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Arsene Wenger admits that Lukas Podolski has been frustrated by his lack of game time but insists the German international has an important role to play as the fixtures pile up ahead of Christmas.

The 29-year-old came off the bench to grab a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Anderlecht last night and the boss underlined that his strike wasn’t a coincidence but a demonstration of the player’s qualities.

“He is frustrated and I understand that of course, but he is important and he showed that,” Wenger told press after the game. “He will also be important in the coming months.

“It took him a while to get back to a good physical level [after the World Cup] and now he is nearly there.

“He was never close to leaving. He has 115 caps for Germany. This goal is not a coincidence, that shows you his quality.

“I think he is a guy you want to have the ball in the box. His shot is fantastic, his accuracy is great and he has very short back lift. He nearly scored before and I know when he comes on he can score.”

Obviously delighted with his first goal of the season, and very timely it was too given the abject nature of Arsenal’s performance in Brussels, Podolski stressed that he’ll always back himself to score, especially if the ball falls on his favoured left foot.

“Sometimes you have to be a little bit lucky and today was the day. When the ball is on my left foot I score 99 per cent of the time. It was a good moment for me and the fans because they support me all of the time.”

Eager to stress that it was better to hop home on the Eurostar with a good result, rather than a decent performance, he reflected:

“It was a dramatic game for the fans and for us as well but at the end we have the three points.

“If we lost today it would have been difficult. It was important that we won and went back to London with the three points.

“I hope [we can gain momentum]. We had 25 shots on target against Hull City and we drew. Today was not the best game but it’s important that at the end you get the points and we have the points.

 

“We still have three games left and nothing is certain yet. We have an important game against Anderlecht at home and if we win that then I think we can go through.”

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Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal 2014
6.43

Martinez

7.05

Gibbs

4.18

Monreal

5.35

Mertesacker

4.28

Chambers

3.82

Flamini

3.63

Wilshere

3.57

Ramsey

4.54

Cazorla

7.96

Alexis

4.56

Welbeck

6.5

Martinez

7

Gibbs

4

Monreal

6

Mertesacker

4

Chambers

4

Flamini

3

Wilshere

4

Ramsey

5

Cazorla

7

Alexis

4

Welbeck

We don’t quite know how to react to that one. A terrible Arsenal performance, but in the end a very important three points so we can go on in this competition and lose to somebody good.

Here’s how the players rated. Feel free to add your own ratings and comments below.

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26: Emiliano Martinez

6.5
arseblog
6.5
Readers
Vote:
43

Was mostly untroubled but made a very good save to keep it 1-0, didn't get the protection a young keeper needed but can be ultimately happy enough with his European debut.

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3: Kieran Gibbs

7
arseblog
7
Readers
Vote:
23

What a cracking finish for the goal – so good I thought it was Podolski.

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18: Nacho Monreal

4
arseblog
4
Readers
Vote:
14

Poor for their goal, a slip almost cost us another late on, but the reality is he's not a centre-half and he's being asked to do a job he's not comfortable with and play in a position he doesn't understand properly.

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4: Per Mertesacker

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
3

Worked hard to make up for Monreal's shortcomings and those of Calum Chambers who was all over the place tonight. Very switched on from their set-pieces in particular.

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21: Calum Chambers

4
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
35

Ok, the cross for the goal was brilliant but defensively he had a shocker. At times he was nowhere to be seen, others too easily beaten. Not unusual for a young player, of course, but still not his best day.

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20: Mathieu Flamini

4
arseblog
4
Readers
Vote:
16

"Hey midfield enforcer, why don't you do a dummy to nobody and give them back the ball?! Yay!" Can only think the only reason he's starting is because Arteta isn't close to being 100% fit yet, his form is in the toilet and thet toilet is the one from Trainspotting.

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10: Jack Wilshere

3
arseblog
3.5
Readers
Vote:
9

If there was a player to dribble into, he did. If there was an easy pass or an impossible pass, he chose the latter. If there was a chance to overrun the ball, he did that too. A bad night, compounded by him watching their man run past him and then hit the bar just after they'd got their goal.

