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Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
Latest News: Arsenal draw 3-3 with Liverpool, goals came from Ramsey and Giroud (x2) - match thoughts to come!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Giroud ends goal drought to finish year on a high

Olivier Giroud ended his seven game goal drought as Arsenal beat an inform Newcastle side on Sunday afternoon. Giroud's goal was the game's only goal and it was a crucial one as it meant that we were to finish 2013 on top of the Premier League by a single point. It was a far from convincing performance but we had to work extremely hard for it and it showed that the players strong concentration and resilience to hold onto a one goal lead. Arsenal had been weakened severely due to the injuries to both Ozil (shoulder) and Ramsey (thigh) so Rosicky and Wilshere both came back into the side following both missing the West Ham game through injury and suspension respectively. Laurent Koscielny also came back into the starting XI as Vermaelen missed out through illness.
Olivier Giroud ended his tough time in front of goal with a header that won us the game
Newcastle in recent weeks have been very tough opposition and we managed to do what Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool have all failed to do this season in beating the Toon. That indicates once more that after dropping points against City and Chelsea, that it might not necessarily matter what we do against the top sides considering they keep slipping up against the smaller sides in the division. The win though signaled that despite us not being at our best the Gunners are still capable of grinding out results at difficult grounds.

One of the most positive things to come out of the game despite the win, was Olivier Giroud getting on the score-sheet. The French striker has come under heavy criticism lately due to him not scoring as regularly as he did at the beginning of the campaign. He was a bit laboured in this game again and didn't offer a huge amount going forward. His interlinking play wasn't as good as it could be. Despite that he won us the game and rescued us in what was a stalemate up to then. Theo Walcott put in a good free-kick, a rarity for him, and all Giroud had to do was get a touch to it to give us the lead.

With Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey both missing, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere had to step up and provide us with creativity. Although they weren't as effective as their team-mates they certainly stood out ahead of most players on the pitch. Jack Wilshere was given the chance to play in his preferred deep lying role in midfield and distributed the ball well and was able to dictate the tempo of the game to his liking, which is what he's so good at. Tomas Rosicky was playing his 200th game for the club and his leadership and passion was demonstrated in a man of the match display. The Czech's work rate is second to none and he played a key part in our attacking play.

Through large parts of the game though you could see that we were heavily missing Ozil. I noticed something that goes un-recognised in most games the German plays in. Today we didn't have as much time and space on the ball. That was because Ozil is so good at drifting into space, dragging players towards him in order for his team-mates to be available for a pass. That wasn't able to happen today, and was probably the reason that our best chance and our goal came from a set-piece.

Meanwhile there was another clean-sheet to add to our impressive defensive record this season. Thomas Vermaelen had provided able deputy whilst Koscielny was out injured and despite a few nervy moments from the French centre half he put in a confident display with Mertesacker once again. There's an incredible stat that outline the pairings partnership; when Per and Laurent have completed 90 minutes together we have not lost a game since January 2012. A formidable pairing and shows why we're currently sitting at the top of the League. They've contributed to the side that have won the most points out of any Premier League side in 2013. This calendar year we have amassed 82 points, hopefully we'll see a similar sort of record in 2014.

Next up is Cardiff on new year's day. Lets hope we can start 2014 in the same way we ended 2013, with a win and sitting pretty at the top of the division. Cardiff are currently in disarray with no manager and a chairman that doesn't seem as though he has a clue what he is doing. I'm expecting changes with Spurs in mind next weekend in the FA Cup. I'm also expecting us to get all three points in a convincing manner.

The teams lineups:

Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Anita(74), Tiote, Cabaye, Sissoko(78), Gouffran(62), Remy.
Subs: Elliot, Haidara(78), Yanga-Mbiwa, Sammy Ameobi, Ben Arfa(62), Shola Ameobi(74), Cisse.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs(70), Flamini, Wilshere, Walcott(80), Rosicky, Cazorla, Giroud(86). 
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson(80), Arteta(70), Ryo, Gnabry, Podolski, Bendtner(86). 

My man of the match: Tomas Rosicky.

Referee: Lee Probert.
Attendance: 52,161.  

A chance to finish the year on a high


Our cramped festive schedule continues with a trip to high flying Newcastle tomorrow and it certainly won’t be easy. The Magpies have been doing better than expected this season and are comfortably sitting in the top half of the Premier League table. We regained top spot on Boxing Day with a win against West Ham and we’ll be looking to be build upon that and start another winning run. Manchester City won today meaning they’re top of the league by 2 points so it’s absolutely key that we achieve a win tomorrow.
The game will see the feisty battle of Wenger and Pardew resume. Pardew has previously criticised Wenger of the way his team plays and the way he goes about his business. The comment Alan Pardew made about foreign players in the Arsenal side a few years back now has become rather contradictory considering so many of the Geordie side’s team is filled with Frenchmen. Despite that though, Wenger has had the much stronger hand over Pardew and Newcastle in recent years. We’ve lost just one out of our last twelve encounters against them but they have been strong at home this season so they could be difficult to break down.

The main dangers will come from Loic Remy, a previous Arsenal target, Yoann Gouffran and Yohan Cabaye. All French players and all stand out players recently for the Toon. Remy scored twice in his last match and has been a brilliant loan signing from QPR. Gouffran meanwhile has 5 in his last 5 home games and Cabaye is in a rich vain of form having scored 3 in his last 3 matches. Cabaye of course was an Arsenal target in the summer and we even had a £15m bid rejected. In a way I hope he shows why we did indeed bid for him, but I’d rather he didn’t do it in this match.

Matches down the years between these two sides have often provided thrillers. The 4-4 draw at St James’ a few years back provides memories whilst our last game of 2012 saw us win 7-3. In that game, Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and he is one of the League’s in form players. He’ll be looking to take advantage of his form and hopefully guide us to a successive league win. The last time we met them was our last game of the 2012/13 season when a win was needed in order to qualify for the Champions League, a game that proved that we can play under pressure and certainly grab a win in their own back yard.

We’ll have to go there and win without Aaron Ramsey though. He is expected to be out until the middle of January now following a thigh problem picked up against West Ham. This is a tough loss but not as tough as it would’ve been without us having a talented array of midfielders. Jack Wilshere is due to return from suspension and should finally get a chance to play in his preferred role as the deep lying play maker. There could be a few rested but Cardiff on New Year’s day, in my opinion, would be the chance to rest players ahead of the FA Cup tie against Spurs. Laurent Koscielny is 50/50 but expect Vermaelen to continue at centre half with Rosicky coming back into the squad after missing the West Ham game completely.

