Chelsea 0 – 1 Arsenal – Match Report (028)

Gabriel Magalhães header from a Bukayo Saka corner was what separated the two London clubs in a well-deserved win which saw Arsenal return to the top of the table. Going into the game, it was clear that this was a must win game, to prove we are truly title contenders as we faced another big six team. Zinchenko was the only change to the side that thrashed Nottingham Forest 5 – 0 only last Sunday, as he came back from injury to replace Tomiyasu, who was today named as part of the Japanese World Cup squad, leaving Tierney to settle for a place on the bench despite scoring a beautiful goal to secure our win against FC Zürich on Thursday which sent us through to the round of 16 of the Europa League.

Arsenal started the game strongly and Chelsea seemed comfortable to allow us to pass the ball around, but they soon settled into the game and had the first clear cut chance of the game; Havertz overhit a cross which Aubameyang could have put away. Arsenal were totally dominant but lacked the quality in the final third which left goal scoring opportunities few and far between. Martinelli curled a shot over the bar and Thiago Silva blocked a shot from Jesus which looked sure to find the back of the net. Aubameyang was the first player to be booked as he committed a nasty foul on Ben White which saw Arteta seething on the sidelines. Jesus had the best chance of the first half as Martinelli played the ball into him, but he couldn’t make the right contact with the ball and misplaced his header. 

The second half was much the same, with niggly fouls and Arsenal looking the more threatening of the two sides. Jesus had a shot saved by Mendy that resulted in a corner. Saka put in a beautiful ball which somehow made its way through a very congested penalty area and Gabriel helped it on its way to the back of the net, although it looks as though it would have found its way there anyway. It was hard to tell who had actually scored the goal, as every single player celebrated as if it was them, with specific confusion between Saka or Gabriel. As our players celebrated, Potter subbed of Aubameyang who showed a shocking performance as he had made only 8 touches in the entirety of his 60 minutes on the pitch. It’s nothing personal, Auba.

Saka soon had a chance to double our lead, as did Ødegaard, but it wasn’t meant to be. Chelsea couldn’t get near us and it is always nervy watching Arsenal defend a one goal lead, but when Holding came on in stoppage time it was clear that the game had been put to bed. Ramsdale was barely tested and had an easy afternoon between the sticks.

This is our best ever start to a Premier League campaign, picking up even more points than the Invincibles season, which can only fill us with optimism and only continues to prove that we really are title contenders going in to the World Cup break. Jesus put in a fantastic shift, despite not scoring, and it is clear how vital he is to the team with his mentality and build up in game play as he gets right back to help defend and is also busy in the opposition’s box, too. Next up is Brighton at home in the EFL cup which will be a tricky game, but hopefully one we can put to bed early as we look to collect some silverware this season after being knocked out by Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Arsenal 1 – 0 PSV – Match Report (027)

An undeniably lacklustre performance saw the boys take all three points at home to PSV, meaning we are guaranteed to get through to the knockout stages, and only need one point next week at Eindhoven to secure first place in the group. The match saw a cracker from Xhaka, and a relatively strong team, with six changes from the starting XI that beat Leeds on Sunday, including Turner for Ramsdale, Holding, Tierney, Vieira, Sambi, and Eddie. Arguably, the narrow goal margin that secured our place in the knockout stages should have been higher, as we dominated possession and fired in over 25 attempts, seemingly just lacking the final pass to add more goals to the scoreline.

PSV seemed happy to sit back and allow us to pass the ball around, and at the 11th minute mark, we started our attempts on goal; before the 20th minute, Tierney, Xhaka, and Jesus all had good chances at goal. Tomiyasu worked fantastically to keep Gakpo in his pocket, preventing PSV’s star player from getting much involvement on the ball at all, all the way through the game. The first half ended goalless despite so many attempts from Arsenal, and it just felt like a matter of time until we made a breakthrough.  

After the break, Jesus and Saka combined for a couple of fantastic efforts but on one occasion our number nine just couldn’t get enough on it. Arteta replaced Sambi and Vieira with Captain Ø, who just won the Norwegian Kniksens Hederspris, and Thomas Partey. Ødegaard was vital in the build up to Xhaka’s goal; it was played perfectly down the line by him into Tomiyasu, who clipped the ball back and Xhaka, who was left unmarked, had plenty of room to swing his right leg around it and fire it into the back of the net. We didn’t just sit back after this, though, as Saka forced the keeper into a good save, and a very tired-looking Jesus was replaced by Martinelli, as Tomiyasu was replaced by White. After those changes, Martinelli, Saka, and Eddie all had chances they couldn’t finish off and the game ended 1-0.

