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:
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.