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It’s after nine and I have just finished recording A Bergkamp Wonderland podcast so this will be yet another exceptionally short preview of our Carabao Cup tie against Brentford.

I have just said on the show that I hope we do not start anybody who is likely to be in the team that kicks off against Watford at the weekend. That may prove difficult with the back four where Skhodran Mustafi will probably partner Rob Holding again due to us being down to the bare bones. Stephan Lichsteiner should get the nod at right-back so at least Hector Bellerin gets a rest, but Nacho Monreal lacks cover as well and may have to play. Fingers crossed we get no more knocks.

Ahead of them Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi could feature behind an attacking midfield trio of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Emile Smith-Rowe, and Alex Iwobi. Danny Welbeck could get the nod up front with a very youthful bench so some of the U23’s can get playing time as the match progresses.

Brentford just dropped out of the Championship play-off places this weekend after losing 3-1 at Derby but they should not be underestimated and they will be enthusiastically supported from an increased away section in the Clock End.

The ‘holic pound

Obviously the odds on an Arsenal victory are not mouthwatering. I’m liking the value of a 19/2 for a 3-0 home win even though I am well aware an early Brentford goal could prevent me getting a run for my money.

To those who are going I hope whoever plays they start a little quicker than we have been of late and you get a full ninety minutes of entertainment. Hopefully there will be a stream available for those of us who have no holidays left.

Have a good one ‘holics.

Late Sunday kick-off’s now necessitate late Monday evening recall and an attempt to pick the wheat from the chaff of another excellent day at the football. A delicious haddock lunch was enjoyed before heading north for a large glass of something with good friends. It was a good day before the match had even started. That the Arsenal recorded a fifth straight win made it all the better.

You will all have seen the highlights by now so I’m better discussing the perception of what happened among those I enjoyed post match pints at a pub I didn’t know existed. The first thing to emphasise is that it was what is becoming a typical Gunners performance in recent weeks. We started slowly and allowed Everton far too many incursions into our box. I am starting to think this may be more by design than accident but I am struggling to comprehend the why?

It is not the deep-defending rope-a-dope that Arsene Wenger occasionally employed against our more competent rivals. We still commit bodies forward sometimes in excessive numbers and are unprepared for the inevitable break that follows the loss of possession.

Petr Cech chose a good day to produce almost the complete goalkeeping performance. He denied one-on-ones and longer range efforts whilst looking more confident in his distribution. It would be churlish to be too critical of anyone in his back four because at the end of the day they finally got the blank sheet that had eluded us. A week off for the culprits this week.

In midfield Lucas Torreira got the nod to start over Matteo Guendouzi and gave a polished performance despite picking up an early yellow card. Alongside him Granit Xhaka delighted and frustrated in equal measure. His industry was there for all to see but too often he gifts the ball to opponents exposing us to the counter attack. However when, not for the first time, we started the second-half with greater pace and purpose he was responsible for prompting so many attacks.

There was also an interesting combination of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil who seemed to interchange at will and covered the left flank in turns to free up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Neither of them seems to have worked out this dual role yet but for all that they had quiet spells both made us more dominant after the break. Indeed Ramsey claimed two assists for the goals, a dream curling strike inside the far post by the hard-working Alexandre Lacazette and a cleverly placed pass inside the same post by a clearly offside Aubameyang. We accepted the good fortune which had deserted us earlier when two solid penalty appeals were waved away by referee Moss.

Rob Holding gave a good account of himself as an early substitute for Sokratis. Everything crossed that the big Greek recovers quickly. Alex Iwobi impressed as a substitute for Aubameyang. Cech had to stay alert to the end as the visitors tried desperately to claw something back to no avail. So why a degree of unease among the faithful in the wake of a good result.

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that a squad largely employed by a different manager are coming to terms with a different style of play. There are bound to be some who revert to what they have long been taught in the past. I think that nervousness may last until a quality rival is overturned and in that respect we will probably have to wait until we have played Liverpool to accept that we are, or indeed are not, on the right track.

A last gasp preview is being squeezed in between the bouts at Wembley tonight. Those of us braving the expected downpours tomorrow have been getting the storm gear in place for the morning.

What team will we see? There is little to suggest that Unai Emery will change the starting eleven from the league victories at Cardiff and Newcastle. Stephan Lichsteiner and Lucas Torreira might be close, but not close enough, to get the nod.

Opponents Everton have struggled to meet the expectations of their fans now that Farhad Moshiri has brought his considerable wealth to Goodison Park. They had an unbeaten August but draws at Bournemouth and Wolves flanked a single goal home win over Southampton didn’t impress. September hasn’t started well. Two home fixtures have seen them thumped by the previously win-less West Ham and then held by Huddersfield Town.

Of course the match will see a return for Theo Walcott and it would not be a surprise to see him busting a gut to make a point his former employers.

The ‘holic pound

It seems we cannot keep a clean sheet right now. It will happen but maybe not while we are still finding our feet in a new system, so if I am allowing Everton a goal I just have to take a punt on how many we might get on a very greasy surface. 2-1 is the bookies favourite at around 8’s, but I am backing the Aubameyang/Lacazette combination to go one better. 3-1 to The Arsenal is available at 10/1 and I have snapped that up.

With that the briefest of previews is complete. I look forward to seeing some of you tomorrow. It promises to be a very sociable, if damp day.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Unai Emery utilised his senior squad players for the visit of Vorskla Poltava, as expected. There was a debut for Bernd Leno between the posts. Stephan Lichsteiner and Rob Holding slotted into the back four in place of Hector Bellerin and Skhodran Mustafi. It was all change in midfield where Lucas Torreira got his first start alongside the recalled Mohamed Elneny. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, and Danny Welbeck started behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

There was an early scare when Torreira was cleaned out by Kulach who astonishingly avoided censure from Bart Vertenten, the Belgian referee. Not surprisingly the visitors were defending in numbers when we had the ball and not for the first time season we started slowly. Kulach had the first attempt on goal in the ninth minute but volleyed spectacularly over the bar.

The home crowd stirred when Sokratis Papastathopoulos broke up a Vorskla break and careered forward with menace. He is a player who is definitely improving as he gets used to what is expected of him. Vorskla conjured up a second shot in the eighteenth minute but Rebenok’s effort from distance was comfortably held by the otherwise unemployed Leno. Midway through the half Elneny was frustrated by an offside flag against Mkhitaryan as he attempted to one-two his way through the crowded area.

The Arsenal’s slow, laboured build-up was comfortably held by the visitors who had probably expected a sterner test of their credentials. Iwobi had our first shot just before the half an hour mark but it was way off the target. Torreira limped off with what appeared to be a twisted ankle after a clumsy landing. He returned and the Gunners at last broke with pace and struck the first blow. Mkhitaryan raced out of defence and found Iwobi on the left. He quickly crossed the ball into the path of Aubamayang who fashioned a finish just inside the far post.

The Arsenal 1-0 Vorskla Poltava

Torreira, mobile again, crashed a free-kick into the side-netting after Lichsteiner was brought down. Sokratis again earned warm applause for another rampaging break out of defence. He is possibly destined to become a cult figure at the club. Iwobi made another rapid burst down the left but his attempted cross to Aubamayang was cut out by the massed rank of green shirts.

We finished the half strongly. Aubamayang cut in from the left and curled a spectacular effort against a post. Then Mkhitaryan’s fierce drive was parried behind by the Vorskla goalkeeper, Shust, a Ukrainian international. We had the advantage at the whistle but one goal felt a precarious lead to have.

Two minutes into the second-half Iwobi sprinted clear down the left and set up Mkhitaryan for a volley that went just wide of the near post. A minute later the pair combined again and the latters cross was glanced in by the forehead of Welbeck. We were comfortable now.

The Arsenal 2-0 Vorskla Poltava

Two was almost three when Aubameyang slid the ball to the far post and Welbeck was a whisker away from a rapid brace. The Gunners had obviously been advised to press more enthusiastically during the break and the performance was much improved as a result. Another Iwobi cross found Aubameyang at the far post but the Gabonese goalscorer volleyed over.

Interestingly Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi were being prepared to come on with the half just ten minutes old. The sight prompted an excellent team goal finished by Aubameyang who was promptly replaced by Ozil, while Guendouzi came on for Torreira.

The Arsenal 3-0 Vorskla Poltava

The Gunners continued to lay siege to the tiring visitors box. Ozil and Elneny teed up Iwobi but his shot was blocked and our tally remained at three. The substitutes combined when Guendouzi burst through the midfield and with a clever reverse pass found Ozil who couldn’t quite cut the ball back far enough to reach a red shirt. Cue two more substitutions with Sklyar coming on for Vorskla and Emile Smith-Rowe replacing Iwobi who was given a standing ovation for his man of the match performance. The youngster was immediately involved, helping out the defence with a headed clearance.

With seventeen minutes remaining Ozil struck for the second consecutive match when superbly set up by Sokratis and Lichsteiner.

The Arsenal 4-0 Vorskla Poltava

The ‘holic pound became a distinct possibility when Chesnakov took advantage of a miscontrol by Lichsteiner to drive the ball home. Leno’s dream of a first clean sheet for the club was gone but there was nothing he could have done about it.

The Arsenal 4-1 Vorskla Poltava

Smith-Rowe’s dancing feet drew more applause from the home support but he just over-hit the ball for Welbeck. The pound required one more goal in the final eight minutes. Sadly when it arrived with the last kick of the match it was Sharpar who scored for Vorskla.

The Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla Poltava

The two goals against will be a huge concern for Unai Emery, but for the supporters we have now outscored the opposition four matches running, and that is a wonderful habit to build on.

We move on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘holic pound

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

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

Have a good one, ‘holics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle United 0-1 The Arsenal

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

Newcastle United 0-2 The Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle United 1-2 The Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘holic pound

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

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

Have a great one, ‘holics.

Legends Passed This Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘holic pound

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

Last Chance to win VIP tickets to the Legends match

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

Chris W

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

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

Chris (the real me)

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

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

Thank you and RIP, Chris.

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