Monthly Archives: December 2012

Theo, Villa, Zaha, transfers, gossip, and the best/worst of 2012.

Happy NYE, you beautiful bastards!

Afternoon folks!

Winning on Saturday was splendid. For all the bouts of frustrating play, Theo showed us what he is capable of up front when he’s on his game. In the past, I’ve not been his greatest advocate or staunchest of supporters. There have been many times when I’d have happily throttled him as I watch seemingly easy passes bounce off him and to the opposition.

However, I’m not the type to refrain from admitting if I’m wrong. And I believe that I am. Our speedster in the No14 shirt has grown rapidly in 2012, and is finally beginning to show signs of how good he could be as a striker. The world won’t come crashing down around us if he chooses not to “Sign da ting”, but I truly hope he does. If his improvements continue, he’ll be an asset to whichever team he plays for – I hope it’s Arsenal.

As you might expect, in the days between fixtures there isn’t too much of note about. There have been many, many transfers stories and rumours. This tweet by Bury’s Tom Soares sent Twitter into nuclear meltdown yesterday:

https://twitter.com/TomSoares8/status/285495242289983488

Does that confirm anything whatsoever? Not at all. Wether you belive the Tweet is legitimate or not is irrelevant. The only place I’ll accept news from is the Club’s official website. The rest, amusing or otherwise, is unconfirmed, unsubstantiated balderdash. The reports of Cesc attempting to persuade David Villa to join Arsenal are just the same.

And that’s about it for today. I’ve got an evening of Indian food and alcohol in front of me, and I shall probably be expelling it from both ends come tomorrow morning. With that lovely image in mind, I’d like to wish all of you a fun filled NYE, and a prosperous 2013.

I’ll leave you with a bullet point selection of my best and worst Arsenal fan moments of 2012. Feel free to discuss and add your own in the comments section. I shall (hopefully) return tomorrow with a preview of the Southampton game.

Best:

  • Thierry Henry’s Leeds comeback goal
  • 5-2 against Spurs
  • 5-2 against Spurs
  • The 2nd leg performance against Milan.
  • Signing Santi Cazorla
  • Coming back from 4-0 down to win at Reading
  • Jack Wilshere’s return from injury

Worst:

  • Selling that Dutch prat to United
  • The 1st leg performance against Milan.
  • Bradford City
  • Gervinho’s selection of wonderful misses
  • Chelsea winning the Champions League
  • Piers Morgan
  • Shipping so many terrible goals
  • Walcott’s interminable contract saga

Thanks for reading!

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Arsenal’s starting XI for the game against Newcastle (match preview and round-up)

Saturday Dec 29th; FA Premiership, Newcastle (h)

Morning folks!

You know those fans that say they have a “2nd club”, or a “soft spot” for another team?  I’m not one of them. I’ve always seen it as Arsenal are my team, and all the rest are simply opponents – some more irksome than others.

However, if I were to be forced at gun point to name another team I have even the slightest affinity for, it would be Newcastle. I’m not entirely sure why that is. One of my earliest football memories is watching replays of that famous Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford against Newcastle in the FA Cup (I was born 6 years after it happened). Perhaps I felt sorry for them.

Today, however, they’re just another opponent, and one I’d expect us to beat. They’ve a decent strike force in Cisse and Ba, and any team that can score 3 at Old Trafford shouldn’t be taken lightly. Alan Pardew’s side is filled with good players, but results haven’t gone their way.

The Arsenal team news is good. Rosicky and Giroud return from illness, and even long-term absentees Diaby and Santos are alleged to be returning to full training. We have what is very close to a fully fit squad.

As was the case in the previous fixture, then main selection headache will be wether Arsene starts with Theo as the lone forward. If Newcastle deploy similar tactics to the ones used in last season’s fixture – Tim Krul time wasting after 30 minutes, and a defence-minded approach – then I would fear for Walcott being rendered useless by a lack of space. If they come to make a game of it, if they don’t sit deep and try to keep a clean sheet, then our contract-dodging speedster could be very effective.

It’s difficult to predict what the manager will do, but I believe he won’t want to disrupt a winning side, and the 11 that take the field will be the same as the Wigan game:

Having not played on Boxing Day has seen us lose ground on the top four and slip to 7th in the table. At kick-off today (5.30pm) it’s possible we will have dropped further down the table, should results in other games not go our way. The team should be rested and focused for the game, and a victory is crucial in keeping up with the Champions League spots.

My prediction is a 6-5 roller-coaster of a game with 5 sendings-off and 3 penalties. Every time I predict a routine win, something bizarre happens. Hopefully this will have the opposite effect.

If you fancy putting some money down on the result, head over to Bet Victor. £25 worth of free bets awaits those of you that sign up a new members. You can register here.

Arsenal vs Newcastle odds.

Lastly today, a special word must go to Pat Rice; a loyal servant to Arsenal football club who has been awarded an MBE in the new year’s honours list. As I’m sure you will all agree, richly deserved indeed.

That’s all for today, folks. Tomorrow I shall return with a full match review. In the meantime, the comments section awaits your views on the game, the team selction, and your preferred choice of striker. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

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Fully fit squad, Ba Humbug, and other news.

Arsene was horrified by his latest phone bill.

Evening (again) folks.

At the present, I’m sick as a dog. I usually post sat up, and with a glint of delight twinkling in my eye. At the moment, I’m typing from underneath the covers trying to stifle vomiting long enough to string something mildly coherent together. Your sympathetic comments will be greatly appreciated…

Tomorrow, at last, brings with it the serious business of a competitive league fixture against Newcastle – that “wee club in the North East”, according to Sir Alex. Headed into that fixture, it would appear we have what is close to a fully fir squad to choose from.

Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud have shaken bouts of illness to be available for selection. The only player to remain out is Fabianski, and I can’t help but feel he’s better off there.

Abou Diaby – yes, him – is reported to be entering full training next week along with our pot-bellied full-back, Andre Santos. The latter is of little consequence, but it’s the former I’d really like to see get a break from injury. Diaby could be an immense player for us. No one could rightfully deny the Frenchman’s abundance of talent, what he lacks is old fashioned luck. Since that infamous moment at Sunderland, he’s suffered niggle after niggle. A career that looked so promising has been terrorised by ailments and misfortune.

However, there must be a point when we cut our losses. Arsenal isn’t a charity, and paying huge wages to a player who rarely plays is poor business. We have stood buy his up until this point, but if things don’t improve, a time will come when we have to cut him loose. It’ll be a terrible shame, but without a consistent presence on the field of play, he isn’t any use. That might sound harsh, but the truth invariably does.

I truly hope it doesn’t come to that. Abou still has a chance to get through all his troubles.

Elsewhere, Le Boss has ruled out a move for Demba Ba. I’m a little surprised by that. At a reasonable £7.5m, and with a record for scoring goals in the Premiership, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it’s an obvious choice. Of course, having said that, it would wise to note that our manager is a wily old fox, and he made similar quotes dismissing the Arteta rumours days before we signed him.

At this stage, rumours are everywhere. Rumours, rumours, rumours…

That’s all for today. I hope you’ll all appreciate the Herculean effort that went into this post from me, underneath my bed covers. I’ll leave you with the endearing image of me frantically dashing toward the lavatory, as I am about  to.

Match preview is to come tomorrow morning, so in the meantime use the comments to express your thoughts and views – and abuse, that’s always welcome…

Thanks for reading!

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Thierry’s off, and not really much else.

Thierry Henry; perilously close to an untimely demise…

Evening folks!

Yes – I’m late with my post today. One of the things I’ll be doing in the new year is making a set-time for every post. Every day (hopefully) my blathering will appear at 9am (GMT). I’ll be competing with Arseblog and Le Grove at that time, but why not set my sights ridiculously high?

Elsewher in news there is, well… Not a great deal of anything. It seems the post-Christmas malaise has well and truly hit. Usually, such eerie silence is filled with the cacophonous howls of fabricated stories from spurious Twitter accounts and hit-hungry websites churning out dross with come-and-look titles like, “ARSENAL MUST SIGN THIS £30M STRIKER TO SAVE THEIR SEASON”.

Instead, we’re left with little or anything of note. Instead, you’re left with me trying to think how I’m going to fill up a post without resorting to talking complete nonsense.

Thierry Henry won’t be coming in January, and that’s been confirmed by some quotes attributed to Arsene Wenger. I think that’s a good thing. Thierry is a wonderful player still, and I love him to bits. But we need a striker, and a permanent signing makes more sense.

And that’s about it. I feel this post is like those moments after sex when you’re not quite sure what to say. All I want to do is fart, then go to sleep. But I don’t want you to feel like I don’t care – perhaps we can enjoy a quick cuddle? That wouldn’t hurt.

On that note, I shall leave you for today.

More tomorrow!

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£30m war chest – what happened to £70m? Ba and Nani headed in, and Boxing Day news.

Nani was shocked by recent developments.

Boxing Day greetings.

All that build up, all that preparation, and Christmas is over in a flash. If you’re of the persuasion to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, I hope you enjoyed a merry time yesterday. At present, my bowels are furiously digesting my own body weight in turkey, and I’m sat here typing with a grimace etched upon my face. Was it all worth it – the effort, the mad scramble around the shops? Yes it was. I did have a marvellous day despite my usual humbugian attitude.

As you might expect, on a day just after Christmas when our scheduled game has been cancelled (bloody tube drivers…) the news circling around out there leans toward the speculative. Most of that news surrounds those infamous “war chests”.

Our alleged war chest was, at one time, £70m. Now that figure has drastically plummeted – £30m is now the figure being brandished by the press. If there is any truth to such stories – there probably isn’t – I can picure the scene in our boardrom:

“The manager has £70m to spend? That’s all disposable cash to invest in the team? We don’t need to release that! That’s ridiculous! We could spend such vast sums on far better things; Texas ranches, decadence, cryogenic freezing of our decaying, aged bodies until medical science can integrate us with robots. There are a million possibilities! Investing into the club we own for its benefit is just ludicrous! Give Arsene £30m, he’ll buy 24 players for that much – the rest is ours!”

There will be plenty of talk where that money has disappeared. However, such debate will be based entirely upon the assumption that £70m figure actually existed. It may very well not have. None of us have legitimate inside information pertaining the affairs of our beloved directors. That said, they are such a bunch of shits, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did decide to pocket over half of it.

The remaining funds could be used to entice supposed targets, Demba Ba, and now, bizarrely, Man United’s Portuguese winger, Nani. The Ba transfer makes sense; he’s a proven Premiership striker with a release clause that’s very reasonable. We need to bolster our attacking options, and we’re unlikely to splurge an enormous fee on one player to do so.

Nani, on the other hand, is a peculiar story. It all began with the press blowing a story of him at Arsenal’s training ground out of proportion. Now, with his current contract at United up in the air, a lot of media attention is focusing on his departure destination. Could it be Arsenal? Doubtful. Would I want him to play for us? Well, he is a good player, but he is also a gargantuan twat. I can’t stand the preening little shit.

Theo is looking increasingly likely to leave. If he does, there will be a position in dire need of filling. Nani could certainly work, and I think it would. But I find him irksome, and I always have. I’d rather it be someone else. Adrian Lopez and Wilfried Zaha would be far more agreeable options.

January is mere days away. The recruits we so covet will have been lined up – if there are any – and all we can do as supporters is wait and hope. Fingers crossed, boys and girls.

That’s all for today, folks. The comments await your responces and views. Let’s be having a few of them. We don’t play until the 29th, so lets all hope for some favourable results in the fixtures taking place today.

I shall return tomorrow.

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Merry Christmas from The Armchair Gooner!

Merry Christmas.

Ahhh. Christmas is upon us. The day has finally arrived after what seems like an eternity of advertisements and build-up. 

Today is a day I celebrate despite being an agnostic. I don’t much care for the religious aspects associated with the 25th of December. I enjoy the gatherings, the jocundity, the feasting, and the exchanging of lavish and unnecessary gifts. 

If you’re a regular reader, or simply a first time peruser; I hope you have a wonderful day and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Of course, If you’re reading from a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, or you’re of a different religious persuasion altogether; I hope you simply just enjoy your day. 

Best wishes, thank you for all your support over the past year, and up the Arsenal!

James ‘Raul’ Stokes. 

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No-go David Villa, no-go Huntelaar, Jack wants Theo to stay, and other news.

Christmas Eve. One more day of obscene commercialisation, and then it’s all over…

Morning folks!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except… the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation”

That’s always been my favourite Christmas quote. I’m sure I need not tell you which film it’s from. It has little or nothing to do with Arsenal – I suppose you could argue the film’s villains have an arsenal – but I thought I’d share it regardless. It’s Christmas, a time for sharing…

A quote that is relevant comes from Jack Wilshere. As one of the 5 British players to have recently penned new deals with Arsenal, Jack has urged (not pleaded, as some media outlets describe it – that sounds needy) Theo Walcott to take note of the example they set and end all the speculation surrounding his future.

??Theo??s been great for us. We just signed five British boys so hopefully he can be the sixth and cap it off.

??I??m always winding him up, saying, ??C??mon Theo, sign?. It??s up to him and the club. Theo knows what he means to us and what he means to the fans.??

I’ve had my doubts with Theo over the years. I still have a few now. But he is a player I want us to keep. There are signs he’s beginning to come good after such unpredictability, and I’d rather that be realised in an Arsenal shirt.

With our Boxing Day fixture against West Ham cancelled, there is little news elsewhere that isn’t speculative today. One rumour that warmed my cockles upon its emergence was the tall tale of a swoop for Barcelona’s David Villa. He’d have been a lovely signing, wouldn’t he? A striker of undoubted class, who I think would score a bucket full in the Premiership.

Alas, it would appear unlikely now. Barcelona’s director of football, Andoni Zubizaretta, has taken to the press to quickly ensure we all know such stories are hogwash, and Villa will be going nowhere in January. As that news broke, it was swiftly followed by a release from Schalke letting it be known Klass-Jan Huntelaar has signed a new contract with the German side.

That’s two down. Who’s left?

That really depends on what you believe – if anything. We live in an age of social media and hit-hungry websites. The overwhelming majority of what’s available to peruse is fabrication. The smart money would be on Demba Ba, and his convenient release clause. He’s a handy striker, and has a proven scoring record in English football. However, I just can’t help but feel we could do a little better.

Other than that, you’ve got the usual suspects; Reina, Zaha, et all. Perhaps with our current resurgence on the field, a defiant Arsene Wenger will state , “we’re in good shape, there is no need to recruit”. I hope not. Good form or not; the sqaud could use a couple of new faces.

And that’s about it on the news front. With Christmas around the corner, Arsenal fans should take a moment to thank both Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Williams. One of them headbutted Shawcross, the other tried to take Robin van Persie’s head off with a football (“attempted murder“, according to a certain pickled, bitter Scotsman working in Manchester).

Thanks, guys! It was a Christmas present I know I appreciated.

That’s all from me today. You know the drill; take a moment to comment with your thoughts.

I shall return tomorrow. I hope you all have a good Christmas Eve.

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“Walcott is not a striker…” – (late) match review, and thanks to the Blogosphere.

Wigan 0-1 Arsenal; Mikel’s introduction as a Tekken character proved popular with fans.

Evening fellow Gooners!

I’ve braved the terrors of Christmas shopping today, and I feel all the stronger having done so. Navigating swarms of busy shoppers is ordinarily the kind of pursuit to fill me with apoplexy. Today, I put my head down and went for it; buzzing blindly from shop to shop like a bargain hungry Gervinho. Now I can sit down, enjoy a cuppa, and write something for you lovely people – safe in the knowledge I’ve completed my purchases for another year.

Yesterday was a result for Arsenal. Not a performance or a spectacle, but a result. Against a battling Wigan side intent on closing down at every opportunity, Arsenal held firm and came away with the spoils in distinctly workmanlike fashion. It wasn’t flashy, or particularly impressive, but I don’t care. It’s all about the 3 points.

Throughout  a calendar as busy as English football’s, there will be days when you don’t perform well and have to grind out a result. To me, being able to do so is as important as the days when the team is playing at its peak. Arsenal can play immeasurably better than they did at the JJB Stadium. The fact that we came away with victory on the back of such an unremarkable display is a good sign – an abilty all good teams need.

It’s difficult to single any one player out for praise. The defence showed its customary lapses and propensity for alarming slips, but on the whole dealt with most things confidently. Szczsney made a few telling stops here and there, but remained untroubled for the majority of the game.

One area in which I think we faltered was up front, and mainly Theo. I think Theo has some attributes to make a good striker, but against a side that defends deep, as Wigan did, he loses the ability to unleash his greatest weapon – pace. Yesterday’s match was far more suited to Olivier Giroud – a player able to hold up the ball better than Walcott.

Theo was ineffective, and although he did win the penalty in dubious fashion, that was about his only real contribution. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying he can’t play up front, because I think he can. However, there are certain instances where he isn’t the right choice – he lacks the artistry and nous of a Henry or van Persie, both of whom could create their own space .

If the play is open, and there is space to exploit – he’s lethal, and he’s got a good eye for goal. As an impact sub when our opponents are pressing us he’d be a wonderful outlet. I just can’t see him truly being a success in a position that requires more than just speed. On his own, he will struggle, but he could be excellent with someone like Giroud to play alongside.

Our contract-stalling little Theo has played as a only striker twice, and he did well against Reading. I wouldn’t think for a second to write him off, and I hope he proves me wrong. That said, I would still prefer to see Arsene invest in another forward during the January window, and Walcott to be used on the right side of the attack.

That’s all for today folks. We head into Christmas sitting proudly 3rd place in the Premiership – albeit on goal difference. Bradfor City marked a new low in the fortunes of Arsene Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager, and hopefully the lowest ebb of this season. Things appear to be improving, and long may it continue. We might all be able to crack a smile before long…

The comments await your views below. Do you think Theo has what it takes to be a lone striker? Did you think he looked ineffective? Who would you like to see signed in January to play that role? Let me know some of your thoughts.

I shall return tomorrow.

Lastly, yesterday was a milestone. It represented a year since the day I first began doing this blog properly. A lot has happened in that year, and things have been relatively successful. I’d like to extend huge thanks to all of you for reading and commenting, and great appreciation to the following people for their time, assistance, contributions, and general awesomeness:

Tim Stillman, Andrew @Arseblog, Pedro @Le Grove, Daniel Cowan, Dave Seager, Jules Wheeler, Mean Lean @Arsenal Vision, and any of my Twitter friends I’ve forgotten to mention.

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Arsenal’s starting XI for the game against Wigan (match preview and round-up).

Saturday Dec 22nd: FA Premiership, Wigan Athletic (a)

Morning campers!

Continuity has been notable by its absence with Arsenal throughout the season. No sooner does a brief glimmer of light appear on the horizon, is it quickly extinguished by an ability to do something breathtakingly inept. Good results and performances have shared equal exposure with those that we’d all sooner forget.

Today is an excellent opportunity to go into a game on the back of a solid, winning display and build on it. Wigan, with all due respect, are opponents we should beat, and be able to do so with minimal fuss.

The team news is practically non-existent. Triumph at Reading on Monday night saw us pick up no fresh injuries, and, at the time of going to print, there are no doubts or late fitness tests. Taking that into account, the personnel and formation from that win should remain the same.

As you were, Arsenal:

Deploying Walcott as a striker proved effective. What he lacks in Giroud’s presence and ariel ability, he makes up for with pace, and playing on the shoulder of defenders. His quickness scares his marker, who drops off deeper and leaves more space in which our midfield can operate – Santi Cazorla especially benefits from this.

Wigan are a side we’ve blundered against in the past, but today I wouldn’t expect anything other than an Arsenal victory. If we are to cement our claim for one of the qualifying spots for the Champions League, December’s succession of apparently winnable fixtures is an excellent place to start.

Of course, you never really know what you’re going to get with Arsenal. Expectation goes both way, and the pessimist inside me keeps tapping the side of my head and saying, “James, don’t forget how shit we can be in defence”. That’s always a worry, but the corner we all yearn Arsenal to turn has to be navigated eventually. Victory today could just be the start of that.

I’m predicting a decent 3-1 win, and a couple of goals from Theo.

In other news, several reports today have emerged linking us to a striker – Barcelona’s David Villa. It’s alleged across many press outlets and sources of gossip that Arsene is keen to take him on loan in January, with a view for a possible permanent move should the Spaniard take to Premiership football. As a stop-gap, it would be a brilliant signing – Villa certainly has pedigree and he undoubtedly knows where the goal is. However, at 31-years-old, he wouldn’t offer us much in terms of longevity. Of course, as if so often the case, any story like this should be taken with an enormous pinch of salt, but it’s one of the better speculations I’ve heard in a while.

That’s all for today, folks. Today is my last working day before a greatly appreciated break for 12 days. I’ll be stuck in a kitchen listening to 5Live before I can study any game footage later in the evening. I hope you enjoy the match from wherever you are spectating.

The comments await a few of your views. How would you line-up? Do you think Arsene shouldn’t tinker, and leave a winning team as it is? Or would you consider starting with the collective might of Gervinho and Ramsey (I’m joking…)? Let me know what you think.

Finally today, I’ll point those of you partial to a bet on the game toward Bet Victor. Those signing up as new members will receive £25 to stake on the outcome of their choice. You can register here. Thomas Vermaelen has scored in each of his 3 appearances against Wigan, so putting some cash on him to make it 4 could be a good flutter.

Wigan vs Arsenal odds.

I shall return tomorrow with a full review of the game.

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Theo won’t be sold until the summer, players will be coming in, and Bayern Munich.

Theo was quick to applaud his agent’s marvellous handling of an epic contract saga…

Morning folks!

Usually, I’d liken any contract saga with an Arsenal player to the third Lord of the Rings film – interminable, and with somewhere in the region of 37 apparent resolutions. The current carry-on with Theo is more like the third Matrix film – baffling to me in every respect.

He said he wants to stay. We’ve said we want him to stay. Either there’s a great deal of truth hidden from the general public, or this should have been put to bed quite some time ago. With no amicable solution any nearer, our manager has stated Theo will be here until at least the end of the season. When quizzed about selling Walcott in January, Arsene said:

“No, that is for sure. My gut feeling is that he belongs to this club and that I hope he will sign for us. I always am convinced he will stay.

“You never fix yourself a limit on financial restrictions. At the end of the day, can you pay what the player wants? And does it fit with your wage structure?

“I have always fought for the players to make money so I am happy when the players make big money. But it has to be made possible for the club to pay it.

Make of that what you will. Does Theo have excessive demands? It’s possible. In fact, it is the only logical reason I can muster, other than he simply wants to leave, but doesn’t want to endure the fan backlash if he says as much. The whole thing is getting farcical. Sign on, or leave, Mr Walcott. The choice isn’t that tough.

Elsewhere in news, it would appear January acquisitions are on the cards. Every ex-player, fan, and two-bit radio personality feels we desperately need reinforcements. The vast majority of bloggers – me included – share that sentiment. Using the kind of non-committal jargon he has become famous for, Arsene was also quoted as saying this on the subject:

“If we can add one or two exceptional players, we will do it,”

“What we do not want to do is add players just because people put us under pressure to buy players.

“That is where we have to be strong enough. If we find a player who will give us something special, we will do it, but that, in January, will not be easy.

“We have money, and why should I not spend it if it is to find the right players?

It’s the word ‘exceptional’ that he regularly uses, almost as an excuse – so he can say, “we didn’t find anyone exceptional enough” when the deals don’t materialise. The team needs to be strengthened, and I’ve faith our manager sees that, and will act accordingly. Failure to do so could just be the final straw should we suffer a similar blip to last January.

Lastly today, the Champions League draw sees us up against formidable opponents in Bayern Munich. I was certain we’d suffer at the hands of fate and face Barcelona again, and whilst it’s a pleasent surprise to avoid them, we still find ourselves with a very tough draw.

Can we progress? Yes, absolutely. I’ve an odd feeling of confidence about the game. Chelsea and Liverpool have both put aside poor league form in recent years to lift the trophy, the smiling optimist in me sees no reason why we can’t do the same…

That’s all for today folks. Leave me a comment or two – what do you think of the draw, Arsene’s comments and Theo’s continual contract stalling? Let me know.

Thanks for reading!

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