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. 

Basel 1-4 Arsenal: 5 Keypoints From The Match

This match was set up to be the typical Arsenal Euro tie.

A necessity for rotation would see a weakened side rock up to St Jakob Park and lose with an insipid performance – only to see the result they were hanging on for come to fruition. 

Well, the script didn’t come into play, as the Gunners ran riot and won handsomely – all while rotating the squad just enough to rest some first teamers. 

Not only that, but Ludogorets defied the odds and grabbed a point in Paris – thus handing the Gunners top spot in the group.

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid may lay in wait in the knockout stages, but Arsenal have finished top of their group for the first time in five years.

A hat-trick from Lucas Perez and a fourth from Alex Iwobi earned the win in Switzerland, and the potentially tricky match against Stoke on Saturday will be a lot easier knowing Mustafi, Cech, Theo and a few others will be far fresher than if they were to have played against Basel.

Also, confidence will have been imbued within some of our players who have flitted in and out of the side. 

All positives! 

Here are 5 key points from the 90mins:
Lucas Perez up to speed

The Spaniard was only declared fully fit last week, and played in the EFL Cup loss to Southampton. Yet he showed great instinct to score his first two and grabbed his Hattrick with his right foot with a smart finish. Lucas could be a great option with so many fixtures coming up.
Gibbs with 3 assists

Gibbs has been the epitome of professionalism while Montreal has been enjoying first choice status, but he hasn’t been resting on his laurels. The Englishman has improved, and his final ball and attacking runs caused havoc against Basel. Great to see.
Alexis and Özil given 40winks

Much of the talk before the game was whether our two star players would be given a rest. They weren’t, as Wenger chased the unlikely prospect of top spot in the group. It paid off, and the two players were taken off in the 74th minute. Not much, but better than the whole 90. Every little will help with the slew of games coming up.
Holding highly regarded

Rob Holding was given another start, and the young lad continues to impress. Alongside Koscielny, he showed excellent positioning and aerial prowess. If he continues this progress, what a player we will have in the future.
Top spot matters

People will deride the fact that we have finished 1st, stating that we will still likely get a tough draw with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid potential opponents. What does come into play will be home advantage – the second leg will be at home. A slim plus, but a plus nonetheless – and any advantage is a good one in the knockout stages.
There was more to take from the game, such as another solid game from Gabriel and Iwobi looking a little more assured than of late, but the above really stood out as the big talking points of the game.

We took top spot, we won convincingly again and we took care of our squad. 

Good times. As Arsenal fans, we should enjoy them when they’re here. That’s why we are fans. 

Onwards to the Stoke game! 

Basel Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview

Upon first inspection, this game could be viewed as something of a dead rubber.

Arsenal travel to Switzerland safe in the knowledge that they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Basel entertain the Gunners having notched only two points from the group. Not only that, but even if Arsene Wenger’s side leave St Jakob Park with all three points it will matter little if PSG match their result against Ludogorets.

There is still a small chance that the Gunners could finish top of their group though, and while that remains, Wenger could field what will be a very strong side.

Common sense should dictate otherwise, especially as on Saturday we take on a resurgent Stoke side – and three days later we travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. With these matches posing far more of a threat to our hopes of success, the squad will come into play fully over the next week.

This fixture flurry would have been a larger cause for concern in years gone by, but the pool of players we can choose from is stronger than before and this will be reflected in the teamsheets for the aforementioned games. 

Coming fresh from the 5-1 thumping of West Ham should fill the team full of confidence, and compensate for the disruption that is inevitably caused by rotating the playing staff.

Hat-trick hero Alexis Sanchez could well be rested for this game, and this could give a great opportunity to Lucas Perez who has recently returned from injury. The other choice would be the fit-again Olivier Giroud who has ample experience in the competition. 

What is perhaps most telling is Arsene Wenger’s own comments from the pre-match press conference. He spoke of his sides preperation and about finishing second or first in the group. He said ” We’ll see. PSG are favourites to beat Ludogorets at home and win the group, but we can assess that scoreline at half-time and see where we go.” 

The part regarding assessing the scoreline at half-time could be construed that he plans to name his strongest players for the game, and if PSG have wrapped up their game then he will make the necessary changes. Or maybe he is holding his cards close to his chest?

Regardless, players such as Mohamed Elneny, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi can expect some form of involvement, such is the wealth of talent we possess within our ranks. Elneny and Granit Xhaka in particular will be hoping to make the team to face off against their former club. Xhaka faced off against his former teammates and his brother Taulant in the corresponding fixture which the Gunners won 2-0 at The Emirates and he will surely be hoping for a repeat result. Theo Walcott scored a first half brace to win that game, but will he be rested with the Stoke game in the corner of Arsene’s eye? Can we afford to bench too many of our established stars?

Basel will be a real test though. They have won their last three home games against English sides, and the Gunners have not finished a group campaign unbeaten since 2005/06. Objectively though, Arsenal have never finished on the losing side against Swiss opposition. One of these records have to budge – especially when you consider that the Gunners have not had a 0-0 draw in the Champions League groups since 2007. 

So Arsene has a dilemma, but one that should be easy enough to solve. The squad strength should allow him to hedge his bets even a little for this game, while simultaneously being able to preserve his side for the game against the Potters in the weekend. 

A loss will be harmful, but an injury to key personnel would be potentially fatal to our hopes of any silverware. Sensible rotation is key.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal

Is Mesut Ozil Underperforming?

Every club possesses a star player. The one his teammates look to when matters on the pitch are on the slide. These men have within their grasp that sprinkling of stardust that illuminates the darkness and opens up previously locked doors.

They pull up their cohorts by their very eyes, showing them that anything is possible even in the most difficult of circumstances. Inspiration is the key ingredient that is liberally stored in their pockets, and the manager knows that every minute spent on the pitch is another possibility that something could materialise. 

They offer hope and salvation from the dregs of misery. Every club is lucky enough to have one in their ranks, and some clubs have two or three. 

Manchester City have Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. Chelsea have Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, Liverpool have Philippe Coutinho and United have Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. At Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil provide the sparks for the team, but what happens when there is no flicker of light? 

Last season for Ozil saw him exhibit exactly what makes him one of the finest playmakers in world football, and coveted by clubs all over the world. Despite the static nature of first choice striker Olivier Giroud, Ozil registered 19 assists for the season. He missed the chance to set a new record at Arsenal for amount of assists in a season, but for the majority of the year, his deft touch was the key for the Gunners attack to unlock even the most stubborn defence.

He finished above his positional rivals in terms of chances created and assists, and thus proved his superiority. You see, stats may lie in the eye of the beholder, but they still underline facts. His greater numbers showed that his productivity was better than those players who were supposed to be on a par with the German. 

When there is no productivity however, it undermines most arguments. Mesut Ozil is a player that even when his velvet touch is quavering and his radar is on the fritz, he still instigates attacks. He is still integral to every move Arsenal conjure. The problem with this is that pre-assists are not counted, and his excellent positioning is not registered. All that matter are numbers.

Ozil has also had to adapt to a style change at the club. Since his blockbuster move to Arsenal in 2014, his bullseye has been Olivier Giroud. Ozil prospers when his boot can hone in on runners into the box, but Giroud’s primary strength is with his back to goal, laying off the ball and then finding a nick of space in the box. Ozil, to find his optimum level, needs a Freddie Ljungberg/Bobbi Pires type. A player who constantly makes intelligent runs.

So to still get 19 assists last season was a real feat. This season should be even better then, considering he has the effervescent Alexis Sanchez and the fit and firing Theo Walcott to aim for?

This hasn’t transpired. He is still making things click to a degree in the final third, but this season has seen him and our other source of inspiration Alexis, drop ever deeper in an effort to ignite our play. How much of this is down to a drop in form for our German though?

Comparing him to the aforementioned playmakers at our rivals, Ozil’s lustre diminishes a little so far this campaign. De Bruyne leads the way for assists at the time of writing (Dec 1st) with seven, closely followed by Coutinho with five. Ozil has a paltry one.

What about chances created? He may not be getting assists, but that may be down to the profligacy of our strikeforce? Well, out of four players (De Bruyne, Hazard and Coutinho), Ozil is third in terms of chances created, with De Bruyne and Coutinho again earning better numbers.

Ozil has been more of a goal threat this season – Arsene Wenger has mentioned his wanting for Mesut to fire in more goals this term – but he again lags behind two of the four, with Hazard and Coutinho bagging more than Mesut.

One stat that is quite telling is the number of key passes –  This shows that Ozil is still the heartbeat of our attack, as his number surpasses all three of his rivals so far. 

It also highlights that he is lacking the keen edge of the assassins knife that is his signature. He is still seeing as much of the ball, but the numbers don’t lie, he is not producing his beautiful passing in the right area. 

It seems unfair that we expect so much from him – and Alexis – when our team are not exactly firing on all cylinders, but these players are a step up from the norm and should rightfully warrant the elevated expectations. 

At the moment he is a Lamborghini, but he is being driven around the one-way system in Norwich. We are not utilising him where he can be most potent – or is it down to Ozil himself that he is dropping deeper rather than at the cutting edge of play?

We need his productivity to increase. He is still finding teammates with the ball, but if they are thirty five yards away from goal, it matters little. Ozil needs to exert his influence in the final third and remind everyone again that his boot is capable of slitting open any opponent. 

At the moment his knife is too far away from the enemy to create any lasting damage. 

West Ham 1-5 Arsenal: 5 Key Points 

​After months of underwhelming, unconvincing and ill-fitting performances on the pitch, the Arsenal that we all know exists roared into gear – and destroyed West Ham in devestating fashion.

Goals from Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a blazing-hot hat-trick from Alexis Sanchez first put the home side on the ropes, and then sent them to the canvas.

Both sides were carrying injuries – Arsenal were missing Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin, Olivier Giroud and their long-term injured, and West Ham were missing Diafra Sakho, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell and Gunners-terror Andy Carroll could only make the bench – but it was the quality of replacements that showed the gap between both clubs.

Arsenal brought in Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to fill the gaps in the eleven, whilst West Ham drafted in Fernandes, Ashley Fletcher and Arthur Masuaku. The difference in quality is marked, although all the back-ups for both teams were still more than able to cause damage. 

The pattern of the match was visible from the start – Arsenal bossed possession, and West Ham looked to counter through Lanzini and Payet – but the lackadaisical ball carrying  that has been the Gunners hallmark over recent outings was not on show. Instead, we moved the ball with purpose, with Ozil prying and poking in every cranny and Alexis looking to cause damage every time he received the ball.

West Ham’s game plan was being foiled by the awareness of Xhaka and Coquelin, who then offloaded quickly without fuss, to either of Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott. The end product may have been missing from both, but they were tireless and full of running, which took defenders out of position.

In short, Arsenal looked dangerous, vibrant and unplayable. The deadlock was broken, and predictably, it was Alexis and Ozil who were the architects. It began with Angelo Ogbonna attempting to play out from the back, but his tardiness meant that the alert Coquelin could block his pass. Alexis sniffed out the ball and ran into the box, before squaring it to Ozil to finish from six yards.

A simple goal maybe, but the positioning from the 3 Arsenal players completely built that goal.

The first half ended with Arsenal on top, and West Ham playing in fits and burst, but not truly troubling Petr Cech – the only threatening moment came when Obiang headed over from a decent position.

On the whole, it was a pretty perfect half from Arsenal – aside from a little profligacy in front of goal.

The second half was the fruition of wishes from Gooners everywhere – for Arsenal to return to the potent side they always threaten to be. 

For the first twenty minutes or so, Arsenal continued to press and push the Hammers. That in turn created openings that really could have seen a shedload of goals and which would have killed off our London rivals.

West Ham at least woke from their slumber for five minutes. Dmitri Payet and Lanzini could have created an equaliser if it weren’t for Koscielny’s intervention – and Ashley Fletcher drew a smart save from Cech.

Then, Alexis made the difference again. Mustafi’s attempted pass was too strong, but the Chilean controlled it almost like he had boots covered in glue. He then turned sharply and angled a shot past Randolph in the Hammers goal. 

The spirit had been dampened, West Ham were reeling, and seven minutes later, the Gunners had three.

Ozil attempted to outwit a defender, and the foiled attempt fell to Alexis, who fired past the keeper yet again. Clinical, and West Ham’s corner were ready to throw in the towel.

It wouldn’t be Arsenal without a wobble – and it was perennial Arsenal-botherer Andy Carroll who provided the drama. The big man had hobbled off the bench, and he was the first to react to a Payet free-kick which had pinged off the bar.

Jitters? Newcastle 4-4? Banterlecht? Last season against West Ham? Not this time.

Only a minute after conceding the goal from Carroll, Arsenal reapplied their foot firmly upon West Ham’s throat. It was lovely to see The Ox grab the goal with a great finish, especially after his previous minutes were not the most productive. It was a fantastic curling shot from outside the box.

The next goal was typical Arsenal – if there is such a thing.

Again, just a minute later, Arsenal threw a haymaker which connected flush with West Ham’s jaw. 

Lights out.

Mesut Ozil laid a through ball on a plate for our wonderful Chilean. He was right on the threshold of offside, but his finish was a delightful dink over Darren Randolph. The assist and finish were pretty much the special moves from the respective players. Look out for Alexis’s little dummy before applying the chip – it was special.

Full time, and in truth, Arsenal deserved more. If it weren’t for some off-finishing and Randolph’s saves, West Ham fans would have left far earlier than they actually did.

There was so much to take from this game, but here are five big talking points from the ninety minutes:

Alexis MUST be signed long term

The Chilean’s dynamism, movement, desire and intensity were arrows the Hammers could not shield from. He is one of the leading lights in Europe and if Arsenal have any objectives this coming year, signing Alexis up long term must surely be top of the agenda. Imperative.Six of our last seven goals have come from him in one way or the other. He is the future. Pay him what he deserves.


Thank you Opta

There is an upcoming blog from myself objectively looking at Ozil and whether he has underperformed this season. It gets released tomorrow, and it is going to make me look like an idiot after this performance – as he showed the changing role he is playing this season. His touch map for the first half showed he was instrumental in everything we did. He is the catalyst, and he was the finsiher too for the first goal. It would be great if he could bag assists like they were going out of fashion, but his touch and vision can be implemented anywhere on the pitch. The German is genius.

Arsenal’s press was on point

At times this season, our harrying was not exactly efficient enough to cause our opponents problems. We didn’t see it through to all points of the pitch, but this game we didn’t give the Hammers makeshift backline any time to settle. We capitalised on a weakness, like a ruthless hunter. It will be needed throughout the season.

Xhaka and Coquelin worked

Coquelin is a destroyer, perhaps one of the best in the League. He does have his limits though. What he did do well in this game is he offloaded quickly and simply. He won the ball as he does, and then gave it to someone who can cause damage. Xhaka was just as protective, but his passing really did bypass any lurking Hammers midfielders, setting off Arsenal attacks regularly. While Ramsey may be a more conductive option, this combo is safe, and as long as Coq doesn’t go full Alexandre Song on us, we have options.

Revenge is sweet

West Ham recorded our first ever defeat at The Emirates. So to beat them so convincingly in our first match at the Tesco Arena really did add a cherry to the five-tier cake that was our win. Records stay around for a long time, so this blot on the Hammers copybook will always show that the Hammers were hammered by us in our first match together in the London stadium.

There was so much more to feast on in this game. Koscielny was solid, as was Gabriel at right-back. 

It was so great – and relieving – to see Arsenal steamroller a side rather than tentatively poke at them with weak jabs whilst dancing around them. We showed the power we possess, and the confidence we can take from this will stand us in good stead for the flurry of tests which will follow in December and January.

West Ham Vs Arsenal – What You Need To Know

The run of games without a loss may have ended, but the Premiership bid is still alive and kicking. 

With Wednesday’s EFL Cup exit at the hands of Southampton being the first game we have lost since the start of the season against Liverpool, today’s game allows us to instantly bounce back from the disappointment of our cup exit.

It will also be the first time we have visited West Ham’s new stadium, and the incumbents of the stadia are seeing that a bigger capacity and modern amenities don’t necessarily bring bigger success. The Hammers, after enjoying a sparkling previous season, are languishing in 16th place, and were also dumped out of the EFL Cup at the same stage, going down 4-1 to Man Utd.

That is not to downplay the threat of the home side though. West Ham still have the same squad that finished so strongly last season, and we have been burned by the Hammers on more than one occasion recently.

On the plus side, even though we had our annual November wobble we are still within touching distance of the top of the league. This won’t be a premise that will hang around if we continue to play like we have in the last month or two, so a welcome return to form would be a fillip for our aspirations. 

Our team will still be bereft of Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy, and Olivier Giroud looks doubtful with a groin problem. The worst news comes from Santi Cazorla’s extended layoff. The mercurial Spaniard and his troublesome achilles will see him out of the side until at least March. So, a working midfield combination has to be found…….and quickly.

One who looks to miss out on the midfield experimentation – or at least this match – is Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian had a stomach bug in the midweek loss, and has played two games in the space of six days. This leaves Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey to duke it out for the two remaining spots.

With Mathieu Debuchy out with injury yet again, Carl Jenkinson gets another chance to show he’s worthy of a squad place, and Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal will most likely return after being left out of the EFL Cup loss.

Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott also had a rest during the week, and they will be the chief threat to the leaky West Ham backline. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi will be vying for the remaining spot in the team. 

A name to bring a chill to the spine of every Gooner – Andy Carroll – has also timed his return from injury to perfection. He will be fit for the game, and with Diafra Sakho out of action, the tall frontman is prime candidate to be chief threat to Koscielny and co.

The aerial threat has been dampened a little by the absence of crossing specialist Aaron Cresswell, but they have plenty of others who can put a ball into the box, and Carroll in the box will be a nightmare for our defenders.

These are the games we must win though, if we are to have genuine aims of finishing top of the tree. Arsenal have not lost at West Ham for a decade, and we have not lost an away game in the league since February so the odds should be in our favour. The Hammers also have not won in four games. If they are to upset the form they’ve been in, they’ll need every bit of the fighting spirit they showed in last seasons 3-3 draw against us – when Andy Carroll scored a hat-trick.

The result may be different but this game normally brings goals. With Theo Walcott scoring more goals against West Ham than any other, it could be the England speedster that breaks the deadlock. 

Regardless of who scores, the win is imperative. West Ham were the first side to inflict defeat at The Emirates, and it would be great if we could beat them in the first match between us in their new ground. 

Revenge would be sweet – and necessary.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal. 

Arsenal Vs Southampton – EFL Cup Preview

The EFL Cup Quarter-Finals are next up on the agenda for Arsenal, and with the trophy a mere three wins away, a strong team selection will be on the cards for the Gunners.

The importance of the tie is one reason, but the squad depth is another reason why Arsenal’s lineup will be stronger than in previous years. Established players will be champing at the bit to be involved, and this will benefit Arsene Wenger’s bid to lift this trophy for the first time in his distinguished career at the helm of Arsenal.

The opposition travelling to The Emirates will not exactly give easy passage to the Semi-Finals however. Claude Puel’s Southampton are a strong unit, and the seemingly endless procession of talented youngsters coming from the South Coast will be pumped for the game, as well as some of their own bigger stars. Arsenal were victorious in their Premier League meeting at The Emirates in September – running out 2-1 winners – but league form doesn’t apply in the majority of cup games, and this will be no different.

In terms of who will make up the home team, the EFL Cup and its previous incarnations have always provided a small portal for the masses of Gooners to view the potential future of the club, and despite the many players who will want to play, Arsene Wenger will no doubt include at least a couple of the second string kids.

One who is a strong shout to play is Ainslie Maitland-Niles, and his versatility has seen him play at right-back and in centre midfield so far in previous rounds. Another who may play is Rob Holding, who has more than impressed since his summer move from Bolton Wanderers.The much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide played in the last round, and the talented Frenchman should get the nod this time around. 

Emiliano Martinez has played all of the EFL Cup games so far, and the 24yr old will no doubt keep the gloves for this game, but the rest of the team is harder to decipher.

A surprise inclusion is the return of Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has shown remarkable powers of recovery to be included in the plans for this game, and Wenger has said he is ready to go during his latest press conference. The striker could well get the striker spot, but one player who must be included is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Ox scored both goals in the previous round’s win over Reading, and he has scored the last three goals the club have scored in this competition. Whilst his confidence may be low after a sub-par performance in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth, the best remedy for such a malaise is a strong showing in the next game.

Claude Puel will no doubt fancy his chances in this Cup, and his team selection will be more than a match for the home team. Despite Southampton exiting the cup at this stage in their last seven attempts, the brand of football they play will always grant them chances. Arsenal’s shuffled defence will have to be switched on to safeguard their own hopes. 

Josh Sims, 19, will miss the trip to The Emirates, and his livewire debut game in the 1-0 win over Everton in the weekend showcased the latest prodigy to hail from the club. James Ward-Prowse, Matt Targett, Sam McQueen and Sofiane Boufal could all play, and Boufal in particular will pose a real threat. The mazy French wideman is highly rated for good reason, and returns from injury to make the squad.

So, yet another match, but a golden opportunity to make the semi-finals of a competition we haven’t lifted since 1993. Key players will be rested for this game, so the players who do take to the pitch have a great chance to extend their playing time. 

No harm can come from progression. Success breeds success and winning is a habit. 

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Lucas

Predicted scoreline – 3-2 Arsenal

Tony Adams Is 50 – Our Captain’s Finest Moments

Posted on Goonersphere

The 10th of October 1966 was a special day for Gooners of all ages. Not because of a significant victory or event that Arsenal had – but because it was the day that Tony Adams was born.

Who knew that on this joyous day, the child that was born in Romford would go on to become what many perceive as Arsenal’s finest leader in their illustrious history. 

Fired by his incredible will to win and defensive nous, Adams would break into the Arsenal first team in his late teens, and stay at the club which gave him his chance for his entire career. A one-club player is a rarity in the modern game, but the bonds which tied him to Highbury were unbreakable.

Making his first team bow in 1983, and then retiring in 2002, gave Adams 19 years at the club to forge a career which no one could possibly forget. His much-told battle with alcoholism intertwines with his first 15 years, but much like all the opponents he faced – he eventually defeated the demon drink too.

So, in all those years, and hundreds of games he played, what would be his finest moment? How can anyone possibly choose what is he brightest light amongst many? Adams played, and led, in many historic Arsenal matches, so to select a chosen few is beyond difficult. 

The glaring omissions are not an admission that they aren’t on a par with the ones I have selected. Just that there are far too many to mention. 

So, let me take you on a tour of Captain Fantastic’s amazing moments. Please buckle your seatbelt and keep your arms inside the ride at all times. The Mr Arsenal show is about to begin….

Anfield. 26th May 1989.

Tony Adams skippered the Arsenal side which had no realistic hope of snatching the title away from dominant Liverpool. Arsenal had kept pace with the Scousers all season, however, Liverpool had a fine pedigree and the week previously had lifted the FA Cup. They were hoping to complete their second double, and the media and majority of fans thought that the Gunners didn’t have a hope of winning at Anfield  – never mind by two clear goals.

Someone never told George Graham and his boys though. The first half went according to plan for Graham- keep it tight, don’t concede. The second half saw Alan smith glance in a Nigel Winterburn set-piece and grab a precious goal, but they still had to snatch another to claim a ninth First Division title.

With mere minutes to go, the image of McMahon holding up a single digit to the rest of his teammates to signify that they had to hold out for one more minute to be champions again is burned into the memory of Gooners. Then, history was made.

Lukic throws out to Dixon. Dixon plays a ball to Smith, who heads onwards for an onrushing Thomas to ride a challenge into the box and slot past Grobbelaar. 

Sweet ecstasy. For some, it is a high that will never again be reached. What is clear though, is that for this titanic effort to have been made, the role of Skipper would never have been more important. Tony Adams led from the front, kept Aldridge, Rush and Beardsley quiet, and instilled in his men the belief that he held inside himself. 



This could be perceived as Tony’s darkest season, as he missed eight games through his incarceration at HMP. His leadership was so unequivocal, so influential however, that even in his absence his teammates drew strength from him and his wishes. 

The team only lost once all season, and blew away the rest of their opposition as they won the title for the second time in three years. Not only this, but the rock-solid back5 was now complete and conceded only 18 goals. As a captain and as a defender, Adams was top of the pile.

Copenhagen, 1994. ECWC Vs Parma

Another game which Arsenal had no right to win, but this game was the archetypal performance from the famous Back5. Parma were studded with stars, and were widely expected to win back to back Cup Winners Cups. 

Arsenal’s back 5 though, were superb throughout, and nulified Zola, Brolin and Asprilla with tactics, physicality and anticipation. If there was one match to show someone who wanted to know about the finest defence that has ever existed in the UK, then this match would be what you show them. Absolute perfection from Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn.

Arsenal 4-0 Everton, 1998.

Still in recovery from alcoholism, and benefitting from Arsene Wenger’s new fangled nutrition tips and fitness aids, Adams was a new man. The team had overhauled a sizeable Manchester United lead at the top of the table and all that was left was to defeat Everton at Highbury to win their first title since 1991.

Adams was still captain, and the sight of him marauding forward to collect a lofted Bould pass still promotes goosebumps. He flicked the ball down with his chest, before depositing a thumping, left-footed volley past Thomas Myhre. 

Adams, whilst skilled in defending, was not known for such finesse, but as he celebrated in a beam of sinshine with his arms out wide, the goal signified a transformation. He had shed his demons, he was just bathing in the enjoyment of it all. My personal favourite.

There are many other memories that still resonate. His winner in the FA Cup in 1993 vs Spurs to exact revenge for the 1991 defeat. Holding the 2002 Premiership aloft.Winning the Cup double in 1993.

It isn’t only the silverware which makes his career a perfect example of how to beat adversity and achieve sporting immortality. Every game he played, every time he led his men, he gave everything to the cause. It showed in every tackle and airborne challenge he made. 

The fact he was so dedicated, and stayed with us for his entire career, means that we should never forget about our Captain. 

Happy Birthday Mr Arsenal. 

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth – 5 Key Points 

Arsenal returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, and Arsene Wenger will be pleased to see the team pick up the three points with his title rivals all winning.

Keeping pace with the top of the league is one thing, but getting a win after three consecutive draws was a welcome fillip, and the confidence earned from this performance will be needed as the slew of fixtures shows no sign of abating.

The depth of the squad came into play for this game, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka ccame in for Alex Iwobi, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin, but more surprising was the inclusion of Mathieu Debuchy for his first Premiership game of the season. Carl Jenkinson had taken the right back spot since the unfortunate injury to Hector Bellerin, but rotation gave Jenko an opportunity to rest – and a chance for Debuchy to hopefully kickstart his Gunners career once more.

Nacho Monreal also returned to the side in place of Keiran Gibbs, and Alexis returned to the striking berth ahead of the benched Olivier Giroud, and it would be the Chilean who would make the breakthrough. 

A dreadful backpass was sniffed up by Alexis, and he sidestepped the Cherries keeper and slotted it low into the net. It was the purest evidence that the incessant chasing from Sanchez does reap rewards. 

Soon after, the unlucky Debuchy crumpled to the floor through injury and was replaced by Gabriel. It then got much worse for the home side.

A bouncing ball into the Arsenal box saw Monreal and Calum Wilson contest it, only for Wilson to jump into Monreal and claim a penalty. It was ludicrous to suggest Monreal impeded Wilson, but referee Mike Jones adjudged that the Spaniard had fouled the striker. Petr Cech went the wrong way for the spot kick and all of a sudden, Bournemouth were level.

The Cherries had taken the initiative and Adam Smith could have  given Bournemouth the lead. A free header sailed over the bar wthout testing Cech and the sighs were audible around The Emirates. 

Arsenal dug their heels in, and a Mesut Ozil through ball found Alexis in the box, who fizzed a shot at goal with only the bar putting up any resisitance. It was the last act of the half and a combination of Mike Jones and the frame of the goal had denied Arsenal the lead.

The second half saw Arsenal snap out of their reverie, and they snapped at the away side, pressing and looking pumped for the challenge. The home side then restored their lead.

Mesut Ozil twisted and turned and put in a cross which Nathan Ake got a head to. The ball looped to Nacho Monreal, who found Theo Walcott in the centre to head the ball emphatically home. The rhythm that Arsenal had dictated from the start of the second half had proved the difference. 

Bournemouth didn’t give up though, and former Gunner Benik Afobe looked to have earned a point, but a point blank save from Cech denied him and kept the scoreline in the Gunners favour.

Arsenal then wrapped the points up, as a wonderful move saw Giroud – a second half sub for Theo – found Ozil. The German noticed Giroud had continued his run so he fed him accordingly. A first time pass from inside the box was perfect for the lurking Alexis, who slotted home from close range.

Job done. There was far more to take from this game though, so here are the five keypoints from the ninety minutes:

Elneny and Xhaka need time, but the signs are good

Both were busy, both never relented. They attacked at the right time and sat back when required. The ball ticked over nicely and they performed their roles satisfactorily. Both need a run in the side and although different opponents will dictate which midfielder gets the nod, these two more than deserve their chance. 

A moment of beauty nearly realised

A passage of play in the second half really did illuminate the match. Alexis scampered away from a broken Cherries attack, and with the ball he made up twenty yards. A quick look up and with the outside of his boot, he curled a ball around the Bournemouth backline to find the run of Ozil. It was sumptuous, but Ozil was being tightly man-marked. He pulled the defender out of position and backheeled it into Theo Walcott, but the ball was snuffed out. If theo had found the goal, it would have been a goal to remember. As it is, it was merely a reminder of the football that we can play at times.

Cech quietly showing everyone 

Not much is ever written about Petr Cech, but that speaks volumes of his class. It is only when a mistake occurs that he will garner words in the media, but once again the tall Czech performed well and possibly saved us dropping points. Not for the first time. An air of experience, adab hand at winning, Cech is an asset. 
Ramsey ousted, but he will play his part

Ramsey had played a fair few games since his return from injury, so it was sage to bench him and allow recovery, but some may have took it for a straight replacement. Rambo did take to the pitch as a second half sub, and his input during his cameo smacked of a player eager to prove the doubters wrong. The players who make the difference will always lose possession as it is difficult to perform what they do without making errors. Ramsey is the same. Xhaka and Elneny played well, but Ramsey always looks to get his side on the front foot. He will be back in the side sooner rather than later. Fitness and a long run in the side will see him back to his best.

Bournemouth proved to be a real challenge

More corners and the same amount of shots on target may give a clue as to how tough a test the Cherries gave Arsenal. They play football on the deck as opposed to lumping it into the mixer, and they always look to get the ball forward with pace. They posed questions all over the pitch, and on this evidence, they should be looking for a midtable spot rather than the trapdoor. Eddie Howe has them set up well, and they avoid being overly negative, even away at The Emirates. 

There was far more goings on than these five salient points. Alexis was on fire, Gabriel adapted well playing at right-back, and Oxlade-Chamberlain showed again how fragile his confidence is with an under-par game. 

All that is important though, is that three points were gained. Midweek sees a chance to rotate and rest key players, with the EFL Cup tie against Southampton, and then the Premier League is back on Saturday as we go to the London Stadium to take on West Ham. 

We are back on track, but every game is a huge test. 

Arsenal Vs Bournemouth – Match Preview

November has seen the usual drop in standards at Arsenal, but despite the annual malaise, Arsenal have maintained the run of games without losing – which currently stands at 18.

The form has dipped and points have been dropped, but more importantly – these tough games which has seen us scrape a point this season, in the last few campaigns we would have surely lost them. 

Scraping for positives? Perhaps. The fare that has been served up on the pitch lately has not exactly been up to our usual standard, and a dearth of goals and shots on target suggest a footballing version of writers block. The invention that is our staple at the club has been bereft, and one of the telltale reasons is the loss of Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard usually is the man responsible for taking possession from Coquelin, and actually being productive – either feeding the wide men or allowing Ozil to weave his magic. Without him, it leaves Coquelin looking to offload to anyone, or actually doing something with it himself, which isn’t pretty.

This game does bring as close to a guarantee as football can give though. Bournemouth play an expansive type of football, and will not come to The Emirates looking to shut up shop. It is exactly the game we need to bring back a little confidence. 

With Bournemouth looking to match our attack every step of the way, it is vital our midfielders step up and spark attacks quickly. With Arsene Wenger’s comments yesterday regarding Granit Xhaka, the Swiss midfielder looks the perfect option to play.

Wenger, speaking in his press conference, said that Xhaka’s strength is the pass which goes straight to high midfield and bypasses the opposition’s midfield. With Bournemouth pressing high up, these quick passes could be the key weapon in piercing the Cherries backline.

Petr Cech should come back to take the gloves from Cup Keeper David Ospina, but Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are still missing, although Lucas Perez could well come in for the midweek EFL Cup tie next week.

Francis Coquelin may be limited, but his skillset is sharp. He is the midfield destroyer and again exhibited what he brings in the tussle with PSG on Wednesday. Will he play again so soon after a tough game? Or will Mohamed Elneny be given another chance to pick up some form? Surely Granit Xhaka is the perfect option to play, and with Aaron Ramsey looking assured in the tie with PSG, a midfield combo of Xhaka and Ramsey could well be on the cards.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud combined to great effect in our last match in the PL – the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford – but will either be given a chance from the start? Giroud may find himself on the bench with Alexis starting in the striker spot, but The Ox could grab Alex Iwobi’s spot on the left, with Theo occupying the right attack and Ozil again in the hole. It is all conjecture, but it does show the variety we have in the squad. Giroud would certainly be unlucky not to play, seeing as he has scored in his last two games – and hasn’t started a game in the Premier League this season. 

Cherries boss Eddie Howe will have to do without midfield dynamo Jack Wilshere, as playing against his parent club is not part of his loan contract. Speaking of contracts, Arsene Wenger spoke of Wilshere’s Arsenal contract, and stated he is keen to tie Wilshere up for next season. He has impressed all with not only his form on the South Coast, but his fitness. He may have just forced himself into Wengers plans for the future, and with Santi Cazorla not getting any younger, Jack seems the perfect option to replace his vibrant play.

Bournemouth are not a one-man threat though. Calum Wilson, Josh King and Stanislas can all cause defenders nightmares on their day. They also earned their first away win and clean sheet in their last match, by winning 1-0 against Stoke. Their confidence will be high and it will be an entertaining test.

Arsenal lie three points from top spot, and have drawn three of our last four games. We are still within touching distance, but this game will be a telltale sign as to how low the confidence is within the camp. Bournemouth will not camp in their own box, so there can be no excuses regarding a stubborn opponent. 

This match will hinge on one thing – which team has the sharper blade? The squad lists point to the Gunners. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez. 

Predicted Score – 4-1 Arsenal