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Hello all, apologies for not being around much of late. The regulars know why and I thank you for your understanding. Enough of that. Have unexpectedly reached the first pivotal day in the Arsenal season.

Think about it. A draw tomorrow will cost us one of the two opportunities we have to clinch a Champions League berth next season. It’s an early evening kick-off which will thin the crowd out rather more than any growing apathy among the fan base. It’s a big evening for The Arsenal, it’s a big evening for Unai Emery, and hopefully a big night for Mesut Ozil, of whom the manager has said ahead of the game,

“He’s working very well this week and I asked him in our conversation to be consistent, to be available for training. I said that when you can train with us consistently you can help us with your best performance in the games.”

Petr Cech should retain his place in goal and will Unai put his faith in a back four to create room for an Ozil recall? Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal can do a job for us with support from a pairing of Matteo Guendouzi at the base of midfield. A trio of creative midfielders could provide the ammunition for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the absence of the suspended Alexandre Lacazette. What about Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Iwobi?

We know from last week that Skavysh is the most likely to create the opportunities for Serbian striker Milic. Deploying Torreira and Iwobi as cover beside and in front of Monreal may nullify that threat. Everything crossed here.

The ‘holic pound

This will be a nervous evening if we do not get our attacks in behind what is sure to be numbers in defence. A two goal margin is required and I am lured in by the 11/2 on offer for the bookies favourite, 2-0 to The Arsenal.

Enough for one night. I am away to for prescribed rest and relaxation.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

 

Unai Emery opted to start with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi rather than Denis Suarez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as predicted here in the preview.

We came so close to taking a second minute lead when Sead Kolasinac was played in on the left flank and from his cross Mkhitaryan could only find the chest of the onrushing goalkeeper. Three minutes later a Shkodran Mustafi header drifted past Laurent Koscielny and, sadly, the far post.

Granit Xhaka was the early recipient of a yellow card for pulling back Skavysh on eight minutes. That left a lot of time for him to have to be careful in the tackle. The productive Kolasinac supplied another cross for Iwobi but once more Scherbitski in the Bate goal was able to save at the expense of a corner.

The game settled into a pattern with The Arsenal largely dominating. Matteo Guendouzi screamed for a penalty when his cross was blocked by what appeared to be a trailing arm, then Alexandre Lacazette headed an Iwobi cross over the bar at the far post. The striker was then sent racing clear by Guendouzi but his first touch wasn’t up to his usual standard and the chance was gone.

We had a warning shot across the bows when Skavysh left Guendouzi for dead on the goal-line and crossed for Milic to flick against the near post. We had to withstand a spell of pressure from the hosts before almost striking back with a Kolasinac header that was blocked to safety. Mkhitaryan then wriggled into the box but his cross was behind Lacazette. Another opportunity fell to Kolasinac but his volley from an acute angle sliced wide of the target.

We paid for our inability to finish with the last meaningful action of the first-half. Dragun escaped his marker Kolasinac, to flick a header home from a Stasevich free-kick. We had only ourselves to blame.

As in the first-half we started the second on the front foot. Mustafi saw his tame effort on the turn easily blocked before Alex Iwobi fired a cross a fraction too high for Lacazette. Bate appeared to be happy to sit bodies deep and starve us the space to exploit. We thought we had a 56th minute equaliser but Lacazette’s joy at finishing was cut short by the raised offside flag of the assistant referee.

Alex Hleb, anonymous throughout, was replaced by Berezkin as Bate looked to strengthen their midfield resistance. He had not lasted an hour but avoided a booking that would have ruled him out of the second leg next week. On a rare break Stasevich attempted a finish from distance which Petr Cech parried out in front of goal but fortunately no other Bate players had joined the break. Encouraged they attacked again and Koscielny hard to dive at full stretch to clear from Milic.

The overdue introduction of Aubameyang and Lucas Torreira for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Xhaka arrived with a little over twenty minutes remaining. Bate sent on Dubajic for Milic and his first ‘challenge’ on Koscielny earned him a deserved yellow card.

Kolasinac found himself with another opportunity to blast a volley at goal but as earlier he missed the target and found himself replaced by Suarez. Unai Emery had used his three substitutions. The poor quality of corner kicks were not helping our cause. For all that were were dominating possession we were not fashioning any clear chances and a somewhat embarrassing defeat was looming ever closer.

A bad night turned disastrous when Lacazette retaliated to a foul and was sent off for elbowing Filipovic, himself the recipient of a yellow for the original challenge. It was a moment that ended any realistic hope we had of levelling the match.

This was as poor a performance as we have seen under Unai Emery. Can he continue to ignore his key playmaker for much longer? It’s a situation that cannot be allowed to fester.

The Arsenal jetted out to Belarus this afternoon (Wednesday) for tomorrow’s match against Bate Borisov in the Europa League round of 32. It is a strong squad and there seems little doubt that Unai Emery is using the lack of a fixture this coming weekend to give his first team squad a good work-out.

Looking at the eighteen who have travelled my guess, and it’s no more than that obviously, would be Petr Cech starting behind a back three of Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal. Wing backs Ainsley Maitland Niles and Sead Kolasinac could flank a pairing of Granit Xhaka and possibly Matteo Guendouzi.

The attacking trio will be interesting. Denis Suarez could be in line for a first start behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. That would leave the bench looking a good blend of youth and experience. Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichsteiner, Lucas Torreira, Mohamed Elneny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, and Eddie Nketiah.

Interestingly neither Sokratis Papastathopoulos or Mesut Özil made the plane despite taking part in training today. The former may be a sensible precaution but the latter is once again provoking Chinese whispers on social media. Aaron Ramsey did not recover from his knee injury in time and obviously we are also missing long term absentees Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, and Danny Welbeck.

One other face who will be there is Alexandr Hleb, late of this parish before jetting off to the sunny side of the street in Barcelona. At 37 he is surely nearing the end of a long career of unfulfilled promise. It is effectively the close season for the hosts as Hleb himself admitted.

“The usual preparation is under way. We held a training camp in Turkey and got into shape, as far as possible at the current stage. It is clear that we did not achieve ideal conditions in such a short time. We are not yet ready 100 per cent, but the coaching staff decided not to force anything, realising that the guys had to rest after a hard season.”

The ‘holic pound

We played Bate last season in the group stage winning 10-2 on aggregate. Given their lack of competitive football (The Belarusian season is in the summer due to the inclement weather in winter) the bookies are heavily into a Gunners win by a handsome margin. The champions of Belarus for the last thirteen years are 8/1 to win and 4/1 to draw the match.

Has Unai brought a strong team to kill the tie in the first leg? I have looked for my usual value punt and have taken a boosted 45/1 against us winning 1-5. Now watch us struggle to a 0-1.

Win a North Bank print

It’s competition time on Goonerholic again and we are delighted to offer Twitter ‘holics the opportunity to win this wonderful North Bank print from Matthew J I Wood Design & Illustration.

It is one of a range of atmospheric Highbury prints on sale at matthewjiwood.com and this one is just what I need for the North end of the box room/studio/editing suite!

Thanks to Matthew for letting one lucky Gooner win a copy. In order to be in the hat just retweet the pinned tweet at the top of my profile page on Twitter, then follow @matthewjiwood and @TheGoonerholic. We will pick the lucky winner after the competition closes at midday GMT on Saturday.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

It’s competition time on Goonerholic again and we are delighted to offer Twitter ‘holics the opportunity to win this wonderful North Bank print from Matthew J I Wood Design & Illustration.

It is one of a range of atmospheric Highbury prints on sale at matthewjiwood.com and this one is just what I need for the North end of the box room/studio/editing suite!

Thanks to Matthew for letting one lucky Gooner win a copy. In order to be in the hat just retweet the pinned tweet at the top of my profile page on Twitter, then follow @matthewjiwood and @TheGoonerholic. We will pick the lucky winner after the competition closes at midday GMT on Saturday.

Good luck, all.

There were a few surprises when the team sheet was published an hour before kick-off at Huddersfield. Our attacking options were restricted by a knee injury to Aaron Ramsey, and illness ruling out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil. Granit Xhaka was also ruled out with a groin problem.

We welcomed back Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Henrykh Mkhitaryan after injury. Mohamed Elneny deputised for Xhaka. I chose to have a breather after the match so as to consider what to write about a seemingly disappointing performance despite the fact that we completed a league double over the Terriers for the second consecutive season.

For much of the match we were on the back foot which attracted some hostile commentary on social media. Huddersfield may be rock bottom of the Premier League but they do play decent football. Clearly their main issue is lacking a goalscorer in the side. Remember we only broke them down with a late Lucas Torreira strike at home.

We survived a hairy start and took the lead, having taken more control of the game, when Sead Kolasinac crossed from the left for Alex Iwobi to volley home with the aid of a deflection off Kongolo in the seventeenth minute. It was a goal that hopefully will restore confidence to a young player who needs to be more consistent.

The decision to revert to a back three was vindicated as we came under pressure, but didn’t buckle, for long spells. That pressure was often created by us being dispossessed or, more worryingly, misplacing a number of passes. We had to be grateful for Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac raiding down the flanks to give us hope of a further strike. It arrived when Maitland-Niles found himself clear and his excellent pass provided the hard-working Alexandre Lacazette with goal number twelve of the season.

The second-half was a tough watch, if I am being totally honest. We had to be grateful to Nacho Monreal for a goal-line clearance, and Laurent Koscielny for saving us when Leno palmed one into the centre of the area in front of him.

One can understand the frustrations expressed by some on social media, and yet we surely have to take into account the fact that we are just seven months into the Unai Emery era, and that the head coach was seriously hampered by missing eight players today.

Emery is already being criticised by a few for not making clearer the style he is trying to play. He deserves more patience but it is somewhat confusing to see us constantly changing formations. A back four last week, a three this week. A conventional four one week then a diamond the next. One striker early season and the switch to two up front. It hasn’t helped us to develop any consistency.

At the same time it is fair to say that almost certainly Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos would be starting in defence if fit. Granit Xhaka and either Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil could be starting in midfield. Aubameyang would have been a shoe-in too. Instead a makeshift squad team dug in and repelled a busy home team until the last minutes when the unfortunate Kolasinac denied us a first clean-sheet away from home in the Premier League with an own goal.

Had Huddersfield nicked an equaliser the pitchforks would have been out in force but we saw the game out and notched up a much needed three points on the road. A word for Denis Suarez, surely about to make his first Gunners start in the Europa League against Bate Borisov, came on for a cameo and looked a little more assured than at Manchester City. He appears to be settling in well. Let’s hope he continues to grow into the player Unai Emery believes he is.

Art of Football Competition Winner

Congratulations to Eileen (@gooner1156) who correctly answered that Gunnersaurus made his bow at the club in 1994. The excellent Art of Football will be in touch for your details, Eileen. Thanks to all who entered. If you were unlucky you can still order an excellent tee, sweat, or print here.

“We started very well away, changing also our mentality to get more points away, but now we need to recover this confidence, to recover this performance, and the next opportunity is Saturday against Huddersfield.”

Unai Emery’s honest assessment of our recent away form as we prepare to play the Premier League’s basement club away from home. Huddersfield have just one point from their last twelve matches and they currently lie thirteen points shy of safety. New head coach Jan Siewert conceded that “We have had a problem with scoring”.

The Terriers have failed to score in any of their last five matches in all competitions, and have not featured on the scoreboard in more than half of their 25 league matches this season. Does anybody else have a fear of the law of averages? We haven’t kept a clean sheet on the road in the League this season.

We could have additional options open to us this weekend. Bernd Leno starting in goal is a given, and let’s hope Ainsley Maitland-Niles is fit enough to return at right-back. If we started with a back four against Manchester City it is likely we will do the same this weekend. Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny should both be fit to start with possibly Sead Kolasinac replacing Nacho Monreal at left-back (I wouldn’t do that but think Unai Emery might).

Will we stick with a flat four or a diamond in midfield? Granit Xhaka is back in training and could sit behind Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi with Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil playing behind a front pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Henrikh Mkhitaryan played 45 minutes for the U23s on Monday night and hopefully will be on the bench with new boy Denis Suarez.

It took a late Torreira strike to clinch a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture two months ago. Last season we were rather more convincing winning the Herbert Chapman derby 5-0 at home and 1-0 in Yorkshire in Arsene Wenger’s last match in charge of the Gunners.

The ‘holic pound

The law of sod suggests that Huddersfield will score a rare goal tomorrow, and probably the first one just to light the blue touchpaper on social media. We do have the firepower to come back at them and if we have a playmaker operating behind the front two we should score goals too. I am taking 13/1 against a 1-3 away win having consulted a very fine footballing mind.

Win An Art of Football Highburysaurus Tee

A reminder that you have until kick-off time on Saturday to get in your entry for the Art of Football competition.

To win one of these quality tees just follow @TheGoonerholic and @Art_of_Football on Twitter, then answer the following question…

In what year did Gunnersaurus first appear as the club mascot?

1994

2004

2014

Send your answer, your email address, and your Twitter handle to competition@goonerholic.com before kick-off on Saturday. The winner will be announced with the match report of the Huddersfield Town match on Saturday night. There is no cash alternative to this prize.

In A Packed Preview Tonight

If you haven’t listened to this week’s ABW podcast then I have embedded it below. I chatted for the first seventy odd minutes with Kris ‘@AFCfreddie8’, Steve ‘@Lordhillwood’, and Andrew ‘@PR_WhoRu’.

Take care those who are making the journey through the blustery conditions on Saturday. Whether you are going or watching in the warm, have a great one, ‘holics.

Hello all, it’s competition time again with our good friends at @Art_of_Football. They have released a brand new design, Highburysaurus, as part of their alternative mascots collection and one lucky Goonerholic reader will get to win one. The quality of these tees and the packaging in which they arrive is superb.

Check out the excellent Arsenal range on the Art of Football website . The tees come in a range of colours and sizes from small kids to XXXL for those of us of a fuller figure! Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your teeshirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

To win one of these quality tees just follow @TheGoonerholic and @Art_of_Football on Twitter, then answer the following question…

In what year did Gunnersaurus first appear as the club mascot?

1994

2004

2014

Send your answer, your email address, and your Twitter handle to competition@goonerholic.com before kick-off on Saturday. The winner will be announced with the match report of the Huddersfield Town match on Saturday night. There is no cash alternative to this prize.

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

Unai Emery surprisingly opted to start with a 4-4-2. Laurent Koscielny was passed fit to return alongside Shkodran Mustafi, with Stephan Lichsteiner and Nacho Monreal as full-backs in front of Bernd Leno. With Granit Xhaka ruled out we played Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi with Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi in midfield. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were paired up front. New signing Denis Suarez was on the bench alongside Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil.

Our worst fears were confirmed inside a minute. Iwobi lost possession far to easily on the edge of our box, Laporte whipped in a cross, and Aguero made it his and directed a diving header beyond Leno. We had an assistant referee’s flag to thank for not going two down in the ninth minute when Laporte went early at a free-kick and headed home from point blank range.

Incredibly we were level a couple of minutes later with a proper old school Gunners goal from a corner. Monreal’s flick-on at the near post fell to Koscielny who headed high into the net. City, wounded, poured forward and Otamendi was denied when Leno comfortably pouched his snapshot. A pattern was taking shape with The Arsenal restricted to a counter-attacking game on the odd occasion that City surrendered possession.

As ever Martin Atkinson was taking a lenient view on some challenges. Lacazette needed treatment after Fernandinho caught him with a blow to the back of the head. Laporte’s attempt to deadleg Torreira was at least penalised with a free-kick.

When we did fashion a break Kolasinac sliced an attempted cross into the side-netting. Lacazette and Aubameyang, working tirelessly as box to box players, were so close to shocking the home side but the alert Ederson sprinted from his box to clear the danger.

Powered on by Guendouzi we produced a couple of shots, Kolasinac drawing a save from Ederson and Torreira’s fierce drive was blocked. The little Uruguayan obviously found himself in Mr Atkinson’s book for his first foul five minutes before half-time. Lacazette teed up Aubameyang again and his shot was deflected away for a corner.

Just as we thought we had restored order City regained the advantage. Not surprisingly Sterling left Lichsteiner for dead and crossed for Aguero to tap in his second at the far post. That was cruel on the visitors, coming at the end of a half they had been more than competitive in. I told a mate on Twitter that the team that scored next would win it. Sadly I would be proven correct.

Not unexpectedly City came out of the blocks determined to add to their tally, but we stayed solid. De Bruyne did get a fierce low drive on target but Leno grabbed it at the second attempt. When put through again he drew another save from Leno.

The goalkeeper wasn’t as lucky on the hour mark when Sterling again crossed for Aguero who appeared to convert the opportunity inadvertantly with his arm. I would have wanted it at the other end. It didn’t help that Leno and Koscielny, both of whom might have prevented the ball crossing the line, collided in Keystone Cops style and took each other out of the equation.

Time for substitutions. On came Aaron Ramsey and debut boy Denis Suarez for Iwobi and Kolasinac. That didn’t prevent wave upon wave of blue surging forward. Leno produced an excellent save at full stretch to deny Aguero a fourth. Eleven minutes from time we sent on Konstantinos Mavropanos for Mustafi. Aguero came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Jesus.

David Silva was next to sting the palms of a fully extended Leno. Jesus, with Sterling in the clear on his right, opted to shoot tamely at Leno. Koscielny mercifully blocked a Sterling strike when we were caught stretched with bodies committed to an attack. City sent on Mahrez for De Bruyne for the final three minutes plus stoppages.

As the game fizzled out we could draw some positives. At the age of 19 Guendouzi went to take on one of Europe’s finest teams and was possibly the best midfielder on view. The workrate of Lacazette and Aubameyang in a first-half in which we were surprisingly competitive after suffering such a shaky start. Disappointing, without picking on individuals, was the way we failed to maintain our first-half battling qualities after the break. We move on.

Our 2-1 defeat of Manchester City in the 2017 FA Cup semi-final was proof positive that if we approach the match with a positive attitude allied to a degree of determination we can beat arguably the best team in the country. Since that memorable day though we have met four times, scoring just one goal and shipping eleven.

We are outsiders at the Emptihad, and rightly so, but I hope that Unai Emery has shown them the video from January 2015 when a team that included David Ospina and Matthieu Flamini beat City 2-0 at the same venue. Santi Cazorla scored one and made one that day, and we defended doggedly. That’s what we need to focus on pre-match this weekend.

Of course we have defensive issues right now but the team have had another few days to work on a solution. Without Bellerin, Koscielny, Sokratis, and Holding, and with Ainsley Maitland-Niles a doubt the only possible change from Tuesday night’s team is Carl Jenkinson for Stephan Lichsteiner. It looks as though Emery plumped for experience on Tuesday but it’s unclear if Lichsteiner is capable of playing twice a week. Expect Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, and Sead Kolasinac to be retained in front of Bernd Leno.

In midfield it would be a surprise if we didn’t start with a trio in front of the defence of Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, and Lucas Torreira. Could Aaron Ramsey be preferred to Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil to sit behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette? If the latter pair get it together a surprise could just happen.

City’s defence of their Premier League title has been frustrating, most recently of all that defeat at struggling Newcastle in midweek. A wounded animal may come out with a ferocious attack, or may just be sulkily licking its wounds. Which will we face? One thing in our favour is that City will be without Kompany, the glue that holds their defence together.

The ‘holic pound

My best advice given we haven’t won an away game at a top six rival in twenty attempts is only bet a small amount if you can afford it. I won’t be risking the usual punt on this one. City, as I said, are rightly the hot favourites at 3/10 and so rather than seek a correct scoreline I will simply grab some of the (boosted) 19/2 available against an Arsenal victory. That is a big price in a two horse race when the favourite has fallen unexpectedly this season already.

Here is hoping we also get a glimpse of what Denis Suarez brings to the party, likely from the bench. Have a good one, ‘holics.

Unai Emery rotated his squad for the visit of Cardiff City. Bernd Leno started a back four of Stephan Lichsteiner, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, and Sead Kolasinac. We started with a diamond midfield of Mohamed Elneny, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, and the recalled Mesut Ozil. The pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette was retained up front.

Before kick-off a minute of reflection was held for Emiliano Sala, the big January signing destined never to play for his new club. The whistle sounded and the Arsenal started purposefully. Guendouzi and Kolasinac combined to create an opportunity for Lacazette who couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quickly enough thereby allowing a defender to block his attempt.

The industrious Guendouzi then found an advanced Elneny who also saw his effort blocked. Cardiff responded with a Paterson header from a corner which was, you guessed it, also blocked. Buoyed, Cardiff attacked again and another header, this time from Reid, tested our defensive resolve again.

The visitors attitude was admirable although the Gunners went close twice at successive corners which fell to Mustafi but these were rare moments of progress as we were not winning the midfield battle at this point. At the other end Paterson and Reid headers again had Arsenal hearts in mouths.

Bookings were traded, Monreal for The Arsenal and Paterson for Cardiff. Twice Mike Dean ruled that Lacazette was not the victim of a foul in the box but we had earlier survived a shout when Monreal appeared to trip a Bluebird in the area.

As the half came to a close we found our mojo again but a the final creative burst did not produce a finish. At least we had shown that a spark remained in another indifferent first-half performance. Again Emery made a change during the break with Alex Iwobi replacing Elneny.

Guendouzi launched our first opportunity of the half into the North Bank and Cardiff attempted retaliatory strikes from Paterson (wide) and Gunnarsson (into the Clock End). What we didn’t want to see was a Gunners defender land awkwardly on his ankle and stay down. Shkodran Mustafi had lengthy treatment and continued with a marked limp. Hopefully he wasn’t making it worse. Surprisingly Lichtsteiner made way for Carl Jenkinson which suggested Mustafi was being trusted to see the game out.

Going into the final half an hour Cardiff combined workmate with not entirely surprising management of the clock. The blue touch paper was lit when Arter, surprise surprise, hit Guendouzi late on the ankle with his studs. Dean ducked what appeared a clear red card and showed just a yellow to the serial offender.

The breakthrough arrived moments later. Kolasinac was felled in the box by Manga. It was third time lucky for the hosts and Aubameyang converted with ease.

The Arsenal 1-0 Cardiff City

The goal released what was once infamously described as the ‘handbrake’. Iwobi burst clear down the left, cut in and shot, drawing a one handed save by Etheridge to his left. Kolasinac tried his luck from the edge of the area but his shot was blocked, of course. Next to try his luck was Lacazette but his curler was narrowly wide of the far post.

The final substitution with a quarter of an hour remaining saw the captain for the night, Ozil, making way for Aaron Ramsey. Although he had not been at his best there were clear signs of greater industry from him and a half full stadium gave him a warm ovation as he departed the scene. He responded with a wave of gratitude.

The end of another flowing move saw Torreira drive the ball wide of Etheridge’s right hand post. Lacazette saw yellow for a dramatic tumble. If only there were consistency over the issue. Salah would have got his free-kick for similar. Is that unfair?

Lacazette of course was making a rare full appearance having survived Emery’s usual hook and guess what? If you leave him on he does what he does best. Genuinely tripped, he quickly rose to his feet on the right flank and made a beeline for the goal before unleashing a fierce drive that deflected off Etheridge inside his far post.

The Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff City

Guendouzi was again taken out by a late and poor challenge from Ralls, awarded a yellow card by the man who has shown more red cards this season than any of his PGMOL colleagues.

What should have been a rare and welcome clean sheet was denied us in the third of five added minutes. Mendez-Laing cut inside Iwobi and curled one inside the far post for a late consolation. The visitors deserved that for their first-half performance.

The Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff City

There remained time for Aubameyang and Ramsey to be denied a third goal for the hosts. The final whistle confirmed we had grabbed an important three points although far from our best. We will have to be much more determined and resolute to avoid serious punishment from Manchester City this weekend, but as I type I am watching the closing stages of their match at Newcastle where they led early but are now 2-1 down with only the added five minutes to play.

Could there be a sting in the tail. Could the Arsenal that turned up against Tottenham and Chelsea turn up and face the City that has huffed and puffed so far this evening? We can but hope and pray.

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