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After our very solid three goal triumph in Ostersund last week, and with the Carabao Cup Final to look forward to on Sunday, Arsene Wenger hinted that a very young team supplemented with a few wise heads will start the second-leg on Thursday evening.

David Ospina has been confirmed as the starting goalkeeper for both Thursday and Sunday. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, cup-tied for Sunday, will start as well as Danny Welbeck. It’s unclear if the manager will start any first-choice defenders? Konstantinos Mavropanos trained with the first team and could be in line for a first team debut, possibly alongside Rob Holding, with Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac starting in the full-back berths.

Ainsley-Maitland Niles may get another opportunity to play in a holding midfield pairing with either Granit Xhaka or Mohamed Elneny. It would not be a surprise to see Mkhitaryan flanked by Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock playmaking behind Welbeck.

In case things take a turn for the worse on the night it might be an idea to have the likes of Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, Jack Wilshere, and Alex Iwobi on the bench with Matt Macey and Eddie Nketiah. Ostersunds didn’t look a bad side after the opening half an hour last week and we will have to strengthen if they find a way back into the tie.

Mesut Ozil is ruled out after spending a couple more days in bed with illness. The boy is a wonderful footballer but he needs to up his intake of vitamin C. Aaron Ramsey did return to training today (Wednesday) but is considered ‘a bit short’ for this match. He may yet feature on Sunday depending on his progress in the coming days.

Asked about his approach to the competition in his pre-match press conference the manager outlined his priorities.

“We have to focus on the Premier League. The Europa League is one of the priorities we have, but ideally we want to come back to the Champions League through the Premier League.”

Whilst we will understand that he has to say that the top four horse seems to have bolted and will take some catching. This competition is our best chance of returning to the top table of European football despite the fact that some very difficult opposition lies in wait from the last sixteen onwards.

The ‘holic pound

Ostersund have nothing to lose and I’m not expecting us to keep a clean sheet, but I am hopeful that an admittedly weakened Gunners line-up will feel they have a point to prove and will produce a performance. I’ve grabbed the 19/2 offered by one High Street bookie against a 3-1 home win.

It will be a little warmer at the Grove tomorrow night than it was in Sweden last week, but you will still need to wrap up with temperatures set to drop to two degrees. As ever, have a good one ‘holics.

The announcement today of an extension to the ‘partnership’ between Emirates and The Arsenal is a welcome one. Reportedly worth £200 million that is a genuine increase in our commercial activities which needed to grow to allow our burgeoning wage bill.

Reportedly we have also been able to negotiate the deal in such a way that we are able to accept the logo of a second ‘partner’ on the sleeve of the new kits. That in itself could generate an additional £10 million per season.

It has long been the case that our commercial activities were falling short of what a club of our size and history should be able to achieve, but it looks as though this is an area that has been looked at in this season of change. Ivan Gazidis has the structure in place to prepare for a new manager, whenever that may be, and now appears to have a team working on providing the funds for further acquisitions.

The problem with work of this nature is that the results will not be seen this season and social media works on an “I want it now” basis. A win against the odds on Sunday will help, but of course a League Cup would not satisfy everyone.

Not for the first time we need to have a big summer not only addressing the gaps in the squad but making further quality signings to deliver a better challenge for the title. That will mean more pressure on the commercial department but the signs are that they are now starting to deliver.

It’s a sign of the times that there is such a focus on off the pitch activities when really all we want is to see a successful Arsenal playing consistently. The two things go hand in hand, however. We are not owned by a benefactor who will fund the playing side of the business so it is down to those in Highbury House and the manager of the club to deliver it.

In recent years we have been left to feel next year will be the one, and each year we fall short of the vision we were sold when we moved stadium. The ‘catalyst for change’ has delivered hope again for next season. Let it not be in vain once more, please.

