24th May 2016: Prize money champions + Cech on Ozil

Evening all. I’ll begin tonight with the news that Arsenal have become the first club in history to be awarded more than £100 million after the Premier League’s payments to clubs for last season were released today.

Amazingly, the eye-watering figure is set to be some 60 percent higher next season, as the English top-flight’s gravy train gains yet more granules. The money’s obviously obscene, but does raise hopes even further that we’ll be big players in this summer’s transfer market. And for a club nicknamed the Bank of England club in the 1930s, you have to say it’s rather fitting we’re the first to break through the 100 million barrier.

Hopefully we’ll use the dosh to entice a string of star names to the club and not hoard it like tight-arsed, unambitious, overly-cautious, spend-thrift, piss-takers. Personally, I’d spunk the lot on a Neymar or a Gareth Bale, but as this isn’t fantasy-land, I’ll settle for a Gonzalo Higuain, a Robert Lewandowski or a Paulo Dybala, with maybe an N’Golo Kante thrown in for good measure.

Moving on and Petr Cech has been speaking about Mesut Ozil, describing his team-mate as “brilliant”. He said:

He’s been brilliant all season. Not only is he providing all of these assists, but in a game he is very important and very useful and he has improved in terms of goals scored. You could see that his overall game has been brilliant all year, so he definitely deserves to get the Player of the Season award. He’s raised the bar for next season so good luck to him for being able to keep it that high. He has great vision and, whatever he sees, he sees it much better than anyone else. He can execute the pass as well or use that space, with his movement or his pass. His quality with the ball, his passing and vision is extraordinary. It’s very tricky for the goalkeeper because you know anything can happen. He sometimes sees things and you think, ‘There’s no way he can put the ball there because it’s too complicated’, but he always finds the way. Even with his finishing, he has the calmness in front of goal, picks his spot very well and he can put it wherever he wants. When you look at these types of players everyone says, ‘They’re technically gifted, can pass and have nice vision’, but when it comes to running people question it. With Mesut you can see that he’s not [afraid of] running, pressing or the physical presence. He’s someone who works hard every day to be on top of his game and that’s why he’s at the top of his game, because he works for it.

Very high praise indeed for a player who was our stand-out offensive performer last season without question.

Now if we could just tie him down to a new contract and sign a forward or two to make the most of his creativity we might actually turn the talk into trophies. It’s not like we don’t have the money …

Until tomorrow.

19th May 2016: Seaman on Wenger + Cech on Rosicky

Evening all. A very quick Thursday evening round-up for you and in tonight’s post we have a trio Arsenal players past and present discussing a variety of topics from life in London to life after Arsene Wenger.

First up it’s our legendary ex-goalkeeper David Seaman, who has revealed his admiration for his former manager Wenger but also suggested the club need to spend big in the transfer market this summer to appease unhappy fans. He said:

Arsenal had a good season. It wasn’t brilliant because we didn’t win anything, but to finish second is a great achievement. But there are still doubts – doubts over the manager and the team and whether it can push on. For me, Arsene is the best. I love the guy and I certainly don’t want to see him leave. I’ve worked with him and know how good he is. More and more fans are getting on the Wenger Out bandwagon and I’m just desperate for him to win the league again just to shut everybody up. I think the only way you would be able to stop the fan backlash is by signing top quality players. We need the finished article, not the young, up-and-coming guys. But what frightens me is that if the club don’t go out and buy these players in the summer, and Arsene does leave, where does that leave Arsenal? A lot of fans think the base that Arsene has set is the standard, but it won’t be. It will fall below that if we get a new manager in.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s current number one Petr Cech, has been discussing the qualities of compatriot Tomas Rosicky and explaining why the midfielder will go down as one of the Czech Republic’s best-ever footballers. He told Arsenal Player:

He is one of the best-ever Czech players, and we have had so many great players. He is right among them. Every time you see him playing, you see what a brilliant player he is. Unfortunately for him, when he was on top of his form an injury always came. I have to say that is a credit to him because when he had a difficult time with injury he always managed to come back and every time he came back he was as good as he was before. It’s been a great journey for him personally in the national team, at Dortmund and at Arsenal. It’s just a shame that Arsenal couldn’t have him on the pitch more often because he is a really talented player. He is one of those players who is great to watch but also great to play with. Every time you give him the ball, something happens. He moves the game forward and never slows it down. He always creates something. He creates opportunities for everyone else and that is one of his main strengths. As soon as you give him the ball you know something is happening.

And finally, we have Mohamed Elneny, who in a wide-ranging  interview with Arsenal Magazine, has been talking about his home life in London and what he likes to do in his spare time. He said:

I’m delighted to be here in London. It’s a great city, despite the weather conditions that may not be perfect as they change all the time! But overall I’m very comfortable here and happy that my family have joined me now too. I enjoy staying home and spending time with my family. My son loves football so I am teaching him to become a footballer because he’s passionate about the game. If the weather is good, we like to go out for walks and explore the city.

That’s right, I have no thoughts on any of the above and yes, the three parts have no real link. It’s a round-up. Plus I’m too tired to think, so there.

See you on Friday folks.

12th May 2016: Wenger and Ramsey on Welbeck woe

Evening all. The shock of Danny Welbeck’s latest long-term injury is still seeping into Arsenal systems and his manager Arsene Wenger today discussed his striker’s misfortune when he spoke to Arsenal Player.

Blaming the incident on pure bad luck, Arsene explained how he’d been cautious in fielding the former Manchester United man after he made a dramatic comeback from his previous ten-month spell on the sidelines by heading home a last-gasp winner against Leicester City in February. Arsene said:

We’re all devastated, and Danny even more so. We can only feel sad and support Danny now in order to get him back. It was basically from an anonymous tackle. The difference between the tackle and the severity of the injury is baffling. We don’t understand that but we have to accept the verdict and we have to live with it. Danny has to deal with it unfortunately. We just have to give him the maximum support we can and show him that we trust he can come back. He scored goals and when he came on he had an impact. I pushed him in and out of the team because I knew he’d been out for a year. Sometimes for the big games I kept him out to recover from the efforts he has made. Sometimes people accused me of being too cautious but I knew that he did not play for a year and the intensity of the Premier League is so exceptional that you have to be cautious. The injury was accidental. I don’t think there’s anyone to blame, not our opponents or medical staff. It was completely an accident.

Meanwhile, Welbeck’s Arsenal team-mate Aaron Ramsey – no stranger himself to serious injury of course after Ryan ‘not a malicious bone in his body’ Shawcross broke his leg with a horror ‘tackle’ in 2010 – said he’s ‘gutted’ for Danny and wished him a speedy comeback when he spoke to Sky Sports. He said:

I have spoken to him and obviously he is very disappointed and gutted. He was in good shape, good form and he had a great opportunity to show what he could do for England in the summer. I’m gutted for him as well but I am sure he will back from it stronger and I hope he has a speedy recovery.

Needless to say I hope Welbz makes a miraculously fast recovery and is back banging ’em in for us just as we’ve established a 25-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s second-placed Manchester City in February 2017 …

Moving on now and Petr Cech has been discussing Arsenal’s ‘strange season’ and explaining why he hopes the club can build on it by going from ‘good’ to ‘great’ next term. He said:

It was a very strange season in a way. If you look at the number of injuries we had, it is not a big number compared to previous years or compared to other clubs. It’s not a big difference but unfortunately for us, every time we’ve had an injury, it’s been long-term. We had a great squad at the start of the season. Danny was coming back, Jack was coming back, and it was a very strong group. Unfortunately Jack got injured right before the start of the campaign, Danny had the same problem, Tomas had the same problem, and these were all long-term injuries. Santi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became long-term injuries too. If you have so many important players out with long-term injuries, it does give a chance to everybody else, but it can hurt you at certain times. If you have seven games in 21 days and your opponent has had six days off to prepare, you don’t have the advantage of rotating players. I thought we did so well most of the time to be able to cope with that, but unfortunately in the end we lacked a bit of energy in February and March when we dropped points. This is where the difference was made. Overall, it’s been a good season, not one you would look back on and call a brilliant season, but there were a lot of positives and things to build on. Hopefully we can step up and have a great season next year.

