Anderlecht preview :: Ospina knackered

Anderlecht preview :: Ospina knackered

Champions League action tonight as we take on Anderlecht.

Having lost to Dortmund and then pulverised Galatasaray, this is a game from which we’ll be looking to take three points. Anderlecht are, on paper, the weakest team in the group, but you suspect they’ll be looking at us and thinking it might just be a good time to play Arsenal.

We have issues at the back with Wojciech Szczesny suspended and David Ospina now gone from injured to crocked for three months (more on that anon). It means a first European start for 22 year old Emi Martinez and it’s going to be quite the leap in quality for him. The last of his whopping two appearances for us came in the 7-5 win against Reading during which he had a first half to forget, but after a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday, and some time passing, the manager has given him a vote of confidence, saying:

He is two years older now, and has a good experience at Sheffield. He has grown in stature as well. We have to make sure that we make it as comfortable a night as we can for him, and that is by defending well as a team.

I think the final thing he says there is exactly right. If you’ve got a young, inexperienced keeper, then there is an onus on the rest of the team to do as much as possible to ensure he has as quiet a night as possible. The issue, of course, is that there’s probably going to be more inexperience in the back four because of the injuries to Koscielny and Debuchy.

Calum Chambers is back from suspension and he can play at centre-half. Although Nacho Monreal is a more experienced footballer in general, I don’t think he enjoys it in the centre of the defence, and I think I’d prefer balance to experience. That means playing Chambers alongside Mertesacker while Hector Bellerin, who played well against Hull, merits another game at right back.

However, I do wonder if the manager might consider a defensive unit with three players of various degrees of rawness just too inexperienced, in which case Monreal would stay in the middle with Per and Chambers would come back into the team at right-back. Either way represents something of a gamble, but I’m generally more in favour of playing players in their natural position than asking someone to do a job they just don’t feel 100% comfortable doing.

Ahead of them, I think Mikel Arteta will replace Flamini, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere in the midfield, with Cazorla, Alexis and Welbeck finishing off the team. Arteta’s return is an interesting one. Flamini has struggled (and been a bit unlucky), so it’s a chance for the captain to put in a performance which highlights his strengths. If there’s a worry it’s that on his last return from injury he, and the rest of the team in fairness, found Dortmund’s high-pressing game too much to cope with and maybe that’s something Anderlecht will have taken note of.

Again though, as I said before Hull, we’ve got the players at the attacking end of the pitch who can do damage to the home side tonight, so it’s all about finding some defensive stability. It’s easy to look back at the two goals Hull scored and see how we could have prevented them, but like many things in football, conceding becomes something of a habit and it’s not a particularly easy one to get out of.

Tonight would be a good time to start though.

Now, the David Ospina news will have had people rolling their eyes as it was confirmed that the Colombian keeper will be out of action for up to three months with a recurrence of the thigh injury he arrived at the club with. Arsene Wenger said:

He had his first injury in Nice, it was a knee problem and I think he was a bit rushed back. He didn’t use his legs so his muscle became weaker, then he got injured during the World Cup.

So, the first thing is that we bought a player who was injured in the first place. This is known in the game as a Kallstromian manoeuvre. You’d think we were alone in using this, but in fact Barcelona got totally Kallstromed this summer by us when we sold them a gammy-hammied Belgian.

However, the reason for the recurrence of his injury?

I had to bring him on against Galatasaray without warm-up, without being prepared and he had a recurrence of that injury. That means he is out for two to three months. It’s a long-term injury.

At least when we invented the Kallstromian manoeuvre, we didn’t play the chap until he was actually fixed. You have to ask what is the point of having a player on the bench who is in a position where playing them ‘cold’ might injure them? And this is usually the situation with a keeper. Outfield players you send to warm-up because a change is tactical, but replacing a goalkeeper rarely is, and so he’s always going to be liable to tweak his wotsit if it’s there to be tweaked.

Surely, until he was fully fit and recovered and his muscle was built up again, we could have used Martinez on the bench. You can, if you wish, look to find some kind of correlation between that decision and the manager’s words of faith above, but I suspect it might be a tall order.

Either way, the player we had hoped would provide good competition for Szczesny is now knackered, and if anything happens to our number 1, we’re going to have to hope that Martinez is ready for action. Tonight’s substitute keeper is a youngster called Ryan Huddart and he’s just gone 17. Fun times at the Arsenal Injury Parlour, roll up, roll up, see the freaks …

Whether this raises more questions about our injury management techniques (“Ah play, you’ll be fine” – “But doc, I’ve been bitten in half by an angry condor!” – “Well, see how you are until half-time at least!”), or simply reinforces the ones we already have, I just don’t know. Either way, if I was an Arsenal player I’d be shitting myself at the slightest twinge and to have lost another first team player for an extended period is just ludicrous at this point.

Right, that’s about that. Remember, there’ll be full live blog coverage of the Anderlecht game later on. Simply check back here for a post with all the details or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

You might notice a few things going on around here today too. Or not. But possibly. I’ll try keep disruption to a minimum though. Probably.

Until later.

ps – final thing, if you fancy an interesting event on Friday, Amy Lawrence will be at Lords talking to David Dein and Sol Campbell about the Invincibles. I’ll also be chatting to Amy on Friday’s Arsecast about the new book, but tickets and info for the Lords event can be found here.

Pre-Anderlecht waffle, KSE losing friends rapidly

Pre-Anderlecht waffle, KSE losing friends rapidly

As usual after a disappointing result, there’s been something of a wall of silence. Understandable, how much more is there to say about what happened against Hull? Still, we just have snippets to keep us going today until the manager meets the press in Belgium later on.

There’ll be the usual press conference ahead of the Champions League game with Anderlecht, and we should get the latest team news. Beyond the fact that Ospina is injured and Szczesny suspended, I’m hopeful there’s nothing too difficult for us to deal with. Fears over Jack Wilshere’s absence following his frustrated hack at a Hull player on Saturday (anyone worry he’d Gazza-d himself?) were played down post-game by Arsene Wenger who said he should be ready for tomorrow.

Sticking with Europe very briefly, and we’ve been let off the ludicrous UEFA charge of ‘insufficient organisation’ because Galatasaray fans managed to sneak some fireworks and flares into the ground for the 4-1 win earlier this month. What can we do if they choose to transport their pyrotechnics in Papillon style chargers?

As for Galatasaray they’ve been fined €50,000 and been told to pay us compensation with 30 days for the damage their fans did to the stadium. Seats were ripped up and damaged during the game so they have to pay us for the repairs, or else. That’ll teach ‘em.

We might have Lukas Podolski back in the squad for tomorrow’s game – he missed out on Saturday through illness. It’s been a difficult season for him, having been almost shipped out and then played very little, but as I’ve said before, he’s a happy fella, like a dog with his head of a window.

So, when the BBC reported yesterday that he was a £10m target for Sp*rs in the transfer window, his response on Twitter was absolutely perfect.

Meanwhile, something from the far side of the pond where a journalist covering the Colorado Rapids, owned by KSE of course, lost his job for publicly criticising the team from his position as an MLS journalist. Deadspin have a transcript of some emails between Chris Bianchi and Tim Hinchey, the Colorado Rapids club president. Taking umbrage at a Tweet which sought to pin some of the blame on the Rapids dismal form on the board, Hinchey wrote:

Explain to me your point Chris or don’t ever reach out to me again. Period.

Bianchi wrote back:

That’s fine. My point is – and has been – the lack of depth on the roster, specifically defensively, standing pat at the transfer window, and in not re-signing Rivero has been more to blame than Mastroeni’s growing pains.

Uncanny! Lack of defensive depth? Transfer window stasis? Not signing a former player (the Rivero in question is Martín Rivero, who now plays for Chivas USA)?! All sounds a bit familiar, right? Anyway, it seems Hinchley, the President of a football club who you’d imagine might have better things to do, got the chap fired from his position with MLS Soccer. The pettiness of his last email is really something.

It’s worth noting that the Rapids haven’t won a game since July 25th, a 13 game streak without a win. Then, some enterprising fans, no doubt inspired by Manchester United’s ‘Bring back Ronaldo’ campaign, did this:


Wait until they get the bill for Stan’s Services, they’ll go bat-shit altogether. Anyway, fun times in Colorado right now, and while obviously this particular situation might be more down to Hinchley than Kroenke, it doesn’t reflect well on the owner.

There’s no way he could have such influence over here on a journalist, although to be fair to him, he’s worked it the other way with a few to ensure that he gets pretty favourable coverage. Let’s face it, on countless Arsenal blogs, fan sites and supporter’s association sites, there’s been plenty of criticism about the 3% ticket price rise and the payment to KSE which the board were unable to explain in any convincing way.

Yet, while touched on the papers, there’s been little criticism of it from people who have the largest platform (right now) to do that. Maybe it’s because of the way football is England, that we no longer bat an eyelid at an owner coming in and taking what he want, or running it in such a way that is detrimental to the health of the football club.

Which isn’t to say we’re at the same level of a Portsmouth, or even Man Utd with a load of debt leveraged on the club, but even so, the utter vagueness of that £3m payment was open to questioning from far and wide and instead we were told shareholders were warmly applauding Stan at the AGM. That £3m could have brought in a centre-half on loan, you know. (Thanks to Jeremy for the hat-tip on this one).

Right, final couple of things. Firstly, this week’s Arsecast Extra is ready for your aural consumption, replete with post-Hull analysis and a lively discussion on the best crisps (amongst other things). Secondly, and lastly, if you fancy winning a rather cool Huawei Ascend P7 Arsenal Edition smarthphone, check out the competition here – you have until Wednesday night to enter.

Righto, that’s that, more here tomorrow.



Defensive problems obvious, but is the solution?

Defensive problems obvious, but is the solution?

A famous man once said, “If you defend like a garrulous, gin-soaked wombat, you’ll never win the Premier League.”

Actually, I don’t know if a famous man said that at all, but somebody should have because it’s true. We are a gimlet-eyed marsupial at the moment, conceding more goals, looking susceptible to the counter attack, and I think we’ve got to be thankful that Hull didn’t have the players who could genuinely hurt us when things broke down at the attacking end of the pitch.

On today’s Arsecast Extra (coming later), the subject of where our biggest issue is came up. Is it the fact we’re not scoring enough or that we let in too many? For me it’s the latter. Our defensive platform is not right and until we get that sorted out then we’re going to continue to drop points. That we’re not losing too many games is, perhaps, a small blessing but our defending is obviously the biggest problem we have right now.

Stepping back and looking at it as objectively as possible, the main reason is that we’ve had to chop and change personnel for various reasons. Injury and suspension have played a part, but in thirteen games across all competitions we’ve had eight different back four combinations (not including the goalkeeper).

Compare that to last season when we played Sanga – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs for the majority of our games. Having to chop and change at the back doesn’t excuse our defensive frailty, but it’s part of why we’re so all over the place back there this time around. Regardless of how well you’re drilled and how much you do on the training ground, having to play a left-back at centre-half and a rookie right back will make it more difficult for your back four to perform as a unit.

With injury we’ve been unlucky in one instance: Mathieu Debuchy. His ligament injury was dreadfully unfortunate but the fact we’ve had to use our only central defensive back-up to replace him is down to the fact we were always light at the back. People ask why didn’t we keep Vermaelen? The reality is that even if we had he’d be another frustration as he’s yet to play this season because of injury.

The Koscielny situation can’t be anything other than a piece of mismanagement though. You don’t develop ‘chronic tendinitis is both Achilles tendons’ overnight. Even if, and this is a stretch, the club only became aware of the seriousness of Koscielny’s problem when he returned from World Cup duty, they still had a month to source a defender in the transfer market. Quite why they didn’t is beyond me, but this is old ground we’re treading here. The fact remains we failed to give our squad the adequate depth in a key area and now we’re paying the price.

Arsene Wenger talks about the need for more balance, saying:

Last year we had 17 clean sheets with the same defenders but we have not started to do that yet. Our defensive efficiency is not there and we cannot survive at the top level by always conceding two goals.

Except it’s not the same defenders. Debuchy for Sagna was a decent replacement, and we’ve been hit badly by his injury, but when you’re playing a 19 year Chambers, 19 year old Bellerin, Monreal as a central-defender you can’t say the situation is the same in terms of the players.

Nor is it the same in the way that the team has set up. Has the formation tweak played a part in our lack of defensive stability? Even if we did look better going forward against Hull (in the opening 20 minutes), by the time the second half came around we looked uncomfortable and it required awareness and defensive dedication from some our forwards to stop Hull’s counter-attacks. Yet in the two games in which we’ve performed best (Villa away and Galatasaray home), we were set up in the same way we did last season.

