Preview by Numbers: Burnley v. Arsenal


Turf Moor, Burnley
Sunday, October 2
11:30 a.m. EDT, 16:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Adrian Holmes and Scott Ledger
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • This Match, Last Time: Burnley 0 - 1 Arsenal (April 11, 2015)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 47 Arsenal wins, 33 Burnley wins, 21 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-D-W-W-W-W
  • Burnley's League Form: L-W-L-D-L-W
  • Weather: Clear, 58 °F / 14 °C
Take that, other Xhaka!
Another match, another swashbuckling performance. Though, it should be said (firmly tongue in cheek,) that Arsenal have gone from a 4-0 win to a 3-0 win to a 2-0 win. Anybody worried about this decline?!?

Of course, there are a smattering of Arsenal supporters who took the opportunity yesterday to complain that they didn't win by enough. Sure, it could have been 5 or 6-0, but some of Arsenal's finishing was a little suspect, plus Basel's goalkeeper made at least two or three excellent saves. Keep in mind, goal difference across all group matches is the sixth tiebreaker, so the odds of Arsenal falling a spot in the group table because they didn't run up the score on Basel are slim. With PSG still coming to play in London on matchday five, I would argue that Arsenal control their own fate in winning this group.

For now, we switch back to the league, as Arsenal head to Lancashire to face Burnley in advance of the coming international break. The Gunners have won four in a row in the league and have climbed to third in the table after dropping five points from their first two matches. The two teams ahead of Arsenal in the table face each other this weekend, so there's a chance they could climb even higher with a win.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (knee,) Giroud (toe,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)

Here is a man who will not be playing for Wales next
weekend. Or Whales, either. That'd be weird, though.
Match previews after Wednesday night games are always tricky, because Arsène Wenger's press conference is usually held somewhere around six hours after this has been posted. Since I have not yet perfected my time machine, I'm not yet certain if there were any injury casualties from the win against Basel.

What we do know is that Aaron Ramsey will not be linking up with Wales during the upcoming international break (and their manager got all sassy about it.) Elsewhere, Olivier Giroud, who appears to have completely fallen out of favor, has been left out of France's squad as well.

If everyone escaped Wednesday without injury, then I see no reason for Wenger to make any changes, aside from his goalkeeper rotation.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Iwobi, Walcott, Özil, Alexis.

Burnley Squad News

Out: Barnes (thigh)
Suspended: Gray (second of four, improper conduct)

Disappointment over Andre Gray's suspension has been said
to have spurred Burnley on as they beat Watford Monday. 
Forward Andre Gray will serve the second match of the four-match ban he was handed by the FA. On August 23, Gray was charged with misconduct after it came to light that he had posted a series of homophobic tweets in 2012. Later, it was revealed that the FA was also investigating another tweet, from 2014, which used a derogatory racist term. On September 23, the FA handed Gray a ban of four matches. Manager Sean Dyche mentioned that the suspension has seemed to galvanize the club, as the Clarets emphatically beat Watford 2-0 on Monday. Burnley, as a club, are frustrated that their top-scorer from last season was suspended over events which pre-dated his time with the organization.

Elsewhere in the squad, Burnley have just one injury, as Ashley Barnes remains out with a thigh problem. As such, I would not expect any changes from the XI that beat Watford earlier in the week, except maybe a choice between Scott Arfield and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson in midfield.

Predicted XI: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Marney, Hendrick, Defour, Boyd, Guðmundsson, Vokes.

Current Form

Of all the teams that wear claret and blue, Burnley has the
best record right now.
Arsenal's 2-0 win over Basel on Wednesday night extended the club's unbeaten run to eight matches and they have won six of their last seven to boot. Spanning back to the end of last season, Arsenal have lost just once in their last 18 competitive fixtures, since their loss to Barcelona in March. As I mentioned in Wednesday's preview, a lot of those non-losses at the end of last season were annoying draws, so this current unbeaten run feels a lot better than the last one, even if that one did end with pipping Spurs for second in hilarious fashion. An Arsenal win on Sunday would give them five straight in the league for the first time since last October.

Burnley have seven points from their opening six matches, which puts them on pace for 44 for the season. That should be enough for the club to stay up; the Clarets currently sit 13th in the table. They have not, however, scored a goal away from home at all this season, losing 3-0 at Chelsea, 3-0 at Leicester, and 2-0 at Accrington Stanley in the League Cup. But this game's at Turf Moor, where the Clarets have rebounded from an opening day loss to Swansea by beating Liverpool 2-0, drawing Hull 1-1 (where Hull scored their equalizer in the 95th minute,) and beating Watford 2-0 on Monday.

Match Facts

Alexis Sánchez scores the FA Cup winner last season, while
the crowd looks on wearing identical coats.
Burnley might have spent last season in the Championship, but Arsenal and Burnley still met in the FA Cup. In the fourth round, Arsenal battled to a 2-1 win at the Emirates as they kept their quest for a third-straight cup victory alive. Calum Chambers opened the scoring, but Sam Vokes equalized for the Clarets just six minutes later. Alexis Sánchez, at the time making his first start in two months after a hamstring injury, scored the winner in the 53rd.

When Burnley were in the top flight two seasons ago, Arsenal won both fixtures. In November 2014 at the Emirates, Alexis scored twice and Calum Chambers tallied his first as a Gunner as Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners; still, it took 70 minutes for Arsenal to finally get the breakthrough. At Turf Moor in April 2015, Aaron Ramsey scored after a dozen minutes and Arsenal held on to win 1-0.

Prior to the season opener this year, apparently both of Calum Chambers's career goals were against Burnley; he scored Arsenal's third against Liverpool, though, and now he's on loan at Middlesbrough, so this is just a weird statistical quirk worth noting, but it's not exactly relevant for Sunday.

The Referee

Craig Pawson demonstrates the "Macarena."
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Earlier this season, Pawson had the honor of refereeing the Community Shield (also known as "The Big Shiny Plate Game"), a 2-1 Manchester United win over Leicester City. This is his first match for both of these clubs this season.

Last year, Arsenal's record with Pawson was mixed-to-poor, including their 5-2 win at Leicester, a 0-0 draw at Stoke, the 3-2 loss at Manchester United, and the 3-3 draw at West Ham. With Burnley in the Championship, Pawson worked only one Clarets match last season, a 2-2 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion in early April.

Pawson worked Arsenal's aforementioned 3-0 win over Burnley at the Emirates back in November of 2014.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Everton v. Crystal Palace; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday (early): Swansea City v. Liverpool; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Chelsea; KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. West Bromwich Albion; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Watford v. Bournemouth; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Middlesbrough; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Sunday (very early): Manchester United v. Stoke City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday: Leicester City v. Southampton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester City; White Hart Lane, London
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a French business conglomerate. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat s'il vous plaît.

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


Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, September 28
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from the Netherlands
    • Referee: Danny Makkelie
    • Assistants: Mario Diks and Hessel Steegstra
    • 4th Official: Jan Vries
    • Additional Assistants: Kevin Blom and Kamphuis Jochem
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-W-W-L-L // D
  • Basel's European Form: W-L-W-D-L // D
  • Weather: Clear, 65 °F / 18 °C
This picture of a frustrated Diego Costa is so great, I think
I'll use it for every section in this preview.
Well, that was a helluva weekend, wasn't it?

I gotta be honest with you, I didn't see that coming. I had serious doubts about Arsenal's psychological ability to handle a Chelsea team that had been unbeaten against the Gunners for almost five years in the league. And if you say you didn't have at least some doubts yourself, I think you're stretching the truth a bit.

But, man, was that exhilarating or what? By the quarter hour mark, just around when Per Mertesacker was finding himself sent off in the corresponding fixture last season, we were two goals to the good. It was brutal, it was clinical, and it could have been more. It was everything you could have wanted from Arsenal v. Chelsea but would never have dared dreamed. It was a lot like Arsenal's beating of Manchester United at the Emirates last season, so let's hope they don't suffer the same kind of letdown they suffered at Old Trafford when they visit the Bridge in early February.

Anyway, back to reality, as there's still plenty of work to be done. We shift our focus back to Europe and a visit from Swiss champions Basel tonight. Arsenal were a bit lucky to snare a draw out of what was, on paper, their most difficult of their six group stage fixtures, but that would be all for naught if they fail to win their home games.

Again, 13 points is sufficient to advance from the group, so doing the double over Basel and Ludogorets will see Arsenal through to the next phase. Given their recent stumbles in the round of 16, Arsenal have a chance to really go for it here and win the group. They'll need a home result against PSG on matchday five for that to work out, but even that might not be enough if they don't take care of business against the rest.

So, let's keep this winning feeling going, shall we?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (knee,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Suspended: Giroud (one match, two yellow cards)

Just about the only bad news to come out of Saturday is, of course, the injury to Francis Coquelin. Since the Frenchman had injured the same knee last season (he then missed a little over two months,) there were fears of a recurrence, fears which could not be addressed until the swelling subsided some 48 hours later. But, there's good news! The scan was "quite positive," according to Arsène Wenger, and while Coquelin will miss this fixture, the injury appears to be short-term rather than my initial, personal, non-medical diagnosis of 4-6 weeks. It might still be as many as three, though, from what I've read.

There's no other new injury news to report from the weekend, aside from the fact that Carl Jenkinson returned to full training on Monday (which he likened to Christmas; isn't he just adorable?) Jenkinson suffered an ACL tear while on loan with West Ham and has been out of action since January 23.

With Coquelin out, we could see a holding midfield partnership of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, two players who have spent time in Basel. The Swiss club also have Xhaka's brother Taulant. The Xhakas last faced each other at this summer's Euros, as Taulant plays for Albania.

Olivier Giroud will serve a one match ban for his late red card against PSG, which could mean a start for Lucas Pérez up top. Then again, perhaps not: how do you justify dropping any one of the midfield trio of Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott, and Alexis Sánchez after the match they had on Saturday?

Having learned my lesson from matchday one, I would guess that David Ospina will start in goal.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Özil, Iwobi, Walcott, Alexis.

Basel Squad News

Out: Akanji (knee,) Bua (registration)
Doubts: Zuffi (ankle,) Janko (thigh)

Basel are not expected to make many changes, or perhaps any at all, to the side that drew Ludogorets on matchday one. Striker Marc Janko has not played since that match, when he was removed with a thigh injury on 40 minutes. Midfielder Luca Zuffi has missed two matches with an ankle injury, but was on the bench at the weekend. I'm predicting both will start, but since I don't follow the Swiss league that closely, that's really total guesswork.

Defender Manuel Akanji is a long-term injury with a knee problem, while midfielder Kevin Bua, who joined from Zürich this summer, is not in the club's Champions League squad list.

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

Current Form

It has been 45 days since Arsenal lost 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. Since then, Arsenal's form, across all competitions, has read as follows: D-W-W-D-W-W-W. Yes, the Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven fixtures overall. To put that in some perspective, Arsenal ended last season unbeaten in nine (they did not lose again after being eliminated from Europe at Camp Nou on March 16,) but it didn't feel that way because of four draws in the mix, including particularly brutal ones to Crystal Palace and Sunderland, not to mention Andy Carroll's hat trick at Upton Park.

Given the circumstances, things look pretty good in Goonerland right now. I'll touch on this more at the weekend since it's more relevant for Sunday, but Arsenal have a four game winning streak in the league for the first time since last October (that streak was five.) It's easy to forget that Arsenal were top of the league at the halfway point last year.

As for Basel, they are well on their way to their eighth consecutive Swiss Super League title; the last time another club won the league was 2009, when Zürich won. After nine league games this season, Basel still has a 100% record in domestic competition and are already 13 points clear of second place Young Boys. They've won twice in the Swiss Cup as well and will face Tuggen in the third round in a month's time; Basel were eliminated on penalties in last year's quarterfinals to Sion, though you might be interested to know that Mohamed Elneny converted Basel's first in that shootout.

Arsenal have struggled at home in Europe in recent seasons; over their last 15 home matches in the Champions League, they've won seven, lost seven, and drawn one. Last year, Arsenal split their home results evenly. They lost on matchday two to Olympiacos before shocking Bayern Munich on matchday three, getting revenge on Dinamo Zagreb on matchday five for their earlier loss in Croatia, and then falling to Barcelona in the first leg of the round of 16.

Match Facts

Arsenal are 4-0 all-time against Swiss competition, but they have never met Basel in a competitive fixture. Arsenal's previous run-ins with the Swiss came in 1971 and 2005. In the '71 European Cup second round (you know, after they won the league at the Lane the year prior...), Arsenal beat Grasshopper 5-0 on aggregate, 2-0 in Switzerland and 3-0 at Highbury. They went on to lose to Ajax, the eventual champions, in the next round. In 2005's group stage, Arsenal defeated Thun twice: 2-1 in London with a late winner from Dennis Bergkamp and 1-0 in Switzerland with a late penalty spot winner from Robert Pirès.

Basel have faced English competition on 24 previous occasions, winning six, losing 10, and drawing eight. Most recently, in 2014, they were in a group with Liverpool, Ludogorets, and Real Madrid. On matchday six, Basel went to Anfield and got a 1-1 draw, having beaten the Reds earlier in the group stage at home. The result meant that Basel advanced to the round of 16 at Liverpool's expense. Basel also beat Chelsea twice in the 2013 group stage; Chelsea won all four of their other games to top the group. The previous spring, Chelsea defeated Basel in the Europa League semifinal after the Swiss side had dispatched Tottenham in the quarterfinals on penalties.

In 10 previous Champions League matches against English competition, Basel have lost just once. at home to Manchester United in the 2002/03 second group stage.

The Referee

The match officials are from the Netherlands; the referee is Danny Makkelie. This will be Makkelie's eighth Champions League match in his career; it's the first time he's working an Arsenal match.

Basel have seen Makkelie once before, in last seasons's Europa League round of 32. In a dramatic second leg against Saint-Étienne, after the French side had won the first leg at home 3-2, Luca Zuffi's opening goal, which leveled the tie, was canceled out by a 90th minute goal Moustapha Bayal Sall. Zuffi, however, scored a 92nd minute goal to win the match 2-2, level the tie 4-4, and see Basel through on away goals. They did this on ten men as well, as Breel Embolo, now at Schalke, was sent off on 84 minutes for a second yellow card. Basel went on to lose to eventual champion Sevilla in the round of 16.

In his three previous Champions League fixtures involving clubs from either of these countries, the English sides have two wins from two and the Swiss have one loss from, well, one. Chelsea ran out 6-0 winners over Maribor with Makkelie in the middle in the 2014 group stage. Last year, Grasshopper found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss to Monaco in the qualifying rounds with Makkelie in charge, while Manchester City later had a group stage win 4-2 over Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Monaco 0 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen
  • Tuesday: CSKA Moscow 0 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
  • Tuesday: Borussia Dortmund 2 - 2 Real Madrid
  • Tuesday: Sporting CP 2 - 0 Legia Warsaw
  • Tuesday: Copenhagen 4 - 0 Club Brugge
  • Tuesday: Leicester City 1 - 0 Porto
  • Tuesday: Dinamo Zagreb 0 - 4 Juventus
  • Tuesday: Sevilla 1 - 0 Lyon
  • Wednesday: Ludogorets Razgrad v. Paris Saint-Germain; Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia
  • Wednesday: Beşiktaş v. Dynamo Kyiv; Vodafone Arena, Istanbul
  • Wednesday: Napoli v. Benfica; Stadio San Paolo, Naples
  • Wednesday: Borussia Mönchengladbach v. Barcelona; Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach
  • Wednesday: Celtic v. Manchester City; Celtic Park, Glasgow
  • Wednesday: Atlético Madrid v. Bayern Munich; Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Rostov v. PSV Eindhoven; Olimp-2, Rostov-on-Don
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a cold front. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for relevant weather forecasts.

Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea: One Bugbear Slain


We all know what the recent history has been whenever Chelsea were the other mob staring out from the other half of the center line against our guys. Whether it be Didier Drogba bulling us over, or the whole team going to pieces as goals flew in everywhere, or referees (cough cough Mike Dean cough cough) pulling off their shirt nWo style to reveal a blue top underneath, nothing has gone right for a long time against this lot.

Well, swings and bloody roundabouts.

It was basically an unchanged team for us, Alex Iwobi on the left being about the only name on the team sheet that didn't pick itself (yes, yes, Granit Xhaka...he'll get his time, calm down). As for them, David Luiz brought his comedy stylings into the center of their defense, with Kurt Zouma a long-term injury casualty.

The first ten minutes were a fairly sedate, as Chelsea sat back to defend. Arsenal hadn't created much on their own, but out of nowhere a horrid mistake from Gary Cahill gifted us the lead. It's funny - we've always associated a fearsome defense with their lot, but they're something of a paper tiger now, aren't they? John Terry is ancient. Gary Cahill has caught a terminal case of Englanditis, Luiz is Luiz, Branislav Ivonivic shambles around like the walking dead while poor old Cesar Azpilecueta wonders what he's done to deserve this. Anyway, Cahill dallied on the ball and had his pocket picked by Alexis Sanchez, who strolled in and chipped Thibaut Courtois as casually as you or I might make a lunch order on Seamless.

That's another thing, by the way. Courtois was bought to be their guy of the future, but he hasn't made that leap that they must have been expecting. His head is clearly not all there, either. I mean, not in Joe Hart territory or anything, but even here he may have had a shot at that if he decisively came off his line at the right time. The best part, of course, is that the end result was Petr Cech coming over to us to drastically strengthen our own goalkeeping situation. Can't say I'm complaining.

As the half went on, the one thing that struck me was how different our mental approach was. Guys flew into tackles, and oftentimes muscled their man off the ball. Diego Costa was reduced to a peripheral figure, a disembodied banshee voice screaming at Michael Oliver to call fouls that weren't there. I don't know if it's a case of Jose Mourinho having been the real boogeyman or not, but it was refreshing to see our guys not over-respecting their western neighbors.

Before all that, though, a brilliant team goal saw us take a 2-0 lead before Chelsea had time to mentally process the first one. The move started like so many of ours have before, with us holding the ball 40-50 yards out and a wall of defenders between us and the goal. While so many of those have gone to die, this one saw a lightning-fast interplay of passes that actually reminded me just a tad of the kind of goals the Invincibles used to score. Iwobi and Mesut Ozil pinged the ball around several times before getting it out wide to Hector Bellerin. Eden Hazard lagged in his man-marking duties, allowing the Spaniard to flash a brilliant square ball across the penalty area. Theo Walcott was there to smash home, leaving Courtois no chance.

Fourteen minutes in, 2-0 up against Chelsea? Was I dreaming?

The best part is that when they made their inevitable push to get back into the game, we didn't wilt. We didn't fold. Willian did go just wide once, but other than that the back five had this completely under control. Sometimes it was Laurent Koscielny coming over to smoothly intercept a pass. Sometimes it was Shkrodan Mustafi fighting for a header. Sometimes Cech came off his line to smartly claim a cross. It was excellent to watch.

However, it wasn't as excellent as seeing us get a third before halftime. Ozil started and finished the move, and pantsed the otherwise-anonymous N'Golo Kante to do it too. Ozil spun around the former Leicester man, and away we went. The German played it out wide to Sanchez, who crossed it back in for him. I couldn't tell if Ozil mishit it or if he intended to bounce it off the ground, but the end result was that it looped up over Courtois, off the post and in.

Bliss. Well, other than Francis Coquelin's injury, that is.

But, that's the thing. We have the sort of squad now where if a key player goes down, we have a top-class player like Xhaka ready to slot right into the team. Central defense may still be a bit of a worry, but honestly I'd trust Rob Holding against all but the biggest clubs.

The second half might have been a chance to stick another two or three past these guys and REALLY put the ghosts of the past to bed, but I think it was half us keeping our powder dry for future games, and half us getting overly cute at times. There were a few instances where we went back to trying to walk the ball into the net when a shot against a beleaguered goalkeeper may have been the better option.

It may have still happened had Walcott been able to execute one of his trademark across-the-keeper finishes, but Courtois stuck out a boot to deny him brilliantly. Oh, well.

Honestly, at that point, it was a matter of us playing out the string. Kieran Gibbs got a run-out at left forward, replacing Iwobi. Later, Olivier Giroud came on for Alexis. Giroud, who I insist is class, did look a bit off the pace though and could probably use minutes where we can get them to him.

Though, come to think about it, maybe this might have been more interesting than we'd have liked on another day. A giveaway in the center of the park gave Pedro a breakaway, but Bellerin turned on the afterburners to catch up and tackle it away brilliantly. Later, the substitute Michy Batshuayi was played clean through on goal, but Cech showed the decisiveness that his counterpart had not earlier to block with his legs.

Had those two gone in, you have to wonder if 3-0 would turn to 3-4. Instead, well, this is what happens when you have excellent players on form. Bellerin made the tackle he had to. Cech made the save he had to. Plays like that decide games, and now we're starting to make them.

And that, right there, is why I'm starting to feel very positive about what this season has in store for us. There are formidable opponents and other boogeymen ahead, but I don't think we've been as equipped to take them on as we are now in a long, long, looooong time.

And oh yeah, have some of THAT, Chelsea.


Man of the Match:  Mesut Ozil








Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Chelsea


Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, September 24
12:30 p.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Gary Beswick and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 0 - 1 Chelsea
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 72 Arsenal wins, 61 Chelsea wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W // L-D-W-W-W
  • Chelsea's League Form: D // W-W-W-D-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 71 °F / 22 °C
If the post-match talking points revolved around this man,
that's probably bad news for Arsenal.
I've said this plenty of times before, but the cliché remains true: if you want to win the Premier League, you have got to take care of business at home. Arsenal's 2002 title win marks the last time a title winner did not also have the best home record in the league (they were one point behind Liverpool in the home table.) That's 14 consecutive league champions who racked up more points at home than any other team in the top flight. I honestly don't think there's a better statistical indicator out there.

That said, as we approached injury time two weeks ago, Arsenal looked like they were about to drop two more points at home against Southampton. The late penalty spared Arsenal's blushes, meaning their home record is now an even 50/50. There are 57 points up for grabs in home games this season, Arsenal have already dropped three of them. Title winners usually hover around the high 40's in home point totals, meaning that's only about three losses on average. Leicester drew six times at home last year, but lost only once, to Arsenal.

As we approach a traditionally tricky fixture, it's imperative for Arsenal to remember the big picture here. If this match becomes the Diego Costa show, that can only benefit the visitors. Psychologically speaking, these three points count the same as all the others, but dropping them can have a knock-on effect through the rest of the fixture list.

Six of Arsenal's next seven fixtures, across all competitions, are at home. You gotta win your home games.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Giroud (toe,) Ramsey (hamstring)

Alexis against Leicester City.
Alexis against Hull City.
There's not much to say in the injury news department. Gabriel returned on Tuesday from his ankle injury to play 90 minutes in Nottingham, but should only make the bench here. The long-term injured (Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, and Carl Jenkinson) remain as such. The short-term absentees (Aaron Ramsey with his now-six-week hamstring injury and Olivier Giroud's mysterious toe problem) are in the doubts column.

It's entirely possible Arsène Wenger will name an unchanged XI to the side that beat Hull last week, which opens us up once again to the debate around Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international came off the bench against Hull and started on Tuesday. In both matches, he scored ridiculous long-range goals. There are significant rumblings among the fanbase as to why Xhaka's not starting. It's pretty clear to me, at this point, that Wenger will retain the Francis Coquelin-Santi Cazorla axis (or, "Coqzorla," as it were.)

If this were a video game, you'd put your best players out at each individual position, but in real life, there's the issue of chemistry in midfield. Coqzorla has that and until something changes, I would not hold your breath to see Wenger mess around with that.

The other question will revolve around whether or not Alexis Sánchez will have the same impact as a central forward against a team that's better defensively than Hull. Pictured are heatmaps of Alexis's touches against Hull City and against Leicester City. Alexis started both games as a central forward, but was forced out wide against the likes of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan. Extrapolating further, he had only 27 touches at all against Liverpool on opening day.

Perhaps it's not a fair comparison, he did end up playing more centrally against PSG, but I think it's fair to call it a concern for a match like this. The alternative is either Lucas Pérez or perhaps Giroud passes fit.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Iwobi, Walcott, Özil, Alexis.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: Van Ginkel (knee,) Zouma (knee)
Doubts: Terry (ankle)

The man who invented sideline emotion.
Kurt Zouma, who suffered a knee ligament injury in February, remains out; he could return some time in October. Marco Van Ginkel, whose young career has been marred by knee injuries, is also out. There are doubts over John Terry as well; he strained ankle ligaments in Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Swansea two weeks ago. With so many question marks at center back, it's no wonder the Blues brought David Luiz back into the fold, but when everyone's fit, they're going to have a few frustrated faces on the bench.

Cesc Fàbregas, who scored both extra time goals for Chelsea in the League Cup on Tuesday, would probably like to return to starting in the midfield, but with N'Golo Kanté making a big money move from the champions this summer, I don't see it happening.

The alternative would be to have Nemanja Matić drop for the sake of attacking prowess, which doesn't seem like the kind of choice managers make for road games. The gist I've gotten from Chelsea fans is that they'd prefer Cesc here because many feel like their midfield has lacked a little creativity up to this point in the season, but they don't seem to expect any changes, until they solve a number defensive lapses that have occurred lately.

The rest of the starting XI seems pretty obvious to me, here.

Predicted XI: Courtois, Ivanović, Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta, Matić, Kanté, Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Costa.

Current Form

I'm starting to warm up to the yellow kit, even though I'm
not a fan of that slate grey.
Arsenal are now unbeaten in six since losing on opening day, winning four of their last five across all competitions in the process. Tuesday's 4-0 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest was only the second time, however, that the Gunners have kept a clean sheet (the other coming in a scoreless draw with Leicester last month.) It was also the fourth time in seven matches this season that Arsenal scored at least three goals (the others coming against Liverpool, Watford, and Hull.)

What that tells you is that things have all been a bit crazy this season, but the results are there. Five points dropped through two games to start the season has become five points dropped through five league games plus progression in the League Cup and a decent, if lucky, result in Europe. So far, so good.

Chelsea started the season with a four game winning streak across all competitions, but suffered a bit of a blip coming out of the international break. Remember, the Blues are not in Europe this year, forcing them to enter the League Cup in the second round, when they beat Bristol Rovers. That, coupled with wins over West Ham, Watford, and Burnley gave the Blues a 100% record going into the international break. They came out of that with a 2-2 draw against struggling Swansea, then lost at home to Liverpool (something we're familiar with.) That means Chelsea and Arsenal have the same points total in the league at this point, with 10; Arsenal are ahead on goal difference.

Tuesday night, Chelsea faced Leicester City at King Power Stadium in the League Cup and came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 in extra time. The mitigating circumstances were, of course, that Leicester had defender Marcin Wasilewski sent off just before the end of regular time, for shoving a forearm into the face of Diego Costa. We all applaud you, Marcin.

Match Facts

What's German for "oh fuck, I hate Costa"?
Chelsea won both matches last year. There were only two other teams whom Chelsea defeated twice last season: 19th place Norwich City and 20th place Aston Villa. For Arsenal, Chelsea were the only team they did not take at least one point from. So, as you can see, the psychological issues run deep here.

In September at Stamford Bridge, Mike Dean and Diego Costa happened, as Chelsea won 2-0. Arsenal finished the match on nine men after Gabriel was sent off in the first for a kick-out at Diego Costa and Santi Cazorla picked up a second yellow 11 minutes from time. Kurt Zouma scored from a set piece on 53 minutes and a Calum Chambers own goal twisted the knife in injury time. Of course, Diego Costa should have been the one to be sent off for head-butting Laurent Koscielny in the first place, which would have changed the tenor of the entire match. The FA rescinded Gabriel's red card and slapped Costa with a three-match ban after the fact, but that doesn't rescue the three points, now does it?

In January at the Emirates, the referee was involved again, though a bit more correctly this time, as Mark Clattenburg sent off Per Mertesacker on 18 minutes for breaking up a Diego Costa breakway. Costa had the game's only goal just five minutes later.

Arsenal did, however, win the Community Shield against Chelsea last season. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the only goal of the season's curtain-raising match at Wembley, as Arsene Wenger finally snared a victory over Jose Mourinho. Plus, Arsenal got to win a really shiny giant plate in the process, which is always nice, regardless of what you may think of the competitiveness of the Community Shield.

Arsenal have not scored a goal in league play against Chelsea since Theo Walcott pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute of a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge on January 20, 2013. Chelsea have kept the door shut for nine hours and 32 minutes of play. Arsenal are also winless in their last nine league games against the Blues, their longest drought ever against Chelsea; I'd like to point out that pre-Abramovich, Arsenal went 19 straight without losing to Chelsea.

The Referee

Michael Oliver has seen some things, man.
The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Arsenal have already seen Oliver once this season and it was their only loss, the opening day match to Liverpool. To be fair, it's not Oliver's fault that Arsenal couldn't defend for their lives that day and he did give Arsenal a penalty that Theo Walcott decided to miss, so who knows.

Arsenal have not won with Oliver since the FA Cup sixth round tie at Old Trafford in March of 2015; before the loss to Liverpool, Arsenal had drawn all three matches with Oliver in between, including this corresponding fixture in April of 2015.

