Alexis Sanchez: The Brilliance Without The Biting


The signing of Alexis Sanchez has left me elated, but it shouldn’t leave anyone surprised. Looking back at the Read more

2013/14: Arsenal's Season Blogged - Sagas, songs & a cup


As the enthralling World Cup comes to a close and eyes begin to turn towards next season, I thought Read more

Gunnerblog End of Season Awards 2014


It’s that time again. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. The results are in. PLAYER OF THE SEASON In a season Read more

A Party 9 years in the Making


A cup nine years in the winning. A party nine years in the making. A blog nine years in Read more

Thoughts from Wembley: Torturous afternoon’s Final flourish


I don’t know about you, but I remembered reaching an FA Cup final as a good deal more fun. Don’t Read more

Match Previews

Red, Yellow & Silver: Gunnerblog’s FA Cup Final Preview

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, FA Cup, Match Previews |  

We’ve waited nine years for this.

This week, I looked back at the blog I wrote after 2005’s FA Cup win over Manchester United. That was the last time Arsenal touched silverware. Think about that: nine years. In the 125-year lifespan of the club, it’s not a massive stretch. However, us fans are only here for threescore and ten. In the course of our own individual lives, it’s a significant period.

Think of what you’ve done in the last nine years. Ponder what’s changed since. 2005 was the year Youtube was launched. Lance Armstrong retired a champion, not a cheat. Twitter didn’t even exist.

Today, Arsenal have a chance to end the wait. It’s a good chance, too. Hull City are a decent team and will play unshackled by expectation, but we are the overwhelming favourites for a reason. Play as we can, and we ought to win.

The same, of course, was true in 2011. I was at Wembley to see Arsenal lose to Birmingham City in that fateful final. It set our on-pitch progress back by several years. Having clawed our way back to this point, we cannot afford to let a trophy slip through our fingers once again.

I haven’t blogged much in the last few weeks of the season. That’s partly because of the demands of other work. It’s also because I’ve felt a bit underwhelmed by it. As Everton fell away, our games ceased to carry much weight. There was a certain ‘end of term’ vibe about the whole thing. Abou Diaby’s cameo at Norwich felt like the football equivalent of when my history teacher used to let us watch Blackadder in the final lesson of the year.

Today, the stakes are cranked right up again. That’s what sports about. Drama and tension; failure and glory. Arsenal need this. The club have spun a story about enduring a difficult period in order to facilitate future glory. We’re supposedly at the turning point, where prudence begins to pay dividends. A trophy would be proof of concept.

I won’t be there today. Other commitments will keep me from Wembley. But wherever you’re watching the final, I hope the team give you a match and a day to savour.

I leave you with this film. I dare you to watch it without feeling sick with nerves and excitement. The players have a remarkable opportunity to write themselves in to folklore today. Who wants to be the next Charlie George, Alan Sunderland or Ray Parlour?

Don’t make us wait another year.

Extra reading:

My interview with Wojciech Szczesny for Bleacher Report

Looking back at the Hammers, ahead to Hull, and up at Liverpool

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Previews, Match Reports, Premier League |  

The win over West Ham was huge. After being put through the wringer in the semi-final, a physical Allardyce team were hardly the ideal opposition. When we fell behind, the collective intake of breath was almost audible.

However, Lukas Podolski’s instant response settled nerves. Goals from Giroud and Podolski again later settled the game. The German’s record is pretty remarkable. His 10 goals this season have come in about 1197 minutes. That’s roughly 13.3 “games”. The figures aren’t distorted by cup goals either. In the Premier League, he boasts a record of six goals in 9.3 games. He is absolutely lethal.

I understand that he doesn’t quite fit in to our system, but our system is hardly pulling up any trees is it? Podolski’s efficiency in the final third is approaching the point whereby it justifies experimenting with a formation that suits him better. It would be intriguing to see how he would get on in a front two, absolved of a degree of defensive responsibility.

A good week got better when Everton lost to Crystal Palace. As an Arsenal fan, it causes me great pain to credit Tony Pulis with a pretty remarkable job down in South London. A positive result away to Hull will put us firmly in the driving seat as far as fourth place is concerned. With Everton still to face the two Manchester clubs, a four-point lead will feel pretty comfortable.

Never mind a four-point lead over fifth: if Liverpool beat Norwich tomorrow, they’ll open up a five-point advantage over the rest of the Premier League.

I can’t be the only Arsenal fan looking at Liverpool and thinking it ought to have been us. If they do go on to win the title, as looks increasingly likely, it will be confirmation that this league was there for the taking. United, City and Chelsea have all had their problems this season. It was a unique opportunity to snatch the big prize, we were in poll position, and we surrendered it.

Yes, they’ve benefited from a lack of European fixtures. But they’ve also built a truly title-challenging team without the lure and financial boon of the Champions League. We had both of those things at our disposal, and yet we’ve failed to match them.

Yes, we’ve had injuries. But we knew about the problems with both Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott well before the close of the January transfer window, and did nothing.

From the first months of the season, it was clear this season presented a unique opportunity for a dark horse to snatch the league. Arsenal fumbled, and Liverpool seem poised to pick it up. We needed to gamble, but in what would become a recurring theme, we lacked the balls.

It’s like Liverpool have been sent to show us what we ought to have done. They’ve invested ambitiously, fought tooth-and-nail to keep hold of their best players, and played with style and courage.

They also, not too long ago, replaced an ageing legend with an upwardly-mobile young manager. Increasingly, I think Arsenal may have to do the same this summer. Regarding Arsene’s future, it suddenly struck me the other day: have we all missed the obvious?

If Arsene is staying, why hasn’t he signed? He’s had ample opportunity to do so throughout the season. If it was a question of PR timing, surely the optimum time to announce a new deal would have been either side of the Christmas period, when Arsenal topped the table?

I can’t remember when it was now, but after one of his contract renewals Arsene spoke about the importance of offering security and certainty to the team. Surely that would have proved beneficial this season, too. And yet the manager has resisted.

A few years back, he spoke about his intention to quit management before retirement age. He’ll be 65 in October. When Arsene said after the semi-final that the result of the final would have no bearing on his future, I immediately felt his mind was already made up. And then much of the above crystallised in a moment of what felt like clarity.

Bacary Sagna hasn’t signed his new deal, and it’s led many of us to conclude that he’s definitely leaving. Apply the same logic to Arsene, and you can only reach one conclusion.

I’m only speculating, and you’re all entitled to point and laugh when Arsene announces his new deal on Monday morning. I just wonder if our heads have been in the sand all season long, when the obvious has been hammering on the ground desperately trying to get our attention.

Anyway. Hull next. Time to tame the Tigers.

Everton Preview: My glass needs refilling

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Previews, Premier League |  

I’ve seen our draw with Manchester City cited as vindication of our abilities against the top teams. I can see why one might think that: it was a valiant fight-back against a team in rampant form who are still in the thick of the title race.

My glass, however, is half-drained. I’m more inclined to observe that we haven’t beaten either of Manchester City or Chelsea, home or away, all season. The aggregate scores aren’t pretty. We secured draws in the home games, but they were draws the opposition were more than happy to take. The point suited them far more than us.

Those results are ultimately what have knocked us out of title contention and in to a customary battle for a top four finish. Today we face Everton in what is being called a “six pointer”. Arsenal hope to have an FA Cup Final to look forward to, but this is undoubtedly Everton’s cup final. Lose, and they face an unexciting trudge towards the Europa League. Win, and they will believe they can overhaul us and reach the Champions League.

This is undoubtedly a huge game. However, it’s only become a huge game because we failed to win any of the other huge games. Everton are striving to climb the mountain; Arsenal to arrest the slide.

Given Everton’s challenging fixture list, a point would be fine. I think Arsenal might set up more conservatively than usual. If we avoid defeat today, our run-in looks manageable.

Come on you Gunners.

Thoughts on the Derby & Deadline Day

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Previews, Match Reports | 3 Guns

Derby Day victory…
Felt as good as it ever does. Arsenal needed this win more than Tottenham, and it showed.

It was fitting that this game marked the return of Mathieu Flamini to Arsenal: our display was cast in his image, occasionally lacking finesse but full of commitment and courage. Our passing game wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but we were certainly fired up.

Spurs looked like a side who haven’t yet worked out their attacking strategy. They don’t seem to know what sort of service Roberto Soldado thrives off – for all their possession, they didn’t create many clear-cut chances.

They had similar problems last season but got out of jail time after time thanks to one Gareth Bale. Fortunately, they no longer have that trump card at their disposal.

Conversely, Arsenal seem to be developing a fairly coherent tactical set-up. As against Fulham, once ahead they dropped deep behind the ball, using the lung-busting running of Walcott and Ramsey to launch rapier counter-attacks.

If it weren’t for the alert goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris, Arsenal could have won by another goal or two.

Mesut Ozil is a game-changing signing…
Assuming it goes ahead, it’s massive. I would never have believed that we’d be capable of signing a marquee talent of this level.

All the other big names we’ve been linked with this summer have had some slight against them. Higuain never convinced in Madrid’s biggest games. Suarez is a bitey racist rat. Conversely, Ozil was a Real regular and is arguably in the world’s top ten players.

Ozil is genuinely one of my favourite footballers. I’ve been infatuated with him ever since the 2010 World Cup. I can hardly wait to see him play.

However…
I hate to gripe on what is a undoubtedly momentous day for the club, but I’m staggered that Arsenal are going to go in to the season with Olivier Giroud as the only senior centre-forward.

Giroud was superb against Spurs, but by the end of the game was exhausted. It’s a feeling he’ll have to get used to in the coming months.

Right. Now it’s time to get this deal announced. Less than an hour to go. Come on Arsenal.

Newcastle Preview: Jubilation or Recrimination?

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews, Premier League | 930 Guns

It’s tempting to compare this to cup final day: a one-off game to decide the destiny of the sole remaining prize on the table.

Typically of Arsenal, however, we’re talking about a cup without a trophy; a prize without a medal. Champions League qualification is rightly a priority for the club, but it brings with it no formal garlands.

Nevertheless, it’s important. Supporters are generally united in their desire to see Arsenal flex their financial muscle this summer; European qualification makes that infinitely more likely. It’d also us to avoid the significant heartache to be pipped up at the post by our neighbours and rivals, Spurs.

It’s in our own hands. Victory at St. James’ Park guarantees fourth place; perhaps even third if Chelsea slip up at home to Everton. Tottenham know they must beat Sunderland at home to stand any chance of leap-frogging us in to the Champions League.

Arsenal ought to have enough to secure three points today. In these end of season games, the side who needs victory more generally takes it. Footballers are hard to motivate at the best of times, and Pardew will have a job getting his lacklustre Newcastle side at the races for a game that matters little to them.

News broke last night that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has offered a £1m bonus to the non-playing staff should they beat Arsenal. That doesn’t change much. Incentivising the dinner ladies is somewhat redundant when the dinner ladies are unlikely to be playing. I suspect the circulation of this story is a PR move designed to counter Alan Pardew’s ridiculous assertion that he “didn’t care” if the Toon Army got tonked now they’re safe from relegation.

As far as the team goes, I’d stick with the same back four that started against Wigan. Nacho Monreal has generally started the away games, but this is no time for rotation, especially at the back.

Olivier Giroud has returned from suspension and I’d favour immediately reintroducing him to the side. Podolski finished well twice against Wigan but his contribution to the rest of our play was minimal. Giroud provides a focal point and could prove useful for set pieces at both ends.

Finally, if there’s any way at all we can Mikel Arteta on the pitch, we should. Even if he can only manage an hour, it could be vital. He is the de factor captain of the team, and there is no direct replacement for him within the squad. If he picks up another knock and has to come off, he has several months to recover. One thing is certain: Arteta himself will be desperate to play.

When Arsenal take to the field at 4pm, I’ll actually be at work. I’ll finish at almost exactly the same time as the match, and log on to furious recriminations or wild jubilation. It seems absurd that a 38-game season can be decided on one match, one point, one goal.

That’s because it can’t. Whatever our final league standing is come 6pm, it’s important to remember that’s not so much down to the events of today as it is the story of the entire season.

Whatever happens, a backwards step will be required to assess this season properly. There’ll be time for that next week. For now, it’s time to cross all available digits and hope for the best. Come On You Gunners.

Wigan Preview: A relegation six-pointer

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews, Premier League | 671 Guns

As a man once said: it’s squeaky bum time.

I’ll confess: I don’t really know what that means. Not literally. It could refer to the squeaking sound created by edging forward on your seat in excitement, or the flatulence created as a consequence of anxiety. I haven’t got a clue. I’m not sure anyone really knows. People just accepted it and laughed, because that’s what you did if you wanted to stay on Alex Ferguson’s good side. More of him later.

Figuratively, I know what it means. It refers to the unique tension experienced at the business end of the season. It’s a tension all too familiar to both Arsenal, as they chase a Champions League spot, and tonight’s relegation-threatened opponents Wigan. This ought to be a hell of a game. Anything other than a win for Wigan will see the Lactics effectively relegated. Anything other than a win for Arsenal will hand Spurs the initiative in the race for the Champions League. It’s a straight-up shoot-out. If I were looking to put a bet on in a place like Unibet in this game, I’d be scouring the live betting odds for more than four goals in the game.

Going gung-ho will suit Wigan, who are more comfortable in possession than under pressure. They will be buoyed by the weekend’s FA Cup Final victory over Manchester City, and with good reason: few sides in the bottom half of the Premier League could take the game to City with the ebullience and effervescence Wigan displayed. The attacking trio of McManaman, Maloney and Kone would grace teams far higher up the table.

The Wembley turf is famously energy-sapping, and Arsenal will be hoping to exploit those tired legs tonight. The permutations could not be plainer: Chelsea’s win at Aston Villa has all but secured them a top four spot. If Arsenal win both their remaining games, they are guaranteed to join them.

If Arsenal do relegate Wigan tonight, I’ll be sorry to see them go. Few teams in this league play football with more ambition and artistry. However, I’d far rather see Wigan go down than see Arsenal effectively relegated from the top four – especially if Tottenham were to benefit.

Arsene Wenger faces several selection dilemmas. The return to fitness of Lukasz Fabianski threatens the place of Wojciech Szczesny, while the manager must also choose which of Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal is best suited to cope with the trickery of Calum McManaman. In midfield, Jack Wilshere will be pushing for a recall, while Lukas Podolski’s inert performance at QPR could see his claim to the central striking role come under threat from Theo Walcott and Gervinho.

Whichever side Arsene names tonight ought to be good enough to secure three points, but we’ve been here before. In this fixture last season, Arsenal were foiled by a tactical masterclass from Wigan. It won’t be easy.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think it would come to this. I didn’t expect Chelsea and Spurs to pick up quite so many points from the run-in as they have. Last season, it felt as if no side wanted the Champions League spots. This side, no-one wants to give them up. It would be cruel and painful to miss out so late in the day.

A word on Fergie. Whatever your opinions of the man, it’s hard not to have an enormous amount of respect for what he’s achieved in the game. As I watched him bid farewell to an appreciative Old Trafford yesterday, I couldn’t help but hope that we’re eventually able to give Arsene Wenger a similarly warm send-off.

Two wins this week would help make that a little more probable.

 

Man U Preview: Let’s win for our own sake

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews, Premier League | 730 Guns

A lot of pre-match chat will surround how Arsenal fans should react to United entering the field. There is debate over how exactly we should greet the return of Robin van Persie. Some pundits suggest respect is due; most fans are preoccupied by revenge.

Frankly, I think it’s soap opera nonsense. There is something far more important at stake today: three points.

It doesn’t really hurt me to welcome United as champions. It would hurt far more if they’d won it at our expense, but it’s not as if they pipped us to the post. We were never in contention for the prize.

Seeing Van Persie return as a champions is uncomfortable, irritating and a touch embarrassing, but we’ve got to remember our priorities. Right now we’re embroiled in a battle to for Champions League qualification with Spurs and Chelsea, and this is a great opportunity to tighten our grip on third place.

As it happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if Van Persie was left on the bench today. Alex Ferguson left Wayne Rooney out on his first return to Everton, and perhaps the United manager will be mindful that including the Dutchman will work the Emirates crowd in to a frenzy.

It’s our responsibility to create that atmosphere regardless. United have little to play for; Arsenal still have their season at stake. On our home turf, we should have every chance of causing an upset.

Manchester United arrive today expecting to receive a guard of honour. Let’s make them run the gauntlet instead.

Reading Preview: Is this thing on?

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews | 196 Guns

One-two… one-two… is anyone out there? Is this thing on?

Football is back. It feels like it’s been away for an eternity. We had that international nonsense, but that’s not ‘football’ as I understand it. It’s essentially an elaborate cover-up for a conspiracy to maim as many members of our squad as possible.

This time round we lost Theo Walcott to an injury picked up while away with England. Fortunately for Theo and Arsenal, it’s not too serious and he should be back in the next couple of weeks.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for Abou Diaby: Arsenal’s worst injury news was reserved for a player who hadn’t actually gone away on international duty.

Diaby has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament while training at London Colney, and will subsequently miss the remainder of 2013. It’s unsurprising, but still terribly sad. There’s no doubting Diaby’s talent, but it seems injury problems will prevent him from ever fulfilling it. I don’t want to write him off prematurely, but even if he recovers from this injury and is fit and healthy for the remainder of his career, the years he has lost mean he will never be the player he threatened to be.

By the time he returns from this injury he will be 27. He should be at his peak, and yet his career has never really started. I would curse his luck, but I’d far rather curse Dan Smith: the man responsible for the horror tackle that precipitated his decline.

Arsene Wenger had previously earmarked Diaby as someone who could player an important part during the run-in. However, the manager will now have to do without his French midfielder, starting today against Reading. Despite an intervening fortnight gap, I expect the line-up to show some continuity from the ones which triumphed over Bayern and Swansea. That means the defensive trio of Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscielny should continue at the expense of messrs Szczesny, Sagna and Vermaelen. In midfield, Arteta and Ramsey will provide a defensive platform for Santi Cazorla to weave his magic. Olivier Giroud should keep his place upfront, and Arsene will then have to choose two wingers from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and the fit again Lukas Podolski. I’d like to see a recall for the German, who was devastatingly efficient in the reverse fixture back in December.

This is a game Arsenal must win. It’s also, with respect to Reading, a game Arsenal should win. Tottenham travel to Swansea who are certainly no pushover. The right results today could see Arsenal within a point of their North London rivals with a game in hand. After the derby defeat, it catching Spurs felt unthinkable.

Now, Arsenal fans everywhere are wondering: is this thing on?

Come on you Gunners. Let’s make it happen.

Arsene has declared this a dead rubber

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Champions League, Match Previews | 193 Guns

If Arsene Wenger thought Arsenal had any realistic chance of progressing against Bayern Munich, Wojciech Szczesny would be playing tomorrow.

If we had designs on producing a remarkable comeback, surely we’d be selecting the man most likely to keep a clean sheet. Conceding would take the chance of victory from implausible to impossible. And yet we’re preparing to select one of Lukasz Fabianski or Vito Mannone: a pair of keepers not entrusted to play against the likes of Bradford and Blackburn in the domestic cups, with Szczesny “rested” at home.

You don’t “rest” players in the biggest games. The decision suggests that Arsene has declared tomorrow a dead rubber and is focusing attention upon an increasingly important domestic campaign. On balance, it’s hard to argue with that point of view. Even the most optimistic Gooner will struggle to make a case for Arsenal being in the hat for the quarter-final draw.

If the tie were a bit closer, I have no doubt that Szczesny would play. I suspect Lukas Podolski, left at home to nurse a niggling ankle problem, would also be in the side. As thing stand, Arsene is being pragmatic. Reaching the Champions League quarter-finals is less important than being in the group stage next year.

Arsenal don’t need to progress tonight, but they do need to restore a modicum of pride. We travel to Swansea on Saturday for a difficult and crucial league game. Restoring some confidence with a creditable result in Germany would be a huge boost, especially for a squad which will be rattled by the loss of the inspirational Jack Wilshere.

We’ve got a huge battle on between now and the end of the season. My delight at Liverpool’s victory over Spurs at the weekend was tempered by the knowledge that Brendan Rogers’ side are now making significant ground on us. Arsenal need to fight for fourth and yet are in real danger of slipping to sixth.

The Bayern game is about finding reasons to believe, for players and fans alike. Let’s hope we get some.

Spurs vs. Arsenal: Fan-to-Fan Preview

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews, Premier League | 237 Guns

Hello one and all.  I’m back from a brief holiday in time for the biggest game of our season.  To help me preview it, I’ve called upon the services of Tottenham fan @adamdnathan.

TEAM NEWS

AN: Aside from the long term injuries to Sandro and Kaboul, both of whom would be massive additions to the side, Spurs should be at full strength. Defoe may return in time for a place on the bench, but in spite of Adebayor’s recent poor form, it seems generally accepted that we play better as a team with the Togolese leading the line.

GS: Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, meaning Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson will continue at full-back.  Abou Diaby is apparently facing a fitness test, although even if he passes I’d consider starting him too great a gamble.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

AN: Most of the team picks itself, with Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Parker, Dembele, Bale, Lennon and Adebayor certain to start. AVB’s only decision will be to play Ekotto or Vertonghen at left back, with Caulker inside if he takes the latter option, and Holtby in the attacking three or perhaps Gylfi Sigurdsson, who finally looked to be an £8 million player on Monday.

GS: Arsenal’s back four picks itself – it’s ahead of that where Arsene Wenger faces some tricky choices.  I’d opt for the work-rate of Aaron Ramsey alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of our midfield, with Jack Wilshere in the number 10 role.  That means shifting Santi Cazorla wide, which unfortunately drops Lukas Podolski to the bench once again.

MATCH-WINNER

AN: Bale is pretty much the only answer to this question of course, but Hugo Lloris could be as much of a match saver as a winner. He has been exceptional since taking the reigns from Friedel in the reverse fixture, and is regularly winning the team points with big moments between the sticks.

GS: Santi Cazorla has scored Arsenal’s last three Premier League goals, and my gut says he could be the man to unlock Spurs once again tomorrow.

DANGER-MAN

AN: In terms of dictating the game, it will be vitally important for us to limit the time we allow Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla on the ball, but the player who will always scare me when in an Arsenal shirt is Theo Walcott. I’m firmly in the camp of him being a top Premier League player, and his goals and assist stats over the last few years certainly suggest that he will be the man to watch tomorrow.

GS: There’s no doubt that Gareth Bale is the man in form.  Few players in Europe are producing those match-winning moments on such a consistent basis.  Arsenal fans are quick to knock Bale down (not the hardest thing to do, after all), but I suspect that any criticism masks their genuine irritation that Tottenham have a player with that kind of ability.  In recent games he’s been deployed in the centre.  I’d be happy to see him there again, as I do worry about what he might do up against Carl Jenkinson, who is currently lacking both experience and match practice.

STAKES

AN: It’s going to be a crucial games for both teams’ aspirations of getting into the Champions League next year, with a win really boosting either sides’ chances going into the last 10 games of the season. Should the game be a draw with 15-20 minutes to go however, it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams were happy to play the rest of the game out and back themselves to finish above the other with a good run of form going into May.

GS: Arsenal simply have to avoid defeat.  A draw keeps things open going in to the final stretch, but a win for Spurs would hand them all the initiative.  As for what a heavy defeat would do to the club… well, I’d rather not think/write about it.  A win would be fantastic, but a draw would be enough to give us a fighting chance of finishing fourth.

PREDICTION

AN: If, as alluded to in his press conference, Arsenal don’t go into the game with a plan for Gareth Bale, there is a strong possibility that the Welshman could run riot again against a shaky defence. I don’t see him being the sole protagonist though, and arsenal clearly have a number of players who could hurt us. In truth, I can see the game being a bit of a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw, which both sides ultimately settle for at the final whistle.

GS: It strikes me that a draw would suit both sides, and on such occasions I’m always inclined to plump for a stale-mate.  I’ll follow Adams lead and plump for an entertaining 2-2.

Fancy a flutter on the big game? Check out my Unibet Betting Preview here.