Holding & Akpom Give Arsene Headache, Ox Draws Goat’s Blood, Debuchy Fights for Survival: 8 Friendly Observations

Chivas de Guadalajara v Arsenal Pre-season Friendly: 1 – 3

Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Iwobi; Walcott

Subs: Martinez, Debuchy, Bielik, Gibbs, Zelalem, Elneny, Campbell, Willock, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom

Rob Holding celebrates scoring

It is hard to review a match watched between 2 and 4am on a small Ipad screen, but let’s try to analyse the game and see whether we can pull some more conclusions.

Here are my eight observations:

  1. Holding continues to look very promising. Part of me thinks he is too young to play a big part in the coming season, and another part feels he is the Max Verstappen of our team: level headed, confident, fearless and very, very talented. He will be 21 next month so he is not that young anymore, and if he were to play with the likes of Cech, Koz and Nacho, who can guide and coach him, he could do really well from the start of his Arsenal career. Arsene says he wants to add experience in the CB position but young Rob will be adding a lot of food for thought for him at the moment. Holding did not have a perfect game but his composure, passing and drive are very exciting; and he scored a fine goal to get us in front early on  as well. Stuff of dreams right now and let’s hope he will keep it up.
  2. The return of Cazorla, combined with Xhaka and Coquelin behind him, was a joy to watch. He clearly was enjoying himself and produced some fine attacking passes. It was surprising to see Xhaka play quite high up the pitch regularly, and he also produced some excellent through-balls, especially to our full backs. At times I struggled to see whether it was Santi or Xhaka who produced the through-ball or classy forward pass, but it is really good to see that we had more than one creative provider on the pitch with the King of Assists still not in action.
  3. We are blessed with excellent goalkeepers. Cech is such a calming influence and his experience on and off the pitch is vital for us. But Ospina is not far behind and I hope Wenger can keep him motivated to stay at least another year. Ospina, just like Cech, may let in the odd stoppable goal, but his presence and professionalism have a calming impact on his fellow players and that goes a long way. Martinez also looked tidy in the second half.
  4. Ox scored a peach of a goal, the sort of cracker we know he is capable of. We have to see whether he can score regularly against tougher competition but this is a very promising start to the pre-season for AOC. At the moment, he is winning the battle for the other ‘midwing’ position – Alexis will of course take one as soon as he returns – from the likes of Iwobi and Campbell. The latter two looked a bit flat, or maybe I should say ‘ineffectual’, against Chivas. I remain skeptical about the Ox’s chances to claim a first team spot this season, but his attitude, directness and fitness levels have been impressive. Campbell and Iwobi have to raise their game.
  5. Theo positioned himself a lot better, just a shame his finishing was well below par once again. It must have been a dagger in the heart for him when Akpom scored so soon after he came on. Akpom did not necessarily impress that much either last night, but he did the thing that matters most in football and that is of course putting the leather over the line. I see Akpom as a traditional CF who looks more towards getting on the goal sheet than helping out the team constantly ala Giroud. But he has an eye for goal and the coolness to take his opportunities, which we cannot pooh-pooh…. another headache developing for Arsene: include in squad or send out on loan again? Theo, on the other hand, needs a goal, or at least an assist, very, very badly right now.
  6. I liked our aggression in midfield. Especially in the first half, there was a fierce and welcome battle in a congested midfield between the Chivas and Arsenal midfielders. Both Coq and Xhaka were strong and fought aggressively for midfield dominance. Francis and Granit were still a bit rusty and gave away too many free-kicks, but I really liked the physicality of their play. This is just what we will need in the PL to dominate teams in the midfield area. Add Elneny to the mix, who had another fine 45 minutes, and we have a really strong midfield that will provide the axis around which our game can flourish.
  7. Debuchy played with passion and aggression, which  brought us a goal and cost us a penalty. I don’t mind the latter. I want to see Matthieu give his all and fight for his position and that is exactly what he was doing yesterday. Good man. And the assist for Akpom’s goal was very good: well placed and kept on the ground to make it easy for the CF to finish. I want him to stay and fight with Bellerin for the FB position.
  8. Mesut was in da House. I know we are all desperately scanning the sport websites for news about new signings, but let’s also not forget the importance of keeping this continuously improving squad together. Seeing Mesut supporting the boys in the stands put a smile on my face. I want him to be well rested before he starts playing for us again, but I cannot wait to see him back and work alongside the likes of Xhaka, Elneny, Coquelin and Santi, to name but a few.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal with Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil

What are your observations?

By TotalArsenal. — Thanking The Mirror for pictures.

 

 

 

Arsenal best 11 in 2017: Szczesny in goal, Jack in the hole, Stones CB, Akpom CF?

Two great guys, but will they still be at Arsenal in 2017?
Two great guys, but will they still be at Arsenal in 2017?

Eight questions for you to answer.

I have been to three matches this season – Liverpool at home and Newcastle United and Sheffield Wednesday away – and have watched most other games on TV. I reckon we have a good chance to win silverware again this season, and our main focus should be on winning the title.  I also believe that Wenger is not finished developing this team further and will add quality if and when possible.

It is clear, though, that a strong first eleven is coming to the fore: Cech, Bellerin, Nacho, Koz, Coquelin, Santi, Ozil, Alexis, Rambo are all top quality first team players. When all are fit, Arsene can pick from Giroud, Theo, Ox, Wilshere, Ospina, Gibbs, BFG, Gabriel, Debuchy, Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta and Welbeck to complete his team and rotate players when necessary. That is a pretty fine squad to pick from right now, and let us hope the medical team will get on top of the injury issues rather sooner than later so we can make full use of these players during the remainder of the season.

But what will our team look like in two years’ time?

We have the money now to keep our best players and to add top quality international players as well as good, experienced PL players, annually. I reckon we have a fine squad right now that can win us silverware. But, as you will have noticed, I think we have two positions for which we are likely to seek new players: CB and in attack. Furthermore, the likes of Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta and the BFG will probably have left the team by the summer of 2017, and will also need replacing, either from within (youth) or through buying experienced PL/European players.

I have no doubt that Giroud and Theo will still be at Arsenal in two years’ time, but I am less sure that Welbeck will make it. In fact, I would be very (pleasantly) surprised if Danny would really make it at Arsenal, but that is for another time/post.  Both Theo and Giroud are important team players, and Alexis is a versatile attacker who can play anywhere up-front, but Wenger will in likelihood reinforce our attack with another star player during the coming summer.

Furthermore, I am a big fan of the BFG but don’t think he will be a first choice player anymore in 2017. There is a good chance that Wenger will make Koz and Gabriel our preferred CB pairing, but part of me believes Wenger will go for another ‘organiser of defence’ rather than two full on CBs ala Koz and Gabriel.

I have some ideas who Wenger should go for but do not want to influence the discussion too much, so will keep these to myself for now.

So, for just a bit of fun, my eight questions to you are:

  1. What will be our best eleven in 2017 from the currently available players (assuming everybody is fit and nobody is bought between now and then)?
  2. Being able to spend about £45m in 2016, and then again in 2017, who would you try to buy to add to our strongest first eleven and why?
  3. Where would you play a fully fit Jack Wilshere?
  4. Will Wojciech Szczesny be our nr.1 goalkeeper if it is up to you?
  5. Which ex Gunner, if anyone, would you love to be back at Arsenal?
  6. Is Steve Bould the best man to be Arsene’s right hand man; if not, who should replace him?
  7. Do you want Arsene Wenger still to be in charge in 2017?
  8. Do you think Chuba Akpom will make it into our best eleven by 2017?

By TotalArsenal.

Iwobi, Akpom, Ox Impress: Singapore Select XI v Arsenal Review

Singapore Select XI v Arsenal Match Experiences: JK Was There!

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Singapore Select XI: Izwan Mahbud (C), Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Baihakki Khaizan (Shakir Hamzah 81’), Shaiful Esah (Faris Ramli 53’), Safuwan Baharudin (Fazrul Nawaz 80’), Izzdin Shafiq (Zulfahmi Arifin 65’), Nicolas Velez, Shahdan Sulaiman (Shahril Ishak 72’), Sirina Camara, Khairul Amri (Rodrigo Tosi 58’).

Arsenal Formation: 4-5-1: Emiliano Martinez (Wojciech Szczesny 46’), Mathieu Debuchy (Hector Bellerin 73’), Per Mertesacker (C), Gabriel Paulista, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini (Chris Willock 64’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gedion Zelalem 64’), Jack Wilshere (Dan Crowley 64’), Alex Iwobi (Jon Toral 73’), Chuba Akpom.

The underlined players are the ones that did not feature in my starting line-up: I was 3 players wrong wow!

The game started strongly, with both sides playing fantastic football. The foreign Singapore Select XI players were impressive, while the local players, still in their Ramadan fasting month – meaning they did not have any lunch – were good in the first half; but, all had their tyres punctured (local lingo) in the second half.

Fast flowing football was the first half. Second half was more about Arsenal keeping the ball, as both teams were tired: Arsenal from the heat, Singapore team from the fasting month.

Players who showed that they are good, include: Nicolas Velez, Izwan (Izwan is his given name, Mahbud is his father’s given name), Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Faris Ramli (he did well when he came on and managed to get the only shorts on goal) and Sirina Camara from Singapore team. Iwobi, Akpom, the all-conquering defence, Ox, and Mathieu played well for Arsenal. Ox showed us how fast he can be, and, together with the trickeries from other players from both teams, this made the game an entertaining one. Pity that Shaiful Esah, the left back from Singapore, went off injured as his pace and left foot is on a par with Monreal.

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Zelalem came on late in the second half and had a decent game, with his known pin-point passes, speed and trickery. When Bellerin came on to play at right wing, the game became faster for a short while; but after that, the game became a training and walking game with occasional bursts of speed.

Overall, the atmosphere was quite electric in the first half, and quiet by the last 15 minutes, with more than half the stadium filled (about 30,000 spectators watched the match live in a 50,000-seater stadium). We had occasional Arsenal chants and the Kallang Wave, which is similar to the Mexican wave.

As a Singaporean I am proud of how the Singapore team played attractive football in the first half; and as an Arsenal fan, I am proud to see the lads play exciting football just a week back in training.

That’s all from me. 🙂

By JK

One Hull of an Important Match! Arsenal v Hull Line-Up & Preview

Arsenal's English midfielder Jack Wilshe

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Not surprisingly this image still doesn’t need changing.

Arsenal: Jack (ankle), Arteta (calf), Welsh Jesus (hamstring), Flamini (groin – doubt), Ozil (knee – doubt. I think he’ll be on the bench for this one. If things are going well he might get a little run out), Welbeck (thigh – doubt), Giroud (suspended – last match), Sanogo (hamstring/going on loan – doubt), Podolski (groin strain/going to Inter), Diaby (calf strain/figment of our imagination).

Perhaps we can purchase a soft tissue specialist this transfer window.

Hull City: Rosenior (hamstring), Robertson (ankle), Dawson (hamstring), Diame (knee), Snodgrass (knee)

Predicted Line-up:

Football team Hull

Some pretty big question marks over who starts. We know Ospina will start (I can sense BJ doing cartwheels from here. He has it on good authority that Ospina’s feet don’t actually touch the ground and he saves shots with his mind).

Thanks to our rather extensive list of injuries it’s going to be hard to rotate the squad too much. We are down three strikers and Podolski; therefore, Sanchez may have to lead the line again. I wouldn’t mind seeing Akpom given a go. With all the media attention he’s been given this week it wouldn’t surprise me if he was given a run out. Campbell is probably the better option given his stage of development.

