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Arsenal Versus Preston North End: The Decider

H and SV

The Clash of the Invincibles takes place at historic Deepdale this evening. Quite rightly held back until the less significant fixtures have finished, this is the unquestioned jewel of the third round. A meeting of two venerable clubs, both famous for their contributions to the English game and both special for achieving unbeaten success at the pinnacle of the league.

Their fortunes have varied in recent years. Arsenal have become a byword for consistency. While other clubs have risen and fallen, enjoying their moments in the limelight, North London’s pre-eminent sporting establishment has been an ever present in the heady atmosphere of the upper echelons of top class football.

Preston North End have been quietly working their way back towards the top flight. Their rise from the fourth to second tier has been achieved in a steady fashion winning the promotion as champions twice in four years and finishing in the top five of League One (and Championship after it’s name change in 2004) no less than five times. This season they’re sitting in eleventh place having won ten, lost nine and drawn six.

What can we expect from them? Reading a Preston forum their fans seem to think Arsène is either arrogantly resting players or frightened his pampered softies will be scared of getting a kicking from the North End midfield. How refreshing such forward thinking attitudes are still prevalent in the modern game. In fairness most of them were bemoaning the absence of Sanchez, feeling deprived of witnessing at first hand one of the game’s true greats. This is odd when you consider that the real treat they are being deprived of is the sight of Mesut Özil. I suppose this just shows the influence the media have on the opinions of fans.

We are of course anything but arrogant and entirely aware of the possibilities for a lower division team to overturn the odds and beat one of the nations greatest ever clubs. Cup competitions thrive on such tales. Needless to say it is a romance we as Arsenal fans indulge in only when someone else is on the receiving end. My only concern is whether the side will gel. We all know the reserves are good enough individually but we saw against Southampton in the League cup how a patched together eleven can lack understanding and cohesion, but I don’t expect a repetition today.

I await the team sheet with interest. We know who won’t be there but the question is who steps up? Everyone assumes a Xhaka Ramsey central partnership but how about the forward line? I really want to see more of Lucas Perez but he is little bit ankle nobbled or something. I hope it isn’t serious and he gets to play – ideally alongside Olivier Giroud.

While it’s true that Giroud almost single handedly dragged us back into contention on Tuesday and could have taken a twenty minute naked lap of honour as far as I’m concerned so herculean were his efforts, it was his partnership with Perez that most caught the eye.

It was almost an old fashioned forward pairing, with the big guy winning the ball and the smaller bloke running off him. That is the kind of set up even footballing illiterates like me can understand. Of course the skill set of our number twelve is way in advance of the old big bruising centre forwards who used mainly to provide the knock downs on which their trickster little cohorts would feed. However I don’t want to get too side tracked into talking about players as I usually end up wasting words on guys who then don’t even make the bench.

For romantics the FA Cup got off to the worst possible start yesterday with the oil rich money burners flattening plucky little West Ham like a steam roller taking on a bag of Maltesers. It was clear from the team sheet that Man City were not going to mess about and I wasn’t surprised Guardiola took the tie so seriously – even fielding a proper keeper for a change.

With so many so called top managers and so many of the world’s best players crammed into the Premier league and with all the rabid, out of control fan bases demanding the league title as a minimum price for their support, the FA Cup has taken on ever greater significance. As long as only one team can finish first the scrabble to get the second most important crown in English football becomes increasingly frantic. I don’t anticipate the giant killings of yore, the tournament is simply too important to the top clubs to risk making a bollocks of their first round.

This just means getting to Wembley will be that little bit harder for Arsenal this season, but the journey will be all the more enjoyable for it. I hope we start today with an emphatic victory to make the pundits weep but most of all I just want us to win without any more injuries. Please.

If you’re making your way to the Clash of the Invincibles I wish you a safe journey. I’ll be schooling my nephew in the significance of his first ever FA Cup tie, safe and warm by the radiator. And for those Preston fans mourning the absence of a certain sulky Chilean – chin up – this may actually be the day you get to tell your grandchildren about. The day you saw Alex Iwobi in the flesh.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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188 comments on “Arsenal Versus Preston North End: The Decider

  1. whenever we need a very late goal, never look beyond olivier. and no other player sores more important goals than him

    Liked by 3 people

  2. anicol 8.28

    what’s your guess on the number of Arsenal blogs that make a fuss over Ramey and Giroud saying PNE surprised us, I bet its more than make a fuss over Ramsey and Giroud scoring the goals that won us the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tom Gordon ‏@GoonerGordo 1h1 hour ago
    Ben Pearson smell of piss @pnefc

    Like

  4. if Alexis was doing what Giroud is everyone would be saying he’s carrying arsenal, but as its Giroud, and many made their mind up about him the minute he cost us only £12M, and so its still “he should not be a starter for Arsenal FC”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. OSC@OneShortCorner
    Mins of Giroud’s goals this season and the game state when scored:
    71 (0)
    76 (+1)
    41 (-1)
    89 (-1)
    45+1 (-1)
    86 (0)
    17 (0)
    90+2 (-1)
    89 (0)

    Like

  6. Oh I think that the absurd little pleasentry will be cast in stone by the usual culprits eddy

    Who knows what players think post game ? And to be perfectly honest who cares ?

    Five minutes after the final whistle, knackered but adrenaline still in the system, looking forward to a shower and a bloody rest – and some spotty faced half wit wants your “opinion”.

    Except of course he doesn’t – he wants gentle platitudes, cliches and pleasantries.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Lucas is the jack dee of football, miserable cunt, ha ha ha.

    Like

  8. its games like that we miss Theo the most, no not for his goals and assists, but for his after match interviews, where he says nothing of note, noting controversial and just says nice things.
    theo’s most controversial interview

    Liked by 1 person

  9. if it true that chelski are planing to recall nathan ake, why cant we recall jack. we need more bodies in the midfield

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  10. They walked right past our MF too many times for my liking. That aspect of our game was awful. Ramsey and Xhaka were out to sea most of the first half. Thankfully they only got one goal. This be being said, our wingers stretching out their midfield usually helps take the pressure off the central midfielders. Our wing play was atrocious today. Lucas proved he’s. It a winger and the Ox is just plain embarrasssing at the moment. That Preston player with the Justin Bieber haircut had him in his pocket.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Positives: Maitland Niles, Gabi, Nacho, Ospina and Giroud were very good. And to their credit, every one played a lot better in the 2nd half.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. the last time we played Preston, it was 1999, and our starting 11 had Dixon, Bould, Keown in defense, the midfield was Vieira, Petit, Parlour and Overmars, and PNE played us off the park for most of the first half, and went 2-0 up. We came back to win, the difference with that night and today’s game, our team did not have the twitter and blogworld experts telling them that they are not good enough to wear the shirt and are not arsenal standard.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Ok, I usually don’t do this, but Maitland-Niles, Gains? He looked out of his depth to me. He improved second half, but so did everyone else.

    Like

  14. ‘I didn’t want to go home and be out’

    Arsène Wenger’s half-time team talk is between him and the players, but there’s no hiding the fact he was angry at half-time on Saturday.
    Preston were the better side before the break at Deepdale and could easily have been more than a goal in front.

    The boss was impressed by Preston, but less so by his own team until they responded in the second half. Here’s what he said after the game:

    on another game where we came from behind…
    I think since the start of the season we had many, many, many comebacks and many goals in the final minutes. I would first like to congratulate Preston for the quality of their game, especially in the first half where we were outpaced and they played with desire, enthusiasm and quality and they gave us many problems. Full commitment for 90 minutes – it was a great cup tie and we needed to dig deep to win the game today. Second half it was all us, but they continued to defend well and we needed to be patient and create something special – we did that in the end. But it was a very good cup tie today.

    on whether he was angry at half-time…
    Yes. We are top level Premier League and we were dominated in the first half. Preston had chances you know and I believe we were just not at the pace of the game or the pace that the game demanded. Of course, I didn’t want to go home and be out of the FA Cup tonight.

    on what impressed him about Preston…
    I would say their organisation, the speed of their transitions when they won the ball. Every time, we were in trouble. Overall, their intelligence, I think they played in a very intelligent way. They are a good side you know and honestly, I was really impressed by them today.

    on Welbeck…
    He has been out for such a long time, that just for him to get 15 minutes was great. I think I had a hesitation. Had we not come back early I would perhaps have brought him on earlier. He thought he had 20 minutes in his legs and in the end he nearly scored, so that’s good.

    on whether Jon Toral could be joining Glasgow Rangers…
    We work on it to see if it is possible, yes.

    on whether that move would be a benefit for Jon…
    Yes, because he has played games there [for Granada] but at the moment he doesn’t play and personally I think it would be a good transition for him.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20170107/boss-on-welbeck-return-and-toral-move#0rqoLmJXCPdSUJg0.99

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  15. WENGER – WHY GIROUD WAS OUR CAPTAIN

    Four goals in the final four minutes of games this season. Six in the last 20 minutes. And 10 goals in his last eight starts.

    Olivier Giroud’s stats are catching the eye right now but his leadership skills were also on display at Preston on Saturday. Arsène Wenger made him captain for our third-round tie and the France striker did him proud.

    Here’s what the boss said after the game:

    on Giroud…
    He scored recently many goals. In the squad, everybody contributes. It’s not about 11 and he is at the moment in good form. So for one month he scores goal after goal.

    on Giroud captaining the side…
    I named him captain, I like to rotate the captaincy. He went through a period where he was of course in discomfort because he didn’t play and during this period that was quite long. He kept his focus and worked, I think he has shown leadership qualities so I made him captain today.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20170107/wenger-why-giroud-was-our-captain#Zi1loyYHyyPkxYKJ.99

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  16. Semantics I know, but “took us by surprise” and “surprised” are not exactly the same thing. One is more like they got the drop on us, the other implies we had no idea they could play. But I know which interpretation people will go with.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Just what did happen on that escalator?

    Liked by 6 people

  18. afcstuff ‏@afcstuff 2h2 hours ago
    Congratulations to Gabriel Paulista on making his 50th Arsenal appearance in tonight’s win vs. Preston. #afc

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Dave ‏@TheresYourDC 4h4 hours ago
    Couldn’t care less how we won. The 98 double team needed a replay, extra time and penalties to beat port vale

    Liked by 2 people

  20. so Preston did not have a shot on target in the second half, blew themselves out in the first half, much like AFCB did earlier in the week, although it took them 70 minutes. I see AFCB made 11 changes today, as the players knackered after their efforts v afc where they had a season high for distance run.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Alabama: Good call on AMN. He was strolling in the 1st half. Taking his sweet time to cover his opponent on the right. I detected an arrogance about him as if the opponent was not worth him hustling. As a result PNE had a lot of joy down our right. WTF was he thinking? Too big to compete in his 1st year in the 1st team. At least he improved in the 2nd.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. I don’t know what she is talking about, we never lost to wrexham, never lost to lower league team under Graham, and Seaman, Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn never had a bad game, let alone concede a goal in their entire Arsenal careers,

    Liked by 2 people

  23. the great virgil van dijk, the next £50M defender, last second of the game, his team leading, and he is walkabout, leaving a norwich forward free seven yards from goal right in the middle, to head home,

    Like

  24. Whew, Shotta, I wouldn’t have been that harsh! But, it’s true AMN got beaten over and over. I would have put it down to anxiety more than arrogance, but he’ll have to overcome whichever it was.

    Like

  25. @shotta_gooner I think we have to remember that this was AMN first game in the first team for months U23 is nothing in comparison Aiden Mcgeady is an experienced international of no little quality.
    Does anyone remember Hector’s second game (first start)?

    Liked by 3 people

  26. what, what, what, what, how can the BBC say that Everton’s chances of a trophy is over for the season, they have one of those great new modern managers, and the world class striker, Lukaku, that every team – especially Arsenal – could do with, so how they hell could their trophy chase be over, what utter nonsense, do the Beeb, not know Everton are overtaking Arsenal, just like West Ham last season, and spurs every season.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. who is the woman that is doing the commentary for the bolton v crystal palace game, and why the hell does she sound so fake, and forced. She is like that every time I hear her comment on any game.

    Like

  28. Alabama and WWWB: Maybe I overstated it but I was very upset in the 1st half to see him at least twice strolling, not hustling to cover his man. Tbf I felt much better about his performance in the 2nd half.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I agree with you shotta, I thought he jogged about several times when a bit of a sprint was called for,

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  30. wwwb – Aiden Mcgeady is an experienced international of no little quality.

    no having it, that should read – Aiden Mcgeady is an experienced international of little quality.
    I’ve had to suffer him in the Ireland squad for years, and when I say, Thank God James McClean declared for Republic of Ireland, you might understand how much I rate Aiden McGeady

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Ali Tweedale ‏@alitweedale 5h5 hours ago
    Preston did not have a single shot in the second half. Arsenal had 10.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Eddy
    its been many a long moon since McGeady was at his best, but today was one of those days. AMN was being pulled to pieces so badly i expected his formidable mum to jump onto the pitch to help him out.
    Suffice that McGeady and most PNE players ran out of puff at the same time our team found some better composure.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. eduardo792 Aiden Mcgeady has very good quality but lacks application.
    For pure ability and technique James McClean is not the same class IMO but is more aggressive and committed.

    Like

  34. you know a nice side effect of having Giroud as captain was that he could get on at the Ref without fear of getting booked for it.

    there is a clip of the team in the tunnel coming out for the second half and Giroud is shouting at them to show something, and sort it out, and get it done.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. He kept his side pretty tidy considering he had zero cover from Lucas and our non-existent midfield. It wasn’t his fault that we were absolute shit in the first half.

    Overall, I was most disappointed with the Ox. I love him to death, but he looked quite ordinary today.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. The first half performance is of zero interest for me. Except for the fact that it set the context for a great recovery. Can’t imagine why anyone wants to waste emotional energy reflecting on something that didn’t go well.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. New post up

    Like

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