Let’s hope the big man’s right.

See you on Friday.


26th April 2016: Fans’ protest planned for Norwich

Evening all. A quick round-up for you tonight and I’ll start with the back page of today’s Evening Standard which says: ‘Asenal fans to target Kroenke as supporters groups plot protest for Norwich game‘.

According to the report, fan-groups including The Black Scarf Movement, REDaction and the Arsenal Supporters Trust are encouraging supporters to hold up banners which read “Time for Change. Arsenal is stale — fresh approach needed” in the 12th and 78th minutes, in reference to our 12-year wait for the Premier League title.

If Twitter and the wider online Arsenal world is any kind of gauge of fan sentiment, a planned protest such as this has been a long time coming. What surprises me is that there haven’t been more. That said, I’m not sure how much of an immediate difference it will make in the thinking of those running the club but obviously the louder the fan-base’s discontent grows, at some stage, you’d hope it’ll be heard.

I also like the wording if I’m honest, because a ‘fresh approach’ is exactly what so many followers are crying out for and rightly so in my opinion. Although, given Arsene Wenger has categorically confirmed he’ll remain in charge next season and Stan Kroenke is unlikely to sell his controlling stake in Arsenal any time soon, that fresh approach has to take the form of new players and perhaps quite a few of them.

Call it blind loyalty or whatever you like, but I still want Arsene to remain Arsenal manager – providing he overhauls his squad in a major way this summer and brings in the best available players he possibly can. A protest like this weekend’s then, may just make that more likely. Let’s hope so.

After all, we’re a football club and our primary focus and aim should be on building the best team and squad we can to win football matches. What we need is obvious – more players of the quality of Alexis Sanchez for instance, and speaking of our Chilean forward, Per Mertesacker has been explaining why he thinks the south American is so special. He said:

When he was out, the statistics were not that bad for us – I think we played 10 games without him and won eight or something like that. We had quite a good record but over the whole season normally we need him healthy. If he is on the pitch, he always creates space for other players because he draws so much attention and that is key to any team. He is a key member of our side and, if he is fully fit, he makes the difference and that is always the case. He is that type of player who gives everything to the team. Those team members are well appreciated.

Another well-appreciated team member is Petr Cech of course, and the experienced goalkeeper has been telling Arsenal Player how he puts off his opponents. He said:

There are many ways you can intimidate people during a game. With your aggression is one way, but nobody likes to have no time. You press them all the time and put them under pressure. Any player that has time and feels comfortable to control the ball and play, obviously can play much better. If you don’t give them the time and put them under pressure, then it becomes much more difficult. I try to find ways not to give people the chance to feel comfortable in a situation when they face me, then it means they might not get a goal. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that what you are doing is the right way when you go to the game and you are ready.

Right. That’ll do for tonight.

Back tomorrow.

12th April 2016: Cech on sportsmanship and Iwobi on his goal at Everton

Welcome back. It’s still very quiet Arsenal news-wise so this will be the briefest of posts. A micro-post, if you will.

I’ll start with some words from fit-again Petr Cech, who spoke exclusively to the Arsenal Weekly podcast and discussed how football has taught him many things, including the importance of respecting his opponents. He said:

It’s a part of the game. For 90 or 95 minutes you are on the battlefield but then then the game finishes. Sometimes you enjoy the game more because it has these individual battles and individual challenges. Sometimes you think, ‘I love this part of the game because I was battling with the striker for every corner, every free-kick, pushing each other and trying to block each other’. When you finish the game you think, ‘Okay he gave me a time but I did well’ and then you’re happy with that. When you play the game for such a long time and you know the players you’re playing against, you know each other’s game better and you know them personally so sometimes you talk to them after. Not all the time, but sometimes. There are games where you speak to people. You have to respect your opponent and you have to respect the game. Everybody wants to win and it means everything to everyone. You play the game to win but on the other hand you have to respect your opponent and you have to respect the fact that sometimes the other team plays better than you and deserve to win more. You know they’ve spent as much time as you working hard and preparing to win, that they have given everything to that. Team sport not only teaches you the ability to work in a team, but also the ability to respect your opponent. This is a big part of sport.

Meanwhile, Alex Iwobi has been speaking to Arsenal Player about scoring his first-ever Premier League goal – at Everton a few weeks ago – and explaining the celebration that followed. He said:

That moment was crazy! When Hector got the ball and I saw the space, I just tried to sprint for my life. Thank God Hector found me, I got the ball and scored. I can’t describe the feeling, I started losing my head and the celebration… I don’t know where that came from, but I’m sticking with it now! The best way to describe it is that it’s my number [45], and the Gunners [are] Arsenal. I was just excited and also my friends told me to do something crazy, so it was for them. I already felt at home [in the team] but that goal made me a bit more confident, made me try a few more things and made me feel a bit more relaxed so I was happy to get it.

What can we say about Iwobi other than he’s got the footballing world at his feet right now. If he continues on his current trajectory in terms of development, not only will he surpass his famous uncle Jay-Jay Okocha’s talents pretty soon, we might actually win the league again at some point. Keep on keeping on Alex!

See you tomorrow.

7th March 2016: Wenger on team news and growing pressure

Welcome back. Arsene Wenger held his pre-Hull press conference this morning, revealing the latest team news, as well as discussing the growing unrest among Arsenal supporters following a feeble run of form that has seen us fall eight points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City.

But first to availability for tomorrow’s FA Cup replay against the Tigers and the boss hinted at a strong selection for the game, whilst providing updates on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech. He said:

We lose Coquelin from his bad tackle on Saturday and everyone else looks available. I have to see how everybody has recovered today but overall we should have the same squad that went to Tottenham plus Alex Iwobi will certainly be added to the squad. Petr’s scans were better than expected, but it will still be four weeks for him. So after the international break. Laurent will be short for Hull. he has a chance to be available for the weekend, but I think even for then he will be short.

Nothing surprising in all of that and considering the Cup now appears our most realistic opportunity to secure silverware this season, I suppose the game takes on added importance. But more on that in tomorrow’s post when I’ll be playing Arsenal Manager again and trying to guess our starting XI, so tune in.

On to the swirling sh*tstorm engulfing London Colney at the moment and particularly the manager’s office. There have been numerous stories over the last week or so about Arsene’s future, with one paper going as far as to say the boss will be asked to leave if we fail to beat Hull tomorrow.

Then there’s rumours of legendary ex-players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp all supposedly being lined up to step in if the club decide to make a change, ignoring the fact all three of them have zero experience of top-level management (New York City doesn’t count). Anyway, the boss was inevitably asked about his future and pressure from irate fans and here’s what he said:

I feel privileged to have the confidence of the club for such a long time. On the other hand, I work seven days a week with full commitment. I’m not part time and since I have been here I have given full commitment and that is all I can do. I always have the same pressure, which is the same pressure I apply to myself. After that, people talk and you have more people talking than 20 years ago and more opinions. That doesn’t change the pressure. The real pressure comes from your desire to win the next game and that is the only one that matters really. I do my job and one day someone will replace me. That is part of life and as long as you have done well and given your best [that is what matters]. That is what I try to do. I try to do my best and leave this club in the best shape so the guy coming after me will have good potential to work with.

I’m sure this isn’t the first time we’ve heard these words from Wenger and they probably won’t be the last. He’s in charge and he’ll make the call on when to call it a day – that much is pretty clear. Whether that’s healthy or not is up for debate but it is what it is and unless results continue to disappoint, nothing will change at least until the summer.

If I were to guess though, I’d say nothing will change at least until the end of Arsene’s current contract which expires in May 2017, at which point, we may have just won the treble. Unlikely of course but the point is that trying to guess what the world will look like so far down the line is a fool’s errand. Just look at Leicester.

A bit short but I’m afraid that’s where I’ll leave it.

Back pre-game tomorrow.

25th January 2016: Last-man rule + reaction to Chelsea loss

Welcome back. I’ll start by pointing out that I don’t really feel like discussing yesterday’s game against Chelsea because it was highly annoying, hugely frustrating and f*cking boring to be honest, after the contest was cruelly corroded by the dismissal of Per Mertesacker after just 18 minutes.

I’d been looking forward to this fixture for quite some time too, but the game was ruined by that early red card and it got me thinking about the rule that ensures a player is sent off if he’s the last defender and commits a foul. People have suggested that when such an incident takes place in the box, the combined punishment of a red card and the concession of a penalty is too severe on the offending player and team.

So (and I’ll admit I wouldn’t be talking about this if the shoe was on the other foot yesterday), rather than dismissing a player, would a more suitable punishment not be a yellow card and a penalty conceded, even if the foul takes place outside of the box? I mean, Per denied Diego Costa a goal-scoring opportunity (if you pretend he actually made contact with the cheating striker) right? A penalty would give him that opportunity back and karmic balance would be restored.

And crucially, the match wouldn’t be ruined for the watching world. Anyway, just a thought, but it’s something that’s bugged me about the rules ever-since Jens Lehmann in Paris against Barcelona in what what the biggest game in our history, even if that particular incident was slightly different, with the ‘keeper committing the offence.

Seeing as I’ve ended up talking about our latest defeat to that despicable lot though, I may as well take a look at some of the reaction from Arsene Wenger and a couple of the players. First up it’s the boss who expressed his frustration at how the game turned out when he spoke to Arsenal Player:

It was disappointing as we couldn’t really play with our real team for 90 minutes. I was very disappointed because in recent games we have lost we have had really harsh decisions against us [like] at Southampton and today. We had such high expectations today. To lose the game the way we did is really frustrating today and difficult to accept. The difficulty was that we went straight away down at 1-0 and we had to attack without being at 0-0 which means you expose yourself at 10 men, but what can you do? I think we had a good attitude and fantastic spirit despite the negative result today, I think we should come out [of this] with even more belief.

Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin gave his take on the game, stressed the squad will not dwell on the defeat and instead look to get straight back to winning ways in our next game:

It is difficult because [even though we were] playing with 10 men we thought in the second half that we wouldn’t give up, and we had some chances to get a better score. It couldn’t be done and it was a bit unlucky on our part. We need to keep our heads up and move onto the next game. We can’t just be thinking about the result today. We need to focus on the next game and it does not matter about the trend, we are not thinking about that. We are just thinking about winning and getting ahead. We always think of it. We take it game by game and when it comes to May we will see where we are.

And finally, the thoughts of Petr Cech, who feels despite the obvious disadvantage of having had to play with a man less for most of the match, we played well and could easily have snatched an unlikely point. He said:

We are disappointed because we lost a game at home. We wanted to compete, we wanted to take advantage of playing at home, but unfortunately the decisive moment came quite early on in the game. Unfortunately Chelsea took advantage of that and scored. From there, they tried to control the game and playing 11 against 10 for 70 minutes is always an advantage [for Chelsea]. I thought that, even with 10 men, we came back very strongly in the second half. We could have actually scored the equaliser but we were missing a little bit of the last touch inside the box and around the box. There were always moments where we almost got there, but we didn’t find a real opportunity to put the ball in the net.

Right, I really, really don’t want to talk about or discuss that game anymore. It’s done, dusted and we need to move on.

Danny Welbeck should resume full training tomorrow, Francis Coquelin is already back in full training and we’re just three points off the top of the table. We’ve given ourselves a great platform from which we can make this a season to remember for the right reasons, rather than yet another that promised much but delivered little. It’s in our hands.

Back on Tuesday.

18th January 2016: The Cech Effect

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. A couple of our players have been speaking about The Cech Effect © and how influential it is, after Petr Cech produced a man-of-the-match performance to help us secure a point at Stoke yesterday.

First up it’s Theo Walcott, who as an aside, I wish played as good a game as he talks more often. The speedster touched on why he thinks our draw at the Britannia stadium was a good result, hailed the squad’s mentality, and revealed Cech had helped his team-mates overcome any disappointment at not winning the match by putting things in perspective. He said:

All the big teams that have come here have struggled, with Stoke getting positive results. There were mixed emotions in the dressing room, but it is probably a fair result. We felt from the start we were up for the fight, physically. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get the result we desperately wanted but it is an improvement from previous performances here and we have got to be proud of that point. The mental strength in our dressing room is the strongest it has ever been. When you have the likes of Petr Cech coming in as well, he only enhances that. He has lifted everybody’s heads up, saying this is a very good point and that nobody tends to win here. We just have to look at him because he has been at the top level and won many things so if we have the belief that he has got, we can push on.

Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin explained that Cech’s presence between the sticks behind them, fills our back four with confidence, saying:

When we try to stop all the shots but they manage to get some on target then they have another man to beat and that is tough for them. We feel very confident with him in goal. They were great saves and it is very important to have a solid goalkeeper and Petr Cech is one of the best. I think he has given us that confidence at the back. It helps that this is a solid team defensively [that] has played a lot of teams together, and that you have probably the best goalkeeper in the league playing for you. Not long ago he broke the record of clean sheets so you can see that when you look back that the goal is covered by a great player and that is very important for us. We are very happy to have him. I think the team defended really well as a unit and Petr made some great saves which were very important. A lot of big teams have lost at this ground and at the end of the day it is a point that could matter a lot at the end of the year.

Mesut Ozil and his endless assists have rightly seen him emerge as a genuine candidate for the player of the year awards this season but in my opinion, Cech ought to at least be in the conversation for the individual accolades too.

The Stoke game was simply the latest top-notch display from the former Chelsea ‘keeper in what has been a near faultless first campaign for him in Arsenal colours. Aside from the opening day of the league season, when he was at fault for at least one of the two goals we conceded as we lost at home to West Ham, Cech has added a sense of authority to our defence, consistently produced crucial saves, and on the evidence of his team-mates’ words above, brought some much-needed maturity and intelligence to the squad.

His off-field impact is something I wrote about when it became clear we were on the verge of signing him back in late June last year, but as ever with a new recruit, there were still doubts in my mind whether he could be the same player for us, as he’d been for Chelsea for over a decade. I remember reading how he was a very vocal and respected figure in the dressing room at Stamford Bridge and hoped he would bring some of that winning ‘know-how’ to Arsenal.

I mean, whatever your thoughts on Chelsea as a club (and mine are that they’re the epitome of evil and I hope they get relegated before becoming extinct), nobody can deny they’ve had a prolific ten years or so in terms of winning trophies, whilst we’ve endured a relatively barren period in our history. Well, half-a-season into his Gunners career and it’s safe to say Cech’s lived up to our hopes, both in terms of performance and personality.

If he can carry on ‘keeping and cajoling in the same vein for the rest of the season, not only do Arsenal stand a great chance of winning a first Premier League title since 2004, Cech could very conceivably become the first goalkeeper to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award since Nottingham Forest’s Peter Shilton way back in 1978.

Until Tuesday.

17th January 2016: Stalemate at Stoke sends us top

Evening all. Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League table after playing out a goal-less draw at Stoke City earlier today and considering the players we were missing through injury, for me at least, it feels like a very valuable point earned indeed.

Although Arsene Wenger had suggested Alexis Sanchez may play some part at the Britannia stadium, when the teams were announced the Chilean was missing from the squad altogether. As was Mesut Ozil, who we later learned had been ruled out with minor foot inflammation. Thankfully, Arsene expects both players to be available again when we entertain Chelsea a week today, which is just as well based on today’s attacking performance.

With Santi Cazorla missing from our engine room, we were again far from fluent from the middle of the park, and Ozil’s absence unsurprisingly resulted in us lacking creativity as well as rhythm in our play. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was the man chosen to replace the German in midfield, for what was our only change to the team that started Wednesday’s game at Liverpool.

After conceding a goal in the first minute on our last visit to Stoke, we seemed determined not to let the hosts enjoy another fast start and began the game today bossing possession in the opening exchanges, without creating any goal-scoring opportunities. In fact, the vast majority of the first half was played out in the middle portion of the pitch as both sides failed to establish superiority in the contest.

That said, we did create the clearest opening of the half, and arguably the game, when Joel Campbell sent Olivier Giroud clear on goal down the right with only Jack Butland to beat, but the goalkeeper raced off his line to close down the target and smother Giroud’s shot. Other than that, I can only really recall Oxlade-Chamberlain’s fierce strike from the edge of the box, which was tipped over by Butland, as an instance we came close to scoring in the opening 45.

In the second period, Giroud nearly scored with a header from a corner but saw his effort saved by Butland and Campbell should have done better a little later when he had a sight of goal inside the Stoke penalty area on his favored left foot, but put too much on his curler, sending it high and wide of the far top corner.

At the other end, Laurent Koscielny’s poor pass out from defence resulted in Petr Cech been forced into a very impressive double-save. First the keeper denied Joselu, Stoke’s German-born, Spanish striker, before diving to prevent Bojan knocking in the rebound at the near post. It was a typically outstanding piece of keeping that helped Cech claim the man-of-the-match award and again underline how important he is to our side. Then towards the end, as Stoke pressed for a winner, Aaron Ramsey cleared a header off the line before Cech repelled the rebound as Stoke threatened to snatch all three points.

In terms of talking points about individual performances, I thought on the whole we looked solid defensively, with both fullbacks especially impressive. But the distribution of our central defenders – particularly Koscielny – was below their usual standard. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini enjoyed a good game and the Ox tried hard but was still some way away from his best. Ramsey was less adventurous than usual going forwards – I can’t really remember him breaking into the Stoke box at all – and when that happens, he struggles because he’s not really a passer.

In fact, that was one of the most frustrating aspects of our performance for me today – Ramsey’s dreadful passing, and as far as I’m concerned, it really was that bad. I like him a lot as a player and he has many good attributes, but his passing, particularly the seemingly straight-forward, five-yard ones under no pressure, needs serious attention on the training ground.

I would suggest his history at the Britannia and the abhorrent abuse he’s subjected to whenever he plays there should act as mitigation, because that combination would put any player in the world a little off their usual game, but it’s a recurring issue with Aaron unfortunately – he’s just not a very good passer.

Elsewhere Campbell was his usual industrious, silky-smooth self, passing well and tracking back diligently. That said, he should have done better with his chance and like Ramsey and passing, shooting is probably Campbell’s glaring weak point. But overall, he was again one of our better performers.

On the other side though, Theo Walcott really struggled, going missing for long periods, looking clumsy in possession and being far, far, far too easily dispossessed. I’ve been his biggest fan over his Arsenal career and still maintain his problem is more mental – i.e he has the on-pitch personality of a little boy lost – than ability, but in this form he deserves no more than a place on the bench against Chelsea.

I think Walcott’s variety and quality of finishing, at it’s best, is superb, and his pace is virtually peerless, so perhaps what we’re finding out once and for all this season, is that he’s a very good striker, but a very average winger. It was no surprise then, to see him replaced after 70 minutes or so by Alex Iwobi, who instantly brought a bit more composure to our left flank. Calum Chambers for the Ox in added time was our only other substitution so we’ll have to wait to see Mohamed Elneny make his debut, at least until next weekend.

Gripes aside though, as I said at the start, I’m pleased with the point today and I think Cech summed it up best when he spoke to Sky after the game:

We could have won, we could have lost. We can take the point.

Now to rest, recuperate, train and prepare for the visit of relegation-haunted (God I love being able to say that) Chelsea next weekend.

See you next week.

20th December 2015: Welbeck set-back + Wenger praises Cech ‘aura’

Evening all. Another day, another surprising Premier League score-line as Liverpool lost 3-0 at Watford to leave themselves languishing in ninth place in the table.

With 24 points from 17 games, they’re comfortably closer to Swansea’s 15 points in the relegation zone, than they are to Leicester City on 38 at the top of the tree, with just shy of half the season played. Amazing.

Anyway, onto Arsenal matters and worryingly, Arsene Wenger has revealed, rather vaguely, that Danny Welbeck has suffered another setback on his road to recovery from a knee injury sustained in April. The last official update was that the striker would be ready to return around Christmas, but the boss now says:

Unfortunately he was injured at the end of April and we are now at the end of December and he is still not available because of a bone bruising. That deteriorated and it is a big blow to us. Especially now we cannot rotate.

Having initially been expected to return in early September, the club announced the striker needed surgery to correct the problem a few days after the summer transfer window closed at the end of August. That obviously caused fans and pundits to wonder why the club hadn’t made more of an effort to bring in a new striker over the summer, and the boss was even forced to deny lying about the expected time-frame for Welbeck’s recovery.

To be honest, this latest update doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me. Firstly, because I did think it was odd Arsene hadn’t mentioned Welbeck when discussing the return dates for other long-termers like Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky recently, but also because Football Insider reported as long ago as the end of October that Welbeck’s injury was not responding to treatment and he could even remain side-lined for the rest of the season!

Whatever your views on FI as a source, they’ve been proven accurate with their reporting of Welbeck’s injury and have been the first to reveal it from what I can see. In fact, they repeated their story from October just a few days ago, again, ahead of everybody else.

Hopefully, they’ll be proven wrong in terms of Welbeck’s season being over, but whoever FI’s source is, they seem as clueless about when he might be back as anybody else, which is a big concern as it suggests the medical staff at the club are stumped and can’t figure out how to remedy his issue.

The news must surely mean we’ll be looking for a striker as well as a new midfielder in the January window, because to risk the rest of season on the hope Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud remain fit and firing would be stupid. Time will tell but I wouldn’t mind Alexandre Pato if the Duck is definitely over his own injury concerns, which blighted the early portion of his career. Let’s wait and see …

Elsewhere, Arsene has been showering Petr Cech with praise, lauding the goalkeeper’s ‘aura and charisma’, saying:

He has brought his experience, his calmness and his leadership as well. He has been good and highly focused. I don’t want to be detrimental to David Ospina because he was exceptional last year, but Petr Cech has done it all, so he is someone who gives you an aura, a charisma that is always important in the big games for the players. I met him before I signed him and we had a long discussion about the game and the job and his position, and I was deeply impressed by his knowledge, by his professionalism, by his detailed knowledge. So since I have not been surprised, because I got the whole package in one go. You always look around you in the dressing room before a big game and you think, ‘Are we strong enough?’ And these kind of faces help you to believe it. Also in the big games, the number of shots on target shrinks. But then the one save can be the difference in the end result. There is no history of teams winning things without having a great goalkeeper. I’m now 30 years in the job and as I said the other day you learn over the years that the goalkeeper is the most underrated position in football – and maybe the most vital one for winning things. For example when Spain won the 2010 World Cup, in every game [Iker] Casillas saved a one-on-one when it was 0-0 or 1-0, or saved a decisive ball. Even in the final against Arjen Robben – and instead of being 1-0 down you are 0-0. And that at the end of the day makes the difference.

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have  gleaned that I think Arsene’s a truly amazing manager and we’re beyond lucky to call him our own. That said, nobody’s perfect and I wish he’d have felt the same way about the importance of having a ‘great goalkeeper’ when he was subjecting us to the Manuel Almunia years …

Still, at least he’s finally cottoned onto the merits of having a top class keeper, so if he’s still in charge when Cech eventually calls it a day, I’m expecting us to go out and get the best goalie money can buy, and not try to develop unproven talent in the hope they’ll turn into great shot-stoppers over time.

Back tomorrow with a preview ahead of the big game against Manchester City.

Until then.