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The timing of my latest ten day dry spell was a bit out. I should have started tomorrow, not yesterday! The team news pre-match didn’t help my nervousness. As last year Arsene Wenger put his faith in his squad. In goal was David Ospina, and a starting deep-lying midfield pairing of Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla surprised.

There was a start for out of form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alexis was preferred to French striker Olivier Giroud. Rotation didn’t work against Zagreb and Olympiacos last season, and the pundits (plus many on social media) were quick to pick up on that.

I turned Twitter off, put my hands together, and begged for divine intervention in the toughest fixture we will play in the group phase. In the opening 42 seconds however everyone’s worst fears were realised as Aurier ran away from Nacho Monreal and crossed for the unmarked Cavani to glance a header inside Ospina’s far post.

PSG 1-0 Arsenal

Before ten minutes was out we were indebted to Laurent Koscielny for a superb block to deny Rabiot after Shkodran Mustafi had surrendered the ball cheaply. Then Ospina had to head back towards his goal to prevent a DiMaria corner from catching him out.

The French side were treasuring possession and looked capable of opening a disjointed and unbalanced Arsenal team at will. We had to wait until the 22nd minute for Monreal to get clear down the left, cut in, and cross for Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post to head back across goal to nobody in particular. Two unproductive corners followed.

Francis Coquelin collected his customary early yellow card in the 24th minute with a reckless challenge in the Paris half. I wonder if at that early stage Arsene ever wondered about bringing on Mohamed Elneny or Granit Xhaka, both sitting on the bench behind him?

The sight of Alexis begging someone to advance to meet the onrushing wave upon wave of blue was almost painful to watch. The PSG full-backs, with whitewash on their boots, had the freedom of the flanks. If one was looking for a positive as the end of the half approached it was that we were still only one down and in with a punchers chance of a miracle.

That we still were when Cavani took the ball round the onrushing Ospina and inexplicably drove it wide of an open goal was something of a miracle in itself. The whistle has rarely felt as welcome.

Astonishingly we started the second-half with the same disjointed and unbalanced eleven. To be fair we attempted to apply the early pressure but seemed unable to create anything clear cut. We were open to the break and when it inevitably arrived we could be grateful that DiMaria opted to throw himself to the floor in the box rather than look to go one on one with Ospina.

Coquelin, often our most advanced threat, produced our first meaningful effort from twenty-five yards that looked on target before it was blocked in the box. At least the travelling Gooners were being treated to a degree of effort sadly lacking in the opening half.

Hector Ballerin’s acrobatics denied the home side a greater advantage and that was the trigger for Olivier Giroud to replace the luckless Oxlade-Chamberlain just past the hour. It still required successive blocks by Ospina to thwart Aurier and Cavani. Credit the goalkeeper for those.

At last we saw Granit Xhaka summoned to replace Coquelin, but again Ospina was called upon to deny DiMaria. PSG too used their bench at this point, bringing on Motta for Rabiot. Not too shabby, I suppose.

From out of nowhere came PSG’s punishment for not wrapping the game up. Iwobi’s effort was saved but the rebound fell invitingly for Alexis who needed no second invitation to bury the opportunity. You had to credit the boys resiliance and spirit at this point.

PSG 1-1 Arsenal

PSG responded immediately. Cavani out-muscled Mustafi and looked to go round Ospina who again got a vital touch. It was end to end stuff as both sides sought the winner. Mustafi made a wonderful block to prevent Cavani getting a clear sight of goal. Iwobi tried his luck again at the other end and was denied for a second time by the ‘keeper.

With six minutes left Elneny was sent on for Ozil, presumably to secure an unlikely point on the night. Giroud, moody and snarling, talked himself into a yellow card. He and Verrati then saw second yellows and a red each for a little bit of handbags.

At the end of the evening the boss would argue that his selection was entirely justified, while his critics might counter that if the ten outfield players who were on the pitch when we equalised had started we might have beaten distracted and far from ruthless opponents.

Me, I’m just going to try and relax with a cup of tea.

Here we go again. For the nineteenth consecutive season we enter the group phase of the European Champions League. We don’t have a gentle introduction to this season’s competition. On paper Paris St Germain away is the toughest of our six matches in this phase.

Arsene Wenger has admitted today that our opponents on Tuesday have contacted him on three occasions in the past about taking over at the Parc des Princes and that adds to the aura that surrounds the game. Almost certainly the last of those approaches was relatively recent.

This summer Laurent Blanc was replaced in the PSG hotseat by Unai Emery, and the team that stormed the French title last year are struggling to adapt not just with the departure of Blanc, but also Ibrahimovic, despite improving their defence by selling Luiz back to Chelsea. They are currently three points of the pace in Ligue 1 having won just the first two of their four fixtures to date.

The PSG squad picked by Emery for the match still has a string of big names and if they can click we will obviously be in for a stern examination of our credentials. The most notable absentee is Hatem Ben Arfa, a player well known to us. Both teams have strength and creativity in midfield and it will be interesting to see how we deal with Thiago Motta and Marco Veratti.

As for us Arsene revealed that Laurent Koscielny has recovered sufficiently from his boot in the eye on Saturday and will so he should start alongside Shkodran Mustafi. Their battle with Edison Cavani will be another key one. It is in midfield and up front where Arsene must now reveal what he considers his first team of the moment.

It is likely that Granit Xhaka will return alongside Santi Cazorla behind Mesut Ozil. Theo Walcott may give way to a fit again Alex Iwobi on one flank with Alexis Sanchez on the other. Olivier Giroud will surely get the nod over new boy Lucas Perez if 4-2-3-1 is the formation of choice, which it invariably is. The French striker will relish a battle with Thiago Silva in his home country.

The ‘holic pound

Often at this point I suggest that the outcome really will depend on which Arsenal turns up on the day. On Tuesday it is complicated by the fact that it will also depend on which PSG turns up! A comprehensive victory either way is possible, but instead my bid for a treble of wins is guided by the expectation of a tense, close contest. Under such circumstances I am going for a good old-fashioned ‘one-nil to the Arsenal’, a song born in the host stadium some twenty-two years ago (Damn you Ginola for the equaliser).  That popular scoreline is available at around 12/1.

To the significant number of travelling Gooners I wish you an enjoyable and safe trip. The French police, normally nervous at the best of times, will be on a high state of alert given recent events so do comply with their security measures.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

Arsene Wenger certainly utilised his new look squad for the visit of Southampton. Both August signings, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, were handed debuts. There was a recall for Francis Coquelin alongside Santi Cazorla, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Theo Walcott were preferred on the flanks. A tremendously strong looking bench includeded Alexis, Olivier Giroud, and Granit Xhaka as Arsene afforded a breather to some of those involved in international action during the break.

The opening phase of play hinted at the more open contest we had hoped for after last season’s borefest. The Saints were not slow to spring bodies in support on the break. The first big chance arrived in the ninth minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot was deflected into the path of Mesut Ozil, but the German was unusually tardy in getting his effort away and Redmond blocked the effort.

Redmond’s theatrical dive on the edge of the box in the sixteenth minute brought an early yellow card for Nacho Monreal. The resulting free-kick saw Tadic chip the ball onto the underside of the bar, and the rebound hit Cech in the back and roll agonisingly over the line. It was not the start needed to maintain the feel good factor in parts of the ground. Arsenal’s slow build-up play started to frustrate some once again.

Arsenal 0-1 Southampton

Mustafi lifted the crowd again with a tremendous burst down the right flank and an inviting cross into the box strangely devoid of Arsenal attackers. When the Ox was felled by the corner flag Cazorla’s free-kick was glanced over the bar by the head of Walcott. Moments later Cazorla was booked, seemingly for dissent, when the Ox was adjudged to have committed a foul on the greasy surface.

As the half hour approached Arsenal levelled in spectacular style. A corner resulted in a brief bout of head tennis and when the ball bounced birthday boy Laurent Koscielny, of all people, produced a spectacular overhead kick into the corner of the net.

Arsenal 1-1 Southampton

Redmond brought down Cazorla from behind and was not even spoken to, which was something of an astonishing non-decision given what had happened earlier. Ten minutes from the break saw another chance fall to Ozil at the far post and although he got his fierce left foot drive away first time it was again blocked to safety. As Cazorla increasingly took control of the game another opportunity fell the way of the Ox but Cedric’s block prevented the Gunners from going in at the break ahead.

Before the second-half kicked off the Saints made yet another declaration of intent, sending on Long for the ineffective Rodriguez. Despite that it was the hosts who got on the front foot again with Hector Bellerin and Walcott prominent. Fraser Forster’s time-wasting finally drew the yellow card it had long deserved less than ten minutes after the break.

A last gasp block by Bertrand denied Lucas his debut goal. The new boy, like Koscielny, was also enjoying his birthday. At the other end the all-action Cazorla stopped a dangerous Saints break with an interception of his own. The Arsenal poured forward again and Bellerin drilled one narrowly wide of the far post, and that was the signal for a double substitution. Olivier Giroud and Alexis came on to replace Lucas and the sadly out of touch Oxlade-Chamberlain.

An increasingly rare Southampton break saw Long through for a one on one with Cech but his chip evaded the far post. It was a warning that this game was far from home and hosed. Again Arsenal returned to the offensive and Alexis blazed an effort just over the crossbar.

The last roll of our substitutions dice saw Alex Iwobi come on for Theo Walcott, who must have been just one more innocuous foul away from a yellow card. Almost immediately the lead looked inevitable when Alexis and Cazorla contrived to set up Olivier Giroud, via a deflected cross, but the Frenchman slipped at the vital moment and Southampton survived.

Ozil and Iwobi opened the Saints defence up and Monreal’s shot was deflected away for a corner. Some desperate last-gasp defending was keeping the promise of an away point alive. Ward-Browse clattered Alexis just outside the left corner of the box but Czorla’s free-kick was gratefully claimed by Forster. Home nerves were all but shredded when Cech was called on to make a double save from Holberg and Long with just seven minutes left.

Cazorla was on the end of a flowing move instigated by Iwobi and his cross found the head of the diving Giroud who found the angle just too tight. Then in the first added minute of time added on the Gunners got the reward their persistence had deserved. Giroud was hauled to the deck by Fonte after Koscielny took a boot in the face. From the resulting and delayed penalty kick Santi Cazorla landed the three points plus the second consecutive ‘holic pound.

Arsenal 2-1 Southampton

Southampton poured bodies forward to try and snatch something in the remaining minutes but Arsenal stayed defensively solid. The points were secured more by doggedness than quality, but when the other top clubs grind out late wins they are generally hailed as resolute winners. We’re a long way from proving that we now have that trait, about thirty-four matches to be precise, but we are turning around a shaky start to the new season, and the new boys have taken the first steps on their Premier League journey.

All things considered, we’ll take that. On to Paris it is, where a more searching examination of our credentials is bound to be experienced on Tuesday. Let’s worry about that then. For now we’ll just enjoy the reward we got in the time added on for the visitors time-wasting.

On Friday I play the last 36 holes of my absurdly short golfing summer. Therefore it’s a Thursday preview of Saturday’s fixture without the benefit of having seen the gaffer’s press conference, scheduled to start as I either nail a thirty footer or take four stabs from six feet on the second green.

Southampton provide the opposition at 3pm on Saturday and hopefully will approach the match with more adventure than they showed in a suffocating goalless draw on a bitterly cold night in February. To give credit where it is due they did thrash us at St Mary’s last Boxing Day, an event that many saw as defining our season.

They are under new management with Claude Puel replacing Ronald Koeman after the latter bunked off to Goodison. The new man has experience with some of the biggest clubs in France and is expected to be more expansive than his predecessor, so we could be facing different problems this time around.

More will become apparent on Friday morning, but it would seem that Alex Iwobi is likely to be declared fit to play. On the minus side are rumblings that new central defender, Shkodran Mustafi, is not one hundred percent and is unlikely to start at the weekend. That is all rumour at this point but it could be significant. If he doesn’t get a match under his belt alongside Laurent Koscielny this weekend it seems unlikely that he would be given a baptism of fire in Paris next Tuesday.

Whilst it would be good to get a first glimpse of the new faces I am not at all worried about Rob Holding getting another couple of starts from which he could learn a great deal. It is further forward that the selection becomes trickier. Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka formed a very tidy partnership in the win at Watford and should get the nod again, although Mohamed Elneny must be wondering what he did wrong to lose his place in the starting line-up.

With Mesut Ozil nailed on to start there could be an interesting partnership either side of him. Perm any two from Theo Walcott, Iwobi, Alexis, and new boy Lucas Perez. Of course the latter may be preferred to Olivier Giroud as the main striker, but that would seem unlikely at this stage.

The ‘holic pound

There are so many variables around right now. Will the Saints offer an open game? Who will be starting for us? Could we even spring a surprise with a new formation given the new signings and squad mix now? I’m thinking yes, Walcott and Alexis to flank Ozil and Giroud, and no! On that basis I am plumping for 2-1 to the Gunners currently available at around 8/1.

There seems to be a happier atmosphere around the club right now, but there will need to be a positive showing from the team on Saturday to keep that slowly developing confidence on an upward path. The new signings, should they appear at some stage, will be given some time to settle in and establish themselves. The rest now know that there is real competition for places and should respond accordingly. Let’s hope they do.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

If one has to endure an international break after just three matches of the Premier League season then the insertion of a legends match proved to be an inspired idea yesterday. A very mixed crowd with lots of families in attendance enjoyed the opportunity to take in the match between some of Arsenal and Milan’s biggest names of the last thirty or so years. Take a bow, the Arsenal Foundation.

The match itself provided a breath of fresh air from the tensions present in recent fixtures. The tone was set early by Marc Overmars who hit a fierce drive over the bar and brought a save out of Christian Abbiati. Those efforts bookended a Christian Vieri effort blocked away for a corner by Kolo Toure. The pace of play may have been a yard or two slower than we are used to seeing, but the quality of the passing by both sides was warmly appreciated by a near sell-out crowd.

The feel good factor around the stands was replicated on the pitch, bar one challenge from behind by Pascal Cyan on a disgruntled Vieri. Arsenal had the better of the opening half hour and produced the move of the match, a succession of passes to set up Robert Pires who just missed the target. He was also narrowly wide with a headed effort. At the other end Vieri was again denied by the Gunners captain in the first-half, David Seaman.

The reward the hosts deserved came as the half hour neared when Manu Petit’s deflected cross found the head of the ageless Kanu and he diverted the ball back into the corner of the net. There was a moment of pure comedy as Nigel Winterburn and Paolo di Canio recreated the coming together when the Italian had pushed the referee to the ground on a heated afternoon at Hillsborough in 1998.

There was a degree of inevitability about the ever-willing Vieri scoring an equaliser, and he bundled the ball home after Seaman had made a fine reaction save from Massimo Ambrosini. The Arsenal goalkeeper was relieved to see a volley clear his crossbar as the half drew to a close.

After the break both sides continued to rotate at will which kept the game flowing and enabled these warriors of yesteryear to catch their breath. Gilberto Silva (how good was it to see him in an Arsenal shirt again?) Angled a drive just past the far post as the Gunners set about regaining control. They achieved just that when Kanu went bravely in for a diving header from a Luis Boa Morte free-kick.

The Nigerian completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Robert Pires took a tumble in the box. Six minutes from time three became four. Freddie Ljungberg and Pires rolled back the years  when the former broke down the right and crossed for the French genius to score at the far post.

Milan were not finished and gained a measure of consolation when Daniele Massaro threw himself to the floor in front of a bemused Cygan. Jens Lehmann saved Vieri’s spot-kick superbly but the striker was first to the rebound and the German was unable to deny him a second time.

The match raised a million pounds for the Arsenal Foundation to provide football pitches for youngsters in areas of conflict, and locally. It gave generations of Gooners a chance to see, either again or for the first time, some of the best players in Europe in recent decades. It was a day to savour and enjoy to the full.

And Davids Must Score…

It is one of the more unusual previews I have prepared in nine years and fifty weeks of blogging. Not because I am unusually relaxed ahead of what should be a fun match, but because of those likely to be on show. I know there are a couple of enforced absentees but some fabulous names from the past of Arsenal and AC Milan will take the applause and the cheers one more time.

The Arsenal Foundation Legends Match sees Arsenal Legends including Robert Pires, David Seaman and Freddie Ljungberg face Milan Glorie which includes Rossoneri legends Paolo Maldini, Ibrahim Ba and Cafu. The football legends are coming together to raise money to develop football pitches and programmes local to Emirates Stadium and in camps for refugees and internally displaced young people in Jordan and Somalia.

Video courtesy of Arsenal Football Club

 You may recall that back in March the Arsenal Ladies captain, Alex Scott, visited two new pitches provided by the Arsenal Foundation in Iraq, and the training sessions and chats she had with the local children who were benefitting from them.

Asked to comment on the initiatives, Arsenal Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, said:

“It’s important that football and clubs like Arsenal use the global passion for the game to make a difference. This game gives us all a chance to create something very special here on the doorstep of Emirates Stadium and in places where children are fleeing war and drought.”

There certainly won’t be a ‘holic pound wasted on the outcome of the match itself. These affairs generally end up something like 6-4, but don’t ask me which way! It is an excuse to reminisce about ‘dreamy’ Bob, Kanuuuuuuu, Mad Jens, ‘We love you’ Freddie, and the like. I see Edgar Davids is playing for Milan, and Gilles Grimaldi is in our squad. Could we see a little bit of history repeating itself ten years on? Oh, please.

Whatever happens I am looking forward to meeting some of you for the first time since May, and even longer. Guinness will be supped, the match will be enjoyed, and most importantly of all the money raised will enable the Arsenal Foundation to continue its amazing work.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

The last ‘first day back to work after the bank holiday‘ of the year. I’m not sure I have spent many in the past smiling throughout. Whilst they were hardly unexpected the signings of Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi were finally confirmed on Arsenal.com and these two players will fill obvious gaps in the squad.

I cannot recall having seen the attacker we have snapped up from Deportivo La Coruna for around £17m but I like what I have read from those who have. His most important role at Arsenal will be to provide competition for Olivier Giroud as leader of the attack. So adaptable is he though that he might well find himself playing on the left hand side of the French international. He has a good assist record as well as having enjoyed his best ever return of seventeen goals last season.

At 27 he is an improving player who has been on target in big matches. There is likely to be a period of transition for him but I doubt it will take too long for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, and Granit Xhaka to learn where he likes to receive the ball. With Danny Welbeck set to return in the new year we may well have got real options for the front line for the first time in a number of years.

When you see Chelsea scrambling around looking for a central defender or two in the last twenty-four hours of the transfer window you may understand what good work we have done to secure a World Cup winning German international for considerably less than the price of a John Stones. We were an injury to Laurent Koscielny or Rob Holding away from having to field a full-back or a youth team defender in the Premier League.

Mustafi will have Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil to ease him into the squad and the form of Holding and Koscielny means he too will have a little time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League (and what does that say about young Holding, by the way). The fact that we knew he was coming allowed the club to offer Calum Chambers a season on loan at a club where he could get regular football and develop further. I thought he was improving as a central defender and expect he will prove it at Middlesbrough and return, possibly to replace Mertesacker next summer?

Talk of loans brings up the somewhat surprising news that Jack Wilshere too has been offered the chance of a year away from the club. I understand totally the thinking behind it. Jack has to prove he can spend most of a season fit and play regularly to a high standard in a tough league. He may want to having lost his place in Sam Allardyce’s England squad. However we have invested hugely in getting him to be the player he is today, and while he might not figure as a first choice in the midfield we have put together in recent years we have so many injuries in that area that he will most certainly get opportunities, should he stay, to push his claims for a regular berth again. He has the quality. Has he got the durability?

Should Jack find himself temporarily elsewhere would we still be in the market for a last-day signing? Perhaps not in the congested central midfield spots, but maybe a wide player? We are still unclear who should fill these roles. With Joel Campbell gone, and further talk of a departure for Serge Gnabry, this is the likeliest area for any further acquisition. Or is it? Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Alex Iwobi, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, and cover from Lucas Perez, Santi Cazorla, and Aaron Ramsey. Arsene may feel, with some justification, that we have sufficient strength in depth there.

He will also know it is now potentially his Achilles heel.

Arsenal Legends v Milan Glorie Competition Winner

Congratulations to John Hopkins who was picked by the random number generator (thank you Twitter!) as the winner of the pair of tickets to Saturday’s match.

Thank you all who entered.

Arsene Wenger opted to start Santi Cazorla alongside Granit Xhaka and recalled Mesut Ozil for the visit to Vicarage Road. It was a bold statement of intent. Clearly we were setting up to attack with more purpose and pace than we have seen in the opening fixtures.

After a quiet start Arsenal were given an eighth minute penalty when Amrabat smashed his elbow into the head of Alexis and Cazorla drilled the spot-kick down the middle to give Arsenal the lead.

Watford 0-1 Arsenal

Prodl went into the referee’s notebook for a late challenge on Theo Walcott on sixteen minutes. The Watford defence dealt with Cazorla’s floated free-kick. Midway through the half Walcott was denied at the far post by the legs of Gomes following some excellent approach play by Alexis and Cazorla. That finally sparked a response from Watford although it was Laurent Koscielny who was the first to test the reflexes of Petr Cech with a sliced clearance.

Ten minutes before the break Alexis and Ozil combined superbly down the left flank and the Chilean found the busy legs of Gomes. Four minutes later the same player would not be denied, applying the finish to a flowing counter attack and Walcott’s excellent first time cross.

Watford 0-2 Arsenal

Two almost became three when Xhaka’s inch-perfect pass into the path of Walcott resulted in a shot that Gomes finally managed to save with his hands. Again the reprieve was temporary. Alexis found a yard of space and chipped the ball onto the head of Ozil who scored a rare headed goal from point blank range. It was no more than the Gunners deserved for a simply mesmeric first-half performance.

Watford 0-3 Arsenal

Watford introduced their new signing from Juventus, Pereyra, in place of Guedioura at the start of the second-half. It had little effect on the tide of blue and fluorescent yellow, and Walcott hit another low ball across the face of the goal which evaded all. Bellerin repeated the feat minutes later and somehow Alexis failed to get the touch under a heavy looking challenge.

Janmaat, who arrived from Newcastle, came on in place of Kabasele, and against the run of play the hosts pulled one back when Pereyra blasted a rebound wide of Cech. It was the first time the defence had looked to be in snooze mode.

Watford 1-3 Arsenal

Deeney earned a yellow card for leaving his foot in on Nacho Monreal as the Spanish left-back cleared. Referee Kevin Friend then had to issue a warning to the Hornets new manager, Walter Mazzarri, for his behaviour on the touchline.

Now reduced to counter-attacking the Gunners still posed a threat with their pace. Both Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got free but put attempted chips over the crossbar. After Cech had pulled off a smart double save, and in an effort to wrestle back control, Arsene sent on Mohamed Elneny and Jack Wilshere on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and the tiring Ozil.

Still Watford fought to reduce the arrears and Ighalo went close with a spectacular overhead effort. Shortly afterwards Monreal, in the wars throughout, hobbled off to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs. Amrabat incurred the wrath of the referee who showed the yellow card to him as he was replaced by Success, the sub-editors dream!

Cech had to be alert twice more and did enough to thwart Pereyra and Ighalo. As dominant as the Gunners had been before the break, so now were Watford in the second-half. Behrami might have done better than pull a drive wide of Cech’s right hand post after he too had gone into Mr Friend’s book for a foul on Walcott.

As the clock ticked down Arsenal broke and Alexis chipped tamely into the hands of Gomes having ignored a positive run by Walcott to his right. That preceded yet another yellow card for the hosts, for Holebas. It seemed anything but a six card contest for them. There was ironic applause from the home fans when Jack Wilshere was shown the same yellow card for his first foul.

The Gunners successfully held out for the five added minutes to earn the first ‘holic pound of the new season. That didn’t look a great bet at half-time. Overall this was a comfortable win for the Gunners, who had to show great resilience in the face of a spirited fightback.

The infernal international break once again arrives at the wrong time for a team that must have had a considerable confidence boost from their performance.

At the end of what promises to have been an eventful week we prepare to kickstart our season at Watford. A second consecutive away game before the international break may not be ideal, but the away support for the majority of the match is positive and the pressure may not be as much as is felt on occasion at home.

Quite who will start for the Gunners will involve a degree of guesswork for all attempting to preview the match. Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Iwobi, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck are definitely ruled out, and Arsene Wenger suggested that Olivier Giroud may be “still a little fraction behind physically.”

Ahead of Petr Cech it would be surprising to see any changes to the defence that kept a clean sheet at Leicester. Ahead of them it is perm two from the trio of Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka, and Mohamed Elneny. Is it time for the latter pairing to be utilised or will Elneny miss out for the second week running?

If Mesut Ozil is deemed fit enough to return after last week’s cameo then he should get the nod ahead of Santi Cazorla, but the little Spaniard may be considered a more consistent option than Theo Walcott on the right. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should retain his place on the left. Alexis looks set to get one more chance to show what he can do centrally. When we take the field against Southampton in a fortnight the team could look very different indeed.

Like us, Watford have got just a point to show for their efforts in the opening couple of games. After sharing the spoils on the opening day at Southampton the Hornets were beaten 1-2 at home by Chelsea last week, and suffered the ignominy of an EFL Cup defeat at home to Gillingham on Tuesday night. Their new manager, Walter Mazzarri, has the option of picking from new signings Roberto Pereyra, Younes Kaboul and Daryl Janmaat to shake things up.

The ‘holic pound

It’s to be noted that Watford have scored in each of their three outings to date, so I’m looking at that run continuing. The 15/1 being offered by one High Street bookie against 1-3 has persuaded my heart, rather than my head, to risk the pound. It may require a late goal or two from substitute Giroud to oblige.

The Transfer Deadlock About to be broken?

The media, quality and otherwise, are reporting on the impending arrivals of Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi and Spanish striker Lucas Perez for a combined fee in excess of £50 million. In the current climate we have paid the going rate for the centre-half from Valencia, and look to have got good value in springing Perez’ release figure of 20 million euros.

All eyes are on Arsenal.com for the announcements in the coming days, but there seems to be a very strong feeling that the deals have been agreed. Mustafa answers our clear and obvious need for a top quality central defender, whilst Perez showed great improvement at his hometown club last season and it will be interesting if he can transfer that improvement to the Premier League with a small period of adjustment. He can play across the front line or as an attacking midfielder so could provide cover and competition for a number of key positions.

The Champions League Draw

It has to be said that the draw has worked out pretty well for us. Without appearing to be over-confident it would be a big shock if ourselves and PSG did not progress from the group. Xhaka and Elneny will be the first to understand the power to surprise that Basel could spring, but we should be all the better prepared for that. The trip to Ludogorets may be something of a venture into the unknown for supporters unfamiliar with the Bulgarian League (this one included) but again I suspect our preparation will be thorough.

The prospect of topping the group is not out of the question, and we will face potentially our toughest trip on match day one. Paris has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for us, but if we can correct that wrong we will have a great chance of avoiding the big guns in the round of sixteen.

Win Tickets To See Arsenal Legends Take On Milan Glorie

A reminder to head to the last post to enter the competition to win a pair of tickets to next Saturday’s nostalgic fixture.

And with that I wish all of you going to Vicarage Road a safe and happy trip boosted by our first three point haul of the new season.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Hello ‘holics,

We’ve teamed up with Arsenal Football Club to offer our readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to ‘Arsenal Legends’ v ‘Milan Glorie’ at Emirates Stadium on Saturday 3 September.

The star studded encounter will see a host of football greats on show for both sides. Some of the Legends that are scheduled to play are Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Filippo Inzaghi and Cafu.

To be in with a chance to win, please answer the question below:

Which of these Arsenal Legends has a statue outside Emirates Stadium?

•             Thierry Henry

•             Lee Dixon

•             David Seaman

Please send your entries to competition@goonerholic.com by midnight UK time on Sunday, 28th August. 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.

If you want to make sure of your place in the stadium on the day tickets are now on general sale for this fixture and are priced from £20 adults and £10 concessions (16 and under and 65 and over) here.

Good luck to you all.

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