Apart from Lukasz Fabianski, Arsenal have an almost completely clean bill of health. Abou Diaby and Andre Santos are probably lacking match fitness, but the big blow is that Olivier Giroud missed training all week with a cut to his knee and will face a late fitness test.
I am predicting a pretty standard and full-strength starting XI, but the lack of injuries also means that we will have a strong subs bench. I would love to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky start, but we all know that Wenger is going to start Ramsey.
Manchester City not only have Sergio Aguero missing with a hamstring injury, but Yaya Toure is away at the African Cup of Nations and Samir Nasri is suspended. All good news for Arsenal. City have not won at Arsenal in the league for 30something years, so I am feeling pretty optimistic. Their starting XI is still pretty good, but in my opinion their bench is not as strong as ours. Also, I have a feeling that Vermaelen and Mertesacker would be much happier playing against Dzeko and Tevez than Aguero and Nasri.
Substitutes from: Pantilimon, Nastacic, Sinclair, Balotelli and a few other randoms…
1) Arsenal did not need a replay. Swansea will travel to the Emirates for a replay on Wednesday 16th January. This means that we will be playing a midweek fixture in between City at home and Chelsea away! Wenger will have to adjust the squad accordingly because the team have heaped a load more pressure on themselves. You must also bear in mind that we have lost to Swansea at the Emirates already this season.
2) If we do beat Swansea, it is not such a hard draw in the 4th round. We have avoided Premier League opposition and will be making an away trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday the 26th.
3) Wenger got the team and substitutions a bit wrong. Why was Aaron Ramsey was playing on the wing yet again? He wasn’t terrible, but I would have liked to have seen Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky starting. Maybe you could put Rosicky on the wing and Ramsey in midfield instead of Wilshere or Cazorla? Wilshere is looking pretty tired and maybe he could have used a rest. Lukas Podolski was the only substitute (on for the Welshman), with Rosicky & The Ox left on the bench. Why not use some more substitutions to freshen the team a bit? That’s what they are there for.
4) Bacary Sagna and Mertesacker had a poor game. To be fair to the Sagna, Theo was all over the place and he had nobody to pass to. However he still made a few mistakes which led to us conceding possession despite being under little pressure. I am not alone in wondering whether questions over his future are beginning to affect things on the pitch. Mertesacker as good as gifted Michu the first goal. His whole game relies on positioning because of a lack of pace, but he was beaten pretty quickly by Michu.
5) In contrast, Kieran Gibbs had a pretty good game and gave us everything that Sagna didn’t. Gibbs was fantastic going forward (- he could easily be used as a left winger), but his defending needs a bit of work. Kieran capped off a great performance with a goal that reminded me of Podolski’s against Montpellier.
6) Theo Walcott should not take set pieces. When you have players like Cazorla and Arteta (who are both very capable!), and then you watch Walcott hit the ball straight into the wall or miles over, it is very frustrating.
1) Theo Walcott’s hattrick underlines why we really need him to sign a new contract. Walcott played well through the middle, with Giroud starting on the bench again. Wenger is obviously giving Theo what he wants in order to convince him to stay and I have a feeling that it is working. He is on 14 goals for the season, which already makes this his most prolific season so far, and is contributing plenty of assists too. He wouldn’t get this much game-time at Chelsea.
“He has done very well and it just typifies what I think he can do. He can play through the middle, I am convinced of that, and he can only get stronger in there. Overall I am pleased with his performance.
“You know, the intensity of my desire [to extend his contract] is exactly the same as it was before the game. My desire is to extend his contract, he belongs here and hopefully we can do it.”
2) Olivier Giroud deserved a hattrick too. Giroud’s cameo appearance will take somewhat of a back seat because of Theo’s outstanding performance, but the Frenchman scored 2 good goals after he came on for the last 15 minutes and also hit the crossbar late into added time. I think that he was on for a perfect hattrick. Left foot, right foot, header.
“Yes, he came on very sharp. He looked dangerous on crosses, he looked mobile, technically sound. He had as well an impact when he came on.”
3) Bacary Sagna and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain need to work on their communication. Both offensively and defensively Sagna and The Ox were not working well together. Sagna didn’t continue his forward runs and there were a lot of sloppy passes between the two. Defensively they were also very poor. Gabriel Obertan, who is not exactly the best player in the world, made it look way too easy for Newcastle’s 2nd goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t close down (in fact, he wasn’t there at all) and Sagna was forced to follow to the by-line. Obviously, AOC scored a great goal, but he needs to work on his defensive duties.
4) Kieran Gibbs was also poor defensively. Although he did work well with Lukas Podolski going forward, Kieran Gibbs was not switched on defensively. Marveaux was completely unmarked for Newcastle’s 2nd goal, as was Demba Ba for the 3rd. He seemed to glance at Ba before the cross came in, but then failed to track the run.
5) Lukas Podolski had a great game. Podolski seems to have picked up boundless energy. He was closing down well, his movement was good and he was almost definitely our best player in the first half. He grabbed a great assist for the first goal, linked well with Gibbs in the second half, and nodded in a goal after Wilshere’s fantastic run.
6) Demba Ba could be an Arsenal player in January. Earlier in the week, Arsene Wenger moved to distance himself from rumours that we are in for Demba Ba, but in a post-match interview he was quick to mention Ba’s excellent game. He did also talk about Marveaux and Tiote, so maybe I am reading too much into this, but I am still sure that Ba is near the top of Arsene’s list.
“Yes, because we were three times in front and three times they came back, but they are a team that is good going forward. I was impressed today by Ba, he had an excellent game. The midfield as well, I felt that Marveaux had a very good game. Tiote as well, they were strong. They are a strong team.”
ESPNare reporting that Arsenal are close to agreeing new long-term contracts with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. Arsene Wenger is looking to tie down his British core and reassure dismayed Arsenal supporters who are becoming increasingly frustrated as some of our key players enter the final years of their contracts. Wilshere looks set to agree a 4-year deal with a large pay-rise.
A source close to the club said:
“The three youngsters are agreeing long-term contracts and that is very positive.”
However, the fact remains that while these new contracts are all great (especially Wilshere’s!), Arsenal fans are slightly more concerned about the status of Theo Walcott’s contract negotiations as the January transfer window draws ever closer. The BBCare reporting that negotiations over Walcott’s contract will continue now into January, despite Wenger having previously set a Christmas deadline.
In my opinion, Walcott will be more than happy to let his current contract run past Christmas for 2 reasons: 1) He will be free to talk to other clubs in January and get a feeler for what other contract offers are out there and 2) We will know a bit more about where Arsenal stand (both in the league and in terms of January transfers) in a month’s time. Wenger has made it very clear that he does not want to sell Walcott in January, but I am starting to think that he might have reconsider his stance. Bearing in mind how tight-fisted Arsenal are, I am not so sure that the board would pass up the opportunity to grab a few million in January rather than lose Theo on a free in the summer. That is, of course, if they think that we can make the Champions League places without him. It all depends on who Wenger can bring in as a replacement (and more!) in January. We have been heavily linked with Huntelaar, but I will not be happy until any transfer is confirmed on Arsenal.com next month.
In a long interview with Four Four Two magazine, Wenger talked of his regret over letting players like Van Persie, Fabregas, Nasri & Song leave the club just when it looked as though we were putting together a really great squad. Walcott seems to be edging closer to an exit, and Bacary Sagna (who has only has a year and a half left on his deal) may not sign a contract extension either. Losing these two players would be another huge blow that we simply cannot afford.
‘My regret is that we already had a great team two or three years ago which could compete on four fronts.
‘We just missed out in the Champions League [last 16 tie] against Barcelona, when we could have scored in the last minute, and then we just missed out on the Premier League too.
‘But you could feel the potential was there, and I thought, ‘Okay, let’s do this together’. Then the team split up, sometimes after five or six years’ work, it is frustrating, you have to start all over again.’
‘We have lost recent players earlier in their careers – to lose Van Persie, Fabregas, Nasri and Song in just two years, it is a massive amount of potential, of course you worry.’
Maybe I am being a bit harsh? After all, Diaby has made 20% more appearances this season compared to last season (6 vs 5). The stats speak for themselves.
Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott face late fitness tests, but Olivier Giroud is definitely back in the squad. We really need Walcott back as soon as possible. I don’t think that I can take another game watching Gervinho. The fact that I am happier to have Aaron Ramsey starting on the wing ahead of Gervinho says it all.
Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud
“It’s difficult because some players are still not practising so I can still not tell you exactly who will be available on Monday. Koscielny should come into the training group today, with Walcott we don’t know but Giroud is back.”
“Slow progress. I cannot give you any fixed date because we are a bit in no man’s land on that front. He is working. We are waiting for him to come back but he is not ready.”
Arsene Wenger has given an update on the latest Arsenal team news ahead of our important home fixture against West Brom on Saturday afternoon. With Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski both out, it is likely that Wenger will opt to start with Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho on the wings, in which case I am considering not watching!
Unfortunately, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has as yet not made the most of the opportunities given to him and Wenger seems to prefer starting with Ramsey on the wing even though he is a central midfielder. Gervinho is pretty much a lost cause at the moment.
The good news is that many of our regular first-team players were rested. Mertesacker, Gibbs, Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere and Giroud were all rested for our 2-1 loss to Olympiacos on Tuesday and will be fresh to face West Brom. Caorla and Arteta in particular were in dire need of some time off, having played at the heart of our midfield in almost every game so far this season.
Having missed last weekend’s loss to Swansea because he was feeling “under the weather”, it has now been revealed that he Lukas Podolski is suffering from a hamstring injury. Given that this is Arsenal we are talking about, I fail to believe Wenger’s comments that Podolski’s injury is “only short term”. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
General team news:
“Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott (calf) are out. Bacary Sagna (foot) and Laurent Koscielny(thigh) are not back. From Tuesday night in Greece there are no new injuries so we have a selection from the combined squad of Tuesday and Saturday.”
“It is a hamstring. It should be short-term.”
“He will not be ready for Saturday but he is not far away with an abdominal injury.”
With Arsene Wenger praising the performances of Swansea’s Michu and Pablo Hernandez on the weekend, and with fellow Spaniards Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta forming the heart of Arsenal’s midfield, reports in the British press are linking us with a number of Spanish players as we apparently look to create a Spanish contingent.
According to an article in the Daily Express, Wenger has put Atletico Madrid forward Adian Lopez at the top of his January wish list. Adrian scored 19 goals in 55 appearances for Madrid last season, leading Wenger to consider paying his £15 million release clause.
Given that Gervinho will be missing for the African Cup of Nations, and bearing in mind Theo Walcott’s currently contract situation, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Wenger would be interested in bringing the Spanish forward to the Emirates in January. Even if he does stay for the rest of the season, Walcott’s mind may be elsewhere after the New Year as he will be free to negotiate pre-contracts with other clubs. We have also been linked with Adrian’s compatriot Fernando Llorente, although I think that the former is probably more likely to join Arsenal in January.
I can’t say that I know too much about Adrian, which makes me think that he could be exactly the type of signing that Wenger might make. For example, most of us didn’t know much about Cazorla or Giroud before they joined Arsenal. From what I have read and seen on youtube, Adrian is a great dribbler, quick with his feet and a good finisher. Most importantly, he is flexible to play anywhere along the front 3, and would be particularly effective in the centre or as a second striker behind Giroud if we were to revert to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation. His style has been compared to that of RvP, although obviously he is not quite in that league just yet. There is a video embedded below for those who are interested.
Straight Talking Gooners will try to keep you updated with all the latest transfer news during the Christmas period and the January transfer period. Despite what Wenger says about trying to sort our problems internally, we definitely need new players in January.
Arsenal.com have revealed the 18-man squad that will travel to Greece to face Olympiacos in the Champions League. There is still the possibility that Arsenal can top group B, but with Schalke likely to win against Montpellier (who took only 1 points from the opening 5 fixtures) Arsene Wenger has decided to rest many of our regular first-team players, some of whom have been classed as “injured”. When the squad contains 7 players with shirt numbers over 30, you know that Wenger isn’t taking this game too seriously.
The squad to face Olympiakos includes unused players like Maroune Chamakh and Sebastian Squillaci, as well as 5 players who could make their first-team debuts - Zak Ansah, Sead Hajrovic, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom and James Shea. What I find particularly interesting is that the likes of Ignasi Miquel, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld are not included for various reasons. *Update – I do realise that Eisfeld is not eligible for the Champions League, I am simply surprised that he was not selected at all for the competition.
“Some players needed a rest because they were a bit on the fringe of injury, and some players are injured.
“When I count the injured players I speak about Podolski and Walcott. We needed to rest Wilshere, 100 per cent, and Cazorla, Arteta and Mertesacker played many games recently. They have been rested.
“It is [to avoid fatigue], and we have one luxury, that we can do it. But we have as well one necessity, to win the game tomorrow night. I tried to find the right balance between resting some players and as well having a competitive team tomorrow night.”
Arsenal lost 3-1 to Olympacos at exactly the same stage in the competition last year and in similar circumstances. Yossi Benayoun scored Arsenal’s only goal of the team, but nobody really cared. As far as I am concerned, we still need a good performance tomorrow. Even though it is somewhat of a “reserve” team, it is important to start stringing together a few wins and a loss will only further damage the team’s confidence. I understand that many of the players (I am thinking in particular of Wilshere, Cazorla & Arteta needed a rest), so Wenger needs to find the right balance between fresh players and experience with the squad that he has chosen.
1 Wojciech Szczesny, 5 Thomas Vermaelen, 7 Tomas Rosicky, 15 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 16 Aaron Ramsey, 18 Sebastien Squillaci, 22 Francis Coquelin, 23 Andrey Arshavin, 25 Carl Jenkinson, 27 Gervinho, 29 Marouane Chamakh, 38 Martin Angha, 39 Zak Ansah, 48 Sead Hajrovic, 53 Jernade Meade, 55 Elton Monteiro, 60 James Shea, 67 Chuba Akpom.
A full match-preview, including injury news (when it is available) and our predicted starting XI will be published shortly.
Arsene Wenger has given the latest Arsenal team news ahead of tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park. We have no new injuries from our 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, while Theo Walcott is available after missing the game on the weekend with a shoulder injury. Tomas Rosicky is short of match fitness and will require a few games in the reserves, but Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen (who were rested on the bench against Villa), will almost definitely return to the starting line-up.
There is no mention of Diaby, Santos and Fabianski, but it is pretty safe to assume that they are all out. Let’s face it, if Wenger had given us an update on Diaby it would probably be that “he is 3-4 weeks away.”
General team news/Theo Walcott
“From Aston Villa everybody got though the game well and the player who will come back is Walcott, who is fit again to play.
“Rosicky is back in the squad – not match fit, but in full training. He will not be in the squad for Wednesday night because he needs a game or 2 in the reserve team. He has not played for 6 months, but he is fit.
“He had surgery of the plantaris tendon that is situated down a the achilles, and it took him some time to recover. It’s a similar injury to Scott Parker, with a similar time of surgery.”
On Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen, who were rested against Aston Villa at the weekend.
The big news is that Theo Walcott has been ruled out with a shoulder injury picked up in our win over Spurs. However, we do get a nearly like-for-like replacement, with Gervinho returning to the squad after a few weeks out. The same can be said of the left-back position. Andre Santos is suffering from an abdominal injury, but Kieran Gibbs (who was classed as a long-term injury last week) returns.
Theo Walcott & Andre Santos
“From Saturday, we have [almost] the same squad. But one player who will miss Wednesday’s game is Walcott. It’s the injury he got during the game with his shoulder. We have to scan that today and see if there is no damage. He will be out for tomorrow but it should be short-term. We will miss Santos as well, who has an abdominal muscle strain.”
Gervinho & Kieran Gibbs
“The two players coming in the squad are Gervinho and Gibbs.
“He [Gervinho] had quite a bad ankle strain. Kieran Gibbs as well was out for a while.”
It’s good to have Kieran back in the the team; we didn’t look as defensively stable while he was on the sidelines, and Lukas Podolski seems to link really nicely with Gibbs. However, it does mean that we move Vermaelen back into the middle and that one of Mertesacker or Koscielny will have to give way.
Whether Wenger will start with Gervinho or The Ox is difficult to say. However, the fact that we are reaching a busy period that includes a mid-week Premier League game against Everton next week will surely have a influence on the team. You also wonder how players like Cazorla and Arteta can cope with playing every game; one of both of them will have to be rested at some point.