Leaving Wojciech Szczesny out of the 18-man squad in favour of Lukasz Fabianski is extremely risky and I cannot think of a particularly good reason for this decision. The big question is whether we are going to play with Fabianski, who has not featured at all this season due to injury, or with Mannone, who made 13 appearances at the beginning of the season when Szczesny was sidelined. The only thing I can say for sure is that the decision to leave our No.1 at home will spark a huge amount of speculation about whether we will sign a new keeper in the summer.
The defence pretty much picks itself. Jenkinson continues at right-back in the absence of Sagna, Mertesacker offers a physical presence alongside Vermaelen & Kieran Gibbs has just returned from injury.
In midfield I would definitely play Aaron Ramsey over Abou Diaby. Ramsey took a lot of unfair criticism earlier in the season, but he has proved to be very useful in recent weeks and will slot in nicely next to Mikel Arteta. Wenger may choose to play him on the wing and Rosicky in the centre, but I like Rosicky on the wing. Rosicky has a nice burst of pace to use out wide. Santi Cazorla is an everpresent in the attacking midfield role, with Theo Walcott on the right and Giroud as the target-man.
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“Wilshere is out with an inflamed ankle, on the [left side], not the [right side] where he was injured [before] and he will be out for three weeks. He will not be available for Munich, for Swansea and not for the England games.”
“He is back in the squad, yes. It is great to have him back because we play Vermaelen out of position, although he can play left back. I have not decided if Kieran will start, but hopefully he will be fit to start.”
Bacary Sagna & Abou Diaby
“Sagna is not available, Diaby is back in the squad. He has a test [on Wednesday]. Again, he is a bit short but hopefully he can travel.”
Below I have outlined some of the latest Arsenal team news following our 1-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.In my opinion, the news does not make for particularly good reading. Thomas Vermaelen will be out for longer than expected, Laurent Koscielny has a calf problem and Jack Wilshere has a small thigh injury.
Arsene Wenger is quoted by a Belgian newspaper as saying: “We thought that Vermaelen would only be out for a few days, but he will be out longer.” There are also claims that Vermaelen has been given an anti-inflammatory injection in an attempt to avoid surgery. However, it is very unlikely that he will be fit to face Bayern Munich next week and reports suggest that he could be out for longer than a month. Many Arsenal fans are already beginning to get on Wenger’s back and are questioning why we did not sign a centre-back in the January transfer window to replace the outgoing Johan Djourou.
Before we even kicked off against Sunderland, Arsenal.com confirmed that Laurent Koscielny was having problems with a calf injury and was to be replaced by Carl Jenkinson, with Bacary Sagna moving to centre-back. Koscielny had passed a late fitness test after picking up the injury on international duty with France, but was deemed unable to continue after the warm-up.
“It’s a calf problem. We think it’s a question of days [until he returns] because he had a positive scan. He [came off for France] at half time [on Wednesday] and we decided to give him a trial in the warm up. He was not good enough. I don’t think it’s long-term.”
Wenger also gave an update on Jack Wilshere, who was substituted after taking a knee to the thigh a few minutes into the second half. Wenger is clearly angry at referee Anthony Taylor, who he says let several fouls go, and is also said to be unhappy that Wilshere played the full 90 minutes in England’s friendly against Brazil last week. The good news is that Wenger says he hopes that Jack will only be out for a few days. The bad news is that this is Arsenal. A few days can easily become a few weeks, and we cannot afford to have our talismanic midfielder missing for the games against Bayern Munich, Spurs and Everton.
“It was a big kick on the thigh. He couldn’t walk. He doesn’t walk properly now. I hope it’s four or five days [until he’s back]… Taylor let two or three things go that I thought were fouls on Jack. I was a bit frustrated because I thought many times he didn’t get the free-kick he deserved.”
1) We head to Stamford Bridge with a win and a bit of confidence. Chelsea drew 2-2 with Southampton and have a terrible home record under Benitez, so anything could happen on Sunday. We have been presented with a good opportunity to get our season back on track.
2) There were a lot of empty seats. As far as I am aware, it was one of the lowest attended games that we have had at the Emirates in a while. Maybe it was just because it’s cold, or maybe because we had failed to win in our last 3 games against Swansea. Either way, the atmosphere at the Emirates was still pretty good, especially in the second half.