This is Oliver's first Chelsea match of the season. Their record with Oliver last season was, to be honest, quite terrible and extensive. Oliver took charge of their opening match of the season, a 2-2 draw with Swansea in which Thibault Courtois was sent off. He then worked Chelsea's 0-0 draw at Tottenham, a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, their 2-0 FA Cup exit to Everton (in which Diego Costa was sent off,) and a 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

So, Chelsea have not won with Oliver since a 3-2 win at Hull in March of 2015, 13 days after Arsenal's last win with him.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester United v. Leicester City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Everton; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Hull City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Middlesbrough v. Tottenham Hotspur; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Crystal Palace; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Manchester City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday (late): West Ham United v. Southampton; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Monday (night): Burnley v. Watford; Turf Moor, Burnley
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a professor of fictional linguistics. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for gęsźçtišrįn.

Preview by Numbers: Nottingham Forest v. Arsenal, League Cup Third Round


City Ground, Nottingham
Tuesday, September 20
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Paul Tierney
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 49 Arsenal wins, 26 Forest wins, 22 draws
  • All-Time in League Cup: 2 Arsenal wins
  • Nottingham Forest's Path Here
    • First Round: Beat Doncaster Rovers, 2-1
    • Second Round: Beat Millwall, 2-1
  • Arsenal's Premier League Form: W // L-D-W-W-W
  • Nottingham Forest's Championship Form: L-W-W-D-D-L
  • Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 57 °F / 14 °C
So, the League Cup is back again. How do you suppose Arsenal approaches this competition this year?

I found myself wondering when was the last time a Premier League winning team had also won the League Cup trophy. I clearly must have blocked the awfulness out of my mind, because Chelsea did it in 2015. Manchester City won both in 2014 as well. Manchester United won both in 2009. Chelsea won both in 2005.

Clearly, it happens often enough that the League Cup's reputation as a tournament that the top clubs don't care about is unwarranted. At the same time, if Arsenal were to win the League Cup and nothing more this season, we'd probably all still feel pretty empty.

Well, off we go to Nottingham to face Nicklas Bendtner. That should be interesting. Not like I'm looking past this at the Chelsea match on Saturday or anything...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Giroud (toe,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Gabriel (ankle)

As usual with the League Cup, there are two main questions: how much rotation and how many youngsters?

Gabriel has been in full training for over a week now as he returns from an ankle injury suffered in preseason. I would not be surprised if he finds his way back into the squad for this one. Could we see full scale changes to the back five? David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Gabriel, Rob Holding, and Kieran Gibbs? Is that too much rotation?

Aaron Ramsey is still short and might not be fit for this weekend either. Mohamed Elneny could get a start in the holding role; will Granit Xhaka for once? Or will there be some more youth involved in midfield instead? Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, anyone?

And how about Lucas Pérez up top? Olivier Giroud remains out with a toe injury; he's only played 70 or so minutes for Arsenal this season anyway, making zero starts. Meanwhile, you know, we still have Yaya Sanogo, right? There are reports that Arsène Wenger blocked a move to loan him to Leeds on deadline day. Interesting...

It's hard to predict just what balance Wenger is going to want to strike between youth and experience. If you get the mix wrong, the team will perform sloppily and likely bow out. For example, last season's fourth round, when you combine that with two injuries on a poor pitch, you get a 3-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday.

Nottingham Forest Squad News

Out: Cash, Assombalonga
Doubts: Lam, Vaughan, Perquis

Back in the summer of 2014, after his contract at Arsenal had run down, Nicklas Bendtner signed a three-year contract with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. He made 31 appearances for the Bundesliga club and scored three goals. This past April, the club terminated his contract with a year to go. So, here he is, the Greatest Striker Who Ever Lived(TM), with what looks like one last shot to resurrect his career. He's come off the bench twice so far and has not yet scored for Forest. I think the real questions are: just when does he score tonight and what weird sponsor does he have on his underwear that he will reveal when he rips off his shorts celebrating?

Speaking of ex-Arsenal players scoring goals, Henri Lansbury had an 87th minute equalizer 10 days ago as Forest salvaged a point at Villa Park, so Bendtner isn't the only former Arsenal player involved in the Forest squad. Lansbury's been at the Championship club since 2012, when Arsenal sold him for a million pounds.

Also, Forest have Armand Traoré, and that's just amusing. He moved to Forest from QPR this summer and has made two starts and three total appearances.

As for the club's injury news, midfielder Matty Cash and striker Britt Assombalonga are both likely out. Defender Thomas Lam and midfielder David Vaughan are both doubts, while defender Damien Perquis faces a late fitness test with a groin problem.

Current Form

The Gunners have extended their unbeaten run to five matches across all competitions, dating back to the opening day loss to Liverpool. They've also won three straight in the league and climbed in the table to fourth after this most recent round of fixtures; recall, they were in 15th upon losing to Liverpool that opening Sunday.

Of course, this is Arsenal we're talking about, so even a comprehensive 4-1 road win against Hull City is not without its discomforts. Don't lie, when Robert Snodgrass converted the penalty to make it 2-1, you all thought, "here we go again" before Alexis Sánchez restored the two goal lead. Then, Granit Xhaka scored a thunderbolt that made us all think, "hey, maybe this guy should be starting." Right? Right?

Anyway, Nottingham Forest are 13th in the Championship after eight matches. They have not won since the last international break; they drew 2-2 at Aston Villa the weekend before last, drew 2-2 at Rotheram United in midweek, then lost 2-1 at home to Norwich this past Saturday.

Match Facts

Arsenal have not played Forest since Forest's most recent relegation from the Premier League in 1999. The Gunners won 1-0 on their last trip to City Ground, on January 16, 1999. Martin Keown had the Arsenal goal in the 34th minute, scoring on a header from a corner.

Arsenal and Forest have met twice in the League Cup, with Arsenal winning both ties by 2-0 scorelines. In January of 1987, Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners at Highbury in the fifth round. They went on to win a classic semifinal in a replay against Spurs before winning the final over Liverpool. Forest went on to win the League Cup themselves in 1989 and 1990. Arsenal lost the final in 1988; Forest lost the final in 1992.

The sides met again in January of 1993, again in the fifth round. Again, Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury, with Ian Wright scoring both goals. Again, Arsenal went on to win the title, this time beating Sheffield Wednesday for the first half of a domestic cup double.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Paul Tierney, the newest official in the Select Group. This will be Tierney's first Arsenal match.

While this is his first season officially in the Select Group, he has been working the occasional Premier League match since his first on August 30, 2014. That was a 3-0 Swansea win over West Brom. That was the only top flight match he worked in 2014/15. He worked four Premier League matches last year and has only worked once so far this season.

Tierney worked many games in the Championship last year and Nottingham Forest saw him on two occasions: a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town in October and a 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers in January.

Around the Third Round
  • Tuesday: Bournemouth v. Preston North End; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Tuesday: Brighton & Hove Albion v. Reading; American Express Community Stadium, Brighton
  • Tuesday: Derby County v. Liverpool; Pride Park Stadium, Derby
  • Tuesday: Everton v. Norwich City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Tuesday: Leeds United v. Blackburn Rovers; Elland Road, Leeds
  • Tuesday: Leicester City v. Chelsea; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Tuesday: Newcastle United v. Wolverhampton Wanderers; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Wednesday: Fulham v. Bristol City; Craven Cottage, London
  • Wednesday: Northampton Town v. Manchester United; Sixfields Stadium, Northampton
  • Wednesday: Queens Park Rangers v. Sunderland; Loftus Road, London
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Crystal Palace; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Wednesday: Swansea City v. Manchester City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Wednesday: West Ham United v. Accrington Stanley; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Wednesday: Stoke City v. Hull City; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Gillingham; White Hart Lane, London
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and chess Olympian. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate the merits of moves such as Bb4+.

Catching Up: Watford, Southampton, PSG, Hull City



I don't think it was that crazy to be a little worried about the state of the team coming out of the first two matches - the horror-show against Liverpool and the damp-squib draw at Leicester. But, in the time that I was away / recovering my trip, the club have largely pulled themselves out of the mire, even if the performances are not quite up to full power as of yet.

The Watford match was the one that I saw nothing about. I was actually in Berlin at the time, and I got to see a bonkers game between Hertha and Freiburg. All I saw was the score - very much a case of job done, on to the next one.

I was back home for the Southampton game, but was still mega-jet lagged. We weren't great by any stretch of the imagination, but I did think we were OK defensively. The free kick goal was more than a little unlucky, really. I wasn't in love with Petr Cech's positioning, but he still did get there and make the save. Having it come off the bar and then straight down was rotten luck.

Still, picking up maximum points when you don't have your A-game is what the best sides do, and frankly we haven't done enough of it over the last few seasons. You don't need me to tell you just how huge the Laurent Koscielny bicycle kick goal was - and you also don't need me to tell you that if a City or United or Liverpool player had done it, the media would still be wanking themselves silly over it. That obviously galvanized the team, and while I thought we were a little lucky to get that penalty in injury time, Santi Cazorla's winner was probably deserved with the balance of play.

PSG, on the other hand, I didn't see except for highlights of David Ospina's massive day in goal. I did see a little of the Twitterverse's meltdown that he was starting, though I do think that's a case of the stupidest people being the loudest. The guy is absolute class - you don't have stellar World Cups and Copa Americas otherwise. Anyway, I was chuffed to bits for him that he was able to shove it down the throats of all of his detractors.

The performance itself, from what I saw, was utterly dreadful. I know that Shkodran Mustafi made several mistakes, and otherwise had Edinson Cavani not had a mare, we probably would have gotten stuffed regardless of how well Ospina played. Still, a point on the road against our toughest opponent is beyond valuable.

That brings us to today's match against a strangely frisky Hull City. In the grand Arsenal supporter tradition of always needing something to bitch about, the starting XI caused another shitstorm on Twitter. OK, kids...here's the thing. Football is a squad rotation game these days, especially at the biggest clubs. We have our most balanced squad in ages - everyone is going to get games when you factor in how many matches we have, injuries, suspensions, etc.

That's true for a central midfield in which we have a wealth of options. That's true for guys who are still bedding in. That's true for our goalkeepers (and we're hardly alone there - Leicester and Sevilla both played reserve keepers in league matches today).

Chill pills are badly needed 'round these parts.

As it is, it took a while for us to get going. We looked a little clunky in possession, and Petr Cech had to be alert to come well off his line to clear away an early chance. That proved to be vital, as we were ahead a few minutes later. I didn't see who took the initial shot, but Eldin Jakupovic might have done a little better with his rebound control. Can't say I'm complaining though, as Alex Iwobi turned it back in. The goal should have been his, but it nicked off of Alexis Sanchez's heel on its way past the keeper.

We spent most of the rest of the half on the front foot, but Jakupovic made up for his hand in the first goal with some excellent saves. Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott were a little off, Walcott in particular seeming to lose the ball every time he touched it (more on him in a bit). The game was turned on its ear though just before halftime. I can't say I'm a fan of how often Francis Coquelin is pushing forward in general, but this surge arguably won us the game. His goalbound shot was probably going in, but Jake Livermore got a hand to it. Pretty good keeping, but still a clear penalty and red card.

The penalty itself, however. Hoo boy. Honestly, there should be a moratorium on anyone taking penalties other than Santi Cazorla at this point. Alexis' weak, undercooked effort was easily repelled by Jakupovic. Why can't anyone on this team take a bloody spot kick? Anyway, the red card blunted any real threat that Hull had on the counter, allowing us to pretty much play at will.

The chances kept coming after the restart, with Jakupovic continuing to play well in the Hull goal. The breakthrough finally came around the 55th minute, though. Another foray upfield saw Alex Iwobi brilliantly back-heel the ball into Walcott's path. The angle was a tough one, and Jakupovic came off his line well, but Theo threaded the needle beautifully to finish into the far corner.

See, the thing with Theo is that he is a guy with exactly one skill - put the ball at his feet in the area, and he knows where the goal is. He's a pure finisher. That's it. He can't pass, can't hold the ball in the midfield, can't really support his fullback...he's a bit of a luxury player. But, you can't take his finishing ability away from him, that's for sure.

Up 2-0 and up a man, the rest of the game should have been a cakewalk. But, you know our Arsenal, we never do win easy when winning ugly is an option. I honestly don't remember where the breakdown occurred, but Hull countered and Cech was forced to take down their attacker. Thankfully it was only a yellow for our keeper, but there was nothing he could do to stop the excellent Robert Snodgrass from slotting in the spot kick.

So, 2-1 with 10 minutes to go. To be honest with you, I was bricking it a little. But, to our guys' credit, they kept calm and continued to press. Just a few minutes later, Alexis was there to cash in a rebound off of a shot from Walcott, and that was that.

Well, that is, until Xhaka decided to have a lash from about 4 astronomical units away from goal. Basically, the timeline of that was:

0.0 seconds: "Wait, we're shooting from distance? What?"
0.2 seconds: "That's going miles over the bar."
0.4 seconds: "Fuck me, I think that's going in."
1.0 seconds: "YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

Actually, it kind of reminded me of that Alexis thunderbolt from the FA Cup final against Villa. Either way, it added some gloss to the scoreline and sent our smarter supporters home feeling good. Stay off Twitter though, it's a festival of nitpicky nonsense.

Look, we haven't been perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But, one of the side effects of having a bigger squad and new blood is that it's going to take time for all parties to gel, and for the boss to figure out what our best XI. Next week is going to be a much sterner test than anything we've faced so far (now that we're not hamstringing ourselves by playing Calum Chambers and Rob Holding in a match that matters). Want to complain? Complain if we lose that one.

In the meantime, I'm quietly confident that the best is still to come.

Preview by Numbers: Hull City v. Arsenal


KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
Saturday, September 17
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Roger East
    • Assistants: Darren Cann and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Paul Tierney
  • This Match, Last Time: Hull City 1 - 3 Arsenal (May 4, 2015)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 16 Arsenal wins, 3 Hull City wins, 5 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W // L-D-W-W
  • Hull City's League Form: L-W // W-W-L-D
  • Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 65 °F / 18 °C
Here's a tiger-shaped cannon.
We're a month into the season and it's hard to really figure out what has gone on. I think the general consensus is that Arsenal have not been good enough, but they also haven't really been bad enough to warrant massive complaining either. They've been decent, but don't exactly look the part of title contenders. They've dropped five points in the league and, as such, are five points out of first place at this early juncture of the campaign. Not ideal, but, come on, there are 34 games left.

So, Arsenal head to Humberside this weekend to face a Hull City team that have surprised many to start their return to the top flight; the Tigers have beaten Leicester and Swansea and gave Manchester United a difficult match in the rain a few weeks back.

It goes without saying by this point that there are no easy fixtures in the Premier League. Hull City have given Arsenal fits in the past (surprisingly, largely at the Emirates) so tomorrow's match should give Arsenal an interesting test to see if they can start to right the ship a little bit.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Walcott (knee,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Gabriel (ankle)

Okay, I've decided to only post pictures of tigers
in this preview.
We're on track for some returns soon, as Gabriel returned to first team training at the end of last week. This weekend will mark six weeks since he injured his ankle in a pre-season friendly against Manchester City.

On the other hand, Theo Walcott was kept out of Arsenal's traveling squad to Paris this week with a "mild" knee injury. Aaron Ramsey, out since the opening weekend, is still a doubt as I don't believe he's taken part in training.

Petr Čech will return between the poles after David Ospina got the start in the Champions League. The move was controversial, of course, until Ospina put in a performance I've only seen from him before when Colombia plays the United States (warning: annoying music on YouTube video in link).

The other issue is in the holding midfield, as Granit Xhaka was left on the bench on Tuesday as well. Listen, I understand why you might want to have one keeper in the league and another as your cup keeper; that's pretty en vogue right now. But when you keep your £30-35 million signing on the bench in the league ahead of a European match and then don't even start him in that match? That's baffling. Xhaka was unused against Southampton and came on after 71 minutes on Tuesday.

Olivier Giroud was sent off in the closing minutes of Tuesday's Champions League tie, so this serves as your reminder that that applies only to Europe. He's out for Basel's matchday two visit to the Emirates on the 28th.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Lucas, Alexis, Özil, Giroud.

Hull City Squad News

Out: McGregor (back,) Dawson (knee,) Odubajo (knee,) Bruce (Achilles,) Luer (knee,) Lenihan (knee)

In late July, Steve Bruce resigned as manager of Hull City, claiming he was frustrated by the lack of transfer activity at the club. At the time, a spate of injuries had left the club with only 13 fit first-team players. Mike Phelan was named caretaker manager, then went on to be named Premier League Manager of the Month for August. The club had to make four player purchases in the final two days of the transfer window, but still broke the club's transfer record for the purchase of Ryan Mason from Tottenham.

Against Burnley last weekend, Hull City became the first Premier League team in six years to name an unchanged XI for their opening four fixtures (the last club to do it was Newcastle, themselves recently promoted at the time, in 2010/11.) That's not expected to continue, as I would expect at least Mason to work his way into the lineup, now that it's been a month since his sale from Spurs.

Hull have had the same crew of six players out injured all season: Alex Bruce, no longer being managed by his father, had surgery on his Achilles that will keep him out until December. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor won't be back to training until January after back surgery. Michael Dawson is out for another month with an MCL injury. Greg Luer is out until January with a cartilage injury in his knee. Moses Odubajo also has a knee injury that will keep him out until January. Brian Lenihan has a knee injury as well, but he may be back next month.

Predicted XI: Jakupović, Elmohamady, Livermore, Davies, Robertson, Mason, Huddlestone, Meyler, Snodgrass, Diomandé, Hernández.

Current Form

Across all competitions, Arsenal's form this season reads LDWWD. Hey, unbeaten in four!

It certainly hasn't felt that optimistic, has it? Arsenal responded to their season opening 4-3 loss to Liverpool by thankfully not allowing four again, but failing to score themselves in a 0-0 draw with Leicester City. Arsenal finally found their winning boots a week later, blitzing Watford for three first half goals, but they took their foot off the gas and made the second half just a little uncomfortable. After the international break, they came from behind to snatch all three points from Southampton in injury time, then traveled to Paris and somehow came back with a point from their most difficult, on paper, Champions League group match. This might be the clumsiest four match unbeaten streak in history.

Hull City have had a bright start to their return to the Premier League; like Arsenal, they have seven points from four fixtures. The Tigers opened the season with consecutive wins, first shocking Leicester City 2-1, then beating Swansea 2-0 in Wales. After a League Cup win over League Two's Exeter City, Hull hosted Manchester United, who needed a 92nd minute Marcus Rashford goal to escape with all three points. Hull did not get back to winning ways last weekend, but they did snag a goal at the death themselves, as Robert Snodgrass curled in a free kick in the 95th minute to get Hull a point at Turf Moor against Burnley.

Match Facts

Oh! This one's relevant! It's at the 2014 FA Cup Final.
Hull City spent last season in mid-yo-yo, as they were relegated from the Premier League in 2015 and won promotion again via the Championship play-off in May. They still played Arsenal twice last season, in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The Tigers earned a hard-fought scoreless draw at the Emirates, thanks in part to Mike Dean denying Arsenal two penalties and Eldin Jakupović making 11 saves.

There was no such luck for Hull in the replay, as Arsenal won 4-0 to earn themselves a sixth round date with Watford, which they went on to lose. Both Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott had braces in the win.

When Hull was in the Premier League in 2014/15, they earned a 2-2 draw at the Emirates; Arsenal needed an injury time goal from Danny Welbeck to take a point. On Humberside in May of 2015, the last time this corresponding fixture was played, Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners: Alexis Sánchez scored twice and Aaron Ramsey had another to give the Gunners a 3-0 halftime lead; Stephen Quinn had a consolation goal for the hosts before the hour mark, but Hull could not pull back any further.

Hull's surprise 2-1 win at the Emirates in September of 2008 is the Tigers' only win against Arsenal in the modern era. Hull's other two wins against Arsenal came in 1908 and 1915; that 1915 win was Hull's most recent clean sheet against the Gunners until February's 0-0 draw.

The Referee

The referee is Wiltshire-based Roger East. East worked three Arsenal matches last season, all of which were at the Emirates. East was in the middle for Arsenal's 2-0 win over Bournemouth in late December, the 2-1 win over Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and their come-from-ahead 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in mid-April.

Since Hull were in the Championship last year, East did not work a Hull City game in the 2015/16 season. His last Hull City match was, incidentally, their 2-2 draw at the Emirates in October of 2014.

Since East has not worked a lot of matches for either of the two clubs involved, there's very little to say here of interest. East is the oldest referee in the Select Group, at 51. That's something, right? Good for him! This comes after Arsenal had the youngest ref, Robert Madley, last weekend.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Chelsea v. Liverpool; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Burnley; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Bournemouth; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Everton v. Middlesbrough; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (very early): Watford v. Manchester United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday (early): Crystal Palace v. Stoke City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Swansea City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Sunderland; White Hart Lane, London
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and mascot of the Denver Broncos. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat,which means "fox cat" and has nothing to do with horses. Or tigers.

Preview by Numbers: Paris Saint-Germain v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 1


Parc des Princes, Paris
Tuesday, September 13
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Hungary
    • Referee: Viktor Kassai
    • Assistants: György Ring and Vencel Tóth
    • 4th Official: Peter Berettyán
    • Additional Assistants: Tamás Bognar and Zsolt Szabó
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-L-W-W-L-L
  • PSG's European Form: W-W-W-W-D-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 82 °F / 27 °C
I'll bet Madeline supports PSG.
Pack your bags! We're going on a European adventure! And hopefully it's better than last year's!

Arsenal huffed and puffed their way through Europe last year, opening with losses to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos before nabbing a big home win against Bayern Munich. In the end, they did just enough in the group stage to get the honor of losing to Barcelona in the Round of 16. So, you know, same old story.

The Gunners, coming in off consecutive wins in the league, will thankfully get their most difficult (but not necessarily trickiest) group stage game out of the way as they head to Paris to take on a PSG side that are struggling with injuries on defense and in filling the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimović up top. Both clubs have seven points through four league games, which isn't so out of the ordinary for Arsenal, but PSG are not in at least a tie at the top of Ligue 1 for the first time in 16 months.

Thirteen points guarantees progression from the group stage and, more often that not, is sufficient to win the group. A win tonight would set Arsenal well on their way to that total.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gabriel (ankle,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Koscielny (eye,) Ramsey (hamstring)

Interesting birthday for Koscielny, who scored a beauty of a
goal in the first half and took a kick to the face in the second.
Laurent Koscielny took a nasty kick to the head in the build-up to what eventually became Arsenal's game-winning penalty at the weekend. He finished off the remaining three minutes of the match, but could be considered a doubt for this one, depending on how much swelling has occurred since Saturday. I wouldn't say it's exactly ideal to go into the most difficult of the six group stage matches with two center backs with a combined four matches completed for Arsenal between them, which would be the case if Rob Holding had to slip in alongside newcomer Shkodran Mustafi. I'd bet on Koscielny being fit to start, though, and Arsène Wenger has suggested that the Frenchman has "recovered quite well."

Arsenal rotated their squad a bit against Southampton, which should mean a start is on the cards for the likes of Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sánchez, and Olivier Giroud. There may be some question as to who starts alongside Xhaka in the holding role. Will Santi Cazorla, who missed so much time through injury last spring, play another 90 minutes just three days after the last match? Will Francis Coquelin retain his place? Will Mohamed Elneny get the start to keep the legs fresh?

I'm predicting Alexis starts on the left with Theo Walcott on the right because I've learned my lesson in terms of picking against Wenger's faith in Theo.

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

PSG Squad News

Out: Kurzawa (hamstring,) Ben Arfa
Doubts: Maxwell, Silva, Pastore, Aurier

Unai Emery patrols the PSG sideline while also looking like
he's got a stomachache.
After Laurent Blanc left the club this summer, Les Rouge-et-Bleu turned to Sevilla and three-time Europa League winner Unai Emery to take the reins. Funny thing is, now that the Europa League winner gets an automatic place in the Champions League, that implies that to win the title consecutively now, you'd have to come in third in the group stage, which Sevilla did against the likes of Manchester City and Juventus last year.

Still, Emery has handled the pressures of European competition with aplomb in years past and there's no reason to doubt his pedigree. PSG are favorites in the group and this fixture will go a long way in deciding who wins it. The Parisian side have no outright injury absences, but Emery will still sweat over the fitness of a quintet of players, especially on the back line.

Defender Layvin Kurzawa, who has scored four goals so far this season, was removed from PSG's draw on Friday night with a hamstring problem and is expected to miss out. Maxwell is a doubt as well, but is expected to be in. There is a chance, however, that PSG could have only three fit defenders available and may need to start Presnel Kimpembe out of position at left back. There are doubts over Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore and Serge Aurier as well, though Silva, the club captain, is the most likely of the group to start. However, he has not yet played a minute this season. All three have provisionally been referred to as being available.

Emery is expected to use Alphonse Areola as his cup keeper, meaning a drop to the bench for Kevin Trapp. Hatem Ben Arfa, who signed for the club from Nice this summer, looks like he might have been dropped from the squad entirely.

Predicted XI: Areola, Meunier, Silva, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Verratti, Motta, Matuidi, Moura, Cavani, Di María.

Current Form

Robert Berić celebrates his late equalizer against PSG in the
92nd minute on Friday.
Arsenal are starting to build a little bit of momentum, if you can call it that. They've won two since dropping five points across their opening two, but the first win came before the international break and the second came with Arsenal only nabbing the lead in the 94th minute. Arsenal have improved to sixth in the table, but they remain five points back of the pace-setters, as Manchester City are the only club through four fixtures to keep a 100% record so far.

Nobody in the Ligue 1 is 100% and PSG are equally sitting on seven points through the opening four fixtures. PSG began their season winning the French Super Cup (the Trophée des Champions) with a 4-1 win over Lyon, then opened the league campaign with successive victories: 1-0 over Bastia (a club that still starts Sébastien Squillaci...) and 3-0 over Metz. However, before the international break, they fell 3-1 to league leaders Monaco, snapping PSG's 11 match unbeaten run. On Friday, as they came back from the break, they conceded a late injury time equalizer to Saint-Étienne to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Match Facts

Mathieu Flamini scored the opener against PSG in the 2007
Emirates Cup.
While PSG have had a knack for facing Chelsea in the knockout stages in recent years (including each of the last three,) they have only met Arsenal twice before in European competition. That came in the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup semifinal. Arsenal won that tie 2-1 on aggregate, nabbing a 1-1 draw in Paris and a 1-0 win at Highbury to go through to the final, which they won over Parma.

Arsenal and PSG's most recent, non-competitive match against each other came in the 2007 Emirates Cup; Arsenal won 2-1. Hold your hats here for the goal scorers: Arsenal led 2-0 through Mathieu Flamini and Nicklas Bendter before Péguy Luyindula pulled one back in the 80th for the visitors.

Arsenal have never lost a match on French soil, to a French side at least (never mind a certain final 10 years ago.) That match aside, in 11 games in France, Arsenal have a record of eight wins and three draws. In recent years, Arsenal have picked up road wins against Marseille in 2011, Montpellier in 2012, Marseille again in 2013, and Monaco in 2015. The first three were all group stage matches; the Monaco match, of course, was a 2-0 victory in the second leg of the Round of 16, but Arsenal were eliminated on away goals.

PSG's home record against English sides is decently strong: three wins, three draws, and just one loss. The loss came in 2004 to Chelsea, 3-0, in the group stage. Last year, as PSG faced Chelsea in the Round of 16, then Manchester City in the quarterfinal, the French side won both legs against Chelsea, but drew 2-2 at home to City and lost the second leg at the Etihad.

The Referee

¡Ay, caramba!
The match officials are from Hungary; the referee is Viktor Kassai. This is not a great omen for Arsenal away from home. Prior to 2004, Arsenal had a record of three losses, all in unpleasant circumstances and all in road games, with Kassai as the referee. Since then, the Gunners have picked up back-to-back home wins, 2-0 over Borussia Dortmund and 3-0 over Dinamo Zagreb, with the Hungarian in the middle.

But, back to those losses. The first came in 2010 as Arsenal crashed to a 2-0 loss at Braga in the Portuguese stadium built half inside a rock quarry. In 2012, Arsenal found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss to AC Milan with Kassai in the middle in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. In 2013, Arsenal were on the wrong end of a 2-0 loss to Napoli with Kassai in the middle as well; he controversially sent off Mikel Arteta in that match as well.

While this will be Kassai's sixth Arsenal match, it will only be his second PSG match. The first was a 4-0 win for the Parisian club against Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of the 2014 Round of 16; PSG went on to win the tie 6-1 on aggregate, but lost to Chelsea on away goals in the next round.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Basel v. Ludogorets Razgrad; St. Jakob-Park, Basel
  • Tuesday: Benfica v. Beşiktaş; Estádio da Luz, Benfica
  • Tuesday: Dynamo Kyiv v. Napoli; Olympic Stadium, Kiev
  • Tuesday: Barcelona v. Celtic; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Tuesday: Manchester City v. Borussia Mönchengladbach; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Tuesday: Bayern Munich v. Rostov; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Tuesday: PSV Eindhoven v. Atlético Madrid; Philips Stadion, Eindhoven
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. CSKA Moscow;  BayArena, Levekusen
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Monaco; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Wednesday: Legia Warsaw v. Borussia Dortmund; Polish Army Stadium, Warsaw
  • Wednesday: Real Madrid v. Sporting CP; Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Club Brugge v. Leicester City; Jan Breydel Stadium, Bruges
  • Wednesday: Porto v. Copenhagen; Estádio do Dragão, Porto
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Sevilla; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Lyon v. Dinamo Zagreb; Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Décines-Charpieu
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John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a global pharmaceutical company. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for half-off your next prescription.