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Good morning to you, it’s Friday and we’re already looking ahead to Sunday’s North London derby. The manager’s press conference took place yesterday and from that we have some early team news.

It looks as if Theo Walcott (hamstring), Nacho Monreal (something) and Hector Bellerin (fuel-injector packed up) are going to be ok, which is good. The first two haven’t played since the Boro game and would come into this one nice and fresh, while Bellerin’s importance at right back is so obvious that his return is very much to be welcomed. On him Arsene said:

Hector has a test. I left him behind because I was cautious with him. We could have basically forced the issue, he could have played maybe in Bulgaria but he should be alright.

I’m not sure I necessarily like the ‘should’, but there you go. Kieran Gibbs is a doubt after injuring his shoulder against Ludogorets but with Monreal back we’re obviously well covered. Even if both had been fit my preference for Sunday would have been the Spaniard anyway. On Santi Cazorla, however, the news was less positive:

He has not practised yet – he will try to go out today and we will see where we go from there. He is a doubt, yes.

Having not played since the Ludogorets game last month, and having not been in full training, the chances of him playing are pretty slim. That means that the manager has a decision to make about his midfield. Will it be Coqeneny, Xhakeneny, RamCoq, or something else entirely? It’s not an easy one by any means, trying to balance the need to go at them at home with the need to stay solid defensively. At least it gives us something to think about over the weekend.

He was also asked about Granit Xhaka and his perceived lack of discipline. Admitting the Swiss international could be a touch impulsive at times, he backed the £35m man to control himself, saying:

Discipline is important because we want to be effective in all situations we face and in the derby it is important to keep control of your reaction and to have a strong discipline. It is part of the effectiveness in these games. Normally Granit is a very composed and calm guy, sometimes on the field he has a reaction that is a bit impulsive and he knows that. He has to work on that and keep control of his reactions in the game.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but isn’t this a bit overblown, creating something of a storm in a teacup? He’s a man who has made 11 appearances for us in all competitions – in central midfield, the most competitive area of the pitch – and he’s got 2 yellow cards and one red card. And that red card was a big load of bullshit. If you want to convince yourself that was a sending off offence, fine, but I’ve watched plenty of football since that red card was issued and seen plenty of challenges worthy of a red if that’s where the bar is set.

Guess what? None of those players have been sent off. So, I don’t think there’s a lot to worry about it, although I will admit some of his tackling is a bit on the edge. The yellow card against Ludogorets, for example, was a definite booking, as it was a cynical foul, but isn’t this exactly what we’ve been crying out for? A player who can take some of the niceness out of the team, prevent danger, and add a bit of ‘Stick that up your ronson’ to the way we play?

I think he could probably work on adding a little more subtlety to some of the fouls he makes, but I don’t want him to not make them. Like it or not, aggression is part and parcel of the game, and we’ve been bullied far too often for me to take the fainting couch because we’ve got someone who can give a little back. It’s not as if he’s going around trying to maim people like Vinny Jones either, he’s just a bit of a bastard towards people we want to beat. And I’m all in in that regard.

Some good news from the international front as next week’s Interlull approaches: Germany have given Mesut Ozil the entire break off. They play San Marino before a meaningless friendly, and Jogi Low’s decision is one that is just 100% common sense, something the football world and beyond seems to be very short of these days. They don’t need him to beat San Marino, and there’s no need for him to play in a friendly, thanks Lowy!

Sadly our other important players have more difficult international fixtures to contend with when they go away, so there’s unlikely to be any similar niceness from other coaches, but you take these little gifts and cherish them when they come along.

Right, time for this week’s Arsecast, and I’m joined by Tim Stillman to discuss that Mesut Ozil goal, and the German’s influence on this team at the moment. We discuss the midweek win over Ludogorets, defensive weaknesses, Aaron Ramsey’s role and, of course, Sunday’s North London derby. There’s another extract from Alex Hleb’s book, I give you the winners of last week’s competition, there’s some info about an upcoming live podcast in London, and there’s all the usual waffle in there too.

There’s also one-day Fantasy Football with FanDuel in which you can win real cash. Sign up with FanDuel use the code ‘ARSEBLOG‘ when you do and they’ll refund your up to £10 if you don’t win with your first try. Check it out!

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download the Arsecast directly, use the link below the player, and if you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.


For some extra reading this morning, check out Tim’s latest column ‘I just don’t think you understand‘, which is about the complexity of international trade agreements. No, sorry, it’s about Mesut Ozil.

We’ll have all the news throughout the day over on Arseblog News, and the Gent should be here later with his weekly review. Enjoy the podcast, more from me tomorrow.