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