Burnley Vs Arsenal – Team News, Stats & Full Match Preview

Arsenal are on a roll, and it is exactly how Arsene Wenger would want to celebrate his 20year anniversary. The confidence is high within the team, and four wins on the trot in all competitions, with just one goal conceded is the icing on Wenger’s proverbial cake.

In terms of the Premier League, our last outing couldn’t have been much better – our 3-0 hammering of Chelsea ended a five year winless run against the Blues, and the manner in which the victory was obtained really pleased not only the manager, but every Gooner who witnessed the game.

It has invigorated belief that this season may be the watershed campaign for the Gunners. The squad looks complete, and our key players are approaching their peak years. We have upper echelon talent in each position, and the emergence of Alexis as a striker has allowed the inherent strengths of the team to come to the fore.

Olivier Giroud has seen precious little game time, but this is largely down to a troublesome toe injury, and, in terms of our match against Burnley, it is this that again will keep the French striker out of the team. That, and Alexis’s red hot form. 

Francis Coquelin’s injury in the Chelsea game looked to have ruled the battling midfielder out for three to four weeks, but surprisingly, he will face a fitness assessment before the game to judge on his availability. Surely though, this game will be too soon for him, and the partnership of Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla will get another game to flourish – which it has done in the last two games. Petr Cech is also expected to regain his place after cup keeper David Ospina took the gloves for the 2-0 win over Basel in the Champions League in midweek.

Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey are all still unavailable, but Jenkinson recently rejoined first team training, so the lifelong Gooner will hopefully get an opportunity at right-back soon.

Burnley are one of the main reasons why the Premier League is considered the most competitive in the world. Operating on abudget that is dwarved by their opponents, yet they lie a mere three points from Chelsea who are in 8th position. Not only this, but they have broken their transfer record twice this summer, with the captures of Belgian Steven Defour and Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick from Derby County.

The two expensive additions to the Turf Moor outfit were key in their last win – a 2-0 victory over Watford, and the set-pieces from Defour will be a huge threat in this game.

It is a good thing we have a sound backline now then. Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi are quickly developing a partnership that is scarily effective so early in their joining together. In this current run of only one goal conceded in the last four games, these two have been the main reason for such watertight defending, and they will need to be on top of their game.

The last three games between the two sides at Turf Moor have seen a total of three goals – one for Burnley and two for the Gunners – so a tight contest looks to be on the cards. Alexis may be the prime contender for breaking the potential deadlock, he has three in three against the Clarets.

If we can maintain fitness to our key players, then we have a huge potential for this season. Games such as this one though, will be just as big a hurdle as any other, but still one we are expected to vault over. 

With tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool keeping their foot on the gas, we must do the same to keep the pressure on our rivals. We must now show we are more than ready for the fight.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Walcott, Xhaka, Cazorla, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal.

Freddie In For Thierry – Kids To Have Invincible As Coach

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

The recent furore surrounding Thierry Henry’s departure from Arsenal’s coaching setup has divided opinion in the media and for Gooners too.

Considered by many to be Arsenal’s finest player to have graced the Premier League, Henry’s decision to continue with his media work instead of his coaching role with the Gunners youth has seen much vitriol aimed at the man cast in bronze outside of The Emirates.

Conscious of the backlash his choice would cause amongst the fans who adore him, the man that fans know as ‘Le King’ made a statement outlining his reasons why he chose his role at Sky Sports over earning experience at coaching level at London Colney.

Whether people believe he prioritised lucre, or he believed the confliction between his roles would undermine his work in both positions is besides the point. What has been highlighted is that the bunch of promising youngsters that course through the Academy at London Colney would have benefitted hugely from the sage words and experience only a world class player could have given them.

Step forward Freddie Ljungberg.

The beloved red hair may be shorn, but those cheekbones cannot be disguised. The super Swede is rumoured to be the replacement for the departed Frenchman, and his expertise, knowledge – and most importantly enthusiasm for the job  – can boost the kids he will potentially take under his beautiful wing.

