Friday, 26 May 2017

End On A High: FA Cup Final Preview

Arsenal will face Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday to bring down the curtain on what's been a disappointing season, but the Gunners can bow out on a high note. If Arsenal are able to defeat the champions of England, it will go some way towards healing the wounds of this testing 2016/17 campaign.

With all of the uncertainty hanging over the club at the moment still occupying the thoughts of most fans, the real focus should be on who Arsene Wenger will be selecting for the final. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has a full squad at his disposal whereas Arsenal have some glaring issues to address, namely at centre back. With Laurent Koscielny picking up a needless suspension thanks to a straight red card in the final league game of the season, and Gabriel stretchered off the pitch with a long-term knee injury in the same match, the boss has a situation on his hands. Combine the absence of Koscielny and Gabriel with the fact that Shkodran Mustafi is suffering from concussion and could be a major doubt to play, and we're now in the midst of a full-blown selection crisis.

So who can Wenger choose?

Club captain Per Mertesacker is finally back to full fitness after missing the entire season with a knee injury. He came on as a sub against Everton at the weekend but should he feature against Chelsea, he'll still be extremely rusty. Mertesacker is as experienced as they come, a real veteran who has played in some of the most high-stakes games imaginable, but this would really be chucking him in the deep end. At the very least, his leadership skills will be valuable in such a big game.

Rob Holding is likely to be a certain choice. The young Englishman has been in impressive form over the the final weeks of the season and nothing has fazed him since he was thrust back into first team action. I fully expect him to be at the heart of things in defence on Saturday.

With Wenger's recent transition to a back three in defence, the other choice would likely be Nacho Monreal. Not considered a natural centre back, the Spaniard has performed admirably in the position when called upon, and I'm sure Monreal will get the call once again.

The choice of who to play on the wings to support the back three presents yet another problem. Kieran Gibbs, the natural choice on the left, is also struggling with his own fitness issue. Gibbs has yet to return to training this week. Thankfully there are no injury concerns on the right flank, just a tactical headache instead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a revelation since adopting the wing back role in April, showing flashes of the player the club hoped he would develop into, and he's worked hard to recover from a recent hamstring injury. Alternatively Wenger could opt for Hector Bellerin, who has struggled a lot this season but has been closer to his usual self in the past few games. Defensively Bellerin would make the most sense, but Oxlade-Chamberlain can offer that bit more in attack.

The rest of the team should pick themselves, with the only real question mark being whether to start Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck as the focal point of the attack. We are all familiar with what Giroud can offer and, love him or hate him, the guy is a proven-goal scorer (and he's knocked in a couple at Wembley before). Welbeck on the other hand might trouble the Chelsea backline a bit more than Giroud would, thanks to his pace and movement in the channels. If he's fully fit I'd opt for Welbeck to start the game, as Giroud has been effective this season off the bench.

Alexis Sanchez has been a bit of an uncertainty this week with his own fitness problem, but you'd have to build a wall to keep him from playing at Wembley. The ever-tenacious Sanchez will be chomping at the bit to play his part in such a crucial match. On Wednesday, Wenger said: "He needs to go through some tests at the moment and we’ll see how well he comes out of that. Knowing the player, knowing his character and knowing his commitment to the club, which I don’t question at all, he’ll make absolutely everything to be fit for Saturday."

I've seen quite a few pieces about how this could be Sanchez's final game in an Arsenal shirt. I don't think he will leave this summer, but I've been wrong about this before. I also think the outcome of Saturday's game might play some part towards whether he stays or goes. I think I'm in the minority of Arsenal fans when it comes to Sanchez's situation; I don't care very much what he chooses to do. If he stays I'll support him still, and celebrate his goals. If he leaves, I'll shrug my shoulders and focus on who might replace him, rather than mourn his departure. The thing I always talk about with Sanchez is, he's one of the most frustrating superstar Arsenal players I've ever seen, perhaps the most frustrating. I cannot stand his constant need to prove to everyone how skillful he is and the way he takes unnecessary risks in dangerous areas. The amount of times he gives away possession drives me crazy, and I think for a player of his ability and intelligence, he can be better. But then he'll perform a piece of magic or come up with the winning goal and all if forgiven. It drives me nuts. I appreciate players of his calibre are designed to take the riskiest option in order to gain the highest reward, but for Christ's sake Sanchez, just pass the ball sometimes, please?

