The Preview Show: Arsenal vs Chelsea

On this weeks preview show we discuss Petr Cech’s decision to retire, the Arsenal U23s impressive victory over Man City, the future of Sven Mislintat and look ahead to Arsenal vs Chelsea.

My thanks to Stamford Chidge (@StamfordChidge) for joining me.

Join Broadcaster Harry Symeou for a weekly discussion on all things Arsenal. We review the latest fixtures, look ahead to those coming up and cover the hot topics surrounding the club. This show is brought to you by the @sofasportspod, the @FNXNetwork and hosted by @HarrySymeou.

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Arsenal vs Spurs | Carabao Cup | Match Day Blog

The more I think back to the weekends defeat at St Mary’s and the abrupt end to our 22 game unbeaten run the less disappointed I feel about the whole thing.  I think we could all agree that if we were to cast our minds back to the day Unai Emery was appointed and were told that 17 games into the Premier League campaign we’d be 3 points outside of the Champions League places having only lost to City, Chelsea and Southampton we’d have been pretty pleased.

In many ways, I’d rather Southampton (a club for whom I have no ill feeling) were the ones to beat us  because I wouldn’t have fancied going into the Carabao Cup quarter final with the fear of Spurs being the ones to finally turn us over.  The club who notoriously released a DVD of the 4-4 draw back in 2008 would have been talking about it for at least 124 years had they been the ones who finally brought the run to a halt.

I’m not sure how to feel going into tonight’s game and I guess that stems from the fact I have no idea  what sort of team Unai Emery will select.  Shkodran Mustafi is back in full training and Sokratis Papastathopoulos returns from suspension so the hope is we’ll be far more competent in the central defensive positions this evening.  I could be way off the mark here, but I believe the weekends defeat will have altered Unai Emery’s approach to tonight’s fixture.  

It’s important that Arsenal bounce back immediately and collect as many points as possible before the trip to Anfield on December 29th so what better way to boost the morale amongst the group and get the fans back on side than to knock our fiercest rivals out of the Cup and register a second victory over the spuds in less than three weeks!

No matter how much you value or disvalue the Carabao Cup any fixture versus Spurs is a must win, whatever the competition or however high it sits in your list of priorities as supporter.  I’ve made no secret over the years of my careless attitude towards the League Cup but the minute the name Tottenham Hotspur was drawn everything changed.  

Taking all of the above into account this is the line up I’d start with this evening:

Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang.

Nacho Monreal would slot into the left centre back position with Maitland-Niles operating at left wing back, that’s assuming Sead Kolasinac remains sidelined.  I thought that would have been a smarter approach on Sunday too, AMN showed last season he’s composed and confident enough to come in and do a job but whilst I’m not convinced Emery feels the same way that’s what I’d personally go with.

I’d like to see Alex Lacazette start as the central striker, his hold up play is noticeably better and he gives us a bite, grit and determination that I’m just not seeing from Aubameyang at present.  The Gabonese forward has certainly chipped in with his fair share of important goals and so it’s almost impossible to leave him out, however as we’ve seen on many occasions this season he carries that goal threat even whilst operating from the left thus creating space for Lacazette to come back into the side.

Mathieu Flamini’s not around anymore to bag a brace and break Tottenham hearts as he did back in 2015 so it’s over to the new crop to make it happen.  I’m not overly confident ahead of this one but I’m certainly glad it’s at our stadium and not theirs, oh wait they don’t have one! Not a finished one anyway! 


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Arsenal’s number one? Comparing Cech & Leno

Bernd Leno joined the Arsenal from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen back in July and given the sizeable transfer fee paid in order to acquire his services you’d have been forgiven for assuming he’d have been installed as the number one with the veteran Petr Cech being limited to providing cover and featuring in the cup competitions.

And so, eyebrows were raised when Petr Cech began the season in between the posts with the 26 year old German warming the bench.  Given his poor performances last season the general feeling was that Cech was long past his best and no longer agile enough to play at the top end of the world’s most competitive league.

Having watched the pre season tour closely during the summer the improved conditioning of certain individuals, Cech being amongst them was visibly noticeable.  The new training regime has clearly been of great benefit and Cech’s improved form and agility are a testament to that.

On the 2nd October, during the home win versus Watford, Cech injured his hamstring taking a goal kick and was forced off, subsequently opening the door for the German to stake his claim as the number one.  Despite Cech’s return to fitness Leno has held down his place having turned in some impressive performances during the past few weeks.  However, I think it’s safe to say he had a mixed evening versus Liverpool on Saturday, pulling off a couple of wonderful saves in between a couple of uncharacteristic errors.

From watching the pair, it’s clear both have very different skill sets and once again Unai Emery has an extremely difficult decision to make over who will be his number one going forward.  In terms of their overall quality as goalkeepers, in my view there’s not a great deal in it, both having shown they can earn the team points and so it comes down to the manager’s preference and who he feels better compliments our desired style of play.

Leno is far more polished with the ball at his feet, his distribution is better than that of some central defenders, he takes up a braver starting position and is  happy to play as a ‘sweeper keeper’ when necessary – you could say he’s your typical modern day goalkeeper.  Stylistically, the German is very similar to Alisson of Liverpool and Ederson of Manchester City – Leno is a far more economical alternative considering the aforementioned two cost their respective clubs a total of £92m between them.

Petr Cech on the other hand is a lot more dominant in aerial situations, has a greater presence in the penalty area and is certainly more vocal in terms of organising his defence. The 36 year old is a more orthodox Goalkeeper, the traditional kind that we older folk can relate to.  Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that Petr Cech could be one of the last of his kind and that going forward, Goalkeepers will also be judged on their ability to play football rather than just their ability to keep the ball out of the net.

Unai Emery and Arsenal find themselves in the fortunate position of having two top quality goalkeepers to select from, both with different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics.  Is one clearly better than the other? Not for me, they’re both stoppers of the highest quality and it’s a great problem for any manager to have.  Having made it through to the League Cup quarter finals, set to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and the FA Cup third round to come in January there will be plenty of games for both to feature their fair share.

Seeing as I can’t decide, here at @chronicles_afc we want to know who YOUR preferred goalkeeper is of the two. Tweet us or comment your thoughts below.  The best answers will feature on next weeks podcast!


Arsenal’s decision to pull the plug on Ramsey deal ‘isn’t personal’

Aaron Ramsey signed for Arsenal back in 2008 for a fee believed to be in the region of £5m.  Despite interest from Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson the Welshman opted to join the North London club and has been quoted as saying “I just felt a bit more wanted by Arsenal and the boss” since.

Arsene Wenger and the club had arranged for the 17 year old to be flown out to Switzerland for a meeting during Euro 2008 and at that point the youngsters mind was made up.  Fast forward two years and this promising young midfield player faced his most difficult challenge to date.  During a game up at Stoke City he suffered a horrific leg break courtesy of Ryan Shawcross’ x-rated challenge and having shown great promise many felt the physical and psychological scars would be difficult to recover from and prevent him reaching his full potential if he was to return to fitness.

To his credit, Aaron showed great mental strength and incredible determination to get himself fit again and has since scored two FA Cup final winners, helped his un-fancied National team to a European Championship Semi Final and established himself as a regular in the Arsenal side.  Taking all of that into consideration you do wonder why Arsenal Football Club would have allowed such a valuable asset to run down his contract, at 27 years old the midfielder has yet to reach his peak and resolving his future a year or so ago would have at best protected his value in the transfer market.

Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview | Available Now | Click Here…

The Gunners stand to lose him for free this summer and it has since emerged an offer that had been made to the player was later withdrawn suggesting that the Club were willing to accept his demands at some stage and have since had a dramatic change of heart.

Unai Emery was highly complementary of the player during the summer months and despite all the drama behind the scenes has continued to praise his attitude, reiterating the fact he remains a part of his immediate plans.