Villa, by the way, was a clean sheet and Galatasaray should have been but for Szczesny’s penalty concession. And, as well as being effective from an attacking point of view, we looked more sound at the back in both of those games. Coincidence? Perhaps. Two games is not really a large enough sample size, but maybe looking distinctly troubled in all the other games probably provides enough balance.

The other thing that has bothered me somewhat this season is the idea that defending is the sole preserve of the back four, and not the concerted team effort it was. Yes, we’ve had some help from forwards like Alexis and Welbeck for whom hard work is viewed as part of the job and not something that might happen if it occurs to them in time. But if you remember when we went to Bayern and got a 2-0 win which filled a previously jittery team with the defensive confidence to see out a season with 1-0 and one goal wins to secure a Champions League spot at the expense of Sp*rs – that was built on a huge team effort.

Midfielders didn’t look at fat blokes running past them, they chased them down and threw themselves into tackles that might prevent a dangerous cross which might result in a goal. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of effort right now and due to the injury problems we’ve got, and the inability to field a consistent back four, we need to put that right straight away.

Look at Wednesday night’s potential back four. David Ospina is out of the game through injury and Wojciech Szczesny is suspended. That means a start in goal for Emiliano Martinez. Calum Chambers should come back into the centre of defence so that means we’ve got a defensive set up of: MartinezBellerin – Mertesacker – Chambers – Gibbs (the bolded players have a total of 19 appearances for the club between them).

So, what do we do? Do we trust in their potential and ability? Or do we make sure that the we play makes it as easy as possible for them to perform well? Add another deeper-lying midfielder to ensure that the team is better able to cope with opposition attacks and counters? Play the formation that they feel most comfortable in? All possible, but more than anything else we have to drill into them the idea that everybody has defensive responsibility, and everybody is expected to do their bit.

We’re in a precarious situation because so much of football is about confidence and belief, and right now we look like team that doesn’t believe it can keep clean sheets. It becomes almost self-defeating in a way. But, we’ve had these troubles before and found a solution – and it’s vital we do that now. It’s more difficult when you have to chop and change and you’re using more inexperienced players, but that’s life. That’s the position we’ve put ourselves in and until we find a way of dealing with it, results will continue to disappoint.

As I mentioned, James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you later on – it should be up and ready around lunchtime. In the meantime, any pre-Anderlecht news etc, can be found over on Arseblog News.

Till tomorrow.

Arsenal 2-2 Hull: Unfocused Arsenal drop bad points

Arsenal 2-2 Hull: Unfocused Arsenal drop bad points

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Well, so much for this being the start of a run of games that might see the team find some form and rhythm. Although we began well, we soon self-destructed in typical Arsenal style and in the end we were lucky to salvage a point with a late Danny Welbeck goal.

It had started very positively though. In the first 15 minutes we were lively, creative and dangerous. We had seven shots in that period, including the fizzing opener from Alexis, and the goal itself made you feel like ‘Ok, now we’re on top, we’ll kick on from here’.

Instead, they got a somewhat contentious equaliser. Diame, who had been down injured, got the ball in midfield and headed towards goal. With players around him he obviously pulled back Flamini who had got ahead of him and then got a bit of a lucky rebound which took him towards goal. His finish was excellent as Szczesny came out, but while I understand the suggestions that we could or should have defended better, on this particular issue you can’t ignore the blatant nature of the foul.

If we had a player going through on goal who was fouled and the referee ignored it, you wouldn’t be saying he should have been stronger. You’d be furious that the foul wasn’t awarded and I think we have every right to be aggrieved about the decision from a referee who was poor all day. That’s not to suggest the result was down to him, he was almost as bad as we were, but it was a frustration to see such an obvious foul not given – especially considering the outcome.

Now, you might argue that a bigger, stronger player wouldn’t have been quite so easy to reef out of the way, but that’s a different thing altogether. What was most bewildering about their goal was how it impacted us. There was no response which suggested we were channeling that outrage into determination. Instead, it took the wind out of our sails and although we had plenty of the ball, we really didn’t do a lot with it. The only shot on target before half-time came from Santi Cazorla and it wasn’t one that troubled the keeper.

So, half-time came and you expect the team to come out reinvigorated and ready to take the game to Hull. What we got was a goal for the visitors after just 31 seconds. Much of the blame will be Per Mertesacker’s, caught on his heels a bit which allowed Hernandez to plant home the header, but in the overall context of the goal, we have to ask why it was so easy for them to make the cross in the first place.

Jack Wilshere allowed the less than speedy Tom Huddlestone to saunter past him, and made no real effort to try and block the cross. Per’s defending wasn’t good, but as a team we just weren’t switched on. Arsene Wenger said afterwards:

We came out of the dressing room with a lack of focus and gave them the lead straight away.

Some might say that’s down to the players themselves, but for me it’s an integral part of the manager’s job to ensure that his team are fully focused – especially when he’s just had fifteen minutes in the dressing room with them. If they’re not at full concentration from the kick-off then that’s down to Arsene Wenger and nobody else. That is, literally, his job. We were caught napping and it has cost us points.

Nevertheless, conceding after 31 seconds of the half, while not ideal, gives you plenty of time to respond. We’re at home, playing against a resolute team but one that we dominated in the opening stages of the game. There was time to react, so what made yesterday’s game so very worrying was that we just didn’t, or weren’t capable of it. Lots of the ball, sure, but no penetration or moments of danger.

Hull had lost their keeper before half-time, 40 year old Steve Harper, so were playing their third choice for the entirety of the second period. That he didn’t have a save to make until the 86th minute, tipping over an Alexis header, speaks volumes. We brought on Joel Campbell and Aaron Ramsey to spark us into life, but neither player could make much of an impact. Indeed, such was the way we were playing that Campbell’s most notable contribution was solid defensive work, chasing back to make a good tackle when Hull looked to catch us on the break (an area where teams of better quality would have had some real joy).

Thankfully, we salvaged a point late on when Alexis – the one truly bright spot on a dark day – ran, twisted, turned and fed Danny Welbeck in the area, and the striker’s finish was smart enough to rescue a draw. It might even have been better right at the death when Gibbs surged forward to try and get on the end of an Alexis cross to the back post but couldn’t quite manage to connect cleanly enough, allowing the keeper to save. As welcome as that goal would have been, it still wouldn’t have been enough to gloss over what was a dismal display overall.

You sit there wondering why, if we could ratchet up in the intensity in the last five minutes of injury time, why couldn’t we do that immediately after Hull scored their second? Or better yet, before allowing them a soft goal in the first place? I know there’s a natural momentum in a game and the last few minutes by their very nature are always likely to be a bit more frantic, but watching us plod through that second half felt like we were going through the motions and not much more.

We’ve played eight Premier League games this season and won just two. Our sequence of results is WDDDWDLD. Too many draws, too many dropped points against opposition that we should be beating, and with all due respect to a Hull side who worked hard, those were dropped points yesterday. Forget their time-wasting, that’s part and parcel of the game and it’s up to us not to be in a position where they can take advantage of that.

For all the referee’s crapness yesterday, he still played 6 minutes at the end and it was in that time we found the equaliser and almost got a winner. If their behaviour impacted our rhythm or momentum – making the huge assumption that we had any – then we need to learn how to deal with it better. For me, however, the blame lies squarely on our own shoulders and ultimately with the manager who is not getting anywhere near as much as he should out of the players.

If you want to use the fact we had a right-back making his first Premier League start (who did pretty well I thought) and a left-back at centre-half as some kind of mitigation, fine. The bigger question is why we’re in that position in the first place. Johnny Blind could have looked at our squad as the transfer deadline closed and told you we were light at the back, and being unable to field a consistent back four is affecting the way the team plays.

It is the platform on which the rest of your team is built, and right now ours is rickety, riddled with woodworm and held together with bits of twine and some old tape. I think we’ve got good players but we’re three months into the season and you can count on one hand (maybe one finger), the amount of times we’ve clicked as a team. That’s just not good enough.

We spent big this summer and the consequence of that appears to be that we’re going backwards. Injuries, sure, of course they’re damaging but are we doing enough to ensure that our players are fit and ready? How is that Aaron Ramsey, declared out for weeks and weeks, is suddenly back in the squad? Did he go to Lourdes and undergo a miracle, perhaps? Or maybe there’s something more obvious.

Football is funny, it might not take much to spark us into life and change the mood and perception of the team, but right now it appears we’re going too far the other way not to be seriously worried. If we can’t get focused enough to beat Hull at home, you’ve got to ask serious questions of the manager.

And right now he doesn’t look like a man who has the answers.

Hull preview: Enough up top to balance defensive shortages

Hull preview: Enough up top to balance defensive shortages

It seems like an age since our last match so it’s good to have football back today. We’ve had to endure the post-Stamford Bridge gloom, a rake of injuries, an Interlull and a rather contentious AGM, so hopefully we can add a bit of silver lining to that collective cloud with a performance and a result today against Hull.

In terms of the team, we’re short at the back as we know. Calum Chambers’ one game suspension means a probable start at right back for Hector Bellerin, and with Laurent Koscielny suffering from a chronic inflammation of both Achilles tendons, we’re short a centre-half.

The options are Nacho Monreal, designated fourth choice in that position by Arsene Wenger after the window had closed, or youngster Isaac Hayden. My gut feeling is that he’ll go with the Spaniard to prevent his back four being too inexperienced against a team that will look to exploit that. Even with our best team out, we found ourselves 2-0 down to Hull at Wembley in May and, but for a Kieran Gibbs header off the line, it could have been worse.

I suppose the issue for the manager is to find the balance between the experience and the requirements of the team. Monreal is more experienced but also a 5’9 left-back who finds playing in the centre of defence ‘strange’. Hayden would certainly add some  height and physicality to a team that has had some difficulties from set-pieces this season, but with just two first team appearances he’s very raw. Does he have enough faith in the two young defenders to thrust them both into action? I’m not sure, but we’ll see.

Ahead of them Mikel Arteta is back in the squad so he could come back, although Mathieu Flamini, if not quite a bright spot at Chelsea, certainly had a decent game that day and giving Arteta a bit more time to recover from his calf strain might not be the worst thing in the world.

Ahead of him we should see Jack Wilshere with Arsene Wenger saying that England won’t get the best out of him if they play him as a deep-lying midfielder. I tend to agree with that. He’s combative and tenacious, but I think he’s much more effective further up the pitch and doesn’t really have the aerial ability needed in that position. Indeed, there might even be a temptation to use him as a number 10 in the absence of Ozil but I don’t think that’ll be the case today.

Santi Cazorla should take on that creative role today, and for as long as the German is sidelined (provided his form justifies it, of course), with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis either side of him. Danny Welbeck up front will be looking to add to his goal tally and while it sounds kind of redundant to say it, this the area that will decide the game for us.

Even with our defensive deficiencies we should have more than enough at the top end of the pitch to get a result today. There’s some serious attacking talent with options on the bench – players who can get us goals, and provided we don’t do anything stupid at the back then we can hopefully get this run of games off to a good start.

It’ll also be interesting to see what way we line up. The attempt to make the 4-1-4-1 work hasn’t yet been successful so perhaps we’ll see a return to the formation of last season which the players seem more comfortable in. However, looking at the opposition the manager might see these games as just the ticket for the newer system to finally work.

Either way, it’s important that we get three points under our belt today. When you’ve been able to have a good laugh at someone like Man Utd because of how poorly they’ve started the season, yet find yourselves below them in the table, nothing less than a win will do today.

In other news, Theo Walcott made his comeback last night, playing 45 minutes for the U21s as they drew 0-0 with Blackburn. Pressed on whether he might be back for the midweek trip to Anderlecht he said:

I honestly don’t know. I think it’s important to recover and I have to be a bit patient. The manager will choose to play when he wants and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. I need to just be calm and not get too excited right now.

With such spotlight on our injuries and question marks over every element of the rehab/treatment process, I suspect we’re going to err on the side of caution with Theo. It’s not as if we don’t have options and the last thing we want is to bring him back too quickly only for him to break down again. Still, it’s good to see him back.

And in the Guardian there’s some stuff about the data company we bought a couple of years back. It’s interesting in and of itself, and the use of statistics, data analysis and so on is obviously something that will become more widespread. That said, this bit stuck out like a sore thumb:

StatDNA’s database is now Arsenal’s database, so if Wenger wants to sign a defender, who is, say, 6ft 4in, an excellent reader of the game and an accurate passer, one push of a button will bring up the best options in world football.

Well, that worked out well in the summer eh?! I’m also a little dubious about the implication that this might be connected to the ‘services’ for which KSE were paid that £3m. If it were the case, surely that would have been part of any answer at the AGM. Nevertheless, it’s interesting stuff but as yet it’s hard to know how tangible the benefits are.

Right, that is about that. Don’t forget if you want to follow the game later and chat with other fans while doing it, we’ll have a live blog for you. You can check back here closer to kick off for a post with all the details or simply bookmark our live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Until later.