Report: Preston North End 1-2 Arsenal (inc. goals)

102

Starting XI: Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud

Subs: Martinez, Jenkinson, Holding, The Jeff, DaSiva, Willock, Welbeck


Olivier Giroud’s late goal secured Arsenal’s safe passage to the FA Cup fourth round as they came from behind to beat Preston North End 2-1 at Deepdale.

The home side deserved their half time lead courtesy of Callum Robinson’s 7th minute strike, however, their failure to find a second proved costly.

Aaron Ramsey’s first goal of the season on 46 minutes ultimately tipped the balance of the tie the Gunners’ favour before the in-form Frenchman, captain for the evening, struck a winner with two minutes remaining.

First Half

After Tuesday evening’s late comeback against Bournemouth you might have expected Arsenal to be on their guard against Preston North End. Instead, they delivered another dopey first half showing.

Granted, there was an element of luck to Preston’s early opener – scored by Callum Robinson on six minutes after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Gabriel – but the way the Gunners allowed Aiden McGeady, on loan from Everton to showboat in midfield during the build-up was inexcusable. (1-1)

The home support, already fervent in their desire to witness an unlikely giant killing, exploded. Did Arsenal react? Not really.

Lucas had an effort on 15 minutes that deflected wide but it was Simon Grayson’s outfit that really should have extended their lead. First Mustafi clocked Robinson’s header with his shoulder, then, two minutes later, Robinson overcooked a cross to Jordan Hugill with the goal begging.

There were more chances for the home side. Ospina parried an effort from 25-yards, Marnick Vermijl hit wide, Daniel Johnson did likewise. Mustafi, having a very poor game, made two mistakes in quick succession that resulted in another Preston effort. Nacho Monreal had to rescue his teammates.

In between, lovely interplay between Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey manufactured an opening for the latter but the Welshman’s quick feet weren’t backed up by a decisive finish. Not long after, Giroud failed with a deft chip that went wide looking more like a cross than a shot on goal. Ramsey couldn’t beat Maxwell with a header.

The Gunners played the dying moments of the half with only ten men as Gabriel, on his 50th appearance for the Gunners, required stitches in his head after contact from a wayward elbow.

Second Half

Inside a minute of the second half, Ramsey equalised for the Gunners. The Welshman, who’d not scored since March, didn’t dally on the edge of the box as he had earlier, instead thwacking a bullet of a shot into the top corner. (1-1)

You had the sense that Wenger had given his men a rocket during the break. They certainly looked more eager to close down their opposite men quicker, the passing sharper and the movement better.

Giroud should have had a penalty on 65 minutes. As the Frenchman tried to connect with a Xhaka cross, his shirt was clearly tugged and an arm thrown across him. Referee Bobby Madley saw nothing wrong with the interference and ignored further claims three minutes later when the striker clashed with defender Tom Clarke on the edge of the box.

A first-time Mustafi effort nearly converted a Chamberlain corner as the Gunners pressed for a winner. Giroud put the ball in the back of the net only for his effort to be ruled offside.

In the final five minutes Arsene Wenger sent on Danny Welbeck, making his first appearance since suffering knee ligament damage back in March, for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

It looked as though the Gunners might have to settle for a replay before Giroud found a winner on 88 minutes.

Lucas engineered the chance with a fine lay-off and the Frenchman, with the aid of a slight deflection, found the net with his left foot. In celebration he pounded his chest with vigour in front of the travelling support. (2-1)

There might have been a third for the Gunners as Welbeck stung the Preston keeper’s palms, but there was not to be a ‘Leicester’ moment for the England international.

102 COMMENTS

  1. Fair play to Giroud, out of the team for so long, he gets a run of starts, and he has scored one massive goal after another. Alexis is the still surely the top choice in that position but Giroud has shown his character and quality in a massive way.

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  2. A good comeback after a pedestrian first half. Slightly worrying that we are making a habit of coming from behind but the win is all that matters.

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    • Agree that an easy wind leading for the full 90 would be preferable to late comebacks. Still, nothing but positives to take from late goals. Burley, Southampton, West Brom, Ludogorets, Bournemouth, Man Utd, Preston and maybe more I’m forgetting.

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  3. Let me start this by saying that I like Arsene and I am happy we won. But, on match day, in my opinion, the manager has 3 main responsibilities, selection/substitutions, tactics and motivation. I believe Wenger is failing to motivate this team to it’s full potential. Too often we start slowly, too often we seem surprised when our opponent is quick and aggressive out of the blocks, too often we seemly think that we just need to turn up (pardon the cliché). That has to be part down to the atmosphere in the changing room prior to the game. That atmosphere is the managers responsibility.

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  4. Welbeck coming back. Ramsey on the scoresheet finally (always good for confidence). Giroud getting a goal again. All positives.

    Plus, Lucas is becoming an important player for us.

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    • I thought Lucas was one of the better ones today. His movement is excellent. And that assist…oof. Put that together with the volley from the other day and that’s a pretty good week.

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      • Don’t overlook his tracking back to make the tackle that regained possession and started the build-up to Girouds scorpion. He’s doing some very positive things all over the pitch.

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        • Seems like Gabriel screaming at him made him a better tracker. And some people worried that they will start fighting and lose focus.

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  5. Nice to get the win in a tough away cup match. The first half was similar to the Bournemouth match, our team defending not working. The second half was much better. All the players fought well despite the difficult start. Though Ox was horrible, kept the ball way too long instead of passing and usually ended up losing it.

    Let’s remember we were without many key players and Ramsey and Mustafi only recently returning from injury.

    Welbeck looked good, a nice shot.

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  6. Cant watch an Arsenal game w/o your blood pressure medication within arms reach. Really got lucky we weren’t down a few goals by halftime. Started the 2nd good but then got comfortable, yet again. The drop in quality when sanchez and/or ozil don’t play is worrying. But a wins a win. On to the next..

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  7. Xhaka’s been playing below par lately, contributed very little today; looked like we just had Ramsey in midfield. This is worrying because Coq’s out with an injury, Elneny’s gone for AFCON, and Santi’s still recovering..

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    • um, no. I agree he’s been below par, but most of the time he was the only person collecting the ball from the defense and building the attack (with Ramsey often going walkabout, as he likes to do). his calmness in there when receiving the ball is underrated but essential to the team functioning at all.

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  8. Normally a critic of Ramsey. But his goal is what brought us into life. Good for him to get a goal for his confidence too

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  9. Got out of jail tonight, a clinical side would have had the game over by half time. Whilst the team is showing some resilience in achieving comebacks, whoever is in charge of defensive training in the team would want a massive boot up the hole. Defensively all over the place in first half. Not that they were solely to blame. The effort shown by the players in the first half, like against Bournemouth was of a side that either did not care or were not prepared for the game. Buck ultimately stops with manager. Either motivate the squad from the first whistle or expect the next few weeks to have much of the same kind of insipid performances.

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  10. Job done cause there is the win. But the trend is worrying. First half was a shame, and we are basically relying on Giroud! Xhaka and Ramsey are so slow, you can have your maté and read your paper before they make the pass! This duo will get bypassed by the top teams. And Mustafi is also worrying. COYG but it doesn’t look good for the coming weeks.

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    • Xhaka slow? He shifts that ball first touch 90 of the time and 89% of that, keeps possession. He can control a game’s tempo and given time, will become a hugely positive influence at Arsenal FC. Made the percentages up…

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  11. It seems to me that teams are starting to press us high and that is causing us problems. but luckily for us, in the past couple of games, this makes the energy levels of the other teams to drop off and allows us to come back in the game. positives should be Ramesy scoring, Welbeck return and Lucas again involved in the goals. CYOG

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    • This. I wish our defence and passing from the back was more solid so that we could cope with the high press. Maybe Wenger will react to it, he isn’t stupid.

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  12. What a horrendous performance from The Ox and what happened to Walcott, still trying to figure out how his coffee machine works?

    There is something systematically wrong as we start most of our games on the back foot just like how we start our seasons. I think it has to do with Arsene’s lack of preparation and poor tactical acumen.

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    • against teams below us we take them for granted and don’t start with high enough intensity; against teams around or above us we don’t have the mental strength and let them dominate. Either way, seems we’re fucked.

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    • Ox was poor.

      Again, Wenger does not intervene efficiently.

      Why keep him on for sooo long?

      This is an issue that I fear is hard to resolve.

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  13. Perez, Ramsey and the Ox all had good moments but in between that boy did they have some stinkers – especially the ox, at one point I just started laughing because it was so predictable that he would get ball and then lose it within seconds. Imagine playing like that against Bayern.
    Only iwobi was good throughout and Giroud ran the show in the second half.

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  14. Not convincing by us by any means.

    The game could have been out of sight for Preston in the first half. Our defense was a mess.

    Not that I thought he was poor when put in context with his youth but when I saw Wenger was intent on using Maitland Niles at Rback, I thought we were going to struggle.

    Would have preferred Gabriel at Rback, Holding in with Mustafi in the middle. Holding seems so much more unflappable where Mustafi and Gabriel together at times were a bundle of nerves.

    Also thought the Ox was poor and frankly we should have subbed in Welbeck earlier for him.

    In the end Ramsey showed why we should be playing him further up the pitch. His instinct is to attack. I still feel Iwobi next to Granit is a better option. The Swiss was passed by too easily at times.

    Lucas and Giroud seem to be developing a good telepathic link.

    Giroud again coming up with the goods.

    Onwards but we have to improve. Granted no Ozil and Alexis but we need to be better than this.

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  15. It seems to me that playing with Giroud is like a self fulfilling prophecy. His positioning (playing style), and the opponents’s strategy to sit beck deep in their half – kill the strenghts of our naturally pacy wingers + Alexis. So as soon as we reach the last 15-20 minutes we will have no other option but to send the crosses into the 18 yard box over and over again where Giroud is defenitely one of the best in Europe.
    … and the result is:
    We seem to be impotent for many minutes.
    – We critisize Giroud, Walcott (sometimes Özil and Ox) for their shortcomings.
    – But at the end we manage to “grind out” a result that is usually a win (as we have better squad than the most team has)
    – We celebrate Giroud for his goal scoring ability (plus Ozil for his assists)
    – Our players can talk about showing a great character.

    And the funny thing is: Everybody are wrong (to some extent). And of course: Everybody are right (to some extent)

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    • I don’t really agree with your theory. Everton, united and city pressed us high and caused similar problems to us and we started Alexis up top in those matches. Though Giroud starting makes us play with slower pace as we always try to build possession

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      • Yeah, certainly our problems of late don’t start or end with Giroud, but with our complete inability to deal with the high press.

        But otherwise I like the idea of playing Giroud being a self-fulfilling prophecy: our overall play is significantly worse (at least compared to games where we have both Ozil and Alexis playing at 10 and 9 respectively, and some semblance of a functioning central midfield), but our ability to get late goals by camping out in the opponent’s end when they tire and get conservative, and sending in lots of crosses to Giroud’s noggin, is pretty damn effective. Unfortunately, it’s not effective enough over 90 minutes to consistently earn maximum points. Rather, most of these games have been close, since with Giroud up top our overall attacking performance isn’t good enough to make our quality show by getting a comfortable lead early on (not blaming Giroud entirely here–he’s obviously not the one turning our defense into a complete shambles, for instance–but we are definitely much more one-note going forward because of his lack of mobility).

        The obvious solution, it seems to me, once we have Ozil and Sanchez both back fit and relatively fresh, is to put Giroud back on the bench, ready to come on as one of the most effective Plan B’s in Europe. His understanding with Perez isn’t too shabby either, so if the latter isn’t starting he’s a great second sub to bring on as Giroud’s “sidekick”.

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        • I principally agree with you but I don’t think it has to be Sanchez up front, it could be Lucas or Welbeck too. Just a more mobile alternative. Alexis could be more effective from the wing too with those guys (as seen last season when Alexis and Welbeck run the show against Everton away)

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          • Agreed. Whether Alexis is better in the middle with Lucas wide (playing the “Walcott role” basically, but with a bit more variety in his runs) or vice versa, only time will tell (I hope Wenger gives them enough time together on the pitch). Given Lucas had his breakout year for Deportivo playing through the centre I suspect that’s where he’s best, but since Sanchez is basically playing as a false 9, it allows at least one of the wide forwards to be as much of a striker as a winger, so starting wide right may not hinder Lucas too much.
            I feel the exact same way about Welbz. I’ve always thought he could be a really top class centre forward if given a long run of games there to make the position his own (it sounds silly since it’s a vital part of being a forward, but his only real weakness is lack of scoring goals, and you feel like that could be worked on in training more than skill with the ball and athletic talent can be). But if Alexis is the centre forward, then Danny starting wide doesn’t really limit his ability to move centrally as much as playing alongside an immobile striker like Giroud does.

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        • As much as in theory I agree to some extent it would be extremely harsh to rest Giroud in this kind of form. I am not convinced he is the problem against teams that press high. He might not get in behind but he offers a good outball and he is great at flicking it off to the runners. We lost the Everton and City games without him starting. I think the issue is our lack of ball retention skills in centre midfield which is fixed either by getting Cazorla back, getting a player of his ilk or playing a three man midfield sacrificing playing a no 10

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          • I honestly don’t really get the “extremely harsh” line of thinking. This is a job for these guys, for which they’re paid handsomely. And they’re adults, not kids. I’m all for doing right by our players, e.g. sticking by them through long injuries, letting them leave if they’re not getting any game time, even if it comes back to bite us (ok, the last one sometimes frustrates me about Wenger, but I at least see the motivation behind being nice to someone like Debuchy and letting him leave so he can get regular playing time, given how short a player’s career is, and I’m sure it sucks to sit on the bench). This is one of the things I admire most about Wenger: his moral principles trump his ambition to win football matches.
            But if starting with Giroud tends to hamper the team’s overall performance (as I think it does), then who cares if he’s scored a few goals lately? I mean, I’m thankful for the goals, and I’m glad we have him in our squad, and he should continue to get plenty of playing time. But players who score don’t get an automatic pass into the starting lineup, especially not because dropping them would seem “harsh”. Wenger’s job description doesn’t say anything about protecting his players’ feelings.

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          • I agree (with all of you) that our opponent’s pressing is causing a lot of problem to us. But I have a feeling that United, City, or Everton are playing differently against us than West Brom, Preston, Hull etc. Because the so called top teams have the technical level and discipine to carry that out.
            But overall I agree that it is a problem and that we miss Santi a lot in this regard.
            But as far as the loss against Everton and City concern I think it would be pretty misleading to use them as a starting-point. Before the Everton game we had an unbeaten run of 20 matches (in the PL and CL). Plus: Alexis, Ozil, Koscielny played more games before those 2 games than anybody else in PL. Moreover we scored 34 goals in 15 round (in this run) that is about 86 in the whole season (in our last 5 seasons – we never managed to scored more than 74)

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          • What would you put the Everton and City defeat down to them? For me they won because they pressed us well and we were unable to deal with that and keep the ball (especially against City). Both teams knew and now all teams know that if they press us we really struggle to get the ball out against decent opponents.

            Which games did we play badly because Giroud was in the team? I don’t think it’s fair to blame his presence in the team in any way for conceding three to Bournemouth or that abysmal performance against a midtable Championship team. We won at West Brom and looking back at the fixture list it is probably the toughest game on paper we have won (other than maybe Burnley away) since beating Chelsea in September. In that period we were lucky against Spurs and Burnley and very lucky against
            United.
            PFo I’m not saying we shouldn’t drop Giroud because of how it will affect his feelings nor because he has scored one goal but because in the last 4 starts he had 4 goals and 2 assists scoring in every single one of the games.

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          • I enhanced them (Kos, Alexis, Ozil), because IMO they are our 3 best players (plus Santi). But the emphasis was not on the persons but on the straining of these players (just take a look at the amount of minutes they played before the game at Goodison Park) .

            In my opinion: we played poorly in all of our last 4 games. But what I trying to say is that it is not because of Giroud himself. It is bacause of the change in our style/ the change in the way we try to score.

            And as far as pressing concern – as I said: I agree. And I also agree that it is not fair to blame Giroud’s presence for conceding too many goals. In connection to him – what I’m trying to speak about is first of all our attacking play. The way we play / the number of goals we score / and the way and time we score them…

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  16. Bloody awful first half, they could have had four goals. That said much better second half. Glad Ramsey smashed one home be good for his confidence.

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  17. we’re lack a bit of flow from our midfield to the attackers plus our passing lacks both objectivity and urgency. I think how much points we collect from the ‘average’ teams will really matter comes end of season,back to the FA Fourth round here we are, but don’t ask how!

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  18. Another game where we couldn’t cope with a high press. We should have been dead and buried half time. One plus for me was that Perez and Giroud seem to work well together.

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  19. Lost count of how many times Ox lost the ball. Also, did he have any successful dribbles? everytime he cut inside he was bullied off the ball. Our attack on the flanks was non-existent also.

    Good confidence boost for Ramsey though. Do we need an extra defensive midfielder in there with Xhaka and Ramsey? or did we just play that shit?

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  20. I’d really love to what Giroud and Perez could do in a 4-4-2, it’ll never happen of course but they seemed to click really well in the second half when we actually started to play football (a worrying trend that needs to be put to an end asap). Perez is a real livewire player though, he’s quick, he’s intelligent in his movement and use of the ball and he seems to have real instinct in the final third, hoping he’s another gem unearthed by Arsene!

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    • If we ever had some width and wingers who could cross a ball giroud would score bucket loads of goals but wenger cant adapt tactics to suit our players let alone the opposition. 4-4-2 with perez, alexis or wally now we are running out of midfielders but he will never go back stubbornold git.

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      • Only time you’ll ever see Wenger use the old 4-4-2 is when he brings on one of our forwards in the 88th and in desperation mode…

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  21. Just imagine dat Welbeck shot would’ve gone in 😀 so good to see him on the pitch again. Well played in the second half, need to cut these shitty starts out from now on. COYG

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  22. Dumbfounded as to why we started this game as poorly as we did considering the other night. Will this group ever learn?

    2nd half much, much better but could have been 0-3 at HT.

    Happy for the win and 2nd half display but first half lethargy concerns me a lot, as I said particularly after the first 70 mins v Bournemouth.

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  23. What happened to seeking perfection? The manager should be on their throats the moment the opposition gets a sight of goal. Wenger is too loose with them. I feel for Alexis. It seems like it’s only him and Koscielny who have the hunger for excellence in them. I’d get pissed off at Giroud too for that scorpion celebration. It shows it all. A winner accepts nothing less than a win. Even if we had won, 4-3 ,it would need severe scrutiny for allowing the opposition to score 3.

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  24. oddly today Arsenal started the game like

    we had a makeshift right back,

    a central defense duo that had never played with other before

    a goalie and back four who had never played a game together

    a cm pair that had not played together before

    and attacking four that had not started a game together before.

    odd that.

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  25. Very worrying to see a Championship team about playing us off the pitch in the first half. It could have been 3 nil at the half. A good win for us, but why must it take a horrendous first half to get us back to the playing level where we should be??!! A good win but it still raises plenty of questions. For all the important goals Giroud has scored, I feel our collective playing level has dropped when he starts games and we have regressed in comparison to when we play Alexis as our centre forward. For all the good Giroud contributes, we need to go back to playing Alexis there where it brings out the best in everyone else around him…

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    • the game tonight was very similar to the last time we faced preston, back in 99, in that game we went 2-0 down, yeah really, our team, double holders, with Dixon, Bould, Keown, Vieira, Petit, Parlour and Overmars in the starting 11 and we were lucky it was only 2-0, but much like tonight, we fought our way back into the game and won it in the end.
      Good job for the team in 99 that they did not have to contend with the experts on twitter and arsenal blog world, or else the performance would have gone down in history and all fans would know to slag them off and not be calling them legends.

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  26. I’m sure some people only support Arsenal so they can bring the rest of the supporters down when we win. Soooooooo boring get behind your team and moan at the end of the season. Or maybe when moaning keep it in perspective?

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    • Idc where is swinging, all i want is to see our team actually be competent, changing, and not the same old same old. Either with Arsene or someone new, I just dont want us to keep having this kind of problems with lesser opposition.

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    • Lol…maybe Blogs could do a weekly post we could click on which showed an animated Wenger spinning between In and Out corners and stopping somewhere in between. Maybe they could spin it during the Arsecast. Great idea!

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  27. It looked like Bournemouth part 2 and was still embarrassing despite result. Worst thing was that Giroud and Ramsey in post match interview both said they had been surprised by Preston’s commitment and pace. FFS, did they learn nothing from Tuesday? Every fan knew just what to expect, why didn’t team?

    Of the players, Mustafi had second shocker, Xhaka generally wandered around off the pace, Ox had one of his nothing comes off nights, ditto Iwobi. No cover for Niles (looked like Jenko that game at Swansea). Perez, Giroud, Nacho reasonable. Ramsey, Gabriel better second half, Ospina generally sound.

    Swansea and Burnley next – can someone advise AW that they will play the same!

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  28. I’m sorry, glad we won, but that was a piss poor performance.

    Whether it was a case of underestimating Preston and being lazy or just mental brain farts (we’ve had extended periods of this in PL games) it wasn’t good enough especially considering we put out a 80% first team side.

    I actually thought it would be good for more youngers like Josh DaSilva to get a run out but it seems our 1st was insufficient anyway.

    We lack a natural leader in this team and from what I heard Xhaka was that material but he seems to have quietened down since joining. Koscielny is a grade A defender but he is a silent leader and thus, not a leader, and Cech can only do so much from one end of the pitch.

    The highlight (apart from grabbing a last minute goal against a side 11th in the Championship) was seeing 80s mid-top fade Dat Guy Welbz come back.

    He’s a great player, tall, strong, pacey, great work rate, willing to track back. The only thing he’s missing is goals.

    His goal tally for England is fantastic, and decent for a winger @ Man U. Hopefully Wenger can get the coaches to work on that aspect of his game, if they aren’t already

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  29. I absolutely loved the holding substitution. Niles was ok, but i like seeing the manager tinker with a taller stronger fb option to see out a game. Some steel on the flank. I thought gabriel did great there when he was filling in for Hector and a defensive minded fb has its utility. Immediately holding contained a run when he came on.

    Options up front with welbeck too, feeling good.

    However, playing a 4-line 4-2-3-1 against a 4-4-2 is just dumb in my view. So clearly, our shape in 1H was killing us. Also, notice in 1H has gabriel lacked line discipline against their second striker. Throughout the game he player behind the other 3m was that deliberate?

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