Category Archives: Premier League

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 | Goal.com

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.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 2-1 West Ham: Nketiah Delivers Sucker Punch

Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah combine for winning goal against Arsenal  against West Ham a week on from bust-up before Fulham game

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 2-1 West Ham (Lacazette 25′, Nketiah 86′ – Antonio 45′)

Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Kolasinac; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka (D. Luiz 89′); Willian (Pepe 64′), Lacazette (Nketiah 77′), Aubameyang

The fans expected more from the team following the convincing victory over Fulham last week, and they faced a West Ham side bereft of confidence after their poor showing against Newcastle at the London Stadium. There was a cause for concern at the start of the game when Kieran Tierney pulled up short and had to be replaced by Sead Kolasinac shortly before kickoff. The gaffer confirmed in his post-match press conference that it was a small muscular problem and Tierney complained about it before a decision was made to replace him in the matchday squad. 

For some strange reason best known to Lord Voldemort and his cohorts, Arsenal put up a very disjointed performance early on, misplacing passes, engaging in sloppy play and in all honesty, the opening goal seemed to come against the run of play, with some good attacking play on our favored left hand side saw our contract signing club talisman, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang loft in a sumptuous cross that was headed home by Alexandre Lacazette. It was a relief for Lacazette as he had spurned an early chance created by Willian in the beginning stages of the game.

The equalizer for the visitors came at the stroke of half time when a non-existent midfield did nothing to stop the attacking threat from the Hammers and Bukayo Saka was caught in No Man’s Land as Jarrod Bowen and Hendricks charged down on Kolasinac before executing a neat cut back that was buried aplomb by Michail Antonio. Rob Holding had a disappointing night and should have done better to close down the West Ham forward but it was not to be as both teams went into the break level. One would have expected Arsenal to come out firing on all cylinders in the second half but it was West Ham that had the better chances with Antonio clipping the cross bar with a header and the Arsenal defense continued to be barraged by the visitors.

Mikel Arteta responded with some attacking changes, bringing on Nicolas Pepe for a clearly jaded Willian and Eddie Nketiah for Lacazette. Despite his goal, he had one of those frustrating nights where his blushes were spared by a teammate replacing him. The move turned out to be a stroke of genius as Nketiah turned to be Arsenal’s match winner after some brilliant work from Saka and Dani Ceballos. The Real Madrid man returning for his second loan spell fed Saka and drifted into the danger area, only to be located by a special pass from the youngster but he had the presence of mind to see Nketiah on the clear before feeding him on a platter.

The score line clearly didn’t show a true reflection on how things fared in the game but we are on the back of two wins from two games, sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. Yes, we are under no illusions but it is a very good position to be bearing in mind that the club has a tough run of fixtures. However, we have to give credit to the lads for not giving up, even if they didn’t perform on the level expected of them.

More on the Liverpool game in the coming weeks.

Sayonara

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