Monthly Archives: January 2021

Thoughts on Rob Holding’s Contract Extension

Newcastle United: David Ornstein deals blow to hopes of signing Arsenal ace Rob  Holding | The Transfer Tavern

The magic of the FA Cup took centerstage this weekend and our focus in moving to that knockout competition to the Premier League, where Arsenal needs more points to move up the table in their current resurgence. The Gunners take on Crystal Palace on Thursday, but the news dominating the rounds is the much welcome news that Arsenal defender, Rob Holding, signed a new long term deal with the club, to keep him at the Emirates for the foreseeable future. 

Holding has been with Arsenal for the best part of five years, and its fair to say that this has been the campaign he has really stepped up to make himself a mainstay in the Gunners. Arsenal gaffer, Mikel Arteta, waxed lyrical about Holding, especially with the fact that the club almost sent him out on loan to Newcastle this season, before pulling the plug,

“It was almost a year ago when he came back from his injury. He had a period when he didn’t play and then he played against Leeds at home [in the FA Cup] and when you compare how he has evolved in a year from there until now, it’s incredible.

“It’s down to him; how professional he is, how much he wants to learn, how much he puts that into every training session. And then there’s his character and his personality. He’s growing in every aspect. I’m really happy with him.

“It’s true that in the summer he came to me because we had a large amount of centre-backs and he wasn’t sure about how many minutes he was going to have. We stopped him going anywhere because we knew he was going to be an important player for us.”

Under Unai Emery, Holding featured regularly and earned his place on the side, before that unfortunate injury at Old Trafford cut his campaign short.

Manchester United vs Arsenal: Rob Holding seeking 'closure' a season on  from injury at Old Trafford | The Independent | The Independent

Despite the plethora of center backs currently at the club, Holding has made 18 appearances in all competitions this season and started 13 of Arsenal’s 17 league games, including all of the last seven. He has had several defensive partners this season, featuring in a back four and back three, and has tried to be a consistent figure at the back. He has earned five clean sheets this season with the club and is expected to feature consistently in the course of the campaign.

Here’s to Holding, a future Arsenal stalwart.

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Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Better Late Than Never

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United (aet): Emile Smith Rowe sends below-par  Gunners into fourth round |

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle (Smith-Rowe 109′, Aubameyang 117′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cedric (Maitland-Niles 120′), D. Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Willock (Xhaka 66′), Pepe (Lacazette 106′), Willian (Saka 66′), Nelson (Smith-Rowe 56′), Aubameyang

With the Gunners riding on a high, it was important to get some momentum in their first defense of the FA Cup for the campaign against Newcastle. Steve Bruce’s side has blown hot and cold this season but on their day they could be a threat to contend with. With the games coming thick and fast in the festive period, it was expected that players would get some rest with other squad members filling in their stead.

I was certain Runar Runarsson wouldn’t get a run out following his howler in the Carabao Cup, so Bernd Leno continued between the sticks. However, Kieran Tierney and Pablo Mari kept their places following the West Brom game while Cedric Soares and David Luiz got some much needed game time ahead of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. Joe Willock started alongside Mo Elneny in the central midfield positions while Willian played in the attacking midfield role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spearheaded the attack and was flanked by Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli, but we received some news that Martinelli was injured in the warm up and was replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Arsenal was expected to be on the ascendancy and the first meaningful attack of the game arrived when Aubameyang was sent clean on goal from the right, so he had to improvise with the outside of his boot but the returning Martin Dubravka was on hand to make a superb stop. Early in the second half, Newcastle had the chance to grab the lead when Jeff Hendrick’s effort fell kindly to Andy Carroll but his side-footed shot beat an onrushing Leno and missed by a lick of paint. Elneny dinked another sumptuous ball to Aubameyang and his effort went wide off the mark. I got really concerned as the club’s talisman has found goals hard to come by this season and one can only hope he gets his scoring mojo back. 

Tierney worked well with Pepe whose in-swinging cross was headed goalwards on the ground by Willock but Dubravka turned to a peak Oblak and made another magnificent save. Arsenal were made to almost rue those misses when Carroll was one on one with Leno right at the death. The Arsenal goalie made an outstanding save from the Newcastle forward and did even better with the follow up, smothering the ball before Carroll could get a rebound. With replays scrapped, the game went into extra time. Substitute, Granit Xhaka almost gave the team the lead with a dipping shot that found its mark but Dubravka was in inspired form, making another stellar save.

Then came the turning point of the match. Emile Smith-Rowe had been playing well for his side but his defensive instincts took center stage as he attempted a tackle to win the ball but the Newcastle player got on the end of his boot due to his momentum and shockingly, Chris Kavanagh brandished a red card. 

Emile Smith Rowe goal helps send Arsenal through in FA Cup despite being  shown red card earlier in tie

Thankfully, the folks at the VAR room communicated to the ref, who also decided to have a look yet again, thereby overturning his decision and changing it to a yellow card. With Arsenal still having all its players intact, it only made sense for three of the subs to combine awesomely to score the all-important match opener. Smith-Rowe robbed a Newcastle midfielder off the ball in midfield, fed Bukayo Saka and continued his foray forward, Saka lobbed the ball to Alexandre Lacazette who intelligently cushioned his header to Smith-Rowe’s path. Following some exquisite control, the young midfielder’s first-timed effort beat Dubravka, clipped the post and went in. The game was put beyond doubt when Xhaka threaded a killer pass in behind the Newcastle defense to Tierney that provided another sweet cut back from the byline that found Aubameyang who finished aplomb.

The captain needed that goal like I need FPL points for my team, Stagnetti’s Revenge, but more importantly, the Gunners continued their good run of form and qualified to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. There were some concerns on the performances of Willian and Pepe in particular, who failed to impress yet again, and I see no reason why they should be included in Arteta’s Premier League starting lineup against Crystal Palace.

This goal was massive for Emile Smith-Rowe that continued to justify his selection in the side and I was particularly happy for Lacazette that has shown that he’s undroppable at the moment. In his little cameo appearance, he continued to showcase his influence in the center forward position, getting that lovely assist for his teammate. Finally, it was good to see Aubameyang that has scored just his sixth goal in his 18th appearance this season. The Gabonese forward thrives on goals and hopefully his confidence would improve as we need him to get on the scoring act in the coming Premier League games.

Despite the positives, the major negative from the game was Martinelli’s injury prior to kickoff that was confirmed by the gaffer,

“I am gutted. I was in my office before the game and one of the coaches came in and told me that Gabi had hurt himself, that he’d twisted his ankle.

“I went to the medical room and he was in tears. He was in a lot of pain and we’re going to have to see how he is. It didn’t look good. He was in pain so I imagine that we’re not going to have good news with him.”

The Gunners take on Crystal Palace on Thursday, which is just four days from now, but I’d rather bask in the euphoria of yet another win, as they seem to be coming the frequency I expect.


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What a Time to be an Arsenal Fan

Tierney - The boys are calling my goal a cross! | Quotes | News |

110 days.

That’s the last time I published an article on this blog. However, when you compare this to the winless duration against the likes of Aston Villa, Leeds, Wolves, Spurs, Burnley, Southampton, Everton in the League as well as Man City in the EFL Cup, then it’s nothing. Arsenal had clearly reached its nadir and with the way we were going so far down in the Premier League table, we almost found oil.

But it takes a manager with a good set of cojones to make the big calls and axe the underwhelming players, which brought about a change in our fortunes. Nicolas Pepe and Willian have been largely inconsistent and underwhelming for the major part of the campaign – Willian especially, so it was good to see the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who had his own inconsistent run, come to the fold. No one could have envisaged the success of Emile Smith-Rowe in the Ozil attacking midfield role, with the youngster excelling admirably, linking up with his teammates and supplying some much needed killer balls expected of a player in that role.

Then there’s the form of Alexandre Lacazette. Oh wow! Football is an interesting sport indeed. Laca is one polarizing player that has had his fair share of vitriol from the fan base and after clamoring for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to feature in the middle, which of course, would cost Lacazette his place in the team, we got our wish and the outcome was pretty much the same – Arsenal stinking up the entire place. However, Lacazette was reinstated into the team and the goals started flowing. I was particularly happy about that match winner against Brighton.

After the terrible run of form, the return of three wins on the trot against Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom has certainly eased the pressure off Mikel Arteta and brought the feel-good factor back to the side. It was really sad seeing the team struggle for those days and weeks and months and it certainly felt like forever.

As fans, our mettle was tested and all the manager and the team deserved was our full blown support. It’s times like these that you remember that badge in front of the merchandise you buy and show why you’re a supporter. Like every real relationship, you have to be there through thick and thin, as it’s not expected that every day would be peachy and creamy.

Off the pitch, the threat of COVID-19 still lingers with one of our outstanding performers this season, Gabriel, self isolating following some contact and there have been a couple of injury concerns. I was really scared for Gabriel Martinelli when he clashed with the Man City goalie, Zak Steffen, and struggled for the rest of the game but luckily it wasn’t as bad as we feared and he went on to have a blinder against Chelsea.

To transfers, Sead Kolasinac went through the back door to join his former club, Schalke 04, pretty much like how he joined in the first place and in all honesty, he will not be missed. His absence puts some form of pressure on Kieran Tierney, who will now be expected to feature in every game, but we have a certain Ainsley Maitland-Niles that can do a job on that flank if selected. Talk of another cast-away, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, leaving the club on a free transfer to join one of his former teams, Genoa, is making the rounds, and it’s quite a sad way to see one of the club’s loyal lieutenants leave. Kudos to him for not making a fuss out of not being registered despite the fact that he always gave his all when selected, even though he was one average Joe. William Saliba joined OGC Nice on loan and I’d be watching him closely, as his transfer to the club, loan away to his former team, fuss over him playing in the French Cup final, only to return to his parent club and not play any match remains one of the mysteries of the beautiful game.

This leaves us with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Skhodran Mustafi and David Luiz to think about. Ozil has always been vocal about how he is going to honor his contract and pick up his fat paycheck till it expires this summer, but he’s likely to leave to Fenerbahce or probably the MLS. Mustafi has fallen out of favor with the manager and seems content with a place in the dugout but the club should be aiming to relieve him off his duties when his contract expires this summer, as he has been a disaster in his time at the club. Yes, he has had some decent moments but the German is no where close to the £35m we paid Valencia eons ago for his services. David Luiz on the other hand, seems to be at loggerheads with the gaffer, that’s if you believe every rumors thrown at you, but in terms of his footballing ability, we all can attest to the fact that he’s on a decline. Yes, the long balls and inch-perfect passes would be missed but the Brazilian defender has had some shockers and is close to his twilight.

All roads led to the FA Cup game against Newcastle and we can only hope for the great form to continue, even though we should expect some changes to the personnel.


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