ramsey scored a hat-trick in his last outing and the Welshman is surely a shoe-in for a start in this game.

But who partners him in midfield?

Granit Xhaka has been on point when it comes to his distribution, but wedging him into the DM role that clearly doesn’t fit him isn’t working. We could try fitting in Mohamed Elneny in a three man central midfield, but what of Jack Wilshere? The England man has been one of our best players in recent weeks and with his passion for Arsenal – a start in the NLD is a must, surely?

Then there is our attack.

Our new boys, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, both hit the ground running, and their partnership is a huge plus for us. They start, and obviously Mesut Ozil does too,but that means Alexandre Lacazette could be on the bench again.The Frenchman has so much quality that he should be a guaranteed starter, but our attack already has three, if Lacazette starts alongside Aubameyang, Ozil and Mkhitaryan, then we need a formation change.

Will Wenger change things up after such a handsome win though? Changing a winning team is not something Arsene does often, so Lacazette may again start from the bench.

We need this win for our league hopes, never mind bragging rights. We’ve got enough in our locker to do it, but our 2-0 win earlier in the season showed that we need to have an active press, and attack using the speed we have.

Plus, we’ve got our Wembley record to maintain.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Chelsea Vs Arsenal Semi-Final Carabao Cup 1st Leg Preview

It may not be the best choice of opponent, but any match gives us the opportunity to erase the taste of our embarrassing FA Cup exit to Nottingham Forest.

If we could have chosen a team to face, Chelsea wouldn’t have been one we went for. The Blues are in fine form and we, quite simply, aren’t. Antonio Conte may well be rattled by the constant stream of Jose Mourinho bile, but our draw last week shows that he will take this match very seriously.

Funnily enough, the Italian coach nearly had the same fate befall him and his team in the weekend. Fresh from our 2-2 draw, we both went into our FA Cup matches against Championship opposition. The difference was that we lost convincingly, and Chelsea escaped with a 0-0 draw.

Conte also rested the majority of his big hitters, but his squad is a little stronger than ours. Yet they also put in a sub-par display against the Canaries.

Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata have all been rested, so will most likely line up against us. Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Willian will drop to the bench after failing to impress against Norwich.

In terms of our team, Alexis is still with us, for now, so should be back in the team. Mesut Ozil is also back in contention, but if any of the eleven who got humped against Forest make the eleven, they can think themselves very lucky. With our squad looking a little thin, then we might have to have at least one from Holding, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Walcott on the bench.

The whole team should conceivably be changed, but there are doubts hanging over Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. The biggest miss would be Mustafi right now, with Koscielny looking dicey on the fitness front, Holding low on confidence and Nacho still a month from fitness. If Xhaka misses out, then Elneny, the perhaps off-to-Valencia-Coquelin or even Ainslie Maitland-Niles could come in.

The Carabao Cup was prioritised by Wenger as we are in the latter stages. This makes sense of course, but if we were to be dumped out by the Blues, then his plan will have backfired, much like his weak bench he named for the Forest debacle. A two-legged affair with Chelsea is a tough hurdle to jump, and with a probable Final against City to come, we may have bet on the wrong horse here.

The Europa League has some big hitters in the draw, and with our Premier League top four spot in serious jeopardy, we are slipping towards the worst season in recent memory.

We have the capacity to defeat Chelsea, our FA Cup final win showed us that, as well as last week’s draw that could have went either way. It all hinges on which Arsenal show up. We were excellent in midfield and attack versus the Blues, but our defence was suspect, letting Morata have three one-on-ones is something we need to rectify.

We will need Koscielny and Mustafi if we are to stay in this tie for the second leg. Home factor may swing this though.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 1-1.