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

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

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

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

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

Update on the League Cup Final

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

BUT

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

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

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

Ostersunds FK – Away Thurs 15 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North London Is Still Red!

Up the Arsenal

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

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

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

Leonardo G                                                      215.75
MAC 10                                                            213.66
tphato                                                               213.00

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

Spurs Away – Sat 10 Feb 14h30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonardo G                                                      208.00
MAC 10                                                            206.66
tphato                                                               206.50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joffie B                                                             196.25
tphato                                                               195.75
MAC 10                                                            193.41

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

West Ham Home Tues 21h45 – Liverpool Home – Friday 21h45

This will be the last post of the year as we approach the year-end holidays. Not too sure when the next one will be out, maybe in time for our first defense of the FA Cup this season, against Nottingham Forest on Sunday 7th January. All depends on how the holidays phase back into the work mode that no one in their right mind is thinking about at the moment. For everyone that has been going to the Brazenhead, and there was just a scattering this last weekend, then feel free to continue going. There may be no flags and shirts hanging around the edges but there will be other Arsenal supporters with whom you can celebrate our many victories.

It all feels a little ‘déjà vu’ with us playing West Ham again so soon after that lack lustre performance at The New Stadium. Apparently, it’s called London Stadium, but The New Stadium works for me as it is an anagram of West Ham United – check it out! The two teams seem to be going in opposite directions with West Ham having taken 7 out of a possible 9 points with games against Chelsea and Arsenal in there, whereas we have managed 5 out of 9 with the strongest opposition being 12th in the league. The West Ham game is a Carabao Cup game and Wenger will obviously have an eye on the weekend (if you count Fridays as part of the weekend) fixture against Liverpool. A match I’m sure he is only too eager to win, even if it means sacrificing a minor cup opportunity. To this end, I do not expect there to be a single team member that played against Newcastle in the squad and I suppose there is a lot to justify that decision. Although we all hanker for silverware, I doubt there are many Arsenal supporters that would trade a top four position for the Carabao Cup, especially as there are still some big name teams still in there. Thus, I’d expect the team to be made up of the likes of Macey, Debuchy, Holding, Mertesacker, Chambers, Elneny, Walcott, Willock, Nelson, Sheaf and Nketiah. When we played Norwich, we had the likes of Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Giroud, Wilshere and Coquelin, however I don’t think Arsene will gamble on any of them picking up an injury and with two to three of those names being 1st XI players, it shows how things have changed in the team.

The game is on tonight (although it’s not being broadcast as per DSTV’s decision not to entertain any Carabao Cup fixtures – I wonder whether they will at least televise the final?) and West Ham are coming off a good victory at Stoke where we lost earlier in the season. I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t make it through to the semi-finals as long as we put up a good showing against Liverpool.

If we beat Liverpool, then things will all be rosy again. It doesn’t matter if it’s an added on time own goal winner that bounces off 3 defenders and the back of Mignolet’s head before it half dribbles over the line to invoke hawk-eye to make a beep in Martin Atkinson’s ear. Just so long as we win, as that will move us above Liverpool by two points and not drop further behind Chelsea or Man Utd. It will also extend our lead over Spurs who are away to Burnley on the weekend. But it’s not going to be easy. Our record against Liverpool of late has been atrocious with our last victory coming 2 ½ years ago where goals from Bellerin, Ozil, Sanchez and Giroud gave us a 4-1 victory. We had Santi, Ospina, Mertesacker and Ramsey in that side with Welbeck and Walcott both on the bench. Our team this weekend should have the remaining seven team members which includes the four goal scorers so there’s no reason for us to not perform (except there’s no Santi and we all know how much we miss Santi, oooooh Santi Cazorla). If we can reproduce that display against Man United, minus the first half early goals that we conceded plus the ability of putting away ten per cent of our shots, then we should be okay. But this is Arsenal and who knows what will happen on the pitch on the day. Reports of Ramsey not being available for the rest of this year is a bit of a body blow. He does manage to get into positions that offer goal scoring opportunities and he will be sorely missed. As for Liverpool, they had Coutinho, Henderson and Sterling as their stand out players for that match. Take away Sterling and add in Firmino, Salah and Mane and that makes a big difference. Since then, we have played them five times, losing three times (only once at home though) with a 14 – 7 goal difference. It would be a huge confidence builder if we win this game.

Final feedback of the year for our two fantasy leagues, and in the Superbru league we have tphato in top spot with GunnerChris and MAC10 hot on his heels. Our top performer on the weekend was SIMBA, who looks to be more of a lioness than a lion based on the profile pic, with 8 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved her up 8 places to 25th. The top three are as follows:

tphato                                 154.50

GunnerChris                       154.50

MAC10                                153.91

In the FPL, the top two remain the same and Welbz FC has come back in. The top three are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     1014

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             1011

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       999

As a final note, I’d like to wish you all a happy festive period, whatever it may be that you are celebrating. Hopefully, Arsenal victories will be in there somewhere. Come visit the new Arsenal site arsenalsa.co.za – there are some nice photos that Arsenal send us for each match that I’ve shared plus all these posts for the year. Until 2018, be safe and go well.

West Ham Away Wed 22h00 – Newcastle Home – Saturday 17h00

Just a quick post this week. We’ve got two matches to look forward to, West Ham on Wednesday night and then Newcastle on Saturday. No easy games in the EPL as they say and West Ham away is looking to be a difficult one, mainly based on their last result where they beat Chelsea 1-0. It will be the first of two encounters with the same opponents within the space of a week as we will also meet them next Tuesday in the Carabao Cup, at The Emirates. Their victory over Chelsea was even more impressive due to them having scored their goal in the 6th minute and thus held out for 84 minutes against a Chelsea side that was increasingly transformed into an all attacking unit with three substitutes being made between the 46th and 64th minutes. Chelsea only managed two shots on target compared to West Ham’s single shot on target, but I think it’s fair to say that Chelsea were just having one of those days. Pretty similar to The Arsenal on Sunday where we were really pretty dreadful to be honest. We did manage 5 shots on target though and fortunately we own a super-sub going by the name of OllieG who managed to get to a lofted ball from Sanchez before the impressive Virgil van Dyk could to rescue Arsenal’s blushes. Hopefully we’ll have a similar turnaround tonight that Chelsea managed last night when they beat Huddersfield 3-1 to put pressure on Man Utd by joining them on 35 points. Burnley also won last night and are now sitting pretty, all on their own in fourth spot, a point above Liverpool, two above us and three above Spurs. It will be interesting to see who can handle the pressure!

Two players to look out for tonight are Andy Carroll and Marco Arnautovic. Both big burly forwards which we don’t like at all. We will still be without Mustafi so the question is whether Wenger will risk the BFG again or will he revert to a back four? Also out from the weekend is Ramsey as he picked up that hamstring that caused him to hobble around for the last ten minutes on Sunday. Does this open up an opportunity for Jack? Or will Wenger be conservative in his approach and bring in Elneny or even Coquelin? All interesting questions which will be revealed tonight at 10pm.

Saturday sees the visit of Newcastle. They will be playing Everton at St James’ Park on Wednesday which will give us some insight into the threats that they offer. They lost to Leicester on the weekend, having gone into an early lead before giving the lead to Leicester after 60 minutes. They then managed to get back to level terms after 73 minutes before finally giving the game away with an own goal in the 86th minute. We should really win this one and with Spurs travelling to The Etihad, hopefully it will give us an opportunity to open up a gap on them once again.

Feedback on our two fantasy leagues, and in the Superbru league, Joffie B has returned with a smile and appears in third spot with MAC10 and tphato still fighting it out for top spot. Our top performer on the weekend was Joffie B with 7 out of 10 games predicted correctly. That moved him up 1 place to 3rd. The top three are as follows:

MAC10                                136.66
Tphato                                 135.75
Joffie B                                134.50

In the FPL, we have a new top four player – Utete Rockets who has replaced Welbz FC. The top four are as follows:

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                      917
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             915
We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                         903
Utete Rockets (Justice Utete)                                      901

So, a short post this week. Let’s see if we can get six out of six in these two games!! The festive season is upon us so I have only booked out the Wine Cellar at the Brazenhead for both games. So, come along if you have the time, should be nice and cosy!

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

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

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

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

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

Seeded                                Unseeded

CSKA Moscow                   Celtic

Sporting Lisbon                 Atletico Madrid

Napoli                                 Spartak Moscow

RB Leipzig                           Borussia Dortmund

Villarreal                             Slavia Prague

Dynamo Kiev                     Partizan Belgrade

Ludogorets                        Braga

AC Milan                             AEK Athens

Atalanta                              Lyon

Lokomotiv Moscow         FC Copenhagen

FC Steaua Bucuresti         FC Viktoria Plzen

Arsenal                                Red Star Belgrade

Red Bull Salzburg              Marseille

Ostersunds FK                   FC Zorya Luhansk

Lazio                                    Nice

Zenit St Petersburg          Real Sociedad

 

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

 

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

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

MAC10                                134.16

tphato                                 130.75

GunnerChris                     128.00

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

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                    885

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       854

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)           849

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     843

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

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

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

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

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

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

MFU have lost three of their last four away games (Basel, Chelski and Huddersfield) and in all honesty have not impressed away from home. With Mourinho at the helm, they’re never an easy side to beat and playing away as they are this weekend, one can only expect him to bring his bus along. I expect Wenger not to change too much from a tactical perspective. Defend resolutely and attack with pace and flair. A winning combination, I’m sure and slowly but surely, we’re now able to put such tactics into effect with Sanchez and Ozil coming to light. We just need Lacazette to join the party and we’re ‘A’ for away. MFU, with Pogba, Lukaku, Rashford and Martial will cause the Arsenal defense plenty of problems and with Valencia probing down the right we will do well to keep a clean sheet. David De Gea in goal is also an obstacle that needs to be overcome and having conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League – six in total compared to our sixteen – we will need to be in our 2015/16 form to find a way around him.  Or there again our 2016/17 form. Or even our FA Cup 2014/15 form. Okay, we just need to be on form.

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

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

MAC10                                115.66

tphato                                 113.75

Jonosky                               105.75

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

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     773

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       754

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     747

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             744

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAC10                                111.41

tphato                                 101.75

Joffie B                                  98.25

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

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     723

We Are All Besiktas (Ebrahim Moolla)                     700

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             698

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