The squad definitely looked incredibly tired on the night. Jesus and Saka weren’t their usual selves as the latter failed to put away so many chances that he would have scored on his day. Xhaka was fantastic, scoring his third goal of the campaign already as he appears to be thriving in his new position under Arteta. This was definitely not the performance I think many of us expected from PSV, including Arteta, who, in my opinion, played an unnecessarily strong team despite fatigue. It will be interesting to see if they step up to the playing field at home next Thursday, knowing that this game could be the one to seal Arsenal’s fate and send us straight to the knockout stages starting at the beginning of March. My MOTM is again Xhaka, he has improved so much this season and it is so nice to see him love his club again.

Looking forward to Southampton on Sunday, I think Arteta will definitely be giving Jesus a break and giving Eddie some time in the Premier League as our opponents currently sit 14th with just one win in their last five. Saka I feel could also benefit from a much deserved break and we may see Marquinhos given a PL start. Both Turner and Ramsdale have been great this season and with our defence being so solid I think both have had it a lot easier than last season. Gabriel just signed a contract extension, so I fully expect to see him start and it should be a fantastic match with lots of young talent on show. 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Preparing for PSV: Match Preview (026)

Our postponed fixture against PSV will finally be played tonight, having been postponed due to the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II’s death and a subsequent lack of policing due to the state funeral. Arteta goes looking for his eighth straight victory across all competitions as we are yet to drop any points in the Europa League this season. PSV appear to be our biggest rival for the top spot in Group A as they are yet to lose a match too, however they did drop points as they drew 1-1 with Bodø-Glimt. Zinchenko has missed our last three fixtures, with Tomiyasu replacing him despite a fully fit Kieran Tierney, displacing him from his natural position. There are also doubts over Martinelli, who has rather worryingly been absent from training. We do have the home advantage, and in my opinion we should go into this fully optimistic that we will take all three points. We should expect to see some squad rotation, although I fully expect that several of our usual starting XI will feature on the bench should Arteta need to call upon them. There were definite signs of fatigue at the weekend, so this squad rotation will be vital to keep us going on both the Premier League and Europa League fronts.

My predicted starting lineup:

GK: Matt Turner – Turner is yet to concede a goal in the Europa League despite having quite a few tests last Thursday away to Bodø-Glimt. He is also the only Arsenal goalkeeper to have kept a clean sheet at home at the Emirates this season; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – Tomiyasu has featured in the last three starting XI at LB, despite this not being his natural position. Although he has got the job done, it is undeniable he looked uncomfortable and Ben White definitely needs a break, so I think we will see him in his natural position tonight.

CB: Rob Holding – Holding came on in the 80th minute to defend our fragile 1 – 0 lead over Leeds, and it was a definite sigh of relief. We know Holding is reliable and he put in a solid performance last week. This will also give Saliba a week off following an uncharacteristically jumpy performance on Sunday.

CB: Gabriel – despite almost conceding a penalty and picking up a red card at Elland Road, Gabriel has been a key part of our defence this season and I doubt Arteta will want to start a game without him in the back.

LB: Kieran Tierney – KT has fallen second best to Zinchenko, who has been out with injury. I don’t expect to see Zinchenko start, but instead believe he will come on at around the 60th minute mark to warm himself up and give Tierney a break, who hasn’t been playing like his usual self this season.

CM: Thomas Partey

CM: Granit Xhaka – vice-captain Xhaka has played a vital role in his developed position which has left the opposition struggling to contain him and stop him from putting crosses into the box. He had a tough game at the weekend but is vital for team morale and guidance.

AM: Martin Ødegaard – captain Ø provided Saka with his cross that scored the winner at the weekend. Ødegaard has been immense this season and made it look so easy at the same time, a vital part of our midfield and essential to help progress the ball down the pitch, always finding pockets of space that draw defenders away from his teammates.

RW: Bukayo Saka – our Starboy had scored 4 goals in a week, including two winners, both away at Bodø-Glimt last Thursday and at Elland Road on Sunday. His linkup with Martin Ødegaard is insane and they have formed an incredible partnership which has helped in the final third incredibly.

ST: Eddie Nketiah – Jesus was definitely not on his A-game at the weekend, hopefully only due to fatigue, and Eddie has been amazing in the Europa League and the Premier League, when given a chance to shine, this season. I think we can expect to see Eddie start both tonight and on Sunday against Southampton to give Jesus a much deserved break and give Eddie some vital minutes under his belt that he needs to develop and grow as a player.

PSV come in to this fixture unbeaten in their last four matches, including a 5-0 and 5-1 victory over FC Zürich in the Europa League and 6-1 domestically. However, Arsenal definitely pose a different threat and with some incredibly versatile players at Arteta’s disposal, we have the potential to line up in a way that could totally throw our opponents off. We will go into this game with so much confidence after a well fought victory at the weekend and our first domestic clean sheet in a month, since we played 9th place Brentford away. The boys will have their work cut out, but I have every faith we can take all three points and avoid an additional playoff fixture for the knockout stages. COYG!!!

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Granit Xhaka: From Zero to Hero (025)

Granit Xhaka is one of the very few players still left from the Wenger era, as he opted for Xhaka over N’Golo Kanté. It is fair to say that Xhaka has faced his fair share of trials and tribulations over a tumultuous 6 years at Arsenal. From captain, to hated by the fans, and now back to vice captain and a firm favourite for fans and players alike, especially the younger players who so often look to him for guidance. He is known by the Gunners for his fragile temper, tendency to pick up red cards, and his absolute stunning cameos of goals which he has been scoring season in, season out, since the 2016/17 campaign. Granit Xhaka has really come into himself under our current manager, and this looks to be an exciting season ahead for the Swiss international.

Wenger signed Xhaka from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee in the region of £30 million, and made his first appearance as a first half substitute in a 2 – 1 victory over MLS All-Stars, whilst his competitive debut came in the first game of the 17/18 season against Liverpool, where he came on for Elneny in the 65th minute in a 4-3 defeat. His first goal for the Gunners was a 25-yard super strike in a convincing 4-1 PL win over Hull City in September 2016, and most notably his first red card came soon after in a 3-2 victory against Swansea City in October 2016. 

Unai Emery announced that the number 34 would be replacing Laurent Koscielny as captain on 27th September 2019, a decision which proved to be controversial due to Xhaka’s unsportsmanlike behaviour which followed, including telling fans to ‘f**k off’ as he was substituted off in the 61st minute as he was booed walking off the pitch. Emery insisted that Arsenal didn’t condone his actions, but it was only a month and a week after he was given the captaincy which he was stripped off, instead Aubameyang took over as he had been serving as vice captain, and we all know how that ended. 

Following this behaviour, Xhaka was dropped from the starting XI and looked set for a departure in the upcoming transfer window, until Arteta took over and began to reintegrate him into the first team and highlighting him as a key player. Over time, Xhaka has started to win the fans back over, and has even credited Mikel Arteta saying ‘He [Arteta] turned me around and gave me a second chance and he showed me he trusted me and I tried to give him everything back.’ Xhaka has also admitted that without Arteta, he would not have remained at Arsenal.  

Fast forward to today, and Xhaka is now one of the few players left from the iconic Wenger era, he serves as vice captain underneath Martin Ødegaard, and he is undoubtedly a fan favourite. He has recently done an interview in which he describes how pleased he is that the fans have finally come up with a song for him, and he is a clear role model for the academy players coming through the ranks. After six eventful years at Arsenal, this was the season many felt the Swiss international would finally be eased out of the starting XI, especially with the change of system introduced by Mikel Arteta which saw Xhaka asked to play in a far more advanced midfield role than usual. Instead, the opposite has happened; once upon a time, he was viewed as a calamity waiting to happen, now he is undroppable and plays a vital role in every game we play. With Arsenal, he has won four trophies; two FA cups and two Community Shields. Arteta has definitely upgraded him as a player this season, as he plays a lot higher up the pitch, but is equally effective at defending, where he is putting many crosses into the box and creating the vital chances that Arsenal lacked last season. That said, he has formed a particularly brilliant partnership with Gabriel Jesus, who said “I’m so happy to play with him. He’s intelligent and a quality player as well.” following the 3-0 victory over Brentford earlier this season. He is clearly thriving under Arteta, as he can already boast two goals and three assists this season. Luckily for us all, Xhaka signed a contract extension at the beginning of this season, until summer 2024, with the option of an extension. While it is clear that Arsenal’s ‘captain’s curse’ did strike with Xhaka to some extent, he has redeemed himself in the fans’ eyes, and that is all that matters.

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Leeds 0 – 1 Arsenal – Match Report (024)

A cunningly disguised ‘easy’ match proved to be not so easy and it is safe to say that Elland Road is a scary place to play. This isn’t reflected in the scoreline, as we scraped a vital victory, and the scoreline is also irrespective of the drama that followed; a power cut, red cards, penalties and VAR involvement. We were unchanged from our last Premier League victory over Liverpool, despite concerns over Gabriel Jesus’ fitness as he wasn’t even on the bench in the midweek Europa League fixture against Bodø-Glimt. This win saw us go four points clear at the top of the table as Liverpool beat Manchester City in a thrilling game; just goes to show that beating Liverpool isn’t for everyone. Saka scored the only goal again for the second time this week, with the goal being his fourth in only a week, our Starboy. This was the first time in the club’s history that we have won nine of our first ten matches, and an incredibly encouraging statistic shows that in the previous four times this has happened, Arsenal went on to win the league. 

A strange start to the game saw a power outage which postponed the match for 40 minutes as the referee’s communication devices weren’t working. When the boys finally came out of the dressing room, they needed to warm up again, which Leeds allowed them to do as they passed the ball around in their own half, but quickly put a stop to any attack. Leeds looked dangerous on the counter with Rodrigo, and our midfield struggled to assert dominance as they usually do, even with Tomiyasu dropping down as an apparent LDM at times. It was Leeds who had the first real chance of the game in the thirty minute mark. Ramsdale pushed a point blank effort away from a Leeds corner, and we responded instantly. Martinelli crossed in to Ødegaard, who couldn’t make proper contact with the ball and it fell to our number nine, who chipped the ball over the goalkeeper, and the goal itself as it landed on top of the net. Saka managed to regain possession after putting Rodrigo under pressure and played it into our captain, who returned slotted the ball back to Saka who managed to get the ball into the roof of the net from a really tight angle. This clearly surprised Meslier who was left standing at the near post, having not had any time to form a reaction.

Leeds didn’t hold back after the break, though, and within 30 seconds thought they had  scored an equaliser with their half time substitution Patrick Bamford, who had an utterly shambolic match. However, the goal was ruled out for a foul on Gabriel in the build up to the goal. VAR’s involvement didn’t end here, though, as the referee was called to look at the screen for a Saliba handball inside the penalty area. He pointed to the spot but Bamford misplaced his shot wide, the first absolute let off in the game for Gabriel Magalhães. This penalty was very controversial, though, as a blatant Leeds offside in the build up to the foul was ignored by VAR, so it may have just been karma that saved us here. Leeds dominated for a while after this with Gabriel blocking a Sinisterra shot from close range, and Ramsdale being forced off his line to cover for Saliba.  

Arsenal were completely trapped inside their own half and Leeds really did look set to find an equaliser, so Arteta reverted to a back 5 as Holding came on, and Tomiyasu was replaced by Tierney. This change allowed Arsenal to maintain possession better and the game looked as if it had been put to bed. However, the drama didn’t end there, as in injury time, Gabriel was given a red card for stopping Bamford’s run into the box and Leeds were awarded a penalty, which was rescinded after VAR suggested that the referee took another look. It was a nervy end to a nervy game, but we walked away victorious and remained at the top of the table. Saliba in particular looked uncharacteristically shaky, but we can only hope this was a blip.

My man of the match, Aaron Ramsdale, walked away with another clean sheet to add to  his tally and an added confidence booster after what was a really tough game, as Chelsea found out in a 3-0 loss to them at Elland Road earlier in this campaign. Looking forward, our game against PSV has been rescheduled for Thursday. I expect Arteta will put out a very similar team as the one we saw today, with PSV being our main competition to finish top of the group in the Europa League, which will be vital as we want to avoid a playoff fixture going into the knockout stages with the fixture list already being insanely congested this season. In no way do I anticipate this being an easy game, but in my opinion, being at home will give us that edge we need to take all three points and get one step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages. In terms of our next Premier League fixture, we face 18th placed Southampton away, which I think will give Eddie Nketiah and Fábio Vieira a chance to get some PL minutes under their belts as Gabriel Jesus deserves a much needed break after a drop in his usual standard of play. 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Arsenal 3 – 2 Liverpool – Match Report (023)

Going into this game, it was really make or break to see if we were the real deal this season, with many people saying we were only top of the league because we had had ‘easy’ fixtures – yet other ‘top 6’ teams that had dropped points to these same teams proved ‘there were no easy games in the Premier League’, but don’t get me started – despite a thrilling 3 – 1 victory over Spurs last weekend. Liverpool were undeniably our biggest challenge so far this season and a win was vital to prove the plentiful doubters wrong. The odds definitely weren’t in our favour despite Liverpool’s poor form this season, with us only winning one in the last fourteen matches against Liverpool. Arteta’s men did him justice as we won three goals to two, but let’s not mention how shaky this game felt, despite the incredible atmosphere our fans brought, with the chants and support being easily understood even through the TV. There were seven changes to the side that continued our unbeaten run in the Europa League, with only Tomiyasu, Gabriel, Xhaka and Martinelli keeping their places.

We started the game well with a goal within the first minute scored by Gabriel Martinelli. The visitors had the first kick of the game, but when Saliba got the ball and launched a rapid counter attack through Starboy Bukayo Saka, then onto captain Ødegaard who set Martinelli up beautifully for the best start we could have hoped for.  

We remained in control for the opening twenty minutes, but it went downhill from there for the rest of the first half. In the 30th minute, Liverpool finally made their breakthrough after dominating possession. Nuñez only needed a tap in after Diaz set him up, and the visitors had equalised. The remainder of the second half was much like that, and Arteta looked understandably nervy. However, in the fifth minute of added time, Martinelli went racing down the pitch after a poor free kick from Liverpool which we defended well. Henderson came out to try and take on Martinelli, as did Alexander-Arnold, which left Saka open and able to tap the ball in; it was clear he was stretching with everything he had in him. We went into the break 2-1 up.  

We started the second half in the same way we started the first, asserting total dominance and it is a surprise we didn’t score any goals. Liverpool, however, managed to score on the counter attack as Jota found himself with the ball and found Firmino who equalised, making it 2-2. Arsenal responded in the way they have been doing all season; fighting. Arsenal kept pushing and pushing and Salah was subbed off after he was totally pocketed by Tomiyasu who was playing incredibly well, especially considering he was in LB as opposed to RB or CB. Xhaka came close with a chip of the ball and a powerful shot but it wasn’t meant to be. Liverpools midfield and defence were run ragged by Martinelli who was up and down the pitch constantly, which enabled Xhaka the space to put cross after cross into the box and we were unlucky not to score from open play. This constant pressure eventually got to Thiago, who kicked the back of Jesus’ leg and conceded a penalty, which Saka cooly converted and we regained our lead for the third time.  

As we continued to wind down the clock, KT came on for Ødegaard and we switched to a defensive back five, although we still took the game to Liverpool and kept on pushing. In injury time there was outrage from Arteta as the referee allowed the game to continue for an extra three minutes after the whistle should’ve been blown, and a well defended Liverpool corner led to a counter attack which could have seen us end the game with just one point, but some Rolls Royce defending meant we held Liverpool at bay and finished the match with all three points and regaining our position as leaders of the Premier League. 

This game was a satisfying one, and will hopefully put the comments of an easy run of fixtures to bed. Liverpool played well at times but the fact of the matter is, they aren’t the Liverpool of old anymore after Klopp sold Mané and didn’t get a replacement, and Arsenal were just the better team. It was rewarding to see a victory against Liverpool at last after such a woeful outcome from this fixture for so long. Don’t get me wrong, that wa ssuch a positive performance, but the highlight of the game for me were the celebrations  after the full time whistle was blown and we were celebrating like we had won the leage. So much confidence in this young squad makes it feel as if anything is possible for these boys. 

Looking forward, we face Bodø-Glimt again on Thursday, this time away at their stadium. Their fans were amazing at the Emirates so this should be an entertaining fixture for Arsenal’s B team as we look to continue our unbeaten run in the Europa League and remain top of the table.

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Arsenal 3 – 1 Spurs – Match Report (022)

A dominant display saw the Gunners beat Conte’s 10 men in a thrilling 3 – 1 victory. Before the game, Mikel Arteta asked fans to ‘raise the roof’ off the Emirates Stadium and they definitely delivered as the atmosphere was electric and definitely helped the players glide to an emphatic victory. Going into this match, there were uncertainties of both Partey and Tierney following early returns from international duty, but both made an appearance in the game. Arteta made two changes to the team who won at Brentford, Captain Martin Ødegaard displacing Fabio Vieira and Oleksandr Zinchenko replacing Tierney. 

From the get-go we dominated the game and within two minutes Martinelli had a chance which he was unlucky to not find the back of the net, closely followed by Xhaka hitting the ball just wide. But the Partey (pardon the pun) really got going when a beautiful long distance strike hit the back of the net from our infamous long shot missing Ghanaian, Thomas Partey. However, the beauty of this goal came from a wonderfully slow, paced build up which came from an incredible 21 pass build up on the 20 minute mark. Following the goal, the stadium erupted and Tottenham found it even harder to get back into the game.  

However, merely 10 minutes later, Spurs did find their way back into the game after they were gifted a penalty from a typical Gabriel tackle on Richarlison from inside of the penalty box. Kane put the ball in the back of the net after they were awarded the penalty which resulted in a level scoreline at the end of the first half.

It didn’t take long following the restart to reclaim the lead as Saka had a great attempt from distant saved by Lloris, but he couldn’t hold on to the ball, resulting in Jesus managing to get the rebound into the back of the net as Romero fumbled the ball under this own keeper. Jesus looked destined to score a second after a stunning ball from his former Manchester City team mate Zinchenko, but he misplaced the header. This didn’t deter the Gunners, though, as we received another boost from Tottenham following the Emerson Royal sending off. A reckless and stupid challenge on Gabriel Matinelli who was luckily to avoid a serious injury. Martinelli was running back towards his own goal and the foul was completely unnecessary, though it took Anthony Taylor a few minutes to get out his red card after he was advised to have another look at the tackle through VAR.   

Xhaka finished the job off after Saka, who was again unlucky to score. Martinelli got down the left side of the box and sent it in for Xhaka who walked into the box and got the shot away from under Lloris. This killed off any hope for the Spurs fans and team as Antonio Conte made 4, that’s right, 4 substitutions to try and salvage from humility. An incredible game which saw the Gunners end Spurs’ unbeaten run, remain at the top of the table, and make a lot of fans very very happy.

It is safe to say that Gabriel Jesus was the boost our squad needed as he has brought his winning mentality to us. Last season, it would have been difficult to find many players with the same level of hunger and determination to pull out a ruthless performance like the one over the weekend. His efforts have paid off, as only Erling Harland has more goal contributions in the Premier League this season (12, versus Jesus’ 8). This match was particularly satisfying as Arsenal fans have been told on Twitter that we are only top of the league because we have faced ‘easy’ fixtures, despite other big 6 teams dropping points against these same ‘easy’ teams. Tottenham have been lucky to pick up points this season despite playing badly, and this match showed the difference between the two teams. Spurs could hardly get a look at the ball before Arsenal regaining possession and preventing any chances for them. Ramsdale, as always, delivered with his shithousery in winding up the opposition fans and Zinchenko’s goal reactions put a smile on all Arsenal fans’ faces. Next up is Bodø/Glimt at the Emirates in our second Europa League fixture of the season on Thursday. The winning formula continues!

And just a reminder, incase you needed it, NORTH LONDON IS RED!!! 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Brentford 0 – 3 Arsenal – Match Report (021)

A convincing victory away at the Tech Community Stadium saw us return to the top of the table. An incredible performance in both attacking and defensive terms, it was a well deserved win and a return to winning ways after the loss to Manchester United, a sign that the mentality of our players has definitely improved from last season. This match featured the senior debut of the youngest player to ever play in the Premier League, Ethan Nwaneri, who is just 15 years and 181 days old. The news of Partey’s return was dampened by Ødegaard and Zinchenko being ruled out through injuries picked up in training. Kieran Tierney got another rare Premier League start this season due to Zinchenko’s injury, and Vieira got a chance to prove himself on his full senior debut after we saw him play very well against FC Zürich.

Arsenal started strongly as Martinelli had an early chance after a fantastic pass from captain Xhaka, but he didn’t get enough on it and it was an easy save for Brentford goalkeeper David Raya. However, we took the lead after our first corner of the game. Saliba managed to get in front of his defender and beat Toney for a header which caught Raya off guard as he swiped it out of the goal, but it was clear that the goal had crossed the line after a check from goal-line technology. Jesus soon doubled our lead after Xhaka picked out an amazing cross which Jesus headed into the far corner, well out of the reach of Raya. Brentford then found themselves in a good spell of possession and took some good set pieces with long throws and corners, but we were defensively solid and managed to keep them at bay until the half time whistle.

Returning from the break, it was clear that the next goal of the game would be the most important. Vieira clearly knew this as he scored a wonder strike for his first Premier League goal, courtesy of a pass from Saka. He took a shot 30 yards out which hit the post and deflected into the back of the net. The celebrations that followed were heartwarming for any Arsenal fan as he celebrated with his teammates and it was clear how much this goal meant to him. We didn’t stop there, though, and continued to dominate the game creating plenty more opportunities we just couldn’t finish, very unlike Arsenal who are notorious for sitting back and defending a 1-0 lead, often working against our favour. In the closing minutes of the match, Arteta made history as yet another Hale End graduate made his senior debut; Ethan Nwaneri. At the end of the game he was too modest to take any praise from the fans until Aaron Ramsdale forced him to, a lovely gesture to end an unbelievable day for the 15 year old. 

It is definitely a positive heading into the international break, sitting top of the table with a healthy goal difference at this early stage of the season. However, October is a jam packed month with 9 fixtures, including a tough run featuring Spurs and Liverpool after our Manchester City game was postponed to allow for the Europa League fixture against PSV to be rescheduled. October will undeniably be a test but the international break will allow Ødegaard and Zinchenko to return to fitness and the Europa League fixtures will lead to some much needed squad rotation, which could feature Tierney, Tomiyasu, ESR, Vieira, Marquinhos, and Eddie just to name a few. And who knows, maybe even a rare appearance from Nwaneri. Squad depth could prove to be an issue in October, but our success in that month will have a big impact going forward as the Premier League stops for the World Cup on November 20th. 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

FC Zürich 1 – 2 Arsenal – Match Report (020)

A near perfect start to our Europa League campaign saw Eddie Nketiah and debutant Marquinhos both grab a goal and an assist each. Mikel Arteta made seven changes to the side that lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, which was to be expected as the Europa League is a good opportunity for younger players and back up players to get their time to shine. We saw a senior debut for Marquinhos after some success with the U21s and Matt Turner also made his debut and was unlucky not to come away with a clean sheet after Nketiah conceded a penalty.

Having made seven changes, it understandably took the Gunners a little while to settle into the game and a shaky start saw Turner defenceless after a back pass from Gabriel went wrong, but luckily the shot from Tosin only hit the post. It didn’t take us long to respond to this, though, after a cross from Nketiah found Marquinhos who put it in the back of the net. It was emotional to see what this meant to him, as he fell to his knees and even began to cry as his teammates celebrated his debut goal on his debut performance. This was all allowed by a stunning ball from Vieira into Nketiah who has impressed in the CM position following Partey and Elneny’s absence through injuries.

Shortly after, we had a few good chances with Vieira coming close as he calmly flicked the ball over Yanick Brecher but he made just a bit too much contact with the ball and it bounced on top of the bar. Granit Xhaka also forced the keeper into a good stop as he smashed the ball towards the goal. We dominated possession throughout the first half but failed to execute in the final third and our narrow lead was undone by a silly mistake. However, just two minutes before half time, Nketiah made a rash clearance which resulted in contact with Fidan Aliti, and the referee awarded the penalty which was taken by Kryeziu, who sent Turner the wrong way and equalised for Zürcih. Despite not playing at home, the Zürich fans were incredibly vocal which undeniably helped the team to build momentum. 

At half time, news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away meaning both sides lined up for a minute’s silence before the game resumed. We returned dominating the second half much like we had in the first half, forcing Zürich to play out from the back and they were even struggling to leave their own half. However, Eddie soon made up for his previous indiscretion when he scored the winner at 62 minutes. Marquinhos provided an excellent cross to the back post, which Eddie headed low into the ground to open his scoring for the 22/23 campaign, much to the delight of the travelling fans who were sat just behind the goal. Matt Turner was forced into a beautiful save to deny a Zürich equaliser through a n Ivan Santini header, but we took all three points and topped the group, as the PSV vs Bodø/Glimt game finished all square at 1 -1 thanks to goals from Albert Frønbæk and Cody Gakpo. 

This game was very much reminiscent of the Manchester United game, where we dominated possession but, due to our lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, we only managed to maintain a narrow lead. Moving forward, it is vital that our strikers are more alert in front of goal and manage to execute the goals we need to win, after all, games aren’t won by dominating. If we carry on making matches harder than they need to be by not putting the game to bed early on, which we are more than capable of, it will continue to leave us vulnerable to a come back, like we saw today and like we saw in both matches against Aston Villa and Fulham. 

It is uncertain as to whether the Premier League matches will go ahead this weekend following the news of the Queen’s passing, however if it does we will be going head to head with Everton, who currently sit sixteenth in the table and have failed to win a game so far this season. This win in the Europa League will have boosted our knocked confidence and will set us well on the way to another Premier League win, whether it be this weekend or next, and in my opinion we should be confident going into the PSV game next Thursday. 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Europa League – What Should We Expect? (019)

Our Europa League campaign kicks off tonight away from home vs FC Zürich, and this season marks our return to European football after missing out last season for the first time since 2005. Arsenal have been deemed as favourites to win this year and it seems that a return to the Champions League either by a top four finish or by winning this trophy is the bare minimum expected from the fans after missing out is narrowly last season. Many fans have taken to Twitter to declare that this competition is a chance for the ‘B Team’, however in my opinion this isn’t the case and Arteta may be putting out a stronger squad than we expect.

Arsenal were the first team to be drawn in the group stage, putting us in group A with the Austrian FC Zürich, Dutch team PSV and Norwegian side FK Bodø/Glimt. Initially this seemed like an easy enough group, although this may not be the case and while it is my opinion that we will see players who don’t usually make the starting XI get a chance, for example Matt Turner, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah, Arteta will still be bringing in essential players such as Saliba, Partey, Xhaka, Jesus, and Saka to pick up the pieces and get a result should this be required of them. The generous squad rotation we can expect to see is what will help us get through all four fronts; the Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup. 

Kieran Tierney

KT was once a key member the squad who wouldn’t be left out of the starting XI for any reason other than injury and he is the only part of Unai Emery’s defence that still gets game time in the Premier League, even if that is usually off the bench these days as he has seemingly been replaced by one of our key summer signings Oleksander Zinchenko from Manchester City. Having been quite injury prone, Tierney has only started one Premier League match this season, against Aston Villa, where it was made brutally clear how much we missed Zinchenko as Tierney’s linkup and movement down the right side of the pitch is simply not on par with Zinchenko’s. The Europa League will be a good chance for Tierney to regain some lost confidence and reassert himself to Arsenal’s defence, which will only improve the squad with more competition for the starting XI.

Eddie Nketiah

Eddie came through the Arsenal Academy after he signed for us in 2015 having been pushed out of the Chelsea squad. He became our number 14 in the summer after he was our only competent goal scorer when Arteta finally gave him a chance after Lacazette’s dip in form following Aubameyang’s departure in January. He scored 5 goals in 21 appearances for the club last season but was subsequently replaced by Gabriel Jesus in the summer transfer window as Arsenal’s number one striker. We have seen him make an impact off the bench this season in the Premier League but it will be nice to see him given a full 90 minutes to shine after he became a firm fan favourite following his importance at the end of last season.

Emile Smith Rowe

Another firm fan favourite that came through the Academy, ESR has also suffered from a lack of game time this season as we see Saka and Martinelli displacing him, and we certainly haven’t heard the Saka and Emile Smith Rowe chant nearly enough this season. He has only played a total of 47 minutes this season across four appearances off the bench. When Arteta was asked what ESR must do to make a return to the starting lineup, he responded “He needs to stay fit, train well, and perform at the level he is able to perform because when he does that, it is really difficult not to pick him.” Smith Rowe hasn’t played a full 90 minute match since April, and increasingly worrying is the fact that he has been suffering with an injury “for a while”, and after feeling increased discomfort following the Manchester United game on Sunday, he has been left at home to recuperate so will definitely not feature in tonight’s match against FC Zürich. Hopefully when he has returned to full fitness he will make a bigger impact in both the Europa League and domestic competitions.

All of that said, we all have our fingers crossed that we can make a return to winning ways tonight and kick off our Europa League campaign as we mean to go on; with a win. This will not only boost the players confidence, but also prove that this is a new Arsenal side with an improved mentality and that the loss on Sunday was only a blip.

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson