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  1. True shocks don’t happen in elite sports Was this really a shock? Home Away Key: Arsenal 1969-1970 Arsenal 1970-1971 Leicester 2014-201 Leicester 2015-2016 Arsenal 2021-2022 Man City 2021-2022 Sometimes in life, amazing things happen and we say wow! In elite sports they don’t, not really. You have to be top class to win. Leicester, in 2015-16, bought extremely well that season. N’Golo Kante, Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth and Shinji Okazaki came in to great effect. Also Jamie Vardy proved himself to be top class as did a young Rihad Mahrez. Kasper Schmeichel finally showed himself a worthy successor to his father. Sometimes goalkeepers bloom late. Leicester proved the launching pad for great players and with the big guns having a bad season, romped to the title. It was a surprise but not amazing. They had several players capable of gracing any teams. We just didn’t know how good they were until that season. Selling key players proved their undoing as did the demands of European football but they remained a far better team than in the past. The teams are always good Now, I know what you are saying, Gus, this is an Arsenal column, what’s all this guff about Leicester? Well read on, I will try to underline some areas which I have seen in my lifetime and how shocks come about. But also emphasise that in elite sports they are not such big shocks after all. And so let’s go back through the mists of time to my first row, Arsenal in 1969-1970. We were poor and finished 12th. We won a total of 15 matches out of 42 and we finished 12th. But we drew 18! So you can see how we could have chalked up many more wins. We only drew 7 the next season and won 29 times to win the title. We had top top players The difference between us and Leicester was that we did it with more or less the same set of players. I believe that the massive confidence boost of winning the Fairs Cup (Europa League) in 1970 got the players to feel tall. A mostly English squad had players overlooked for England because of the star names in front of them, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, Terry Cooper, Geoff Hurst, Alan Ball and others stopped Bob Wilson (later declared for Scotland), Peter Simpson, John Radford, Ray Kennedy, Charlie George and Geordie Armstrong and others from getting more caps. They were only at best a shade behind the superstar names. They were bloody good players. We should not have been 12th. And so we proved as we won the double the next season. But we definitely played above ourselves as did Leicester. Leicester got a massive boost by going out in front and gaining confidence all the time as the other teams forgot they had to finish above Leicester to win the title. We never do things easy We had to do things the hard way as we didn’t get off to a flyer, drawing our first 2 but we had several good runs and we kept in touch with the top, finally beating the Spuds away in our last game to climb the mountain. Look at this list of names Nottingham Forest came up from the second division in 1977 to win the title the next year, which is even better than Leicester or us but they had the incomparable Brian Clough and amazing players such as Martin O’Neill, Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, Archie Gemmill, John Robertson, Peter Withe, Tony Woodcock and plenty of others. Truly that quality of players made it no shock. Again we may not have known it at the time but those players had great careers. Can we provide an upset? And so to now and Arsenal. My second last row is us last season. 13 losses! But would it be a huge shock if we won the league? No, it wouldn’t. We have added some players who are proven winners. All our young players are a year older, they know that the only thing that matters is not to give up as we did against Man City, Liverpool and the Spuds as examples that come to mind. And not to lose concentration like against Everton and Palace. Will this guy be a world great? It would, of course, be a surprise. The final row shows what we have to do. The gulf between us and City is enormous, you just have to look at those stats to see what I mean. What we need is simple, for the ultimate blossoming of our young talents unto a level that means greatness. For the team to gel, to battle, to be consistent. Man City lost 3 matches, Liverpool 2. That’s what we need. I have said many times in this column, the only currency that Arteta can trade in is, not bitcoin, not dollars, but wins. And this guy? The right shock The question is, do we have players like Kante and Mahrez, and yes, Vardy, who stepped up to become leading players of their generation? I hope so. Bad teams don’t win the league and there are no true shocks in elite sports. I will be happy with a nice surprise and a red team from North London sitting on top of all the others. I will not be happy if we don’t improve on last season. That will be a shock I don’t want to see. And I want to see us beat Leicester next game. Surely at home, with key players gone, they can't cause an upset? Up the Arsenal! Especially this guy?
  2. A Magical 61 points? So, will we have one more day of hope after Wednesday?. First, we must beat Palace and that has proved tricky in recent seasons. Then we must beat Brighton to get the magic 61 points. They have also been difficult for us as has Graeme Potter. We absolutely need 61 points to have a hope. Everton look the most vulnerable as they can win and draw and we finish above them. They are only one point above us. They have to win both matches if we do. They have Wolves which they must win, and, finally, Man City away. City will not want to lose on their last day at home. There is some chance we can finish 8th, even without winning our last 2. However, that will not get us Europe. What will? We need Spurs and West Ham to drop points. If they both win on Wednesday we are out. Let’s take the Spuds first. They are on 59 points but a far superior goal difference. They have Villa at home and Leicester away. Even 2 draws is enough for them as we would need to make up 11 goals in the 2 matches. We haven’t been scoring at that level for a long time. We need Spurs to only get one point from these 2 matches, so, and it is possible but unlikely. They are the Totteringham specialists, though, so you never know. Do the Arse a favour and only get a point from your last 2 matches, thank you very much, Mr Levy. C'mon, Dan, you can do it for us, you are an expert at it. And Magically into Europe? West Ham also have 59 points. They play West Brom away and Southampton at home. This time we can allow them 2 draws as our goal difference is much better. It is possible, I suppose. Certainly a defeat against Sam Allardyce could happen as he would want to teach his old club a lesson. And then Saints? You never know. West Ham are not firing fully right at the moment so they could drop points. If they both flounder we go 6th and straight into Europa League. If one does then we go 7th and Europa Conference. Of course, assuming Everton doesn’t get 6 points but I am pretty certain they won’t. Make us smile, Sam. So, can we do it? Beat Palace and Brighton? Yes, we can. However, like most fans, I don’t have that much confidence after the season we have had. Do it, and we will finish 8th minimum, and that is an upgrade on last year in points but not position. Arteta, and the Kroenkes (OUT) can claim improvement. If it gets us 6th, they can definitely claim improvement. Also 7th but for me, this conference doesn’t seem attractive. It might be better to have plenty of weekdays free to concentrate on the League than travelling to the backend of nowhere. Less matches might be better for the young kids. A Dead Man Walking Of course, if we get very little from these 2 matches we will finish worse than the 8th place of last year. What then? Certainly better ammunition for the Kroenke out movement. And Arteta? I doubt if he will be fired but he will totally need a flying start to next season or he is a dead man walking, like Bertie Mee all those years ago, and Terry Neill, also a long time ago. He won’t get anywhere near as long as either of those. Wins are his only currency from now on. For me, his biggest weakness, and that of Emery, is his reluctance to have a settled team, partnerships that work, players that know each other. Look at Smith Rowe and Saka. They find each other. They strengthen each other. Wenger believed in a settled team, so did George Graham. They didn’t do too badly, did they? And can I mention Leicester? Rodgers has a team that play for each other and we all pretty much know what he feels is his strongest team. Even Tuchel does the same, plays his preferred players in the big matches. They are showing us the way For me, it would be develop the kids. Keep a spine of experienced players, but give these lads a chance. Fans keep saying buy, buy, buy, and I say why? Are they better than Willock, Maitland Niles, Reiss Nelson, Saliba, Balogun, Nketiah, and others? Then why buy? Only if they improve the team should we buy. Otherwise we are just bringing in players, interrupting the flow of understanding, constantly saying they need time to adjust to the Premier League and, critically, not improving. The young players already there know all about English football and what is required. Top players like Pepe and Partey have struggled. All I am saying is “Give youth a chance”, and next year I might be writing at the same stage that we have a good chance of Champions League. Up the Arsenal and Kroenke out.
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