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Erling Haaland is the difference Those of you with long memories may remember this blog at the start of the last season when I asked could we win the Premier League and did so by comparing City’s likely top 11 against Arsenal’s. I struggled to put any of Arsenal above a City player but I gave a draw between Jesus and Haaland on the basis that Jesus is proven in the PL and Haaland might not succeed as greats have not before him, one notable such was Andriy Shevchenko, who I believed was going to make Chelsea unstoppable. I also said that this was probably going to make me look foolish as I expected Haaland to shine. He did, in an unbelievable way. Pep, the Spanish guardian of the Viking god So, honestly, have you ever seen a better striker? I can’t think of any and I have been watching football for a long time. He had 52 in all competitions last season in 53 matches. Arsenal had 103 in 49 matches. So one guy gets more than half of all our players? He has 8 goals from 9 appearances so far. We have 15 from 8. So he is still scoring more than half our goals already? City get the Viking God, not Arsenal If he stays fit, I think he may be the main reason that City do extraordinarily well again, leaving the lesser teams to pick up the scraps. The fact that City changed their style of play to suit this machine tells you everything about him. Now, it seems he wanted to come to Arsenal, and Odegaard was pushing for this but he elected to go to City and nobody could blame him. Barring City getting punished for irregularities, he will win lots of trophies and Arsenal will struggle to get the big ones. Sterling's record to go? I want to put him into Arsenal terms. He has 62 goals for City already. Many big Arsenal names have fewer for us. Kanu has 44, Wiltord 49, John Radford and Kevin Campbell 53, Fabregas has 57. They all played for many years for us. If Haaland gets 53 again he will jump up into 6th place above Olivier Giroud on 105. He was the fastest to 50 goal contributions since they started tracking such things. If he gets similar figures for next season 2024/5 he will be pushing Ian Wright’s record. It is incredible. Bye bye Sterling’s record? Of course it may not happen. He may lose form, get injured, lose confidence, in fact anything could go wrong, but I have a feeling that this guy will keep pumping in the goals. For City, most probably. If he does manage 50 plus he will jump up into 3rd on City’s all time list behind Raheem Sterling on 131 and Sergio Aguerro on 260. Aguerro’s is a good target but Sterling’s certainly isn’t. 500 for Haaland, why not? Would he have scored so many for Arsenal? I don’t see why not, but Arteta would have to be humble enough to be willing to change Arsenal’s style of play to accommodate him. Pep, the modern day genius did. The point about Haaland is that he doesn’t get many touches. He makes many runs, often into great positions but regularly doesn’t get the ball. And so he is the epitome of the old commentators cry, “He did nothing in the game except score a hat trick.” Arteta too much of a purist for Haaland? Arteta seems to prize hard work above all else, and a guy who doesn’t seem to do much except score may be a big ask for him. A long ball aimed at De Bruyne and Haaland may feel a bit Sam Allardyce to Arteta. Plus Pep has the assurance of a guy who has won big trophies at big clubs. Arteta is having his first go. He may have felt it was too large a risk with the ball to go long. I guess we will never know. Would Arteta have controlled him or unleashed him like Pep Nobody else among the top teams play like City do now. Yes, City have a strong pressing game aimed at getting the ball back quickly as do all the major teams but Pep is willing to lose it by directing all efforts ultimately at the Norwegian. All their players know that this guy is unique. He will win trophies for them. They will get caps and acclaim as winners. Is there anyone for us out there? Despite all the goals and the big transfer fee allied to the incredible hype, he seems a very likable person. I reckon he would have loved Arteta’s Arsenal as Odegaard worked his De Bruyne magic for him. I think Haaland would have been the missing link, the goalscorer that we have been waiting for since Henry. Although Henry could score by himself and that is not really Haaland’s forte. Henry could get us the win. Haaland is getting them the win. And there is one big advantage of the long ball, so beloved of all the underdogs everywhere, you can keep your players back, ready to fight if the ball is lost. Ivan Toney the Wright guy? I do not see any one else out there in the Premier League who might come to us. Ivan Toney is being promulgated but, while he will bring a physicality and a target to all our incredibly talented suppliers, I am not really convinced of his class. Ivan Toney - can we take a bet on him? But he does seem the best option there is. I feel he would score for us. He could supply enough of them to give City a very hard time and, if he blooms totally by being surrounded by Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Trossard, Jesus, etc., and knocking in 30 plus a season then City had better beware. Ian could always score for us We are scoring lots of goals at the moment without our strikers knocking in too many. What would we be like with a striker who would score lots of goals? I suspect it is the missing link. We didn’t get Haaland but we need to get as close as possible to the next best thing. Maybe Toney is that. If he turns out to be an Arsenal player not a Brentford one, January could be interesting yet. Another gear in our car would be very nice at that point. And hey, Ian Wright was 27 when he joined us and scoring for a lower London team when he came, same as Toney now. Could he be our new Ian Wright Wright Wright?
Can we win the league? Man City Guardiola Manager Possible strongest 11 Ederson Walker Laporte Dias Cancelo Rodri Gundogan Silva De Bruyne Haaland Mahrez Arsenal Arteta manager Possible strongest 11 Ramsdale Tierney Gabriel Saliba/White Tomiyasu Partey Xhaka Odegaard Zinchenko/Vieira/Smith Rowe/Martinelli Jesus Saka Are Arsenal better than Manchester City? And so where are we? Can we compete? I have decided this week to check us out against the champions. Does it look good? Well, before I get to that I have to make a disclaimer that you never really know until a few weeks into a season what the line-ups are. I have had a go at guessing both Arsenal’s and Man City's top 11. I could easily be proven wrong as players pop up every season but I am going on what I know so far. It is surely something like what I am saying. City won't play worse players than these, for sure. Let’s start with Guardiola vs Arteta. Easily Guardiola, he has won everything. Maybe Arteta, over time, can prove to be better, but it will be an extraordinary achievement. One nil to the City boys. Their defence is better Goalkeepers? Ederson is the pick over Ramsdale but at least that competition could swing Ramsdale’s way in the future. He is very good. But few would make that case at the moment. Or would you? Two nil to the Citizens for me. Left back? Tierney vs Cancelo. Cancelo made the Premier league team of 2021-22 and could be the best in his position whereas we don’t know if Tierney is going to start. He could be a great but he badly needs to get over his injury problems as he is such a good player but three nil to the Blues. Right back? Kyle Walker vs Tomiyasu or maybe Ben White. I have to give it to Walker again although this is a bit harder to choose. Cancelo also plays right back as City’s defence is so strong so he would also be better at the moment than any of ours. Four nil to the Blue Mooners and it is all going wrong for us. Kevin Campbell says these are the future Centrebacks? Oh no, not Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte? I’m sorry I don’t think so. I don’t see how you could put Gabriel, White or Saliba in front of these two who were in the best Premier league team of 2021-22. Two goals in quick succession from the Man City boys and we are already almost beaten at half time. Six nil to the Sky blues. But these guys are superb Their midfield is better Holding midfielder? Thomas Partey vs Rodri. Honestly, I can’t put Partey in front of the sublime Rodri. Maybe if he stayed fit and reached his full potential it is possible but I defy any Arsenal fan to say Partey here and now. Nightmare as we go seven nil behind to the Etihaders and now we are beaten. Defensive midfielder? Ilkay Gundogan vs Granit Xhaka. Why did I start this exercise? I must like punishing myself. Xhaka is a better player than some of our fans like to admit but he is also a liability, liable to get sent off or give away a penalty. Gundogan is superb and don’t see any genuine contest here either now or in the future. Are we really eight nil behind the Shark Team? Attacking midfielder? Bernardo Silva vs Martin Odegaard. It is a bit more even but 13 goals for Silva, 50 games and Premier league team of the season. Can anyone help me out here? Give me a reason to put Odegaard in front? OMG – nine nil to the Blue boys. Zinchenko better than De Bruyne? Does anyone really think so? Attacking midfielder? Did I say nightmare? This is a zombie apocalypse vampire nightmare. Kevin De Bruyne? Up next, Let’s go home now, crying all the way. I am not sure who will be playing there or even where De Bruyne will be playing but surely not as a false nine with Haaland there now, but it doesn’t matter as none of Vieira, Zinchenko or Smith Rowe can match up to the master. Ten nil to the Gallaghers. Can we match their forwards? Can he set the league alight? Centreforward? Haaland vs Jesus. Maybe, if Haaland struggles with Premier League and Jesus shines like crazy. But both are a bit unproven as Guardiola didn’t really trust Jesus as a nine, often playing De Bruyne as a false nine instead. I have to respect everything Guardiola has achieved but I am going to be generous to us and give Jesus a draw here. I may look very stupid this season but hey, I am used to that. Still ten nil to the Blue side of Manchester. Magic, magic, magic is what we want, boys Winger? Saka vs Mahrez. 24 goals in 47 games for Mahrez against 12 in 43 for Saka last season. Mahrez has won everything but I would love to give it to Saka. I am not sure I would be honest to do so, though. In the future maybe he can overtake him and that would be a great achievement. But eleven nil to the Champions, the irresistible Blue Shark Citizens. Not many players better than this boy Mahrez Judging player by player doesn't win championships - confidence, form and a winning mentality does. Depressing? Yes. It shows what we need. We have potential, they have proven players. Maybe Haaland won’t make it but in all honesty, I expect him to light up the Premier league and score lots of goals. I didn’t include Foden, Grealish and others who will surely get many games but those two for sure would be strong competition for our best players. I asked a question at the start and the answer has to be no, judging by the players we are up against. I could do the same against Liverpool and get another bad result I suspect. We are probably close to City in some positions but definitely behind in others. We need our players to step up, to play without fear, and take the game to the opposition. We need a bit of luck, we need momentum, and a good consistent start. Crystal Palace haven’t liked doing us favours in recent years and we need to change that. Let Patrick win other matches, not ours. Then Leicester, Bournemouth, Fulham and Villa for August. Maximum points and we are ready to frighten them all, maybe even Guardiola and his supremos. Forget the depression, Gus, Arsenal are the greatest football team!