“Just what was going on inside William Gallas’s head?”

A very pertinent question, and one of many addressed in Arsenal: The French Connection – a new hardback published this month by GCR Books Ltd.

The French Connection does what it says on la boîte, taking a look at the influence on Arsenal’s squad from across the Channel since Monsieur Arsene Wenger arrived in the autumn of 1996.

The opening chapters offer context by meandering through sections of Arsenal’s earlier history according to the author, Fred Atkins’, will. He juxtaposes the days of a brutish, unwelcoming Woolwich Arsenal with the more precious and sophisticated teams that Wenger has nurtured in recent times, before providing a chronological account of Arsenal’s foreign signings over the decades.

A pleasant and easy read, it devotes 40 pages to the man himself – Wenger, that is – in a section certain to divide any fans who place themselves in the (somewhat odd) polar camps of “AKB” or “binbags”. The author’s own view on the manager couldn’t be clearer, as he eulogises:

“Even describing him as a genius is to sell him short… Wenger is exceptional multiple ways. As a teacher, linguist, artist, diplomat, mentor, economist, architect and more.”

If you have any vehemently anti-Arsene mates, maybe buy them this book for Christmas for a laugh.

A personal work, it is not light on opinion, often touching on enough of a polemical slant to happily betray the author’s views. It recounts a smattering of anecdotes, and is co-devoted to the author’s grandmother – the daughter of a cartridge inspector at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. Enough eyebrow-raising facts are included to entertain, although, to pick on one example, the assertion that Stanley Kubrick was a Gooner has previously been denied in other quarters.

The bulk of the copy, as one might expect from the title, is dedicated to French players that have represented the Gunners during Wenger’s reign to date. With a chapter named after each, no fewer than 23 footballers are examined by the author. While one expects to see Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira et cetera, the likes of David Grondin and Gilles Sunu are also included – and are in some ways more interesting and entertaining to a geeky, Arsenal mind already saturated by reflections on the big guns. Note, however, that the chapter on Grondin is not even two pages in length.

As well as being a personal book, this is very much a fan’s book, and includes plugs for the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association, and Fanshare at the back. Written by a fan for the fans, and now YOU, dear fan, can get your paws on a copy…

To buy the book for £14.99 straight from GCR, click here. For Amazon, click here.

Or for your chance to WIN a copy, click on the Contact tab above and send me the answer to this simple question:

Which of David Grondin’s former clubs shares its name with a 1990s indie-electronica band?

BONNE CHANCE!

Update: well done to David Messer from Suffolk, who won a free copy of the book by correctly answering “Saint Etienne”.

Arsenal U21s v West Brom, kick off 13.00, venue: London Colney

It was at The Hawthorns earlier this season where Jack Wilshere began his recuperation with the U21s after an 18 month injury lay-off.

And this afternoon, Arsenal host West Brom at London Colney in the return fixture, seeking revenge after their 1-0 away defeat.

Following the comfortable 4-2 victory over Norwich at Carrow Road last week, Terry Burton may decide to stick with a winning formula and keep the nucleus of the side intact.

‘Keeper Damian Martinez is tipped to start, with Ignasi Miquel (who captained the side against Norwich) and Sead Hajrovic ahead of him. Samir Bihmoutine will hope to build on his first start last week at left back, while Martin Angha, who was carried off on a stretcher, is a doubt. Hector Bellerin could return at right back.

Kris Olsson, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld are set to start in attacking midfield, with Isaac Hayden and Jon Toral providing protection to the defence.

Chuba Akpom is poised to start as the lone striker, and with his and Eisfeld’s dexterity in front of goal, Arsenal can be confident of a win.

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Norwich v Arsenal U21s, Carrow Road, Kick off: 19.00

After a disappointing home defeat to West Ham last week, Arsenal U21s will be keen to bounce back with a win over their Norwich counterparts this evening.

Reice Charles-Cook, who saved a penalty in the draw against Athletic Bilbao last Thursday, could be rewarded with a start in goal.

Sebastian Squillaci, who played in the loss to West Ham, could partner either Sead Hajrovic or Elton Monteiro at centre half, while Ignasi Miquel, who was deployed at left back last week, is also in contention.

Martin Angha and Hector Bellerin are likely to play at full back, although Jernade Meade, who has impressed this season, will be hoping to start.

In defensive midfield, Isaac Hayden is suspended after picking up five yellow cards, so Jon Toral could come in alongside Nico Yennaris.

Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson and Serge Gnabry are poised to form the more advanced midfield three. The latter scored last week, while he also featured for the first team during their abysmal 1-0 defeat at Norwich a few weeks’ ago.

Chuba Akpom, who was up against experienced centre half Michael Turner in the corresponding fixture earlier this season, is expected to lead the line, in what could prove a tricky tie in Norfolk for Terry Burton’s young guns.

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