Arsenal v Blackpool v Liverpool

Right, so we’ve got the monkey off our back now and we know
that we don’t have to keep winning and extending a run that was always likely
to end even though it was a bit disappointing to have been against Palace. But
in all fairness, it’s difficult to justify that we should have won that game.
As has been the case for most of the season, we labored in the first half and
it was no surprise that Palace managed their first home goal for the season in
injury time to take them to the break one up. Mustafi’s lunge was somewhat
ridiculous and he truly is becoming a liability at the back. If reports are
true of there being no real need to buy in the January transfer window then
methinks Messrs Sanllehi and company may need a rethink. Currently Holding and
Sokratis are the two central defenders that we can rely on and dare I say it,
the returning Kos does not inspire great confidence in me due to the time he
has been out of the game plus his gradual decline over the past couple of
seasons. Add to that that we have had Xhaka filling in at left back and I think
the cheque books need to come out in January, be it to bolster our attempts to
achieve European glory and return next year to the Champions League or to
bolster our attempts to achieve a top four spot and return next year to the
Champions League. Personally we would be crazy not to complete the job that the
purchase of Sokratis has started.

Scoring twice in 5 minutes early in the second half was also
a typical Arsenal reaction that we have seen this season but as the game wore
on it was becoming more and more obvious that Palace would make a breakthrough,
which they duly did courtesy of our first goal-scorer Xhaka. Something of a
debatable penalty but that’s the way football goes and it will happen to other
teams when we play against them. Swings and roundabouts. Leno made a good
attempt to get to this one but Milivojevic placed it tight into the bottom left
to guarantee Palace their second point at home this season.

Looking forward to our next games this week and similar to
our last week of Carabao Cup action when we faced the two fords (Brentford and
Watford), this time round it’s the two pools and it’s the Black one in the
Carabao Cup that we take on first on Wednesday. Emery put out a fairly strong
team against Brentford and played three defenders that went on to start the
weekend game against Watford. Blackpool are a League One side, so in a league
below Brentford, and my expectations are that he will not risk a similar set up
although looking at who’s available to play at the back it may be a case of
beggars can’t be choosers. Looking at the squad list of defenders, we can write
off Bellerin for both games, thus that leaves Lichtsteiner who must be kept in
reserve for the Liverpool game and Jenkinson. So we’ll pencil the latter in. As
said, Sokratis and Holding need to be held back for Liverpool and that leaves
two from Kos, Mustafi, Mavropanos and possibly Elneny, Take your pick – two coming
back from injury may end up on the bench leaving Mustafi and Elneny to start.
Then on the left we have Monreal, Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Xhaka.
Maybe AMN with Monreal in reserve to get a bit of game time later on? So
already at this stage of the season we find ourselves in desperate straights
with our defense, an area that we know we have been lacking in but only managed
to bolster with one purchase in the off season. Plus we loaned out Chambers!
Midfield and up front is a happier story and let’s hope Unai gives the
youngsters a chance with Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah raring to go. Oh
and let’s not forget about the goalie who I expect will be Petr Cech.

Then, onto Saturday evening and it’s the Liver one. Now I
don’t want to sound like the prophet of doom but I have my reservations about
how well we will do in this game. All credit to the Arsenal for their eleven
match winning run, but we have not come up against a team of the same quality
as Liverpool in that run and being realistic with what I have seen in our games
so far, I can see Liverpool running riot in the first half, being the slow
starters we are. I would be overjoyed if we got a point out of this game and
bursting if we got all three but I still don’t think we are defensively up to
it to keep a Liverpool at bay. I think we have the capability up front and with
the open game that Liverpool play we will have our chances and the only way we
will get that one or three points is for us to take our chances when offered! A
bit like the Qarabag game, snatch and grab and hold on for dear life at the
back.

That’s about all I can say about the weekend’s game. It will
be exciting and I know we will all be screaming our lungs out for the team in
red and white, but remember, we are still a team in transition, we have a
manager that has been at the helm for just fourteen competitive games and we
are improving. No matter what the result, realise that those eleven players on
the pitch plus the guy on the sideline waving his hands and arms madly around
in all directions are giving their all and we can’t ask for more than that.

Well, that was a short stay at the top for last week’s FPL table
topper, Andrew Bray. Now we see His Excellency Sir Max Mohapeloa’s CHESA MPAMA
FC moving into top spot equal on points with Richard Mackenzie’s WOLVES OF WITKOPPEN
plus he tops this week’s scoring leaderboard too with a well earned 91 points.
No Arsenal players in his side and that’s probably why he was able to hit such
dizzying heights. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Chesa Mpama FC              His Excellency
Sir Max Mohapeloa            620

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard
Mackenzie                                          620

Sons of Pitches                  Eugene
Cardoso                                               612

In the Superbru league, the top two stay the same and third place sees a new
face. MinolanGP top scored with a useful 18,5 points, four more than
GunnerChris who was second in this round. MinolanGP jumped 11 places to 13th
position – nice one MinolanGP 😉 The top of the Superbru league looks like
this:

StevieZ                                 124,5
Davyboy                              122,0
S4                                           119,0

Two games this week, but the Wednesday match against Blackpool is a Carabao Cup
encounter and thus will not be televised. Saturday is going to be a big day and
we have the patio reserved for the match so get there early to avoid the rush.
Think we will do a raffle as well on the day – prize will be a PUMA Men’s
Arsenal FC Stadium Jersey so get your money (cash is king) ready. They’ve moved
the clocks back in the UK so kick off is at 7:30 pm local time so why not earn
yourselves some entries into the seasons draw for the Air Ticket to London and
a match ticket of your choice for an Arsenal home game, c’mon now, get on down
to The Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun,

Sporting v Palace v Arsenal

It was over two months ago that we had just come off a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea which had itself followed a fortunate 2-0 drubbing at home to City that most Arsenal supporters wondered what the future held for a team that had slowly deteriorated under the last couple of years of the Wenger reign. It was a tough start for the new boss and although that rally to come back from two goals down against Chelsea gave the most desperate of Arsenal supporters a glimmer of hope, the rest of us were left wondering whether we would see the re-enactment of United’s demise once Sir Alex left. Was Emery another David Moyes, would we endeavor a season of embarrassing defeats, had Wenger left us in tatters or with the seeds of something great. Our next game was to be West Ham United, a team that had undone us at home in the opening match of the 2015/16 season, but one that had also been suffering of late with a new coach at the helm and also two losses to start the season with. And we didn’t get off to a good start against them, going one nil down in the 25th minute to a Marco Arnautovic goal and then it changed. At least our fortune did, as we won that game and continued winning, maybe not convincingly, but consistently, squeaking narrow away wins against Cardiff and Newcastle, winning comfortably at home to Vorskla and Everton, then Brentford and Watford. But still it wasn’t the Arsenal of old, teams were not afraid to play us and the feeling was that if we came up against a Liverpool or Spurs, our tail would be put firmly between our legs.

But as the saying goes, fortune favours the brave, and we
won away against Qarabag with the three shots on target that we had and went on
to meet Fulham were we overcame a pre-half time equalizer to run out 5-1
winners with a contender for goal of the season to boot! And now we put away a
plucky Leicester side that were walking all over us in the first half and were
somewhat unfortunate to enter the break on even terms. But the reality of it
all is that we should be beating those sides if we are going to make anything
of this season. 10 games all won is a nice record but we have been fortunate to
have met the sides we did. Any points dropped in that run would have been
disappointing and is the same for the next three games until we meet Liverpool.
That game will be a true test as to how good we really are and the timing is
fortunate. We have to start playing the bigger clubs sooner than later and
Liverpool are currently two points ahead of us. If we win that game, then we
can start to dream.

So, first up this week is an away Europa game against
Sporting Lisbon or as they are currently called, Sporting Clube de Portugal.
They have also won their first two games and based on their results, we should
be the favourites. Apart from the winning run that we are on, a draw would be
an acceptable result with a win against them in our home fixture allowing us to
top the table. This is an important outcome as to finish second would mean the
likelihood of facing a team that either won their group or a team that was one
of the four best third place finishers from the Champions League group stage.

Sporting are currently sitting 5th in the
Portuguese Primeira Liga, having won 4, lost 2 and drawn one games. Their last
result was a 4-2 away defeat to Portimonense who at that time were propping up
the league so not exactly an ideal way to prepare for their match against us. In
their ranks you will probably remember Nani, a player that was supposed to have
replaced Ronaldo at Manchester United but never really seemed to make the
grade. Other players to look out for are Fredy Montero, Bas Dost and Bruno
Fernandes who all make up their full complement of goal scorers.

After Sporting we then travel across London to play Palace
on Sunday. Across here means south almost as far as Croydon. Palace have won
just twice in the league this season with an opening 2-0 away victory over
Fulham and a 1-0 away victory over Huddersfield with their only other point
coming from a 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle. Nothing to write home about and
this again is a game that we should win. It was not that long ago though that
Palace beat us at Selhurst Park, 3-0 in April 2017 with Townsend, Cabaye and
Milivojevic all on the score sheet. That was a rare win and over the course of
the encounters between these two teams, Palace have only ever won on two other
occasions losing on 24 occasions with 9 draws.

Elsewhere, we see Cardiff visit Liverpool, Chelsea visit
Burnley and on Monday night (why do they do this?) City travel to Wembley to
play the spuds. What this all means is that if results go our way, we could be
top of the league by the end of the gameweek (hehe) and if we stuff up we could
possibly drop a place to fifth.  

Well, it’s finally happened. After so long as no 1 in the
FPL, Richard Mackenzie and his Wolves of Witkoppen have been dethroned. And by
none other than our top scorer for the week, Andrew Bray and his team ROCKETS. I
see he had a bit of fortune where his captain didn’t play and thus his vice
captain doubled up, being Jordan Pickford who kept a clean sheet and saved a
penalty. But he deserved the result as he had both Aubameyang and Ozil in his
team – well done Andrew. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Rockets                                Andrew
Bray                      554

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie             541

GUNNERSN5                      Eugene Cardoso                 539

In the Superbru league, the top three stay the same again (ZZZzzzzzz zzzz) with deano21 taking the week’s honours scoring 14 points. It wasn’t an easy week but deano21 was right with eight of his selections. deano2 moves up 4 places to 42nd. The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 115,0
Davyboy                              112,0
Minty_Mint                        109,0

So two games this week, an early Europa game at 6:55pm on Thursday followed by a post Sunday lunch kick off at 3:30pm so dudes and dudettes, get your behinds down to The Brazenhead on one or both occasions and earn yourselves some entries into the seasons draw for the Air Ticket to London and a match ticket of your choice for an Arsenal home game, c’mon now, get on down there and have yourselves some fun,

Arsenal v Leicester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qarabag v Fulham v Arsenal

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

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

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

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

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard
Mackenzie          446

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa
Shongwe 437

Bicurate                               James McGillivray            431

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

StevieZ                                 97,5

Davyboy                              89,0

Minty_Mint                        88,0

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

Arsenal v Brentford v Watford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arsenal v FC Vorskla and Everton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe 335

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie          332

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   322

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

5 A Superbru Yellow Cap
6 A Premier League jersey
7 R7,500
8 R15,000
9 R150,000
10 R750,000

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

StevieZ                                 71,5

Mars                                      64,0

Davyboy                              63,5

JustinT                                  63,5

A bit of a gap opening up there already!!

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

Newcastle United v Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies   284

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe 283

Wolves of Witkoppen    Richard Mackenzie          281

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

StevieZ                                 58,0

Minty_Mint                        51,5

Cat                                         50,5

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

Arsenal v West Ham United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chelsea v Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa