This will be the last post of the year as we approach the year-end holidays. Not too sure when the next one will be out, maybe in time for our first defense of the FA Cup this season, against Nottingham Forest on Sunday 7th January. All depends on how the holidays phase back into the work mode that no one in their right mind is thinking about at the moment. For everyone that has been going to the Brazenhead, and there was just a scattering this last weekend, then feel free to continue going. There may be no flags and shirts hanging around the edges but there will be other Arsenal supporters with whom you can celebrate our many victories.
It all feels a little ‘déjà vu’ with us playing West Ham again so soon after that lack lustre performance at The New Stadium. Apparently, it’s called London Stadium, but The New Stadium works for me as it is an anagram of West Ham United – check it out! The two teams seem to be going in opposite directions with West Ham having taken 7 out of a possible 9 points with games against Chelsea and Arsenal in there, whereas we have managed 5 out of 9 with the strongest opposition being 12th in the league. The West Ham game is a Carabao Cup game and Wenger will obviously have an eye on the weekend (if you count Fridays as part of the weekend) fixture against Liverpool. A match I’m sure he is only too eager to win, even if it means sacrificing a minor cup opportunity. To this end, I do not expect there to be a single team member that played against Newcastle in the squad and I suppose there is a lot to justify that decision. Although we all hanker for silverware, I doubt there are many Arsenal supporters that would trade a top four position for the Carabao Cup, especially as there are still some big name teams still in there. Thus, I’d expect the team to be made up of the likes of Macey, Debuchy, Holding, Mertesacker, Chambers, Elneny, Walcott, Willock, Nelson, Sheaf and Nketiah. When we played Norwich, we had the likes of Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Giroud, Wilshere and Coquelin, however I don’t think Arsene will gamble on any of them picking up an injury and with two to three of those names being 1st XI players, it shows how things have changed in the team.
The game is on tonight (although it’s not being broadcast as per DSTV’s decision not to entertain any Carabao Cup fixtures – I wonder whether they will at least televise the final?) and West Ham are coming off a good victory at Stoke where we lost earlier in the season. I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t make it through to the semi-finals as long as we put up a good showing against Liverpool.
If we beat Liverpool, then things will all be rosy again. It doesn’t matter if it’s an added on time own goal winner that bounces off 3 defenders and the back of Mignolet’s head before it half dribbles over the line to invoke hawk-eye to make a beep in Martin Atkinson’s ear. Just so long as we win, as that will move us above Liverpool by two points and not drop further behind Chelsea or Man Utd. It will also extend our lead over Spurs who are away to Burnley on the weekend. But it’s not going to be easy. Our record against Liverpool of late has been atrocious with our last victory coming 2 ½ years ago where goals from Bellerin, Ozil, Sanchez and Giroud gave us a 4-1 victory. We had Santi, Ospina, Mertesacker and Ramsey in that side with Welbeck and Walcott both on the bench. Our team this weekend should have the remaining seven team members which includes the four goal scorers so there’s no reason for us to not perform (except there’s no Santi and we all know how much we miss Santi, oooooh Santi Cazorla). If we can reproduce that display against Man United, minus the first half early goals that we conceded plus the ability of putting away ten per cent of our shots, then we should be okay. But this is Arsenal and who knows what will happen on the pitch on the day. Reports of Ramsey not being available for the rest of this year is a bit of a body blow. He does manage to get into positions that offer goal scoring opportunities and he will be sorely missed. As for Liverpool, they had Coutinho, Henderson and Sterling as their stand out players for that match. Take away Sterling and add in Firmino, Salah and Mane and that makes a big difference. Since then, we have played them five times, losing three times (only once at home though) with a 14 – 7 goal difference. It would be a huge confidence builder if we win this game.
Final feedback of the year for our two fantasy leagues, and in the Superbru league we have tphato in top spot with GunnerChris and MAC10 hot on his heels. Our top performer on the weekend was SIMBA, who looks to be more of a lioness than a lion based on the profile pic, with 8 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved her up 8 places to 25th. The top three are as follows:
In the FPL, the top two remain the same and Welbz FC has come back in. The top three are as follows:
Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown) 1014
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva) 1011
Welbz FC (Yusuf H) 999
As a final note, I’d like to wish you all a happy festive period, whatever it may be that you are celebrating. Hopefully, Arsenal victories will be in there somewhere. Come visit the new Arsenal site arsenalsa.co.za – there are some nice photos that Arsenal send us for each match that I’ve shared plus all these posts for the year. Until 2018, be safe and go well.