For the second year running a game against Newcastle will be our final game of the calendar year. During 2013 we have amassed the most amount of points out of all the Premier League sides, notching up a 79 point tally before Sunday’s fixture. This is a great chance to finish the year on a high and hopefully sit on top of the Premier League come 2014.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Walcott double helps Arsenal regain top spot

Arsenal gave their fans a late Christmas present by returning to the top of the Premier League. This was thanks to a 3-1 win against West Ham on Boxing Day yesterday. The Gunners showed some signs of rustiness having it been Christmas the day before and it took them a while to get going but in the end they ran out comfortable victors. Theo Walcott scored twice whilst Podolski came off the bench to seal the points. In terms of chances created it was a hugely improved performance after the disappointment of Chelsea on Monday. In terms of the team line-up there was just the one change from our last game. Tomas Rosicky missed out completely so Santi Cazorla regained his place. Apart from that, it was an unchanged side as Vermaelen once again played instead of the injured Koscielny.
Santi Cazorla starred as Arsenal beat West Ham
The Gunners were desperate to get back to winning ways following four games without one in all competitions and that's exactly what they did against West Ham. However, that wasn't without a few nervy moments at the back throughout the game. We performed much better than we had done against Chelsea and created way more chances than previously. Monday was a rarity where we somehow struggled to create any clear cut chances. This time around though chances fell quite regularly and we could've had more than three. The hosts meanwhile, also probably warranted more than what they got in front of goal.

Thomas Vermaelen put in another assured display at centre half, and that was despite the defence coming under heavy pressure at the start of the second half. Wojciech Szczesny who has been reliable in goal this season made a rare error as he spilt a shot straight into the path of Carlton Cole to fire home. Cole should then have had a second but put it wide whilst the same fate fell the way of Joey O'Brien.

The Gunners were to come back fighting though and at the heart of it was Santi Cazorla. His form has been anything but superb this season and has struggled to find the displays he put in regularly last season. However, yesterday he was back in full flow. Everything seemed to come through the Spaniard who was playing in a more central role than we've been used to this campaign. He played some brilliant balls in behind the defence and grabbed an assist for Theo Walcott's first goal. Moving onto Theo Walcott, he was another one of the stars of the show. He has been brilliant since returning from injury and he has showed what a miss he has been. His first was a rather lucky effort on his left foot which somehow crawled under the keeper's legs whilst his second was a fantastic header. It was the wide man's first ever headed goal in all levels of the game. Theo may have had a hat-trick too if he had put away a first half chance rather than putting it wide from a few yards out.

There was a welcome return to the side for Lukas Podolski who played in his first match since August. He was absolutely fantastic when he came on and once again showed that we do indeed have some sort of strength in depth. He showed what we'd been missing out on the left in terms of a proper outlet. He assisted Walcott's second goal and then scored a peach of a strike to mark his return in perfect fashion. The German now has three goals in 108 minutes of Premier League football this season, a prolific record.

To finish off I'd just like to quickly pick up on the form of Olivier Giroud. He certainly isn't firing on all cylinders at the moment which is a real shame after his explosive start to the season. His link-up play and first touch is world class but he seems to be lacking in confidence in front of goal and is snatching at his chances rather than finding the net. Giroud grabbed an assist but perhaps it's time to give him a little rest and play Bendtner once or twice. The big Dane came on for the last five minutes and almost scored whilst he also made some really positive runs into the box.

We're back on top of the League now with a tough game against an inform Newcastle side on Sunday at St James' Park. We'll be looking to build on the West Ham result and find some winning momentum once more. We'll be traveling to Tyneside without Aaron Ramsey though who picked up a thigh problem in the game yesterday. Time for Jack Wilshere to step up into his preferred role.

The teams lineups:

West Ham: Adrian, O'Brien(63), Tomkins, Collins(38), McCartney, Jarvis, Nolan(75), J.Cole, Noble, Diame, C.Cole. 
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Demel(63), Rat(38), Collison, Diarra, Taylor(75), Maiga.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(65), Cazorla, Ozil(81), Walcott, Giroud(85).
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Flamini(81), Gnabry, Podolski(65), Bendtner(85).

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Phil Dowd.
Attendance: 34,977.  

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Arsenal held in bore draw with Chelsea

Arsenal and Chelsea played out a goalless draw on Monday evening as both sides looked to affirm their positions at the top of the table. It was a game of very few chances and it could have gone either way. Some brilliant chances were missed whilst there were some poor refereeing decisions that went against the Gunners. Not for the first time this season it was a game of ifs and buts. It had been nine days since our last game and there were changes as expected from the defeat to Man City. Kieran Gibbs came back in for Nacho Monreal whilst Arteta regained his place in midfield in place of Flamini. Due to the suspension to Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky started out on the left. It was also refreshing to have Lukas Podolski back and fit as he was on the bench. The other change saw Thomas Vermaelen replace the injured Koscielny.
Giroud had two brilliant chances to win the game for Arsenal
There's a debate over whether this game was a chance to go top of the table missed or whether it was a good point. Personally, I think it was both. This was a completely winnable game, especially the way Chelsea have been playing recently. Mourinho came to the Emirates looking for a draw and in my opinion we gifted it to him. However for a few seasons we've been asking Wenger to play for a draw when we come up against the big teams. Last night he did that and drawing is certainly better than losing.

For the second game running we can question whether Wenger chose the right mentality. The balance of the team was better than against City but it prompted no changes from the manager, who after a few slip ups in the final minutes of some games was probably worried about making changes that may effect the team in a bad way. However the feeling of winning the game would've been amazing. We needed that extra firepower and directness. Podolski would have been a good shout but perhaps he wasn't fit enough to come on and provide the game with a proper impact. The weather conditions were very poor and that led to a few sloppy passes. There were some poor displays in there though, Aaron Ramsey had a poor game by his standards whilst Giroud had two fantastic chances to win us the game. One which was sliced into the side netting from just 8 yards out on his stronger foot. Another indication that we are desperate for some extra firepower in January.

Thomas Vermaelen came back into the side in place of the injured Laurent Koscielny. He was criticised greatly last season for being nowhere near the top of his game. A consequence of that was the partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny who have been outstanding this season. Vermaelen last night though looked right back at the top of his game. It was brilliant to know that the skipper still has it in his locker to be a top class defender. He had a 98% pass success rate, 100% tackle success whilst also made 4 interceptions. A formidable display as we kept another clean sheet. Kieran Gibbs was also in form and despite him being a defender he looked our biggest threat getting forward from left back. He's certainly putting in a strong claim to go to the World Cup in the summer. He's a very understated player and perhaps doesn't get the credit he deserves. He had a spell a few seasons back where he was quite injury prone but he looks to be over that now *touches wood* and he is one of the teams most consistent players.

As much as we were good defensively it was one of the poorest displays I've seen from us in an attacking sense for a long time. Rosicky looked lively but other than that we struggled to create hardly anything. The only shots on target came late on and the player that came closest was Sagna who had a header cleared off the line in the dying embers. In our last game against City, the officials made three poor decisions and there were three once again in this one. Walcott could easily have had a penalty when he was brought down by Willian in the first half. Meanwhile Mikel should have been sent off for a horrible tackle that broke Arteta's shin-pad, and thankfully not one of his bones. He didn't get a card but Ramires did when he also put in a dirty tackle on Arteta.

We're now joint top of the league, only behind Liverpool on goal difference and we have West Ham coming up on Boxing Day. Liverpool meanwhile have Man City and then Chelsea so we're still in a very strong position to finish 2013 at the top of the League. West Ham away has the potential to be a tough game but they don't score many, and apart from against Manchester City, we haven't conceded many. Onwards and upwards from now on in.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Rosicky, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Podolski, Bendtner.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpiliceuta, Mikel, Ramires, Lampard, Willian(77), Hazard(73), Torres(88).
Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Luiz(88), Mata, Oscar(77), Schurrle(73), Eto'o. 

My man of the match: Thomas Vermaelen.

Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 60,039 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Arsenal vs Chelsea preview

Tonight Arsenal will face one of their biggest games of the season so far as they entertain Chelsea at home. We've been going through a tough period of late and we haven't won since Hull on the 4th December so it'll be a tough test, but not as tough as Man City were last weekend. This marks the end of our really tough run of fixtures but it also marks the beginning of the cramped festive schedule of football. After this weekend's matches we are now 3rd in the table with a game in hand over Liverpool and City. If we win tonight then we'll return to the top and we'll be sitting pretty in first place on Christmas day. However if the Gunners do indeed suffer defeat then we'll slip down to fourth.
The battle of Wenger and Mourinho will resume and it'll be an interesting one. Mourinho won the battle when previously in charge but this Chelsea side, although they're still doing very well, look a shadow of their former selves. They've been poor defensively whilst their strikers have struggled to score goals. Their midfield, like ours, is a very good one and it'll be key that our midfielders win their own individual battles if we are to win. Arsene Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in 9 league and cup games, something that the Frenchman will be looking to address against one of his bitter rivals. We played them in the League Cup a few months back where they came out on top with a dominant display. Both sides will be putting out stronger line-ups this time around though. No striker has scored away in the Premier League for Chelsea this season, something that we'll be hoping doesn't change. Meanwhile, Juan Mata will be needed to have an eye kept on, the Spaniard has scored in each of his last 4 starts against Arsenal.

Arsenal will be looking to amend the mistakes they made against Manchester City and come out and produce a brilliant performance. The defensive issues will need to be addressed. Laurent Koscielny is out injured and it's a massive game for Thomas Vermaelen. He's been OK this season but when Koscielny came off against City you could tell how much of a loss he was. You could argue that the sides with the best midfielders in the league will be encountering each other. Ramsey and Hazard being the respective teams top scorers outlines that. Mesut Ozil has been surprisingly quiet in the big games this season and if we are to win then he needs to be on top of his game. He'll be up against his former manager in Mourinho so hopefully he'll take no mercy against his old boss.Wenger has said that there is a possibility of Ozil receiving a rest shortly but he'll certainly be in the squad for the Chelsea game.

The defensive midfielders in this game will be key to who comes out on top. I thought that Flamini should start against City in order to break down their creative players but we perhaps missed Arteta a little bit in the sense of distributing the ball quickly and getting the ball out of defensive areas quicker. I personally think that we should stick with Flamini and try and get him to hassle the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Mata. John Obi Mikel, not rated by quite a few people, could be key to breaking up our attacking play and will look to isolate Mesut Ozil.

In terms of the line-up there could be a few changes. Kieran Gibbs should come back in for Nacho Monreal after his poor display against City whilst Santi Cazorla may regain his place with Jack Wilshere out suspended for the next two games. Theo Walcott, fresh from scoring two in his last game, will surely start on the right. Especially considering his recent displays against the Blues. Lukas Podolski is also fit after injury and he should be on the bench. I'd like to see Tomas Rosicky who is usually a big game player maybe start out on the left. However, I think that Santi may get the nod.

My line-up: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud. Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Arteta, Rosicky, Podolski, Bendtner.

As said, this is a huge game. It's about time we start stamping down our authority in these big games. I'm not sure why but the players seem to disappear quite often in these big games and it's time we stepped up. If we are to win the League, we need to win some of the games against teams around us as well as against the smaller sides. It's been 9 days since our last game so the players should be fresh. It will have hopefully given the likes of Giroud and Ozil a chance to recharge their batteries. I will accept nothing but a win from this game considering our recent matches. A win would do absolute wonders for the teams confidence, especially with a couple of key players out. Saying that, I wouldn't be disappointed with a draw.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Arsenal's Youngsters: Chuba Akpom

Due to Arsenal's recent fixture schedule I haven't had time to do as many of these as I would like. However, I've managed to find time and here is the 4th in the series. For this article I'll be taking a look into one of the club's best attacking prospects in the form of Chuba Akpom.

Chuba Akpom is only 18 and has been at the club through most of his youth and shot to prominence with some star displays last season. He started out with the under 18's but quickly rose to the task of featuring for the U21's and the NextGen side. He made his U18's debut at the tender age of 15 and then just after turning 17 was awarded with his first professional contract.
Chuba Akpom in action against West Brom this season
He's a tall pacey striker with a certain eye for goal. He has most of the attributes you'd want in a top class striker. He holds the ball up very well and brings others into the game more often that not. He's a little similar to Olivier Giroud in the sense that they both can score goals yet set up plenty of opportunities for their team mates too. He's the definition of a poacher and most of his goals come from close range. Another feature of his game is his first touch whilst also being able to get the ball out of his feet quickly too. I've seen him play just the once in person. It was in a pre-season friendly win over Chesham United at the beginning of 2012/13, and he looked a real presence as he scored once in a 6-2 win.

As mentioned, Akpom became a real noticeable figure at the club last season, starring for the youth teams. He started on 29 occasions and scored 17 goals, including 13 in the U-21 league and twice in the NextGen series. This season hasn't been as productive as last campaign though as he's scored just once in 8 games. However, he's been in and out of the team for a few reasons which has disrupted his form. Due to injuries he's been included in the first team a few times and earned a first Premier League appearance against Sunderland in September as a substitute. He then came on for a good cameo against West Brom in the League cup and even scored a penalty. He played out on the right and managed to stretch the game by adding extra pace on the counter. Pre-season was where he really shone though. He scored three on the clubs Asia Tour, one against Indonesia, twice against Vietnam and then also grabbing one against Urawa.

From that we can tell that he's definitely cut-out for the top level and it should only be a matter of time before we start seeing him involved more regularly in the first team. His development will depend on the likes of Sanogo and Afobe. The latter has been starting ahead of him in the U21 league this season whilst Yaya has spent the majority of the season out injured. Had Afobe not been injured last season then Akpom may not have actually got his chance at all. It's very refreshing to see such a young English talent so hopefully he'll go far. He reminds me of Saido Berahino of West Brom. Whether he'll go as far as starting like Berahino in the Premier League remains to be seen though. He's certainly a very bright prospect and has the talent to go far. Whether that will be at Arsenal is another case though.
                       
                  Video of Chuba Akpom in action for Arsenal and the England youth teams:

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Arsenal remain top despite heavy defeat to Man City

Arsenal were completely outplayed as they lost to Manchester City 6-3 on Saturday afternoon. It was a terrific game of end to end football that unfortunately for us, ended with the hosts coming out on top. The Gunners had a 5 point lead at the beginning of the day over their rivals but Man City have now closed the gap to just 3 points. Arsenal's attacking display was good, their defensive display, just wasn't good enough though. After the side Wenger had put out against Napoli, changes were expected to be made and they were. Theo Walcott came in and scored two whilst Wilshere and Ramsey came back in for Arteta and Rosicky. Kieran Gibbs was rested and replaced by Nacho Monreal who before the game, looked like the right player to go with. 
Theo Walcott scored two on his return to the starting line-up
Today's game had a host of talking points, but where do we start? There were few positives and a huge amount of negatives. I'll start with the negatives first. Our midfielders looked as poor as they had been all season. I said in my report against Everton that considering how good they've been this season they were due a bad game. However this wasn't the game to do that. Jack Wilshere was particularly bad. His form had picked up over the previous couple of months but today he was appalling in my opinion. Along with our other midfielders he constantly gave the ball away which led to so many of Man City's goals. The defence weren't helped at all by this and kept getting caught out. We conceded just one goal in the whole of November but this month we've conceded nine and we're only half way through it. The amount of times we got forward and put the hosts under pressure but then conceded straight after, was the most frustrating thing out of everything, it was near on ridiculous. We lost our discipline completely and we even conceded an injury time penalty. The league's best defence was made to look distinctly average.

Nacho Monreal looked like the right choice at the start of the game after looking in better form than the fatigued Kieran Gibbs lately. However, on reflection it was probably the wrong choice. Monreal has usually been able deputy for Gibbs, but his defensive displays are not on par with that of Gibbs. Most of the City attacks came down the left and the Spanish fullback just couldn't deal with everything thrown at him. It had looked a perfect line-up and I was also fully behind the decision to play Flamini. I thought he would've been able to get in the City players faces and disrupt their flow on the ball. However what we lacked was control in midfield and the ability to spray the ball around the pitch quickly. A player that would've been able to do that was Arteta, despite his poor form. Olivier Giroud got in some good positions to score chances and also create them but was wasteful in front of goal. I like Giroud but it further proved that we need to delve into the transfer market in January. Looking at the likes of Aguero today, we need someone like him to add a fear factor in terms of goals.

Nicklas Bendtner came on for Giroud and did a good job in my opinion, he looked more of a threat than Giroud did and even had a goal wrongly disallowed. Wrong decisions were a factor of the game and there were two goals ruled out for offside whilst there also could've been a penalty for a handball on Zabaleta. Those decisions went against us but didn't necessarily cost us the game, our ability to keep the ball did.

The most encouraging sign from the game was that of Theo Walcott. It was his first start for over three months since the game against Marseille. He was an instant threat and caused all sorts of problems in behind the City defence. His first goal was a well controlled strike which skimmed off of Demicheles' head before finding the net. His second was an absolute beauty though. Bending the ball over Pantilimon for his third of the season. It was a great sight to see him back, he stood out massively ahead of everyone else in the side. Per Mertesacker was to score our other goal after a brilliant delivery from Sagna. That was a mere consolation goal and we were too little too late. Not many teams go to the Etihad and score 3 goals, a sign that we weren't willing to give up despite the amount of times we were under pressure.

Next up is Chelsea where myself and the rest of the supporters will be accepting nothing but a win following our result against Man City today. It's at home where we have been better than away recently. If Chelsea win then they'll go top, it will be a massive game that we just can't afford to lose. We desperately need to improve on this afternoons performance, changes will probably be made again and hopefully they'll be for the better this time around.

The teams lineups:

Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demicheles, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri(90), Silva(71), Aguero(49), Negredo. 
Subs: Hart, Lescott, Kolarov, Garcia(90), Milner(71), Navas(49), Dzeko. 

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny(41), Monreal, Flamini(72), Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud(76).
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen(41), Arteta, Rosicky, Cazorla, Gnabry(72), Bendtner(76). 

My man of the match: Theo Walcott.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Attendance: 47,229.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Arsenal out of the group of death, but only just

Arsenal are through to the next round of the Champions League, but only just. We had one job in order to come top, get a draw or win the game. Being Arsenal though that didn't happen and of course we lost the game. Napoli beat us 2-0 whilst Dortmund won in France against Marseille meaning for yet another year we've finished second in the group. We'll now face a much tougher opponent in the last 16 than we would've liked but had you offered me second place in this Group of Death when the draw was made I would've taken it in a heart beat. The most important thing though is that we still remain in the competition, and as long as we're still in it we've got a chance of going all the way.
Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal skipper, was sent off as the Gunners lost to Napoli
The game saw us make a few changes and adopt a more defensive approach for the game. Flamini and Arteta were both holding whilst Gibbs started ahead of Monreal, a more attacking minded player. Walcott had been expected to start, but instead Cazorla and Rosicky played whilst Ramsey and Wilshere dropped to the bench. Arsene Wenger was criticised hugely after the game, perhaps a little harshly considering how well we're doing this season. Praise was heaped upon Wenger after the game against Everton on Sunday after making a game changing triple substitution. However yesterday against Napoli we set up extremely defensively and caused little threats going forward, something that we've done a considerable amount of times this season and its very rare that we don't score. The fact that we set up defensively but still lost 2-0 was a worrying sight. We've been very good defensively of late so it was especially surprising to see us concede two in one game. Even when Higuain scored we didn't want to go for it and try and get top spot, bringing on Monreal outlined that.

I thought before the game that when Arteta and Flamini play together we don't seem to play as well. I said a few weeks back that it was either one or the other in terms of who starts. Arteta, despite playing in a more attacking role whilst at Everton, is so used to playing in the deep lying role for us that he seems to forget that with Flamini holding back, he can get forward more. That in turn effects our play when it comes to dictating the game. Mikel Arteta was even sent off, his second of the season and another debatable and perhaps harsh decision. That was to disrupt what had been up to then, a solid but far from convincing performance.

The goals were sloppily conceded as well. Higuain was allowed to turn too easily and then find the net whilst Callejon somehow managed to get in behind in the dying embers of the game and lob Szczesny. Carl Jenkinson, who had put in some confident displays over the past 2 games whilst Sagna is out injured, looked a little dodgy and Napoli took advantage of that. Instead of focusing on a striker in January that could potentially upset the rhythm of the team, I think we need a right back. Sagna is yet to sign a new deal so getting a player on board in that position I think is key. That would mean we could then send Jenkinson out on loan for some valuable consistent game time. Santi Cazorla was another man that didn't have a great game. He's looked a different man to last season and apart from glimpses against Dortmund and Liverpool at home he's been far from his best, I really do hope that he doesn't suffer from the dreaded 'second season syndrome' which is looking likely now. He is being played out wide rather than in the middle but even so, that's where he operated so successfully for Villarreal and Malaga previously.

It's incredible to think that 3 teams all finished on 12 points in our group and more incredible that a team with that number of points in the group stages have crashed out of the competition. It truly was the Group of Death. Poor old Marseille is all that's left to be said, finishing on 0 points as they lost every game. 

More importantly though is Man City at the weekend. All of a sudden I'm feeling less confident that I originally was for this weekends game. Man City have been in formidable form at the Etihad this season so it'll be a very tough place to go and get a result from. I really hope that the players don't suffer mentally from last nights defeat. They're a close knit group though and knowing they qualified and are still top of the Premier League should put any doubts out of their mind going into Saturday's game.

The teams lineups:

Napoli: Cabral, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Armero, Dzemaili, Pandev(57), Behrami, Callejon, Mertens, Higuain.
Subs: Colombo, Uvini, Britos, Insigne(57), Cannavaro, Inler, Zapata.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Rosicky(75), Cazorla(67), Ozil, Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal(75), Wilshere, Ramsey(67), Walcott, Bendtner. 

Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Ozil goal not enough as Arsenal draw with Everton

Arsenal were made to work for a tough 1-1 draw with Everton on Sunday afternoon in what turned out to be our toughest test of the season so far. Mesut Ozil found the net before young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu scored all in the space of 4 minutes as the Gunners extended their lead at the top to five points. It was far from comfortable and on the bases of chances we should've won. However, Everton had played so well in the first half meaning a draw was probably a fair result. Having made 5 changes in the week against Hull, 4 of the players that missed the game came back in to face the Toffees. Gibbs replaced Monreal whilst Giroud and Wilshere came in for Bendtner and Rosicky respectively. There was also a start for Mikel Arteta against his former side having missed the game against in the week.
Laurent Koscielny was a rock at the back
Everton have only lost one game in the Premier League this season, they've also got one of the best defensive records following a fine string of clean sheets. Arsenal had only lost twice and also had a pretty good defence to bolster as well. It had all the characteristics to be a classic and that's exactly what we got. Everton had turned up to win, and following strong performances against Liverpool and Manchester United recently, why wouldn't they? They dominated us in the first half and had pretty much all of the possession, we hadn't struggled that much since Villa on the opening day. The second half was a different story though and despite Arsenal having the better chances on the day, it took 80 minutes for the deadline to be broken. Ozil coolly found the net after Walcott had headed the ball back across goal for the opener. The tempo then upped itself once more as Everton came back firing and scored a deserved equaliser through some individual brilliance from Deulofeu.

Both sides defence was in top form during this game so it was no surprise as to why the goals came so late. The Gunners built on their impressive form at the back by only conceding one in an especially strong display from Laurent Koscielny. He seemed to have been given the job of marking the improbable Romelu Lukaku who he had an absolute stormer up against. Lukaku had been in prolific form this season but Koscielny made him look ordinary with a performance that outlined just how good the French defender is. Mertesacker and Koscielny can now add Lukaku to the list of attackers such as Suarez, Sturridge and Lewandowski they've had in their 'back pocket'.

I don't often pick up on individual performances on the oppositions side but I think some of Everton's players deserve a mention. In my opinion we witnessed four of the most solid centre backs in the league on display yesterday. Jagielka and Distin were fantastic and managed to prevent us from getting in through our classic little passes on the edge of the penalty area. If it wasn't for the convincing displays at the back we would've witnessed more than one goal a piece. Another player that caught many peoples eyes was that of Ross Barkley. He was sensational in the middle of the park. I hadn't seen him play a full 90 minutes until now and I must be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced with him until he played us. However, having now seen him properly he really is a special talent. He's good on both feet and isn't scared to take people on and play a killer pass or have a shot on goal.

Back to Arsenal and the few negatives from the game that can be picked out. Mikel Arteta, despite being against his old team, unfortunately didn't have the best of games. He's been playing pretty well recently but on Sunday he was quite wasteful in possession and was bullied by Barkley in midfield. Perhaps its time to give Flamini another run in the team after his cracking start to the campaign. Flamini and Rosicky when they came on completely changed the game in my opinion. Ramsey and Wilshere who have been brilliant recently were outshone and were wasteful, something that we haven't been used to from the pair lately. Olivier Giroud was slated by some sections of the fans but I thought he did well and he's a key reason as to why our midfielders have been in such good form. His lay-offs and link up play is probably second to none in the Premier League. Giroud was desperately close with seconds left on the clock to winning the game too. He took the ball down and then fired an incredible effort that crashed against the crossbar from 25 yards out. Had it gone in, it would've been goal of the season without a doubt.

It was a missed opportunity to go seven points clear at the top. With our next two games against City and Chelsea, that would've been amazing. However a draw against an inform Everton side is nothing to be ashamed off and we'll go into our next game 5 points clear.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey(68), Wilshere(68), Ozil, Cazorla(68), Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Flamini(68), Rosicky(68), Walcott(68), Bendtner. 

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar(77), Barkley(90), Mirallas(79), Lukaku. 
Subs: Joel, Heitinga, Stones, Osman(71), Naismith(90), Deulofeu(79), Jelavic. 

My man of the match: Laurent Koscielny/Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Howard Webb.
Attendance: 60,001.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Bendtner scores as Arsenal maintain lead at the top

Yes, you read that right, Nicklas Bendtner actually scored. It's been a long time coming but the Dane finally scored again in an Arsenal shirt. His first goal of the season came just a minute in as Ozil scored in the second half to wrap up a 2-0 win. It was an incredibly comfortable win which ensured that we remained 4 points clear at the top of the Premier League. We were able to rotate players with 5 being rested in total, something which would not have been possible earlier in the season. Nicklas Bendtner started in place of Giroud whilst Jenkinson came in for Sagna who had a slight hamstring problem. Meanwhile Monreal, Flamini and Rosicky replaced Gibbs, Arteta and Wilshere respectively.
Nicklas Bendtner scored on his first league start of the season
Hull were on the back of a 3-1 win over Liverpool at the weekend which meant this game was probably expected to be a tougher game than we had originally thought. The Tigers are doing much better than expected in the Premier League this season and currently sit mid-table. However, Hull looked a completely different side to the one that had comfortably beaten Liverpool. We absolutely dominated them on possession and they did well to restrict us to just the two goals.

The main talking point from the game was Nicklas Bendtner. This was his first Arsenal start since 2011 and his goal was his first for the club since a hat-trick against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup in the same year. To finish it all off it was his first Premier League goal for us since December 2010. His finish was fairly simple but with only a minute on the clock gave Arsenal hope that maybe Super Nick could actually perform in an Arsenal shirt. It was a lovely cross in from Jenkinson which the Dane could hardly miss as he rose the highest to head home. He's been slated a lot, but as mentioned just after deadline day when I featured him in a post, he's more than capable of playing the odd game now and again. That's excluding the big games though. If he plays like he did against Hull yesterday then I'm sure he'll grab a few more goals along the way. If he plays like he did against Chelsea though a few months back, then expect the fans to be on his back again. He did miss an easy chance and there were a few passes that went astray but he was much better than he'd been all season. It was a big gamble from Wenger, but one that luckily paid off.

The other goal scorer, Mesut Ozil, is beginning to find some form again after his brilliant start to the campaign. He had a few quiet games but he's now got 3 assists and 1 goal in his last 3 games which is very encouraging. He put in a man of the match performance and his class showed. He created a lot of chances and then after the break put one away himself with a lovely controlled finish at the near post. Aaron Ramsey played a lovely reverse ball into him on another productive night for the Welshman.

Moving onto someone who perhaps isn't in the best of form, Santi Cazorla. He had a spell on the sidelines with an injury but since he's come back into the team he hasn't been as good as he can be. Last season everything seemed to come through the Spaniard who was playing in a more central position. He's being played out on the wing, a position that he's more than capable of doing a job at but he's not putting in the displays we're used to seeing. Cazorla has been a little quiet and I think we all can't wait for him to be back to his best.

A final mention goes to the defence. Two different men were in the back four in Jenkinson and Monreal but that didn't seem to matter as we kept yet another clean sheet. Jenkinson provided an assist for Bendtner's goal but wasn't really troubled. Nacho Monreal on the other hand was very solid though. The fact that we can bring in a fully capped Spanish international in place of Kieran Gibbs is a luxury. There aren't many better reserve left backs out there. Monreal has been restricted in terms of game time this season but with a busy fixture schedule this month we should see him featuring a bit more.

It was brilliant to rest players and be able to still come out with the three points and a clean sheet to go with it. Something that we perhaps would not have been able to do in recent seasons. Giroud is also rested which should be a big bonus for our next game after he looked quite fatigued against Cardiff. Our next match is a tough one against an inform Everton side on Sunday. They've been solid at the back but are missing Leighton Baines. As long as we keep tabs on the likes of Lukaku then I think we'll be able to come out on top.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey(80), Rosicky(73), Ozil, Cazorla, Bendtner(73).
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta(80), Wilshere(73), Walcott(73), Giroud.

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Chester, Bruce, Figueroa, Meyler, Huddlestone, Livermore, Brady(58), Graham(58), Sagbo(74).
Subs: Harper, Rosenior(58), Faye, Koren, Gedo(74), Fryatt, Boyd(58).

My man of the match: Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Andre Marriner
Attendance: 60,017

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ramsey scores two against boyhood club in 3-0 win

Arsenal brushed aside a resilient Cardiff side in the Welsh capital on Saturday afternoon as Ramsey grabbed 2 against his former employers whilst Flamini grabbed a rare goal. Cardiff put in a strong performance through the middle parts of the game but we managed to kill the game off in attack and send us seven points clear. Arsenal made three changes to the side that had beaten Marseille in the week as Gibbs, Cazorla and Arteta all came back in for Monreal, Rosicky and Flamini respectively.
Aaron Ramsey scored twice against his former club as Arsenal extended their lead at the top
The Gunners performance was extremely satisfying to say the least and from previous results it looked as though Cardiff would be difficult opponents. They caused us problems in some parts of the game but we weren't tested significantly which allowed us to come out of the game with all three points. Arsenal's first goal was supplied beautifully by Mesut Ozil. His swinging cross picked out Ramsey whose header found the back of the net. The Welshman's goal was marked by applause from both sets of fans. Ramsey didn't celebrate as he showed his respect to the club that brought him up and so did the Cardiff supporters show respect. Ozil then set up the second as well as he slipped in an inch perfect ball to Mathieu Flamini to rifle the ball home. That was his first goal in English football and for Arsenal since 2008. The final goal was from Ramsey as well after countering well with Walcott. His touch was brilliant to set him up and then he absolutely hammered the ball into the roof of the net.

As well as the return to form of Mesut Ozil, Wojciech Szczesny also had an absolute blinder and showed why he's worth his number one place. The Pole had been made to stand and watch most of the game but then made a brilliant save which probably in turn won us the game. Frazer Campbell got up above Kieran Gibbs and then planted a header right in the corner but for a sprawling save from Szczesny. That's 51 clean-sheets in 126 appearances for Szczesny now, a record only bettered by David Seaman at this point in their respective careers.

I've talked a lot about the defensive pairing of Koscielny and Mertesacker recently but they truly were outstanding in November. Arsenal's defence conceded just once in six games in November. That one game being against Manchester United when Mertesacker wasn't playing. Because of that he now hasn't conceded in a month and eight days for club and country. Laurent Koscielny was the stand out performer in the defensive line on Saturday though. He continuously cut out attempted balls into the strikers and won pretty much every header on his 100th league appearance for the club. 

The final thing is the fact that pretty much anyone can play anywhere in terms of our attacking plays. Giroud drifts out wide as well as playing central whilst the same can also be said for Wilshere and Ozil. Ramsey was playing on the right but had chances to come into the central areas too. We even saw Mathieu Flamini running into the centre forward position for his goal. This is just one of the many reasons as to why we're top of the Premier League. It makes us an unpredictable side and also makes us hard to mark because players keeping switching positions with their colleagues.

Up next is Hull City on Wednesday night in the Premier League at home. Should be an easier game than ones previously but they've proven to be a difficult side in recent matches and have been in good form. With Everton to come next weekend, the game against Hull could be a chance to rest a few. Olivier Giroud showed signs of tiredness against Cardiff but other than Walcott we don't have any real replacements. An issue that will have to be addressed in the January transfer market.

The teams lineups:

Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor(87), Medel, Kim(75), Mutch, Cowie, Campbell(65).
Subs: Lewis, Hudson, Gunnarsson, Noone(75), Bellamy, Cornelius(87), Odemwingie(65).

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere(81), Ramsey, Ozil(90), Cazorla(77), Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal(81), Flamini(77), Rosicky, Gnabry, Walcott(90). 

My man of the match: Aaron Ramsey.

Referee: Lee Mason.
Attendance: 27,948. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wilshere scores two as Arsenal beat Marseille

Arsenal maintained their lead at the top of their Champions League group with a convincing 2-0 win over Marseille. Jack Wilshere grabbed both on a night he showed his confidence was ever improving. The Gunners made the French side look like a distinctly average side and they hardly caused any sort of threat all night. Dortmund also beat Napoli meaning we now only require a point to be guaranteed a place in the last sixteen. As for the starting line-up there were a few changes made. Kieran Gibbs missed the game through illness so Nacho Monreal made only his second start of the campaign. Meanwhile Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini replaced Cazorla and Arteta respectively.
Jack Wilshere scored the first brace of his career as Arsenal beat Marseille
Despite winning pretty comfortably, it was one of those games in which the players and Wenger himself came away from the game with one regret, and that was that we didn't score as many goals as we would've liked. Marseille's defence was pretty poor and it could've been 4 or 5. Mesut Ozil missed the chance to regain some form as he missed a penalty. It was a stuttered run-up and a surprisingly poor penalty from a German. Meanwhile, before that, Aaron Ramsey missed a chance from close range. If the challenge on Mertesacker on Saturday was anything to go by then Giroud could've had a penalty too after being dragged to the floor in the first half.

I picked up on Jack Wilshere's fine performance against Southampton at the weekend by saying that we're finally getting to see him at his best this season. He scored two very fine goals on Tuesday night which is bound to give him new found confidence. The first came just 27 seconds into the game. A ball was put down the right channel for Wilshere to run onto, he then cut inside before clipping the ball into the far corner in what was a brilliant finish. His second was the product of a brilliant piece of build-up play which resulted in Ozil sliding the ball across goal for the English midfielder to tap home. Wilshere now has 4 goals this season, the most he's scored in a single campaign, definitely something to get excited about.

Another positive from a pretty productive night for the Gunners was Wojciech Szczesny. He didn't have much to do but when called upon put in a convincing display. In the second half when Marseille looked a little livelier, he pulled off two brilliant stops to deny Thauvin from scoring and putting the visitors back into the game. The Polish keeper has put in some brilliant displays this season, Crystal Palace up there as one of the best, to further assert himself as our number one. He had a spell last season on the sidelines in which Fabianski took his place and it looked as though his position was under threat. However he's come back stronger than ever and only conceding one goal this month outlines that.

Wojciech Szczesny's form hasn't half been helped by the formidable pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny. Arsenal's back four have only conceded once this month, whilst Per Mertesacker, because he missed the United game, hasn't conceded in the whole month of November for Arsenal and Germany. A quite incredible record. Nacho Monreal came in as mentioned earlier and he did a stern job and looked fairly solid, albeit he wasn't exactly tested until Valbuena and Thauvin came on.

We now look fairly certain to qualify having amassed 12 points from 4 games so far in the so called 'Group of Death'. We're sitting pretty at the top of our group with Dortmund and Napoli both behind on 9 points each. However, if Napoli are to beat us in Naples next time out then they'll need to win by a margin of three points in order to knock us out of the competition. That's if Dortmund some how lose to Marseille on the final match day.

Before that though is a game in the Welsh capital against Cardiff City at the weekend. They've been fairly good at home this season and have beaten Manchester City and recently this weekend, managed to grind out a draw against Manchester United. It won't be an easy game but it's still one that I'm expecting us to win if we want to go on and really challenge for the Premier League title.

The teams lineups:
  
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere(74), Ramsey, Rosicky(74), Ozil(81), Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Arteta(81), Cazorla(74), Gnabry, Walcott(74), Bendtner.

Marseille: Mandanda, Abdallah, N'Koulou, Mendes, Morel, Lemina(81), Romao, Imbula(57), Ayew(57), Khalifa, Gignac.
Subs: Samba, Diawara, Mendy, Fanni, Cheyrou(81), Thauvin(57), Valbeuna(57).

My man of the match: Jack Wilshere.

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP).
Attendance: 59,912.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Giroud at the double as Arsenal beat Southampton

Arsenal made a return to action following the international break and it couldn't have got much better for the Gunners. Olivier Giroud capitalised on a howler from Boruc before firing home from the penalty spot to seal a 2-0 win at the Emirates. With Liverpool dropping points earlier in the day, the win sent us 4 points clear at the top of the table as we bounced back in convincing fashion, following our defeat at the hands of Manchester United last time out. The line-up saw Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky return to the squad following illness whilst Theo Walcott also featured following a two month lay-off with an abdominal injury.
Olivier Giroud scored twice as Arsenal beat Southampton
The match was one that was expected to be quite a tough one. Southampton had been rock solid at the back this season and had one of the best records in Europe. The way they conceded both their goals was very ironic though in the fact that it was two basic errors that cost them the game. Artur Boruc auditioned for Strictly Come Dancing with some very weird footwork. Instead of smashing the ball up field he tried a combination of flicks and drag-backs in an attempt to avoid Giroud. However the Polish keeper was made to look stupid as the Frenchman stole in to open the scoring. Southampton were lacking Dejan Lovren through illness and it was evident that he was a key loss. They didn't look as assured as they had this season at the back and a rush of blood from Fonte allowed us to score a second. Per Mertesacker, a man in form having scored against England for Germany in the week, had his shirt pulled back from a corner, resulting in a penalty. Arteta was off the field so it was up to Giroud who confidently found the net. It was refreshing to see Giroud back on the score-sheet in the league having been through a bit of dip in form over the past few months.

Mesut Ozil showed signs that his form was returning as he created one or two chances and managed to fire in the odd shot. Santi Cazorla didn't provide the sparkle we're so used to seeing from the Spaniard though. The effects of traveling out to Guinea and South Africa for friendlies with Spain was clearly evident. Mathieu Flamini was missing through suspension but with Arteta filling the hole there wasn't really much to worry about. Once again, I think we're better when Arteta accompanies Ramsey or Wilshere, instead of Flamini.

Onto Ramsey and Wilshere and they both heavily impressed. Wilshere more so than we've been used to this season. He featured heavily on international duty for England, starting against Chile and then coming on as a sub against Germany. He looked like a revived player on Saturday though. His passing was more crisper and his brilliant driving runs that we've been so used to seeing were as good as ever. When Jack's in the mood it helps the team so much. Wenger recently said that Wilshere's best position was in the deep lying role and that's where he was more or less playing against Southampton. He drifted a bit out wide with Ramsey also in the squad but his runs from deep allowed us to dictate the tempo of the game to our advantage.

Our defence though were extremely solid again. Koscielny was sent off and gave away a penalty on international duty but that didn't seem to affect his confidence when he returned to club action. His partnership with Mertesacker is really beginning to become a force to be reckoned with. We've only conceded one goal this month in 5 games which was in the defeat to United. Considering it's the position we're lacking the most depth in its probably just as well really that we're not having troubles in that department.

Next up is Marseille in the Champions League at the Emirates. We comfortably beat them 2-1 away from home last time out and we haven't really had many troubles when up against the French side in recent meetings. However, this is the Champions League, and despite Marseille not really having a chance of qualifying they'll still be a tough side to break down. Theo Walcott is still to make his proper comeback following a substitute appearance against his old club which is something to get excited about ahead of Tuesday's game.

The teams lineups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta(74), Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil(81), Cazorla(70), Giroud.
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal(81), Rosicky(74), Gnabry, Walcott(70), Bendtner.

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne Hooiveld, Fonte, Shaw(45), Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Lallana(53), Rodriguez, Lambert.
Subs: Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Chambers, Reed, Davis(46), Gallagher, Osvaldo(53).

My man of the match: Olivier Giroud.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Attendance: 60,007. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Arsenal's Youngsters: Gedion Zelalem

For the third article in my 'Arsenal's Youngster's' series, I just want to first follow up from my last post in this series where I focused a bit on Jon Toral. Since then he's earned rave reviews about his future and is showing how much of a special talent he is. Providing he stays clear of injury, he should develop well this season. Since he's returned from injury he has scored 4 goals and also assisted 4, backing up my points from the last post indicating how much of a threat he is going forward and in front of goal. I fully expect to see him fighting for a place in the Cup competitions come next season.

For this article though, I'll be focusing on another one of our talented players from our crop of midfielders in the form of Gedion Zelalem. He is only sixteen years of age which is quite incredible. He's a man that recently just passed his GCSE's. I'm also 16 and have also just done my GCSE's a few months back. That just puts things into context at how good Zelalem is. Scout Danny Karbassiyoon, a former player before having to retire through injury, is the man to thank for this wonderful player's discovery. Karbassiyoon spotted him playing for Olney Rovers over in America and a deal was agreed in principle for him to join the Gunners when he turned 16 in January of 2013. The gifted midfielder is eligible to play for 3 nations. Germany, the country he was born in, Ethiopia, the country of his father, and finally the United states due to him being raised there when he was growing up.

Gedion Zelalem is one of Arsenal's brightest young talents

Gedion is, according to many people at Arsenal, the biggest thing at the club since a certain Cesc Fabregas. That is clear to see, his passing is absolutely brilliant and his vision and the weight of passes in which he plays through are comparative as to that of Cesc himself. He is incredibly assured on the ball for someone that is so young, his play would suggest he's been playing at a high level all his life though. Zelalem played a few times last season and although initially struggling on a physical level, his passing shone out. In the process he earned the praise of team mate Chuba Akpom who said he was the best player he'd played with up to that point in his career.

This season though has been quite a painful one for the German. He's only played a solitary one game in an U18 fixture before missing the rest of season with injury. He's starting to come back now though which is encouraging news. He played quite a big role on the club's pre-season tour of Asia. He played in every single game and had an impact on most occasions. He provided an assist for a Theo Walcott goal against Nagoya before playing a part in Akpom's second goal against Vietnam. Zelalem was to then play his first senior game at the Emirates during the Emirates Cup where he was an unused sub against Napoli and then a used one against Galatasaray. Finally he was also a sub when we thoroughly beat Man City in our final game before the new season.

How good he'll be when he matures only time will tell. If his performances so far and the high regards that are held throughout the club are anything to go by then this young man will become a star of the future. The fact that he was named on the bench against Tottenham outlines the fact that Wenger holds him in such high regard. He is a hugely gifted player and it will be very exciting to see how far and well his career goes. Providing anything traumatic doesn't happen, Gedion Zelalem will be a first team player at the club for years to come.


                        Video of Zelalem's performance against Nagoya in pre-season: