Monthly Archives: December 2016

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.


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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.


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Good News on Injuries Ahead of Stoke Clash

Image result for mertesacker bellerin

It’s another weekend and I’m looking forward to some Premier League action tomorrow! I know I’d miss most of the Saturday’s games because of a wedding I’m scheduled to attend but that the fun part in being in some BlackBerry groups like Gooner Daily, that would keep you updated all the way. I love that lot!

With the game against Stoke coming up tomorrow in front of the Emirates faithful, the feel good factor is back with the team scoring nine goals in their last two outings. It’s even more fun knowing that a goal can come from any position on the side, which is hugely encouraging, unlike some sides that leave the goalscoring burden for a player or two.

There have been a lot of injuries that disrupted the team this season and one can look no further than the influential Santi Cazorla that had a successful surgery and he’d be looking forward to a full recovery. The optimists believe he could be back in contention as early as March, but knowing Arsenal and the way our injury situation could be, I’d throw caution to the wind and give Santi enough time to recuperate before getting back to full fitness. In his absence, the likes of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Aaron Ramsey can do a good job in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield.

There is good news on the injury front as the manager confirmed that Per Mertesacker, Hector Bellerin and the forgotten forward, Danny Welbeck, are back in training, so they will be in contention to join the side ahead of the vigorous festive period where the games come thick and fast. The club’s captain has kicked the ball just once this season, then suffered a knee injury that has sidelined him for the best part of four months, but in Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel Paulista and the ever-impressive Rob Holding, Mertesacker’s absence hasn’t been felt at all. Many fans even feel that it would be very difficult for the BFG to return to the starting XI. I’m pleased to know that a player of his immense qualities and leadership will be available for selection once again, so the onus is on the manager to find a way to integrate him back to the side. It’s worth noting that the Kostafi combination has been a colossus at the back.

Hector Bellerin is a player that has grown from strength to strength in the team, and his appearance in the Team of the Year last season was a testament of how improved he had been. Since taking the mantle after Matt Debuchy suffered an unfortunate injury, Bellerin has not looked back and he has excelled under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger. He suffered an ankle injury for the Spanish youth side in the last international break, and the team looked to Carl Jenkinson to fill in the void, as Debuchy continued to struggle with fitness. However, the young Englishman suffered ‘confidence issues’ and the boss had resorted to Gabriel to put a shift there while Bellerin works his way back to full fitness. He also signed a new contract recently that would keep him at the club for quite some time, and that news has been taken well by the fans.

On Welbeck, it seems the team has forgotten he exists but he will always be fondly remembered to two iconic moments in his fledgling Arsenal career;

  • The match winning goal in the 2014/15 FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United at Old Trafford and
  • That late late header against Leicester City last season in February.

He suffered a knee injury in April and missed Euro 2016, and it must have been hard for the lad seeing his teammate strut their stuff on the pitch, while he spends countless hours with the physios working his way up the fitness chain. Hearing that Welbeck is in training again makes me happy, because he’s a player with very good potential and I’m confident he can actualize it at the Emirates.

A full Stoke preview comes up tomorrow.


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