Stoke City Away Saturday 18h30

Our favourite match of the season and it is coming so early on. It will be good to get it behind us. There was a time when we would always lose these matches, however you have to go back three years for our last loss at the Britannia Stadium, which ended 3-2 after being 3-0 down at half time. I didn’t get to see the Everton v Stoke match last weekend, but Stoke lost 1-0 allowing Wayne Rooney a triumphant return to Goodison Park after so many years in the wilderness. Stoke have some useful players, specifically Shaqiri and Bojan whilst they have supplemented their squad with Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea and Bruno Martins Indi from Porto. The more positive news from an Arsenal perspective is that Marco Arnautovic and Jon Walters are no longer Stoke players. Both of these players have been a thorn in our side over the past years and their absence makes life somewhat easier for our boys.

I don’t think anyone was ready for what happened in our first game of the season against Leicester City last Friday. Such a great start after 2 minutes, what we thought was a blip after 4 minutes and total frustration after 30 mins left Arsenal supporters a little shell shocked. To add to this, Okazaki and Mahrez had opportunities in the first half that didn’t go far wide. Welbeck managed to equalize in first half injury time using his third left foot by all accounts and things looked a bit brighter at half time. Leicester were going to have none of this though and took the lead again in the 56th minute giving Vardy a double for the game. He could well have had a hat-trick had Cech not been lucky in what looked very much like the last man in a “no-man’s land” area, however Vardy’s control was not as tight as it could have been and the Czech was able to boot the ball away. And then Arsene came up with his master plan – confuse the enemy! As Arseblog put it, he “brought on Ramsey and Giroud for Holding and Elneny, resulting in us playing two left backs at centre half, a right back at left back, a midfielder at right back, our record signing striker on the left of midfield and another striker on the right of midfield”. No wonder poor old Shakespeare (that’s the Leicester City coach) was confused! And what happened after that is now history. Ramsey BOOM, Giroud BOOM BOOM! And we steal it. Not that we didn’t deserve it *cough* And made all the sweeter when the group of people in the adjoining room at the Brazenhead were Leicester City supporters who had taunted us earlier when we went 2-1 down.

If I were to choose three key players from the weekend, it would be Kolasinac, Lacazette and Giroud. Kolasinac was huge in that game and the ArsenalSA supporters at the Brazenhead were singing his praises. We haven’t seen a hard man like that in the Arsenal squad for many a year. Lacazette, purely for his second minute goal. So well taken and being in the right place at the right time. And Giroud. Our super sub. He continues from where he left off last season and the fact that Wenger gave him the option to leave and he turned it down just makes him even more admirable. He must surely have gained a few extra brownie points in the eyes of the disbelievers.

News is that we have got both Mertesacker and Mustafi available for the game this weekend and my feeling is that they will walk straight into the side. Unfortunately, Koscielny is still serving out his red card ban and so I would expect Holding to retain his place. Then we have an abundance of wing-backs, Bellerin, The Ox, Monreal and Kolasinac to choose from. My preference would be The Ox and Kolasinac. I expect Ramsey to step in for Elneny and the front three to remain the same.

We are now into our first week of the season and this is a gentle reminder for members to pay their annual subscriptions. This really is a small amount of R150 per person and affords you a number of benefits of which 20% discount on PUMA Arsenal wear and 10% discount at the Brazenhead in Fourways are but a few. It also allows you to enter the annual raffle which this past season was an air ticket to London and a match ticket to an Arsenal home game. We will be negotiating with our sponsors what prize can be put up this year. As that great Arsenal supporter, Teddy Kennedy once said “Don’t ask what ArsenalSA can do for you, ask what you can do for ArsenalSA”

The current list of paid up members are:
Rob Theunissen, Ketan Patel, Gavin O’leary, Ronald Campbell, Chris Herbst, Keshiv Singh, S.West, Dorith & Steven Foxton, Andrew Lee Sun, Devashin Govender, Kalu Chika, Lebogang Nkoana, Mpazi Siwale & Nikhil Bhogal.

Thanks to these guys and girls, we rely on subscriptions to fund us going forward and hopefully there will be more to come. There are 4 other payments that have been made that cannot be identified, 2 by EFT and 2 by SnapScan. If you believe you have made one of these payments, please reply to this email and verify your details.

Payments by SnapScan have been suspended so please, when paying your subscriptions, either pay by cash directly to me on match day or by EFT using the following details:

Arsenal Supporters Club
Standard Bank
Rivonia Branch, 001255
Acc No: 22982744
Reference: Your First and Last Name

Our ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru kicked off as from last week’s game. Early days, but the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS  Nicholas da Silva               90
nigels thornberries             Benjamin Hay                    85
Tank AFC                           Tarquin Bishop                   80

Joffie B                                                                          11,5
MitchyK                                                                         10,75
ZeZou                                                                            10,5

Well done, but remember we have another 37 rounds to go!

So we have a Saturday match this weekend which may become a bit of a rarity going forward this season due to our Thursday night Europa involvement so enjoy whilst you can. It’s more likely to be Sunday games and the odd Monday game. So let’s keep the groove going and c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have some fun.

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa

PUMA 20% Discount (for real) / Shirt Printing / Leicester City Home Friday 20h45

A bit of admin first, for those who are interested. Apologies for the stuff up with regards to the PUMA event that was planned for last Saturday evening. A bit of miscommunication there. We have now organised that the event will be held this Friday at the Brazenhead and we will also have Designashirt at the club to do any printing on your shirt that you require. Designashirt will be able to cater for your printing requirements there and then at the Brazenhead, be it your own name or your favourite player, so take advantage of this facility whilst it’s available. Now, the shirts (home and away kit) and the printing are available for everyone but it obviously makes sense to sign up as a member, as the discount being offered is more than the cost of the annual subscription and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist  to work that one out! So come on down to the Brazenhead on Friday, preferably half an hour or so before the game and get your shirt and printing all ready for the new season.

Right, 2017/18 here we go! And it’s Leicester at home that was first out of the bag and although not the easiest start to the season, it could have been much worse, like Liverpool away – won’t have to wait too long for that one though. Since mid-July, Leicester have had seven pre-season friendlies which have resulted in 3 losses, 2 wins and 2 draws. Their last game was on Friday against Borussia Moenchengladbach which they won 2-1, with both goals coming in the second half from that Foxy striker, Jamie Vardy. They also lost out in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy, 2-1 to Liverpool. They managed to get through to the final with a 7-6 penalty shoot out win against West Brom after that game finished 1-1 after the 90 minutes.

It looks as though they have had a good pre-season workout and on the Home page of their website, Captain Morgan says “We’re Ready”. Looking at their Ins and Outs from a transfer perspective, they have had no significant departures and have brought in Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic from Hull City, Kelechi Iheanacho from Citeh, Vicente Iborra from Sevilla and youngster George Thomas from Coventry. Of these, I think Iheanacho is probably their best bit of business as he seemed to score a number of goals for Citeh whilst coming off the bench. The other piece of transfer business that may not be complete is that of Riyad Mahrez. Reports are that he will be involved in the match on Friday and although there have been reports of interest from Arsenal (which I believe to be pure media speculation), it is quite possible that he may end up on the continent at an Italian or Spanish team before the end of August. There again, maybe no one wants him that much.

Arsenal’s pre-season has been interesting with two penalty shoot outs, a couple of losses and a couple of wins. Looking back to the last game of the pre-season, we look to be cohesive in our play, which says a lot considering the number of senior players that were not in the squad. Iwobi has made great strides and is proof that players can make it through the system to earn a first team place. Kolasinac looks strong and exciting and his header was so well placed that he may take over as our leading defensive goal scorer from Koscielny.

There are a number of doubts for Friday’s game. Sanchez is definitely out and will probably miss Stoke as well. It’s going to be an awkward introduction for him into the team this season as he has not been involved in any pre-season games and now misses the first two games of the league. It could be a while before we see him starting however, with our third game of the season being away against Liverpool and the whole palaver last season in the same match where he did not start, maybe we’ll see him sooner rather than later. Doubts also exist for Ozil and Ramsey who were not in the squad for the Community Shield game and Mertesacker who earned himself a nasty cut to the face from Gary ‘elbows’ Cahill. Add to this the fact that both Coquelin and Gabriel are both out with injuries and Koscielny is serving the end of his red card ban, then one starts to get that oldArsenal start of the season feeling where we are down to the raw bones when it comes to selection.

Fortunately, Wenger has built up great depth in the team and based on what we saw last Sunday, I would feel confident enough that the team we put out has enough experience to see out this game. Our starts to the past seasons have not been great and working back, we have seen a loss to Liverpool (3-4), a loss to West Ham (0-2), a squeaky injury time win against Palace, a loss to Villa (1-3) and a draw to Sunderland (0-0). Not exactly a set of results to inspire anyone and interestingly enough, all these matches have been at home. So, if we are going to prove the doubters wrong this season and seriously challenge for the league title, we must win games like these. If Burnley could be so strong at home last season then there’s no reason why we can’t and we should be looking for a 100% outcome at home.

Other than our poor season starts, we also need to up our game when it comes to our head to head matches with the other four or five teams that are challenging for the title. It has been well noted that we had the worst record of the top six last season when it came to head to heads and I’m sure you will find this to be the case if you look to earlier seasons too. And, when we do achieve a better record against the top six, then we tend to falter against the minnows. Arsene obviously knows this and will be looking for better performances on both these counts and if he can achieve them, then we will obviously be in a good position at the end of the season to make a challenge.
So guys and girls, a new experience this weekend with a Friday night kick off. I suppose the one good thing about it is that we will have the whole weekend to recover (from the celebrations?) and watch the other teams battle it out. With the shirt and printing discount and the Arsenal game, why don’t you c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!