If it was me (and Mustafi misses out), this would be the first eleven I would opt for:


Holding - Mertesacker - Monreal

Oxlade-Chamberlain - Ramsey - Xhaka - Gibbs

Ozil - Alexis


And finally, will this be Arsene Wenger's final game in charge? After 20 years of service, will it all come to a close on Saturday? Part of me would love to see him bow out in glory, winning one more trophy, his seventh FA Cup. Riding off into the sunset with a cup under his arm is definitely the way to go, should he choose to. I honestly think regardless of what the result is, he will not leave. There'll be a vocal portion of the fanbase outraged if he doesn't go but I just don't see him letting go of the reins until he's good and ready. He'll do it on his terms.

Despite Chelsea being considered the favourites on Saturday, especially considering Arsenal's awful defensive situation, I just hope the Gunners can cause an upset. We've had a very good record at the new Wembley, and in this competition in recent times. Let's put this difficult year behind us and end the season on a high.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ozil Obliterates Ludogorets

Wednesday 19 October 2016
Arsenal 6 Ludogorets 0

Arsenal demolished the Bulgarian champions tonight in a relentless display of football, running out 6-0 victors in this Champions League tie.

The Gunners opened the scoring with a delightful Alexis Sanchez chip, a Bergkamp-esque lob over the Ludogorets keeper to make it 1-0 to the hosts. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, getting the start on the wing ahead of youngster Alex Iwobi, played Sanchez onside and the Chilean feinted his defender before lofting the ball over goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov to give Arsenal an early lead. A beautiful finish and one of the Sanchez's finest in an Arsenal shirt.

But the Bulgarians didn't give up and tested David Ospina a couple of times. The visitors gave the Arsenal defence something to think about and made sure the Gunners took them seriously.

However, in the 42nd minute Theo Walcott took aim from outside the box, and curled an unstoppable effort past the Ludogorets keeper to extend the lead. The Englishman is in a rich vein of form and can't put a foot wrong at the moment. At half time with the score 2-0, the game looked to be past the Bulgarians but the Gunners weren't finished just yet.

With less than a minute gone in the second half, Arsenal poured forwards and the ball fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who side-footed the ball perfectly into the corner to make it 3-0. The game was over at this stage but a certain German playmaker wanted more.

Mesut Ozil took the second half by the scruff of the neck and made the game all about him, netting a sumptuous hat trick. It was the first hat trick of the midfielder's career and he took each goal with confidence, especially his third, a volley in the 87th minute. Ozil deservedly took home the match ball after one of his finest Champions League performances. For a player not known for his finishing ability, to net a European hat trick is some accomplishment. I could definitely get used to Ozil scoring on a regular basis.

Arsenal now top Group A on goal difference and have set themselves up nicely ahead of Saturday's game against Middlesbrough. I'll be at the Emirates this weekend for my second visit of the season, as I managed to get tickets in the Clock End. Here's hoping the Gunners can ride this momentum and keep pace in the league with another win.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tough Win At Turf Moor

Sunday 2 October 2016
Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

Arsenal left it very late but snatched all 3 points in a tough match against a spirited Burnley side, emerging as 1-0 victors to win their fifth game in a row and keep pace in the Premier League.

As Arsene Wenger celebrated 20 years' service at the club he has revolutionised, his team looked like they were still recovering from the party, as they struggled to breakdown an organised and stubborn Burnley unit. As the match drew to a close, both sides looked capable of snatching the winner but it was Arsenal who took their chance.

With seconds left in the match, an Arsenal corner was played short to Alexis Sanchez, whose whipped in cross found the head of Theo Walcott. The winger could only graze the ball but his effort fell to a free Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the back post, who struck the ball into captain Laurent Koscielny. It clearly struck Koscielny on the arm but the ball had found it's way into the back of the net and Arsenal had nicked it 1-0 with the last kick of the game. It's telling that Koscielny, a player who always gives everything for the club, was in that position (as he often is late in games), and got yet another crucial goal. He makes a habit of scoring these vital winners.

Turf Moor is not an easy place to get points (just ask Liverpool) and the home side can definitely feel aggrieved at today's result. It was an unfair result on Burnley, who had grafted hard for the point and deserved at least that. But Arsenal will not care one bit when they look back at this result come season's end. With Man City dropping their first points of the season to Tottenham, it was crucial Arsenal keep pace with the front runners and capitalise on City's misfortune.

They (whoever "they" are) say a team shows championship-winning qualities when matches are won despite not playing well. It's still very early in the season but perhaps Arsenal have shown some of that quality and character today. Only in May will we know how important today's victory might prove to be.

When the Gunners return from the international break they will host Swansea on Saturday 15 October and must beware complacency against the Welsh side, who have caused Arsenal a few problems at The Emirates in recent years. Let's hope all of our players return uninjured and can retain this winning momentum.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Rebirth Of Theo Walcott

Wednesday 28 September 2016
Arsenal 2 FC Basel 0

Off the back of a statement 3-0 win against Chelsea at the weekend, Arsenal rode that momentum into their second Champions League tie of the season against FC Basel and tore them apart in a dominant 2-0 victory.

The goals came courtesy of Theo Walcott, who looks like a new man this season. He now has 4 goals in his last 3 games, taking his overall tally to 5, a hot start to the new campaign for the Englishman. It's not just the goals, it's his confidence and the way he's become such an important cog in the attack. Theo has a habit of going missing in games, lost for long periods in matches, but this season he's been involved heavily in each of his appearances and tonight was no different. At the end of the first half he had the most touches of any Arsenal player and was a constant menace to the Basel defenders. Theo has always been one of those players that has hot and cold spells but so far this season he's brought a sense of consistency that was lacking last season. His link-up play with Alexis Sanchez tonight was impressive, as both forwards found each other regularly, particularly in that flawless first half.

Arsenal's first goal came after 7 minutes, from a pinpoint Santi Cazorla pass finding Sanchez close to the byline. Alexis controlled the ball perfectly and scooped the ball over the Basel defence into the path of Walcott who couldn't miss, heading home to give the Gunners the lead.

The second goal arrived 20 minutes later and felt inevitable. Walcott started a one-two with Sanchez who laid the ball back into Theo's path. The Englishman shifted between two Basel defenders into space and didn't hesitate. He put his head down and struck through the ball, giving the Basel keeper no chance.

In the second half Arsenal clearly relaxed. They still dominated possession but started to get a bit cute with their passing, a bit of showboating here and there. Basel finally came into the game but could only force Ospina into a couple of saves. You could see the Arsenal players had taken their foot off the gas, perhaps saving their energy ahead of the trip to Burnley on Sunday.

With a 2 goal cushion Arsenal kept pressing for another goal but the Basel keeper Vaclik kept the Swiss side from being on the wrong end of a rout. Sanchez in particular was unlucky not to find the back of the net but Ozil, Iwobi and a host of others should have done better in front of goal. If I have any negatives from tonight it was how wasteful we were after grabbing the 2-0 lead but that's nit-picking. Arsenal were in complete control from start to finish and that's all you can really ask for.

I can't fault any player tonight, as each and every one of them put in a real shift and hardly put a foot wrong. Despite my previous concerns earlier in the season about playing Sanchez as a lone striker, things seem to have clicked now. Whether the squad has adjusted to the change in tactics when the Chilean plays through the middle or maybe Sanchez himself has upped his game, whatever has happened is working wonders at the moment. Long may it continue.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Point Rescued In Paris

Tuesday 13 September 2016
Paris Saint-Germain 1 Arsenal 1

Arsenal's first Champions League game of the season didn't really go as planned but the result can be considered a successful one. The Gunners never really found their rhythm, with many players looking out of sync and off the pace but a 77th minute strike from Alexis Sanchez rescued a hard-fought point against French champions PSG.

Arsene Wenger chose an interesting starting eleven (to put it nicely), omitting Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud. David Ospina made his first start of the season and despite many fans before the game questioning the manager's decision, the choice paid off as Ospina was undoubtedly the man of the match and kept Arsenal in the game. He made multiple saves throughout, denying Edison Cavani on more than one occasion with point-blank saves. Arsenal could have been behind by 3 or 4 goals but for Ospina.

PSG scored early, before a minute had even passed, Cavani glancing a header home after Koscielny was caught too high up the pitch and Mustafi couldn't recover. Ospina had no chance, even Cech would have been helpless. It's clear after two games that Koscielny and Mustafi are still developing their chemistry, and it will take some time for them to form a partnership. But it was a really sloppy goal to concede defensively and the Arsenal defence should not have been so out of position after 40 seconds.

Arsenal didn't exactly respond with any urgency. Despite having a good deal of possession the Gunners were unable to seriously threaten and never troubled Alphonse Areola in the PSG goal. Yet again Alexis Sanchez was chosen to lead the line up front on his own and again it didn't work. I'm not sure why Wenger insists on this strategy, it hasn't worked in any of the games this season and Sanchez becomes far too isolated. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi flanked Sanchez on the wings but the trio couldn't link up effectively. The Ox had a great pre-season and started the season off with a marvelous solo goal against Liverpool but he has been very average ever since. Iwobi impressed but is still somewhat raw. He saw a great opportunity saved late on.

I just couldn't understand why Giroud was rested for the weekend game against Southampton but didn't start in his homeland in possibly the most important game of our Champions League group. Without a target man of any sort (Sanchez just isn't that kind of player) the team couldn't find any space to operate. When Giroud was introduced with just under half an hour left, it changed the game instantly and Sanchez became far more dangerous as a result. Unfortunately the Frenchman picked up a second yellow card deep into injury time after a needless clash with Marco Verratti, and both men were dismissed from the pitch and Giroud will be suspended for the next group game.

I didn't understand why Xhaka was left out of the lineup either; why was he rested on Saturday but then left out of the lineup last night? Coquelin was chosen instead and saw a lot of the ball, and was regularly getting forward. But isn't he supposed to be the defensive shield? Out of the two players at the base of the midfield it should have been Cazorla in those positions, the far superior offensive player. Again, the team's tactics didn't add up and PSG were happy to let us camp outside their box. Mesut Ozil, our superstar playmaker, had very little impact on the match and was largely disappointing as he could find no way to break down the PSG defence.

Ultimately Arsenal can count themselves fortunate to rescue a point from this fixture. I couldn't see any semblance of a plan or tactical strategy out there. This squad appears to be a huge work in progress. Arsenal face Hull at home on Saturday and could really do with a confidence-boosting win after a couple of lacklustre displays post-international break.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Referee Didn't Give Two Fuchs

Saturday 20 August 2016
Leicester 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal battled the reigning champions Leicester City to a 0-0 draw yesterday at the King Power Stadium. Arsenal had the better run of things for the majority of the game but can count themselves somewhat lucky. Mark Clattenburg, officiating his first Premier League game of the season, let Arsenal off the hook twice, once in each half, as Leicester had strong claims for penalties turned down.

Leicester, playing their first home game of the season, started slowly and Arsenal were on top from the very start. But the Gunners never seriously challenged Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being the only player to threaten, curling a shot just wide of the Leicester goal.

The home fans were in uproar minutes later as Danny Drinkwater was seemingly tripped in the box by Laurent Koscielny but the referee was having none of it. Replays indicate that Koscielny didn't get the ball but Drinkwater was looking for the spot-kick all day long and Clattenburg waved away the home side's appeals.

Leicester looked an improved side in the second half but still never really looked like challenging Petr Cech. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, both linked with the Gunners this summer, did little to make Arsenal fans feel as if they'd missed out, as both forwards were largely ineffective against the Arsenal back-line. Mahrez came closest for the hosts with a late effort, saved well by Cech. Just before that chance, Leicester had another penalty appeal turned down when Foxes new boy Ahmed Musa got the best of Hector Bellerin but went down in the area softly after minimal contact. I've seen those penalties given though, and Arsenal can count themselves fortunate that Clattenburg was in a generous mood for the visitors.

All in all it was a game between two very evenly matched sides who effectively cancelled each other out. You could tell both teams have studied each other well. Arsenal refused to let Leicester play that counter-attacking style they love and the hosts proved difficult to unlock as the Gunners continued to pass the ball around the opposition's penalty area, without ever piercing the defence.

Alexis Sanchez, playing up front as the sole striker for the second week in a row, failed to get into the game yet again. It's increasingly clear that Alexis, as supremely talented as he is, is not accustomed to leading the line and looks out of sorts in that position. He was so isolated, as he was against Liverpool, and he never really got going. There is no faulting his effort levels but he doesn't have the same impact as a striker and is completed wasted there. The fans' jeering at Arsene Wenger to spend some money on a new number 9 will continue for a while longer.

There were some positives for the Gunners though. Laurent Koscielny returned to the starting eleven and instantly settled the Arsenal back-four. He was unshakable in defence, and aside from that potential penalty tangle with Drinkwater, never put a foot wrong. His influence and authority on the team cannot be questioned and he gave a man of the match performance.

Rob Holding, making his second start for the club, was the main benefactor of Koscielny's return. Partnered with the experienced Frenchman, Holding looked confident and self-assured and kept the Leicester attackers at bay. The Arsenal boss said after the game: "Nobody speaks about the performance of Rob Holding today - he is English, he is 20 years old, you should be happy. But I am sorry he didn't cost £55m."

We also saw the return of Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. All three of them came off the bench and Ozil and Wilshere made an impact straight away. It was nice to see Jack back in the side, in this somewhat make-or-break season for him.

Arsenal's next test is another away game, this time at Watford on Saturday 27 August. The Hornets threw away a 1-0 lead over Chelsea yesterday, falling to them 2-1 late on. The Gunners will be looking to pick up their first win and should really have enough in them to beat Watford.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Opening Day Disappointment

Sunday 14 August 2016
Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4

My first trip to the Emirates this season didn't end the way I wanted it to. But the way I look at it, things could have been much, much worse.

First of all, the eagle-eyed among you will notice that photo above is from the away corner of the Clock End, the Liverpool end. What on earth was I doing in there you ask? My brother managed to get himself, my nephew and I three tickets courtesy of his New Balance connections. Amazing, right? Yes but the price we had to pay was to be surrounded by the opposition. I spent the entire match hemmed in by scousers who are about as fanatical as football fans get. It was actually quite enjoyable to begin with, and they were a lively bunch in good spirits, enjoying the magnificent British weather. But then the goals started going in, and the fun soon turned into horror...

Before we get to that, let's start at the beginning. I got into London around midday and naturally migrated to the shop to look at this season's new gear. I told myself repeatedly, "I don't need this season's home shirt, in fact I won't buy anything." That didn't last long.

My willpower was non-existent. Realistically I knew I would buy it but seeing them all lined up in the shop, I couldn't resist. They didn't have any pre-made with the new Cup numbering so I had this one made up. I'd never had a shirt printed with the European Cup badges before but had always wanted one. It looks pretty darn good in my opinion, especially that iconic Champions League badge. Why did I opt for Cazorla? Santi has been one of my favourite players for a long time, he's unbelievably skilled in possession and who doesn't love the guy, constantly smiling as he humiliates would-be defenders.

Even though I'd already spent way more than I intended, I continued to browse the store and spotted a potential birthday/Christmas present:

These new Puma rain jackets are lovely and much better quality than the similarly-priced stadium jackets. I have my eyes on this navy blue one in the near future. I'm keeping my fingers crossed some kind soul will gift me one before 2016 is over.

After meeting with my brother and nephew, we headed towards our turnstile. After entering the stadium, Arsenal shirt well and truly hidden beneath a jacket, we found our way into enemy territory. It was pretty warm by this point but the stewards recommended (demanded) I hide my shirt for the entire game, lest I incur the wrath of the travelling support. It was a definitely a good idea after what occurred next.

First Half

Arsenal started brightly and, I felt, controlled the half. The home side looked dangerous in attack and the makeshift centre-back duo of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding were holding their own (pun intended) in defence. Aerially they dominated against Liverpool's forward line and Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny did a very good job of screening the back four, cutting out attacks before they got too dangerous. Petr Cech was never seriously tested in goal. 

Thirty minutes into the match, Theo Walcott was brought down in the penalty area after a stupid challenge by Liverpool left-back and owner of terrible hair Alberto Moreno. I was surprised to see Theo grab the ball and take ownership of the penalty. I thought for sure Alexis Sanchez, the most experienced forward on the pitch, would surely take command. Instead Theo tamely put the ball to Simon Mignolet's right and it was a simple save for the goalkeeper in the end, at an easy height. The Liverpool fans burst into celebration around us and all I could do was bite my lip in frustration. 

Thankfully Theo was quick to make amends. Coquelin made a brilliant tackle to feed the ball into Alex Iwobi and the Nigerian youngster picked out Theo with a delightful pass. Walcott took a touch before firing home from a tricky angle and it was 1-0 to the Arsenal. I had to do everything in my power not to jump up and down and reveal myself. But typically Arsenal couldn't hold on. As the end of the first half neared, Liverpool earned a cheap free kick and the always dangerous Philippe Coutinho stepped up to take it. The Brazilian scored one of the most impressive free kicks in recent memory, perfectly curling the ball into the top corner and Cech had no chance. I'll admit, it's right up there with the best goals I've seen in person. 1-1 at half time and it was a gut punch to Arsenal. It's often said the worst time to concede is just before half time. Sadly for the Gunners, this proved to be true.

Second Half

Arsenal never recovered from that Coutinho free kick. Liverpool emerged early for the second half and never took their foot off the gas. Within minutes it was 2-1 to the visitors, Adam Lallana slotting home from the right. Liverpool didn't let up, with Coutinho notching his second of the day to make it 3-1. And not long after that Sadio Mane, the Reds' £35 million new signing, made it 4-1 with an impressive solo goal. Now just imagine what being 4-1 down felt like in the Liverpool end for a trio of stunned Arsenal fans. It was incredibly hard to hide my disappointment and anger as jubilant, and really drunk Merseysiders roared in celebration around me. The only silver lining? I have Coutinho in my fantasy team. Dude is some player, and Liverpool will be lucky to hold onto him.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, just on as a substitute, quickly started the comeback. At 4-1 down you have to think the game is over but the Ox gave Arsenal a lifeline with a superb goal, weaving through the Liverpool defence before beating Mignolet at his near post to make it 4-2. Arsenal continued to press for another goal and were rewarded 10 minutes later when Chambers glanced in a header to bring the home side within a goal of snatching an unlikely draw. But it wasn't to be and Arsenal just could not find that extra something to seriously threaten the visitors again. Liverpool saw the game out and delivered Arsenal their first loss of the season, in their very first game.

Post-Match Thoughts

I could not believe how much better Liverpool were in the second half. Equally, I couldn't understand how Arsenal could be so off the pace. Arsenal just couldn't deal with Liverpool's pressing, their tenacity, their level of effort. The Reds put in a total team effort and blitzed the home team. Coquelin and Elneny were totally bypassed in midfield and the inexperienced partnership of Chambers and Holding stood no chance. Alexis cut a forlorn figure up front, starved of service and unable to challenge for any ball above his head. He was wasted as a striker, unable to influence the game much at all.

To rub salt in the wound, the Gunners lost both Aaron Ramsey and Iwobi to injuries. Ramsey's hamstring reared it's ugly head yet again, an injury that repeatedly scuppers his Arsenal career. Reports are that he will miss a month, and Iwobi's thigh injury is still to be determined in terms of his absence. I thought Ramsey had an impressive first half playing in the number 10 role he would love to claim as his own, so it's such a shame to lose him again and not witness what he could bring to that position.

I was amazed that Arsene Wenger didn't opt to start Oxlade-Chamberlain. After a hugely successful pre-season, the English winger looked a certainty to start but the boss opted for Walcott instead. All credit to Theo, he put the penalty miss behind him and took his goal well, but he contributed very little otherwise. The impact the Ox made immediately upon entering the game just made me think what could have been if he'd started.

I was also surprised to see new acquisition Granit Xhaka not get the start. I can fully understand why Wenger opted for Elneny and Coquelin instead. With such a young and inexperienced centre-back duo, it made sense to give them as much defensive midfield protection as possible. But I felt Xhaka could have done that job also, as well as providing that extra bit of technique in attack. I thought the Swiss midfielder impressed in his 20+ minutes and you could see immediately his physicality and leadership qualities, even in such a short amount of gametime. As the match was in it's dying minutes, right in front of us, Xhaka shunted Jordan Henderson in the chest and you just wanted to fist-pump right there and then and shout, "get in there lad!" He's definitely going to pick up a red card or two this year, but I love his grit and moxie already.


All in all I enjoyed the day (for someone of modest means, every visit to the Emirates is a day out to be savored) but the result was pretty terrible. It could have been much worse at 4-1 and at least the boys showed character to attempt the comeback and avoid total humiliation. However the squad is so obviously lacking in depth and talent in defence and attack, with midfield being the only area of strength. Signings must be made or it'll be another squandered season.

We left the Emirates and headed into the city, turning up at Bodean's in Soho for some barbecue. This cheered us up and was exactly what was needed after a difficult afternoon of football. I had the Boss Hot Dog and a strawberry shake and both were incredible. Check out the size of this dog:

Yep, that's pulled pork, bacon, and cheese. Mega.


Arsenal now travel to the home of the champions Leicester City, who also suffered an opening day defeat, away to relegation-favourites Hull City. Both teams will be looking to prove a point and put their first game behind them, and I can see it being a difficult game for the Gunners. I still like our chances, especially against a Leicester side who look like they haven't solved replacing midfield cornerstone N'Golo Kanté quite yet. The Foxes look vulnerable and Arsenal must capitalize on this and take their chances. We did the double against Leicester last season so let's hope we can continue our winning ways, even if they are the defending champions.

Thanks for reading.