Tottenham preview: North London Derby part II

After a very disappointing result in the home fixture against Spurs I hope to see a more dominating and confident Arsenal take the field today. We have been playing extremely well of late, comfortably beating Stoke 3-0,  City 2-0 away, demolishing Aston Villa as well as booking our place in the next round of the FA Cup. But this is the North London Derby and as most people should know form goes out the window for derbies. It’s all about who wants it more on the day.

The club from Seven Sisters will desperately want to beat us as it would mean they leapfrog us in the league. This is why we should look at the Manchester City game as our game plan. They will leave themselves exposed as they try to constantly attack through Christian Eriksen. If we can take the Danish playmaker out of the game then we should be able to frustrate our opposition into making even riskier plays for us to capitalise upon.

The big discussion over the last couple of days was whether Alexis Sanchez would be fit to play or not. Arsene Wenger said in his press conference that Alexis is in the red zone and will be rested, returning against Leicester. Others have been suggesting Wenger is playing mind games ahead of the derby. I think we’ll see Alexis on the bench as a ‘break in case of emergency’ scenario.

One player who can fill in for the Chilean is Danny Welbeck, who returns from injury. Welbeck is a player who also has tremendous work ethic and always chases back. But could throwing him into the NLD for his first game back be too much? Possibly. Tomas Rosicky, who was rested against Villa, is another player who loves playing, and scoring, against Spurs. Could he return to the lineup?

The back five pretty much picks itself for me. Ospina to continue in goal after keeping 3 clean sheets. He also instils confidence in the players in front of him. Bellerin has to continue at right back after his recent performances. Koscielny, Mertesacker (who also isn’t adverse to scoring against the scum) and Monreal will complete the defence.

Whilst on the subject of our defence, Aaron Ramsey had this to say:

“We’ve learnt from last season when we left ourselves a bit too open in the big away games and teams picked us off. We’ve proven that against Manchester City – sometimes you have to sit in and get bodies behind the ball to try and frustrate them. I thought we did that really well against City.”

 

Our midfield will consist of Coquelin, who has been integral to our recent turnaround in results and will have a major role to play in keeping Eriksen quiet today. Santi Cazorla, the Spanish magician, who has hit some major form lately will be trying to unlock that woeful Spurs defence. Aaron Ramsey will be the engine in midfield who gets stuck in and also tries to keep play moving. One criticism I have of Ramsey lately is that he slows our game down too much when there are great options to choose from. Let’s hope that’s not the case today.

Our forward line will be led by our handsome battering ram Giroud. Now this is where it gets interesting, who will play either side of the Frenchman? Will Wenger keep Mesut Ozil out left after his confident performances or bring in the more battle hardened Tomas Rosicky? I think we’ll opt for the Mesut Ozil in the absence of Alexis with Theo Walcott on the right.

I’m going for a 3-1 win (to Arsenal of course..duh!)

In other news, it has now officially been confirmed that Chuba Akpom and Francis Coquelin have signed contract extensions, after snubbing several clubs. Chuba Akpom definitely looks a talent up front and is exciting to watch, he offers far more than Sanogo for me. It will be interesting to see what happens with Sanogo once his loan at Palace is over. Francis Coquelin has also deserved this extension after his recent performances and could even be regarded as the spark that turned our form around.

 

Aston Villa Preview – Will Reus Join?

After our emphatic back to back wins, over Manchester City and Brighton, we now take on Aston Villa at the Emirates. In fact we have won our last 4 games in the Premier League, 5 in total if you include the FA Cup. Last year this fixture sparked the venomous atmosphere and animosity towards Arsene Wenger, which wasn’t helped by the extremely poor officiating by Anthony Taylor. I believe he is one of the worst referees in the Premier League and guess what….he is our referee for this fixture today.

One player that will not be involved today is, our messiah, Alexis Sanchez. From what I understand, the hamstring injury he has sustained isn’t too concerning but caution needs to be taken with his importance to our season, especially when we play the vermin down the road next weekend.

The departure of one hero leaves a gap for another to enter. I would like to see the effervescent Rosicky retain his place in the squad but Wenger may be resting him for next weekends match. If he is rested then I think we’ll see Ozil out on the left with Theo Walcott on the right of Giroud, who is always going to start.

Santi Cazorla, currently the first name on the team sheet, will be pulling the strings from midfield, but as we have grown accustomed to will be interchanging with Ozil/Rosicky. Francis Coquelin will be our protection in midfield over Flamini, simply because he is not Flamini. The last spot in midfield will presumably be filled by, the energiser bunny, Aaron Ramsey.

I believe we’ll return to our strongest defensive lineup possible, in the absence of Debuchy, today. Bellerin, who was suffering with an ankle issue, should return to right back as long as he is fully fit. Per Mertesacker, who was rested against Brighton, will return to partner Laurent Koscielny with Kieran Gibbs replacing Monreal at left back.

I would prefer to see David Ospina continue in goal after his performances in the league. As mentioned in previous posts, he looks more commanding of his box which increases the confidence our defenders have which then spreads throughout the squad.

Our new number 5, Gabriel Paulista (He prefers being called just Gabriel), will start on the bench today and hopefully get a run out in the final 15 minutes to see the game out. Wenger claims he is ready to play but with the language barrier being an issue it is too great a risk to start the Brazilian.

In other tantalising news, long term target Marco Reus is back on the summer radar. Long known as a major fan boy of Tomas ‘Little Mozart’ Rosicky, due to his Dortmund roots could potentially be an Arsenal player next year. All the talk looks positive as he is the perfect replacement for the Czech, he has previously stated he wants to play for Wenger and he has a £20million buyout clause. With Dortmund sitting at the bottom of the Bundesliga and their team so often picked apart by Bayern Munich, I’m sure we are more attractive for Dortmund to sell to.

If we could add Reus and Schneiderlin during the summer then we would look a formidable team indeed next year. But enough of that and let’s focus on a win today.

Brighton 2-3 Arsenal: Riveting Rosicky

If you watched that match with no prior knowledge of Rosicky would you have believed me if I told you he is 34? The Czech, dubbed Little Mozart, was tearing around the pitch as if he was 24, let alone 34. He was a joy to watch.

After Saturday’s results we had to take note and be cautious of being over confident with our opposition. In the preview I wrote about wanting Theo Walcott to get his finishing back to the clinical precision it was prior to his injury. So what did he do? Goes and scores within the first 2 minutes of the match.

It was atrocious defending by the Brighton defenders for our opening goal but the difference in class should be slightly expected. We could have scored 3 within the first 20 minutes but we spurned several chances. I said to my old man that we need to go in at half time at least 2-0 or 3-0 up.

Not long after, Mesut Ozil popped up to score his first goal in a long while. Walcott spotted the German in the box and played him in. Ozil had time and space to turn and get a shot away at goal which nestled nicely into the back of the net. So we went in at half time 2-0 up, despite knowing we would probably need 1 or 2 more goals to kill the game off, we were comfortable.

Brighton managed to pull a goal back after Chambers showed his inexperience. But then up popped Rosicky. He started the move with a no look pass out wide, the ball was crossed in but it bounced back into his path and he hit a sumptuous volley. What composure from the Czech as it would have been so easy to blast it over the bar.

Brighton then went on to pull another goal back but it didn’t matter. Alexis Sanchez and Chuba Akpom made late appearances and the latter looked very impressive. Akpom was aggressive, quick and powerful and if he managed to get his head up and pass the ball he could have set up Alexis for our fourth goal.  Alexis was simply Alexis, being marked by 2-3 players, pulling players out of position and getting fouled constantly.

After the match, Wenger had this to say about Rosicky:

I believe our performance was good and there was room to score more goals with the chances we created. Overall what you want first is the quality of the performance and to go through. They had two shots on target. When you play away from home and the other team had two shots on target – overall I think we produced the performance I expected.

 

We also welcome our new defensive signing, Gabriel Paulista, from Villareal:

“He is 24 years old, good size, good pace, he is a good defender. He’s only played one year in Europe, so maybe there are some things to work on, but the potential is there.”

Onto City next week, a game I am actually feeling confident we can get a victory.

Brighton FA Cup preview

Wow…how about them results yesterday? City lost to Boro, Chelsea lost to Bradford after going 2-0 up, Spurs losing. Could we be on our way to retain the FA Cup? I hope so, I have a feeling it could be an Arsenal vs Manchester United final. We should be going into this game confident, as we are a far better team (no offence Brighton) but yesterday’s results should also remind us that it won’t be easy.

I’m quite excited to see the Ozil back in action, even if it is against Brighton, just so he can build his confidence again. He has clearly put a lot of time into bulking up during his recovery period, which was necessary as we are in a physical league and he was getting knocked off the ball too easily.

This is the perfect game to rest Alexis but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench, in case of an emergency. It would also be rather nice to see Walcott start and get in some shooting practice because the chances he has squandered since returning haven’t been great. He was one of of the best finishers at the club, next to Podolski, prior to injury and I’m sure it won’t take too much to regain that killer instinct.

It would be great to see Gibbs back at left back, just so he can keep his game sharp when called upon. He has been a very underrated player this season and fallen under a lot of people’s radars, not that everyone has a radar handy, due to the astonishing Alexis. If Bellerin isn’t too fit then we will probably see Chambers start at right back but if the manager wants a bit more experience then he can always call upon Monreal.

Will Akpom get a start today or will he be on the bench? Only Wenger knows what first 11 will start today and it’s a hard one to guess due to the circumstances. Certain players needing some rest due to being overplayed and others needing playing time due to being out for so long. Who will start in goal? Will Ospina get to continue after his successive clean sheets? Will Szczesny become the cup keeper?  Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

In other news it appears we have completed the much-needed central defender signing, Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal. Those who follow me on Twitter would have seen that I tweeted we were looking at 3 centre backs from La Liga and was looking to bring one in before or by the end of the weekend. Now we know. I think it will be our only signing of the window, especially with Le Coq revelation. The deal will see Joel Campbell going the other way on loan till the end of the season.

 

 

Man City 0-2 Arsenal: We Can Defend

Many fans across the country were expecting a rout by Manchester City due to our abysmal performances away to the big teams. What we got was a very disciplined Arsenal team defending as a single unit and finishing their chances. As good as the win was over Stoke it was rather dull and routine, as it should be. The game against City was much more thrilling due to Arsene Wenger finally adapting his game to sit, defend and counter rather than go toe to toe.

To be fair, I did read before that Wenger had set the team up similarly in other big games but the fact we conceded so early changed the entire game plan and forced us to attack, which also left us horribly exposed. One of the major differences in recent weeks is the revelation that Francis Coquelin is a good player. The loan spells at Freiburg and Charlton have done wonders for his progression as a player and I loved his passion of barking orders at the senior players on the pitch. He is also a responsible player and instead of going for the ‘Hollywood ball’ he would aim to keep possession and not needlessly give it away when we were ahead.

Ramsey claimed afterwards that the plan was to drive the City players wide and force them to cross, from this we would then be able to hit them on the counter. This was clearly evident in the post match statistics as City had 42 crosses and only 6 were successful but had no thread whatsoever. Corners and set pieces in general has been a weak point for us in recent years and has caused much frustration with our zonal marking system. Again, we managed to successfully defend City’s 16 corners. Is the system flawed or is it the players not understanding the system?

Manchester City without Nasri and Toure still had enough quality to beat most teams in the world and Wenger set the team up to nullify their creative threats. David Silva just couldn’t get a foothold in the game and dictate play, Aguero wasn’t allowed the freedom to run when he dropped deep or make his runs in behind. The pace of Bellerin countered Jesus Navas etc. It was perfect.

Our first goal came about from a penalty after Vincent Kompany stepped across Nacho Monreal and brought the player down off the ball. Up stepped Santi Cazorla, who has taken up the penalty mantle in Arteta’s absence, and dispatched it past Joe Hart. I thought it warranted a yellow card but couldn’t argue as we were 0-1 up against the Champions.

The shape we kept so disciplined in the first half seemed to slightly fade as we opened up the game and tried to attack. I felt it was a risky tactic because if Manchester City managed to score one goal then I feel we may have imploded, again, and went on to lose. After 10 minutes of going back and forth we managed to shore up again and the discipline was back. I assume the idea was that City needed to press for an equaliser and if we let them attack, rather than keep the ball in their half, we would be able to catch them on the counter easier.

Our second goal came from a free kick. Santi Cazorla floated in a delightful ball, Giroud bamboozled Fernandinho with his run and nodded the ball past Hart. For once I felt we would hold onto the lead after looking defensively assured for so long in the match.

Wenger even made an early substitution due to the amount of work the players were putting in. The experienced and wonderful Tomas Rosicky came on for the exhausted Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 66th minute. Literally just before we scored our second. Then came the customary late game substitutions to help kill the game off and waste time. Gibbs came on for Alexis Sanchez to add even more protection down the left and Flamini on for Ramsey, who had just come back from a lengthy injury.

The entire team was outstanding and functioned as a unit, something we had not seen for a long time. Bellerin looked outstanding again, showing again that Chambers is more suited to the central defensive role. Our first victory away against a top four team. We are now sitting in 5th place with 3 points between us and 3rd. If we can maintain this momentum and discipline then we should be able to take 3rd this season, or 2nd if you want to be overly optimistic. The only time I thought we looked a bit shakey was at the start of the second half when Ramsey started to wander forward rather than sit, but that changed as we settled.

Wenger’s comments after the game:

“We scored the first goal today and it was much easier for us to control them. We always looked dangerous when we won the ball but we had a good solidarity level and a good compactness, and the regret of the day is that we didn’t always take advantage of the situations we created in the final third. There was room to maybe score more goals.”

And on the importance of the win:

“Time will tell. What is for sure is that it increases the level of belief and confidence. We have five months in front of us that are very important in the lifespan of the team and what you make of that will decide our season. Games like that can help you to do very well.”

We play Brighton in the FA Cup next and it is a good opportunity to give some players a rest, such as Alexis, and bring in some players who need game time, like Ozil and Theo Walcott.

Manchester City Preview

Yesterday’s results were not kind to us at all as the teams around us all won. Today we have to try and break our duct of not winning against another top 4 team and I personally feel it is doable. We have players coming back into the squad, who can make a difference, but on the other side of that we have more woeful defensive injuries.

The squad picks itself with the only uncertain starter being the goalkeeper. Ospina done well in his match against Stoke but he wasn’t tested, does he keep his place or will Szczesny start after being given some ‘time for thought’. I’d rather we kept with Ospina as our defence looked more assured with him commanding the box but you never know what will happen when Wenger throws out these kind of quotes:

“I do not know if it is a ‘wake­-up call’ for Wojciech. Sometimes it helps when you can have a little breather; you re-­focus and get yourself together. I think he is a great goalkeeper and will have a great career.”

 

With Debuchy out for 8-14 weeks, thanks to Stoke’s thuggery, I think Chambers will get the nod over Bellerin due to his physical presence although I wouldn’t be adverse to Bellerin starting. Central pairing will be Mertesacker and Koscielny with Monreal on the left.

People who think the midfield will be a tricky choice are over thinking it, due to the players who have just returned from injury. Cazorla has to start due to the form he is in and I think he will be partnered by Ramsey, mainly due to his work ethic, unless he is not fully fit and then Rosicky will come in. The holding role has to be taken by Coquelin as he has been extremely impressive since returning from Charlton.

Chamberlain has improved over recent weeks and needs these games to take steps forward in his career, so I expect him to start out wide of Giroud with Alexis the other side. We definitely have the ability and firepower to score but will we be able to concede less than we score? The key in his match will be retaining possession in midfield and not letting City catch us on the break whilst we send everyone forward.

I believe City will be missing  Nasri and Yaya Toure so we’ll most likely be lining up against Fernando and Fernandinho. I’ve not been impressed by Fernando and he is also prone to making rash challenges so we may see players taking him on often. Joe Hart is also prone to a few goalkeeping clangers so long range efforts may be given the green light today.

Stoke Preview: In Need of a Win

With certain results going our way yesterday we have the chance to leapfrog Spurs back into 5th position. Also depending on the Southampton result later in the day against Manchester United we could be level on points with the former.

This time of the year in the season always feels slightly weird as we play some teams twice in short succession, in today’s case it is Stoke. We always struggle when we play Stoke away, and this season in particular was one that was embarrassing, but our record at home against Stoke is fairly positive. We have every chance to win today and hopefully the players seize the opportunity to overtake the Middlesex club in the table.

We have several players back in contention today. Ozil, who I feel we have missed more than we care to admit with his creativity and ability to retain the ball when we need to keep it, and Ramsey. The Welshman has had a woeful season thus far, not just with injuries but his form when fit has been the Ramsey of old. He just can’t seem to keep the ball or tries to do too much. After his antics last season he seems to want to be the player going forward and scoring all the time, of which there is no harm in that but only when done at the correct time.

I’d personally leave Ramsey on the bench today as last time he played against Stoke he pulled out of a lot of crucial challenges and puts the team at risk. If we want to  beat Stoke then we need a team who will get stuck in and play as a collective unit. I’d like to see a midfield consisting of Coquelin, Cazorla and Rosicky but Wenger will probably play Ramsey of the Czech.

Up front Giroud returns from his, extremely silly, suspension and will be flanked by Alexis Sanchez. Will Theo play on the other side? I’m not quite sure if this is the type of game he should be starting after just returning from a lengthy injury. Or will he start Ozil on the left or even Cazorla to make room for Ramsey? We’ll have to wait and see.

Defence picks itself for me with Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Debuchy. The biggest question of the day is who will start in goal? After all the speculation around Szczesny’s smoking antics and alleged dressing room “bust up”, Ospina is the obvious choice but I think Wenger will bring Szczesny back in. Mainly because he has played against Stoke before and knows what sort of antics he’ll be up against.

Brief one today as we kick off at 13:30 and I’ll be leaving soon. I’ll do a news and transfer gossip summary soon for all you chin waggers out there.

Hull Preview: FA Cup Defence Begins

Today we begin our journey to try to retain the FA Cup and funnily enough it is against the runners up. Like last season, this is our best chance of winning a trophy. Last season we were top of the league in January, after holding top spot for nearly 6 months, but then capitulated in post 2006 Arsenal fashion. What happened to that consistency this season as we started early?

With Podolski now on loan at Inter Milan we are even shorter with options up front, until our injuries come back. Giroud is still out through suspension, Sanogo and Welbeck are also both still injured. I’ll cover my thoughts on Podolski’s move later in the post.

So who will start up front? I personally think Chuba Akpom should get the nod over Alexis for the central position. Akpom is more physically imposing and can play the role of a target man, one of which we can cross the ball into too. Against the more physical teams, such as Hull, you need a presence up front and then you can play your tricky danger men around him. Alexis and Theo will probably start either side of him. Joel Campbell may get is customary 5 minutes of playing time in the 85th minute regardless of the score.

We tried playing Chambers and Coquelin as a midfield partnership but it didn’t seem to work too well. I think we’ll see Chambers drop to the  bench and Oxlade-Chamberlain coming back into the middle to link the play between defence and attack. Coquelin should retain his role as the deepest of the midfielders due to his previous performances. Depending on Rosicky’s fitness it will be a toss up between him and Cazorla for the number 10 role.

David Ospina, fresh back from an injury, starts in goal today. There were mutterings on Twitter that his is in response to Szczesny’s poor performance and decision-making against Southampton but this move was planned long before that. We always rotate our keeper for cup games. One thing that did baffle me was why he wasn’t on the bench against Southampton? He’s our number 2 who is supposed to be challenging Szczesny for the main keeping spot, yet was outed for Martinez.

So…Podolski. The Polish born German is a firm fan favourite and has a cult status around him due to his antics on social media. Just because people like him as a person, and he is a really nice guy, you can’t just put him in the team. Yes he scores goals when he plays but there is more to a game of football than just scoring with a hammer of a left foot. He is extremely one footed and can be taken out the game by only showing him onto his right. He rarely tracks back to cover his left back and when played as a central striker he just can’t play with his back to goal. I really wanted him to succeed at Arsenal but the traits he had at Bayern Munich remained whilst he was at Arsenal. He just doesn’t fit our system which involves the entire team working together. I wish him the best of luck at Inter and then whatever team decides to buy him in the summer.

As for the timing of the transfer, it is a bit odd considering we have a game today with a lack of striking options but Inter wanted him for their match on Tuesday against Juventus. It also frees up £100k a week wages for someone, or two, to come into the squad. Also if Sanogo and Campbell leave on loan then it is a good indication of our intention to sign multiple players this window. I’ll leave you with this quote from one of Podolski’s former managers.

“I am happy that Podolski has left Cologne,” Vogts said. “He had too many friends in the city. He got praised as a great runner if he ever got back to defend three times in a game.”

“He got an easy ride and he believed his own publicity. But now he has a coach at Arsenal in Arsene Wenger who will make him work hard in training as well as matches. 

If Podolski fails to train properly twice or three times he won’t get games. That is the way to develop him into a true professional.”

 

 

 

 

 

Southampton 2-0 Arsenal: Same Old Arsenal

Just as everyone was thinking we had turned a corner going into the new year, Arsenal decide to bring us back to reality. After consecutive 2-1 victories we travelled to Southampton feeling optimistic, especially since Southampton had entered a bad patch of form. Instead we shot ourselves in the foot with a calamitous display of defending and goalkeeping.

Everyone was talking about Chambers coming in to play at defensive midfield alongside Coquelin, who has been a positive since returning to the club. Could it be the start of something special? Nope, well at least not in this match anyway.

Up front we had no ruthlessness or clinical players. As I said the other day, we get into goal scoring positions then shoot direct at the keeper or over the bar. Santi Cazorla had a superb chance to make it 0-1 but shot straight at Forster, you feel that if it was a player at another club then he would have buried it.

Welbeck was missing through injury, Giroud missing through his stupidity and Podolski missing because he is finalising his deal to Inter Milan. We ended playing Alexis Sanchez as our central striker, which can work in the correct style of play, but we didn’t utilise him. We kept playing it out wide to fire high balls into the box. Why? Why are we crossing high balls to a 5 foot 6 striker with no one around him?

We looked lethargic as the team ran about with a lack of energy and passion. Chamberlain had a few bursts but very rarely did he manage to keep the ball or lay it off. Alexis Sanchez busted a gut trying to chase down everything but was getting nowhere. With the Manchester United result going out way, earlier in the day, we had a chance to go one point behind them. You’d think the team would be eager to make up that ground.

Wojciech Szczesny, after coming out the week before that he now feels more confident and in control of his area, showed us why he is not ready to be number 1 at a top 4 club yet. Koscielny lost a battle of strength out wide with Mane and Szczesny came charging out to close down the angle. Again I have to ask why. Why would you come charging out like that when your defender still had him along the byline. Before Szczesny could get back in goal Mane had curled it into the empty net.

Mertesacker tried to make a (slow) dash back to the line to clear the effort but was just couldn’t make it. Here’s another thought, why didn’t Mertesacker see that Szczesny was out of position and head straight for the goal line to cover his keeper? Yes there was a player in the box that Mane could have crossed to but if he was on the line he then could have come and attacked the cross.

The players heads then went down, apart from Alexis, and no one looked up for the fight. This shows the clear lack of leadership on the pitch as no one wants to be the one who stands up and shakes the players up. Where was the encouragement going to come from? Wenger rarely stands up on the touchline and shouts at the players as he believes in leaving the players to play their game. This only worked with previous squads because they had leaders / strong characters in the mix.

If you thought the first goal was shambolic then it was only about to get worse with the next. Southampton cross into the 6 yard box which Debuchy cut out, then our defenders just seemed to stop. Instead of Debuchy just hoofing the ball clear Szczesny decided to flick his leg at the ball and it trickled straight to Tadic who made it 2-0.

There was 20 minutes left to play, plus injury time, but we didn’t bring on our striking options in Akpom and Campbell, until the 84th minute. It was as if Wenger had given up and accepted the defeat already. Fans were going mental with frustration at our lack of urgency and scripted subs. Theo Walcott came on early in the second half but didn’t get a touch of the ball until after 10 minutes of wandering about.

After the dismal performance, Wenger said:

“We did not defend well enough in the final third, and we paid a heavy price for it today. I am disappointed because there was at least a draw in the game, and if we were better defensively we could have won it. We have given a lot, I cannot fault the attitude of the team but we were again haunted by the ghost of what we seen since the start of the season.”

 

“There was at least a draw in the game”, really? There could have possibly been a draw if we made our offensive changes earlier in the match as our team were clearly lacking up front. We are plagued with injuries and it has been destroying our results, more than previous seasons.

“Cannot fault the attitude of the team”. Their attitude looked poor and uninterested at times. As I said above, we concede and heads go down and all morale is lost, that is not the attitude of title contenders or cup winners. Show some bottle.

We signed Ospina, in the summer, to compete with Szczesny and not just be a number 2 goalkeeper. These are Wenger’s quotes from back n August

“‘You know at the start Szczensy will be the No. 1, then again we’ll be down to performances and, if Ospina shows that he is better, he will play”

I think it’s time for Wenger to back up that statement and drop Szczesny for Ospina for the foreseeable future, until the Pole shows signs of improvement, and not just wish a selfie stick. Over the last 8 years we have had atrocious goalkeepers coming through. Almunia and Fabianski being the main culprits but now Szczesny is showing similar flaws. There’s only one common denominator and that is the dinosaur of a goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton. Think it may be time for a fresh approach there too.

Southampton Preview: New Year New Injuries

For the conspiracy theorists amongst our fans, Schneiderlin will miss today’s match against us due to picking up a second yellow and getting sent off against Chelsea. He has now missed both of Southampton’s matches against us this season which adds fuel to the transfer fire due to our view to signing him during the Summer. Everyone knows we need a CB and DM and are making the obvious conclusion.

After picking up two straight 2-1 wins against opponents, in a less than comfortable manner, we travel to Southampton hoping to extend our winning streak to three in a row. There are some fresh concerns surrounding our forward line as early reports suggest Welbeck and Podolski are out injured and Joel Campbell will be getting a start up front.

Welbeck I could understand being out injured as there have been a few times where he looked like he had been holding his hamstring during matches and had to be substituted. Podolski being injured, I believe, goes slightly deeper. Rumours doing the rounds state he stormed out of training yesterday over not getting enough playing time, so put himself on the injury list with a groin strain. How true this is I don’t know.

We all love Podolski for his high spirits, cheerfulness on social media and his goal scoring antics through his thunderous left foot, but there are aspects which get overlooked with his game. He doesn’t have the stamina to last 90 minutes in the more intense games in the Premiership and this results in him not always tracking back to cover his left back. If we played another system he could be perfect for us and starting more often but he doesn’t fit our current setup.

So if the reports are true then we could lineup like this (If Theo still isn’t fit to start):

Szczesny

Debuchy -Koscielny – Mertesacker – Gibbs/Monreal

Flamini – Coquelin/Rosicky – Cazorla

Campbell – Alexis – Chamberlain