26th May 2016: Xhaka did his homework + number changes confirmed

Good evening. Some more from our brand spanking new Gunner Granit Xhaka to begin with tonight, after the midfielder revealed he’d spoken to a trio of former Arsenal stars about the club before signing.

He said:

I spoke with (Havard Nordtveit) about Arsenal and he told me it’s a big club, a family club and it’s very important for me to come here. Philippe (Senderos) played here and I play with him in the national team. Johan (Djourou) and Philippe have only told me positive things. Arsenal is Arsenal. It’s not a small club, it’s a very big club and it’s like a family. It’s very good for me because I love my family and to have another family here is very good.

Nice to see some OGs (Old Gunners ©) praising their former employers and helping us to secure new signings. Whatever your views on Arsene Wenger and the culture at the club, one thing’s for sure – players like being at Arsenal and not just for the pay-packet.

Sure, players have agitated for a move in the past and I’m sure more will in the future, but how many would jump at the chance of a return having found out the hard way that the grass is far from greener elsewhere? Away from the pristine carpet at Emirates stadium, it’s often long, unloved and littered with dog sh*t – just ask Cesc, Samir or Robin, as they turn out at a bus-stop in west London, warm the bench or take to the field in Turkey.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have been readjusting shirt numbers following the departures of Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey has taken the latter’s number 8 while Alexis Sanchez is our new number 7. The Chilean’s old number 17 goes to Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka will wear Ramsey’s old number 16.

The one I’m most looking forward to being allocated though, is the number nine. I just hope it goes to a world-class, big-money new signing and not to Chuba Akpom or Yaya Sanogo, all due respect to the youngsters.

It’d suit Robert Lewandowski rather well if you ask me, although rumours of interest in Alvaro Morata refuse to die down, especially after Juventus’ manager  Massimiliano Allegri suggested the Italian club are preparing for life without the Spanish striker. He said:

The club are working on the transfer market and monitoring possible alternatives. We have a lot of forwards with players who are all in national teams and many young guys. I’ve already given Morata some advice: he needs to stay at Juventus… What did he say? He nodded. I hope he understands, I’m saying this for his own good.

No you’re not Massimiliano, you’re saying it for your own good. Morata’s a quality striker and would be difficult to replace so you want him to stay. Which is fine by me providing you let us have Paulo Dybala – I’m easy either way.

Of the pair, Morata’s probably more suited to the Premier League given his build, but Dybala’s the more naturally gifted as far as I’m concerned and has that hard-to-describe certain south American quality about him. That unpredictable, cut-above-the-rest-of-the-world brilliance.

Interestingly, if reports at the time were accurate, they’re both players we tried hard to sign before they opted to join Juventus. Sometimes, long-held interest by a club and manager can help to secure a deal at the second attempt, a bit like with Mesut Ozil, so hopefully that might be the case again with one of these two this summer.

Back Friday.

19th April 2016: Elneny on settling, Per on Ozil and Iwobi on Kanu

Welcome back. Arsenal Wenger holds his pre-West Brom press conference in the morning so we’ll get the all-important, crucial, title-impacting team news then.

He’ll also no doubt have to respond to reports in this morning papers that some of his players and staff are growing concerned about certain managerial descision he’s made of late, so at least we have some drama to look forward to because on the pitch we’re nothing short of depressing at the moment.

But for today, I’ll focus on three of our players who have been speaking to Arsenal Player about various things. First Up it’s Mohamed Elneny who reckons he knew it would only take him three weeks to adapt to English football. That seems a bit precise to me, but whatever, here’s what he said:

I was [able to settle] because God helped give me the strength to adapt to my situation. I know it is not easy but God gave me the strength to adapt quickly. Some said I would find it hard to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League but I thought otherwise. I even told my agent to give me three weeks to show him how well I could adapt. I know I can adapt to all kinds of people and every league I play in. The Premier League is the best and strongest league in the world because there are so many surprising results. It is difficult to compare it to the Swiss and Egyptian leagues because everyone knows that the Premier League is the best. It is amazing. Everything is wonderful, from the fans to the style of play. I enjoy playing for Arsenal so much. It’s a different kind of football, it’s faster and first class.

Splendid stuff. Elsewhere, Per Mertesacker has been waxing lyrical about compatriot Mesut Ozil, saying:

I felt that when he was fit, he would be at his best – that was my prediction. I hoped that he would stay fit so we would get the best out of him, that was just my simple idea. You could feel he would help us win games. He is [progressing], especially in the final third. We try to give him the ball to make the final decision or make the final ball because we know that is where he is at his best. When he fulfils his potential, he has 20-plus assists in him and has even got the ability of scoring 10-plus goals. When he can be difference between 30-plus points, it is vital for the team. I think he realises he can now grow here, even in a foreign country. He gets the respect now and it is going to be even tougher for him. Everyone tries to block his left foot because he is so dangerous with it. Now he needs to find different spots and positions where he can find solutions but I’m convinced he can take this challenge to be at his best and the player we need him to be.

Wonderful words. And finally, Alex Iwobi has been speaking about fellow Nigerian and ex Arsenal star Kanu. He said:

As a kid, especially playing at Arsenal, I did look up to him. He was just a classy player and I have spoken to him a few times as well. We have had conversations about Nigeria, about myself and what I need to do. [He says] to just be relaxed and he congratulated me and told me I was doing well. To hear that [praise] from such a player like him is crazy and I just have to prove him right. I don’t feel pressure, it is just a privilege to hear that.

Excellent eulogising.

And that’s where I’ll leave it. Brace yourselves for the presser. Arsene’s either going to come out swinging or take the fifth. Either way it’ll be more interesting than the remainder of our season I’d wager.

Back tomorrow.

13th April 2016: Ozil nominated + Iwobi on Okocha influence

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. Arsenal may have blown their chances in the Premier League, both domestic cups, and the Champions League this season, but the consistently classy performances of one man haven’t gone unnoticed.

Mesut Ozil was today announced as one of six nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award and joins Dimitri Payet, Harry Kane and Leicester City trio Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez on the list.

Ozil’s chances of success are obviously very slim due to the fact the Foxes look very likely to win the title, meaning one of their players is surely favourite for the accolade, whilst Kane being the league’s top-scorer with 22 undoubtedly gives him an edge over our German assist-meister.

Yet with 6 goals and 18 assists from 30 Premier League appearances so far this season, it’s obvious Mesut fully deserves at least being in the mix for the award, which in itself must be particularly satisfying for both the player and his manager after he was widely branded a big-money flop in his first two seasons after arriving from Real Madrid in 2013.

Meanwhile, Aex Iwobi has revealed the advice he’s been receiving from his famous uncle – former football star Jay-Jay Okocha. The teenager told Arsenal Player:

Before that I didn’t even know he had Twitter!. All my friends were asking if I saw what my uncle had said so I checked it out. It is crazy and I’m just happy I’m making him proud and hopefully I will be even better than him. He was at the Watford game and the Barcelona game,” added Iwobi. “The fact he comes to watch shows it means a lot to him and he shows his support. It is good for me. [I get advice from him] almost weekly. He came to my house the other day. Unfortunately I missed him because I was here [at the training ground] but we do keep in contact a lot. He does tell me what I need to do and what I need to work on. He is always telling me that he knows a lot has happened and that I have come far, but he says to stay humble and that I will go far.

I’m not sure Alex is quite as naturally gifted as Okocha, because the latter had Ronaldinho-esque skill in his pomp, but I wouldn’t bet against Iwobi developing into a more consistently effective player.

Time will tell of course but our latest teen sensation clearly comes from good stock, seems to have a good head on his shoulders, is receiving some sound advice from those around him and could barely have made a more promising start to his professional career.

Iwobi also touched on his decision to play for the country of his birth, Nigeria, rather than represent England, where he’s grown up and made his name. He said:

It was a difficult decision picking Nigeria over England. England did contact me recently before I played my first competitive match for Nigeria, asking if I wanted to play for England. I’m very proud to represent Nigeria but I would like to say thank you to England for the chance they gave me, it was a difficult decision. The love Nigeria showed me… when I played for them in a friendly, the fans were just crazy. The fans almost eat you up because they love you so much. I’m enjoying playing for them. When you’re getting out of the airport there are fans already there screaming ‘Arsenal, Arsenal. Gunners for life!’ and it’s just mad. Some of them have Arsenal shirts and then others will ask me for Arsenal shirts. It’s a bit mad and the fans are crazy.

Right. That’s probably enough from Iwobi, at least until he’s banged in a hat-trick against Crystal Palace on Sunday anyway.

Arsene may hold his press conference tomorrow, or at least provide the official site with an injury update, so I’ll be back then as we start to look ahead to the game against the Eagles.


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.

4th April 2016: Wenger salutes squad after Watford win

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. With next weekend’s game at West Ham still what feels like an eternity away, time now to take a little look at some of the reaction from our 4-0 win over Watford.

First up we have the manager Arsene Wenger, who has been praising the mentality of his side, despite the fact his squad showed all the cerebral fortitude of a shoe, in getting beaten by Manchester United and Swansea City recently. Here’s what he had to say:

We have only one target now. We have come through difficult periods and the team who finishes top is the team who can continue to perform and get results even when the period is a bit more difficult. This team has a good mentality. I’ve had many teams in my life and this team is top quality. They have gone through a bad period but, when you play like that [against Watford], that shows that mentally they are pure. You have to find a team who clicks at the right moment. You have a whole lot of different reasons [for it happening], because your injured players come back like Welbeck and because of the emergence of players like Iwobi.

Personally, I think what’s far more important than mindset is the the footballing chemistry of the team. I mean, I’m sure Aaron Ramsey’s mentality is second to none, but the fact he can’t pass the ball to save his life, yet was playing as our chief distributor from the middle of the park during our ‘difficult periods’ this season, is no coincidence.

Not that it’s all on the Welshman of course, because Olivier Giroud being able to run, or Theo Walcott not being scared sh*tless of the ball, would also have helped immeasurably, but midfield’s the area I would pick as the stand-out problem position for us this season, with it’s lack of adequate functionality in key games being the main reason we’re so far off top spot in the league as things stand.

That said, for all the ridicule Arsene attracts by consistently praising his players’ mental strength, why he does it is obvious – to build confidence among his players. Plus we’ve sorted our problem area now it seems, providing we can keep Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin fit and firing for the remainder of the campaign. Indeed, Arsene was full of praise for the duo after the win over Watford, saying:

Both of them are improving offensively. When Coquelin plays with Cazorla, Coquelin is the defensive player which made them a perfect pair. Then Coquelin focused more on defending and Cazorla more on attacking. Now both [Elneny and Coquelin] share the job, so the balance is a bit [better]. They’re more similar. We have four attackers in front of them so we need people who can defend well in central midfield.

Understandably, the manager also singled out Alex Iwobi for praise after the teenager scored one and set one up in only his second-ever Premier League start:

These people (Arsenal fans) have seen many good players over the years and they know straight away when a player has something special, so they acknowledge that. You cannot cheat people. They’ve seen how quickly he’s improved and how well he’s played. It’s surprising how quickly he’s integrated into our game. He’s worked with us since the start of the season and he has grown, gained confidence and when he came in he had an impact straight away. That’s benefited from the fact that he knows everybody and they trust him as well. I didn’t expect that level of efficiency or impact on the scoresheet.

It’s hard not to get carried away by the impact Iwobi’s made in these last few games and although it’s worth stopping for a minute and remembering just how young and inexperienced he still is, the way he’s playing at the moment does make you wonder if he might prove the difference between an all-too-familiar fourth-place finish, or something far better come the end of the season.

Imagine thinking that even just a few short weeks ago. You just never know in football …

Until tomorrow.

3rd April 2016: Iwobi impressive again as Arsenal beat Watford

First off, apologies for the four-day break in posts on TremendArse. My adjustment to new working commitments is taking a little longer than I envisaged but hopefully normal service should be resumed from today.

With it being the final stretch of the international break, we didn’t miss much anyway before Arsenal returned to action by hosting Watford yesterday afternoon, when an unchanged side picked up where they’d left off in the league against Everton a fortnight ago by securing three points and keeping a clean sheet.

Alex Iwobi made his second-ever Premier League start and just like he did in his debut at Goodison Park, marked the occasion with a very well-taken goal to cap another impressive personal performance. Indeed, this time the Nigerian international also created a goal – our first after just four minutes for Alexis Sanchez.

Iwobi’s perfectly flighted cross from the left was headed goal-wards by the Chilean, who then tapped home with his left foot after Heurelho Gomes had saved his initial effort. It was a deserved opener for the Gunners after a bright start and having dominated the first half, we doubled our lead seven minutes before the interval. This time roles were reversed as Sanchez’s right-wing cross was expertly converted by Iwobi as he swept it home first time before wheeling away and reproducing that gun-firing celebration he introduced against the Toffees.

The game was all but over as a contest just three minutes into the second period when Hector Bellerin’s left-footed strike was deflected past Gomes after our Cockney Catalan had linked well with Sanchez on the right. Then at the death, Joel Campbell crossed for fellow substitute Theo Walcott to tap home at the near post and complete the scoring.

So overall it was a pretty comfortable day at the office for Arsene Wenger’s men, built on a very effective midfield base of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny and with a forward quartet in Iwobi, Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck, who seem to have the perfect blend of attacking attributes between them, combining well and functioning far more fluently than most other combinations we’ve tried this season.

Tottenham’s two dropped points at Anfield yesterday added to the feel-good factor but Leicester’s fourth consecutive one-nil win today leaves them needing four wins from their final seven games to be crowned champions, so it’s very hard not to feel it’s all too little too late as far as our own recent wins go.

Yet Iwobi, for one, is still contemplating winning the title. He said:

It’s crazy, a mad feeling. When you’re young, you dream of this and this is like a dream come true, winning with this team. Winning the title would be amazing but we’re taking each game as it comes, game by game, and we will see where we end up come the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Arsene explained why the win pleased him and praised the impact of Iwobi, saying:

I am very happy because it was a good performance. We scored goals and didn’t concede, and kept the game having a good flow even at 3-0 up. I am pleased with Alex Iwobi’s talent but even more with his attitude and his willingness to learn and to contribute with his teamwork.

Last year it was Coquelin, earlier this season we had Campbell, and now as we near the end of the campaign Iwobi has emerged from nowhere to make himself first-choice and it’s fully deserved. If he can keep playing like he has these last few games, there’s no reason why he can’t stay in the side long-term like Coquelin, rather than drop away a little like Campbell.

He’s got the ability to go it alone as well as play the intricate pass and move football we like so much and it’s possessing that combination of skill-sets that gives him an edge over more established team-mates for a regular starting berth in my opinion.

See you next week.


23rd March 2016: Wilshere woe + Iwobi on unexpected involvement

Evening all. This surely has to be the worst part of the two-week international break. At the weekend, at least we’ll have some sort of football on offer, even if it’s half-arsed friendly fare. Then we’ll have some more in midweek, and then the countdown begins to the return of the real stuff and club competition.

But for now, we have to make-do with what little Arsenal-related news there is. Unfortunately, the first story to discuss tonight is a reported injury set-back for Jack Wilshere, which if true, would more than likely rule him out for the rest of the season, meaning he’ll have missed the entire 2015-16 campaign.

Hopefully the reports prove wide of the mark, but with eight games left of our season, even without a setback we wouldn’t have seen the best of Jack this term so perhaps in a way, for the player at least, it would be best if he didn’t take any risks, had a full pre-season to get back to peak condition and made his return next season.

That said, with the European Championships on the horizon, I’m sure the player himself will do everything he can to be fit by June so he can represent England in France. I guess we’ll have to wait and see and it goes without saying: best of luck Jack.

Moving on, Alex Iwobi, who marked his full Premier League debut for the club with a goal and a man-of-the-match display in our win at Everton last Saturday, has been speaking with the Arsenal Weekly podcast and discussing his unexpected rise to first-team prominence this season. He said:

I thought that I was going to go on loan after the Emirates Cup and have to prove myself in men’s football out on loan. I stayed, the boss had faith in me, I played a few matches and here we are. When you go out on loan you’re playing men’s football so you have to win all the time. You learn things more quickly on loan but when you’re playing with world-class players at Arsenal, training with them every day, you become a better footballer in my opinion. You learn a lot more training with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis. The first-team players have told me that I’ve deserved to make the step up, that it comes with hard work. They advise me with a few things but most of the time they’re trying to keep me cool, relaxed and level-headed. I’m just focused on playing as much football as I can for the rest of the season.

And I thought Joel Campbell was this year’s Francis Coquelin, but Iwobi’s emergence has been even more of a surprise. I watched him for the first time in the Emirates Cup last summer and the way he took his goal against Lyon – guiding the ball left-footed, first-time into the top-corner – and effortlessly tuned into the Arsenal pattern of play, was very impressive. But I doubt any fans would have foreseen him ending the season as a first-choice starter, which is what he is right now.

For me, he brings everything Joel Campbell does to the table but with that extra little authority in his attacking. He’s just as defensively diligent as the Costa Rican from what I’ve seen so far but a little classier on the ball. There’s probably not much between the pair at present but in my opinion Iwobi has the greater potential. Hopefully, he can continue to flourish and help us rack up the wins in the season’s final stretch.

See you tomorrow.

19th March 2016: Fluent first-half enough to see off Everton as Iwobi impresses

Saturday greetings. Whenever he decides to hang up his stop-watch, if there’s one thing I’ll miss about Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, it’s that unique excitement and feeling of pride that’s generated by the flourishing of a new young talent.

Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Cesc Fabregas – the list goes on – and now, Alex Iwobi. Of course, we already knew quite a bit about the Nigerian teenager heading into today’s game against Everton at Goodison Park, given he’s enjoyed a fair bit of first-team football in what has been his break-through campaign, not least his surprise start against Barcelona in midweek, but his performance today felt like a coming of age game. Like Anelka against Manchester United in that 3-2 win at Highbury during our 1997-98 title-winning season, or Fabregas against Juventus in 2006.

With much older and experienced team-mates like Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and, to a lesser extent, Joel Campbell, left on the bench in favour of Iwobi today, the youngster showed just why his manager has no qualms about starting him in crucial games by producing a brilliant team-minded display and rounding it off by scoring his first goal in professional football to put us two-nil up after 42 minutes.

Having played an important part in helping to win back possession a few yards outside our own box, Iwobi sprinted into space on the right and was found with a great ball over the top by Hector Bellerin. Despite having support to his left, Iwobi showed confidence and composure in abundance by closing in on goal and slipping his shot through the keeper’s legs.

Moments later he combined brilliantly with Danny Welbeck, as the two forwards exchanged intricate back-flicks to bamboozle Everton, but on this occasion Iwobi took the wrong option, choosing to go alone and skewing his shot just wide of the near post when he should have played it back to Welbeck to his left.

Iwobi appears to have developed a promising relationship with Welbeck, and it was the latter who had put us ahead in the seventh minute when he provided a clinical finale to an exquisite team goal. An initial attacking move created a chance for Iwobi following an Ozil cross from the right but the youngster was forced to turn away from goal and restart the move by laying the ball off to Nacho Monreal near the left by-line.

We then worked it across to the opposite side of the pitch and Alexis Sanchez played a sharp one-two with Ozil before the Chilean produced an inch perfect through ball for Welbeck, who needed just two touches to round their keeper and find the back of the net. The run and finish from the striker was Thierry Henry-esque and the least we deserved for a quick, slick start to the match.

We then nearly doubled our lead moments later when Sanchez won the ball high up the pitch and found the on-rushing Iwobi who saw his first-time, side-footed effort saved by their keeper. Something clicked in that opening period for Arsenal as an attacking force and the fact we had had 11 starters who are all very comfortable in possession and quick-witted enough to play a pass-and-move game was undoubtedly the main reason.

There were no Girouds, Ramseys or Walcotts on show to disrupt the rhythm of our passing and even though those three players have their own considerable individual strengths and can be valuable assets in certain circumstances, I think I much prefer today’s cohesion to the more chaotic characteristics that trio bring to the side. That said, Everton were very poor today so perhaps we shouldn’t get too excited just yet.

The second half was a more disjointed affair with David Ospina taking a heavy impact to his side after bravely diving at the feet of Romelu Lukaku, before Kieran Gibbs, Giroud and Calum Chambers came on for Iwobi, Welbeck and Ozil, with the latter worryingly nursing a knock to his left ankle after being caught late by one of Everton’s players.

So all in all a great performance first-half, intelligent game-management in the second, and would you believe it, three whole Premier League points won for what feels like the first time in about three years. Sadly, Leicester show no signs of cracking just yet and ground out another one-nil win today, this time at Crystal Palace, to restore their 11 point lead over us. They have seven to play to our eight, so it’s still possible to catch them but we need the Foxes to start stumbling, and fast.

Spurs host Bournemouth and the Manchester clubs face each other tomorrow, so hopefully results will go in our favour and we can look back at this weekend as one in which we made up some ground ahead of us, whilst also putting some distance between the teams hot on our trail. Otherwise, it”ll be another round of fixtures down without progress points-wise, even if our own performance was very praiseworthy indeed.

See you on Sunday.

21st February 2016: Watford at home if we beat Hull in Cup replay

Welcome back. So the draw for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup was made earlier this evening and we’ve landed another home tie, this time against Watford, providing we can beat Hull in our fifth-round replay.

So if we needed any extra incentive to turn over the Tigers at their place, here it is. Win and then beat the Hornets, and we’re in the semis and back at Wembley for the fifth time in three seasons.

Elsewhere in the draw, Everton drew Chelsea at home after the latter brushed aside Manchester City’s under 9s at Stamford Bridge earlier today, Manchester United or Shrewsbury will host West Ham, and Tottenham, oops, I mean Crystal Palace, will travel to Reading having eliminated Spurs this afternoon. All of which is to say we’re now surely favourites and a hat-trick of consecutive Cup wins really is on. Let’s DO this …

But back to yesterday’s game now and some reaction from a couple of the players. First up it’s Per Mertesacker, who says that though he’s happy with our defensive performance against Steve Bruce’s men, we’ll need to be more composed in front of goal versus Barcelona on Tuesday:

We had a couple of good chances and we couldn’t keep the pressure as high as we wanted, especially in the second half. We had enough chances to win, but we were unlucky at times. Overall it was disappointing, especially our finishing. We allowed [Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic] to make some decent saves because we were not that decisive. It is down to us, we produced a good defensive performance but overall in the final third, that little final pass at the end, we always rushed ourselves at times to finish so we need to learn from that. Overall, we missed a bit of something today and we have to come back quickly in three days time. We have a very important game, the first leg against Barcelona, and we will see the fans again, it will be another buzzing night but it is up to us how we perform.

Which is pretty much spot on. Rushed and a little over-elaborate at times is how I’d sum up our attacking yesterday, that and a little unlucky. Hopefully fortune will favour us a lot more against the Catalans because there’s absolutely no doubt we’ll need a healthy dollop of it to beat them.

One of the positives from the Hull draw I felt was Mohamed Elneny’s display. He’s still some way from being physically prepared to really stake a claim for a start ahead of say, Francis Coquelin, in our first-choice selection and was second best in one-on-one duels too often, but what I did like was his penchant for a first-time pass to the feet of team-mates. That suggests a quick and forward-thinking brain to me and that’s exactly what a pass-and-move style like ours needs from the centre of the pitch.

The Egyptian midfielder, and Alex Iwobi, certainly seem to have impressed the third member of our midfield yesterday, because Mathieu Flamini was full of praise for the pair when he spoke after the game. He said:

I think they both played very well. They were very good in their positions, very good technically and also in transition [both] defensively and offensively. It was a good partnership and I enjoyed it but we have to continue now. It was a very, very frustrating game. We had the opportunity a few times to close the game and win it. Unfortunately we didn’t so I think frustration is the main word of the game today. We were a bit lucky last weekend to score in the last second of the game against Leicester City, but it didn’t happen today. We had many opportunities and chances and this is not the first game that has been like that. Even against Southampton and Leicester it was like that and today we had plenty of opportunities. If you don’t finish it, it is not enough. Now we have to play away and win that game.

Every game that we endure where we create chances but fail to score does of course add weight to the opinion we need to buy an elite striker, but I don’t know if that’s true and if it is, who that player is. Suggestions welcome …

Right, a brief one tonight but that’s it from me. See you tomorrow, after Arsene’s held his pre-Barca presser.


31st January 2016: Arsenal handed home FA Cup tie against Hull

Sunday salutations. The draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup was made a little earlier and we’ve been handed another home tie, after being paired with Hull City for the third year running.

After beating them in the final in 2014, we faced them in last year’s third round and emerged 2-0 victors at Emirates stadium thanks to goals by Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez, so perhaps Steve Bruce’s men can prove our lucky charm as we aim to make it a hat-trick of consecutive Cup wins.

Two of our young stars, Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden, are of course on-loan from Arsenal at the Tigers, so it will be interesting to see if we grant Hull permission to play them against us. Personally, I’d say hell no, because you know, I want them to have fewer personnel options against us and rule out a Lomana LuaLua scenario, where a player scores against his parent club. But that’s just me – Arsene Wenger may well feel very differently. We’ll see.

Speaking of the boss, he’s been praising Alex Iwobi, after the teenager put in another very impressive display as a central midfielder against Burnley yesterday. Arsene said:

I think he has shown everybody that he is a good player again. I personally find him very interesting because of his decision making, his awareness is very interesting. He is a boy who, two years ago, not many would have said he [will make it]. You see he develops very well because he’s very clever. I like his game, I like the timing of his decision making and the quality of his decision making. He always turns where you want him to turn and he plays the ball where you want him to play the ball. He’s very interesting. He can play on the left, he can play on the right, he can play behind the striker and he can even play as a No 9, because he scores goals in training.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been as impressed with Iwobi as the boss and every other Arsenal fan. Where I think he has an edge on the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, especially the former, is that he’s more reliable in keeping possession and making the right pass at the right time, as the boss highlights above. He’s similar to Joel Campbell in that sense and also works as hard as the Costa Rican going both ways.

I think it was telling then, that the Ox was positioned on the right and Iwobi preferred in the middle against Burnley, because despite being a fan myself of the former Southampton man playing centrally in the past, the truth is he gives the ball away far too frequently when he has played there. So if Chamberlain would prefer to carve out an Arsenal career in the middle, that’s something he’ll have to improve significantly in my opinion, as will Aaron Ramsey if I’m honest.

As for Walcott, I think it’s pretty clear that he can be lethal up front, but looks pretty useless out wide more often than not. All of which is to say that if Iwobi can continue playing well when given an opportunity centrally, with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere out injured, he has a great opportunity between now and the end of the season to prove himself as a genuine starting candidate in the middle moving forward.

Right, that was a very brief one today but it’s Sunday, the Milan derby kicks off soon and it won’t watch itself.

See you on Transfer Deadline Day.