Five Thoughts: Watford 2-1 Arsenal



Well, that was pretty much the dictionary definition of how a match like this is decided on fine margins. I don't even think we were all that bad today, but the other mob got 100% of the rub of the green on the day, and we didn't have enough quality to overcome it.


1. This was never going to be a walkover, not with Marco Silva having these guys humming along so well in the league. It also doesn't help that our best players seem to all be crocked, "crocked", or knackered from the latest godforsaken international break. We weren't much at the races to begin with, as Watford used their pace and power on the flanks to excellent effect. They also tried to take advantage of our lack of speed in central defense - especially with Per Mertesacker pressed into duty - but we counteracted that by having Petr Cech play almost as an auxiliary sweeper. It was an interesting tactical cut-and-thrust, even if the chances weren't overflowing.

For me, the best player on the pitch was this Richarlison kid that Watford bought for a song from Fluminese. Everything he did was at pace, and always pushing forward. We were more ponderous than Gunnersaurus by comparison. The only one who was trying to make something happen was Granit Xhaka, who had one of his better games. He was raking long diagonal passes all over the place, but there was a precious little amount of movement from the forwards in front of him. He also took some pokes from distance in the second half, which was sadly some of the better chances we had in the game.

Long story short, Watford just about deserved this on the balance of play.


2. That said, we did take the lead right around the 40th minute or so. If you had told someone from 2007 that Watford vs. Arsenal would have a first half where the team with the quick, nippy forwards huffed and puffed and stretched the opponent, then went down in the 45th to a bog-standard header off a corner, they'd have asked who on the Hornets had scored. Instead, it was the BFG himself, taking advantage of a height mismatch with Tom Cleverley to nod home.

I don't know what Watford were playing at with that marking scheme, though. I mean, I know enough in my 7-a-side games to give a "Height on height!" yell on set pieces...why didn't Gomes?

Minutes later, Danny Welbeck (in about his only positive contribution of the day) picked out Hector Bellerin with a gorgeous pass, but the Spaniard could only screw his shot wide.


3. The second half kind of ambled along, looking for all the world like both sides had already downed tools. Welbeck looked to have picked up an injury, so on come Mesut Ozil. You know, for all everyone talks shit about this guy (and there was apparently a 1-v-1 chance that I missed somewhere in all of this - he's many things, but a dead-eye finisher is not one of them), his first touch of the game put Alex Iwobi in alone (not hearing too much about that one), and the second forced a corner. It was practically more positivity than there was in the entirety of the first half. Speaking of, Iwobi honestly should have scored, though you have to give credit to Gomes for an outstanding save.

The other thing causing much Twitter-screeching is Alexandre Lacazette coming off for Olivier Giroud in the 70th minute or thereabouts. Quick, name a chance Lacazette made or took in the game. Like, anything. The same people with cartoon steam coming out of their ears about this are, I'm guessing, the same ones that bitched about our lack of depth and options in seasons past. The truth is that a lot of players need time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the Premier League, and there's further nothing wrong with going with another look if what you're doing isn't working.


4. As we all know, though, the match went pear-shaped in the last 20 minutes. I was telling a few people yesterday that my homerism is just about dead now that I've joined the ranks of referees, and this is no different. It was a penalty, folks. Embellishing contact doesn't mean contact wasn't there - Bellerin slyly nudged their guy in the back when he was on the dead run. The worst bit is that it wasn't even that dangerous of a run - there were other defenders back, and it wasn't straight at goal. Hector's still a kid and all, but he has to get better at on-the-fly decisions like this.

Anyway, it was a penalty, and Cech was in goal for us, so of course Troy Deeney scored. I defend Cech a lot, and rightfully so, but he tips his dive on PKs as I've said on here many times before. It's frustrating.

It was basically all Watford from then on, the first warning shot coming in the 82nd when a deflected shot caught Cech going the wrong way, but rebounded off the post. Then, Laurent Koscielny went off for Rob Holding, having picked up some kind of a knock. Outstanding.

Finally, at the death, they scored. It was one of those pinball deals - Cech brilliantly saved the first shot, BFG deflected the second, but it came out to another of their guys to hammer it into the empty net. Bugger. The worst bit, though? The first shot was offside. I mean, if Lacazette was off earlier this season when his big toe was beyond the last defender, then this one was too.

We just don't seem to be getting any luck this season...like, at all. I hope this shit evens out, and quick-like.


5. Like I said, this was never going to be an easy match. While you need about 10-12 matches for the table to reflect any kind of objective reality, Watford are currently in 4th place. Their goal differential is 0, meaning this isn't entirely sustainable, but on the other hand they're not Sutton United or anything, either. We saw it yesterday - they're a fairly decent lot who play good football at times. Losing away to these guys isn't some kind of international disgrace.

On the other hand, that's now three losses on the season for us, two of which were utterly preventable. However, when you ask yourself what our realistic expectations are for the season, you should get some perspective out of that. We're not winning the title - the second we re-signed Arsene, we were condemning ourselves to two more years without being seriously in that conversation.

Going back the last few seasons, as far as fourth place goes: Liverpool lost 6 last year, Manchester City lost 10 (!) the season previous, and United lost 8 the year before that. We're not doomed as far as that goes, but we are losing a little bit of our margin for error.

But, we truly need to shit or get off the pot where it comes to Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and if they are no longer the answer, we need some kind of creative force to take advantage of the talent we have at forward. I mean, that first half was *dreadful* - workmanlike, almost Stoke-esque.

There's work to do.

Preview by Numbers: Watford v. Arsenal


Vicarage Road, Watford
Saturday, October 14
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Neil Swarbrick
    • Assistants: Scott Ledger and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Graham Scott
  • This Match, Last Year: Watford 1 - 3 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 14 Arsenal wins, 11 Watford wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-L-W-D-W-W
  • Watford's League Form: W-D-W-L-W-D
Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mustafi (hamstring,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Alexis (match fitness,) Kolašinac (hip,) Koscielny (Achilles,) Chambers (hip) 
  • The worst news out of the international break comes from Germany, where Shkodran Mustafi hurt his hamstring in a meaningless qualifier against Azerbaijan. He'll miss four to six weeks, so eight weeks.
  • To make matters worse at the back, doubts remain over Laurent Koscielny, who you may recall will forever be dealing with a chronic Achilles injury, and now Sead Kolašinac has a hip concern.
  • Calum Chambers, who might be in line for an appearance if both Mustafi and Koscielny can't play, has been hobbled by a hip injury all season himself and is doubtful.
  • So, at the worst, it'll be Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker, and Rob Holding.
  • In good news, Mesut Özil (knee) and Danny Welbeck (groin) should both be back to full fitness.
  • Arsène Wenger was unsure about the status of some of his players as of yesterday's presser, as Alexis Sánchez, for example, had not yet returned from international duty. At least Welbeck could start in his place if he's short of fitness.
  • I didn't hear anything about Francis Coquelin's hamstring injury, so I'll assume he's still out.
Predicted XI: Čech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Welbeck, Lacazette.

Watford Squad News

Out: Kaboul (thigh,) Hoban (knee,) Cathcart (knee,) Chalobah (knee,) Success (knee)
Doubts: Carrillo (match fitness,) Prödl (hamstring)

  • Sebastian Prödl picked up a hamstring injury on international duty back in September and is about a 25% chance to return to Watford's lineup here.
  • André Carrillo is a late return from international duty with Peru and is a doubt in the same way Alexis Sánchez is.
  • Younes Kaboul is out with a thigh problem. In September, a specialist determined that surgery was not necessary, but the rehab may be extensive.
  • Watford have four players out with knee injuries: Isaac Success will be out for four to six weeks. Tommie Hoban has no timeframe for a return. Nathaniel Chalobah is expected back some time during this calendar year, but it's at least January for Craig Cathcart.

Predicted XI: Gomes, Femenía, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas, Doucouré, Capoue, Carrillo, Cleverley, Richarlison, Gray.

Current Form
  • Arsenal rebounded nicely from two losses in August to climb up to fifth in the Premier League table. They trail fourth place Chelsea on goal difference.
  • Don't sleep on Watford, though. They are only a point back of Arsenal, sitting eighth in the table. They trail Burnley and Liverpool on goal difference themselves.
  • Arsenal are unbeaten across all competitions since their 4-0 loss at Liverpool, but they still have not scored a goal away from home in the Premier League this season.
  • Watford have only lost one league game so far this season, but it was by six goals at home to Manchester City. So, you can see why they might trail on goal difference.
Match Facts
  • Arsenal and Watford split their league meetings last season, with each side winning away from home.
  • Arsenal won 3-1 at Vicarage Road last August. Santi Cazorla put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot within two minutes and the Gunners led 3-0 at halftime. Watford pulled a goal back on 57 minutes, but that ended the scoring.
  • Watford returned the favor at the Emirates in January, taking a 2-0 lead inside a quarter of an hour. Alex Iwobi pulled a goal back on 58 minutes, but the Gunners could not find an equalizer.
  • Overall, Arsenal's record against Watford is mixed; in 19 league encounters, both sides have won nine with one draw.
The Referee
  • The referee is Lancashire-based Neil Swarbrick.
  • This is the first time Arsenal have seen Swarbrick this year.
  • Last year, Swarbrick worked only two Arsenal matches, both against West Brom. Arsenal won 1-0 at the Emirates and lost 3-1 at the Hawthorns.
  • This is also the first time Watford have seen Swarbrick this year.
  • Watford split their matches with Swarbrick last year as well, winning 2-1 over Leicester, but losing 2-0 at Stoke.
Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Liverpool v. Manchester United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Burnley v. West Ham United; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Stoke City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Huddersfield Town; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Bournemouth; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Sunday (early): Brighton & Hove Albion v. Everton; American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Newcastle United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Monday (night): Leicester City v. West Bromwich Albion; King Power Stadium, Leicester
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and sixth planet from the sun. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for information about his many, many moons.

One Thought: Tangentially Related At Best to Arsenal 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion



"Just a second where we're leaving all this shit behind.
Just a second but it's leaving just this much in mind:
To resist despair, the second makes you see.
To resist despair, because you can't change everything.
To resist despair in this world is, what it is what it is what is to be free..."

- Operation Ivy "Sound System"


A few weeks back, I said on here that match reports are going to have to...evolve...shall we say, due to my ongoing adventure in refereeing soccer matches all over the lower New York area on the weekends. Along those lines, the only bit I saw from this one was a clip of the second goal, featuring that other-worldly back-flick assist from Alexis Sanchez. My general plan for these over the next few months was to talk less about the actual things that happened in the game in question, and more using what happened in the match to talk about some larger point about the team, football in general, that sort of thing. I had a rough outline in mind for this particular edition, centering on Brighton hitting the post early on - I will at some point definitely get back to that idea about luck and how much it determines outcomes in a low-scoring sport such as this one.

But, then, Las Vegas happened.

Given that I possess some degree of perspective and humanity, I can't bring myself to drone on about statistical variance and how this sort of thing clouds supporters' judgment of the team and of individual players at times. This football lark is so damn important and central to our lives, right up to the point where it doesn't fucking matter at all.

Well, on second thought, that might be artlessly stated. The nuts and bolts of football - who won, such-and-such is ace, that referee is a wanker - of course, that's the bit that recedes to insignificance when the darker side of real life roars into the forefront. The other aspects that we often take for granted, however, matter an unbelievably great deal.

The thing is, it's difficult at times to see the point of keeping on when it feels like evil always wins. We live in exhausting, troubled times...times that I can't say I could fathom five or ten years ago, when the world felt more centered. I fully understand how imperfect humans are. Hell, I am one, after all. But the sequence of events and decisions that can occur in a person's soul to get them to a point where they're capable of  doing what that man did? It's incomprehensible. It's the kind of thing that makes one feel helpless, small and insignificant. At the surface, it makes a mockery of the idea of any kind of balance in the fabric of the universe.

But, take a breath. Stop. Think. We come back to football, now, to those seemingly-auxiliary features of the experience. The picture I used for this post is old, done by design. It was taken in front of the Blind Pig after some random match on some random day, an indeterminate number of years ago. One moment in time, among the uncountable number that have made up the ten years of our supporter's club's existence, and the formative years before it at Nevada Smith's. At that bleak and gray surface level where despair perpetuates, it doesn't register as worthy of a second glance. However, go back to that breathe-stop-think bit, and look for it. There's power here.

There are two people in this photo who are about to be married later this month. They met here, doing this, screaming in unison at the latest Manuel Almunia clanger or Denilson midfield disasterclass. Just a bunch of people going to watch the football, and all of a sudden it's the rest of two peoples' lives. Fight past the seeming banality of that and *think* about it for a second. It's astonishing. It's awesome. It resonates. Holy shit, I was there as that happened and evolved.

There are some in this photo that I haven't seen in years, or once or twice at most. I miss them terribly. But, thanks to the magic of social media I know they're out there doing their thing, as disparate as that may be. Some are now married, some are killing it at their jobs, some are off exploring the far corners of the world. Whatever it is, it's a great comfort to know they're there, and that they're happy. I'm proud to say that they're my mates, whatever geographic or chronological distance they may be away.

Conversely, there are two different people shown here that I recently ran into again after a significant amount of time. One came to O'Hanlon's on a trip back up to New York, where he became engaged to a lovely woman. The other, I turned up to referee a few matches and there's his mug standing there in one of the goals. You know, it gets lost in the immediacy of the act, but catching up with old friends is a joy matched by few other things in this life. It buttresses a part of the soul that romance or money or slices of NYC pizza leaves unattended.

One woman here, who I also miss terribly, is about to give birth. We also like the same baseball team, who just had the type of horror-show season that we as Arsenal supporters are lucky to have not experienced in our lifetimes (in most cases). I truly hope she hasn't been able to see the games out there in Leeds.

One man here crossed the finish line to parenthood a bit before, and has been a father for a little less than a year. New life! Here! Existing and breathing and...well...pooping everywhere, unless I miss my guess.

Then for something completely different, I almost literally came to blows with one guy here over an NHL playoff game, but I type that with a smile on my face. That's just so fundamentally HIM, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes brothers gotta hug, and sometimes brothers gotta fight.

The woman in the top left is as Arsenal as it gets, the torch passed down to her from her father, who supported the club himself going back to when he was a child. It's a literal connection to our history, to the earliest days of the club. It lives and breathes in us. I think about it sometimes, as I'm watching our current lot...it's not that different from the sepia-toned pictures of the folks in suits and flat caps packed like sardines on the old terraces.

There's so many more stories that this picture can tell, stories of amazing people and shared camaraderie, of title wins and the corresponding jumpy screamy beery celebrations, of shared heartbreak. THAT night in Paris. THAT night in Copenhagen. The stunned silence and welled-up tears in the aftermath of THAT fucking League fucking Cup fucking Final. The Bar End of O'Hanlon's, linked arm in arm to will Lukasz Fabianski and the boys to see off Wigan in that FA Cup Semifinal penalty shootout. The Invincibles. Our songs for the bartenders pouring our pints, or the songs sung by the band that the punk kids over there in the corner formed. Going to Papaya Dog or Artichoke at halftime. Oh god, that awful man at Nevada's who hounded you if you didn't have a new pint in your hand every 2.4 seconds.

OK, I get it, I'm taking you down some winding side roads here. Enough with the scenic route, I can hear you saying...what's the point? Despair...bleakness...evil....hopelessness...these things are monolithic. They're big and brash and rage with hurricane force all at once. It seems like an unwinnable fight because of the size and scope of it all. But, goodness and light and hope and love, these are manifested in small, everyday things. You don't even notice them if you're not looking for them. It can add up awfully quickly though, if you let it. It's like that old saw about how much a ton of feathers weighs compared to a ton of lead.

Again, it's just a bunch of people turning up to watch a bunch of dudes kick a ball around. One infinitesimal part of life, but with the power to contain this much. Friendship, love, a shared sense of purpose and identity. These are things you can cling to in times like this. This is what matters.

These may be scary, awful times, but I got all of this, and that ain't nothin'. 

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion


Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, October 1
7:00 a.m. EDT, 12:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Stuart Burt and Ian Hussin
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 3 - 1 Brighton (February 5, 1983)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 11 Arsenal wins, 2 Brighton wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-L-W-D-W
  • Brighton's League Form: L-L-D-W-L-W
Arsenal slide into the international break with a tricky home fixture against Brighton, tricky in that they will have just sent 18 players to Belarus three days prior. Of course, many first team regulars were left behind in London, so Arsenal will hope that they can pick up full points despite the club's travels and enter the oncoming break by extending their winning streak to four and their unbeaten run to seven, across all competitions.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Iwobi (thigh,) Chambers (hip,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)

  • It's "as you were" with the injury list, though without rotation for this match, there's even less to talk about now as there was on Thursday.
  • Arsenal made nine changes to the side that beat West Brom before the trip to Belarus, retaining only Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny.
  • Mesut Özil has not started a match since the Bournemouth victory due to injury. If he comes back to the XI here, then Aaron Ramsey will slide back in the formation and Elneny most likely drops.
Predicted XI: Čech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Brighton Squad News

Out: Kayal (leg,) Baldock (calf,) Sidwell (back)
Doubts: Murray (ankle)
Suspended: Hemed (first of three, violent conduct)

  • Glenn Murray has returned to first team training after an ankle ligament injury.
  • However, Tomer Hemed will serve the first match of a three-match ban after he was seen on video review to stomp on DeAndre Yedlin. Match officials missed the incident at the time. Hemed had the only goal in Brighton's 1-0 win.
  • Beram Kayal, out with a leg injury, is hopeful of getting a run out with the Under-23's soon, but he's short of fitness for this one. Kayal suffered a leg break in Brighton's final pre-season friendly.
  • Steve Sidwell (remember him?) is out until possibly November with a lower back injury.
  • Sam Baldock won't be back until after the international break. His timetable was described as a month back on September 14.

Predicted XI: Ryan, Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner, Knockaert, Stephens, Pröpper, March, Groß, Brown.

Current Form

  • Arsenal have not yielded a league goal since they forgot they had to play Liverpool back on August 27.
  • They have now kept Premier League clean sheets against Bournemouth, Chelsea, and West Bromwich Albion.
  • Arsenal's only goals allowed during their current unbeaten run, which now stands at six, have come in Europe.
  • Brighton did not start off life in the Premier League on the right foot, losing their opening fixtures to Manchester City and Leicester.
  • They've cobbled together seven points since then, with a draw at Watford and wins over West Brom and Newcastle. Those seven points are good for 13th in the table.
  • They did, however, lose at Bournemouth twice in five days, first in the league and then later in the League Cup.
Match Facts
  • Brighton's most recent season in the top flight, prior to this one, was 1982/83.
  • Brighton won their match at home, 1-0, but lost 3-1 at Highbury in February of 1983.
  • Arsenal and Brighton have met in three FA Cup ties since then, all of which were played in Brighton.
  • In 1988, Arsenal were 2-1 winners.
  • In 2013, Olivier Giroud scored twice and Theo Walcott had a late winner, as Arsenal won 3-2.
  • In 2015, Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Tomáš Rosický scored, as Arsenal were again 3-2 winners.
The Referee
  • The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend.
  • I haven't made the "more like Kevin Enemy, amirite?" joke in a while, so I figured I'd just slip that in there.
  • Arsenal won two and lost one with Friend last year, though the loss was a League Cup tie against Southampton.
  • The first win came 3-1 at Watford early in the season; the second was the 5-0 win at Southampton in the FA Cup.
  • Brighton had Friend very recently (10 days ago to the date of this preview, in fact.) Friend took charge of their aforementioned League Cup loss at Bournemouth, which came in extra time.
Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Huddersfield Town v. Tottenham Hotspur; John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Leicester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Crystal Palace; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Southampton; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Watford; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Swansea City; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Everton v. Burnley; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Newcastle United v. Liverpool; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and an organic compound. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for... okay, there's nothing too organic about the Twitter account, I guess...

Five Thoughts: Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion and BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal



As a general point of information, these may unfortunately become more spotty over the next several months. I've mentioned on here before that I'm a new referee, and Saturdays/Sundays are where the games are, oddly enough. Since I don't have TV, and in turn have no DVR, I won't always be able to see all these things.


1. I didn't see a minute of the West Brom game, for the reasons outlined above, but from what I read it was one of those bitty old matches where luck was somewhat on our side for once. The clip I saw of Shkrodan Mustafi's tackle in the penalty area looked like a fairly stonewall penalty to me, but I can see why the referee thought advantage was on there - it took a brilliant save from Petr Cech to stop them from scoring anyway. Things also may have been different had Nacho Monreal not apparently studied in the Bruce Lee School of Acrobatic Goal Line Clearances.

On the other hand, fuck Tony Pulis in the face.

As far as the good guys go, we can't complain with Alexandre Lacazette finding the net two more times. It's funny how people expect any new player who cost a few bob to immediately send goals raining from the heavens, like these aren't humans who need time to adjust to a new country, new language, new teammates, new manager, new everything. If Laca is scoring this frequently now, I'm kinda excited to see what he can come up with once he's settled in.


2. Moving on to today's match, the win against Koln was always going to give us a little leeway to deprioritize this one. Arsene's team selection showed it too, as the starting XI were basically all the first-team guys that never play, and the bench looked like recess at the local middle school. Given how difficult it is to go away to these far-flung corners of Eastern Europe and get results, I honestly would have been OK with whatever happened today.

I mean, Red Star should be at least 4 points, preferably 6. Away to Koln might be tough, but these dudes should be a win at home. Getting out of this group shouldn't exactly be neurosurgery, is what I'm saying.


3. Anyway, if this lot have won their league 11 years on the spin, which they apparently have, the other mobs must be worse than the pub teams north of Hadrian's Wall. Theo had already hit the post by the time 8 minutes were gone, and a minute later he had the ball in the net. BATE were all over the place, and were undone by a simple attack culminating in a Jack Wilshere cross to the back post, where Feo was unattended. Easy peasy.

Not as easy as the next one though, where, my god, we got on David Ospina's case for his poor clearance. At least that was on the dead run after coming miles out of his area to deal with something his defense couldn't. I can kind of understand it. This time, the lad in BATE's goal just kind of shoveled a crap ball to Walcott, under no pressure whatsoever. Theo won't have an easier goal in his career, I imagine.


4. A minute later, Rob Holding scored his first goal for the club, shinning one in off a corner kick. Honestly, this one was largely over as a contest after that, even though they annoyingly scored a couple of goals later on. He's had a rough time in the beginning of the season, so this will surely do the kid's confidence the world of good.

That reminds me though...is Calum Chambers still here? Is he hurt or something? You'd figure this should be the kind of game he's playing in.

Then, of course, we fall asleep at 0-3 and fail to contest a simple cross from the byline. Nothing Ospina could do about a point-blank header with that kind of pace on it from 10 yards out. Unreal.

The home side may have gotten themselves back into it before the half was over, but Ospina made a couple of decent saves to stop any of that nonsense from happening. Once we got a penalty early in the second half, this really was over.


5. The second half otherwise just kinda...happened. Yep.


On to the next!

Preview by Numbers: BATE Borisov v. Arsenal, Europa League Group Matchday 2


Borisov Arena, Barysaw
Thursday, September 28
1:00 p.m. EDT, 18:00 BST
  • Match Officials from Poland
    • Referee: Daniel Stefanski
    • Assistants: Krzysztof Myrmus and Dawid Igor Golis
    • 4th Official: Adam Kupsik
    • Additional Assistants: Bartosz Frankowski and Zbigniew Dobrynin
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's Overall Form: L-W-W-D-W-W
  • Borisov's Overall Form: W-W-W-D-W-W
Work and fixture congestion are slamming me hard right now, so you're getting the bullet point version of these match notes.

I'll try to remain as sardonic as possible.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Iwobi (thigh,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Chambers (hip)
  • Mesut Özil only appeared from the bench against West Brom on Monday. However, he won't be on the trip anyway.
  • Francis Coquelin remains out through the international break with the hamstring injury he picked up against Bournemouth. Fixture congestion could start to become a bit of an issue for the players forced to go out every match in the center of midfield. As such, I'd expect Jack Wilshere to slide in here.
  • Calum Chambers likely remains unavailable, having picked up a hip injury against Doncaster last week.
  • Wenger is expected to go with a mix of first-teamers and youth, but Arsenal don't have enough depth at certain positions. Ainsley Maitland-Niles should start, but Alex Iwobi has a thigh knock.
  • Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez, Granit Xhaka, and Alexandre Lacazette were all left behind.
Predicted XI: Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerín, Maitland-Niles, Wilshere, Elneny, Nelson, Walcott, Giroud.

Borisov Squad News

Out: None
  • There appear to be no injury concerns for Borisov, at least according to my sources.
  • As such, it would be a surprise if they made any changes to the side that drew against Red Star Belgrade on matchday one.
Predicted XI: Scherbitski, Rios, Gayduschik, Milunović, Polyakov, Volodko, Dragun, Ivanić, Gordeychuk, Stasevich, Rodionov.

Current Form
  • Arsenal appear to have righted the ship since their 4-0 loss at Liverpool; they're unbeaten in five since then and have conceded once across all competitions.
  • That one goal was, of course, David Ospina's adventure outside of the box against Köln on matchday one.
  • In the process, Arsenal have climbed from 16th in the Premier League table to 7th. They are three points back of Chelsea for 3rd.
  • Belarus's season runs from April to November, so Borisov are 23 matches into their domestic season already.
  • They have a four-match winning streak in the league, but currently sit two points back of top spot with seven matches to play.
  • Borisov originally qualified for the second qualifying round of the Champions League, where they defeated Alashkert from Armenia before falling to Slavia Prague on away goals.
  • They then fell to the play-off round for the Europa League, where they book their group stage ticket by defeating Ukrainian side Oleksandriya.
Match Facts
  • This is the first time Arsenal will face BATE Borisov in UEFA competition.
  • Indeed, Arsenal have never faced a side from Belarus at all before tonight.
  • Borisov have only once faced English competition, in the 2009 Europa League group stage against Everton. In a bit of a twist, the away side won each match.
The Referee
  • The match officials are from Poland.
  • The referee is Daniel Stefanski.
  • Stefanski has never worked a match for either side and has never worked any UEFA-level match involving a Belarussian side either.
  • The only English sides Stefanski has seen came in the UEFA Youth League, where he worked a Chelsea win over Schalke in 2013 and a Manchester City loss to Juventus in 2015.
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a a diagnostic instrument for measuring the curvature of the anterior surface of the cornea. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat if you think you might have astigmatism.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Bromwich Albion


Emirates Stadium, London
Monday, September 25
3:00 p.m. EDT, 20:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Robert Madley
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 0 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 70 Arsenal wins, 38 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W // W-L-L-W-D
  • West Brom's League Form: L // W-W-D-L-D
We're in the middle of a heavy run of fixtures right now, which is what happens when you're competing on three fronts. Since coming out of the last international break, Arsenal's fixture list placed matches on Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Monday, Thursday, Sunday, a list we are currently halfway through. Arsenal's regulars will have had a good amount of rest between last week's trip to Stamford Bridge and this week's Monday night home game against West Brom. From there, they'll travel to Belarus on Thursday before a trip to Brighton at noon on Sunday (that's at something like negative 2 a.m. in New York, FYI.) That takes us into another international break.

Arsenal have climbed from 16th in the table to 12th since their loss at Anfield, but they are only three points back of Chelsea for third place.While the table has made for some bleak reading so far this year, I've been encouraged by other results. Arsenal were in with a shout to take a win from Stamford Bridge for the first time since the Mesozoic Era; that's enough to convince me that Arsenal are still in contention to be a top four club, regardless of what the media's #narrative will try to tell you.

But, to finish in the top four, you have to win the games you are supposed to win. West Brom at home is one of those fixtures, where nothing less than three points will suffice.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Chambers (hip,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (knee,) Özil (knee)

Jack Wilshere completed 90 for the first time since... well, maybe the later part of the Mesozoic Era? Or the early part of the Cenozoic? It's been a while. That's really it for the "good news," though.

Calum Chambers came off against Doncaster with a hip injury that will keep him out for a week or two. Elsewhere, from the weekend, Danny Welbeck hurt his groin against Chelsea. Arsène Wenger has said, "his target is Watford," which means Arsenal will be without him through the next international break and it appears England will be without him as well.

Theo Walcott has some concerns over a knee injury, but was not likely to start the league fixture anyway. Mesut Özil is back in full training from his knee problem and should be ready to feature by Monday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

West Brom Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Chadli (thigh,) Burke (thigh,) Livermore (personal,) Brunt (calf)

A lot of doubts in West Brom's injury list, as they have no players ruled completely out, but four who about 50/50. Jake Livermore could return after he was given an extended break by Tony Pulis after the last international break, with Pulis saying, "physically he is fine but mentally, he just feels a little bit tired." It's been a difficult few years for Livermore, who tested positive for cocaine in 2015, which he had begun using to cope after his newborn son died during birth the day after he started for Hull City in their FA Cup Final loss.

Oliver Burke, Nacer Chadli and Chris Brunt are all doubts for this match, though Gareth McAuley has returned to West Brom's XI. Kieran Gibbs will be given a start against his former club in this one, while Gareth Barry is expected to break the Premier League record for appearances when he starts in this one.

Predicted XI: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Barry, Phillips, Rodriguez, Livermore, Rondón.

Current Form

Arsenal have responded decently well after the international break, following that 4-0 thumping at Anfield. Since then, the Gunners have racked up a 3-0 win over Bournemouth, a 3-1 win over Köln, a 0-0 draw at Chelsea, and a 1-0 win over Doncaster in the League Cup. There have been positives in the league fixtures, but the midweek cup ties featuring heavy squad rotation have left quite a bit to be desired, even though they both ended in victories. It feels like Arsenal are currently doing just enough to keep their heads above water, even though their performance at Stamford Bridge was better than our admittedly low expectations. On the bright side, since shipping four at Anfield, the only goal Arsenal have conceded was David Ospina's first half adventure against Köln.

In the league, West Bromwich Albion are ahead of Arsenal in the table by two positions and a single point. Their League Cup campaign ended on Wednesday night at home, at the hands of Manchester City, but they did open their Premier League schedule with two straight victories, over Bournemouth and Burnley. The Baggies are winless since then, however, with draws against Stoke and West Ham as well as a loss to Brighton; that was the Seagulls' first top flight win since their last relegation in 1983.

Match Facts

Both sides split the two league meetings between them last season, with both clubs winning at home. The sides met at the Emirates on Boxing Day and Arsenal left it late before winning 1-0. Olivier Giroud, making his first league start of the season, nodded a Mesut Özil cross past Ben Foster in the 86th minute to give the Gunners a very difficult three points. Ben Foster made 10 saves in the loss.

The reverse fixture at the Hawthorns was one of Arsenal's low points of the season (they proceeded to get lower at Crystal Palace, however.) Arsenal seemed completely unprepared for how West Brom came to play, despite the fact that they've been facing Tony Pulis for years across a variety of teams. You'll recall that this was the game where the Wenger Out airplane banner was followed by the Wenger In airplane banner. Craig Dawson scored twice from corners as the Baggies won 3-1. It was Arsenal's fourth defeat in five league games.

Arsenal have won seven 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 West Yorkshire-based Robert Madley. Arsenal have already seen Madley once so far this season, for their Community Shield win over Chelsea. On that day, Madley showed a red card to Pedro in the 80th minute. Madley has already shown four red cards in five matches so far this season, two more than any other Select Group officials.

Madley took charge of three Arsenal matches last season: the 2-1 win over Southampton (aided by a late Arsenal penalty,) the 2-1 FA Cup win over Preston North End (aided by another late Arsenal goal, though not a penalty,) and the 3-1 loss at Anfield (aided by nothing.)

West Brom have also already seen Madley once this season, for their season opening 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the Hawthorns. However, West Brom did not see Madley for a single match at all last season. Prior to the season opener, Madley had not worked a West Brom match since a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on the final day of the 2015/16 season.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): West Ham United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Huddersfield Town; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Everton v. Bournemouth; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Crystal Palace; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Manchester United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Chelsea; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Watford; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Liverpool; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (late): Brighton & Hove Albion v. Newcastle United; American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a four-act play. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for the dramatic conclusion.

Five Thoughts: Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers


This is, err, not going to be super in-depth. If we're being honest here, I've already forgotten 99% of what happened in that match. Who'd we play again, anyway?


1. I didn't get to the pub until about 10 minutes into the first half - enough to miss Olivier Giroud's wonderful scissors-volley that smashed against the crossbar at any rate - and then was distracted for much of the second half, as well. In other words, I'm not going to have much in the way of in-depth analysis this time around.

Thing is, an old mate from the Nevada's days and on through until a year or two ago was back up around these parts from North Carolina, and he happened to pop into O'Hanlon's to see if anyone was around. Truth be told, I missed large swathes of the second half catching up with him, meeting his new fiancee, etc.

It's a bit cliche to say it perhaps, but it is a reminder that some things are more important than a game of football. Having been in and around the Arsenal NYC setup since the beginning (and before that, to be fair), I can say with confidence that the friends that I've made and the moments shared with them far, far, far outweigh what happens in any one given game.


2. That said, what a starting XI this was, eh? If we thought the Koln game was darts-at-a-dartboard, this was more throwing the names of the squad into a blender and hitting "puree".




I literally had no idea that Calum Chambers played in this one, though unfortunately for him this is the last we'll see of him in a while, as he aggravated an injury somewhere in this one. Meanwhile, Rob Holding got though this one without calamity, as did David Ospina.

Meanwhile, those clamoring for Reiss Nelson to be more involved were granted their wish, though he didn't make much of an impact on the proceedings. There'll be better days for him, I'm sure.

The main headline, though, is that Jack Wilshere made it through 90 minutes and looked generally pretty good in doing so. He's been remarkably patient in waiting for his chance, especially given that even his loan spell at Bournemouth last season wasn't especially fruitful for him. There's still the makings of a truly great player in there, and it's not like our central midfield positions are locked in by players in mega-awesome form. All he can do is take his chances while they come, and you have to think this one was mission accomplished.

Consistency is now going to be the key for him.


3. On the other hand, Alexis playing in this thing was more than a little weird, especially as he's only been a sub in the Premier League games. The journos are already having a field day with this whole thing, too.

Typically, when Arsene goes to great pains to say that Thing X isn't true, then usually it means Thing X is *absolutely* the case. If so, honestly, I'm not as bothered about it as you might think I'd be. Competing on all fronts is going to be difficult in any case for us, but even assuming this is only a temporary demotion, the Chelsea match showed that some of our depth players are better than the more hysterical of us have given them credit for. And, if it means we have a world-class player to help us through the early rounds of the cups, then even better.

Really, the main goal was keeping him out of the clutches of an already-rampant Manchester City, anyway.


4. The first half was largely tolerable, and the goal was well-taken once it happened. Alexis crossed one in to Theo Walcott on the back post, who then dribbled past a few dudes and dinked it over the onrushing keeper. Easy peasy. Watching their # 8 go utterly into screensaver mode was especially enjoyable. Poor lad's brain was broken. But, and maybe I'm wrong here, we didn't really create a whole hell of a lot else against a club struggling in League One, and that was honestly kind of annoying.

If the first half was annoying, the second was downright problematic. I know we ended up throwing on Alex Iwobi and Chris Willock at one point, but I don't think either managed to pull up any trees, to put it diplomatically. Meanwhile, they saw a lot more of the ball, and I did see one bit where one of their lads either hit the crossbar, or Ospina had to tip it onto there. My god, can you imagine the Twitter meltdown if this thing had to go to extra time?

Hell, that goes double given that Man City, Man United and Chelsea all had easy wins. But, let's give ourselves a little credit here - we played an "experimental" line-up here, but take a look at how...regular-ish...these are:


City: Bravo - Danilo, Stones, Mangala - Delph, Yaya Toure, Gundogan, Sterling, Bernado Silva - Sane, Jesus

United: Romero - Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind - Herrera, Carrick, Lingard, Mata - Martial, Rashford

Chelsea: Caballero - Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta - Fabregas, Bakayoko, Kenedy, Musonda - Batshuayi, Hazard


It's bizarre how seriously they're taking this, aren't they?


5. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun to watch, but we're through to the next round of the League Cup and we gave some players some minutes. I think we learned that Jack is starting to get more ready for prime time, whereas perhaps Nelson might need a bit more seasoning first.

Other than that, don't sweat this one. It's the League Cup, and if the other big teams want to throw strong lineups at it, that's their prerogative. Us, we'll take three points on Monday against West Brom and then worry about bigger things as they come. That's all. 

Five Thoughts: Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal



Only five thoughts this time around, as this is days late (my bad) and there were a relative few number of talking points in a match that was open, exciting, but in the end an utter stalemate.

Not that it was a bad thing given the circumstances, mind you.


1. Both sides had their spells of domination and their weak moments, but neither side can honestly complain about 0-0. There's a bit of "what if?" that either club could point to - the Chavs could only bring on the excellent Eden Hazard as a late sub as he works his way back to match fitness, while we could say the same about Alexis Sanchez...and Mesut Ozil didn't even make the 18.

Gun to my head, though, I think we just about shaded it over the 90 minutes were you to score this on points like a boxing match (though it's probably a blessing that we don't, given Adelaide Byrd's reality-challenged 118-110 card in the Canelo-GGG fight...anyway, I digress). Antonio Conte is a brilliant manager and his record speaks for itself, but there may have been a little hubris involved in playing Cesc Fabregas in central midfield instead of in some kind of shadow striker deal, or just behind the target man. Then again, I don't know if anyone could have predicted that Arsenal would be set up properly for a tough away match, and that the guys would do their jobs to perfection. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka look like they may finally be building some chemistry in the center of the park, as they often overwhelmed Chelsea's 1.5-man unit of Cesc and N'Golo Kante.

There's been a bunch of takes out there about this being two dropped points for us, about how we never really went for it, etc and so on. You'll note that, ten times out of ten, these are the same people losing their minds at our "tactical naivety" when we're bombing men forward in matches like this. You take your chances in a game like this if they're presented to you, but most of the time if you come away with a point from a place like Stamford Bridge, you've done exceptionally well.


2. That said, pardon me while I continue to gush like a Justin Bieber fan about Sead Kolasinac. This guy...THIS GUY...I think is my favorite Arsenal player since, hell, Dennis Bergkamp? The Guardian just did a piece the other day about how jarring it is to see this guy play for Arsenal precisely because we've been screaming out for a player of this ilk for so long. Seeing Chelsea guys just bounce off of him is about as much joy as I can have short of a night with Scarlett Johanssen.

Don't think for one second that David Luiz's cowardly challenge was an accident, or that it was a coincidence that the Bosnian Tank was the man targeted. A streetwise club like Chelsea are going to try and nip something like this in the bud before it ever really gets going, but, well, you're going to need heavier ordinance than Sideshow fucking Bob to bring down a tank, now aren't you? Let's all watch the tape of the World Cup 7-1 again and watch him cry some more. Fucking muppet.

Speaking of, it was refreshing to see the straight red card come out with no hesitation by referee Michael Oliver. Again, as I begin my journey in the referee game myself, I'm beginning to appreciate games like this much more. Even when he called fouls on us, I found myself nodding in agreement. He had a *storming* game, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


3. Alexandre Lacazette missed the one real presentable chance that we had, but, he is a human after all. My dude is a deadly finisher but even the best miss a few here or there. Nothing to really worry about. But, on a day of generally good performances, Alex Iwobi's stinker stuck out more than it might otherwise have done, perhaps.

I don't know if this is a blip or if this is an indicator that he's seriously stalled out, but either way stick a pin in this one. I don't know if he's going to get the consistent number of minutes that he'd get out on loan somewhere, but he also hasn't shown enough (in my estimation) to make a case for keeping others out of the team. Danny Welbeck can be frustrating at times with his end product, but he has other qualities that help his case a lot - his pace and power stretches defenses, which in turn opens up space for other players. We can work with that. But, Iwobi doesn't offer one-tenth of that right now, and it's concerning.

It was also a little unfortunate that Lacazette was the one to come off when Alexis came on, but I get why Arsene did it. Again, away match at Stamford Bridge, the balance of the team has to be right. They'll get their day to play together, and I for one am looking forward to it.


4. While Chelsea didn't exactly overrun us like they've typically done at their gaff, it should be noted that Petr Cech had two excellent saves in there (I believe both were in the second half) to help keep it at 0-0.

I know I can get tedious with this at times, but it's my damn report, so:

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.


5. We go from one extreme to the other, as we safely take our haul of a borscht-flavored point from Stamford Bridge and go directly from there to a League Cup match against Doncaster Rovers. To give you an idea of what a black hole club that is, I legitimately thought they were still in the Championship - as it turns out, they were in League Two last season, where they were promoted up to League One for this campaign. 

If a tree falls in Doncaster, etc and so on.

I mean, I am a Football Manager addict, which includes often playing in the lower leagues. Give me any box score from any game in the top four divisions in England and I can generally at least recognize 2-3 players and tell you a little bit about them. With Donny, however, they don't have one...in the entire squad. I swear this has to be the most anonymous football club in the country, even if their club crest of "guy with a sword" is pretty damn badass. 

Also, according to Wikipedia, Doncaster and its environs should technically belong to Scotland because of the Treaty of Durham, circa 1136. That's amazing - they should push for that immediately. I don't care where they are in League One right now, put them in the SPL and there's a pretty good chance they could be runners-up. I'm serious, the SPL is a Chernobyl fire. 

Still, I could give a toss what happens there, though. Maybe we go a few rounds in and get our kids some playing time, but other than that I'm not that bothered. We have bigger fish to fry, yes?

Preview by Numbers: Chelsea v. Arsenal


Stamford Bridge, London
Sunday, September 17
8:30 a.m. EDT, 13:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Simon Bennett and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • This Match, Last Year: Chelsea 3 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 75 Arsenal wins, 62 Chelsea wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W // W-L-L-W
  • Chelsea's League Form: W-W // L-W-W-W
It got there in the end. By full-time, quality (in one half, at least) beat out quantity (of away supporters in the ground), 3-1. With that, we'll set aside the Europa League for two weeks before traveling to Belarus for matchday two.

That brings us to the task at hand ahead of us: Chelsea away. Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal, even if the media would like you to forget that Arsenal have handled the Blues well otherwise since the start of last season. Antonio Conté has bested Arsène Wenger just once in four tries, but that was the sole meeting at Stamford Bridge out of the four.

This match is going to tell us a lot about how the rest of the season is likely to unfold. If Arsenal win, then reports of their demise would have been greatly exaggerated. If Arsenal lose a close one, it's probably still going to fit straight into the media's #narrative. If Arsenal perform like they did at Anfield three weeks ago, then the media's drum-pounding about the club will never end, ever again. If it's a draw, well, nobody really wants that. Draws don't sell newspapers.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (calf)

It's obviously not ideal to play a Sunday afternoon match after a Thursday night match, especially one that started an hour later than it was supposed to. However, that's just something we're going to have to get used to this season. It's not like the Saturday lunchtime kick-offs after Wednesday European nights that we've had in the past are much different.

Still, Arsenal was able to rotate the squad plenty on Thursday, which means the likes of Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, and Laurent Koscielny (though, he was also suspended in Europe) can come back into the XI. I've heard rumors of Theo Walcott picking up a calf injury (I believe the TV cameras showed him with an ice pack on the bench after his removal.) There are some doubts on the fitness of Özil and Ramsey as well, but Arsène Wenger said earlier that they should be available.

I think the biggest question is how many defenders Wenger chooses to start. Twice this season now, Wenger has switched back to a back four at halftime. The switch worked on Thursday, but seriously did not at Anfield last month. The beauty about the predicted XI I pick below is that I'm hedging my bets and, depending on where Kolašinac slides in, it could work for either formation.

Predicted XI: Čech, Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Drinkwater (calf)

When the hell did Chelsea buy Danny Drinkwater?

...

September 1, apparently, for £35 million! Anyway, he's struggling with a calf problem and is likely not yet fit to make his Chelsea debut.

Chelsea, of course, rotated plenty in midweek as well, and the likes of David Luiz, Eden Hazard, and Álvaro Morata are likely to come back into the starting XI. Davide Zappacosta is making a push to start in place of Victor Moses after scoring on his full debut Tuesday night.

Predicted XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Zappacosta, Alonso, Bakayoko, Kanté, Pedro, Hazard, Morata.

Current Form

Arsenal maintained their 100% record at home with their 3-1 win over Köln yesterday, but they have nothing to show for their travels so far this year. The Gunners are winless away from the Emirates, though the sample size remains small: just the losses at Stoke and Liverpool to consider. Arsenal played well at Stoke and had an equalizer ruled offside, but they didn't show up at all in the other road game.

Chelsea have won 11 of their last 14 competitive fixtures, across both seasons and all competitions. Two of those non-wins came against Arsenal at Wembley, in the FA Cup Final and Community Shield; the latter, of course, was a draw decided on penalties. Chelsea then lost their opening match of the league season to Burnley, but have won every match since. They've beaten Spurs, Everton, and Leicester in the league and Qarabağ, the top club of Azerbaijan, in the Champions League. (Today, I learned that the Azeri language has that G with the hat on it from Turkish, but they're not pronounced the same.)

Match Facts

Arsenal have picked up three wins in four tries against Chelsea since the start of last season, including two wins at Wembley, mentioned above. Though, again, if you want to get really technical, it's two wins and a draw.

In last year's FA Cup Final, Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring early with a controversial goal in the fourth minute. Chelsea were reduced to 10-men on 68 minutes when a Victor Moses dive in the box was rewarded with a second yellow card. Even shorthanded, Chelsea had an equalizer through Diego Costa on 76 minutes, but Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal his second FA Cup winning goal in four years just three minutes later.

In the Community Shield to open this season, not-sent-off Victor Moses opened the score just after halftime, but it was Pedro who saw red in the 80th minute. Sead Kolašinac opened his Arsenal scoring account on the ensuing free kick to send the match to penalties, where Thibault Courtois idiotically went second and skied his spot kick. Arsenal won 4-1 on penalties.

Both sides split their league meetings last season. Arsenal ran riot over Chelsea at the Emirates last September, jumping out to a huge lead, with Alexis Sánchez pouncing on a Gary Cahill error in the 11th minute before Theo Walcott doubled the lead three minutes later. Mesut Özil added a third before halftime and Arsenal coasted to a 3-0 win.

At Stamford Bridge in February, Chelsea bludgeoned their way to an early lead, quite literally, as Marcos Alonso used his elbow to beat Hector Bellerín to a header on 13 minutes, forcing the Arsenal right back out of the game with a concussion to boot. Arsenal did well to keep the match close, but Francis Coquelin did not do well to keep Eden Hazard close on 53 minutes and the Belgian scored a wonderful individual goal to double the lead. Cesc Fàbregas made it three from a Petr Čech error on 85 minutes and Olivier Giroud scored a consolation goal in injury time.

Arsenal have not won at Stamford Bridge since that time John Terry fell down, which was October 29, 2011, a 5-3 Arsenal win. Chelsea have scored at least twice in eight consecutive games against Arsenal at the Bridge. Arsenal have only scored in three in those eight matches; one of them was the aforementioned 2011 win, another was in January of 2013, in which Theo Walcott scored a second half consolation goal as Chelsea won 2-1. The other was last year's match, where Arsenal scored a meaningless goal at the death.

The Referee

The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Arsenal's record with Oliver, overall, is quite poor. In fact, he was in the middle for many of Arsenal's worst moments this calendar year: 3-3 at Bournemouth, 0-3 at Crystal Palace, 0-2 at Tottenham. In the league, all-time, Arsenal have a record of four wins, seven draws, and eight losses with Oliver in the middle. Arsenal did win their most recent match with Oliver, 3-1 over Everton on the final day of the regular season, though they did not escape a red card to Laurent Koscielny in the process. To be fair, that call was correct, so you can't blame Oliver for it.

Michael Oliver was in charge of Arsenal's league win over Chelsea last season, however, though that came at the Emirates. It's on the road where Arsenal tend to struggle with Oliver, even as their road record in big away games has, by and large, improved in recent years.

Chelsea saw Oliver five times last season, winning four and losing only once, at the Emirates as mentioned. They defeated Tottenham 2-1 in November, Bradford City 4-0 in the FA Cup in January, Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup in March, and West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in May.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Bournemouth v. Brighton & Hove Albion; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday (early): Crystal Palace v. Southampton; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Huddersfield Town v. Leicester City; John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Burnley; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Stoke City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Watford v. Manchester City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Swansea City; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. Everton; Old Trafford, Manchester
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a retired midfielder. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate whether or not that just means he played in high school.

Ten Thoughts: Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln



You know, when we signed up for this Europa League lark, I don't know if anyone told us that we'd be the only club in the history of the competition to have four away games in a six-game group stage. What a bloody revolutionary idea. Or, maybe for the return leg, the population of London can descend on Koln and we can have our home leg there.

Fuck me, what a world we live in.


1. Anyway, yeah, still COMPLETELY alien to play in this thing. Mega-weird. The Sutton United match last season feels like a typical Boxing Day clash against Stoke or something by comparison.


2. It sure felt like a matchday squad that we'd turn out against some 12th-division club from the hinterlands of nowhere, though. David Ospina was in goal, Per Mertesacker was in the center of defense, and there was a rare Mohamed Elneny sighting. Alex Iwobi was on the left, and our bench had an average age of about four...to go along with the prodigal son, Jack Wilshere. All that was missing was Mathieu Debuchy - that'd have really have put the fear of god into their lot. THE POWER OF THE SULK COMPELS YOU.

Alexis Sanchez got what I think was his first start of the season as well, with Olivier Giroud up top. It wasn't the League Cup selection, it wasn't the starting XI with a little rotation...this was "darts at a dartboard" territory. This is the other "big" team in our group too - just you watch, poor old Charlie George will get yanked off the stadium tours and into a No. 10 shirt by the time BATE Borisov rolls around.

Can't imagine why our guys played the first 45 minutes like 11 blokes who had just been introduced to each other just before the opening kick-off. It's like the old territory days in pro wrestling where, because the good guys and the villains couldn't been seen together, they'd often meet for the first time after the opening bell of a match. "Hi, I'm Eddie Gilbert. Grab a headlock." Think back to the first day of your job, and imagine that in front of the population of western Germany banging drums and singing in that crap beery voice we football supporters do. Fuck me, I don't care how much you're paying me, I'd turn around and go home.


3. Speaking of, I have stayed off of Twitter today because my god, all I can envision is like 149,875 terrible war jokes about 20,000 Germans invading London and yeah, that'd end with me driving a railroad spike through my brain.


4. Anyway, what a clown show this was, huh? At the end of the day, is anyone at all surprised that this shambles of a football club wasn't able to handle crowd control for something like this? We can't work out how to do transfers, we turn a decision on the manager into a year-and-change-long soap opera...guess it stands to reason that they had no idea on how to handle the Great Koln Invasion of 2017.


In the end, I don't know whose fault this really was. Is it the club, who apparently have no conception on what supporters are like when they're not over-fed hedge fund managers and their trophy wives, there to slum it with "the lads", that is, if the lads weren't priced out back in 2006? Is it the season ticket holders who *clearly* flogged off their seat because my son, what would Muffy and Biff think if we were seen at...gasp...the Europa League? Because, and I hope I make myself clear with this, that lot can go get fucked sideways as well. They're probably the same ones who get the best viewing spots on the parade route when the boys are showing a big silver pot to the sky. A plague and a pox on all of their houses and clans.

It's astonishing. Try this shit in Eastern Europe and some carved-of-granite ex-Spetznaz guy is caving your skull in with a baton. Meanwhile, these guys are buying Arsenal shirts and getting into the home sections.

What a world we live in. Truly, madly, deeply.


5. As mentioned, the first half was a humanitarian disaster of Alderaan proportions. Rob Holding, poor kid, was the best Koln player on the pitch. Yes, that includes Ospina - I'm getting to him in a second. We're lucky that today's referee was both sensible and a bit on the lenient side, as our kid probably could have been booked twice inside of the first three minutes. You have to credit his useful enthusiasm, though...should have had two bookings in the time it takes me to eat a candy bar.

The Germans were oddly disinterested in attacking with any kind of numbers, but whenever they did you could safely assume that there was Holding, desperately fouling after getting beaten again. Meanwhile, poor old BFG was like next to him like the buddy in a cop movie who a) at one point says "I'm getting too old for this shit" and b) gets ventilated by a few dozen bullets the day he's set to retire.

Now, as for our goalkeeper. Dear sweet holy hell, he had himself a bit of a mare today. The guy is perfectly fine on your average day...lest we forget, he was in goal in the FA Cup Final just four months ago. Then again, Holding was immense in that one as well. Makes you wonder if someone's sticking pins into voodoo dolls of our squad players or something. What an episode of Law & Order that'd be. Never had to deal with this shit down at the south coast, huh Jacky boy?

Anyway, I nicked this from the Guardian's MBM, and this sums up the Colombian's day better than any words I could type.



In fairness to him though, a bunch of other things went wrong on the play other than his one poor clearance. It all started when our mob thought the ball went out over the touchline, to which they all had the brilliant idea to completely stop playing. Line up a bunch of action figures and hit the off switch on all of them concurrently, and you'll get the idea. Ospina had to take the law into his own hands - coming off his line was 100% the correct decision in this case. The issue was that once he got there, he didn't get his feet set correctly and he fluffed his clearance. Happened to me just this past Saturday too, but he's paid a bit more money than me to get those right. Also, when your keeper comes out like that, a defender is supposed to drop back to at least attempt a goal-line clearance should the worst occur. But, you know, we're Arsenal. We don't do football intelligence 'round these here parts.

So, yeah, naturally Jhon Cordoba got the ball and arced it into the net from 40 yards out. Of course he did.


6. The rest of the half was dire, an absolute dog's breakfast of the most revolting football you've seen this side of the bottom half of League Two. Giroud had a few tame headers easily saved, Walcott ran around in the headless chicken style and Sanchez was a sentient version of the "Homer Simpson backing into the bushes" GIF.

And then, a savior came. Familiar with the methods of today's enemy, a Bosnian tank emerged from the shadows to rally the Arsenal and damn near take Timo Horn's hand clean off his arm in the process. Holding was taken out back to see the rabbits, and on came Sead Kolasinac in his place. Wouldn't you know it, Horn would have been fishing the ball out of his net three minutes later had it not rocketed through the net, through the back of the stand and roughly out onto the Hornsey Road somewhere.

I didn't think it looked like much, either. Elneny clipped a lovely ball over the top, but Walcott's first touch was...how do I put this diplomatically..."agricultural". Theo did manage to collect it and send a cross in, but the defender blocked it. The ball spun up in the air and out a bit, directly into the path of the Bosnian Tank. BAM! POW! WHACK! You may not see a volley struck more sweetly all season, right on the button, and with his tank strength it was past Horn before the poor bastard could react. Seriously, with as much useless faffing around that this team does sometimes, to have a guy like this who refuses to use a scalpel when a sledgehammer will do, bloody hell it's refreshing.


7. That wasn't even the best goal we scored all day, and what odds you could have gotten for that on halftime. You'd be reading this from your yacht moored at the docks in Marbella. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had a bit of a mare himself today (understandable given that I have scars older than him), fired the first warning shot with a lovely mazy run through half their team. He did the hard bit, then forgot the minor detail of "shooting" at the end, allowing Horn to nick it off him in the end.

Alexis, though, had a look at that and figured to himself that it just might work if one actually pulls the proverbial trigger at some point. Five minutes later, he did the same thing. The Koln defense had him surrounded, had to have been 5-on-1 or so, but Alexis just casually slalomed through them like the skiing bit you see at the Olympics. He was still a bit far out and didn't have a ton of time or space, but he got a little bit of back-lift and WHOOOOSH, there it went into the top corner. Normally, I react to a goal with a scream of some sort, "Yes!" or "Yeaaaah" or something, typically while getting out of my seat and raising my fists in the air or something. This one? I couldn't move, I couldn't emote, I couldn't speak. I just had my hands to my mouth, stock-still, like I just saw God.

Maybe I had.

Meanwhile, O'Hanlon's was all like:




8. That was it, really. The Billy Goats were never coming back from that one, not with the team they have. Ospina had to make a few easy saves in the second 45 but they never looked like scoring. The Europa League is, let's face it, a hell of a lot more forgiving than its big-boy cousin.


9. There was one more goal to come, and wouldn't you know it, the Bosnian Tank was in the center of it once again. Now, I'm no neurosurgeon, but I'm beginning to think that maybe we should find a way to get this guy into the team more often than not. Anyway, his cross was perfect, Wilshere dummied it to Walcott, who went in alone. He normally even scores from there, but he did that newborn foal thing he does sometimes and shoveled a weak shot directly to Horn. The German keeper, not to be outdone, spilled it into the path of Hector Bellerin. For a right back, he does seem to pop up with the odd goal here and there, and he dispatched the rebound cool as you like. Game, blouses.


10. All in all, a satisfactory end to a strange day, and one that could have been damaging to whatever hopes there are of us winning this thing. One would hope that our team selections will get more serious once this first group stage bit is over (if Koln can't beat us, you have to think we can see off the other two mobs in this thing). But, despite that and despite Ospina spotting them an early one, you kind of have to think that it's a case of job done here.

You also have to think that there will be UEFA sanctions and the like for the events of the day, but then again they're an organization that could screw up a one-car funeral, so who knows?

All you can really take from this in the end is that we got three points, we're wholly unprepared for the apocalypse, Wilshere looked OK in his cameo and Petr Cech has literally zero to worry about anytime soon. That, and the Bosnian Tank is really, really, really fucking great at football and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

MOAR BOSNIAN TANK, PLZ.


Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. 1. FC Köln, Europa League Group Matchday 1

 

Emirates Stadium, London
Thursday, September 14
3:05 p.m. EDT, 20:05 BST
  • Match Officials from Spain
    • Referee: Xavier Estrada Fernández
    • Assistants: Miguel Martínez and Teodoro Sobrino
    • 4th Official: Pau Cebrián Devís
    • Additional Assistants: Jesús Gil Manzano and Ricardo De Burgos
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-W-D-W-L-L
  • Köln's European Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Thursdays.

Tonight, Arsenal will play their first Europa League/UEFA Cup match since losing the 2000 final to Galatasaray. It might be a second-rate competition, but that's no reason to fail to take it seriously. Because, let's face it, losing repeatedly in the Champions League was getting a bit stale, while here, the club have a legitimate chance to, you know, win a European trophy. Finishing in the top four might be a huge ask this season, but winning this gets you the same result. Just ask Mourinho.

Arsenal open their group stage with the Lukas Podolski derby as they host Köln at the Emirates. The German side finished fifth in the Bundesliga last year, though it was a distant fifth behind Hoffenheim by 13 points. They did some good business in the summer, signing Jhon Córdoba from Mainz, Jannes Horn from Wolfsburg, and Jorge Meré from Sporting Gijón, but they haven't been able to find goals yet this season and sit dead last in the table. That's in part because of their big sale, of Anthony Modeste to the Chinese league for £31.23 million. Their winter loan of defender Neven Subotić from Dortmund ended as well.

There's no reason to overlook these European nights, even if they're not on the usual nights of the week. Let's have some fun with this.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Wilshere (match fitness)
Suspended: Koscielny (one match, denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity)

Up 3-0 against Bournemouth, Arsène Wenger decided to make a double substitution to bring on forwards Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sánchez; these were Arsenal's second and third substitutions of the match. Bringing on attackers when you're up three is one thing, but losing a holding midfielder to injury in that situation when you're out of subs is another. Arsenal were forced to finish the match on 10 men for 10 minutes after Francis Coquelin injured his hamstring. The French midfielder is expected to miss about three weeks.

Meanwhile, you may recall Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a foul on Robert Lewandowki in the second leg of Arsenal's crash-out against Bayern Munich last year. Since this is Arsenal's first European match since then, the center back is suspended tonight.

Reports have indicated that many first team regulars were out of training this week, indicating that they will be rested in advance of Arsenal's trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Those regulars include Mesut Özil, Danny Welbeck, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka, Petr Čech, Aaron Ramsey, as well as the suspended Koscielny.

The biggest question is, with rotation and the injury to Coquelin, will we see Jack Wilshere tonight? Wilshere has not been in the starting XI in a competitive fixture for Arsenal since the final day of the 2015/16 regular season.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Kolašinac, Bellerín, Elneny, Wilshere, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud.

Köln Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Sørensen (knock,) Risse (match fitness)

Danish defender Frederick Sørensen was removed at halftime from Köln's 3-0 loss to Augsburg at the weekend, but I can't quite tell if it was through injury or total ineffectiveness as Köln's porous defense spotted the hosts a 2-0 lead in the opening 45 minutes.

It's perhaps a bit surprising that Köln have been so weak at the back this year, considering they have Olympic silver medalist (Germany's number... five?!) and Arsenal fan Timo Horn in goal plus Confederations Cup winner and full German international Jonas Hector at left back.

Otherwise, manager Peter Stöger has no fresh injury concerns in his XI and will likely name a largely unchanged side, with perhaps the exception of Jorge Meré coming in for Sørensen.

Predicted XI: Horn, Klünter, Heintz, Meré, Hector, Zoller, Lehmann, Höger, Bittencourt, Córdoba, Osako.

Domestic Form

The good news is Arsenal have maintained their 100% form at home, after Saturday's 3-0 win over Bournemouth. The bad news is, they still have a 0% record away from home. But, that's not relevant until Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge, so forget about it for now!

Arsenal will have the benefit of playing their second straight match at home against a side that has lost all of their league matches so far this season; Köln have zero points from their first three Bundesliga matches. They are the only German top flight club without a point. They've opened the year with a 1-0 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach, a 3-1 home loss to Hamburg, and a 3-0 loss at Augsburg. Their schedule doesn't get any easier after tonight; they'll play at Dortmund on Sunday.

As with Bournemouth and their League Cup win over Birmingham City, Köln also do have a domestic cup win to their credit; in the first round of the DFB Pokal, they defeated fifth division Leher Turnerschaft 5-0. My rudimentary German tells me that that's some sort of gymnastics club.

European Form

Last year, Arsenal won their group for the first time since 2011 and were rewarded with a Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich for some reason. Arsenal went unbeaten through the group, beating both Ludogorets Razgrad and Basel twice while drawing twice against their main competition, Paris St. Germain. PSG's matchday six draw at home against the Bulgarians from Razgrad handed Arsenal the group victory and the unfortunate draw against the German champions. To be fair, PSG drew Barcelona in the Round of 16, built up a 4-0 lead after the first leg, then managed to lose by five at Camp Nou.

Köln are back in European competition for the first time in 20 years. The Billy Goats last appeared in Europe in the 1997 Intertoto Cup, which you might recall if you go way back, was a summer tournament which earned qualification to the UEFA Cup. Köln advanced to the semifinals that year, where they lost on away goals to Montpellier. So, yeah, that "European form" of theirs at the top of the preview is actually 20 years old.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Köln have never met in a competitive fixture. You may recall that the most recent meeting between the clubs came in a friendly in 2012 as part of the transfer of Lukas Podolski. The German scored twice on the day, including once from the penalty spot, as Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners against the German side who had recently been relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. Two years later, the Billy Goats finished top of die zweite Liga to return to Germany's top flight.

You have to go back more than a dozen matches to find the last time Arsenal faced a German side that wasn't Bayern or Dortmund; in the 2012 Champions League group stage, Schalke took four of a possible six points against the Gunners, including a 2-0 win at the Emirates.

Köln have not played an English side since an 8-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur (!) in the 1995 Intertoto Cup. The Billy Goats have never won a match on English soil, in five tries; they've drawn two and lost three.

The Referee

The match officials are from Spain; the referee is Xavier Estrada Fernández. He's never worked a match for either of these clubs, since Arsenal and Köln have both not been at this level of European competition in about 20 years, one way or another.

Estrada has worked Europa League matches for English and German sides in the past, though not many. He took charge of Tottenham's 2-1 win at Asteras Tripolis in 2014's group stage as well as Schalke's 3-0 win at PAOK in last season's Round of 32. I guess it's a little strange that those two matches both took place in Greece. That's very coincidental. And Olympiacos wasn't involved at all!

Estrada's biggest honor to date in his career was working the final of the 2014 Under-19 Euros, in which Germany beat Portugal 1-0. Each of these clubs had a representative in that Germany squad at the time: midfielder Serge Gnabry for Arsenal and goalkeeper Daniel Mesenhöler for Köln. Neither of them played in that final, however, and neither of them remain with their respective club; Gnabry is at Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich, and Mesenhöler is now the number two keeper at Union Berlin.

Around the Europa League
  • Thursday (early): Slavia Prague v. Maccabi Tel Aviv; Eden Arena, Prague
  • Thursday (early): Villarreal v. Astana; Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal
  • Thursday (early): Dynamo Kyiv v. Skënderbeu Korçë; NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev
  • Thursday (early): Young Boys v. Partizan Belgrade; Stade de Suisse, Bern
  • Thursday (early): İstanbul Başakşehir v. Ludogorets Razgrad; Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium, Istanbul
  • Thursday (early): Hoffenheim v. Braga; Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim
  • Thursday (early): Austria Wien v. AC Milan; Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna
  • Thursday (early): Rijeka v. AEK Athens; Stadion Rujevica, Rijeka
  • Thursday (early): Apollon Limassol v. Lyon; GSP Stadium, Nicosia
  • Thursday (early): Atalanta v. Everton; Mapei Stadium, Reggio Emilia
  • Thursday (early): Copenhagen v. Lokomotiv Moscow; Parken Stadium, Copenhagen
  • Thursday (early): Fastav Zlín v. Sheriff Tiraspol; Andrův stadion, Olomouc
  • Thursday (late): Steaua București v. Viktoria Plzeň; Arena Națională, Bucharest
  • Thursday (late): Hapo'el Be'er Sheva v. Lugano; Turner Stadium, Beersheba
  • Thursday (late): Red Star Belgrade v. BATE Borisov; Red Star Stadium, Belgrade
  • Thursday (late): Vitória de Guimarães v. Red Bull Salzburg; Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarães
  • Thursday (late): Marseille v. Konyaspor; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
  • Thursday (late): Zorya Luhansk v. Östersund; Arena Lviv, Lviv
  • Thursday (late): Hertha Berlin v. Athletic Bilbao; Olympiastadion, Berlin
  • Thursday (late): Vitesse Arnhem v. Lazio; GelreDome, Arnhem
  • Thursday (late): Zulte Waregem v. Nice; Regenboogstadion, Waregem
  • Thursday (late): Real Sociedad v. Rosenborg; Anoeta, San Sebastián
  • Thursday (late): Vardar v. Zenit Saint Petersburg; Philip II Arena, Skopje
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John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a man of letters. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for letters such as F, N, Q, Ø, and Ý.