Thursday, November 27, 2014
Hot topics

Jack Wilshere says he’s ‘devastated’ for Mesut Ozil after the German international picked up a knee injury that will sideline him for up to four months.

The 25-year-old World Cup winner is understood to have picked up the problem in Arsenal’s defeat at Chelsea but was only diagnosed by his national team’s medics when he reported for Euro 2016 qualifier duty last week.

Eager to play down the effect on Arsenal’s tactical set-up, Wilshere stressed that Arsene Wenger has plenty of options at his disposal on the flanks with England colleagues Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the returning Theo Walcott eager to take over.

“We are devastated for Mesut because he can play in that number 10, we have seen what he can do at number 10,” Wilshere told reporters after England’s 1-0 victory over Estonia on Saturday night.

“It’s tough to take but it is part and parcel of football. I have had my fair few injuries. It is not a curse, it happens and you just have to deal with it.

“It will be hard for him [Ozil] because he likes football, he has never really had an injury before. He had a slight one last season.

“I am not even sure how long it is, I’ve not been back to the club. It will be difficult for him. But he is naturally quite a fit lad so he will be alright.

“Ozil was playing on the left a bit so it probably won’t change much in the centre. Chambo will get a chance. Theo is coming back as well. Now it might give Theo or Chambo a chance.”

Tomas Rosicky is another who might have been challenging for a place in Ozil’s absence but it appears he too has succumbed to injury [story here] during the Interlull and is waiting for a full diagnosis.

Per Mertesacker may be Arsenal’s only senior available centre-back at present, but at youth level Arsenal have plenty of options at the heart of the defence.

Isaac Hayden and Semi Ajayi have both been called up to the first-team squad this season, first-year George Dobson is impressing and Julio Pleguezuelo will seek to push on when he returns from an injury problem that has been troubling him since pre-season.

However, it is one of the lesser known talents in the Arsenal Academy that can be particularly pleased with his start to the season. Stefan O’Connor experienced some teething problems when he was first deployed in the older age groups last season, but he is now extremely calm on the ball as well as being capable of timing his challenges to perfection.

It is being reported that O’Connor, who is in the second year of his scholarship deal at the club, has agreed to sign a professional contract. The news will come as a major boost to the Croydon-born youngster, who has enjoyed a whirlwind few weeks.

Having already featured ten times at U21 level last season, he has become something of a regular at that level in the early weeks of the new campaign, starting the last four games in a row for Steve Gatting’s side. In addition, he has been a key part of the U19 team that has conceded just one goal in their first two UEFA Youth League fixtures.

O’Connor’s most significant moment of the campaign, however, came when, in the absence of several defenders, he was asked to train with the first-team squad prior to the Champions League game against Galatasaray. O’Connor is believed to have acquitted himself well in the training session, which has prompted his award of a professional contract.

He has achieved a lot already this season, but this is not the time for the 17 year old to rest on his laurels. If either Hayden or Ajayi leave on loan in January, then an opportunity could arise for O’Connor to train with the first-team on a more regular basis, which would be hugely beneficial for his development.

O’Connor has a lot of promise, but he also still has much to learn. His distribution can be wasteful at times, whilst he is still capable of making mistakes at costly moments.

The youngster’s form in the early weeks of the season has only gone to show, however, that the youth sides have numerous central-defensive options at present. If only the same was the case for the first-team.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

 

He may have come out of retirement to play for FC Goa in the inaugural Indian Premier League season, but Bobby Pires still has one eye on Arsenal’s fortunes.

Having trained regularly with the Gunners over the last few years the sexpot ‘invincible’ still believes there’s something missing from Arsene Wenger’s current squad and has called on his former coach to take a chance on Sami Khedira.

The German World Cup winner has been strongly tipped to quit Real Madrid in January before he becomes a free agent next summer and Pires thinks he could be a physical, box-to-box presence like former teammate Patrick Vieira.

“He [Wenger] needs a big player in the middle, like Viera, strong, tall, because this position is very important for the balance between attack and defence,” Pires told Telegraph Sport. 

“The quality is there but you need more, maybe [someone] like Yaya Toure in middle. He reminds me of Patrick Vieira, maybe they have an opportuniuty with Khedira. It is likely in the January window. He played very well with Germany.

“My advice is if he can buy Khedira he can be the [new] Vieira, more aggression in the middle. He has a lot of experience. When you play in the middle you need experience, especially when your midfield is young like Arsenal’s.”

Back in August Wenger dismissed suggestions that Arsenal were trying to buy the 27-year-old midfielder instead highlighting the options already at disposal, “I don’t know who has put Khedira on the market – is it his agent or the press? We were never close to signing him.”

There won’t be many who argue with Pires suggestion that we need to strengthen at the spine of midfield, although Khedira’s qualities aren’t exactly that of an archetypal defence-minded player.

Could he fulfil the DM role better than Flamini and Arteta? Quite possibly. Will he be a priority come the New Year? Probably not given we’ve 11 first team midfielders (some of them are still fit) and we’re desperately short of defensive cover.

In an interview with Dutch football magazine Voetbal International [paywalled], published in September, Andries Jonker has claimed that Arsenal must overhaul their entire scouting network if they are to turn the club’s Academy into the best in the world.

The Dutchman was appointed head of the Academy this summer and has wasted no time auditing the entire set-up and reshuffling personnel recruiting compatriots Frans de Kat and Jan van Loon to take over the under-18 and under-16 squads.

Speaking passionately about Arsenal’s youth project the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach outlined the changes he thinks the Gunners must make.

“Arsenal want more talented players to come through, because that has been lacking. They want me to develop the players from the academy much better than it was done before.

“At this moment, considering the investments the club have made, players have hardly been developed properly. This is why they wanted me, a man who can guide the coaches and who can influence the other coaches.

“Ivan Gazidis wants Arsenal to be the best academy in the world. He realises that will cost money and will take time, but that is his ambition.

“The scouting must be restructured all over again. It needs to be brought to a level so that we can bring in the absolute best talents from abroad and from England at an age that Wenger can immediately work with them.

“My chief scout at the academy, Steve Morrow, came and asked me what kind of players I wanted him to look for. So I said, the best player I have worked on, Xavi.

Revealing Arsene Wenger tried to bring him to Arsenal after Euro 2012 (he instead became Felix Magath’s assistant at Wolfsburg) Jonker opened up on how his relationship with the Frenchman has strengthened thanks to a mutual respect for technically astute football.

“Almost every day Wenger and I go through a number of things. He is approachable, but I do have to show him what we are doing. We must not go behind his back.

“It is important that Wenger and I work closely together. What I do see is that everybody at the club has the feeling that they need to have the green light from Wenger before they do anything. But maybe that is not the case.

“I have a very good feeling about the way Wenger and I are working together. We both think the technical side of the game is very important.

“But there are a lot of things in the academy which can be improved or should be done different.”

In a separate interview, also appearing in the Dutch press, Jonker made clear that there’s no point bothering with a youth academy if you don’t have a manager who wants to promote homegrown talent. Interestingly he also confirmed the club have assured him that this is a long-term ambition that’ll long outlast Arsene Wenger.

“I think it is very important to pay attention to youth, that’s why it’s good that we’ve a manager like Arsene.

“If you have a first team coach who doesn’t believe in young player you have to question why you even have a youth academy. I’m glad that he’s extended his contract but the club have told me that when or if he leaves, that a similar kind of manager will be appointed. I also found this important.”

On the issue of restructuring the scouting network it appears Jonker has already started putting plans in place. Shaun O’Connor (the man who discovered Jack Wilshere) has already returned to the Emirates after a spell at Brentford and former Reading and Leeds United boss (and ex-Gooner) Brian McDermott is also thought to have been signed up to work with Steve Rowley.

__

Thanks to @AlwinKelderman for getting us through Voetbal International’s paywall!

Mesut Ozil injury

After undergoing a scan this afternoon in Munich, the German football association DFB confirmed that Mesut Ozil has injured ligaments in his knee and will be out of action for up to 3 months.

Obviously it’s a massive blow for the Gunners who currently have Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud ruled out with long-term injuries, as well as the likes of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey sidelined with muscular problems.

There’s been no confirmation as to whether Ozil suffered the problem while training with the World Champions or if he arrived crocked after the Chelsea game last weekend.

Update

Arsenal have released a statement: “Arsenal can confirm that midfielder Mesut Ozil is returning to London from international duty with Germany after picking up a knee injury during Sunday’s game at Chelsea.

“Ozil complained of a sore left knee after the game and the club advised the German FA to run medical checks when he joined up with his international squad.

“The club will make further assessments and it is too early to say how long Ozil may be out of action.”

Arseblog News lets out a collective sigh.

Per Mertesacker said Arsenal lacked any cutting edge in the final third and admitted that Chelsea were worthy victors in yesterday’s derby at Stamford Bridge.

The Gunners didn’t register a shot on target in the Premier League for the first time since September 2003 and were made to pay either side of half time by Eden Hazard’s penalty and Diego Costa’s lob.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the 2-0 loss, the German international struggled to find any positives.

“Obviously we were more competitive this year. That was the first target today, to be much better than last year. Overall we have to admit at times we were good, but not good enough to score a goal here.

“In the final third [we weren’t good enough]. We defended quite well, there was always cover, there was always protection. In the final third we had a couple of decent possibilities to come through but we missed the last pass or the last touch.”

Asked whether his defensive partner, Laurent Koscielny, was lucky to stay on the field in light of the penalty conceded for a trip on Eden Hazard, Mertesacker continued:

“He [the referee] took the decision right. We were a bit lucky but overall I think it’s a fair decision.

“We defended better, that’s what we take [from the game] but we have to admit they were better, still better…and we have to learn quickly.”

Our first defeat in the league (and third of the season in all competitions) leaves us nine points behind Chelsea and eighth (on goal difference) in the Premier League standings. Somehow even Van Gaal’s laughable United have managed to squeeze into fourth, suggesting they’re not as dead and buried as some might have hoped. Right now, it doesn’t look pretty.

That being said when you look at the fixtures coming up, there’s a real opportunity to try and build momentum before the end of the calendar year. We start with Hull at the Emirates on the 18 October before facing Sunderland, Burnley, Swansea, Manchester United, West Brom, Southampton, Stoke and Newcastle. After that it’s four games over Christmas and New Year.

Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I am changing the column. Going forward I want to focus more on in depth stats analysis and less on the story-telling stats you get from the post-match articles. I know that many of you like these columns but ultimately they aren’t memorable. For example, which columns do you remember most? The ones where I talk about how many dribbles Theo Walcott had in a match against Sunderland or the ones where I show how Arsenal have been struggling for four years to create shots? I know it’s the latter and, frankly, if I’m going to take my attention away from my family I would much rather provide something memorable than something just fluffy.

So for example, I’ve been compiling the numbers on Arsenal’s corners. Wouldn’t you rather see a post detailing Arsenal’s corner profligacy, showing where Arsenal’s corners are going and why we are incapable of getting shots off corners

Still… I reserve the right to write a post-match fluffy post if I want! Like today.

12 - Consecutive matches that Arsène Wenger has failed to beat Jose Mourinho
1 - Consecutive matches that Arsène Wenger has not beaten Mourinho but did push him
1 - Consecutive matches which I wish Arsène Wenger had pushed Mourinho down to the ground and stomped his smug git face
1 - Consecutive matches that Arsenal will play with Bellerin at right back because Chambers got his 5th yellow card
10 - Shots Arsenal had against Chelsea today
0 - Shots on goal by Arsenal against Chelsea today
5 - Shots by Chelsea today
3 - Shots on goal by Chelsea today
22 - Shots that Diego Costa has taken (in League play) this season
9 – Goals Diego Costa has scored off those 22 shots, those 9 goals lead the League, of course, through SEVEN games and he has, like, what, 31 games left in the season?
10 - Goals Arsenal’s players have scored this season, off 106 shots (1 own goal brings the total to 11 goals)
145 - Millions of Pounds Sterling Wenger claimed Diego Costa would cost Arsenal
32 - Millions of Pounds Sterling Chelsea actually paid for Diego Costa according to the BBC
435 - Thousands of Pounds Sterling per week Chelsea would have to pay Costa, over five years, in order to pay a total of £145m for his transfer
1 - Number of times I’m going to say “there’s no way Diego ‘Costa’ Chelsea £145m – though even if he did he may be worth it”
7 - Assists Cesc Fabregas has created this season, in 7 League games, this leads the League, of course
7 - Assists Arsenal have created this season
1 - Assist Mesut Özil has created this season
22 - Key passes Cesc Fabregas has made (passes which lead to a shot) which means he’s created 7 assists on 22 passes, which is ridiculous because, for example, Özil leads Arsenal with 14 key passes but has only created one goal
4 - Assists Cesc Fabregas has made for Diego Costa
8 – Number of Costa’s goals which were assisted by others
27 - Millions of Pounds Sterling Chelsea paid for Cesc Fabregas
12 - Number of Chelsea’s 21 League goals Costa and Fabregas have scored or created this season
11 - Number of League goals Arsenal have scored this season
1 - Number of Arsenal tackles which were repeated on television in the USA with the phrase “that should have been a red card” (Welbeck on Cesc)
1000000 - Number of times I saw that tackle on television with that phrase during the NBC Soccer coverage of the game
0 - Number of times Cesc’s handball was mentioned
0 - Number of times Gary Cahill’s tackle was mentioned

Cesc v. Özil

90 - Touches by Cesc today (led Chelsea)
78 - Touches by Özil today (2nd on Arsenal, Gibbs led both teams with 93 touches)
61 - Passes by Cesc today (led all players)
46 – Passes by Özil today (third on Arsenal)
25 - Passes in the final third by Özil today (led all players)
18 - Passes in the final third by Cesc today
2 - Key passes by Cesc today
3 – Key passes by Özil today
6 - Dribbles by Özil today (of 12, led both teams)
0 - Dribbles by Cesc today (of 1)
4 – Tackles by Cesc today (of 10)
0 – Tackles by Özil today (of 1)
1 - Assists by Cesc today
1 – Assists by Özil this season
1 – Tackle by Welbeck on Cesc that came far too late in the game
1 – Handball by Cesc which should have been a penalty

Weirdness with Arsenal’s Dribbling

96 – Arsenal have attempted 96 dribbles in the last two games (Galatasaray and Chelsea)
19 – Arsenal averaged 19 attempted dribbles per game last season
31 - Arsenal are averaging 31 attempted dribbles per game this season
9 - Arsenal averaged 9 successful dribbles per game last season
14.5 - Arsenal are averaging 14.5 successful dribbles per game so far this season
4 - Arsenal have 4 of the top 10 players in successful dribbles per game (Wilshere, Özil, Cazorla, Sanchez)
10.6 – Combined, those four players average 10.6 successful dribbles per game
64 - Combined, those four players have completed 64 dribbles
68 - The entire Manchester City team have completed 68 dribbles
100 - Percent chance I will be looking at Arsenal’s dribbles this season in my more extended weekly column here

@7amkickoff

Not altogether unexpectedly, Arsenal failed to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge today, going down 2-0 to goals from Hazard and Costa. Here are our player ratings.

WS
1
5.5
KG
3
6.5
PM
4
5.5
LK
6
5
CC
21
6
MF
20
6.5
JW
10
6
SC
19
6.5
AS
17
6
11
3.5
DW
23
5.5
WS
1
6
KG
3
6
PM
4
5.5
LK
6
5
CC
21
6
MF
20
7
JW
10
6
SC
19
6.5
AS
17
6
11
3
DW
23
6
24285
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1: Wojciech Szczesny

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Season average: 6
1

Could do little about the penalty, and it was clear from Chelsea's second that the midweek storming out of goal played on his mind, but even so Costa's touch and finish was top class.

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3: Kieran Gibbs

6
arseblog
6.5
Readers
Season average: 6.5
23

Had little joy getting forward against the solid Ivanovic, defended ok.

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4: Per Mertesacker

5.5
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Season average: 6
3

Caught out by the ball over the top for Chelsea's second, never had the pace to recover. Did a lovely first half shimmy though.

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6: Laurent Koscielny

5
arseblog
5
Readers
Season average: 7
5

Lucky to avoid a red card when he brought down Hazard for the penalty, like Mertesacker caught out for the Costa goal.

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21: Calum Chambers

6
arseblog
6
Readers
Season average: 6.5
35

Did pretty well against the dangerous Hazard but yet another booking means he misses the game against Hull due to suspension.

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20: Mathieu Flamini

7
arseblog
6.5
Readers
Season average: 5.5
16

Maybe our best player today, worked really hard in the midfield, tigerish from start to finish.

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10: Jack Wilshere

6
arseblog
6
Readers
Season average: 6
9

He worked hard but when he had a chance to make a decisive contribution his touch let him down and an equaliser not long after their penalty went begging.

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19: Santi Cazorla

6.5
arseblog
6.5
Readers
Season average: 6
15

I thought he did pretty well, he looked unhappy to be taken off and I don't blame him.

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17: Alexis Alexis

6
arseblog
6
Readers
Season average: 7.5
38

He gives you loads of work and he did that today, but struggled up front. He lost the ball in the lead up to their penalty, and he was the one who couldn't control the ball just before Chelsea scored their second and was duly taken off.

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11: Mesut Özil

3
arseblog
3.5
Readers
Season average: 6
28

Really not his day. Whatever you might say about him being played out of position, seeing him stumble the ball out of play for a throw like a hungover Sunday league player is hugely frustrating. He has to be better and stronger than he was today.

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23: Danny Welbeck

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Season average: 6.5
39

Again you can't fault the workrate, but a striker is dependent on service and he got none worth talking about.

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15: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

5
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Season average: 6.5
12

Couldn't get into the game.

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9: Lukas Podolski

N/A
arseblog
4
Readers
Season average: 5.5
8

Not on long enough to bother rating

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7: Tomas Rosicky

N/A
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Season average: 6
6

Not on long enough to rate.

Bonus rating: 10/10 - Arsene Wenger for pushing Mourinho after Cahill's atrocious challenge on Alexis. Bonus bonus rating: 1/10 - Arsene Wenger for not instilling the same kind of passion in some of his players.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Flamini, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Subs: Martinez, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell, Podolski

Arsenal’s wretched run of results against Chelsea continued at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho’s side ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. In a scrappy opening half the Blues took the lead through Eden Hazard’s penalty after the Belgian was felled by Laurent Koscielny. In the second half Arsenal continued to probe but were made to pay for their tepid play in the final third when Diego Costa latched onto a Fabrgeas through ball to double the home side’s lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Pre-game

Arsene Wenger made only one change from the starting XI that demolished Galatasaray with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropping to the bench in favour of Jack Wilshere.  On the bench Emi Martinez replaced David Ospina, while Nacho Monreal also made a welcome return after a back problem.

First half

Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to flare-related trouble both inside and outside the ground, the travelling Gooners seemingly ‘inspired’ by events at the Emirates in midweek. Their ranks still looked a little depleted by the time the game started.

The opening fifteen minutes were very cagey, each side happy to maintain possession of the ball without committing too many players forward. Alexis Sanchez threatened with a long range shot that flashed by Thibaut Courtois’ post and the Chilean then clattered into the Belgian on ten minutes in a clash that eventually led to him being subbed in favour of Petr Cech. It did take 12 minutes for the decision to be made by the Chelsea management, somewhat making a mockery of the new rulings on concussion.

Gary Cahill’s challenge on Alexis Sanchez had the Arsenal bench up in arms on 19 minutes. The England defender picked up a booking while the boss and Jose Mourinho indulged in a shoving match on the touchline. Both managers received a talking to from referee Martin Atkinson and the resentment transferred to the pitch.

It was Chelsea who picked up the tempo. Chambers was handed his fifth booking of the season – he’ll miss the visit of Hull – trying to tidy up a mess made by Wilshere before Eden Hazard took the game by the scruff of the neck, showing fleet of foot to bamboozle Chambers before rounding Laurent Koscielny who upended him in the box. It was a clear penalty and the Frenchman was further punished with a caution. Hazard calmly slotted home the penalty after giving Szczesny the eyes.

Arsenal laboured in response. Winning the ball wasn’t a problem, but doing anything of merit once we had it proved somewhat more challenging. Jack Wilshere looked well placed to get a shot off after a dart into the box only for a heavy touch to ruin the moment while Mesut Ozil was repeatedly guilty of dilly-dallying on the ball.

Chambers was lucky to stay on the pitch in the moments before half-time. Left exposed by a Koscielny pitch charge the right-back was on his own against Andre Schurrle and used his body to prevent the German from cutting in off the left as he reached the box. Thankfully nothing came of the resulting set piece.

Second half 

The second period was as scrappy as the first with Arsenal unsucessfully probing and Chelsea opting to hit us on the break.

On 57 minutes another Eden Hazard run caused havoc for the Gunners defence as his low hard crossed was deflected goalwards by Mathieu Flamini. Wojciech Szczesny had to throw out a strong right hand to flick it onto the post and out for a corner. The Frenchman lay on the ground looking very relieved.

At the other end Cazorla flashed wide and there was an optimistic penalty shout when Fabregas appeared to block a Wilshere shot with his hand. Chelsea thrived on choking the Gunners and clear cut chances for the visitors were sorely lacking. Probe after probe was rebuffed.

Looking to liven things up, a very unhappy Cazorla was subbed off in favour of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil was shuffled into a more central position. It was harsh on the Spaniard who’d been one of our better performers.

As Arsenal pushed forward so the pace of Hazard became ever more important to the home side. After fine hold up play by Costa the Belgian nearly grabbed a second as he fired over after another sprightly run into the box.

With 14 minutes remaining Costa doubled Chelsea’s lead. The damage was done by Fabregas whose fine lofted ball deceived Koscielny and as the Spanish striker bore down on goal he lofted a finish over Szczesny. After the failed intricacy of Arsenal’s play the Blues route one play was ruthless.

Podolski and Tomas Rosicky came on for Sanchez and Wilshere respectively but their presence did little to revive hopes of a comeback. In injury time the frustration got to Welbeck who floored Cesc Fabregas with a challenge that might easily have earned him more than a yellow.

Full-time came as a welcome relief, as it so often does at the Bridge. It may not have been as traumatic as last season’s 6-0 hammering but the fact we looked equally toothless in the face of Mourinho’s stubborn defence is still a major cause for concern. The Blues are walking away with the title at the moment, remaining unbeaten and a full nine points ahead of us.

We now have 13 days to mope before the visit of Hull City. A shit Sunday all round.

Brian McDermott

This morning’s Sunday People reports that the former Reading and Leeds manager, Brian McDermott, has signed a three year deal to work with the club as a scout.

The Gunners have been trying to add new blood to the scouting deaprtment for some time, and McDermott’s experience in the Premier League and beyond as a manager and coach would see him ideally suited for the role.

It’s the latest in a number of behind the scenes moves to revamp areas of the club, which have included the departure of Liam Brady and David Court from the youth set-up to be replaced by Andries Jonker and his team; the hiring of Shad Forsythe to overhaul the fitness regime as well as developments to extend the training ground.

McDermott, of course, is well versed in the way of Arsenal, having made 72 appearances for the club as a player between 1979 and 1984.