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  1. So who is Alan Smith? Alan Smith was recently announced as our star guest at our 20th anniversary celebrations and I have been asked to contribute an accolade for our programme of the event. This is a shortened version to enable many of you to appreciate who he was and why he is such a big figure for ASCB to capture for this crucial event. Without Alan's goal at Liverpool we would not have won the league He was involved in many years of success and made possible the dethroning of the Monsters Liverpool as Kings of English football. Nowadays it is hard for most of the younger fans to appreciate what Liverpool were, from the mid-1970s to the end of the 1980’s, but they were like the modern Manchester City plus Premium. They won everything, including in Europe, and had global superstars in every position until George Graham’s Arsenal, with Alan Smith as the spearhead and main goalscorer, came to knock them off their perch in 1989 and 1991. Arsenal dethroned Liverpool not Alex Ferguson Arsenal had already done that before Alex Ferguson came along to claim the same when he started to dominate the Premier League. Sorry Alex, that feat was the Arsenal’s and our striker was Alan Smith. He won 8 major trophies with the Arsenal. Let’s hope some of our current players can say the same. And without his goal against Parma we would not have won the European Cup Winners Cup He is 27th on the fans list of greatest Arsenal players but let’s look at his achievements which maybe should have put him higher. He won the Golden Boot twice, both times when George Graham’s team won the league. I argue that those achievements would not be in our history without him. He also scored the first goal in the famous clinching match at Anfield without which Michael Thomas’s goal would have been superfluous. He was also Arsenal’s Player of the Season that year, voted by the fans, so he was well appreciated at the time. Without Alan Smith our trophies would be less He scored the only goal when we won our second European trophy, the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1994, so we owe him that as well. Two titles and a European trophy that may not have been achieved without Alan Smith being our player. We owe him a lot. Excelsior, Alan. The commentator and the footballer with Leicester and Arsenal I saw him playing live a few times, most notably when we played Portsmouth in 1987 and we won 6-0, with Alan notching up his first goals for Arsenal with a hat trick. I was also there for the infamous war at Old Trafford in 1991 when virtually all players got involved in lots of pushing and histrionics. We won 1-0 though and were docked two points. It didn’t stop us winning the league. His book is the most authentic I have read so far A heartbreaking injury took him at his peak Regrettably, his career was abruptly ended at the age of 32 due to a knee complication that failed to heal. This was his first significant injury, and it had a profound impact on him, especially the abrupt separation from the players, the staff, and everyone at Highbury. Suddenly, he was no longer a part of the team; the very thing that had been central to his life vanished, and he had no backup plan. Fortunately, he had a friend in Geoff Shreeves who offered him an opportunity to join the Sky project, which had invented football a couple of years before A commentator, writer and critic par excellence He never looked back after that as he found his new niche, being an integral part of football but no longer a part of what he knew as football, inside the dressingroom. The Daily Telegraph newspaper signed him up as a regular contributor as well. One thing I have noticed from living in Bulgaria is that many fans prefer to watch with English commentary. And of course the computer football games use English commentators, prominent among them Alan Smith. It gives these games authenticity. Alan and Martin Tyler enjoying life commentating for FIFA 12 A major contributor to the multi-layered modern world of football Truth be told, Alan Smith carved out a longer second career than he did his first. He joined quite a long list of Arsenal stars to have their careers curtailed early. His at just 32 years old. He refers to it several times in different sections of his book “Heads Up” and it hit him hard. He had had a career almost injury free and the first real injury knocked him out of football. Sky had only just invented football a couple of years before so the big money had yet to appear. His wife Penny, and his two girls, had an unemployed husband and dad. Geoff Shreeves offer came at just the right time. Alan explaining the complexities of football to Geoff Shreeves Alan Smith is a genuine superstar at the Arsenal, a dapper, very young looking man who has played a huge role in making Arsenal what it is today, but also, through his enduring work as commentator, writer and analyst, a major contributor to the modern day world of football, with its inexhaustible array of perspectives, pundits, technology, and angles which leads to endless debate about areas he or I would never have dreamed possible when we were kids growing up in the '60's. All hail Alan Smith and thanks for everything. Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current points Max Arsenal 83 89 Man City Spurs (a) 82 91 And so Man City have only one of the old top five left to play when I started the Table Of Doom this year in the hapless Spuds. I feel that Spurs have lost their shape and I cannot see them doing us any favours. West Ham have just lost their manager so we only have Fulham, playing for nothing, although Marco Silva may feel a win over City will put him in contention for one of the bigger jobs out there. That is the thread we are hanging onto now. Marco Silva is our only chance left? Yikes! If we beat Man United and Everton we will have 89 points which would have given us the title most seasons since Sky invented football. Those of you who have followed the Table of Doom from the start will know that I posited 86 points as the minimum needed this time. That I got right as I am now certain that less will not get the title. It also probably won’t get the title. I hope at the least though that we beat Man Utd to make for a nervy last day for City. If Arteta manages the two wins he will have got 25 from our last ten matches with the Villa loss and the City draw, a big improvement from his previous efforts. Lose them and he will have 19, one worse than his best in 2021. So the jury is still out on whether Arteta can have the strong finish required to win the league. I believe we can win them and set ourselves up for an exciting finish. And I believe that Arteta will set us up to being Arsenal again. C’mon the Arse!
  2. 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!
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