The Gunners Give Chelsea the Blues

Theo Walcott scores against Chelsea

Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool earning victories in the game week, the onus was on Arsene Wenger’s men to keep up with the leading pack. After the faltering start to the campaign, the Gunners had gathered some momentum with wins over Watford, Hull and Southampton but their resolve was to be tested against a ‘big’ team in the form of Chelsea. The visitors had a bright start to the campaign with three wins from three but their away draw with Swansea was followed by a home loss to Liverpool, revealing the cracks in the defense.

Arsenal attacked their South West London neighbors right from the onset but they had to thank Gary Cahill for a defensive blunder that gifted them the opening goal. The English center back mistimed his intended pass to Thibaut Courtois that was anticipated by the effervescent Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean bore down on goal, waited for Courtois to commit himself, before chipping the ball over the hapless goalie to make it one nil to the Gunners.

Arsenal made a fast start to the game as Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring following a mistake by Chelsea's Gary Cahill

The fans were still basking in the euphoria of grabbing the lead but the team doubled their money when Mesut Ozil combined with Hector Bellerin that squared Theo Walcott for an easy tap in. On the day Wenger made his 20th anniversary, Sanchez scored in his 100th Arsenal game and Walcott scored on his 350th. These lads sure have a sense of occasion.

Conceding those two early goals opened Chelsea up and they did their bit to reduce the deficit but with a calamity like David Luiz in the defense, you would expect more gaping holes, and they were punished when Sanchez combined with Ozil to put the Gunners three up before halftime. Going 3-0 up against Chelsea is something that has not happened in a very long time and it sent the fans into delirium but there was a second half to look forward, and it was important for the lads to keep their concentration in check.

Up stepped Kieran Gibbs, who came up for Alex Iwobi and did his bit to protect Nacho Monreal with minimal fuss. There was a moment when Diego Costa was close to pulling the trigger but Gibbsy made a great interception. Sanchez looked spent and the boss brought on the bearded Olivier Giroud to wind down the clock but Petr Cech had to remain alert to parry a Michy Batshuayi shot late on. The team held on for a famous victory and you could see how it meant to them. Chelsea was one of those bogey teams that have made life quite uncomfortable for Wenger and it was wonderful.

The defending was virtuoso with the Kostafi combination keeping Diego Costa in their pocket for the entirety of the game. The calmness at the back was very welcome and I’m happy to see Bellerin and Monreal picking form too.

On the flip side, there is concern over the fitness of Francis Coquelin. Despite Granit Xhaka’s goalscoring exploits, Le Coq retained his place ahead of the Swiss big-money signing but succumbed to a knee injury and left the field in clutches. Sadly, Wenger also confirmed that it was the same knee he hurt last season, and I’m hoping he wouldn’t be out for a long time. Yes, there is depth in the forms of Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny but ‘Coqzorla’ had formed a formidable partnership in midfield.

All focus would be shifted to the Champions League encounter against FC Basel. More on that in the coming days.


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Lucas Perez Pops his Arsenal Goalscoring Cherry

Granit Xhaka

Nottingham Forest 0-4 Arsenal

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With half an eye on the Chelsea game, it was expected for Arsene Wenger to make wholesale changes to the side and the squad he featured last night was a testament of current depth in the squad. Emi Martinez usurped David Ospina as the Capital One Cup goalie and he had Rob Holding and the fit-again Gabriel Paulista as the center back pairing. Kieran Gibbs captained the side but I was rather surprised to see Aishley Naitland-Miles as the right back, but those concerns were put to rest when I read that Matt Debuchy had some fitness issues. The midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny was very solid with Jeff Reine-Adelaide playing the Ozil role. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chuba Akpom flanked Lucas Perez.

If there was any game we needed Lucas to get into the scoring sheet, it was this game. A certain Olivier Giroud scored his first Arsenal goal in a League Cup fixture against Coventry and he has gone on to score 82 goals for the team. His niggling toe injury kept him out of the side so it was all on Perez to turn up with the goods as an expectant crowd watched.

While we were waiting for the attackers to open the scoring, Arsenal took the lead when Xhaka sent in a surface-to-goal piledriver with that hammer of a left foot. The astonishing part of the goal was the little back lift he required to smash in such a rocket. I’m pretty sure opposition defenses would close him down like Hell when he’s in the edge of their box.

With the Gunners breaking the deadlock, the game opened up and a neat ball to Akpom in behind the Forest defense saw the forward fouled by former Chelsea man, Michael Mancienne (good to know he’s off the ugly looking Rastafarian dreadlocks) and Perez stepped up to score his first Arsenal goal from 12 yards with a well taken spot kick. That goal must have given him a morale boost because he went on to score his second of the night with a brilliant solo effort. After receiving the ball on the edge of the box, Perez showed his pace and upper body strength to shove off a defender before using his neat dribbling skills to waltz past the goalie, Skopjovic, like he wasn’t there. With an open net in front of him and an opposition defender trying to scythe him down, he showed some composure to tuck the ball into the net to put the game beyond doubt.

Perez then scored from scorer to provider as he teed up the frustrating Ox that made it 4-0. A performance he can be very proud off.

Whether it puts him in contention for a start against Chelsea, I don’t know, but Perez has made a case of himself for his manager, and the headache of selection for the Chelsea game will be strictly Wenger’s business. Will he still stick to Alexis Sanchez up front against Chelsea or has the new boy showed him that he can be a force to be reckoned with?

On the night it was a great day in the office and we will wait for tonight’s results before knowing who Arsenal will face in the fourth round.

Till then, Sayonara.

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Time for the Fringe Players to Step Up Against the Lord

Nicklas Bendtner jumps to control the ball

We shift goal posts from the Premier League to the EFL Cup, as the Gunners visit the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest. The EFL will always be fourth in Arsenal’s competition priority list, so it offers the fans the chance to see some players that haven’t featured for quite some time. With David Ospina confirmed as Arsenal’s Champions League goalkeeper, I can safety assume that Emiliano Martinez would be the custodian in goal tonight. Matt Debuchy managed to remain at the club when it seemed as if he was heading towards the exit door, so I’d expect Hector Bellerin to get a breather. Kieran Gibbs would definitely start ahead of Nacho Monreal and it would be nice to see everybody’s favorite new kid on the block, Rob Holding, feature again after such an impressive start to his Arsenal career.

In midfield, we would probably see a Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny combination, as both players haven’t seen as much game time as they’d have liked. Elneny is sure to leave the club in the winter to represent Egypt in the African Cup of Nations, but he’d want to be at optimal fitness levels for that tournament. Following his inconsistent performances in the side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been rightly dropped out of the squad but he’d want to ensure he utilizes such a great opportunity to impress again, ahead of a perceived weaker opposition. Arsenal will do well not to underrate Nottingham Forest, especially when they were spanked by Sheffield Wednesday last season.

All eyes will be on the new signing, Lucas Perez, that hasn’t held down a first team berth yet, with Alexis Sanchez playing as a center forward. With Chelsea on the horizon, the Chilean would be given a breather and with Giroud still struggling with injury, it’s more than certain that Arsenal’s new #9 will spearhead the attack.

The Gunners are coming up against a Nottingham Forest side fresh from a home defeat to Norwich last weekend. Despite opening the scoring with Vellios, they dropped their guard in the second half and conceded two goals to the recently relegated Premier League side. Forest is currently 13th in the Championship, and will be hoping to push for a playoff spot come May.

This game also offers the Gunners a chance to lock horns with the likes of Henri Lansbury and the Lord himself, Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane has been on the news lately, stating that his ‘best striker in the world’ claims haunted him,

“So I’m going to make the best out of the rest of my career and do the best I can. There are many goals I have set myself over the years. Many things I have said and been killed for.

“I actually don’t regret saying I want to be the best striker in the world, because that’s what everyone wants. It’s just that no one wants to say it.

“It has haunted me.

“I was very young and I might have said it too early, before I’d proved I was in that category – or could get in that category.

“But I’m here now and I want to reboot, and get back to just playing.

Let’s see what happens after 90 minutes tonight.