The year of the Ram

Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal

Every now and then I do that thing where I wonder what some of our home-grown players would fetch on the open market. Jack Wilshere, of course, form and injury notwithstanding, would command a pretty fee – a most handsome fee. But what about Aaron Ramsey? In just this last year his form has gone bananas, taking him from a squad player to a first choice teamsheeter. From being a victim of grumbles, he has emerged into the sunny uplands of the best form of his career. “What he has achieved is fantastic”, said Wenger. Damn right it is. We all saw that injury. My own leg goes wobbly even now, just thinking about it, so imagine how hard it has been for him to recover from that, both physically and mentally. To force yourself into a team, and then to make it stick.

This is what Wenger means, I suspect, about building your team rather than buying it ready-made. When you get someone who so utterly turns his fortunes around, it’s hard not to have a massive grin on your face. It says it all that on Ozil’s debut, it was all about Ramsey. His first goal was volleyed so hard the keeper couldn’t even drop a foot to block it. And his second was coolly slotted home after some ping-ping passing of the highest order.

Ozil, what about him? Top class despite having spent the day on the can (if it’s ok with you I’d rather not analyse this too much). Setting up Giroud’s goal and feeding Walcott the tastiest morsels. And that was just his debut. We’ve all read a lot about him, watched all the presentation videos, seen the fallout of his departure, so it was just a joy to get that first game done.

And so to Theo, a classic confidence player whose form is not quite that of his Welsh midfield mucker. Wide players – wingers, call them what you will – are the kinds of players who can drift in and out of games, due in part to their geographical location. Walcott was not peripheral yesterday, it’s just that he missed the chances he was presented with. I suspect he can’t wait for that first goal to come. Easy to forget though that he was our top scorer last season. It’ll come. As for his chances, the first one was the best. The header was a header, and he’s no Smudger Smith.

We got a bit of luck, for sure, and we seem to have developed an addiction to conceding penalties, which is not so amusing. But these are iron-outable things, I think. Maybe at the tail end of last season we veered too far into solid defensive territory at the expense of rip-snorting football, and this year we’ve veered too far the other way (these are eye-opening technical observations, I’m sure you’ll concur), and we need to get the balance right. Or maybe we just need Per back.

And Giroud? He says he’s ok. “He is the player at the moment that would be very difficult for us [to replace]” said Wenger. I am tempted to drop a sarcastic comment at this stage, maybe adding a throw-away soundbite about Bendtner, but given we find ourselves in a happy place, and in some good form, I might just button the old lip.

Onwards to France. Vive le genou de Giroud.

Giroud, Giroud, Giroud is on fire

Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham

Doffed chapeaus all round – to Giroud, for an imposing performance in which he scored a deft little number (“good touch for a big man”), to Mertesacker for his robotic leg, to all-action Flamini for coming on, rustier than a shipwreck, and getting stuck in from the off. To Ramsey for another gut-busting performance, to Wilshere for not being injured, just a bit squiffy, and to everyone else really, because we beat our old pals deservedly and it felt as good as it always does.

Incidentally, I did like fellow seat-dweller Shedman’s take on Flamini’s return. “He’s a proper grown-up”.

Quite a strange game in some respects, with Arsenal ceding a fair bit of possession to Spurs, especially in the second half, but still having by far the better chances. Walcott had a couple of good opportunities, Ramsey skied one, Cazorla could have got in on the act and Monreal almost got to a rebound. The atmosphere was crackling and the team spirit clear for all to see, with some of the players dispensing of their shirts into the crowd. There were fist pumps.

Yes, it was amusing in a perverse way that £100m of signings lost to £0, but theirs has been an approach to the transfer market that many of us wish we had at least in part emulated (though we don’t need seven – maybe two or three), and there’s not a man jack who isn’t hoping against all hope that we splash at least a few thousand of our multimillions today. Because let’s be honest, when a few injuries hit, as they have and do, a bench containing two full-backs plus Zelalem, Sanogo and Gnabry is not really a long-term solution (much as I want them all to get their chance). Our first XI cannot do it all. We ended the game with all four full-backs playing.

It’s a big boost to head into the interlull (Yes! There’s another!) with a win, and to dispense some of the storm clouds, but as we all know what happens today – somewhat ludicrously – could also have a big effect both on the pitch this season, but also off it too.

Will we sign anyone? Anyone big? Well guess what, I don’t want to jinx it so I’m not even going to mention one of the big names we’ve been linked with. Because that jinxes it, duh.

I will however update this page when the tide of world-class footballers starts to flood into Highbury House. If I start taking on water, I’ll send out a mayday.

Come on you reds. Come on you CEO. Come on you rip-roaring legal department.

A 7-game struggle awaits Arsenal

QPR 2-1 Arsenal

Like most Arsenal fans, I expect, I wasn’t naïve enough to anticipate a serene run of victories that would enable us to sail through to the end of the season unhindered. I expected a blip, but I didn’t really expect that blip yesterday. Maybe the players didn’t, either, and therein lies the rub.

It’s not easy to sound authoritative about a game based solely on Match of the Day highlights, so I won’t even try. From what I can glean, defensively it looked like a bad day at the office, with the usually towering Vermaelen in particular having one to forget. Hats off to QPR of course for taking the game to Arsenal – I’m sure that this morning that nobody at Arsenal will need reminding (or re-reminding, ha) that relegation-threatened sides are often like wounded animals. Underestimate them at your peril.

Wenger was pretty honest about our defeat – he’s been doing this a lot this season after we lose, and losing is something we have now done nine times.

“What we produced on the day was not good enough… subconsciously something was missing today. If you miss something on the commitment front you are beaten. That is what happened today”.

So he admitted that we simply weren’t as committed as we should have been, a bit complacent, which kind of makes me want to bash my head against a wall. If there’s one thing he’s been preaching – as have the players – it’s the need to not let the foot off the gas, take each game at a time and blah blah blah.

Of course, winning seven consecutive games is special, and maybe that focus and tempo simply gets harder and harder to maintain. And like I said, it’s not realistic to expect us to turn up and snaffle each and every three points.

Ramsey as a winger was a mysterious move, given we have two much more suitable options there in the shape of Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain. As much as I cannot fathom that, I doubt that was what lost us the game. We just weren’t at the races enough.

It’s a jolt back to reality and a reminder that a top-four finish is going to be a proper slog. A reminder too that for all the invention and spirit shown since February, this Arsenal side is not good enough to turn up and bully teams when not playing at 100%. If Spurs win today – and they will not lack for motivation now – the difference between us returns to being razor-thin. Chelsea are only five points behind. Frankly, with seven games left, third place remains anyone’s to win and lose.

Next up, Manchester City.

Match review: From Blustered to Unflustered

Red Sky

Arsenal 3-0 West Brom

No perching on the edge of the seat, nails bitten to the quick or hearts a-racing. No early goal for the visitors. No visions of wildebeests surrounded by lions at set pieces. No clinging on to a slim lead for dear life as the clock approaches 90 minutes. Is this the Arsenal we know and love? Well if it is, let me confess that I like it rather a lot.

I’m sure we will soon welcome stronger teams and teams in richer veins of form than the Baggies, but we controlled yesterday’s match from beginning to end and – if you are being uncharitable to West Brom – I always thought there was another gear should another gear be needed.

The timing of the goals was impeccable. A goal on 22 minutes set us up nicely, another on 39 – that morale-sapping period before the first half ends – made the challenge even harder for the visitors, and the final one, on 74, and the game was up. For you, West Brom, ze match is over.

For the first, it was all about Aaron Ramsey’s sumptuous (and dare I say it, Fabregasesque) pass to Walcott. What a fine talent he is – just think of his chipped pass for Gervinho against Sunderland, and again at Chelsea for Gervinho to set van Persie up on a plate. Just as we know have three strong options in central defence, imagine the potential when Wilshere comes back with Ramsey and Arteta – and Ben-Eye Oon and Rosicky – in the creative positions.

van Persie turned provider – adding another feather to his already feather-riddled cap for numbers two and three, the pick of the bunch being the last one. van Persie, bish. Rosicky, bash. van Persie, bish bash and Arteta bosh*

*This technical analysis is hard to beat, anywhere on the web

Mertesacker was rested, and in his absence Vermaelen and Koscielny made a formidable pair. I have to laugh when I look at Koscielny, because after a season bedding in he’s turning into *yet another* Wenger bargain. What was he, £8 million? He’ll be worth more now. As, you can assume, will the £2.75m van Persie be. On Friday’s Arsecast, the Frenchman was much discussed and it was pointed out – I can’t quite recall whether it was by Philippe Auclair or Arsebl Augger – that for a man who has been lambasted for his defensive signings, this one looks to be turning out alright for Wenger.

Jenkinson will receive some plaudits too. He looked like an Arsenal fan who won a competition to play for his boyhood club in the early stages of the season, but if you didn’t know what Wenger saw in him then, you will do now. Put simply: He can cross.

And boy, can he cross. He must have sliced, curled or powered five or six excellent crosses in yesterday. It was just a shame there was nobody at the end of any of them to finnish them*.

[*Red card – Ed]

It’s a powerful tool to have on the right side of the pitch, for sure, and with a bit more experience under his belt, the defensive side of things should get better, too.

Overall, a straightforward win, but you won’t hear me complaining. We’ve had too many edgy wins, frustrating draws or disappointing defeats over the last year to last a lifetime. Wins like this I hoover up gladly.

Over to you, International Break, you miserable wretch.

Ramsey’s treat, Laurent’s borough

Marseille 0-1 Arsenal

There are times when the best course of action is simply to hide all the dog-eared and moth-eaten parts of Arsenal’s game behind the sofa and enjoy the catharsis of a late win. This is definitely one of those times.

As the game drifted on in the second half and Walcott spurned what looked like the best chance we would get, it looked like it would be another one of those games. Marseille offered nothing, Arsenal looked neat and tidy without being remotely ruthless. I can’t remember the last performance that would have got Arsenal fans, let alone neutrals, standing around the water cooler the next morning evoking Arsenal’s delicious football, but grinding out results is where we find ourselves at the moment.

And then, deep into injury time, came our one moment of ruthlessness. You see lads, it’s a winning formula! Djourou curved in a nice cross, Gervinho touched it on to Ram Zamzi* who coolly swapped feet and slotted the winner home.

I tell you what, that felt good. We weren’t great, but we were far and away the more aggressive side going forward and to nick it in the end is always fun. For too long the perception is that we’re the ones likely to concede late on – no smoke without fire – so for us to dish it out right before the klaxon sounded will have done the lads a lot of good.

Some noteworthy performances too. Laurent Koscielny was absolutely excellent all night, so much so that you can now reasonably ask: Who will be our first choice centre-back pairing when Vermaelen is fit? You might think it would be Mertesacker and Vermaelen, but on last night’s form, Koscielny dropping to the bench would be a cruel move. Perhaps it’s just a case of rotating – though we’ve been doing that a bit too much in that position this year. And look where it’s got us.

A nod to Carl Jenkinson too. His journey from non-league to Arsenal is well known. He’s 19 and a total rookie. But what he lacks in experience, he possesses in heart and last night he bombed forward, always looking to cross, busting a gut. He spent most of the night grimacing with pain or gasping for air but he’s got real spirit. Shame for him he went off injured. The curse of the centre half has drifted east and is now the curse of the right back…

It was a mixed performance in midfield (decent in the middle, average on the edges) but overall, it’s a result that cannot fail to emit a warm glow.

A bit of luck, commitment to the very end, a touch of ruthlessness. That’s five wins from six in all competitions, and the first time in 17 Champions League games we haven’t conceded a goal (see Orbinho’s tweet from last night).

We’re ploughing on.

* My 3-year-old calls Aaron Ramsey ‘Ram Zamzi’. It has an air of international panache about it, I think.

Mayday, mayday – Arsenal catch fire

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United

Well, that was fun.

Fresh out of the title race and with the handbrake well and truly off, Arsenal put in the kind of shift and performance that – had they happened more frequently this season – would have been the benchmark.

That our benchmark has in fact been drawing or losing from winning positions, or not taking our chance to edge ahead even when the opportunity is presented to us on a silver salver, makes yesterday all the more frustrating. You could spend months turning yourself inside-out mulling over the What Ifs if you wanted to, but it wouldn’t get you anywhere, so what’s the point?

Best I think to take it as a fine one-off performance, and it really was.

Maybe it was the glorious sunshine, refreshing breeze and the glow of Bremen’s finest export, but I was in a state of almost horizontal calm before the match. This is what happens when you don’t expect too much.

From the off though, you could tell that Arsenal were up for it, with both Walcott and Wilshere squandering presentable chances early on. Ramsey, Song and Wilshere were having a ball in midfield, with Djourou and Koscielny untroubled at the back. The latter made one particularly thunderous interception on Fabio. Tackling at its finest.

The referee was doing his best to get in the way of Arsenal passes wherever possible – one of them even looked like a nifty backheel – and was clearly too busy honing his positional interceptions to spot Nemanja Maradona’s handball. Rooney was bubbling with frustration; always a good sign.

The goal, when it came, was not dissimilar to Arshavin’s against Barcelona. Van Persie waited and waited, before passing to the unmarked Ramsey to slot it home.

Hats off to the Welshman. For my money it was his finest Arsenal performance to date, against tough opposition, and if there’s anyone who better deserved the catharsis of a goal then I’d like to know who it is.

His partnership with Wilshere, sitting in front of the equally excellent Song, really blossomed. That we did not miss Fabregas yesterday says it all, and bodes extremely well. For me, the Wilshere/Ramsey partnership was the stand-out highlight of an all-round impressive performance.

Ramsey also seems more vocal than I remember him being – when Sagna made a clearance in the first half, he was first to him to slap him on the back. It’s easy to see why Wales took a punt on making him their captain.

OK, so the last 30 mins was a bit hairier, but we held on well and can be grateful that the referee was at least as poor for Man Utd as he was for us. Clichy’s clumsy tackle on Owen would have been given as a penalty more times than it wouldn’t. But the old saying that things even themselves out was very apt here – one penalty apiece not given – and we were well worth our win.

Clichy – prone to this – did otherwise have an excellent game, particularly from an attacking perspective. Szczesny showed once again that while he needs to work on distribution – he wasted several goal kicks at the end by kicking them all the way to van der Sar – he is an imposing keeper and a fine shot-stopper. We do not need a new number one in the summer.

Anything left to achieve this season? Of course. As well as cementing an automatic Champions League place, which is well within our grasp if we play like that, I’d like to see us win all of our final three games of the season. Should we do that, it would be the first time this campaign that we will have won four league games in a row.

Apparently, it was the most youthful team fielded by any side this season in the Premier League – averaging 23 years and 296 days. No doubt the boss will see that as vindication of his approach. It’s hard to disagree based on yesterday’s performance, but that doesn’t mean some hard work needs to be done on the training pitch and with the cheque book over the summer to ensure that performances like that are the norm and not the exception.

Enjoy your bank holiday – I know I will.

All eyes on Arsenal’s emerging midfield

So another interlull zips by, and there was me thinking this one would be a blessed relief. It may well be for the team, for Wenger and for the fitness coaches, but as is often the case I’m already a little bit more excited than I ought to be about a game eight days away against the kind of northern outpost not usually noted to bring out the giddiness in me. Even by my own standards, this is an early bout.

Ramsey v Wilshere will more than pass the time on Saturday. It’s always gratifying to see two extremely talented Arsenal boys lauded as these two have been. I don’t know whether, as some have said, Wilshere will be the finest English player of his generation – I wouldn’t want to burden him with such an absurd and premature label – but I do know a good player when I see one. He’s without doubt – with a cap doffed in the direction of the tireless and underestimated Raymondo Parlour – the best English midfielder to come through the ranks at Arsenal since the rich mid-80s seam containing Rocastle, Thomas & Davis.

From last season being a young footballer who desperately needed games to progress, he’s gone, in a short period of time, to playing every game and being lined up for every tournament known to man stretching away into the future. He could be at the Euro U21s this summer, he could be playing for GB at the Olympics in 2012. He could be shagged out by 2013. It’s a tricky one to manage though.

Ramsey – well who knows how his progress would have measured against that of Wilshere? He was ahead of him in developmental terms before his sickening injury. Now he’s behind him, for obvious reasons, but he’s once again staking his place at international and club level. Given that I get twinges in my own leg when I think of his injury, he has done remarkably well to get both physically and mentally fit, and to thump into tackles as he has done since his return. It’ll take a bit of time to regain the sharpness needed but in a midfield containing players of oscillating form, he could be a big addition for Arsenal between now and May. Especially if he can play goalie or centre-back [that’s quite enough of that – Ed].

This morning, you will find my dulcet tones, as well as those of Arseblogger [of course], Goonerholic & Arse2Mouse, on the Arsecast. My suspicion is that I am a bit mopingabout-ish, but not I hope, overly so.

I do feel in recent weeks that I have been dunked, Obelix-like, into a vat of woe. I certainly appear to have superhuman levels of pessimism, but they’re wearing off, albeit slowly, and unless Blackburn Rovers dip me once again into the cauldron of gloom, I can feel the tingle of a rising tide of random optimism just around the corner. I’m leaning towards the notion of absurd blogging positivity, whatever happens, just to balance the books.

Five points behind you say? Game in hand, is that? Win them all and we’re the champs – you sure? Let’s magic some form out of the ether for the Blackburn game and take it from there.

What’s done is done, but the debate needs to continue.

It’s four days now since Ramsey’s horror injury, and I’ve been impressed by the powerful, tenacious and heartfelt blogging (and podcasting) on what has been an incredibly emotive issue.

The reaction has been revealing though, hasn’t it? There’s been an incredible polarisation of articles, between those who bow to the ‘it was an accident’ and ‘he’s a good lad’ argument and those who realise that, if it’s brushed off so lightly as it has been this time and in the past, then it’s just going to happen again.

As for those who think the perpetrator has been overly stigmatised – I say go to Ramsey’s hospital bed and take a good look at his leg. Who is the victim here? Get real.

I’d be interested to know what, if anything, is going on behind the scenes – at Arsenal and at the Premier League. I’d be amazed if Arsenal had not registered their protests in some way.

While I don’t want to see the demise of a good tackle, I do think that the forcefulness of some tackles – such as this one, in the middle of the pitch, hardly the most crucial area – could be addressed. There is no way Shawcross needed to go in with such ferocity. Whether it was unintentional and lacking in malice is neither here nor there.

Then there’s the punishment. When players get three and four match bans for slight provocative gestures, or for an accumulation of yellow cards, yet a wild lunge that puts a fellow pro’s career in danger gets just a three match ban, then the authorities, in my opinion, are made to look like chumps. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

Will anything be done? I must say I doubt it will, at least not overtly. But at the same time I’d be quite surprised if the sight of another snapped leg – and all referees will have seen it, in all its gory detail – didn’t have some kind of effect. If it means referees move in to defuse and calm situations and players sooner then they would have done in the past, then I guess that would be a small step in the right direction. Maybe I am being too optimistic.

What can also not be denied is how superb, how loyal and how proactive Arsenal fans have been in rallying around. More than 56,000 have already signed Ramsey’s get well book, and there are some superb banners planned to support the young Welshman, such as this one from the Gooner. I believe Arseblog has something cooking on that front too. Fantastic stuff.

As for Saturday, well team news and international crocked-ness will no doubt follow. We’re definitely down Ramsey and Song. We’re probably up Diaby. I feel we are owed the healthy return of all our players. In fact, I demand it.

Whoever makes the starting XI, I do – arch pessimist though I sometimes am – feel that something has changed. Ramsey’s injury led directly to the raw emotion and togetherness of the players at the end of the win at Stoke. That desire and passion to make amends and make something happen will take some shifting. And it’s already being mirrored off the pitch by the fans.

I’ve not looked forward to a home game like this for some time.

I cannot wait.

Arsenal take strength from Ramsey’s agony

Stoke City 1-3 Arsenal

Fortunately for anyone who watches football, the sight of a player screaming in agony with his leg snapped and at the wrong angle is a rarity. I can remember it happening four of five times in all my years watching football. When it happened to Eduardo in 2008, it was too horrible to look at. So yesterday, for it to happen again to Aaron Ramsey was sickening in the extreme, and it has overshadowed everything. I was thinking about it all last night and I’m still thinking about it this morning.

We don’t know how bad it was, or how complicated it will be to heal, but you don’t need to see something like that in any great detail to know he will surely be out of action for a year. It’s doubly depressing to see as he just coming of age for Arsenal. He’s a magnificent little player.

The sad truth is he might find it hard to come back at all. If you look at the list of those who have suffered similar injuries in English football, a fair few had to retire not long after. We can but hope that Ramsey’s leg will heal and he will pick his career up where he left off. I feel desperately sorry for him.

Look at Diaby and Eduardo though, both of whom suffered similar injuries, and you will see two players still ping-ponging between the pitch and the treatment table. It’s a long road back.

I don’t doubt that Ryan Shawcross is a decent lad and meant no malice. The look on his face as he left the pitch tells you as much. But he broke a player’s leg. The tackle was a shocking one, a wild lunge, and three matches out seems absurdly lenient when you consider what Ramsey now faces. To cap it all off, he was called up for England. That was a bad call from a PR perspective if you ask me.

As Wenger and Fabregas both said post-match, for it to happen three times in five years to Arsenal players feels more than mere coincidence. There might be no malice involved, but for years we have been told the way to play Arsenal is to rough them up a bit, to knock them out their stride, and you know what, it’s worked too at times. But perhaps this is the result of that; occasionally, inevitably, there’ll be a badly timed tackle that does something like this.

Fabregas called for more protection but it’s hard to know what can be done against individual acts of stupidity, other than in retrospect. Yesterday, for example, was a rough-and-tumble physical scrap – one in which Arsenal showed magnificent commitment – marred by one dreadful tackle. That’s the way some teams play football; they play to their strengths just as Arsenal play to theirs. It’s hard to legislate against an individual player’s wild, late tackle other than to punish the player himself more harshly once it has happened. The punishment needs to fit the crime. At the moment, it doesn’t at all. Not remotely.

Onto the game. I thought it was a magnificent Arsenal fightback. OK, so our collective defensive amnesia saw us let in yet another goal in from a throw-in, but we matched Stoke’s commitment and showed a fantastic spirit overall.

I was particularly impressed with the way we recovered after Ramsey’s injury. For ten minutes the team was shell-shocked but we drove forward and you could tell what those two late goals meant to the players. The fist-pumping release of emotion after the Verm’s third goal made me proud. I was doing the same thing myself.

Maybe, just maybe, this team came of age yesterday. Fabregas captained the team majectically, scoring one, setting up two, and to see Vermaelen and Campbell roaring at the crowd tells you all you need to know. Anyone doubting the merit of having big Sol yet? He was fantastic. Clichy looked like a man possessed, a completely different player to the error-riddled Clichy of recent times. Alex Song was exceptional.

Three points off the top, with a collective spirit and a will to win forged by Ramsey’s leg break and a decent run-in.

We’re back in this, make no mistake.

A toast to absent friends as Arsenal freeze

Arsenal 2-2 Everton

A point gained or two points dropped? Both; the former for us, and the latter for Everton.

Let’s face it, we were very lucky indeed, scraping a late draw on a day when nothing went right and few people covered themselves in glory. It was a bad day in the office, one to file away in the recesses of the mind. One to forget, and forget it we probably will unless it becomes one of those pivotal games that bookends the start of a great run (or heaven forbid, a bad one).

I know it’s easy to say with hindsight, but I had an uneasy feeling about this game all morning yesterday. Everton have emerged from their early season funk and it showed. They gave us a right fright. All we can hope for (now that we have played them home and away) is that they can maintain their improving form, because they’ve got some big games between now and late February, and we could do with them taking some points off our closest rivals.

Not that I’m really thinking of a title surge at this stage. I think, if anything, the fitful performance yesterday just reminded me – and a few others besides, I should imagine – that we remain something of an outside shot to win the league in May.

Despite some excellent recent form, and a very healthy league position, the bottom line is that there’s nowhere on the pitch we couldn’t improve. Between the sticks we have an increasingly skittish Almunia. Though he remains a good shot stopper – he prevented Vaughan from making it game over when we were 2-1 down – almost all other aspects of his game have gone to pot. He’s been dropped once this season, and I wouldn’t bet against it happening again. I appreciate the arguments against doing it – it’s pretty much a P45 – but his form is so poor it has to be considered.

In defence, we have a rookie left-back who has done well enough in Clichy’s and Gibbs’ absences but reminds us from time to time why he is our third choice left-back. The rest of our established back line is still motoring along, but needs to tighten up. We are always looking capable of conceding.

We’re missing important players in midfield in Fabregas and Song. We’re missing the pacy outlet that is Walcott. And of course, we’re missing Bendtner and van Persie, leaving us reliant on playing Arshavin out of position and Eduardo without a recognised strike partner.

Taken as a whole, and in that context, we are doing amazingly well at the moment, and it’s hardly a big surprise to see a blip such as yesterday against a very good and committed Everton side.

Of course, Wenger can work on the players he has, and he can hassle the physio to empty London Colney of crocks, but more importantly from a momentum point of view, he can work on bringing in new faces. At the beginning of the month I remember him saying he wanted to do any deals early; well here we are a third of the way through the window and there’s still nothing doing.

I’d frankly be amazed if nobody came in this month, and I was going to stick my neck out I’d say he’ll bring a maximum of two, and that those two would be a central defender and a striker.

As for who or when – over to you, boss.