BATE away – Thursday 19h00 & B&HA at home – Sunday 13h00

Not a bad few results as of late and our last 5 games have been quite fruitful, with two cup victories, two league victories and that away league draw against Chelski that felt almost like a victory. Now many would say this is typical Arsenal fare, when the pressure is off, that’s when we start performing but I don’t believe that is quite right. The pressure was anything but off when we went to Stamford Bridge and we put in a solid performance that was worthy of 3 points. Wenger chose not to play Sanchez and Ozil and we showed we had enough class with the necessary levels of grit to come out of that game with our heads held high. The Cologne match too was one that could have ended in disaster. One nil down at half time to a somewhat comical goal could have led to all three points being dropped. The team could have blamed the German supporters and the delay in the match to a Europa first game loss, but they didn’t and they came back to score three good goals in the second half to again hold their heads high. A half time substitution of Kolasinac for Holding was probably the key moment of the match and thus Wenger is showing that he is not just a sentimental choice as manager this season and that he has a very important role to play. Monday night saw us survive a few scares to finish off with ease against a WBA side that tested us at times. Cech and Monreal stopped a couple of goals that had the Arsenal supporters’ hearts in their mouths and Bobby Madley was probably dreaming when he allowed Rodriguez to recover from an obvious foul in the penalty area to have his subsequent shot saved by Cech. I mean, who ever plays advantage for the attacking team in the penalty area, and if one does, it’s generally for about two seconds by which time, if the ball has not landed up in the net, the whistle gets blown for the original foul. Anyhow, thanks Bobby, love ya madly.

Back to that Chelski result and all that it means. Well at least what it should mean. Prior to that game, Arsenal had managed 5 points in their previous thirteen encounters against the big five teams. It was a talking point and had we lost that match, the result would well and truly have set the scene for a “same old, same old” Arsenal season of flattering to deceive. The very fact that not only did we not lose, but we so very nearly came close to beating the current premier league champions that all that self-doubt that seemed so very evident in the team and in fact amongst the supporters has to a large degree dissolved away. We now know that we can take on the big boys as long as we can reproduce the same inspiration and desire that we showed that day. To be honest, there was no real rocket science about how we played. As I said earlier, it was true grit, desire and sensibility mixed with the undoubted talent that exists within the team. And probably, most importantly of all, there was no risk taking. I believe that in the past, Arsenal have taken unnecessary risks, leaving ourselves open to seek out opportunities which have come back to bite us instead of biding our time and taking the opportunities that present themselves. And it hasn’t just been in games against the big five. We have found ourselves under pressure going into games where, when we don’t score or don’t see ourselves scoring, we start with the unnecessary risks which teams like WBA would take advantage of and so the deadly cycle would perpetuate itself. There was a bit of that in Monday night’s game and we got lucky, but the second half was different and we breezed through with ease. Hopefully, we can re-find our self-belief and in doing so, play matches without the undue risks and accept the fact that sometimes a draw is as good as you’re gonna get. Even the Invincibles struggled at times. 13 of those 49 games were drawn and against sides such as Bolton Wanderers (twice), Portsmouth (twice) and Birmingham City.

So onto this week’s games. We have two, starting with our Europa League match on Thursday, away against BATE Borisov and then onto the premier league match at home against Brighton and Hove Albion. And then it’s the deep abyss, otherwise known as the interlull. It seems like we have just survived one which I suppose is true as we endured a respite after the Liverpool defeat. Maybe it was good timing as our results since then have been quite positive. Hopefully this interlull has a similar effect.

BATE are situated in Belarus and all I know about Belarus is that Alexander Hleb came from there. He actually played for BATE on a number of different occasions, 25 times in a stint prior to joining Arsenal, in the 1999-2000 season, then on three separate occasions spanning 4 years from 2012 to 2016, playing a total of 39 games. BATE won their league last year and from what I can understand, their league runs from April to November, so they are currently three quarters of the way through their current season, where they lie third, two points behind the leader. They failed in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and thus find themselves in Group H facing Arsenal this week. I’m really not sure what to expect on Thursday. If Wenger puts out a top XI, then I cannot imagine there being a problem, but he’s likely to insert the odd youngster as he did against Cologne which, although fun to watch, will mean a few ‘edge of the seat’ moments.

As for the weekend, at least we play on Sunday and not Monday. It’s a 1pm kick off, so not too late. Because it is a match before the international break, I think Wenger will put out the strongest squad he has, no matter who he plays on Thursday, so expect a Sanchez, Ozil, Lacazette start for the first time. We should walk this one, especially with the form we’re in and the confidence we have acquired due to our recent results. We are now seventh on the log and BHA are six places behind us with 7 points to their name. We’re six points off the top but there’s a juicy encounter on Saturday between Citeh and Chelski so someone’s gonna drop some points. MFU look to have it easy at home to Palace and it’s a stretch to think Palace are going to improve on their last result. It’s going to be an interesting weekend of soccer.

We’re into our sixth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Yusuf H maintains his lead which has shortened due to some good results from both Nicholas da Silva and Ebrahim Moolla in the FPL whilst second and third spots have swapped around in the Superbru league. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               390
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva                380
We are all Besiktas             Ebrahim Moolla                  363

Special mention goes to Jean Raath’s Sons of Pitches with a week high score of 94

ZeZou                                                                               53,91
mecamakan                                                                      51,08
Joffie B                                                                             49,50

Highest points for the week goes to StevieZ who moved up 13 places to 4th with a well scored 14,75 points. Stevie got 9 out of 10 selections correct which is pretty good going!
Thursday and Sunday. Both reasonable times so you can’t have any excuses plus you have to wait two weeks until we play again. Really, this is a no brainer so c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

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