20th November 2015: Premier League Preview – Back to business against the Baggies

So here we go. Four months of club football without the irritating interruption of an international break and we begin by travelling to West Brom tomorrow afternoon looking to maintain our fine Premier League form.

We’ve won five of our last six in the league since succumbing to a Mike Dean-inspired Chelsea two months ago, and glancing at our upcoming fixture-list, we now have a great opportunity to rack up the points before we entertain Manchester City a few days before Christmas.

After our trip to the Hawthorns, we play Norwich (a), Sunderland (h) and Aston Villa (a), so 12 points from 12 is far from unfeasible. If we do manage to take the maximum tally available from those 4 games, hope of a first title success since 2004 might start morphing into excited expectancy.

Looking at City’s next four fixtures in the league, they begin by hosting Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tomorrow and Southampton next weekend, before travelling to Stoke and hosting Swansea – on paper a much tougher run than ours, before our meeting with them on December 21.

We had the team news yesterday of course and Hector Bellerin’s return to fitness should see him come straight back into the side at the expense of Mathieu Debuchy. We have question marks hanging over both Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud’s involvement, due to the emotional toll of the tragic events of a week ago in Paris, but I’m expecting both to play seeing as they were involved in training today.

Elsewhere, the team picks itself, with Joel Campbell retaining his starting berth on the right, unless Kieran Gibbs’ goalscoring substitute appearance against Spurs two weeks ago has convinced Arsene Wenger he deserves a start.

I highly doubt it though, as it would mean either asking Alexis Sanchez to swap wings to the right, or playing Gibbs as a right-sided attacker. More likely is that Arsene will be encouraging Gibbs to build on his goal in the north London derby by offering a genuine attacking threat from the bench again, if needed.

As for our hosts, they are struggling to score goals so far this season and come into the match with the joint-fewest in the division. Yet in Salomon Rondon and Saido Berahino, they have two strikers of good quality so we’ll need to be mindful of their threat. When asked about the former, the boss said:

He’s a fighter. He has a physical ability to resist the challenges of the centre backs and he has a good nose in the box to be where you have to be.

One major reason I think we can be confident in our defending against Rondon and co tomorrow is the return of Bellerin. Assuming Koscielny plays, we’ll be at full strength back there, with a nicely-rested and hopefully re-energised Francis Coquelin protecting them with typically tenacious defensive midfield play.

And Nacho Monreal has been praising his compatriot Bellerin’s meteoric rise at the club, saying:

He’s a young player, only 20 years old, but he plays like a guy who is 30. He’s very mature and he plays with a lot of confidence. He trusts in himself and that’s very good for us. Since he’s started to play the level of the team is improving so we are very proud of him. When I was 20 like him, I was scared every time I had to play at the beginning, but he’s not. That’s the secret for him, that he’s so confident in himself. He knows what he has to do, he goes on to the pitch and he does it. It looks easy but it’s not easy. He’s only 20, he has a long way to go, he has to play more games but obviously everything he has done is brilliant. He just needs to keep going in the same way. I’m 100 per cent sure he will play for the Spanish national team. I don’t know when as that’s the question. At this moment there are another two right backs like Juanfran and Dani Carvajal. Hector is still playing for the under-21s but if he carries on, he will play with the senior team 100 per cent.

If there’s a better right-back in the Premier League than Bellerin at the moment, then he’s doing a fine job of going undetected. The point Nacho makes about our cockney Catalan’s maturity is, along with his searing pace obviously, the most startling thing about the 20-year-old in my opinion.

When he’s been faced with tough opponents and struggled initially, he’s had the intelligence to adapt his game mid-match, to turn the tide of the duel in his favour. It’s great to have him back and after a depressing last seven days in he context of the wider world, it feels great to have the Premier League back.

Back post-match.



19th November 2015: Wenger talks team news, contracts and West Brom

Evening all. Arsene Wenger held his pre-West Brom press conference this morning, as we look forward to the return of Premier League football in a couple of days’ time.

Team news is that Hector Bellerin is fit and available again after missing both our trip to Bayern Munich and the home encounter with Tottenham before the international break.

But Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain won’t won’t be risked for the Hawthorns, with the boss saying the pair should be available from Monday. And on Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, he said:

He (Walcott) is doing well, he could be a bit ahead of schedule but still you count a few weeks more while Rosicky, Wilshere, Welbeck will be later.

Following the tragic events of late last week in Paris, Laurent Koscielny was visibly emotional on Tuesday evening as England hosted France at Wembley, and when Arsene was asked if his defender would be in the right frame of mind to play this weekend, he said:

I will talk with him. It’s a big game for us. I have not talked to him yet, but I will talk to him to see if he’s completely recovered and focused.

Arsene also remarked that he thought Laurent was a different player against England from the one he saw enjoy a fine performance against Germany on Friday. He followed up by saying that every player needs to be completely focused on the task at hand in the Premier League, so if there is any doubt at all in Laurent’s mind that he’s ready, the boss won’t select him.

Obviously only the player himself can say how he’s feeling but it’s reassuring to know we have a well-rested Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, in case that’s the partnership we need to go with.

Moving on and there have been reports over the past few days that Alexis Sanchez was nearing an agreement on an extension to his contract with the club and that Mesut Ozil would follow suit shortly. But Arsene revealed today that although he’ll sit down with the pair in the coming months, no negotiations have yet begun with either player:

We have not started to talk about that (a new contract) with Mesut. We are in the same situation (with Alexis). At the end of the year they have two-and-a-half years left on their contract so we still have some time. We are not in a hurry. Of course we want them to stay here at the club and we will start the negotiations at some stage. At the moment we have not started them.

Reassuringly however, Arsene suggested there would be no repeat of players running there contracts down to the last year like Robin van Persie or Samir Nasri, or to it’s end like Bacary Sagna, because the club was ‘in a stronger position to negotiate.’

Finally for today, the boss was asked what he made of Saturday’s opponents West Brom, and said:

I watched them against Man United and they looked a very well organised team which is absolutely – as always with Tony Pulis – fully committed. On top of that they are in a difficult situation a little bit in the Premier League and you expect what you always expect in the Premier League – a committed, physical, fast game and a game where we cannot afford to make any mistakes. I would even say that you don’t even look at the table any more because you know what you get. The difference between the teams has narrowed and today it is more about how much can you be close to your best which will decide the result, more than the team you play against.

I’ll be honest, I’ve paid next to no attention to how West Brom have performed so far this season but they have some dangerous attackers and will no doubt prove highly organised opposition.

That said, we’ve been sensational on our travels in the league so far this term so, as always, I’m confident we can secure all three points.

Back with more on Friday.

Til then.

18th November 2015: Wenger on FIFA

Evening. I’m a little late to this but Arsene Wenger has been speaking about the FIFA presidential election and has tipped future World Cups to be expanded to 40 teams.

For a bit of background, the tournament was played by 16 nations between 1934 and 1978, apart from on two occasions. In 1938 only 15 took part after Austria was absorbed by Germany, and in 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew, leaving just 13 to battle it out.

The World Cup has twice been expanded since then; in 1982 to 24 countries, and again in 1998 to 32 competing nations.

Anyhow, speaking to  Arsenal Player, here’s what the boss said:

It is now or never – you would like to put it all on the table. You see the European Championship has gone from 16 to 24 teams. I bet you [because of] the way the system was organised, to be elected as new president of Fifa, the programme would be to move the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams. Why? Because Africa today has five countries in the World Cup and Europe has 13 – that cannot work for much longer. You cannot take countries away from Europe and if you want to be elected as Fifa president, you need the votes from the African countries, so you want to give more to Africa. So the next World Cups will be 40 teams.

Insightful as ever from the boss and unless you follow bidding processes and the political side of football closely, which I don’t, because it bores me more than watching Chelsea play, you’d probably have been unaware of the importance of Africa in the race to replace Sepp Blatter.

And you’d probably never have paid much attention to the fact Africa, and Asia for that matter, has been hugely under-represented at previous World Cups.

So if expansion is the only way to ensure proportionate representation of continents, then I suppose It’s inevitable and long over-due, regardless of any presidential plays.

However, a more inclusive World Cup would also possibly mean more games for already over-worked players and possibly a longer tournament schedule-wise, which would irritate clubs sides more than international football in it’s present form already does.

Inevitably, the boss has also had his say on the club v country debate:

We face a situation where it’s impossible for the players to get through a season and have rest. This kind of friction that it creates between the clubs, national teams and international competitions can create a split. One day the clubs could move away and say, ‘Enough is enough, we pay a huge amount of money for our best players so we’ll get them together ourselves and organise our own competitions’. It’s important that all of that gets on the table while we have the opportunity.

This is obviously a long-running issue which is always brought into sharp focus every time a player is injured while away on international duty.

You would imagine at some stage, surely, clubs and international football can come to some kind of arrangement  where players are afforded more time off during a calendar year. Lets see.

Back tomorrow.

17th November 2015: International involvement + Ozil on improvement

Welcome back. There are a few Arsenal players in action for their countries tonight, but not as many as there might have been, after the match between Belgium and Spain was called off amid security concerns.

The cancellation of the fixture means that Santi Cazorla will have had a full week off since playing competitively when we face West Brom on Saturday, which is obviously welcome news for Arsenal.

I’m writing this with one eye on the television as England host France at Wembley, where Kieran Gibbs has started the match for the hosts and Laurent Koscielny for the visitors. Olivier Giroud has been left on the bench for the right-footed Oliver Giroud – Andre-Pierre Gignac.

Elsewhere this evening, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and David Ospina could all feature for their respective nations, whilst Gabriel and Joel Campbell will play for Brazil and Costa Rica respectively, if selected tomorrow evening.

With plenty of our international players already in London due to injury and Mesut Ozil given a pass for these internationals by Germany, it means we should be relatively well-rested as a squad for the weekend, which considering how jaded we looked against Tottenham, is just as well. Collectively we needed a breather.

Our one big fear, fatigue-wise, remains Sanchez of course, but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nearing a return to full fitness, perhaps we can rest the Chilean in some of our upcoming games as some have already suggested. We’ll see.

Moving on and onto some words from Mesut. Our assist king has been discussing the development of the Arsenal team and his own ability to dictate games. He told Arsenal Player:

I think as a team you can see that we’ve become more mature. We’ve learnt from our mistakes and you can see on the pitch that we’re more steady. We’ve had some setbacks this season but we’ve learnt from them and it shows on the pitch that my team-mates are looking for me even more and I’m able to control the game better. You can see that we function well as a team. It doesn’t matter who plays from the start, we’re always there. You need a big squad if you are to be successful and that’s why things are working well. When you look at the past seasons, we’ve always been a technically-strong team but when we played against big teams, we dropped points. In the second half of last season and in this year so far, we’ve proved ourselves against the biggest teams. You learn from your mistakes and we can measure ourselves with the best. That distinguishes us as a team.

He’s right of course, the maturity of this Arsenal team in terms of ‘game-management’ has been very noticeable this term and I think a big reason for that must be the Cech influence.

When I heard him yell “small details” to Per Mertesacker at the end of our Community Shield victory over Chelsea at the start of the season, it was confirmation, for me at least, that Cech would have a hugely positive effect on our squad off the pitch as well as on it.

Yet, another big reason we’re able to control games is the mesmeric ability of Mesut. He’s already produced 10 assists, broken records and generally just been a joy to watch. I said it in a recent post but if he maintains his current form until the end of the season, he’ll take some stopping from being crowned the best player in England this season.

Til tomorrow.

16th November 2015: Wilshere on working hard to recover from fractured fibula

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. After reports over the weekend that Jack Wilshere was on course for a comeback in time for our trip to Southampton on Boxing Day, the midfielder himself has been speaking to Arsenal Player about his spell on the side-lines.

Discussing his recovery from a fractured fibula, Jack explained how previous injuries have equipped him to overcome his latest set-back, and touched on the mental difficulties of suffering a long-term injury just as he was nearing his best. He said:

It’s going well. I’m working as hard as I can to try to come back. I know what it takes because unfortunately I’ve been injured a few times in my career and I know what it takes to come back. I’m not going to rush it. I’ll make sure my body’s right and at the moment I’m feeling good. Mentally this one has been the toughest to take because I had a big injury last year, came back, got myself fit, back in good form, played for England. Then I cut my holiday short for two weeks and came in to try to get myself right for this season. I thought, ‘This season I need to be fit for the whole season and go into the Euros with a whole season behind me’. Unfortunately on the last day of pre-season I got injured so it was probably the toughest one for me to take.

As far as luck goes, Jack’s certainly due some when it comes to his fitness and unless you’ve been through it yourself, I don’t think any of us can quite comprehend what it must feel like to get injured on the eve of a new season having worked so hard over pre-season.

At 23 years of age however, Jack still has plenty of time on his side to become the world class central midfielder many tipped him to when he first broke through, so lets hope this is his last major injury and when he eventually returns to first-team action, he can start to remind everyone of what we’ve been missing.

And Wilshere also highlighted the benefit of having a couple of team-mates keep him company in the gym, as the rest of squad head out to training every morning:

We all know it’s difficult and just being around other people helps. At the moment it’s me, Danny and Tomas because we’re the only ones with long-term injuries. Just being around other people, speaking to them and having a bit of banter with them helps as well. We’re still early in the season and the busiest part of the season is coming up. I want to be part of this team and I proved last season that I can get back and fight for a place. I know it’s not going to be easy but that’s what I want to do.

It’s been noted by many of course, but the fact we have the likes of Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky due back around the New Year should give our title challenge a timely boost in the second half of the season.

As we all saw just before this international break against Tottenham, the squad is crying out for a few more options for the manager to choose from to freshen things up and rest tired legs, having played so many games already this season with a pretty small core of the same players.

Back tomorrow.

15th November 2015: Wilshere boost + Henry and Vieira as potential successors to Wenger

Sunday salutations. Some good news to begin with this evening as The Mirror’s Steve Stammers has reported Jack Wilshere is on course for a return to full fitness in time for Arsenal’s Boxing Day trip to Southampton.

Having suffered a fractured fibula in training on the eve of the new season, Wilshere’s availability for the busiest portion of the season would obviously be a big boost for Arsene Wenger and the squad, so fingers crossed his recovery continues to progress without any setbacks between now and then.

In the same piece, it’s also revealed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the most likely of our injured payers to be fit for the game at West Brom on Saturday. Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey shouldn’t be far behind the Ox in making a return too, considering all three were recently reported to be likely to make their comebacks immediately after this international break.

Elsewhere, two members of our 2004 Invincibles’ squad have had their say on the possibility of Thierry Henry taking over as Arsenal manager once Arsene decides to step down. First up, it’s Robert Pires, who said:

Can I see Thierry Henry taking over from Arsene Wenger? Yes, why not? He is working on his badges. He’s involved with the U19 team at Arsenal’s academy. He’s preparing himself step by step and he wants to get his badges. Question is; would Arsenal want Henry? It depends on the board, the chairman. I can see Henry, as well as Vieira. It’s up to the club to prepare well for the post-Arsene era. That’s crucial.

Gilberto Silva agrees, but thinks the job may come too soon for Thierry, saying:

Maybe one day he could be Arsenal manager. For Thierry when Wenger leaves be quite soon. Maybe he needs more time, but one day he can do it. He’s doing the right thing working with the youngsters, he’s learning day by day. He knows Arsenal.

Frankly, I’d be flabbergasted if Henry succeeded Arsene in the hot-seat, mainly because he’s got about as much of a track record of successfully managing a top-level club as I have.

It’s also worth remembering than when it was put to the boss fairly recently that Henry might one day follow in his footsteps, he basically said his former striker had a lot to learn. So if we assume Arsene will have a big say on who is named his successor, unless Henry makes huge strides in his coaching career over the next couple of years, it’s hard to see him as our next manager.

Patrick Vieira, who has managed the Man City reserve team and now taken on his first, first-team manager role in New York, is a couple of steps ahead of Thierry in the regard, so perhaps he’s the more likely Invincible to be a contender.

Personally, I would want us to go out and get the best proven manager possible when the time comes, and if one day Henry or Vieira prove themselves as good at managing teams as they were at playing the game, then they clearly become stand-out candidates.

Another short post today, but don’t blame me, blame the international break.

Till next week.

14th November 2015: Joel’s playing.

Bar Joel Campbell playing for Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier against Haiti, there is absolutely nothing going on today Arsenal-wise. So good luck to Joel.

Anyhow, thoughts and prayers at this time are of course with those affected by the tragic events in Paris last night and to those suffering throughout the world.

See you on Sunday.

13th November 2015: International involvement and remembering Lauren

Good evening. It’s Friday the 13th today of course and we all know what that means don’t we? Absolutely nothing.

Last night saw the first Arsenal involvement in the internationals as Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina both played the full 90 minutes when their respective nations, Chile and Columbia, played out a 1-1 draw. I didn’t see the match, Sanchez didn’t score, but I’m assuming he ran non-stop all game and then did a few hundred laps of the pitch afterwards just for fun.

There were also two more Gunners in action yesterday evening as Calum Chambers played the full 90 and Chuba Akpom the first 70, for England Under 21’s as they drew 0-0 with their Bosnian counterparts. I’m told it was a fascinating watch.

So on to tonight and Olivier Giroud scored the opener for France as they beat World Cup winners Germany 2-0. He was then taken off after 69 minutes but Laurent Koscielny played the whole game, so thanks Didier Deschamps, really appreciate it.

Elsewhere, Santi Cazorla came on a substitute for Thiago Alcantara just before the 30 minute mark and scored Spain’s second with a clinically taken effort as they beat England 2-0, for whom Kieran Gibbs was an unused sub. There were a few other Arsenal players in action tonight too, so for a comprehensive round-up take a look at the the official site here.

The international break can be a great time to take a look back and Arsene Wenger has been doing just that in discussing one of the lesser-celebrated members of our Invincibles team, Lauren.

My personal anecdotes about the Cameroonian include reading the name Lauren Bisan Etame Mayer on CEEFAX when we confirmed his capture and having no idea who he was but being excited nontheless as I always am by an Arsenal signing I know nothing about. Sure, they could turn out to be Stefan Malz but equally there’s always the chance they’ll be another Patrick Vieira.

After watching him a few times though, I labelled him ‘a right-footed Edgar Davids’ and I think he scored in that win over Liverpool at Highbury when Vieira was sent off for the second, consecutive Premier League game of the season and had to be talked out of leaving England. But more importantly, and I kid you not, I tipped him to replace the aging Lee Dixon as our next right-back before Arsene eventually played him there for the first time. In fairness, I also said I could see Emmanuel Eboue as a brilliant left winger, so …

Anyway, here’s what Arsene said:

He was, for me, one of the best full backs in the world. Not only because of his quality but he was a character, a real character. He was scared of nobody and when you needed the nerves you could count on Lauren. When he arrived here I had many discussions with him as I needed to convince him that he can become a right back and an outstanding right back. For a while, because he was a strong character, he didn’t accept it. Suddenly he understood that and I think that in Lauren and Ashley Cole, we had the best two full backs in the world.

My favourite memory of Lauren, aside from him bullying Ruud van Horse-face, was his FA Cup goal at Stamford Bridge as he ran down the right, cut infield onto his weaker left foot and found the bottom corner at the near post. What a goal.

I think in Hector Bellerin, we finally have a player capable of similar attacking feats from right-back now, which I think we’ve missed sorely through the Bacary Sagna years. Yes the Bac was a great defender, but he was a little clumsy on the ball for me and didn’t add much going forward the way Lauren did and Bellerin does now.

It’s an important point too, having fullbacks who are great on the ball, because in our style of play, with our wide midfielders/attackers often drifting infield, our fullbacks see a lot of the ball and so them being comfortable in possession is a massive plus, if not a must, in my opinion.

See you on Saturday.

12th November 2015: FA want Wenger explanation, Welbz can’t wait for return, Grimaldo linked

Welcome back. Some actual news to begin with this evening after the FA today asked Arsene Wenger to explain recent comments he made in an interview with French publication L’Equipe regarding ‘doping’ in football.

The gist of his remarks, as I’m sure you’ll have read by now, were that whilst he was proud that in 30 years as a manager he’d never had his players injected to make them better, he has faced teams who were “not in that frame of mind.”

Those comments were of course made some time after it was revealed a Dinamo Zagreb player had failed a drugs test following the Croatian club’s Champions League victory over Arsenal in September this year, and the FA have now invited the boss to expand on those remarks and provide any further information he may have.

An FA Spokesman is quoted as saying today:

The FA, in conjunction with United Kingdom Anti-Doping (Ukad), operates one of the most comprehensive anti-doping testing programmes in the world. We have exceptionally few cases of positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs, which reflects the findings from drug-testing in football worldwide. All positive cases for Wada-prohibited substances are published by Ukad and the FA.

Now I have to admit, I’m far from the foremost authority on this subject, but it does make you wonder about performance-enhancing, and even recovery-speeding, drug use in the game. Some players never seem to get injured whilst others are perennially prone to spells out. Is that always down to nature, or sometimes, to a science lab? Who knows, but I’m certainly looking forward to hearing Arsene expand on the subject as the FA have asked him to.

Elsewhere, contrary to reports I discussed in yesterday’s post suggesting Danny Welbeck had suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury and may be ruled out for the rest of the season, the player himself has told Arsenal Player that his recovery is “slow and steady but it’s coming along”, and that he’s chomping at the bit to make a return to action. He said:

It’s slow and steady but it’s coming along. It’s difficult to see the lads when you’re still in the gym, doing double days, but once I get back out on the pitch and start running I will be much happier. It’s a difficult period for me but I’m looking forward to coming back strong. I want to get back out on the pitch, keep on improving, keep training and keep fit – that’s the main thing. I just want to get back to playing football. I’m trying to build to muscle and it’s hard, but it’s something that I’ve grasped with two hands and I’m really looking forward to my return.

He certainly sounds bullish, which is encouraging considering how long he’s been out for now, and as you may have guessed from yesterday’s post, I can’t wait to see him back playing and having an extended run as our central striker.

The worry for Welbz must be that seeing as we were obviously looking for a new striker last summer, unless he can prove his worth between now and the end of the season, he may find himself competing with Oliver Giroud, Theo Walcott and a new signing by the start of next season. It’ll certainly be interesting to watch how we line up if and when everybody is fit.

Finally for today, The Mirror have linked us with a move for Barcelona B left-back and captain Alex Grimaldo, who they say is reluctant to extend his current deal with the Catalans which expires this coming summer, but who is also being eyed up by Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.

I’ve never seen him play live but having just YouTube’d him (classy, and with a speed of thinking that is typically quick for Barcelona players), and based on how our recruitment from Barcelona has gone over the years, I say sign him up Arsene!

If he’s free and willing, why the hell not? Maybe you can mould him into a defensive midfielder, a centre-half or even tap into previously unnoticed goalkeeping potential. Plus, most importantly of all, his surname’s just two letters away from Grimandi, the Gunners’ double Double-winning legend.

Right, a bit short today but that’s me done.

See you on Friday.

11th November 2015: Wolves, Welbeck and Ozil

A warm Wednesday welcome to you. When the only live football on TV on a midweek evening in November is Chelsea Ladies v Wolfsburg Women, you know you’re in the middle of an international break.

I actually quite like the women’s game, and I’m a big fan of Arsenal’s very own Kelly Smith, who has a left peg in a million, but that said, tonight’s offering on Eurosport was about as enticing as a trip to the dentists.

If it was the Chelsea men’s team versus wolves on the other hand, I might have tuned in. But actual wolves mind, not Wolverhampton Wanderers. Otherwise that too, would have been about as enticing as a trip to the dentists.

I mean, anybody can watch buses being parked just by going to their local garage, but seeing Jose Mourinho and his players being chased all over the Stamford Bridge pitch by a ravenous pack would make for superb entertainment by anybody’s standards.

After the match, Jose would no doubt have blamed an offside wolf’s tail, a distracting howl or Arsene Wenger, but nothing would have be able to detract from the fact his team had been ripped to shreds …

Meeeeeeeeeanwhile, Danny Welbeck, who I think could prove himself the best all-round striker we currently have at the club, if he can just get and stay fit, has been speaking to the Arsenal Weekly podcast about his move from Manchester United in 2014, and how his England team-mates already in north London made the transition easy for him. He said:

It makes it easier for you because, like any situation in life, if you go somewhere and see a familiar face then you can obviously bond with them. Knowing the England boys from international duty and growing up with them in the youth teams made it easy. They integrate you into the group a lot easier with the other lads as well. It was a new challenge but it was an exciting time for me to approach a new situation, move from Manchester to London and all of the stuff that goes with it. It was a whole new city, not completely new as I’d been to London before, but it was weird knowing that I was going to be calling London home and not Manchester. The thing that you miss the most is your family and that’s the most important thing. A lot of my family and friends do come to London to see me anyway. They come to all the home games so I get to see them quite a lot anyway. But I was leaving something that I knew after growing up in Manchester, coming to a new city, it’s an exciting period.

It may sound like a cliche but I think Welbeck has all the attributes to be one of the best around. I know he has a lot of doubters, who bemoan his finishing etc but I think he’s at the perfect club and has the perfect manager to help him become the finished article up front.

Of course first he has to play in order to improve and score the goals that win Arsenal games, so it was very worrying to read unconfirmed reports his injury wasn’t improving, and he may even be side-lined for the rest of the season.

The official update is that he’s still expected back around the turn of the year so fingers crossed those rumours were way wide of the mark and he’s back to provide Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott with competition in the second half of the season.

Elsewhere, Mesut Ozil, who incidentally, has shown signs of a fine mutual understanding with Welbeck in the relatively few times they’ve played together (think Villa Park last season), has been speaking to Arsenal Player about adding more goals to his game:

After training there are a few shooting drills that can help with self-belief. In general, when you look at my chances in front of goal, I’ve taken them well. Every player wants to score goals. I’m intending to score more this season than in previous years. It’s most important for us to perform well and to be successful – I’m looking forward to giving assists or scoring goals. My aim is to score more goals this season than in the last two. I think I’m on a good path and will achieve that.

His assists alone so far this season must have him in contention for the player of the year award, and if he keeps producing them at his current rate, he’ll take some stopping.

Especially when you consider that bar Jamie Vardy, there aren’t many stand-out contenders to be Eden Hazard’s successor. There’s a long, long way to go obviously, but it wouldn’t be the first time one of Arsene’s predictions proved spot on.

Back tomorrow.