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.


11th May 2016: Welbeck ruled out for nine months + Xhaka deal reportedly close

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. Arsenal have confirmed Danny Welbeck will undergo surgery on the knee injury he sustained at Manchester City last Sunday, and will be side-lined for ‘approximately nine months’.

After yesterday’s report in the Guardian, we were all fearing the worst yet hoping for the best. The reality now is that Danny faces having almost another full season written off when you factor in regaining match-sharpness after his recovery, and that’s assuming his rehabilitation goes smoothly. Here’s what the club said in a statement on the official site:

Specialists determined surgery was required after scans and tests revealed significant cartilage damage. The 25-year-old was injured during Sunday’s match at Manchester City. Danny will miss the Euro 2016 Championship in the summer and his full recovery is expected to take approximately nine months. Since returning to action in February after injuring his left knee in May last year, Welbeck’s impact has been telling – scoring five times, including the recent winner against Norwich City at Emirates Stadium. Everyone at Arsenal will be working hard with Danny throughout his recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch as soon as possible.

It’s devastating news both for player and club obviously and for an insight into just how highly regarded Welbeck is as a player and person, just take a look at some of the Twitter messages of support that have flooded in since the news was announced earlier today.

Regular readers will know much I rate the striker – which is a lot more than most fans, pundits and rival supporters seem to from experience. I was ecstatic when we signed him in the summer of 2014 and couldn’t quite believe Manchester United had let him go. Had he stayed injury-free since signing for us I think we may well have seen him develop to the extent that we’d already have the world class forward we all crave. Laugh if you like.

We’ll never know of course, but I was confidently expecting him to flourish in our style of play and given I think he has all the raw attributes, expected Arsene Wenger to maximise Welbeck’s potential just as the manager has with so many forwards in the past. Fortunately, Danny doesn’t turn 26 until Novemeber so time is still on his side – enough to reach the level I think he’s capable of. Get well soon Welbz!

Onto more positive news and reports suggest Granit Xhaka will soon be a Gunner. As happy as I am we’re signing a very highly-rated central midfielder, I’m still struggling to work out what the manager’s starting selection in the middle of the park will look like come the start of next season. Time will tell of course but getting a big deal done so early augurs very well for the rest of our summer in the transfer market.

A very brief post this evening I’m afraid but that’s where I’ll leave it.

Until tomorrow.

10th May 2016: Welbeck worry + Giroud on getting back among the goals

Evening all. Some worrying news to begin with this evening as the Guardian have reported that the knee injury Danny Welbeck sustained against Manchester City on Sunday may need surgery and the striker is facing ‘months out of the game’.

A proper prognosis is expected tomorrow but Welbeck’s dreams of playing for England in this summer’s European Championships certainly appear over and he’s already in a race to be fit for the start of next season.

I’m not sure what to say other than our injury curse would be funny if it wasn’t so soul-destroyingly depressing. We’ve improved our medical department significantly in recent seasons yet remain extraordinarily prone to picking up long-term injuries as a club.

Wearing my Arsenal hat I suppose the best thing we can say about Danny’s latest knock is that it’s probably come at the best time it possibly could for us (other than ‘never’ obviously), with the season having just one more game to run.

But that of course is absolutely no consolation for the player himself, who’s not long been back from ten months out of the game with a different knee injury, and who I’m sure was relishing the prospect of representing his country at a major tournament in just a few weeks’ time.

I read somewhere that his ‘type’ of meniscus-related problem isn’t as bad as certain others and that he should make a complete recovery within around four months but when you then add match-practice etc, it may be closer to six.

Hopefully we’ll get good news tomorrow and the time-frame isn’t quite as long as that but for now all we can do is wish Danny a speedy recovery and hope he returns from injury in the same goal-scoring fashion as he did against Leicester in February.

Elsewhere, Welbeck’s fellow Arsenal front-man Olivier Giroud has been speaking to Arsenal Player about ending his goal-scoring drought after he headed home our first against City last weekend. He said:

The goal meant a lot because it has been a tough time for me on the pitch as I have missed a bit of efficiency, a bit of luck and a lot of things. Things haven’t gone my way to [allow me to] finish, but I kept the faith and knew that it would come back. It is always nice for a striker to score, even more with an assist for Alexis’ second goal which was important. We now have our own destiny in our hands to finish third or maybe second. These last few weeks I tried to set up goals. [Alexis’ goal] was my sixth assist but I’m happy to score too and help the team to reach our target and qualify for the Champions League. That is a great present. We are a team and a group that makes the difference. We try to help each other do the job. We fight for each other and we have a good understanding.

Meanwhile, his manager Arsene Wenger hailed Giroud’s performance at Etihad stadium, as well has praising his team’s ability to twice fight back from a goal down to secure a point. He said:

Olivier Giroud was questioned recently and I’m happy I kept confidence in him because I thought he had a top-level performance. He was fighting, he had control of the ball, he was finishing and he gave an assist. We showed a lot of character and the intensity of the game was very high. We dealt well with what was thrown at us and Manchester City looked like they were doing absolutely everything to win the game. They are difficult to beat and we have shown again that we can get results against top teams. The fact we came back twice each time we were down, we looked like we had the response to score. I think we could have won the game in the end. Overall, it is a positive result.

Given Welbeck’s injury, the onus will very much be on Giroud to continue his goalscoring against Aston Villa on the final day of the season, as we look to secure at least a third-placed finish.

Hopefully the striker can do just that and then we can head into the summer and reshape our squad in what promises to be a very busy transfer market.

Back tomorrow.

9th May 2016: Wenger on City, Welbeck and Wilshere

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. Just a very brief post for you this evening because I’m as short on time as Jose Mourinho is on common decency and Tottenham are on league titles.

So straight to the reaction from yesterday’s draw with Manchester City at Etihad stadium and here’s what Arsene Wenger had to say on the game, and the prospect of finishing in third place in the table:

It was a very intense game where we had a difficult start because Manchester City came out very strong. We suffered a little, but every time we went down we showed character and came back twice in the game. Overall, I think Manchester City had good intensity in the game and there were a few times when we were in trouble, but we delivered a very strong performance. It (finishing third) is in our hands now but we have seen again today that we just want to finish the job with the result. That shows you that we have to focus and keep the focus. It is important to maintain that. We have had strong concentration in recent games and our character has been questioned a few times this season. We gave the right response today on the pitch, but you have to say if you look we have the best results against the top-four teams. That doesn’t come without character.

We may well have the best record against the top four teams this season (and without checking I can’t be sure, because Arsene’s been a little loose with the statistical truth recently – think his line about us being ‘away champions’), but this has been a bit of a Peter Crouch season – freakish.

I mean, beating Leicester home and away and managing two draws with Tottenham in any other season would be seen as a bare minimum achievement, if not slightly disappointing. Against the the usual top four suspects on the other hand, i.e the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool, we’s managed just two wins in eight games this term (at home against City and United), drawn three (City away and twice with Liverpool) and lost three times (twice to Chelsea and United away) – hardly form to crow about.

Moving on, the boss also discussed Danny Welbeck’s injury and Jack Wilshere’s performance, having sent the midfielder on from the subs’ bench as the former’s replacement yesterday. He said:

Danny Welbeck has a knee problem. I hope it is not too bad. We need to wait for a scan, I hope that it is not bad one and a meniscus. Danny is a strong boy, he is not a guy who moves out quickly. We tried to keep him on the pitch and straight away he tried to move on and he said it was impossible. At half time, I looked at him and he was very down so he must have pain. Lets hope we have good news tomorrow from the scan. When I say good, that means he will not be out of the Euros. The bad news would be if he is out of the Euros, but I don’t know. I’m an optimist. I don’t know if it is a lateral meniscus. Lets wait until we get the real diagnosis. I felt that he showed he is well prepared physically. Overall, I believe that his performance was encouraging and that he will benefit from this kind of intensity in the game. He didn’t have too much time to think about it, but that is sometimes the best. His performance was positive.

Danny’s injury, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s last week, is obviously a cruel blow for the player with the European championships around the corner, but hopefully it’s not as bad as feared and the striker can still make the plane to France. Fingers crossed.

As for Jack, I thought he was visibly off-the-pace yesterday, which admittedly is far from surprising considering how long he’s been out injured. But regardless, he didn’t hide, got himself involved and the game-time will no doubt have done him the world of good as he attempts to reach peak condition ahead of the Euros and then what will hopefully, finally, be an injury-free campaign for Arsenal.

That’ll do for tonight.

See you tomorrow.

7th May 2016: Second still in our sights as we head to City + Welbeck warning

Saturday greetings. Despite Leicester being crowned champions earlier and our top four place all but secured already, Arsene Wenger underlined the importance of winning at Manchester City tomorrow when he spoke at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

With Tottenham hosting a dangerous Southampton in the early kick-off on Sunday, before travelling to a Newcastle United side battling for their Premier League lives on the final day of the season, second spot is far from out of reach for Arsenal, even with just two games to go. But to give ourselves a chance, we’ll have to win both games and the boss says the “future of Arsenal Football club depends on this game”:

Sunday’s game is still important, even if Leicester are champions today and we are second best. It is still a very important game because part of the responsibility of being professional is to prepare the future. The future of Arsenal Football Club depends on this game. There’s a European Championship and there’s a Copa America [in the summer]. To get our players back, we made a schedule. It’s absolutely very difficult because the European Championship finishes on July 10. If you think that you have to give at least three to four weeks of holiday to the players who go to the end [of the tournament], that means they come back at the beginning of August. Our target now is to secure a position in the Champions League next year. If possible, to get second place or at least secure third place. On Sunday we can achieve that. We still have two games, and if we win those two games we will be alright.

In terms of how we might line-up, my guess is we’ll see a few changes to the starting line-up from last week’s win over Norwich. Gabriel will come in for the hamstrung Per Mertesacker of course, but I’m also expecting Danny Welbeck to be restored upfront in place of Olivier Giroud.

I think a change in central midfield is also very likely, with either Aaron Ramsey moved forward at the expense of say, Alex Iwobi, or dropped to the bench to make way for Francis Coquelin or even Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere. I hope so anyway!

This fixture last season was a springboard for a superb run of form in the calendar year of 2015 of course and Danny Welbeck, who missed out on the 2-0 win in January last year, says Arsenal’s game-plan that day was spot-on. He told Arsenal Player:

I remember watching it at home on TV with my family. The performance was outstanding, from the first minute until the last. It was a great team performance, everyone worked hard throughout the game and I think tactically we were spot on with how we approached the match. I’ve got some good memories [at Man City], and a couple of bad ones as well. I think it’s important to focus on the next game coming and make sure that it’s another good memory.

And although Manuel Pellegrini’s men come into the game off the back of a hugely disappointing Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid, Welbeck warns City will prove difficult opposition for Arsenal. The striker said:

For them to be going into a Champions League semi-final second leg and having the opportunity to progress to the final is a major situation. Them not qualifying will put a bit of a downer on their confidence but City have a great squad, a great team and have great players in and around the whole club. There’s a lot of players who can come in on the weekend and provide a very stern test for Arsenal.

Which is very true. Even without David Silva and Vincent Kompany, who are likely to miss the game through injury, City can still field a star-studded selection who may just want to thank Pellegrini for his management in what will be his final home game as City manager by putting in a top performance. Lets hope not.


Back post-match.

3rd May 2016: Leicester are champions + Wenger on striker selection

Welcome back. So Leicester City are Premier League champions after Sp*rs drew 2-2 at Chelsea last night despite leading 2-0 at half-time.

I would revel more in Tottenham’s tragic failure to keep the title race alive but given we’ve been out of contention for a while now and lie below our neighbours in the standings, I’m left with little choice but to reign in the ridicule.

So I’ll limit myself to: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahaha” and,”have you ever seen Tottenham win the league? HAVE YOU F*CK”, as well as, #61NEVERAGAIN.

Meanwhile, the Foxes’ fairytale campaign is complete, they’re champions of England for the first time in their history and have done it at a time when the relative riches of the country’s elite few clubs, and decades-long domination of the Premier League crown, makes Leicester achievement all-the-more astounding.

So I hope everyone associated with Leicester makes the most of their Black Swan season and enjoys every second of their status as champions for the next year or so, because unless they’re taken over by billionaire benefactors like Chelsea or Manchester City, they won’t be repeating this year’s feat for a very, very long time, if ever.

As much as Claudio Ranieri and his squad deserve boundless praise for their achievement, they were aided and abetted by a perfect storm of big-club implosions and transition phases. Except by Arsenal of course, because we were just typically championship-allergic as we have been for 12 years now. Still, what a story. Well done Leicester City.

But back to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger has revealed the reasoning behind his decision to reinstate Olivier Giroud as his starting striker in the last couple of games in place of Danny Welbeck, despite the latter having played very well on the whole since his return from long-term injury. He said:

Welbeck came in and played very well [on his comeback], like the players who have been out for nine months always do. You have to trust me on that, I know that well – after they come in they are super sharp and then after, against Crystal Palace, he had a very average game and looked a bit for one or two games that he paid for the physical energy he had given. So you let them rest one or two games and you bring them back in. [Against Norwich], when he came on, you could see he is a different animal again.

Arsene also discussed the form of Giroud, with the striker currently enduring the worst goal-less spell of his Arsenal career:

A striker wants to score goals and when he doesn’t, is it pure confidence or is it just to think, ‘How can I score again? They need goals. But he responds, he’s a guy who is mentally strong. Today he gave an assist, I put that in the same category as a goal.

Given the above, I’ll be shocked if Welbeck doesn’t start ahead of Giroud against Manchester City on Sunday but with a good few days until the game, there’s plenty of time to look at how we might line-up for the match at Etihad stadium in the days to come.

Back on Wednesday.

2nd May 2016: Welbeck and Giroud on Norwich win

Evening all. Yesterday’s post was short, today’s will be microscopic, like Jose Mourinho’s humility. So Leicester aren’t quite champions yet after only drawing at Manchester United yesterday but hopefully they will be later today because anything bar a Tottenham win at Chelsea tonight will hand the Foxes their first-ever Premier League title. I feel a bit very dirty saying this but just for today: I want Chelsea to win.

But back to Arsenal and the two men involved in creating and scoring our goal against Norwich on Saturday have been speaking about the game. First up it’s the goalscorer Danny Welbeck, who said:

When you are on the bench, you want to come on and make an impact. Thankfully I got the goal and it was a difficult game with Norwich trying to avoid relegation and they were fighting until the end. We had to win this game to get the three points. It was a good win for us. I think it is one of this things as a player where you have to focus on the match and not too much on the surroundings (protests). Obviously the fans are so important to football clubs, and it is something you have to respect. Everyone has an opinion but we just have to do our stuff on the pitch. It is down to the manager, but I want to play every single game as players do. Being out for such a long time and coming back, you have to get back into match fitness. As you can tell, I’m blowing and I only played 30 minutes. It was nice, and I want to keep on playing games and building up my fitness. I think I have been asked this 1,000 times. I prefer to play as a striker, but once I’m on the pitch I’m going to do my best and try to win the game for my team. Everyone is very disappointed (we didn’t win the league). We knew it was a great opportunity for us to go for the title this season. It is difficult to handle with the way it has ended. It has not ended yet, but the way it is ending, I think we know in ourselves and as a club we should be doing better. We want to finish above Spurs, but obviously they want to finish above us. It is going to be difficult and we want to win our remaining two games in the season.

Whilst Giroud told Arsenal Player:

It is always nice for a striker to score or assist a team-mate. I’m pleased to be back, not on the scoresheet but on the assist sheet. I’m used to playing for my team-mates and I try to help them when I can. If I cannot finish the work, I try to play for them. This one reminded me of another goal, it was like Theo’s against Leicester. I try to play with my first instinct and be efficient, but even if I didn’t score I’m pleased with that assist and I will try to keep working. I will work hard to get the confidence back and the goals as well. We are very pleased with the three points because it was not a fantastic game from the team. The thing is, we never give up and we trust in our game until the end. We could have scored more, and we played a team who are fighting to not go down. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we expected that. We are very pleased to win this game because it was not easy but we have to do much better.

Being a bank holiday in England today I’m going to leave it there, because with work to look forward to in a few short hours, I really should make the most of what’s left of my long weekend.

See you later.

10th April 2016: Arsenal make work seem appealing + West Ham reaction

Sunday greetings. Dropping points at Upton Park was bad enough, but seeing Leicester and Tottenham both win comfortably today means it’s been a weekend to forget.

The irony that a new working week will now provide a timely distraction from football is pretty galling, but at the moment that’s the truth of the situation. So thanks Arsene, nice one Arsenal, good job Sunderland and cheers Manchester United – I’ve never looked forward to a nine-to-five more. I hope you’re proud of yourselves …

I suppose I ought to take a little look at the reaction from the West Ham game however, even if I’d rather do anything but. First up it’s Arsene Wenger, who gave his take on the game to Arsenal Player, saying:

We were [in control]. There are always a lot of positives. Overall, you can say it is not a bad result to draw here, but in the context of the league, where we are and what we want to achieve, it is a very bad result for us. I wanted to win the game. In the end we had the opportunities to score a fourth goal, but we were not calm enough. I think we rushed our game in the box and that is disappointing. One or two times on the counter-attack the pass didn’t come quickly enough out of the feet and that is why we missed.

A decent appraisal I suppose but about as comforting as a smack in the mouth. A few of our players also had their say on the match, with Laurent Koscielny bemoaning his side’s frailty in one-on-one duels and explaining how they should have defended the threat of Andy Carroll in hindsight. He said:

We are disappointed. When you are 2-0 up and they come back, it is difficult. We have played well in the game but lost some important duels. They played on the counter-attack to cross the ball to Carroll who is good in the air. We conceded the same amount of goals [as them] today and it is difficult to come away with one point when we wanted more. He is quality when it comes to heading the ball. If you want to win the duel, you need to be stronger and arrive early on the cross. You can’t let them get a cross in easy because they have some good players on the wings. It is a job for everyone, not just the defender.s The guys on the flanks need to help their team-mates with defending. We will fight (for the title). We are professional players and we want to win. They [Leicester] have some important games. We will fight to the end. Mathematically, it is not finished so we will try.

Mohamed Elneny also insisted the team would continue to give it their all in the hope that somehow, Leicester and Tottenham collapse in the last few games of the season. He said:

We will fight until the end, until the last game in the league, to achieve what we want. Let’s see the final outcome then. Today we wanted to snatch the win even though we were playing against a strong team. Maybe the final result is not this much in our favour, however we are doing our best in each game. We conceded two goals at a very hard time. We should have ended the first half 2-1 up but the equalising goal came at a very crucial moment. At the start of the second half we started organising our team to win the game and step up our performance, however we conceded a third goal so we tried and pushed to get an equaliser. We finally did that but we couldn’t snatch the win in the end. We are fighting for the league title, this is why we had to play in an offensive mode to win the game, but thanks God for the final result. The best is yet to come.

You have to admire the optimism of our Egyptian enforcer, even if it’s very, very unlikely to see it vindicated. Danny Welbeck was more sombre in his appraisal, saying all we can do now is focus on ourselves:

I said before the game that we wanted to win the game, so it is points dropped. With the circumstances, going two up and then a goal behind, to get the equaliser was good. It was disappointing [not to win]. Stuff happens in football that is hard to explain. It is just one of those things. We tried to. It was difficult and they were threatening on the break as well. It was a difficult game for us. We just need to focus on ourselves and play the game that we want to. There is no point in us looking at other teams because we can’t affect them.

No we can’t, sadly. I guess we should start looking over our shoulders at those just behind us in the league as much as we set are sights on overhauling Tottenham into second place, because even if we can still very feasibly finish ahead of our north London rivals, we also need to be wary of the two Manchester teams in the race to secure a top four finish.

As such, the one big positive from this weekend’s results then, must be that we now have a six point lead over fifth-placed United with just six games to go.

Have yourselves a wonderful, football-free Monday everyone.

Back tomorrow.

27th March 2016: England impressive and Ozil hopeful

Happy Easter Sunday. You’ll have noticed my posts having been shorter recently and, I’m sure you’ll be devastated to learn, that trend will continue for the next few days. .

Partly because of the international break and the resultant slow-down in Arsenal-related news, and partly because I’m still acclimatizing to a dramatic change in my availability to blog. So bare with me.

I did manage to watch England last night though and have to say that for once, they were very, very impressive – mentally, tactically and technically. Despite going two-nil down in Germany, the Three Lions earned a deserved win over the reigning world champions thanks to goals by Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier.

And though the Tottenham connection is undoubtedly a little sickening, Kane and Dier, if I’m honest, weren’t even the best Spurs players on show, because Dele Alli was the outstanding performer on the pitch I thought, grudgingly putting all club loyalties aside. He produced a couple of moments of close control and skill that have made me completely reconsider my assessment of his abilities. He’s not the new Jermaine Jenas after all – he’s England’s Paul Pogba.

Anyway, the collective England performance filled me with hope that 50 years after England’s one and only trophy win, based on last night, a second may not be as unlikely as most people would have previously thought heading into this summer’s European Championships in France. It also made me more resolute in my belief that Wayne Rooney really shouldn’t be in England’s starting line-up with everyone fit, no matter what he did in qualifying or his status as the country’s highest-ever goalscorer.

From an Arsenal perspective, Danny Welbeck started and played well from the left before being substituted and, very worryingly indeed, taking a seat on the bench with a massive ice-pack on his knee. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, for obvious reasons. The only other Gunners’ representation on the night was Mesut Ozil, who started for Germany but was pretty peripheral to be honest, fluffing one decent opportunity by miscuing his shot on his weaker right foot.

But that’s okay because he was sensibly saving himself for us. And speaking to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Mesut explained that he thinks Arsenal are still in the race for the Premier League title:

I do not think it impossible. Although there are only a few games left, Leicester have a run against some of the big teams to come. We ourselves must in any case not allow any more slip-ups. The hope of the title is still there – we have the players for the title. They deserve to be up there; Leicester fight for every point. We see in every game that players of Leicester want to achieve something. We ourselves have not been focused in every game and that is not possible in the Premier League since there is no opponent you can beat easily. Leicester have been great but there are still a few games. I think we still have a chance to catch them up. We must, of course, hope for mistakes.

Well, I guess he’s right and he’s right. It’s not impossible but we need mistakes from those above us and lots of them. For now, all we can do is hope and try to take maximum points from our own remaining games.

See you next week.

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.