3) Jack Wilshere thrives in the No.10 role. Wenger gave gave Jack the No.10 shirt and it definitely suited him to play in that hole between the midfield and the defence last night. Goalscoring is the only thing that is missing from his game, and we saw a bit of what he can do last night. His goal was fantastically taken and will hopefully give him the confidence to try his luck more often when he is in the right position.
“As a team we played well and he [Jack] was in a different position; he was high up and it suits him well. He is at the complete midfielder, he can play anywhere. He is a guy who can dribble and give a final ball, so the closer he is to goal, the better it is. He has quality and enthusiasm, and love for the game. That is the most important thing to me.
“You can always improve in every area – he himself questions [his goalscoring record]. The way he took the goal was fantastic, because he didn’t think too much. Sometimes you miss the chances when you have too much time. He took his chance in a spontaneous way. It’s good that he adds that to his game, because he gets in situations where you have to finish.”
4) Wenger believes in Giroud, despite his mini goal drought. Whether Wenger believes in Giroud enough to stop him buying another striker in the next few weeks remains to be seen. In my opinion, we need another striker. Don’t get me wrong – I like Giroud. His hold up play is good, he can be a real threat and he had an ok game last night. Unfortunately, he lacks consistency. I am just not sure that he is the player that can solve all of our problems. That said, his performance against Newcastle was outstanding.
“I believe in Giroud. He is a threat and he creates chances. Let’s first try to finish the deal with Walcott and then we see what we can do from there.”
5) Francis Coquelin played well in the absence of Mikel Arteta. I doubt that Coquelin will start against Chelsea, but his performance last night certainly won’t have done him any harm. With Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rested, I imagine that Cazorla will move back into midfield for Sunday, with Diaby as the defensive midfielder.
6) Theo Walcott’s contract will be sorted out soon… It’s not like Wenger has been talking about it for a while.
“I hope it will be soon, very, very soon now. I cannot tell you much more.”
1) Cazorla dived. I am pretty sure that he went down in anticipation of contact and was looking to emphasize the foul to get a penalty. However, Steven Reid pulled out, there was no contact, and Cazorla is now on the same list as Suarez, Bale and Young. Wenger said in his post-match interview that Santi had said that there was contact and he lost his balance, but the video evidence clearly shows otherwise. Enough said. If it was against us I am sure I would be more angry, but the fact is that we needed something like this to go our way. Markus Rosenberg then tried to fool the referee at the other end of the pitch, but wasn’t quite as lucky.
“No [I haven't reviewed it]. I am sorry if it was not a penalty but I have spoken to Santi and he said he has been touched and lost his balance. Maybe he made more of it, I don’t know. But he told me just after I came to see you [the press], I asked him the question because I knew you would ask me the question.”
2) Arsenal did everything but score in open play. In the end, 2 penalties were enough to give us the win. However, we should have won by 3 or 4. Arsenal played some fantastic football and were unlucky not to have put a few more past Myhill.
“I think it is the only negative of the day, that we didn’t convert our chances very well. But we created chances and in the last game we didn’t create a lot. We are not used to that. I believe if we are a bit more serene we will convert these chances much better.”
3) How good are Jack Wilshere and The Ox? Wilshere was at the centre of all our beautiful attacking play and made some sumptuous runs straight at the heart of the West Brom defence. He was voted MOTM on Arsenal.com, with more than 60% of the vote. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also had arguably his best game of the season so far.
“He [Jack] is getting closer to the player we know he is and today I think he made a big step. You could see it already this week in training, that he has gained a little burst again, a little zip in the first three or four yards. That’s what you have to accept in football, you have sometimes to be patient. He can only gain it by playing but of course in the first games you cannot be at that level.
“I believe he [Oxlade-Chamberlain] is on the same trend as Jack. He is getting better, stronger, more mature, especially more determined today. There is much more man in his game than there was before. I am pleased with what I have seen from him today.”
4) Thomas Vermaelen is finding his form again and Arsenal can defend. It was important for Arsenal to keep another clean sheet after conceding 2 late goals to Swansea. Vermaelen and Mertesacker have formed a nice defensive partnership, with both players working hard to limit West Brom’s chances. Arsenal still have the third best defence in the Premier League after Manchester City and Stoke. We have conceded only 16 goals so far this season, 7 fewer than United; however, you wouldn’t have guessed that looking at some of our recent performances!
5) 3rd and 4th place not so far away. Arsenal are only 2 points behind Everton, West Brom and Spurs and 5 behind Chelsea. A good run of form in the next few weeks could see us back in the top 4 by the New Year (- here’s hoping!). We still have to play Reading (a), Wigan (a), West Ham (h) and Newcastle (h) before December 31st. Reading & Wigan should be an easy 6 points if the team don’t become too complacent.
*This is a guest blog post from an Arsenal fan who wishes to share his opinion on the team. If you are interested in being a guest writer then please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Two players have given Arsenal a much needed boost of confidence in the ongoing Champions League. Laurent Koscielny enjoyed quite a rare start for Arsenal against Schalke, while Jack Wilshere made a welcome return to the Champions League after 14 months out. This gave us a huge confidence boost in spite of the fact that Wilshere has been suspended for the Fulham’s Premier League visit.
Things are still bright for Kos. Vermaelen has been showing signs of unsteadiness of late, and Kos is likely to play again irrespective of the return of Gibbs. Both Koscielny and Wilshere are clearly very happy with their inclusion in the Arsenal team, and are confident of helping the team to improve on current results. According to Kos, a point was good enough against Schalke. In contrast, the draw that Man City got against Ajax barely left them with a stroke of luck.
Koscielny said the fact that they were away means that it was “a good point against a difficult team.” He explained the group was very difficult; Schalke have players like Farfan, Afellay and Huntelaar. Although qualifying in such a group is challenging, Arsenal hold all the cards in their hands to ensure they qualify for the coming stages in the Champions League. One of their most important games will be their match in 2 weeks time against Montpellier.
While Wilshere is adjusting himself to the new appearance of Arsenal, he is convinced the team has what it takes to qualify. He has great expectations for the remaining part of the season.
Arsenal is gradually but steadily getting into the right shape to take the championship. Many of the injured players are looking forward to their comeback, and Arsenal is getting back its former swagger. This will help the team overcome the setbacks it faced in the past few weeks and put on a more impressive show.
While Wilshere made it back to Arsenal starting XI, Andre Santos was dropped from the team. Jack still has to adjust to the high number of new players who have joined the team since he was injured. The midfield trio of Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere has played together three times only. However, they are already adjusting well as part of a strong team. There are high hopes that things are poised to get even better for the team.
In addition to the addition of Laurent Koscielny and the return of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud seem to be in pretty good form. This combination is helping to boost confidence in the team, and plenty more Arsenal tickets are likely to be sold before the end of the season.
The news that Jack Wilshere has been called up to the England squad for their friendly against Sweden will no doubt delight Gooners eager to see the Arsenal youngster develop into the national side’s main midfielder, but we should be cautious of what to expect from him next week.
Wilshere, who has five England caps already, is still recovering match fitness after his season-long spell on the sidelines and it will take him time to become the player he was two years ago. He has made just three appearances this season and has not looked his usual sharp self in any of the games.
Against QPR two weeks ago, Wilshere settled back into the first team and lasted just over an hour. Due to our lack of midfield depth Arsene Wenger chose to play him in the Manchester United clash at Old Trafford and, although he played reasonably well, that lack of sharpness led to an uncharacteristic loss of possession and his subsequent second yellow card.
He handled himself well against Schalke and it looks like a partnership with Mikel Arteta will soon develop, but it is still far too soon to place such high expectations on him. Fourteen months out is a long spell for a player so young and hopefully Roy Hodgson will realise this and give him 45 minutes, nothing more.
If you listen to just one Football Tipthen it is not to expect too much when (or even if) he pulls on an England shirt next week. Wilshere will probably partner Steven Gerrard or Tom Cleverley in the centre of the park and it will be interesting to see how he copes with a more direct style of football than he’s used to at the Emirates.
No matter how he plays, however, Wilshere should not be judged on this one game alone; this is a rebuilding season for the player and the England experience next week should be a chance just to get settled again.
1) As I stated in my post-match article, the international break and a few injuries are not an excuse for losing to Norwich. Chelsea, City and United all managed wins and they had an equal number of players on international duty.
2) This was not a one-off loss; these sorts of losses have not been uncommon in the past few years. Inconsistency has cost us for the last 7 seasons. What was different and most frustrating on Saturday, however, was the clear lack of effort and interest from many of the players. The performance was as far from the second-half performance vs West Ham as you could possibly imagine. In my opinion, it is 50/50 as to which Arsenal side turn up. Either we trot out a 4- or 5-1 win (we always seem to concede…), or we struggle from the beginning because nobody shows up.
3) This was the 4th consecutive league game where we have gone behind and the 8th consecutive game where we haven’t kept a clean sheet. We are still very susceptible to set-pieces and zonal-marking from corners is an absolute disaster. The 3 clean sheets at the beginning of the season (vs Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool) are a distant memory.
4) Arsenal can’t rely on Santi Cazorla as the get-out-of-jail-free card. As fantastic as Cazorla is, no player can put in MOTM performances every week. If Cazorla isn’t on song (not that he was bad against Norwich) then somebody else needs to step up. The same can be said of Mikel Arteta, who actually won the MOTM accolade on Arsenal.com
5) Gervinho’s wing-play is extremely one-dimensional and very frustrating. He may have scored a few goals playing in the middle, but he looks completely lost in the wide position. Every time there was an opportunity to create something for Giroud, Gervinho would try to run past everybody and inevitably give the ball away. He also apparently doesn’t know how to stay onside. Lukas Podolski is also much more effective in the middle, although not nearly as frustrating as Gervinho on the wing.
6) Olivier Giroud can’t create chances out of thin air. I actually can’t blame Giroud for not taking many shots – he barely touched the ball. Gervinho was refusing to pass and when crosses did make it into the box they were normally quite poor. Maybe it’s time that we revert to a 4-4-2 formation? I think that Giroud would be infinitely more effective if he had a strike partner (enter Lukas Podolski).
7) Vito Mannone only had a handful of saves to make, but he made everything much more difficult than it needed to be. Norwich’s goal could have been avoided if Vito had palmed the shot to either side instead of straight back into the middle of the box. I know that Alexander Tettey’s shot was quite powerful, but still… Mannone also did an Almunia impression when he chased the ball to the edge of the box. I was waiting to concede our second.
8) Alex Tettey’s long-range shot led to a goal. Why didn’t Arsenal try that? The only time that I saw any Arsenal player attempt a shot from outside the box was Mikel Arteta right at the end, and it was probably our best opportunity of the game. All you have to do is get the shot on target – if it’s hard enough then the keeper might fumble it or it will fall kindly to one of your players. Norwich showed us how this is done. Arteta and Cazorla do normally try a few long-shots, but I would like to see them more often.
9) This loss leaves us in 9th place after 8 games and 10 points behind Chelsea – that’s hardly the fantastic start to the season that we needed! Arsenal can’t rely on hanging in there based on consistent Champions League & Wenger’s previous successes. If we don’t finish in the top four then it becomes increasingly difficult to claw our way back to the top. It’s a vicious cycle – you only have to look at Liverpool as evidence.
10) Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of Wednesday night’s game against Schalke. AOC only played for less than ten minutes against Norwich before he became a substituted substitute. There is also bad news for Walcott and Gibbs:
“It was a kick on his hip. It is not long-term but he will be out for Wednesday.
“I don’t see anyone new being [back] for Wednesday night. The closest will be Gibbs but he will not be ready. Walcott will not be ready [either].”
We will have the latest injury news after Wenger’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
11) The game was “too intense” for Jack Wilshere’s comeback after 14 months. Jack will have to wait for another week, as I doubt that he will play against Schalke either. However, he did play the full 90 minutes for the U21′s against Everton on Monday afternoon, grabbing an assist for Tomas Eisfeld’s second goal.
“We have to be conscious he has not played for 14 months. I would have brought him on if the game had allowed it today but it was too intense.”
The Metro are reporting that Jack Wilshere is on target to be fit for the start of next season, having missed the whole of the 2011/12 season with an ankle injury and other injury problems.
Wilshere was stretchered off in a pre-season friendly against New York Red Bulls last July and was initially ruled out for only a few weeks. However, the injury was much more serious than first thought and Jack had ankle surgery in September; our star midfield has suffered from a succession of setbacks in his rehabilitation ever since.
“Only had 5 days off. Just been keeping my head down and training everyday at the training ground. Proper graft. Looking forward to pre-season now.”
Wilshere is apparently meeting with a specialist later this week to discuss his rehabilitation and, if all goes well, he should be able to step up his ball work at the training ground. I guess that at some point he will join the rest of the team for regular pre-season training.
Having Jack back in the team will be a huge boost. As Wenger keeps reminding us over and over again, he will feel like a new signing. Jack adds another dimension to our midfield; in my opinion there was something that was lacking last season, despite the best efforts of the midfield trio of Arteta, Rosicky and Song.
If Jack thinks that he will be able to walk straight back into the team, he will have to think again. Rosicky has been in great form and fully deserves his place in the starting XI, while Arteta and Song are almost irreplaceable. Wilshere will have to get used to being on the bench occasionally as Wenger rotates the squad. It is also important to remember that we don’t want him to have too many games too quickly, or he could aggravate his injury and suffer further setbacks/complications.
And it’s done – we have made our second signing of the summer in the shape of the French striker Olivier Giroud. Although the official confirmation was simply a formality, it’s good news that Arsenal wrapped up the signing soon after France were knocked out the Euros. It shows the club has planned this summer better than last, and is organising the transfers in a more efficient manner.
Some are saying that the signing of two strikers (Podolski and Giroud) represents a failure to learn from our mistakes – notably the 49 goals conceded in the last league campaign. Firstly, we should give Wenger the whole summer to make complete his transfer plans – we can’t say he isn’t concentrating on defence if he signs three defenders in August. Furthermore, part of the reason for our defensive lapses can be attributed to injuries (remember the full back scenario), poor tactics and certain players needing time to bed in (Mertesacker and Santos). This season should be different – Bould is around to shore up the tactics, the likelihood of another defensive injury crisis is quite low and the German and Brazilian are used to the Premier League.
I’m very excited about the signing of two top attackers. It puts us on a par with the other top clubs that have a host of world class strikers. If we keep van Persie, we could have the best attack in the Premier League. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much..!
Giroud’s record is on the Arsenal website – almost a goal every 2 games for Grenoble, Istres, Tours and Montpellier with 93 goals in 216 games. It’s pretty impressive, even in the French league. I won’t expect him to light up the Premier League immediately, but I hope he gets enough game time to show what he can do. Putting him up top as a centre forward, with van Persie playing off him, could be fantastic.
His addition to the squad further deepens our French network after it seemed we had shrugged off that stereotype since the Unbeaten season. With M’Vila another potential signing, we could have French-speaking players in almost every position in the squad. In fact, Giroud told the Daily Mail that one of his reasons for signing is the French connection at Arsenal:
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in the Premier League and Arsenal are a great club with many French players.”
Let’s hope he has a successful debut season at the club.
In England-related news, the tabloids are labelling Wilshere as the “English Pirlo” who can lead us to glory in Brazil in 2014. I don’t deny he’s a great player, but the media need to stop putting so much pressure on young English players. Rooney was supposed to light up the Euros on his return – he was one of our poorest players. Furthermore, England fans need to stop expecting success in major tournaments – England is a team of talented individuals but is yet to play in the synchronised, effortless style of the Spaniards, Germans, Croatians or even the Poles. Once Roy creates a real team, not a group of individuals, then perhaps we can win something. But let’s not put all the pressure on a young guy who has had one full season at club level and is yet to represent his country at a tournament.
Another frustrating thing about the “English Pirlo” title is this regular requirement to compare players. Diaby was labelled the “new Vieira” and Walcott the “new Henry.” Players need to be accepted as unique because there are so many attributes that contribute to a player’s success. No player is a carbon copy of any other and no player will play in the same team, against the same opposition, as players from past generations. It’s just not something that can be compared. Why can’t Wilshere just be an exciting youngster who will return from injury and hopefully play a part for England and Arsenal next season? Why does the media need to jump to the next tournament and cite some young Englishmen as future superstars?
And finally, with the signing of Giroud, the papers has inevitably stated that it means van Persie is off. With our Dutchman back from the Euros, hopefully contract discussions can get back on track and we will know the answer soon enough.