Arsenal v Leicester

The fat lady is nowhere ready to start singing so if you think the interlulls are over for the year, think again. Round three comes along sometime between 11th and 24th November so enjoy this interlude whilst you can. During this period, we are looking to squeeze in seven games, the first of which is against Leicester this coming Monday. I don’t really get it, we have a Europa match on Thursday so they decide we must play our weekend fixture, after an interlull on a Monday? What’s that all about? Why not play Bournemouth against Southampton, Cardiff against Fulham, Newcastle against Brighton, Wolves against Watford or Everton against Palace on Monday night? They won’t be playing in Europe midweek. Oh no, they chose Arsenal to play and then expect them to travel to Portugal in time to play Sporting on Thursday and then come back and play Palace on Sunday. All within seven days. There was a bit of an outcry when we had to travel to Armenia last time out in the Europa and then be back in time to play Fulham on the Sunday – something I wasn’t really concerned about – but this scheduling really makes me scratch my head. I thought the FA were on our side when it comes to competing in Europe but it looks as though they don’t really give a fig. Add to that poor old Paulo at The Brazenhead, how’s he supposed to make ends meet with us playing at 9pm on a Monday night? Who’s gonna come through and support The Arsenal at that time on a Monday? Eish, smh, this FA can just FO!

So, nine in a row, and we have Leicester visiting us. We should make it ten in a row based on our form compared to theirs. Leicester lost their last game, at home to Everton and looking at their season, they are doing what a mid table team does, beat those teams below them and lose to those above them. They’ve lost four times this season and apart from their opening game of the season defeat away to MFU, they seem to be sticking to the plan with losses also to Liverpool and Bournemouth. Arsenal have superior head to head statistics against Leicester winning 49 times, losing 19 and drawing 32 times. We did lose our last match against Leicester towards the end of last season when we had that horrible away record of not winning a game during 2018 until the last match of the season against Huddersfield, however prior to that we last lost to them in 1999 with 9 wins and 4 draws in between.

Leicester sit 10th in the league, 6 points behind us on 12 points. They are quite a useful side and have top goal scorers in Jamie Vardy and James Maddison. These two players must be seen as their danger men with Harry Maguire coming into the picture for set pieces. Leicester acquired Maddison from Norwich for €25M being their marquee signing for the season and he looks quite a handy player that Torreira will need to keep close to. We know all about Jamie Vardy’s pace and our back line needs to be alert to ensure he does not spring the offside trap. Add to this pair Iheanacho and Ndidi and Monday’s game could become a bit of a nail biter!

There has been good news of late about our injured players progress with Ainsley Maitland Niles well on his way to taking up his place in the squad and hopefully filling that left back position. There has also been bad news with an injury to Sokratis during Greece’s interlull fixture with Finland. How serious it is, it’s not clear but reports are of a sprained ankle and he was taken off at half time, whether as a precaution or because he was well and truly nobbled, we will only find out when the Arsenal training pictures come out later this week. Fortunately we have Holding in good form and Mustafi had a good game against Fulham but this does highlight our lightness in that central defensive role and one more injury could mean real trouble.

Looking at the fantasy results for the last match week and top stays top in the FPL but second and third sees new faces, but it’s all getting terribly tight up there. Top scorer for the week was James Braham’s BRAHAM’S ROSES with a nice round 90 points that has moved him up to 52nd in the league. With Hazard as captain and double figure scores for Lacazette and Wilson, James got a well needed boost. Glad to see you managed at least one gunner in your side. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Wolves of Witkoppen      Richard Mackenzie          509
I’m Gunning for you!!     Cedric Angelo Nappies    503
Sons of Pitches               Jean Raath                    493

In the Superbru league, the top three stay the same with Davyboy, IceJ and Joffie B sharing the week’s honours with 13,5 points apiece. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 106,5
Davyboy                               102,5
Minty_Mint                              96,5

As indicated earlier, our match is on Monday night so maybe you will have the fortitude to travel to The Brazenhead. Good luck to all that go, I’m sure Arsenal will reward you with a good result so have yourselves some fun.

Qarabag v Fulham v Arsenal

Having played 4 consecutive home games, it’s now time to go travelling and our first match of the week will find us in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan as we continue our quest in the Europa Cup. Qarabag Agdam FK will be our opponents and they are no strangers to this competition, having joined the Europa Cup competition in the past three seasons due to not making it into the Group stages in the Champions League. This season is the same story, having played three teams in the qualifying rounds, eventually losing out to BATE Borisov. They still needed to get through pre-qualification of the Europa Cup where they came up against Sheriff from Moldova but they were able to shoot them down, winning at home 3 – 0 after losing the first leg away 1 – 0. They came up against Sporting CP in their first match of the Europa competition this season which they lost 2 – 0. Again, this is a match that we should win, albeit away from home. Sp*rs came up against them in the 2015/6 competition where they only managed a 1 – 0 victory away from home. It will also be interesting to see whether Mkhitaryan boards the flight when Arsenal set out for the Azerbaijani capital during the week as Azerbaijan have banned Armenians from entering the country over tensions between the bordering rivals (I see later reports indicating that he won’t travel). I’m sure Emery can find enough players to cover for Mhiki so as not to cause too much of an issue around this situation. The other talking point I expect will be the goalkeeping situation. With Cech out with a hamstring, will Emiliano Martinez have his first game of the season and if so who will Emery select for his reserve on the bench? Will it be the Macedonian academy player Deyan Iliev or will he resort to Leno? (Probably Leno as it looks as though Iliev played for the U23s on Monday).

There are reports about the tight schedule with the team only getting back to London at 4am on Friday and they need to prepare for their away game to Fulham which is a midday (1pm SA time) kick off on Sunday. Personally, it doesn’t look too tight for me and an away fixture to Fulham means turning right at the bottom of the road and travelling a few kilometres extra! Anyhow he has a full squad to play with minus Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Koscielny and will probably have the likes of Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah to choose from so I’m sure he won’t be too troubled in making the right selections. Plus the game starts early on Thursday, 18h55, so I’m sure all in all a very manageable situation.

The weekend’s match against Fulham as I said is a 1pm kick off on Sunday and will be our last game until a fortnight later due to the international break. This could be quite a tricky one as I believe Mitrovic, who has already scored five goals this season will be quite a handful. Based on this I’d like to see Emery start Sokratis and Holding as Mustafi remains the liability that he is and although he can be quite useful in the opposition’s box, we cannot afford those mistakes that turn a very controllable situation into a panic stricken, hair tearing sequence of events which generally lead to a goal being conceded. Maybe we can start with Iwobi as he injected some much needed forward momentum against Watford last week and it appears as though he’s brimming with confidence. This would probably be at the expense of Ramsey who really has nowhere to play when Ozil is on the pitch, and in my opinion Ozil must always start. The remainder of the team must be as we started last week except of course for the goalkeeper due to Cech’s injury.

On the fantasy side, and not much new in the FPL. Top stays top and second and third swap places. Steven Cohen’s gunning on did the business this week with a top score of 86 and that was mainly due to him choosing Harry Kane as his captain. Steven, Steven, Steven, don’t you know that you could earn a life time ban for chosing a Sp*rs player as your captain!! Anyhow, we’ll let you off with just a gentle warning. This is how the league is looking:

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie          446

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe 437

Bicurate                               James McGillivray            431

In the Superbru league, although the top spot is retained, we have two new faces at second and third. This week’s top scorer is last year’s overall winner of the ArsenalSA league,Leonardo Geral with a highly impressive 23 points. 6 exact scores and two close scores gave him probably the largest points haul in one week that we’ve had in our ArsenalSA league. Well done Leonardo!! That moves him up 13 places to 18th. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 97,5

Davyboy                              89,0

Minty_Mint                        88,0

Both games are being televised and all in good time for you not to miss your bed time. I was the only one at the club for our opener against FC Vorskla a couple of weeks back so come on down on Thursday for what is a relatively early kick off and then onto Sunday where it’s a lazy afternoon starting at 1pm. So, see y’all there at The Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

Arsenal v Brentford v Watford

Second double header of the season and it’s two home London derbies against the fords. First up is Brentford in the Carabao Cup and then it’s Watford in the Premier League. Brentford are not exactly a glamour team and they will have been overjoyed at drawing Arsenal in this round. Brentford won the Football League Two in the 2008/2009 season gaining promotion to Football League One where they remained until the 2013/14 season when the won promotion to the Championship. Last season they ended 9th. They’ve had a good start to the season and are currently 7th having lost over the weekend away to Frank Lampard’s Derby County but have beaten Wigan and Notts Forest as of late, the latter being the team that knocked us out of the FA Cup last season. It looks as though Unai Emery is going to let his youngsters loose in this fixture. Not sure where I heard that, but pretty sure it came up on my phone and then disappeared again. Hopefully this is the case and that we see some exciting academy talent such as Olowu, Osei-Tutu and Pleguezuelo at the back, Zelalem, Smith-Rowe, Willock and Sheaf in midfield and Nketiah up front. All lightly dusted with a sprinkle of hard first team players such as Leno, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and Welbeck. Think we could make a team out of that lot. Unfortunately, as it was last year, the Carabao Cup games are not being televised this season so we won’t be meeting at the club for this one. It’s a pity because it’s always nice to watch the youngsters play.

A bit of head to head statistics for those of you that enjoy this stuff; we’ve met ten times in total, 5 times at home, 5 away. Believe it or not, Brentford hold a 5 – 2 advantage over us with three draws. The last time we met was in May 1947 at Brentford where we won 1 – 0, remember that game! All I can say is that you’re only as good as your last game, so it looks as though we have the advantage.

Onto the weekend and we’re back to Premier League action. I think it’s fair to say that no one believes we’re at the top of our game. We’ve been fortunate to have had a run of games against bottom half teams with Everton dropping into that category after their result against us. Watford could well be a different kettle of fish as they’ve had a good start to the season with 4 wins, a draw and a loss meaning they’re a point ahead of us in the log. They’ve dropped points in their last two games though, losing to MFU at home and then earning a point away to Fulham last week. Interestingly enough, we have a shared head to head set of stats with both teams beating each other 11 times. Quite interesting, and we shared the honours in the last two seasons, however the last game was at The Emirates in March this year where we won by three goals to none. It was also the game where Cech eventually made a penalty save for his new club which basically shoved Troy Deeney’s words from the previous year right back down his mouth! Revenge is best served cold they say.

We’ve had a few injury problems and Sokratis is the latest to add to that list. It would appear that his injury on Sunday was nothing more than a dead leg and that although he may not feature against Brentford, he’ll likely be back for the Watford game. We definitely will need him in that game and Mustafi must be at his best if we’re to get anything out of that game. Our first clean sheet under Emery last weekend shows what we can do however that was more fortunate than good defending and Cech had a cracker. It would be nice to see us repeat the effort against Watford as they have quite a potent strike force. We’ve scored one more goal than they have but they have conceded three less than us so it really is set up for a knife edge game.
We need to start showing a bit more of what we can do in the first half rather than waiting for a second half explosion. Torreira showed he’s the man we need in midfield and as long as he doesn’t earn himself another early yellow, then I believe he’s the player that can give the side the confidence to go forward more fluently. Ozil is struggling to put in the performances we saw under Wenger and he appears to have very little influence in the matches so far this season. The same can be said about Mhkitaryan so I would wager that Ozil will maintain his place and Mhiki will feature in the midweek games for now. Auba & Laca are beginning to form an exciting partnership up front and let’s hope that continues as we build through the season.

Onto things fantasy related and there are new players featuring in the top three of both competitions. The FPL league welcomes James McGillivray’s Bicurate into second spot with the week’s top score of 84. He split’s last week’s top two teams to make the league’s top three look as follows:

Wolves of Witkoppen Richard Mackenzie        391
Bicurate                         James McGillivray          384
Bafan’ Abafun FC        Sibongumusa Shongwe 382

In the Superbru league, S4 has done the same thing by pushing up 8 places into second spot, but it was LEGEND that topped the week’s scoring with an impressive 17,5 points. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ   81,0
S4            75,0
Mars       73,5

Only one game being televised this week for us and we’ll be at The Brazenhead for it on Saturday so why not come on down and have yourselves some fun. See y’all there.

Arsenal v FC Vorskla and Everton

First double header of the season (two games in one week) and both games are at home against average to weak sides so we’re expecting a couple of wins. Interestingly enough, it appears that Emery is going to be taking the Europa competition much more seriously than Arsene did and thus will be using his first team squad to do the business. I thought Wenger managed the Europa very well last season. The fact that the team did not perform well enough in the semis against Atletico is another story however. It concerns me that we will be going back to the days of having major selection problems come January due to players injuries accumulating due to the number of games they are playing. Wenger played a number of youngsters last year in both the Europa and the Carabao Cup and only when these competitions started hotting up did he revert to his first team squad. This helped no end with keeping players fit for the matches that were crucial and I just wonder whether we may have finished below Burnley last year had he not done this. This was not the only advantage either of playing the youngsters. We’ve seen a number of our young talented players moving away from the club as they want to play in the big leagues, even though that may mean Championship or Division 1 or even foreign leagues. Playing these youngsters as part of the first team in Europe as well as in the minor cup games both keeps them interested and gives them experience in the cynical tough world of first team football. However, Emery is no novice when it comes to Europa and I’m sure he knows what he’s doing – as long as he understands the toll that the festive season can take on the players.

Our first game for the week is against FC Vorskla. They’re a Ukrainian team that play in the Premier League from Poltava. I presume they have qualified for this competition due to coming third in their league last season behind Shaktar Donetsk who have qualified for the Champions League and Dinamo Kiev who have also qualified for Europa. Vorskla ended up 8 points behind Kiev and 14 behind Shaktar so all in all not the toughest opposition. This is a game we must win as our return leg is at the end of November where we do not want to be desperate for points going to a cold and bleak Ukraine where the average temperature in November is 2 degrees celsius. The other two teams we encounter in this competition are Qarabag from Azerbaijan (is this really Europe?) and Sporting from Portugal. Nothing like “play for Arsenal and see the world”!!

Interestingly enough, Chelsea will also be playing in this competition. Last year we had Everton as our Premier League companions and they performed dismally. Chelsea’s first match is a trip to Greece to meet PAOK. They will also come up against Vidi from Hungary and Bate Borisov from Belarus.

Onto the Premier League and Everton come to visit on Sunday. This will be the second time that Theo will be visiting The Emirates since his sale in January this year to Everton.  The first time he visited wasn’t long after moving to The Toffees and we won handsomely, 5 – 1, with Rambo hitting a hat-trick. At the time of writing, Everton are one of 4 teams that have not yet lost and are still to play this gameweek against a poor West Ham side. (Tuesday now and I see Everton failed dismally to keep their unbeaten record). They have managed two 2 – 2 draws in their away games so far, coming against Wolves and Bournemouth. Everton’s new top signing, Richarlison, whom they bought for £35.28m from Watford will be available for our game and is a player that we will need to be wary of. He has scored three times in their first two matches before being sent off in the 41st minute of their third game. Their other major purchase this year is Yerry Mina who cost them £27.23m from Barcelona. He is currently injured, however when he comes back, looks to be one to keep an eye on as he holds the honour of sharing the record as the highest scoring defender in a World Cup which he achieved earlier this year.

Things are beginning to look familiar at the top of the table with Watford and Bournemouth sandwiched in 4th and 5th place amongst the big six. Watford are still 3 points ahead of us with a healthy +5 goal difference, compared to our +1 however we have the opportunity to climb up more places in the table. Bournemouth have to visit Burnley and Spurs, after a tough game against Inter on Tuesday, travel to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday in the day’s late game which will not be so easy. They only managed a 1-1 draw there last season, in April and the same result would suit me right down to the ground.

The Fantasy leagues are hotting up now that we have got past game week 5. There are no new names in the top three of the FPL but they have all changed position with 1st down to 3rd, 2nd up to 1st and 3rd into 2nd. Top scorer of the week was Ayub Abdi’s Ramsey’s Rhinos with 89 points courtesy of making Hazard his captain. Well done Ayub, the top three look as follows:

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe 335

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie          332

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   322

In the Superbru league, JustinT was going great guns with 5 exact scores leaving him with three games on Sunday and Monday to make a name for himself, plus a few bob – all the same he earned himself a Superbru yellow cap. Did you know that Superbru offer the following prizes:

5A Superbru Yellow Cap
6A Premier League jersey

As it was, Leonardo Geral ended up being the top scorer for the week with 18.5 points which saw him move up 14 places to 30th. StevieZ maintains top spot with two new faces entering the top three, here they are:

StevieZ                                 71,5

Mars                                      64,0

Davyboy                              63,5

JustinT                                  63,5

A bit of a gap opening up there already!!

As I said, there are two games this week and we’ll be at The Brazenhead for both so why not prepare for the long weekend and come on down this Thursday and Sunday and have yourselves some fun. See y’all there.

Newcastle United v Arsenal

Just a bit of admin to get everyone in the mood. Our Arsenal SA website suffered a crippling web attack about a month ago and I’m sure most of your reactions will be something like “We have a website?” So the answer to that is yes, then no and now yes again but not 100%. So we have resurrected the website to a large degree although it’s not quite all there as it was. We have got the 2018/19 season’s content all set up so this basically is these blogs that I write plus action photos (supplied by the Arsenal Supporters Club) of each match day. In addition, we are hosting commentary from Gunnercast ZA where he gives his take on the latest game that Arsenal have played. If anyone has suggestions for other content or functionality that we can host then feel free to reply to this blog and let me know. You can access the website from your PC, tablet or smart phone and some of the pictures are pretty nifty, so take a look.

Onto this weekend’s game and it’s up to the far reaches of the north where the Magpies await us. It’s probably the furthest ground that we have to travel to in the Premier League, as it will be for a lot of the clubs. Looking it up on Google, it shows Arsenal to Newcastle is the tenth longest trip in the Premier League, being 280 miles which is 450 kms. About the distance from The Brazenhead to Mooi River. The longest trip is Newcastle to Bournemouth, which is 369 miles / 593 kms, in which case we would have just made it to Durban!

Our visit there last season in April was not a happy one even though we opened the scoring with an Aubamayeng / Lacazette combination allowing Lacazette to score in the 14th minute. Newcastle came back with two of their own to end up 2-1 victors. Prior to that match we had beaten them in every game since March 2012, including that 7 – 3 thriller just before New Years Day where Theo scored a hattrick and got two assists. Head to head, we come out better by 7 wins in 159 matches and although we are still not as fluent as we would like to be, there’s no reason to believe that we cannot extend that to 8 in 160 based on the fact that Newcastle have only managed a single draw from their four matches. In all fairness to The Magpies, they did lose their three games, all 2 – 1, to Citeh, Chelski and Sp*rs and the point they did manage was away to Cardiff. Still, it’s gotta be three points to The Gunners for this one as we need to win these games if we hold any chance of finishing top four.

As for the squad this weekend, I don’t see Emery making a change between the posts. Cech has played well other than his distribution and “playing out from the back” which Emery is looking to impose on our style of play. I like the idea, we just need to get the execution right and I’m sure there are ways and means of countering the opposition when they press our players who are trying to receive the ball from him. It’s a learning process and it will take time. I just hope that we do not lose any games from careless play in this area that gift goals to the opposition. It’s been close a couple of times this season with the ball straight to Harry Arter in the Cardiff game being the most recent,

I’m really hoping that Torreira starts. It was he that put Lacazette through on goal for the winner against Cardiff and although he was pulled off at half time in Uruguay’s match against Mexico, apparently it was only precautionary. I know Wenger used to try and rest Sanchez after a long trip back from South America during international competitions however The Daily Cannon reports on Torreira being present during some Arsenal training sessions on Tuesday. Let’s hold thumbs that he’s good to start at St James’ Park.

Other than that, Iwobi is back from injury and available for selection. He is not everyone’s favourite and neither is Xhaka however I think Xhaka is better with Torreira on the pitch and thus the only change I see for this weekend from the last game is Torreira for Guendouzi. I think that Torriera will also help with the “playing from the back” scheme and because of his defensive nature will allow Ozil and Ramsey more freedom to go forward and supply Laca and Auba with those key passes.

Onto all things fantasy league related and I have to admit that I’ve used my wild card. I’ve had such a dreadful start that I believe there’s no time like the present to correct the status of my team. For the record, there are no MFU players in my team, one Sp*rs, one Citeh, 2 Chelski, two ‘pool and three Arsenal. I should have put a rule in that everyone must have three Arsenal players in their squad – sounds fair?

Feedback on the leagues is that we have a new name in the top three of the FPL but it’s the same old three in the Superbru. Top scorer in the FPL was Sibongumusa Shongwe and his team Bafan’ Abafun FC with 75 points that moved him up into second place overall – great stuff Sibo, just one point behind the leader. The top three look as follows:

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   284

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe 283

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie          281

In the Superbru league, S4 shot up 17 places to thirteenth overall with a haul of 14,5 points, but the top three remain the same with just second and third spots changing around. Top three brus are as follows:

StevieZ                                 58,0

Minty_Mint                        51,5

Cat                                         50,5

Another Saturday game so what better to do than come on down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun. See y’all there.

Cardiff City v Arsenal

The “what” and the “how”, two of the things we Arsenal supporters analyse after a game. So let’s start off with the “what” – a 3 – 1 victory at home against rock bottom of the league, West Ham United, The Hammers, or should one say, the hammered? Goals from Nacho Monreal, O.G. and Danny Welbeck. Before the game we were 17th in the league and after the game we were 11th. After Palace losing to Watford on Sunday, we climbed another spot to 10th and all depending on what happens tonight between MFU and Sp*rs we could move up another place to ninth (*Yes we did!). All in all, a very satisfactory result on the “what” front and it’s not going to get much better than that. If you want to stretch it then you could also add that we shortened the gap between ourselves and Citeh by two points, courtesy of their draw at Wolves, but yeah, that is stretching things.

So onto the “how” and what a totally different story this was. Our defense is still at sixes and sevens and had West Ham been a bit more together in their play, they could have put a few more past us. As it was, it was just the one and a lot had to do with our defense in allowing that one through. I suppose the jury is still out on our central defensive pairing of Mustafi and Sokratis, but that is now six goals conceded in three games with these two players at the helm and the way Emery has set up the team, we are likely to see a lot more passing between these two before the end of the season. I’ve seen suggestions that we should possibly consider a 2-5-3 set up with an extra CD to help out at the back as they are not getting too much help from our wing backs, especially with the back line playing high up the field. Maybe Rob Holding or even Lichtsteiner could come in at the right with Mustafi in the center and Sokratis on the left. I must say, I like the look of Lichtsteiner and think it would be a waste to have him around just as a back- up for Bellerin.

I wasn’t over-impressed with Guendouzi although I believe he has a lot of potential. As the commentators said, he seemed to want to be everywhere instead of maintaining his position and letting the other players do their job. As has been observed though, he certainly doesn’t hide and he does try his heart out. Just a bit more experience I believe will serve him well and Arsenal supporters just need to be patient with his development. I would like to see Torreira start the next game where hopefully his experience can bring a bit of confidence in that department. I see a lot of negativity about Xhaka on the social media sites and although I believe he can do more on the defensive front, his range of passing is impressive and is what we need going forward. Mhkitaryan for me also needs to up his performance. There was talk that we can’t operate with both him and Ozil in midfield, so Saturday was an opportunity for Miki to show us how this would work out with just one of the two midfielders on the pitch. By the end of the game it would appear that we should give the other midfielder an opportunity on his own.

Looking elsewhere, no one really performed that well. Aubamayang just needs to crack a few in to get up and running this season and the sooner the better. Lacazette looks the part when he comes on and this seems to be a good option for Arsenal. Even at 2 – 1 up, we did not look very convincing and only for West Ham’s passing being even worse than ours, it could easily have been 2 – 2. As it was, dat guy Welbeck took a very calm and composed goal in added on time to ease any fears of us losing this one, but the bottom line is that we need one or both of our main strikers to start hitting the spot!

Onto next week and we’re away to Cardiff. Another opportunity for Arsenal to wear their first kit – might have to wait until late in October to view us in our second or third kit in the league. Cardiff were last in the Premier League in the 2013/14 season where we did the double over them. We beat them 3 – 0 in Cardiff where Ramsey scored a pair and Flames got the other, but our last two goals came in the final five minutes. Because of the way we’re playing and because Cardiff will be looking more for a defensive point rather than a spectacular win, we’re going to find it quite difficult to come away with a full haul of three points. Cardiff started off their campaign with an away loss to Bournemouth before holding both Newcastle and Huddersfield to goalless draws. Now that we have our first win under our belt, we need to try and up the momentum with another win before the interlull hits us. Nothing better for the morale than coming back to the league having won your last couple of games.

Had to wait for today for the result of our fantasy leagues before finishing off the blog and it was a lower scoring round than the previous two in the FPL with a couple of 68 pointers, and a single 69 score from Tyrone Gower and his team Ty-Guy that pushed him up to 31st in the standings. The top two places have swapped around from last week with the third placed team catching up on the points front. The top three look as follows:

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   223
Wolves of Witkoppen     Richard Mackenzie         217
Mr Joes FC                    Gregory Taylor                215

In the Superbru league, it was a very close round with four players getting top spot of 17 points. Well done to Grandpa, Minty_Mint, Tertius14 and Amith. That said, not too much has changed at the top of the league with only Minty_Mint making an appearance in third spot, 8 places up from last week. Top three brus are as follows:

StevieZ                                 46,5
Cat                                        42,5
Minty_Mint                            41,0

Right, this is the last weekend game before the interlull so why not fill your boots on a lazy afternoon and c’mon down to the Brazenhead this Sunday for the game and have yourselves some fun.

Arsenal v West Ham United

Right, I’m back from the game reserve and by all accounts there was a lot to discuss about Arsenal’s performance at Stamford Bridge over the weekend, both good and bad. The bad was mainly our defense and if you concede three goals then one can’t really expect to win a game. I was told that the first 20 minutes were pretty diabolical and thus we were 2 nil down before we started playing football in the next 20 – 25 minutes and apparently we could have gone in at the break 4-2 up! The second half seemed to favour Chelsea more than ourselves and so it was that they nicked one towards the end of the game that meant that we are still looking for our first points of the season.

Am I disappointed? Well always when we don’t win but I’m not totally surprised. It hasn’t been the easiest start to Unai’s managerial career at Arsenal. But we need to be a bit understanding of where we are as a club. A new manager replacing someone that has been at the helm for 22 years cannot be expected to hit the ground running, as much as we all would like. We have a good comparison in Manchester United and when Sir Alex left to realize that we may be lucky to end top six this season. Sir Alex left on a high, winning the Premier League by 11 points but he didn’t leave too much behind, so much so that David Moyes could only manage seventh place in the league in his first and only season in charge, 22 points behind Manchester City, with Everton finishing above them (and Spurs too). He was replaced by Louis van Gaal who dragged United into the top four the next season, which was not such a huge achievement considering they had no European commitments to worry about. The following year, when they did have, they finished fifth and also won the FA Cup. Two days later, van Gaal was sacked and in came Mourinho who managed sixth in his first season, but also won the Europa Cup and then finished a commendable second last season, albeit 19 points behind League champions City. If we take this all into consideration, a top four finish would be a great achievement for us. City and Liverpool are well and truly above us this season considering their established squad and managers. Chelsea and Spurs are also likely to finish above us, the former because they have the money behind them to afford a goalkeeper that cost more than the total sum of our purchases in the last transfer window and the latter because they have also had a period of stability with both their team and their manager. That leaves United and based on recent events, this is one team that we could comfortably end above this season. They have the squad and the players to do well, but with Mourinho at the helm, it looks as though there may be a bit of “trouble at mill!”. Time will tell.

Thus, from past experience, do not expect too much. Personally, it may not be a bad thing if we finished outside the top six so that we can have time to build and play according to Unai’s plan. Listen, I hate losing as much as the next Arsenal supporter, but Rome was not built in one day and we must be realistic in our expectations and give this manager a chance. Too much has already been said in the media by certain numbskulls and unfortunately this is unavoidable. All we can do is support our team and support our manager, this is a new era, a new team, a new manager and a new set of tactics that Unai is determined to abide by, so let’s stick with him and the team during this difficult but exciting period. That twenty or so minutes before half time at Chelsea is something we can build on and should give all Arsenal supporters hope that we have the players to make this team great. #COYG

We’ve got two games coming up before the dreaded interlull where a full six points are a true reality. First up is West Ham at home which is a Saturday 16h00 kick off – a rare event for The Arsenal this season so enjoy it whilst you can! West Ham are one of the three teams below us! They’ve lost away to Liverpool, a tough ask for any team in this league and at home to Bournemouth which would have been a disappointment to them. They will not be a walk over and it wasn’t that long ago that we lost our first game of the season at home to them. They have Marco Arnautovic up front who can bully the best of defenders and have acquired two Arsenal players plus an ex-Arsenal player in the off season, so be careful who it is that you’re supporting!! Lucas Perez and Jack Wilshere will certainly be looking to prove a point or two with Jack being the most likely to start although don’t be surprised if Perez is also involved. And then there is Lukas Fabianski in goal who will want to keep the cleanest of sheets and Arsenal seem to pick those games where the opposition goalkeeper has been man of the match more often than not. So definitely not an easy game but one that Unai will be expecting to win. Let’s hope the points haul starts this weekend, thereafter we can look to travelling to Cardiff before the interlull intrudes in our lives.

Onto things more fantastical – and we have our two leagues going in the Fantasy Premier League and Superbru. We’ve already completed game two in the FPL and the top two teams are separated by one point with some big scores being achieved. For the second gameweek of the season, top scorer was Lethabo Maesela’s uniquely named team lethabo, with 109 points. The top three teams look as follows:

Wolves of Witkoppen Richard Mackenzie 178
Im Gunning for you!! Cedric Angelo Nappies 177
Mr Joes FC Gregory Taylor 163

Great start guys – but let the others have a chance??

In the Superbru league, it was DutchySA that led the round with 8 correct results earning him 17 points and a move of 32 places up the ladder. Top three brus are as follows:

StevieZ 31,5
Cat 30,5
Gooner 29,0

Still a long way to go so let’s all stick to our guns here!!

ARSENAL MEMBERSHIP – the new season has started and it’s time to renew those memberships. Basically, anyone that was taking advantage of the Brazenhead discount of 10% for every purchase they made and getting 20% discount off Puma gear from the main Puma SA stores as well as earning an entry into the end of season draw** for every purchase they made at the Brazenhead will continue to reap these benefits as long as they renew their memberships. It’s also available to any new members or old members that may have let their membership status slip. All cards from last season have been deactivated and only those members that have paid their 2018/19 subs have had their benefits reactivated.

So, be like Tendai Nyakabau, he bought a membership last year and now he’s won a return ticket to London and a ticket to watch an Arsenal home game of his choice because he won last season’s ** end of season raffle! Or you could be like Swelihle Ngubeni as he won the same prize for the previous season! And we’re having the same prize and draw this year, all this just for the price of R150.00 for the season.
How do I become a member? Easy! There are two ways, either come through to the club and pay me direct and you will immediately get your Arsenal Brazenhead membership card from me or you can make a payment/eft into the Arsenal SA bank account to become a member – in this case, you will still need to come to the Brazenhead to pick up your membership card. Banking details are:

Beneficiary Account Name: Arsenal SA
Beneficiary Bank: STANDARD BANK
Beneficiary Branch Number: 051001
Beneficiary Bank Account Number: 022982744
Beneficiary Reference: Your Name

So come on everybody, get yourselves down to the Brazenhead this Saturday for the game and sign up for ArsenalSA membership, you won’t regret it. I’ll be there to sign you up, it’s all hassle free, plus you can watch the game with your fellow gooners and hopefully celebrate our first points of the season.

Chelsea v Arsenal

Just a very quick one this week because I’m off to the game reserve and trying to fit five days’ work into two days doesn’t leave much time to do anything else.

It was a bit of a disjointed game last Sunday where no area really shone but left us with the thought that it is all very much a work in progress. The fact that we managed to keep it down to two goals conceded I think was a plus, especially considering that we had conceded three goals in the previous three games against City. Lacazette looked good when he first came on and injected some much needed energy into proceedings and a lot has been said about Guendouzi which leaves me with nothing further except that I hope he continues to improve as he seems to have the potential to do good things. We still need to see how Torreira fits into the team and maybe he will start against Chelsea this Saturday. Overall, I don’t think anyone can be too disappointed. If one compares our situation to the one Man Utd were in when Ferguson left them, then we must realize that we are not going to be world beaters straight away after Wenger’s departure and City definitely are up there close to the top of the world. Let’s hope our next game away to Chelsea bears more fruit. Obviously a win would be great, but to be fair a draw would also be satisfactory. In our last six encounters with them, we have drawn 5 times in normal time, with us coming out victors on two of those occasions due to a penalty shoot out. The other game was when we beat them 2-1 in the league cup semi-final, so I don’t think a draw is expecting too much.

Onto things ArsenalSA related, we had our shirt launch on Saturday and it was nice to meet and chat to the Arsenal fans that came by. They all benefitted from the 20% discount. Please note that the 20% discount holds true for the remainder of the season so if you missed out on Saturday you can still benefit by becoming an ArsenalSA member and going to the Puma store yourself.

We also held the end of season draw for the 2017/18 season after the City game on Sunday and the lucky person to win the return air ticket to London and a match day ticket to watch Arsenal was Tendai Nyakabau. Congratulations Tendai!

So, as I said, just a quick one this week. We’ll still be hosting the Chelsea game at the Brazenhead on Saturday and even though I won’t be there, Andrew and AJ with the support of the Brazenhead team will be there to fly the Red and White colours for the team, so why dontcha c’mon down and have yourselves some fun!!

Arsenal v Manchester City Arsenal SA season draw PUMA discount shirt launch

By the time you read this, the transfer season will probably be over. The big question as I write this is whether we will be bringing in a central defender or not and the name on everyone’s lips is Domagoj Vida. If not then it makes the loan of Calum Chambers to Fulham very strange. Looks as though Lucas Perez is off to West Ham as well, maybe the money we get for him will go towards Vida’s purchase. There has been a lot of moaning about the amount of money Unai Emery was given for transfers at the start of his term asArsenal manager. £70 million apparently which is a million less than what Chelsea have spent on their new goalkeeper and five or six million more than what Liverpool paid for theirs. It really is a disgrace for whoever (and I suppose it all lands at the feet of Kroenke) needs to sanction available funds when expectations all round is for us to finish in the top four. News of Kroenke having borrowed over £550 million to buy the club outright would seem to indicate that, indirectly, Arsenal FC will be servicing that debt to the tune of £12,5 million a year, however other reports indicate that the loan was not taken out on Arsenalas a liability, like the Glazers did at Manchester United. Personally, it doesn’t sound like the greatest news, however, let’s stick to what’s happening on the field and try and avoid being side tracked into issues off the field that has made the last few seasons a little unpalatable.

Interesting to see that Burnley have already got through one round of qualifying for the Europa Cup, having beaten Aberdeen after extra time in their second leg. They play the first leg of their second qualifying round against Istanbul Basaksehir tonight with the second leg being in a week’s time. For those with short memories, that could well have been us. We did eventually finish 9 points ahead of Burnley last season but there were times when it was touch and go as to who would end up on top. Liverpool will also have to go through a pre-qualifying round in the UEFA competition which I think takes place on 18/19 August and 2/3 October.

So back to The Arsenal and what a way to start our campaign with our new manager – the reigning EPL champions, Manchester City at home. It could have been worse, Manchester City away – lol – but hopefully, meeting them early season may not be all that bad. Admittedly, they have gotten off to a good start with their 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield last weekend, whereas we could manage only a draw against Chelsea in Dublin a week ago (and of course the eventual win courtesy of a penalty shoot out). Are we ready for them? Well, questions have been raised about our midfield with Ramsey not starting against Chelsea where he had a slight twinge in his calf muscle, and Torierra only having that one game to get back to fitness. On the good news side of things, we have a fella called Guendouzi who has been impressing pre-season, we have Mhiki and WE HAVE OZIL. So all in all midfield should be fine and I haven’t even mentioned Xhaka or Elneny. Up front we’re also good with Auba and Laca ready to fill their boots this season which really only leaves us with our defensive concerns. Two new faces this season in the experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis Papastathopolous (last time I’m typing that out) will hopefully tighten things up at the back with Mustafi still around from last season and dare I say it, improving with every game. Kolasinac is injured and Monreal has not yet had a run out in pre-season which leaves us with just Ainsley Maitland Niles who I believe to be the best of the three anyhow, so no worries there. And of course there is Bellerin and also Holding in the squad……. Still no news of a deadline day Vida transfer!?!?! In goal we have Cech who is reported to be looking fitter than he was last season and has enjoyed a good pre-season as has our new signing Bernd Leno. I think Cech maintains the No 1 status but it will be a good battle throughout the season between the pair of them. Ospina should be on his way to Turkey if he can get his wages sorted.

On the ArsenalSA front, we have our shirt discount launch at Puma in the Mall of Africa on Saturday 11th at 6pm through until 7pm, so come along and register on the day at the store (I will be there) as a fully paid up member of the club to earn your discount. Not only will you benefit 20% discount at Puma on all Arsenal merchandise throughout the season, you will also benefit from 10% discount on all purchases at The Brazenhead where the club meets every game, in The Leaping Frog Centre in Fourways. Every purchase there will afford you an entry into the season’s grand prize of an air ticket to London and a match day ticket to watch Arsenal in a home game of your choice – not too shabby Nige, I hear you say! Also, for those fortunate to be travelling to the UK, you can also buy match day tickets for Arsenal home games through the club and all this for a paltry R150 for the season.

And then there is Sunday – the big game. Kick off is at 5pm and we will have the outside patio area set up so be there early and get yourselves comfortable for what’s likely to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride! ALSO, for those of you who had ArsenalSA cards last year and used them to earn your 10% discount at The Brazenhead, we will be doing the season draw for the Air Ticket and Arsenal Match Day Ticket immediately after the game on Sunday so hang around, you may be taking a trip sometime soon. See all you Gooners on Saturday and Sunday – let’s make it a great weekend.

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa