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It’s competition time again at Goonerholic thanks to our old friends at the Art of Football, who will help make one lucky Gooner’s week by sending them a superb teeshirt from their excellent range.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings, including a number of recent additions. The teeshirts and sweatshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small kids to XXL for those of us of a fuller figure! Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your teeshirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

You can also buy a number of prints or canvasses (print sizes A2, A3, and A4 available plus A2 and A3 canvas) which would make a welcome Christmas present for the Gooner in your life.

Now for the good news. Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just Head over to my Twitter handle @TheGoonerholic and locate the pinned tweet on my profile. Follow and us and RT this tweet for a chance to win a tee of your choice! Good luck!

The winner selected after the competition closes at 5.00pm UK time on Thursday 22nd November, will receive the tee of their choice. There is no cash alternative.

That’s not all we have for you from the Art of Football. If you don’t win then this weekend get a discount of 20% off everything you buy from the Art of Football website as part of their Black Friday promotion with the code BF20.

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

The reaction to the Premier League clubs agreeing to make payments totalling £5 million to departing chairman, Richard Scudamore, is a hardly surprising level of criticism on social media. The Football Supporters Federation published the following post on Facebook, and immediately drew messages of support from other supporters groups including the AST.

“Premier League clubs have always told fan groups that budgets are planned in advance and there’s not a surplus of cash lying around from their extremely lucrative TV deal. In the meantime loyal football supporters continue to be inconvenienced by fixture changes to fit TV schedules, often losing out on travel costs or struggling to get to and from games in the first place.

Now it appears clubs can stick their hands down the back of the sofa and find £250,000 at a moment’s notice. Fans strongly oppose the ‘golden handshake’ and we urge clubs not to make a decision which is hugely unpopular with supporters.”

The justification issued by the Premier League was also issued. Scudamore’s departure package …

“was made by the Audit and Remuneration Committee and the Non-Executive Directors, supported and endorsed by the clubs. It was vital that a comprehensive set of non-compete clauses were extended, to ensure the best possible protection for the future of the Premier League. It was agreed that it is crucial for the League’s ongoing success that Richard’s unique knowledge and experience remain available in an advisory capacity. The payments are in recognition of the outstanding work Richard has carried out over the last 19 years.”

That there is a rift between the supporters and clubs there is no doubt. The clubs may well wish to show appreciation to an executive who consistently delivered improved television revenues. Yet they show no understanding of what that has cost supporters with matches being switched, sometimes at short notice, with no regard to what that would mean for the travelling supporters.

A number of comments on Twitter have suggested that money might have been better spent on the grass roots of the game which is in need of financial support. Others called for the cash to be spent specifically on local schools and youth football. In fairness to The Arsenal they do perform some superb work in this area via The Arsenal Foundation.

It’s too late, I would imagine, for the Premier League to withdraw their very public but that won’t stop a number of supporters and fan groups from equally taking their concerns into the public arena. It looks like an own goal by the League and the clubs who voted to contribute.

Could there be a clearer indication that the supporters voices are not heard by those for whom they are just customers of the business of football, disposable and replaceable.

Taking The Long View

I mentioned on Twitter post match that I had experienced the gamut of emotions over the weekend, and in fairness most them on match day itself. This isn’t the time for a detailed report. Most of you have seen what transpired, I’m sure, and other blogs have excellently covered the minutiae of what happened and when.

The day started superbly. I got to meet up with family for the match and we enjoyed a superb meal in Lamezia (I recommend the lobster and crab ravioli!) before heading off to Piebury corner to greet Paul (thank you for the book) and Alan Smith (thank you for signing it). Ian Wright was also in situ but as he was trying to eat his lunch I didn’t interrupt. A stroll back down Holloway Road to Provisions for a large cheeseboard and a cheeky little bottle of red.

Replete it was off to the armoury to grab this season’s home shirt for two wonderful young lads. The sun was out as we said our goodbyes and I made my way to a different view to my usual position in Block 4. I was glad to witness the commemoration of the one hundred years of World War 1 which The Arsenal presented with absolute class. A minute of silence and reflection for everyone present for family members caused a little something in my eyes.

The referees whistle brought an end to that minute and a crescendo of noise filed the stadium. This was a good day, yes? Well, of course that was pretty much the time at which it ceased to be so. We started slowly, as we have done with a similar formation and players so often this season. As good as Granit Xhaka was against Liverpool a gaffe is never out of the question and when he lost his bearings yesterday we were a goal down.

It was all too much for my new neighbour who screamed invective at various players and generally raised their blood pressure, and volume, to higher levels. At half-time I sought the refuge of my normal block. “Any spare seats by you?” I pleaded to my co-season-ticket-holder. “Yes”. I was glad to be back in familiar surroundings with a better view of proceedings, or so I thought.

We improved to a degree, but not as much as we have in so many other matches this season. It’s at this point one has to acknowledge the part the Wolves were playing. They had organisation, discipline, and a grasp of some of the dark arts, in particular time-wasting. I don’t blame visiting sides for doing it from the first minute to the last. They will only get away with what the officials allow. Referee Stuart Attwell showed no desire to speed the match up and that added to the air of frustration around the ground.

Henryk Mkhitaryan’s goal was a rare moment of class for me and a fluke to some. Good job we don’t all agree about everything. A frustrated crowd became an angry crowd when the fourth official raised the board indicating five added minutes while a second Wolves player in the closing stages was receiving lengthy treatment for a supposed injury, only to sprint back to his position from the touchline when play resumed. With a full raft of substitutions I think the paying public were robbed of at least another two or three minutes.

The anger subsided over a pint and a half of Guinness and friends debated the right and wrongs of the day. On the way home on the train I started thinking about where we are in a wider context. We have many new players this season as well as a new coaching regime. They have had to integrate with the retained players in a new system of playing for all. At this early stage we appear to have some round players in square positions and I am sure Unai Emery is trying different combinations in training to improve our effectiveness and consistency.

There will be good performances (Liverpool and Fulham) plus the occasional poorer performances of which yesterday was the perfect example. We are working things out on the job. That is what happens and the head coach is right to make his most uttered word improvement. That improvement will be required quickly if we are to dream of chasing Manchester City to the finishing line. The gap is already eight points. Who will beat City three times?

I don’t expect us to be involved in the shake up for the title right now, but if you had said to me in August that we would have won seven and drawn three of the first twelve matches I would have snatched your arm off. That is my measuring stick, the longer view if you will. New formations and new system will provide peaks and troughs and we are experiencing more of the former at the start of the new project, which is encouraging to me.

Where will it all end? Who knows? As ever my glass is half full. Others are looking miserably at the dregs in their glass. Vive la difference, and all that.

After three draws in four matches The Arsenal have an opportunity to return to winning ways and raise the spirits after the ankle injury sustained by Danny Welbeck when Wolves arrive for Sunday’s late kick-off.

Stephan Lichsteiner is also ruled out but to be fair I think Unai Emery’s preferred starting eleven will start the match. Bernd Leno should keep goal behind Hector Bellerin, any two from Skhodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or Rob Holding, plus Sead Kolasinac.

Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira will probably start behind a front four of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette. Eddie Nketiah will surely be promoted to the bench in the unfortunate Welbeck’s place.

The visitors have had mixed fortunes on their return to the top flight but made a solid start to the campaign. They lost just one of their first eight matches and are one of only two sides to have taken points off Manchester City in a 1-1 draw. They secured another point by the same scoreline at Old Trafford against City’s neighbours.

They have lost three in a row since then but showed great determination to all but recover from three goals down against the Middlesex Nomads last week. It is important we do not underestimate Portuguese inspired Wanderers who sit comfortably in 11th place in the Premier League.

