Arsenal 2-3 Olympiacos: Man, We Suck in Europe


Hey, look on the bright side - at least we won't have to deal with the soul-destroying prospect of playing in the UEFA Cup since you have to get all the way to 3rd place for that.

But, at least in defeat, there was a certain kind of humor in just how farcical David Ospina's own-goal is. Fuck me, we buy one player in the offseason and he's the one to not play in a must-win Champions League game.

Theo and Alexis were OK.

Kieran Gibbs seemed to forget that "fullback" means "don't play all the way in the center of the penalty area".

That's your lot.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Ospina 3, Gibbs 3, Koscielny 6 (Mertesacker 6), Gabriel 6, Bellerin 6 (Campbell N/A), Cazorla 5, Coquelin 6 (Ramsey 5), Sanchez 7, Ozil 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 5, Walcott 7


Man of the Match: Despite the sub-professional first goal that he conceded, Roberto actually had a pretty damn good game in the Olympiacos net.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Olympiacos, Champions League Group Matchday 2


Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, September 29
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from the Netherlands
    • Referee: Bas Nijhuis
    • Assistants: Rob van de Ven and Charles Schaap
    • 4th Official: Mario Diks
    • Additional Assistants: Kevin Blom and Danny Makkelie
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins, 3 Olympiacos wins
  • Arsenal's European Form: D-W-W-L-W // L
  • Olympiacos's European Form: L-L-W-L-D // L
It's still September and it's only Champions League group matchday number two, but thanks to Arsenal's... escapades... in Croatia on matchday one, they've already been thrust into a must-win situation.

There's no way around it; if Arsenal lose this match, you should probably start making sure your Thursdays are free in 2016. It's not like Bayern Munich are going to make things any easier. I heard Robert Lewandowski is going to score 12 goals against Dinamo Zagreb tonight.

I pretty much have nothing more to say about this topic.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (knock,) Flamini (hamstring,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Suspended: Giroud (one match, two yellows)

After Francis Coquelin suffered a knee injury at Stamford Bridge, Mathieu Flamini came in for him in the holding midfield role. On Wednesday, the Flammening was upon us, as Flamini scored twice in the North London derby. On Saturday, the Flammening ended as quickly as it arrived, as the Frenchman was removed with a hamstring injury on 20 minutes.

Mikel Arteta came on for Flamini and finished out the match but he, in addition to Flamini, will be out for tonight's match. There's some good news here in that 1) these are both "short-term injuries," though I don't really know what that means in Arsenal lingo and 2) Francis Coquelin has recovered from his knee injury and should be back anyway.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that David Ospina will start over Petr Cech. It's unclear if Arsene Wenger is using the Colombian as a cup keeper across more than just the domestic cups or if this is just a case of rotation. I'd really prefer to see Cech against Bayern Munich on matchdays three and four.

Olivier Giroud will serve a one-match ban for his red card on matchday one, meaning Theo Walcott will retain his place up top. There might be some more rotation in the squad as well; Arsene Wenger will have to balance the must-win status of this game against the fact that Manchester United visit the Emirates on Sunday.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott.

Olympiacos Squad News

Out: Da Costa (calf,) Maniatis (knee)
Doubts: Dominguez (match fitness)
Suspended: Milivojevic (second of two)

One time West Ham center back Manuel da Costa, purchased from Sivasspor this summer, is expected to miss out through injury (though, other sources I've read have claimed he could be a "surprise return.") Injury news for some European sides is really hard to come by, so your guess is as good as mine. UEFA's press kit suggests he's out with both a calf injury and meniscus tear.

Giannis Maniatis has been out since March with a knee ligament injury while Alejandro Dominguez lacks match fitness. Luka Milivojevic serves the second match of a two-match ban after a red card in Olympiacos's final European match last year.

Olympiacos has four ex-Premier League players in their squad, including the already mentioned da Costa. They also have Ideye Brown, who spent last year at West Brom, Pajtim Kasami, formerly of Fulham, as well as Esteban Cambiasso, who spent last season at Leicester City.

Predicted XI: Roberto, Elabdellaoui, Botia, Slovas, Masuaku, Salino, Kasami, Cambiasso, Fortounis, Pardo, Ideye.

Current Form

After two straight losses nearly led to full-scale panic mode, Arsenal have rebounded by winning two straight. They have yet to win three matches in a row this season and have not won three on the bounce since a nine-match run that ended back in April. Last season, Arsenal did not go on a three-match winning streak until late October, so there's still time to improve on that!

Meanwhile, Olympiacos have a perfect five wins from five matches in Greek domestic play, though they lost their only Champions League match, 3-0 to Bayern Munich, on matchday one.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Olympiacos have met in the group stage of the Champions League in 2009, 2011, and 2012. In all three years, Arsenal won the home match but lost in Greece. Of course, in all three instances, the match in Greece was a dead rubber on matchday six.

The last time Olympiacos played at the Emirates, Arsenal were unconvincing in the first half and the match was level, 1-1, at halftime. A Lukas Podolski goal in the 56th minute gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead and Aaron Ramsey sealed the points with a goal in injury time. In Greece, Arsenal led through Tomas Rosicky, but conceded twice in the second half to lose 2-1. As mentioned, that match was a dead rubber, as Arsenal made seven changes to their starting XI from their previous league match.

In eight tries, Arsenal have never lost at home to a Greek opponent; on the other hand, Olympiacos have lost all 12 matches they have played on the road in England.

The Referee

The match officials are from the Netherlands; the referee is Bas Nijhuis. Nijhuis has never worked an Arsenal match before but he has worked one match for Olympiacos, a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the 2011 group stage.

Nijhuis's most controversial moment came shortly after that match, in December of 2011 in a Netherlands cup tie between AZ Alkmaar and Ajax. When an Ajax fan invaded the pitch and attacked AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado, Nijhuis sent off the goalkeeper for kicking the fan in self-defense. AZ's manager responded by pulling his team off the pitch and the match was abandoned.

Nijhuis has been a referee since the age of 15. His father was a referee. His father's father was a referee. His... well, no, actually, the last one wasn't even true.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Barcelona v. Bayer Leverkusen; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Tuesday: BATE Borisov v. Roma; Borisov Arena, Barysaw
  • Tuesday: Bayern Munich v. Dinamo Zagreb; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Chelsea; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Dynamo Kiev; Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa
  • Tuesday: Lyon v. Valencia; Stade de Gerland, Lyon
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Gent; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Wednesday: Malmo v. Real Madrid; Swedbank Stadion, Malmo
  • Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v. Paris St. Germain; Arena Lviv, Lviv
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. PSV Eindhoven; Arena Khimki, Khimki
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Wolfsburg; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Atletico Madrid v. Benfica; Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Astana v. Galatasaray; Astana Arena, Astana
  • Wednesday: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Manchester City; Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Sevilla; Juventus Stadium, Turin
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is so very tired. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to try to keep him awake.

Preview by Numbers: Leicester City v. Arsenal


King Power Stadium, Leicester
Saturday, September 26
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Michael Salisbury and Gary Beswick
    • 4th Official: Robert Madley
  • This Match, Last Year: Leicester 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 61 Arsenal wins, 28 Leicester wins, 44 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-D-W-W-L
  • Leicester's League Form: W-W-D-D-W-D
The Flammening is here, which I believe means all pictures
need to be of Flamini.
CRISIS OVER! Everyone relax. The Flammening is upon us.

God, could you imagine what the Internet would've been like if Arsenal had lost to Spurs on Wednesday, condemned to a third straight defeat and out of a competition? I... I can't even imagine it. I would've probably had to quit Twitter.

Anyway, Arsenal completes their four game road swing over land and sea to Leicester (and Leic... oh, I said that already.) The Foxes are unbeaten so far this season, something no other club can say right now. I imagine the number of people who would have predicted that is somewhere in the vicinity of the number of people who would have predicted Mathieu Flamini's midweek brace (plus, I guess, some Leicester fans...)

It's match number five out of seven over a 23 day span. Olympiacos and Manchester United will visit the Emirates on Tuesday and next Sunday, respectively, as we head into the next international break. A victory tomorrow is critical to prove that Arsenal is, indeed, back on the right track.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Coquelin (knee)

Mathieu Flamini: Shirt owner.
It's "as you were" with Arsenal's long-term injured and I don't expect to have anything different to say about Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, or Tomas Rosicky for a while.

That means the big question will surround the knee of Francis Coquelin. In advance of the cup tie two days ago, Arsene Wenger said that Coquelin's knee was still swollen, which meant that it was difficult to accurately assess the extent of the damage. Since then, it's been radio silence, so I assume he'll be absent. Maybe Mathieu Flamini will be rewarded for his brace with another start? I'm not fond of the idea of pairing Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla again in the holding roles after that failed in Croatia.

What I would do is drop Aaron Ramsey back and start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. In fact, that's what I'm going to write in my predicted squad as a form of wishful thinking. I don't expect Wenger to do it, though.

Gabriel is not suspended, but I would expect the center back partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to return anyway.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott.

Leicester Squad News

Out: James (knee)
Doubts: Dyer (knee)

Mathieu Flamini: Pointing at things in Leicester.
Only two injury concerns for Claudio Ranieri's side as Nathan Dyer, on loan from Swansea, has missed the last two matches with a knee injury. Dyer actually injured the knee scoring the winner in Leicester's come from behind victory over Aston Villa. Dyer came on at halftime in that match, which has thus far been his only appearance for the Foxes.

Midfielder Matthew James is out until the New Year as he recovers from ACL surgery; James suffered the injury on May 9 against Southampton. He is now off crutches, but is not likely to return until around February.

Tactically, I believe the only question is in midfield, as to whether it'll be Marc Albrighton or summer signing Gokhan Inler. Both played in the League Cup on Tuesday, but Inler had been removed at halftime last weekend for Albrighton, at a time when Leicester was down 2-0. The Foxes, of course, came back to draw 2-2 (you already knew that, though, since I said they were unbeaten in the intro...)

Leicester play a 4-4-2 with Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki starting up top, with the threat of Leonardo Ulloa on the bench; Ulloa has always had a knack for scoring against Arsenal. Riyad Mahrez has been the man pulling the strings for the attack in midfield.

Predicted XI: Schmeichel, de Laet, Morgan, Huth, Schlupp, Kante, Drinkwater, Mahrez, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy.

Current Form

Mathieu Flamini: Wistful philosopher.
Arsenal's form has been all over the place this season, to the point where I'm not sure if there's a word to describe it. So, you know what? I'm gonna have to make one up. Let's see... what's German for roller coaster? ((goes to Google translate...)) It's Achterbahn, which apparently comes from "figure-eight route."

Arsenal's Achterbahnish season... no, I don't like that at all... How about Spanish... It's montaña rusa, which means Russian mountain? That makes even less sense! Oh, it turns out "Russian mountains" were the predecessors to roller coasters. I forgot why I brought all this up, but I hope you learned something here.

The North London Flaminis' Arsenal's 2-1 win over Spurs in midweek snapped their losing streak at two, marking the 12th time the Gunners have successfully avoided a three-game losing streak since their last three-game skid in 2010. Arsenal have already dropped eight points through six games this season; they had also dropped eight points through six last year, though they achieved that through four draws.

As for Leicester City, they are now the only unbeaten team remaining in the Premier League, thanks to West Ham's win over Manchester City last weekend. The only other unbeaten teams in the Football League right now are Brighton and Portsmouth. However, Brighton lost to Walsall in the League Cup, while Pompey lost to Reading. That means the Foxes are the only team across the top four divisions to remain unbeaten in all competitions.

In each of their last four league games, Leicester have come from behind to get a result. Down 1-0 to Spurs, the Foxes equalized a minute later for a 1-1 draw. Down 1-0 to Bournemouth, Leicester equalized from the penalty spot four minutes from time for a 1-1 draw. Down 2-0 to Aston Villa, the Foxes stormed back to win 3-2. And last week, down 2-0 to Stoke, Leicester stormed back again to draw 2-2.

In midweek, Leicester advanced in the League Cup in extra time over West Ham, 2-1. It's the second time the Foxes have defeated the Hammers already this season.

Match Facts

Mathieu Flamini: Flaminying (sp?) in this match last year.
Arsenal took four of a possible six points from Leicester last season, but it wasn't easy. These sides played out a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium in late August. It was Arsenal's first league match without the injured Olivier Giroud and the display of toothlessness up front could not have come at a better time; the club bought Danny Welbeck the following day as the transfer window closed. Alexis Sanchez had the opening goal, but Leonardo Ulloa pulled back an equalizer two minutes later by beating a dazed Laurent Koscielny, who had suffered a head injury earlier in the match. Koscielny was eventually pulled for Calum Chambers only four minutes after Ulloa's goal.

The sides met at the Emirates in February and Arsenal took a 2-0 lead through Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott. However, Andrej Kramaric pulled a goal back for the Foxes just after the hour mark, leading to what felt like a 30-minute siege on the Arsenal goal. At the time, Leicester City was five points from safety, bolted to the bottom of the Premier League table; over the final 13 matches that followed, Leicester picked up an astonishing 24 points, winning seven of their last nine.

Leicester have not beaten Arsenal in their last 19 tries, dating back to a 2-1 win on November 23, 1994. The Foxes did, however, advance past Arsenal via a penalty shootout in the 2000 FA Cup fourth round, after consecutive 0-0 draws.

The Referee

Mathieu Flamini: Hat wearer.
Not pictured: Craig Pawson as fourth official on this day.
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Arsenal saw Pawson only twice last year with mixed results, winning 3-0 over Burnley in October and losing 2-0 to Southampton on New Year's Day. In addition, Pawson was the fourth official for the FA Cup Final, which Arsenal won 4-0 over Aston Villa.

Leicester City only saw Pawson once last season, for a 2-1 loss to Aston Villa in which defender Paul Konchesky was sent off; Konchesky is now on loan at QPR. Overall, Leicester are winless in their last four with Pawson, losing three straight. The year before last, Leicester saw Pawson once in the Championship and lost 4-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion. Back in 2013, the first of the three losses came 2-1 against Watford. Leicester's last win with Pawson as the referee came in August of 2012, 2-0 over Peterborough.

Pawson was FIFA listed for the first time earlier this year; his first appointment came in last week's Europa League first matchday, for Braga's 1-0 win at Slovan Liberec.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Aston Villa; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Sunderland; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Swansea City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Bournemouth; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Norwich City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Newcastle United v. Chelsea; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday (late): Watford v. Crystal Palace; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Monday (night): West Bromwich Albion v. Everton; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is, sadly, not Mathieu Flamini. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat because I don't think Flamini is on Twitter.

Preview by Numbers: Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal, League Cup Third Round


White Hart Lane, London
Wednesday, September 23
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: David Bryan and Lee Betts
    • 4th Official: Andy Woolmer
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 74 Arsenal wins, 55 Tottenham wins, 46 draws
  • All-Time in the League Cup: 6 Arsenal wins, 3 Tottenham wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-D-W-W-L
  • Tottenham's League Form: L-D-D-D-W-W
Diego Costa is the devil on Mike Dean's shoulder.
Santi Cazorla does not appear tall enough to be the angel on
the other side (which might have led to his red card...)
At halftime of Saturday's game at Chelsea, I was very angry. Since this is an Arsenal blog and I am assuming you, the reader, are an Arsenal fan, there's a very good chance you were pretty perturbed as well. Since that time, I've run the scenario over and over in my head, as the Internet's reaction was and remains, predictably, all over the place.

Here are my final thoughts. Some might prove to be wildly unpopular:

  • Diego Costa is an expert at agitating. He even kept an eye on referee Mike Dean to make sure he wasn't watching when he shoved Laurent Koscielny...
  • ...which is why it's kind of funny that so many are blasting Dean for missing the incident. The incident that, you know, Costa made sure he didn't see. Even as the first replays were shown I thought, since it all happened behind the play, that it was the linesman's job to see what was happening. Especially since it's the linesman's job to stay in line with the last defender who was, of course, Koscielny.
  • Since none of the field officials saw the incident, Costa was, correctly, retroactively punished for the incident. That doesn't make the fact that it was missed any better, since it completely changed the game, but that leads to an argument about the use of replay which I don't intend to get into here.
  • The number of Chelsea fans who still believe Costa is unfairly treated is laughable. The Chelsea fans who think Costa was only retroactively banned because of the media uproar should go ahead and read the laws of the game. It's on page 40.
  • All of that said, I thought Dean was right to send off both Arsenal players, though it would've been less harsh for Gabriel's to have been a second yellow. Note that I said "less harsh" and not "more correct." By the letter of the law, Gabriel could have been sent off and was...
  • ...but by that same law, then Costa should've been sent off for kicking out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain later. Consistency, please!
  • And speaking of consistency, the appeal of Gabriel's red card was upheld and his suspension has been rescinded. This was completely shocking to me, since, as I said above, what he did was at the least a second yellow. But hey, something in our favor!
  • A chart has been circulating on the Internet over the last few days showing that Arsenal has won just 6% of their games with Dean as referee since 2009/10. That was great analysis when it was accurate three years ago.
At the end of the day, Diego Costa should have been punished in the match (several times) and wasn't, and yes, that's frustrating. You have to think that one positive from all this is that Costa will have a very hard time getting away with that kind of shit moving forward. At the same time, Arsenal lost their heads in a critical derby and paid the price. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Arsenal will look to get back on the right foot with a League Cup tie against their North London rivals. If they lose here, it'll be three on the bounce for the first time in over five years, and they face a trip to Leicester City, the only remaining unbeaten side in the league, at the weekend.

The players have got to put Saturday behind them, even if the fans haven't.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Suspended: Cazorla (one match, two yellows)

Gabriel will serve the first of a three match ban for doing
this thing you can't do.
 Here is a picture of Gabriel.
I wrote all of this before Gabriel's suspension was reversed and I'll be damned if I'm going to rewrite significant portions. I think Per Mertesacker will start anyway.

Arsenal will be without three two of the players who made the starting XI against Chelsea (and Stoke before that, for that matter.) Of course, Santi Cazorla will serve a one match ban for his two yellow cards while Gabriel will sit out the first of three.

(That turned out to be very minimal editing; now I feel lazy.)

Francis Coquelin looked like he hyperextended his knee at one point during the first half at the weekend; he was subbed out at halftime and will miss out tonight, as his knee remains swollen. Until that swelling goes down, it's hard to know how serious the injury is. If it's particularly bad, it could be much more damaging to Arsenal's season than the red cards were on Saturday.

On the other hand, Per Mertesacker should return after missing what felt like 657 days for what I heard was a chest infection.

With this being a League Cup tie, you would expect Arsene Wenger to select some youngsters for the XI, but with this also being a North London derby along with Arsenal riding a two match losing streak, I can't see Wenger rotating as much as he did in Croatia last week. When he was asked if youngsters would feature, Wenger mentioned Alex Iwobi by name. After his Emirates Cup display, you would have expected Jeff Reine-Adelaide to make an appearance as well, but word trickled in Monday that he has suffered an injury which could see him miss a couple of months.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Debuchy, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Giroud.

Tottenham Squad News

Out: Bentaleb (ankle,) Pritchard (ankle)
Doubts: Mason (knee,) Dembele (ankle)

The ecstasy of scoring this winner against Sunderland was
lost on Ryan Mason just seconds after this picture, when he
realized his knee was injured in the preceding collision.
Spurs will definitely be without Nabil Bentaleb, as the Algerian international will remain out with an ankle problem. Ryan Mason is a doubt, having picked up a knee injury while scoring the winner against Sunderland two weeks ago. Now, that's both of Tottenham's usual deep-lying midfielders. That means Dele Alli and Eric Dier could both retain their places shielding the back four in the starting XI.

I'm not going to lie, I don't know enough about Spurs' academy to predict what youngsters they might rotate into the squad, though I should note that the aforementioned Alli is 19 years of age. As for rotation, Mauricio Pochettino has the most room to do so on the backline, where he might bring in Danny Rose and/or Kieran Trippier, purchased from Burnley this summer.

Predicted XI: Lloris, Tripper, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Alli, Dier, Eriksen, Lamela, Son, Kane.

Current Form

Arsenal's first 5-2 win over Spurs stopped a two-game losing skid.
Over the past few seasons, Tottenham have been very good at beating Arsenal when they're down, then doing absolutely nothing with the run of fixtures that follows. On that note, there is no denying that Arsenal is down right now, having lost their last two. Arsenal have not lost three straight competitive fixtures since April of 2010 (one of those three was against Spurs at the Lane, FYI.) Arsenal have followed two straight losses with a win or draw on each of their last 11 attempts. It happened only once last season, when Arsenal followed losses to Swansea and Manchester United with a win over Borussia Dortmund in November.

Spurs have tasted defeat only once this season, falling 1-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford thanks to a Kyle Walker own goal on opening day. They didn't exactly rise from those depths meteorically, however, as they plodded their way to three consecutive draws leading into the September international break. At the time, they sat 15th in the table. Since the Interlull, Spurs have won three on the bounce, beating Sunderland and Crystal Palace in the league (both by 1-0 scorelines) and defeating reigning Azerbaijani champion Qarabag 3-1 in the Europa League.

Match Facts

Harry Kane steals Theo Walcott's goal celebration.
They can't all pretend to be airplanes!
Arsenal took just one of a possible six points from Spurs last year, drawing 1-1 at home and losing 2-1 at White Hart Lane. It was the first time since 2008/09 that Arsenal failed to beat Tottenham at all in a given season (though they did not beat Spurs in a Premier League match in 2010/11 either.)

The Gunners' record at White Hart Lane has been miserable in recent seasons, though they did win there in the winter of 2014, thanks to a Tomas Rosicky goal scored at the 72-second mark. Spurs had the lion's share of possession in that match, however, and could consider themselves unlucky to have not equalized. Of course, Tottenham won this fixture 2-1 last year; prior to this past weekend, it was Arsenal's most recent road loss. Since the Arsenal's 3-1 win in 2007, the Gunners have lost five times at the Lane, drawn twice, and won twice.

The other of those two wins came in these clubs' last League Cup meeting, in the 2010 third round, which Arsenal won 4-1 in extra time. The Gunners scored thrice in the first half of extra time, including twice from the penalty spot, after Henri Lansbury and Robbie Keane scored in regular time. Arsenal went on to lose the final horrendously that season.

Arsenal and Spurs have met for seven previous League Cup ties; Arsenal have won five of them (2010 as mentioned, 2007, famously in 1987, 1983, and 1968) while Spurs have advanced at the hands of their North London rivals twice (1980 and 2008.)

The Referee

God, I forgot how long that coat was...
The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. After Marriner sent off the wrong man in Arsenal's 6-0 loss at Chelsea two years ago, he was assigned to only two Arsenal matches last season, both home wins and both clean sheets: 1-0 over Southampton and 2-0 over Everton. Earlier this season, Marriner took charge of Arsenal's 1-0 win over Newcastle, in which he correctly sent off Aleksandar Mitrovic on 15 minutes and also showed the Magpies six additional yellow cards.

This will be the first time Spurs have seen Marriner this season; last year, Tottenham had a record of two wins and a loss with Marriner in the middle. The wins were both in the League Cup, incidentally: 3-1 over Nottingham Forest and 4-0 over Newcastle. The loss was 1-0 to Manchester City in early May.

Around the Third Round
  • Tuesday: Aston Villa 1 - 0 Birmingham City
  • Tuesday: Fulham 0 - 1 Stoke City
  • Tuesday: Hull City 1 - 0 Swansea City
  • Tuesday: Leicester City 2 - 1 West Ham United
  • Tuesday: Middlesbrough 3 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • Tuesday: Preston North End 2 - 2 Bournemouth
    • Bournemouth wins 3-2 on penalties
  • Tuesday: Sunderland 1 - 4 Manchester City
  • Tuesday: Reading 1 - 2 Everton
  • Wednesday: Crystal Palace v. Charlton Athletic; Selhurst Park, London
  • Wednesday: Milton Keynes Dons v. Southampton; Stadium.mk, Milton Keynes
  • Wednesday: Newcastle United v. Sheffield Wednesday; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Wednesday: Norwich City v. West Bromwich Albion; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Wednesday: Walsall v. Chelsea; Banks's Stadium, Walsall
  • Wednesday: Liverpool v. Carlisle United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Ipswich Town; Old Trafford, Manchester
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and supervillain. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat if you dare.

Preview by Numbers: Chelsea v. Arsenal


Stamford Bridge, London
Saturday, September 19
7:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Simon Long and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Michael Oliver
  • This Match, Last Year: Chelsea 2 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 72 Arsenal wins, 59 Chelsea wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W // L-W-D-W-W
  • Chelsea's League Form: W // D-L-W-L-L
Who's that team they call TEAM?
Who's that team we all adore?
Sports! Don't you just love being a sports fan? In all of its agonizing glory?

Generally speaking, we let sports take over such a large portion of our lives, it becomes ingrained in who we are. Our fanaticism defines us. We see it as a badge of honor from behind our rose-colored glasses, while others, fans of other teams and non-sports fans alike, see us oh so differently. I know I've side-eyed plenty of people wearing Spurs jerseys, who probably have no idea why I'm giving them such a nasty look. On the other hand, I over-analyze every glance I get when I'm wearing the red and white.

That's what makes things like Wednesday night so difficult. The thrill of victory can be so short-lived; I noticed this in a particularly poignant manner after the 2014 FA Cup win, after so many years of nothing, when I woke up the next morning and realized I had work all the same on Monday and nothing had really tangibly changed at all. But the pain of losses sticks with you for days and clouds your mind like a fog. The vitriol sits on social media and people argue ad nauseam. It's exhausting.

But that's what sports fandom is all about, in the end. It's about the experiences as much as it's about the results. It's about the friends you make watching the Arsenal and should not be about the people who use the comments sections on tabloid articles to prove their point in all capital letters.

We've all fell into supporting this football club one way or another. When things go wrong, take a minute to reflect on the camaraderie you feel when watching the sport, rather than pointing fingers and starting arguments.

Also, let's smash Chelsea. That would be fun. I would like that. At least up until work on Monday.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Mertesacker (match fitness)

Another "sad Arsenal after conceding" stock photo.
First things first, I'm all for squad rotation. We all knew there would be changes to the starting XI on Wednesday night, with this monumental fixture coming up early on Saturday.

But six changes? Six?! When you bring in too many players in need of a run out, you lose your cohesion. Three changes to the back five. A holding midfield duo consisting of two Spaniards with a combined average height of 5' 7.5" (1.7 m.) I know height isn't the be-all-end-all at that position (Francis Coquelin is only 5'10" / 1.78 m himself) but it seems to me that Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla combined should not be your deepest lying midfielders in front of a back five where you've made three changes...

And don't get me started on Olivier Giroud. I spend so much time defending the guy's play and he puts in that shift. Perhaps I should know better. In any case, I had always figured Theo Walcott would be starting this weekend anyway.

As for the squad going forward, there are no real changes to player availability for tomorrow. The long-term injured are still long-term injured. The only real question is whether Per Mertesacker is fit to play; his experience could be useful, but not if his health isn't 100%.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Walcott.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: Willian (hamstring,) Courtois (knee)
Doubts: Falcao (knee,) Pedro (thigh)

I couldn't figure out what was going on in this picture until
I realized those weren't Chelsea's road kits and that the team
in white is Crystal Palace.
There's a certain level of irony in the fact that Chelsea allowed Petr Cech to go to Arsenal this summer, with Thibault Courtois having usurped his starting role, only to have the Belgian now ruled out for at least three months with a meniscus tear. Asmir Begovic, acquired from Stoke in the summer to fill Cech's place, will deputize.

Chelsea's big summer acquisitions are both likely to miss out on the action this weekend, with Pedro nursing a thigh problem and Radamel Falcao having a knee issue. Willian is also expected to miss out with an injured hamstring.

Tactically, expect Chelsea to be even more park-the-bussy (that's a terrible term, I apologize) than usual, since they've been exposed defensively this season. No Premier League side has conceded more goals through five games (12) than Chelsea; the Blues conceded only 32 all of last year. This defensive quality could involve Kurt Zouma moving up into the holding role alongside Nemanja Matic, allowing Gary Cahill and John Terry to return as the central defense partnership.

Chelsea's right side versus Arsenal's left will be the key side to watch, as Alexis Sanchez will try to take advantage of Branislav Ivanovic's poor form to start the season. In fact, his form has been so poor, he could be dropped entirely, which would see Cesar Azpilicueta switch sides, as he did midweek. That would mean newcomer Baba Rahman would start on the left.

Without Willian, Jose Mourinho doesn't really have a natural right winger available to start. I would expect a midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Oscar, and Eden Hazard behind Diego Costa up top.

Predicted XI: Begovic, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Matic, Fabregas, Oscar, Hazard, Costa.

Current Form

Well, Theo scored again. That's something, right?
I've already ranted about Arsenal making six changes in midweek, but there is one positive about that: for half of the starting squad, they're not the ones that put in that performance in Croatia, so the lingering mental effects might not be as devastating as we fear. Petr Cech didn't have a bad game. Neither did Hector Bellerin, or Nacho Monreal, or Aaron Ramsey, or even the guys who came in off the bench, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin. So, how much of an effect will really carry over?

The same can be said for Chelsea's comfortable 4-0 win on Wednesday over Maccabi Tel Aviv. How far will that result really go to overshadow the fact that the Blues currently sit 17th in the Premier League table after five matches, already losing the same number of games they lost all of last year?

Rest assured, the result from this fixture tomorrow will have a longer lasting effect on the form of both clubs than their Wednesday night results will.

Match Facts

Arsenal have already beaten Chelsea once this year.
I'm going to say that as many times as I can.
Arsenal have already beaten Chelsea once this year, a sentence I haven't been able to say in over three years. That win, of course, came with some silverware attached, as Arsenal won the Community Shield 1-0 in early August. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the lone goal of the match.

Chelsea took four of a possible six points from Arsenal last season, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in October and drawing 0-0 at the Emirates in April. At the Bridge, Arsenal had 53% of the possession and generated 10 shots to Chelsea's five, but managed none on target. A moment of brilliance from Eden Hazard produced a penalty from which Chelsea took the lead on 27 minutes; Diego Costa put the game to rest on a counterattack a dozen minutes from time. At the Emirates, Chelsea came for and produced a scoreless draw.

Since 2004, Arsenal and Chelsea have met 27 times across all competitions and Arsenal have won just five of them. As mentioned above, the Community Shield win in August was Wenger's first against Mourinho; before that, Arsenal had drawn six and lost seven in 13 tries against Mourinho. Arsenal have not beaten Chelsea in the league since that time John Terry fell down, in October of 2011.

The Referee

It was a Mike Dean awarded penalty that resigned Jose
Mourinho to his first ever league loss at Stamford Bridge,
at which point it appears that the training staff tried to fight him.
The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean. Arsenal have lost only one of their last nine matches in which Dean was the referee; that was the 2-1 loss to Manchester United at the Emirates last November. Dean was in the middle for the reverse of that fixture as well, the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in May. He also worked Arsenal's 2-0 win at Manchester City in January and the 1-0 win at Burnley in mid-April. So, while you may remember Arsenal as having a particularly bad record with Dean as the referee, please realize that that hasn't been true in about two years. It's Martin Atkinson you should currently fear.

Chelsea saw Mike Dean four times last year, winning two and drawing the other two. Dean was in the middle for Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Manchester City last September, in which Frank Lampard famously equalized against his former club. He also worked a 3-0 win over Tottenham in December, a 1-1 draw at Southampton in March, and a 1-0 win over Manchester United in April. Chelsea's last loss involving Mike Dean was actually Jose Mourinho's first league loss at Stamford Bridge, to Sunderland in April of 2014.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. West Bromwich Albion; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Sunderland; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Watford; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Leicester City; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Everton; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. West Ham United; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Norwich City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Manchester United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and an extinct species of bird. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat. Ca-caw! Ca-caw!

Preview by Numbers: Dinamo Zagreb v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 1


Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb
Wednesday, September 16
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Romania
    • Referee: Ovidiu Hategan
    • Assistants: Octavian Sovre and Sebastian Gheorghe
    • 4th Official: Radu Ghinguleac
    • Additional Assistants: Alexandru Tudor and Sebastian Coltescu
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-D-W-W-L-W (all last year)
  • Dinamo Zagreb's European Form: D-W-D-D-W-W (all qualifying)
What are you so happy about?
Pack your bags! We're going to Europe!

Then, unpack your bags, because you do not play for Arsenal. Unless you're visiting Zagreb as a road supporter, in which case you should be in Croatia already, so yes, unpack your bags.

Arsenal have had a knack for making their progress through Europe as difficult as possible over the last few seasons. Dropped points have led to second place group finishes, which have led to tricky Round of 16 opponents, which have led to horrible first leg performances, which have led to really awesome second leg performances that don't quite make up for the disastrous first leg result. With Bayern Munich in Arsenal's group this year, the Gunners cannot really afford to drop points to Dinamo Zagreb or Olympiacos.

Dinamo, however, are unbeaten in 41 competitive fixtures, so Arsenal will have their work cut out for them against the Croatian champions. It's a game Arsenal should win, but we all know how those turn out sometimes...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (surgery,) Wilshere (surgery,) Rosicky (let's face it, probably surgery)
Rested: Bellerin, Ramsey
Doubts: Mertesacker (hydroplane)

Steer into the skid!
What squad catastrophes have befallen us this week? Well, Per Merteacker's difficult month has continued. After missing 18 days of training with some sort of super illness, Per's car hydroplaned (or aquaplaned, which might be a UK vs US thing?) and crashed as he drove home from practice on Monday; he's not injured but "a little shaken." Poor BFG can't catch a break these days...

Speaking of breaks (as in bones,) yet another Arsenal player needed surgery. After the Welbeck debacle (Welbacle?) it has been announced that Jack Wilshere will miss another three months to repair the hairline fracture in his fibula. Wilshere has missed 118 Arsenal matches since suffering his first ankle injury in the 2011 Emirates Cup.

As for the Arsenal XI that doesn't presently need surgery, I would expect Arsene Wenger to rotate a little, with a trip to Stamford Bridge looming on the horizon. I don't really know what that would entail, though. When you have two opponents ahead who will likely sit deep and absorb pressure, in which match do you start Theo Walcott to use his speed to exploit that? We've seen Walcott neutralized by a deep-lying Newcastle defense after their red card a few weeks back. Personally, I'd play Olivier Giroud tonight and Theo on Saturday. Then again, I've always been pro-Giroud, almost to a fault, so what do I know?

As for other rotation, will we see Mathieu Debuchy? Kieran Gibbs? Do we still have Mathieu Flamini? Are there any other Mathieus? Mikel Arteta? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Joel Campbell? Jeff Reine-Adelaide?  Me? Remember, some kids should get a run out next Wednesday in the League Cup, though that's also a North London derby, which could require a little more experience than your usual League Cup tie.

Since Arsenal had to, you know, fly to Croatia, we know who they took on the plane, which gives us some of a hint as to what kind of rotation we'll see. To that end, Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey stayed back in London, which likely means starts for Debuchy and the Ox.

Predicted XI: Cech, 10 other guys picked at random out of Cech's hat.

Dinamo Zagreb Squad News

Out: None
Suspended: Santos (one match)

Zagreb's striker (left) appears to have been the second person
to hug Alexis Sanchez after his Copa America winning penalty.
The first appears to have been Mauricio Isla.
I'm always suspicious of teams that appear to have a clean bill of health well after the start of the season; it's September and the season is already a month old, somebody has to be a little knackered somewhere, right? In any case, accurate information can be hard to come by for some foreign teams during European competition, so I'll have to take Who Scored's word for it that Dinamo Zagreb have no injury fears ahead of tonight's match.

So, let's talk tactics. While Dinamo have been rampaging through the Croatian league yet again, they were a bit leaky at the back during the European qualification campaign, conceding seven over six matches. They needed away goals to beat last year's Norwegian champion (when they blew a 3-0 lead in the second leg.) Then, on transfer deadline day, center back Jozo Simunovic signed for Celtic.

They've got an experienced goalkeeper in Eduardo, who has won 34 caps for Portugal. Up top, they have Chilean international Angelo Henriquez, who spent three years in Manchester United's system, though he never appeared for their senior team.

Dinamo will be without Goncalo Santos after he was sent off from their last European match.

Predicted XI: Eduardo, Pinto, Taravel, Sigali, Pivaric, Antolic, Machado, Rog, Pjaca, Soudani, Henriquez.

Current Form

Dinamo Zagreb celebrate their late winner against Skenderbeu
in the first leg of their final qualifying round.
Since the season opening loss to West Ham, Arsenal have bounced back with a four match unbeaten run, winning three and drawing one. On the plus side, they have also managed to start scoring goals for themselves, even if they have fluffed most of their league-leading shots on target. It's almost reminiscent of two years ago, when Arsenal lost their opener to Aston Villa, then went unbeaten in 12. That team didn't really have the same problems scoring (they just hemorrhaged goals in big road games.) As for their European record, including playoffs, Arsenal have won seven and drawn two of their last 11 road fixtures in the Champions League, losing only at Dortmund last year and Napoli the year before.

On last year's UEFA Europa League group matchday 5, Dinamo Zagreb lost 1-0 in Romania to Astra Giurgiu. Plavi, or the Blues, have not lost a competitive fixture since, en route to an unbeaten title winning season in the league and an undefeated start to the 2015/16 campaign. Their five wins and four draws through nine league fixtures this season leaves them three points clear of second place Hajduk Split at the top of the Croatian league table.

In addition, they successfully navigated three rounds worth of playoffs to qualify for the Champions League group stage, defeating Fola Esch from Luxembourg, Molde from Norway, and Skenderbeu from Albania to qualify via the "champions route" (as opposed to the non-champions route through which Arsenal is usually forced to qualify.)

Match Facts

Arsenal's squad for their last trip to Croatia...
Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb have met in one previous Champions League tie, in the final qualifying round before the 2006 group stage; Arsenal won the tie 5-1 on aggregate, winning both matches.

Arsenal scored twice in two minutes just after the hour mark in the first leg in Croatia to take a 2-0 lead, en route to a 3-0 victory. Cesc Fabregas had a brace, while Robin van Persie had the other goal; I considered not mentioning that at all. The second leg, in London, was Arsenal's first win at the new Emirates Stadium. Zagreb struck first in that match, in the 11th minute with a goal from Eduardo, who would join Arsenal the following summer. Arsenal went on to win 2-1, with goals from Freddie Ljungberg and Mathieu Flamini.

Arsenal's only other matches against Croatian opponents came in 1978 (when they were still Yugoslavia,) against Hajduk Split in the UEFA Cup second round. Arsenal lost 2-1 in Split in the first leg, but won 1-0 at Highbury to advance on away goals. Arsenal lost in the next round to Red Star Belgrade.

Dinamo Zagreb have never beaten an English side; in nine matches, they've lost seven and drawn two.

The Referee

Not just regular controversy, but racist controversy.
The match officials are from Romania; the referee is Ovidiu Hategan. This will be the first time Hategan will work a match for both Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb. In fact, the only Champions League match Hategan has taken charge of involving either of the two countries involved here was Manchester City's 2-1 win at CSKA Moscow during the 2013 group stage.

Of course, that match was not without controversy; Hategan reportedly failed to follow UEFA protocol when Yaya Toure complained about racist chants coming from the Moscow fans. That protocol dictates that the referee should inform the stadium crew that an announcement denouncing the behavior should be made over the public address system. The chairman of FIFA's "Kick It Out" anti-racism campaign went as far as saying Hategan "should not be refereeing again."

However, Hategan was cleared of any UEFA charges when it was determined that he had indeed instructed the fourth official to do so; the venue director ignored the request of the fourth official.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Paris St. Germain 2 - 0 Malmo
  • Tuesday: Real Madrid 4 - 0 Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Tuesday: PSV Eindhoven 2 - 1 Manchester United
  • Tuesday: Wolfsburg 1 - 0 CSKA Moscow
  • Tuesday: Benfica 2 - 0 Astana
  • Tuesday: Galatasaray 0 - 2 Atletico Madrid
  • Tuesday: Manchester City 1 - 2 Juventus
  • Tuesday: Sevilla 3 - 0 Borussia Monchengladbach
  • Wednesday: Roma v. Barcelona; Stadio Olimpico, Rome
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. BATE Borisov; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Wednesday: Olympiacos v. Bayern Munich; Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus
  • Wednesday: Chelsea v. Maccabi Tel Aviv; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Wednesday: Dynamo Kiev v. Porto; NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev
  • Wednesday: Gent v. Lyon; Ghelamco Arena, Ghent
  • Wednesday: Valencia v. Zenit St. Petersburg; Mestalla Stadium, Valencia
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and a WITCH! You can either BURN THE WITCH or follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Stoke City


Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, September 12
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Harry Lennard and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: James Linington
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 0 Stoke City
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 53 Arsenal wins, 25 Stoke wins, 23 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W // L-W-D-W
  • Stoke City's League Form: D-W // L-D-D-L
I forgot what goals looked like, so I did a Google search.
They look like this. Keep an eye out for this.
On Wednesday night, I had a dream that Arsenal was playing Valencia in some sort of two-legged Champions League tie. I suppose that could happen in the knockout phases this year, but in the dream, it was very specifically a qualifying play-off. In the first leg, played in Spain, Arsenal trailed 6-2 at halftime, but pulled three goals back in the second half to lose 6-5, thanks in part to an Olivier Giroud hat trick. The general tenor of the dream was that Arsenal was a disaster, but still had the home leg to contest.

When I woke up, all I could think was "Wow, five goals! And a Giroud hat trick! I'd bite your hand off for that right now." I could do without conceding six, though.

Goals for Arsenal are scarce right now. They can't score at home. They've scraped their way to two unconvincing road wins. Their depth striker is out for somewhere between three and three hundred months. Arsenal Twitter was impossible to deal with after the transfer deadline passed and nobody came in. I can't include the blinking panic graphic every week, people!

So, let's get back to brass tacks. Stoke come to the Emirates tomorrow. We hate them, right? Let's win, okay? Sound good to everyone? All right then.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (explosion,) Wilshere (setback,) Rosicky (missing)
Doubts: Mertesacker (match fitness)

Danny Welbeck stares wistfully into the distance, pondering
life's complexities and that weird feeling in his knee.
Let's talk about Danny Welbeck, shall we? In fact, let's find what I said about his injury for my last preview, in advance of Arsenal's trip to Newcastle two weeks ago. In fact, I quoted Arsene Wenger directly in saying "He 'should be back after the international break.'"

And oh, what an international break it was! Here's the timeline: Wenger said that before the Newcastle game, which Arsenal won 1-0. Then, the transfer window closed on Tuesday, September 1. Arsenal made no moves. Then, two days later, the club announced that Welbeck needed surgery on his knee, and is expected to be out for "a period of months," likely until at least Christmas.

FURTHER PANIC ENSUES and it's all over the place. The timing, just days after the window closed, was interesting because it had to come before Roy Hodgon's England press conference. I understand why the club wouldn't admit this during the transfer window itself; if Arsenal were in a last ditch quest for a striker (like the situation in which they purchased Welbeck last year after Giroud's injury,) then announcing the surgery would mean prospective sellers would jack up the price. Ultimately, the fact that Arsenal bought nobody, not even a token depth guy, sat sour in the stomach of a lot of Gooners, but we all know that Wenger almost never buys a player just because someone else is injured, because when that player is healthy again, you will end up with too many bodies.

Rosicky is in here somewhere...
But then, Roy Hodgson says that Welbeck is actually going to be out for six months (!!) He also said that Welbeck had been out since March, which was wrong. With that information, Wenger was asked in his presser yesterday about why he lied about the injury length, which is patently not what happened.

When it comes down to it, Arsenal was only going to buy a world-class striker this summer if one became available. There are so few "world-class strikers" out there that teams are almost never willing to sell one anyway. So, here we are.

Wow, that was a lot of words I wasted on that. In other news, Jack Wilshere has had a "setback" which can literally mean anything. He could be back midweek for Arsenal's Champions League match or he could be like Tomas Rosicky, who has disappeared into a fog somewhere around Upper Holloway.

As for tomorrow's team selection, Per Mertesacker has practiced again after missing 18 days with an illness. 18 days! He is most certainly not going to start. Laurent Koscielny had a midweek scare on international duty, but should be fine. Wenger has a bit of a selection headache up top as well, which I'm going to make a "safe guess" at.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Stoke City Squad News

Out: Shawcross (back,) Odemwingie (hamstring)
Suspended: Afellay (first of two, violent conduct, reduced on appeal,) Adam (first of three, violent conduct)
Doubts: Diouf (groin,) Johnson (hamstring,) Arnautovic (ankle)

Stoke found themselves on 9 men in the first half of their
last match and I just realized Tony Pulis was the OTHER
manager.
There's a lot to cover here, so let's start with our dear friend Ryan Shawcross. Stoke's center back and captain, infamous in certain North London circles, will be out until October as he recovers from surgery on his back. In his absence, Arsenal fans will be too lazy to boo anyone in a visiting uniform.

Peter Odemwingie, who was born in Uzbekistan (did you know he was born in Uzbekistan?!), is technically a doubt (but it's a large doubt) with a hamstring injury.

Since Stoke ended their last match (and actually ended the first half of that match) on nine men, they will be without those two players through suspension. Charlie Adam will serve the first match of a three match ban for stamping on Craig Dawson (surprise!) and Ibrahim Afellay will serve the first match of a ban that was reduced to two matches after he slapped Craig Gardner. I'm not positive what the reasoning was behind the reduction, but Gardner was also booked for flicking his hand at Afellay first. I don't know why the fact that it's retaliation makes it any less of violent conduct, but hey, I'm not the FA.

Mame Biram Diouf (groin,) Glen Johnson (hamstring,) and Dean Arnautovic (ankle) are all listed as doubts; I've listed them there in the order they are likely to pass fit (from least likely to most likely.) In fact, I'm just going to predict all three of them to start...

Predicted XI: Butland, Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Pieters, Whelan, van Ginkel, Walters, Shaqiri, Arnautovic, Diouf.

Current Form

Nobody has scored more goals for Arsenal this season than
their opposition into their own net.
Arsenal are, of course, off to a miserable start, one so horrible that they're in the disturbingly low table position of 5th with 34 games still to play. On the one hand, it's easy to mock those who panic at this admittedly early stage in the game. On the other, there are serious issues with Arsenal's form that do need to be discussed, particularly their goal scoring record at home.

Going back to last season, Arsenal have scored in just one of their last six matches at the Emirates; that was a dead rubber against West Bromwich Albion. Chelsea, Swansea City, Sunderland, West Ham, and Liverpool have all kept Arsenal off the board within their home confines. Last year, 41 of Arsenal's 71 league goals came at home. This year, Arsenal's leading scorer is Own Goal, with Olivier Giroud's one coming in a very close second place. It's a worry, yes, but it's not like we're talking about a streak like Aston Villa's last year, where they went 934 days without scoring (or something...)

As for Stoke City, they are without a win so far this season, though they did advance in the League Cup, needing an eight-round penalty shootout to beat League Two Luton Town. For form purposes, as we've been through before, going to penalties counts as a draw, whether you win or lose.

The Potters are 18th in the league, one of three teams with just two points from four matches. Stoke have lost twice by a 1-0 score, to Liverpool and West Brom. They've earned draws with Tottenham, coming back from 2-0 down, and Norwich City.

Match Facts

Laurent Koscielny opened the scoring in this fixture last year
just six minutes in.
So far in my time writing this feature for The Modern Gooner (since 2011,) I've been able to copy and paste this paragraph for each and every preview. For all of Arsenal's struggles on the road in Stoke-on-Mordor, they have an incredible home record against the Potters. The last time Stoke won against Arsenal in North London, the #1 hit in the U.K. was Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." The date was August 29, 1981. Since then, Arsenal have won 13 straight against the Potters in North London. 10 of those have been league meetings, with three victories in cup ties coming during the time when Stoke was not in the top flight.

Despite a miserable loss at the Britannia last December, Arsenal earned a split of the season series with Stoke with a 3-0 win at the Emirates just a month after that wretched defeat. Laurent Koscielny scored in the sixth minute to give Arsenal the lead and Alexis Sanchez had a brace to seal the points. The one dark spot, because there usually is one against Stoke, is that Arsenal lost Mathieu Debuchy for the second time of the season after he was shoved by Marko Arnautovic.

The Referee

I still have yet to include an actual picture of Jonathan
Moss in any of my match previews.
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss. Arsenal have seen Moss in 10 competitive fixtures all-time and they have won all 10 of them. Three of those matches were last season: the opening day 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, aided by an 89th minute Jason Puncheon red card, this very fixture back in January, in which he failed to sanction Marko Arnautovic for that aforementioned shove on Debuchy, and the FA Cup Final in May, a 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

Arsenal are not completely unbeaten with Moss in the middle, as he did take charge of a 2013 Emirates Cup match against Galatasaray, in which he awarded the visitors a dubious penalty following a Didier Drogba tumble, en route to their taking the title.

Stoke City saw Moss five times last season, drawing one and losing the other four. The draw came in the first of the five matches, 1-1 against Hull City last August. They then suffered losses to Southampton, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea, all away from the Britannia, with Moss in the middle. Stoke's last win with Moss as the referee came in December of 2013, against Chelsea, 3-2 at the Britannia.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Everton v. Chelsea; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Manchester City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Bournemouth; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Watford v. Swansea City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Southampton; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Manchester United v. Liverpool; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (late): Leicester City v. Aston Villa; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Monday (night): West Ham United v. Newcastle United; Boleyn Ground, London
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and king of the jungle. All of you trash talking lions upset about that can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.