Alan Smith believes Arsenal will have to settle for top four finish
Former Gunners’ striker turned Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith has stated that Arsenal’s tendency to go missing in big matches will be the reason for their downfall this season. He believes that Arsene Wenger’s side will have to settle for a top four berth just as they have for the last decade.
“They’ve got a run of games, where you can see them winning every single one, the next four, five, six and maybe they’ll close the gap on Chelsea,” said Smith.
“It’s these matches (versus Man City and other title rivals) where they do let themselves down and that’s what makes you think they’re not genuine title contenders.
“They’ll be up there, probably finish in the top four, but when push comes to shove, they’re still lacking,” he added.
Barring an opening day defeat at the hands of a formidable Liverpool side, Arsenal’s results at the start of the season proved that they had the mettle and resources at their disposal to pose a legitimate claim for the Premier League title. They went on an impressive 14 match unbeaten run and showed no signs of stopping.
However, the Gunners were put in their place by Everton who fought tooth and nail to end their unbeaten streak. Just a few days later, Arsenal were handed their second defeat as they lost 2-1 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Aston Villa and Leeds United interested in Rob Holding
According to Graeme Bailley of HITC Sport, Arsenal are prepared to offload 19-year-old summer signing Rob Holding on a loan move until the end of the season. Manager Arsene Wenger believes that the player will benefit from regular playing minutes, and it will help him develop into a more promising prospect.
Given the player’s rumoured availability, a host of Championship sides are lining up to secure his services once the window opens. Holding impressed thoroughly with Bolton Wanderers last season, with only three other players averaging more interceptions than he did at the Manchester-based outfit.
Holding started in Arsenal’s first two games of the season and it was a mixed bag of performances for him. He struggled to cope up with the Liverpool attack on his Premier League debut, but improved in the 0-0 draw against Leicester City.
Championship sides Aston Villa, Leeds United, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday are interested in loaning the player – while Burnley and Hull City could be looking to keep the player in England’s top flight.
Ian Wright bemused at Wenger’s reluctance to play Lucas Perez
Former Gunners forward Ian Wright is astonished at Arsene Wenger’s decision to avoid playing Lucas Perez despite the attacker’s impressive performances in the Champions League.
The Spanish talisman was handed a rare started by Wenger for Arsenal’s European date with Basel in the Group Stage. Perez repaid the manager’s faith by scoring a stunning hat-trick to guide his side to a 4-1 victory. Since then, the 28-year-old has struggled for game time.
“What’s really quite annoying, you know Olivier Giroud will come on. We paid £17m for Lucas Perez and he scored a hat-trick the other day in the Champions League,” Wright told BBC’s 606 podcast (via The Sport Review).
“He must be feeling like he wants to play and to get on the pitch. He’s got pace. Bring him on! What has he bought him for if we’re still going to play Giroud?” he added.
Oxlade Chamberlian returns to training
According to Tom Dutton of the Evening Standard, Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is in line to face Crystal Palace on New Year’s day. The Englishman suffered a hamstring injury against Manchester City on Sunday and is likely to miss the Boxing Day game against West Brom.
Arsene Wenger will be hoping that he has the services of the 23-year-old for the fixtures during the festive period. The Gunners will take on Palace on the first of January and make a tricky trip to Dean Court to take on Bournemouth just two days later.
Back to back defeats have seen Arsenal drop to fourth and are now a colossal nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea.