Arsenal navigate past AFC Wimbledon in their ‘Behind Closed Doors’ game

Well it was surprising to learn that the Carabao Third round tie against AFC Wimbledon wasn’t televised and available anywhere. I cannot recall the last time this was the case; understandably this news didn’t go down well with many supporters who don’t have the opportunity to view Arsenal games without access to streams and television broadcasts.

On one hand you could argue if there was only one game in the season you could afford to miss it was a third round League Cup game against League One opposition. The game was won comfortably enough, No future stars were making their debuts and a juicier tie against Leeds comes next which no doubt will be televised.

The atmosphere and those in attendance was definitely the epitome of a family affair. The reduced cost tickets allowed many fans to be able to bring along members of their family that wouldn’t normally be in attendance for the bread and butter league games. Children and Elderly parents/relatives were there in abundance and all together made for a very enjoyable relaxed and fun experience.

The Line-Up raised a few eyebrows in terms of the starting of Thomas Partey taking into account the small matter of a North London Derby merely days away. Definitely felt like a risk not worth taking but thankfully the Ghanaian came through his cameo appearance unscathed. Mikel gave His reasoning behind the selection of our midfield enforcer after the game. The rest of the line-up tended to favour one I alluded to in my blog post yesterday.

partey-reason

Mikel Arteta used the opportunity to give valuable minutes to all his fringe players and give them a chance to make a case for selection against Tottenham. The line-up certainly had the feel of players shoehorned in rather than a tactical selection to beat our opponents. The quality was littered throughout the team so the expectation was there to outclass Wimbledon regardless of who operated where on the pitch.

The performance on a whole was hardly what I would describe as swashbuckling. At times the football was disjointed with a few misplaced passes here and there but this would be expected with the amount of rust on the pitch. Despite a place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup being on offer this game had more of a feel of a pre season friendly which provided an opportunity to provide match fitness and fine tune some sharpness.

Gabriel Martinelli was tasked with operating on the right flank, we have been used to him being utilised on the left and/or centrally so it was interesting to see him playing on the right. I have to confess I had always assumed he was left footed given his frequent use on the left but I don’t recall at any point he used his left foot, often playing in some nice crosses from the flanks with his right.

Tavares impressed quite a few with his tenacity and drive from the left. He certainly emits a level of Athleticism and attacking verve that has the potential to get bums off seats when he is on the ball.  I can only assume he is a converted winger because he loves to attack. He can drift past a man with ease at times and you can see the attacking side of his game is where he enjoys and excels. The defensive side of his game will be tested in future for sure but for now he has integrated well into the first team set up.

Leno returned and although I’m not 100 percent convinced this has sealed his fate as cup keeper for rest of season, it was important to keep up his sharpness. He didn’t have much to do in the game as from an attacking perspective most of the danger was dealt with by the defence. When he was called upon he did make a couple good saves but generally was untroubled.

Despite the comfort from a Lacazette penalty the team seemed to be going through the motions without providing much end product. The introduction of Emile Smith Rowe and then Saka firstly raised the crowd and secondly added a bit of much needed quality in the final third to turn half chances into goals.

esr-on
Definitely lifted crowd when our Hale End boys came on

ESR scored his first goal of the season and after having looked good for a goal in all his appearances this season this could be the trigger to spark a whole lot more from him.

Eddie Nketiah scored the pick of the bunch with a quality back heel from a Cedric cut back. Happy with his goal the fans sung his name long and loud until he was replaced by Balogun. It’s easy to forget this was the competition that put him on many fans radar with a double against Norwich in what was effectively his debut. Although he didn’t have the best of games he put the ball in the back of the net which is what you want from your strikers. Goals add confidence and it will do him a world of good moving forward.

Overall this game was the perfect opportunity to provide vital minutes to those in need, the win was secured and to be honest there wasn’t much to look too deep into the performance other than that. The family orientated crowd were left pleased by the result and Mikel managed to get his players to come through the game unscathed and ready for the battle on Sunday.

Enjoy your day people

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.

OK Arsenal – NOW You Can Burst Bubbles.

As the headline states, it is fine to burst some bubbles of the Claret and Blue variety. If it’s all not making much sense this is pretty much a call back to my article last week in which I identified the beginning of a season starts with a full capacity of bubbles of expectation which eventually burst one by one with each failure ensuring that the bubble can no longer be achieved.

We came through last week and so the quadruple is surely still on, obviously. On a serious note we have the visit of West Ham today from the shadily won well-earned stadium of dreams in the hope to build on our excellent start against Fulham. All be it, this is a London derby, its way too early a stage of the season for the West Ham fans and players to give up and so it will require the utmost concentration and focus to ensure West Ham leave the Emirates stadium with nil points.

It seems like a very long time we have not had an arsenal game two to three days after the previous game. Admittedly for us to have played midweek it would have meant we would be rubbing shoulders with our North London rivals taking on the cream of Europe’s finest in the 3rd qualifying rounds of the Europa cup qualification.

The ‘break‘ will have allowed the players to recuperate and be fresh for today’s game. The break certainly allowed the fans to draw their attention from matters on the pitch and absorb all the good feelings from the conclusion of the long running Aubamyang contract situation.  It was nice to finally see the skipper put pen to paper with what some (non-Arsenal affiliated observers) might say was an OTT reveal. Not to me or any other Arsenal fans as we soaked up all the positive words he had to say and all the promo and interviews that followed with Ian Wright et al. It certainly helped fill the void of no football.

It weren’t all super positive news as the transfer of Emi Martinez was also confirmed. This is also a topic that has been covered to death by Arsenal fans on social media so i wont go into it in any depth. The talented Argentinian left on great terms with the fans and he will be held dear to our hearts until he has worldies against us in future meetings. Until then we wish him the best and congratulations on another call up to the Argentina squad yesterday. No doubt another well-earned call up for his recent performances for Arsenal.

In terms of team news I suppose everyone who was available last week are ready to be called upon again. One absence from the line-up is likely to be William Saliba again as he turned out for the U23’s last night in a 2-2 draw with Brighton. I can’t pass too much judgement on his performance as I had only caught about 30 minutes of the match but what I can say is he looked assured and positive on the ball. Always looking up and trying to contribute to the attacks with intelligent balls. I saw some risks in holding onto the ball longer than your average defender but that was counter balanced with how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet. Very much a ball playing centre back he reminded me of Rio Ferdinand in his early days.

William Saliba: His time will come

There is much competition for the centre back places at the moment and his time will come in the first team. There is more experience ahead of him at the moment and we are not in a desperate need to throw anyone in at the moment. It will be good thing for Mikel Arteta to manage his integration into the starting XI, the English lessons are paying off at least, communication is key so its great he is doing all he can to master the language.  David Luiz is back in full training and could potentially be involved in the match day squad so that defensive cover that seemed lacking on the bench last week could be filled by the Brazilian if he doesn’t start.

So we will await and see how everything unfolds today against the Hammers.  My FPL team is already a bust, I need to quickly make some tough decisions before the deadline so with that I will bid you all goodbye and hopefully reconnect tomorrow with a positive review of the game.

Enjoy you day people.

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Big blow to Arsenal momentum despite 3 goal comeback

Yes it was a comeback; there are certainly some positives to list from salvaging a point from being three goals down but in the grand scheme of things the events of last night were a massive blow.

Losing ground yet again in the race for the championship only further strengthens the claims that maybe this Arsenal falls short on the required quality and strength to be genuine contenders. It should never be a case that Arsenal fans now sit down to watch a Spurs game in which a victory would be in their best interests. Yet here we are, not just falling behind in the race for first but now sucked back plump into a fight to stay in the top four. 

It can be argued that fixture scheduling has been unkind and Liverpool also suffered an away day set back due to the short window for recovery but on reflection you have to question why the effort to comeback couldn’t be applied prior to conceding three goals. Physical fatigue can handicap a performance but mental complacency cannot be excused. Watching the game in the first half you couldn’t help but notice a body language amongst the Arsenal players that screamed “rather be at home”. It’s never enjoyable to see the players not put in the effort and the final score at least showed signs of a change in attitude.



It’s fair to say some of the decisions went against us with the goals, the penalty was harsh and the third goal despite a pathetic show of strength from Bellerin was effectively a foul but no matter how much decisions go against you, you never give up. That’s what it looked like to me from the outside, a sort of acceptance that it wasn’t their day from a few players. To rub further salt in the wounds seeing Ramsey arguing with Sanchez on the pitch was plain embarrassing.

The team at the moment looks threadbare; admittedly Arsene Wenger’s team choice is forced given the loss of players to illness, injuries and international call ups. Maybe this game came at the perfect time given the transfer window has now opened. To be honest there is cover for most positions in the squad but how long can we continue without Santi Cazorla? The player is central to all our good play when Arsenal is firing on all cylinders. Without him there have been multiple combinations to plug the gap but none have quite filled the gap adequately.

 I am not sure how far Santi is from returning to the team but if the club has serious intentions to win the title this year than waiting for the injured star man to return rather than finding a sufficient replacement sums it up. I love Santi but the same thing happened last season and all our momentum derailed in his absence. There’s nothing to guarantee on his eventual return he may not break down again and that is why I feel business needs to be done to ensure a player is brought in to challenge Santi if not replace him. No one currently in the squad is of the level to fill the void and that there is the main problem.

The defence did have an off day but each of the back four have proven themselves this season,  the attack has brought the goals more often than not but the key department of the team which is the midfield engine room has been hit and miss. That extra bit of quality that separates Arsenal from being a good team to a serious title contender is missing and it needs to be addressed before the leading pack are too far out of sight by time the Arsenal get it together.

Please Arsene, make a signing to make us not miss Santi, I know it seems harsh but I honestly believe one of our biggest Achilles heel is the unbreakable bond of respect shown to players in the treatment room. Returning players become like a new signing way too often when in reality returning injured players become more like signing a new injury prone player.

OK, enough of the negativity. I will sign off by congratulating the team on coming back from three goals down, congratulate Olivier Giroud on his continuing to justify his inclusion with vital goals and assists, congratulate Sanchez on his vital goal and continuing to give his all despite being shunted from his central striker position and I would like to congratulate Lucas Perez on getting his first premiership goal and playing his part in the comeback.



Teams don’t often come from three goals down and to think that despite pulling back level Arsenal fans still felt disappointed that all three points weren’t gained shows the belief the fans have in their team. Rival fans will have to delay their visit to the Arsenal Fan TV YouTube page for another time.

For now, let’s hope things get put right with a win at Preston and away to a rejuvenated Swansea team. Until then enjoy your day people. 

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Will Arsenal Make The Most Of Transfer Deadline Day?

As the transfer windows draws towards shutting today many Arsenal fans are still left scratching their heads wondering if the club will address the problem areas which have been identified since last season to turn Arsenal from nearly men to genuine contenders for league honours. Gary Neville’s words last Monday may have ruffled a few feathers amongst the Arsenal hierarchy however it was hard for many Gunners’ fans not to agree with some of the points addressed.

The good feeling and belief from a near perfect pre season was wiped instantly on opening day and the grumbles and moans have become more and more audible with each week that Arsenal fail to live up to the big expectations laid upon them. A few results have been churned out to repair the opening day damage but the quality of performance in general has been lacking from the play.

Will the often pleaded signings of a defensive midfield challenger and top class striker have made a difference to the games so far? Most likely, in the same way that any new signings can boost a team’s performance on a psychological level.  Petr Cech is no doubt an excellent acquisition but the deficiencies outfield are yet to be addressed.

Francis Coquelin has earned his way into the 1st team but much of his elevation to the Arsenal team has been fuelled by a hunger last season to prove himself. That is only part of the battle, once you rise to the top and receive the plaudits you require a new focus to maintain the upward trajectory of influence upon the team.

Right now there is no one in the Arsenal squad that offers true competition to Francis Coquelin’s position in the defensive midfield role of the team. He can sit pretty in the knowledge that there is no true challenger to keep him on his toes from the likes of Arteta and Flamini. Beyond those two is the promising but completely raw Bielik and that is where the problem lies. It is not to say that Coquelin’s performances have been poor so far this season but the threat of complacency setting in is very real.

I can almost liken the defensive midfield conundrum to the goalkeeping situation at the club a few years back. Sczcesny rose through the ranks to become number 1 choice between the sticks for the club. At the time it was deserved, he was fulfilling his potential and making a go of it. His challengers at the time Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski although as proved now are far better keepers than many believed at the time were never ever a threat to the number one jersey.

mannone

Season after season with no true threat to his position you could see the complacency set in with the Polish stopper. Instead of pushing on to a higher level he became stagnant in the knowledge he was number one and anytime Manone or Fabianski played they dropped a clanger. I still believe Sczcesny to be a good keeper but the professionalism and concentration in his game has waned in the last couple years. The arrival of Ospina was the kick up the arse he needed and although he is out on loan the door is not shut on his Arsenal career. It’s up to him to get his head down and focus on what is required of a top level goalkeeper and win back his place and respect of his peers.

Now we don’t want that situation to occur with Coquelin, an ideal situation is for him to have a genuine threat to his position in the team. A player that could usurp Coquelin if his level of performance drops and require him to fight to earn back his place.  At present Arteta and Flamini offer something to the squad but their best days are behind them and in all honesty do not pose genuine competition to Coquelin. Can Wenger surprise us and address this area of the team or will his loyalty to current midfield cloud his judgement?

Up front is the other problem area and you do wonder if the striking position will be addressed. All Arsenal fans can see it, all pundits can see it but the one man who can make it happen does he see it or choose to ignore it? With Danny Welbeck currently out of the picture the argument that a top striker is needed may be falling on deaf ears. Arsenal fans can argue that so far Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott haven’t delivered as much as we would like. The big question is whether Arsene Wenger has the ‘like a new signing’ excuse readied for Welbeck’s return as his answer to the criticism.

When we review Arsenals strikers’ you could say that Olivier Giroud offers power but lacks pace and a clinical finish. Theo Walcott offers Pace but lacks power and a clinical finish whilst Danny Welbeck offers Pace and Power but is probably the least clinical finisher of the three.

welbeck

The answer to all Arsenal’s striking problems is a striker that has all three attributes but they aren’t exactly hanging off trees. I struggle to list off established strikers that fit that criteria, it’s an exclusive club and is likely to cause some serious damage to the Arsenal Cheque book to acquire any. Arsenal have the spending power now  to get most players they desire, despite Manchester City doing their best to implode the market a top striker should still be acquirable within a non astronomical price range.

deadline day

All Arsenal fans can do now is sit back and watch how the rest of the day unfolds. For ITK’s today is like Christmas day, expect an avalanche of BS stories clogging your timelines/feeds.

Enjoy your day people.
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Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

Well, we’ve had a day or so to digest the game from Saturday night, the three points are on the board and the mood has slightly changed compared to last week. No repeat of Stoke Station-esque outbursts required leaving Gunners fans to enjoy their weekly dose of Match Of The Day.

It’s Monday so it gives me a chance to give my reflections of the game, not a match report as I’m sure many have been viewed since Saturday evening but a reflection of key points from the game.

giroud

Giroud’s valued return

How important is Giroud’s contribution to the team right now? He has returned from long term injury with a hunger to make up for lost time. Although scoring hasn’t been a major flaw in Arsenal’s team so far this season the fact that someone other than Sanchez has their scoring boots on is a big plus. Giroud brings attributes that none of the current strikers bring to the squad. What’s that? Sanogo you say? I actually think they are different types of players and until Sanogo adds goals to his CV then I can’t make a true comparison. During the Frenchman’s absence it was probably debated to death how his less pacy attributes would actually work with the quick fire zip provided by Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott (when he returns from limbo). Well its working fine enough for now and long may it continue.

Welbeck’s goals

With the welcome return of Giroud and his goals the gloss has been taken off Welbeck’s impact to the team. There’s no denying that Welbeck is a hard working forward and his contribution to the team so far has been satisfactory in his efforts however as a forward it’s always the goals record people value the most. We have come off the back of a run of games against lesser opposition where you would expect your main striker to really bag a few goals, like I said he has offered assists and played his part In some of those games but I still see he has the potential to be more of a regular finisher than a provider. The less prolific return has resulted in Welbeck surrendering the central striking position to Giroud and playing slightly wider, a position he admitted he was less fond of at Man United. In his favour Arsene does like to enforce interchangeable positioning by his forwards and so that door isn’t completely shut. It’s also worth mentioning that Welbeck was stripped of a perfectly legitimate goal on Saturday and so I do sympathise that he was unable to add to his tally however there were other chances in the game he could have taken also. I’ll get off his back as my frustration is only aimed at what he is capable of not coming to fruition just yet

Santi hex finally banished

It’s nice to see the Santi hex is finally over, a short while ago Santi and Ramsey couldn’t hit the back of the net despite all their efforts. Slowly but surely the signs were there that the luck was changing, Santi produced an amazing run and cross to set up Welbeck for a goal at West Brom the other week and that seemed to be the spark needed to ignite Santi’s form back to life. On Saturday both of Cazorla’s goals would not be in the back of the net a month ago but the hex is finally broken and now the mojo is back. I look forward to seeing a lot more contribution from the Spaniard from now on, it’s just a shame that Ramsey picked up an injury as he also seemed to break that hex at the same time.

Defence held firm

debuchy newc

It was nice to see the team came through the game fairly unscathed taking into account the patched up back line that started. Yes a goal was conceded but the back line dealt with what was thrown at them. Debuchy is a welcome return and his performance was probably aided that little but more given the fact he was facing his old club which sparked some extra motivation. A much tougher task is due next week when the team visits Anfield, the scene of one of our worst results last season. Chambers will return however with the news of Koscielny now being unavailable for a few weeks is a concern. Liverpool may have been swept away by United yesterday but if Raheem Sterling had his shooting boots on a draw would not have been an unbelievable outcome, the odds of Sterling forgetting his shooting boots again are pretty short. Arsene will need to make working on the defence this week his absolute priority to ensure a decent result at Anfield is achievable.

Champs league draw

The Champions League draw is today, Arsenal finished runners up so will most likely face Bayern or Barcelona. It’s an annual tradition so I will hardly be shocked if it’s either of those two are drawn as the next opponents. Whoever Arsenal do get I will be excited, you can’t beat the atmosphere in the Emirates when the big guns come to town. The only thing that is an absolute given when it comes to the champions league draw is that Chelsea will get the easiest tie of the round.

Enjoy your day people.
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