Feed on

“The best 11 will play tomorrow so that we can continue to improve in our way both tactically and individually. What’s important for us is to produce a winning performance but also to continue to improve… Tomorrow we are going to change things to give players the opportunity to find minutes, to find confidence on the pitch, and then maybe tomorrow’s players can play on Sunday too.” 

Unai Emery’s English gets better week by week, but he has confused the heck out of me today with these quotes (credit arsenal.com). We kick off our Europa League tomorrow against a new opponent for us, Vorskla Poltava, from Ukraine. Given his admission that the Premier League is his top target I suspect we will see squad rotation for this one.

Surely we should see Bernd Leno’s competitive debut for the club? An appearance for Stephane Lichsteiner and Rob Holding in the back four perhaps? Lucas Torreira could get a first start alongside Mohammed Elneny in midfield. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Danny Welbeck could be promoted from the bench which will possibly be a mix of youth and experience.

I am guessing, as I know little about the man, that he may keep three or four of his five captains in the team rather than the wholesale changes his predecessor made. That would enable a little continuity between the first team and squad team.

I don’t mind admitting that all I know about Vorskla owes everything to a five minute glance at their Wikipedia page. The current version of the club is only 34 years young and named after Poltava’s Vorskla river. They were promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League in 1996 and lifted the Ukrainian Cup in 2009 beating Shakhtar Donetsk in the Final.

Additionally the BBC report that Arsenal’s opponents finished third in Ukraine’s top-flight last season – their best finish since 1996-97. They are eight games into the 2018-19 season and have won four of their last six matches. Vorskla Poltava are competing in the Europa League group stage for the first time since 2011-12.

The ‘holic pound

Having not a clue who will play and just how strong the visitors are makes this a tricky call. It’s time for a nostalgic hail Mary. Mention of Shakhtar Donetsk will always bring memories of the Eduardo goal for the visitors that sparked a standing ovation never to be forgotten and won me enough to buy a new iMac. Therefore I have to go with that 5-1 again at a boosted 28/1. Say a little prayer for me. Could lightning strike twice?

That’s it for now. Enjoy tomorrow night wherever you are watching, but particularly if you will be at the ground. Here’s to a successful first European tie with The Arsenal for Unai Emery.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

As forecast Unai Emery went with an unchanged starting eleven from the win at Cardiff.  After a scrappy opening phase The Arsenal came under an aerial bombardment and once more Petr Cech conceded a corner when put under pressure with the ball at his feet. The Geordies were looking anything but a team without a victory.

Matteo Guendouzi’s shot-come-cross that drifted wide of the far post in the 18th minute was our first effort of any sort. It acted as a bridge for further advances and Nacho Monreal earned our first corner a minute later but the cross avoided Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Sokratis showed good pace to rescue his partner after Shkodran Mustafi had stumbled under a long ball, and from the resulting corner Cech made an excellent save to deny Murphy. The industrious Alexandre Lacazette was next to try his luck when he retrieved a poor free-kick in the Newcastle box and wriggled free only to find the side-netting from a tight angle.

The hosts aerial bombardment resumed but two crosses and two corners were just about dealt with by a stretched defence. Lacazette put Aaron Ramsey in but the Welshman’s attempted cross to an unmarked Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sliced over the bar for a goal-kick.

After Hector Bellerin’s excellent cross was scrambled clear Newcastle had a three versus three break ended by a very good Sokratis tackle. The rather tedious first-half drew to a close without a single attempt on target by either side.

Both teams made half-time changes. The hosts sent on Clark for the injured Lascelles while the visitors introduced Lucas Torreira for Guendouzi. Torreira had an instant impact, finding Aubameyang who was chopped down just outside the box. Granit Xhaka’s left footer found the top corner past a flailing Dubravka.

Newcastle United 0-1 The Arsenal

The swagger returned for The Arsenal as we started to play the ball around with more accuracy and took firm control of the next phases of play. Xhaka turned provider before the hour was up. His cross found Lacazette and although his effort was blocked it fell to Mesut Ozil who passed the ball into the net, through a sea of legs, from 17 yards. A stunning start to the second-half.