With a plethora of former heroes to call upon, it was only fitting that the club bring in someone who has not only bought the t-shirt, but the whole ensemble. 

International experience, battle scars from Europe and so many seasons at the pinnacle of domestic competition put Freddie in pole position to pass down knowledge which benefits a whole generation.

Ljungberg is in the process of earning his coaching badges, which is a path that will lead to professional management. He has started this journey at the club who gave him the perfect platform as a player to make the most of his talents. 

Who can forget his goalscoring run which saw us over the finishing line in 2002? Aided by the golden touch of a certain Iceman, the super Swede’s unerring accuracy was the difference in the home straight of a magnificent Double campaign.

Mostly, it was his cerebral movement which allowed him to ghost into the box at the exact moment. An attacking facet which takes many players years to hone, but Freddie could almost smell the opportunity before it arose.

It is these talents which he can help chisel from the rough diamonds he will be in charge of. 

His winning mentality though, will be chief among reasons why this potential hiring is a masterstroke. 

His trophy haul speaks of a man who will not take anything less than 100%. If he can successfully burn this into every one of his students consciousness, then he could well be readymade for a managerial role.

We love you Freddie, because you’ve got no hair, but also, because you’re a winner. 

Arsenal 2 – 0 Basel – 5 Things We Learned

Winning is a habit that is difficult to pick up, but even harder to maintain, and Arsene Wenger seems to be of the same mind, as a virtually unchanged side saw off an overrun FC Basel side to record their first Champions League win from their second group game – and it was only profligacy that stopped this becoming a rout.

The team which recorded such a handsome victory over Chelsea took to the field with the iconic Champions Leaguie anthem ringing in their ears. The only changes were David Ospina once again being named as the man between the sticks after his heroics in Paris in the first group game, and Granit Xhaka facing off against his former side and brother, in place of the injured Francis Coquelin.

It was widely expected that there would be other adjustments to the side as Wenger looked to rotate the team, but Alexis continued his campaign as sole striker, and Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi were the others yet again named in attack. It was a surprise to see Santi Cazorla named alongside Xhaka, and another former Basel man Mohamed Elneny was thought to be in the reckoning, but the Spaniard once again lined up in the team. 

There were other interesting developments that unfolded during the ninety minutes, but here are the five key points that became abundantly evident as the game played – 

Koscielny and Mustafi are evolving….

They have played four games together, and they have yet to concede from open play. It is easy to get carried away with such a stat, and compilation videos of their mastery of Diego Costa, but what is undeniable, is they compliment each other. As a unit, there is no weakness between them. As each game goes on, they will discover each facet of the others play, and the unit will become stronger. This is only their beginning. If they can stay fit, what a rock solid foundation we will have. This game showed the composure both have, and the concentration levels of both. They were hardly stretched, but when they were called into action, they were never caught cold. Good signs.

Alexis is on fire, and their defence is terrified

How Sanchez didn’t score in this game is a question only he can answer. It wasn’t for want of trying. He led the Basel defenders – all five of them – on a merry dance, and his slaloming run which occurred late in the second half was the Chilean at his finest. When on this form, there is no keeping him quiet. Even though he didn’t score, he affected proceedings. He was up for it, and Burnley will have to be on top of their game if they want to stifle him on Sunday. 

Theo Walcott has always had it, he’s just working harder

The level of doubt that has surrounded Theo has verged on ridiculous at times, but there has been cause for some of the negativity. It is easy to forget what he is capable of when he hasn’t mustered a full season in such a long time, but lack of playing time and bad form had affected him. Now, he has gone back to what he does best, and he and the team are profiting. His pace, allied with better off the ball running, has seen him form a bond on the pitch with Ozil and Sanchez. He is putting the effort in, and long may it continue, along with his fitness. He grabbed two goals, the only two, and he even scored with his head! He was a constant menace, and while there will be times his control will desert him, he will more often than not make the difference. Plus, any player who plays alongside Ozil and Sanchez will look far worse than they actually are!

Santi Cazorla must be tired, yet he keeps his incredible level going

Yet another game for Cazorla, and most fans agreed that he would probably miss out in favour of Elneny. Cazorla covered every blade of grass in the weekend victory over Chelsea, and he looked shot, but Santi stayed in the side. It just proved once again that Wenger knows his players better than we do as Cazorla dictated the play, and made 94 passes (above is his pass map, thank you to Squawka) – more than any other.It was he who started the move for the first goal with his long pass to Sanchez out wide, and he will again surely be in the team for this weekend on this performance. How can you leave him out?

We will have harder games, but the lack of rotation was understandable

Basel put up barely a whimper, but was it simply they had no answer to us? We had 19 shots during this game, and if not for their keeper, we would have won by a landslide. Most teams will have no answer to the quick interchanges between the effervescent Iwobi, Theo, Sanchez and Ozil, and Basel were no different. Even so, to maintain the winning run, and the soaring confidence which is evidently coursing through our players veins, Wenger went largely with the same side he named on Saturday, and it paid off. Resting fatigued muscles will become a factor as the season wore on, but we have ample replacements. Long may this run, and this team, continue. 

Arsenal Vs Basel – Champions League Preview

Kickoff – 1945 GMT

Swiss champions Basel travel to The Emirates for tonights game, and there are a few twists in this match that gives it a little extra zest.

The second group game in our Champions League campaign sees a reunion of sorts, with Granit Xhaka given a chance to see former teammates a lot sooner than he realised. Not only that, but his brother will be on the other team too. 

Taulant Xhaka, older brother of Gunner Granit, will be part of the defence that will look to stifle Arsenal’s creativity, and on the evidence of their previous meeting at Euro2016 for their respective countries – there will be no room for sentiment on the pitch.

The links don’t end there. Our Egyptian, Mohamed Elneny, is also a former Basel player, and he will be champing at the bit to play a part in this game.

His chances of doing so improved dramatically during our comprehensive 3-0 win over Chelsea in the weekend. Francis Coquelin went off injured after 30minutes with a knee injury, so will not be part of the squad. Arsene Wenger reassured fans during his press conference for this game that the French battler has not suffered a long term injury and the prognosis is 3-4 weeks layoff – which isn’t exactly what Gooners want to hear after previous diagnosis of the same length….

Olivier Giroud is also not part of the squad, but it matters little after he was sent off in Paris in the previous CL game. So, will Alexis continue his excellent job upfront? Or will duties be shared with Lucas Perez? The Spaniard will be well suited to European endeavours over Premiership outings as he has yet to fully adapt to the rough and tumble of domestic fixtures, so Lucas may just get the nod ahead of the Chilean – although we are all painfully aware that Alexis does NOT like to be rested.

Will we continue with the ‘Cup Keeper’ premise? The initial reaction to include David Ospina in the team against PSG was derision and bewilderment, but his Man of the Match performance reminded us all what he is capable of. The Colombian will more than likely be given the gloves again, but what of the rest of the team?

Granit Xhaka is in prime position to continue his domination of midfield, and Mohamed Elneny will be looking to get on the teamsheet, with his only rival for the spot being Santi Cazorla – and the diminutive Spaniard has played in nearly every game so far, so a rest is overdue. 

With our next game being a trip to Turf Moor on Sunday, and no game is a gimme in the Premier League, Wenger may opt to rotate his men. The numbers at his disposal has never been greater, but he must take care not to shift focus from this game as Basel have experience in dishing out lessons to English teams – Man Utd and Liverpool can testify to this.

Yet another dilemma that the modern day manager faces, but Wenger has buckets of experience, and scars, that should put him in the right direction. 

The opposition are not to be underestimated, but what is most important is the continuation of the winning habit. Whether it be Champions League, EFL Cup or the Premier League, a loss can be hugely disruptive to the confidence of the team. 

We have been through the rough start, and those very early results were akin to a kid learning to ride a bike – we weaved, bobbed and shook, but now we’ve got the hang of it, and we are whizzing away. 

Let us just hope our sibling and friends don’t knock us off……

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Lucas Perez

Predicted score – 3-1

Per Mertesacker – Arsenal Captain

The choice of destination for the captains armband may have been derided by some fans, but Per Mertesacker will give his all to the club in his new role – whether it is on or off the pitch.
Towering defender Mertesacker had rivals for the honour of leading the club, but it is he who will lead the troops, and ensure that all the players have an appropriate role model and motivator for the season.

There is a slight problem in that the German is not due to take to the pitch in a playing capacity for some time. This means that the armband will go to the next suitable candidate. Arsene Wenger commented on this very issue, and intimated that experience counts when wearing the inconspicuous strap of material –“I think it is absolutely natural to be him. [In his absence] that’s where it will be taken by the assistants. One of them will be Koscielny, also Cazorla – the experienced players.” ( quote from HITC Sport ).

So, it seems that experience is the key asset that Wenger values when choosing a captain – and Mertesacker has that in abundance.

The player we fans know as ‘The BFG’ is a World Cup winner, and has been at the club since 2011. On the day he signed, which resembled a mad-dash round the transfer aisles on the last day of the transfer window, most had heard of his name, but few would have guessed at the impact he would go on to make.

Largely consigned to ‘average’ territory thanks to a severe lack of pace, Mertesacker’s other strengths more than make up for his glacier-like running speed. His positioning, hewn from years of playing at the top level, and his astute awareness of the attacking instincts of his opponent mean not only can he hold his own – but that he has so much to offer our younger generation.

The latter point above is key. With Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Krystian Bielik very much pushing through and intent on forming our defence for years to come, Mertesacker’s knowledge if passed down would give these promising talents an advantage.

With Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny as back-up skippers, the voice that booms loudest on the pitch may not be heard, but a true leader will grab his men by the scruff of the neck whether he is wearing the armband or not. Per Mertesacker is the clubs fine collector, he commands respect. More importantly than that, he adores the club – and he will not sit idly by if players are not pulling their weight. 

Jack Wilshere – himself a potential future captain – also commented on the awarding of the captaincy to the World Cup winner – 

It is good news for us. For me anyway, over the last few seasons he has been like a captain,” Wilshere told Arsenal Player.

“He is organised, and he won’t take any nonsense from anyone. If someone is late or on their phone, he is on to them – it doesn’t matter who you are. He is the one who organises our team dinners so for me he is a great choice

He is a natural leader and I know he has picked up a injury, but he can still bring so much to us as a team. I’m sure if you ask the other boys, they will say he would be an obvious choice for captain. We are happy. (Quote from Evening Standard).

So, the players are behind the choice, and Mertesacker will be delighted. He may not have a presence on the pitch, but there will be no doubt that a certain standard will be expected. Woe betide anyone who slips below that, if Wilshere’s comments are anything to go by!

Any captain at Arsenal has an uphill battle. With a former captain being cast in bronze outside the stadium, there will always be comparisons. Tony Adams was perhaps born to lead, and we may not ever see the likes of him again. 

All we can ask for is that our new skipper will do the distinction justice. We should have no doubt that he will. 

Arsenal 3 – 0 Chelsea – 5 Things We Learned

Every now and then, life clicks. The variables that normally clash and crunch together, causing no end of problems and strife, suddenly meet harmoniously and your passage is smoother than a Mesut Ozil slide-rule pass.

One of these variables is the Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez triumvirate. All three have the qualities that benefit the other parts of the trinity, but thanks to injury and poor form, like a misfiring sports car, the full potential is rarely seen.

This game though, saw these three hugely talented players hit top gear and blast Chelsea with full force, and at half time, we were three goals to the good thanks to goals from all three. 

It wasn’t just the goals that made this game perfect viewing. Even in the mundane activities, we managed to rub Chelsea’s nose in it. We made them look ordinary, we did everything right. Even the match stats were wildly in our favour. Simply because in every minute, on every patch of the pitch – we were better. 

The first half is perhaps the best football that we have materialised for quite some time. The aesthetically pleasing Wengerball has been remiss for a while now, but it rose up into our eyeline like a majestic salmon, and chants of ‘Ole’ were ringing around The Emirates as our team toyed with Chelsea like a disintered cat pawing at a mouse that had quite clearly taken too many hits and was willing the pearly gates to appear.

What can we take from the game? So many things, as this game will be talked about for some time. It was so pleasing to see the passing formations come to fruition, and Chelsea’s approach was made irrelevant, as if they had brought their much fabled bus, we would have simply ripped it in half. 

Iwobi played on Tuesday in the EFL Cup, but no fatigue was prevalent, and he buzzed around the pitch. Mustafi and Koscielny are blooming together – any partnership that contends successfully with Costa has cause for celebration – and Hector Bellerin looks to have come out of his own mini-slump. 

In short, our team was on fire. For our fourth League win on the trot, we picked the best opponent to unsheath our finest play!

There was simply no stopping us in this game, but here are five key points from the game – 

This display will be used as a yardstick, and a stick to beat us

Much like Oxlade-Chamberlain, we know what we are capable of, so to see us underperform is frustrating. Now we have witnessed our excellent parts work as a beautiful machine? Well, we now want that in most matches, and when we fall below this bar, then criticism will follow. We played football that was packaged in pure silk, and it was used to bludgeon an opponent that had given us many scars. This performance gives us hope for the season, but it could also be a horrible reminder of what we could be. Let us hope for the former.

Coquelin still has a place

Before going off with injury in the 31st minute, Francis Coquelin was enjoying every minute, gleefully running around the blades of grass and destroying every part of Chelsea’s build-up play. He has his uses, and we all know his limitations toward attack, but in terms of his strengths? Not many in the league, never mind in our team, does what he does better. Let us hope he is back soon. Xhaka may be the present, and the future, but Coquelin is a player we need in our squad. 

Ozil is back on form.

The best players, even when the inevitable dips in form occur, can still contribute towards the game. Ozil has been well short of his own particular standards so far this campaign, but this could well rank as one of his finest 90 minutes in our shirt. His touch was pure sex, his awareness is derived from the gods. He was clearly enjoying every minute, and he was more than pumped for this game. He deceptively covers more ground than most people think, but he was tracking back with as much fervour as Alexis at times.  His goal, which he started by making Kante look like a lost little boy, needs to be watched repeatedly to remind any doubters what he does. We love you Mesut.

First Sanchez tapping the Cannon, now Ozil. So very happy with this.

Alexis to stay as a striker, for now

This issue has garnered much debate, but the results speak for themselves. Alexis may feel more comfortable on his native left, but he has the building blocks for a striker, and his numbers are evidence. As long as he continues to hit the net, then Giroud and Lucas may be twiddling their thumbs for a while longer. His finish to open the scoring was sumptuous, and answers any queries regarding where he can play. The little Chilean can play where he wants!

Theo is back

Theo divides opinion like Moses parted the Red Sea. He has had long periods, even seasons, when his form has seen him put in displays that have no part at the club. This season though, he has gone back to basics. Used his main strength in the right way, and he has made one simple change. He is working harder. As a result, he has stayed in the team, and is making things happen. On a consistency basis, Theo has been one of our best players so far this campaign. Like Marmite, whether you love or loathe him, you cannot argue he is effective. He may still lose the ball a little too much, but so does Alexis. Keep doing what you’re doing Walcott, and you will easily surpass your best ever season. Keep working hard.

Arsenal Vs Chelsea – Match Preview

On the back of our last two games, and Chelsea coming off the back of a tough EFL Cup game against Leicester and a comprehensive loss to Liverpool, bookies comprehending the odds would make us slight favourites.

Then, the aforementioned bookie would remember Arsene Wenger’s recent dire record against Chelsea, and the projected odds would be in turmoil once more.

A last-gasp win against Southampton, a backs against the wall draw in Paris, followed by two victories each gained by scoring four goals, represents great form for the Gunners. Not only that, but our squad is nearing full strength, so all pointers are looking towards a fantastic opportunity for a win against our London rivals.

In terms of naming the team, Wenger will give a late test to Olivier Giroud, who is nursing a toe injury. The game has come too soon for Aaron Ramsey, who is back in training but is not match fit yet. Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson are still unavailable.

Even if the French striker does make the cut, will he make the actual eleven? Despite many critics proclaiming that Alexis Sanchez doesn’t work as a sole frontman – and it is clear he isn’t as effective as when he performs in his natural role – the goals are flowing, and the results are there for all to see.

So, it’s a straight fight between the Chilean and the bearded Gaul for the striker spot, but Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech are all expected to come straight back into the side.

Another bone of contention is whether Granit Xhaka should start. The Swiss midfielder has impressed since joining, and his recent long range screamers have only served to act as a megaphone, proclaiming to all his talents. Wenger has stated that the reason Xhaka is currently getting splinters on the bench is cohesion, and that will take time to build. So, it looks like Cazorla and Coquelin will be given the job of marshalling the centre of the park.

Antonio Conte will have the League’s most effective villain in full force, with Diego Costa in rude form in front of goal – and causing controversy in every game he has played. The Spaniard/Brazilian reverse Benjamin Button will keep Koscielny and Mustafi on their toes. 

Will Cesc remain on the bench? Will Oscar be nominated to sit behind Costa? Conte has just as many players to choose from, and this clash – no matter how early it is in the season – will have a huge impact. If a side can emerge victorious, then the belief that will coarse through the side could propel them up the table.

Arsenal are the side in form though. Three wins on the bounce, and Conte seems to still be searching for his perfect gameplan. One clean sheet for the Italian in his League games thus far is not exactly the Italian masterclass in defending that Stamford Bridge would have been hoping for.

The bottom line though, is that for these games, form has never been much of a powerful variable. What will win this game is guts, tenacity, fitness, and a little sprinkling of genius. We have this in buckets. 

We will need to keep all of our men on the pitch though – our last two games we have succumbed to red mist and managed to get a player sent for an early bath.

One eerie indicator? Chelsea have enjoyed ruining Arsene Wengers milestones in the past. His 500th and 1000th games all coincided with Chelsea losses. It is high time to exorcise this blue demon. Seeing as Wenger is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the club, that doesn’t bode well.

The worst stat regarding this crunch game though? Sky Sports have revealed that in the last eight games that today’s match official Michael Oliver has taken charge of involving the Gunners, we have failed to win any of them. Chelsea though? They are unbeaten in the last thirteen games that Michael Oliver has officiated.

Crumbs.

Predicted lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0. 

Krystian Bielik – Giant Strides 

Krystian Bielik joined Arsenal in January 2015 from Legia Warsaw as a defensive midfielder, but it is his conversion to central defence that has seen him encroach upon first team territory.

Fans expected much from this Polish prodigy, reports of his fast track to the Legia first team, and his overall technique, saw him unfairly compared to Patrick Vieira, but Gooners would have to wait to see him take to the field in the first team.

His debut was made in the inauspicious – and quite frankly disastrous – 3-0 mauling at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. He replaced the overwhelmed Glenn Kamara in defensive midfield, but his development in defence had already far before then.

It was only a few months into his Arsenal career that his talents were perceived to be a fine fit for the backline, and he started to make appearances for the Arsenal youth team in defence ( thank you to Jeorge Bird, who you can follow on Twitter at @jeorgebird if you want the heads up on all Arsenal youth ).

Bielik had made an astronomical rise at Legia Warsaw in his short time there. He was just 16 when he made his bow, and it seems that Bielik is more than familiar with defying odds. You need only look at his displays in this bout of pre-season friendlies to see that Bielik has again made huge strides in his progress.

Appearances in the 1-1 draw against RC Lens, and the victories over the MLS All-Star team and Chivas de Guadalajara, have underlined the potential that Bielik possesses. In particular, his half that he played against the creme of the MLS showed that Bielik may yet be an option for the near future.

Tasked with quelling the threat of David Villa and perennial Arsenal destroyer Didier Drogba, most would have fairly been of the opinion that the Pole would struggle. Throw in the fact that his partner at the back was new signing Rob Holding – and you had a recipe that potentially could have been another crushing blow to his hopes akin to the Sheffield Wednesday nightmare.

We needn’t have feared though. His performance was imperious. Rob Holding may have grabbed the headlines, but Bielik and his composure at the back was just as important. He also showed he was more than adept at playing the ball out from the back, being the catalyst for moves. His origins in midfield seemed to provide him with just another arrow to his quiver. His passing seemed slick, and his awareness was on point. 

Another plus point was his physical prowess. His aerial duels with Drogba were compelling viewing, and he more than held his own. The fact that Bielik is still in his teens and he is capable of this level should inspire much confidence. 

Could this mean that he can make the step up this season? Probably not. He has much competition for a role in the heart of the back, with Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Chambers and Holding ahead of him in the pecking order. Once again, the Capital One Cup represents his best option this coming season. His season for the youth team has done him no harm though, it appears, so another term for the reserves may just elevate him still.

If his appetite for football exceeds this level though, then a loan spell for a Championship side – or even a Premier League team – beckons. There would be no end of takers for such promise, and his development may just require a keener test than he faced last season.

Either way, Bielik is a testament to the good work the coaches are doing for our kids. His advancement is proof that what is taking place on the training fields is working, and Bielik is reaping the rewards. 

He may yet have to show patience, but his time may yet be coming. The answer to Arsenal’s defence in the next few years may comprise of three parts – with Chambers, Holding and Bielik all impressing when given the chance. 

Thank you to Stuart Macfarlane for the image.
It is good news for Bielik. His path may yet be long, but the distance he has to cover to reach his goal is far shorter than it was when he joined. 

EFL Cup: Nottm Forest 0 – 4 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Seen as a gamble before kickoff, the heavy mix of youth with a few experienced heads paid dividends as Arsenal dumped Forest out of the EFL Cup and made their way to the Quarter-Finals.

A Lucas Perez double – his first goals for the club – a Granit Xhaka exocet and The Ox from a Lucas assist, gave Arsenal the win, and there were a few of the youngsters who really impressed, as well as some who are trying to force their way from the bench to the first team.

Xhaka and Elneny mixed well, and did their prospects no harm, and Chuba Akpom was involved in most of the moves which broke through the Forest defence. Lucas Perez in only his second start was effective, and despite a few shaky moments, the defence as a whole coped with the variables of unfamiliarity and lack of minutes, to keep out the home side.

The team was liberally sprinkled with youthful talent, and perhaps more so than in recent years, but the experienced pro’s that were in the team gave the side a real edge.

Lucas Perez started only his second game since arriving in August, and the midfield base of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny – who represent some fans optimum central combo, provided the foundation for prolonged spells of possession. In defence, Gabriel returned from injury to partner the promising Rob Holding, and Kieran Gibbs provided a certain reliability on the left of the backline. 

The Ox was given another chance to impress, on the right of attack, and Chuba Akpom started on the left of attack. Most surprisingly, and pleasantly, was the choice to include the much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide in the Number10 position, and this was the best chance fans have had in quite some time to get a close look at the young Frenchman. It was also his biggest opportunity for the first team to date. ‘The Jeff,’ in flashes, showed that the hype could be deserved. Good vision, allied with excellent control, if he can improve his strength and his concentration, he will be part of the long term future of the club.

Oxlade-Chamberlain again flattered to deceive, and patience has to be running a little thin, as it is in the stands. Frustrations toward the England man is mainly due to knowing what he can do, but his lack of consistency, and his lack of growth, means The Ox is more or less the same player we signed. His goal was a great finish, and it provided that little flash and reminder of what he can do, but his whole display could again be better. It seems the best of him always comes to the surface when the pressure is off and the game is in the bag.

There was plenty more to pick out from within the ninety minutes, but here are 5 key points from the game:


Lord Bendtner has still got it, good and bad – 

Within twenty minutes, we saw the best and worst of our former striker. He put a chance on a plate for Patjim Kasami who screwed wide, held the ball up well and had a great effort just off target, but also put in a tackle on Granit Xhaka that was verging on X-rated. The Dane was bombed out of Wolfsburg in the summer, and was branded a ‘menace’ by the Board at the German club, but he certainly still has something to offer, but he needs to rein in his flamboyant ego if he is to resurrect his career.


Granit Xhaka has dynamite in his boots

The Swiss star has the backing of nigh on every single Gooner in regards to being in the first XI, and we are all more than aware of how effective his passing is, and how destructive he can be in the face of opposition attacks. What is maybe less known is his ability to shoot from distance. Last weekend he scored our 4th goal in our win over Hull City with a howitzer from 30yards, and he opened the scoring in this tie with a shot from similar distance. It took a slight deflection, but it seemed to be going in anyway, even when the keeper made contact with it! The clean connection he seems to obtain means that his boots could yet be a viable option of attack. If Wenger allows long range shots that is!


Chuba Akpom may just have an Arsenal future

Named on the left of attack, it was going to be interesting to see how the young England lad fared out wide and cutting in, but we needn’t have feared. He had an early chance which the Forest keeper did well to stop, and his link-up play, which comes to the fore far more out wide, was impressive. It was he who also latched onto a through ball which allowed Lucas Perez to score his first Arsenal goal, via a penalty. He isn’t a one-trick pony, he can do more than score goals, but it is how many times he hits the net that he will be judged upon. It is nigh-on impossible to decide if he will be given a shot in the seasons to come, but on this display, he’s giving it everything he has got. 


Gibbs was the right choice for Captain

The boy – although he’s far from a boy now – has been at the club since 2007 and is the second longest serving player behind Theo Walcott. It isn’t simply his tenure that means the armband was warranted though. He has been in and out of the side for two years now, and it is ongoing. Have you ever heard him moan via the media though? He has been the utmost professional, and he isn’t just picking up his paycheque either. Whenever called upon, he has done a solid job, and if given a run in the side, he would not let anyone down. He isn’t the vociferous type, but the youngsters on the field can look to Gibbs for the example to follow, and aside from the early mistake which allowed Bendtner to set up Kasami, Gibbs did the shirt, and the captaincy, proud.

We may have another viable penalty taker – and Lucas is it

Alexis may be able to give defenders twisted blood, and he may be able to play as a striker ( time will tell ) but he cannot be considered for penalty taking duty. Santi Cazorla is the nominated spot-kick man, but Lucas Perez scored his first goal for the club in this game, through an accomplished penalty that indicated he is a reliable option if the need arises. On the whole, Lucas played well, but the service again wasn’t exactly plentiful. His movement was ok though, which Ozil will enjoy, and getting off the mark will relieve a lot of pressure.His second goal also exhibited his strength, as he shrugged off Michael Mancienne and had the composure to round the keeper before tapping home. He then registered an assist, a slide rule pass for Oxlade-Chamberlain to finish, and it was a great display from the hitman from Deportivo.  Let’s see how he goes from here. The next penalty earned should be a straight fight between the two Spaniards. 

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.

The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.

Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.

This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year. 

You cannot have both.

So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players. 

David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.

In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.

Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.

In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch. 

Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.

Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.

Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.

In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours. 

‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.

We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.

Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal. 

First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda. 

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal