Arsenal v Spurs

Yo, things are so hectic as we approach the end of the year that I just haven’t found the time for my weekly blog. So this is going to be a quick one to let you know that we are still around and expecting a big crowd for what is probably our biggest annual encounter against that crowd from up the road. And to add to that we’re doing another raffle with two shirts up for grabs, so don’t miss it.

Spurs seem to be gaining the upper hand as of late, having won two of the last three encounters. However, it has been eight years since we have lost an NLD at our home ground when Spurs scored three second half goals to come back from a two goal deficit at half time. Historically we have beaten them 16 more times and as is the case with derbies in general, form goes out the window and hunger and passion make a bold entry.

Spurs have been on a six game winning streak since losing at home, 1 – 0 to Manchester City. Last weekend they ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season and even though they have lost one more game than us they find themselves three points ahead of us courtesy of not having drawn any matches and winning two more matches. In midweek, they saw off Inter Milan 1 – 0 with an 80th minute strike by Eriksen. This places them precariously in second position on the same number of points as Inter with a trip to the Camp Nou still to come. Can they qualify for the knock out stages or will they join Arsenal in the Europa competition?

Arsenal are still on their unbeaten run which now totals eighteen matches. They had a bit of a dip where they managed three draws over four games starting with a 2-2 draw with Palace and ending with that very poor 1-1 draw with Wolves. They seem to have snapped out of that phase with their battling 2-1 victory away to Bournemouth and then the kids took over midweek with the 3-0 away win against Vorskla that sealed their position at the top of the table with one match still to play.

Sunday’s match is going to be a cracker and quite an experience for those newbies in the team including our manager Unai. I’m not too sure whether he will persevere with the 5 man back line and hopefully we will be looking at an attack minded set up. What does this mean? Possibly a similar line up to the game we played against Liverpool with one of Ozil and Mkhitaryan making way for…..? The options are Iwobi or Ramsey with the latter being accused of being too similar to Ozil and thus the possibilities are Ozil and Iwobi or Ramsey and Mkhitaryan. A lot has been written about Mkhitaryan with there being general frustration all around as to his touches on the ball being poor yet his movement off the ball which is much more difficult to assess when watching on TV have been highlighted as a major contributor to our victory over Bournemouth  last week.

On to the Arsenal South Africa fantasy leagues quickly and in the FPL Sibongumusa Shongwe’s BAFAN’ ABAFUN FC has jumped into second spot. The table looks as follows:

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                          778

Bafan’ Abafun FC              Sibongumusa Shongwe  768

Im Gunning for you!!     Cedric Angelo Nappies     766

The Superbru league as usual keeps first and second places in check and welcomes Gunner for life into third spot. Gunner for life also top scored for the week with a nice 15.5 points picking 7 correct results. He’s putting the pressure on the top two and maybe we’ll see a bit more movement this week. The top three are as follows:

StevieZ                                 151,5

Davyboy                              150,5

Amith                                   149,0

So, after two away games we now return to home ground. Not too sure whether it’s going to be a relaxing Sunday afternoon but with three points up for grabs and the opportunity for Arsenal to move above Spurs in the table, this is a must watch match with the added incentive for those of you that can get down to The Brazenhead with yet another raffle sponsored by ArsenalSA and once again it’s two snazzy Arsenal shirts up for grabs. So guys and girls, why dontcha come on down to the Brazenhead on Sunday and see whether we can beat the auld enemy and take advantage of this fixture.

Arsenal v Bournemouth v Vorskla

I get confused with this January transfer window talk. First we’re told that we’re not going to be participating unless there is a real emergency at the club and that players that are available at this time tend to over priced and under qualified. Then I see we’re looking for someone to replace Danny Welbeck as it appears that he’s a major cog in our plan to bring back Champions League football to The Emirates and that Eddie Nketiah does not yet cut the mustard.  Well, whatever transfer business we do try and do in January, let’s hope that none of our targets saw our last match against Wolves! After a slow and gradual rise to a top four position with an eleven match winning run, we now seem to have put the brakes on and dropped six valuable points in our last three Premier League matches with three consecutive draws, culminating in a disappointing performance against Wolves. It really was terrible, possibly our worst game of the season and we really need to move away from such performances. I would truly have preferred for us to have played much better and lose than see such a wretched performance. Fortunately, that is now behind us and there is only one way to look, that being forward where on Sunday we can enjoy a visit to Bournemouth.

The equivalent match last season was something not to be savoured and was probably the equal of our last match against Wolves, so this fixture will prove whether we have made an improvement or not over the last ten months. Bournemouth are a handy team to say the least and with players such as Wilson, King and Fraser, we need to be alert. We can do it as long as we maintain our concentration and not go walk about as sometimes happens with the back three. Mustafi is a culprit in this case and when called on, he can be quite brilliant but as per the Palace game, he can have these tendencies of not being in the moment and lacks that 100% concentration that’s the difference between conceding a goal and keeping a clean sheet. Holding has been playing well of late and seems intent on keeping his place, however for this weekend’s game one of these tow must be replaced by Sokratis and I’m not too sure who it will be, probably the former. Nacho was on the bench against Wolves and I’m hoping he will be back to match fitness to face Bournemouth although in all honesty I feel he is getting a bit long in the tooth. I don’t think AMN will get much of a look-in in midfield with our abundances there and I believe it’s about time that Emery played him more in the left back slot, more for being an excellent cover for our first choice in the future than making that position his own. Bellerin can remain on the right and his attacking prowess makes up for his defensive lapses.

From defensive midfield to our front striker I would say more of the same and keep Iwobi in instead of Mkhitaryan. Of course, I think most people would agree that Leno has become our number 1 between the posts. He has made a number of crucial saves as of late, especially in that Wolves games and inspires more confidence than Cech which is so crucial when it comes to the way our back four play.

Bournemouth are a place behind us in the league with four points less than us. They have just come off two consecutive losses and therefore have garnered the same number of points in their last three games as we have. They have not had a particularly good run of late, losing to both Newcastle and MFU and drawing at home to Southampton, but had some great results prior to that, beating Watford at Vicarage Road 4 – 0 and a home win against Leicester 4 – 2. I wonder which Bournemouth will turn up on Sunday?

Looking at the table, the top four are slowly getting away from us with Sp*rs, in fourth spot, three points ahead of us. We cannot afford to drop any further points and with a Chelsea/Spurs fixture taking place on Saturday, we really need to take advantage of whatever that result may be. Especially as we face Sp*rs the following week!

Our midweek game in Europe is against Vorskla and although we have qualified, we need one more win to make certain of top spot. I don’t think Emery will put out too weak a side, especially with the match against Sp*rs looming, so expect the Nketiahs, Smith-Rowes and likes to be on the team sheet. It’s only a pity that we don’t have the services of Reiss Nelson at the moment as he’s plying his trade with Hoffenheim, on loan, this season and making a good job of it by all accounts. They will be up against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

On to the Arsenal South Africa fantasy leagues and in the FPL we have third place dropping out and a new entry into the top three. Top scorer for the week was Shannon Poulton with her team 2STEPSAHAEADOFAKEEN14. Shannon scored 69 points which moves her into 29th position. New entry into the top three this week is Cedric Angelo Nappies and IM GUNNING FOR YOU!! Where he has taken up second place. This all means that top spot has opened up a 17 point gap;

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                          748

Im Gunning for you!!      Cedric Angelo Nappies  731

Candytjie FC                      Candice Claasen               730

The Superbru league has a new third spot with Amith coming into the picture at the expense of Maggot. Stone top scored for the week with a reasonable 12.5 points. Looks like he got 6 out of ten results correct, not bad for what was a difficult week of predictions. Those points saw him climb 2 places into 43rd spot. Well done Stone!! The top three are as follows:

StevieZ                                 142,5

Davyboy                              142,5

Amith                                    135,5

So, two games this week, Sunday and Thursday. It’s a must win away game to Bournemouth and we should know exactly what that will do for us as Chelsea will have already played Sp*rs, so why dontcha come on down to the Brazenhead on Sunday and see whether we can improve on our last result – oh and also have some fun.

Arsenal v Sporting v Wolves

Well, well, well – three holes in the ground as the old joke goes and as indicated in my last post I’m overjoyed with that point we got on the weekend. Being a typical Arsenal supporter I feel we could have got more, but for now 1 point and being overjoyed does it for me. That makes it a fourteen match unbeaten run and we can look far into the future before we encounter a game of that intensity again. To be honest, that was the first game I’ve seen us play this season that brought back memories of The Arsenal of old, and even though there were concerns that need to be addressed, it has brought back a new level of confidence in me and I expect in the team that we are one of the big fish in the big pond. If anything our back four performed better than our front four with our two midfielders both being outstanding. Mustafi was a different player to the game against Palace and he truly is becoming a Jekyll and Hyde character. Holding was pretty damn solid and for a first game back, Kolasinac did very well. In midfield, Torreira was dynamite as he hounded and harried as well as steadied and pushed forward with incisive passes allowing Xhaka to play his game under less pressure than when he partners Guendouzi, producing his own range of passing as well as interceptions to blunten the Liverpool attack. Up front, we were not as good as we know we can be and both Mhiki and Ozil were not as inspiring as we know they can be. Mhiki is a bit of a worry these days, as it has been a while since he has put in a strong performance and as much as we all want him to succeed, he is just not cutting it. When Iwobi came on in the 68th minute, there was an immediate increase in the tempo to the game and our opportunities increased in number and quality to eventually create the goal that came from an Iwobi assist. Still plenty of work to do but if Emery can maintain this level of play then the future looks bright.

Earlier in the week, we struggled to a 2-1 victory over Blackpool in the Carabao Cup that has earned us a quarter final home tie with Spurs. This game will be played two and a half weeks after our Premier League encounter with them which is on 2nd December. Guendouzi was the player making the headlines in that game, creating an assist for Lichtsteiner to open the scoring and then earning himself two yellow cards that saw him miss out on the Liverpool game. I have my doubts as to whether he would have got on the field against Liverpool had he been available, however I think it was a lesson well learnt that you cannot afford to be so reckless with your tackling once you have received an initial yellow card. Guendouzi is certainly having a whirlwind start to his career in the big league with Arsenal and this is just another stage in his development.

This week we are back to the Europa League and it’s the reverse leg of our last match where we beat Sporting 1-0 in Lisbon in what was a relatively early kick off in a game that failed to reach any great heights.  To be honest, I’m not exactly expecting any great heights for Thursday either. Emery does have a different approach to this competition than Wenger did and a win against Sporting would see us almost definitely top the log so maybe he will put out a relatively strong squad or at least a strong bench as insurance. As I have written previously, it’s important that we top the log as that will ensure a weaker opposition in the first of the knock out games – at least, that is the expectation.

Then onto the weekend, which sees us play the final team of the three newly promoted sides, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. What a great name for a side and they are truly steeped in history. I remember as a youngster a chap called Derek Dougan with his long sideburns and handlebar moustache – a bit like The Sundance Kid from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Apparently, his nickname was ‘The Doog’ and he hailed from Northern Ireland. And he wasn’t the most famous of the Wolves players, Billy Wright was, who captained England a record 90 times and was the first player to win a century of international caps. But that’s going back some years (1939 – 1959) and later on he came to manage The Arsenal (1962 – 66) where he enjoyed limited success, finishing seventh in the ’62 season which earned Arsenal their first ever foray into Europe. One of Wright’s signings was goalkeeper Bob Wilson who featured in goal during the famous 1971 double winning season. Wolves have won the tier 1 (Premier League) league three times, the FA Cup four times and the League Cup twice. The last of any of those achievements was the League Cup in 1980 where they beat Nottingham Forest.

Wolves were three goals down to Spurs on the weekend when they managed a mini revival to come back with two goals (both penalties) and they are definitely the strongest of the three promoted teams. They are currently in eleventh spot, nestled between Leicester City and Brighton. They’ve scored 11 and conceded 12 goals with their top scorer being Raul Jiminez. This is a team that we should get past without too much trouble, but like any team we play, Wolves have the ability to bite back and make a go of things.

On to things fantastical, and there’s been a bit of a shake up at the top of the ArsenalSA FPL with His Excellency being dethroned and a new face entering the top three. Top honours for the week go to Zaid Kola and his team LING FC with a haul of 97. With Sterling as his captain and Aguero and Chilwell both earning double figures, that 97 points seems an easy haul. Well done Zaid, and you did manage to squeeze one Arsenal player in your side. This is how the top of the league is looking:

Sons of Pitches                  Jean Raath                                                          695

Candytjie FC                      Candice Claasen                                               681

Chesa Mpama FC              His Excellency Sir Max Mohapeloa              674

In the Superbru league, the top two stay the same once again and third place sees a new face. Sayso top scored with an impressive 19,5 points which pushes him into fourth spot overall, up 8 places from last week. He correctly predicted 9 of the 10 games. Well done squire! The top of the Superbru league looks like this:

StevieZ                                 136,5
Davyboy                              136,5
Maggot                                 129,0

Two games this week, and the Thursday game is a late kick off in Europe. With the clocks going back and playing at the regular time slot, it means a 10pm start for this one. The weekend is a Sunday affair and we share the final kick off spot with the Manchester derby at 6:30pm. So take your pick or chose both but either way, get on down to the Brazenhead in Fourways and have yourselves some fun.

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.