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!

Huddersfield Home – Wednesday 21h45 & United at home – Saturday 19h30

I was away for the last two games, Cologne and Burnley and with no satellite and very limited cell phone coverage, I just saw results fleetingly and with no detail. I was a bit peeved with that Cologne result but having found out that the result in the other game meant that we have finished in top spot, I felt a little better. Just now have I been able to read a bit more about that game and although the goal was reported as being against the run of play and that we should have come away with more than we did, the fact remains that we didn’t and that is now two European games in a row where we have failed to score. We started with Giroud and Welbeck with Wilshere tucked in behind for the Cologne game and a similar set up for the BATE Borisov game, except it was Walcott instead of Welbeck. Doesn’t really make for good reading and I am sure that as we progress to the next round of 32, Wenger will be eager to qualify to the next round as he surely has MFU’s accomplishment of last year on his mind as a possible back up. So, with these results from our second stringers and with me having read Wenger’s mind correctly, he will surely be wanting to beef this team up as we march on and the likes of Walcott, Webeck and Giroud amongst others will slowly be replaced by the Lacazettes, Ozils and Sanchezes. It’s understandable for some how unispiring it must be to play for the second stringers, however, if they want to make an impression and be first in line for the A team then they really need to perform in such matches. Looks like a lot of this team will be resigned to playing early FA Cup matches and the remaining League Cup fixtures, the next of which by the way is the quarter finals (already!) and a difficult home match against the David Moyes led West Ham looms on Tuesday 19th December.

The other result, a one nil away win against Burnley – our third such win at Turf Moor over the last three seasons and these last two producing stoppage time winners – was received with much joy. As I wrote in my last blog about the Burnley fixture, “The last victory was when Koscielny managed to get the ball across the line in the third minute of added on time. I can’t see there being any difference this time round either.” My Superbru predictions were also quite good!!

So we have done the hard work, beating Spurs at home and Burnley away. The latter probably being the tougher of the two games and with Ozil not being available, I think we can give ourselves a quick pat on the back before we look forward to our next two matches which are both at home and come in quick succession. Wednesday sees the visit of Huddersfield, the second promoted side we face this season having already seen off Brighton fairly comfortably, also at home, two nil at the beginning of October. Looking at the table, there’s not too much between those two sides with Brighton having drawn one more and lost one less than Huddersfield. They have not yet met in the Premier League this season, but when they do, on 9th December, I’d pretty much bank on it being a draw (Superbru enthusiasts, watch this space!). Huddersfield started the season well, with an away win over Palace by three goals to nil and then a home win against Newcastle, one nil. But that away win was the best it has been for them on the road as they then lost four of their last five away games, conceding eleven goals and scoring none. This all bodes well for our encounter with them except when you see that they faired quite well against Citeh last Saturday and toppled the might MFU in October. It would be frustrating if we did not get the full three points and with MFU to come on Saturday, the Huddersfield game is a must win.

As indicated, our weekend match is against MFU and if we can produce the same composure as in the equivalent fixture in the 2015/16 season, which saw us put three glorious goals past David De Gea in thirteen exhilarating minutes, then we will have no worries. But,……..it’s a hard life being an Arsenal fan as I’m sure you all know and we know that even being four nil up at half time does not guarantee a victory. Our last home encounter with them was in May this year, a week after losing to Sp*rs at WHL. It was in fact the beginning of a mini revival that saw us win our last five Premier League games before beating Chelski in the FA Cup final. That mini run however was not sufficient for us to end in the top four as we were pipped by a single point by Liverpool. We won that match by two goals to nil with Xhaka and Welbeck scoring, both ably assisted by the ex Ox.

MFU have lost three of their last four away games (Basel, Chelski and Huddersfield) and in all honesty have not impressed away from home. With Mourinho at the helm, they’re never an easy side to beat and playing away as they are this weekend, one can only expect him to bring his bus along. I expect Wenger not to change too much from a tactical perspective. Defend resolutely and attack with pace and flair. A winning combination, I’m sure and slowly but surely, we’re now able to put such tactics into effect with Sanchez and Ozil coming to light. We just need Lacazette to join the party and we’re ‘A’ for away. MFU, with Pogba, Lukaku, Rashford and Martial will cause the Arsenal defense plenty of problems and with Valencia probing down the right we will do well to keep a clean sheet. 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.

It’s too early to talk about injuries, but I’d like to see the same line up that we had for the Sp*rs game when we play MFU. The Huddersfield game may have a touch of the second stringers about it, with Wilshere, Giroud, Welbeck and maybe Walcott in contention. We shall see….

Reporting on our two fantasy leagues, we have the following situations. In the Superbru league, we have a new face in the top three, with Jonosky knocking Joffie B into fourth. Our top performer was……. wait for it, drum roll, yes you guessed it, yours truly SammyW (my nom de plume), with 7 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved me up 19 places to 28h. The top three are as follows:

MAC10                                115.66

tphato                                 113.75

Jonosky                               105.75

As I said last blog – “Looks like tphato is closing the gap on MAC10” – down to just under two points now. In the FPL, top points of 73 was scored by Simphiwe Mbonani’s MVNNY – definitely not a Latin year – tell us what it all stands for Simphiwe. The top four all look too familiar and it will be a surprise to see anyone break into this special group. Welbz FC is back to second having dropped to fourth last week however, Earle Brown’s Cannon Hill FC still rules the roost:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     773

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       754

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     747

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             744

Not sure what the turn out was for the last two games  – did anyone turn up for the Cologne match? This week its Huddersfield on Wednesday at 21:45 and Saturday’s game against MFU at 19:30. Pick one, pick both, either way, c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

Cologne away – Thursday 20h00 & Burnley away – Sunday 16h00

Don’t think I need to say anything about the game last Saturday, the boys did all the talking for us on (and off) the pitch and apart from a few issues around a cup of tea I don’t think there were too many Spurs supporters shouting the odds! So quickly onto this week’s games. Cologne and Burnley, both away.

Good news for all Arsenal SA supporters is that the game against Cologne starts at 8pm local time on Thursday. Don’t ever say there are no benefits to playing in the Europa league, don’t think I could face a 10pm start. As we all know, we have qualified for the next round already and all Arsene needs to do is make sure of top spot. One point from the next two games will do it as it is only Red Star Belgrade that could realistically make top spot although BATE Borisov could pip everyone if they won both their next games (of which one is against Arsenal) and Cologne also did (ditto), plus they would need to beat Arsenal at the Emirates by a better score than the 4-2 that we beat them by. Not really worth thinking about. What is worth thinking about is how the teams that end up third in their UCL groups can affect the next round. There are 12 Europa groups, which means 24 teams go through to the next round. There they will be joined by 8 teams from the UCL who finished third in their groups. The teams are split into two groups, being seeded and unseeded. The top teams of the 12 Europa groups plus the four best third ranked teams from the UCL are seeded and the other 16 are unseeded. If we look at the tables at this point in time, the four unseeded teams from the UCL would be Dortmund, Napoli, Atletico and Celtic. Any bets anyone?

On the weekend, we’re up against Burnley. In the past we would have expected to glide past them which was not always the case and this weekend’s game poses a different set of expectations. As most of you are aware, Burnley are equal on points with us and are a place beneath us due to a three goal poorer goal difference. Not much in it, which I think is probably the biggest surprise of any club this season. You actually have to go back to 2008 for the last time Burnley beat us. It was a league cup match in December where Arsene was definitely playing a ‘league cup’ side with the likes of Fran Merida and Mark Randall starting. However, Ramsey, Wilshere, Bendtner and Vela were also in the starting XI, so all a bit of a mix. The last time Burnley took a point from us was in 2009, also in December. That year, Burnley were relegated and we finished third, ten points behind United and eleven behind Chelsea. Since Burnley have rejoined the Premier League, back in the 2014/15 season, we have struggled at Turf Moor with two 1-0 wins. The last victory was when Koscielny managed to get the ball across the line in the third minute of added on time. I can’t see there being any difference this time round either.

Burnley started this season with a surprise 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge and then subsequently lost at home to West Brom. Since then, they have lost only once, to Manchester City at the Etihad, 3-0, with the last two goals coming in the last 20 minutes. They have also visited both Spurs and Liverpool and come away with very credible 1-1 draws. Their home and away form is the same, 3-2-1 whereas Arsenal’s away form is poor, 1-1-4. A lot has been said about improving our away form and Sunday could be the day to do that.

So, an interesting week lies ahead. Europa, where we probably will take a junior side to Germany and the Premier League where, in all honesty, we face a team as strong as the last team we faced and we need to put in a similar performance. I haven’t heard too much on the injury front but, if ever there was a game where we need Giroud on the bench, this would be it. It was interesting to note that Walcott was not on our bench on Saturday and it would appear that he seems to be a firm fixture in our second XI. Iwobi, Welbeck and Giroud on the bench leave no room for him any more and come the end of the season, if not in January, I can see us parting ways with him.

In our two fantasy leagues, we have the following situations. In the Superbru league, shyday was our top performer, with 9 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved him up 8 places to 7th. The top three are as follows:

MAC10                                111.41

tphato                                 101.75

Joffie B                                  98.25

Looks like tphato is closing the gap on MAC10 – down to just under ten points now. In the FPL, top points of 92 were scored by Adrian Garden’s Adriatic Gunners XI. Ebrahim Moolla’s We Are All Besiktas has crept back into the top three and separates Cannon Hill FC and LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS with Welbz FC dropping to 4th. The top three, now separated by 25 points are:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     723

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     700

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             698

Sunday’s game is at 4:00pm. We had good turnouts for both the Spurs and City games so don’t be shy, c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

Spurs Home – Saturday 14h30

We’re in the middle of two tough games. City last week and Spurs next week. There were not so many of us expecting too much out of the City game, a draw for the optimists (guilty as charged) otherwise most people were hoping not to lose too badly and maintain face. As it was, I’m not too sure what it was that we came away with except I know it wasn’t that draw I was looking for.  The result could have been worse, but it wasn’t and to be honest it could have been better. Football is a game of fine margins and when two clubs of this quality play each other, it is those fine margins that determine the end result. De Bruyne’s goal went under Koscielny’s foot and Cech got his finger tips to it but it was not enough. Sterling’s penalty was a seemingly fair shoulder to shoulder challenge that the ref thought otherwise and Jesus’s goal was blatantly offside. Arsenal managed three shots on target and Lacazette was able to make it 2-1 at one stage. So the fine margins resulted in a City win. Don’t get me wrong though, City were all over us and deserved to win as they played the more attractive and decisive football however had the fine margins gone our way, it could quite easily have been a draw.

So onto Spurs this week and I’m sure the expectations are somewhat higher from Arsenal fans the world over. Spurs need to be put into context as they are certainly not City although they do have a confidence factor from doing well in Europe and their away form where they have won four out of five games. That single away defeat coming against United in their last away game.

How long has it been since Spurs have won the league? 5 years, 10 years, 50 years? Well, let me tell you that probably 80%, if not more, of Spurs’ supporters have never seen them win a league title and here we are, listening to people moaning that Arsene will be at the reins for the longest period that any Arsenal manager has been without winning the league. It will be fourteen years come May that Arsenal have been without the title of Premier league champions whilst it will be fifty-six years since Spurs last won the league. Now we must be cautious not to become like Liverpool supporters and live in the past and admittedly Spurs are playing some good football these days however when it comes to comparisons between the two clubs, there are none to talk of. As for the complaint about Arsene’s barren years, then let’s put that into perspective. We won our first top division league title in the 1930/31 season and our barren periods have been between the titles won in 1952/53 and 1970/71 and 1970/71 and 1988/89, both lasting eighteen years. The extraordinary thing is that no manager has managed the club for longer than this current period that Arsene has not won the league for, (May 2004 – Current) 13 years 6 months, with the closest being George Allison (May 1934 – May 1947) and there was a big disruption during that period where Adolf came onto the scene! The next longest serving manager was Bertie Mee who did a ten year stint from 1966 and won us our first double half way through. So, as much as it may be correct to make this statement, there are many other positives to attribute to his twenty-one year tenure that make nonsense of all this.

Spurs’ most successful manager was Bill Nicholson who managed the club for 16 years and earned them the first ever ‘double’ by an English team in 1960-61. Spurs last won anything of note in 1990-91 (twenty seven years ago) being the FA Cup and prior to that in 1983-84 where they won the UEFA Cup (being the equivalent to the current Europa Cup). In all they have been major under achievers. So keep this information in your back pocket the next time a Spurs’ troll tries to belittle you in front of your colleagues.

Well, that was an ancient history lesson. If we look closer to the present and review results over the past six years, the statistics are interesting enough. We have a better win percentage, six against four with there being four draws. The last time Spurs won at our home ground was back in November 2010 when they came from two-nil down to score three second half goals. From that game, only Koscielny survives for us (although Wilshere and Walcott were on the bench) and not one player from the Spurs team.

Team news at this early stage is that Giroud seems to have picked up a thigh strain in his International duties and it remains to be seen whether he will be fit for our match. Even if he was fit I would expect him only to start the match on the bench but as we all know he is a very useful substitute. As for our other internationals, Lacazette came on for Giroud in that match for the last 17 minutes so he may well start against Germany, for whom Ozil played the full 90 minutes against England. Koscielny also played the full 90 against Wales. Which Arsenal player will feature in the Germany v France game on Tuesday is yet to be seen.  Ramsey also played in the friendly against France for the full 90 minutes and will no doubt be playing against Panama on Tuesday. And that really leaves Xhaka of our first squad who has been involved in a more serious competition, featuring for the Swiss national team against Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers. The Swiss took a 1-0 lead into their home leg on Sunday where they succeeded in qualifying for the World Cup finals in Russia with a nil-nil draw. An interesting fact is that the Swiss side won 9 out of their 10 qualifying games and came second to Portugal due to goal difference. Over and above these players mentioned, we should be expecting Welbeck, Mustafi and Chambers to all be available for the weekend game however maybe we’ll see Welbeck on the bench and maybe Mustafi with a little luck.

Right, that’s enough about this weekend’s fixture. As for our two fantasy leagues, we have the following situations. In the Superbru league, Cordier was our top performer, with 7 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved him up 17 places to 43rd. The top three are as follows:

MAC10                                100.16

tphato                                   88.75

Zezou                                    87.82

Looks like MAC10 is opening up a big gap there – just over eleven points. In the FPL, top points of 72 were scored by Cillan Pillay’s Boom-Xhaca-Laca, however the top three, separated by just 13 points are:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     658

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       649

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             645

Saturday’s game is at 2:30pm and once again it’s gonna be a big do on the patio section at the Brazenhead. It was a good turnout for the City game so let’s do the same this week. Whatever you do, just c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

City Away – Sunday 16:15pm

It looks as though the Premier League is split into the top six and the rest. I suppose the rest could also be split into the middle eight and the bottom six. It would be interesting to see people’s opinion as to who makes up these last two groupings, but the first grouping of the top six doesn’t warrant discussion. I suppose, if you analyse it further you can split the top six into the top one and the rest, so overwhelming have Citeh been. And that is who we find ourselves pitched against this weekend. From a timing perspective, both sides are in good form. Citeh, to be honest look invincible whilst Arsenal look better than they did a couple of weeks back but in all honesty are a shadow of their opposition.

From a team perspective we are missing Mustafi and are awaiting a verdict on Kolasinac after he left the field early on Saturday with the recurrence of a hip injury that could either keep him out for a couple of weeks or was just a precautionary measure to ensure he is fit enough to play against the great pretenders. Otherwise we’ve got a full squad and although the Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette axis is not quite operating at full tilt, it’s a work in progress that could bloom at any time. In midfield, Ramsey and Xhaka lurk. Xhaka is learning to maintain his temper. There were a couple occasions last weekend when he may have done something silly as was his want in his earlier Arsenal days however he seems to understand the English referees better these days and is able to manage himself better. His radar seems to be a bit off as of late and not as many of his passes are finding the mark as they used to but I believe that the longer he spends on the field the more likely he is to improve on his statistics. Ramsey is moving in the right direction these days. That was his fiftieth goal against Swansea and a lot of his goals are important goals, having scored two winners in FA Cup finals to emphasize this point. What I like about him of late is that he is once again getting into ‘those’ positions. He may be struggling a little with some finer control issues but he certainly is making up for that with his reading of the game and getting into a position where he is affording himself the opportunity of rippling the old onion sack. The more goal scorers in the team the better.

Our Achilles heel is our defense. We’ve conceded 13 goals in the league so far this season with nine of those being in our 5 away games. Admittedly, four were in one terrible game against Liverpool but it is still not a great record. Only eight other teams have a worse record. Now look at Citeh’s record at home, played 5, won 4, drawn 1, scored 21 and conceded 3. Looking at those facts and it’s quite a frightening prospect we are up against this Sunday. Arsene emphasized after the Everton game that we needed to cut out the stupid defensive mistakes that we were making. Both goals conceded against The Toffees were of our own making but what do we do, concede a nonsense goal against The Swans and had it not been for Cech there was another comedy of errors in the making, with the BFG doing his best impression of a giraffe tripping over it’s own feet. Arsene and Bouldy need to get this habit of ours sorted before it makes us a soft touch to all and sundry. We’ll soon be the main event in the football bloopers shows that we see on TV every end of season.

So, what can we say about Citeh that may give us some hope? We beat them last time out, in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley after extra time last season. Head to head, we have beaten them 88 times and lost and drawn 42 times each. In our last five premier league meetings at The Etihad we have lost twice, drawn twice and won once (in January 2015). It may be the best opportunity for Sanchez to impress his future employees (tongue in cheek!). All in all, there’s not a lot to grasp hold of here and I feel that if we come away with a point then it will be like a victory. But in all fairness, I don’t think any of the top six would expect much out of a visit to The Etihad. Liverpool left with their tails between their legs after getting five of the best and Chelsea lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. We will have to wait until mid-December before Citeh encounter top 6 opposition again, with a visit to Old Trafford on the 10th and then a visit from Spurs on 16th .

My prediction is that it’s going to be a high scoring game. Maybe something similar to the 6-3 match in December 2013. Hopefully we won’t concede so many this time round and if we look back to the way we managed Chelsea earlier this season then there is a certain level of hope that Arsenal fans can cling to. Having brought this into the equation, the question will be raised as to what sort of team will Wenger put out? Will it be the low flair but hard working team that played against Chelsea or the high flair but low work rate team he put out against Everton? Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anything in between. The team selection will be interesting to say the least.

We mustn’t forget that there is another game this week with the visit of Red Star Belgrade on Thursday in the Europa Cup. We were somewhat fortunate to get a victory out of what was a pretty lackluster affair in Serbia last time out, but Giroud’s goal was worth the wait. I expect pretty much the same team make up. I think Eddie was on the bench in Serbia and am sure that most Arsenal supporters would like to see him get some game time after his two goal spree against Norwich in the Carabao Cup. With the clocks having gone back an hour on Sunday, we see a late kick off on Thursday at 22:05! One for the birds methinks.

With there being one game still to play in match week 10 (Burnley v Newcastle), I will leave the FPL and Superbru reporting to next week’s email.

Sunday’s game is at 4:15pm and it’s gonna be a big do on the patio section at the Brazenhead. Why not get there early? They do a nice Sunday buffet and it could be just the thing to settle the nerves before the big game. You may even want to stay for the minor game after the main event, being Chelski hosting MFU at 6:30pm. Whatever you do, just c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

Swansea Home – Saturday 16h00

So, all’s well with the world once again. As King Richard II said, there’s nothing like a 5-2 away victory to calm the revolting peasants. Although I fear that the peasants may soon rise again! Not long ago, in fact the blog/email before last, I wrote negatively about three issues. This time I want to turn things around by discussing a couple of positive events, the Puskas award and the new HD projector at the Brazenhead. Whilst I’m writing this we are playing Norwich in the Carabao Cup, so maybe I’ll have more good news to report on – you know how these things tend to happen in threes.

On Monday, half an hour before I settled down to start this blog, I got a ping on my smart phone to say that our very own OG had won the FIFA Puskas award for that scorpion kick goal against Palace last season. I’m not sure how many of you saw the goal as it happened or whether you watched it as part of a replay of the game or the goal itself because someone had told you about the goal “that you must see”. I remember clearly watching the game live on TV and when it happened I just didn’t believe my eyes. It was like a trick piece of TV, which never impresses me as tricks on TV can so easily be made up. Real live tricks are so much more impressive because you can see exactly what is happening and how everything is set up. But, because this was a live football match it caused a bit of confusion in my head – this was a real live trick but it couldn’t be because it was a live football match and everyone was happy and smiling. Well, everyone Arsenal related. Did I actually see what had just happened I asked myself? It can’t have been a trick because this was a live telecast, but no one scores a goal like that and if they did I wouldn’t be watching, but I am watching and that was the most amazing goal I think I will ever see. However, congratulations to Olivier. I think because of that goal no one really talks about the goal he scored against Red Star Belgrade last Thursday. That was also a fantastic piece of athleticism and control, but we all expect that of him now. Imagine if he had also been gifted with a bit of pace, what a player he would have been!

Next positive event is the Brazenhead at Lonehill. I’m sure that most readers have been to our club venue, especially as we top about three to four hundred supporters every time we’re in the FA Cup final which is quite often as of late. Our arrangement with the Brazenhead has been very beneficial for both parties. As indicated, they get a lot of income from Arsenal supporters, especially when we hit the big time such as Cup finals. But they also invest back into the Arsenal SA club. As the 50 odd paying Arsenal SA subscribers are aware (“Is that all, only 50” I hear you say. “Yes, it’s shocking really.” says I ”There are so many benefits but a lot of the supporters just won’t cough up R150 a year”), sorry, as I was saying, as the 50 odd paying Arsenal SA subscribers are aware  the Brazenhead give us 10% discount on all purchases, both food and beverages and have come up with a ‘personalised’ Arsenal SA discount card which also doubles up as an Arsenal SA membership card. In addition to that, they have sponsored the annual club raffle prize, being an air ticket to London and are sponsoring it once again this year. And now, on top of this all they are installing an HD projector in the Wine Cellar so that we can watch those smaller games with quality viewing. Now we don’t have to guess how many minutes extra time have been added, nor wonder why Ozil may have kicked the ball out to the touchline when magically a player appears out of the darkness!! So for this weekend’s game, experience first-hand how Arsenal take apart Swansea through the magic of an HD projector and no longer wonder where all our players are lurking.

It was also good to see Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette start for the first time on Saturday. There were some sweet moments during the game with Ozil taking centre stage, and although one swallow does not make a summer, hopefully we will be fine tuning the trio against Swansea this weekend in preparation for the biggest test this season on 5th November when we travel to the Etihad to meet Citeh. It was nice to see the team not lose their heads when they went a goal down and as desperate as Everton were, we were able to get back on an even keel before half time with Monreal’s well taken strike. Thereafter we took the lead in the second half before Everton basically succumbed with that silly tackle by Gueye that reduced them to ten men. It also looks as though that foul cost Koeman his job as he was sacked the following day. Makes me wonder just how much it would take for Arsene to lose his job. Everton finished seventh last season and although they were not in contention for a top four place they were a hard team to beat and they managed a 4-0 win against Citeh being their best result. They now languish in 18th position which raises the rhetorical question, if Arsenal found themselves in 18th position, would Arsene still be at the club? We will never know. We do know that after 11 games in the 2014/15 season Arsenal had just 18 points to their name and were closer to the bottom of the league than the top points-wise. In fact two years earlier, they only had 16 points to their name. Statistics are dangerous though, as we know due to the famous saying attributed to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” If you look at the table now , you will see that Arsenal are as close to the second from bottom team on points as they are to the top team but no one is making a noise about it because we are 4th= in the table.

Onto the weekend’s game and it’s Swansea. Something of a bogey team for us at home having won 4, drawn 1 and lost 4 since September 2011. However I believe this weekend will not be a negative result. We will probably put out the same team as we did last weekend and I don’t see Swansea worrying us too much at home. Swansea have the same number of points as Everton but their goal difference is better by seven goals which puts them three place above them. There’s really not too much to say about The Swans. They struggled last season and only just managed to stave off relegation. They haven’t brought in too many players but the talk of their transfer season was Renato Sanches who they acquired on a season long loan from Bayern Munich. They also managed to bring Wilfried Bony back from Manchester City but have lost Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton. All in all, not too much to worry about. We won this corresponding match last season 3-2, which seems a bit tight, however we have the quality to put this game away before half time (a bit like the Everton game except there were a few goals missing – if you know what I mean!!)

We’re now into our ninth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Ebrahim Moolla has squeaked ahead to the top of the league by one point from Nicholas da Silva with Yusuf H falling back to third. But it looks like a three horse race with the same faces being reported on every week in the FPL. At least there are three new faces at the top of the Superbru league. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

We are all Besiktas          Ebrahim Moolla               363

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva              380

Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               390

Special mention goes to Sibongumusa Shongwe’s Bafan’Abafuni FC who cleared the three digit mark with a week high score of 101, great stuff. Our first centurion!!

Superbru

MAC 10                                                                            71,50

tphato                                                                              67,00

Smiley                                                                              64,16

Highest points for the week goes to tphato who moved up 9 places to 2nd with a well scored 13,75 points.

Saturday’s game is at 4pm and as I said, we’ll be trying out that new HD projector so what better reason than to c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun! And by the way, that third thing did happen…. I went to bed sometime in the second half when we were 1-0 down to Norwich but magic Eddie came to the rescue with two goals thus allowing our second string some extra game time this season!

Everton Away – Sunday 14h30

They say the best way of getting over a hangover is to drink a hair of the dog. It’s not always the most pleasant experience but it should get you back in the right frame of mind for more of the stuff that gave you a hangover in the first place. And let’s be honest about it, we’re all alcoholics when it comes to Arsenal. We’ve all heard the jokes, “Hi, my name is Simon and I support Arsenal!” So writing this email so soon after our weekend game and before all the other games have been completed, hopefully will be my regmaker.

So it’s time to take a long hard stare at ourselves in the mirror and ask exactly what went wrong on Saturday. I think we all recognized that the team on the pitch just didn’t seem to have that spark that we expect and have seen in our recent games before that infernal Interlull came along. We were slow, ponderous, lethargic and never ever really looked like scoring in the first half from open play. Fortunately, we had the BFG on the pitch who took his opportunity well from a Xhaka cross that was probably the only decent thing he did throughout the entire game. That gave us a one nil lead that looked anything but solid and so we went into the second half with pretty much the same approach as the first. We then lost Danny in the 61st minute and Wenger brought on Özil. And we should have been two nil up in the 70th minute when Özil found himself in a good scoring position but fluffed his lines. And then I shouldn’t need to tell you what followed thereafter. A penalty that wasn’t a penalty but what can you do. Of course Cech maintained his record and went early to give Deeney the opportunity to put it the other way. And then the final confusion in the box, with Koscielny off the pitch and the Arsenal defense at sixes and sevens. Wikipedia – “At sixes and sevens” is an English idiom used to describe a condition of confusion or disarray. Enough said!

Those are the facts and figures and we need to ask ourselves why. From where I sit, my belief is that you get a team that has certain individuals that do the business, are the creative agents and there doesn’t need to be that many to change an ordinary side into a good side. Yesterday’s team that went out onto the pitch was an ordinary side. Sure, we had Lacazette and Xhaka (a total of £86m) but, unfortunately, I don’t think they fall into that group of individuals that can create the spark. I think we all know that the number one spark creator is Alexis and close behind him there is Özil. When Özil came on to the pitch, our open play opportunities increased. Unfortunately, we did not take advantage of any and the end result is there to see. A bit more metal in midfield was needed and on yesterday’s display I would have been happy to replace Xhaka and Elneny with Ramsey and Wilshere. Iwobi is not an Özil and although we recognize him as one for the future, we are playing in the present and he’s just not quite cutting it. One could also say the same for Bellerin, however he may be a bit more entrenched in his position. And finally, if you read last week’s email, there is the issue with our defense and Koscielny’s achilles problem. Would Watford have got their second goal if he had been able to continue? Would Jack, who was due to come on, have added that spark in midfield to give us the winner? All “ifs” and “buts”, but I think Arsene has a lot on his plate that he needs to resolve. And I’m not just talking about now. If he wants to leave Arsenal in a better state than Ferguson left Man Utd then he’s got to ensure that if (or more likely when) Özil and Alexis leave this next summer, we have quality replacements, otherwise we are in serious trouble of becoming an ordinary side! Add to that, he needs to start doing business this January and as I said, he has a lot on his plate.

Right, hangover is slowly going away. There will still be a lot of analysis and anger spewed in the media and on twitter but try and get over it. It’s in the past and hopefully, going forward we will be able to field Alexis, Özil and Lacazette and see what the future holds. Think of other things that may deflect your feelings of angst and shock such as Chelsea losing away at Palace and teams like Everton sitting in 17th position (but may move up to 9th if results go their way this weekend).

Up next is Red Star Belgrade or as the locals like to say FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd. What a great name for a team – the English one. They’ve been around for a while and I remember as a youngster hearing that name and being attracted to it. Their pedigree is also quite impressive, having won the European Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1991. They have also won 27 national championships and 24 nation cups, so they’re not a team to be sniffed at. An interesting fact about them is that they were knocked out of the 57-58 European Cup in the quarter finals by Sir Matt Busby’s Man Utd. Utd won their home leg 2-1 and drew the return match in Yugoslavia 3-3. That return match is notable for being the last match played by the “Busby Babes” – on the return flight to England the following day, the plane crashed in Munich, resulting in the deaths of 23 people, including eight Manchester United players.

They’re currently top of their league with a 5 point lead and won their game on Saturday 4-0. Unlike Arsenal, they had to go through pre-qualifying matches and looked to have just squeezed through their last qualifier 4-4 on away goals against that world power, Krasnodar! Based on this information I would say that we should win this away match at a canter, but based on this weekend’s result I won’t. A name to be wary of on Thursday is Ghana International Richmond Boakye. He’s currently being scouted by Chelsea so there may be some quality there to be wary of.

Sunday sees us up against Everton at Goodison Park. With Palace and Arsenal, they are the only teams in the Premier League that do not get their name directly from their physical location. The background of their name is as follows (Wikipedia) – At first Ye Anciente Everton Toffee House was very popular with fans because it was near to their stadium. However when the club moved to Goodison Park, they became close to Old Mother Nobletts Toffee Shop. There they sold sweets called’Everton mints’, which proved even more popular. So who knows, they may have turned out to be called Nobletts, in which case I would expect them to play in the England National League North with your Blyth Spartans and Leamingtons!

This is a game we should win, pretty similar to the game we should have just won which we are no longer talking about. I’m hoping that Wenger puts out a similar side against Red Star as he did for the previous Europa match against Bate which would then allow us a full squad for the Everton match. We are going to have defensive worries because Koscielny coming off as he did does not bode well for the immediate future and with Mustafi already out, we will be left with BFG, Holding and Nacho. All a bit worrying. But as the objective is to score more goals than the opposition, hopefully we can get Alexis, Özil and Lacazette on the park. The same match last year was played midweek and we had been on an excellent run, only losing to Southampton away since our opening day loss to Liverpool and drawing twice with PSG, and also against MFU and Sp*rs and putting three past Chelski. We were on top of our game and Sanchez had given us a one nil lead until Coleman just before the break and Williams in the 86th minute saw us snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. From that game we went on to lose to Citeh in a similar fashion.

As we well know, there are no “gimme’s” or “easy games” in the Premier League. All we can hope for is to put the bad performances behind us, learn from them and go forward in a positive manner to win the next game. If we can do that, then I will enjoy my Arsenal tipple again and shout out to all the other club supporters, “Hi, my name is Simon and I support the mighty Arsenal!!”

I’ll update you next time round on how our FPL and Superbru leagues are doing. One thing’s for sure, with Chelsea and Arsenal both losing, I don’t think anyone predicted ten correct results. The Europa League match is on Thursday at 7pm and the Everton game is on Sunday at 2:30pm. Both very comfortable times, so get back on the wagon and meet us down at the Brazenhead and have some fun.