Newcastle United 0-2 The Arsenal

The rampant Gunners should have had a third when Lacazette played in Aubameyang but the latter slid his effort wide of the far post. Even when Newcastle threatened a response the Gunners defence looked so much more composed. Cech came a long way to claim a Ritchie free-kick, and even further to set up a breakaway at the other end.

Midway through the half both teams made substitutions. We sent on Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Aubameyang while the Geordies responded with Kennedy for Murphy. Free of his first-half tormentor Bellerin, and Ozil, teed up Torreira for an effort that sailed into the stand behind the goal.

Mkhitaryan had a clearer opportunity when found by Ramsey at the far post, but his side-footer was deflected away for a corner. That Kenedy avoided a card for a sly kick out at Sokratis was remarkable. Mr Probert’s reluctance to give any censures to this point had been noticeable, but that was generous in the extreme. In a last attempt to get back into the game Rafa Benitez sent on Muto for Ritchie, while Unai Emery withdrew Ramsey in favour of Danny Welbeck.

The England forward pulled a Bellerin cross into the path of Lacazette but his shot on the turn was blocked. Cech made a rare flying save and grabbed it at the second attempt to keep his clean sheet. He had another fine save from Joselu’s last-gasp header.

After Danny Welbeck fired the ball into the side-netting back came the Geordies and Clark was able to deny the gunners a clean sheet with a powerful downward far post header that Cech could only help into the roof of the net.

Newcastle United 1-2 The Arsenal

The most pleasing aspect of the performance for Unai Emery would surely have been the response to whatever he and his coaches had said a half-time. The timely introduction of Torreira sparked a faster, more confident performance after the break. Surely the Uruguayan has done enough to convince the new manager that he is worth a prolonged spell in the starting line-up.

He will, however, be concerned at our lack of ability to see out the clean sheet in a match in which we had been so dominant.

I’ve been back an hour from almost a week north of the border in which I have seen zero news about football, The Arsenal or otherwise. A hasty glance at Arsenal.com informs me that the international break hasn’t cost us any more injuries. How did England get on against Switzerland? Seriously, I haven’t a clue what happened this week.

Unai Emery has a big week ahead with our Europa League bow against FC Vorskla (no, I haven’t either, before you ask!) following Saturday afternoon’s trip to Newcastle. Only Unai Emery will know which of his players, if any, have come back from their countries below optimum level. This week certainly provides an opportunity to see all of his squad put to good use.

At St James Park the manager may well consider starting the eleven who eventually overcame Cardiff last time out. That would mean a reprieve for Peter Cech in goal but surely Bernd Leno will get the nod on Thursday, if not on Saturday.

Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Nacho Monreal seem likely to be retained, but Thursday may provide Stephan Lichsteiner the chance to stake a claim for the right-back slot.

Ahead of them there has been something of a clamour for Lucas Torreira to get a starting place, but he had a long trip to South America to recover from so Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi look set to continue.

Last week’s attacking combo of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, behind Alexandre Lacazette showed in spells that they could well unlock defences this season. Alex Iwobi is fit to return and if Ozil fails to make his first visit to Newcastle Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be keen for a recall.

The hosts had reported possible doubts about two key midfielders, Shelvey and Ritchie, but the BBC say they were back in training today. They will surely be needed if the Geordies are to reverse their poor form in a difficult start to this season. They gained their solitary point at Cardiff with a goal-less draw. They have thrice lost by a 1-2 scoreline against Manchester City, Chelsea, and the Middlesex Nomads.

The ‘holic pound

I’m backing our forward line to prise open a solid Newcastle defence and go one better than the other winners against them. 1-3 to The Arsenal is a tasty 14/1 if you compare what’s available.

There, necessarily short but sweet. It’s time to enjoy the gifts of single malt from my Scots family now.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

Legends Passed This Way

Apologies to all. My holiday has been followed by what will be a laborious upgrade to the living room and getting as much paid work done as I can before vanishing north of Hadrian’s Wall for three nights. None of which is Arsenal related unlike this afternoon’s match against the Real Madrid Legends. I don’t mind admitting I missed being there in a big way.

A word for David Seaman who was on the team sheet but had a calf problem in the warm up and missed out on a chance to experience the love of an Arsenal home crowd this time around. Jens Lehmann stepped up to the plate and would enjoy quite the day.

This was something of a taster for what would happen at Wembley later in the day, but with a different outcome.  The visitors were technically superior pretty much throughout. In the reverse fixture at the Bernabeu we could point to the inclusion of Alonso as the younger, match-fit player. This time Makelele dominated the early proceedings, but the crowd were enchanted by the skills on display and we had our moments.

I saw the Milan Glorie fixture last season and was frustrated not to make this, but a healthy crowd turned up to enjoy some moments of pure nostalgia.  The ninety minutes followed a pattern out of the George Graham years with Real very much the dominant attacking force but we constructed defensive banks that were difficult to break down, and when they did Jens Lehmann was at the top of his game.

We might have nicked something had Gilberto or Davor Suker enjoyed better fortune in the opening half but it would have been harsh on the excellent visitors. In the second half the multitude of substitutions made for some interesting moments. You might have expected Gilles Grimandi to have another Edgar Davids moment but pride of place went to David Hillier for a misjudged assault on Rivera.

Jeremie Alliadiere came close to snatching an unlikely winner, but we most certainly had the overworked Lehmann to thank for taking the contest to another phase.

At the final whistle we could say that over two legs Real had beaten the Arsenal after our summer defeat. However, a penalty shoot-out was required and what a magnificent performance from those charged with taking our kicks and stopping Real’s.

Robert Pires drilled the first one home and set the tone for the added entertainment. Velasco levelled nontianantly. A well fed Gilles Grimandi slammed his effort into the top left corner. 2-1 to the Arsenal. We needed Jens to do his thing. He obliged by clawing in Alfonso’s effort. Advantage Arsenal.

Matt Upson stepped up to reinforce our advantage  and drilled one to the left of the goalkeeper. The mood was changing. The Vulture, Butragueno, planted one wide of Jens who had anticipated a Panenka, I think, and it was 3-2.

Alliadiere, still the fastest player on show, did plant one down the middle and we were 4-2 to the good. Campo would need to score to keep it alive. He did! Cue theatre. Thomas Rosicky started marching forward to take the decisive penalty, but Jens Lehmann had grabbed the ball and spotted it, Little Mozart went back to the centre circle, chuckling. Mad Jens hammered the perfect spot-kick into the top left corner and we had won the shoot-out 5-3.

It was fun, as it was meant to be, and old rivals embraced each other with respect. I really am enjoying this type of fixture coming into the international break to give people the chance to show those now departed their appreciation.

Matteo Guendouzi held his place alongside Granit Xhaka otherwise it was the starting line-up I anticipated in the preview. Starting Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang together for the first time in the Premier League was a popular call.

The opening moments, however, highlighted that at the back we are still struggling to come to terms with the short sharp passing game and Petr Cech was close to being dispossessed. The accident that was waiting to happen arrived on seven minutes. Under pressure Cech passed directly to Arter who thankfully hit his effort over the crossbar.

Shortly after that we got our first meaningful attempts on goal. Etheridge denied Aaron Ramsey with a one-handed save and Skhodran Mustafi cleared the bar from the rebound. Shortly afterwards we were ahead when Granit Xhaka’s corner was met by Mustafi with a towering header. Cue “One nil to the Arsenal” from the away end. One could have become two but Nacho Monreal, perhaps surprised at being gifted an opening, fired straight at Etheridge.

We survived another scare when Ward just failed to get a touch on an excellent cross from Reid and Hoilett fired high and wide from the follow-up. Our attempted response saw Xhaka drive the ball wide from over twenty yards out. Back came Cardiff, apparently targeting our right flank as a weak point.

In the thirty-third minute Aubameyang and Ramsey combined to tee up Lacazette for a thunderous drive against the post. So close. Ozil and Lacazette drove at the heart of the defence on the break but the final ball of an attempted one-two was deflected to safety and the advantage remained at one. Cech’s concentration was tested by a curler from Ralls but the veteran goalkeeper claimed it comfortably.

An equaliser came in the second minute of added time when Xhaka misplaced a hopeful cross-field pass, Bennet was given acres of space by Bellerin to swing in the cross which fell to Camarasa at the far post and he lofted the ball high into the net. It was a goal that should be reviewed over and over again in the coming week.

We started the second-half as we had the first. Cech presented the ball back to Cardiff under pressure. He really isn’t comfortable the passing out from the back system. Surely it is just a matter of time before Bernd Leno gets his chance?

The marauding Nacho Monreal won us a corner forcing Morrison to put his cross behind to relative safety. After a game of head tennis Lacazette almost engineered a shooting opportunity but the ball wouldn’t fall in time for him. When Monreal won another Mustafi was denied a second goal by Etheridge.

Just past the hour we took the lead when Lacazette and Aubameyang combined for the latter to curl a perfect pass inside the far post. That was the perfect example of why these two have to start as many games together as possible. Cardiff responded with an aerial bombardment and were level when Ward won a second phase header from a disputed free-kick and finished via Cech’s right hand goalpost.

Matteo Guendouzi was immediately replaced by Lucas Torreira. Lacazette’s header from a near post corner was grabbed at the second attempt by Etheridge under pressure from Mustafi. The goalkeepers blushes were spared moments later when he misjudged a Bellerin cross. It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Cech was forced into a diving save by Reid.

Ramsey and Torreira combined on the edge of the box and the latter played Lacazette in behind to finish with a magnificent rising drive. It was no more than the Frenchman deserved. Could we hold on through the final nine minutes plus stoppage time? Danny Welbeck was sent on for Mesut Ozil. As the clock ticked down Henrikh Mkhitaryan was sent on for Aubameyang.

Four additional minutes began with another scare when Morrison headed over a gaping target. The high balls continued to rain in but the Gunners held firm. Man of the match Lacazette was denied by Etheridge in the last assault of the match.

Six goals and six points for The Arsenal in two matches. We are far from convincing defensively, but that should not be a surprise to anyone. Going in the other direction we have again been shown to be almost impossible to defend against when Lacazette and Aubameyang are in tandem. Slowly, but surely, things are taking shape.

Another Saturday, and of course television has moved our away match at Cardiff to Sunday lunchtime. Today’s action highlights the importance of us getting a result in Wales. Chelsea and Liverpool retained their one hundred percent starts to the season, and the reigning champions are also undefeated and following them menacingly.

Newly promoted Cardiff lost at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season but have since remained defensively sound, earning goal-less draws against Newcastle and at Huddersfield. We know what we can expect from a Neil Warnock team. They will be fired up for this one.

It will be interesting to see who starts for the Arsenal. Changes to the back five are unlikely so expect to see Petr Cech behind an unchanged back four of Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Nacho Monreal.

The midfield, both defensive and attacking, provides more of a problem for Unai Emery to solve. Can he provide a start for Aaron Ramsey against his old club? That would be a man-management masterstroke but also Emery has the issue of a potential call for Mesut Ozil following his brief illness last week. Granit Xhaka possibly has most to fear but he looked very good against West Ham. I doubt that he will cement a regular starting berth but it would be a tough call to drop him after a good performance.

Then there is the question of Lucas Torreira. He looks quite the player but likeliest to make way would be Matteo Guendouzi, a player who has impressed on his introduction to the Premier League. It would not be a surprise if one to lose his place this week was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a cultured footballer but one who has looked unhappy in the opening weeks of the season.

The final question is whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is started on the left flank to facilitate a start for Alexandre Lacazette. The latter’s introduction as a substitute against West Ham proved decisive last week.

The hosts haven’t beaten The Arsenal for 57 years and were they to do so this weekend it would be a major surprise, but it’s early days in the Emery era and we need to show that we have overcome our difficulties on away days after last season’s travails.

Not that my opinion is of any bearing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Xhaka and Torreira starting behind the box-to-box Ramsey, with Ozil on the right and Aubameyang on the left behind Lacazette.

The ‘holic pound

Danny Welbeck’s late strike secured the pound last weekend, and I’m hoping to go close again this week with a punt on 0-2 to the visitors at 15/2. A clean sheet will be put under pressure if the full-backs leave space in behind for the likes of Josh Murphy to exploit. Surely we have addressed that area of our performances so far in training this week?

Last Chance to win VIP tickets to the Legends match

Click here to see again your chance to win this experience. Entries close some eight and a half hours after the match ends in Cardiff. Good luck to you all.

Chris W

It was in November 2009 that we first received a drink from Oskar. Three years later he became Oskar the Dog. In March 2016 it was a shock to us all to read this drink.

Oskar (the dog) met his maker on Friday, put down after a heart attack following another bout of Pancreatitis. He’s been instructed to bring luck to the team from on high, although it may take a while to settle into his new duties so no blame please if it doesn’t go terribly well at Everton (as I fear).

Chris (the real me)

If you have been following the drinks on the competition post you will know that a couple of years on we have received confirmation that Chris and Oskar have been re-united. It is with sadness we read of the passing of yet another long-time poster.

I prefer to think we were lucky to know him, and to engage in debate with him. Being exiled in New Zealand didn’t make him any less passionate a Gooner. He would argue long and hard here with anyone, and the drinks will be a poorer place without him.

Thank you and RIP, Chris.

Arsenal Legends are preparing for the return leg of their match against Real Madrid Legends at Emirates Stadium on Saturday 8 September (kick-off at 2pm).

We’ve teamed up with The Gunners to offer a lucky reader a pair of VIP tickets to this unique game, at Emirates Stadium.

The match, which sees net proceeds from ticket sales donated to The Arsenal Foundation for a ground breaking new football project, is the second leg of this charity fixture which ended 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu, on Sunday 3 June 2018.

With David O’Leary, alongside Assistant Coach Pat Rice at the helm, a number of Arsenal Legends including Robert Pires, David Seaman and Fredrik Ljungberg will put on the Arsenal shirt once again for a great cause. Real Madrid Legends’ travelling squad, will include Brazil’s World Cup winners, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos amongst others.

For the opportunity to enjoy a day out in style at Emirates Stadium during the September international break, just answer the following question:

Which Arsenal Legend made 564 overall appearances at their time at Arsenal?

A) Robert Pires
B) David Seaman
C) Ray Parlour

Please send your entries to competition@goonerholic.com by midnight UK time on Sunday, 2nd September. Include your name and email address so you can be contacted in the event of you winning the tickets. There is no cash alternative for this prize. Please do not enter if you are unable to attend. You will have to make your own way to the stadium on the day.

Tickets are still available, from £20 adults and £10 concessions. Visit Arsenal.com


Aaron Ramsey got the nod to replace Mesut Ozil for the visit of West Ham United. He found the net with a close-range header early doors but it was rightly wiped out for offside, and we were slow to get going otherwise.

The visitors grabbed the lead when Anderson, unchallenged when running from deep, laid the ball back on the edge of the box for Arnautavic to drive home. A fine finish just past the mid-point of the half and no more than the visitors deserved at that point.

The Gunners were on level terms when Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hector Bellerin combined to create the opportunity for Nacho Monreal to drill home five minutes later. The first-half was proving what we all know about our state of transition right now. We are capable of attacking brilliance one minute, and defensive uncertainty the next.

We had Petr Cech to be grateful to for a fine save from the marauding Snodgrass as West Ham sought to re-establish the lead. At the other end Fabianski had to go full stretch to deny Skhodran Mustafi’s header at the start of the second-half. The former Gunner also produced a fine save from Alexandre Lacazette, a half-time substitute for Alex Iwobi, as we began to make our attacking dominance apparent.

Lacazette’s was largely responsible for us grabbing the lead when his volley on the turn was put past his own goalkeeper by Diop, under pressure from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Ahead with twenty minutes to go. It would be a nervous end game for us.

Fabianski denied Ramsey with a fine sprawling save but West Ham too continued to exploit the spaces left in behind Berlin and Monreal. We secured the three points when Bellerin’s cross in stoppage time found Danny Welbeck unmarked in front of the goal and he clinched the ‘holic pound with a clinical finish.

It would be wrong of me not to highlight the performance of the oft-maligned Granit Xhaka. He produced a near-faultless display, probably his best in an Arsenal shirt, as we struggled to stay in the match for much of the first-half.

The first three points of the Unai Emery era are on the board, and hopefully that will ease some of the nerves evident in that opening half. We head for Cardiff next Sunday with the expectation of building on the second-half performance of yesterday.

Huge apologies to all for the lack of a post or two this week. That wasn’t the intention but WiFi is a hit and miss affair in Cornwall, and miss is invariably the winner. Luckily, although at times today it seemed a distant prospect, I am back in time for the reunion with Jack Wilshere. A rare Saturday 3pm kick-off is very welcome indeed.

Catching up with the Unai Emery interviews pre-match it is relatively clear he will retain a very flexible and fluid 4-2-3-1 going into the match. It is doubtful that his goalkeeper and back four will change, but ahead of them the make up of the midfield and attack is very much a question of the unknown.

Popular opinion would probably see Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi starting in the shielding roles. That would have the effect of pushing Aaron Ramsey into a fight for two wide berths with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unless he is to replace Mesut Ozil as the number ten. Of course if Aubameyang is played wide on the left there will be an opportunity for Alexandre Lacazette to lead the line and the attraction of having two proven goalscorers on the pitch is obvious.

That also discounts Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny. That may be a good problem for Unai to have, but it also will test his powers of retaining strong bonds in the squad.

West Ham also arrive with a new head coach, the familiar Manuel Pellegrini. Like us they have also suffered two defeats so far, 0-4 at Liverpool, and 1-2 at home to Bournemouth last week. They have Reid, Lanzini, and Carroll ruled out by injury, but new signing Felipe Anderson will provide a speedy test for Hector Bellerin who is looking for form.

It will be strange watching Jack in the Hammers away strip and although we will be hoping he doesn’t produce the customary goal against his former employers there will surely be a raucous welcome for our old boy. Yes Jack, we know what you think of Tottenham!

The ‘holic pound

I have to believe the team who fought back so impressively at Stamford Bridge last week will have enough to kick start a run of matches that will do much to determine our title chances this season. I am drawn like a moth to the flame of a 3-1 home win at 10/1. West Ham have beaten us just once in 22 outings and it would be a major upset if that changed to anything other than once in 23 after tomorrow.

I will see some of you in the usual places and let’s hope that afterwards we will be raising our glasses to the first three points of the Unai Emery era.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

Unai Emery made one expected change for the visit to Chelsea with Nacho Monreal returning at left-back. He made one more controversial switch with Alex Iwobi coming in for the benched Aaron Ramsey. Chelsea once again left Eden Hazard on the bench with Olivier Giroud.

The first effort arrived in the third minute when Luiz was allowed to wander through the midfield unchallenged and a minute later Pedro was allowed similar freedom cutting in from the right. Fortunately both fired off target.

We almost found our cutting edge in the eighth minute when the overlapping Monreal crossed accurately for Mesut Ozil to volley narrowly wide. Seconds later we went behind when Alonso took advantage of Hector Bellerin’s lack of awareness to tee up Pedro unmarked in the centre. We appeared to be waiting for an offside flag that never came. Cech had to be quick off his line to defy the same player minutes later.

The Gunners obvious discomfort with playing out from the back was momentarily suspended when Mustafi sent Aubameyang scampering through for a fierce drive that Arrizabalaga saved at his near post. When Bellerin put one on a plate for the same player he lifted his head and his side foot effort over the bar. Again we paid the ultimate price when Morata outmanoeuvred Mustafi to slide a second goal for Chelsea with twenty minutes gone.

Xhaka’s crude lunge on Pedro rightly earned him the first yellow card in the twenty-seventh minute. The visitors were starting to show their frustration and Mustafi was fortunate to avoid similar when putting a ‘reducer’ on Morata. After Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ozil had shots blocked the former fired yet a second clear opening over the bar.

Mkhitaryan made amends for his miss when despatching Iwobi’s cross underneath the right glove of a diving Arrizabalaga. At last the Gunners had a spring in their step and in the eastern end of The Shed the travelling Gooners roared their encouragement. Astonishingly we were level in the forty-first minute when Mkhitaryan returned the favour to Iwobi who finished superbly.

Arrizabalaga had to dive full length to deny Matteo Guendouzi, then Iwobi pulled a ball back from which again Aubamayang missed the gaping target. The transformation in fortunes was marked. Mkhitaryan teed up Iwobi again and again the opportunity ended up sailing over the bar. The Arsenal had been truly rampant for the closing ten minutes of the half.

At the start of the second-half the struggling Xhaka made way for Lucas Torreira, a sensible substitution most seemed to agree on social media. Less than two minutes in Aubameyang crossed the ball in front of the target which avoided defenders and attackers alike. A cross from Bellerin, displaying better attacking than defensive qualities, evaded the heads of Aubameyang and Monreal.

Chelsea were screaming for a penalty when Sokratis Papastathopoulos blocked and fell on the ball but clearly any slight contact with his hand was entirely unintentional. Cech was called to make another diving stop to deny Barkley when he made a yard of space for himself. Aubameyang was a whisker offside when he galloped through to finally hit the target in the fifty-eighth minute.

As the hour mark passed Chelsea moved to get Hazard and Kovacic on for Willian and Barkley. Cech made another excellent save from Morata completely unaware that the offside flag had been raised. He made another from a deflected Jorginho effort as Chelsea again exerted some pressure. The Gunners neglected the high press and dropped deep to deny Chelsea the space in which to play.

Unai Emery attempted to stem the tide by sending on Aaron Ramsey for Ozil, slow to walk the width of the pitch and evidently unimpressed at his withdrawal. When Torreira brought down Kovacic Cech dived to deny Luiz. Another fine save.

That was followed minutes later by the sight of two French international strikers being pushed into action. Alexandre Lacazette and Giroud replaced Iwobi and Morata. Lacazette immediately created a shooting opportunity for Monreal but Azpilicueta made the block. When Arrizabalaga spilled a Ramsey cross Lacazette was first to the loose ball but the goalkeeper recovered it.

Mustafi saw yellow for clattering into the back of Hazard. Not a bad card to take, that. Kante thankfully headed a golden opportunity over the bar, as the final ten minutes beckoned. Alonso was not as wasteful when Hazard too easily went past Bellerin and crossed to the near post for his left-back to sweep into the net. Could the Arsenal end the second-half as they did the first? The answer, sadly, was no.

We again had Cech to thank when he denied Hazard in a one on one. He didn’t deserve to have three goals against him today and he had every right to expect more from those in front of him. Alonso got in behind a static Bellerin and crossed for Giroud to draw another fine save from the Arsenal captain. At the other end Ramsey’s speculative volley went onto the roof of the net. Cech saved the last kick of the match from Giroud. He was probably our man of the match.

Defeats in the first two matches against quality opposition isn’t the end of the world but Unai Emery knows his back five is clearly uncomfortable with what they are being asked to do. Maybe a change in personnel might be an idea? When we get it right we will outscore most teams with the quality we have further forward.

Good luck boss.

Older Posts »