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16: Aaron Ramsey

4
arseblog
3.5
Readers
Vote:
13

"There's only one Aaron Ramsey", went the song last year. But what if there are actually two? One who's great at football and one who's a bit average and the pair of them are taking it in turns to play a season as some piece of elaborate performance art which is going to be released as a film by Joaquin Phoenix? Worth considering.

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19: Santi Cazorla

5
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
15

Had two decent chances, one in the first half that he blazed high, the other in the second when set up by Alexis, but couldn't finish either. We need him to take those chances.

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17: Alexis Alexis

7
arseblog
8
Readers
Vote:
38

He has the fitness of 10 men. Never stops, works hard when he loses it, he might be a bit of a physical freak with his stamina and endurance, but he's an example to the rest of them.

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23: Danny Welbeck

4
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
39

Not his best night, had a good chance late in the first half but his first touch let him down.

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15: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
12

Not on that long really but played a part in the winning goal.

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28: Joel Campbell

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
33

Looked peripheral really but that was as much down to us as anything else.

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9: Lukas Podolski

7
arseblog
7.5
Readers
Vote:
8

Look at the replays and you'll see what a cracking first touch it was before he smashed the ball home. Was brought on to make an impact, did just that.

Bonus rating: Arsene Wenger's birthday 10/10 - he asked for something jammy and that's exactly what he got.

After watching his side cap his 65th birthday with one of the luckiest wins of his career, Arsene Wenger faced the Sky Sports cameras to discuss the last-gasp 2-1 victory over Anderlecht.

Unsurprisingly, the boss’ focus was more on his squad’s spirit and determination than praise for their technical quality over 90 minutes.

“We looked to control the game in the first half and to control their counter-attacks as well. Slowly in the second half we opened ourselves up, were less cautious defensively and got caught.

“After that the crucial point was, when we were one-nil down, that Anderlecht couldn’t take advantage of their chance to score the second goal.

“We kept going and managed to score two good goals because we had spirit and refused to lose the game. Anderlecht played well tonight and you see that this country [Belgium] produces top class players.

“It was vital [to win] for us to have a chance to qualify [from the group]. We are in a strong position now because Anderlecht and Galatasaray have only one point and we have six and Dortmund nine. It’s down to us now to win our home games and we are through.”

Asked if he was frustrated by the fact his side had to leave it to the last moment to beat opponents, who on paper should have been swatted away with ease, the boss continued:

“Frustration is part of our job. To fight until the last second [is important], we know from experience in the Champions League many goals are scored in the last five minutes. We took advantage of that tonight. We would like to have everybody available, but it’s not always the case.

“When you have the ball, the ball, the ball, the ball and you don’t score and you lose the game, sometimes the confidence drops. It was important for us tonight, after the disappointing result on Saturday [against Hull] to win tonight.

“It’s in our hands [to win the group]. Dortmund will be a tough opponent but you never know. Next they play Galatasaray at home, we play Anderlecht at home. Let’s first qualify then we’ll see how far we can go.”

Kieran Gibbs was thankful for the late, late win over Anderlecht this evening, and praised the spirit of his teammates, but slammed the lack of end product to the Gunners attacking moves.

Arsenal had plenty of the ball but were unable to create many chances during the game, and the left-back admitted that was something that frustrated him.

“I felt we’d controlled lots of the game,” he said, “but final ball let us down massively and that was frustrating.

“We had to keep probing, and we did that. I’ve got to give massive credit to the boys,  we didn’t give up. It wasn’t easy to come here, we kept going, and it was difficult to get the win.”

Asked if he could figure out why the team had failed to perform until the final minutes and were lucky to still be in the game after the home side hit the bar and missed good chances to extend their lead, he said, “No, if I knew that we wouldn’t have this problems.

“But the boys are working extremely hard, everyone’s fighting for each other, and another big game at the weekend so we have to concentrate on that now.

“We’ll give 100% for the team, have to keep doing that, some days it doesn’t happen, but we’ll remain professional and focused.”

Starting XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Flamini; Sanchez, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla; Welbeck.

Subs: Huddart, Bellerin, Rosicky, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Campbell.

Arsenal bounced back from one-nil down to score twice in the final moments to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Anderlecht. A lacklustre encounter burst into life when Honduran international Andy Najar headed the Belgian side ahead with 19 minutes remaining and the home side had several chances to double their lead. However, just as the Gunners were edging towards their second defeat in the group, they levelled with through Kieran Gibbs’ cool 89th minute finish. Then, deep into injury-time Lukas Podolski pounced from close range to seal three vital points.

Pre-game

Nacho Monreal was selected at centre-back for the second game in succession with Arsene Wenger opting to field the returning Calum Chambers at right-back in place of Hector Bellerin. In the centre of the park Mathieu Flamini retained his place despite the availability of club captain Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey made his first start since the North London derby alongside Wilshere with Cazorla, Alexis and Welbeck leading the line. On the bench 17-year-old Ryan Huddart provided back-up to Emiliano Martinez, who was making his Champions League debut between the sticks.

First half

Arsenal didn’t have to wait long for their first chance. Less than three minutes were on the clock when Alexis Sanchez’s dancing feet made space on the right for a low ball into the area which Santi Cazorla wildly swiped at. Shinning it with aplomb the ball flew into row Z. Little did we know that would be the highlight of a terminally boring 45 minutes.

The home side, full of youthful energy and buoyed by a fervent crowd packed into a tight stadium, weren’t shaken by the early scare. A team not afraid to run with the ball at pace, they probed down Chambers’ right a couple of times before trying their luck against Monreal in the middle. The Spaniard was soon booked for a foul on Zoro Cyriac.

Anderlecht kept plenty of men behind the ball but Alexis, Cazorla and Welbeck continued to cause them problems in the early stages. Cazorla hit the wall from a free-kick after Welbeck was felled on the edge of the box. Not long after the England man headed over from a cross by the Chilean. Another effort just after the half hour was blocked before it could trouble keeper Silvio Proto.

As has regularly been the case this season, the final ball from midfield was too often lacking in quality. Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were particularly guilty of surrendering possession too easily. That being said, one fine long ball by the Welshman did find Alexis who plucked the ball out of the sky before shooting high and wide.

Aside from Frank Acheampong’s pace on the break, the occasional lapse in concentration from Mathieu Flamini and a few Anderlecht corners the Gunners back four didn’t have too much to worry about. On his Champions League debut Damien Martinez barely had a touch before the break, but then again neither had his opposite number.

Second half

The second half was much livelier from the off. Conte had a shot for the home side deflected wide by a Monreal block. Moments later Alexis’s back flicked an effort straight at Proto after a deft free-kick into the box by Cazorla. He should have done better.

The Chilean was at the heart of all Arsenal’s good work. More scurrying behind the Anderlecht defence afforded him room to pick out Ramsey, who took one touch and hit his shot wide. If there was a positive from the effort it was that he got himself into a decent position.

Martinez’s first save came on 57 minutes as he dealt with a low drive from Cyriac, then he watched as Dennis Praet fired over wildly. As the game became more stretched Cazorla should have given the lead, but his tame shot was easily saved.

The Gunners were made to pay for their profligacy and hesitancy. With 19 minutes remaining Anderlecht took the lead. Dennis Praet sprinted from a central position on the edge of the box behind Kieran Gibbs’, collected the ball, spun and dinked a ball into the box that Andy Najar headed low past Martinez. The Honduran had started the move and his finish was very tidy.

In response Danny Welbeck and Mathieu Flamini were withdrawn and Joel Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thrown on. Alexis moved into a central attacking position. Despite the change in personnel it was the home side who should have extended their lead. Awful defending was matched only by a comical finish from Vanden Borre that came back off the cross bar.

An Alexis free-kick came close to levelling the game, but could only find the side netting. Desperate for a goal Lukas Podolski was sent on in place of Wilshere. By this point Arsenal had completely lost their shape and Anderlecht attacked at will. Martinez was forced into a couple of decent saves as the Gunners defence wilted under pressure.

Somehow, with two minutes left, we equalised. Out of nothing Calum Chambers whipped in a fine ball to the back post and Kieran Gibbs produced the calmest of volleyed finishes to bury the ball in the back of the net. (1-1)

By the end of Gibbs’ celebrations the game had moved into stoppage time. Amazingly, pumped by the goal, Arsenal found a winner. Alex Oxlade-Chamberalin charged into the box, Gibbs crossed to Alexis and after the Chilean’s cross was blocked it fell to Podolski who smashed home from two yards out. (1-2)

Anderlecht were absolutely stunned and it’s fair to say the travelling 1,000 Gooners were too. Not long after the final whistle blew. It’ll go down as one of our greatest escapes in Europe. It doesn’t really hide the deficiencies in the performance, but at the same time it kinda does!

So, three points out of nothing moves us up to six points. Dortmund destroyed Galatasaray to maintain their 100% record so we stay in second position ahead of the return game against the Belgians.

Happy Birthday Arsene.

Arsenal team news

Anderlecht: Proto, Vanden Borre, Mbemba, Deschacht, Acheampong, Najar, Defour, Tielemans, Conte, Praet, Cyriac.

Subs: Roef, Colin, Kljestan, Dendoncker, Suarez, Kabasele, Mitrovic.

Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Flamini; Sanchez, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla; Welbeck.

Subs: Huddart, Bellerin, Rosicky, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Campbell.

To follow the game with live updates and to chat with other fans, check out the Arseblog live blog

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He’s set to make his first Champions League start for the club tonight, but just who is Emi Martinez? Where did he come from? What’s his bag (as they say)?

To give you a better understanding of the young goalkeeper, here are 10 things you might not have known about him.

1 – Despite only playing twice for Arsenal, he has been called up the full Argentina squad. In 2011 he was asked to replace the injured Óscar Ustari for a game against Nigeria.

2 – He was known as Damián Martinez, as his full name is Damián Emiliano Martinez. He’s recently asked to called Emi, short for Emiliano, having grown weary of his youth team colleagues at Arsenal taking the mickey out of the name Damian and suggesting he was the son of Satan, as per the character in the Omen.

3 – While on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, he was involved in an altercation with Joey Barton in a 3-0 win over QPR. The temperamental midfielder went in late on the keeper, who responded by pinching the skin at the back of his arm and telling him he was for it after the game. Barton locked himself in a janitor’s closet at Hillsborough until the coast was clear.

4 – He cites his goalkeeping influences as David Seaman,  Sergio Goycoechea and Stéphane Henchoz.

5 – If he hadn’t been a footballer he would have pursued a career in science. Before he joined Arsenal he had been accepted at the prestigious Institute of Future Technology (IFT) in Buenos Aires to study under renowned professors Dr Eme Marrón and Biffez Tannen.

6 – Martinez told Argentine newspaper, La Noticia Impostura, that when he first arrived at the club Jens Lehmann was a massive help to him and gave him a piece of advice that he always remembered and had tattooed on his back in Gothic script:

“Now this mountain I must climb, feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine, it keeps me warm as life grows colder”

He says these words remain an inspiration to him, when he feels heartache and pain and isn’t quite sure if he can face it again.

7 – He comes from a very sporting family. His brother, Martín, plays as a striker for Spanish second division side Recreativo Huelva, his uncle was an 1980 Olympic silver medalist in the pole vault, while his father was the Argentinian Street Luge champion for 6 consecutive years between 1986 and 1991.

8 – In an interview with arsenal.com he was asked his favourite things, which were as follows:

Footballer: Diego Maradona
Film
: The Shawshank Redemption
Music: Orchestral Uplifting Trance or Twin Cities hip hop
Colour: Black (70% opacity)
Movie stars (M&F): Rodrigo Guirao Díaz Ramirez – Shannen Doherty
Place for holiday: Constantinople
Food: Kebab meat pizza

9 – Before coming to Arsenal he had trials at a number of Premier League clubs including Wigan, Portsmouth and Norwich. The Canaries were keen on signing him and sent joint majority shareholder Delia Smith to seal the deal by cooking him the perfect dinner. Unfortunately, she got a little carried away with the cooking wine, straddled the table seductively and shouted ‘Come on, let’s be ‘avin ya!’ .

After excusing himself briefly, a terrified Martinez was forced to flee through the bathroom window.

10 – As a child he was once introduced to Argentine legends Mario Kempes and Ossie Ardiles at a summer camp for kids. He was so nervous he vomited chewing gum into Kempes’ beard, requiring him to shave it off and sport a conquistador moustache until it all grew back.

Arsene Wenger has given Emi Martinez a vote of confidence ahead of his Champions League debut tomorrow night.

The 22 year old will play against Anderlecht in the absence of the suspended Wojciech Szczesny and the injured David Ospina (confirmed out for three months with a recurrence of a thigh injury).

And as you would expect, the manager has looked to calm any nerves by backing the Argentine who has only ever made two appearances for the club, the last of which was the remarkable 7-5 win over Reading in the Capital One Cup in October 2012.

He enjoyed a reasonable loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday last season, keeping the vastly experienced Christ Kirkland out of the side for periods and the manager believes that will stand him in good stead.

“I am extremely confident,” said Wenger, “because he has experience from Sheffield last year and when he played for us, he did very well. I have no special worry about that.

“He is two years older now, has a good experience. 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.”

Martinez also received the backing of Jack Wilshere, who said, “He is in our dressing room now so we know him well. He is confident and has grown up quite a lot in the last two years. He learned from Sheffield, playing in a tough league, especially as a foreign keeper.

“We see him train every day, what he can do and we are confident he will be ready.”

So, good luck to the young man, and with Ospina out for some time, a good showing tomorrow night would provide some confidence in what is our only back-up for Szczesny until the new year.

Arsenal’s injury problems continue to mount with Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina set to spend three months on the sidelines.

The 26-year-old has started only one game since signing from Nice for £3 million having arrived at London Colney in the summer nursing a thigh problem picked up at the World Cup.

Called upon off the bench in Arsenal’s last Champions League run out against Galatasaray in the aftermath of Wojciech Szczesny’s red card, he hasn’t been seen since.

News of Ospina’s injury was confirmed by Arsene Wenger at his pre-Anderlecht press conference.

“It is exactly the same (injury) . 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. And after that he came to us injured, from the World Cup. It took him two months to play a game.

“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.

“Now we have to be really careful because he has a recurrence of a thigh injury that’s very difficult. It’s a long-term injury.”

Emiliano Martinez will deputise tomorrow evening in Brussels and now has the opportunity to hold down the number two spot having been fourth choice last year.

Without the suspended Wojciech Szczesny and injured David Ospina, it’s already been reported that Arsenal will hand Emiliano Martinez his first start in goal in the Champions League tomorrow night.

The next question is, who provides backup? Lukas Podolski sporting two giant foam fingers? Abou Diaby with papier-mâché gloves made from his medical records? Vic ‘I like short shorts’ Akers? Our cash reserves? An inanimate carbon rod?

Well no. It would appear we’re turning to a lad who is precisely 17-years, 7-months and 16-days-old…Ryan Huddart.

The official website tells us the teenager, like Carl Jenkinson and Semi Ajayi, joined from Charlton Athletic (aged 14) and that he’s since progressed through the ranks to become a regular in the under-21s.

Pictured in first team training today – he wears number 43 – it would appear he’s shaken off competition (in part thanks to UCL eligibility) from the likes of Josh Vickers, Deyan Iliev and Matt Macey to shoot up the keeper pecking order and make the trip to Brussels.

It should be quite the experience for him, but for the sake of our nerves we very much hope he’s not called-upon.