Preston 1-2 Arsenal: Giroud to the Rescue, again!!!

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

It’s been ages since I published any article on this blog. Apologies for the hiatus but I’ve been involved in a whole lot of things and with no one to hold the fort, there have been a lot of cobwebs in this place.

So I dashed away from a wedding reception I attended to ensure I made it to a bar in time to watch Arsenal’s game against Preston. With the prior knowledge that some of the big guns were going to be rested, as well as the niggling injuries and a certain Mohamed Elneny joining his country on international duty, Arsene Wenger didn’t have many options on his team selection strategy for the team.

However, he had places for David Ospina in goal as Petr Cech got a breather, but Kieran Gibbs hadn’t recovered from his knee injury on time, allowing Nacho Monreal to continue as the left back. Laurent Koscielny was rested to accommodate Gabriel alongside Skhodran Mustafi but it was very interesting seeing Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a right back ahead of Carl Jenkinson. I strongly believe that Jenks is leaving on loan to another English club this January, but the boss probably didn’t want to cup-tie the lad. The paucity of options in midfield saw the RamXhaka combination with newly crowned CAF Youth Player of the Year, Alex Iwobi, in the Ozil role. Lucas Perez and the Ox flanked the captain of the night, Olivier Giroud.

To be honest, the first half was pure shite from an Arsenal perspective. Preston scored an early goal from a young bloke called Robinson, they had a drilled effort across the goal that would have put them two up if any player touched the ball, and they even had a chance that Monreal cleared off the line. It was that kinda half for Arsenal. Going into the break with a goal behind a lower division team was embarrassing to say the least and everyone demanded a response which Arsenal obliged.

Straight from the restart, the Gunners pressed hard for an equalizer and found it from Ramsey, a player that had been bereft of goals all season long. Iwobi has to be hauled for some brilliant player in the link up to the goal. The early equalizer settled some nerves and the visitors continued to push for the winner but it wasn’t forthcoming. Just when we thought that we would have an unnecessary FA Cup replay on our hands, the Gunners nicked it right at the death, thanks to Giroud. Ramsey played a good ball to Perez who noticed the French forward in his path then he executed a neat back-heeled pass. For a lad not renowned for his speed, Giroud reacted really swiftly to Lucas’ pass and bundled the ball into the net to send the Gunners to the fourth round.

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

The highlight of the night was the return of long term injury absentee, Danny Welbeck, to first team football action. He almost capped with with a brilliant curled effort but the Preston goalie denied the forward a fairytale comeback. In the end, it was a job well done from Wenger’s men and they’d be hoping to put up better performances as the season progresses.

Like Bournemouth a couple of days ago, the Gunners were terrible and for some reason, the defense is no longer impregnable, as the team continues to leak in goals from all classes of opposition. All focus would turn to Swansea away.

More on that game in the coming days ahead.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Go Top After Easing Past Stoke

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

This fixture against Stoke at home was one that the fans had become accustomed to collecting three points at the end of the game. The records spoke for themselves – 14 consecutive wins at home against the Potters with eight clean sheets to match, but this was a team arriving at the back of two consecutive Premier League victories, so it wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park.

The stats boys also made us understand that Theo Walcott had 99 club goals and was in search of his century, and it goes to show how much time has passed since that young kid Sven-Goran Eriksson took to the World Cup and never handed him an appearance. The English forward had a chance early on when he received a brilliant through ball from Skhodran Mustafi but his first time drilled effort was saved by Lee Grant. Then in typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners conceded what seemed to be a soft penalty. Granit Xhaka challenged the ‘Welsh Pirlo’, Joe Allen, in the box and his trailing elbow caught the Stoke midfielder on his face, causing Lee Mason to point to the spot. Normally, that kind of the decision was meant to be followed with a booking, but the ref chose leniency.

Charlie Adam stepped up and sent Petr Cech the wrong way to put Stoke one up. You tend to wonder when Cech would save a penalty though. I read somewhere that since the 2011/12 season, he has faced 12 penalties and conceded all. My bigger concern would be why the Gunners have conceded three penalties at the Emirates this season. What’s up with the clumsiness in the box? Only Hull has conceded more with seven.

To add insult to injury, Mustafi picked up a hamstring injury and the boss has confirmed that he would be sidelined for at least 21 days. Thankfully, we have Rob Holding that has been in good form this season and a Gabriel Paulista that can put a good shift when required. There is also a certain Per Mertesacker that is working his way to full fitness. Mustafi’s injury allowed Hector Bellerin to return to the fray, pushing Gabriel to the middle to play alongside the captain. Bellerin’s introduction proved to be a stroke of genius as he reacted quickly to Alexis Sanchez’s through ball to feed Walcott whose one-timed poked effort beat Grant on his near post to level the score. 100 club goals for our man and 1-1 to the Arsenal.

Going into the break with the draw was the least the Gunners deserved and they came into the second half with some hunger to do something more. The home side grabbed the lead when Mesut Ozil beat the offside trap to latch onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dinked effort. Seeing Grant off his line, Ozil lobbed the goalie with a looping header to score his ninth goal of the season. If he scores one more goal this season, he would reach double figures – a feat he has never achieved with Arsenal. This has already been his highest scoring season in an Arsenal jersey but he scored 11 in Werder Bremen and scored 10 goals on two different seasons with Real Madrid.

2-1 is always a delicate scoreline, so it was important for the Gunners to grab the next, and they did with another substitute, Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian was in something of a drought in recent weeks, now he has two goals in two games. Kudos to Mason for giving the advantage after Sanchez was scythed down by some bloke but the Nigerian unleashed his inner Robert Pires to side-foot the ball home.

As Walcott stated in post-match interview, ‘everybody is contributing‘ which is a hallmark of the team this season. I look back at seasons past when a certain Robin van Persie would have 37 goals, then Walcott would have 10 while the rest of the team would be struggling for scraps but this season, it’s a lot different. You’d be surprised to know that Arsenal has scored 60 goals already and we are not in the half way point of the season. Alexis has 13, Walcott 10, Ozil nine, Ox has six, Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez have five each, new boy, Xhaka has three, Iwobi, Koscielny and Santi Penalties and Sir Own Goal have two, then Chambers had one against Liverpool before switching to Middlesbrough.

This essentially means that Wenger can rely on any of his players on the pitch to do the business and it would go a long way.

All focus will be moved to Everton, that continued their rot with a 3-2 loss to Watford but the Gunners would have to put a leash on Romelu Lukaku that found his scoring boots with a brace after a four-game dry spell.

Sayonara.

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Stoke Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

We are back to the Premier League with Arsenal taking on a Stoke side that has picked up form in recent weeks. Considering their poor start to the season, Mark Hughes has steadied the site at the Bet365 stadium, winning five and drawing three of his last nine Premier League matches. However, Stoke’s record at the home of Arsenal is downright terrible with the Potters getting their last win as far back as 1981. The Gunners have beaten Stoke in their last 14 home games, notching up eight clean sheets in the process.

Arsene Wenger did well to shuffle the squad in midweek, making six changes to the side, and he must be very happy with the result, as the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez in particular, contributed immensely to the overall outlook of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they return to the bench today but the bottom line remains that they can put up a good shift when they are called upon. Arsenal would have fitness tests for Hector Bellerin and Per Mertesacker, while Francis Coquelin returns from his suspension. Stoke on the other hand, will be sweating on the fitness of Marko Arnautovic and Bruno Martins Indi, as both players received knocks in their victory against Burnley.

With the current table toppers, Chelsea, playing West Brom on Sunday, the Gunners can have a psychological advantage if they beat Stoke with two goals, as it would send them to the top of the table. With several teams scalping for points, it would be important for the Gunners to get three points today.

Injury Updates

Arsenal: Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Santi Cazorla (Achilles tendon), Chuba Akpom (back), Matt Debuchy (hamstring), Yaya Sanogo (calf), Hector Bellerin (ankle – doubt)

Stoke: Ryan Shawcross (calf), Phil Beardsley (knee), Geoff Cameron (knee), Ibrahim Afellay (knee), Stephen Ireland (leg), Jack Butland (ankle), Marko Anautovic (hip – doubt), Bruno Martins Indi (face – doubt)

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: D W L W W
  • Last Result: FC Basel 1-4 Arsenal
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (13)

Stoke Form

  • Last Five Games: W D L W W
  • Last Result: Stoke 2-0 Burnley
  • Leading Goalscorer: Joe Allen (4)

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott; Sanchez

Stoke (4-2-3-1): Grant; Pieters, Muniesa, Martins Indi, Johnson; Imbula, Adams; Arnautovic, Shaqiri, Diouf; Walters

Gooner Daily predicts a 3 – 0 Arsenal win.

Sayonara.

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