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Match Review: Arsenal Through to 4th Round After Early Scare

I’d promised to go ballistic on the club heirarchy should Arsenal lose the 3rd Round League Cup encounter at home to Shrewsbury Town and for half an hour into the match… I was preparing my nerves for the vent I would have to unleash.

The visiting Shrewsbury, playing three tiers below Arsenal in League Two, took the lead after 16 minutes through James Collins’ header. Before then Mark Wright had seen his shot go off the post as the Gunners were put on the backfoot early on.

Collins’ goal brought to fore a need to have a critical look at defensive movement of our players as the lads were on pause mode in the moment of the goal, summing up their performance in the opening minutes of the Cup match.

Nerves calmed when Kieran Gibbs scored his first goal ever for Arsenal with a well taken header off Carl Jenkinson’s cross. The latter and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combining well in the run-up to Gibbs’ goal.

And fifteen minutes into the second half, the club’s most expensive summer signing (AOC) showed more of his potential when he got the ball from 25 yards out and struck very well to give the Gunners the lead on the night.

It also was his first goal for the club and soon enough, he and Gibbs would be joined on a night of first timers by Israel captain Yossi Benayoun who rounded a good move upfront to sweep home the third off Ozyakup’s final pass and complete Arsenal’s passage to the 4th Round.

There, no rant but… it was a win over a League Two side. Good solid win expectedly but still some room for improvement needed at the back.

Away from field matters, the club’s worst start to a league season in some 50 years has in no way convinced the Arsenal board to as much as consider relieving Arsene Wenger of his job with club Director Ivan Gazidis stating le Professeur is only frustrated at the club’s present predicament but not broken by it.

The South African club executive also reiterated that Wenger remains one of the game’s finest managers and contrary to growing speculation, his job as Arsenal manager is very much safe.

With that said as we prepare for Saturday’s visit of Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League, is Wenger really still the man for the job? And what do you feel can be done to sort our defensive frailties?

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Seventh Year

Arsenal

It has been quite a summer for Arsenal with the Gunners without doubt being the champions of transfer speculations all through. Can Arsène Wenger and his charges end a run of seasons without a competitive trophy at the seventh attempt?

An answer to that largely depends on the club’s mental approach going into matches and this is in two aspects. Firstly, we must kill games when leading and in the inability to do so, be able to hold onto such advantage till after the final whistle as evident from both legs of last season’s north London derby and home matches against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Bromwich-Albion as well as the infamous implosion at Newcastle where we ironically open this season’s campaign.

The other aspect of our mental approach to games is how we fare in the months of February and March, months that have proved the Achilles Heel in the leap towards a trophy in the last four seasons.

Last season’s episode proved the most painful, we suffered defeat to Birmingham City (now of the Championship) in the League Cup final on the last day of February, before enduring a mediocre run of form in March that pretty much ended all other title ambitions on other fronts.

And there’s the additional mental jabs dealt the team now no thanks to speculations surrounding the future of Samir Nasri & Fabregas who has reportedly agreed to a deal to return to his boyhood club. Which means a new era is about to start, one without the club’s best player. But no one man or player is greater than the club.

Meanwhile the latter is once more reportedly close to completing a £22m move to oil rich Manchester City, some reports even suggesting he may do so before the protracted tug for Fàbregas finally ends.

Arsenal’s hopes of ending the trophy drought will now rest on 20 year old Jack Wilshere(albeit not solely) as it was the English international who flourished – when Fàbregas was mostly half fit or out injured last season – with consistent and assured performances. While possessing admirable mental and physical strength, the rest of the team will determine just how much impact Wilshere will have this season.

With Laurent Koscielny apparently being the notable addition to the team last season, the Gunners actually did well until those dreaded months. This term, Ivorian forward Gervinho has joined and impressed so far with his quick feet and good composure.

Other than him, Wenger has (annoyingly) kept to his policy with a roll call of highly rated youngsters such as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi. The transfer window however is still over a fortnight from closing so some much needed experienced players may yet arrive at the Emirates.

While awaiting those, Gooners will be banking on Robin van Persie to pick up from the fiery form of the second half of last season that saw the Dutchman finally show us his potential with a high return on goals per game. Having him fit for a whole season on such form leaves the heights attainable by the team optimistically imagined.

In the event of him being out injured as he is sadly prone to, Theo Walcott gets my nod to spearhead the front ahead of the overly disappointing Marouane Chamakh and the England international has publicly stated his desire to play upfront rather than on the wings.

Last season, he posed a real threat to defences with his raw speed that was, unlike previous seasons, complemented with much technique. This sort of form gives promise of this season being perhaps a breakthrough season for the 21 year old.

Those other than the above players that could contribute to a successful league campaign, and perhaps success in any of the other competitions, are Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Koscielny and goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Woijcech Sczeszny just as I’m personally looking forward to how Aaron Ramsey fares with Abou Diaby’s injury presenting the Welsh midfielder a chance to impress.

Vermaelen on his part was out virtually all of last season injured and Squillaci failed woefully as partner to Koscielny. Consequently, the efficiency of our physios this season actually comes in just behind the team’s mental maturity as deciding factors on how this season will pan out.

Arsenal’s campaign begins at St. James’ Park in Saturday’s evening kick-off having survived getting postponed due to the violent scenes that besieged streets in London and Birmingham.

That match is then followed in quick sequence by games against title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Champions League qualifier against Italian side Udinese buttered between those red encounters.

In all honesty, Arsenal are strong contenders for the title and hopefully we avoid burning out at those times aforementioned!

That said, enjoy the season ahead, it’s great to finally be getting underway!

C’mon You Smokin’ Gunners!!!