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Arsene Wenger rang the changes, both in system and personnel, for the trip to West Ham. With Per Mertesacker out injured and Sead Kolasinac rested on the bench we switched to a back four with Ainsley Maitland-Niles drafted in at left-back. Jack Wilshere replaced Aaron Ramsey in midfield and Alex Iwobi was selected as the extra man. Olivier Giroud came in for Alexandre Lacazette, also on the bench.

Maitland-Niles, making his first Premier League start, got in a good early cross to settle his nerves but the resulting corner was dealt with comfortably. The Gunners started more brightly than at Southampton and dominated the opening phases of play. Another Maitland-Niles cross that just evaded the head of Giroud who looked to have been held down by Ogbonna.

West Ham’s first meaningful effort hit the back of the net. Arnautovic backed away from the sleeping Xhaka and Monreal and headed home unmarked at the far post. His joy was short lived, however, as he turned and saw the offside flag correctly raised in his direction. All of a sudden West Ham had a route into the match and immediately upped their pressing game. Ogbonna’s elbow on Giroud gave the visitors a chance to take back the initiative.

Midway through the half Wilshire played a one-two with Giroud before presenting a shooting opportunity to Alexis. The Chilean’s effort was deflected for a corner from which Maitland-Niles drove wide of the far post. Shortly afterwards a second elbow aimed at Giroud by Reid escaped the censure of Jon Moss, the referee who was looking at the challenge from close quarters.

In the twenty-ninth minute we were inches from the lead when Iwobi crashed a shot from twelve yards against the outside of the near post. Dizzy at the prospect of scoring he tried his luck again but this time missed the target completely. Maitland-Niles conjured up another cross which Giroud was prevented from heading goalward by another Ogbonna tug on the shoulder. Clever defending? Maybe.

When Maitland-Niles brought Noble down Petr Cech had to punch the free-kick to safety at the far post. At the other end Maitland-Niles stood another cross up at the far post from where Giroud’s bicycle kick struck Cresswell’s hands which were protecting his face, but from point-blank range you wouldn’t have wanted a penalty given at the other end. Moss had just denied Lanzini’s appeal when he and Xhaka wrestled each other to the floor in our box.

Wilshere accepted an offer from Alexis to try his luck from twenty yards but saw his effort charged down by one of the many Hammers massed in their own penalty area. The whistle brought an end to a half that never quite took off. It must be said though that the Arsenal had comfortably avoided any real defensive panics, a real bonus these days.

We didn’t start the second-half as well as the first. Arnautovic lifted a bouncing ball onto the roof of the net with Cech beaten. Giroud attempted to get on the end of a through ball but Ogbonna got there ahead of him to snuff out the danger. As heavy rain fell on the free council stadium Bellerin hit an effort from distance just wide of the far post. Had we taken notice of the first attack and reacted accordingly?

Five minutes in Xhaka, looking for his first goal of the season, stung the palms of Adrian as the Gunners started to turn the screw. They had a warning though when Cech had to scamper to fall on a dangerous looking Antonio pull-back. A growing theme, a Maitland-Niles cross to Giroud, resulted in a brace of corners.  Sanchez and Ozil unlocked the Irons defence but the latter cut the ball back behind Giroud. Then the ball fell to Ozil who thumped a half-volley wide from ten yards.

Arnautovic got in the face of Maitland-Niles in a clear attempt to unnerve the impressive youngster and it was good to see Xhaka intervene. I’ll wager Mathieu Debuchy would have liked to be present, knowing the direction his career has taken since being shoved into the advertising hoardings by Arnautovic when he was one of Stoke’s thugs. Arnautovic was then whistled for a blatant shove on Koscielny as the hosts threatened on the break. He was getting frustrated it seemed.

As seventy minutes approached another Maitland-Niles cross was headed down by Giroud to Wilshere who missed the target from inside the box. That was the last action for Iwobi who gave way to Danny Welbeck. Again Arnautovic was involved in a minor incident when his elbow appeared to have a disagreement with Nacho Monreal.

An Alexis free-kick from around twenty-five yards drew a spectacular diving save from Adrian. One for the cameras, as Bob Wilson used to say. With a quarter of an hour remaining I was becoming a tad doubtful about my punt on 2-3 to the visitors. Increasingly the scoreless draw was looking likely. Another Maitland-Niles cross was cleared only as far as Hector Bellerin who saw his volley blocked by a resolute West Ham back nine.

Interestingly David Moyes sent on fit-again Hernandez for Antonio, presumably sensing a late break or two. Alexis also departed to make way for eight minutes plus added time of Giroud and Lacazette. Both substitutions were positive and both teams needed the three points for different reasons. Wilshere became the latest Gunner to see an effort blocked. We needed a moment of creative genius or a huge stroke of luck.

The game could have been lost when Noble picked out Hernandez and the former United striker hit the underside of the bar. That was almost a costly rare defensive mistake on the night. Encouraged they launched another free-kick into the box which Cech grabbed out of the night sky. At the other end Reid picked up the only yellow card of the night for a foul on Welbeck and the final free-kick of the night was cleared for a corner which could not be taken.

An end of match mention for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, my man of the match, and Jack Wilshere, who may have tired but looked our most likely creator in the opening hour plus.

It’s the first of two meetings in a week with West Ham which could give a serious pointer to our prospects in 2018. Ten days ago this looked a routine three points but then The Irons went to the Emptihad and were denied a hard-earned point by a late David Silva strike. Better came this weekend just past when they beat Chelsea at the free council house in which they currently reside.

Over the same weekends we have taken one point out of six against Manchester United and Southampton, bringing an abrupt end to the sort of mini-revival we have become accustomed to in recent seasons. It may be a weekday match but don’t expect the team to be fully rotated for a Premier League fixture. However a couple of changes could happen. Aaron Ramsey surrenders his place as a result of a hamstring strain and Jack Wilshere will be hoping to get the nod over Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny.

With Skhodran Mustafi still absent the manager faces a decision on whether to stick with Per Mertesacker, who looked decidedly not match-fit at Southampton, or promote one of his younger defenders, Rob Holding or Calum Chambers. The availability of Andy Carroll for the hosts may persuade him to stick rather than twist, despite a return after injury by Javier Hernandez.

There is another admittedly unlikely option. Go with a flat back four and select an extra attacker. Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette are a criminally underused partnership but there is also the option of Danny Welbeck to consider. That would certainly not be expected by David Moyes who you would think would defend in numbers and play on the break. An extra attacker could just keep their defence fully occupied and prevent a number of opportunities to counter.

Whatever way the boss goes we will need to see a return to form of a few who had earned a place in the ‘first eleven’, but who now must be under threat from the relative success of the ‘cup team’.

The ‘holic pound

There’s no reason for anyone not to give it everything on Wednesday night. It’s forecast to be just four or five degrees with blustery showers. Players will want to work hard to avoid the extra risk of strains and pulls of cold muscles. The Hammers will be buoyed not only by the win over Chelsea, but also that incredible come from behind win against the marshdwellers that set up our Carabao Cup quarter-final next Tuesday.

I’ve been backing on the safe side of late but only a couple of bets have come in so it is time for something fanciful. Defensively we lack consistently, but we have a midfield and attack with the capacity for the spectacular. I’m having a rather hopeful dabble on a 2-3 away win (obviously!) at a tempting 22/1 which was then boosted to nearly 24/1.

A Few Are Off To Sweden

Were it Copenhagen in summer I might even attempt the impossible and beg for one of the few hundred tickets we will get for the first leg in Ostersund. Instead it will be a long drive away to a far flung outpost of Swedish football where we will play on an artificial surface in temperatures of between ten and twenty degrees below.

It will be a test for probably our cup team in the first-leg, with the team suitably adjusted should it be necessary at the Grove a week later. It’s been good to see our friend Lars back in the drinks although his time will be largely taken fielding calls about ticket availability from his friends in Sweden and further afield. Good luck with that.

Have a safe Wednesday, ‘holics.

The weather prevented many from getting down to Hampshire where the Arsenal took on Southampton, ironically untouched by the snow that swept across the rest of the country. As expected Per Mertesacker came in for Skhodran Mustafi but otherwise the Gunners first eleven remained unchanged. A major talking point was that Theo Walcott didn’t even make the bench against his former club.

Two minutes in Charlie Austin beat the offside trap and a lumbering defence to grab his customary goal against us. A goal down so early would hopefully sting us into action.

Southampton 1-0 The Arsenal

Astonishingly the same player found himself clear in the same inside-right channel just moments later. This time Petr Cech was equal to the effort. Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal needed to have a lot more communication. Luckily Austin was flagged offside when he burst clear in the inside-left position. What an awful start by the visitors. Only seven minutes on the clock and Austin again slammed the ball against the post although the offside flag again spared Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny’s blushes.

With so little progress in the opening quarter of an hour the ‘Jack Wilshere’ chants boomed out from the travelling support. Our first meaningful effort followed when Alex Lacazette got in between defenders to bring a save out of Forster. The French striker had a poor first touch when presented with another great chance a minute later as we broke with pace.

Midway through the half, “COME ON ARSENAL”. The Gooners in the away section were making their exasperation be known. On the pitch we were taking greater possession of the ball, but threatening little. Bellerin’s jinking run ended when van Dijk intervened. Back came the Saints and Cech was fortunate to punch a Ward-Prowse free-kick over the bar when he misjudged the flight. He made a more convincing save when a goalmouth scramble ensued.

Over half an hour on the clock and at last Aaron Ramsey’s fierce effort extended Forster who saved at full stretch, left-handed. Bellerin’s cut-back was blazed over by Lacazette who was caught late by Yoshida. Referee Madley saw nothing wrong in the challenge, incredibly. That should have been a penalty. Austin was sent scampering through the middle but Cech reacted quickly, sweeper-like to clear the ball to the touchline.

Forty-five turgid minutes, par for the course for us away from home these days, came to an end. Those that were still en route had missed nothing.

We started the second-half in complete control of the ball but totally unable to create an opening until a long-range effort from Ramsey eight minutes in skidded wide of the target. In a rare breakout Redmond brought a save out of Cech, but the Gunners re-established their dominance quickly. Granit Xhaka’s controlled volley when a corner was only half-cleared was blocked by the massed ranks of the Saints defence. At one point with the ball thirty yards from goal all eleven home players were between it and the target.

From nowhere Romeu, unchallenged twenty-one yards from the centre of the goal, smashed a drive against the crossbar. At long last the unfortunate Mertesacker was withdrawn from the firing line as the manager sent on Danny Welbeck and changed our shape. I too would have started the BFG, but it was apparent in the first-half he wasn’t at the races and I would have hauled him off a lot earlier. The travelling faithful once again responded with the Jack Wilshire chant.

We had a major escape when Tadic freed Bertrand but he chipped the ball wide of the far post. Sixty-eight minutes in we finally saw the inevitable arrival of Wilshere as a substitute for Xhaka. Ironically his first touch on the edge of the box was to concede possession, Alexis-style. The Gunners made a last change with the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Lacazette. Oh for the days, long gone, of leaving all the forwards on the pitch when chasing a game.

Southampton’s blatant time-wasting, and who could blame them, saw Arsene Wenger venting his frustration at the fourth official. That frustration was shared by the watching Gooners for an entirely different reason. It is hard to understand how a team that comprehensively outplayed Tottenham, and even Manchester United in defeat last week, could produce such inept performances way from home every other week. The best travelling support in the land deserves much, much better than this.

Romeu’s evil challenge on Wilshere earned a deserved yellow card but the resulting Alexis free-kick was punched clear by Forster. One for the cameras, that. The hard-working Austin was taken off to receive his deserved standing ovation with just over four minutes remaining. Then, finally, Alexis delivered a cross to the head of Giroud who glanced a delightful header inside the far post.

Southampton 1-1 The Arsenal

Having got back into the match could we snatch the unlikeliest of winners? Of course not. One last effort from Ramsey gave Forster the chance to waste more seconds and the referee blew the whistle on a thoroughly forgettable performance. This away form has to be sorted, and quickly.

So, it’s ten to nine and I have the first not so wee dram of the evening for company. What better way to preview a Sunday midday kick-off on the south coast?

We are looking to create a first. The first team to beat Southampton away from home three times in a calendar year. It’s not beyond us although we should remember before this year Southampton have made a habit of giving us a tough time at St Mary’s.

The team news is that we will be without long-term absentee Santi Cazorla and Skhodan Mustafi who sustained a thigh injury against Manchester United. The fact that Per Mertesacker did not play in Thursday’s six goal demolition of Bate Borisov suggests that he will deputise for his fellow World Cup winner. Saints have doubts over defender Soares and our old adversary, Shane Long. Missing the latter would mean another who has enjoyed moments against us, Charlie Austin, will start.

Will that performance on Thursday persuade the manager to make any further changes to his perceived first eleven? Jack Wilshere certainly knocked on the door very loudly, but Mesut Ozil has been in good form lately so we can probably expect the other ten to remain unchanged. The current formation will make it difficult for Jack to return, but were we to switch to a back four there is an argument to play him as a partner to Mesut. That isn’t likely, however.

The ‘holic pound

It’s become tougher this season to get which Arsenal is going to turn up but despite the defeat to United last week we have been performing superbly since the North London derby and I have to believe we will come out on a mission again at St Mary’s. Austin may get his goal but my money is on 1-2 to the Gunners at 17/2.

So, brief and to the point. The glass is empty and I need it to be full. If you are going tomorrow wrap up warm, and if you are travelling by train there is, I understand, a bus replacement service from Eastleigh.

Have great one, ‘holics.

Arsena Wenger sprung a surprise by switching to a 4-3-3 formation for the visit of Bate Borisov. Youngsters Rob Holding and Calum Chambers were selected as the centre-backs, flanked by Mathieu Debuchy and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in front of David Ospina. Jack Wilshere was free to play as the number ten in front of Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. Up front Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck got the nod to partner Olivier Giroud.

With Virgin Media’s new TV Go app failing on day one I had the good fortune to follow the match via an American stream in HD quality, and inside three minutes Giroud put Elneny clear in front of goal but his delayed strike hit a post. What a start that could have been. Ivanic had a similar opportunity at the other end four minutes later but struck his effort into row 20 of the North Bank.

Walcott’s ninth minute strike laid out Milunovic who blocked it with his face. A couple of minutes later the same defender palmed a ball in the box out to Debuchy who drilled a venomous strike inside the far post. Thank goodness the referee, Herr Schörgenhofer, didn’t award the blatant penalty because the Frenchman deserved that goal after all of his injury woes.

The Arsenal 1-0 Bate Borisov

If anyone had expected a degree of disinterest from the squad players they were being proven wrong. The hosts had opened with a swagger. Volodko temporarily changed the mood with an over-the-top ‘challenge’ on Debuchy deemed worthy of only a yellow card by the referee. The sight of Debuchy on the turf is never a pleasant one. A more innocent trip on Welbeck was overlooked but it had occurred outside the area.

Midway through the half the Bate goalkeeper, Scherbitski, found himself at right back to deny a surprised Welback on the left flank. The chance was set up by a superb Wilshere through ball. Jack and Olivier combine to set-up Theo but once again Scherbitski won the battle at point-blank range. Moments later Walcott drove a free-kick wide of the far post. At this point in the away match the Gunners were three up, and in all honesty should have been tonight too. We soon would be.

Jack Wilshere appeared to take a straight left to the jaw but the referee missed it, much to the little man’s chagrin. A sparse crowd tried to roar their team into increasing the advantage. The silence that followed was punctuated by Maria screaming her encouragement from the West Upper. It worked. Welbeck went clear, lost control, but the ball reached Walcott who slotted home from seven yards.

The Arsenal 2-0 Bate Borisov

Theo was inches from a second but was denied by a desperate goal-line clearance from Milunovic. The Bate goal was now under siege and Wilshere’s twenty yard curler was tipped over by a very busy Scherbitski. It was a range-finder. The outstanding Wilshere took a pass from Walcott, swivelled, and smashed a rising left foot drive into the top corner at the far post. This really was a mismatched half of attack against defence. 79% possession and 15 shots to 1 told a tale.

The Arsenal 3-0 Bate Borisov

As the second-half reached two minutes Ospina was forced to make his first save, clutching a tame header out of the air. Another wild challenge on Wilshere was punished just by a free-kick. Mercifully Jack was soon on his feet. Six minutes in we went from one end to the other. Holding picked out Elneny who found Wilshere, and he sent Walcott galloping in behind. His excellent cross was heading for Welbeck and the last defender, Polyakov, drilled it into his own net. Bang went the ‘holic pound.

The Arsenal 4-0 Bate Borisov

The first change for Bate came after a Giroud effort was deflected for a corner. Striker Signevich came on for Rodionov. The action remained in front of the North Bank and it took an excellent save from Scherbitski to deny Welbeck a fifth goal for the Arsenal.

In the 63rd minute Walcott earned a deserved penalty when he was too quick for Milunovic. Giroud, who scored from the spot in the reverse fixture, struck his two spot-kicks home and wasn’t impressed that the first was ruled out for encroachment by players of both sides.

The Arsenal 5-0 Bate Borisov

There was a small but audible cheer as Reiss Nelson prepared to come on, but first Bate sent on Tuominen for Stasevich. Nelson was introduced for Walcott, presumably grateful for a rare 70 minutes of action. Wilshere turned provider once more and the beneficiary was Elneny who discovered third time lucky really is a thing, before departing with Welbeck to give Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah a cameo appearance.

The Arsenal 6-0 Bate Borisov

Bate have had better nights in Europe and came into the match with an opportunity to reach the knock-out phase, but The Arsenal cup squad blew them away with a really impressive display. The visitors had pretty much given up by the end, but you can only beat what is in front of you and we certainly did that. Those who braved a cold Thursday night in North London deserved that performance.

On a cold Thursday night at the Grove for which over 50,000 tickets have been paid for it will be interesting to see if more than half that number actually attends. With the top spot in the group already secured the match with Bate Borisov will serve principally as a opportunity to give the squad players and youngsters some competitive playing time.

It is pure guesswork on my part that Per Mertesacker will be on standby to replace Skhodran Mustafi at Southampton on Sunday. This would point to a back three of Mathieu Debuchy, Rob Holding, and Calum Chambers in front of David Ospina. That would pave the way for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson to occupy the wing-back positions.

If the defence looks a bit makeshift there is more experience in the advanced areas. Mohamed Elneny may be charged with providing the cover in front of them with Jack Wilshere getting a box to box job, and Alex Iwobi a free role behind two from three out of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, and Theo Walcott. It would not be a surprise if the latter missed out. I don’t know why he has fallen out of favour but with the chinese whispers that he will be allowed to leave in January it looks as though we are calling time on his Arsenal career.

The visitors were beaten 2-4 in Belarus with Wilshere controlling the midfield for long periods, but it wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline would suggest. Particularly in the second-half where Bate came back into the game and could have added to their brace with a little more luck.

They won the Belarus Premier League last week when they scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time to claim a draw against Gorodeya, and their 12th consecutive title to boot. Bate will be praying for a draw between Cologne and Red Star which would let them progress with a win at the Grove.

The ‘holic pound

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the smaller than usual crowd will have on the teams. I am looking at 3-1 to the Arsenal and found a bookmaker offering boosted odds of 11/1.

Pic courtesy of Arsenal Football Club

The Arsenal players were out in force for the long standing Christmas tradition of spreading some festive cheer in the local community this week.

Arsène Wenger’s squad and members of Arsenal Women visited hospitals and schools in north London, meeting local youngsters and handing out Christmas presents. Players visited young patients at Whittington Hospital, Homerton Hospital and Teenage Cancer Trust. They also dropped in on Blessed Sacrament primary school, to help out with an Arsenal in the Community Double Club session and Stoke Newington secondary school for a girls’ football session.

The visits came ahead of The Arsenal Foundation’s dedicated charity matchday against Newcastle United on December 16th, when the manager and first team players will donate a day’s wages to support projects in the local community, and around the world.

Shown are the Gunners who visited the hospital of my birth, The Whittington.

Finally a big up to those of you going to the match. The rain is scheduled to stop in the afternoon but the temperature will plummet so layers will be the way forward.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

An extraordinary day started with pie, mash, and liquor, my first for many a moon in case Manze’s doesn’t survive. It was the perfect absorbtion material for the odd drink or two that were enjoyed in great company, as ever.

What followed was a remarkable creative performance by the Arsenal, albeit one foisted on the team by two absolutely horrendous pieces of defending. As on Wednesday against Huddersfield we gave the ball away cheaply and this was not Huddersfield we were up against. In all honesty United sniffed blood and in Pogba, Lingard, Valencia, and Lukaku they had the pace and power to make the most of their counter attacks. Valencia and Lingard were on the scoresheet.

Two down in eleven minutes, we responded with a performance that ensured a passionate home support stayed onside. We had to reorganise when Skhodran Mustafi limped off after his mistake had brought about the second goal. To this untrained eye it looked as though we switched to a back two rather than a conventional four as Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac were still given free reign to attack on the flanks and substitute Alex Iwobi added to our creativity.

Despite relentless pressure United’s goal remained intact thanks in equal parts to our lack of ruthlessness, the unbelievable performance of de Gea between the sticks, and to the inability of Andre Marriner and his assistant to spot Rojo haul back Alexandre Lacazette as a chance from point-blank range fell to the Arsenal man. At half-time the talk was of  converting this clear territorial advantage into goals. The atmosphere was still positive.

Clearly we needed to get back in the game early in the second-half and we did, further raising the spirits. Alexis, for once, picked out a team-mate in the box. Aaron Ramsey cut the ball back into the path of Lacazette who drilled it past de Gea. The atmosphere reached a crescendo as the Gunners turned the screw.

United tried to take the sting out of the game with the use of some mysterious injuries, and then incredibly restored their two goal advantage when Pogba bullied Koscielny in the box and squared the ball for an unmarked Lingard to tap in at the far post. One cannot deny their ability to counter with strength and speed contributed to an excellent match.

Half an hour remained. On came Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud for Granit Xhaka and Kolasinac. De Gea remained in incredible form and a stunning double save from Lacazette and Alexis defied belief. We were denied a second penalty when Welbeck was upended in the box by Darmian.

United were denied the services of Pogba for the final sixteen minutes after he stamped on the grounded Bellerin. He’ll also miss next week’s Manchester derby so United might well rue his moment of madness.

The match stats, for what they were worth, were startling. The Arsenal had 75% of the ball, 33 shots of which 15 were on target compared to United’s 8 and 4, and 12 corners to United’s 1. Yet as we know there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. All they confirmed about this match was that it was a hugely entertaining, if frustrating, affair.

Long Johns, check, layers, check, gloves, check, scarf, check. Trapper’s hat, ah, where have I put that? It looks like it will be a day for wrapping up warm for the visit of Manchester United on Saturday evening.

Hopefully the quality of the match itself will keep our minds off the chill in the air. Us against United usually raises the temperature one way or another, although the days of Winterburn and McClair, Wrighty and Schmeichel, and Vieiera and Keane, are long since gone.

United come into the match four points clear of us in second place following a benign set of fixtures in August and September. Against fellow top six rivals in October they beat Tottenham 1-0, drew 0-0 with Liverpool, and lost 1-0 at Chelsea. It’s fair to say they do like to keep these matches tight.

Discounting Santi Cazorla, so sadly under the knife again this week, we have one new injury that will deprive us of the services of Alexandre Lacazette. United old boy Danny Welbeck could deputise to give us a degree of mobility, or the manager could turn to Olivier Giroud after the Frenchman’s brace as a second-half substitute against Huddersfield on Wednesday.

United, for once, have more ruled out or doubtful than us. Fellaini, Carrick, Jones and Bailly are all out while Matic is a doubt. However they still have ability and experience in spades. Arsene Wenger summed up the challenge facing us,

“I just want to focus and to prepare well my team, and give my team a good chance to win the game. Manchester United is doing well at the moment, we are doing well at the moment, so it looks to be a promising game.”

Although Mourinho has suggested that his team will “attack with eleven players” those attacks are likely to be less adventurous and focussed around the pace of Martial, Lukaku, Young and Rashford. How our back three and midfield deal with those breaks will be the key to the outcome.

The ‘holic pound

We have an opportunity to beat United at home for a third consecutive season. Both teams are in good form but home advantage could decide it if the crowd act as the twelfth man as we undoubtedly did in the North London derby.

I’m torn between a ‘one-nil to the Arsenal’ or the prospect of a more open 2-1. Therefore I am having 50p on each at 8/1 and 9/1 respectively.

The Art Of Football Teeshirt Winner

Congratulations to Jonathan Haussman who correctly identified Michael Thomas and therefore wins an @Art_of_Football teeshirt of his choice. I think you’ll be very pleased with the presentation when it arrives, Jonathan.

So It’s Goodnight From Me

If you are going tomorrow I may bump into one or two of you before  the match. Wrap up well, get behind the boys, and let’s get a big December off to a flying start against a top four rival.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

There were no surprises when the teams were announced. Mesut Ozil was deemed fit to return to what the manager obviously feels is his strongest eleven right now. The visitors kicked off and forced a first-minute penalty which Petr Cech dealt with nervously under pressure. It was a false dawn.

In the third minute we were in front courtesy of a clinical Alexandre Lacazette finish when he was put clear by Aaron Ramsey’s clever flick. Just the start the doctor, and Arsene Wenger, wanted.

The Arsenal 1-0 Huddersfield Town

The Welshman looked keen to take responsibility and impressed as the opening half progressed. He did unfortunately rush an attempt when the Terriers defence coughed up cheap possession, and shot  high into the Clock End.

On the half hour Lacazette was inches away from a spectacular second with a beautifully hooked chip from a Kanu-esque angle on the left hand side of the box. A desperate goal-line clearance denied him a wonderful moment.

A sloppy passage of play allowed Huddersfield an opportunity to equalize but Laurent Koscielny’s orchestras pulled off the block of the night from a drive by Quaner. A largely quiet half, despite the opening burst, limped to a close.

Lacazette too had been limping for much of the opening half and he did not come out for the second-half. Olivier Giroud was the obvious replacement from the bench. Alexis and Ozil fashioned the first chance in front of the North Bank, but the latter’s effort was deflected to safety.

The contest livened considerably on fifty minutes as Quaner galloped through the Gunners rearguard only to draw an excellent save from Cech. Arsenal broke with a pace and incision rarely seen in the opening half but Giroud’s near-post effort was blocked. Two minutes later Cech nearly made a hash of tipping a bouncing ball over the bar. Surely the Arsenal would heed these warnings?

It wasn’t that the hosts weren’t trying, but it was one of those matches where we huffed and puffed but rather wheezily in the cold winter air. The lack of a killer final ball made the match something of a sterile affair as the mid-point of the half was reached. That was about to change, and how!

Mesut Ozil teed up Giroud with a simple square ball and the Frenchman finished with precision at the near post. There was that killer ball at last.

The Arsenal 2-0 Huddersfield Town

Two became three within a minute and again Ozil was the provider and Alexis the emphatic finisher.

The Arsenal 3-0 Huddersfield Town

I was twenty-one minutes from landing the ‘holic pound. It lasted three, and creator turned scorer when Ramsey set up Ozil for a deadly strike for Arsenal’s third goal in four minutes. “We’ve got Ozil” filled the cold night air from thousands of happy punters.

The Arsenal 4-0 Huddersfield Town

The result assured, we withdrew Alexis and the excellent Ramsey. From the bench came Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck.

There was magic in the eighty-third minute when Wilshere found Ozil on the left, the German back-heeled to Sead Kolasinac, and his cut-back was unfortunately blazed over by the onrushing Giroud. What a goal that could have been. Herbert Chapman would have approved of the quality of the football.

The Frenchman did make the most of another moment of Kolasinac magic shortly afterwards when he whipped the close-range finish off his team-mates toe after Sead had danced his way into the box.

The Arsenal 5-0 Huddersfield Town

This was classic Arsenal. Making the opponents work hard for over an hour before finishing a tiring team. We don’t see enough of it these days, so let’s enjoy this night, and pray others will follow.

Still Time To Win An Art of Football Tee

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.

To enter the competition just answer this question.

89 Is the film record of our remarkable triumph at Anfield to lift the League title in that year. Who is depicted scoring the winner that night on another great Art of Football design?

Please send your answers to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at 5.00pm UK time on Thursday 30th November, will receive the tee of their choice. There is no cash alternative.

A busy day at the Arsenal, it seems, as Raul Sanllehi arrived to take up the interesting position as director of football relations. It isn’t lost on anybody that he has been the director of football at Barcelona where he has worked for fourteen years.

The appointment follows that of Dortmund’s Sven Mislintat as chief scout last week, and the summer hiring of Huss Fahmy to deal with contracts. These two are coming in as Steve Rowley and Dick Law are travelling in the opposite direction. It would appear that Ivan Gazidis, who appeared to lose the battle last summer, is winning the war.

The Arsenal do appear to be getting their house in order for whatever the future holds. It will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger deals with the new appointees. The fact that Sanllehi does not take up his role officially until February hints at one final transfer window for the manager to call the shots. Or does it? (to be continued…)

Huddersfield Town Preview

With one eye on the Wednesday night visit of the Terriers for the first ‘Herbert Chapman derby’ in the top flight for 45 years, the other has been on the lookout for team news. The good news is that Mesut Ozil trained today and could be available. That would be handy as Alex Iwobi has been suffering from a dead leg at Burnley and may not make it. If both cannot start we will discover if Jack Wilshere is third in the pecking order for the playmaking role.

Arsene Wenger was adamant at his pre-match press conference that he would not take the Saturday visit of Manchester United into account when selecting the team for Wednesday. That suggests an unchanged ten plus whoever is fittest to start as creator in chief.

Huddersfield have been resolute so far this season, and stretched runaway leaders Manchester City on occasion at the weekend. They are, as I write, in the top twelve but they have lost their last three away games in the Premier League. This after drawing 0-0 at Burnley, and we know how creditable a performance that was in the salty capital of Lancashire.

The ‘holic pound

Arsenal are looking to extend a record of thirteen unbeaten at home, including winning the last eleven. With a strong side out we should triumph over the ninety minutes if we show the visitors some respect and make them work hard in the opening hour or so, before closing the game out ruthlessly. Hoping for consecutive earners I have taken a skinny looking 13/2 on 3-0 to the Arsenal.

Still Time To Win An Art of Football Tee

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.

To enter the competition just answer this question.

89 Is the film record of our remarkable triumph at Anfield to lift the League title in that year. Who is depicted scoring the winner that night on another great Art of Football design?

Please send your answers to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at 5.00pm UK time on Thursday 30th November, will receive the tee of their choice. There is no cash alternative.

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