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Ours is gold Rocket powered Gunners Games: Newcastle (h) Spurs (a) Man Utd (h) Everton (a) Brentford (h) Man City (h) Aston Villa (a) Leicester (a) Bournemouth (h) Fulham (a) Palace (h) So, here we are, flying turbo charged into the stratosphere, looking at all the lesser teams floundering and gasping in our wake, and singing Arsenal are the greatest football team. Can we continue? Yes, we can. Will we continue? Ah, that is the question. But then, that is my job, and why ASCB pay me my huge salary every week, to answer the difficult questions. I am going to do 11 matches, give you the results and what that will mean for our chances. Our old matadors Of course, this has been a very difficult season to call, it’s virtually win win win, which given recent years, was hard to see. This spell is going to be a challenge, partly because this is a dangerous stretch of matches against the best out there and 4 derbies. Because the winter is generally when leagues are won, digging in when cold rain is pelting down on you and every item on your body is soaking ice into your veins and you can hardly see in front of you. January, February and March are tough times and only the strong survive it. Are Arsenal such a team? Yes, there is a steel there, plenty of players like Saka and Martinelli who take all the kicks and still play exhilarating football. Getting out alive of the bullring Anyway, on to predictions. If anyone read last weeks missive, then you would know I predicted an Arsenal win against West Ham. It brought us up to an astonishing 40 points. Then I predicted a draw away to Brighton here as they seem to always cause us problems. But we got a crazy win, 4-2, strolling through the match like matadors against calves, until suddenly, Brighton became tigers and we were a bit lucky at the end. I didn’t know calves could turn into tigers and neither did Arsenal – a lesson to be learned. Our new matadors I also normally analyse what we need to finish in certain positions, like Europa League, Champions league and not realistically the title, but this time, well, it is massively different. 22 matches to go and even relegation form at 22 points gives us 65, enough for Europa League, probably not enough for Champions League. Beat the weaker animals Looking at the 11 matches above I have insisted many times that we must put away the 7 lesser teams so that would give us 21 points. If we achieve that it is 64 and 11 matches to go. A great position. Against the four teams close to us in the table I would take 4 points and that is 68 with 11 games to go, an even better position. But let’s go through them one by one. And I do hear you saying that they are all lesser teams at the moment. Nuke Hassle at the Emirates. It could well be a real Nuke Hassle as they never concede goals. A statement win here and confidence and belief will soar. They are bulls, yes, but we are the matadors. I like this one, so one nil to the Arsenal would do me nicely. 46 points and fear coursing through the rest. Don’t let the Spuds upset us Conte's teams like upsetting other teams The Spuds away. They are very up and down this season. But this one, and Conte’s physical, negative, counterattacking style, could discommode us. They are not bulls, more like hyenas, snapping away at us all the time. We must not lose concentration or control of our emotions. We could be gored badly. If we remember we are the matadors it could be a win but I fear it could be an ugly match and an uglier draw. 1-1 and 47 points. We can never sleep Man Utd? I should be there and I am hoping for a nice birthday present and a win. We owe them for the last time. We fell asleep and gifted them 3 goals. They were not really bulls, more greyhounds finding us snoozing in the traps. They may well have a new striker by then but surely our defence can cope? I believe we will win in a high scoring game 3-2 and 50 points. Maybe Man Utd will bring this guy back? Everton away. We must win here by my above logic but they are starting to put their defence together. Not so much bulls as sheep crowded in front of their goal. They have conceded few despite their lowly position. We may need to draw our sword and cleave a way through. This may well be a draw unless we can break them down. If Calvert Lewin is back they may even be able to score. I am going to go for a 0-0. 51 points. Brentford home. I fancy this one. I think we can win. We know how dangerous they can be. Bees, yes, but ones we can control. If we marshal them well, allow them to fly around aimlessly, distracted by our red shirts, then we can fire in 3 goals. 3-0 to the Arsenal and 54 points. Bullfighters versus bullfighters We can beat them, you know Then the match of the season for us. If all goes as I have said so far we will still be comfortably in front. City must play Chelsea away, Man Utd away and the Spuds home and away. They could easily drop points. They have 36 points now at 16 matches, 2 less than last season. This tough schedule ahead of them could see them a few points less than the 53 that they had at 21 games last season, maybe 50 or less. This match could easily be crucial for them to get back in touch and they will be desperate to win. They are more matadors than bulls, they try to control games and put teams to the sword but this time our red shirts show that we are the best, we are the Arsenal and at home we deliver a strong blow to Guardiola’s self-belief. 2-1 to the Arsenal, 57 points and City don’t know what is happening to them. He could make it a bad ebening for us The euphoria of that win puts us super confident against the Villa away. Unai Emery seems to up his game against us, though. Somehow we forget our red shirt, complacency sets in, the Villa think they are wolves and we allow ourselves to be outfought and end up running towards the stand rather than applying a short, sharp blow with our sword. 1-0 to the Villains and we stay at 57 points. You must be able to fight for your wins It was the wake up blow that we needed. Fight brings you wins over the season, not fancy dan moves. So, next, Leicester again away and they try to prove they are Foxes but are easily cast aside by our determination to play 90 minutes. We fly out of the traps, score an early goal, and stay in control, keeping a tight rein on them, not allowing them space or any place to hide. They scurry back to their lair with 3 goals conceded. 3-0 and 60 points. Bournemouth at the Emirates. Again the sore memory of defeat by Villa mean we are ready to play, to fight and to work as a unit. No slippage as we run out 2-0 winners. 63 points and everyone knows that we are Arsenal and we are back. 2 derbies in a row Fulham are doing so well under Marco de Silva and at Craven Cottage they show why. We struggle to get a rhythm, our sword seems to be left at home and we give them chances. Our defence and Ramsdale have one of their best games and a draw is the best we can manage. 0-0 and 64 points. Patrick will make Palace fight Crystal Patrick next. He badly wants to beat us but we remember the indignity of last year. Arteta has them so well prepared it is unbelievable. We show them we are the matadors but they show us they are fighters and clever to boot. 2-1 sees us home in one of the hardest fought games we have had. We show steel, grit, adroitness, speed and pure ability, as we cement our place at the top after 27 matches. 67 points, one ahead of where City were last year but nicely in front of them now. Yes, I am being optimistic here, but I feel justifiably so. This team are good, getting better, growing together. We now have so many key players we can unlock any team. We have a team of matadors, ready to confront any animal put in front if us, even the hyenas of Spurs. C’mon the Arse!
Liverpool H, Leeds A, Southampton A, Forest H, Chelsea A, Wolves A, West Ham H, Brighton A Getting it wrong and being happy And so I got it wrong. Could anyone really predict 7 wins out of 8 and even that one we were caught by 3 sucker punches? Well, yes, one of our own ASCB supporters did predict 8 out of eight in the comments section of my first attempt https://arsenal-bulgaria.com/site/team/london_calling/where-can-we-finish-2023-part-1-r506/ I predicted 17 points, we got 21. I have substituted Spurs for Everton as we didn’t play them but I predicted 4-1 so similar to the Spuds result. This time the World Cup could have a big impact on us or other teams and I have no way of knowing what players will be affected. So now I will have a go at predicting the next eight – eight wins! Ok, bye bye, see you next time! … Maybe the Liverpool machine is coming to an end Ah, ok, I can’t really say that but I am worried about Liverpool in the first. No, they haven’t played well. No they haven’t played a team of the quality of Arsenal and yes, we are playing at home. But we have not got a good record against them and worryingly, they have had the third highest shots on goal of any team, eclipsed only by us and the marauding City. Any Arsenal fan thinking Liverpool are ready to be beaten are fooling themselves. And they always seem to get the best of the VAR decisions. I am hoping for a win but will settle for a draw. 2-2 in an open game, but very feisty. We need to be brave and disciplined as Liverpool have seasoned pros who know all the tricks. 22 points Tomiyasu: Key for Japan - key for us? Leeds away? Last year we beat them 4-1 and might do it again. I do expect a win although they are not doing badly, a respectable midtable. I was at the game at the Emirates and we won 2-1 but how I don’t know. We totally outplayed them for long periods and yet had a nervy finish. Another 2-1 would do me. 25 points. Is there danger here? Southampton away? Last year they beat us exactly when we needed wins. We cannot allow them to do so again. If we perform well I would like to see 2-0. They are on a bad run but they were also on one last season so please Arsenal don’t let them be a bogey team. 28 points. Saka might be our only England player Forest at home? I am planning being at this fixture although tickets haven’t popped up yet. ASCB I need you. They are down in relegation position and surely cannot cope with our energy, our strikers, and the understanding we have forged. They have bought one billion players and seem to have no understanding. No Robin Hood for these boys as we send them home crying 4-0. 31 points. Maybe Jesus and our other Brazilians may not play much in the World cup We are all getting excited. Points keep coming in. Man City have also got a draw against Liverpool by this stage so we are still top. City are going like a machine but so are we. It is frightening to watch. Blue demons or not? Chelsea away? Our record at Stamford Bridge is not so great but last year we reversed games. They won at ours and we won at theirs. They have good players, and they are close to Champions league position. Surely this is not going to be easy. I would again settle for a draw but hopeful of a win. 1-1 and 32 points. Key for France - key for us Wolves away? They are doing disastrously. Now without a manager, Nuno Espirito Santo could make a comeback. He is doing ok in the Saudi league but surely would like to come back home? They could be a different proposition under him or a new manager. They gave us 2 hard games last year. But surely we will be too strong? 2-0 and 35 points. A world cup hangover? West Ham at home? I might try and get to this game. I expect a win although I feel the Hammers will be nicely up the table by then. We have a good record against them, particularly at home, and I think we can do it. Last year we did the double and this should be the start of another. This is our first match after the world cup and it is very hard to know what players we will have and what condition they will be in. Assuming no banana skins I am going for 2-1 in a hard fought game. 38 points. Xhaka has become key Brighton away? This is a game we could lose. We only took one point off them last year and they definitely look better this year. Roberti De Zerbi could be a excellent fit and the equal to Graham Potter. He did great work at Shaktar Donetsk. I feel we will need all our key players fit and firing for this one. If the world cup is unkind to us that will make it more difficult. Maybe another draw 1-1. 39 points. And Arsenal are soaring above everyone That would be a massive improvement of 13 points over last season, however City, at this point were 38 so 39 would probably see us still top. I am being optimistic but then again last time I thought I was being optimistic with 17 points after 8 games and we got 21 so I hope I am wrong the same way again. City are going so strong at the moment that it is hard to see them losing any match but they do have off days against lower teams sometimes. If we win all we have 45 and surely starting something unstoppable. Even a repeat of the 21 making 42 would make us very difficult to catch. Partey-We need a safe world cup Can we do it? My experience is that every team suffers a bad patch. Ours are often in November but this time November is short. As for the World cup it is possible that our Brazilians may not get much playing time. Saka may be our only English player. Xhaka will definitely play as will Partey, Tomiyasu and Saliba. So some key players will play. We need them to stay safe. Still it is not too bad unless they all struggle. We can probably survive one or two injuries. Let us hope for a great eight games. COYG.
Winning Victory through our own harmony, I say We must win at all costs? Last week I spoke about losing, but the other side of the coin is winning and maybe there is not so much difference in some ways. I mentioned drawing last week as being similar to a defeat as you didn’t win. They take away from your win percentage so despite Wenger’s great years he had only a 57% win ratio. But what can we analyse about winning that is useful to a managerial team and the players? I am going to argue something here that I believe should be critical to all team’s planning. You must, at all costs, beat the teams below you. These boys don't lose often to lower teams To explain, we were beaten by Brentford, Manchester United, Everton, Palace, Brighton, Southampton plus Forest in the cup. Draws – Brighton, Burnley and Palace. Convert them to wins and viola! Equal to City on 93 points. Second on goal difference only. Defeats happen for a reason So why do these defeats happen? The only logical conclusion is complacency and luck determine these defeats. Bad luck, maybe cannot be foreseen, but complacency can. I want to draw your attention to Mr Mourinho, who, regular readers know, I have little time for. He bucked the trend of modern managers of resting players (of which a major proponent was our own Arsene Wenger) in playing his strongest team wherever possible. He wanted to win all and pushed his players to their limits. It meant Chelsea rarely lost to lesser sides and they eclipsed the two giants of the time, Arsenal and Man Utd. I think this aspect he got right. Jose Mourinho -win at all costs I believe dropping top players against lower sides adds to the complacency. The manager is saying we can beat these teams with an unfamiliar side. Players don’t find each other so easily, the rhythm is disrupted and last season we got defeated too often against lower sides. I strongly believe we should treat these matches as the must win ones. We might get beaten by the top sides when playing our best players and last season we were beaten at least once by all the sides above us. We only managed 2 wins against Spurs and Chelsea. But it wouldn’t have mattered at all being beaten all those times as in the scenario outlined above, we would have ended up with 93 points if we had beaten all the lower sides. If changes have to be made, make it against the top sides as we were beaten pretty much every time anyway. We might still get 2 wins out of eight by resting some players. Fire them up against the little teams You need to play your best players, fire them up, get in a motivational speaker to say let’s go out and beat these Palace or Brentford fuckers for all those fans in the stadium who love you. Get the tactics right, get the preparation right as these are the matches that will win you the title. Our players are fired up for the Liverpools and Citys anyway. Wenger regularly rested players This is the bleeding obvious, yes? So why am I saying it? Because managers have been duped into complacency and the necessity to give squad players games. Mourinho never cared about that, only winning. It meant he made enemies and never stayed too long at a club as players start to grumble. As a football manager, you are not there to make friends, your only friends are the players you play all the time. The winners of Chelsea, Lampard, Terry, Drogba, etc., loved Mourinho because he made them winners. They didn’t care about the players who were just backup, made most appearances as subs or whatever. Let them be unhappy. Winning is your job as a football manager and that was probably Wenger’s biggest weakness, despite having, I believe, the best team in Europe, he never won the Champions League. I don’t believe Mourinho would have tolerated Bergkamp’s refusal to fly or arduous driving to matches. Thierry Henry rated Bergkamp as the greatest player he ever played with but we had to do without him in a lot of away matches in Europe. We could have done with him away in Europe Coping with losing is key to winning Last week, I concluded that winning means coping with losing, quickly turning things around and having the ability to pick yourself up off the floor. Plus having a top team around you, both staff and players to bring you back up to the top. Lewis Hamilton had the magical Mercedes team to pick him right back up from defeat. Losing some matches should help you win matches by closing matches out when necessary. The excruciating pain of defeat helps you not to lose. In the optimistic scenario outlined above, we would have been beaten 6 times by Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, and Tottenham and still might have won the league. Winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. Should we learn from Mourinho? What does it mean for this season? I reckon if Mikel Arteta made that one tweak, that the must win matches are the lower sides, played his best side and convinced his players that these are the matches we absolutely have to win, we could be an awful lot closer to the title. Mourinho made his career out of a ruthless focus on winning matches, the League Cup was not a joke trophy to him. He won most finals he contested. Arteta is not Mourinho, you can see he tries to look after all his players and have a relationship with them, He will play mostly second string in the Europa League, The League Cup and the Fa Cup and against some of the lower teams he will rest some players. He is thinking long term and the overall good of the club. Players need games to improve and show their ability. We need to send these home crying Maybe he is right. However, it does mean sacrificing some games to losses. Do we really want to be beaten by Olympiacos at the Emirates? Or Brighton? We must start a new culture that we send the lower teams home crying again and again. Not the ruthless focus of Mourinho where players play second fiddle to winning, perhaps, but a merciless aim to take the victories we deserve. Victoria Concordia Crescit yes, for sure, but only harmony amongst ourselves, we don’t owe the Brightons or the Olympiacos anything else.