Happy New Year to all the SA Gooners out there. And let’s hope Unai and his band of merry men can make it such. We were going along quite nicely last year until injuries started to amass and we had to go to Southampton with a back three of Lichtsteiner, Koscielny and Xhaka with only Maitland-Niles on the bench as cover. The rest as they say is history and we proceeded to concede 12 goals in five games with only a single win and a draw to our name. I did write back in September that we may have major selection problems come January due to players injuries accumulating due to the number of games they are playing. This was in reference to Emery selecting strong squads to play in Europe whereas Wenger was one to temper his teams with some second team players and a few of the youth squad. So, it seems the prediction has come to pass somewhat a little earlier than expected. In fairness, we only really seem to be impacted in our defense and it will be interesting to see the team Emery puts out this afternoon, three days after the Anfield hiding.
A lot has been said about that result at Anfield. There have been the typical dumbass comments about getting rid of Emery, which should be instantly dismissed. Emery has arrived at Arsenal where it could fairly be said that the club has been in a minor crisis. Wenger’s team dropped out of the Champions League qualification spots in his last two years at the club with finishes of fifth and sixth respectively. Emery’s arrival should not have raised anyone’s expectation to resolve this instantaneously. There have been a number of comparisons in the media to where Klopp found himself at the beginning of his Liverpool reign and where Emery found himself at Arsenal at the beginning of the season. Time and patience are two ingredients required by both club and supporters before we can find ourselves competing for the top spot. However, it is the third ingredient into this mix that will have a distinct effect on whether we achieve our ambitions or not and that is money. This was also the case when Wenger was at the helm and even though we had our marquee signings in Ozil and Aubameyang, as of late, we never truly had the overall quality in the squad to make us competitors for that top spot. There are very few supporters that feel that Kroenke is allowing us the funds to purchase the key players to push us forward and until this happens, we are always going to be the bridesmaid.
Onto activity on the field and we take on Fulham this afternoon. The reverse game in October was one of our better games having come off some uninspiring wins against Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton and Watford. Although we still didn’t manage to get a half time lead, our four goal salvo in the second half, which included Ramsey’s wonderful team goal gave us a boost which allowed us to continue through to a 22 game undefeated run. We now face Fulham with home ground advantage and as indicated by Bernd Leno, it is probably a good thing that we can get back onto the field and rectify matters as soon as possible. And what better way of doing that than by beating Fulham on the first day of the new year. Fulham are coming off just their third victory of the season, a 1-0 win against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. There’s not too much to say about this team that had to go through the end of season playoffs to gain promotion last season and although they have a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, they seem a good bet to go straight down again with the likes of Huddersfield Town and one other.
On Saturday, it’s back to the FA Cup and a competition we like to think belongs to us except for last year when Wenger was trying to be clever by putting out an inexperienced team and ended up from being the holders of the FA Cup (courtesy of our 2-1 victory in 2017) to being the noodles of the FA Cup by losing 4-2 to Nottingham Forest. This time round, we’re off to Blackpool who incidentally we’ve already come across this season in the Carabao Cup. In that game, we were at home and we won 2-1, having been two goals up and managing quite comfortably to then conceding a goal and seemingly holding on for dear life. Interestingly enough, we had Julio Pleguezuelo playing in our defense for the first and last time. Hopefully we will see him there again as he had a reasonable debut and he is a defender! It’s difficult to tell what the status of our player’s coming back from injury is when reading the Arsenal.com website but it’s clear that Danny and Rob won’t be seen for a long time and Hector, Nacho, Mesut and Shkodran are all being assessed prior to today’s game. Looking at the training pictures that are posted, it would appear that only Mustafi was involved so we’re unlikely to see any of the other three.
It’s been a while since reporting on all things fantasy related and how things have changed. Out with the old and in with the new (with a few familiar faces making a revival) The top three in the Arsenal South Africa fantasy league are:
Bony & Clyne FC Nicholas da Silva 1200
Wolves of Witkoppen Richard MacKenzie 1186
Im Gunning for you!! Cedric Angelo Nappies 1183
In the Superbru league we have three points separating the top 6:
Gunner for life 218,0
Joffie B 216,0
The club is back in action this weekend with the FA Cup third round game against Blackpool which kicks off at 19h30 on Saturday. So why don’t y’all come on down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.