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  1. Arteta the rookie. I couldn’t find any rookie managers among the Premier League managers last season, except Arteta. It is a risk no-one seems to want to take. Particularly someone who comes from outside as Arteta did. Yes, he had Arsenal DNA but often the only way a rookie gets a chance is if they are at the club as a player or coach and they try them as interim managers. That rarely works out, though. Liverpool being an exception as Bob Paisley, their most successful manager, was appointed when Bill Shankly resigned and Paisley was first-team coach. They also employed Kenny Dalglish as player-manager who did very well, and Roy Evans who did ok. Would you hire this young boy? But, in general, top teams don’t appoint rookies. Arsenal, in the past, had great success with rookies, George Allison, Bertie Mee, and Tom Whittaker spring to mind but Pat Rice and Freddie Ljungberg are examples of promoting from within that didn’t work out. It is an enormous risk that owners don’t wish to contemplate. The Kroenkes were key Arteta essentially took over from Unai Emery who failed to win over the fans. But for sure he was a top manager and continues to prove that. His weakness seems to be also Arteta’s, dealing with egotistical superstars, but it seems most likely that if he had been given his chance, he would have turned things around, probably by getting rid of the big egos. Stan and Josh - the dynamic duo? But I feel it was the Kroenkes who made the difference. When Arteta came for his first interview, it seems he impressed them, and they felt they could work with him to create something special. But even they couldn’t stretch to a rookie. They weren’t popular at Arsenal and Emery was a proven candidate. I believe they had this nagging feeling that they had got it wrong, this young man with the ideas, the knowledge, the Arsenal DNA, and above all the feeling that this was the guy, which made them feel like I sometimes have when I bought something expensive – I bought the wrong brand or model. So Emery’s collapse to Chelsea in the Europa League final gave them a chance to correct their mistake and bring in Arteta, their man. A big mess at other teams I have had misgivings over the Kroenkes but I think I was wrong. They know sport, and they know big business as it relates to sport, something that most big businessmen don’t. Look at the current mess at Chelsea, Man Utd and Everton, all with lots of trophies in their showrooms. The Kroenkes have been loyal to Arteta and have provided him with what he needs to bring the club back to the top. Josh seems to be there most of the time and from everything I know, he trusts Arteta’s decisions. Farhad Moshiri didn't have a clue at Everton Getting rid of our captain and superstar Aubameyang and moving on Ozil were hard calls and yes, exposed a weakness in Arteta. Ozil, in particular, was not known to be difficult to deal with. But it allowed Arteta to do things his way, with young players ready to listen and improve. The seasoned pros brought in since have not been a problem. Jorginho, Havertz, Trossard, Raya, Rice and others have bought into the Arteta way and the camp seems happy. The plan is working Of course, now, one cannot really refer to Arteta as a rookie. He has garnered a respect throughout football as a top manager which means even top pros will listen to him. Two tight second place finishes in a row against the behemoths of Man City, plus a quarterfinal in the Champions League means he has proven himself. There are only a small handful of jobs in football bigger than Arsenal so he has shot himself to the top at a top club in his first attempt. It has been a bumpy ride so far, with periods of Arteta out ringing around the Emirates, even this season. But the Kroenkes have always remained steadfast. They have a plan and Arteta is a huge part of that plan. I believe that they are using their knowledge to help by bringing in the right people, and keeping Arteta at the club is crucial to their plan. Roman Abramovich didn't like Mourinho's bus driving skills The most successful owner in recent times has been Roman Abramovich but he let Mourinho go when surely what he should have done is create a dynasty with him that could have lasted a long time. Abramovich’s problem was that he didn’t like Mourinho’s football. Parking the bus annoyed him. At all costs, win? This does not seem to be a problem at Arsenal. The football is exciting, swift, and full of deft touches. Progress keeps getting made. However, Arsenal do need to make the next step. Win things. Arteta has grown as a manager and the players have grown as players. Honestly, how many Arsenal fans would swop any of the present team for someone else? And yet, new players will be brought in. The challenge is to get them to fit in quickly and to be sure they are better than what we have. City do it every season and make that aspect look easy. It isn’t. Arteta will be expected to do it. And Edu and the Kroenkes will play a massive part in identifying and being willing to pay for these players. Klopp was burnt out? Win we must, though. Klopp did not win that many trophies at Liverpool but enough to cement his legend as he chased a Man City whose resources seem endless. Now it is Arteta’s turn and he must at least equal Klopp. One league title and one Champions League were his highlights but it seems like Klopp burned himself out in that chase. The Kroenkes know what they are doing? This is where the Kroenkes can really make a difference. Support Arteta as he takes on Goliath. Take away any burdens they can. Honestly, if Arteta does burn out like Klopp, then who is out there? Not many candidates when one club is hoovering up all the trophies. The Kroenkes took on a rookie manager. If it had gone wrong, I am not sure they would have survived. But they got it right. The rookie manager lost the support of some top players. They got that right when they supported him. The rookie manager had many fans screaming Arteta out. They got that right when they said, no, he is in. The pundits were shrieking that Arsenal were bottlers, doing a Totteringham at the finish, but beating the Spuds and Man Utd away and Chelsea at home on the way to winning the last six matches shows that the Kroenkes got that right as well. Gary Neville - Arsenal are bottlers The Kroenke’s got it right in choosing a rookie, something that no top English side has done for a long time, particularly as they were unpopular, and they could have gone for a top name, a Conte or a Mourinho. Maybe it is time to revise our opinion of our Americans. Maybe they do know a little about running a football club after all. Recognising talent is surely a great asset? And recognising unproven talent has proven even better. I hope, but also believe, that great days are coming.
  2. Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current Max Arsenal Man City (a) Villa (h) Spurs (a) 64 94 Liverpool Spurs (h) Villa (a) 64 94 Man City Arsenal (h) Villa (h) Spurs (a) 63 93 Villa Man City (a) Arsenal (a) Liverpool (a) 55 85 Spurs Man City(a) Arsenal (h) Liverpool (a) 53 86 The final ten games approaches This week big changes to the table of doom. Villa have now dropped out as they cannot make the magic 86 posited at the first Table of Doom. I left them in this week for demonstration purposes. Spurs, with one extra game, stay just about alive. If anything changes such as the top teams dropping a lot of points and I need to reinstate any lower teams I will do so. The big change for us Gooners is that a perfect record almost certainly guarantees the league unless goal difference changes with Liverpool. The truth is, though, that a perfect record for any of the top three will win them the title, for sure. Bye bye Villa? We are now at the most critical period for Mikel Arteta, the final ten games. It is here he has shown weakness every year since he started. I wrote about it here and his best ever has been 20 points in 2021. Last years total of 15 points would surely not be enough, although 20 points could be at 84 points, but I doubt it. What is certain is that he needs his best ever final ten games to grab the title. I would love Wenger’s total in 2002 of 30 points. Then we can celebrate like crazy. A yoyo end to the season? All teams have tough games, and I feel they will drop points, but the one with the strongest determination will win. The biggest battlers at the moment look like Liverpool, at times looking second best in matches but finding a way to win. Arsenal need to find that grim determination, to battle out when playing badly, to scrape home even if not deservedly. Of course we may garner enough points by playing beautiful football as we have done in many matches recently, but the world rarely seems to work that way. This would do nicely Sky are hoping for a three way last day finale. Us against Everton at home, City with West Ham at home, and Liverpool at home to Wolves. All look winnable although Everton may possibly be in a relegation scrap and they have a tendency to survive such deprivations. We may also get Chelsea thrown in late in the mix for the cancelled match and that may have a bearing. I hope we are there at the end I have a strong feeling that no one will win too early this season although it could be over before the final series of games. It would be nice to parade the trophy at the Emirates against Everton. If they all get drunk on Saliba’s tequila then they might even give Everton the three points if they need them. I do wish that Arteta would talk to Arsene Wenger about achieving strong finishes as he often did. Listen to the Irishman, Mikel! Let’s talk about cheating… again I want to return to a topic I broached last week about Liverpool vs Forest. Let’s say Kelleher took the ball from Paul Tierney and immediately passed it to Forest. Nobody would have batted an eyelid because it is what you are expected to do. Teams do it all the time. Probably, earlier in the match he would have. They wanted to win so the rules didn’t matter. Is that acceptable? They knew they were cheating and they knew afterwards they had cheated. They have not held up their hands and acknowledged it. They are wrong. If they win the league by 2 points they might say it was worth it. I would never, even if it was Arsenal. Yes it could have been a penalty Klopp, at the weekend berated the ref and VAR for not giving a penalty against Doku for clearing the ball in the penalty area but catching McAllister on the follow through. Now that could easily have been given but as the referee didn’t give it it is hard to say it is a clear and obvious error. These type of things happen in every match but they are not cheating, just fouls that can be difficult to spot. Klopp -cheating is only done against us not by us Diving is cheating, but again there is a difficulty in saying whether it was actually a dive or not, as camera angles may miss slight contacts which pull players down. Short of players admitting it it can be hard to truly say. I am sure players have got penalties aplenty by diving and I am also sure that plenty of players have got cards when they didn’t dive. I am not sure if this area can ever be fully resolved as it is truly difficult to say what happened. The point being that it is the player that cheats, not the whole team as was the case when Liverpool refused to hand over the ball. Handling the ball should be sorted out Let’s talk about handling the ball, this area has become one where accidentally handling the ball can yield a penalty because the rules changed with VAR. Now they can see in most cases if a player handled the ball so the only thing to decide is if there was anything they could do about it. But let’s say the culture was sporting and a player was obliged to call foul on themselves as in golf or snooker, for example, then the process becomes much simpler. The player calls foul and the VAR review. And if the player refuses to call foul no matter where on the pitch it happens, and irrespective of what the decision is from the VAR review, then the team loses a point after the match. His teammates would be livid and such cheating would disappear. Does his foot actually catch him? Backing into players then falling down yourself to get a foul is also cheating but again it is hard to say as a viewer what actually happened. The player has cheated but not the team. I regularly return to the topic of cheating but I am a lone voice. I almost never get a comment in my blog to say that someone agrees with me. But I will never stop talking about it because we are celebrating cheating. Don't celebrate cheating I say again, cheating to win is not winning. There is nothing to celebrate. But there is another point regarding Klopp and that is that you lose any moral right to complain about any decision when you have blatantly cheated yourselves. And if the same thing happened to Klopp he would be screaming about cheating. He has lost the right to complain. The rule is simple in this case, the ball goes back to whoever had it. There is no blind spot, there is no interpretation, there are no cases, such as in diving, where we really don’t know. And it cannot matter that there is almost no time left in a match, so it is ok to break the rules. This is a good rule, one that should be cherished. Liverpool should, even at this late stage, say so. Definite cheating by Toney and I don't want him And yes, I feel all teams cheat. Is there any team that even wins one match cleanly at the moment? The dark arts are even applauded. Why so? There are few areas of life where we applaud cheating but football is one of them. Sport should be about sporting ideals otherwise why call it sport?
  3. The Chase is on Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current Max Liverpool Man City (h) Spurs (h) Villa (a) 57 96 Arsenal Man City (a) Villa (h) Spurs (a) 55 94 Man City Liverpool (a) Arsenal (h) Villa (h) Spurs (h) 53 95 Villa Spurs (a) Man City (a) Arsenal (a) Liverpool (a) 49 88 Spurs Villa (h) Man City(a) Arsenal (h) Liverpool (a) 47 86 And so some changes. Now, if Arsenal win all we will finish above Man City with City dropping two points against Chelsea. The Spuds, with an unexpected loss at home are now about to drop out of the Table of Doom as their maximum is now the magical 86 required to win the league. They also flip-flop with Villa into 5th place. I really cannot see, at this point, anyone other than the top three winning the league. Villa and Spurs would virtually need perfect ends to their seasons and still it may not be enough. Has Ten Hag finally got things right? Man Utd winning leaves us the Champions League as a live contest, though. Brighton and downwards surely have too much to do? United, even with a perfect end to their season are very unlikely to get to the top, but may see 5th as achievable and that may happen if the English teams do well in Europe. All teams have to play big matches between now and the end but United seem to have a particularly tough run-in with Burnley and Sheffield United at home and Palace away the easiest. They will drop points as will Spurs and Villa but the latter two seem to have more about them. Easy peasy Champions League If my Champions League 68 points target is correct we need 13 from 13 and that would be a crushing disappointment to us, but could still get us into the Champions League. If we match exactly our form so far we have 2.2 points per game, which would give us 28.6 points from 13, rounded up to 29 gives us 84 and some chance of being champions. Will any of the top five go Spursy? Villa have an average of 1.96 points per game which makes 25.48 from 13, rounded down gives them 74 and comfortable. The Spuds have 1.88 points per game which gives them 24.44 from 13, rounded down gives them 71 but again comfortable for fifth place I feel. United have 1.76 points per game which gives them 22.88 from 13, rounded up and added to their 44 gives them 67. And, as I have said, they do seem to have a tough run of 13 still to play. The likelihood, to me, is that Man Utd will not make it barring a collapse in one or both of the two above. Hunger is key Will the fact that Arsenal have a comparatively easy run to the Champions League places affect our chase for the title? It depends on how hungry we are. Rice certainly seems to be as hungry a player as I have ever seen. He managed to get a trophy at West Ham which hasn’t happened there in a very long time. The players will all be acutely aware that we handed the title to City last year by playing rubbish towards the end. The pain of that could be the spur that drives us on this year. Is there a question whether we are good enough? I reckon that if we went player for player with City we would come up short but that is because they all have trophies and longer careers in the bag. We are still a young side. Declan Rice seems hungry So who would Guardiola play from Arsenal if he had his pick? Saka for sure, Rice I think and I feel White, Gabriel and Saliba would come into his reckoning. He does have superb creative midfielders so Odegaard may not be a priority. The point with Guardiola is that he always wants the best player in every position, a belief that he shares with George Graham. When he couldn’t get the type of striker he wanted, he played without one. When Haaland became available he grabbed him, knowing that he would have to change tactically to accommodate him. If he felt that Odegaard was better than what he had and he could get him, he would. If we win the league or Champions League this year, our players would then be reckoned to be up there with Pep’s best. May you live in strange times If Klopp goes, Liverpool may find him hard to replace. All that has happened this year has left us in the strangest period I have ever seen since I got into football. I find it very hard to say who will be challenging next season. Man Utd, Chelsea and Newcastle, all with huge resources, are not challenging for the title. Villa and Spurs have stepped up to the task but does that mean they will kick on and be pushing hard next season. City may be sanctioned for all we know, even if they do seem untouchable. City will probably be told to stand in the corner for a day Surely Arsenal should be challenging, though? We are young, we have been playing together for some time and most of our players are on long term contracts. We have a settled backroom team which seems to be united in improving the squad. But it could all go wrong if Arteta takes up a big offer. A new top five and a new winner? I suggested a couple of weeks ago here that there is likely to be big managerial changes in the Premier League by next season and we could be affected. At this moment I can’t feel confident that any of the teams' managers in the current top ten will be there come August and many new managers will surely have an effect on who challenges? Some will be tempted by top sides to switch and some will be fired for having their teams midtable. Seriously, who are your picks for top five next season? Normally it is easy enough, the big teams are simple to choose. I picked Villa for top four at the start of the season precisely because I felt that some of the big boys were misfiring. Now though, if City get sanctioned, Klopp leaves and Emery and Postecoglou get grabbed by top teams, and if Arteta also goes, then next year could be a free for all. Enzo Maresca - An Italian manager has done it before at Leicester It may be time to stick a little bet on an emerging team ready to take advantage of the possible chaos. Leicester, under Enzo Maresca, who has plenty of Man City experience? Lightning could strike twice. 5,000 to one anyone?
  4. Current Premier league managers and their possibility of not being there in August Arsenal Mikel Arteta Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 30% Aston Villa Unai Emery Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 20% Bournemouth Andoni Iraola Likelihood of being fired 15% Likelihood of leaving 30% Brentford Thomas Frank Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 70% Brighton Roberto De Zerbi Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 70% Burnley Vincent Kompany Likelihood of being fired 80% Likelihood of leaving 0% Chelsea Mauricio Pochettino Likelihood of being fired 75% Likelihood of leaving 20% Crystal Palace Roy Hodgson Likelihood of being fired 100% Likelihood of leaving 0% Everton Sean Dyche Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 20% Fulham Marco Silva Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 50% Liverpool Jurgen Klopp Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 85% Luton Rob Edwards Likelihood of being fired 60% Likelihood of leaving 0% Manchester City Pep Guardiola Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 35% Manchester United Erik Ten Hag Likelihood of being fired 80% Likelihood of leaving 10% Newcastle United Eddie Howe Likelihood of being fired 25% Likelihood of leaving 30% Nottingham Forest Nuno Espirito Santo Likelihood of being fired 70% Likelihood of leaving 0% Sheffield United Chris Wilder Likelihood of being fired 95% Likelihood of leaving 0% Tottenham Hotspur Ange Postecoglou Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 10% West Ham David Moyes Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 5% Wolverhampton Wanderers Gary O’Neil Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 40% Go or please stay If the table above is right 11 managers could be gone by the start of next season as they are 50% or more likely to go whether sacked or leaving themselves. I suspect that managerial change will be a huge factor for the Premier league 2024/25. Bizarrely, all could be gone and a complete sea change happens. Jurgen Klopp’s announcement has just followed on from a host of big clubs struggling at the moment and major countries looking for managers with Ireland being the biggest prize of all . If these win La Liga Real Madrid will surely need a manager What it means is that successful managers at small clubs, and De Zerbi, Frank, and Silva spring to mind, are going to be thrown into the mix for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Germany and many others, but crucially, managers at big clubs like Arteta will also be in the frame. I have rated him at 30% to leave. Barcelona will come calling for sure with Xavi on the way out. Will he go? I don’t know, but logic dictates that it is easier to win big trophies there than at Arsenal. Real and Barcelona win most things in Spain and even in Europe. He may feel that he is the right man for the job. He is not short of confidence as he applied for the Arsenal job with no experience. Home is where the esteem lies To be a big man in your own country is always a huge factor. Roy Hodgson made his name abroad but was always looking to prove himself at home, and he was never regarded with the same respect as he was in other countries. Arteta may go, people, and that will only please the Arteta out brigade which, I still feel,is a minority of Gooners. I am not sure who can come in and do better. I want him to stay. Jurgen Klopp - will he really go? You will notice I have put Klopp at 85% to leave. I feel I may even be generous as I reckon they will put huge pressure on him to stay. However, the announcement may lead to a dip in performances and perhaps he will go. He should get Champions league, though, and that is a prize for the Kop this year. Assuming he goes and Alonso comes, as is speculated, it means both Bayern Munich and Leverkusen could be looking for a manager. Pep to Barca? Erik to nowhere? Pep’s position could be anything, the Fair Play sanctions could come into play and they get relegated or even kicked out. A bad end to the season may also happen. Barcelona could be a nice homecoming. If the second outcome happens it leaves a vacancy at City which is still a big draw for an ambitious or established manager. A very bad sanction could leave City unattractive to a big name. Pep- Tiki-taka Barca Erik Ten Hag needs a very strong finish to retain his job. I suspect he won’t and that leaves a position at Man Utd, which is still one of the big achievements to tell your grandchildren. Unai Emery and Ange Postecoglou are the big Premiership names currently in the top five who will assuredly come into the frame for the top positions mentioned above. Surely they will want to go to a great European team whether in the Premiership or not? Is Arsenal a top European team? Probably they are on the cusp but Villa and Spurs are definitely not. Who are certain to go? If Pochettino doesn’t have a strong end to the season he will also be gone leaving a vacancy at Chelsea – still the most successful 21st Century English team, and the merry-go-round continues. Ange Postecoglou - to go to one of the top clubs? If you were to ask me who will go by next August, I would say Klopp, Ten Hag, Pochettino, Kompany, Wilder, Espirito Santo, De Zerbi, Frank and Hodgson are close to certs. If you put down all of them in an accumulator you would make good money. There will be too many top teams looking for managers for De Zerbi and Frank to stay. Silva also must be a target. I feel that David Moyes is the closest to a cert to stay. He won’t be offered a top job and he would need a really bad finish to be fired. Poor Chris Wilder looks doomed I wonder what the odds would be on all change? Retirement money I reckon. It could happen. Go for it! Arteta out and Barcelona in? I will finish on Arsenal and Arteta. He won’t be fired. He will be in the frame for all the top jobs. I am not sure whether he would get more money at Barcelona where he is seen as maybe the best candidate short of Pep coming back? He has been working on a long-term plan at Arsenal, with so many top young players locked into extended contracts that he can create a working dynamic where players play together hypnotically, which could mean he could create the best team in Europe. It leaves the pull of his boyhood team, his home country, and this may be his one chance at it. If Arsenal go a bit backwards now under his stewardship he won’t be a candidate in the future. Roy Hodgson - great foreign days but thrown out this year? I would say he would be tempted. Against is the certainty that only success is what matters at Barcelona. If you don’t win all and quickly your career there will be over. The uncertainty over their finances may also be a factor. I feel he won’t go but I am certain he will be offered it. I think the deciding factor is that he has been allowed to pursue his vision at Arsenal and that will not be the case at Barcelona or any of the other big names mentioned. I could be wrong.
  5. Have yourself a Mikel little Christmas It’s Christmastime and there’s no need to be afraid as Santa Klopp is coming to town. As regular readers know I predicted 2-0 for this fixture here in a repeat of our most famous night at Anfield when we won the title on the last match of the season. That was a very late Christmas present from the Scousers and it would be nice to get an early one this time. Aston Villa will be top if they beat Sheffield United as expected on Friday. So us and the Red Santa Clauses will be fighting it out to jump above them with a win. A draw would see Villa top at Christmas. So we know what we have to do. All we want for Christmas is two (goals) and to rock around the Christmas tree with three points. No, all we want for Christmas is two Can we do it? I say yes. If we play to our best, then I feel our attack will have to much for their defence, which is not as strong as in the past. Our defence is definitely better than last year, down to Declan Rice protecting it and surging forward to take the pressure off and cause problems at the other end. Our advantage is that they have to attack, they are at home and Liverpool do not play defensively anyway. I suspect that this time, though, they will try to do what Aston Villa did, their usual high line, but I cannot see them sitting back in defence at home as much as Villa did. We will get chances, but so will they. We need to take them. Klopp has been no Kris Kringle to us Of course our recent record is not so good against them, of our last ten, they have 5 wins and 3 draws (if you count the Charity Shield as a draw) so they are clearly better. Over our last five we have one win and 2 draws so we have improved. And we all remember the last match, also at Anfield, where we totally outplayed them until Xhaka had a meltdown, and they somehow managed a draw. Rice, who is I suppose Xhaka’s replacement, does not have meltdowns and rarely sees cards. Xhaka was good as a player but Rice definitely seems better in every respect. Under Klopp, Liverpool fans probably feel it is most times they play us So what is our Christmas record against them? As always I delve into our deep history to try to ascertain any patterns. Strangely enough we have rarely played them over Christmas. I am defining Christmas as from December 23rd to January 1st which is generally when most people are off. The Arsenal Santas So the first time was way back on Jan 1st 1894 and they won 2-0 at home in the old second division. We were the Santas. Then 30th December 1905 they won 3-0 again at home and we were becoming Santa plus for them. I suppose we also dropped off a pot of Scouse to them to make sure they had a happy Christmas. On the 27th December 1909 at our home we drew 1-1 to show them we were coming back at them. We were Arsenal and we would show them. Eh, no, we played them a few days later on January 1st at their home and they thrashed us 5-1. We obviously had the wrong name. Our real name should have been the Saint Nicholas Arsenal as we guaranteed them a nice present for Christmas. Oh Arsenal, what are you doing to us? Even Tim Burton saw Liverpool as a nightmare for us On the 30th December 1911 in Scouseland they destroyed us 4-1. Maybe we should really be Santa and his elves Arsenal. They must have wished it could be Christmas everyday. We played them at home the next year on 28th December and drew 1-1. They were never coming to us with presents in their sack, it seems. Mister Chapman is no Father Christmas Ah but 27th December 1927, with our master Herbert Chapman fighting for us we had a nice sweet 2-0 at Anfield. He put down a real marker of what the Arsenal can do. What could you hear, Liverpool? They were Jingle Bells and they were playing for the Arsenal. Herbert Chapman showed us how to win at Christmas On Christmas day 1935, we again beat them at Anfield but with 1-0. We were setting a much better Christmas pattern, we were the ones driving home for Christmas happy. Except the next day, they played us at Highbury and won 2-1. Chris Rea must have been delighted as both teams drove home happy even though he wasn’t born yet. Up and down the Christmas tree But did I mention a shape was forming? We played them in Liverpool on 25th December 1947 and won by 2 goals 3-1. We were now the Anti-Santas for them, nothing for them for being naughty boys. But 2 days later they came to us and won 2-1. A yoyo was becoming both our presents. But on 31st December 1949 they showed us we don’t own Anfield at Christmas as they won 2-0. We never got a chance to show them as they next played us in 1995 at Anfield and won 3-1. Looks like we were back to being Father Christmas Arsenal. A Nightmare at Christmas And in the year 2000, our next time was also at Anfield and it was so lonely for us at Christmas as they hammered us 4-0. Maybe we should stop playing them at Christmas and just send them up 3 points and a pot of Scouse for one and all? Roberto Firmino gave us a horrible nightmare 2 years later 29th December, we were at home and drew 1-1. They were mean Old Nicks to us for sure. 29th December 2018 was a day we all remember with horror as Firmino lashed in a hat trick as they won 5-1 at home. Michael Oliver gave them 2 penalties as well. They sent us home crying for a miserable Christmas, no playing Chris Rea, Santa Klopp kicked us out of town. And the Scouse fans singing once again We wish it could be Christmas every day. We want to go home happy And that was the last time at Christmas. So you can see we owe them. We owe them a juicy 2-0 spanking and let them eat coal for Christmas. I genuinely believe we are the better team. They may be the ones in Santa red on the day and they will deliver like that big fat man 3 points from his sack as we show Jurgen we are not coming from the North to shower gifts, but assassins coming from the South to demonstrate our superiority. 3 points and we are top of the league and it is a Merry Christmas to all Gooners. All we want for Christmas is 2.
  6. On our way to being Champions? Newcastle A Burnley H Brentford A Wolves H Luton A Villa A Brighton H Liverpool A West Ham H Fulham A And so here we are again, trying to figure out where we will be after the next range of matches without knowing what players we will have available, what traumas can happen, and the same for our opponents. One thing we will know is that the transfer season won’t reopen until after our match against Fulham away as that is on December 31st. So, unless something happens to our fixture list and games get postponed, we don’t have to worry about Liverpool or maybe Villa buying Kane, Bellingham and Mbappe and giving us all the jitters. Now, as regular readers know, I generally get to within three points of our final tally and this time was no different. See here for the last one. The good news was I was three points less this time so we gathered 3 extra points courtesy of Man City which I did not predict. Thank you Pep. So we are still on target for the League with 24 points and the nerves I had about Champions league have not resulted in defeats for us. Long may that continue. Tough away matches could be key Of course, looking at the list is always intimidating. The strange thing about the prediction game is that if we lost or drew any of these games individually, even Luton or Burnley, we would not be too shocked as bad results happen every season. We would be shocked if we lost or drew all, though. But Newcastle, Brentford, Villa and Liverpool away are a big challenge. Even our super confident predictors among ASCB would find it hard to put down 4 wins there. But this time, in a change to my usual format I have drawn on my great colleague and editor of this blog, Dani Georgiev, to give his parallel predictions and we will see how we get on. Neither of us saw the others forecast first so we went in blind. The last time I opined that 86 points is the minimum needed to have a chance at winning, being Man Citys lowest winning total. I reckoned that this season could be more competitive with teams taking points off each other bringing down the total points needed. Of course I could be very wrong. But let’s take a look at what we need over the rest of the matches. We have 24 so that leaves 62 over 28 matches, meaning an average of a little more than 2.2 points per game. Frightening, yes? That is the reality and 86 may not be enough. To break that down over these ten matches it means we need almost 23 points to keep us on target. 47 points has to be the aim. Bash the little guys Now, I always emphasise that you must put away the lower teams. That means for sure Burnley, Wolves, Luton, West Ham, and Fulham. That gives us 15 points. Brentford and Brighton? Always tough but I think we need to beat them. It gives us 21 points and that means only 2 needed from the 3 away stinkers. Experience tells us that we will drop points. Experience also tells us that many of them cannot be against the 7 mentioned as lower teams. Put them away crying to the home patches is the safest answer. So can we beat Newcastle away? Only an idiot would feel so but I think we can, on the basis that Eddie Howe’s team have been a bit unpredictable but are certainly playing a more attacking style than last year. That will give us openings. We don’t like a team parking the bus. Newcastle won’t do that at home. Martinelli and Saka will need to be at their best but I fancy an 0-2 for us. 27 points for us. Dani Georgiev has gone for 1-1 and certainly that would be a good result but 25 points. No thumbs up, Eddie Burnley at home? They have had a stinker but such matches can be good for struggling teams. Arsenal away is a relief from pressure. Keep us quiet and sneak something is what they will hope for. They are not expected to win and every team drops some points against the lower ones. But I feel we won’t this time. Arteta and Kompany may be mates but I am going for a nervy 2-1 and 30 points. Dani goes for 4-0 and 28 points. Brentford away? This could be a very difficult match. They don’t get beaten at home and I feel that they won’t here either. 1-1 and 31 points. Dani goes 2-1 to us so we are now equal on 31 points. Why are you so difficult, Thomas? Wolves at home? If they turn up with their fangs bared and we are stuttery this could all go wrong. They have a habit of winning games they are not expected to and this year it is our turn. 1-0 to the Wolves see us drop our heads, lose our unbeaten record and are still on 31 points. Dani cannot see the stutter and he goes 3-1 for us and 34 points as he pulls away from me. Oh, no, eaten by Wolves Luton away? By this time Luton have garnered some points, are playing a bit better but their home advantage works against them as they give us an early goal by trying to win the match. These games are always dangerous because bottom teams are expected to lose. We play rubbish and that early goal is all we manage and it is one nil to the Arsenal. 34 points. Dani sees an easy win 3-0 and 37 points. Villa away and the second stinker. Newcastle was kind but this one is not to be. Unai Emery gives us a headache and they win 3-2. We are still on 34 points. Dani does not see Villa get that extra goal and he sees 2-2 so he pulls away again at 38 points. Unai Emery is a happy man Brighton at home and Robert de Zerbi’s teams are always tough for us. We have not played well for the past 3 games and this one is no exception. We go behind 2-0 and we are looking on in frustration as time ticks away. Until the 80th minute and Havertz the sub scores a lucky one, only his second so far. It lights up our team as Nketiah zips in another. We are rocketing the ball about like crazy and in the 99th minute, yes, it’s true, Havertz scores again. 3-2 and 37 points. Dani predicts 1-1 and drops back a little to me at 39. Havertz has two goals Liverpool away and the previous result helps our confidence as stinker number 3 comes up. Klopp’s boys looking to put us in our place at home over Christmas Their season has been pretty good and they are winning most although not always playing well. Anfield is not a place teams go to win but we have our best performance of the season, playing fast, sharp football and Jurgen wishes he had Martinelli and Saka. They play like demons and he is shellshocked by our two nil to the Arsenal in a repeat of 1989. 40 points. Dani speculates on one nil to the Arsenal and 42 points. Yes, that's the right face, Jurgen West Ham at home over Christmas and they can be a tricky side for us but our boys belief has skyrocketed. Declan Rice runs the show and we end up 1-0 to the Arsenal in a game we dominate. 43 points. Dani sees lots of goals and 3-2 to us. But now 45 points. Finally, Fulham away on the last day of the year. We owe them for the indignity of the draw earlier in the season at home by giving them a nice beating of 4-1. We get 46 points. A little less than we need but puts us in with a chance. Dani sees us winning but a much tougher match and again he loves that one nil to the Arsenal. He finishes up with 48 points which is a little more than we need. Dani, being an optimist, sees the unbeaten run continuing. No, no smiling after your team get hammered, Marco And so I have gone for 2 losses, a draw and the rest wins. 3 out of the 4 really tough away matches yield 7 points and we haven’t done badly despite losing form in the middle. But we now need to pick up an extra point at least in our remaining matches. We can do it, you know? Up the Arse!
  7. Where can we finish? Last try 2023. Arsenal 99 Liverpool(a) Man City(a) Newcastle (a) Brighton(h) Man City 94 Liverpool (h) Brighton (a) Arsenal (h) Man Utd 86 Brighton(a) Newcastle(a) Tottenham(a) Newcastle 83 Man Utd(h) Tottenham(h) Arsenal(h) Brighton 81 Man Utd(h) Tottenham(a) Man City(h) Arsenal(a) Tottenham 79 Brighton(h) Newcastle(a) Man Utd(h) Liverpool (a) Liverpool 78 Man City(a) Arsenal(h) Tottenham(h) The Ladder of doom Every week I will update the table from last week showing where teams can finish if they win all their matches. I will delete the ties above with the current top seven when they are played and I will delete teams when they can no longer catch us. Tottenham drew and are now just above Liverpool. My prediction that the Spuds can get Champions league is now looking rocky. Conte is surely sacked and it is hard to see what they can do now. Let's hope they keep him As always I take on the extraordinary task of predicting all our matches to the end of the season. 10 games against teams playing for something, winning the title, European football or relegation. We also have 2 more London derbies. Points may be hard to come by and a bad spell could happen. I am an optimist, though. This team seems to have learned how to win. They are well drilled and the additions of Jesus, Zinchenko and Jorginho incorporates players who know how to get over the finish line. We have a great chance and are deserved favourites, even though I am sure most football fans feel that City are a monster that can come back at anybody. We play who? Arsenal fixtures: Leeds (h) Liverpool (a) West Ham (a) Southampton (h) Man City (a) Chelsea (h) Newcastle (a) Brighton (h) Notts Forest (a) Wolves (h) Winning against the teams we are expected to beat – Leeds, West Ham, Southampton, Brighton, Forest and Wolves gives us 88 points and if I was right last week that City would get 87 then that would be enough. We absolutely need to beat these teams, send them home crying and get the points in the bag. But let’s take a look at what we have to do. Leads at home. I will be there and surely this is a must win for us. I have a good record at the Emirates and a comfortable 3-0 would make me happy. 72 points and some of the teams above are moving further away. A tough spell starts Liverpool away and they seem to up their games against the good teams. This could be tricky, so, but if we work hard, push them to the limit I can see at least a draw. 1-1 and 73 points. That gives us 97 max but Liverpool only 76. If they drop points at City the previous game they are effectively knocked out of catching us even if they have a barnstorming finish to the season. This is the face we need at the end of the game West Ham away and another London derby. But we seem to specialise in those at the moment so long may it continue. Sometimes we struggle against them but I am hopeful this time. Arteta knows all about David Moyes so I hope we are prepared. I see a 2-1 and 76 points. I suspect at this point up to 3 of the above won’t be able to catch us. Champions League is secured. Southampton at home and I have been at a few of those. We have always won when I was there and I wish that to continue. A nervy 3-1 but the belief is coming for us. 79 points and I reckon only the two Manchesters are left to hit us. The catch-up demons are upon us And next up Man City away. We have been superb away and City always give us chances. A big problem, though, even in this season, has been converting chances. If we do so we can win. I can’t bring myself to predict a win but a 2-2 draw is what I foresee. Assuming City have been perfect up to now they can now get 92 max and we would be on 80. Man Utd might well be out of sight by then so second could be guaranteed. This is the face we need at the end of the season Chelsea at home and I fancy this one. We seem united and they seem disjointed. Probably Graham Potter can make them work, if he gets the chance, but for now they are struggling to put together consistent performances and I feel we can outwork them. 83 points and I am sure Man Utd are gone by this stage. Second achieved. Nuke Hassle? Big Hassle Newcastle away and we all expect a tough game. Eddie Howe has done wonders with them but for certain some of the players are not really top drawer. They will buy in the summer and could challenge next season. I would love us to win but maybe a draw is what we will get. They defend against the big teams even at home and we struggle against defensive minded teams who have quick forwards. 1-1 and 84 points. Eddie Howe will make it difficult Brighton at home and this could be difficult. Our nerves will be jangling as City could well be very close to us at this point. But we need to win this. I would take a lucky 1-0 all day long. 87 points and we have hit what I said last week will be Man City’s final total. There is even a chance that a win here could seal the title. This match is maybe the earliest we can do it in any sort of reality. I would love us to have won it by now That leaves Forest away and if we have won the title then I think the superman effect will be enough to put them away back to Sherwood Forest hiding in the trees. 3-0 in that scenario but if we need this one then the stress might get to us and a 2-1 defeat may leave us needing to beat Wolves at home in the last game. Please attend our last game, Arsene That will be pressure. Can our young guns do it? At home, with Mr Wenger attending, I hope, we take all of the season into our hearts, the good wins, the bad defeats, the scandalous VAR decisions, the draws, the chances missed, Gary Neville and the negative media, and we suddenly find our feet, the football becomes glorious, the movement and the interplay becomes wondrous, and 4-0 sends Man City down into the depths of bleak despair. We need Arteta to be at his best Yes, I am being optimistic, but I believe that this team believes. Players such as Jorginho and Trossard have come in seamlessly. Holding, if he gets an extended chance through injury, should get better every time he plays. The last time he had a long run before he got injured against Man Utd at Old Trafford, he was one of our best players. I hope the same happens again if we need him. Players generally need a run of games to find their form. Those eyes say you believe, Mikel One thing we have going for us is that City have to play lots more matches than us and some very difficult ones if they progress in the Champions League and FA cup. Even Man Utd have the pressure of Europe and the FA cup looming. I think, If we put away the smaller teams we have a great chance. Our biggest danger is a bad spell now. We can afford up to 3 defeats and probably still win the title. We need to be able to bounce back from even a couple of losses and find our game again. I believe, I feel the team believe, and this last ten games could be when we need Arteta the most. He must never stop believing. Listen to me, Mikel, we are Arsenal. We always come back. We can do it. And I will be there at Wolves to celebrate. I believe you won’t let me down.
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