The ‘holic pound

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 19 league and cup games against Wolves but this looks to be the visitors best squad in many a year. They spent in the region of £100m in the close season. Having said that if we show them respect and play with the vigour and confidence we saw against Liverpool we should get three valuable points.

I have been tempted by the offer of 8/1 against a 2-0 home win. The side owe a result to Danny Welbeck as he awaits a prognosis on what is clearly a very bad ankle injury.

I may see some of you after the match tomorrow for hopefully a review of another impressive performance.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Ten of the eleven tipped to start in the preview were indeed selected. The surprise was the inclusion of Carl Jenkinson at left-back and not Sead Kolasinac. There were welcome returns for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Emile Smith-Rowe.

The visitors started with two banks of four firmly ensconced  in their own half and made it clear they would do their best to deny us any space to weave our magic in. The front two for the visitors were picking and choosing if and when to apply the high press in the opening minutes.

As early as the eighth minute the tv cameras caught Unai Emery imploring his charges to up the tempo. The team that sprung a rapid break was Sporting and Stephan Lichsteiner had to react quickly to prevent Diaby’s cross from reaching Nani. It was another eight minutes before Emile Smith-Rowe wriggled into a yard of space outside the box for an effort that failed to dip in time.

A minute later Matteo Guendouzi’s excellent cross from the right was diverted goalbound by Mathieu but Coates spared his team mate’s blushes with a goal-line clearance. Danny Welbeck headed narrowly off target as we finally started finding ways of breaking down the Portuguese rearguard. In the aftermath Lichsteiner, not for the first time, clattered into Nani and saw an early yellow card from the referee, Gediminas Mazeika.

The former Juve right-back got forward to cross for Welbeck to win a header under pressure and a stretcher and oxygen was hurriedly summoned when the medical staff reached him. The look on Aaron Ramsey and Guendouzi’s faces told the story. It was a bad one. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came on as the substitute as the home crowd roared out Welbeck’s chant.

Jenkinson’s sprint of fifty yards deserved better than an overhit cross. The visitors were guilty of a number of sly challenges in the opening half. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lichsteiner, Smith-Rowe, Ramsey, and Guendouzi were the recipients of what Ron Atkinson would have called reducers. The referee, worryingly, was turning a blind eye to all of them.

When a corner found it’s way to Lichsteiner hovering just outside the area in the inside left channel he drove the ball into the Clock End lower tier. Finally the referee carded a Sporting player, Gaspar, for a tug back and trip on Alex Iwobi. In the last of the four minutes added on for the treatment of Welbeck Lichsteiner, always involved, was a whisker away from a far post header. Would we raise our game in the second-half?

We certainly started the second-half brightly with Aubameyang just missing the near post after good work by Lichsteiner and Mkhitaryan down the right. Sporting responded with a volley from Diaby smashing into the ribs of Jenkinson.

A flowing team move ended with Smith Rowe curling a cross-come-shot wide of the far post. At the other end Nani outpaced Ramsey and Lichsteiner but Cech claimed his cross. Back we came with Iwobi teeing up Aubameyang to fire into the side netting. Carl Jenkinson was withdrawn on the hour and afforded a warm round of applause by an appreciative crowd. Sead Kolasinac came on. I might have been tempted to take the booked Lichsteiner out of the firing line but I’m just a bloke on a keyboard in Wiltshire. Perhaps Jenks was running on empty?

As the siege of the Lisbon goal became more intense Acuna found himself the recipient of the third booking of the evening for showing dissent to the assistant referee. Kolasinac teed up Iwobi for another wild shot off target. Acuna then cut down Smith-Rowe but Mr Mazeika did not produce what would have been a thoroughly deserved second card in quick succession.

A few seconds apart Lichsteiner pulled up with a hamstring problem and Guendouzi saw yellow for tripping a Sporting player who did not put the ball out to allow treatment. Ainsley Maitland-Niles slotted in at right-back. Luis then received the fifth booking off the night for scything through the back of Sokratis. With a quarter of an hour remaining Emery was exalting his charges once more. Faster, quicker, come on. That sort of thing. Could we find a late winner, as in Lisbon?

Diaby broke to relieve the pressure on his beleaguered defence and drew a brave block from the excellent Sokratis. He and Holding looked quite a pairing tonight. Iwobi found Mkhitaryan in a good position but the Armenian side footed it too close to the Sporting goalkeeper and Ribeiro saved comfortably. Aubameyang then tried his luck again only to be denied by a Coates block.

Aubameyang was brought down by Mathieu just outside the box and could have no complaints about the red card he received. With two minutes to go Aubameyang curled his free-kick over the bar. The Sporting supporters filling the Clock End lower tier were already celebrating their point. Up went the board indicating a further five minutes to be played.

Unai Emery, looking more and more like Bela Lugosi with every passing minute, bared his teeth in exasperation. We poured forward in wave upon wave, the wily Nani sat down with imaginary cramp, and Cech came out thirty yards to sweep as Sporting sprung a surprise break. One last corner was repelled and we were fifteen unbeaten, but not confirmed as group winners. A costly night in squad terms, and we will need to negotiate the two ‘easier’ games remaining with a little more respect than might have been the case.

“It’s a very important match because if we win we’re first in the group. That’s our clear target. This competition is very important for us. It’s one way to win a title and get into the Champions League next year.”

Unai Emery is anticipating us clinching Europa League Group E with a couple of games to spare by winning the return fixture against Sporting at the Grove. The team that is trusted to complete the task may not be dissimilar to the one that won the away match on matchday three.

Presumably Petr Cech will come in for Bernd Leno, and if all are passed fit the back four might be Stephan Lichsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Rob Holding, and Sead Kolasinac?

Matteo Guendouzi may return alongside Aaron Ramsey at the base of the midfield behind an attacking quartet of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Emile Smith-Rowe, Alex Iwobi, and Danny Welbeck?

We won the first meeting with an unanswered Welbeck strike. We will want to start this match with the same intensity we saw against Liverpool although the cast is likely to be largely different. We coped well with the threat of Nani that night but will know he is a very real threat, along with the full-back Acuna who gave Lichsteiner a torrid time in Lisbon.

The ‘holic pound

Will we see another inspired performance to stretch the unbeaten run to fifteen matches? The bookmakers have 2-0 as the favourite at a best of 6/1. I’m opposing them and going with 2-1 at 17/2 even though we have not conceded a goal to Sporting in our three previous meetings with the Lisbon club.

If you are going to the match wrap up warm as the temperature is forecast to fall into single digit territory. Those of us watching in the warm will miss the atmosphere, but not the chilled bones.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

In the pubs and bars around the ground a full house of Gooners came together with varying degrees of caution and hope. There was a nervousnesss about who would be fit to play in the back four up against Salah, Mane, and Firmino. Two that most would have wanted failed their fitness tests. Nacho Monreal and Sokratis Papastathopoulos played no part in the proceedings that followed. Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac were passed fit to fill the full-back roles.

The primary concern pre-match was whether we could start the match switched on enough to resist the high press and create fluent attacking football. The answer was an emphatic yes. Full of power and purpose we could have taken the lead with barely three minutes on the clock, but Alisson in the Liverpool goal was alert enough to deny Alexandre Lacazette’s near post flick.

Again we went so close when the excellent Granit Xhaka freed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who saw his effort deflected into the side netting. From the resulting corner Xhaka himself drew a save out of Alisson. A minute later we were so close again when Kolasinac and Aubameyang combined on the left and the latter’s cross was headed inches wide of the target by Henrikh Mkhitaryan. This was the first-half performance we have been crying out for all season.

Stung into a response the visitors thought they had taken the lead when Firmino struck a post and the rebound was tapped home by Mane only for him to look around to spot the assistant referee’s flag rightly raised for offside. Liverpool are not title contenders without reason. Van Dijk found himself one on one with Leno who smothered the volley sufficiently to enable Skhodran Mustafi to complete the clearance.

Just past the half hour with Lucas Torreira and Xhaka bossing the base of the midfield they sent Mesut Ozil and Aubameyang clear only for the latter to see his effort deflected wide of the post again. The atmosphere at the Grove was as good as it has been for many a moon and the chants from the home crowd grew in volume as we warmed to the performance we were witnessing.

Xhaka and Ozil combined again to put Lacazette in for a low drive that fizzed narrowly wide of the far post. Five minutes from half-time the same player did put Mustafi’s header across the target into the back of the net only for the other assistant referee to raise his flag for offside. A moment of euphoria in the stands was nipped in the bud.

Still though the half could have gone either way and we survived a huge scare when Bernd Leno came for a cross he was never going to claim and mercifully van Dijk’s header came back into play off the upright.

The second-half bubbled to life when Fabinho made two bad fouls in quick succession, only seeing yellow for the second of them on Torreira. Just past the hour mark our relatively comfortable grip on the game was surrendered when Leno could only palm Mane’s cross into the path of Milner who took full advantage of the gift. If anyone thought Arsenal heads would drop after that they were proven so very wrong.

Torreira it was who started the fightback with an ambitious run and drive that Alisson was pleased to tip over the bar. Unai Emery sent on Alex Iwobi for Mkhitaryan, then rather more surprisingly Aaron Ramsey for Aubameyang. Leno made some recompense for his earlier errors when tipping another van Dijk header over the bar at full stretch. An Iwobi cross flew across the face of the visitors goal with nobody quite able to apply the finishing touch.

Ten minutes from time our last substitution saw Danny Welbeck join the fray in place of Kolasinac, with Iwobi pushed into an unfamiliar wing-back role. Liverpool also made a change with Shaqiri replacing Firmino.

Then came a moment of magic that added to an already thrilling game. Iwobi played Lacazette into the box. With his first touch he turned away from Alisson, then turned around Gomez before unleashing a beautiful curved finish around them both and inside the far post. The celebrations for the equaliser our efforts deserved were long and loud.

Three points almost came our way but Bellerin missed the target after some good approach work from Welbeck. Fabinho brought down Ozil and there were loud requests for the red card he had already avoided but Andre Marriner’s patience spared the Brazilian.

All good things come to an end and so did this wonderful display. Back to the pub we went for some post mortem discussions accompanied by a couple of delicious Icelandic firewaters (thank you Zaph). Despite the nip in the air it seemed as though everybody had a warm glow from seeing that The Arsenal are close to being the real deal.

Unai Emery said afterwards he was only fifty percent happy because we had only drawn and explained that he felt we could have won the match.

“Today the balance was good in our speed and intensity. We worked very well for the 90 minutes and the two goals is the difference in the match. This is a point and a draw, maybe we deserve a little more.”

I certainly wouldn’t argue with him on that.

It would appear that we have reached something of a fork in the road. Thirteen games undefeated, twelve of them won, and all the time we have been told we are beating teams we should be beating. Wait until Liverpool has been the warning from a section of the support. They have a point, of course, and now we are to measure ourselves against a team that has been improving over the course of three years under Klopp. Us being just three months into the reign of Emery.

The visitors share the lead of the Premier League with Manchester City and we now trail them both by four points after the draw at Selhurst Park. Defeat would not be a season-ending disaster but you can be sure there will be much angst on social media if we do lose. Similarly victory will not be any sort of guarantee for the rest of the season. It would however satisfy the new manager’s desire for improvement with every passing game.

The main concern on the eve of the match is what sort of back four we will be able to put out. Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Nacho Monreal, and Sead Kolasinac all face late fitness tests and it’s fair to say that three of those would be preferred starters. Worse case scenario would be Bernd Leno starting behind Stephan Lichsteiner, Skhodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, and Granit Xhaka.

That would probably see a recall for Aaron Ramsey alongside Lucas Torreira behind an unchanged quartet of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette.

The main task facing the manager will be filling that makeshift back four with confidence to get the ball forward at a fast tempo to beat the high press that a Klopp team will undoubtedly bring. To be fair we haven’t shown too often in the first-half of matches that we have that in our locker. Achieving that tomorrow, and scoring the first goal, would send a huge message out to our other rivals for at least a top four finish.

The scousers are undefeated in the League sharing Manchester City’s record of eight wins and two draws. They were held at Chelsea and at home by City. They did however beat the Middlesex Nomads at Wembley.

The ‘holic pound

If we are to triumph I do believe we will have to outscore them in a high-scoring contest. Therefore I have split the pound on 3-2 at 28/1 and 4-3 at 100/1. Crazy? Probably, but I will be on the bubbles if either of them come in.

Art of Football teeshirt winner

Congratulations to @AntiSocial_Joe who got lucky in the draw. You will love the quality of your prize.

I hope to see a few of you at the match and as ever wish you all a good one, ‘holics.

Unai Emery gave a first team debut to 21 year old Spanish central defender Julio Pleguezuelo alongside Skhodran Mustafi. Carl Jenkinson made a return to the team after 701 days as a makeshift left-back with Stephan Lichsteiner playing on the right. Aaron Ramsey slotted in alongside Matteo Guendouzi behind an attacking quartet of  Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Emile Smith-Rowe, and Danny Welbeck. Mustafi and Guendouzi must be fearing the axe for Saturday’s match against Liverpool as a result of starting tonight.

On a chilly All Hallows’ Eve the crowd gave an emotional tribute to Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha before kick-off. A long throw-in, a corner, and an overhit free-kick apart the opening phases of play saw the Gunners camped in the Blackpool half along with the massed ranks of white and orange. The creativity was being strangled though and we didn’t get an effort of any note in until the 18th minute when Mkhitaryan’s shot was deflected behind only for a goal kick to be awarded.

In the 21st minute Guendouzi found himself the first recipient of a yellow card for bringing down Thompson somewhat robustly. That would become an omen for later on in the match. It was apparent that the attacking midfielders were rotating positions at will in the hope of pulling Blackpool out of shape, but to little effect until Smith-Rowe’s cross was blocked for a corner which was eventually headed over by Mustafi.

Former Gunner Marc Bola’s hack at Lichsteiner’s ankles was not interestingly deemed worthy of anything other than a free-kick. Lichsteiner got his revenge when he timed a wonderful run into the box to convert Guendouzi’s perfect chip on 33 minutes. You could say he ghosted into the area on Halloween.

The Arsenal 1-0 Blackpool

When Guendouzi’s fierce drive was clearly deflected wide by a defender the referee again awarded Blackpool a goal-kick. Once is careless. Twice in the opening half was plain spooky on this, of all evenings. Delfouneso was next to clatter poor old Lichsteiner and the referee did at least have a word with the offender this time, but no more than that.

Aaron Ramsey almost finished a move he had started but couldn’t control his half volley at the far post from a Maitland-Niles cross from the right flank. The half ended with Thompson finally earning Blackpool’s first yellow card, or did he. On the BBC they said it was Corporal Jenkinson who was on the other side of the pitch!

The second half was 4 minutes old when the lead was doubled. A goal adrift, the Seasiders had a ghost of a chance but Smith-Rowe turned into the exorcist. Another former Gunner, goalkeeper Mark Howard could only palm Jenkinson’s effort from a tight angle to Smith Rowe who finished with an Ozilesque ‘bounce the ball in off the deck’ finish. This was child’s play, surely!

The Arsenal 2-0 Blackpool

Cheers turned to jeers when Guendouzi foolishly tugged gently at Thompson’s sleeve and the Blackpool man tumbled over. For two offences Guendouzi saw two yellow cards and therefore a red. The home crowd vented their frustration but the referees erratic performance was not the sole cause of the young Frenchman’s exclusion. Unai Emery was sufficiently concerned to send Lucas Torreira on for Maitland-Niles who had got some valuable minutes under his belt.

The ten men drove on and Mkhitaryan’s lung-bursting run ended with a shot into the side netting, but Blackpool responded and from a corner O’Connor, unmarked at the far post, headed the Seasiders back into the match. What a nightmare, although at Ashburton Grove and not on Elm Street.

The Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool

We had an even bigger scare when Cech miscontrolled the ball at his feet, his Achilles heel if you will, and Delfouneso netted from a blatantly offside position. What on earth possessed the goalkeeper to do that?

On 72 minutes Smith-Rowe was substituted to a standing ovation by Alex Iwobi. In truth the youngster had a mixed night but that’s how young players develop and he is unquestionably a monster talent in the making. Shortly afterwards the loudest roar of the night greeted the arrival of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang for Danny Welbeck.

Scared of crosses, Howard was grateful to see his parry of Iwobi’s cross hoofed clear by one of his defenders before the latest substitute could pounce. The scream when Cech next had the ball at his feet was enough to persuade him pump it up the middle.

O’Connor’s despicable lunge on Aubameyang as he carried the ball forward was rightly rewarded with the red card. With six minutes remaining the numbers on each side were evened up. A third tier clogger had a moment to tell his grandchildren about.

Aaron Ramsay’s infamous sixth sense didn’t stop him from running offside as we sought another clincher. Up went the board. Six added minutes. Uncanny. They passed with us largely playing keep-ball but in the background the most foolish ‘ole’ chants I can remember in a while. There was still only one goal in it. It was enough on this fright night.

There was a time when The Arsenal at home to Blackpool played out before a Highbury bursting at the seams. Those days are long since gone and the mid-table League One club will arrive to a less than full Ashburton Grove for the Carabao Cup fourth round tie.

Working out who will feature for the Gunners under Unai Emery isn’t too easy. There are those who have not been regular fixtures lately, So Petr Cech could return in goal after injury. The same applies to Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has not made the journey to Cheltenham Town with the U-21 side for the Checkatrade Trophy match. Expect Stephan Lichsteiner and Sokratis Papastathopoulos plus either Skhodran Mustafi or Rob Holding to make up the back four.

Mohamed Elneny is not fit to feature in the holding pair. Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira may keep their places as a result. In attacking midfield we should see Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, hopefully with Emile Smith Rowe, who along with Eddie Nketiah also trained with the first-team today. Danny Welbeck is the likeliest leader of the line.

The visitors last reached this stage of the competition in 2007. To get here this season they have beaten Doncaster away 2-1, Barnsley at home 3-1, and more impressively Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at home. In their last match they were beaten 3-2 at Fleetwood in a north-west derby. They will be without centre-back Donervon Daniels due to a hamstring problem and striker Armand Gnanduillet is suspended following his sending-off in the defeat to Fleetwood.

The ‘holic pound

The danger of taking lowly opposition for granted is always a worry. Blackpool’s players will know this may be their only chance to play at The Arsenal and that can inspire super-human effort. However we look a fitter side these days and the team selected should have enough technical superiority to impose our will over the visitors. I’m looking for a value comfortable win and have taken a boosted 22/1 on a 5-1 home win.

Win An Art of Football Laccabang Tee

Don’t forget to head over to my Twitter handle @TheGoonerholic and locate the pinned tweet on my profile. Follow and us and RT this tweet for a chance to win a Laccabang t-shirt! Good luck! The winner will be announced in the Liverpool preview on Friday.

That’s it for tonight. If you are going tomorrow layers may be required with rainfall and temperature of nine degrees forecast.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

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