In defence Debuchy is likely to be rested. Chambers or Bellerin? Let’s give the Spaniard another go. Then again Chambers may have to start because he’d be in big trouble if we conceded a set piece…land of the midgets. Kozzer or Monreal? I think Kozzer still isn’t 100% and Monreal was doing a good job, so I’d like to see him line-up for this encounter.

In midfield we could go with Chambers and Le Coq again. In my opinion that didn’t work against Southampton. Flamini could come back in but I’d prefer to see Rosicky and Le Coq given the opportunity. The young Frenchman has performed admirably since coming back on loan, so I’d like to see him prove his worth once again. Ozil will make the bench. In a perfect world he could come on at around the 70th minute mark when we have the game in the bag…unfortunately we are Arsenal and that just doesn’t happen.

Walcott is the biggest question mark for me. Does he start? Is he ready? He hasn’t started a match since January 3rd 2014 and he only had 7 touches in 31 minutes against Southampton. I’d prefer a fully fit Campbell to start on the wing so that Walcott can come on for a little run out with Ozil.

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal vs Hull 2-2

After going ahead early thanks to a good finish from Sanchez we left it til late to scrape through with a point.

One of the worst pull backs I’ve ever seen lead to their first goal…shocking non-call. Mertesacker should have showed more intent for their second. A great run from Sanchez setup Welbeck to grab the equaliser.

You can see the highlights below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8FWlYzTiwo

Form Guide:               Arsenal:  : WDWWL            Hull: LLWLW

What form? We haven’t won three in a row all season and I honestly don’t know what Arsenal team is going to show up. In the league we are 13 points off top spot. 33 points from 20 games and 12 points behind where we were this time last season. Thankfully, this isn’t the league and we are currently the cup holders!

Hull haven’t had a good time of it this season. They’ve snapped a 10-game winless run by winning 2 of their last 3 games. They are safe from relegation for now.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s not really an archive…more of a ‘we won a cup so let’s re-live it again’ type of clip (Their first goal was ridiculously lucky). What a goal by Santi!!!! Thank you Welsh Jesus. Enjoy! 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K5j4mMfBK0&app=desktop

One to watch:

Alexis Sanchez…because he’s a ripper and gets it done. What tough transition? He’s slotted into the premier league and our team seamlessly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx741asQ6es

Former Everton striker Jelavic. Hull’s leading scorer and can be a handful at times.

Key-Match up:

Arsenal midfield vs Hull City midfield

IMG_0328

I have no doubt Bruce will pack the midfield for this encounter. Southampton did it really well against us and without Giroud we tend to lack shape in the oppositions half. We can’t let the ex-spuds Livermore and fat-boy Huddlestone get a stranglehold otherwise we might find the going tough. Flamini and Le Coq need to break up their attacks and the midfielders need to transition the play well from defence to attack. If Alexis is playing up front we can’t afford to have him providing the link-up…he needs to be on the end of it. For this reason I think we need Rosicky to partner Le Coq, just so we have more attacking potency.

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

Now I haven’t been around for a while so I’ve got a lot of fingers to hand out. This week’s finger goes to José Mourinho. Jesus Christ he’s a miserable sod. Just because he’s not getting his way at the moment he’s whinging about every little thing, making excuses for everything. His players don’t win penalties apparently…Hazard is being kicked out of the league (he’s diving over a lot of those tackles)…unfair treatment from the refs. Perhaps he’d have better luck if his players didn’t go down with relative ease. Drogba has done it his whole career; Hazard does it on a regular basis; Ivanovic (despite being built like a brick shithouse) flops whenever he gets around the box; even Cahill dives…Tell your players to stay on their feet and the refs might start rewarding you again. It annoys me that he has the wood of Arsene. Nothing would please me more than seeing him whinge and complain about us too.

Frick it, I’m handing out another! My right finger is going to Liverpool manager Rodgers. He accused Alexis of diving when the two teams met recently. First of all I find it very rich that he’s accusing one of our players after he defended Suarez on a regular basis. Secondly, Sanchez doesn’t dive. Thirdly, it was a long way outside the box so it’s not like the free-kick resulted in a penalty. Finally, look what that cheating twerp Sterling did moments later. He handled the ball to get past an on-rushing Szczesny. P*ss off Rodgers…you too Skrtel.

Pre-Match pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on back goes to Santi Cazorla.

santi short

He’s really stepped up recently when we’ve needed him too. He’s had midfielders drop off all around him but little Santi has found his first season form. The only thing missing is his shooting foot but that’ll come. Teams have really started to choke us in midfield so players like Santi, Ox, Sanchez and Rosicky are worth their weight in gold. They get the ball and drive forward causing opposition players to gravitate towards them creating space for others. Good job Santi.

Ask the opposition (7)

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week we’ve got a big group taking part (friendliest bunch I’ve spoken to thus far). The answers were kindly provided by Quill, Brady’s Love Triangle, Mr Hat, John Ex Aberdeen now E.R, Chazz Rheinhold (all from not606) and Ryan from the official Hull supporters club. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:

1) How can Hull turn their season around?

Quill: I believe we can, but only if we keep Bruce. Of course, injuries haven’t helped, with Snodgrass being out for the season, and Diame and Dawson also having spells out too. On paper, our team should be comfortable, but paper never won a football match. I think if we get a couple of results go our way, we’ll be fine. We only have to look at Sunderland and Poyet last season for a great example.

brady’s love triangle: Playing forwards when it’s needed, bruce played the perfect game against sunderland but then played the same team at home to leicester.. until the 60th minute when we had all our forwards on we dominated them.. it’s up to bruce really, and if we get diame and dawson back fit and ready, diame has been a huge miss

Mr Hat: Sack Cushionface

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: We just need to get our bigger players back and a consistent team. With Huddlestone, Dawson, Diame and Snodgrass out, we as a club don’t have the depth of squad to lose these players.

Chazz Rheinhold: Get the players back fit and from suspension. Buy a strong championship centre forward. Deeney would be my choice, if we go down, he’ll be the top scorer next season if we do.

Ryan: As Steve Bruce keeps saying, getting our injured and suspended players back is one big thing but I think he also needs to be a bit more adventurous in attack and make better use of the strikers we have. In our recent home defeat to Leicester we started without a striker and intitially struggled to create chances, but once we brought some strikers on in the second half, we suddenly looked like scoring. That game summed up the rut we’re in really.

2) Which player/s would you like in this transfer window?

Quill: Someone to bridge the gap between midfield and attack. We don’t really have a proper playmaker at the club – Ramirez is alright, but lacks pace, and Ben Arfa was just an idiot. Ironically, we do have that type of player already in Snodgrass, but he is out for the season as mentioned above. 

brady’s love triangle: difficult, we spent a lot in the summer, how much will our owners want to dish out? i’d like cattermole from sunderland and danny ings from burnley, neither are likely to happen though

Mr Hat: Messi, Ronaldo or Bale

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: I don’t think we need much, maybe Lennon to replay Ben Arfa, and Cattermole to stiffen up the Midfield

Chazz Rheinhold: Troy Deeney. Not sure we need anyone else.

Ryan: We’ve spent a lot of money for a club our size recently and I don’t think we really need to keep splashing the cash. The squad is a lot better than the one that stayed up and got to the cup final last year, so the problem lies elsewhere. That said, the one position I think we lack is a bit of pace up front to get in behind teams. We let Shane Long go for a really good offer, but we didn’t have much time to replace him. We got Abel Hernandez, but he hasn’t been anything like as good as long so far and doesn’t seem to have the pace we need.

3) What player/position is your weakest?

Quill: Quite a similar question to above. I wouldn’t say any player in particular is our weakest, but if I had to pick an area, it would be the attack. Bar Jelavic and Hernandez, we don’t have strikers who look truly threatening. The Leicester game highlighted our need for more attackers or at least a more creative threat.

brady’s love triangle: centre midfield and forwards, hernandez has yet to spark into life despite being our most expensive signing in our history, livermore and huddlestone don’t have that ‘kick’

Mr Hat: Every position as Cushionface pulls names out of a hat.

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: One in midfield and one up front.

Chazz Rheinhold: Centre midfield. We’ve got ex Spurs in there!! Bit lightweight (no Hudd jokes) and too nice. Shouldnt have bought Livermore, gets through lots of work but not enough bite or drive going forward. Always wants to pass to Hudd.

Ryan: We have reasonably good cover all over. I’d say up front is the weakest. Jelavic is great, but we haven’t got anyone else up to his standard to play alongside him.

4) What tactics are you likely to employ against Arsenal?

Quill: Very likely our 3-5-2 formation. It’s our best formation from a defensive standpoint, and is our best chance of keeping your lot at bay. We’ll likely play very similar to how we did in the 2-2 draw earlier on in the season.

brady’s love triangle: probably a 3-5-2, hoping to dominate arsenal in midfield and get you on the counter.. but bruce who knows?

Mr Hat: Concede at all costs

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: 352 as we did in the league game solid defence and counter attack.

Chazz Rheinhold: I hope Brucey doesnt sit back. He’ll go 3 at the back i reckon. We’ll be out on our feet by Sunday it could be a drubbing for us, we’re running out of players.

Ryan: It’s impossible to say with us. Being an FA Cup game Bruce will probably mix it up a bit meaning fringe players get a game. We play a few different formations at different times.

5) Which Arsenal player would you like and why?

Quill: 100% Alexis Sanchez. The man is awesome. He has been, for me so far this season, the best player in the Prem. Both his ability to score and create, alongside his pace and trickery is exactly what we need at the moment. 

brady’s love triangle: sanchez, world class, being a huge fan of his for quite a while , he could play at any team in the world, he bossed the world cup and ozil, I’ve followed him from his young days, he has the quality, he doesn’t have the forwards to work with though

Mr Hat: Diaby because Bruce manages to have so many players out injured all the time that Diaby will prove the exception to the rule in a fitting twist of ironic comedy

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: The Ox, he has pace, skill and power, though a toss-up with Ramsey.

Chazz Rheinhold: Obviously Sanchez but if not Welbeck. 

Ryan: Easy, Danny Welbeck. We were tenuously linked with him in the summer before he signed for you, it seemed very unlikely at the time and so it proved, but I did think he was exactly what we were missing and would have been an ideal foil for Jelavic.

6) Which player/position do you feel is our weakest?

Quill: Defence. I’m including the goalkeeper in that too. Your defence doesn’t look strong enough, both from a physical standpoint and also a mental one. Even Wenger himself admitted that your defence doesn’t talk enough, which is a massive problem.

brady’s love triangle: well, depends on what level, to compete for the premier league/europe, i’d say, a forward and defender

Mr Hat: London, because you pick up a fan base of Piers Morgan’s

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: Centre back and defensive midfielder.

Chazz Rheinhold: The back four, it seems. Corners free kicks are our best chance of scoring.

Ryan: I don’t know a massive amount about Arsenal but from the outside it always seems like you spend big on attacking players but only get cheap, French youngsters to play in defence. It seems to me that a bit of physicality from teams like Stoke or West Ham is still a weakness for you. I’d say the defence in general is your weakest area.

7) Who should Arsenal sign in the transfer window to improve the squad?

Quill: Again, similar to above, you need a new central defender, someone like Mats Hummels, who has a great technical ability as well as a tactical nous.

brady’s love triangle: martinez of porto

Mr Hat: Messi, Ronaldo or Bale

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: Not sure which person, but the above 2 positions, then you would be a threat in both League and Europe.

Chazz Rheinhold: Sissoko (sp) from Newcastle. He looked fantastic last time i saw him on TV and was a beast against us last season.

Ryan: Based on my previous answer I’d say a powerful, dominant centre half who already knows the PL. He’d need to play the Arsenal way, so maybe Ashley Williams from Swansea. In fact better yet, our very own James Chester is a very under-rated player in the Rio Ferdinand mould. He’s young, rarely makes a mistake, good on the ball and a brilliant tackler but hardly ever has to slide. I’d hate to see him go, but I reckon he could play for a big club one day.

8) What is your prediction for the match?

Quill: My heart says a 3-2 win after coming from 2-0 down just for revenge, but I’m going to be realistic and say 3-1 Arsenal.

brady’s love triangle: 2-1 to arsenal L

Mr Hat: 9-1 Hull city win.

John Ex Aberdeen now E.R: Depend what team Arsene puts out, if 2nd string we may get a draw, if you put out a first team squad, I fear we will lose 2-0

Chazz Rheinhold: Could be 5-0. It’d be good to fluke a draw and get you back up here for a night match.

Ryan: I can’t see anything other than a City loss. I imagine both sides will play a weakened team, but your reserves will be stronger than ours. If it was a league game I might be hopeful we could knick a result again, but I’m not confident for this one. I was disappointed with the draw really, after last year’s cup run whet the appetite!             

Prediction:

I really don’t know to be honest. With the form we are in and against a team that knows how to expose our weaknesses. I think our saving grace is their small squad. Their players would be tired after the packed fixtures. God I hope we win because we need to go on a winning run and it’d be fantastic if we kept the Cup this year. 2-1 to the good guys.

What is your prediction?

What team line-up would you go with?

Who will be our best player on the day?

Who do we need in the transfer window?

Podolski…a flop or not?

Enjoy the game Arsenal fans.

arsenal vs hull

By Oz Gunner

Festive Season: Time to Shine for Hayden, Akpom, O’Connor and M-N!

Chuba+Akpom+ir6OLDOc5zsm

Interestingly, now attention is turning back to our Newcastle game: stories of who might miss out have even more relevance to the use of substitutes on Saturday and beyond…

If Koscielny and Monreal both fail fitness tests then Stefan O’Connor could be on the bench to cover Chambers in the middle. The 20 minutes he had on Tuesday night, in his right position, would have been a great time to see how well he could play alongside Mertersacker? Heaven forbid, but he might be in line to replace Per himself, as he must be due an injury as our fate starts to look for a fresh victim. Let’s face it; there are very few untouched souls out there.

Everybody is assuming Gibbs will be fit … what if….
Come to think of it, both Debuchy and Flamini came off, the latter we assume was for carding issues. But if there was a physical problem, perhaps Kamara should have started? At least Em’an’en got a good 45minutes and would be good cover for OX, who apparently is one of the few to be involved in every game so far?

Of course the bigger question will be about Podolski: Super sub or start and replace?
In a 4-3-3 line up it is easier to slot him in on the left side, although less flexible across the front line viz a viz Alexis, Welbeck, and Ox, and it puts more pressure on the Giroud/Welbeck situation. The three in behind is more or less a case of who is alongside Ramsey now 😀
I guess, Cazorla over Ox would be favourite for the creative role, and Flamini for the defensive one?
That would leave Ox resting on the bench, but that might not be a bad thing…

Then we get back to the back 5, where I guess on Woijech and Per are the only certainties?
Debuchy, with no repercussions after a long lay off, Chambers if Kos misses out, and Gibbs.
That would seem the most likely set up.

However, these thoughts got me thinking about the bigger picture of games to come? I said earlier in the week I thought we need at least three young players to step up and create a larger number of players to choose from …

The bench will tell us more about how AW plans to take us through the hectic schedule to come. Will it be a narrow group that take the bulk of the load, or will we see the odd body of youth getting an airing? This Newcastle game offers more scope for youth over experience than the Liverpool one, but what will follow then is about six games over the next two weeks. I would suggest then it will be a case of two shadow teams: one game with the bulk of stars, the other with a few, and benches of ‘resting’ players, and an assortment of fringe players hoping to take their chance to prove themselves. Even the FA Cup game will not be a respite, unless AW puts all his eggs on maintaining a league challenge…

So I come back to the bench for Saturday, and benches beyond that, and see who the fringe players are and who might get used at some point:

In goal we can assume that Ospina will push past Martinez to the 2nd/alternative spot.

The CB line up has three contenders; Ajayi, Hayden, and O’Connor, with the alternatives of Chambers and Monreal, when they are not being used in their respective full back roles.

Left back is the weak spot if Monreal and Gibbs are out injured. O’Connor was thought to be the cover for Bellerin on Tuesday, but that never materialised; still, he looks the best option in the absence of B54.

Right back is less of a worry, in so far as we have three. Debuchy, Chambers,and Bellerin in that order.

Defensive midfield is the sensitive area. Arteta and Flamini are the primary choices, but both will find games with short breaks between could be a problem. I have made no secret that Isaac Hayden will likely fill one of these roles, permanently. Hopefully his return to training has gone smoothly and he should be ready for the Liverpool game. It will be a tough introduction, but if he shines, as I suspect he will, then he will see the bulk of the following six games. We do have Chambers, again, as one option, or the untried Kamara on the list to play the main or sole defensive player. The B2B option, again behind the ArtFlam experienced pair, and Ramsey who is likely to command this position if his return to form holds, but Maitland-Niles looks to have done his case no harm at all to be the go-to sub whenever needed.

Attacking midfielders will be strengthened further with the hopeful return of Walcott, back in training this week. Ox, the experienced Rosicky, the ever present Alexis, Podolski, Campbell…. And let us not forget the emerging talent that is Serge Gnabry. He too needs game time, and could prove very useful over the next three weeks, and beyond?
So this is an area we should be okay if rotation is used to best effect …starting with this coming game by giving Ox the day off: he has earned it.

Creative midfield we are struggling. In the absence of Ozil, and longer term Wilshere, Cazorla is carrying the load. Even by using others who open up defensive in different ways, like Alexis, Ox, and Rosicky, there may be occasions where, even if only from the bench, the likes of Matland-Niles, and the talented Zelalem will be needed?

Up front, with the strikers, it tends to be more about balance. The ability to work well with those around them, and Giroud stands out as the one that others can play well with. Welbeck offers a different approach with his work rate. Podolski with his strike rate, Alexis for gladiatorial approach, and Walcott with his pace. in theory we should not need to worry in this area … but it is a team game and they have to work as a unit amongst themselves, and with the midfield, and when needed, helping the defence. They also need to be more clinical when chances come their way. Enter Chuba Akpom. Blessed with pace, grace, and power that show glimpses of Thierry Henry. If he puts it altogether his career will take off big time. For now, though, he needs to take any opportunity he gets this season and use it to improve in the areas where he is weakest, and still learning … Because I confidently predict next season the others will be lucky if they can oust him from a No 1 starting role.

So my young players that will make a difference, if called upon, are:
Isaac Hayden
Chuba Akpom
Ainsley Maitland-Niles aka ‘Em’an’en’
Stefan O’Connor at CB

Wish-list:
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill – Get fit soon, your team needs you!
Semi Ajayi, your turn will come. Keep working, time is on your side.

Note: Serge Gnabry is experienced, so falls into the same category as Walcott: a very welcome returnee.

The future is ahead of us, but it starts now …
Keep the faith

Written by: Gerry.

Akpom composed & deadly | Zelalem plays like Ozil: U21 Match Report

The Young Guns – Aston Villa v Arsenal

Under 21’s

Chuba+Akpom+ir6OLDOc5zsm

This was a game Arsenal should have been expected to win, as they have been in good form this season, and they were aided by the experienced pair of Diaby and Coquelin. However, they were made to work hard for their victory, which keeps them at the top of the table.

The full line up of: Martinez in goal; Ormond-Ottewill(B54) LB; O’Connor and Hayden the CB’s; Bellerin RB. Midfield: Diaby And Coquelin Holding, and Crowley AM; (1st half) Zelalem CAM, and Akpom up front. Maitland-Niles was sort of somewhere between second striker, winger and AM.

The first piece of action from the Gunners’ came on the counter, with the ball played out to M-Niles who showed good pace, drifted into space from the left and hit a beautiful controlled curler that hit the bar, with the keeper beaten all ends up. Sadly, that was the last time he was seen out there during this half. Arsenal really struggled to control the game through some sloppy passing. Zelalem hardly got a touch of the ball, Coquelin and Diaby were trying difficult passes that Villa were able to cut out.

However, the solid central barrier of O’Connor and Hayden – the latter had the captain’s armband – meant Martinez was never troubled, despite getting a series of corners off other defenders. These were not always cleared effectively, but Martinez claimed everything that came his way.

Going the other way, Crowley showed some good skills, but had a couple of long range shots when a pass might have been better. Akpom’s 1st goal came about not from a tremendous build up play, rather more a case of a defender trying to be too clever and allowing Akpom strength to rob him just outside the Villa box. He showed a neat bit of skill in committing the keeper one way, skipping past him and cutting it back into the bottom left hand corner. A real composed finish which was all  by his making. He had a glorious chance to double the score when showing some real pace to get clear of the defence, one on one with the keeper, but he took it too close to the keeper who just managed to get an outstretched leg to it. And the half ended with just the one goal lead.

Whilst Arsenal had the better chances, Villa could, or should have made more of theirs. On one occasion they had a man over when both Bellerin and B54 were caught up-field, leaving acres of space behind them. Both the full backs made some great overlapping runs down the line which did not bring any joy in front of goal, so one suspects that one of the ‘holding’ midfielders were not holding their positions?

It was to change in the second half.

Bellerin’s runs over the halfway line were noticeably curbed. Zelalem suddenly became Mr Available rather than Mr Invisible in the first half. M-Niles now was instructed to stay on the right, and thus keep Bellerin from advancing too far forwards … But it was Villa that came out with the greater threat.

Gedion+Zelalem+TbglDkT6fKbm

Their first attempt went through Bellerin’s legs and deflected past Martinez’s far post. Another saw our keeper make a last minute stop as a ball sped towards the inside of the upright. Although his parry went straight to a Villa player, he was ruled off-side when the ball came in … and from two yards he skied it anyway, which sort of summed up Villa’s night.

Meanwhile our attacks were looking much more menacing with Zelalem getting involved much more. M-Niles cut in from the left and hit a tame shot on his weaker side. Hayden found himself in the opposition box and cut a precise pass/cross to the far post. Unfortunately, both M-Niles and Akpom were waiting, and the former put it wide. A similar thing late on with Bellerin: having a mazy run off the right wing took him past three defenders, one of our strikers, only to come to a halt when Akpom helped make a double barrier with the defender clearing.

Finally though, Akpom was on to a trade mark Zelalem pass that Ozil would have been proud of, squeezed past two defenders as the keeper came out, and as he was falling he toe-flicked towards the far post with the keeper helpless, and it curled in off the post. Similar to Sanogo’s 4th against Benfica, except this had further to travel.

So top honours went to Akpom, who might have had a second hattrick, but has now scored 6 in 3 games for the Under 21’s!

Of the others, Diaby got through 90 minutes. Held on to the ball well, but will need a few more games like this to get his real sharp passing going.

Bellerin was ever keen to get forwards but played a more disciplined role in the second half. He made some good defensive tackles too, but also lost out a few times when over-doing the trickery.

Hayden had an impressive game, giving out an unruffled calm worthy of Per himself. If I was to be picky, I would say he could direct his clearances at teammates rather than just clear the lines, but that is being really picky!

Coquelin was hard working, but sadly he doesn’t look the part for a step up, and time is running out. He will get more opportunities at this level, but his passing is a bit wayward.

B54- Brandon Ormond-Ottewill to give him his full title made some great runs down the left, and followed it up with some dangerous crosses. He has not had the exposure that Bellerin has had, and has a little more time to develop, but is a lively sort who may just be right to take over from Nacho in a couple of years?

O’Connor is only in his first season and will benefit from having Hayden around. He should take advantage as he will get a new partner pretty soon, I think?

Whilst talking of defenders, Martinez in goal looked like somebody who had stepped down a level. I think he will be anxious to strut his stuff with the first team whenever he can.

Crowley has a touch of goal thirst on him from what I saw. Somebody will be having a word in his ear to tell him he is a creative midfielder, and that creativity should be directed at others first, and should only shoot when there are no better options available. That was not the case tonight, but he is one of the younger ones stepping up. Skillwise he looks the part.

Zelalem was a tale of two halves. When he can nail his second half display into a 90 minute performance, he will be a force to be reckoned with, and this second 45 will do his confidence the world of good.

I felt I was robbed of seeing the true Maitland-Niles tonight. He may not have the high profile of some of his team mates, but I see a very good player developing in him. He may not make it through to Arsenal’s first team anytime soon, or maybe not at all? But he will do any side proud for effort and no mean skill on the ball.

Chuba Akpom? What don’t you know already? He is tall, strong, quick, with a deft touch around goal … and he has got his head down to get a first team start. The COC beckons, and with a slight vacancy for pace down the left side, he could make more than one appearance … this season.

Overall, it was Akpom who made the difference in the scoreline, but all can be happy with some parts of their game. As to claims for a spot in the Southampton COC tie, Hayden is the standout for me. Others will have to see who is rested.

Written by: Gerry.

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Giroud injured – Who to play: Pod, Bendtner, Sanogo, Akpom or Theo?

Giroud, Giroud, Giroud is on fire: but what are we going to do if he gets injured?
Giroud, Giroud, Giroud is on fire: but what are we going to do if he gets injured?

Among fellow Gooners, the overriding feeling with regards to our current team is that Arsenal are now very strong in midfield, good to very strong at the back, but a bit light in attack.

The big question we are all asking ourselves is what we are going to do if Giroud (knock on your mini-hampton Glic) gets injured.

There will be a new post later this evening, but for the sake of a bit discussion, I would like to ask BK readers to tell us who we should play instead of Giroud and why.

Before you do so, however, I would like to point out that Giroud’s role/contributions in our current team/line up/system of football are as follows:

  1. Giroud’s main role is to be the central attacking hub up-front: he is the pivot to many of our attacking moves and provides his fellow strikers and midfielders with a ‘base’ up-front. For that he needs to be good at playing with his back towards the opposition’s goal, not get outmuscled easily, be able to shield the ball well, have a good first touch and pass the ball accurately. It is fair to say that OG is not the finished article in these areas, but he is constantly making progress;
  2. Although OG will always be judged on his goals, in our current system we should also judge him on his assists, as well as his ability to make space for others and allow them to join our attack. The latter is a lot harder to measure, but is nevertheless key to this role in our current formation/system of football;
  3. As a result, we should look to replace an injured Giroud with a player who can do the same, and not focus entirely on the ability to score goals or produce assists;
  4. Giroud puts himself about across the pitch, is a force in defending set-pieces for us and continuously works hard to put pressure on the opposition defenders and midfielders.

You might believe there are more attributes/aspects Giroud adds to our team, and if so, please share them with us.

But, taking the above into account, and assuming that Arsene will want to continue with our current 4-2-1-3 system as much as possible, who should replace Giroud in case of injury, and why: Akpom, Bendtner, Pod, Sanogo or Theo, or….?

Also, if you would like to make your predictions for the coming season, please go to:

https://bergkampesque.com/2013/09/07/arsenal-to-win-the-treble-manchester-united-to-finish-fifth-benteke-season-top-scorer-southampton-to-win-fa-cup-make-your-predictions-here/

Finally, to support a locally based new band, have a look at this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i0736Nm5og

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Zelalem even better, Arteta true captain, light in defense: MR

startvgrampus

Here are my thoughts on today’s pre-season friendly against Nagoya Grampus.

In today’s match, Arsenal came up against much tougher competition than we have faced so far this Asia Tour. We had another quick start with another good goal from Giroud, but the Japanese side showed their class and held us for a while after that.

Our first goal was an excellent cross from Rosicky to an unmarked Giroud, who headed it calmly past the near post. I have to say, the unsung hero of this pre-season has been Rosicky. His most memorable moments being his assist to Olsson, his assist for Giroud’s first in the Vietnam game, and this cross today among other things. If he can stay fit all season, he will be big for us. He seems to be someone in the squad who connects well with everyone, and I hope when he decides to retire he will go and get his coaching badges and stay with Arsenal.

It took until the 25th minute for Arsenal to break through again. Theo picked up the ball and brought it down, slipping it past the defender to Giroud with the outside of his foot. Giroud saw he had no space and as he was slid, tried to lay the ball back for Ryo.

Many people are saying it wasn’t a penalty as Giroud was never really hit by the tackle. They are correct, BUT the penalty was NOT called for a foul. It was called for a handball by the player who slid at Giroud, therefore the call was correct. Arteta stepped up like a real leader and let our young Japanese winger take the penalty in his home country. Ryo stepped up and put a powerful penalty just inside the left post. It was a fantastic penalty and he, the crowd, and the Arsenal players were thrilled for him to score in his home country.

At halftime Arsene made only a few changes. Wilshere came on for Rosicky; Zelalem came on for Mikel; Podolski on for Giroud; and Gnabry came on for Ryo. It was after these changes that Arsenal picked up the pace. Gnabry made a few good runs on and off the ball, and had a couple of chances. Theo also had a few shots and the team looked far better. I will put this down to Zelalem.

Zelalem came on and looked even better than before. His normal composure and desire to do well was there, but coupled with good movement from Walcott and Chuba, he had a few defense splitting balls that left the opposition’s defense standing in awe.

One of these through balls led to our third and final goal. Zelalem picked up the ball, saw Theo, and placed a pass with pace, on the ground, between three or four defender, and Theo took a good touch and chipped the keeper from close range.

A few more changes were made throughout the game with Miquel coming on for Gibbs, Aneke on for Ramsey, and Akpom on for Theo. After Miquel came on for Gibbs we must note that there were no defenders on the bench. Wenger really ought to think about buying a new defender, preferably one that plays centre back, but can play as a right back as well. This would mean we have two full defensive lines, as well as a CB who can play left back and a CB who could play right back. Two defensive injuries and an absence should not leave us with only four first team defenders, especially when one is playing out of position.

Nagoya Grampus’ goal was poor marking by our defenders, but Fabianksi really should’ve had the relatively weak header Kisho Yano put in.

Overall, the team played well today, but we need to test ourselves against an EPL strength team to make sure we’re truly ready for the season.

For now I’ll leave you with a few questions;

  1. What did you think of today’s friendly?
  2. Does Arsene need to bring in a new defender? If so, what position/positions should they play?
  3. Will Rosicky be a key player for us this season?

Thanks for reading. 😀

Written by: Dylan.

Match Review: Ollie and Akpom impressive, Zelalem does it again, Theo sloppy

Gedion Zelalem: Cesc potential?
Gedion Zelalem: Cesc potential?

Here are my thoughts on today’s pre-season friendly against Vietnam.

In today’s match, Arsenal looked a bit sluggish. After a quick start and a Giroud goal, the tempo of the game slowed down for a bit. This is surprising, considering the strong line-up with which Arsene started. However, in the end we picked up the tempo and put seven goals by yet another team.

The first goal involved a smart, chipped through ball from Rosicky to Giroud. Giroud received the ball, was calm, and fired it across goal without even looking. He got a bit lucky, as the goalie got a touch to it and it hit the post, but in the end it was in.

After that goal Arsenal became too comfortable. The midfield looked off the pace and the possession was not good. We didn’t use the wings as much as we should’ve and it stopped us from creating chances. Later in the first half Poldi wiggled his way into the box and tried to lay it off to Giroud, but in the end they weren’t on the same page. Then Poldi again would take a shot similar to Giroud’s first and hit the post, with the rebound from Gnabry being saved by the Vietnamese goalie.

It took until the 43rd minute for Arsenal to regain their tempo again, with Giroud putting a nice curling shot into the upper corner; and then a minute later, a nice run from Ox with a smart through ball at the end, saw Giroud in on goal and he calmly chipped the goalie for his hat trick.

At halftime Arsene changed nearly the whole team. Right away Theo had a nice chance, but his first touch let him down and he had to turn to lay the ball off to the Ox, who instantly curled it into the top corner; so, no complaints on that one. However, Theo’s first touch was untidy throughout the whole game and he ruined countless opportunities. It’s only the beginning of preseason, but if Theo wants to play striker, his touch needs to be well above the level it’s at now.

Akpom would also show his potential in this game. In the 55th minute, Ramsey poked a nice ball through the defence. Chuba timed his run well, stayed onside, calmly turned around a defender, and bent a ball into the far post with his favored right foot.

Only a few minutes later Zelalem did it again. He played a nice 15 yard ball on the ground, through the Vietnamese defense to Ox, who smartly squared the ball for Akpom to tap home his second. However, this goal was all about GZ. He got the ball a few yards outside the box, got his head up, and hit the ball with the perfect pace and power to find Ox’s feet. For a 16 year old, Zelalem is class. If he keeps his head down and works hard, we really might have the next Fabregas on our hands. He should be given a few Capital One Cup games this year for sure.

Finally, good combinations from Eisfeld and Miquel down the left saw Eisfeld play a good ‘negative’ ball to the Spaniard’s feet, and Iggy fired it across goal into the far post’s side netting. It was a poacher’s goal for the left back.

After that seventh goal, Arsenal sat back and Vietnam got a lucky goal. Martinez’s foot work on this goal was not good as he struggled to get off the ground. Wilshere came on and looked fit, even forcing the opposition’s keeper to get a red card for handling the ball outside of his box to stop Jack from scoring.

One final interesting note: two of Arsenal’s four centre backs today were not recognized centre backs! In the first half Sagna played in the middle of the defense and looked very fit (and much sharper than Kos). In the second half Aneke replaced Sagna in the middle. It’s interesting that Aneke has played in the middle two games in a row now. Perhaps Wenger is looking to convert him? Or is there just no room for him in our crowded midfield? Please let me know your views below.

Overall, Arsenal looked tired today. Maybe it was the heat or the constant training or the long nights and early mornings. Or maybe it’s just preseason. Zelalem impressed again (even earning some praise from Jack in a post-match interview), Giroud looks set for a big season, and the future still looks bright.

Here are a few questions for you:

  1. What did you think of Arsenal’s performance today?
  2. Is Wenger looking to convert Aneke to CB, or does he just not fit into Arsene’s plans for our midfield?
  3. Do we need a fourth choice CB or could we use Sagna there when necessary, put Jenks on the right, and have Bellerin as backup on the right?

Thanks for reading. 😀

Written by: Dylan.