Everton Away – Sunday 14h30

They say the best way of getting over a hangover is to drink a hair of the dog. It’s not always the most pleasant experience but it should get you back in the right frame of mind for more of the stuff that gave you a hangover in the first place. And let’s be honest about it, we’re all alcoholics when it comes to Arsenal. We’ve all heard the jokes, “Hi, my name is Simon and I support Arsenal!” So writing this email so soon after our weekend game and before all the other games have been completed, hopefully will be my regmaker.

So it’s time to take a long hard stare at ourselves in the mirror and ask exactly what went wrong on Saturday. I think we all recognized that the team on the pitch just didn’t seem to have that spark that we expect and have seen in our recent games before that infernal Interlull came along. We were slow, ponderous, lethargic and never ever really looked like scoring in the first half from open play. Fortunately, we had the BFG on the pitch who took his opportunity well from a Xhaka cross that was probably the only decent thing he did throughout the entire game. That gave us a one nil lead that looked anything but solid and so we went into the second half with pretty much the same approach as the first. We then lost Danny in the 61st minute and Wenger brought on Özil. And we should have been two nil up in the 70th minute when Özil found himself in a good scoring position but fluffed his lines. And then I shouldn’t need to tell you what followed thereafter. A penalty that wasn’t a penalty but what can you do. Of course Cech maintained his record and went early to give Deeney the opportunity to put it the other way. And then the final confusion in the box, with Koscielny off the pitch and the Arsenal defense at sixes and sevens. Wikipedia – “At sixes and sevens” is an English idiom used to describe a condition of confusion or disarray. Enough said!

Those are the facts and figures and we need to ask ourselves why. From where I sit, my belief is that you get a team that has certain individuals that do the business, are the creative agents and there doesn’t need to be that many to change an ordinary side into a good side. Yesterday’s team that went out onto the pitch was an ordinary side. Sure, we had Lacazette and Xhaka (a total of £86m) but, unfortunately, I don’t think they fall into that group of individuals that can create the spark. I think we all know that the number one spark creator is Alexis and close behind him there is Özil. When Özil came on to the pitch, our open play opportunities increased. Unfortunately, we did not take advantage of any and the end result is there to see. A bit more metal in midfield was needed and on yesterday’s display I would have been happy to replace Xhaka and Elneny with Ramsey and Wilshere. Iwobi is not an Özil and although we recognize him as one for the future, we are playing in the present and he’s just not quite cutting it. One could also say the same for Bellerin, however he may be a bit more entrenched in his position. And finally, if you read last week’s email, there is the issue with our defense and Koscielny’s achilles problem. Would Watford have got their second goal if he had been able to continue? Would Jack, who was due to come on, have added that spark in midfield to give us the winner? All “ifs” and “buts”, but I think Arsene has a lot on his plate that he needs to resolve. And I’m not just talking about now. If he wants to leave Arsenal in a better state than Ferguson left Man Utd then he’s got to ensure that if (or more likely when) Özil and Alexis leave this next summer, we have quality replacements, otherwise we are in serious trouble of becoming an ordinary side! Add to that, he needs to start doing business this January and as I said, he has a lot on his plate.

Right, hangover is slowly going away. There will still be a lot of analysis and anger spewed in the media and on twitter but try and get over it. It’s in the past and hopefully, going forward we will be able to field Alexis, Özil and Lacazette and see what the future holds. Think of other things that may deflect your feelings of angst and shock such as Chelsea losing away at Palace and teams like Everton sitting in 17th position (but may move up to 9th if results go their way this weekend).

Up next is Red Star Belgrade or as the locals like to say FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd. What a great name for a team – the English one. They’ve been around for a while and I remember as a youngster hearing that name and being attracted to it. Their pedigree is also quite impressive, having won the European Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1991. They have also won 27 national championships and 24 nation cups, so they’re not a team to be sniffed at. An interesting fact about them is that they were knocked out of the 57-58 European Cup in the quarter finals by Sir Matt Busby’s Man Utd. Utd won their home leg 2-1 and drew the return match in Yugoslavia 3-3. That return match is notable for being the last match played by the “Busby Babes” – on the return flight to England the following day, the plane crashed in Munich, resulting in the deaths of 23 people, including eight Manchester United players.

They’re currently top of their league with a 5 point lead and won their game on Saturday 4-0. Unlike Arsenal, they had to go through pre-qualifying matches and looked to have just squeezed through their last qualifier 4-4 on away goals against that world power, Krasnodar! Based on this information I would say that we should win this away match at a canter, but based on this weekend’s result I won’t. A name to be wary of on Thursday is Ghana International Richmond Boakye. He’s currently being scouted by Chelsea so there may be some quality there to be wary of.

Sunday sees us up against Everton at Goodison Park. With Palace and Arsenal, they are the only teams in the Premier League that do not get their name directly from their physical location. The background of their name is as follows (Wikipedia) – At first Ye Anciente Everton Toffee House was very popular with fans because it was near to their stadium. However when the club moved to Goodison Park, they became close to Old Mother Nobletts Toffee Shop. There they sold sweets called’Everton mints’, which proved even more popular. So who knows, they may have turned out to be called Nobletts, in which case I would expect them to play in the England National League North with your Blyth Spartans and Leamingtons!

This is a game we should win, pretty similar to the game we should have just won which we are no longer talking about. I’m hoping that Wenger puts out a similar side against Red Star as he did for the previous Europa match against Bate which would then allow us a full squad for the Everton match. We are going to have defensive worries because Koscielny coming off as he did does not bode well for the immediate future and with Mustafi already out, we will be left with BFG, Holding and Nacho. All a bit worrying. But as the objective is to score more goals than the opposition, hopefully we can get Alexis, Özil and Lacazette on the park. The same match last year was played midweek and we had been on an excellent run, only losing to Southampton away since our opening day loss to Liverpool and drawing twice with PSG, and also against MFU and Sp*rs and putting three past Chelski. We were on top of our game and Sanchez had given us a one nil lead until Coleman just before the break and Williams in the 86th minute saw us snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. From that game we went on to lose to Citeh in a similar fashion.

As we well know, there are no “gimme’s” or “easy games” in the Premier League. All we can hope for is to put the bad performances behind us, learn from them and go forward in a positive manner to win the next game. If we can do that, then I will enjoy my Arsenal tipple again and shout out to all the other club supporters, “Hi, my name is Simon and I support the mighty Arsenal!!”

I’ll update you next time round on how our FPL and Superbru leagues are doing. One thing’s for sure, with Chelsea and Arsenal both losing, I don’t think anyone predicted ten correct results. The Europa League match is on Thursday at 7pm and the Everton game is on Sunday at 2:30pm. Both very comfortable times, so get back on the wagon and meet us down at the Brazenhead and have some fun.

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