Arsenal – Newcastle preview & line-up:  Are you ready for some football? 

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Finally, after a very long week since Arsenal beat Hull City 3-nil at the KC stadium (in a preview of the FA Cup final) the team will play another match.  This time it will be Newcastle United coming to the Emirates for a Monday Night match.  I attended this fixture last season and it fell on another weeknight, albeit during the crowded festive period.  That one ended with was a crazy 7-3 score-line featuring a Theo Walcott hat-trick.  Olivier Giroud almost matched Theo’s display coming off the bench and netting two, with only the post denying a 3rd.  Also scoring that night were Lucas Poldolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  It was a gaudy score-line and a total we haven’t come to close to equaling since, but it was also a particularly unconvincing night, especially at the defensive end.  Three times we took a lead only to have it equaled.  Also, the post-match salute to all corners of the stadium by Walcott, who had been allowing his contract to run down, seemed like a farewell.  Despite the 7 goals, the team seemed somewhat at sea.

It was a very long time ago and much has changed since.  Of course, much also has remained the same.

One of those elements is that both clubs, contrary to usual policy in the Premier league, are still managed by the same men.   Arsene Wenger (16 years) and Alan Pardew (3) are the League’s two longest serving managers, but both have weathered intense times at their respective clubs.  For Wenger, it was a long campaign to get his team into the Champions league places (including a nervy 1-nil at Newcastle to end the season) followed by a summer of great potential (“money to spend”), great disappointment (we didn’t spend any in picking up two French players, Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini).  Finally, at the deadline, after a devastating opening match loss to Aston Villa and worries about winning a Champions League Qualifier (vs already banned Fenerbache) and squeaking past arch-rival Tottenham in a 1-nil, Wenger (somewhat, at least) mollified critics by obliterating Arsenal’s transfer record and bringing in Mesut Ozil for 50 million Euros.  From those early season difficulties we had an upbeat Autumn but a slow unraveling as injuries (and no replacement buys in January) combined with big defeats against title contenders dumped us out of that race and have brought us to another series of nail-biters as the club tries to hold on (again) for Champions league qualification.

In this same period, Pardew, whose team was spirited but ultimately callow in the 7-3 result I witnessed, has ridden maybe even a greater tidal wave of ups and downs.  The January directly after the loss at our place featured even more recruitment in the “Neufchateau” vein, bringing in French (and French speaking) talent, including Yoan Goufran, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Moussa Sissoko.  Although these buys somewhat made up for the loss of Demba Ba (who scored two that night but was subsequently bought by Chelsea), it must be remembered that Pardew and Newcastle were coming off a 6th place finish in the league.  Despite the wave of purchases, Newcastle played poorly in the 2nd half of the season and only avoided being pulled into the relegation battle because other clubs (Reading, QPR and Wigan) played worse and went down rather easily.

This past summer Newcastle withstood transfer links (including many with Arsenal) over holding mid-fielder Yohan Cabaye and added another Frenchman (and long supposed Arsenal target), Loic Remy, on loan from QPR.  The Autumn went well and Pardew had his men playing outstanding football.  They sat well in the top half of the table with the highlights being  1-nil victories at Tottenham and Manchester United and a 2-nil home win over Chelsea.  In their final match of 2013 they played Arsenal almost even, only to lose to a long free-kick from Theo Walcott which received the slightest of touches from Olivier Giroud.

Again, however, they’ve been in a free-fall since the turn of the year, losing Cabaye to Paris-St Germain in the January window, getting pounded in the Tyne-Wear derby (a 3-nil loss to Sunderland at St. James Park) and now having lost 5 league matches on the trot.  This most recent period has been compounded by a touchline ban for Pardew following a head-butting incident against a Hull City player.

That ban finally comes to an end with our match, but Pardew, who exchanged shoves with Wenger in 2006 when he was in charge at West Ham, has promised a calmer demeanor.  Meanwhile, our own manager, despite finally getting his men winning again in their last two matches and looking better for retaining Champions league qualification (thanks to Everton losing 2 of their most recent 3 matches) and having a post-season date in the FA Cup final, seems under more pressure than ever.  Supporters demand more than merely treading water and the potential of lifting the domestic trophy seems insufficient relative to failing—with some big score-lines against—in both the title challenge and against the defending champions Bayern Munich (again) in the European tournament.  Wenger, who has mysteriously been holding off on signing a contract extension, has promised to do so, but this news seems to be greeted with more weary resignation (if not outright anger) than excitement by a majority of Gooners.

But that is ALL background.  There IS a match to be played and it’s actually an important one for Arsenal.  (In fact, all of these remaining matches are important and the fact that they haven’t been played—and won—may be the essential reason Wenger hasn’t actually signed.)  Who will we play and what should we expect from our opponents?

I believe we’ll see a line-up unchanged (or nearly so) from a week ago at Hull.  Poldolski continues (how can you drop a guy who is scoring 2 goals per match?) as will the mid-field group, buzzing again with the returns of Ramsey and Ozil.  It’s possible some game time will be given to Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Kallstrom, Sanogo and/or Flamini, who all seem healthy or, in the case of the latter, is not suspended.   According to Wenger, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere continue out injured but Tomas Vermaelen is available, so it’s possible that he might reprise his role at left back instead of Monreal, which seemed an effective set-up vs West Ham.   Here is my best guess at the starters:

Predicted Line-up

ars v newcastle april 14

Newcastle, by contrast, seems to be limping into this confrontation.  Mercurial MF/Forward Hatem Ben Arfa is reported to be either injured or sent back to France.  Other injuries appear a near constant throughout the Newcastle line-up, but big man Shola Ameobi has been scoring and Loic Remy may want to try and impress Wenger.  Overall, IF Arsenal play their game and limit their mistakes, they should be able to exert enough pressure over the 90 minutes to cause Newcastle to crack.  Goalkeeper Tim Krul’s most recent clean sheet was vs Crystal Palace on 22 March; his last in a road match was at Norwich on 28 July.  If we can breach his defenses and net one, others might follow and we could be in the clear.  In other words, unlike the 7-3 free-for-all I attended on 29 December 2012, I’d expect a match much more like the one we played exactly a year later up in Newcastle where it took that Walcott free kick and Giroud glancing touch, plus a stout, unyielding defensive performance of our own, to see them off.  Everton has gifted us a bit of breathing room in the race for 4th but I’d prefer a bit more.  The sooner this CL qualification is settled, the better.

Finally, on a personal note… As much as I enjoyed all the goals in this fixture last season, the best part was meeting a fellow blogger—Arthur 3 Shedds (from another site, where I used to participate) and his wife, who acted as our guides and mentors.  We met pre-match outside the Finsbury Park station (my boy wearing my Sagna 3 kit to serve as the identifying agent) and they took us up the Seven Sisters Road (into the area of North London where Arthur—not his real name—grew up) for a meal of Turkish food before returning to the stadium and the match.  Fun as it was, they had a long train ride back that night (they live in Charlton these days) and invited us to their place later in the week.  That was a nice time as well and meeting them was a real highlight of our time in London.  My point is that personal meet-ups can be a great by-product of all this writing about our shared interest, our football club.  My hope is that I can meet some of you folks for a match or elsewhere.  (Lake Tahoe in the mountains of California, where I live, is a pretty primo place to visit….) As much as it’s a pleasure (and, at times, a pain…) to share thoughts about our club, the human element is what makes it all worthwhile.

So, some football!! (a match vs Newcastle).  What do you think?

Written by: 17highburyterrace

Giroud v Davies, Pod v Wenger, Ozil v Fitness: Hull City Preview + Line Up

Hull City vs Arsenal Preview: Time to Cement 4th

Intro:

KC Stadium
KC Stadium

This fixture lines up with another important fixture in the league, Everton vs Manchester United. We will have to hope United will beat Everton and we can extend our lead to 4 points. That will nearly lock up 4th place for us, as Everton still have to face Manchester City. People say this is an FA Cup final rehearsal, but I disagree. The FA Cup final will be a different stadium, a different atmosphere, a different competition, and different players (Jack will be back for us, Long and Jelavic will be cup tied for them). That being said, this is still a big game and a definite must win for us.

This fixture last time:

Last time this fixture was played, it ended up in a very comfortable 2-0 win at the Emirates. Bendtner scored early in the first half, and Ozil scored early in the second half. I don’t expect to see Bendtner play tomorrow (or ever again in an Arsenal jersey), but Ozil will return tomorrow and I hope he gets on the score sheet again.

Line-up:

PredictedvsHull

I expect Flamini and Ozil to return to the lineup, and I reckon Santi and Kallstrom will be dropped. I believe Santi will be dropped due to his small physical stature, and Poldi will stay in due to his more physical presence being lined up against the fast and physical Elmohamady. Flamini will go up against the big presence of Huddlestone. I expect Verm to keep his spot after a fantastic performance against Carroll midweek, and due to Gibbs’ late fitness test.

Key Battles:

Giroud vs Davies: Davies is a talented, physical centre back who has really come into his own this season. Giroud will face a tiring and very physical battle, especially in the air. But if he wins it, then Giroud could be looking at a goal or two tomorrow.

Ozil vs fitness: Ozil has had a long rest and after that, he will be firing on all cylinders. Being an attacking midfielder is partially instinct, but a lot of it is like being an artist. Inspiration is key. Watching lots of football and seeing what other players do is important for a CAM because it gives one an idea of things to try in games. After so long out, Ozil will have lots of ideas, but he will have to be fit to produce his usual world class passing and assists.

Podolski vs Wenger: This is another chance for Podolski to show Wenger what he can do and grab his spot for next season. Two goals mid-week is a good start, but he needs to be more consistent and score more goals per minute to earn his spot, because scoring is pretty much all he is good at (relatively, he can do other things, but not so that other players in our squad can’t do these better).

Casualties of War:

WengerWincing (2)

Arsenal:

Monreal and Gibbs face late tests, Diaby is back but not fit, and Walcott continues to be out with his ACL injury. Wilshere and Gnabry should be back soon, hopefully next weekend.

Hull City:

Hull doesn’t appear to have any injuries that I can find. Long and Jelavic will return after being ineligible for the FA Cup semi-final.

Predictions:

I predict a 3-0 to the Arsenal. Giroud, Ozil, and Sanogo will all score in a comfortable score line for the Arsenal.

Questions:

1. What are your predictions for the game?

2. What is your preferred line-up?

3. Do you think Everton will drop points again

COYG! Let’s seal 4th place this weekend!

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written by: Dylan.

Could Draxler be this TW’s Higuain – Will Wenger surprise us again?

Will Arsene surprise us once again with an Ozil-calibre signing at the last minute?
Will Arsene surprise us once again with an Ozil-calibre signing at the last minute?

It is Transfer Window Dreadline Day and things are not looking good. The Draxler deal looks dead and buried and, as far as I can judge, we are not being strongly linked with anybody else as I write this quick post.

All the shenanigans surrounding our attempts to buy Higuain last summer should have taught us that a player is not a Gunner until announced on Arsenal.com. Most of us remained realistic throughout the process, and will not be too disappointed to see a deal for Draxler fall through.

However, the show is not over until the fat lady sings and Arsenal love to leave it to the last day, as the added time/deadline pressure makes for far better negotiation strategies (if indeed the club(s) of the players on our ‘wanted list’ are keen to sell after all…).

Draxler could, after all, still be on his way. Whether we should be super excited about signing a 20 year old at this time of the season, is a completely different matter. Short term, I cannot see him make a significantly bigger impact than say Ox or Gnabry are doing currently; and I am happy to see him come in the summer.

I saw him play a few times during which he showed glimpses of his potential, but I am not yet convinced he will be a great success. We as fans want the club to spend what it takes but we should expect the negotiators to pay what they regard as the right price. I also do not want another Reyes or Arshavin as we need a long term, successful solution for the LW position, which has looked cursed for a long time now.

It might also be the case that we were not really after Draxler at all, and that he has been ‘used as a Higuain’ to get a good deal for Arsene’s main transfer target this January. If so, who will be the ‘Ozil of this TW….? It will be all clear at midnight, as luckily the whole thing comes to an end and we can just focus on our football.

As regular BKers will know, I am keen to get DM support as soon as possible. With Flamini out for four key games, and Arteta struggling to get back to full form and fitness, experienced, ready to rock cover is required urgently. This was my priority nr1 at the start of the Terror Window and it has only become more urgent. It will not be easy, but it is a position Arsene has been trying to fill for for a couple of years, and hopefully he is ready to get our man now.

It sounds like Arsene is now focussing on DM support, but let’s see what will happen next.

Some questions for you to keep the debate going today:

  1. Where do we need to strengthen as our first priority?
  2. Who would you have liked us to sign this TW?
  3. Who do you reckon will join us before COP tonight?
  4. Who will leave/ be loaned?
  5. What do you want the outcome to be from the Northern Oilers v Southern Oilers match on Monday?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Ramsey and Monreal to start, FlamTeta to add solidity? Southampton preview

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Tomorrow night sees a return to midweek Premier League fixtures and another test for Arsenal, this time at Southampton.  Our form has been very nice.  In fact, we haven’t dropped a point in our last 5 league matches (7 wins in all comps) and we’ve only conceded 2 goals along the way.  The only caveat would be that these (league) matches have all come against teams in the bottom 11 who are currently separated by a mere 6 points(!) and are ALL candidates for relegation this season.  Southampton are in another bracket, a full 7 points ahead of the relegation battlers, and 13 points above the drop zone itself.   Already this season they’ve taken points off both Manchester teams and won at Liverpool.  They will not be pushovers and to earn full points Arsenal must play at our best.

Starting 11

This period of more winnable league fixtures and FA cup matches has presented an opportunity for the manager to rotate players and allow others to rest, recover from injury and re-integrate into the team.  18 year old Serge Gnabry has performed exceptionally well over this period as has Jack Wilshere.  Both, I believe will be rested tomorrow, the latter having picked up a knock in the FA cup match vs Coventry City on Friday.   At his pre-match press conference Arsene Wenger suggested that Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Vermaelen (left out of the squad vs Coventry) are all back and available.  Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, whose last league start was on opening day vs Aston Villa, is still not 100% fit (according to the manager) and might also only merit a bench spot having played 70+ minutes vs Coventry.  Being a product of the So’ton youth academy, I’d expect him to receive a warm welcome when he (surely) comes on as a sub.  Finally, Kieran Gibbs, who played the entire match on Friday, might also need a breather as it was his first one back from a minor layoff.  As such, my guess for the starting line-up is as follows.

ars v southampton

It’s also possible that Ramsey might start in one of the “doublé-pivot” spots (alongside Arteta or Flamini) allowing Poldolski to reprise his successful (2 goal) outing from Friday.  Given that there seems to be greater acknowledgement that his fitness issues are long term, I suspect, however, that he only gets a bench spot.  Another player unmentioned in the press conference was Tomáš Rosický.  Hopefully he’s just getting used to his new face (after the nose break vs Aston Villa two weeks ago)…If he’s fit, he’s an excellent bench option but it might be nice to allow him further recovery time if it means a protective mask is not needed when he finally does play.

Scouting the Opponent—Biggest Signings Missing

Southampton, much like the current iteration of Arsenal, are a team built on defense but very capable in attack.  As such, I expect a tight match with both teams being cautious about committing too many resources forward.  The Saints will be buoyed by the return of starting goal keeper Artur Boruc even if he was at fault for the goal which turned the reverse fixture.  Unfortunately they will be missing £8.5 million CB Dejan Lovren.   Additionally, £12.5 million DM Victor Wanyama is listed as 50-50 in returning from a long-term leg injury.  Regardless of who starts in the defensive half—I would expect ALL of them to be a bit less cavalier with the ball this time around!

http://www.heavy.com/news/2013/11/olivier-giroud-goal-southampton-arthur-boruc/

In attack Southampton’s offense revolves around one of this season’s most improved players, Adam Llalana.  Capable of driving the team forward quickly, Llalana’s final ball has also made him plenty capable of notching both goals and assists.  He won’t have record signing (£15 million) Danny Osvaldo at his disposal after a practice-pitch fracas has brought his So’ton future into question.  Instead, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriquez will be Llalana’s most likely partners up front.   Another previous record signing, Gaston Ramirez, is also missing with an ankle problem.  Still, Arsenal will need to be well aware of precocious talents James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw who can both move the ball quickly from back to front and wide to central.

As strong and in-form as Arsenal is, this match represents a moment of moderate crisis for Southampton.  In addition to the troubles with Osvaldo and the injuries to their other big money players, Chief Executive Nicola Cortese has left the club and many believe manager Mauricio Pochettino could go next.  Additionally, while still clear of any relegation troubles, So’ton have been struggling with results.  They come into the match with a day less rest than us after beating Yeovil Town (2-nil at home) in the FA Cup but their league form has dropped off.  While they were getting points from teams above them earlier in the season, they themselves have dropped points in their most recent league match (2-2 at Sunderland) and wins over West Brom and Cardiff have been balanced by a home defeat to Spurs and a 3-nil at Chelsea.

Last Match Before the Transfer Window Closes

In his press conference AW played down any transfer talk including speculation about contract extensions.  Bacary Sagna’s contract situation was raised but the manager, while not saying the matter was settled, suggested that the player was fully committed to the cause.   In previous pressers, reports about fees being agreed between FC Schalke 04 and Arsenal for forward/winger Julian Draxler have been met by denials and smiles, which seems more promising than denials and frowns (or tirades).   Southampton have their own issues and it appears they might try and offload Osvaldo to West Ham (on loan) while they’ve had to beat back Chelsea’s attempts at tapping up FB Luke Shaw.  As soon as the final whistle goes, I would expect pointed questions about the transfer window directed at each manager.  This may be a match preview but feel free to discuss all things new and shiny… (As well as parsing each and every word/report/facial expression in regards to transfers and contract extension…)

Predictions?

None for me, but feel free.  This is another (and perhaps the sternest) in a great series of nerve testers before the (very) tough series of Liverpool away,  ManUnited home league matches, followed quickly by home matches vs Liverpool in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League Round of 16.  I’ve pointed out some of the promising features leading into this one, so I’ll predict a full 3 points for the Arsenal.  Anything less would have to be seen as a slip-up, but Southampton, their momentary troubles notwithstanding, should not be underestimated.   Given their comfort as a defense-first team, the first goal will be critical.  Go on you Gunners, Up the Arse, etc., etc., etc….

What do you think?…

 Written by: 17highburyterrace

How can Arsenal win the title? Your advice to Arsene Wenger

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Isn’t fantastic, even a bit surreal, for Arsenal to still be top of the league at the start of 2014? I am always hopeful – even confident – we do well at the start of the season but to be ahead of the Oilers – South and North – and eleven points better off than Manure is well beyond my expectation.

It looks like the battle for the title will be between the Oilers and us. I expect Liverpool to come close to us one more time this season, but it looks like they have not got enough to really push us for the title. It is of course still early days to start pulling conclusions, but as we have played all the teams at least once now, we can say we were not embarrassed by any of them, except maybe the Northern Oilers who caught us at our weakest moment and at their ground. I wonder where we would be right now if we had played ManCity at the home of football and less fatigued: we could be five, even seven points clear from them now.

We also had bad games against Villa at home and Manure away. The former can happen but the latter was more than a bit disappointing, although we should take into account the fatigue factor as well after two big battles – and well earned wins – against Liverpool and Dortmund in the week prior to that match.

We played two of our three hardest away games already (both Manchester clubs), with the Chavs game still to come. We also have to go to the great football city of Liverpool, where we have to play both high-flying teams. Our recent record against Everton and Liverpool is good, but this year round it will be hard to take six points from the North-West.

I reckon we will battle it out with Chelsea and ManCity for the title right till the end. MC have the far harder second part of the season with away games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Manure, and Spuds still to come. Given that they have been quite poor away from home, there is real hope they will fall away gradually despite their impeccable home record.

The hardest challenge for the title is most likely to come from Maureen’s Chavs, who have played most top teams away already (only fellow Oilers to play away) and are starting to find more consistency in their away performances. If they can improve their away form further, it will be very hard for us to beat them to the title, I fear.

It amazes me how many pundits make excuses for Maureen’s current team – some even feel he is doing really well ‘given the circumstances’. Chelsea are apparently missing a striker, but they are having a laugh with the likes of Torres, Eto, Demba Ba and Schurrle in the team.

Chelsea, with Maureen’s natural safe (yes boring), defensive football style and an embarrassment of riches in midfield and attack are of course the favourites for the title. If we were to beat them to it, Arsene will have done extremely well IMO. To achieve this, we will need a lot of luck and to reinvigorate the team through tactical changes and/or arrival of new players in this transfer window….. or should we stick to what we have and how we play and change nothing…..

My question to you, fine fellow Gooners is:

Can Arsenal win the title this year, and what do we need to do to achieve it?

Imagine – as just a bit of fun – you have one minute in a lift going up with Arsene Wenger today, and he asks you what you would do/change to win the title this year: what would you say?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Happy & Prosperous New Year Fellow Gooners: Ten wishes for 2014.

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Last year I issued a post with ten wishes for 2013, these were (in no particular order):

  1. A top-three finish: both the Chavs and the Northern Oilers are there for the taking and we can finish in the top-three, no doubt about that!
  2. The team to keep its mojo now and to find the perfect balance between a mean defence and attacking football;
  3. A Diaby miracle: he is fit again apparently and I am hoping he will stay fit for most of the remainder of the season to help us finish as high as possible in the league;
  4. Theo to commit long term to Arsenal and the purchase of an additional, quality winger;
  5. A beast of a DM (see previous post for reasons why);
  6. Change of captaincy: TV is a great player but not a great captain. In fact, the captaincy makes him weaker, and there are good potential captains in our team: Mertesacker, Arteta, Wilshere, Szczesny;
  7. A good cup-run either in the CL, or FA-cup. It would be great to beat Bayern Munich, and if we do, this team can get far in the CL. In a way, the same goes for the Swansea away game: a win there could mean the start of a great FA-cup run;
  8. No return to a busy sick bay: it is absolutely fantastic that we have all key players fit and available now, and long may it continue – our bench is looking very strong now;
  9. Holding on to all our key players for once this summer. Arsene to be given full support by the BoD to continue building a top-team by not selling any of our key players, and giving him sufficient funds to strengthen where needed;
  10. Dennis to join our coaching staff and to get a statue at Ashburton Grove!

We did not get one and three, and two is still a work in progress; nevertheless progress has been made and Flamini and Ozil have been a big plus for us in the new season – one in defence and the other in adding an attacking dimension we had been missing.

Four came true and that was probably the turning moment for us in terms of being able to hold on to players again – a big moment, and as a result, nine came true too! Five came true as well, as Flamini has been brilliant for us; but it remains to be seen how long he can play such a major role for us.

Six did not come true officially, but practically Vermaelen has seldom or never been our captain in the new season. Seven… best not to speak about this one. I was at the Blackburn FA cup home game and it was the single worst game I have watched Arsenal play live.

Eight seems to be our faith as once again we have been missing many a key player during the year, especially in the new season. And ten remains a dream. 🙂

My ten wishes for 2014:

  1. A top-two finish, and hopefully us being crowned champions in May.
  2. Full integration of Ozil into the team, and finding the right balance between our options in midfield and attack..
  3. Somebody to properly claim LM/LW, either from the current squad or through buying super quality in January or summer.
  4. The arrival of a beast of DM with footballing qualities to strengthen the double DM pivot and provide cover and competition for the ageing Arteta and (sooner or later) Flamini.
  5. A home win against Bayern, and hopefully us beating the Germans over both legs – after that anything is possible! 🙂
  6. Cesc to return to the real home of football.
  7. Wilshere to find his form again and have a great season and World Cup.
  8. Sagna to sign a new contract and to play more regularly as a CB; Jenkinson to claim the RB position or move on this summer (and us finding a great replacement).
  9. To keep hold of all our key players whilst adding quality were required – and a few youngsters to make significant progress.
  10. Dennis to join us.

Wishing all BK writers, regular commenters and readers a fabulous and healthy 2014, with many Arsenal highlights! 

COYG: Let’s make 2014 a special year!

Victoria Concordia Crescit! 🙂

TotalArsenal.

How should Arsenal line up to beat West Ham?

Arsène Wenger will listen to constructive criticism about Arsenal but not opinions based on hunches

After a couple of tough weeks it is time for Arsenal to bounce back with a full-blooded, quality performance against the Hammers. We might not be ready yet to put the bigger teams to the sword, but as Manure has demonstrated often enough, we don’t have to do this in order to become champions. The next games against West Ham, Newcastle United and Cardiff are our bread and butter games this season.

Win today with a convincing performance and the wind is back under our wings. We mustn’t grumble or sulk about the last few weeks but just concentrate now on our next fixture with the discipline of OGAAT: three points are at stake. Sammi Allerdici will do absolutely everything to deny us a win today and only a fully committed performance will get us there. This game will have the feel and intensity of a cup game, with both the Hammers and Gunners having good Boxing Day records.

It will be interesting to see who Wenger will start and what sort of formation he will go for. It looks like Koscielny is back in contention, and nobody got injured on Monday so the Frenchman has a strong group of players to choose from.

It was quite a surprise to see Flamini rested on Monday; maybe Wenger did not want to give Dean a half decent excuse to send one of our players off (no risk there with Koz and Jack 🙂 ), or he just was not impressed with the fellow Frenchman’s slightly under-par performance against the Northern Oilers. I reckon we will need him back though, as Arteta had a hard, knackering game just three days ago.

TV5 did well against the Chavs and it will be interesting to see whether he will get another game or whether Koz will return tomorrow. My gut feeling is the latter but I would be happy to see Tommy getting another game.

Who will play in midfield and on the wings is another good question. Will Ozil get rested, and if so, will Cazorla play in the hole? Will Pod and Theo start this time round, or are we going with four or even five midfielders? And will Giroud get another start, or will we try Theo or Pod up-front?

I feel Arsene will not make too many drastic changes as he will want his ‘A-team’ to get back to winning ways, but I could be wrong.

  1. What do you reckon will be Wenger’s line-up and formation today?
  2. If it was you, what formation would you choose and who would you play?
  3. What is your predicted half time and final score?
  4. Who will score for us today and who will assist (if any)?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Please also check out this great blog by a blog-friend of mine with the godly name of Dennis, who has a real passion for football shirts:

http://www.26kits.com/

He also recently set up a dedicated Arsenal Kits page, and you will find yours truly back at the bottom of it:

http://www.26kits.com/my-favorite-arsenal-kit-top-football-kits-part-1-arsenal/

Walcott or Gnabry start – wall of RamTeta – Santi or Jack? Preview

Intro:

Interlull

ANDDDDDDDDDD we’re back! We return to the Emirates this week against this season’s revelation Southampton. A loss against United reduced our lead on top of the table down to just 2 points, but with Liverpool facing Everton in their local derby it’s our chance to gain some breathing space again. I’m not suggesting this fixture will be a walk in the park (it’ll be anything but), I just want to sleep a little easier at night!!!

This match looms as the EPL’s best attack against the EPL’s best defence (they’ve only conceded 5 in 11 games). It’ll be another scrap…in all probability more so than the United game.

Mauricio Pochettino has turned Southampton into a well-oiled machine and has developed their defence into the meanest in the league. However, Southampton has not won away at Arsenal since 1987 (13 losses and 5 draws).

1st v 3rd…Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring) – back in training and should be back in the squad soon enough, Ox (Knee – Arsene said he’ll be back in a month – which may be code for see you in March for a few games before the season ends. It’s a real shame because HH and myself (and I’m sure countless others) tipped the Ox to explode this season. I hope he returns all guns blazing and doesn’t suffer the same fate as Vermaelen (struggling for form so long after injury and finding it tough to break back in)), Sanogo (back), and Diaby (Knee-ds to get back to fitness because we could do will the squad rotation) Ramsey will be fine to play despite missing for Wales. Flamini will miss thanks to an accumulation of yellow cards (scandalous news to take I know).

Southampton:Cork (ankle) and Prado (knee – regrettably he will be unavailable to score any own goals for us this time around)

Predicted Line-up:

 

team line-up

Flamini misses through suspension so our very own lego-hair Arteta slips into the defensive spot (92.3% pass accuracy – highest in the league over 75 passes). Walcott is back!!! Therefore I think it is time to unleash the speedster again out on the right wing. May start from the bench because of his 2 month spell on the sidelines. If he does it’s definitely the German wunderkind Gnabry. The BFG should slot back in after recovering for the virus that kept him out against United. Everything else picks itself. One big positive is our internationals had quite a tranquil time away. Giroud didn’t play, Kozzer received a red card so he got one game off, BFG and Ozil only took part in one match, and Ramsey ‘injured’ himself in training…*wink wink*. So many should be ready, rested and raring to go against Southampton (barring any sort of flu, stomach, or influenza type bug).

Previous Encounters:

South v Arsenal 1-1

An own goal saved us from going down to a spirited Southampton team…very wearisome for all involved. Their goal was shocking, it was though every Arsenal player froze waiting for someone else to clean up the mess.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ4MEfvY44s

Arsenal v South 6-1

4 first half goals (two own goals), a double from Gerv, and an absolute rocket from Lu-Lu Podolski left Southampton shell shocked. Welcome to the Emirates Saints fans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsMfUTxrlsg

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : LWWWD            Southampton: WDWDW

The LONG interlull should have well and truly wiped away the despair from the United game (then again it’s not like they played us off the park or anything. They got lucky with a header). Time to get a string of wins going again and dampen Southampton’s dream run (sorry guys, it won’t last.)

Southampton are on an 8 game unbeaten streak and have only lost once this season. They beat Liverpool at Anfield and they drew with United at Old Toilet…*clears throat*

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the 2003 FA Cup final win against Southampton. God (dennis) the last few minutes were hard to watch. Thank goodness A.Cole was on the line to clear Beattie’s goal bound header.  Have a look:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRGiMoRforg

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is Adam Lallana. The new England international has been in top form this season and is one of the main reasons behind Southampton’s start to the season (so a winger who has come up through the Southampton academy hasn’t been pinched by another team? and why hasn’t anyone pinched Luke Shaw yet? He’ll end up at United soon enough I’m sure of it). He’s enjoyed a freer role this season and it’s paid dividends. Look for him to run at our defenders at every chance (highest number of completed dribbles in the last round of fixtures – 5). Gibbs (72.1% 1 v 1 challenges won this season) and Sagna will have to focused and make sure they don’t let him run free all game. If he gets the chance he will make Arsenal pay.  Rickie Lambert is one to keep an eye on; he’s been in top form since his move from Norwich.

Arsenal’s one to watch this week is Theo Walcott. He’s back ready for action (hopefully in a starting position). Southampton taught him the ropes from a young age… so what better way to show them just how far he’s come than by scoring against them?! Southampton have had the least number of shots on target against them in the league this season (31) but I think Walcott’s pace will test that stat. Returning to action so soon is not something I’d normally advocate but I think he’s completely vital in this one (if not Theo definitely Gnabry). Southampton play a high line and will look to suffocate anything and everything. Playing Rosicky and Santi out wide would feed straight in to their trap. If we can use the pace of Walcott to get in and behind their defence it will stretch them, and hopefully make them retreat a little. Even if he only has 60′ in him he should start; in that time hopefully we can pinch and early one and change the shape of the game. Time to see Ozil’s delicious passes out in front of Walcott again. Only this time Walcott will be ready to convert on the counter.

Key-Match up:

Ramsey and Ozil vs Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama

wanyama

Ramsey has set the EPL on fire this season; Ozil has lifted our team to the next level. This week they face a tough task as they line-up against two workhorses in Schneiderlin and Wanyama (number one in the league for fouls committed – 29). Ex-Celtic player Wanyama was linked with us for some time (what defensive midfielder hasn’t since Gilberto left?!) and I’m surprised he didn’t end up at a bigger club. I expect both Southampton midfielders (especially Wanyama) to rough up our midfielders on every occasion they get. Their goal will be to break up our fluidity at every chance they get, and make no mistake they will do it anyway they can. I feel the winners of this duel wins their team the match.

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to Nicklas Bendtner.

We were lead to believe he was training hard and focusing on football. Most fans wanted to see the back of him, some were coming around to the idea of keeping him (I know I was, I didn’t even sell him on FIFA14…we’ll I have now but that was because I needed a sweetener to get my Reus deal over the line!). We’d hardly heard a peep out of him this season. However, in typical Bendtner fashion he had to start flapping his gums again. In an age where every single athlete is that well media trained (so much so they are all starting to sound like bloody robots dribbling the same old tired rhetoric. Don’t believe me, then look at what Southampton’s midfielder James Ward-Prowse said this week: “I know it’s a cliché, but we’ve just got to take each game as it comes, prepare right for each one, and go into them with the right attitude and mentality to come out on top. There’s a confidence instilled in us that no matter who the opposition are – whether they’re lower league or top of the league – we can go and beat them. I think these next couple of games (Arsenal and Chelsea away) will show us as a club where we’re at in terms of playing the top teams in the league, and I think we’ll be alright.”), Bendtner still manages to make a fool of himself. As soon as a microphone gets shoved in his face he’s back saying how he wanted to leave and how he’d love to play for Barca/Real. Who is he fooling? Perhaps if you focus on the important stuff you may actually get there one day. What squandered talent. Oi Bendtner, shut it and play ball!

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsenal’s shot stopper Wojciech Szczęsny.

Szczesny

He’s told his dad to stay off the Wódka and stop drunk texting Arsene. He’s done what Bendtner hasn’t and put in the hard yards. Best of all he’s performing exactly how Arsene and all of us knew he could. He has the potential to be a world class keeper, and at only 23 (feels like he’s been around forever!) he really does have the world at his fingertips. His hard work has paid off and he was rewarded with a new contract and special praise from the manager. Keep at it Szczesny…you deserve it young man!

Ask the opposition South

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. Boy was it a struggle to get there this week! Four blogs ignored my email. Two forums blocked me and delete my comment (not like I was trying to bloody sell something. I wrote it in their ‘Arsenal v Southampton’ thread). I knew a week like this would come but I never thought it’d be at the hands of Saints supporters…maybe Totts or Man United. Nevermind we got there in the end. This week the brilliantly named ‘Le Tissier’s Laces’  has stepped up and offered to have a go. I’m glad he has because he’s written some quality responses. Let’s see what he’s written for us this week:

1. What do you attribute to your fast start to the season?

I think the excellent start we’ve had has been a combination of two factors which are of course interlinked – our high-pressing, high tempo style of play, and the fact that our outstanding coach, Mauricio Pochettino, has had a full pre-season in which to implement his philosophy and ideas. It seems odd that none of the ‘lesser’ sides (and by that I mean those that are unable to buy in significant talent, such as a £40m Ozil) have not adopted this style previously, as it’s clearly very tough to play against, but then I genuinely don’t think many coaches have been able to implement it from the off. Pochettino is a disciple of Bielsa and has grown up around this style of play. Should we carry on at the level we are, expect many to try and copy it from next season.

2. Do you think your squad is big enough to keep you up all season??

Currently we’ve been lucky with injuries. The greatest fear of any Saints fan right now is a serious problem at either left-back or goalkeeper. Our replacements for those positions (namely Danny Fox and Kelvin Davies) aren’t of the requisite quality unfortunately to keep this level of performance going. With a fit first team we’re a match right now for anyone in the division. A couple of injuries such as those would likely see us start to drop points. Although there’s a lot of faith placed in the up and coming youngsters, ideally some strengthening in key positions would be a priority in January. Much as the management and owners of the club think the sky’s the limit, and preach that positivity throughout the club, you won’t find many Saints fans that genuinely see us as title contenders, or even top four. Top six is certainly doable though.

3. Are you happy with how your transfer window went?

We strengthened smartly in the close season, and despite some initial reservations about Dejan Lovren after a hellish last season at Lyon, he really has been the star player that we’ve brought in. Calm and composed, and with no little skill on the ball, he’s been the fulcrum of our excellent defensive record at the back. A lot was made of, and expected of, Victor Wanyama when we brought him in, and he certainly provides a menacing physical presence in front of the back four. Again, his addition has contributed significantly to our meanness in both senses of the word, but he is prone to making small technical errors that can prove expensive. On the flip side, he’s also only 22, and once those minor errors get ironed out, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Our record signing, Dani Osvaldo, he of the Jonny Depp looks, is yet to really fire, but his quality is evident when he’s on the pitch. What’s exciting for Saints fans right now is that we’ve got ourselves into third place, and yet our Italian international forward is yet to truly get going.

4. What position/ player is your weakest link?

When we have a fit first team I don’t think there is a specifically weak position which is part of the reason for our success. There are no outright ‘star’ players in the team, but there’s a genuine seam of quality running through the team as a whole. If I was pushed on that, we sometimes can struggle on the opposite wing to Lallana. Jay Rodriguez, despite his recent call up, is probably the player whose first team position feels most under threat.

5. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

Arsenal have assembled what looks to be a formidable team currently and much like ourselves, when the full squad is fit and up to speed there are no real glaring weaknesses that stand out, particularly now Giroud seems to be firing. If there’s an area to exploit for visiting teams, it would likely be the central defensive positions. Mertesacker, for all his undoubted quality, isn’t the paciest and Koscielny feels erratic.

6. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?

It would be a toss up between Ozil and Carzola for me. The classic ‘bums on seats’ players and thrilling to watch when on song. Other than Lallana, we lack a genuine creative force in the midfield (an area we may well be strengthening in the January window), and unfortunately, despite his talent Gaston Ramirez has failed to really shine in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. It would be a delight to see either of those two in a Saints shirt.

7. What is your match prediction?

My head says an Arsenal victory as long as your players find a way around our high-energy style. I’d happily walk away from the Emirates with a point and without Arsene trying to steal another of our youngsters. My heart would hope for a Liverpool loss early in the day and a Saints victory to take us top! Southampton top of the Premier League. Now wouldn’t that be something…….

Prediction:

At the start of the season I never thought I’d be sitting here worried about a home game against Southampton! They really have taken the league by storm. They may not be a team of star players but they work together it’s working. If results go their way and they win by more than a goal they’ll be top of the league! Surely they can’t take points from us…can they? A win against South will definitely send a message to the rest of the EPL and boost Arsenals confidence. Nah I think we’ll be too strong and our midfield will be the difference. It’ll have to be if we want to break down their stubborn defence. A goal early could see has net 2 or 3. I feel it’ll be another chess match. If they score first I don’t think we’ll be able to wrestle back all 3 points. It won’t be pretty but we’ll get the job done in the end. Arsenal 1-0.

What is your prediction?

Can Southampton continue their dream run?

What starting line-up would you choose?

What position is their weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Southampton?

Written by: Oz Gunner

Seven games to make a real statement of intent by Arsenal: Bring it on!

Time to push on and silence the remaining critics!
Time to push on and silence the remaining critics!

Norwich (H), Dortmund (H), Palace (A), Chavs (H), Pool (H), Dortmund (A), Mancs (A)…. and then we need another inter-lull hahaha…. which we will duly get. 🙂

Arsenal had a fantastic start to the season; and we are not talking any more about THAT home game against the Vile Villains! 😈

And please don’t come on here and tell us we actually got less points from our PL fixtures until now compared to last season. To you I say: OSAAT! One Season at a Time. In the here and now we are ToTL and f*ck the rest.

But for all those doubters out there, and for all those who are waiting like athlete foot to get under our skin again – eagerly anticipating the next lost game as to be able to return to their comfort zone once more – there is hope. 😆

The next seven games will tell us a lot, and although nothing is lost or won at this stage of the season, Arsenal have a fantastic opportunity now to make a real statement of intent, and to knock a few direct competitors temporarily unconscious in the process.

It will by no means be easy, but if we take the OGAAT approach, get a bit lucky with injuries and rotate cleverly, we could be safe and dry in the CL and still be ToTL, or there about, come 10 November.

The sequence of: two home games, one away game, two home games, two away games should suit us very well; although, the last two away games will be very tough indeed: Dortmund and MU away. Why are we always playing the Mancs away in the autumn?

Arsenal are by no means a team that can take it easy against any team and still collect three points. Therefore, the first and last games, against lowly Norwich and mid-table Mancs, are just equally important, and equally hard. Every game needs full focus and passion by all in the team, and what is so nice about the current team is that we can count on this now. We currently have a great core of players who love to make their hands dirty and fight for every ball; and, combined with a good average age and a lot of talent within the team, this is exactly why we have a good chance for silverware this season.

Beating Norwich after an inter-lull proved difficult last season, and once again their manager will have had two weeks with most of the squad to prepare for this one. Arsene, on the other hand, will be praying for his players to return without injuries and not be too tired from the qualifiers and associated travelling.

This is our next PL OGAAT and we should forget about the rest. But playing Palace away, followed by Liverpool at home and Mancs away is just such a mouth-watering prospect; such an opportunity to make a real statement of intent.

These four PL games should tell us a lot more of how we will do this season.

The League Cup game is a nice one to have and I hope both teams will play a ‘second string’ team, so they are evenly matched. Maureen does not like losing, and despite all his bluff of playing his reserve players, I reckon he will put a team on the pitch with the sole aim to beat Arsene and his team. Should be really good game and a win would be sweet.

The double with BD in the CL will probably be the main feast of football during this period of seven scintillating games. It would suit both teams to win at least a game, rather than two draws, and I expect both teams to go for it all guns blazing from the start. We often think the best football is played towards the end of the season, but the two games against Die Gelb-Schwarzen might already turn into the icing on the cake of this season. Whatever you do, don’t miss them!

For once the inter-lull was not too bad as we all felt the team needed a break, and hopefully the cliché of ‘a change is as good as a rest’ will apply for our internationals. But, it is also good to know that the likes of Flamini, Arteta, Szczesny, and probably Gibbs, will have had time to fully rest and motor the team on again come Saturday. And if Pod and Cazorla are also ready to support the troops again, we should have a fantastic first team and bench to make real progress in the next seven games.

Time to rock on and show them all who will be king this season. Bring it on!

What do you reckon fellow Gooners: sink or swim between now and the next inter-lull?

Written by: ToTL Arsenal 😉

Monreal & Gnabry instead of Gibbs & Jack? Ramsey to win it for Arsenal?

Arsenal vs the Orcs Pre-Match Report

ORCS (edit)

That’s right the Stoke City Orcs have landed at Ashburton Grove, and this time it’s without their goblin manager Tony Pulis leading the charge. Under Pulis, Stoke played some absolutely deplorable football, so much so that their FIFA 2013 controls looked a little something like this:

stoke playstation controller

This would be very annoying to any Stoke fan playing the game because an attempt at a low through ball would result in a sky ball hoof up to Crouch. But when you kill one, another equally evil manager, grows in their place…Mark Hughes. Mark Hughes has got them playing better football which would please the Stoke supporters. It’s something that should please Arsenal supporters as well because their old approach was our Achilles heel (RIP Delap’s towel). They are still a very dangerous team so Arsenal will need to be at their best today if they want to come away with the three points.

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring), Ox (Knee), Arteta (Thigh), Diaby (Knee), Rosicky (Hip), Zelalem, Santi (Ankle), and Sanogo (back).

Bear with me here, now my theory is Santi is not in fact injured but he has been given time off. It’s not the first time Arsene has done something like this in the past. It is strange that Santi played the full 90 minutes against Chile and showed no sign of injury. It was also very strange that nothing was said about him until after the Sunderland game. Santi had a busy off-season with limited time off, so perhaps Arsene is being cautious and doesn’t want to run him into the ground this season. Arsene is also renowned for suggesting certain players are injured, in an effort to shelter them from reports suggesting they’ve been dropped. Now call me a conspiracy theorist all you want, but it does seem awfully coincidental that Santi goes missing right when Jack is fit and Ozil has been signed. Arsene would prefer the ‘injured’ story over endless stories and questions about Jack or Santi being ‘upset’ about dropping to the bench. I think if Ozil or Jack picked up an injury, Santi would make a miraculous recovery. Rested or injured? You decide!!!

Stoke City: Whelen (Hamstring), Muniesa (Groin/Pelvis), and Ness (Hip/Thigh) will miss this fixture.

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (11)

I’m a bit torn for this game to be honest. We’ve got a good thing going at the moment but I’m a bit worried about some of our players entering the infamous ‘red zone’. Gone are the days where you could rotate your squad a little against lesser opposition. You can’t really get away with it anymore because every game is tough in the premier league. Gibbs has been in red hot form this season but based on his previous injury record (coupled with the ferocity of Stoke), I’d go with Monreal at left back. I’d give Jack a rest and put Gnabry out on the left. It may be a drop off in quality but that boy can play and could be an unknown quantity for Stoke. He scored a double midweek playing as a striker; add that to the match winner he scored last week and he’s in blistering form. I wouldn’t change much else though (partly because we have that many injuries so our options are limited, and I wouldn’t want to unsettle the squad too much.)

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Stoke 1-0

It took a deflected free kick from Lukas Podolski to see us over the line in this fixture. Although we were dominant in periods, Asmir Begovic denied us numerous times thanks to some brilliant keeping. We saw the emergence of newly signed LB Nacho Monreal, and based on the hype HH created from his excellent post Nacho did not disappoint. Shawcross did his best to intimidate the ref in an effort to overturn the goal (also thought he would have a go at Arteta to show just how big a w*nker he really is), but he did not succeed.

Have a look at the goal and aftermath here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKObQFVnq4M

Stoke v Arsenal 0-0

We were held to our second consecutive goalless draw. We defended well but despite taking over the game for large parts we were very toothless in attack. Santi was mesmerizing and Giroud nearly pinched it late with a magnificent lob attempt. You can see the highlights below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNvp9hQoisQ

Form Guide:               Arsenal:  : WWWWW        Stoke: DWWWL

We’ve won 5 in a row now and seem confident in getting results when the heat is on (quite the change from previous seasons). Arsenal will be in a confident mood for this one.

Stoke have had a good start under Mark Hughes. They were unlucky to lose against Liverpool, they beat West Ham away, and they held ManchesterCity to a goalless draw.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the 1970-71 FA Cup semi-final against stoke city. Those old enough to enjoy it saw Peter Storey drag Arsenal back and force a replay (which we eventually went on to win!!!). Have a look at this article detailing how Arsenal denied Stoke FA Cup success in the 70s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3Sl5tmzbuM

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/stoke/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8472000/8472714.stm

One to Watch:

Former Blackburn midfielder Steven N’Zonzi. I’ve found him officers; he’ll be at the Emirates on Sunday. Those who haven’t heard N’Zonzi is ‘being hunted by police for his connection with a roadside altercation with a cyclist.’ You can read all about it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2418523/Steven-Nzonzi-hunted-police-roadside-altercation-cyclist.html

I for one am glad I will not be at the Emirates for this one. The thought of getting mugged in the stalls by Pennant or N’Zonzi haunts me in my sleep. Those going to the game should jump on Arsenal direct; they’ve got a special on now for this game, here’s an image below:

Arsenal riot gear

In all seriousness though, N’Zonzi is a bulldog in midfield. Although he handed in a transfer request in the summer, he’s put his head down and stuck to the task. He won man of the match honours against both West Ham and ManchesterCity this season. He shackled Yaya last week…this week he has Ozil to deal with!

This week’s one to watch has to be AARON RAMSEY. I can’t say anything more about his season thus far that hasn’t been said already. He’s a menace all over the pitch thanks to his endless gut running, and more importantly he’s becoming a constant danger to the opposition. His importance to this squad can’t be exaggerated enough at the moment. With Giroud in top form (5 goals from 6 shots on target this season) and World Class Ozil on the pitch, we could fall in to the trap of becoming too over reliant on them. That sort of over reliance can easily be targeted by opposition managers. Aaron Ramsey isn’t allowing that to happen. Both he and Walcott will not allow opposition players to double or triple team Ozil. Bring in Santi and you have a nightmare scenario for any opposition manager. It’s the sort of situation which could see more and more teams drop off in the second half (good prediction midweek Alcide) as their press is stretched all over the pitch by Walcott, Ozil, Santi, Giroud, and Ramsey.  We all know Ramsey’s history with Stoke so there is no need to explain why Aaron will be fired up for this one…and he’ll have a crowd full of supporters backing him every step of the way!

Key-Match up:

Arsenal vs Asmir Begovic

Before Begovic signed from Portsmouth in 2010 he was a keeper I wanted to see playing for Arsenal. While I am very happy with Szczesny, but Begovic is a top quality goalkeeper (probably not well liked in England considering he’s keeping Butland out), and he has proved it time and time again against us in the past. If he makes a couple of good saves early on, you’re going to have to pull something special out to get past him for the remainder of the game. Begovic could be the difference between a win or draw so let’s hope he’s having a bad day.

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to penalties!!! Like Szczesny they are getting on my nerves! It’s as though the umpires guess their decisions half the time because they aren’t in the correct position to be 100% certain. Please for the love of Christ (Dennis) get some 3rd umpire technology. It’s not like it’s going to the slow the game down that much (some games you won’t even need to use it). Plus if you are going to overlook players rolling around on the ground and diving…it’s the least you can do! It’d kill two birds with one stone because we’d be almost 100% certain on the decision, and the refs can decide whether or not the person involved dived. It’s not fair that commentators can say “every forward does it”…it’s CHEATING!!!! The game should be doing all it can to cut it out and strengthen its image. I’m sick and tired of hearing “Man U won because player X went down in the box and player Z was sent off”. I don’t want to hear fossils whinge about the game changing either…it’s an improvement! The technology is there, USE IT!!!

Pre-Match pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsene Wenger. It may be early days but he’s got the squad looking in tip top shape again. I don’t think there has been a manager in recent history that has copped as much flack as Arsene has.  Once upon a time Arsenal fans adored Arsene, but as trophies dried up the supporter base began to turn. He’s not perfect, he’s not without fault but he’s still got his magic hat! He deserves to go out on top, and I hope this Arsenal team can start delivering for him!

arsene-you-shall-not-pass

Ask the opposition (5)

‘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 the answers were kindly provided by Jowlermonkey and Waddos_Legends (both from the StokeCity board on www.not606.com . Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:

1) You cleared out quite a few players during the transfer window. How do you rate your transfer window (ins and outs)?

JOWLERMONKEY: Glad to see the back of some players, fantastic that we now have a left back, needed to buy another striker.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Our transfer window was quite good with the exception that we did not address one of our weakest positions and that is we needed two fresh young fresh strikers. Marko Arnautović was a great signing and he looks a beast so I’m really looking forward to what he can do in front of goal. We have another one coming in January from the USA, Juan Agudelo but we needed another sooner as we cannot score goals.

I was pleased to see a lot of the “Pulis Deadwood” players moved on and also pleased we at last bought in a recognised left back in Erik Pieters. Stephen Ireland was another great signing and the retention of Jermaine Pennant was another good piece of business. Loaning out Cameron Jerome for me to Crystal Palace was a mistake.

 

2) How is Mark Hughes travelling? Will he take you places? Better than Pulis?

JOWLERMOONKEY: I didn’t want Mark hughes, but said i’d give him his chances to hang himself. much better than Pulis.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Early days yet to see if Hughes will take us places but we are certainly playing better football under Hughes than we ever did under Pulis. i actually feel confident going into certain games now especially away from home as before I looked on all away games as we were going to lose. Our current league position and points tally does suggest we are on the up!

The football under Tony Pulis was dire and towards the end he lost the Stoke crowd. The attendance is still suffering now and it will take a few seasons to change this back.

3) What player/position is your weakest?

JOWLERMONKEY: Strikers, neither good or hungry enough.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: As mentioned above our weakest position is in front of goal and Jon Walters as probably cost us 4 points so far this season so I would have to say him. Missed a 88 minute penalty at Liverpool this season away and 2 clear cut chances on Saturday against Manchester City.

The player just loaned out to Wigan Ryan Shotton is Stokes worst player now that is still technically on the books!

4) Which Arsenal player would you like and why?

JOWLERMONKEY: Wilshere, fast dynamic, good feet.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: The only Arsenal players I would like to see in the Stoke shirt would be either Ozil or Santi Cazorla, as I don’t think any other player would slot into our style of play and these 2 players are top players.

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

JOWLERMONKEY: Defence.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: I feel Arsenal are weakest at the back, can’t name one player in particular but this is definitely an area you struggle in hence why you brought in the ex-Stokie and old school friend of mine ” Steve Bould”.

6) Özil, will he live up to the hype?

JOWLERMONKEY: Fantastic player. Will need to be protected but has always produced the goods.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Ozil already is showing his brilliance and will definitely live up to his reputation as a class act!

7) What is your prediction for the match?

JOWLERMONKEY: Hoping for a draw but you should beat us comfortably.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Stoke have yet to get anything from the Emirates in the duration of our stay in the premier league. Again as i have said above I’m more confident this season and I predict a close game with 1-1 being the outcome and us picking up our first ever points there. No doubt Ryan Shawcross will be booed from start to finish as per for the “Ramsey Incident” but this helps him to lift his game and fire up his sparring partner Robert Huth!

Prediction:

Stoke have had an impressive start to the season but I do not see them troubling us at home. We’ve beaten them 5/5 at the Emirates, and Mark Hughes has lost his last 6 games at the Emirates (in that time he’s managed Blackburn, ManCity, Fulham, and QPR…how on earth does he keeping getting jobs??). Crouch will be isolated up front so they’ll only get joy out of set pieces (we’ll have to lift our game in this department because we let Marseille have a couple of cheapies midweek). A comfortable and assured performance should see Arsenal victorious 2-0.

shawcross scared

For this week’s psychic prediction I contacted ‘Eagle Star’ for the third week. He better lift his game though otherwise I’m going to have to consult our very own Jgc-damus. Here are his responses:

Oz: Will Arsenal beat the Stoke City Orcs?

Eagle Star: Hmmmm 1-1 I feel.

Oz: The way they play it wouldn’t surprise me if they went for the draw. Will we concede from a set piece?

Eagle Star: Dangers…yes, score…no!

Oz: Can you please put a curse on Ryan Shawcross. I’m not sure what but maybe some Paranormal Activity type scares when he’s at home.

<insert Shawcross Scared pic>

Eagle Star: That’s not my area of expertise Oz but I can contact someone who is.

Oz: You’re a star Eagle…get it????

Eagle Star: <disconnected…and blocked>

 

What is your prediction?

Theo or Giroud…who will score?

Will we shut down their set piece game?

Written by: Oz Gunner

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