Arsenal v Chelsea

I said in my email last week – “The hype of beating Chelski will be somewhat diminished next week if we don’t beat the Hammers this weekend and that’s not as easy as one might expect.” How true that was but I never imagined it to be under the circumstances that we saw on Saturday where we meekly succumbed to a team that really had no business in beating us. The reaction on twitter said it all. The interesting thing about twitter is that most of what is said is generally heat of the moment stuff, knee jerk reactions that after considered thought can be put to one side and not taken to heart but ignored at one’s peril. Maybe a strange combination of reactions being suggested here but what I’m trying to suggest is that these heat of the moment reactions that supporters have, do not really consider the full story and have taken a scenario out of context from the entire journey that we have been experiencing as Arsenal fans.

Yes, we were truly diabolical on Saturday and having arrived at the 22nd game of the season, we were expecting to see something better than what was dished up. Bottom line for me though, as I write this blog, is that I tend to write about upcoming events rather than dwell on the past and this time I’m grateful for it. Arsenal tend to up their game too for the bigger matches (except for Liverpool away) and I’m hoping that’s the case this weekend as we come up against Chelski. Had we won our match last weekend, the game this weekend would have had the incentive of pulling us level with them if we won, but that is no longer the case. What it does mean though is that if we lose, we’re going to be a whacking nine points behind plus MFU are likely to go ahead of us (they play at home to Brighton). So all in all, it’s what one might call a must win game if we are going to try and make the top four. Personally, top four is somewhat ambitious. Okay, we had that great run earlier in the season where we didn’t lose for twenty odd games, but that was more the fixture list being kind to us than anything special we did. So, being realistic, with Emery trying to introduce a new style of play (which many of us are trying to figure out), plus having inherited a group of players that may not exactly match that style, plus having personal issues with our number one playmaker all contributes towards the expectations that we really should have and that is that we finish no better than last year. Let’s just take it on the chin, get behind the man that still has a lot to do and be true supporters. Remember, MFU were in very much the same situation when Sir Alex left and only now do they see a ray of hope with the baby faced assassin at the helm.

How are we positioned player-wise as we enter the weekend. Sadly, I don’t think the Ozil/Emery situation is going to change much and reports are that Emery is suggesting to Ozil that it may be best for him to leave. What this could mean however is that Ozil will need to put in some good displays to promote his talents to possible suitors and Emery may just give him such an opportunity. So what I’m saying here is that it’s possible for Ozil to be back in the match day squad over the coming months but don’t expect him to be a long term player. We’ve also see the impact that Ramsey has had in recent games and team morale is an important factor as is our performance in Europa. I believe both Ozil and Ramsey both need to start and be part of our team for the remainder of the year to give us the best possible chance of pulling off a surprise in the Europa competition. This would place us well for next season and may allow Kroenke to loosen the purse strings in the summer transfer season.

Continuing with the squad, we have seen the success of Xhaka and Torreira in midfield in the past and as much as the energy and enthusiasm of Guendouzi is refreshing, he may need to bide his time before he becomes more of a fixture. Iwobi I believe can also fit into the starting XI as this dual strike force of Aubameyang and Lacazette is not really working and bring Lacazetter on after 60 mins seems to have a better overall effect. Not too sure how Lacazette would feel about that though.

And finally the back line. Is there really one fit defender that gives us confidence? I really don’t think so and I’m not going to analyse them one by one. Emery needs to try Mavrapanos out as soon as possible, but I’m not sure whether Chelski are the correct opposition for him to restart his career. Back four or back five? I prefer the former. One extra at the back doesn’t really help and if anything adds to the confusion plus a back four gives us more options up front and I think the Wenger tactic of trying to score more than we concede is our best hope of winning games. It seems like we’re never going to keep a clean sheet ever again this season with the players that we currently have. And then Leno in goal. We bought him to be our number 1, Cech is retiring at the end of the season so let’s give him the experience he needs. Plus he’s better at playing out from the back than Cech is.

This weekend’s game is truly winnable. Chelsea are not a great side. They are currently sitting third in the Away games table, having won 7, drawn 1 and lost 2. The two games they lost were in consecutive away games to Sp*rs and Wolves and their last three away games have only been won by a single goal. Their last two games have been at home where they nicked a win by a single goal to Newcastle and drew 0-0 to Southampton. So all in all nothing earth shattering. They really only have one player that makes things tick, that being Hazard and if we can keep him quiet, which I believe Torreira can do if he gets back to his pre-Liverpool form, then we have a good chance of getting something out of this game.

Our head to head with Chelski is positive having competed 176 times with them, beating them 9 times more than losing with 51 draws. Over the last fifteen games, going back to April 2015, we have won 6 times, they have won 5 times with 4 games drawn. So yes, we can beat them and if Unai puts out the right team and they’re motivated, we will beat them, so come on you gunners!

Onto the ArsenalSA FPL where the top three are playing musical chairs and the gap to fourth is slowly growing. Top scorer for the week was Ashraf Ismail’s ARSENAL ASSASSINS XI with 90 points that’s moved him up to 39TH spot. Ashraf had a grand total of zero Arsenal players in his team which is very disappointing Ashraf – have a little faith my man. Tip for the week, put Ozil in and have him as your captain!! The top three are as follows:

Bony & Clyne FC               Nicholas da Silva               1325

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard MacKenzie          1304

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   1302

In the Superbru league our leader for the round was last year’s league winner Leonardo Geral with 14.5 points with seven correct results. Where’ve you been Leonardo? Congratulations, this also pushes him up 2 places into sixth position, fourteen points off the leaders. It’s getting close. The top three look as follows:

Gunner for life                   243,5

Sayso                                    237,0

Davyboy                              235,5

Joffie B                                 235,5

Just the one game this week again and again it’s on Saturday but the last match of the day. The club will be meeting as usual at The Brazenhead in Fourways and we have booked out the deck expecting a large crowd through. The game cannot be any worse than last week gooners so what better way to remove those blues (see what I did there?) and join us at 19h30 on Saturday. So, why don’t y’all come on down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

 

West Ham Utd v Arsenal

Two good wins this year, which is a bit of a turnaround from this time last year where we were unceremoniously knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Nottingham Forest and had also drawn 2-2 at home to Chelski in the league. If you’re a numbers/statistics man then it was coincidental that Nottingham Forest faced the holders of the FA Cup both this year and last year in the 3rd round. And then in 2017, they faced Wigan Athletic who were FA Cup winners in 2014. Both results this year have been good for us and important too considering the way we succumbed to Liverpool in the last game of 2018. Having said that, they were both easy games and a lot still needs to be done for us to keep up there in the pack, contending with the other top six teams.

At this time of year we start looking at transfer rumours and the name on everyone’s lips is Denis Suarez. A bit of a surprise because, although we’re definitely losing Ramsey and it looks as though Ozil is out of favour, neither of these players are lost to us until the end of the season (and according to the odd titbit in the media, Ozil is going nowhere). Our problem areas are surely the central defense as well as cover for Bellerin and Monreal. It could well be tactics by Sanllehi & Mislintat to do some work under the radar and create a smoke screen with the Suarez deal. Who knows, but we’ve been screaming out for a decent central defender since Mertesacker stopped playing (which was before he actually stopped playing if you know what I mean, basically at the beginning of the 2016/17 season). If we bought two world class central defenders, that would sort out most if not all of our problems.

It’s never really that easy though. We’ve got Konstantinos Mavropanos coming back from injury and although he has not yet been proven as the central defender we need, he played three matches last season where he was rated 8 out of 10 in our 2-1 defeat to MFU. He then kept a clean sheet in the home game against Burnley before being sent off in the away fixture against Leicester City after 15 mins. He is someone that must be given an opportunity but with Kos being a fragile specimen these days, especially after pulling out of the Blackpool game squad with a back pain that appeared during the warm-up phase to that match and Mustafi both being a liability plus also spending a growing number of visits to the treatment room, that just leaves Sokratis who apart from his fire, leaves much to be desired when you watch that Liverpool game over. Based on this, one world class central defender surely has to be the minimum we require before 31st January.

We’ve got two derbies coming up over the next two weeks with a visit to West Ham being our first hurdle. Thereafter it’s a home game to Chelski. The hype of beating Chelski will be somewhat diminished next week if we don’t beat the Hammers this weekend and that’s not as easy as one might expect. West Ham were in dire straits at the beginning of the season when we first encountered them and we were one of four teams in their first four fixtures that they lost thus garnering zero points out of twelve. They have slowly picked themselves up and have managed to get to 10th spot in the league, however they do remain 13 points behind us.

We have met West Ham 123 times in total and have come out on top 61 times with them winning 28 times. Our last encounter at their home ground was a dour nil all draw back in December 2017. Prior to that you have to go back to as far as November 2006 for when they last beat us at their home ground which was a one nil 88th minute victory. The last time they beat us however was in the opening game of the 2015/16 season when they came away from the Emirates with a two nil victory.  In our last six encounters, there has been just a single nil all draw with all other games going Arsenal’s way with a total of 16 goals to 3 being scored. This averages out to 3 – 1 which I think is an acceptable scoreline for this weekend.

West Ham’s current form is a bit scratchy in the league with the last five games producing 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw, against teams, the highest of which being Watford. Overall, we should win this game. Arnautovic was back for their last league game however it was reported that he may have picked up an injury in their two nil FA Cup victory against Birmingham City. The Fantasy Premier League however give him a 75% chance of returning which is almost like saying that he is likely to play,

The ArsenalSA FPL is grinding on. The top three are still there from the end of 2018 albeit in a different order, however they’ve opened up a 26 point gap to fourth position. Top scorer for the week was Bryan Binneman’s AUBAMEBLOODCLAATYANG with 81 points that’s moved him up to 22nd spot. Bryan had Aubameyang (his only Arsenal player) as captain, so we’re okay with that. The top three are as follows:

Bony & Clyne FC               Nicholas da Silva             1267

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   1251

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard MacKenzie          1242

In the Superbru league our leader for the round was Sayso with 14.5 points with eight correct results. This also pushes him up 5 places into a share of the lead with Gunner for life:

Sayso                                    229,5

Gunner for life                   229,5

Joffie B                                 225,5

Just the one game this week and it’s on Saturday. The club will be meeting as usual at The Brazenhead in Fourways and we will be in The Cellar. Hopefully everyone has got their lives back to normal so what better way to get into the groove than join us at 14h30 on Saturday. So, why don’t y’all come on down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

 

FA Cup – Blackpool v Arsenal

Happy New Year to all the SA Gooners out there. And let’s hope Unai and his band of merry men can make it such. We were going along quite nicely last year until injuries started to amass and we had to go to Southampton with a back three of Lichtsteiner, Koscielny and Xhaka with only Maitland-Niles on the bench as cover. The rest as they say is history and we proceeded to concede 12 goals in five games with only a single win and a draw to our name. I did write back in September that we may have major selection problems come January due to players injuries accumulating due to the number of games they are playing. This was in reference to Emery selecting strong squads to play in Europe whereas Wenger was one to temper his teams with some second team players and a few of the youth squad. So, it seems the prediction has come to pass somewhat a little earlier than expected. In fairness, we only really seem to be impacted in our defense and it will be interesting to see the team Emery puts out this afternoon, three days after the Anfield hiding.

A lot has been said about that result at Anfield. There have been the typical dumbass comments about getting rid of Emery, which should be instantly dismissed. Emery has arrived at Arsenal where it could fairly be said that the club has been in a minor crisis. Wenger’s team dropped out of the Champions League qualification spots in his last two years at the club with finishes of fifth and sixth respectively. Emery’s arrival should not have raised anyone’s expectation to resolve this instantaneously. There have been a number of comparisons in the media to where Klopp found himself at the beginning of his Liverpool reign and where Emery found himself at Arsenal at the beginning of the season. Time and patience are two ingredients required by both club and supporters before we can find ourselves competing for the top spot. However, it is the third ingredient into this mix that will have a distinct effect on whether we achieve our ambitions or not and that is money. This was also the case when Wenger was at the helm and even though we had our marquee signings in Ozil and Aubameyang, as of late, we never truly had the overall quality in the squad to make us competitors for that top spot. There are very few supporters that feel that Kroenke is allowing us the funds to purchase the key players to push us forward and until this happens, we are always going to be the bridesmaid.

Onto activity on the field and we take on Fulham this afternoon. The reverse game in October was one of our better games having come off some uninspiring wins against Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton and Watford. Although we still didn’t manage to get a half time lead, our four goal salvo in the second half, which included Ramsey’s wonderful team goal gave us a boost which allowed us to continue through to a 22 game undefeated run. We now face Fulham with home ground advantage and as indicated by Bernd Leno, it is probably a good thing that we can get back onto the field and rectify matters as soon as possible. And what better way of doing that than by beating Fulham on the first day of the new year. Fulham are coming off just their third victory of the season, a 1-0 win against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. There’s not too much to say about this team that had to go through the end of season playoffs to gain promotion last season and although they have a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, they seem a good bet to go straight down again with the likes of Huddersfield Town and one other.

On Saturday, it’s back to the FA Cup and a competition we like to think belongs to us except for last year when Wenger was trying to be clever by putting out an inexperienced team and ended up from being the holders of the FA Cup (courtesy of our 2-1 victory in 2017) to being the noodles of the FA Cup by losing 4-2 to Nottingham Forest. This time round, we’re off to Blackpool who incidentally we’ve already come across this season in the Carabao Cup. In that game, we were at home and we won 2-1, having been two goals up and managing quite comfortably to then conceding a goal and seemingly holding on for dear life. Interestingly enough, we had Julio Pleguezuelo playing in our defense for the first and last time. Hopefully we will see him there again as he had a reasonable debut and he is a defender! It’s difficult to tell what the status of our player’s coming back from injury is when reading the Arsenal.com website but it’s clear that Danny and Rob won’t be seen for a long time and Hector, Nacho, Mesut and Shkodran are all being assessed prior to today’s game. Looking at the training pictures that are posted, it would appear that only Mustafi was involved so we’re unlikely to see any of the other three.

It’s been a while since reporting on all things fantasy related and how things have changed. Out with the old and in with the new (with a few familiar faces making a revival) The top three in the Arsenal South Africa fantasy league are:

Bony & Clyne FC               Nicholas da Silva               1200

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard MacKenzie          1186

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies  1183

In the Superbru league we have three points separating the top 6:

JustinT                                  218,0

Gunner for life                   218,0

Davyboy                              217,0

StevieZ                                 216,0

Joffie B                                 216,0

Sayso                                    215,0

The club is back in action this weekend with the FA Cup third round game against Blackpool which kicks off at 19h30 on Saturday. So why don’t y’all come on down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

 

Manchester United v Arsenal

Wow, what a game that was. And did The Brazenhead rock on Sunday afternoon! We certainly shut up our noisy neighbours, powershift and all. So that’s 19 games in a row for Unai and the boys and the question on everybody’s lips is can we keep this run going especially as we have a midweek trip to Old Trafford to deal with. Similar to our NLD, this match does not really worry about form and desire once again comes to the fore. Either way, you would think this is Arsenal’s game for the taking and as much as we would all like this to be the case, we have proved on so many occasions that we just couldn’t take advantage of our superiority. Was it a Wenger thing? Every Arsenal supporter is hoping so, hoping that Unai has brought some new found confidence in the team where history doesn’t matter and skill, ability, determination and togetherness drive us on to victories that should be ours no matter the mind games that come to play.

If we look at statistics and history, United have the advantage when it comes to overall results with seventeen more victories totaling 80 all in all out of 186 encounters. Arsenal have only won fifteen times away from home with the last such occasion being in March 2015 in the FA Cup when Danny Welbeck cancelled out Rooney’s equalizer to make the whole of the red side of Manchester regret the sale of their England forward to an opportunistic Wenger on the last day of the transfer season whilst visiting the pope in Rome. Is there a song about that? Maybe we’ll repeat that situation however replacing FA Cup with Premier League and Danny with Henrikh?

We have lost our last two encounters since our 2-0 victory in May 2017 but it was the 3-0 victory a further two years earlier that was our most memorable recent victory, which turned out to be the Ozil – Sanchez show. 20 minutes and we were done and dusted and after that we put a little bit the handbrake on.

All in all our record against United  is not that great. During Wenger’s reign, we only managed 19 wins out of 60 games, losing 28 times. We are now looking to Emery for a period of dominance over a side that we owe so many hidings to, so many last minute goals, so many fine goalkeeping performances. Ferguson did us well and proper during his reign and since he left we have not been able to take advantage in the way we are now looking to Emery to do!

Confidence levels before the Spurs match was not high amongst the supporters’ base, nerves were tingling at kick off and losing a 1-0 lead to go in at the half 2-1 confirmed those fears. But Arsenal are gaining a reputation as a second half side and with three unanswered strikes, Emery has gone a long way to gain the trust of players and supporters alike. Let’s hope we can continue in that vein on Wednesday.

With that performance against Spurs, it’s going to be difficult to make any changes to the starting XI, however I believe a fit Ozil for Mkhitaryan would be a possible option and even maybe Ramsey to start ahead of Iwobi – this after I indicated in my last blog that the two are too similar to be on the same pitch!! Either way, in Emery we trust and we’ll leave the team selection to him.

Things are also hotting up in the Arsenal South Africa fantasy leagues, more so with the FPL than the Superbru league. Top scorer for the week was Haanim Galvaan’s GIEMBAS UNITED with 80 points. 32 of those came with the captaining of Aubameyang – love it! Last week, 12 points separated 1st and 3rd places, this week 13 points separate 1st and 6th place with top place being shared by Jean Raath and Cedric Nappies – things are getting a little hot out there. The table looks as follows:

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                          837

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies  837

Rockets                                 Andrew Bray                      834

In the Superbru league it’s all a little bit zzzzzzzzzzzzz with the same three in the same top three positions. Top scorer for the week was LEGEND who amounted 16 points with nine correct results. Pretty damn nifty. That’s moved him up 5 places to 27th. The top three are as follows:

StevieZ                                 162,0

Davyboy                              161,5

Gunner for life                   158,5

With such an important result tucked neatly under our belts, we cannot afford to belittle it with anything but a rare victory at Old Toilet as we look to cement our entry into the top four. With Chelsea making a visit to Wolves and Spurs receiving managerless Southampton (shame, poor old Sparky just couldn’t cut the mustard) and then on the weekend Huddersfield coming to the Emirates whilst Spurs travel to Leicester and Chelsea meeting up with City, who knows which teams will fill 3rd 4th and 5th places. Things are hotting up, that’s for sure, so where better to be than in the generator equipped Brazenhead and get an early start in with the game on Wednesday against MFU. Be there or be square – c’mon down and have some fun.

Arsenal v Spurs

Yo, things are so hectic as we approach the end of the year that I just haven’t found the time for my weekly blog. So this is going to be a quick one to let you know that we are still around and expecting a big crowd for what is probably our biggest annual encounter against that crowd from up the road. And to add to that we’re doing another raffle with two shirts up for grabs, so don’t miss it.

Spurs seem to be gaining the upper hand as of late, having won two of the last three encounters. However, it has been eight years since we have lost an NLD at our home ground when Spurs scored three second half goals to come back from a two goal deficit at half time. Historically we have beaten them 16 more times and as is the case with derbies in general, form goes out the window and hunger and passion make a bold entry.

Spurs have been on a six game winning streak since losing at home, 1 – 0 to Manchester City. Last weekend they ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season and even though they have lost one more game than us they find themselves three points ahead of us courtesy of not having drawn any matches and winning two more matches. In midweek, they saw off Inter Milan 1 – 0 with an 80th minute strike by Eriksen. This places them precariously in second position on the same number of points as Inter with a trip to the Camp Nou still to come. Can they qualify for the knock out stages or will they join Arsenal in the Europa competition?

Arsenal are still on their unbeaten run which now totals eighteen matches. They had a bit of a dip where they managed three draws over four games starting with a 2-2 draw with Palace and ending with that very poor 1-1 draw with Wolves. They seem to have snapped out of that phase with their battling 2-1 victory away to Bournemouth and then the kids took over midweek with the 3-0 away win against Vorskla that sealed their position at the top of the table with one match still to play.

Sunday’s match is going to be a cracker and quite an experience for those newbies in the team including our manager Unai. I’m not too sure whether he will persevere with the 5 man back line and hopefully we will be looking at an attack minded set up. What does this mean? Possibly a similar line up to the game we played against Liverpool with one of Ozil and Mkhitaryan making way for…..? The options are Iwobi or Ramsey with the latter being accused of being too similar to Ozil and thus the possibilities are Ozil and Iwobi or Ramsey and Mkhitaryan. A lot has been written about Mkhitaryan with there being general frustration all around as to his touches on the ball being poor yet his movement off the ball which is much more difficult to assess when watching on TV have been highlighted as a major contributor to our victory over Bournemouth  last week.

On to the Arsenal South Africa fantasy leagues quickly and in the FPL Sibongumusa Shongwe’s BAFAN’ ABAFUN FC has jumped into second spot. The table looks as follows:

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                          778

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe  768

Im Gunning for you!!     Cedric Angelo Nappies     766

The Superbru league as usual keeps first and second places in check and welcomes Gunner for life into third spot. Gunner for life also top scored for the week with a nice 15.5 points picking 7 correct results. He’s putting the pressure on the top two and maybe we’ll see a bit more movement this week. The top three are as follows:

StevieZ                                 151,5

Davyboy                              150,5

Amith                                   149,0

So, after two away games we now return to home ground. Not too sure whether it’s going to be a relaxing Sunday afternoon but with three points up for grabs and the opportunity for Arsenal to move above Spurs in the table, this is a must watch match with the added incentive for those of you that can get down to The Brazenhead with yet another raffle sponsored by ArsenalSA and once again it’s two snazzy Arsenal shirts up for grabs. So guys and girls, why dontcha come on down to the Brazenhead on Sunday and see whether we can beat the auld enemy and take advantage of this fixture.

Arsenal v Bournemouth v Vorskla

I get confused with this January transfer window talk. First we’re told that we’re not going to be participating unless there is a real emergency at the club and that players that are available at this time tend to over priced and under qualified. Then I see we’re looking for someone to replace Danny Welbeck as it appears that he’s a major cog in our plan to bring back Champions League football to The Emirates and that Eddie Nketiah does not yet cut the mustard.  Well, whatever transfer business we do try and do in January, let’s hope that none of our targets saw our last match against Wolves! After a slow and gradual rise to a top four position with an eleven match winning run, we now seem to have put the brakes on and dropped six valuable points in our last three Premier League matches with three consecutive draws, culminating in a disappointing performance against Wolves. It really was terrible, possibly our worst game of the season and we really need to move away from such performances. I would truly have preferred for us to have played much better and lose than see such a wretched performance. Fortunately, that is now behind us and there is only one way to look, that being forward where on Sunday we can enjoy a visit to Bournemouth.