Just 200 miles from the Arctic Circle Arsene Wenger chose a strong mix of first team and cup team players to take on Ostersunds in the Europa League. The Gunners started with a flat back four of Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Skhodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal in front of David Ospina. Ainsley Maitland-Niles finally got a chance in midfield alongside Mohamed Elneny. A trio of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Iwobi were tasked with assisting lone striker Danny Welbeck.

In a balmy minus four degrees at kick-off Mustafi had the locals on their feet when his perfectly timed sliding tackle was adjudged to be a free-kick to the Arsenal. The German had made contact with the ball before Ghoddos tumbled over his sliding legs and it should have been a throw in to the hosts. It was the turn of the Arsenal contingent to warm their hands with applause when Danny Welbeck just missed the target with a ninth minute header.

Three minutes later we missed, momentarily, a chance to take the lead when Ozil’s enthusiasm creating a shooting chance for Mkhitaryan that was blocked behind. The resulting corner ended with the Ostersunds goalkeeper, Keita. parrying an Iwobi shot into the path of our free-scoring left-back. Nacho Monreal needed no second invitation to make the goal net bulge.

Ostersunds 0-1 The Arsenal

With the play being largely compressed in the Ostersunds half of the pitch a second would surely follow? Keita was clearly wasting as much time as possible already. A rare foray over the halfway line ended with a nasty looking challenge by Widgren on Bellerin. That merely upset the Arsenal who edged further ahead in the 24th minute when Papagiannopoulos deflected Mkhitaryan’s tempting cross past his own goalkeeper. Scorer and assister would have made some score in Scrabble.

Ostersunds 0-2 The Arsenal

Finally Ostersunds found some ambition and Ospina was forced to make his first two saves from a Gero header and a Ghoddos volley. These were the first signs that they did pose a genuine threat if they trusted themselves. Ghoddos again drove at the heart of the Arsenal defence and his long-range drive was comfortably smothered by Ospina. Englishman Edwards was next to try his luck from range but the suddenly busy Columbian goalkeeper caught the tame effort easily.

When Maitland-Niles conceded a free-kick just outside the box four minutes before the break Sema smashed the ball straight at a grateful Ospina, and in the following phase of play Ghoddos tried his luck once more but was wide of the mark. The Arsenal had endured some real pressure in the final third of the opening half, and yet nearly had the last say when Mkhitaryan lifted a curling effort just over the crossbar.

Ostersunds boss, Graham Potter, made a couple of changes to his attacking options at half-time but it was the Gunners who once again dominated the early minutes of the second-half. Before the hour was up Ozil took a through ball from Mkhitaryan in his stride and although Keita got his hands to the ball he could not prevent it from rolling over the line.

Ostersunds 0-3 The Arsenal

With eighteen minutes remaining Monreal was wrapped in cotton wool and Sead Kolasinac was sent on to deputise. Both sides seemed to have settled into respectful if unfruitful phases of possession. Seven minutes from time Eddie Nketiah was given a cameo appearance in place of Danny Welbeck. The former United man was clearly rusty tonight so deserves another chance next week to aid his return to match fitness. He will be important for us in this competition in the next six weeks.

The game was petering out but there was a sting in the tail. As the match moved into injury time it took a sudden turn. Teki was adjudged to have been taken down by Hector Bellerin in the box. Ospina capped a fine display by getting down to his right to save Pettersson’s spot kick and secure the three goal advantage at the whistle.

Arsene Wenger was obviously pleased with his team after the match, telling BT Sport…

“We did the job well, controlled the ball against a good side. They beat Hertha Berlin here, 2-2 against Athletic Bilbao, so a quality team, but once we scored the first goal we were in control. Overall we played a serious game, so job done. They looked very nervous and we took advantage of it.”

Next week we will worry about who should or shouldn’t start the second-leg four days before the Carabao Cup Final. After the match it was a pleasure to be asked to debut on this…

The Arsenal have today (Wednesday) flown to Ostersund where they were greeted by sub-zero temperatures and deep snow. Welcome to northern Sweden in February. The conditions, plus the fact that the match is being played on an artificial surface, means some sensible precautions have been taken to protect those prone to injury. Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, and Aaron Ramsey have been left at home along with Petr Cech who yields to the cup-tie goalkeeper, David Ospina. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible and and obviously Alexandre Lacazette also missed the trip.

Now we have to wait and see if Arsene Wenger goes with his strongest available team or attempts to leave some of the big guns on the bench for use in emergency only. With the likelihood of a top four berth disappearing fast, Wenger must be tempted to go with a team that ensures safe passage to the last sixteen.

So, in front of Ospina a flat back four of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Skhodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal? Granit Xhaka (or Ainsley Maitland-Niles?) and Mohamed Elneny shielding the back four, with Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan given free reign to roam at will. With goalscoring a potential issue what are the odds against a pairing of Danny Welbeck and Eddie Nketiah up top?

Arsene doesn’t do 4-4-2, I hear you say and you are right, normally he doesn’t. The likelihood is that he will start Alex Iwobi ahead of Nketiah which would restrict our goalscoring potential, possibly? The manager knows he needs to avoid a shock on Thursday night and will have thought about his options long and hard. The other way may be to start Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac as full-backs and Joe Willock or Reiss Nelson for Ozil and leave three key players on the bench. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

I’ll be totally honest with you. You could write down what I know about Ostersunds on a not much more than a postage stamp with a whiteboard marker. Their manager is an Englishman, Graham Potter, the ground holds 8000 supporters so just 1000 Gooners will be in the away end, and they qualified for the last 32 of the competition by matching Atletico Bilbao’s points tall of 11 in Group I (W3 D2 L1). That last fact hints at them being a proper banana skin if not taken one hundred percent seriously.

The ‘holic pound

In their three home games in the group stage Ostersunds defeated Hertha Berlin 1-0, Zorya 2-0, and interestingly drew 2-2 against Bilbao. That’s decent form but I am backing us to knuckle down and pip them 1-2. I’ve had a couple of bob on that at 15/2.

So, time to watch the rest of Madrid against PSG. If you are one of the thousand of ours in Sweden I wish you a wonderful European night out. I’m not sure the old ticker could withstand another shocker of an away performance.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

As I start this piece I should warn you I suspect it will be brief. Ahead of the North London derby the Gunners suffered the loss of Aaron Ramsey with ‘a minor groin’ problem. Jack Wilshere and Mohamed Elneny came in for Rambo and Alex Iwobi.

The first-half appeared to be an attempt by us to sit on the ropes and invite Tottenham on to us in a bid to hit them on the break. Indeed we almost did that when Jack Wilshere opened the hosts defence up but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was wrongly flagged for offside. Last week a tight call went his way, and in such moments matches can be won or lost.

Arsene Wenger would probably have been the happier manager at the break, but four minutes into the second-half his gameplan came unstuck when Harry Kane hung in the air, largely due to leaning on Laurent Koscielny’s shoulder, and headed what would prove to be the decisive goal. I believe in modern day parlance he showed he wanted it more.

So, a goal down in a North London derby you would expect the Gunners to respond, yes? For reasons that escape everybody, including the manager, this team seems to melt away from home. Lee Dixon reminded people at the opening night of 1989 the movie that in his first North London derby Tony Adams pinned him up against the wall by his throat and let him know in no uncertain terms that “we cannot lose this”. It seems nobody did that to Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Aubamayang. The anonymity of the first denied opportunities for the latter.

They weren’t alone, however. We owed a great deal to Petr Cech for keeping the deficit to one as Tottenham went for the jugular. Where was the fight? Where was the commitment? For the final 25 minutes Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette were sent on to try to inject some enthusiasm. The latter had a couple of chances to level matters, including a wonderful last minute opportunity when he was one on one against Lloris and pulled his effort wide of the far post. That has made him the lightening rod of choice on social media tonight. A player in his first season in the Premier League. It’s a good job Twitter wasn’t around when Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp first arrived.

I am sure there will be more damning pieces written about the day, and to be honest I would rather others write them. Rather than go over old ground (because the issues haven’t changed) I would just like to congratulate the better team on the day on  their win. With equal possession they produced 18 shots to our 6, 6 on target to our 1, and 10 corners to our 2. Possession is worth bugger all if you don’t do anything with it.

It’s that weekend again. The away leg of the brace of North London derby matches we enjoy (or endure) every season. At least this year we do not have to visit the dive that is White Hart Lane. Hopefully unluckily for them we are off to Wembley, a stadium where we have made nine successful consecutive visits in the last four years, winning three FA Cups and three FA Community Shield in the process.

The match has an added edge with the proximity of the clubs in fifth and sixth place in the Premier League and separated by just four points. Our away form would normally be a major concern but the performance last weekend with the two new boys hinted at a new start for a refreshed squad. Add to that the fact that the team needs no motivation to put in a proper shift against that lot. It bodes well.

The team news is encouraging with Petr Cech the only new doubt after Everton, but even he was reported to have taken full part in today’s (Friday) training session. It would be a surprise to see any changes to the starting eleven who ripped Everton apart last week. That’s not to say lots of us wouldn’t have changed a few faces but the possible second option the manager may consider is a back three at the expense of Alex Iwobi.

It will be interesting to see if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finds the gaps in behind a home defence that usually likes to play a high line and compress play into the opposition half. His understanding with Henrikh Mkhitaryan could provide the platform for a crucial win and hopefully an end of season winning run. Mesut Ozil too will be keen too release him and add to his assist count. Auba already has a great record against the shadow-dwellers with four goals in four matches against them for Dortmund.

The opponents will be under deep scrutiny after the week of seemingly endless discussion about their manager’s encouragement of simulation. One would have thought that the appointed referee, Anthony Taylor, will look very closely at any attempted pikes with extra twists and turns. It’s fair to say that their degree of difficulty will certainly have been raised this weekend in particular.

We have to accept they have become a much more dangerous team under Pochettinyclub so defensively we will need to be alert and careful with any challenges in and around the box. Keeping Kane quiet will be crucial (assuming he and Lamela are out of the decompression chamber after last weekend) but we managed that when beating them 2-0 at the Grove in November. That performance should encourage us. Stretch them and get Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey running into the gaps and it could be a memorable match.

The ‘holic pound

If you have listened to this week’s ABW podcast (you will see it below) you will know I am on 2-1 to the Arsenal. Shop around to get 14/1 against this. The emotions as ever will fluctuate before, and probably during, the match. Right now though I am feeling really positive about our chances. Hopefully it will provide the springboard for us to record two famous victories at Wembley this month.

Have a great weekend, ‘holics.

Apparently this is hump day. no longer Wednesday. I think I will stick with the latter. It has been a mixed one and included getting another opportunity at getting to watch the Arsenal women in action on the FA WSL Facebook page. You can, as I type, see the full match here.

It was an absolute joy to watch too as the Gunners turned in a very impressive to performance to comprehensively defeat a Liverpool team on their own patch and cut the gap between the clubs to just one point. Next up for us is Yeovil at home while Liverpool travel to Manchester City. Hopefully that gap is about to be overturned and we can set our sights on second place Chelsea who are six points clear of us tonight.

The first goal came from a saved penalty that rebounded to the taker, Vivianne Miedema, and she made no mistake with her follow-up effort. Just before half-time our advantage was doubled with a long range wonder strike from Dominique Janssen. Not to be outdone Lisa Evans also produced a memorable strike to put the result beyond doubt just after the hour mark.

Bookending that performance the attention fell on our currently homeless neighbours. This morning the mainstream media appeared to present yesterday’s comments by Pochettinyclub about tricking referees in a less than critical light. I’m sure you have read them by now but typical of the press coverage was this piece in the Guardian. The presentation of the piece without criticism was of course a huge talking point on social media. Ahead of a potentially explosive derby on Saturday I hope the PGMOL officials have taken on board the inference that cheating is not only condoned, but demanded by the aforementioned Pochettinyclub.

To be fair even Gary Lineker felt compelled to be critical of the Tottenham manager’s comments, and another former goalscorer, John Aldridge, went further in the Irish Independent here. Given Lineker’s Tottenham affiliation and Aldridge’s bitter memories of Anfield 89 I think we can safely say it isn’t only Arsenal supporters feeling something unsavoury is happening at the homeless neighbours.

Talking of the neighbours the FA Cup 4th round wound up with them beating Newport County 2-0 in a replay and by and large resting the team that is likely to start on Saturday at Wembley. There was a brief appearance for one who may well have suffered an illegal and totally embarrassing hack of his cloud account. It would be a blow for him to miss the big match at the weekend.

And with that it is time again to dream of seventy-one and two thousand and four, of winning league titles at the Lane in colour, of signing Sol Campbell for less than the one pound that Ken Bates paid for a bus stop in Fulham.

Sweet dreams are made of this.

A day that made our away woes even more mystifying unfolded at the Grove as Everton were the first to discover that we have invested rather wisely in the January window. It was a day that will live long in the memory, from the pie, mash and liquor lunch, to just making it home for Match of the Day to witness it all again.

The match was effectively won in the first twenty minutes as the new boys settled into their new surroundings easily and with some style. Henrikh Mkhitaryan played like the talent we saw at Dortmund, not the tortured soul who struggled under Mourinho at Old Trafford. The Arsenal’s attacking midfielders were simply mesmeric, and tore into Everton from the off.

Mkhitaryan recorded his first assist in the sixth minute when he cut a ball back into the path of the unmarked Aaron Ramsey to glide home. It took just eight more minutes for the second to arrive when Skhodran Mustafi flicked Mesut Ozil’s corner into the path of a diving Laurent Koscielny to head the second. By the twentieth minute we had three. Alex Iwobi teed up Ramsey for a drive that took a deflection off the Everton debutant Mangala beyond the reach of goalkeeper Pickford.

An enthusiastic home crowd roared out their encouragement. This was definitely one of the good days. What of our most expensive signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? He showed his pace when racing through for a one on one with Pickford, who managed to save with his legs. He would not be denied, however, when Mkhitaryan slid the ball through for the striker to lift a delicate chip over the goalkeeper for our fourth. Offside it may have been but we get enough bad luck to enjoy the slices of good fortune that come our way.

The team emerged for the second-half minus Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac entered the fray. That in itself should not have made much difference but for a spell Everton threatened to put a dent in our goal difference. The visitors too changed their set-up, abandoning the back three and sending on Davies for Keane. Calvert-Lewin was summoned on the hour to replace Theo Walcott who had seen Mustafi deflect his one effort of note high and wide. The home crowd gave him an enthusiastic rendition of his chant. Calvert-Lewin then got his head on the end of a Martina cross to reduce the deficit.

After Petr Cech departed injured to be replaced by David Ospina the Arsenal prepared to send on Jack Wilshere for Ramsey but the Welshman realised he had unfinished business. From Mkhitaryan’s third assist he completed his first hat-trick for the Gunners and the four goal cushion was re-established.

It was indeed a lot of fun to watch, but now we must carry this form and confidence to Wembley next weekend for the North London derby. There was a fluidity to our attacking play yesterday that hints at a successful run-in to the season, but the defensive frailties were never far from the surface. Let’s enjoy that performance and pray for a repeat next weekend.

A word too for the crowd for just about the loudest rendition of any song I can remember at the Grove when “We’ve got Ozil” reverberated around the stadium and drew an appreciative wave from the German international. It was that kind of day.

Defeat at Swansea has left us eight points off the top four so the visit of Everton must provide the start of an unbeaten run. Certainly there will be a fresh feel to the side tomorrow if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recovers from the fever that has also affected Jack Wilshere this week.

If he doesn’t we should still get to enjoy Henrikh Mkhitaryan starting for us for the first time. Accommodating him raises questions about our formation and should Aubameyang be passed fit those questions will increase. Will we go with a back three or four? Possibly four if we have two strikers playing together? Perhaps a three if we play with a single striker? Arsene Wenger also wanted to add to our defenders in January and called for more focus from his team.

“I couldn’t do everything. I wanted to do more. I believe we have to find an internal solution to our defensive problems, and that means everyone putting more effort in.”

I suspect the manager will persist with Petr Cech in goal although the temptation to play David Ospina must have risen. Assuming our new striker doesn’t make it then a back three of Laurent Koscielny, Skhodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal playing behind wing-backs Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac would strengthen the left side of our defence. Theo Walcott makes his first return to the Grove since joining Everton in January and we must not give him anything but a warm round of applause.

The midfield needs freshening up. Granit Zhaka has looked jaded of late and could be taken out of the firing line for this match. Mohamed Elneny has performed well in his last two matches and deserves another chance to anchor that midfield in front of, or dropping into, the last line of defence. Aaron Ramsey, or Jack Wilshere if fit, gives us box to box capability. Mesut Ozil (thank you for signing that new contract) as the main playmaker and Mkhitaryan giving us width on either flank as appropriate.

If ever Alexandre Lacazette needed a goal or two it is now as his place comes under threat for all but the Europa League matches. I personally would prefer to see us operate with two strikers now that we have two of the best in the business, but the challenge the manager faces then is can he play two strikers and two creative midfielders in a team that needs to improve defensively? It’s a nice problem to have, I guess, and should certainly act as a motivator for all four to perform to their potential.

Everton succeeded where we failed in the transfer window and their defence will be strengthened by the loan of Manchester City’s central defender Mangala. They also come into the match in good spirits after beating Leicester 2-1 in the week with Theo bagging his first brace for his new employers.

The ‘holic pound

The bookmakers fancy 2-0 to the hosts but our last clean sheet in the Premier League was against Newcastle in December. For that reason I’m taking 8/1 against us winning 2-1. Our home form has been decent and the players must have had the need to react positively to the shambolic performance at Swansea drilled into them these last few days.

Farewell

I admit to a little sadness that in order to sign Aubameyang we had to allow Olivier Giroud to depart to the bus stop in Fulham. He has given us tremendous service for over five and a half seasons scoring 105 goals in 253 appearances. He was the one player at the club capable of playing with his back to the opposition goal and his departure weakens the squad. Thank you Olivier, and also to Mathieu Debuchy who arrived at the club as a highly-rated right-back only to be cruelly fouled by Arnautovic and he rarely returned to full form and fitness. Let’s hope he finds both again at St Etienne.

There was an unexpected recall for Aaron Ramsey for the trip to Swansea as the manager revealed that Jack Wilshere was ill. The only other change to the team that beat Chelsea was the anticipated switch to Petr Cech in goal. Olivier Giroud and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were both named on the bench giving the travelling faithful a chance to acknowledge a great servant of the club and welcome the new man.

Arsenal were on the back foot early on and Ayew’s effort was mercifully deflected wide of the far post, and only a wonderful last ditch block by Ramsey prevented Mawson from a simple close-range finish. Seconds later the all-action midfielder narrowly failed to connect with an Alex Iwobi through ball at the other end.

Mohamed Elneny’s last ditch sliding tackle denied Clucas and gave me an option to say something you will not have seen here before. Lee Mason spotted that Elneny had taken the ball and withstood loud appeals for a penalty. Well done Mr Mason. Moments later Ki Sung-yueng’s long range effort skidded just wide of Cech’s right hand post. The home team were looking anything but a bottom of the table side.

Elneny again was the right man in the right place to clear Ayew’s cross as two Swansea forwards arrived in the box at pace and seconds later Mawson’s shot from the edge of the box was tipped around the post at full stretch by Cech. We did muster a rare counter and Iwobi drew a fine near post save from our old friend Lukasz Fabianski. Ayew tormented Skhodran Mustafi and dragged another effort wide of the goal under pressure from Nacho Monreal.

It was Monreal, who else, who ghosted in at the far post and was brilliantly picked out by Mesut Ozil. The Spanish left-back has been our most potent attacker of late and proved it again with a controlled left-footed finish against the run of play.

Swansea City 0-1 The Arsenal

The lead lasted but a couple of minutes. Ozil went from hero to villain when pressured into losing the ball to Mawson who picked out Clucas behind Laurent Koscielny, and he slid the ball past Cech. Koscielny appeared to be held by Ayew for a crucial second as the ball was played outside him.

Swansea City 1-1 The Arsenal

Fer’s mazy run ended in a disappointing shot at Cech with the unmarked Ayew screaming for the simple sideways pass. The Arsenal response was yet more laboured build-up and a wayward left footer by Granit Xhaka. In all honesty we were fortunate to reach the turn on level terms.

One assumes the visitors were given a verbal rocket at half-time and started the second-half with a spell of patient possession, but still lacking any incisive forward passes. Breaking at pace on the counter, Clucas got in a header from Naughton’s cross. It was yet another warning shot across our bows, and a demonstration of how we might best use Alexandre Lacazette.

Elneny took the first yellow card of the night for the team when deliberately blocking an attempted through ball with his arm. We fashioned an opening when Iwobi laid the ball back for Ozil to hit but Fabianski saved comfortably to his right. Back came Swansea and Fer roasted Hector Bellerin who will have been delighted to see Cech smother the cross.

On the hour we finally got a look at Mkhitaryan, brought on somewhat surprisingly for Elneny who had been our insurance policy in front of a busy back four. What happened next beggared belief. Monreal’s throw in from the left back berth was passed from Mustafi to Cech. The experienced goalkeeper shanked a weak attempted clearance to Ayew who promptly put the ball in the net. As cock-ups come, that was a big one. Cech is looking to be reaching the end of an illustrious career.

Swansea City 2-1 The Arsenal

Bellerin had a free-kick and a yellow card for an inoffensive looking challenge. From the resulting free-kick Cech needlessly flapped at the cross beyond the deserted far post and conceded an unnecessary corner. Xakha’s aimless backward header presented a chance to Fer who thankfully pulled his effort wide of Cech’s near post.

Ozil’s cross gave Mkhitaryan a free header seven yards out but Fabianski was equal to it and the new man’s blushes were spared by an offside flag. Cue the introduction of Olivier Giroud for what may be his last outing with a cannon on his chest. Rarely will his song have been sung with such gusto by supporters determined to send him off in the right manner.

Ramsey’s backheel and Mkhitaryan’s driven cross deserved another attacker in front of the goal. “Come on Arsenal” bellowed the travelling faithful who have seen this sort of dross so many times this season. Dyer’s surprising withdrawal by Carroll suggested Swansea were happy to defend a slender advantage. Mkhitaryan and Giroud combined to give Ramsey a chance for what would have been a treasured strike in South Wales but his first touch unusually let him down.

A complete and utter shambles of an evening ended with Monreal surrendering cheap possession by the touchline. Ayew was allowed to run all the way into the area and clip the ball back for Clucas to smash home his second goal of the night.

Swansea City 3-1 The Arsenal

So welcome to the Arsenal Henrikh Mkhitaryan and hopefully Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Yes, you have joined a club capable of the sublime, but away from home this season we have largely been ridiculous. This latest humiliation will have surprised few. Credit to Swansea for taking advantage of a wounded animal. They were ruthless tonight.

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