Spurs Home – Saturday 14h30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAC10                                100.16

tphato                                   88.75

Zezou                                    87.82

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

Cannon Hill FC (Earle Brown)                                     658

Welbz FC (Yusuf H)                                                       649

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS (Nicholas Da Silva)             645

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

City Away – Sunday 16:15pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swansea Home – Saturday 16h00

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Premier League

We are all Besiktas          Ebrahim Moolla               363

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva              380

Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               390

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

Superbru

MAC 10                                                                            71,50

tphato                                                                              67,00

Smiley                                                                              64,16

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

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

Everton Away – Sunday 14h30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watford Away – Saturday 18h30

Looks like we’re entering dangerous territory. We’ve got Watford away, we’re short of two central defenders and public opinion is turning against Özil. So let’s tackle this in reverse order. Why are the Arsenal public so anti-Özil? And when I say this I mean probably a relatively small percentage of people, but all the same it is those people that tend to be heard. So, out there on the internet or through our emails or on twitter or wherever it is that you hear about Arsenal stuff, there is a lot of negativity about Özil. Let me state my feelings about Özil first and then try and respond to the negatives that are coming through the electronic media. As you may expect, I like Özil. In fact, I find it hard to say anything negative about anything Arsenal. Maybe the pies are too expensive at the Emirates, there I’ve said it. Now let me get back to Özil. There was a reason why Wenger bought Özil and there was a reason why the huge majority of Arsenal supporters were overjoyed when Wenger bought Özil, but somehow, these two reasons were never really quite aligned. Sure, there were certain factors that were shared being that he was seen as a high quality player that would improve the squad, that he had been playing for a ‘super club’ being Real Madrid and that he brought a vast amount of experience which had been missing since the 49’ers dispersed quite some years earlier. But Wenger bought Özil for his attacking prowess and not for his defensive abilities. Arsenal needed a playmaker, someone that could see the gaps, play that perfect pass and so they bought Özil. He was a player that Arsenal cried out for. Our attacking style of play had been missing a catalyst and so Özil was the answer to many of those prayers. But he was never a defensive solution and I feel that maybe Wenger should have managed the supporters expectations a bit more than he has done as for quite a while now we have seen a serious amount of flak targeted at Özil for not putting in the effort, not tracking back to support the defense etc etc. To his own detriment, Özil has that languid style that portrays a lack of effort which is anything but the case. Statistics reveal that Özil works as hard as the next player, if not more, but those ‘supporters’ that are heard tend not to read or understand statistics. Wenger was never looking for a Viera or a Ljungberg or a Pires. He was looking for a Bergkamp, a creator, a feeder to a striker that maybe we never had. So, for me, I would love Özil to stay. It looks unlikely, but do not get suckered in by media stories or ‘supporter’ sentiments, being the eternal optimist I can see wonderful opportunities with Özil, Sanchez and Lacazette on the pitch together that could lead to a change of mindset, not only in the players but also in the ‘supporters’.

Dangerous territory number two is our central defense. There’s a lot to be said about Wenger, both good and bad, and one of the strange things is his management of risk. We all know by now that Koscielny has this underlying achilles problem that flares up from time to time and of late has caused him to miss periods of playing time. I’m not 100% sure whether this can be effectively managed through pain killers or drugs of some kind but my feeling is that Wenger is aware of the situation and believes that he can manage it. Then Wenger goes and sells Gabriel and was on the cusp of getting rid of Mustafi, which in effect would leave only Per and Holding as our recognized central defenders, one a bit long in the leg tooth and the other a bit short of confidence. So now, we have lost Mustafi to injury which means that we have a bit of a crisis at the back. Admittedly, he has been using Monreal in the back three and he has also indicated that he can always revert to a back four, using two central defenders only, but my feeling is that he’s cutting it a bit fine. But don’t worry, we’ve got an abundance of midfielders!!

Finally, to this weekend’s game and dangerous territory number three – Watford. I think it is more that FA Cup quarter final game that has but me on edge about this weekend’s game than the last game we played against them. However both ended up with us losing 2-1 at home and currently they are riding the crest of a wave. They’re sitting one point behind us, level on points with Burnley and Liverpool and although they have not yet won at home this season (P3 W0 D2 L1), they have three wins and a draw on the road. They did succumb 6-0 to Citeh in the middle of September and if we can turn on the gas in the same manner then maybe my fears will be unfounded, but this is not an easy game for sure. It’s difficult to know what our starting line-up will be with Giroud and Lacazette in the squad for France’s game against Belarus tonight, Xhaka in the Swiss squad to play Portugal and Sanchez in the crunch game for Chile away to log leaders Brazil. I’m hoping that our three key players, Özil, Sanchez and Lacazette can all start on Saturday as we have not seen them on the park at the same time as of yet and if we are going to achieve anything this season, it would help to have them in full flow and the sooner they get to know each other the better.

Looking a little further afield this weekend, it’s Liverpool v Man Utd as the weekend opener and Liverpool have a good record against all the other big clubs. OK, they did come a cropper against the other Manchester club a month ago but I have a feeling things will be different this time round. MFU haven’t really had a hard game this season and they will be tested. Chelski, Citeh and Sp*rs all have relatively easy games this weekend so I’m not expecting any changes in the top 5 however looking at my Superbru form, I could well be wrong!

Things are beginning to take shape in the ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru with familiar names staying in those top places of each log. Yusuf H didn’t have a great week but he still maintains his position at the top of the FPL log although he now shares it with Nicholas da Silva and Ebrahim Moolla, all on 432 points – a three way tie! In the Superbru league, we have a new leader with MAC 10 breaking into the top three. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               432

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva              432

We are all Besiktas          Ebrahim Moolla               432

Special mention goes to Andrew Redding’s Neymar Dis Kaka with a week high score of 96

Superbru

MAC 10                                                                            63,25

ZeZou                                                                               59,24

Joffie B                                                                             58,00

Highest points for the week goes to Gooner (original name there, but I like it!) who moved up 29 places to 13th with a well scored 15 points.

It’s one of those rare Saturday games and the late kick off to boot so seeing there’s nothing much else to do, why don’t you c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

BATE away – Thursday 19h00 & B&HA at home – Sunday 13h00

Not a bad few results as of late and our last 5 games have been quite fruitful, with two cup victories, two league victories and that away league draw against Chelski that felt almost like a victory. Now many would say this is typical Arsenal fare, when the pressure is off, that’s when we start performing but I don’t believe that is quite right. The pressure was anything but off when we went to Stamford Bridge and we put in a solid performance that was worthy of 3 points. Wenger chose not to play Sanchez and Ozil and we showed we had enough class with the necessary levels of grit to come out of that game with our heads held high. The Cologne match too was one that could have ended in disaster. One nil down at half time to a somewhat comical goal could have led to all three points being dropped. The team could have blamed the German supporters and the delay in the match to a Europa first game loss, but they didn’t and they came back to score three good goals in the second half to again hold their heads high. A half time substitution of Kolasinac for Holding was probably the key moment of the match and thus Wenger is showing that he is not just a sentimental choice as manager this season and that he has a very important role to play. Monday night saw us survive a few scares to finish off with ease against a WBA side that tested us at times. Cech and Monreal stopped a couple of goals that had the Arsenal supporters’ hearts in their mouths and Bobby Madley was probably dreaming when he allowed Rodriguez to recover from an obvious foul in the penalty area to have his subsequent shot saved by Cech. I mean, who ever plays advantage for the attacking team in the penalty area, and if one does, it’s generally for about two seconds by which time, if the ball has not landed up in the net, the whistle gets blown for the original foul. Anyhow, thanks Bobby, love ya madly.

Back to that Chelski result and all that it means. Well at least what it should mean. Prior to that game, Arsenal had managed 5 points in their previous thirteen encounters against the big five teams. It was a talking point and had we lost that match, the result would well and truly have set the scene for a “same old, same old” Arsenal season of flattering to deceive. The very fact that not only did we not lose, but we so very nearly came close to beating the current premier league champions that all that self-doubt that seemed so very evident in the team and in fact amongst the supporters has to a large degree dissolved away. We now know that we can take on the big boys as long as we can reproduce the same inspiration and desire that we showed that day. To be honest, there was no real rocket science about how we played. As I said earlier, it was true grit, desire and sensibility mixed with the undoubted talent that exists within the team. And probably, most importantly of all, there was no risk taking. I believe that in the past, Arsenal have taken unnecessary risks, leaving ourselves open to seek out opportunities which have come back to bite us instead of biding our time and taking the opportunities that present themselves. And it hasn’t just been in games against the big five. We have found ourselves under pressure going into games where, when we don’t score or don’t see ourselves scoring, we start with the unnecessary risks which teams like WBA would take advantage of and so the deadly cycle would perpetuate itself. There was a bit of that in Monday night’s game and we got lucky, but the second half was different and we breezed through with ease. Hopefully, we can re-find our self-belief and in doing so, play matches without the undue risks and accept the fact that sometimes a draw is as good as you’re gonna get. Even the Invincibles struggled at times. 13 of those 49 games were drawn and against sides such as Bolton Wanderers (twice), Portsmouth (twice) and Birmingham City.

So onto this week’s games. We have two, starting with our Europa League match on Thursday, away against BATE Borisov and then onto the premier league match at home against Brighton and Hove Albion. And then it’s the deep abyss, otherwise known as the interlull. It seems like we have just survived one which I suppose is true as we endured a respite after the Liverpool defeat. Maybe it was good timing as our results since then have been quite positive. Hopefully this interlull has a similar effect.

BATE are situated in Belarus and all I know about Belarus is that Alexander Hleb came from there. He actually played for BATE on a number of different occasions, 25 times in a stint prior to joining Arsenal, in the 1999-2000 season, then on three separate occasions spanning 4 years from 2012 to 2016, playing a total of 39 games. BATE won their league last year and from what I can understand, their league runs from April to November, so they are currently three quarters of the way through their current season, where they lie third, two points behind the leader. They failed in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and thus find themselves in Group H facing Arsenal this week. I’m really not sure what to expect on Thursday. If Wenger puts out a top XI, then I cannot imagine there being a problem, but he’s likely to insert the odd youngster as he did against Cologne which, although fun to watch, will mean a few ‘edge of the seat’ moments.

As for the weekend, at least we play on Sunday and not Monday. It’s a 1pm kick off, so not too late. Because it is a match before the international break, I think Wenger will put out the strongest squad he has, no matter who he plays on Thursday, so expect a Sanchez, Ozil, Lacazette start for the first time. We should walk this one, especially with the form we’re in and the confidence we have acquired due to our recent results. We are now seventh on the log and BHA are six places behind us with 7 points to their name. We’re six points off the top but there’s a juicy encounter on Saturday between Citeh and Chelski so someone’s gonna drop some points. MFU look to have it easy at home to Palace and it’s a stretch to think Palace are going to improve on their last result. It’s going to be an interesting weekend of soccer.

We’re into our sixth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Yusuf H maintains his lead which has shortened due to some good results from both Nicholas da Silva and Ebrahim Moolla in the FPL whilst second and third spots have swapped around in the Superbru league. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               390
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva                380
We are all Besiktas             Ebrahim Moolla                  363

Special mention goes to Jean Raath’s Sons of Pitches with a week high score of 94
Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               53,91
mecamakan                                                                      51,08
Joffie B                                                                             49,50

Highest points for the week goes to StevieZ who moved up 13 places to 4th with a well scored 14,75 points. Stevie got 9 out of 10 selections correct which is pretty good going!
Thursday and Sunday. Both reasonable times so you can’t have any excuses plus you have to wait two weeks until we play again. Really, this is a no brainer so c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

Register on arsenalsa.co.za * WBA Home Monday 21h00

Let’s start off with a bit of a punt. The ArsenalSA website is slowly coming together and I would appreciate all you members out there to register so that we can get an updated database. “Register?” I hear you say! “We did that last year on that mobi site thing.” Yeah, well, the times, they are a’changing and we now have yet another ‘new’ site, which means the ‘new’ site of last year is in fact an old site that isn’t as old as the old old site but is still not the new site, if you know what I mean. So, to be a current up-to-date ArsenalSA member, you need to register on the new site, which you can access by typing in arsenalsa.co.za That simple! No www. or http:// just arsenalsa.co.za See how simple we’re making things for you. There are a few of you guys that have paid subscriptions by handing over to me your hard earned cash. This does not mean you are registered as a member on the new site, all it means is that I have your money!! OK, it also means that you are recorded as having paid your subscriptions and many of you already have been given your Arsenal membership card that doubles as a discount card at the Brazenhead, but you still need to register yourself through the website as you need to specify your password and all that. Those of you that have paid but haven’t yet received your card can collect from me at the Brazenhead on match days. If you never come to the Brazenhead, for whatever reason, then there is little purpose in having such a card, however you will still get all the other benefits of being a paid up member, which are clearly explained on the ‘new’ website. Any further questions you may have, just respond to this email and I will get back to you, but c’mon dudes, register…….. please?

If you haven’t paid your subscriptions this year and you would like to (I know some of you guys can turn a profit in one day with the 10% discount you get at the Brazenhead), then once you have registered, there is also a facility that allows you to make a payment through the website. For this you can either make an EFT payment through your own internet banking website or if you have registered for snapscan, then you can use that. Again, we’re trying to make things really easy.

For those of you thinking of going over to watch a game or two, the following matches are available to request tickets for:

Sat 2nd Dec          Manchester United         Deadline: 25/09/2017    Cat A

Thu 7th Dec         BATE Borisov                    Deadline: 01/10/2017    Cat C

Sat 16th Dec        Newcastle United            Deadline: 08/10/2017    Cat B

Sat 23rd Dec        Liverpool                           Deadline: 15/10/2017    Cat A

Mon 1st Jan         Chelsea                               Deadline: 22/10/2017    Cat A

The booking website also has a warning stating Please be aware these kick off times are provisional and might be amended at a later stage. Deadline means that we cannot request tickets for that match after that date.

So, what’s happening this week? It was the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night and we played Doncaster Rovers. By all accounts it was a pretty drab affair. Wenger managed to blood some young guns, Walcott scored a goal and missed some, Giroud didn’t score but came close with a bicycle kick and Alexis lost the ball about 10,000 times. I’m sure Doncaster were pretty happy about the whole event, not being smashed and taking home a reasonable gate money – not sure how the spoils are shared. Having said that, I went to google it and the headlines read “Arsenal set record for lowest ever Emirates attendance during Doncaster Rovers victory”. Apparently it was 44,064, of which 5,500 were Doncaster supporters. Still, not too bad. Google tells me that the gate receipt is split 45%/45% with 10% going to the Football League. Doncaster would already have earned £12,000 prize money for having won their previous two games and for this game there was £10,000 up for grabs. For the attendance, the gate money would have been in the region of £1,5m so that would have meant about £675,000 if my calculations are correct. Not to be sniffed at. There was a Mail Online article about the time Cambridge forced a draw with MFU and the replay at Old Trafford was likely to earn them £1,7m. One of the sub-headlines was “Cambridge United will install new toilet at their ground with FA Cup cash”. Now that’s what I call being flush!!

Our weekend game is not on the weekend. Fortunately, it’s not on a Friday but Monday’s are just as bad and that’s when it is. And of all sides, we’re playing WBA. Groan. Not exactly a fixture up there, however one we’d expect to win. They’re probably second to Stoke as teams we’d really rather not play against (the common denominator being Tony Pukish) and there will be stories of how we totally capitulated against them last season coming through in the press leading up to the game. I’m sure we all remember that match at the Hawthorns and our home game against them last season wasn’t much better, winning 1-0 with an 86th minute goal from Giroud. To be fair, they were in a reasonably rich vein of form then with Chelsea struggling to a 1-0 home win against them a couple of weeks earlier.

Ozil is fit again to start however I’m sure most of us would like to see the same starting line-up that we had last Sunday against Chelski. There was definitely a robustness around the team for that game and WBA are the sort of side where you need that quality to your game. I have a feeling that both Ozil and Sanchez will start on the bench and only if we’re in a good space come the 66th minute will they come on. Welbeck is injured and Wenger indicates that he is targeting the Watford match (14th Oct) to be back which probably means that he will only be back for the next Carabao Cup game against Norwich (24/25 Oct) and be on the bench for the away game against Citeh (5th Nov).

We’re into our fifth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Yusuf H is showing us how things are done by extending his lead to 30 point at the top of the FPL whilst the Superbru league remains the same at the top. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Welbz FC                            Yusuf H                               333

JJay                                      Justice U                             303

LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS   Nicholas da Silva              289

Special mention goes to Devashin Govender’s Diablo FC with a week high score of 94

Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               42,16

Joffie B                                                                             41,25

mecamakan                                                                    41,08

Highest points for the week goes to Big Daddy Charlie who moved up 32 places to 20th with a well scored 11,25 points.

Now for the big ask! Monday night isn’t as bad as it seems – don’t forget that it’s Heritage Day and there’s only one more league game until the October interlulls, so let’s make hay….. well, you know how it goes. C’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!

Cologne at home – Thursday 21h00 & Chelsea away – Sunday 14h30

Two games this week and that will be the case for the next three weeks all the way through until Sunday 1st October whereafter we have a free week until we start the two games a week cycle again. That is based on the premise that we win our Carabao Cup match next Wednesday against Doncaster Rovers. This week we have our first Thursday night game aka Europa match against FC Cologne. I suppose the most common knowledge about Cologne for Arsenal players is that this is the club that we bought Lukas Podolski from and for whom he scored thirty three times in 88 appearances, second time round. Cologne have not had a great start to the season, losing all three of their Bundesliga matches. They ended last season in 5th spot, a distant 13 points behind 4th placed finishers, 1899 Hoffenheim. So under normal circumstances this would be a team that we should have no problem with however, there are a number of circumstances that could cause this not to be the case. I don’t think anyone is too sure as to what Arsene’s tactics are going to be in Europe this season. I think it’s fair to say that the Premier League is his number one target, but will he consider the Europa Cup as a big competition? Bigger than the FA Cup? Probably, because by winning this competition the rewards are far greater (entry into next season’s UCL as opposed to a Community Shield match against the team that finishes second in the league – see what I did there J). The true question is though “To what degree” will he compete? There is much talk of giving the youngsters an opportunity, something that happens without batting an eyelid in the EFL Cup and maybe not so often in the FA Cup. But with the Europa Cup squad containing 42 players, it’s impossible to say whether he will favour the youngsters. He has the following to draw on: Deyan Iliev, Matt Macey, Chuba Akpom, Ryan Huddart, Hugo Keto, Tolaji Bola, Chiori Johnson, Tafari Moore, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Krystian Bielik, Charlie Gilmour, Marcus McGuane, Reiss Nelson, Ben Sheaf, Pelenda Da Silva, Aaron Eyoma, Edward Nketiah and Joseph Willock!! Add to that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy then Arsene has plenty of ammo to surprise us!

This first game against Cologne could very well be the game to surprise us as we then come up against Chelski on Sunday and Wenger will want to make sure he has the strongest squad available for that match. Our record against Chelski has been chequered, winning the last match on penalties in the Community Shield, getting thrashed somewhere in Asia in pre-season, beating them 2-1 in that all important FA Cup Final, losing 3-1 in the equivalent away fixture last season and beating them 3-0 in the home fixture last season. Chelsea themselves have a comfortable home tie against Qarabag on Tuesday night so they should be well rested by the time they pitch up at The Emirates.

That last game against Chelsea at The Emirates, where we won 3-0 was a turning point for them and they subsequently went on a run of games that saw them climb up the table and maintain that no 1 spot til the end of the season. So, as much as we’d like to see a similar result to that one, it would also be somewhat painful to see a similar long term result. Looking at the team sheet in that match, we had Santi playing, and I think that speaks volumes to the form we were in then to what has happened since seeing him limp off the pitch in the 6-0 victory against Ludogrets last October. The bottom line is that we have not found a replacement for him and as hard as Wenger tried to bring in Thomas Lemar and Jean-Michael Seri, we still do not have that gifted midfielder that can spark the team into life.

I expect Wenger to field a similar starting XI to the Bournemouth game, but fitting in Sanchez at the expense of Danny. Maybe a harsh call as Danny had a great game and it may be the case that Wenger keeps Sanchez back on the bench, citing fitness issues as an excuse. My only concern is Monreal in the full back role but I think he will remain there for this match.

We’re into our fourth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru and things are beginning to hot up. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
Welbz FC                             Yusuf H                               251
JELLYS NPO                        Eugene Cardoso               230
Lindo United                         Sibusiso Ndlovu                229

Special mention goes to Justin Toerien’s Petr Cech Yourself with a week high score of 80
Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               37,91
Joffie B                                                                              33,75
mecamakan                                                                      31,58

Highest points for the week goes to DutchySA who moved up 26 places to 21st with a well scored 10,5 points.

So, we’re back to winning ways and how nice would it be to keep that feeling going this weekend against Chelsea. It’s a Sunday afternoon match at 2:30pm. We have the patio booked out so why not come down to the Brazenhead for a fight for a fun afternoon and cheer the team on. We will also be at the Brazenhead in the Wine Cellar for the Cologne game so don’t be shy, come down for that one too.

 

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa

Bournemouth Home Saturday 9th September 16h00

Transfer deadline day is now a thing of the past. Thank goodness for that. I really can’t remember the last time we had a satisfactory transfer period. I suppose, when we had our marquee signings of Ozil and Sanchez, we were quite happy about that. But there again, we Arsenal supporters tend to have short memories due to the fact that there is so much in the recent past that we don’t really want to remember! But, if you look at our transfer history over the past years, it reads as follows:

2017-18: Players In – two – Lacazette and Kolasinac. Players Out – twelve – Ox, Gabriel, Szczesny and Gibbs. Net profit of £24.4m

2016-17: Players In – seven – Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez and Holding. Players Out – six – Gnabry. Net loss of £77.3m

2015-16: Players In – seven – Cech and Elneny. Players Out – six – Poldi. Net loss of £19.3m

2014-2015: Players In – twelve – Sanchez, Welbeck, Gabriel, Chambers and Debuchy. Players Out – seventeen – Vermaelen and Djorou. Net loss £72.8m

2013-14: Players In – ten – Ozil. Players Out – twenty four – Gervinho. Net loss £27.7m

2012-13: Players In – seven – Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and Monreal. Players Out – thirteen – van Persie and Song. Net profit £1.56m

Other than this year, the last time we made a profit on (summer and winter) transfers was back in the 2012-13 season when we were still regarded as a selling club. The years prior to that season and since the 2000-01 season saw an overall net loss on transfer dealings to the tune of £10.3m where we fluctuated between making profits and losses across the years. So, what can we conclude from all this? My feeling is that the club is being run more and more like a business than a football club. It is understandable that one cannot just go out and be reckless and spend more than one earns but in the same breath, there needs to be progress made on the field and we cannot rely on home grown talent to fill the gaps. As has been pointed out, we finished last season outside the top four for the first time since the 1995/96 season and what do we do? Buy a striker and freebie left back! Were those the areas that caused us to fall behind those other four teams and allow Sp*rs to finish above us for the first time in 22 years? Where is that central midfielder we so desperately need? And who is Bellerin’s back up on the right – Chambers, Debuchy? It would appear that Arsene and his team have missed a trick or two in this transfer season and we could find ourselves being punished for it.

However, not all is doom and gloom and I suppose it depends on what your outlook is. On paper, we still have two world class players in Ozil and Sanchez and we have a potent striker with the purchase of Lacazette. We also have a lot of quality across the field that if their heads are in the right place and their hearts follow suit, we can do well this season. And when I say well, we could challenge for the title. But not if we have any further displays similar to the one at Anfield last time out. I don’t profess to know why we played in the manner we did, there could have been a number of factors but it’s safe to say that if we don’t resolve whatever those factors/issues are then we could quite easily drop out of even the Europa qualifying positions. It’s a scary thought and with the supporters ready to turn on any mishap that may occur from this point forward, Arsene has a very tricky situation on his hands. He needs to pull his team together and show us that they are a team capable of winning the league, capable of competing with the Citehs, the Chelskis, the MFUs, the Liverpools and the Sp*rs and at the same side have the qualities to wipe aside the lesser Evertons and Southamptons. These will be his last two seasons in charge (if he makes it that far!) and he will be eager to show the world that he still has it, that x-factor that he had in abundance when he arrived twenty one years ago. We all hope that he can show us all, we now must wait and see whether he can pull it off.

Looking forward, we have a few tricky games to navigate and the results of the next three premier league games will give us a good indication of what the season holds for us. In addition to those, we have a (Thutrsday night) Europa game against Cologne and a Carabao EFL Cup game against Doncaster Rovers to contend. Our next match is on Saturday, which will be a rarity this season due to our Europa commitments. The next Saturday match after this one is mid October, so enjoy this one whilst you can. It’s against Bournemouth, a team unlucky not to have picked up a point against Citeh last Saturday and who caused us all sorts of problems last season. In the same fixture last season, we won 3-1 with a brace from Sanchez and one from Walcott but it was far from plain sailing. The first half saw us take the lead but then get pegged back by a penalty. Bournemouth then proceeded to put us under pressure and had some fine opportunities to take the lead. We were able to hold out to half time and the second half fortunately was a different game with Arsenal scoring twice, however the visitors were never really out of it until injury time when Sanchez put the game to bed. Our return match was a totally different story where we were 3-0 down with 20 minutes left on the clock. The fact that we managed to come home with a point and three late goals showed the character of the team and hopefully this is something that will be more prevalent in our games to come.

What team will Arsene put out? Coming off the back of this international break, there will be some heavy legs. I think the only question will be whether Sanchez starts as he will most likely be involved in Chile’s encounter with Bolivia which is a must win game for Chile with Ecuador and Brazil being their final two opponents. Other than him, and if there are no surprise injuries I don’t believe anyone else will be rested. That said, who Arsene puts onto the park will be interesting, but of more interest is whether he will revert to a back four. My feeling is that he will and thus the question therefore is will he play Mustafi or Mertesacker with Koscielny, or indeed Holding? As much as Mustafi is a bit of a liability on the pitch with his lunging tackles, he is more mobile than Mertesacker and has more experience than Holding. Bellerin will start on the right and it’s between Monreal and Kolasinac as to who fills that left back position. As much as I would like to see Kolasinac start, I think Wenger will be cautious and stick with Monreal. In midfield we have Xhaka, Ramsey, Coquelin and Elneny. I would probably keep Coquelin on the bench and play the other three. We haven’t seen much from Elneny this season, but he’s a tidy player that keeps the movement and passing going and I think he needs to be brought more into the starting XI. Ozil, Lacazette and preferably Sanchez would complete the team, but if Sanchez does not start then it’s between Walcott and Welbeck. My preference, based on recent games is to go for Walcott. I feel that Welbeck is still too left footed and when I say that I mean that he has got two left feet! He’s great at getting into position but his finishing leaves a lot to be desired. We all know about Walcott’s abilities and I see Bournemouth as a team that will suit his style of play. They won’t cram 11 men into the penalty area and Walcott should have space to run at them. That leaves the goal keeper and as solid as Cech can be, he has had a few hiccups of late and Ospina needs to be given opportunities. I don’t see it happening for this game but I feel that we will soon be seeing a lot more of Ospina.

We’re into our third week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru and the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Oxcatcher                          Jared Timm                        185

JELLYS NPO                        Eugene Cardoso               185

Hedge FC                            Swelihle Ngubeni             185

London Rox                       Mfundo Nkosi                   185

All very tight with 4 teams on the same points. Special mention goes to Cedric Angelo Nappies’ CLK team with a week high score of 70

Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               28,58

Joffie B                                                                             27,50

WBrown                                                                          25,25

Highest points for the week goes to Jonosky who moved up 57 places to 25th with a well scored 11,25 points.

So, back to the wonderful ways of Arsenal FC and as supporters all we can do is…….. support! So let’s do it, down at the Brazenhead, on Saturday and also have some fun. See you there.

 

Liverpool Away * DesignaShirt PUMA 20% discount *

I went to a school that only played rugby and cricket, no soccer, but the storyline still applies. At the end of the rugby term, once all our fixtures were complete, we still had rugby practice as part of our daily exercise in the afternoons. As there was really no further direction to the season, the coaches used to have a bit of fun and swapped the forwards with the backs. This was a great idea for the forwards as we loved to see the centres and wingers scrum down and battle out rucks whilst we forwards sat back in the backline and watched on. However, this is not a good idea Mr Wenger when you are just kicking off the season and are playing for points which, come the end of the season, are very valuable to have in the bag! We won this same fixture 4-1 at the end of last season and to have dropped three points due to players being played out of position, is really not acceptable. All this talk of Ozil not putting in a shift and Ox running down blind alleys is pretty much missing the point and to blame the ref for disallowing goals or not granting penalties is grasping at straws. If the team is not set up correctly at the start of the game then one can only look to the person that put that team out onto the field. Simple as that. Let’s not get into twitter debates about which players did or didn’t do what.

It’s early days still, so don’t despair. There have been seasons quite recently when a team got off to a flying start and were eventually pulled back into the pack. A bit like the Tour de France. So when you see MFU get off to a flyer, conceding no goals and scoring eight in two games don’t get too excited. Things will soon even themselves out. As with Chelski pulling Sp*rs back on the weekend, or Citeh and Everton drawing, so MFU will see their day *crosses fingers* If you look at the other ‘big’ teams, Chelski and Sp*rs have both lost a game and Liverpool and Citeh have drawn one, thus only leaving MFU with the advantage of six out of six points!

Enough of the past, as I indicated in my last blog, it is good to have this fixture behind us now. Who knows, we may only have to visit the bet365 Stadium again in 2019 and maybe Wenger will get his selections sorted by then.

Onto the weekend and we have an exciting visit to Anfield to look forward to and an opportunity to put things right. This is the last game before that annoying early season international break upsets the rhythm a team may have acquired and therefore it is important that we do not lose ground on the leaders. Looking at the other contenders, MFU have an interesting encounter with Leicester City, which will be their toughest encounter so far and will be of interest to us as comparisons will surely be made to our opening game of the season. Chelski take on Everton and again, comparisons will be drawn against Citehs match on Monday night. Citeh and Sp*rs have what seem like easy games, but that’s what we thought we had last weekend, so they need to be wary. A lot has been said of Sp*rs’ home game dis-advantage and the results speak for themselves, having lost eight times in their eleven appearances at the new Wembley stadium. They will be nervous when they take on Burnley, but it would be difficult to see the visitors pick up another three points in the capital.

The talking point for this Sunday’s match will be what role will Sanchez play, if any. It would be a disaster if Sanchez was not in the squad and this for me would point to one thing, being that he is on his way out. But I’d rather not entertain that thought and although Arsene says that it will be a bit of time before Sanchez hits form, I would immediately have him in my starting eleven. You only have to remember the same trip we made last year, where Wenger did not start him, and we came away a poor second, beaten 3-1, with Liverpool goals from Firmino, Mane and Wijnaldum and a solitary reply from Danny. Sanchez joined the fray at the beginning of the second half, by which time we were already two goals down. If Wenger starts him on the bench, I would be disappointed. His fitness levels may not be 100%, but we’re talking about Sanchez here and his 50% is generally more than any other player’s 100%! He was also close to being in the match squad for the Stoke game and had he been, I’m sure he would have come on as a substitute based on how that game went down. So what I’m saying is that as much as Wenger likes to molly coddle his players, this weekend is not the time to do that!

From an injury perspective, we seem to be in a good place and apart from poor old Santi, everyone else is available for selection. A certain amount has been spoken about our back three/five and whether Arsene will convert to a back four going forward. For this game I don’t think it’s time to change tactics, just selections and making the right ones. I see that Holding played in the U23 game against Citeh on Monday evening and reports are that he had a disappointing game, which probably rules him out from starting on Sunday. The good news is that Koscielny is back from suspension and he should automatically slot into the centre of the defence with Mustafi and Monreal. Bellerin as RWB and Kolasinac as LWB should then give us our best back five. I would persist with the Xhaka – Ramsey combination in midfield and have Ozil, Lacazette and Sanchez up front. Sounds good to me, hopefully Arsene has similar thoughts.

We’re into our second week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Still early days, but the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Fantastic 11                       Danyal Cajee                     141

Beat Around Debuchy     Siya Ntombela                  135

Oxcatcher                          Jared Timm                        133

Special mention goes to Eugene Cardoso’s JELLYS NPO with a week high score of 75

Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               21,33

mecamakan                                                                    20,00

Joffie B                                                                             19,75

Highest points for the week goes to JarretFrancis87 who moved up 65 places to 9th with a well scored 12,25 points.

So remember, this is the last game for a while due to the international break. Next game will be in two weeks’ time on 9th September. We’ve got the DesignaShirt guys coming through again where they are selling Arsenal shirts at 20% discount (members only) PLUS they will also do your printing requirements for a small fee on the day. What more could you ask for on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Brazenhead patio area has been reserved for all Arsenal supporters so why don’t y’all cmon down and have some fun!