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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.
The fickleness of football fans AFTV epitomise fickle fans Suppose, as we all expect, Spurs gain 4th and Arsenal fifth this season, then there will be many complaints, moans, and even downright abuse of Arteta, the players and the visible staff like Edu. We will read a mountain of bile directed at Arsenal. But suppose, again, that Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs are involved in some scandal and are demoted. Arsenal get crowned champions then suddenly the fans go wild, cheering their manager, their players, and everything about the Arsenal. We wouldn’t care that we finished fifth, only that we are champions. And so, this week, we will listen to all the sob stories as we lament losing our chance at Champions league, how useless Arteta is, how useless the players are, how we will never qualify for Champions league again, and bla, bla, bla. But suddenly, we beat Everton. Spurs fall down a black hole at Norwich. We are in Champions League. WE ARE IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE! This makes us happy And then the stories change. And so does the song: We’ve got Super Mik Arteta, He knows exactly what we need, Kieran at the back, Gabi in attack, Arsenal on the way to Champions League. Thus it has been since I was a boy, I guess thus it will be after I am long gone. And honestly, having been writing all my life, people don’t want to read measured reasoning about their teams. Generally football fans fall into two camps. Those that are negative and those that are positive. When I was growing up, I had almost no Arsenal fans around me, so I didn’t have the negative ones, and Arsenal overachieved by winning the Fairs cup (Europa League) and then the magical double. Then lots of Irish and successive FA cup finals. And so to me, we were overachieving. And I am mostly naturally positive so probably am mostly in that camp. But I pride myself on trying to be objective, to make a true calculation of where we are, and not one based on the fickleness of fans. Small steps might be wiser A wise member of the Arsenal backroom team here in Bulgaria, Zdravko Talvi, outlined his opinion, that realistically, Europa League would most likely be best for us next term. He made a lot of sense when I thought about it. The team is young, inexperienced, and new young players are coming through that we either let go and may regret doing so like Gnabry, or we have the scope to play them in the Europa League. We probably can’t play them much in the Champions league. The thing is that such reasoned debate is rare in football fans. All they want is victory, no matter how it is achieved. Even in the hypothetical situation outlined above, where the top teams are demoted, we would cheer our great victory. The question is: did we overachieve this season with a minimum fifth? I say yes, we have far too many young players with great potential but not enough experience. Son and Kane are two of the wiliest operators in the league, using every trick to their advantage. Kane knows he doesn’t even get booked no matter what he does, and Son goes down when he feels the wind change direction. Our players need that vital experience. It may surprise younger fans but Patrick Vieira took a long time to stop getting cards all the time. He frustrated us enormously as we saw the great talent but lamented the time spent out suspended. Martin Keown never totally lost his penchant for getting carded but at least we had Steve Bould as cover. I feel, objectively, that that team of Wenger’s and the next one, the Invincibles, were the best team in the world but underachieved because of indiscipline. No team had better players than Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, and the rest. All the way through both teams, we had top players. But we never won Champions League and only 3 Premier Leagues. I reckon we had at least 8-10 years of being the best team in England and a few as the best in Europe. So, bizarrely, we underachieved. Points out a flaw in Wenger, he was superb in assembling a team and getting them to play for him, but ill discipline and a certain lack of tactical nous were probably his weaknesses. Me? I am innocent, ref! The greats underachieved I wonder does he agree with me, that his team should have accomplished more? I would love to ask him. But those were our wonder years, maybe the best spell I will ever see. And so back to the current team. All the teams around us, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd, even West Ham, have lots of scheming old pros, ready to fool a ref all the time, even VAR. Combine that with the Northern preference of the refereeing system and we did have a disadvantage. The only old pro we have that plays all the time, Xhaka, is a target for refs and can never gain any advantage. He will never escape that, I feel, even if he went on a summer camp with Son and Kane. He battered me, ref In that context, with such young players, we have overachieved this season no matter where we finish. Does that make Arteta better than Wenger if we accept my previous assertion? Of course not. A manager is judged on their overall achievements. Arteta has such a young team because he seems to have a problem with experienced players and even some young players like Guendouzi and possibly Saliba. He got rid of, or doesn’t play the experienced ones. That is his flaw, more so than any other. He then needs these young players to grow with him, keep improving and playing for him, and not giving him much trouble. Then we can see if he is any good or not. All managers have flaws, but the best ones make sure that theirs don’t stop them winning things. Trophies are all that matters To underline my point, Manchester United, under Ferguson, were the richest team in the world and certainly in England, yet that did not mean he won everything every season. Far from it. He rarely came close to winning everything. That is an argument that he always underachieved. A manager who underachieves surely is not a great manager, yes? I hope you can see where I am coming from, a manager is judged entirely on trophies. Gain enough and nobody digs too deep to say whether you underachieved or overachieved. Ferguson and Wenger are two of the greatest to have lived, despite my argument that they both underachieved. And so you can see the fickleness of fans. If Arteta gets us into Champions league, due to a St Totteringhams day, or due to a crazy scandal that demotes 4 teams down the league, or even if Chelsea alone get demoted for some Russian reason, he will be deemed for the moment to be a great manager. I believe it is fair to say that he overachieved this season no matter what, 4th or 5th, and I also believe that it is fair to say that a manager who overachieves deserves plaudits. But the sniping will continue with 5th. The achievement of a trophy, the mythical 4th spot, no matter how it is done fair or foul is the definition. A Russian scandal demotes Chelsea? Shout louder so everyone will hear you The problem with the fickleness of a lot of fans, and I have no idea if they are in the majority or just shout louder so we think they might be, is that the negativity doesn’t help their team. Personal abuse of the managers, players and staff doesn’t help. I hope this piece has underlined for you how difficult it is to even decide if your manager and team have overachieved or not, but one thing I am certain about, it is the attitude, epitomised by our own Zdravko Talvi, that what fans should really care about is the long term welfare of the team, and in that context, EL may be better than CL. I believe our young players will prove the knockers wrong