Cologne at home – Thursday 21h00 & Chelsea away – Sunday 14h30

Two games this week and that will be the case for the next three weeks all the way through until Sunday 1st October whereafter we have a free week until we start the two games a week cycle again. That is based on the premise that we win our Carabao Cup match next Wednesday against Doncaster Rovers. This week we have our first Thursday night game aka Europa match against FC Cologne. I suppose the most common knowledge about Cologne for Arsenal players is that this is the club that we bought Lukas Podolski from and for whom he scored thirty three times in 88 appearances, second time round. Cologne have not had a great start to the season, losing all three of their Bundesliga matches. They ended last season in 5th spot, a distant 13 points behind 4th placed finishers, 1899 Hoffenheim. So under normal circumstances this would be a team that we should have no problem with however, there are a number of circumstances that could cause this not to be the case. I don’t think anyone is too sure as to what Arsene’s tactics are going to be in Europe this season. I think it’s fair to say that the Premier League is his number one target, but will he consider the Europa Cup as a big competition? Bigger than the FA Cup? Probably, because by winning this competition the rewards are far greater (entry into next season’s UCL as opposed to a Community Shield match against the team that finishes second in the league – see what I did there J). The true question is though “To what degree” will he compete? There is much talk of giving the youngsters an opportunity, something that happens without batting an eyelid in the EFL Cup and maybe not so often in the FA Cup. But with the Europa Cup squad containing 42 players, it’s impossible to say whether he will favour the youngsters. He has the following to draw on: Deyan Iliev, Matt Macey, Chuba Akpom, Ryan Huddart, Hugo Keto, Tolaji Bola, Chiori Johnson, Tafari Moore, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Krystian Bielik, Charlie Gilmour, Marcus McGuane, Reiss Nelson, Ben Sheaf, Pelenda Da Silva, Aaron Eyoma, Edward Nketiah and Joseph Willock!! Add to that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy then Arsene has plenty of ammo to surprise us!

This first game against Cologne could very well be the game to surprise us as we then come up against Chelski on Sunday and Wenger will want to make sure he has the strongest squad available for that match. Our record against Chelski has been chequered, winning the last match on penalties in the Community Shield, getting thrashed somewhere in Asia in pre-season, beating them 2-1 in that all important FA Cup Final, losing 3-1 in the equivalent away fixture last season and beating them 3-0 in the home fixture last season. Chelsea themselves have a comfortable home tie against Qarabag on Tuesday night so they should be well rested by the time they pitch up at The Emirates.

That last game against Chelsea at The Emirates, where we won 3-0 was a turning point for them and they subsequently went on a run of games that saw them climb up the table and maintain that no 1 spot til the end of the season. So, as much as we’d like to see a similar result to that one, it would also be somewhat painful to see a similar long term result. Looking at the team sheet in that match, we had Santi playing, and I think that speaks volumes to the form we were in then to what has happened since seeing him limp off the pitch in the 6-0 victory against Ludogrets last October. The bottom line is that we have not found a replacement for him and as hard as Wenger tried to bring in Thomas Lemar and Jean-Michael Seri, we still do not have that gifted midfielder that can spark the team into life.

I expect Wenger to field a similar starting XI to the Bournemouth game, but fitting in Sanchez at the expense of Danny. Maybe a harsh call as Danny had a great game and it may be the case that Wenger keeps Sanchez back on the bench, citing fitness issues as an excuse. My only concern is Monreal in the full back role but I think he will remain there for this match.

We’re into our fourth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru and things are beginning to hot up. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
Welbz FC                             Yusuf H                               251
JELLYS NPO                        Eugene Cardoso               230
Lindo United                         Sibusiso Ndlovu                229

Special mention goes to Justin Toerien’s Petr Cech Yourself with a week high score of 80

ZeZou                                                                               37,91
Joffie B                                                                              33,75
mecamakan                                                                      31,58

Highest points for the week goes to DutchySA who moved up 26 places to 21st with a well scored 10,5 points.

So, we’re back to winning ways and how nice would it be to keep that feeling going this weekend against Chelsea. It’s a Sunday afternoon match at 2:30pm. We have the patio booked out so why not come down to the Brazenhead for a fight for a fun afternoon and cheer the team on. We will also be at the Brazenhead in the Wine Cellar for the Cologne game so don’t be shy, come down for that one too.


Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa

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