A great deal has changed at Arsenal in the recent months, there’s a new manager for the first time in 22 years, Ivan Gazidis’ has left for pastures new, Raul Sanllehi is the Head of Football, Vinai Venkatesham is now a Managing Director and Arsenal’s recruitment approach is now driven by the recommendations of Sven Mislintat. Aaron Ramsey has been a victim of these changes, collateral damage left in the wake of an excitingrevolution taking place.

Given the self-sustaining model under which Arsenal operate, the club will continue to think twice before offering its stars long-term bumper contracts.  In today’s market Aaron Ramsey is certainly worth a fair few quid but would you make such heavy investment if it were to restrict you in the transfer market going forward?

The club have placed their faith in Unai Emery to restore their Champions League status, with the financial reward being so substantial achieving that goal means everything.  Despite the recent good run of form the manager will know full well he needs further recruits to build a side capable of achieving his target position and sustaining it.  If presenting Aaron Ramsey with such a lucrative deal will restrict Sanllehi’s ability to acquire those targets identified by Mislintat and the manager it would be viewed as counter-productive.

Is Aaron Ramsey irreplaceable?  You’d have to assume the manager and the key decision makers don’t believe that to be the case and therefore this is a decision taken with the clubs future dealings in mind. Perhaps the impressive performances produced by Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira so far this season had an influence on the decision to withdraw the offer – I guess we’ll never really know.

However what I will say is this, it isn’t personal, the decision won’t have been taken lightly, it’s as much football based as it is financial and providing Arsenal invest smartly in the coming transfer windows I feel it is one that will be vindicated.

Let us know your thoughts, Tweet me at @chronicles_afc


Ramsey confirms contract offer withdrawn by the club

Aaron Ramsey has revealed that in his mind he had reached an agreement with Arsenal regarding a new contract only for the club to perform a complete u-turn and withdraw the offer.

The 27 year old’s deal expires in June and he’s made it clear that it was the clubs decision to withdraw their offer rather than his own decision to walk away from negotiations.

This, his 11th season with the club looks set to be his last but he’s promised the Gunners faithful he will remain fully focused and make this a campaign to remember.

I know we’ve heard that kind of talk before but I’m confident Rambo won’t take his foot off the gas, at the end of the day he needs to earn a contract elsewhere and he strikes me as the type to want to prove the club were wrong to have withdrawn the offer.

I guess the first question as supporters we’re all asking is why?

Without the club coming out and clarifying their position all we can do is speculate. I’m not claiming to be ITK but I am going to make an educated guess based on the facts that have been presented to us.

Is it a footballing decision? Possibly.

Is it a financial decision? Perhaps.

If I was to guess I’d say it’s a combination of both…

I think we can all agree that since Unai Emery’s arrival Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been quite as effective. Now don’t take this the wrong way – I don’t think he’s played badly, he’s still worked extremely hard, pressed from the front and played an important part this season but in terms of his actual impact on the ball the game has passed him by at times.

However, that’s not just true of Aaron Ramsey, the same could be said about Mesut Ozil for the most part of this season.

The point I’m trying to make is that if Unai Emery’s system only demands hard work of players in that position than he could quite easily go and find another work horse who’d ask for half the wages. Therefore from a financial and footballing perspective it makes no sense for the club to fork out £200k a week when that money could be used to strengthen other areas of the team.

If Unai Emery is working to a tight budget in comparison to some of our competitors, which we believe to be the case then he’d naturally be reluctant to spend such a huge percentage of that to tie down a player who he feels is replaceable and has had his fair share of injury problems down the years.

Remember, this is not Arsene Wenger. Unai Emery has no loyalty to the player – yes, he spoke highly of him when he first arrived but opinions can change.

As an Arsenal fan I’ve grown quite attached to Aaron Ramsey so naturally I’m a little sad that he’s going to be leaving but that’s just the way things go sometimes.

I think he’s been somewhat unfortunate that the expiration of his contract coincides with a period of real transition at the club.

Let it be known that I don’t agree with those calling for him to be dropped, he can play a big part in helping us to achieve our goals this season and whilst hes under contract we’d be silly not to utilize him.

Emery will have known this was coming for a while and the fact that he’s kept him involved for me shows that the Spaniard has no concerns re his attitude or professionalism and so neither should we.

Speaking to the media the Welshman had the following to say…

“Am I disappointed? That’s a decision that they have made and things happen in football and you just have to get on with it and carry on playing the best I can. That’s all I am concentrating on and giving my best for Arsenal.”

“Would I stay for the rest of the season? Of course, yeah,”
“I am contracted to Arsenal and I am going to do my best now this season to try and achieve something special.”


Ben Turner on the Transfer Window…

Now that the season is underway and the transfer window is closed I’d like to have my say on how I felt our Transfer window went and share my brief thoughts on our summer signings.

Given that this summer we have seen a complete re-structuring of Arsenal football club in the wake of Arsene Wenger’s departure and the fact this was a World Cup year I believe that Unai Emery and the recruitment team have had a successful 1st summer, each acquisition having addressed a key area.

Stephan Lichtsteiner – the 1st through the door and divided the opinions of the fan base mainly because of his age (34) however having watched Lichtsteiner during the World cup I have no doubt he will prove a shrewd bit of business. He will provide defensive cover at both RB & LB and given he has been a part of the success that Juventus have had over the last 7 years he has a winning mentality that I’m sure will translate to other members of the squad. I find it refreshing that the clubs are able to look at what a player can offer without being concerned about his age.  Listening to him speak recently, the way in which he spoke reassured me of how invaluable his maturity can be.

Sokratis – His arrival from Borrusia Dortmund is a transfer that reassured me that after years of defensive frailties we as a club were looking to sure up those problems by adding another experienced CB, Sokratis enjoyed a successful spell in Germany  and although towards the end of his time at Dortmund he wasn’t spectacular I believe we have a real leader in the centre of our defense now.

Bernd Leno – a welcome addition the squad, we have seen the GK position come under immense scrutiny down the years with Petr Cech not really showing anywhere near the type of form he once did at Chelsea & David Ospina failing to fill the fans with any confidence.  It’s an arrival that given time will really take off, Leno has made over 300+ senior appearances and for such a young goalkeeper he has real pedigree, it’s a signing I’m really excited about.

Lucas Torreira – given that it’s taken so many years to bring in a defensive midfielder of quality I am absolutely thrilled the club pulled this one off, many fans who hadn’t seen Torreira during his time at Sampdoria managed to get a glimpse of him for Uruguay during the summers WC, he tops my chart of summer acquisitions, once he has settled I firmly believe he will be the 1st name on the team sheet, he really is going to add that defensive intelligence in MF we have lacked for many years.

Then came 19 year old Matteo Guendouzi, a Central Midfielder from Lorient, Relatively unknown it was viewed that his arrival would mean a stint away from the 1st team, We couldn’t of been more wrong having seen him earn a well deserved start against Man City last Sunday.  He was arguably our best player of the pre-season, definitely a player we can look forward to seeing more of in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Turner



Episode 20: Opening Day Preview

Join us for a weekly discussion on all things Arsenal. We review the latest fixtures, look ahead to those coming up and cover the hot topics surrounding the club. This show is brought to you by the @sofasportspod, the @FNXNetwork and hosted by @HarrySymeou.

This week guests are Craig and Lee from the @SameOldAFC Podcast!

Also available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Acast and Tune In Radio.

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“The Chronicles of a Gooner 2017/18” Book is on Sale here:


Episode 19: Torreira, The Captaincy & the ICC

Join us for a weekly discussion on all things Arsenal. We review the latest fixtures, look ahead to those coming up and cover the hot topics surrounding the club. This show is brought to you by the @sofasportspod, the @FNXNetwork and hosted by @HarrySymeou.

Also available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Acast and Tune In Radio.

Follow us on Twitter: chronicles_afc

“The Chronicles of a Gooner 2017/18” Book is on Sale here: