Ostersunds FK Home 22 Feb + Update 2 on the League Cup Final

Busy few days coming up with a Europa second leg tie taking place on Thursday followed by a League Cup final match on Sunday. But don’t worry, Arsene has it all under controls (as do we at ArsenalSA – read on!). This second leg of our Europa fixture against Ostersunds FK at home has been made somewhat easier by a solid display by the Gunners in Sweden last Thursday. It was never going to be a walk over as their record showed, having won all their home games bar one, which they drew. But Arsenal battled the elements and the artificial pitch to put in a mature display that saw them come home with a three goal lead. It may have been only two goals, but Ospiiiiiina saved that injury time penalty which gives Wenger a bit more breathing room with his team selection on Thursday. I’m expecting a very junior side smattered with the odd senior player, similar to what he put out during the qualifying section of this competition. He did release a few players over the January transfer window which has reduced our squad depth however the match should be less tricky away from that artificial surface which hid a layer of permafrost beneath it.

Our injury list does not look good with Lacazette and Ramsey both out for both matches. Wenger no longer has the luxury of Giroud, Sanchez and Walcott up front and so I’d expect him to stick pretty much with Welbeck as his main attacking option, although, even he may only get a partial game as he may be required on Sunday, if only as a back up off the bench. I think both Nketiah and Nelson could cover that attacking role. Mkhitaryan is cup tied so will not take part of the Cup final on Sunday, so I would expect him to play the full game on Thursday. Maitland-Niles and Elneny should also figure in midfield with a back three/five including Kolasinac, Holding and Chambers with maybe Mavropanos making an appearance. I would also expect to see Macey in goal with Ospina held back for the Sunday game. Thursday night will reveal all and to be honest, we don’t have to do too much to get through. I suppose the team instructions will be “Don’t play like you played against Nottingham Forest” – that should do it!

Sunday is our only chance of domestic silverware this season and we tend to perform well at Wembley in cup games. Unfortunately, as previously stated, we will more than likely be without our Wembley talisman, Ramsey. The silver lining here is that Pep will not know how Wenger will line his side up (yes, I know I’m clutching at straws) and Wilshere definitely has a point to prove. Wenger will do all he can to put the following line-up out there: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles or Elneny, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil & Aubameyang. It leaves us a little light in the attacking options and maybe Welbeck will start with Maitland-Niles/Elneny dropping to the bench.

So, let’s talk about Sunday. As you are aware, DSTV are not showing the game as has been their wont this season. So what are you going to do? Bit of a no-brainer here as The Arsenal club of South Africa and The Brazenhead have put their heads together and will be showing the match live for all you Arsenal supporters. Just be aware that the match will be streamed and if you know the layout of the Brazenhead, it will only be showing on the four flat screen TVs on the outside patio as well as on the big screen in the small Wine Cellar room where we normally meet. Because the match is being streamed, the quality may not be great and there may be buffering at times, so please, do not lose your cool. I was at The Brazenhead this evening and we had a trial run which went very well. The display on the screens was much better than on my laptop so hopefully we will get the same result this Sunday. We are also going to have a raffle with some great prizes, so come through early and make an afternoon of it. No bookings can be made so the earlier you arrive the more likely you are to get a good seat.

Update on the League Cup Final

Quick update on what ArsenalSA are doing for the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday 25th @ 18h30. We have managed to organize a feed for the game through SkyGo. Paulo and the Brazenhead team have been installing new internet – 12mbps – and are linking the four tv’s on the patio and the projector for the big screen in the Wine Cellar to this feed.

BUT

The quality of the viewing will not be what you are used to for the DSTV games that are relayed via satellite. There may be buffering at times and the picture quality will definitely be of a lower standard to what we are all used to. However, it is a feed and I doubt many of you guys out there will be able to get anything similar through any other means that you may have.

We’ll be doing final testing of the set up on Tuesday evening and expect everything to be 100% for Sunday. If it is not, we’ll definitely keep you informed and do our utmost to rectify any issues before the big day.

We will make a day of it on Sunday and hold a raffle to get things more interesting. So block out your diaries from 4pm on Sunday and get on down to the Brazenhead where we’ll be looking to pick up this piece of silverware for the first time since 1993.

Ostersunds FK – Away Thurs 15 Feb

I asked AJ to give us a write-up this week and the following are his magic prose:

Simon asked me to write something for the next email going out, and because I have literally nothing to do today except wait for the fibre guys to come and do their thing, I have obliged.

Well Saturday was the NLD, the first at Wembley. We normally get to play there for cups and so forth, as will be the case on the 25th of this month, the tots however, they need to pay to play there.

The vibe at the Head before the game was good, there was an awesome turnout and we can’t thank you guys enough for coming out to spend your afternoon with fellow Gooners fighting the good fight.

Then we had kick-off and pretty soon after that I hoped the final whistle would blow. We never really settled into the game, they looked far more dangerous and the few attacks we had were either fizzled out by bad passing or interceptions. Aubameyang was set free by a great ball from Jack which was unfairly ruled out for offside. We seem to always be on the wrong end of bad decisions when it matters most, Auba’s goal against Everton being way offside was allowed but in the greater scheme of that game it didn’t matter. We never looked solid at the back, our midfield is so underpowered, there is just no protection for the defenders. Kane, arguably the best striker in the league, was afforded so much room and time, almost like we didn’t have a plan for him. He got the goal and we had one chance at the other end with Lacazette put through by a good ball from Iwobi and although it seemed like an easy chance, it was difficult, Lloris made himself big and came out quick, Laca could only push it wide of the far post. It ended 1-0, and in all honesty that result flattered us, and losing at Wembley is not nice!  We just don’t seem to be playing as one at the moment and this for me is the key to our problems. No signing can sort our issues out, as a unit, we are not doing it together. As our President Zuma, for now, likes to say, “together we can do more”.

Moving swiftly on, we return to the famous Europa League. We have Östersunds FK, which is a Swedish team that I know nothing about, thanks to the power of the internet I see their last game was on the 9 Feb which they won 3-0, I know right, a frekking clean sheet, they beat Trelleborg in the Swedish Cup I think. Their season only starts in April though, which is weird. They were promoted in 2016 and finished 8thand last season they finished 5th. I have an idea that it is rather cold in Sweden, I saw a picture last week of the away section our fans are going to be seating in, and it looks like ice, see below:

This is not going to be an easy game, it will be in tough conditions and our away form is so dismal I would be glad with a draw from this game. Not sure what line-up Arsene is thinking of, as he shuffled the team around in the group stages, I’d imagine for this game he might do the same, maybe not so vigorously though. I expect Lacazette to start but it might be Welbeck, was good to see him come on on Saturday.

Then we have the weekend off and face the same guys at home. I think if we come back with a draw we should be too strong to finish the tie off and progress to the last 16. I hope Arsene puts some focus on the Europa League, it would be nice to go far and maybe reach a semi-final or final, knock out competitions are tough so I’m not thinking of winning it just yet. Would be nice though as top four seems to be a real struggle.

Our first game against these guys is on Thursday 15 Feb with Kick-Off at 20:00 on Supersport 3, and our next game will be against the same opposition also on Thursday 22nd Feb with Kick Off at 22:05 also on Supersport 3.

The Carabao Cup Final will be on that Sunday, so if we could get through these two games with a minimal fuss it would be nice. But knowing Arsenal, absolutely anything can happen.

North London Is Still Red!

Up the Arsenal

Thanks AJ. Just my updates on the Fantasy leagues as follows. We have a new face in the top three of our FPL league – welcome Horfnas Julies. Some big scorers out there this week and top of the pile was Chibuye Mwape with his PSG11 team that moved up to 24th position with a score of 109. Impressive stuff. The standings are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                    1613
JELLYS NPO (Eugene Cardoso)                1520
WengerFan (Horfnas Julies)                       1518

In the Superbru league, StevieZ topped the week with 8 correct picks to move him up 8 places to 12th in the league. The top three are (still) as follows:

Leonardo G                                                      215.75
MAC 10                                                            213.66
tphato                                                               213.00

I’ve currently got a bit of feedback from Paulo at the Brazenhead as to whether he can get a stream running for the Carabao Cup final on Sunday 25th February. Things are looking positive. He’s just getting his cabling sorted so that the TV’s on the patio plus the projector in the Wine Cellar can be linked to the feed. He’s had his internet upgraded to 10 Mbps so things are looking very positive. Hopefully we can do some testing this week and we should then be in a position to give a big thumbs up for the Carabao Cup Final showing on Sunday 25th. I’ll keep y’all updated but recommend you block out that day for the big event at the Brazenhead.

Spurs Away – Sat 10 Feb 14h30

Wow, I’m feeling fresh and rejuvenated. Arsenal are Arsenal again. Remember that team where if they went a goal down, you wouldn’t worry because they had enough firepower to sink a battleship? It’s like we’re getting them back. OK, we’re not completely there, but it’s a bloody good start and we’ve begun at the front where we are scoring goals. The talk around addressing the other areas, CDM, FBs and GK seems to be happening and is likely to be put into action in the summer and then next season we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. Shit man, those positive juices are just flowing all over the place.

Fat Sam and his Everton team were the brunt of our new Arsenal and although they seem to be a team we are getting used to putting five goals past, this was a stylish display with our two new recruits showing signs of delivering even more in the future. Even good old “he’s like a new signing” Ozil was brimming with positivity and what can we say about Rambo. Only recently back from some time off due to injury, he didn’t have a great comeback match against Swansea but his first hat-trick is hopefully a sign of things to come. A lot has been said of his problems with Sanchez and it really does look as though a great weight has been taken off his shoulders. I feel that a weight has also been taken off the team with Sanchez’s departure where there is more fluency right across the park and possession is no longer being so easily conceded. It’s time to put all the Sanchez negatives in a box, tie it up and throw it into the river, never to be discussed again.

We still have a few worries and as said earlier, the CDM, FB and GK issues will be with us for the remainder of the season however Xhaka looked brighter and Kos and Mustafi also looked more solid in the middle of the defense. Kolasinac seems to have lost some of that early season confidence that earned him the nickname of “The Tank”. Hopefully a few more games under his belt will get him back on track. Bellerin looks as though he will flourish with the new players as he seemed to have lost his sparkle this season. You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Lacazette, and had it not been for forced substitutions of Monreal and Cech, I think Wenger would have brought him on later in the game to see how he could link up with Aubameyang.

So, onto the weekend and the big game against Sp*rs. In my blog last weekend I was hoping that we would be closer to them on the table than what we currently are but they have managed to beat MFU and draw away to Liverpool , giving them a four point advantage over us. Sp*rs seem to be the darlings of the British media and very little negative comment is made about them, which peeves me no end. And it is due to this favouritism that I really want us to give them a footballing lesson second to none this weekend. There seems to be a total disrespect for the game by Sp*rs in their entirety. From top to bottom their only aim is to win at all costs which very evidently appears to include cheating at the highest level. Bamidele Alli is the main culprit but it seems to have now infected other high profile players in Moussa Sidi Yaya Dembele and Harry Kane. Again, the very fact that the British media seem to turn a blind eye to it and that even the FA don’t seem to have any interest in applying any retrospective punishment seems to indicate that that the darlings of the Premier League can get away with murder. How I hope that Arsenal can put this all right and show all and sundry that we still honour the beautiful game and in doing so can punish those that think they can run riot with their dirty tactics. Roll on Saturday and may my wishes come true!

I loved the fact that was broadcast during our match against Everton that the total cost of the Everton squad for the day was £20m more than that of Arsenal. It just put into perspective how well we truly manage our side and maybe it also highlights the very good business that was done in the transfer market in January. Hopefully, that will blunten a few peoples arguments when trying to down play Arsenal’s and Arsene’s footballing philosophy. We truly are a club that all Arsenal supporters can be proud of. We are not created from the millions ‘earned’ by dubious and circumspect owners but from an intelligent and honest approach. No one can take that away from us – we are the famous Arsenal – let’s hold our heads high and show the English footballing public (and media) the right way.

It’s a bit early for team news but it doesn’t look too good for Cech at this point in time. He suffered a calf injury in the Everton game and he has a battle to get fit for the weekend. Monreal’s situation looks more positive and it was only due to his recent bout of illness that he was withdrawn early. As such, he will more than likely start at WHL. I’m expecting the same line-up except for Cech being replaced by Ospina. As for Sp*rs, they have a match tomorrow night, being their FA Cup fourth round replay against Newport County. I’m sure they’ll have a good old moan about it impacting their ability to prepare for the weekend but hey, if you’re the up and coming kids on the block then something about being in a kitchen and it getting very hot there!

Updates on the Fantasy leagues are as follows. The FPL league doesn’t see too much movement at the top. Top performer for the week is Swelihle Ngubeni’s Kara FC with 77 points that moves him into 22nd position. The standings are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                    1517
Utete Rockets (Justice Utete)                     1461
JELLYS NPO (Eugene Cardoso)                1449

In the Superbru league, S4 topped the week with 5 correct picks and plenty of match and bonus points to move him up 7 places to 25th in the league. The top three are as follows:

Leonardo G                                                      208.00
MAC 10                                                            206.66
tphato                                                               206.50

We’ll be at the Brazenhead for Saturday. It’s gonna be a biggie so get there early – we’ll be out on the patio and we’re gonna have some fun. Still waiting for feedback from Paulo at the Brazenhead as to whether he can get a stream running for the Carabao Cup final on Sunday 25th February. Should know later this week. If he can’t, I’m open to suggestions if anyone knows of any place that has the capability of showing this match. So this weekend we’re gonna smash those Spuds so c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

Swansea away – Tues 30 Jan & Everton home – Sat 03 Feb

Since my last mail last week, a few things have happened that I view as positive for the club and one specific thing that has not happened that I’m in two minds about anyhow. We beat Chelski in the Carabao Cup semi-finals and so we are going to Wembley again. That will make it four times in the past 5 years if you exclude any Community Shield games and if you would like to aggravate any top 5 team supporters (can exclude Sp*rs here as they tend to play here every other week), these games would then increase our visits to eight times. It was a typical piece of Arsenal fortune that saw us come back from that early lead that Chelski earned through Eden Hazard by playing ping-pong with their defenders. A craftily solutioned cannon, if you’re a billiard follower, and an apt way for a gunner to score. And who else to put it in motion than Nacho Monreal, our star player for the 5 days that have covered the period commencing the Palace game and ending with the Chelski game.

By this time, we had already completed the swap of Sanchez for Mkhitaryan. I really believe this to be a positive move for the club based on where we found ourselves this season. Sanchez was becoming something of a disease, not the same player that we had bought back in July 2014. He was trouble in the changing room (so rumour had it) and had more of a negative influence on the pitch. Mkhitaryan does not qualify to play in the Carabao Cup as he has appeared for MFU already this season so we will all have to wait for our fixture away to Swansea this Tuesday to see him feature – hopefully. The jury is out at the moment but to be honest, anything would be better than Sanchez as our game against Palace showed.

What has not happened is the transfer of Aubameyang. I’m sure you will all have read about the ongoing saga in the electronic media with frustration mounting amongst many desperate to see him join our ranks. Personally I’m not too worried if he joins or not. Sure, he probably could add another dimension to our game and is likely to score goals for us but there is also the negative side which Wenger did not manage so well with Sanchez. Maybe it’s unfair to compare the two of them in such a manner and there are likely to be many differing reasons as to why he is so unsettled at Dortmund. I’ll give him the same opportunity as I did Sanchez and will welcome him with open arms. It would be nice to see him come and make a difference. Lighten up the side and score goals that we were expecting Lacazette to do.

The Carabao Cup final will be against Citeh on Sunday 25th February. This means that our scheduled EPL game will be moved later on in the season. That scheduled game just so happens to be against Citeh. Funny how things like that happen.

This weekend’s FA Cup has been of interest and a result to note is Sp*rs’ away draw to England League 2 side, Newport County. More so than Liverpool’s home loss to WBA due to the fact that Sp*rs’ already difficult fixture list over the next month has become even more difficult and hopefully to Arsenal’s benefit. They are scheduled to play MFU (H), Liverpool (A), Arsenal (H), Juventus (A) and Palace (A). Their FA Cup replay will now take place between the Liverpool and Arsenal games. Slowly I see the tides turning and where Arsenal were once being hard done by due to such fixture list congestion, now Sp*rs are having to get to grips with it themselves. And as Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army famously quipped, “they don’t like it up ‘em”!

We’ve got a couple of Premier League games this week, starting with Swansea away on Tuesday and then Everton at home on Saturday. Swansea tend to be a bit of a bogey team when they come visiting The Emirates however we have won the last three games against them with a 9-3 aggregate and with things having settled down at the club I think we shouldn’t have too much problem in maintaining that ratio on Tuesday. Our last game at the Liberty Stadium saw us come away with a 4-0 victory with two own goals, one O.G. goal and one from Sanchez. Our home game against them this season saw us come from behind with two second half goals from Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey. Swansea are currently on a bit of a run having managed not to lose any of their last 5 games. A bit of a mixed bag as they did well to beat Liverpool 1-0 a week ago, but have played Wolves twice and Notts County once in the FA Cup and they also managed a draw against Newcastle at St James’ Park.

Saturday see us meet Everton at home. You have to go back over twenty years to January ’96 for the last time they beat us at home. I’m sure they’ll be a bit more difficult to beat than the last time we met, when we beat them 5-2 as they have Fat Sam as their manager. The game will also see the return of Theo Walcott to The Emirates and I expect he will get a friendly welcome from the Arsenal supporters. Hopefully that will be all he gets and he can start scoring again in their next match!!

We are three points behind Sp*rs and five behind Liverpool. As already mentioned, Sp*rs have a tough run over the next four weeks and fingers crossed, we could see ourselves above them when it comes time to meet them in a couple of weeks’ time. Liverpool don’t have it so bad with their next game away to Huddersfield, but hey, we’re talking about a team that have lost to numbers 19 and 20 in the Premier League so who knows what they’ll do.

Fantasy leagues have taken a back seat over this FA Cup period. The standings are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                       1427
JELLYS NPO (Eugene Cardoso)                   1364
Utete Rockets (Justice Utete)                        1351

In the Superbru league, the top three are as follows:

Joffie B                                                             196.25
tphato                                                               195.75
MAC 10                                                            193.41

We’ll be at the Brazenhead for both matches. Saturday is also a bit of a late kick off – 7:30pm so I’m sure you guys have nothing better to do so c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun.

Carabao Cup – Chelsea – Home Wed 22h00

A 4-1 victory over Palace and everything is suddenly smelling of roses again. Indeed, but for how long though is the question as we know that it is just a small sweetly odoured event in what has recently been an ever increasing descent into the depths of mediocrity. As van Morrison sings, “You gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay”. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the truth of the situation and why clubs pay good managers so much money to maintain a high standard. Who, being an Arsenal supporter over the past decade would accept mediocrity, would accept mid-table anonymity? None I would wager and yet when we look at how close we are to being a mid-table club, we surely need to escape this quicksand that can slowly drag us into the quagmire of unwanted comfort. And, so it is a good thing that Sanchez has left the club (am I jumping the gun here? Will some unforeseen complication scupper the player swap with MFU?).  Arseblog published an article today where he highlights the fact that Arsenal give the ball away like a mid-table club and it does not make for good reading. Top of the offenders list is Sanchez (although there are some notable inclusions in this list that are almost as bad) and although you cannot point to this fact alone as to why I’m happy to see him leave, I believe now with hindsight that his poor performances and general negative attitude to both the playing time and overall morale at the club has been a major factor in why we found ourselves in a winter of discontent.

There seems to be a lot of transfer activity at the club at the moment and if everything that is spoken about is to be believed, we will have a completely different looking team come the beginning of February. However, Arsene has a bit of a reputation about him as far as the incomings are concerned and although I believe the Mkhitaryan swap will take place, it looks pretty definite that the Malcolm deal has turned sour and that the Aubameyang one still has a number of twists and turns left in it for Arsenal supporters to fill Twitter over the next week or so. I’m not sure why we are actually after him to be honest. For sure we would all like him in our team. We can only dream that Arsene would play him together with Lacazette, but as yesterday highlighted, do we really need to strengthen in this area, especially with Giroud warming the bench. Maybe with the departure of Walcott and (hopefully) Welbeck, we need another speedster up front and we can go forward with the logic of scoring more goals than conceding. It seems to be working for Liverpool. I’ve always wanted Arsene to go after Aubameyang and now that it is happening, yes, I’m happy about it, so don’t get me wrong there.

Maybe Arsene is building for what looks likely to be his final season next year. These two signings are both closer to thirty years in age and thus can’t be seen as building for the future. However, it has been a downfall of ours in the past to field a team with all youth and very little experience. These two could definitely help the club in the short term, maybe a little too late to rescue this season and I have major doubts as to us qualifying for the Champions League next year where they could be put to good use. So maybe it is just Arsene laying down the foundations for a handover that doesn’t leave the club in the same state as what Sir Alex left MFU in. Have no doubt, Arsene loves the club. He may not always make the right decisions but his intentions are good. Hopefully he can pull something spectacular off before his final farewell.

We have a small matter of Chelsea coming up on Wednesday in the Carabao cup semi-final second leg. They also scored four goals over the weekend away to Brighton so it is likely to be a humdinger of a match. Again, I presume the game will not be televised so will need to find some streaming site. Chelsea had no Morata or Pedro on Saturday and they were possibly the better for it as Hazard and Willian seemed to take up the reins with ease. Chelsea fans have even taken to Twitter praying for Morata’s ban to be extended, however it looks like both he and Pedro will be available for the clash. Chelsea have to worry about their FA Cup fourth round match against Newcastle closely followed by a home fixture against Bournemouth the Wednesday thereafter whilst Arsenal have no such worries having exited the FA Cup first time out a week ago. This means that Arsene should have no concerns around fatigue within his squad and should be able to pick the strongest side. To be honest, I’m not sure what that side currently is and if the Sanchez/Mkhitaryan swap is completed by Monday, are we looking at the same XI with Mkhitaryan in for Elneny? Will Ramsey be available? What was Nacho’s problem? All in all, I think we should be able to put out a team that can beat Chelsea. Wednesday awaits.

As indicated there is no weekend match so you can all put your feet up and support Yeovil Town (against MFU) on Friday, Newport County (against Sp*rs) on Saturday and Cardiff City (against Citeh) on Sunday. You can also go onto our website at arsenalsa.co.za I’ve posted a whole series of match photos that the Arsenal football club send through, plus you’ll find all these blogs/emails that I send out each week.

Right, I’m gonna put the kettle on and put my feet up now to watch Southampton give Sp*rs an absolute pasting. One can only hope! Have a good week and get onto those Twitter accounts.

Crystal Palace Home Sat 17h00

It’s as Lee Hurley from the Daily Cannon writes, “It’s the hope that kills you”. Lee is referring to all things Arsenal and as all us long suffering fans know, we have so much hope that eventually, over time our dreams are dashed to leave us with just thoughts of what could have been. And so it is that Arsenal extend this form of torture from our performances on the pitch onto our transfer activities. The hope that is out there, with regards to the Arsenal players, current and future, allows for dreams of super teams being created yet end with broken promises and those players that are recruited being immediately sent out on loan. Windows close with little to no movement and at worse see players move away with no replacement brought in. Some years, it is the reverse. Take 2012 for example when we bought Giroud, Podolski, Bellerin and Cazorla in the summer and Nacho in the winter. That’s the thing about hope, sometimes it comes off, but more often than not it doesn’t, so one always believes in the possibility but usually one has to realize the disappointment.

And so we find ourselves in the middle of some crazy transfer reporting. We have all accepted that Sanchez was outward bound and most of us thought to the blue side of Manchester. The fact that the red side hi-jacked the deal and have added another angle on the deal with a possible player swap has added a further dimension to this soapie-like saga. We’re still worried about Ozil and his future at the club but for the time being, at least until the end of the season, he remains an Arsenal player. At least that is what we are led to believe. And finally, good news was received about Jack signing a contract extension. Rumours are that it is at a reduced wage with additional incentives, however it’s a binding contract which means that we’ll get more money for him when we sell him at the end of the season. (That’s a joke by the way). And now for when the hope kicks in. The following three players have been linked with Arsenal, Aubameyeng, Malcolm and Mkhitarian. Now I don’t claim to be all knowledgeable about these players and before January, I’d never heard of this Malcolm fella but by all accounts it would be a major coup if we got all three of them. Compare that to the business we did in January 2014, where we managed to bring in, on loan, a player that was undergoing back rehabilitation from Spartak Moscow and was eventually able to play his first game for us almost two months later. Kim Kallstrom was his name and he managed to play in a total of four games for us until his loan spell ended at the end of that season! We all hope that we get these three new players, even two of them would be half decent and one would be better than January 2014. What will happen? No one will really know for sure until 11pm on 31st January 2018. Let’s hope for the best!

Walcott is a done deal with his move to Everton and there are possible moves for Giroud and Welbeck on the cards. A lot has been said about these three players however I don’t foresee much sadness with the departure of the two ‘W’s and only Giroud who has become a savior as of late would be missed. There has been a lot of respect going Walcott’s way with his departure and I’m making this evaluation from what I’ve seen on Twitter but it seems almost two-faced with there having been a large number of negative comments over the past year or so on his performances. Either way, he’s gone and unlike the RVP’s, Nasri’s and Fabregas’s, he will get a good welcome if ever he appears back at The Emirates.

Crystal Palace are our next opponents and they’ll be visiting The Emirates this Saturday. It wasn’t too long ago that we played them in a late mid-week match at the back end of December which we won 3-2. Sanchez was our savior then with two second half goals and unless something quite crazy happens between now and Saturday, he certainly won’t be our savior this time round. Since that game, Palace have had some reasonable results, beating Burnley at home and Southampton away and also held Citeh to a 0-0 draw. Arsenal have not won a match since that game.

It will be interesting to see the side we put out. The current back three do not inspire confidence and the return of Koscielny and Nacho with Kolasinac back down the left would make me feel a lot better. Hopefully Ozil is also fit and Ramsey needs to start but I’m unsure how that will work with Wilshere in such good form. I can see Welbeck dropping to the bench if not completely out of the squad if the transfer rumours are correct and Iwobi has not been on top form either so I would suggest he also warms the bench. So, does Lacazette, Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere and Xhaka work together on the pitch? Doesn’t feel right to me and I can’t remember the last time Wilshere and Ramsey played together. (Other than the game last week when Ramsey came on in the 74th minute, it apparently was in our 5-2 win at Everton, but Ozil left the field 5 minutes after Wilshere had come on in the 77th minute.) If we played a back four then maybe they could play together but it doesn’t make too much sense changing our formation so that we can accommodate two similar players. So I would go for Ramsey rather than Wilshere, plus Jack is due for a rest. With Iwobi’s poor form and his slowness of movement, this could be an opportunity for Maitland-Niles to play in midfield. He has shown a lot of potential and he is growing in confidence every game. It would also be nice to have Giroud available in the mix, as that super-sub we have missed these past few games. He may also be able to put a cracker under Lacazette and motivate him back into goal scoring form.

It’s going to be a tough game. Palace are no mugs and they have performed amazingly well after not picking up a single point in their first seven games. This means that they have accumulated 25 points in their last 16 matches. Arsenal have managed 26 points over their last 16 matches, so there really is not too much between these two sides.

A bit of feedback on the fantasy leagues that are running. In the FPL, there’s been no change at the top, it’s just getting a bit tighter with Earle Brown’s Cannon Hill FC holding a 57 point lead over Eugene Cardoso’s JELLYS NPO. Adrian Garden’s Adriatic Gunners XI were top scorers for the week with 90 points, moving them up to seventh position. The top three look as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                   1361
JELLYS NPO (Eugene Cardoso)                  1304
Utete Rockets (Justice Utete)                      1303

In the Superbru league, the top three are filled by the same people with second and third positions swapping around. Grandpa was top scorer this week with 7 correct results which moved him up 7 positions to 39th:

tphato                                                               188.0
Joffie B                                                             187.5
MAC 10                                                            185.91

It wasn’t the greatest turnout at the Brazenhead last week so let’s try and up our attendance. Even if the team is not exciting, there are all the other Arsenal supporters that you can discuss the pending transfers with and whether Wenger has another season in him. The game is at 5pm on Saturday, so SA Gooners, why dontcha c’mon down to The Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun?

AFC Bournemouth Away Sun 15h30

Just a quick one as we slide back into the second half of the football season. So, we find ourselves definitely out of one competition and looking at the league table, with 16 games remaining, if we win all of them, Citeh would need only win 6 more to end above us. So let’s say we’re definitely out of that competition. That leaves just the two cups and a top four place to play for. The Carabao cup is alive and based on our first leg semi final result, it is also kicking, but as we saw earlier this year Chelsea are no walkover when they visited the Emirates and it will be a battle to qualify for the final. The Europa Cup recommences on 15th February against Swedish giant killers Ostersunds FK and I believe we have as much chance as any of the other teams of winning that one.

So this weekend we see our team contend for a top four place and although we are unlikely to move out of sixth place it is possible that we can move closer to that fourth place. The reason for this is that, although I always believe we will win every one of our league matches (the eternal optimist) there is the small matter of Citeh visiting Anfield. Now, normally, if there were no extenuating circumstance, I would want Citeh to grind Liverpool into the dust so as to enhance our top four opportunities. But there is a very big extenuating circumstance being our unbeaten run that is coming under threat and due to this and the fact that the opportunities of any team being able to beat Citeh are becoming limited by the week, I will be shouting and screaming for Liverpool this weekend.

So it’s AFC Bournemouth on Sunday and our last visit there, which happened to be our second ever visit to the Vitality Stadium, was a fraught 3-3 draw which saw us 3 goals down approaching the 70th minute of the match. Giroud was our savior in that match with an extra time leveler and hopefully things will not come to that this time round. Bournemouth are definitely not the same team as last season and are struggling, one point above the relegation zone. This means absolutely nothing when it comes to Arsenal and looking at the results against the bottom 5 teams this season, it shows two wins (both by a single goal), two draws and a loss. Not exactly top four results. Let’s hope we can improve on that.

We’re slap bang in the middle of the January transfer window and I’m not going to add fire to any speculation out there. What is a fact is that it’s bye bye le Coq. You served us well and we have a lot to thank you for. Good luck with your future at Valencia. The other fact is that it’s hello to Konstantinos Mavropanos. Time will tell with this youngster and it will be interesting to see whether our new recruitment team has struck gold or not. I’m sure this won’t be the end of the January activity. Personally, I want Sanchez to stay until the end of the season, even though it means he will go on a ‘free’. I think the £20-25m that we may get for him is insignificant in the bigger picture and if we have any hope of achieving that fourth position, we would need the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette playing every game. Walcott can go as I don’t think there is a future left for him at the club except for filling a position on the bench. So, if that is the only activity that takes place then I’d be happy with that. One doesn’t normally get many bargains or good players during January unless you are willing to pay over the odds which is not Wenger’s style. The other talking point is Wenger and his future at the club. Talk abounds with regards to whether this is his last season. Personally, based on the nature of the guy, I think he’ll see out his contract which means that he’ll be about next season. Let’s see.

So, welcome back everyone, I expect most of you are back at home and have probably put in a few days at work this year. We will be meeting at the Brazenhead this Sunday so come on round, we need your support.

It’s a brand new year – 2018

2018 and we’re unbeaten! Happy New Year everybody. It was very close last night to starting off the new year with a home loss, but say what you will, there is definitely a ‘never say die’ attitude about this Arsenal team and Bellerin’s injury time equalizer has maintained an unbeaten run over this festive period. Admittedly, three draws and a lone win at Selhurst Park is not the greatest unbeaten run and in real terms is as good as two wins and two losses, but hey, we haven’t lost since that MFU debacle at the beginning of December. There have been some dubious decisions too in our last two games which could have meant ten points and a healthier looking three wins and a draw, but remember, we are The Arsenal and we always get the bad decisions.

That’s a bit tongue in cheek, but the fact that we had two rough decisions with regards to penalties in our last two matches just puts the spotlight on the referee and their influence over results. One would have thought that with the amount of money there is in the game and the ever increasing opportunities offered it by the advancement in available technology, that the authorities would have by now come up with a solution that would make the influence of a referee limited to just how hard he blew on the whistle at the beginning and end of each half. One can understand the concern of making things too mechanical to the detriment of a free flowing and ‘beautiful’ game but when one has to contend with dropping points, four in total in our case, based on the personal attributes of the referee allocated for the game, then decisions need to be made by the FA. Technology though is not always able to provide the solution although it can go a long way in supporting a decision that is made.

Goal-line technology was introduced in the 2014 World Cup. This was a long time in the coming however now it is here, we can all see the benefit and it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to get rid of it. Apart from the technology involved, this is quite a simple rule to address – is the whole of the ball over the line. It can also be used for corner/goal kick and throw-in decisions and maybe also whether an infringement took place within the penalty area or not. Technology can also be introduced for the simple offsides decision – based on the clear rule when a ball is kicked and the position of a player. However, unlike cricket and baseball, there are a couple of key areas that rely on a certain amount of subjectivity within the decision. The offsides decision is not always based on the clear rule previously specified as other factors come into play where players are in an offside position but not interfering with play. How is it determined that a player is not interfering with play? Likewise, with fouls or infringements, you get ‘stonewall’ decisions and you get Mike Dean and Anthony Taylor decisions. That is to say, subjective decisions to determine whether an infringement has been committed or not. Technology can only support such decisions and a lot of thinking needs to be done in how to best use this without affecting the free flowing game. So much has to be considered starting from whether the referee has or has not seen the infringement to how to ensure the correct decision is made. So, as much as we complain that we are continuously being hard done by, there is a lot of thinking to be done to determine how to go about rectifying this. Rugby seems to be going in the right direction and maybe Football and the FA can follow it’s lead?

Our next match brings us our defense of the FA Cup. We last lost an FA Cup match against Watford in the quarter finals two years ago and previous to that against Blackburn in the fifth round of the 2012-13 season. It is one of the success areas that Arsenal can truly be proud of. Basically, we have won 21 of the last 22 draws, bringing the cup to the Emirates three times in four years. Not too shabby. Interestingly enough, our last two losses have both been at home and so if the statistics hold true, we should have a good result this Sunday. Forest have recently sacked their manager and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt in all our years of watching football it’s that a team seems to raise it’s game once an old manager has gone. Whether they have an interim manager of a newly appointed manager, it’s unsure but this Championship side, that currently sit in 14th place will surely raise their game. Daryl Murphy is their main striker who has made 27 appearances for the Republic of Ireland and joined Forest this season. Kieran Dowell is their other danger man who also joined Forest this season on loan from Everton. He has scored eight times this season, one more than Murphy.

If you think we’ve seen the end of Chelsea this season, then think again! We have two Carabao semi final games this month starting with an away game on Wednesday 10th followed a fortnight later with the return home tie on the 24th. The Carabao Cup has not been televised this season and I don’t believe this will change albeit with such a high profile game.

The Europa League recommences on 15th February. We have been drawn against Swedish giant killers Ostersunds FK who are managed by Englishman Graham Potter. I’m not too sure how their qualification works as their season ended on 5th November, where they ended fifth in the league, yet they played their first Europa League match on 14th September. All very Nordic to me!!

Our next Premier League match is away against Bournemouth on Sunday 14th January and is the early kick off at 3:30pm

Finally our two fantasy leagues and a lot has taken place since I last gave any feedback. It’s familiar faces in the Superbru league and a bit of a mix up in the FPL. With just the Spurs v West Ham game to take place tonight the Superbru top three are as follows:

tphato                                  182.50
MAC10                                181.66
Joffie B                                180.00

In the FPL, the top three are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     1287
JELLYS NPO (Eugene Cardoso)                                    1230
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)            1221

So, welcome back everyone, if indeed you are back. As for our meetings at the Brazenhead, the club will resume it’s presence for the Bournemouth game on Sunday 14th. The Brazenhead will continue this weekend as it has over the festive period with the showing of the FA Cup game on Sunday at 6pm.

BATE Borisov home – Thursday 22h05 & Southampton away – Sunday 14h00

I tend to find that, being an Arsenal supporter, it helps to rather look forward than reflect on the past. There are happy days and then there are painful days. We’ve had a couple of happy days quite recently but Saturday was the most painful of days. I think, of all the games and of all the opponents, this is the one that I most wanted to win. My feeling is that this is pretty much the general consensus for all Arsenal supporters and as much as we have that immense feeling of distaste for our north London rivals, MFU tops them mainly because of the arrogance of their supporters. I’m going to leave it there and just hope that we have more opportunities to face them this season other than the return fixture in the league so that we can show not only them but also our fans that this result was a true aberration. Unfortunately De Gea was a key factor and as I said in last week’s post –  “David De Gea in goal is also an obstacle that needs to be overcome and having conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League – six in total compared to our sixteen – we will need to be in our 2015/16 form to find a way around him.  Or there again our 2016/17 form. Or even our FA Cup 2014/15 form. Okay, we just need to be on form.” Looks like we just weren’t in (goalscoring) form!

Another two matches this week and we will be enjoying two matches per week for quite a while now, up until Jan 6th or even maybe Jan 14th if we beat West Ham in the Carabao Cup. Interestingly enough, if we do manage the win over West Ham, we will have our first break of only playing one game per week when we play on Jan 14th and then again on Jan 20th. Then it’s likely that the next time we have such a break is at the end of February when we play on Feb 24th and then again on Mar 3rd (presuming that we win our FA Cup 3rd and 4th round matches). Admittedly, this is pretty much the same for most teams and although the Carabao Cup is taking up a couple of those weeks (which I expect would affect Citeh, Chelski and MFU), it still is a period which will stretch our resources. I posed the question last week as to how Wenger would manage those Carabao Cup fixtures as well as the Europa Cup ones. This is why he gets paid the big bucks, because firstly he needs to ensure he has a squad that can cope with such exhausting schedules as well as decide who will play and when. Interesting times over the next three months.

The first of our two matches this week is on Thursday against BATE Borisov. This is the proverbially ‘dead rubber’ where the result has no impact on our standing in the table and only on our mental health. He needs to keep the second stringers interested so I expect him to play the same squad as he normally does. He will also only have three substitutes to make so hopefully he will make the most of them by making all three changes at half time. It’s a bit of a non-event and unfortunately it’s a 10:05pm kick off so I’m not too sure how many of us will be watching live.

The round of 16 is shaping up, and it’s beginning to look like the following:

Seeded                                Unseeded

CSKA Moscow                   Celtic

Sporting Lisbon                 Atletico Madrid

Napoli                                 Spartak Moscow

RB Leipzig                           Borussia Dortmund

Villarreal                             Slavia Prague

Dynamo Kiev                     Partizan Belgrade

Ludogorets                        Braga

AC Milan                             AEK Athens

Atalanta                              Lyon

Lokomotiv Moscow         FC Copenhagen

FC Steaua Bucuresti         FC Viktoria Plzen

Arsenal                                Red Star Belgrade

Red Bull Salzburg              Marseille

Ostersunds FK                   FC Zorya Luhansk

Lazio                                    Nice

Zenit St Petersburg          Real Sociedad

 

Any bets that Arsenal will draw Borussia Dortmund just for a change? Watch this space!!

 

Our second game this week is the first of two away games in the EPL – Southampton. We have had mixed fortunes against this team and as of late we have held the upper hand. Our last visit to the St Mary’s Stadium was in May this year where we won two nil, with goals in the second half coming from Sanchez and Giroud. What is important for us is that we do not lose the momentum of the way we played going forward against MFU. If that can be maintained, and it’s not too long until we have Liverpool visiting The Emirates, then we should beat 99% of our opponents. Obviously, we need to tighten up on our defense. Mustafi’s injury, at the time of writing, is something of a mystery however, I get the feeling that Wenger may revert to a back four that he played with for most of the match on Saturday. I’m no tactician, but it seemed as though we were more fluent with Iwobi coming into midfield, adding that extra option from both an attacking perspective as well as defensive.

Onto our two fantasy leagues, and we’ve had two rounds go by since I last reported. In the Superbru league, GunnerChris has made an appearance at number 3 with MAC10 and tphato still fighting it out for top spot. Our top performer on the weekend was Sportfundi with 8 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved him up 8 places to 23rd. The top three are as follows:

MAC10                                134.16

tphato                                 130.75

GunnerChris                     128.00

In the FPL, top points of 77 was scored by Molemo Moahloli’s Momoah FC – wonder how he thought up that team name? No one has been able to break into the top four with third and fourth teams trading places:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                    885

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       854

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)           849

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     843

This week it’s a late Thursday and an early Sunday, so I’ll see y’all on the weekend. The festive period is almost upon us so why don’t you see whether the boys can turn on a similar display against Soton as they did against MFU but this time score a few goals? Could be a magic game so c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!