Wenger says ignoring Costa the key to Arsenal beating Chelsea

Arsene Wenger is well aware of the qualities od Diego Costa, so the Arsenal coaches will have been working with the players, especially the ones on the defensive side of the team, on how to best cope with the Spain international and stop him from scoring when Chelsea come to north London in the Premier League today.

It is not just Costa’s abilities as a striker that is worrying the Arsenal boss, however, but his talent as a wind up merchant. The referee Mike Dean was largely to blame for our loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season, as he failed to take action when Costa should have seen red for fouling Koscielny but then sent off Gabriel for his reaction.

That was hard to take but Wenger wants his players to make sure there is no repeat, even if the Chelsea forward is doing his best to get a reaction from the Gunners, as a Daily Mail report explains. Hopefully Gabriel will not be on the pitch today as he does tend to get worked up but the boss wants whoever is playing for Arsenal to keep their cool no matter what.

He said, ‘By being completely cold-blooded and just focusing on your game and not responding.

‘Just try to annihilate his qualities and his game. You need to be committed but by respecting the rules of the game and not responding.’

‘Last year we were a bit unlucky to be down to 10 men at Chelsea because he was suspended after.

‘In the second game we deserved the red card because we were caught on a good run from him.

‘Of course, for the result tomorrow, it will be important the way we play football and the way we behave.

‘Discipline and results are linked.’

That red in the second game came about from a Mertesacker mistake and the good news for us is that neither of the two centre backs done by Costa last season will be playing, so can Arsenal keep 11 players on the pitch this time and finally end the long wait for an EPL win over Chelsea?

BANG! Arsenal defence in shreds as Gabriel out for TWO months

I am not sure exactly what the Arsenal and Brazil international defender Gabriel thinks is bad news, but maybe he is just glad that the ankle problem he picked up in the dying seconds of our pre-season win over Manchester City is not as long term as the knee problem affecting his Arsenal teammate Per Mertesacker.

Earlier today Gabriel seemed to suggest there was good news about his injury, as he took to scoial media to say that he was feeling better and it was not a big problem. Maybe not as big as Mertesacker’s reported five months on the sidelines I suppose, but BBC Sport have reported that the Brazilian is going to miss 6-8 weeks, so I would say that is pretty bad wouldn’t you?

What is certain is that the Arsenal boss has got a real problem as he prepares to kick off the latest Premier League title challenge without his three main centre backs, although our France international Laurent Koscielny could be ready for the second game of the season away to Leicester City next weekend.

So will Arsenal now move fast to sign a central defender, with the Valencia and Germany star Shkodran Mustafi said to be top of the list? Or will he rely on Koscielny, our young defenders Chambers and Holding and perhaps a bit of squad rotation with the full backs and others like Coquelin and Bielik?

Welbeck, Coquelin and Gabriel back for Arsenal at Sunderland

As well as Arsene Wenger wanting his Arsenal players to focus on the job at hand of winning all of our remaining Premier League games and securing a top three finish, he himself has to make sure that they take each game as it comes. And his own task is setting the Gunners up with the best possible chance of beating the team in front of us.

That is why, I think, the Frenchman brought back Olivier Giroud and Per Mertesacker for the midweek game against West Brom. But the away game against a Sunderland desperate for all three points to get them out of the relegation is a different matter.

I think we can expect the Black Cats to be a lot more attack minded than the Baggies were, which will leave more space for the pace and movement of Welbeck to thrive. And I worry about the lack of pace and mobility of Mertesacker being up against the quick feet and speed of Jermain Defoe, so this looks more like a game for Gabriel to me.

I would also like to see the pairing of Coquelin and Elneny back in the middle to cope with the energy and fighting qualities of a Sam Allardyce side. Do you agree with these Arsenal changes?

Will Gabriel injury be one too many for Arsenal?

You could not make it up! How often have we moaned about the Arsenal injury problems and how they have held back our chances of winning the Premier League once again? And here we go again, because although Arsene Wenger had prepared and planned to face Leicester City today with the extra pace of Gabriel to cope with Jamie Vardy, he has had to revert back to Per Mertesacker after the Brazilian was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

We can only wait and hope that this latest injury blow does not hurt us too badly but I have got a bd feeling about it. The Gunners have already had to do without key players like Wilshere, Welbeck, Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Coquelin for large parts of the season and that would damage any team’s chances.

The same thing happened a few years ago when Arsenal were flying high at the top of the table come the new year but then lost key men like Ramsey, Walcott and Ozil and ended up fighting for fourth spot. And do you remember2008, when we looked all set to become champions until that horrendous tackle smashed the leg of Eduardo?

Will this Gabriel problem be the last straw for Arsenal and see yet another title challenge ruined by bad injury luck?

Arsenal team and tactics have a BIG surprise for Leicester

A lot of the build up to this potentially pivotal match in the race for the Premier League title has been about whether the pressure will be on Arsenal who are currently five points behind the league leaders and today’s opponents Leicester City, with both Arsene Wenger and Claudio Ranieri trying to play the mind games and insist that it is the other team that will be feeling the pressure.

At the same time, however, the managers have been trying to feel each other out tactically and I think that Wenger has been deliberately throwing a few red herrings in his rival’s path. So the Frenchman has been calmly talking about the Arsenal approach being our usual style of dominating possession and pushing forward for a goal, while also suggesting that it will be Gabriel instead of Mertesacker next to Koscielny in defence because we will be playing a high line and worried about the pace of Vardy, Mahrez and all.

I have a sneaking feeling that Wenger has done this to get the Foxes ready to play a certain way, while he has actually set up Arsenal to play the patient game and actually concede a bit of possession. And I think he will bring the big German back in.

The BFG may be slow but he is still a great defender and rarely misses a tackle. And with his experience and cool head he seems to bring the best out of Koscielny. So if I am right, Wenger’s plan is to unsettle and confuse Leicester and make them play out of their comfort zone.

It is a risky tactic and the creative and attacking players of Arsenal will need to be on their toes to make the most of fewer chances, but then again it is a risky tactic to play into the hands of Leicester as Man City found out last week.

Is language the only thing holding back Arsenal star?

If you ask most Arsenal fans which player they would lke to start in the centre of defence next to Laurent Koscielny against Leicester tomorrow then I reckon the cast proportion would go for Gabriel over Per Mertesacker. Even though the German has huge experience, including the small matter of a World Cup win, and has a great record in partnership with Koscielny at the back, we cannot help but feel nervous about his lack of pace being exposed, especially when you are up against a team like the Foxes that has great pace up front and plays on the counter.

After Arsene Wenger kept the Brazilian in the starting line up even when the BFG had served his ban for the red card against Chelsea, I get the impression that the boss was thinking about Gabriel for the Leicester game, but a lot of people have been wondering why Wenger has not used him very much up until now.

Perhaps the answer lies in the Nacho Monreal interview reported by Arsenal.com this week. In it the Spaniard spoke highly of his Brazilian team mate and the left back clearly thinks that Arsenal have got ourselves a real player from the Spanish club Villarreal. But he also feels that the language barrier has been holding Gabriel back, just at it did to Monreal when he first came to the Premier League.

The Spaniard said, “It’s good that I can speak Spanish with him on the pitch, but Gabby knows he needs to improve his English because that will make the football easier.

“Myself, Hector, everyone is helping him every day with it because it’s much better for the team.

“I know exactly how he feels, because it was the same for me when I first arrived. When my English got better, I got better on the pitch too, because when you are playing one of the most important things is confidence.

“If you are confident in yourself, you feel better because you are more relaxed and you feel the authority to correct things you see. You feel more involved in the group.”

With Gabriel, three out of Arsenal’s back four will be Spanish speaking and then you have Alexis Sanchez and possibly Joel Campbell, while Mesut Ozil spent years with Real Madrid in La Liga. Is that helping Gabriel ti feel settled? And as his English improves will he get the nod more often over Mertesacker?

Ox is IN and Walcott’s OUT for Arsenal at Bournemouth

Theo Walcott has paid the price for his struggles in front of goal for Arsenal recently, as Arsene Wenger has dropped the England international to the subs bench for the trip to Bournemouth today, with the improving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in to play in the wide forward role on the right flank.

The Ox has not had a great season so far but he has looked a lot better in the last few weeks and now he has a great chance to force his way into the first team on a regular basis. Let’s just hope he grabs the chance with both hands because Arsenal are badly in need of some goals and a win today.

Wenger has also reacted to the pace of the Bournemouth attack, with the boss well aware of the danger of former Gunner Benik Afobe, by starting with the Brazilian centre back Gabriel next to Koscielny and Mertesacker on the bench. Flamini starts ahead of Coquelin and I can only assume that is because the younger player is not yet fully up top speed after his injury lay-off.

Cech
Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal
Flamini, Ramsey
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez
Giroud

Subs: Gibbs, Mertesacker, Ospina, Walcott, Campbell, Coquelin, Iwobi.

Will this Arsenal XI get us back to winning ways?

Star says Arsenal showing fantastic fight and focus

It was far from easy for Arsenal at home to Newcastle United on Saturday. In fact it was the sort of Premier League game that the Gunners would probably have lost in recent years, but Arsene Wenger and the players have forged the team into one that is usually much more resilient these days.

And that was what we needed to prove once more as Steve Mclaren’s side gave Arsenal a real test of our desire, determination and the fighting qualities that make a team more than the sum of it’s parts. Our vice-captain and centre back Per Mertesacker was very pleased at the way Arsenal responded and managed to claim another vital three points, as he explained to Arsenal Player.

The big German said, “We put in everything and we had to because Newcastle were good on the break and could have taken the lead as well. When you dig in and fight for you team-mates you get your reward.

“We never lost our lost our focus or our passion, and neither did the fans. We believe we can be a good team if we put the effort in. That is what it is all about. That is what I kept saying to the lads. To keep a clean sheet as long as possible and we did it all the way through.

“We are a threat offensively and could have scored more in the end. We need to share the ball better at times in front of the goal. We are pretty delighted with the performance where we did well and now we are looking forward to 2016 and having a successful season.”

We all know that Arsenal can be one of the most creative and attractive teams in the world at times but are we now showing the grit and team spirit to add to that ability and make us true contenders to become the champions of England again?

Arsenal boss considering Gabriel and Koscielny together

After the shocker that he had for Arsenal on Boxing Day when he was one of the players most at fault for the heavy beating the Gunners took at the hands of Southampton, a lot of people were surprised to see that it was the German centre back Per Mertesacker that was on the bench for the Bournemouth match.

But it was not down to poor performances that Arsene Wenger rested Laurent Koscielny. The France international defender has had a few niggling injury concerns in the last year or so and with just a couple of days between matches I assume the boss was making sure our best defender was alright for the rest of the season.

The question for many Arsenal fans now is whether the boss will start putting Gabriel instead of Mertesacker in the centre of our defence with him. The Brazilian had a storming game last night and the subject came up in Wenger’s post match interview which you can read in full on the Arsenal website.

The boss said, “We didn’t speak about him because Ozil took the whole press conference. I think he was dangerous from set-pieces and defenced very well. He had good focus, was agile, quick and very strong in the challenge.

“I don’t know yet [if he will start the next game]. I rested one or two for the game because the players at the back have played many games there is a possibility.”

I don’t know about the rest of you Arsenal fans out there but I certainly hope to see him given another chance and with Newcastle next up it is a great chance to see him and Koscielny together. I still think that the German has a big part to play for us but if Gabriel is in better form he should be starting. Or was this just one good game against a struggling side?

WHOA! Arsenal star AGREES with Mourinho taunts

Maybe the Arsenal defender was not aware of what Jose Mourinho, the Lex Luthor to Arsene Wenger´s Superman, said this week about the Gunners and our failure to challenge them for the Premier League title. Or maybe the World Cup winning German just does not care, but he has agreed with the Chelsea boss and his assessment of our season, as reported by The Mirror.

Mourinho did not put it quite the same way of course, with his jibe about Arsenal asking FIFA if the BPL season could run from January to April, but the conclusions were the same, that our failure to get going cost us a proper chance of the trophy. Mertesacker went further as well and blamed the hangover felt by Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and himself after winning the World Cup in Brazil.

He said, “We had a kind of post-World Cup trauma for half a year.

“The first months, in particular, were quite difficult to come back and to come down and to forget that, forget that feeling of being World Cup champion.

“That’s what you need to have, you need to forget about that, to come down a bit, to calm down and to restart. That took nearly half a year to realise that.

“Most of the players got injured, I avoided that but didn’t play at my best, but that was because I hadn’t experienced this feeling before. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I tried to forget about that, about the World Cup.

“At one point I was happy not to get an injury, but on the other hand it was very difficult to find the form and the fitness, because we hadn’t had that pre-season and the season was already being played when we just started. It was very strange.

“Mentally it effects your body as well you know. You can’t say one or the other. It was just the whole thing. Without pre-season, physically as well to come back to compete at Premier League level.

“I knew maybe there would be some criticism to form, but I didn’t get injured so I tried to prepare even more – doing more yoga, more treatment, more things like that to come to a certain level where I can compete again. From my experience, it took half a year.”

So on that note I guess we Arsenal fans should want anyone but Chile to win the Copa America this summer.