MATCH REPORT: TOTTENHAM 2-0 ARSENAL

Arsenal have lost 2-0 versus Tottenham Hotspur in the final North London Derby to be played at the original White Hart Lane.

Second half goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane sealed the Gunners’ fate against their fierce local rivals, with the Emirates Stadium outfit also dropping precious points in the hunt for a top four finish.

Kane was the first to claim a shot on goal, coming as early as the first minute, making Petr Čech work to keep ahold of an effort from a tight angle.

Spurs looked towards Kane again in the 22nd minute, beating the offside trap before his shot ricocheted over to Dele Alli at the back post, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doing just enough to force the attacker’s header wide.

The hosts came close once more three minutes later, as Son Heung-Min tore through the left before seeing his shot deflected away by Laurent Koscielny, but the intervention then sat up for Christian Eriksen to scrape the crossbar on the volley with the goal at his mercy.

Aaron Ramsey kept Hugo Lloris on his toes with a guided effort from range in the 38th minute, with the French goalkeeper pushing the strike away for an Arsenal corner.

At the other end, Jan Vertonghen tried his luck on his right foot, as Čech got down well to safeguard Arsenal’s goal before half time.

Spurs continued on top into the second half, with Vincent Wanyama calling Čech into action with a curling effort, whereas Son caused his fair share of danger when striking the side-netting from the subsequent corner in the 48th minute.

The Gunners responded through Olivier Giroud, who fizzed a spare left-footed volley just over the crossbar moments later.

Arsène Wenger’s men continued to find the likes of Eriksen difficult to contain, however, who initiated the entrance into Arsenal’s box and saw Dele Alli bundle in his rebound to break the deadlock in the 55th minute.

The scenario complicated itself further a minute later, as Gabriel Paulista clipped Kane inside the box for a Tottenham penalty, later converted by the England international to make it 2-0.

Vertonghen renewed his duel with Čech, this time on his favoured left foot, as the Arsenal man kept out Spurs’ third of the afternoon in the 67th minute.

Čech offered more respite into the final 15 minutes, denying both Kane and Toby Alderweireld on separate occasions.

Second half substitute Theo Walcott had his rare sighting of goal in the 86th minute, but a tame shot set Arsenal on their way to a disappointing 2-0 defeat.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (7); Gabriel Paulista (3), Laurent Koscielny (5), Nacho Monreal (5); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Granit Xhaka (5), Aaron Ramsey (5), Kieran Gibbs (4); Mesut Özil (5), Olivier Giroud (4), Alexis Sanchez (5)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (4), Héctor Bellerín (4), Theo Walcott (4)

BLOG: THE CAPTAIN CRISIS

The selection of a Captain is a delicate process, one of immense attentiveness and thought. Leadership, effective communication, discipline, and experience are all traits a manager should look for in a captain and then some, and while current captain Per Mertesacker was once someone who successfully personified all of these traits for several seasons with Arsenal, I believe that the search for a new captain must now begin. So moving forward, who are the best candidates to take on this prestigious role? Let’s take a look at some options.

Laurent Koscielny

The talented Frenchman is currently an assistant captain for the Gunners, and for the majority of the season he has been wearing the captain’s armband. He has proven on a consistent basis that he has what it takes to captain the side, with a plethora of both domestic and international experience. One of, if not the most, important roles a captain must fulfill is being an effective communicator with the team throughout matches. If there were room for improvement for Laurent, it would be here. I believe that he is an outstanding player, extremely disciplined and skilled as well, however I feel as if he does not communicate enough with the midfield and back line as effectively as we need him to. When I watch Arsenal week in, week out, I blast the volume on my TV to purposely try and hear him yelling commands, and unfortunately, I happen to not hear him more than I do hear him. Nonetheless, Koscielny has boatloads of experience ranging from the World Cup and Euros, to Champions League clashes with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. For some reason, the captain role feels like it comes natural to Laurent, and for that reason, I believe he might be our best option to captain the side at the moment.

 

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Laurent Koscielny captaining the squad during an FA Cup match during the 2015/16 season.

Petr Cech

At certain points throughout last year’s campaign and at times this season I played with the idea of Petr Cech taking over the captains role, I mean, he’s overly experienced having won over 300 caps and several trophies for Chelsea, plus his age enables him to quickly demand respect from any and everyone in the locker room. However, whatever thoughts I had about Cech obtaining the role of captain, have dramatically diminished as the season has dragged on. Not only did he miss nearly a month of football through a calf strain, but his form has also gone out the window. Last season, Cech had 16 clean sheets and had conceded 31 goals through 34 appearances, compare that to this season where in 5 less appearances, he has only 9 clean sheets and has conceded 33 goals. Now, I know that I, nor you, should judge a Captain based solely off of his performances, however these sorts of things come to mind when choosing the next leader of this club. Do we really want someone who is lacking in confidence and form as well, to be leading our club? His controlling cadence, experience, and discipline however, allow for me to easily place him as second in line to take over the captain’s role if something were to happen to Bosscielny.

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Theo Walcott

I wanted to throw Theo in as an option simply because he has captained the Gunners a few times this season and in the past, but it’s a stretch. Theo has been with the club for over a decade, so the experience is there, but he just doesn’t strike me as a leader within the squad like the way I view Koscielny or Petr. I just think Theo has a little more he needs to learn about the game before we can fully hand over the captain’s band to him, but he serves as a nice replacement down the road.

 

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These three players are certainly some good choices in regards to selecting a new captain, but honestly I don’t think either of the three are superb options. Ideally, if I were to sculpt the perfect captain, he would be as follows: experienced, both at the club and country level, have a gritty and demanding tenor, speak English well enough to effectively communicate to the starting XI, smart, and of course loved both inside and outside the locker room. When I think of a captain, I think John Terry, Philip Lahm, Steven Gerrard, somebody who isn’t afraid to get under their teammates skin to bring out the best in them, and for the past few years, I just haven’t seen that with this Arsenal. But as of right now Arsenal fans around the world should be worrying about other issues, not about who will be Arsenal’s next Patrick Vieira.

 

Follow me on Twitter: j_kulla

 

 

BLOG: CONTRACT REBELS?

Will they? Won’t they? What does it all mean for Arsenal FC? Are we still a ‘big club’? So many questions, so few games remaining, so much uncertainty.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil remain our two most important and valuable players, which is why it is integral for them to be kept on to build the team around. But I’m here to talk about what it would mean if they didn’t sign. I can see the motivation for wanting a move; Trophies, Money, Career progression in short. However what both players clearly thrive on are to be the main men at their clubs. Ozil seems ok playing second fiddle to Alexis, however is revered by our fan base and therefore loves playing for Arsenal Football Club. Alexis knows that he’s our most important player and thrives on the responsibility that we heap on his shoulders. He loves that. Pep Guardiola had recently said of Alexis that he really wanted to be the difference maker at Barcelona and while he did contribute in a big way whilst there, he was always going to be second fiddle to Lionel Messi. That’s what any player has to understand when moving to Barcelona. And so he moved to pastures new, finding the perfect blend at Arsenal. Or so he thought.

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In the last two months we’ve seen that the team and quite possibly the manager is going through a transitional phase. It’s almost as if the club has been left to float in an uncomfortable space whilst minds are made up at the very top as to the direction of Arsenal from the summer onward. This is what has led to a delay in the contracts being signed. This as well as both players trying to get as much money as possible for their last ‘big’ contract at a truly competitive club anyway. There will likely be big money offers as their careers disappear into the sunset from China and the MLS in a few years from now, however the next contract is the one that is the most significant of their careers. They will want to know who their new manager is, they will also want to know if they fit the managers plans (I can’t imagine this being an issue in all honesty unless we have a manager who writes for a tabloid) and they’ll also want to know what the transfer plans are for the summer to ensure that Arsenal remain competitive. All of that as well as a bumper new contract. It’s not just a question of one or two elements, there are a lot of moving parts and therefore a lot of room for deliberation exists, not to mention the uncertainty that surrounds the manager.

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But let’s just say that they don’t sign and they do look for moves away. Alexis Sanchez has 18 months left on his contract and therefore we can look to get around £60-70m for a player of his calibre in today’s market. The Clubs that he could join in my view are PSG, Bayern Munich, Man City & Chelsea. He’s done Italy and Spain, seems to like the Premier League intensity but also wants to win the biggest prizes. Whilst the lure of Pep at City would probably be his favoured destination were he to leave I just don’t think we will be held to ransom by another English club. He fits at Chelsea where he would probably take Pedro’s role, however again I just don’t think that we will be held to ransom as we’ve seen in the past. The most likely destinations are Bayern or PSG and Bayern tend to be more sensible in their transfer offers therefore I think that PSG would be the only  realistic option both for him and Arsenal. They would pay the required money and have the lure of potential success.

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As far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, I genuinely think that he is truly happy here and more importantly truly happy playing for Arsene Wenger. However if he were also to leave we would look to command at least £50m for the worlds most creative number 10. His list of suitors would be similar to that of Alexis Sanchez. Madrid may want him back, Bayern would indeed love him there, PSG also another option but I can’t see that any English clubs would be after him. The only other team whose style he suits could be Man Utd as he’s played under Mourinho previously, but they already have Pogba and Mkhitaryan who are number 10s that aren’t being played in their position. As well as this there’s just no way that we would sell to an English club.

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The combined transfer fees would look like £110m in addition to the £100m warchest being banded about, which would mean a lot of new faces and a massive squad rebuild. I almost think that if this were the case it would be the perfect way to bring in a new manager as well. He could truly put his stamp on the squad and shape it in exactly the way he wants. The squad, in my opinion, is good enough to be competing and the players are only just now showing signs of fight. We all know that Wenger cares profusely for the club, however just how much can he get out of this squad going beyond this season? If Wenger is to stay he must ensure that he keeps a hold of both Ozil and Alexis, as if they both do leave, it will be Wenger that puts his own £200m stamp on a squad that won’t be his for more than 2 years afterwards. That would be grossly unfair and unjust on the incoming new manager, whenever that may be and would cause a longer term imbalance to the squad. That in itself is not The Arsenal way.

In my opinion both players will indeed stay as well as Arsene Wenger and the rebuild will be set for another time. Of the above scenarios, if keeping both players means keeping Wenger for a little bit more then I say it’s the right thing to do. Whatever happens we are in for an intense summer. A lot of plates remain spinning and we need to ensure that the right people are in place both on and off the pitch to ensure none of them come crashing down.

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-1 MANCHESTER CITY

Arsenal have booked their place in the FA Cup final with a 2-1 win over Manchester City, courtesy of an extra-time strike from Alexis Sanchez.

Nacho Monreal’s equaliser deep into the second half cancelled out Sergio Agüero’s 62nd minute opener, leaving Sanchez to steal the headlines with a goal in the 101st minute to set a date with Chelsea in an all-London final next month.

The Gunners claimed the game’s first chance when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Olivier Giroud with a cross that was headed straight at Claudio Bravo, but it was Man City who emerged the strongest in the first half, as David Silva pulled a save out of Petr Čech in the 15th minute.

Sergio Agüero looked to pull the trigger in one of his rare openings for City, but couldn’t do much more than hit the side-netting in the 38th minute.

The Citizens will be aggrieved, however, to see an Agüero goal ruled out in the 40th minute, eventually bundled over by Sterling for further confirmation before the linesman judged Leroy Sané’s initial cross to have curved out of play before reaching its destination.

The officials continued to be in the limelight as the game drifted into half-time, dismissing a tug on Alexis Sanchez’s shirt by Jesus Navas inside the City box that would’ve otherwise seen the Chilean earn a penalty.

Granit Xhaka and Raheem Sterling traded blocked efforts from dangerous positions, with Arsenal appearing the strongest of the two sides following the half-time interval, but Agüero would soon shift the mood inside Wembley when racing away from Nacho Monreal on the counter and dinking the ball over a hesitant Čech, breaking the deadlock in the 62nd minute.

The Gunners continued to go toe-to-toe with City, however, and found themselves level no less than ten minutes later, as Monreal finished Chamberlain’s back-post cross expertly on his right foot.

Čech would go on to redeem himself in the 79th minute, getting the faintest of touches to push a Yaya Touré half-volley onto the post.

Arsenal were kept in the contest again by the woodwork in the 82nd minute, this time via Touré’s midfield partner, Fernandinho, with a strong header onto the crossbar from a corner.

Contrarily, second-half substitute Danny Welbeck might well have taken Arsène Wenger’s men over the line with four minutes to spare, but his placed finish could only graze the wrong side of Bravo’s far post before extra time.

Rob Holding claimed the first opportunity in the 6th minute of extra time, jumping in half-a-yard of space to head just over the crossbar.

Further joy for the North Londoners in front of goal would eventually come, set by Laurent Koscielny’s header back into the danger zone, as Welbeck miss-kicked his effort before Sanchez followed up to smash Arsenal into the lead.

Momentum remained on Arsenal’s side when Welbeck scuppered a great opportunity make it 3-1 with a header at the back-post, as the two sides entered the final break of the game.

Through Kevin De Bruyne, City charged on in search of the all-important equaliser, but Fabian Delph would go on to fail to find the target from the Belgian’s lay-off in the 110th minute, with Holding playing his part.

De Bruyne himself neared the leveller, flashing a strike across goal that remained untouched on its way out four minutes later.

The Gunners also continued to look threatening on the counter in the meantime, but two goals would be all Arsenal required to make it past City and into the FA Cup final.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (6); Gabriel Paulista (8), Laurent Koscielny (7), Rob Holding (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8), Granit Xhaka (7), Aaron Ramsey (8), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (6), Olivier Giroud (5), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Héctor Bellerín (6), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: MIDDLESBROUGH 1-2 ARSENAL

Arsenal have brought a dismal run of three consecutive away defeats to an end with a 2-1 victory versus Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

19th-placed Boro were amongst the small crop of Premier League sides who had done just as bad as Arsène Wenger’s men, results wise, in recent weeks, as the Frenchman experimented with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time this season.

The Gunners were given the lead through Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick in the first half and, despite Álvaro Negredo’s equaliser in the second period, the North Londoners were then able to seal all three points through Mesut Özil in the final quarter of the game.

With both clubs coming under renewed pressure ahead of this fixture, the mood was telling in a cagey opening to affairs.

A potential penalty shout on Olivier Giroud in the 17th minute shook off some of the cobwebs, whereas a two-minute salvo from the 27th minute saw Aaron Ramsey and Alexis fire the first strikes at Middlesbrough’s goal, neither of them proving to be troublesome.

Arsenal were then given the chance to crack the deadlock via a free-kick, which was won by Granit Xhaka over Adam Clayton on the edge of the box.

Alexis claimed responsibility for the free-kick and delivered with an inch-perfect effort to give Arsenal the lead in the 42nd minute.

Middlesbrough proved to be a different beast in the second period, however, as Álvaro Negredo equalised with a stab at the ball inside the box when getting the better of Laurent Koscielny from Stewart Downing’s cross in the 50th minute.

George Friend sought to complicate matters for Arsenal further with a marauding run down the left four minutes later, but Downing’s execution following the full back’s cross spared the Gunners.

Daniel Ayala then came close to giving the hosts the lead with a diving header from close range, but was subsequently denied by the well-positioned Petr Čech on the hour mark.

Arsenal’s response came through an Alexis pass that left Mesut Özil one-on-one with Brad Guzan, with little room for the Arsenal man to get an adequate shot away meaning the goalkeeper would be the man to come out on top on this occasion.

The game continued to open up, however, with Ramsey cushioning an Alexis’ pass down to assist Özil for a volleyed finish inside the box, placing Arsenal back in the lead in the 71st minute.

Aerial threat proved to be Middlesbrough’s currency, as they came close to goal once more from a set-piece, but Čech was again on hand to collect a laboured swing of the leg from Ben Gibson.

Giroud neared the killer blow with an audacious lob on the Boro keeper with seconds to spare, skipping just wide, meaning a 2-1 lead would be enough to return Arsenal back to winning ways away from home.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Gabriel Paulista (5), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (5); Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain (6), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Nacho Monreal (5); Mesut Özil (7), Alexis Sanchez (7), Olivier Giroud (5)

BLOG: 5 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM CRYSTAL PALACE VS ARSENAL

After yet another utterly dismal and painful performance away from the Emirates, the Gunners find themselves at 6th in the table, a whole 7 points behind 4th place Man City. Here are 5 things we learned after the devastating loss:

1) Has Bellerin lost the plot?

Throughout the match I had been keeping tabs on players and writing notes, and within probably 10 minutes I already had a handful of comments to make about the young Spaniard. I love the kid, and I’m certain (dash through, know) most Gunners do as well, however, he is starting to become the one player that I expect to have a poor match every time he steps on the pitch. I mean seriously, what has happened to the kid! Ever since his return from injury back in December, Hector has not nearly been at the elite level he was once at last season. He can’t seem to play in a proper cross, unlike last season where he was a constant attacking threat down the wings and outpacing almost every defender thrown at him, he can’t mark his man, and he doesn’t seem to have ANY confidence whatsoever on the ball. And the fact that he was booed after trying to clap off the away fans will surely hurt his confidence some more. Something needs to change with him and his mindset, and real soon.

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Bellerin applauding the away fans, only to get booed off.

2) Who is threading the needle in the midfield?

It goes without saying that man like Cazorla has been, and will be missed dearly until the end of this nightmarish season. When Cazorla is inserted into the starting XI, things just flow much smoother than without him and here’s why. Analyzing the Palace match, you will see that Ozil occupied a much deeper role as opposed to his traditional #10 role up the pitch. He would try again and again to single-handedly build up play from the back and seek to pass to a player higher up the field, who in return would play through on goal a winger or striker, when in reality that player Ozil was trying to seek out was really himself. Think about it, Ozil is the one who needs to be playing in Alexis, Welbeck, and Walcott, so how can he be doing that whilst occupying two roles? Cazorla’s role is to thread the needle in a deeper role, while Ozil sets up the finish for someone up top. Until this can get sorted out, we will continue to struggle in the lead up to goals.

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3) How can we defend Wenger any longer?

Arsene Wenger deserves all the praise in the world for what he has done for the club over 20 years, but it is nearly impossible to defend the manager anymore. Even through the television I could hear the chants of Palace fans, “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay”. Wenger should not have to deal with this sort of abuse, but he has only brought it upon himself, and as a result I believe he should step down, for the sake of this incredible club. It has been long said that Wenger is responsible for the overall improvement of players who have been with the club for a while, and while I used to believe this, I don’t think I can no longer. Look at players like Walcott and Giroud whom have been with the club for years. Do you really believe that Wenger has improved these players after assessing this season? I’ve been #WengerIn for most of the season, but I truthfully think I am now a member of #WengerOut.

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4) Our defence is nothing without Koscielny

The absence of Koscielny was really felt over the course of this match, just like in every match the Frenchman is sidelined for. There seemed to be virtually no communication at all between Gabriel and Mustafi at the back, something Koscielny takes immense pride in. The two center-backs paid little to no attention to perhaps one of the more elite strikers in this league in Benteke, so in return the Palace midfield would just play balls to the big man and catch either Gabriel or Mustafi out of position due to one of them having to challenge with the Belgian. And don’t even get me started on Monreal, he was just painful to watch in all honesty, getting dragged around like a rag doll by Zaha. In fact, Wilfried Zaha completed 94% of his passes, had 8 take-ons, 4 chances created, and 2 assists, all against Nacho, superb defending mate. Koscielny was sorely, sorely missed today.

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Koscielny is the leader the back line so desperately needs, match in, match out.

5) A positive: Emiliano Martinez

We might as well end off on somewhat of a positive talking point right? Well if there was any to be discussed, it would be on the topic of Emiliano Martinez. Although the 24 year old made some costly errors tonight, I genuinely thought he played an OK match, especially for someone with barely any experience goalkeeping for Arsenal; he wasn’t terrible. Within the first 20 or so minutes he had come up with some big time saves, and without him in goal tonight it could have easily been 5 or 6 to Palace. Not to mention, the team basically left him to rot for nearly all three goals. Sure, he brought down Townsend, but if Bellerin hadn’t been worrying about his hair and rather worried about marking Townsend, then maybe the incident wouldn’t have occurred at all. Nonetheless, throughout the match Martinez bailed out the defense several times, a defense that looked absolutely in shambles.

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Follow me on Twitter: @j_kulla

BLOG: IS #WENGERBALL DEAD?

It’s long been said that we play the finest football in the land. Whether it’s Bergkamp, Henry, Denilson, Chamakh, Bendtner, Fabregas, Alexis or Ozil the mantra has always been the same: we will out-football you. Wenger’s teams have always had a fluidity about them no matter the personnel, granted we had the grit in the days of Vieira and Gilberto however even in their absence we stayed true to the philosophy that Wenger brought to the Premier League. Playing in triangles, devastating counter-attack football and excellent possession based slow to quick transition play to break down a stubborn team. It’s been a privilege to watch this over the years, but over the last 18 months or so we’ve looked like we don’t really know what our style is, what our identity is, what our ‘go to’ method is when approaching any game. It begs the question; is #Wengerball dead?

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Arsenal football club has been struggling to find a formula that works for quite some time now and there are a number of reasons as to why. Previously, when it’s worked really well, we’ve had a spine that has stayed constant throughout the majority of the season around which Wenger has added patches of talent to and kept the football playing machine going. In recent times we’ve found it hard to maintain that identity and I believe a lot of this is to do with the type of striker that the players around have gotten used to playing with. Before the arrival of Olivier Giroud we had Robin VanPersie, who whilst not the most mobile of strikers in comparison to an Alexis or Aguero, his movement was incredibly incisive and a fair bit quicker than Giroud. He was no target man. Before him we had Chamakh, Adebayor, Eduardo, Bendtner & Vela who played a significant(ish) amount of games to justify that they were important to us as a team. Bendtner aside, we had a more mobile strikeforce than we do now, and have done for the past 4 years or so. Yes Podolski was also bought at the same time, but I firmly believe he was bought as the main man and Giroud as the plan B, however it didn’t work out that way. Buying a more mobile striker has always been the way for Wenger, and this has been why our teams have had to be so good in possession. There was no quick and easy outlet as a long ball that can give teams a breather. There was only one way of playing and it included keeping the ball and keeping it moving. As Guardiola has famously said “Take the ball. Pass the ball”. It’s the way we played and we didn’t have a choice. That means that in training and in games it was always likely to be a more intense scenario as the ball was always on the floor. There always had to be a way to play our way out of trouble. I think that this mentality kept every single player a little more on their toes than they are right now. The introduction of Olivier Giroud as the main striker over the course of the last few years has taken its toll on the identity of our football. No longer is it on-the-toes-pedal-to-the-metal free flowing football, there’s always an out ball that lets our team catch their breath. This, whilst incredibly useful at times, has over time created a more sterile possession based team that lacks a little direction.

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Wenger’s teams have always been ‘allowed to play’ in the way they want to in terms of when attacking, however with a target man as the tip of our sword we have now become overly reliant and a little lazy in our approach play. It’s not something that’s happened overnight, as towards the beginning of our target man era we had played some scintillating football to which Giroud was a key figure (Wilshere goal v Norwich, Rosicky goal v Sunderland). Though our game has swung from an occasional outball to OG into a more regularly used option. This coupled with the changing of the modern game to having just the one centre forward has almost pushed us in this direction no matter how hard we try to change it, and try we have. Wenger has tried to sign Suarez, Benzema & Higuain for their intelligent movement and finishing abilities. They are not target men at all, yet can still score the same types of goals as Giroud. Wenger has been trying to adapt to the modern game by buying a more dynamic centre forward than Giroud. The conundrum is that Giroud has performed so well for the money we paid for him, that we’re stuck between whether to pull the trigger or not. I saw a great clip that identifies Giroud as being just short of an elite centre forward based on the money spent on him and his goal return (95 goals in almost 5 seasons), which you can see in full here. It’s basically saying that to bridge the gap between a Giroud and an Aguero shouldn’t be as steep a cost as is portrayed in the media these days.

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We saw against West Ham this week that #Wengerball is clearly there to be seen in fit and spurts, but unfortunately it’s become us playing Wenger’s brand of football sporadically rather than playing badly sporadically. Wenger has always had the same principles and I don’t see them changing, however to change the way the team is playing and to once again bring back the identity and brand of football that we all know and love he will need to go out and break the bank for a more mobile centre forward. It’s the only way the jigsaw puzzle makes sense and is the only way that our sterile approach play will be sharpened up to what we’ve known and loved in years gone by. Yes there are defensive issues, yes there are midfield issues and yes there are issues of mental weakness however none of this is new information. We’ve dealt with this in the past and yet still played excellent football, so the only way we are going to see what we want is to finally go out and buy that elite front man. It’s the only way we can keep #Wengerball alive.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-2 MANCHESTER CITY

A second-half header from Shkodran Mustafi rescued Arsenal a point versus Manchester City, as the two top four hopefuls played out a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

The Gunners fell behind twice in their first game back from the international break, but goals from Theo Walcott and Mustafi on either side of half-time kept Arsène Wenger’s men within touching distance of those directly ahead of them in the Premier League table.

Danny Welbeck’s pace was favoured over Olivier Giroud’s towering frame in attack and it was a change that almost produced through to the early exchanges, as the ex-Manchester United striker’s pressing saw a block from Gael Clichy’s desperate clearance threaten to betray Willy Caballero on its way wide.

Arsenal’s task versus City would be made tougher by the 5th minute when Leroy Sané made full use of the space vacated by Sergio Agüero to burst through the heart of the defence, round David Ospina and slot in the game’s first goal into an empty net.

Things promised to go from bad to worse just five minutes later through Kevin De Bruyne’s curling effort onto the post, whereas this time Ospina was on hand to deny further joy in front of goal when parrying David Silva’s follow-up.

Alexis Sánchez’s shot from range in the 30th minute headlined a potential comeback from Arsenal’s behalf, as it hovered just wide of City’s goal.

Increased pressure from the North Londoners would soon pay off when Mustafi’s header back into the mixer caught out the Man City backline, leaving Walcott to take advantage of space and draw the game level in the 38th minute.

The equaliser would be short-lived, however, as an unmarked Agüero was given plenty of time to pick his spot with a low drive inside the box and make it 2-1 to the visitors a minute later.

Arsenal responded through Walcott once more, meeting Sánchez’s hopeful cross before volleying over on the brink of half-time.

Without Laurent Koscielny for the second period, the Gunners’ backline continued to look fragile in places, as Jesus Navas set Agüero up for a near-post header that was directed wide in the 52nd minute.

Mustafi would prove to be pivotal once more in Arsenal’s fightback, rising highest from a corner to slam home the equaliser with his head in the 54th minute.

Agüero popped up again inside the box to try and make amends for his earlier miss, but Ospina was on hand to follow the effort all the way into his grasp, as both teams shared the spoils at the final whistle.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Starting XI

David Ospina (6); Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (6); Granit Xhaka (5), Francis Coquelin (4); Theo Walcott (6), Mesut Özil (4), Alexis Sánchez (6); Danny Welbeck (4)

Subs: Gabriel Paulista (6), Olivier Giroud (4), Alex Iwobi (6)