Eyebrows raised at Wenger´s Arsenal team for Bournemouth

Some Arsenal fans and football pundits were left a little confused in midweek after Arsene Wenger chose to hand a rare start to Olivier Giroud. Not because the French international forward is no good but because he finally got a start in a match that was probably the least suited to the big man´s talents as a player.

After starting him against PSG though, we all expected him to be in the line up for the game against Bournemouth in the Premier League today, as it looks to be the ideal sort of encounter for Giroud, against a deep lying and determined defence, but Wenger has surprised everyone again and left Olivier on the bench.

Instead he has gone back to Alexis Sanchez through the middle with Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain on either side of him. Another noticeable and unexpected change is the inclusion of Matthieu Debuchy at right back, so let´s hope the forgotten French defender will rise to the occasion.

In midfield the boss has opted for Xhaka and Elneny and dropped Coquelin and Ramsey so it will be interesting to see if they can answer the manager´s call for someone to take over the mantle o9f Santi Cazorla and get Arsenal playing like we were before the Spaniard picked up an injury.

Cech
Debuchy, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal
Elneny, Xhaka
Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Sanchez

Subs: Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Giroud, Ospina, Iwobi, Coquelin.

Arsenal to start Giroud at Ludogorets but who else?

It is not a 100 percent accurate way of telling which Arsenal players will be in the starting line-up, but almost every time Arsene Wenger chooses one of the Gunners to do a press conference with him then that player will be in the team.

Yesterday the Arsenal boss spoke to the football media as Arsenal prepare for the Champions League away tie with Ludogorets and it was the two goal hero from Saturday’s win at Sunderland, Olivier Giroud, who fielded questions alongside Wenger, as the match preview in The Mirror shows.

This is hardly surprising with the big French forward back and raring to go after a spell out of the side with injury, but with the manager also stating hi9s determination to finish on top of our Champions League group for the first time in seven years, it will be interesting to see how many other changes he makes and whether he rests some of the big players for the north London derby clash with Tottenham at the weekend.

Wenger said, “Finishing first is our prime target. Step by step: qualify first. We have played Paris Saint-Germain away, and play them at home to come.

“We have a good opportunity to finish top. It is an advantage because you play the second game in the last 16 at home, so you know exactly what you have to achieve at home.

“You have the support. If it goes to extra-time or penalties, you play at home. So it’s a little advantage.

“But if you can finish first, why finish second? We have paid the price many times when we’ve finished second, having to play Barcelona or Bayern Munich. So we think it’s important.”

The prof has learnt the hard way over the last six seasons what finishing second can mean so it sounds like he is determined not to do so this year. However we already have to do without Monreal, Walcott, Cazorla and Bellerin, so I think he cannot afford to rest any more first choice Gunners, making my line-up look like this.

Ospina
Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs
Xhaka, Ramsey
Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis
Giroud

Is this how you want Arsenal to line up tonight?

Can Arsenal beat Sunderland without Cazorla, Walcott and Xhaka?

We saw last week in the draw against Boro how much Arsenal can miss the creative spark of Sanri Cazorla in the middle of the pitch, making the harsh red card shown to our summer signing Granit Xhaka even more annoying. The Spaniard is still not fit to play after picking up an injury and the Swisss international is serving the final game of his ban so once again Arsene Wenger is forced to go with Elneny and Coquelin in midfield.

At least Aaron Ramsey is back on the bench so if we are struggling to break down Sunderland as we did in last week’s game the boss can turn to the Welshman on the bench. Arsenal’s usual injury problems seem to be back with a bang as Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott are also absent from the squad, so Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs start.

Apart from that we have the same side and we also have the option of Giroud from the bench so with the likes of Ozil and Alexis Sanchez having had a rest this week you would still expect Arsenal to be too good for struggling Sunderland.

Or will the creeping injury crisis bite us on the bum?

Should Arsenal take Man United’s money and run!

According to reports in today’s newspapers, Manchester United have identified Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey, as a potential target to bolster their midfield.

Reports suggest that new Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is on the lookout for a new midfielder. After missing out on new Manchester City player Ikay Gundogan and the potential deal for Henrik Mkhitaryan still some way away, Mourinho has lined up Ramsey as his next port of call, should the bid for Mkhitaryan fail.

According to the papers, United are willing to spend up to £50 million on Ramsey, an obscene amount of money in my opinion, but a figure that Barcelona was also supposedly willing to pay back in the summer break of last season. Then again transfer figures have gone out the window in the competitive game, as £35 million will supposedly only buy you Troy Deeney these days.
Whilst Ramsey openly stated that the idea of living and playing in Spain attracts him, the Welshman has previously rejected United, before his move to Arsenal.

Ramsey was playing for Cardiff as a teenager and two of England’s biggest clubs locked horns to get the Welsh midfielder. Ramsey had offers from both clubs, but liked how Arsene Wenger contacted him personally and that Arsenal were also notorious for giving young players a chance in the first team. Ramsey subsequently rejected United (who he was supposedly a fan of) for Arsenal and moved to the Gunners in a cheap deal of £5 million plus add ons.

Many fans get on Ramsey’s back, primarily because like Giroud, he try’s to play in a fancy manner and look impressive for the camera, rather than play simple. Although it is impressive when pulled off correctly, more often then not his antics mean we lose possession and we are occasionally put on the backfoot. Aaron had a fantastic season a few years back and he was arguably our best player that year. He was confident, strong and not afraid to take a chance, but now his development as a all round midfielder has stagnated once again. Ramsey needs to pick up his game before he’s worth £50 million again in my opinion, so perhaps Wenger should take the money and run. It’s not like we are short of midfielders….

Strong Arsenal XI for Southampton has SEVEN changes

Arsene Wenger made nine changes to the Arsenal starting line-up for the FA cup match against Burnley on Saturday, but it was still a pretty strong Arsenal side and two of those changes were first team players making their return from injury.

We also saw Mohamed Elneny make his Arsenal debut, while Per Mertesacker was banned after being sent off against Chelsea, so all those changes were not really down to the boss playing a weakened team. So if the boss does make the seven changes that I expect him to for the visit of Southampton today then he will still be selecting his strongest 11 players.

I think that Coquelin and Alexis will keep their places and I think that our German centre back will return to partner Koscielny, with both full backs also changing, even though Gibbs and Chambers both had very good games. It is great for the boss to have these strong options but with the cup game having only been three days ago he will want freshness as well as quality on the pitch.

That is why I think Wenger will go for Joel Campbell instead of Walcott, with Ozil and Ramsey coming back into the side and Giroud and Sanchez keeping their places.

Cech
Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
Coquelin, Ramsey
Campbell, Ozil, Alexis
Giroud

Is this the right Arsenal team to get revenge on the Saints?

Arsenal team for Burnley in FA cup is VERY strong

Arsene Wenger is having to walk a fine line with his Arsenal team selection today. The Frenchman must balance the need to get through to the next round of the FA cup and stay on track for a record three trophy wins in a row, with the need to treat the Premier League title race as a priority.

He also needs to weigh up the benefits of playing a strong side against the desire to rest some key players like Mesut Ozil agead of the game against Southampton in the league on Tuesday. It is all about risk and reward really and the boss suggested in his press conference that because Arsenal really need a win after three games without one he would be leaning towards as strong a team as possible.

Ospina
Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs
Coquelin, Ramsey
Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis
Giroud

This starting line up, for me, is very strong and will hopefully see Arsenal take control of the game against Burnley and get us into a strong position so that Wenger can then bring off the likes of Ramsey and Ozil and give them a little rest. What do you think of this Arsenal XI for the cup?

Arsenal bounce back to begin FA cup defence in style

Towards the end of the FA cup clash between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates stadium, the poor old Black Cats of Sam Allardyce looked like they did not know what day it was. The Gunners were in full flow and could have scored a hatful of goals as the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Joel Campbell, Bellerin, Giroud and all ran rings around the tiring visitors.

But it was not always so comfortable and the Arsenal players had to dig deep into the resources of energy and application after a slow start and a mistake gave Sunderland the lead about halfway through the first half. They had other chances as well, including a header that came crashing off the bar early in the second half.

But after the blow of going behind you have to praise Arsenal for the way we kept our heads and bounced back with three well taken goals from Campbell, Ramsey and Giroud. It was another example of how much more resilient that current side ar than we were a few years ago and it bodes well for Arsenal going all the way and making history with a third FA cup trophy success on the spin.

Are these two Arsenal stars really BEST in EPL?

Maybe the fact that the ringing endorsement of two Arsenal stars came from TV pundits that used to play for big Premier League rivals of ours should give them a lot more credence. To be honest, Arsenal fans are much more used to hearing some heavy criticism aimed at various Gunners in the press, so it was certainly a surprise.

Maybe Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand were caught up in the excitement of the former Arsenal striker Ian Wright, who was busy dancing around the BT sport studio as Wenger´s men pulled off an amazing Champions League result to seal out progress into the next round.

I don´t think so though. I just think that their comments reported by the Daily Mail were really what they believe. The former Liverpool captain is widely regarded as one of the best central midfielders ever to grace the Premier League so for him to say that Aaron Ramsey is the best of the current crop playing in England is some endorsement.

Gerrard said, “Mentally I don’t think he’ll be happy himself playing out wide.

“He hasn’t got the legs. His qualities are all in the middle.

“For me, when he’s in that form he’s the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League, so you’ve got to play your best players where they want to be, and I’m sure he’ll want to be in the middle.”

And the former Man United captain, who still holds the Premier League transfer fee record for a defender, was equally impressed with the qualities of our France international centre back Laurent Koscielny and he snubbed the current United and England defender Chris Smalling at the same time.

Ferdinand said, “Koscielny for me, when he’s on form I think he’s the best defender in the league.

“Kompany’s not fit enough consistently enough and he’s turned into a real top class defender.”

So what do you make of these claims about two of our Arsenal stars?

Awesome Arsenal avoid Greek tragedy

Well Arsenal fans we did it! Did you really believe? The players certainly did and I have to give Arsene Wenger full credit for getting the Gunners in the right frame of mind. This result and they way it was done could well give the team a huge boost that sees go from strength to strength in the Premier League as well as the Champions League.

Even after a tough start when Olympiacos put us under real pressure, the players stood firm and never let the hostile atmosphere get under their skin. So once Arsenal had started to take the game under control about halfway through the first half, we never let it go.

Olivier Giroud grabbed the headlines and desrvedly so for a great game and his first hat-trick, but it was a full and complete team performance from us. Mertesacker and Koscielny were briliant, making crucial blocks and interceptions and never letting the home team get on top.

Flamini did a great job of protecting them and Ramsey was excellent. THe pair of them put in a huge shift. Another real star was Joel Campbell who was even clapped off by the Greek fans. Walcott was a touch rusty but his movement and pace were a constant worry.

Top Gunners all over the pitch and hopefully we will get a decent draw next Monday. Until then enjoy a fantastic night for Arsenal.

Flamini has MASSIVE job for Arsenal in Greece

While a lot of the talk and emphasis from Arsenal as we prepare for the crunch clash with Olympiacos in Greece tonight has been on the attacking side of our game, the Gunners cannot abandon the other side of the game. So it will be a big night for the back four and the keeper Petr Cech because an Olympiacos goal means we have to score at least three times.

But with all the focus on Arsenal creating and scoring goals against the Greek champions, I think the mist important position in our team is that of the defensive midfielder. I assume it will be Mathieu Flamini with Aaron Ramsey in the box-to-box role and it is vital that the Frenchman has a good game.

He needs to be very disciplined for one thing, especially in the early stages. None of this trying to join in with the attack and getting in the box. Flamini is the player that must be aware and ready to stop any possible counter attack from Olympiacos.

It would be nice to think that Ramsey could be disciplined as well but I have my doubts, especially if the need for goals keeps getting more urgent as time slips away. If we get into the last 15 minutes and things are looking desperate then it might be time to throw caution to the winds and get Flamini forward. Until then, however, the French midfielder has the most important job in the team and must provide good protection to the defence.

Is tonight the night we really start to miss Francis Coquelin?