Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Crystal Palace

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, January 1
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Scott Ledger
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 1 Crystal Palace
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 25 Arsenal wins, 3 Crystal Palace wins, 11 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-L-L-W
  • Crystal Palace's League Form: L-W-D-L-L-D
Well, when this match is completed, we'll be at the halfway point of the season. 19 matches completed apiece and everyone will have played everyone else once. When you compare their results from this season against the corresponding results from last season, Arsenal are plus-4 this year. And, since this match was a draw last season, they could end the first half of the year plus-6 as compared to last year's pace with a win on Sunday.

That sounds so ideal, considering Arsenal finished last season 10 points behind the champions. And yet, here we are, in fourth again.

So, what's the problem? Well, if Arsenal win Sunday, then duplicate their first half results for the second half, they'll finish with 80 points. Chelsea, however, are on pace for 98. And while they likely won't keep winning at the same torrid pace at which they are winning right now, you have to think that the title winners are going to be closer to 90 points this year, as opposed to Leicester's 81 last year.

The unbeaten run of autumn was nice, but it's a distant memory now. And draws are not enough. Arsenal have to start winning more consistently immediately, otherwise it'll be another year scratching and clawing for the Champions League places in May.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gibbs (knee,) Walcott (calf,) Debuchy (hamstring,) Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Mertesacker (match fitness,) Welbeck (match fitness)

Shkodran Mustafi is back in the squad and available for selection again after missing the last three matches with a hamstring injury he picked up against Stoke. As a bit of a back-line tradeoff, Kieran Gibbs is out after injuring his knee against West Brom on Boxing Day. There's a bit of inflammation, which makes it hard to assess a timetable, but Arsène Wenger sounded hopeful that it will not be long-term.

Theo Walcott is expected to miss out with the calf injury he may or may not have picked up with his new coffee maker on Christmas morning. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who hurt his hamstring off the bench at Manchester City two weeks ago, remains doubtful. The Ox is expected to take part in full training on Saturday, however. With Theo still out and Ox a doubt, I would think Olivier Giroud retains his spot up top; I think his winner on Monday has earned him that, too.

In good news, we've been able to move Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck into the "match fitness doubts" category as their long-term injury periods come to a close.

After this match, Mohamed Elneny will join up with Egypt for the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning he'll be unavailable for Arsenal's following four fixtures, at least.

There could be some rotation for this match, of course, as Arsenal will travel to Bournemouth to play again on Tuesday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Iwobi, Alexis, Özil, Giroud.

Crystal Palace Squad News

Out: Souaré (thigh,) J. Benteke (knee,) Wickham (knee,) Mandanda (knee,) Tomkins (groin,) Sako (knock)
Doubts: Rémy (calf,) McCarthy (knock,) Ledley (knock)
Suspended: Delaney (one match, accumulation)

Disgraced England manager Sam Allardyce, who took over for the sacked Alan Pardew on December 23, will have to sweat on his squad's fitness, as Palace could be without as many as 10 players for their trip to North London. Center back Damien Delaney, who scored an own goal for Arsenal last year, picked up his fifth booking of the year on Boxing Day and will have to sit this one out for accumulation. This does not help Palace's depleted back line; they've been without left back Pape Souaré since September when he injured his thigh and jawbone in a car accident. Without Delaney, Zeki Fryers might have to deputize.

Palace lost both James McCarthy and Joe Ledley to knocks on Boxing Day against West Ham and both are firmly in the doubts column to return. If they don't, Mathieu Flamini could make his first ever competitive start against his former club.

Connor Wickham is out for the year with a knee injury, while the likes of James Tomkins, Steve Mandanda, Bakary Sako, and Loïc Rémy (remember him? He's on loan from Chelsea...) are all likely out until mid-January. Christian Benteke's younger brother Jonathan will be out with a meniscus injury, but he himself will be fine to start up top.

Predicted XI: Hennessey, Kelly, Dann, Fryers, Ward, Cabaye, Flamini, Townsend, Zaha, Puncheon, C. Benteke.

Current Form

Arsenal's win over West Brom helped avoid turning a two-match losing streak into a three-match losing streak, which would have been their first since January of 2012. But aside from that bit of information, there's not much to talk about in terms of Arsenal's form. The unbeaten run ended across all competitions on November 30 and it ended in the league on December 13. How about getting a winning streak going? Especially as it looks like Chelsea will tie and possibly break Arsenal's record of consecutive league wins, which was set in 2002.

So, let's talk about Crystal Palace. Palace's season started with losses to West Brom and Tottenham, but from there, the Eagles were unbeaten in five, including a three match winning run. While they were eliminated from the League Cup by Southampton in the third round, they were sitting seventh in the table at the end of September.

Since then, they have tumbled 10 places in the table. After that high point at the end of September, Palace lost six straight in the league, including allowing two injury time goals to turn a win into a loss against relegation fodder Swansea, before they beat Southampton 3-0 to snap the losing streak. They're winless in four since that win, however, and are now two points clear of relegation themselves.

On December 22, Alan Pardew was sacked and replaced by Sam Allardyce. Palace blew a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 with Watford in Allardyce's first match in charge of the Eagles on Boxing Day.

Match Facts

Prior to this fixture last season, Arsenal had won all five matches with Crystal Palace since the Eagles' promotion to the Premier League in 2013. Then, when the clubs met at the Emirates on April 17, Arsenal dominated the entirety of the match, led 1-0 through an Alexis Sánchez goal just before halftime, then conceded against the run of play to Yannick Bolasie in the 80th minute, and settled for an idiotic 1-1 draw. Arsenal had 72% of the possession and took 21 shots, but again, it's goals that win football matches.

Arsenal won at Selhurst Park last year, 2-1 in what had been the second match of the season. After the Gunners lost 2-0 on opening day to West Ham, Olivier Giroud notched Arsenal's first goal of the season on 16 minutes. Arsenal's lead lasted only a dozen minutes as Joel Ward scored from long distance to equalize for Palace. Arsenal took the lead on 55 minutes when an Alexis header was turned into the net by Damien Delaney.

Crystal Palace have beaten Arsenal only three times in 38 all-time meetings; two of their three wins came at Highbury, one in 1970 in the League Cup and the other in 1994. Overall, Arsenal are unbeaten in 14 against the Eagles, winning nine of them.

The Referee

The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. I know what you're thinking: "It's that guy who did that thing that time!" That's right, you know the thing. I don't even need to clarify it. That thing that time.

Arsenal have lost only one of their seven matches with Marriner since that thing that time, winning five straight over Southampton, Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, and Manchester City. After that, they had Marriner for their FA Cup loss to Watford last season and their come-from-behind 1-1 draw at Old Trafford back in November.

Crystal Palace have only had Marriner once this season, for their 4-2 loss to Liverpool in October. Last year, the only Palace match Marriner worked was also a home loss against Liverpool. Palace's last win with Marriner came 2-1 at Stoke on March 21, 2015.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Hull City v. Everton; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Sunderland; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Stoke City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. West Ham United; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Middlesbrough; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. West Bromwich Albion; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Bournemouth; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Liverpool v. Manchester City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (early): Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur; Vicarage Road, Watford

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a jazz pioneer. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for zoobop-ba-dop-bop-jazz.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Bromwich Albion

Emirates Stadium, London
Monday, December 26
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Neil Swarbrick
    • Assistants: Stephen Child and Constantine Hatzidakis
    • 4th Official: Keith Stroud
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 69 Arsenal wins, 37 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form:  D-W-W-W-L-L
  • West Brom's League Form: W-D-W-L-W-L
This was either the best or the worst week for Arsenal to have seven days off between matches. On the one hand, after losing two straight, Arsenal definitely need some time to refocus their minds on the task at hand. On the other hand, sitting and stewing on that second half from last weekend for seven days isn't the best situation either; sometimes you need to get straight back on the horse again.

The lingering delay between matches means that the hellscape known as Arsenal Twitter has had all week to debate whether or not it's okay to simultaneously believe both that Mesut Özil is a world-class midfielder AND he had a bad set of games over the past week. Seriously, it seems some people think you can't criticize individual performances without criticizing the player in general.

So, here we are, the holiday period is upon us. Arsenal play Monday, then Sunday, then Tuesday (!?) with three very winnable league fixtures against West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, and Bournemouth. In order to satiate the aforementioned hellscape, Arsenal are probably going to need to pick up all nine points. Otherwise, a season full of so much promise will already start to look pretty bleak as we head into 2017.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mustafi (hamstring,) Debuchy (hamstring,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Ramsey (hamstring)

To be honest, I have totally zoned out on Arsenal news this week. Do we still have players? Is that a thing?

As far as I know, the only change to the list of available players from last weekend is the loss of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on as a substitute and lasted only 12 minutes before injuring his hamstring, because that it one of the Arsenalist things that could have happened. I haven't heard any news on him, so I'll put him in the "doubts" category, although, really, I wouldn't expect an appearance.

Borussia Mönchengladbach posted a video on Twitter of Granit Xhaka returning to Borussia Park to a warm welcome. My response was "he should be at practice." As such, I have a gut feeling Xhaka won't start.

With dwindling options on the wings and Arsène Wenger's apparent lack of desire to start Olivier Giroud up top, I'll predict Alexis to start up front and Alex Iwobi to start on the left.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Walcott, Özil, Alexis.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Myhill (ankle)
Doubts: Evans (calf,) Berahino (match fitness)

Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill is struggling to return from an ankle injury he suffered in training back in November. Myhill wasn't really starting for the club anyway, as Ben Foster is the number one; Myhill has only played in the League Cup and an Under-23's match this season.

Jonny Evans has missed two straight West Brom matches with a calf injury and is a 50/50 doubt for this one. Tony Pulis might drop Nacer Chadli, who was poor against Manchester United last weekend, for James Morrison in midfield. Elsewhere, Saido Berahino is a doubt due to a lack of match fitness.

Meanwhile, Salomón Rondón escaped a ban from the FA after an altercation with Marcos Rojo last week, so he will be available to start up top for the Baggies.

Predicted XI: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Nyom, Fletcher, Yacob, Brunt, Morrison, Phillips, Rondón.

Current Form

I'm going to take a moment to remember the halcyon days of Arsenal's 19-match unbeaten run from earlier this year. God, it feels like forever ago, doesn't it?

Arsenal come into this match having lost two of their last two fixtures for the first time since last year, when in March, they were eliminated from the Champions League and the FA Cup in consecutive matches. The last time they lost consecutive league fixtures came two weeks before that, as part of a three-match winless run across all competitions. Losing three straight is rare. Prior to Arsenal pulling that off last season, the last time they dropped three in a row was April of 2010.

West Bromwich Albion have been one of the under-the-radar surprises of the 2016/17 season thus far, as they are in eighth place in the table. They are, however, seven points behind Manchester United for sixth place after losing to the Red Devils at the Hawthorns last weekend. Their record, however, is striking: the Baggies are unbeaten against teams currently in the bottom half of the table and are winless against teams currently in the top half.

Their only point against a team in the top half was a 1-1 draw against Spurs in October; they lost the other six matches and still have to play Arsenal and Southampton this week. Against the bottom half, the Baggies have six wins and four draws.

Match Facts

Arsenal and West Brom split the points in two meetings last season, with each side winning at home.

Arsenal's loss at the Hawthorns last November snapped a 10-match unbeaten run against the Baggies. Mikel Arteta came on for the injured Francis Coquelin on 14 minutes and Arsenal struck first through Olivier Giroud after 28 minutes. West Brom equalized from a set piece just seven minutes later, then led through an Arteta own goal five minutes after that. To add injury to insult, Arteta was removed on 49 minutes, and then to add insult to injury to insult, Santi Cazorla skied a late penalty that would've stolen Arsenal a point. Arsenal had 73% of the possession, which I hope you now realize is a useless statistic.

The sides met at the Emirates on a Thursday night in April, as the match had to be rearranged due to Arsenal's progress in the FA Cup. The atmosphere at the Emirates tense, in part because Arsenal had drawn two straight and in part because it was a Thursday. Alexis Sánchez scored twice for the Gunners as Arsenal ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. On that night, they had 71% of the possession. Just saying.

Arsenal have won six straight at home against West Brom, dating back to September of 2010, when Manuel Almunia injured himself saving a penalty, stayed in the game anyway, then conceded three goals.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Neil Swarbrick. This is the first time Arsenal have seen Swarbrick this season. But, to make this even more interesting, Arsenal didn't have Swarbrick at all last season either. In fact, this match will come nearly two years to the day of the last time Arsenal had Swarbrick, for their 2-1 win at West Ham on December 28, 2014.

Going back to my preview for that match, I found that Arsenal have never lost a match with Swarbrick in charge; they've now won five and lost one. But it all seems so long ago that that's barely relevant.

West Brom have seen Swarbrick twice so far this season; both were one goal losses to clubs from Liverpool, which is something they have in common with Arsenal. They lost 2-1 at home to Everton in August and 2-1 at Anfield in October.

Around the League
  • Monday (early): Watford v. Crystal Palace; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Monday: Burnley v. Middlesbrough; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Monday: Chelsea v. Bournemouth; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Monday: Leicester City v. Everton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Monday: Manchester United v. Sunderland; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Monday: Swansea City v. West Ham United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Monday (late): Hull City v. Manchester City; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Tuesday: Liverpool v. Stoke City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is only a handful of fake chatbots away from a milestone number of followers on Twitter. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat if you're one of those chatbots. Also, if you're a regular person, that would be fine, too.

Preview by Numbers: Manchester City v. Arsenal

Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, December 18
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Martin Atkinson
    • Assistants: Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn
    • 4th Official: Robert Madley
  • This Match, Last Year: Manchester City 2 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 96 Arsenal wins, 49 Manchester City wins, 44 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-W-W-W-L
  • Manchester City's League Form: D-W-W-L-L-W
Well, there is certainly a lot to bitch about after Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Everton on Tuesday night, especially since Mark Clattenburg is suddenly turning into Mike Dean 2: Electric Boogaloo. That being said, on the whole, Arsenal looked lazy and sluggish through most of the match, like they thought just showing up would earn them three points. And to me, that's much more frustrating than any last minute equalizers that get cleared off the line. A draw might have been fair, but you have to admit that Everton wanted it more, and to me, that's unacceptable. The loss, coupled with Chelsea's win on Wednesday, leaves Arsenal six points adrift; they've been pipped by Liverpool for second as well.

So that brings us to a critical road fixture, one in which Arsenal generally does turn up: Manchester City away. Arsenal have a decent record against City over the last three or so seasons, coming from behind twice to draw there last year and winning 2-0 there the year before. Arsenal have not lost to Manchester City since the 6-3 loss at the Etihad in December of 2013.

It's the third match for Arsenal in eight days, but due to the fact that Boxing Day falls on a Monday this year, the Gunners will have a full seven days off before hosting West Brom at the Emirates. It's time for one big push of energy to see off a formidable, though slightly out of form, foe and get back to winning ways.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mustafi (hamstring,)  Debuchy (hamstring,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Ramsey (hamstring)

We're getting to the point where the injuries to Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are soon to be categorized as a lack of match fitness, rather than knee injuries, which is always a fun time for players to be "Like a New Signing"™.

Barring any change to the status of Aaron Ramsey, whom I haven't heard much about aside from words like "slight hamstring problem," there shouldn't be many changes to the squad who is available for selection on Sunday. Tuesday night's match, in my opinion, should have been the one where Arsenal rotated the side, but instead, Arsène Wenger stuck with the same guys who have been getting the job done lately and they, instead, looked a little lackadaisical.

So, who is in like for a start that did not start against Everton? Alex Iwobi? Mohamed Elneny? He did start at Old Trafford, after all. Olivier Giroud or Lucas Pérez up top? That's a tactical decision, if Wenger decides he needs height in attack. Of course, Wenger brought Giroud in on Tuesday when that was the wrong decision, so who knows how much planning ahead he's really doing here.

I'm going to roll the dice and guess Giroud starts up top, Alexis shifts to the wing, and everyone else is the same. I will certainly be wrong.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Alexis, Walcott, Özil, Giroud.

Manchester City Squad News

Out: Gündoğan (knee,) Kompany (knee)
Doubts: Delph (match fitness)
Suspended: Agüero (third of four, serious foul play and second red card of season, Fernandinho (third of three, violent conduct)

The ongoing suspension of Fernandinho after he, you know, grabbed Cesc Fábregas's throat, saw a run of games in midfield for İlkay Gündoğan. That's been cut short, however, as Gündoğan suffered a serious knee injury, with ligament damage, in Wednesday night's 2-0 City win over Watford. The prognosis is poor, and the German international is expected to miss several months.

With both Fernandinho and Gündoğan out, Pep Guardiola has a lack of natural central midfielders available. (It's a shame City have 14 players out on loan...) Yaya Touré will have to start; the Ivorian has made just six appearances for City this season, and two of them have been since Fernandinho's red card. Touré started against Watford; it was Fernando who had to come off the bench when Gündoğan was hurt.

Vincent Kompany has made only five appearances this season and he remains out with a knee injury until at least January. Fabian Delph (!?) is 50/50, lacking match fitness.

Predicted XI: Bravo, Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Touré, Sterling, de Bruyne, Silva, Iheanacho.

Current Form

Arsenal slipped to their first road defeat of the season on Tuesday and their first league defeat since opening day. So, for the record, in league play this season, Arsenal remain unbeaten in 100% of the matches they have played against sides that aren't from Liverpool.

There's an odd little statistic about Arsenal losing consecutive league fixtures: three of the last four times it has happened, the two teams that beat Arsenal were Manchester United and Swansea City. But, in the other instance, one of the two teams was Manchester City, so that might not bode well for Arsenal here. The Gunners have not lost consecutive road fixtures since April of 2014, when they lost to Chelsea and Everton by a combined 9-0.

Manchester City had lost consecutive matches themselves, to Chelsea and Leicester City, in the past two weeks, but rebounded midweek for a hard fought win over Watford. However, after winning all of their opening six matches of the league season, City have just four wins in the 10 matches since. As Arsenal have stumbled a bit through November and December, City are now sitting in fourth, one point back of Arsenal for third and seven points back of Chelsea for the top spot.

Match Facts

Arsenal took four of a possible six points from City last season, winning 2-1 at the Emirates, then coming from behind twice to draw 2-2 at the Etihad. Arsenal are now unbeaten in their last six against City in competitive fixtures, though that total includes a Community Shield in there.

Arsenal picked up that 2-1 win over City just before Christmas. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud scored in the 33rd minute and first minute of first half stoppage time, respectively, as the Gunners established themselves as title contenders. Yaya Touré pulled a goal back on 82 minutes to make things nervy, but Arsenal truly looked like potential champions at that time. Days later, they lost 4-0 at Southampton on Boxing Day and Arsenal's title race, of course, stumbled in the winter.

In early May at the Etihad, Manchester City struck early, through Sergio Agüero on eight minutes, but Arsenal were level from a corner just two minutes later, thanks to the head of Olivier Giroud. Kevin de Bruyne gave City the lead a second time on 51 minutes, but in the 68th, Alexis Sánchez equalized yet again for Arsenal. The draw left City in danger of missing out on Champions League football, but they secured fourth with a draw at Swansea on the final day of the season.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Martin Atkinson. Atkinson, along with the aforementioned Mike Dean 2, represented England at the Euros this summer, which should say something about the quality of officials in the world right now. Arsenal have seen Atkinson once so far this season, for the 4-1 win at Sunderland in which he gave the Black Cats a penalty which gave them a lifeline back into the match, before the quality of Arsenal's substitutes changed the game. Historically, Arsenal do not have a strong record with Atkinson, but they have currently won three straight with him in the middle. It should be noted that Arsenal's last loss to City, that 6-3 match three years ago, had Atkinson as the referee.

This is the first time Manchester City will have Atkinson this season. Last year, he took charge of City's early season 3-0 win over the defending champions Chelsea (back when that was still considered an impressive thing to do last year,) their 2-0 loss at Stoke in December, a 2-1 win at Watford just after New Year's, a 3-1 home win over Everton, and a 3-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield. Those results are all over the place, but it certainly shows that they are better at home than on the road. I guess that's true of all teams, generally speaking.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Crystal Palace v. Chelsea; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Middlesbrough v. Swansea City; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Leicester City; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Watford; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Hull City; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday (late): West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Bournemouth v. Southampton; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Burnley; White Hart Lane, London
  • Monday (night): Everton v. Liverpool; Goodison Park, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and will be on a Greyhound bus during the match on Sunday, coming home from a wedding. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to send me incessant updates regarding what's happening.

Preview by Numbers: Everton v. Arsenal

Goodison Park, Liverpool
Tuesday, December 13
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Bennett and Richard West
    • 4th Official: Mike Dean
  • This Match, Last Year: Everton 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 102 Arsenal wins, 59 Everton wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-D-W-W-W
  • Everton's League Form: W-L-D-L-D-L
It's never good to go down 1-0, but Arsenal's response against Stoke City at the weekend was something we didn't really see much of last year. The penalty, borderline as it was (my official stance was "I can see why it was given, but it shouldn't have been given,") seemed to wake the Gunners up, and with the match even by halftime, it was almost like hitting the reset button. Arsenal have not trailed at halftime in any league fixture this season, which is quite a statement with 15 matches completed.

We're in the middle of three matches in eight days as Arsenal head up north to Goodison Park to face an Everton side that have struggled since a great start, but still have not lost a home match all season. Arsenal have, historically, done well against Everton, even moreso in Liverpool than at home, but this will not be an easy fixture. The Toffees' dip in form belies the fact that they have a number of threatening offensive options, even with a few injuries in their midfield.

Still, if Arsenal want to keep pace with a Chelsea side that is clicking well right now, they cannot afford to drop points.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mustafi (hamstring,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Debuchy (hamstring,)  Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)

You know what they say, "God doesn't bring a defender back from injury without taking another one." I mean, I think they say that. I don't know who "they" are, though. But those who say that are right, because no sooner was Hector Bellerín back on Arsenal's bench than Shkodran Mustafi picked up a hamstring injury and is expecting to miss three weeks. Mustafi has been such a rock in defense since joining the club that I still haven't learned how to spell his first name. I haven't gotten it right yet because I never need to talk about him in this section! The good news is that Gabriel has had a run of games at right back, thanks to that aforementioned injury to Bellerín, so he's not going to be coming in cold.

Aaron Ramsey remains out with a "slight" hamstring problem, which is a little worrying because he, like Jack Wilshere, is the kind of player where you here "slight problem" and then he's out for months. In any case, Ramsey's still not back, so I wonder if we'll see some rotation in midfield here.

Speaking to that rotation, I've guessed the XI fairly conservatively; aside from the substitution due to Mustafi's injury, the only switch I made was to bring in Mohamed Elneny for Granit Xhaka, as Xhaka would be in the most need of rest, after Francis Coquelin sat out the trip to Basel last week through suspension. Alex Iwobi could get a run out on the wing as well; perhaps Alexis Sánchez will get another rest, though he looked pretty pissed off when he was substituted on Saturday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis.

Everton Squad News

Out: Bešić (knee,) Bolasie (knee)
Doubts: Koné (match fitness,) Pennington (hamstring)

Yannick Bolasie, purchased for 80 billion quatloos from Crystal Palace this summer (fine, £25 million,) is now out for the season and perhaps longer after tearing his ACL against Manchester United. There are fears that the damage is not just to the ligament and that the Congolese winger could miss more than nine months. Midfielder Muhamed Bešić is targeting a return in February from his own ACL tear, which he suffered in Wayne Rooney's testimonial.

22-year-old defender Matthew Pennington has not yet featured this season and is currently working his way back from a hamstring injury. Arouna Koné's season has been marred by a number of injuries; he hasn't featured since a League Cup tie in September, so he remains a doubt through a lack of match fitness.

Even without Bolasie and Koné, Everton have a number of options in midfield, including Aaron Lennon, Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu, Enner Valencia, James McCarthy, and Tom Cleverley, all of whom could line up behind Romelu Lukaku.

Predicted XI: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Funes Mori, Williams, Baines, Barry, Gueye, Lennon, Mirallas, Barkley, Lukaku.

Current Form

Since dropping their League Cup tie to Southampton, Arsenal have returned to winning ways, instead of the drawing ways they had been going through prior to that cup exit. The Gunners have won three straight (two in the league and once in Europe) since the home loss to the Saints and are now unbeaten in 14 Premier League fixtures. As other clubs start to drop points around them, Arsenal have consolidated their place in second in the table, still three points back of a Chelsea side that has now won nine on the bounce. Here's to hoping they drop some points between now and their meeting with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on the first weekend of February. The record winning streak, by the way, is 14 and it's held by Arsenal.

As for Everton, they have cooled significantly since their hot start to the season. After going unbeaten through the first five league games, the Toffees have won just once in their last 10. Since beating West Ham on October 30, Everton are winless in five, but have drawn their home games and lost their road games. They've tumbled from second place to ninth, but they have also not yet lost at home this season, drawing four and winning three.

Match Facts

Arsenal won both fixtures against Everton last season, winning 2-1 at the Emirates in the fall and 2-0 at Goodison Park in the spring. In London, Arsenal took a 2-0 lead against the Toffees in quick succession, as Olivier Giroud scored in the 36th minute and Laurent Koscielny scored in the 38th. It wasn't comfortable, though, as Ross Barkley pulled a goal back in the 44th minute and Arsenal's legs got a bit heavy in the second half, as they had played in Europe midweek.

In this corresponding fixture last season, Danny Welbeck put Arsenal ahead 1-0 on seven minutes and Alex Iwobi's first for the club made it 2-0 just before halftime. The win for Arsenal snapped a three-match winless run in the league, while also coming in the days following twin cup exists, to Watford in the FA Cup and Barcelona in Europe.

Arsenal have more wins against Everton in league play (93) than any other club.

The Referee

The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have struggled with Clattenburg over the last two seasons, including their 1-1 draw with Tottenham last month, but they have historically done well with Clatts in the past and have a strong record with Clattenburg against Everton specifically. In fact, Clattenburg was in charge of this fixture last year, the aforementioned 2-0 Arsenal win. He also worked Arsenal's FA Cup win over the Toffees in 2014, en route to their first silverware in nine years.

Clattenburg worked Arsenal losses against West Brom and Chelsea last season and has worked two Arsenal draws this year: 0-0 against Leicester in which he denied the Foxes a late penalty, and 1-1 against Spurs, in which he gave Tottenham a borderline penalty. In fact, that was the first time Clattenburg has ever given a penalty against Arsenal.

On the other hand, Everton hate Clattenburg, after a Merseyside derby in 2007. Every critical decision went against the Toffees that day. First, Tony Hibbert was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, though it appeared Clattenburg only pulled out the red card after Steven Gerrard remonstrated with him. Everton ended the match with nine men after Phil Neville was sent off for handling a goal bound shot in the 92nd minute. Liverpool won the match 2-1, through two penalties scored through the aforementioned fouls, though Everton were denied a penalty shout of their own just before the 90th minute, when Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground. Dirk Kuyt was also shown only yellow for a "kung fu style lunge" on Neville earlier in the match. Clattenburg did not work another Everton match until a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in January 2012.

This is Clattenburg's first Everton match of the season; the Toffees have not seen him since he worked this fixture last year.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Bournemouth v. Leicester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Wednesday: Crystal Palace v. Manchester United; Selhurst Park, London
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Watford; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Middlesbrough v. Liverpool; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Wednesday: Stoke City v. Southampton; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Wednesday: Sunderland v. Chelsea; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Hull City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Wednesday: West Bromwich Albion v. Swansea City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Wednesday: West Ham United v. Burnley; Olympic Stadium, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a pirate radio station. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for good tunes and pirate jokes.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Stoke City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, December 10
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Mick McDonough
    • 4th Official: Paul Tierney
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 Stoke City
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 54 Arsenal wins, 25 Stoke wins, 24 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-D-D-W-W
  • Stoke City's League Form: W-W-D-L-W-W
As you can see, I use proper capitalization and punctuation
in text messages.
Well, Arsenal won their Champions League group after all. I have to say, I did not see that one coming.

Of course, this being Arsenal, nothing is ever going to be easy and there are some seriously difficult opponents lurking for the Round of 16. As you can see from the attached text exchange I had with a fellow Gooner on Wednesday night, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are waiting amongst the second-place finishers.

So the group stage is done, the League Cup campaign is over, and the FA Cup doesn't start for Arsenal until January 7. It's time to focus entirely on the league for a big run of fixtures. Arsenal will play three times in eight days, then have seven full days off before hosting West Brom (7th place West Brom!) on Boxing Day. Then, they'll have another five days off before playing twice in three days against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. All in all, that's six league fixtures over the festive period with some really weird gaps in between.

We start with Stoke at the Emirates tomorrow, a fixture that's not usually as vexing as Arsenal's trip to the Potteries tends to be.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Debuchy (hamstring,)  Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Bellerín (ankle)

Hector Bellerín faces a fitness test as he comes back from his ankle injury; you'll recall his injury was deemed to be four weeks, but that was announced at the end of an international break. So, while this was announced three weeks ago, it depends on when that clock started as to whether he's back early. Still, I would call this ahead of schedule, since I thought he'd be a serious doubt for Arsenal's trip to Manchester City next week.

Santi Cazorla has successfully had surgery for his Achilles injury; the procedure was described as having been "perfect," but Cazorla probably said it in Spanish, so really, it was perfecta.

There are no changes to the rest of the injured list, though I'm assuming Olivier Giroud is no longer in the "doubts" category with his ankle problem.

Predicted XI: Čech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis.

Stoke City Squad News

Out: Bardsley (knee,) Cameron (knee,) Butland (ankle,) Ireland (leg,) Afellay (knee)
Doubts: Arnautović (hip,) Martins Indi (face,) Shawcross (calf)

Stephen Ireland walked down the aisle,
apparently, on a double leg break.
Hey, anything for giant cake!
Ryan Shawcross (not sure if you've heard of him...) has missed each of Stoke's last two matches with a calf strain, but could pass fit for the trip to Arsenal. Bruno Martins Indi, also a center back, suffered an injury to his cheekbone, but the bone was not broken, so he will likely be available to start. Since United States international Geoff Cameron is ruled out with a knee injury, Stoke's depth at center back will severely be tested; if Shawcross cannot start, Marc Muniesa will continue to deputize.

Marko Arnautović was forced off from Stoke's 2-0 win over Burnley last weekend with a hip injury, but is also more likely than not to feature.

In terms of long term injuries, goalkeeper Jack Butland is out until the beginning of January with an ankle injury; he recently suffered another setback. Phil Bardsley is likely out a few more weeks with a knee problem. Ibrahim Afellay won't be back until January with an ACL injury.

Stephen Ireland won't be back until at least February after a double leg break suffered in training in May; he got married in June, leading to a number of news articles talking about how he "walked down the aisle" with the broken leg, even though usually the man starts at the altar already and the woman walks down the aisle in a wedding ceremony. But let's not let that get in the way of a good narrative.

Predicted XI: Grant, Johnson, Martins Indi, Shawcross, Pieters, Whelan, Imbula, Allen, Shaqiri, Arnautović, Walters.

Current Form

Marc Muniesa, playing in place of the injured Shawcross,
scored for Stoke last weekend against Burnley.
After having their 19-match unbeaten run snapped, Arsenal have now won two straight and, more importantly, have scored nine goals in the process. It would be ideal if Arsenal were back to their scoring heights of September/October, when they scored 23 goals in seven matches before getting shut out at home by Middlesbrough.

The win over West Ham last week extended Arsenal's Premier League unbeaten streak to 13, putting them in sole possession of second place behind a Chelsea side that have not dropped points since Arsenal beat them at the Emirates in September. Arsenal's 13-match run is their longest since a 16-match run in 2010/11, but that run included eight draws as their title hopes faded after losing the League Cup Final.

As for Stoke City, the Potters had just three points from seven fixtures going into the October international break and were 19th in the table. In the seven matches since then, they have won five, picking up 16 points. In the process, they've climbed ten places in the Premier League table. Sometimes it's not who you play, but when you play then and, clearly, any side would've rather faced Stoke back in September.

Match Facts

Pre-beard Giroud scored an insurance goal in this fixture
last season.
I don't think there's a bigger dichotomy between Arsenal's home and road form against a specific club than their form against Stoke; Arsenal have won just once in Stoke since their promotion in 2008, but have also won 14 straight home games against the Potters, dating back to August of 1981. 11 of those 14 wins have been league matches and three were cup ties.

In this match last year, Arsenal won 2-0, despite starting Theo Walcott as a central forward. Walcott scored the opening goal of the match too, on 31 minutes, but the Gunners were generally wasteful on the day. They had 68% of the possession and 29 shots, with 12 of them on target, but it wasn't until substitute Olivier Giroud headed in a second goal in the 85th minutes that the points felt safe. The two sides later played a scoreless draw at the Britannia in January.

The Referee

"Please stop fouling so much, thank you."
The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. Mason has only worked eight fixtures so far this year, the lowest total in the Select Group. This will be his first match for each of these clubs this season.

Last year, Arsenal saw Lee Mason three times, winning twice (2-1 over Crystal Palace and 2-1 over Everton) and drawing once (0-0 against Southampton.) Stoke won twice and lost twice with Mason in the middle last year, winning 2-1 over Bournemouth and 1-0 over Southampton before losing 2-1 to West Brom and 2-1 to Southampton, in the reverse fixture of their earlier win.

In last year's 2-1 Arsenal win over Crystal Palace, Mason was widely criticized for failing to send off Francis Coquelin for numerous heavy challenges while he was already on a yellow card. Mason was demoted to fourth official duty the following week.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Watford v. Everton; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Bournemouth; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Crystal Palace; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Sunderland; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Manchester City; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (very early): Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Middlesbrough; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. West Ham United; Anfield, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a national park. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for majestic vistas.

Preview by Numbers: Basel v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 6

St. Jakob-Park, Basel
Tuesday, December 6
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials from Portugal
    • Referee: Manuel De Sousa
    • Assistants: Alvaro Mesquita and Paulo Soares
    • 4th Official: Ricardo Santos
    • Additional Assistants: Fabio Verssimo and João Capela
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 0 Basel
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win
  • Arsenal's European Form: L // D-W-W-W-D
  • Basel's European Form: L // D-L-L-L-D
Welcome to the Catch-22 fixture. Arsenal's 2-2 draw with PSG on matchday five gave the tiebreaker to the French club as we approach the final group stage match. PSG only have to match Arsenal's result to win the group and they host Ludogorets, playing what is, on paper, the easiest fixture of the group, a fixture Arsenal won by six back in October.

So, if you're Arsenal, how to you prepare for this match? Do you rest some guys or go for it? Do you risk injuries in a match that could prove academic? Arsenal have three league fixtures in eight days after this, including a visit from Stoke and difficult road fixtures at Everton and Manchester City. How much can you really prioritize this European trip when PSG holds all the cards? You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, honestly.

Basel, on the other hand, have everything to play for in terms of Europa League qualification; Ludogorets have the tiebreaker right now, as they also drew both of their meetings; the Bulgarians got a 1-1 draw in Switzerland and drew 0-0 at home, giving them the away goal. Therefore, Basel must better Ludogorets's result in Paris. That all means that, out of the four, the club with the least control over its own destiny is Arsenal.

So, who would you bring on the plane?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Debuchy (hamstring,) Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Giroud (ankle)
Suspended: Coquelin (one match, accumulation)

The good news is, since this is a road fixture, we know who's on the plane (so you might wonder why I even asked the question.) Arsenal took a strong squad with them to Switzerland with Arsène Wenger quoted as saying, "I keep the group together." There could still be plenty of rotation, considering Arsenal's relative depth in midfield.

We know that Francis Coquelin is ineligible as he picked up an accumulation ban after his booking on matchday five. That should leave a midfield axis of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, who performed well together against Bournemouth recently. That is, of course, if the Gunners utilize the strongest lineup available to them.

Per Mertesacker, Hector Bellerín, and Olivier Giroud all returned to training on Monday; they're listed in there in the order of how long they've been out from longest to shortest. It would be a tremendous boost for Arsenal if Bellerín were available for those tricky road fixtures next week.

Danny Welbeck should be back in the fold by the end of this month or beginning of next month as well, which only leaves Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Debuchy as long term absences.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey, Walcott, Özil, Pérez.

Basel Squad News

Out: Akanji (knee)
Doubts: Boëtius (knee,) Bua (muscle)

Center back Manuel Akanji has been out since March with a cruciate ligament injury. Jean-Paul Boëtius has missed the last three games with a knee problem, while Kevin Bua has been out since the end of October with a muscle injury. Andraž Šporar had had an adductor injury, but made an appearance off the bench at the weekend.

Predicted XI: Vaclík, Lang, Suchý, Balanta, Traoré, Xhaka, Bjarnason, Steffen, Delgado, Zuffi, Doumbia.

Current Form

Arsenal's long unbeaten run in all competitions might be over, but it's worth noting that both of their losses this season have been at home. That means Arsenal have not lost on the road since they visited Camp Nou in the second leg of last year's European Round of 16. That was on March 16, meaning the Gunners are now unbeaten in their last 14 road games (10 this year, four last year.) Arsenal's unbeaten run in the Premier League is now 13 games since opening day, leaving them in sole possession of second place after Manchester City and Liverpool both lost last weekend.

If you had excluded Champions League losses to Arsenal and PSG, Basel were unbeaten on the season as a whole going into this past weekend; on Saturday, however, they lost 3-1 at Young Boys to suffer their first domestic defeat of the season. Still, with 17 games already played, Basel are 12 points clear at the top of the table. Domestically, FC Thun is the only club to get a point at St. Jakob-Park this season, when they picked up a 1-1 draw on October 1. Basel needed a 90th minute goal from substitute Davide Callà to salvage the point.

Match Facts

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-0 at the Emirates back in September in what was the first ever competitive meeting between these two clubs; Theo Walcott scored in the 7th and 26th minutes to give Arsenal the two-goal cushion and David Ospina made two saves to preserve the clean sheet. Arsenal could have scored a few more in the match but lacked clinical finishing at times; since overall goal difference won't come into play in deciding the group, that point is moot.

Historically, Arsenal have only visited the country of Switzerland twice for competitive matches and the Gunners have won both: 1-0 at Thun in the 2005 group stage, via a late Robert Pirès penalty, and 2-0 at Grasshopper in the first leg of the second round of the 1971/72 European Cup, with goals from Ray Kennedy and George Graham. Arsenal won that tie 5-0 on aggregate, but then lost the quarterfinal to Ajax.

In 11 home matches against English sides, Basel have won five, lost four, and drawn two.

The Referee

The match officials are from Portugal; the referee is Manuel De Sousa. The 41-year-old De Sousa has been a referee since 2000 and has had his FIFA badge since 2006, but this is just his 10th UEFA Champions League match. This is the first time he has worked an Arsenal match. He worked one Basel match way back in July of 2006 (given the timing, it's possible, though I have not confirmed it, that that was his first international club fixture.) That was a 3-1 win over Tobol Kostanay of Kazakhstan in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

English clubs are unbeaten in matches De Sousa has worked, all of which came in the Europa League. That includes a 2010 Manchester City win over Timişoara, two Spurs wins (over Rubin Kazan and Limassol,) Lan Everton draw with Lille and, later in that same season, a win for the Toffees in Switzerland against Young Boys.

Around Europe

While I usually just list the fixtures in this section, I feel it's important on matchday six to actually discuss the different permutations of who can advance from each group. Groups A through D finish tonight, while E through H finish tomorrow, and obviously, we've discussed Arsenal's Group A already.

In Group B, Dynamo Kyiv are already eliminated, but the top two slots are up for grabs. Napoli and Benfica each have eight points, but third-place Beşiktaş have seven. They'll play in Kiev knowing a win will see them through because Napoli and Benfica can't both reach 10 points while playing each other. Those sides will meet in Lisbon.

Group C is completely decided already. Barcelona have won the group on 12 points and Manchester City have advanced from second place with eight. Borussia Mönchengladbach will drop to the Europa League from third place while Celtic are out. City will host Celtic at the Etihad while Barcelona host the Germans, though both matches are dead rubber.

Group D isn't very interesting either. Atlético Madrid travels to Germany to face Bayern Munich, but the Spanish side, who knocked the Germans out of last year's competition, have clinched first place while Bayern are locked in second. PSV Eindhoven hosts Rostov and the Dutch side needs a win to usurp the Russians for third.

From Group E, Monaco have won the group and Bayer Leverkusen is locked in second. The only question here is whether Spurs drop out of Europe entirely, which I think we should all root against because, hey, fixture congestion. Tottenham are only one point clear of CSKA Moscow for third place with the London side hosting the Russians at Wembley tomorrow. Monaco travel to Germany for the final match, but they lead Leverkusen by four points.

Group F looks to have an enthralling finish as Borussia Dortmund travel to Spain to face Real Madrid. Dortmund are currently two points clear and a draw will see them win the group, at which point a second-place Arsenal will be guaranteed to face them... or Barcelona. You can bet Madrid are coming in with some confidence after nicking a late draw from El Clásico at the weekend, but Dortmund hit four past Gladbach themselves on Saturday. I think you have to bet on Madrid at the Bernabéu, though, since Dortmund have struggled on the road this year, winning only twice in the Bundesliga away from Westfalenstadion. Sporting are two points clear of Legia Warsaw for third; those clubs will meet in Poland.

Leicester City have clinched Group G while Porto and Copenhagen will battle for second; Club Brugge are dead last with zero points. Porto will host Leicester while Copenhagen travel to Bruges; the Portuguese side have a two point lead over the Danes, but Copenhagen have the tiebreaker, so a draw for Porto is insufficient to clinch.

In Group H, Juventus have advanced but not necessarily won the group; Sevilla are currently in second, one point back of the Italians. Lyon are in third and are three points back of Sevilla, but since they could still win the tiebreaker, they are not eliminated. That's because Lyon host Sevilla tomorrow. Sevilla won their home tie against Lyon 1-0, so Lyon need to win by two to advance. Juventus, who could still fall to second themselves, host Dinamo Zagreb, who have zero points.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a disaster thriller novel. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for each scintillating twist and turn.

Preview by Numbers: West Ham United v. Arsenal

Olympic Stadium, London
Saturday, December 3
12:30 p.m. EST, 17:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Harry Lennard and Ian Hussin
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • This Match, Last Year: West Ham 3 - 3 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 60 Arsenal wins, 34 West Ham wins, 39 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-D-D-W
  • West Ham's League Form: W-W-L-D-L-D
It's been a long time since we've had a good "Arsenal
dejected after conceding" image to lead with.
Well, the unbeaten run is over. That's probably for the best; the longer you maintain an unbeaten run, the more likely it is that, psychologically, you'll start to accept draws instead of wins just to maintain the streak. 1-1 against Spurs, 1-1 at United, 2-2 with PSG and there are plenty who thought "well, they're still unbeaten since August." That excuse is gone now.

So here's the reality: Arsenal are out of the League Cup, which was probably the best set of circumstances to lose the unbeaten streak, but you'll still get some who bemoan another piece of silverware no longer available. In Europe, they're through to the Round of 16, but will need a miracle and a half to win the group. In the Premier League, they're in fourth. For a 19-match unbeaten run, that's not exactly a stellar set of circumstances.

Wins are paramount and Arsenal are in the midst of some fixture congestion (so, maybe it's not the worst thing in the world to avoid a two-legged semi-final tie in January that would have been against Liverpool.) Tomorrow, Arsenal visit the Olympic Stadium for the first time to face a West Ham side who have only won twice at home (and have not hosted any of the top seven in the table yet.)

You can't really call this a "must-win" game, since it's only December, but Arsenal really need to win this game.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Debuchy (hamstring,) Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Akpom (back,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Elneny (illness,) Giroud (ankle)

10 other changes, but yeah, let's start the guy who wasn't
feeling way beforehand.
It wasn't a surprise that Arsène Wenger made 10 changes to the side that beat Bournemouth for their League Cup tie on Wednesday; it is a little surprising to find out after the fact that the one player he did not change, Mohamed Elneny, was ill before the match. As a result, he was removed on 43 minutes. That means I'll leave him in the doubts category here.

Meanwhile, Wenger was asked about Yaya Sanogo, who has seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth, and the boss's response was a little unnerving. It's obvious that there must be some sort of injury and Wenger mentioned that he's got a calf problem, but then he muddied the explanation a bit, using the following adjectives: real, medical, confidential, not secret, long-term, and not life threatening. My wild guess is that it's something like a blood clot, but I'm not certain why that would be confidential. I can't really fathom why any calf problem would be confidential, unless the manner in which he injured it was weird.

Danny Welbeck is back in first team training! You'll recall he's been out for seven months after injuring his knee at Manchester City. There's obviously no way in hell Wenger will rush him back, since Arsenal also have Alexis Sánchez, Lucas Pérez, and Olivier Giroud at that position. Giroud, however, remains in the doubts category after he picked up an ankle knock against Bournemouth.

There is bad news regarding Santi Cazorla, however. After Wenger mentioned that he was "stable" but still suffering from inflammation in his Achilles, it has now been confirmed that Cazorla will undergo surgery and miss three months. This is devastating news for Arsenal, as their midfield engine has not been clicking the way it was back in September without the diminutive Spaniard.

As for the line-up tomorrow, Wenger will likely go back to what has worked for them in the league (or, at least, kept them afloat while Cazorla remains out,) though there is a pretty big problem developing at right back. I suppose Gabriel will retain that place after he came on for Mathieu Debuchy last week; Carl Jenkinson had a nightmare there on Wednesday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Iwobi, Özil, Alexis.

West Ham Squad News

Out: Töre (thigh,) Bryam (hamstring,) Sakho (hamstring,) Oxford (ankle)
Doubts: Carroll (knee,) Antonio (groin,) Cresswell (fatigue)

Twinkle toes might start if Andy Carroll doesn't pass fit.
Slaven Bilić has played five at the back for much of this season, using three center backs in addition to Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio on the wings. The problem is, both Cresswell and Antonio left Wednesday's League Cup tie with injuries. For Antonio, it's a groin problem, whereas the club is a little more optimistic on Cresswell, saying "it doesn't look that bad, hopefully it's just fatigue."

With both players being doubtful, Bilić might have to reshuffle his formation a bit, as there's a chance the Hammers just won't have enough wide players to fill the roles. With Carl Jenkinson back at Arsenal, Bilić might turn to a former Arsenal academy prospect at right back, Håvard Nordtveit, whom West Ham purchased from Borussia Mönchengladbach in May. Arthur Masuaku, who returned from a two month absence in midweek, would theoretically fill in on the left.

Andy Carroll, who had a hat trick in this fixture last season, has not played since August with a knee injury, but with Diafro Sakho out until January with a hamstring injury, Bilić might be forced to risk him. They could also start Simone Zaza, who is on loan from Juventus; maybe he'll take the world's stupidest run-up for a set piece like he did in the Euros.

Elswhere, midfielder Gökhan Töre, whose name is so Turkish sounding you should not be surprised he's on loan from Beşiktaş, faces a fitness test on his thigh injury. His injury term was called 4-6 weeks on October 12, so he should be close, though I've seen some sources ruling him out for tomorrow. Sam Bryam is out with a hamstring injury that required surgery while Reece Oxford is likely ruled out with an ankle problem.

Predicted XI: Adrián, Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Kouyaté, Noble, Lanzini, Ayew, Payet, Carroll.

Current Form

Handball! That's a handball! Referee, come on!
Arsenal's streak, across all competitions, is now one loss, instead of 19 unbeaten. Now, we can only talk about this current run of form as "unbeaten in the league." So, Arsenal are unbeaten in 12 league fixtures since losing to Liverpool on opening day. Still, they have won just one of their last three (over Bournemouth last weekend,) and two of their last five, so it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, as I alluded to in the opening. These draws cannot be viewed as satisfying anymore, just to maintain an unbeaten run. It's Arsenal's longest unbeaten run in the league since a 16-match run in 2010/11, which also had about a million caveats; after losing the League Cup Final that season, Arsenal drew five of the last six matches in that run before losing at Bolton on Easter Sunday.

West Ham also lost in the League Cup on Wednesday, 4-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Hammers are 16th in the table after finishing 7th last season. Their only home wins in the league have come against Bournemouth and Sunderland. There was a period through September where West Ham had won just once in seven and that was against Accrington Stanley in the League Cup. From there, the Hammers turned it around a bit, winning three in a row across all competitions. But since then, they are winless in five again, though their draw at Old Trafford in the league last weekend feels much more important than losing the same fixture in the League Cup.

Match Facts

Andy Carroll only saw yellow for this studs-up challenge on
Laurent Koscielny. Carroll went on to score three times.
This will be Arsenal's first trip to Olympic Stadium. Arsenal finished with an all-time record of 24 wins, 20 draws, and 14 losses at Upton Park in league fixtures.

Arsenal took only one of a possible six points from West Ham last season; the only other clubs Arsenal did not take at least two points against in the league last year were Southampton (one) and Chelsea (zero.) In this fixture last year, Arsenal blew a 2-0 lead, then had to come from behind to draw 3-3. Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez had given Arsenal a 2-0 lead by the 35th minute, but Andy Carroll scored twice in four minutes to equalize before halftime, then completed his hat trick just seven minutes after the restart. Laurent Koscielny found an equalizer for the Gunners in the 70th minute. Earlier in the year, West Ham had won 2-0 at the Emirates on the opening day of the season.

Prior to last year, Arsenal had had a 10-match winning streak against West Ham, dating back to a 2-2 draw in October of 2009, and had been unbeaten in 15, dating back to 2007.

The Referee

It's about time someone stood up to
John Terry.
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Arsenal have seen Pawson once so far this year, for the 1-0 win at Burnley that they left a bit late. Many argued that Arsenal handballed that goal over the line, so perhaps having Pawson is a good sign; the Gunners have seen some dodgy decisions go against them in the past few matches.

However, West Ham have seen Pawson twice and won both of them, including one of their two league wins at home. That was a 1-0 win over ten man Bournemouth in August, with Michail Antonio scoring in the 85th minute, eight minutes after Harry Arter was sent off for the Cherries. That is, so far, the only red card Pawson has shown this season, over 12 matches. Pawson also worked West Ham's League Cup win over Chelsea in October.

Craig Pawson also worked this corresponding fixture last season, the 3-3 draw in April.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Chelsea; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Southampton; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Burnley; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Leicester City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Swansea City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Watford; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Bournemouth v. Liverpool; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday (late): Everton v. Manchester United; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Monday (night): Middlesbrough v. Hull City; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a mystical Christmas monster. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, whether you've been bad or good this year.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Southampton, League Cup Fifth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, November 30
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Mark Clattenburg
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 46 Arsenal wins, 19 Southampton wins, 25 draws
  • All-Time in League Cup: 4 Arsenal wins, 1 Southampton win, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Nottingham Forest, 4-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Reading, 2-0
  • Southampton's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Crystal Palace, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Sunderland, 1-0
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-D-D-W
  • Southampton's League Form: W-D-L-L-D-W
Força Chapecoense.
You know I like to mix a lot of humor into these previews and some of my best jokes come when Arsenal are playing terribly. With Arsenal now unbeaten in their last 19 games, the bulk of this intro section was going to be about Theo Walcott's coffee maker.

But yesterday morning brought the devastating news of the plane crash in Colombia that killed all but three members of the Brazilian club Chapecoense, as they flew to the first leg of their 2016 Copa Sudamericana final against Atlético Nacional, for what would have been one of the biggest matches in the club's 43-year history.

In moments like these, we all come together as football fans, as sports fans, and as human beings. This tragedy could happen to any of us.

We turn our focus now to the League Cup, academic as it may seen, as Arsenal host Southampton in the quarter-final.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Giroud (ankle,) Debuchy (hamstring,) Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Akpom (back,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)

The only real bit of good news is that Lucas Pérez will return from the ankle injury he picked up against Reading in the fourth round and likely start up top. That should give Alexis Sánchez the chance to rest a bit, while Olivier Giroud is ruled out with an ankle knock he picked up against Bournemouth on Sunday.

Meanwhile, you have to feel for Mathieu Debuchy, who has had an Abou Diaby-esque run of injuries since joining Arsenal from Newcastle for £12 million in July of 2014. The French right back has made just 23 appearances for the Gunners. The hamstring injury he suffered after just 15 minutes against Bournemouth has been described as "serious" and Debuchy has been described as "distraught," as it looks like he's in for another lengthy spell on the sidelines. That's obviously not ideal news, since Hector Bellerín is still likely, at the very least, two weeks away from returning to that position.

I don't usually include Chuba Akpom in the discussion of first team injuries, but since this is a League Cup tie, it is worth noting that he is still out with a back injury.

I suspect Emiliano Martínez, who signed a new long term contract with the club on Thursday, will start in goal and there should be starts on the cards for some fringe first team players, like Gabriel and Rob Holding. Other than that, I don't usually make it a habit of predicting League Cup squads because it's hard to know just what mix of youth and experience Arsène Wenger will opt for.

Southampton Squad News

Out: Targett (hamstring,) Pied (knee,) Reed (knock,) Hesketh (ankle,) McCarthy (hamstring)
Doubts: Davis (illness,) Boufal (illness,) Tadic (nose,) Gardoș (match fitness)

Dušan Tadić, who has a knack for scoring at the Emirates (or creating the chances that lead to goals, as he did in September,) is a doubt after he suffered a broken nose on international duty. Steven Davis and Sofiane Boufal are both doubts after missing Sunday's match against Everton through illness. Florin Gardoș is a doubt, lacking match fitness, as he has not played a first team match all season as he returns from a knee injury.

Southampton will be without young midfielder Harrison Reed, who will probably be sold to Liverpool within the next two years, after he picked up a knock with the Under-23s earlier this month. Also injured are Matt Targett, Jérémy Pied, Jake Hesketh, and Alex McCarthy.

Current Form

So, Arsenal's unbeaten run is now 19 across all competitions. Arsenal's single-season record for such an unbeaten streak is 21 at the start of the 2007/08 season; spanning back to the end of 2006/07, that unbeaten run overall was 28 matches, tied for the third longest in English football history. We're a long way away from top spot on that list, however; the longest unbeaten run in English history belongs to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1978, who went unbeaten in 40 spanning two seasons. Remember, the Invincibles in 2003/04 lost six across all competitions: three in Europe, once to get knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, and twice in the League Cup semi-final, losing both legs to Middlesbrough.

Southampton had been winless in four in the Premier League before beating Everton 1-0 at the weekend; Charlie Austin scored 41 seconds into the match as the Saints won against their former manager, Ronald Koeman. Southampton had not won since a 3-1 win over Burnley on October 16, drawing with Manchester City and Liverpool plus losing to Chelsea and Hull in the process. Not exactly the easiest run of fixtures, but that loss at Hull is puzzling. The Saints are currently 10th in the Premier League, six points clear of Hull for 18th place and relegation.

Match Facts

Arsenal have already hosted Southampton once this season, winning the league fixture 2-1 at the Emirates back in September. Arsenal, in fact, came from 1-0 down to win the match, something they did not do much of last season. The Saints took the lead in the 18th minute, as a Dušan Tadić free kick hit the crossbar, then Petr Čech's back, before rolling into the net for an own goal. Arsenal equalized from a Laurent Koscielny bicycle kick (seriously) 11 minutes later, then Santi Cazorla won it from the penalty spot in injury time. The reverse fixture at St. Mary's is in late February.

Arsenal last played Southampton in the League Cup in 2014's third round; the Saints came back from 1-0 down to win that one 2-1. Alexis Sánchez gave Arsenal the lead from a set piece in the 14th minute, but Tadić equalized from the penalty spot six minutes later, before a long distance goal from Nathaniel Clyne gave the Saints a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. The match was David Ospina's first in an Arsenal uniform.

Prior to that 2014 tie, Arsenal had met Southampton four times in the League Cup and had won all four ties. The sides met in the 1969 second round in Southampton, ending in a 1-1 draw; Arsenal won the replay at home 2-0 after extra time. The sides met in the third round in 1977 and in 1979, with Arsenal winning both at home. In the 1985 fourth round, the sides met at Highbury; it ended 0-0. Arsenal, as they did in 1969, won the replay, this by a 3-1 scoreline in Southampton.

The Referee

The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. Arsenal have seen Friend once thus far this season, for their 3-1 win at Watford back in August. He gave Arsenal an early penalty in that match, which Santi Cazorla converted in the ninth minute. He also ended up booking six Watford players, compared to just one for Arsenal (which was Jack Wilshere off the bench.) Arsenal won all three matches in which Friend was the referee last season, keeping a clean sheet in all three. Arsenal were 3-0 winners at Swansea in October, 2-0 winners at Aston Villa in December, and 2-0 winners at Bournemouth in February with Friend in the middle. 

This is the first time this season that Friend will be working a Southampton match. Last year, the Saints saw Friend only once, for a 2-0 home loss to Tottenham last December.

Friend is one of three Select Group referees who have not yet shown a red card this season; the other two are Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor.

Around the Fifth Round
  • Tuesday: Hull City 1 - 1 Newcastle United, Hull City win 3-1 on penalties
  • Tuesday: Liverpool 2 - 0 Leeds United
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. West Ham United; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Bournemouth

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, November 27
9:15 a.m. EST, 14:15 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Adrian Holmes and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Graham Scott
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 Bournemouth
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-W-D-D
  • Bournemouth's League Form: D-W-D-L-L-W
A few years ago, I had an idea for a novel that involved a Premier League team going through a season unbeaten, except this team would do so by drawing all 38 matches. The story would delve into the psychological ramifications of never being able to win or lose and, eventually, being relegated Invincibles. The idea basically falls apart, from that psychological standpoint, when you consider that English clubs have to win or lose in cup ties, so it doesn't entirely work out.

So here we are, as Arsenal have stumbled their way into an 18-match unbeaten run that is starting to feel like anything but. Since Santi Cazorla's injury, Arsenal have three wins and four draws. Wednesday's 2-2 draw with PSG has given the French club the advantage for top of the group with one game to play. Arsenal haven't lost since opening day in the league, but they're still sitting only in fourth. Then again, Spurs are unbeaten in the league and they're fifth, so there's always that.

It's not easy to keep winning when you combine Santi's injury with the strength of their November schedule: Spurs, United, and PSG aren't exactly easy fixtures to play consecutively. But I think there's this psychological component to an unbeaten run that can make it harder to play free-flowing football. Not that I'm saying Arsenal should just lose to get rid of the unbeaten run, of course; I would be perfectly content for Arsenal to win every single game they ever play, from now through the rest of eternity.

Anyway, Arsenal will host Bournemouth this weekend as they look for their first win since November 1. After this, Arsenal play Southampton in the League Cup midweek, West Ham at the Olympic Stadium next weekend, then travel to Basel for matchday six the next midweek, then host Stoke, then have a midweek league fixture against Everton, and THEN go to Manchester City. Then, a week off. Then, the busy (!) holiday period.

No rest for the weary, so Arsenal had better remember how to win games fast.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Bellerín (ankle,) Cazorla (Achilles,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Pérez (ankle)

Friday morning previews after Wednesday night games are always the most difficult, because the team news isn't usually available yet. So, by the time you're reading this, you probably know more about who's hurt and who's not than I do. Hello from the past!

All things being equal, I'll make some guesses here. After his unfortunate deflection on PSG's equalizer, I think you need to throw Alex Iwobi straight back into the mix to help him get his groove back. The same question, however, should be posed about Aaron Ramsey, who is really struggling for form, but can only regain form by playing. So, there's a catch-22 there.

I would start Olivier Giroud here and get a rest for Alexis, but we all know how the Chilean machine never stops. I would start Granit Xhaka too, but I clearly don't seem to agree with Wenger on this, for some reason.

Predicted XI: Čech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Iwobi, Özil, Giroud.

Bournemouth Squad News

Out: Wilshere (loan terms,) Cook (ankle)
Doubts: Boruc (back,) Ibe (illness,) Surman (hamstring)

Jack Wilshere has started eight consecutive Bournemouth matches and played all 90 minutes in each of the last four, so hopefully he's found a way to keep himself healthier this season than in years past; of course, he'll be unavailable Sunday due to the terms of the loan agreement between the clubs.

Elsewhere in the squad, 19-year-old midfielder Lewis Cook is one month into a three-month ankle injury and is expected to return in January, because that's how the calendar works. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc is 50/50 with a lower back injury. Jordon Ibe, purchased from Liverpool for a club record £15 million this summer, is a slight doubt through illness. Andrew Surman is a doubt with a hamstring injury.

Predicted XI: Federici, Francis, Cook, Smith, Daniels, Gosling, Arter, King, Stanislas, Pugh, Wilson.

Current Form

As mentioned at the intro, Arsenal have extended their unbeaten run across all competitions to 18 matches, but at this point, they have now also gone three matches without a win. It's still Arsenal's longest unbeaten run in nine years, but now it's also their longest winless run since March! To be honest, there's not much more I have to say about this subject anymore.

Bournemouth are currently hovering in 10th place in the Premier League table, but they're only five points ahead of 18th place Hull City in the drop zone. Prior to the international break, Bournemouth suffered a 2-1 loss to Sunderland at home, giving the Black Cats their first victory of the season. They rebounded at the weekend, beating Stoke 1-0 at the Britannia. They picked up a draw against Spurs at home a few weeks ago, which is something they have in common with us, I suppose. They've also beaten Everton this season and hung six on Hull. All combined, that's a pretty mid-table run of results there, isn't it?

Match Facts

Arsenal have only played Bournemouth on three previous occasions, as last year was Bournemouth's first ever season in the top flight. Arsenal won both matches by 2-0 scorelines, winning in December at the Emirates through goals from Gabriel and Mesut Özil, and in February at the Vitality Stadium through goals from Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 88 seconds apart.

The other meeting between the clubs came in the third round of the 1987/88 League Cup; Arsenal, the League Cup holders at the time, ran out 3-0 winners. They would go all the way to the final for the second consecutive year, where they lost to Luton Town, who finished 9th in the top flight that year.

The Referee

The referee is Cheshire-based Mike Jones. This will be the first match Jones has worked for either of these sides this season.

Arsenal won three of the four matches that Jones worked for them last season, including a 3-0 win at Watford, a 4-0 win over Hull City in an FA Cup replay, and a 1-0 win over Norwich late in the season at the Emirates. The other match, however, was the 3-3 draw at Anfield in January. Arsenal's last loss with Jones in the middle came in 2014 at Stoke City, which the Potters won 1-0 on a borderline penalty for a Laurent Koscielny handball.

For Bournemouth, Jones worked two losses against Liverpool, one in the League Cup and the other in their home league fixture in April. He also worked an FA Cup win over Birmingham City, a league win over Crystal Palace, and their 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December, which I believe was the next-to-last nail in José Mourinho's coffin at Chelsea.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Burnley v. Manchester City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Hull City v. West Bromwich Albion; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Middlesbrough; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Sunderland; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Crystal Palace; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (very early): Watford v. Stoke City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. West Ham United; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Everton; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat  for hot air.