Mr Arsenal Was Home – But Not For Long

The old adage goes, “If you love something, let it go.”

Well, in both of Arsenal and Tony Adams case, to tear themselves away from each other must have been an incredibly difficult task.

You see, both go hand in hand. Arsenal and Tony Adams cannot exist without the other. When you think Arsenal, then surely Tony Adams would be one of the first you envisage. When you hear the name of Arsenal’s greatest ever captain, then you think of Arsenal.


Continue reading

Leicester 0-0 Arsenal – 5 Key Points 

On the face of things, this result leaves us under pressure and is far from good enough.

After the collapse last week versus Liverpool, the onus on victory in this game was large, but this draw leaves us with one point from six – and already facing a five point gap to get to the top of the table.

Also, failing to score is not exactly the best answer to the vociferous demands for a striker purchase.

Fear not though, there are some factors that arose as we fought with the Foxes that we can cling onto – and some that may yet derail us at such an early stage. 

Koscielny,Giroud and Özil are back.

Last week, our players who were given an extra week off after their Euro2016 exploits were severely missed. None more so than Laurent Koscielny.

The French defender was a certified gamble, according to Arsene Wenger, but it certainly paid off. 

Kos hit the ground running, putting in many tackles and more importantly, being the sage head that young Rob Holding needed next to him.

Giroud and Özil were only given second half cameos, but after enduring a spell of pressure from Leicester, the class they both have allowed the Gunners an outlet which gave the last twenty minutes a more even footing.

Rob Holding looking good.

The young man from Bolton endured a baptism of fire last week, and players of a certain mental framework would struggle for a while after such a debut.

Not Holding though. He held firm, and denied Vardy, Mahrez and co with some great defending. Of course, the help he received from Koscielny, Coquelin and others was telling, but we might just have a bargain on our hands. £2m looks a steal thus far.

Santi Cazorla not ready yet.

Flitting in and out of the game, is a telltale sign that the all-action Spaniard is not up to speed yet. 

His final ball was errant, he didn’t have the impact we expect. As such, our attack looked blunt. When Santi gets his edge back, we will have someone to load the bullets alongside Özil, but….

We need to buy a striker.

Alexis CAN play as a striker. 

Just not as a lone striker. He could be as good as Griezmann, but he needs a foil. He requires a partner. 

Until our system changes, Alexis should not play up top. He can be effective in his normal position, just leave him where he is.

That leaves Giroud – and Theo. I firmly believe Theo can do a job for us, but the lack of options up front is not an elite mentality. 

All top contenders have top strikers. 

Leicester had their 1st shot on target in the 92nd minute…

People will moan about this disappointing result, but restricting the Champions to one shot on target, and this occurred in extra time, shows our midfield and defence are ready for the season. If our attack was at the same stage, then we would have grabbed the points.

So, yes, we are playing catch up. Yes, we need a striker.

Reports of our demise however, are greatly exaggerated – for now. 

Leicester City Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Can we start again?

Last weekends season opener was not the start that a title hopeful should be making – but it is a trend that has started to take root.

Only one opening day win in the last six years does not exactly pave the way to success, and winning is a habit that may be hard to break, but also equally hard to begin.

For seventy minutes, the Gunners played well, passing well and generally keeping their opponents at arms length. Twenty minutes was all it took for Arsenal’s defensive inexperience to show, and four goals shipped in that time highlight the need for a seasoned warrior to lead the backline.

Next up is champions Leicester, so the going will not be letting up any time soon. 

There are rays of optimism however, not all is lost.

Firstly, Leicester and Arsenal matches bring happy memories – think the Invincibles clincher, and Danny Welbeck’s emotional winner last term.

The only team to win both league matches against the Foxes in their amazing campaign, we may just have the gameplan to foil the counter-attacking team led by wily Italian Claudio Ranieri.

Both teams will be aiming to recover from losses, Leicester surprisingly lost to undermanned Hull City and were profligate in front of goal. 

Arsene Wenger needs to roll the dice before kickoff – Laurent Koscielny is back in the reckoning after his Euro2016 exploits, and he may just get the nod to slot straight back in. Chambers and Holding held their own for a large portion of the game against Liverpool – but a lack of experience really told. 

Another back in the fold may be Olivier Giroud – or a t least a spot on the bench. Alexis may also revert back to a wide berth, as injuries have already begun to bite.

Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey were both injured in the loss to the Merseysiders, and they both were given the dreaded four week layoff. Something of an inside joke amongst Gooners, as so often a player has been given the same diagnosis – only for them to miss the rest of the season…..

Hopefully this will not be the same, but regardless, they will both miss this match, so Joel Campbell may just get the chance his pre-season deserves. Alexis may move back to his familiar left hand spot, with Theo Walcott given a spot up top. 

With the Number10 spot vacant, and Mesut Ozil mysteriously still absent despite playing less in Euro2016 than both Koscielny and Giroud, Santi Cazorla has an opportunity to gain fitness and to show what he is capable of. 

Purely conjecture, of course. None of us know for sure who will play aside from the beleaguered boss himself, but there are certain players who appear to be higher in the pecking order than others. 

With many starting players missing, then the opportunity to throw down the gauntlet and hold down a spot is there, and they must take it – take heed Walcott, Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Play well, and you may just stay in the side.

For Leicester, Wes Morgan’s regular partner Robert Huth returns after seeing out his suspension which overran from last season. Morgan will no doubt be pleased, as Ranieri’s defence was as porous as it has ever been in the defeat to the Tigers last weekend.

They still retain the threat on the counter attack, maybe even more so with the addition of the effervescent Ahmed Musa. Whoever plays in the centre of Arsenal’s defence, they will have to be on high alert for the full 90.

Where Leicester may just be lacking a little, is invention behind the strikers. If the quick ball for Vardy and Musa to chase is stifled, then aside from the newly signed up Mahrez, they may just struggle to create. 

An intriguing battle will take place in the centre of the park. With N’Golo Kante plying his trade for Chelsea, it has given Welshman Andy King the chance to show Ranieri he can be the readymade replacement for the Frenchman, and an acid test to his claim may come against the Gunners.

Francis Coquelin, at times, was the wall Arsenal needed against a rapid Liverpool team last week, but errant positioning left his teammates too open at times – criminal when Rob Holding and Calum Chambers had a combined age of 41.

Will he pay for his errors? Granit Xhaka is thought to be the first choice for defensive midfield duties, and if he is up to speed and fit, then he will surely get the nod, but his partner could well be Mohamed Elneny – and the Egyptian will deserve it. He has been up to task whenever called upon, and his dynamism from midfield will be required to break down a clogged final third.

To end, here are some stats that could have some bearing in the game:

Leicester haven’t beaten Arsenal in 14 games

They do though, boast the most penalties earned and scored in the last year, so no rash tackles in the box please!

No defending champions have lost both opening games since Villa in 1981

First scorer? Worth a punt may be Alexis. He has four goals in two games at the King Power Stadium.

Predicted Lineup

Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Xhaka, Alexis, Cazorla, Walcott. (A prediction only, may I remind you all that I know precious little).

Predicted scoreline? 2-1 to Arsenal, with Alexis and Theo to score.

Christopher Wreh – The Unsung Hero of 1998’s Double

Behind the veil of memory, those moments of glory oft recalled centre on the men who provided the most minutes for your own personal highlight reel. 

Those stoic fellows who personified the teams heroic push seem to make up the majority of your memories and images when asked to remember certain peaks in your time as a follower of your club.

Continue reading

Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool – A Little Perspective 

The feeling around the fans prior to kickoff wasn’t exactly laden with optimism, but none could have foreseen the crazy second half which proved our undoing.

Much of the consternation was located at our defence – and who would play with the absences of Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.

Wenger, after making several points about experience being required in the back line – then went with 20-year-old Rob Holding and 21-year-old Calum Chambers. 

Left-back Nacho Monreal was expected to slot inside to lend a hand, but was named in his usual position. 

It was to prove decisive.

The first half went according to plan for the Gunners. Klopp’s men were shackled well by the youthful exuberance of Holding and Chambers, and when chances were created – they were ours.

Theo Walcott, the man facing a big fight to win over his doubters, started well. Tracking back, fighting for every ball – and making his marker Alberto Moreno look a fool repeatedly.

It was this mismatch that granted us a penalty, as Moreno lunged at the ball which had changed direction suddenly thanks to Theo’s first touch. 

It was Theo who dusted himself off to take the penalty. Simon Mignolet was his equal though, but in truth the penalty was at an optimal height for the Belgian.

Only two minutes later though, Walcott wasn’t to be denied. It speaks volumes for his spirit that he took Alex Iwobi’s pass with a great touch, and finished so well into the far corner.

The rest of the half played out with the Gunners in control, right up until Philippe Coutinho was granted a free kick 25yds out and curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

Justice? Hardly, but what was to come in the second half would be far worse….

Four minutes after the restart, Adam Lallana chested a pass down and finished into the far corner. He took it well, but after a strong first half, Calum Chambers was pulled out of position too easily. 

Seven minutes later, Coutinho had his second. Nineteen passes were involved in the buildup to the goal, with the Brazilian slotting home.

The ire from the fans started to build, and soon enough, reached a crescendo.

Sadio Mane drove at Arsenal’s defence, cutting in and leaving Monreal for dead. A thunderous finish left Cech no chance, and droves of the crowd left the stadium in disgust. Boos rang out from the crowd.

Within twenty minutes, our inexperience had cost us dearly. Blitzed. They had coped admirably but they couldn’t cope with the one spell of dominance Liverpool had.

A minute later, after Rambo and Iwobi had come off injured to add to Wenger’s woes, one of the substitutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain, finally showed what he is capable of, with a good run and finish to pull a goal back.

On the seventy-fifth minute, another goal was pulled back. Santi Cazorla whizzed a free kick into the danger zone and Chambers glanced past Mignolet.

Despite the twenty minute horror show, the spirit to come back and make a fist of it was good to see. The comeback was not to be completed, but there were performances to raise levels of hope a little.

There needs to be a cold, hard look at our lack of investment. There needs to be inspection upon our tactics after we concede. 

Our season isn’t over though, and players shouldn’t be consigned to the exit for the portion of play that lost us the game. 

What is clear is that these mistakes cannot continue if we are to push on.  

What is clear is that conceding four goals at home is hardly the mark of belief and talent that our Manager purports we possess. 

One centre back was making his debut in the Premier League. The other has a severe lack of experience – but neither can be earmarked as not good enough. Not yet. 

The blame for this lies at Wenger’s feet. He has the power to rectify. 

Wenger, it’s all on you. 

Arsenal Vs Liverpool – Match Preview

Finally, the first match of the Premier League season is upon us, and the infernal transfer window can take a back seat for at least a day or two.

The curtain opener for our season could have been a lot easier, but a match against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will be a good indicator to see whether Arsenal’s pre-season truly has the Gunners up to the required speed for the Premier League.

This Sunday kickoff sees both sides with genuine aspirations of improvement on their previous campaigns efforts. Both managers have dipped into the transfer market – one with a little more gusto than the other – and team lineups may be difficult to predict.

Arsene Wenger faces a defensive headache with Per Mertesacker and Gabriel injured in warmup games, and Laurent Koscielny rested after his Euro2016 efforts. This leaves the young Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik as the candidates for the centre of defence. They all played well in the friendly matches, but can they withstand a Premiership attack?

The other option is Nacho Monreal, who covered in this position last term ably. If that is the case, expect Kieran Gibbs to fill in on the left of defence. 

In midfield is where the biggest selection conundrum can be found. The clamour to start Granit Xhaka will be loud, but Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have shown they are well within their rights to expect a start in the heart of the pitch. They both work so hard, but Coquelin has the edge on the darker arts of the game, and Elneny is more adept in the final third of the pitch.

Throw into the mixer Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, and Wenger will be mulling this over for some time. Santi Cazorla, if fit, surely must play in some capacity. Be it on the flank, in the number ten role, or as a box-to-box midfielder, the Spanish magician makes his side tick. Ramsey is coming off the back of a mercurial Euro2016 campaign for his country, and he too will want some action.

Up front, and Theo Walcott has started a few games in pre-season, but in the last friendly – a 3-2 win over Manchester City – the returning Alexis assumed this role. Expect one of these two to play in the lone striker role, with Chuba Akpom surely earning a spot on the bench after his friendly heroics?

Then there is Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi. Both have been immense this summer, and if Alexis does move from the left into the centre, this leaves the left spot open for Iwobi to continue to impress. 

Joel Campbell has shown that he is far more than a squad player, his vision and touch would surely earn him a starring role with most other Premier League clubs, but if all are fit at Arsenal, he will surely be on the bench. Lucky for the Costa Rican then, that the Gunners normally have a full treatment room. 

Predicted Lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Xhaka, Coquelin, Iwobi, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis.
Klopp can boast some impressive transfers this summer, and chief among them is Sadio Mane, the former Saint who terrorised defences will now be doing so in the red of Liverpool. Also, Georgino Wijnaldum has jumped from the sinking ship of Newcastle, and he will be an asset for the Reds. 

One of their new recruits which may have slipped under the radar is Joel Matip. The former Schalke defender will add a touch of organisation to an at times messy ‘Pool defence. Something that fans will be thankful for with the questionable Mignolet and Lovren in the team.
Both teams will want to kick off the season with a win, but the atmosphere at The Emirates may turn rapidly toxic if anything other than three points is grabbed. The doubts surrounding the manager are reaching fever pitch with every day that passes without the needed reinforcements. 

It may be far too early for vitriol and catcalls from the stands, but let us all hope that our pre-season form transfers to League action. 
Prediction – 2-1 Arsenal. 

Premier League Preview 2016/17 – With Dohyo, the Prediction App.

This season promises to be the most hotly contested yet – but every season we think this, so why does this campaign look like the most unpredictable, and fierce yet?

Leicester upsetting nigh-on insurmountable odds to become Champions last season was a complete fairytale, and who is to say that a repeat isn’t on the cards? Well, the much anticipated battle of the managers may have something to say about that. 

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola pick up their weapons that they last brandished in LaLiga for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, but now fighting for the opposite sides of Manchester. Then, you have Claudio Ranieri, Antonio Conte, Wenger and Pochettino, Koeman at Everton……

Not only do we have the above duking it out, we have had a blitz in the transfer window. Money being hurled around as if it is going out of fashion, as each team seeks the players that will give them the edge in the league. So many big-money moves that leaves the fans salivating for the moment they get to see their teams marquee signing in action.

So, can we with any accuracy, predict where the teams will finish? Which outfits will be in the title fight? Who will be finishing in the European places and who will be fighting tooth and nail to avoid the trapdoor? If you think you have what it takes, then Premier League prediction app, Dohyo, let’s you set up leagues with your mates to see who is the top dog and who is their groups Jon Snow.

Are there any pointers that may aid us to peer into the future – or at least May next year? Poring over the teams, managers and players may hold the answer…..

Will the Managers make the difference?

The headlines have been dominated for once by the men who take the helm of their clubs, as the cream of European football have gravitated toward the Premier League. The two men who dominated LaLiga in their time – Mourinho and Guardiola – have grabbed the reins at Manchester United and Manchester City, and will renew the rivalry which set Spain alight. Both men have found themselves at clubs which allow them freedom in terms of spending too, which means that the revolving door at both clubs has seen some action. 

The manager who no one could hate, Claudio Ranieri, will have his work cut out to repeat the unrepeatable at Leicester City. His first title win, and transforming his side from relegation fodder to Champions, is Hollywood stuff, but can he do it again? He concocted a system which worked so effectively last term, but will teams have found a way to combat the lightning-quick countering which was the Foxes weapon? 

Then we have Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino. For so long last season, the young Argentine looked like he had cracked the secret formula to finishing above Arsenal – something Spurs have searched for for twenty years. All the way from January until the last game of the season, Tottenham destroyed their opponents with the lethal Harry Kane, the mercurial Dele Alli and a rock-solid defence, but they spluttered over the line and left their neighbours open to snatch the runners-up spot and gain superiority once again. Will Pochettino have learned from his mistakes? Will Wenger finally be able to avoid the slump which derails his side year after year? 

Then we have Antonio Conte. His brave Italy side performed so well at Euro2016, and the Italian taskmaster will have his work cut out at Chelsea. The Blues finished tenth after previously winning the Premiership, and their season was over before it begun. Conte can look forward to a strong squad though, and he has made additions.An absence of European football may just give him the edge too.

Another manager who can look forward to an uncluttered fixture schedule is Jurgen Klopp. He has also stated that the side he has constructed is finally one of his own, so this season should see an improvement on the previous one. Klopp had his first pre-season with Liverpool and his players would have been put through their paces to acclimatise to his physically sapping ‘Gegenpress’ tactic. Liverpool look odds on to push on from their last campaign.

The other side of Merseyside have had a change of manager. Everton fell away sharply last season under Roberto Martinez, and wasted no time bringing in Ronald Koeman, himself fresh from overachieivng at Southampton. The Toffees fans may be bereft of Romelu Lukaku, if the expected happens and he moves back to Chelsea, but brighter times are expected.

Then we have Alan Pardew constructing a strong squad at Crystal Palace, Slaven Bilic will be keen to right last terms wrongs by moving his West Ham side into the Champions League places, and Mark Hughes saw enough improvement to believe that his Stoke side can make their presence felt. 

Whew. Plenty going on, but what business will make the difference for each side? Has their been a player transfer that is destined to justify the exorbitant faith placed upon them? Read on….

Signings, money and squads

The window has seen many headlines, but chief among them has been the protracted sage of Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United for a reported £89million. The Frenchman is highly rated, and could alone make a huge change for the positive to United’s midfield. His seasons for Juventus have been evidence that whilst the price tag may be the biggest ever paid by a British team, Mourinho may have pulled a masterstroke, if the Frenchman can continue to boss his area as he did in Turin.

It isn’t just Pogba that Jose has written cheques for though. Eric Bailly in defence, the big personality and frame of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the invention of Henrik Mkhitaryan are the four big names, and when allied with David De Gea, Rooney, Smalling and Rashford, a strong spine has been formed. United will go close.

Guardiola hasn’t exactly been shopping in the bargain bucket either. Leroy Sane, the highly prized German winger, has been brought in for just over twenty five million, and Ilkay Gundogan from Dortmund joins up, to bolster what is already a strong midfield. If Sergio Aguero stays fit, new boy Nolito can add a few goals and they can adapt to Guardiola’s tactics, then City will again be contenders.

What of the others? Liverpool have been very busy, with Sadio Mane, Joel Matip, and Georgino Wijnaldum the big names coming in. With an already strong squad, Klopp may have the final puzzle pieces in place. 

Arsenal have spent big on Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, and he adds to a huge list of midfielders that most teams would die for. A striker would still be a good move, but there is nothing on the cards….yet.

Leicester have signed pacy Nigerian Ahmed Musa in attack to lighten the load on Jamie Vardy, who opted to stay rather than take Arsenal up on their offer of employment. They did however, allow N’golo Kante to join Chelsea, the midfielder who many pundits think was the driving force behind their title win. Noises still circulate around their other star performer – Riyhad Mahrez – but if they can keep hold of the Algerian, they can look forward to another season of optimism.

Other moves that may have slipped under the radar were Marten De Roon to Middlesbrough, the tough tackling midfielder from Atalanta, and lethal Spaniard Alvaro Negredo from Valencia. Crystal Palace have bought well, with Andros Townsend and James Tomkins coming in to patch up weaknesses in the squad. 

Tottenham have snapped up Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar, the sought after Dutch striker. Swansea have another striker to pin their hopes on like when Michu lit the Liberty Stadium up a few years ago, as Fernando Llorente has moved to Wales. 

Southampton appear to have been picked apart once more, but new manager Claude Puel has acted quickly to bring in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich and Nathan Redmond from Norwich, and the livewire winger will have to bring his A game to ensure the Saints don’t fall below last seasons level.

There are others that may be the surprise that is a catalyst to their teams efforts, but these are the moves that have lit up their respective fanbases. The most amazing fact about all this is, that there is still two weeks before the transfer window shuts!
The last day of the window always brings drama, and most teams will be keeping their eye open for last minute bargains, which makes any predictions extremely hard to make. 

Sticking my neck out, my prediction for next season is as follows:

1.Manchester City

2.Manchester United






8.West Ham


10. Southampton


12. Crystal Palace

13. Stoke City

14. Swansea

15. Sunderland

16. Bournemouth

17. West Brom

18. Watford

19. Burnley

20. Hull City

Think you can do better? Make your weekly predictions on Dohyo, and use your knowledge to best your friends! I hope the tips above help, and good luck!

Mertesacker Absence and Uninformed Fury

The news surrounding Mertesacker’s injury layoff should have been met with widespread dismay.

With our primary backup being the rash Gabriel – before his injury of course – and given the supposed severity of the Big German’s injury, the fans emotional barometer should have been pointing toward the negative end of the spectrum.

Yet again though, a large portion of our fan base provided the rest with an opportunity to smack our foreheads with weary resignation, as some celebrated the loss of Mertesacker. 

His obvious lack of pace has ever placed him at the front of the queue when dishing out labels for scapegoats, but his presence in our back line was a reassurance for his partner, Koscielny, and he offered excellent positioning as well as leadership for the back line.

His layoff has already forced Wengers hand somewhat. The stubborn Frenchman had to offer reassurances to fans via the press that he would indeed scour the market for an ‘experienced’ replacement. Normally tight-lipped in regards to transfer plans, his frank admission was as much an attempt to placate the rumblings from back home, as well as a comment which goes against his grain.

From that moment, keyboards were bashed in a frenzy as links to a smorgasbord of defenders were typed out and sent out into the ether, in the hope these tasty nonsensical titbits would be hungrily snapped up by famished Gooners.

Some fans rejoiced as – in their opinion – Mertesacker is the weak link and ripe for replacement.  

Then, a strange parallel occurred. Gabriel suffered an injury in the friendly win over Manchester City, and a certain portion of fans again took pleasure from one of our players being unable to play. 

Of course, if we are in the market to improve what we have, then everyone should be happy. Mertesacker though, isn’t the problem.

The Big German still offers much, but if we are in the market to replace, then a step up from what we have means a big player, for big cash.

Gabriel has had so many opportunities to impress, and yet nearly every game he has appeared in, he has made an error. Mertesacker offers a far better track record, but his faux pas are a little more high profile – and thus more memorable.

Prior to playing the MLS All-Stars in the US, Arsenal trained and reportedly used Coquelin as an emergency centre back in some of the regimen. 

The outcry amongst social media was instant. This move in training was obviously Wenger’s move to penny pinch a little more. Why spend when we have a ready-made replacement?

Of course, he has a track record of this. In recent seasons, we have seen Monreal and Debuchy play in the centre of defence. The move to use Coquelin in the same way though, is far removed from this.

Firstly, we didn’t have enough centre backs to complete the training methods. Usually, they use four, and we only had three, so Coquelin filled in. 

Secondly, Wenger has already stated he will purchase a replacement. So this should have allayed any panic. Yet, until we have concrete proof a reputable defender is being brought in, the tidal wave of negativity will continue to wash over everything.

Everyone is desperate for our club to break the glass ceiling which has been placed over us for many a season now, and next season will be even harder.

Fans know this, and with every day we wish for our squad requirements to be addressed. We foolishly place faith in rumour, even though we know that it is more than likely a pack of lies. 

We have Calum Chambers in our ranks, and he has all the tools at his disposal for a fine career, and yet if he was given a chance in place of Mertesacker, rather than a new signing, the outrage would be tangible.

What is the point of buying these youngsters if we aren’t willing to blood them? 

We hope. Whilst our rivals may be spending dough, they will require integration. If we can hit the ground running, who knows?

We all need to take a step back, and a deep breath. The summer is being ruined.

Kelechi Nwakali – Finally a Gunner

The Under17 World Cup in Chile during the latter part of 2015 would have passed under the radar of even the most die-hard of football fans. Even the most zealous of hipster may have missed out on proceedings, leading to them sobbing into their neckerchiefs.

What happened on the pitch was that Nigeria were crowned champions for the 5th time, defeating surprise finalists Mali in the final – and sweeping all before them on the way. The top scorer was Nigerian. All opponents struggled to compete against the powerful African nation, and the best player of the tournament was Nigerian too. 

That player was Kelechi Nwakali – and he is finally an Arsenal player.

Arsenal chased after Nwakali straight after his imperious showings in the tournament, and in January, Arsene Wenger commented on the player and his imminent transfer to the Gunners – 

We identified Nwakali as the player of the tournament [at the under-17 World Cup], basically, and as a top player. We will see if we can manage to get it over the line during this transfer period. – thanks to Arseblog for the quote. 

The transfer has taken from that moment until the 4th of August, but finally the Nigerian attacking midfielder has put pen to paper. International commitments, work permits and various other troublesome strips of red tape have combined to delay Nwakali joining up with the Gunners squad, but it has now been confirmed by the club that he is indeed an Arsenal player, and through the marvels of social media, we have seen the player himself post pics of him at London Colney.

Is this another damp squib of a youth signing? A player of mysterious potential destined to disappear to other shores and ultimate ignominy? Or does our club’s dogged chase of him for over half a year speak of a player who can make a huge difference in the future?

Nwakali was the fulcrum of Nigeria’s attacking intent during their run to victory in the Under17 World Cup. Scoring three goals, and laying on the majority of goals for 10goal hitman Victor Osimhen, Nwakali was awarded the Best Player in the tournament for good reason.

Can he convert his talent to the Premier League? His next step will perhaps be the most vital. A season on loan is the next step, and he will need to impress immediately.

All of this is pure projection however. Gooners can take pride in the fact that we have captured one of the brightest talents in youth football. Only Nwakali can answer the questions regarding his future. 

Nwakali could join Nwankwo Kanu and Alex Iwobi as other Nigerians who have made their mark on Arsenal’s first team, and will have the best of resources to make that happen. 

Man City 2-3 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Two days prior to this fixture, Arsenal ran out easy victors to the tune of an eight goal victory, over an outplayed Viking Stavanger side.

Despite the handsome level of win, most eyes were on this match as the true barometer in regards of where we stand for the Premier League opener versus Liverpool on the 14th of this month.

Well, on the face of this win, we seem to have found our stride.

Friendly matches are difficult to gauge, but if this match had ended in a loss, make no mistake, panic would have washed over our fanbase like a high tide. So, with a win, we should allow ourselves a little optimism. 

This was still a Pep Guardiola-led team, and it still had an embarassment of riches within its ranks. David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Nolito and the quite excellent Sergio Aguero were at the tip of City’s spear, but their bench screamed money, with De Bruyne, Navas and Yaya Toure waiting in the wings. 

Our own team weren’t exactly paupers though. We had the much heralded Granit Xhaka starting in the centre, along with Francis Coquelin, and more intriguingly, the returning Alexis Sanchez started up top. Another player to return to our squad after their summer heroics was Aaron Ramsey, who played in the No10 role. 

The Ox was given another opportunity on the right of the attack, and in defence, we had Gabriel and Rob Holding. Our lineup looked a little more finalised, with more established starters within the framework, so this game was primed to give spectators a taste of the coming season. 

Could we keep pace with City? Would it become evident that we were severely lacking in numbers? Here is five things that we can take from the ninety minutes that unfolded on the pitch:

Our gameplan is nearing completion

There were signs of it in the preceding friendly matches, but the neat interchanges, the rapid passages of play and the transition from defence to attack were prevalent in our game, especially in the second half. We gave City so many problems, and even when we were penned in, we always looked able to convert pressure into opportunity. It may have been tagged a friendly game, but there was plenty of will to win from both sides – and no love lost. Fernando perhaps should have been sent off, after a shirt pull and swearing at the ref in two separate incidents. So, both teams wanted to win. The performance we put in though, showed we could carve them open if we wished. Very pleasing, and we appear to be ready for the 14th of August and the visit of Liverpool.

Ramsey, Santi and Xhaka aren’t quite ready…..yet

It was great to see Rambo return with eagerness to our side, but a gargantuan effort at the Euro’s for his country, and a minimal break have left the Welshman with a bit of catching up to do in terms of sharpness. He isn’t far away, and he will have a huge part to play when he does hit his stride. Ditto for Santi and Xhaka, who both have shown they will be certain starters, once they gain their edge.

Theo Walcott has his part to play

Written off repeatedly, and consigned to the exit by the majority, but Theo has faced this before, and silenced the haters. Low confidence, changing positions and injuries have all taken their toll, and he had to start from the ground up to get back to any semblance of form. He still isn’t there yet, but his forty five minute showing against a fellow Premier League contender will have his few fans purring. His goal was absolutely brilliant too. Turning away from his marker, a burst of pace, a give and go, continuing his run into the box and dinking the ball over an onrushing Hart. It was so quick, and so lethal. I will put my neck on the line – as I have done in the last few entries – and will say that if he can stay fit, and get a run of games, Theo will leave his mark. He harried defenders, assisted Alex Iwobi’s goal, and was a menace. He needs to attain consistency, but he is nearing full throttle. After such a long time, he needs to.

Sanchez to have a huge season

No one can say what injuries will befall us during a hard slog of a campaign, but if Sanchez manages to avoid the lunges, studs-up challenges, and desperate attempts to stifle him through the dark arts of football – he will have a stormer for us. This was his first match for us since returning from a victorious Copa tournament, and he tormented the whole of the City backline. We are more than accustomed to his non-stop manner, but this was allied with a keen edge which always opened up options. It is enough to whet the appetite for the coming season. He is champing at the bit.

Elneny and Coquelin are back to speed

Both players were immense in this game. Both hounded the opposition, but both were so hungry for possession. Their reactions at times seemed half a second quicker than everyone else on the pitch, and they are surely winning the race to start in the middle of the pitch against Liverpool for our first game of the season. Wenger may start with Xhaka, but Elneny and Coquelin are proving that in central midfield, every game will be a selection headache for their manager. 

The game ended on a sour note, after Gabriel suffered what looked to be a serious injury. Crumpled on the deck for at least ten minutes, and leaving the ground in a protective boot does not lend itself toward optimism for his prognosis – leaving Chambers, Holding and Bielik as our only fit centre-backs.. Of course, Wenger must buy a defender, as cover is pretty thin on the ground, but Monreal filled in well when asked to play in the centre, and he could do again. Last resorts it may be, but an experienced head next to one of these young charges may just be the remedy.

The Ox looked pumped for this game before being replaced, and Alex Iwobi again proved why it is just as important to blood youngsters as it is to buy in the window. The young Nigerian was fantastic, showing all aspects of attack in his game, but most importantly, composure on the ball. He has taken his chance with both hands, and we have a real player on our hands – who has an unbelievable capacity for improvement.

It wouldn’t be a pre-season fixture without a Chuba Akpom goal, and his amazing record will only serve to push him closer to either a first team squad place, or a more attractive loan destination. Other reasons to be cheerful were that Chambers in the second half looked assured, and Petr Cech pulled off a wonderful save, but ultimately, the team performance was the real headline. We looked good, and posed many problems, as well as quelled many attacks. If we can keep the belief up, and reproduce such a conducive display in the weekend, we will do just fine.

So, we appear to be ready. Roll on the 14th of August.