The equivalent match last season was something not to be savoured and was probably the equal of our last match against Wolves, so this fixture will prove whether we have made an improvement or not over the last ten months. Bournemouth are a handy team to say the least and with players such as Wilson, King and Fraser, we need to be alert. We can do it as long as we maintain our concentration and not go walk about as sometimes happens with the back three. Mustafi is a culprit in this case and when called on, he can be quite brilliant but as per the Palace game, he can have these tendencies of not being in the moment and lacks that 100% concentration that’s the difference between conceding a goal and keeping a clean sheet. Holding has been playing well of late and seems intent on keeping his place, however for this weekend’s game one of these tow must be replaced by Sokratis and I’m not too sure who it will be, probably the former. Nacho was on the bench against Wolves and I’m hoping he will be back to match fitness to face Bournemouth although in all honesty I feel he is getting a bit long in the tooth. I don’t think AMN will get much of a look-in in midfield with our abundances there and I believe it’s about time that Emery played him more in the left back slot, more for being an excellent cover for our first choice in the future than making that position his own. Bellerin can remain on the right and his attacking prowess makes up for his defensive lapses.

From defensive midfield to our front striker I would say more of the same and keep Iwobi in instead of Mkhitaryan. Of course, I think most people would agree that Leno has become our number 1 between the posts. He has made a number of crucial saves as of late, especially in that Wolves games and inspires more confidence than Cech which is so crucial when it comes to the way our back four play.

Bournemouth are a place behind us in the league with four points less than us. They have just come off two consecutive losses and therefore have garnered the same number of points in their last three games as we have. They have not had a particularly good run of late, losing to both Newcastle and MFU and drawing at home to Southampton, but had some great results prior to that, beating Watford at Vicarage Road 4 – 0 and a home win against Leicester 4 – 2. I wonder which Bournemouth will turn up on Sunday?

Looking at the table, the top four are slowly getting away from us with Sp*rs, in fourth spot, three points ahead of us. We cannot afford to drop any further points and with a Chelsea/Spurs fixture taking place on Saturday, we really need to take advantage of whatever that result may be. Especially as we face Sp*rs the following week!

Our midweek game in Europe is against Vorskla and although we have qualified, we need one more win to make certain of top spot. I don’t think Emery will put out too weak a side, especially with the match against Sp*rs looming, so expect the Nketiahs, Smith-Rowes and likes to be on the team sheet. It’s only a pity that we don’t have the services of Reiss Nelson at the moment as he’s plying his trade with Hoffenheim, on loan, this season and making a good job of it by all accounts. They will be up against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

On to the Arsenal South Africa fantasy leagues and in the FPL we have third place dropping out and a new entry into the top three. Top scorer for the week was Shannon Poulton with her team 2STEPSAHAEADOFAKEEN14. Shannon scored 69 points which moves her into 29th position. New entry into the top three this week is Cedric Angelo Nappies and IM GUNNING FOR YOU!! Where he has taken up second place. This all means that top spot has opened up a 17 point gap;

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                          748

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies  731

Candytjie FC                      Candice Claasen               730

The Superbru league has a new third spot with Amith coming into the picture at the expense of Maggot. Stone top scored for the week with a reasonable 12.5 points. Looks like he got 6 out of ten results correct, not bad for what was a difficult week of predictions. Those points saw him climb 2 places into 43rd spot. Well done Stone!! The top three are as follows:

StevieZ                                 142,5

Davyboy                              142,5

Amith                                    135,5

So, two games this week, Sunday and Thursday. It’s a must win away game to Bournemouth and we should know exactly what that will do for us as Chelsea will have already played Sp*rs, so why dontcha come on down to the Brazenhead on Sunday and see whether we can improve on our last result – oh and also have some fun.

Arsenal v Sporting v Wolves

Well, well, well – three holes in the ground as the old joke goes and as indicated in my last post I’m overjoyed with that point we got on the weekend. Being a typical Arsenal supporter I feel we could have got more, but for now 1 point and being overjoyed does it for me. That makes it a fourteen match unbeaten run and we can look far into the future before we encounter a game of that intensity again. To be honest, that was the first game I’ve seen us play this season that brought back memories of The Arsenal of old, and even though there were concerns that need to be addressed, it has brought back a new level of confidence in me and I expect in the team that we are one of the big fish in the big pond. If anything our back four performed better than our front four with our two midfielders both being outstanding. Mustafi was a different player to the game against Palace and he truly is becoming a Jekyll and Hyde character. Holding was pretty damn solid and for a first game back, Kolasinac did very well. In midfield, Torreira was dynamite as he hounded and harried as well as steadied and pushed forward with incisive passes allowing Xhaka to play his game under less pressure than when he partners Guendouzi, producing his own range of passing as well as interceptions to blunten the Liverpool attack. Up front, we were not as good as we know we can be and both Mhiki and Ozil were not as inspiring as we know they can be. Mhiki is a bit of a worry these days, as it has been a while since he has put in a strong performance and as much as we all want him to succeed, he is just not cutting it. When Iwobi came on in the 68th minute, there was an immediate increase in the tempo to the game and our opportunities increased in number and quality to eventually create the goal that came from an Iwobi assist. Still plenty of work to do but if Emery can maintain this level of play then the future looks bright.

Earlier in the week, we struggled to a 2-1 victory over Blackpool in the Carabao Cup that has earned us a quarter final home tie with Spurs. This game will be played two and a half weeks after our Premier League encounter with them which is on 2nd December. Guendouzi was the player making the headlines in that game, creating an assist for Lichtsteiner to open the scoring and then earning himself two yellow cards that saw him miss out on the Liverpool game. I have my doubts as to whether he would have got on the field against Liverpool had he been available, however I think it was a lesson well learnt that you cannot afford to be so reckless with your tackling once you have received an initial yellow card. Guendouzi is certainly having a whirlwind start to his career in the big league with Arsenal and this is just another stage in his development.

This week we are back to the Europa League and it’s the reverse leg of our last match where we beat Sporting 1-0 in Lisbon in what was a relatively early kick off in a game that failed to reach any great heights.  To be honest, I’m not exactly expecting any great heights for Thursday either. Emery does have a different approach to this competition than Wenger did and a win against Sporting would see us almost definitely top the log so maybe he will put out a relatively strong squad or at least a strong bench as insurance. As I have written previously, it’s important that we top the log as that will ensure a weaker opposition in the first of the knock out games – at least, that is the expectation.

Then onto the weekend, which sees us play the final team of the three newly promoted sides, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. What a great name for a side and they are truly steeped in history. I remember as a youngster a chap called Derek Dougan with his long sideburns and handlebar moustache – a bit like The Sundance Kid from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Apparently, his nickname was ‘The Doog’ and he hailed from Northern Ireland. And he wasn’t the most famous of the Wolves players, Billy Wright was, who captained England a record 90 times and was the first player to win a century of international caps. But that’s going back some years (1939 – 1959) and later on he came to manage The Arsenal (1962 – 66) where he enjoyed limited success, finishing seventh in the ’62 season which earned Arsenal their first ever foray into Europe. One of Wright’s signings was goalkeeper Bob Wilson who featured in goal during the famous 1971 double winning season. Wolves have won the tier 1 (Premier League) league three times, the FA Cup four times and the League Cup twice. The last of any of those achievements was the League Cup in 1980 where they beat Nottingham Forest.

Wolves were three goals down to Spurs on the weekend when they managed a mini revival to come back with two goals (both penalties) and they are definitely the strongest of the three promoted teams. They are currently in eleventh spot, nestled between Leicester City and Brighton. They’ve scored 11 and conceded 12 goals with their top scorer being Raul Jiminez. This is a team that we should get past without too much trouble, but like any team we play, Wolves have the ability to bite back and make a go of things.

On to things fantastical, and there’s been a bit of a shake up at the top of the ArsenalSA FPL with His Excellency being dethroned and a new face entering the top three. Top honours for the week go to Zaid Kola and his team LING FC with a haul of 97. With Sterling as his captain and Aguero and Chilwell both earning double figures, that 97 points seems an easy haul. Well done Zaid, and you did manage to squeeze one Arsenal player in your side. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                                                          695

Candytjie FC                      Candice Claasen                                               681

Chesa Mpama FC              His Excellency Sir Max Mohapeloa              674

In the Superbru league, the top two stay the same once again and third place sees a new face. Sayso top scored with an impressive 19,5 points which pushes him into fourth spot overall, up 8 places from last week. He correctly predicted 9 of the 10 games. Well done squire! The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 136,5
Davyboy                              136,5
Maggot                                 129,0

Two games this week, and the Thursday game is a late kick off in Europe. With the clocks going back and playing at the regular time slot, it means a 10pm start for this one. The weekend is a Sunday affair and we share the final kick off spot with the Manchester derby at 6:30pm. So take your pick or chose both but either way, get on down to the Brazenhead in Fourways and have yourselves some fun.

Arsenal v Blackpool v Liverpool

Right, so we’ve got the monkey off our back now and we know that we don’t have to keep winning and extending a run that was always likely to end even though it was a bit disappointing to have been against Palace. But in all fairness, it’s difficult to justify that we should have won that game. As has been the case for most of the season, we labored in the first half and it was no surprise that Palace managed their first home goal for the season in injury time to take them to the break one up. Mustafi’s lunge was somewhat ridiculous and he truly is becoming a liability at the back. If reports are true of there being no real need to buy in the January transfer window then methinks Messrs Sanllehi and company may need a rethink. Currently Holding and Sokratis are the two central defenders that we can rely on and dare I say it, the returning Kos does not inspire great confidence in me due to the time he has been out of the game plus his gradual decline over the past couple of seasons. Add to that that we have had Xhaka filling in at left back and I think the cheque books need to come out in January, be it to bolster our attempts to achieve European glory and return next year to the Champions League or to bolster our attempts to achieve a top four spot and return next year to the Champions League. Personally we would be crazy not to complete the job that the purchase of Sokratis has started.

Scoring twice in 5 minutes early in the second half was also a typical Arsenal reaction that we have seen this season but as the game wore on it was becoming more and more obvious that Palace would make a breakthrough, which they duly did courtesy of our first goal-scorer Xhaka. Something of a debatable penalty but that’s the way football goes and it will happen to other teams when we play against them. Swings and roundabouts. Leno made a good attempt to get to this one but Milivojevic placed it tight into the bottom left to guarantee Palace their second point at home this season.

Looking forward to our next games this week and similar to our last week of Carabao Cup action when we faced the two fords (Brentford and Watford), this time round it’s the two pools and it’s the Black one in the Carabao Cup that we take on first on Wednesday. Emery put out a fairly strong team against Brentford and played three defenders that went on to start the weekend game against Watford. Blackpool are a League One side, so in a league below Brentford, and my expectations are that he will not risk a similar set up although looking at who’s available to play at the back it may be a case of beggars can’t be choosers. Looking at the squad list of defenders, we can write off Bellerin for both games, thus that leaves Lichtsteiner who must be kept in reserve for the Liverpool game and Jenkinson. So we’ll pencil the latter in. As said, Sokratis and Holding need to be held back for Liverpool and that leaves two from Kos, Mustafi, Mavropanos and possibly Elneny, Take your pick – two coming back from injury may end up on the bench leaving Mustafi and Elneny to start. Then on the left we have Monreal, Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Xhaka.Maybe AMN with Monreal in reserve to get a bit of game time later on? So already at this stage of the season we find ourselves in desperate straights with our defense, an area that we know we have been lacking in but only managed to bolster with one purchase in the off season. Plus we loaned out Chambers! Midfield and up front is a happier story and let’s hope Unai gives the youngsters a chance with Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah raring to go. Oh and let’s not forget about the goalie who I expect will be Petr Cech.

Then, onto Saturday evening and it’s the Liver one. Now I don’t want to sound like the prophet of doom but I have my reservations about how well we will do in this game. All credit to the Arsenal for their eleven match winning run, but we have not come up against a team of the same quality as Liverpool in that run and being realistic with what I have seen in our games so far, I can see Liverpool running riot in the first half, being the slow starters we are. I would be overjoyed if we got a point out of this game and bursting if we got all three but I still don’t think we are defensively up to it to keep a Liverpool at bay. I think we have the capability up front and with the open game that Liverpool play we will have our chances and the only way we will get that one or three points is for us to take our chances when offered! A bit like the Qarabag game, snatch and grab and hold on for dear life at the back.

That’s about all I can say about the weekend’s game. It will be exciting and I know we will all be screaming our lungs out for the team in red and white, but remember, we are still a team in transition, we have a manager that has been at the helm for just fourteen competitive games and we are improving. No matter what the result, realise that those eleven players on the pitch plus the guy on the sideline waving his hands and arms madly around in all directions are giving their all and we can’t ask for more than that.

Well, that was a short stay at the top for last week’s FPL table topper, Andrew Bray. Now we see His Excellency Sir Max Mohapeloa’s CHESA MPAMA FC moving into top spot equal on points with Richard Mackenzie’s WOLVES OF WITKOPPEN plus he tops this week’s scoring leaderboard too with a well earned 91 points. No Arsenal players in his side and that’s probably why he was able to hit such dizzying heights. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Chesa Mpama FC              His Excellency Sir Max Mohapeloa            620

Wolves of Witkoppen     Richard Mackenzie                                          620

Sons of Pitches                  Eugene Cardoso                                               612

In the Superbru league, the top two stay the same and third place sees a new face. MinolanGP top scored with a useful 18,5 points, four more than GunnerChris who was second in this round. MinolanGP jumped 11 places to 13th
position – nice one MinolanGP 😉 The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 124,5
Davyboy                              122,0
S4                                           119,0

Two games this week, but the Wednesday match against Blackpool is a Carabao Cup encounter and thus will not be televised. Saturday is going to be a big day and we have the patio reserved for the match so get there early to avoid the rush. Think we will do a raffle as well on the day – prize will be a PUMA Men’s Arsenal FC Stadium Jersey so get your money (cash is king) ready. They’ve moved the clocks back in the UK so kick off is at 7:30 pm local time so why not earn yourselves some entries into the seasons draw for the Air Ticket to London and a match ticket of your choice for an Arsenal home game, c’mon now, get on down to The Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun,

Sporting v Palace v Arsenal

It was over two months ago that we had just come off a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea which had itself followed a fortunate 2-0 drubbing at home to City that most Arsenal supporters wondered what the future held for a team that had slowly deteriorated under the last couple of years of the Wenger reign. It was a tough start for the new boss and although that rally to come back from two goals down against Chelsea gave the most desperate of Arsenal supporters a glimmer of hope, the rest of us were left wondering whether we would see the re-enactment of United’s demise once Sir Alex left. Was Emery another David Moyes, would we endeavor a season of embarrassing defeats, had Wenger left us in tatters or with the seeds of something great. Our next game was to be West Ham United, a team that had undone us at home in the opening match of the 2015/16 season, but one that had also been suffering of late with a new coach at the helm and also two losses to start the season with. And we didn’t get off to a good start against them, going one nil down in the 25th minute to a Marco Arnautovic goal and then it changed. At least our fortune did, as we won that game and continued winning, maybe not convincingly, but consistently, squeaking narrow away wins against Cardiff and Newcastle, winning comfortably at home to Vorskla and Everton, then Brentford and Watford. But still it wasn’t the Arsenal of old, teams were not afraid to play us and the feeling was that if we came up against a Liverpool or Spurs, our tail would be put firmly between our legs.

But as the saying goes, fortune favours the brave, and we won away against Qarabag with the three shots on target that we had and went on to meet Fulham were we overcame a pre-half time equalizer to run out 5-1 winners with a contender for goal of the season to boot! And now we put away a plucky Leicester side that were walking all over us in the first half and were somewhat unfortunate to enter the break on even terms. But the reality of it all is that we should be beating those sides if we are going to make anything of this season. 10 games all won is a nice record but we have been fortunate to have met the sides we did. Any points dropped in that run would have been disappointing and is the same for the next three games until we meet Liverpool. That game will be a true test as to how good we really are and the timing is fortunate. We have to start playing the bigger clubs sooner than later and Liverpool are currently two points ahead of us. If we win that game, then we can start to dream.

So, first up this week is an away Europa game against Sporting Lisbon or as they are currently called, Sporting Clube de Portugal. They have also won their first two games and based on their results, we should be the favourites. Apart from the winning run that we are on, a draw would be an acceptable result with a win against them in our home fixture allowing us to top the table. This is an important outcome as to finish second would mean the likelihood of facing a team that either won their group or a team that was one of the four best third place finishers from the Champions League group stage.

Sporting are currently sitting 5th in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, having won 4, lost 2 and drawn one games. Their last result was a 4-2 away defeat to Portimonense who at that time were propping up the league so not exactly an ideal way to prepare for their match against us. In their ranks you will probably remember Nani, a player that was supposed to have replaced Ronaldo at Manchester United but never really seemed to make the grade. Other players to look out for are Fredy Montero, Bas Dost and Bruno Fernandes who all make up their full complement of goal scorers.

After Sporting we then travel across London to play Palace on Sunday. Across here means south almost as far as Croydon. Palace have won just twice in the league this season with an opening 2-0 away victory over Fulham and a 1-0 away victory over Huddersfield with their only other point coming from a 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle. Nothing to write home about and this again is a game that we should win. It was not that long ago though that Palace beat us at Selhurst Park, 3-0 in April 2017 with Townsend, Cabaye and Milivojevic all on the score sheet. That was a rare win and over the course of the encounters between these two teams, Palace have only ever won on two other occasions losing on 24 occasions with 9 draws.

Elsewhere, we see Cardiff visit Liverpool, Chelsea visit Burnley and on Monday night (why do they do this?) City travel to Wembley to play the spuds. What this all means is that if results go our way, we could be top of the league by the end of the gameweek (hehe) and if we stuff up we could possibly drop a place to fifth.

Well, it’s finally happened. After so long as no 1 in the FPL, Richard Mackenzie and his Wolves of Witkoppen have been dethroned. And by none other than our top scorer for the week, Andrew Bray and his team ROCKETS. I see he had a bit of fortune where his captain didn’t play and thus his vice captain doubled up, being Jordan Pickford who kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty. But he deserved the result as he had both Aubameyang and Ozil in his team – well done Andrew. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Rockets                                Andrew Bray                      554

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie             541

GUNNERSN5                      Eugene Cardoso                 539

In the Superbru league, the top three stay the same again (ZZZzzzzzz zzzz) with deano21 taking the week’s honours scoring 14 points. It wasn’t an easy week but deano21 was right with eight of his selections. deano2 moves up 4 places to 42nd. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 115,0
Davyboy                              112,0
Minty_Mint                        109,0

So two games this week, an early Europa game at 6:55pm on Thursday followed by a post Sunday lunch kick off at 3:30pm so dudes and dudettes, get your behinds down to The Brazenhead on one or both occasions and earn yourselves some entries into the seasons draw for the Air Ticket to London and a match ticket of your choice for an Arsenal home game, c’mon now, get on down there and have yourselves some fun,

Arsenal v Leicester

The fat lady is nowhere ready to start singing so if you think the interlulls are over for the year, think again. Round three comes along sometime between 11th and 24th November so enjoy this interlude whilst you can. During this period, we are looking to squeeze in seven games, the first of which is against Leicester this coming Monday. I don’t really get it, we have a Europa match on Thursday so they decide we must play our weekend fixture, after an interlull on a Monday? What’s that all about? Why not play Bournemouth against Southampton, Cardiff against Fulham, Newcastle against Brighton, Wolves against Watford or Everton against Palace on Monday night? They won’t be playing in Europe midweek. Oh no, they chose Arsenal to play and then expect them to travel to Portugal in time to play Sporting on Thursday and then come back and play Palace on Sunday. All within seven days. There was a bit of an outcry when we had to travel to Armenia last time out in the Europa and then be back in time to play Fulham on the Sunday – something I wasn’t really concerned about – but this scheduling really makes me scratch my head. I thought the FA were on our side when it comes to competing in Europe but it looks as though they don’t really give a fig. Add to that poor old Paulo at The Brazenhead, how’s he supposed to make ends meet with us playing at 9pm on a Monday night? Who’s gonna come through and support The Arsenal at that time on a Monday? Eish, smh, this FA can just FO!

So, nine in a row, and we have Leicester visiting us. We should make it ten in a row based on our form compared to theirs. Leicester lost their last game, at home to Everton and looking at their season, they are doing what a mid table team does, beat those teams below them and lose to those above them. They’ve lost four times this season and apart from their opening game of the season defeat away to MFU, they seem to be sticking to the plan with losses also to Liverpool and Bournemouth. Arsenal have superior head to head statistics against Leicester winning 49 times, losing 19 and drawing 32 times. We did lose our last match against Leicester towards the end of last season when we had that horrible away record of not winning a game during 2018 until the last match of the season against Huddersfield, however prior to that we last lost to them in 1999 with 9 wins and 4 draws in between.

Leicester sit 10th in the league, 6 points behind us on 12 points. They are quite a useful side and have top goal scorers in Jamie Vardy and James Maddison. These two players must be seen as their danger men with Harry Maguire coming into the picture for set pieces. Leicester acquired Maddison from Norwich for €25M being their marquee signing for the season and he looks quite a handy player that Torreira will need to keep close to. We know all about Jamie Vardy’s pace and our back line needs to be alert to ensure he does not spring the offside trap. Add to this pair Iheanacho and Ndidi and Monday’s game could become a bit of a nail biter!

There has been good news of late about our injured players progress with Ainsley Maitland Niles well on his way to taking up his place in the squad and hopefully filling that left back position. There has also been bad news with an injury to Sokratis during Greece’s interlull fixture with Finland. How serious it is, it’s not clear but reports are of a sprained ankle and he was taken off at half time, whether as a precaution or because he was well and truly nobbled, we will only find out when the Arsenal training pictures come out later this week. Fortunately we have Holding in good form and Mustafi had a good game against Fulham but this does highlight our lightness in that central defensive role and one more injury could mean real trouble.

Looking at the fantasy results for the last match week and top stays top in the FPL but second and third sees new faces, but it’s all getting terribly tight up there. Top scorer for the week was James Braham’s BRAHAM’S ROSES with a nice round 90 points that has moved him up to 52nd in the league. With Hazard as captain and double figure scores for Lacazette and Wilson, James got a well needed boost. Glad to see you managed at least one gunner in your side. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Wolves of Witkoppen      Richard Mackenzie          509
I’m Gunning for you!!     Cedric Angelo Nappies    503
Sons of Pitches               Jean Raath                    493

In the Superbru league, the top three stay the same with Davyboy, IceJ and Joffie B sharing the week’s honours with 13,5 points apiece. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 106,5
Davyboy                               102,5
Minty_Mint                              96,5

As indicated earlier, our match is on Monday night so maybe you will have the fortitude to travel to The Brazenhead. Good luck to all that go, I’m sure Arsenal will reward you with a good result so have yourselves some fun.