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Found 9 results

  1. Is the Wenger era finally over? Granit Xhaka Eddie Nketiah Rob Holding Mohammed El Neny Reiss Nelson This great man's story is all over Arsenal Why am I going to write about these 5 players? Because they are the only 5 full squad members left from Arsene Wenger’s time in 2018. That leaves Granit Xhaka as the only certain starter from that era. Nketiah might finally make it and even Reiss Nelson is possible, but neither are sure of anything at this stage. One player for Wenger then. Is that a testament to how Wenger had fallen behind in his ability to run the team? In less than 5 years his team is gone. Hardly any considered good enough to get a start. That is sad but maybe it is the reality. And probably up to a year or so ago, a lot of fans didn’t rate Xhaka. He was out the door, bags packed, when Arteta came. Arteta said, “hey Jack, where are you going? Come back here and play for the Arsenal!” One of Arteta’s best moves, he may even get our player of the season this year with a strong finish. Are the current squad Arsene style players? Probably not. He liked to have a sprinkling of pure skill players like Pires and Ozil who couldn’t tackle or defend. In the Champions league final against Barcelona when Lehmann got sent off, he chose to take off Pires rather than Ljungberg on the basis that with ten men he needed someone who could defend. Pires never really forgave him. Wenger also liked players to play without too many instructions, trusting them to know what to do. This led to accusations that he wasn’t great tactically. Arteta is, by contrast, mad about tactics. Players have specific roles and guidelines under Arteta, they must work extremely hard, fill any holes, and do what they are told. Setpieces are seen as a way to win and are given high priority. 1. Granit Xhaka: The comeback kid After the impossible comeback, can he achieve the possible? So where now for these players? Let’s start with the only sure starter, Mr Xhaka. He is 30 and could be there until he catches up with his number and maybe beyond. He could maybe have 500+ appearances for Arsenal before he finishes. He can play fullback, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder. He plays for the team at all times, you never see him playing only for himself. Now that he has abandoned his penchant for cards and has limited his mistakes, it seems impossible to drop him. He will be hoping that he can add to the 3 trophies picked up so far. A Wenger yes, so. 2. Eddie Nketiah: Will goals be enough? Eddie - young enough to break Henry's record Eddie Nketiah? I feel that it is going to be hard to displace Jesus no matter what he does. He has bulked up, he has improved all the time and he could surely have a great career, but will it be at Arsenal? It is hard to say. He is giving Arteta the best possible headache, though, as he has made Jesus’s injury almost irrelevant, not something Arsenal’s fans thought when Jesus left the World Cup. Jesus will have to fight for his place back, for sure, but I feel he may well get it. And I suppose Eddie will then have to leave for the sake of his career. A Wenger maybe, I think. 3. Rob Holding: Holding on for dear life A move down the table seems likely Rob Holding? He seems to have settled for his role as bit player. At 27 he is still young but he has only 153 total appearances for Arsenal, around 21 a year over 7 seasons. Few fans see him as getting a first choice position so will he stay? You never know, particularly if Arsenal become a winning machine. 20 games a season with trophies might seem better than 45 at the likes of Leeds or Southampton. But if we get one more great defender he may not even get those 20 appearances even with 5 subs allowed. I suspect he will move on or be moved on in the summer as I expect us to be in the market for a top defender. A Wenger no, I reckon. 4. Reiss Nelson: He could be anything Close to make or break for Reiss Reiss Nelson? An enigma. Over 6 seasons at Arsenal he has only played 25 league games and 55 in total. Now, Arteta has made many statements about him, always positive, and he has done well in some matches when given a chance but 6 goals does not seem to indicate that he will make the step up. Amazingly still only 23, so it is hard to truly speak with confidence but, honestly he needs an injury to a top player and to come in and do an Nketiah, give Arteta a major headache. I like him and his attitude. I feel he will have a successful career but I doubt it will be at Arsenal. A Wenger no? Probably. 5. Mohamed Elneny: I am there to do a job for Arsenal Our most faithful and reliable servant And now the last. The wonderful Mo Elneny. He has made it clear he wants to stay and be a bit player. I feel Arteta will accept that. He is Mr Arsenal, always reliable, occasionally scores a great goal and sometimes bosses midfield. 90 plus caps for Egypt and major trophies for them. 3 trophies for us so far and I hope many more to come. I feel Arteta would have to be soft in the head to let him go as he can play a few positions, runs hard, has a lot of experience and always plays for the team. Only 5 league appearances this year but surely more to come if he recovers and only 5 needed anyway for a league medal if we manage it. Seemingly a great character to have in the dressing room. I don’t see Arteta letting him go. A Wenger yes, then. Is the Arteta era truly about to start? King of tactics, fan involvement, and players 5 players left from the great man’s time, but only 2 might be left over the next year or two. The feeling is that Arteta will continue with his vision, make Arsenal one of Europe’s feared sides again. It will be his side, with an unmistakable Arteta stamp on it just as Arsene Wenger’s sides always had his imprimatur. He doesn’t seem to have quite inherited Arsene’s way with players as virtually all seemed to love him, but once all players are his, then I feel they will run through brick walls for him. And his ability to work with tactics is surely a big plus? The one argument against Wenger, a lack of tactical nous, cannot be levelled at Arteta. The only question now is, is Arteta good enough? I truly feel he is. To me, all our great managers were Arsenal through and through. Arteta is that. I believe in him.
  2. Moyes Ghost I am Arsenal. All Arsenal from early days to now. I am walking to my normal entrance in the Emirates on Christmas eve. It is dark, it is cold, but I need to make sure that we are ready for West Ham on the 26th. I can feel, all around me, a grim chill enveloping me. There are murky shadows everywhere. But I dismiss such foolishness from my head as I apply my key card to the door. Suddenly, it pours red blood down its white facade, and a head that seems familiar to me then forms from the blood and screams at me. It looks like David Moyes. The door opens and it all goes calm. I am shaken but I feel my imagination is running away from me. I go inside to my office but there is a distinct frost in the air. The heating mustn’t be working I say to myself. Anyway, I have work to do so I set about my tasks. I do have an electric heater that looks like a real fire so I put that on and pour myself a nice drop of rum. The world starts looking like a better place. It is Arsenal and I am home. Was it him??????? I am not sure how long after that the real strangeness happened but I seemed to be asleep with the drowsiness induced by the dark liquid. I heard loud knocking coming from all sides and the room started shaking. The door flung open and it was Harry Bradshaw, our first successful manager, but he looked like a zombie. “Harry, is it you?” Harry Bradshaw 1899 - 1904 “Of course it’s me. I need you to understand what it is to be Arsenal. You must listen to me. Tonight, you will be visited by 3 spectres, the first at midnight, and then at one and then two. You must take strong note of what they show you, and finally, you must take action to bring us back to being Arsenal, the most feared team in the land.” The First of the 3 spectres Then he disappeared. I looked at the empty bottle of rum on the ground and laughed. Look at the damage you have caused me, giving me nightmares. 3 spectres, indeed. I retired to my bed up high near the boardroom to get the rest I need. Sleep came quick. Slumber was delicious until my grandfather clock tolled way louder than ever before, a noise like being inside a huge church bell. Herbert Chapman, smiling, came out of the FA cup of 1930. He looked like he used to, dapper, but with those intense eyes which commanded respect. I immediately embraced him for I always loved him. He made Arsenal great. “You have something to show me, Herbert? You are the spectre?” “Yes, I have many things to remind you of. Let us away.” Herbert Chapman 1925 - 1934 He took me by the hand as we flew through the air. I recognised where we were going. Upton Park. It was surely in his time as all the crowd were wearing cloth caps and virtually everyone was standing. We sat down in the dugout. The match started. I was getting a dreadful sense of déjà vu. It was confirmed when James Ruffell scored for West Ham. I will never forget this game. And now it was played out horribly again in front of me. Goal after goal were fired in including a hattrick from Victor Watson and two own goals from us. 7-0, to West Ham, of all teams. 7th March 1927 will always be etched on my memory. A ghoulish day at this place “Why, Herbert, why are you showing me this?” And then a terrible fear caught hold. “Is this going to happen on the 26th? Oh sweet Jesus, not that.” The second of the 3 spectres I started shaking uncontrollably. My mind was spinning. Then the whole world started whirling. Suddenly, I was back in my bed. It was a dream. I must stop drinking rum. Sleep came with ease, though, as I settled down under the duvet. For how long? Not long as at one it sounded like I was inside the grandfather clock again. Clanging so hard I thought I would go crazy. Then it stopped. George Allison popped out of the 1936 FA Cup. Now, George was a great manager, totally underrated. 2 league triumphs and an FA Cup. But this time I was afraid. What could he show me? George Allison 1934 - 1947 He took me across London again. I remember this day. It was the Fa Cup on the 5th January 1946. The cloth capped men on the terraces. The memory of the war still fresh in everyone’s minds. I inwardly screamed as all of West Ham’s six goals went in without reply. I can never forget that day. “West Ham! West Ham are the demons that are going to derail our title dream. Please tell me, George, tell me that’s not the case?” But he just smiled and turned away, as my mind was spinning again. I fell into a vortex, out of control, until I landed in my bed. Bad news on my doorstep again. I am being warned. 2 of our great managers got hammered by the Hammers. Arteta must be warned. This is a big match. But then I realised that there was still one more spectre to go. But surely I know the message? West Ham gave 2 of our worst defeats to 2 of our greatest managers. What more do I need to see? I couldn’t sleep, and was tossing and turning but somehow I dozed only to be thrown back inside the insidious bells of the grandfather clock. The noise was frightening, all encompassing, ethereal. Then it all stopped. The last of the 3 spectres A scary ride to Highbury Arsene Wenger climbed out of the 1998 FA Cup. I was never so glad to see anyone. Arsene knows. That’s all I can say. He made us into the modern day club we are. He was a mentor to Mikel Arteta. He will show me what to say to Mikel to stop this nonsense. I gladly took his hand as we flew. It wasn’t very far. To my beloved Highbury, in fact. It was West Ham again. I could remember this day, too, 1st Feb 2006. Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora rifled in 2 goals before Thierry Henry got one back. Matthew Etherington made it 3-1 and then Robert Pires got another towards the end. 3-2. A horrendous day. Ok, I get it, West Ham can still be dangerous at home. We must prepare. But Wenger wasn’t done. He then brought me to Upton Park again. It was the next time we played the Hammers. Nov 5th. Another bad day as they scored a very late goal by Marlon Harewood and 1-0 it finished. But it still wasn’t over. He took me back across London to our shiny new Emirates stadium. It was our next match against the bubble blowing Irons on the 7th April 2007. Arsène Wenger 1996-2018 Bobby Zamora scored on 45 to make it a miserable day for us. We couldn’t score. 3 times in a row Arsene Wenger was beaten by them. I had almost forgotten that, an indignity that even the best teams couldn’t manage. I was in despair. Surely this meant that it is all about to go wrong. I gladly threw myself into the vortex knowing that I would get back to my bed. West Ham are the harbingers of doom! My great dream of getting back to being Arsenal is over. No more sending teams home crying. Woe is me, I sobbed. The end of it Things were no better in the morning. Desperation was etched in my face as I looked at my mirror. What are we going to do? I could hear a noise coming from outside so I looked out my window. It was Mikel Arteta going towards the entrance. He was smiling, in huge contrast to my black tear stained eyes and the wretched look upon my face. “Hey, big boss Arsenal, what’s up? You look terrible.” “I have a bad feeling about this game. West Ham have done terrible things to our managers in the past.” Mikel looked serious for a second. But he had a confident look on his face. “I have done all the preparation. The players know what to expect. I know exactly how David Moyes brain works. I have worked out how to get the tactics right. We are ready. We will continue our fight towards the title. Don’t worry, Arsenal, this Christmas West Ham will be good to us. “ After we Hammer the Hammers “And we will give you the money you need, Mikel. We may have have been stingy in the past but buy the best. We have loads of money. No words have ever made me happier. I hope to Dickens he is right. And God bless us one and all.
  3. The new Matt Busby? Matt Busby - The Kids and the glamour Ah, there was a great buzz around London in the swinging Sixties, but it didn’t buzz around Arsenal. It did around Matt Busby and Manchester United. It was our first dry decade since we burst on the scene in the 1930’s under Herbert Chapman. Manchester United and Liverpool had both won titles before us so we gave them a head start. We never managed to catch them up. Can we? Certainly not easily, but with both teams up for sale, maybe they can stay still for a while, while we jumpstart a great period under Mikel Arteta. Our great years came under extraordinarily innovative managers who transformed football, Chapman and Wenger. Few clubs worldwide, even the huge ones, have had managers that brought about the changes they did. George Graham, who achieved wonders on the football pitch, didn’t really have an overall vision about football or the club, other than achieving success. Nothing wrong with that, it is the same as the majority of managers, even the true greats. Arteta achieves success? So is Arteta in the innovative mould, like his two extraordinary predecessors, or potentially more of a great football man? Does he have the vision to transform football and Arsenal in a new, unique way? Of course the first question is, can he achieve success? That is a prerequisite. He needs fantastic years of winning for people to say, the Arteta way is the best way. That is yet to be seen. He has one big difference to Chapman and Wenger, they had top achievements before Arsenal. He has none as it is his first go. And so far, it is not obvious whether he has a vision for a new way of doing things. That may come. Herbert Chapman - the founder of modern football Chapman was a groundbreaker in football: physiotherapists, floodlights, European competition, numbered shirts, and, critically, the WM formation, which is still the basis of all subsequent patterns. are all down to him. Wenger cared about diet, training and a holistic approach to modern footballers whereby they always had to focus on their career, their health and their fitness. He introduced an enhanced level of training grounds and cared deeply about the surfaces on which top footballers play. He also believed they should enjoy their time on the pitch, and their talent. This was in sharp contrast to the hard drinking, make do attitude prevalent, particularly in English football, at the time. He was smart enough to do things slowly, yet was boosted by the instant success which allowed him to change things to his liking easily. A better playing career Neither Wenger or Chapman had distinguished playing careers, Chapman even appearing for a team in white and black from north London that no-one has ever heard of. Wenger had even less so, with the highlight at RC Strasbourg for a short few seasons at the end of his career where he was never first choice. Arteta, though, had a pretty successful time, and was on the fringes of what was the greatest Spanish national team of all time. He won trophies at PSG, Rangers and Arsenal. Wenger changed football Perhaps a better comparison is to Matt Busby, the legend who brought Manchester United to prominence in the 50’s and 60’s. It was also his first managerial job. Busby was a good player who played for Manchester City and Liverpool. Busby wasn’t a great innovator but he did believe in European competition at a time when English football was still insular. Where Arteta and he are similar is their belief in young players, and their seeming compatibility with youngsters. Busby created the Busby Babes, speckled with great talents such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Liam Whelan, Dennis Violet and many others, who won the league in 1955-56 and 1956-57 and looked set to dominate football for many years. The team had an average age of 21-22. 8 died in the Munich air disaster and 2 more never played again. It took a few years for Busby to fashion a new top side in the 60’s with George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law at the forefront. Can disaster fall? If Arteta does manage to win this year, then this group of players can only get better. They have many years of development left in them and it is clear that Arteta, like Busby, wants to get the best out of them, improving one improves all is his philosophy, and so he works with all players to make them better players, more tactically aware, and buying into the team system that is essential for success. The Munich air disaster stopped Busby’s team from dominating but, while it is unlikely a similar disaster could befall Arsenal, the modern day curse could derail all our hopes. Arteta could be poached, say to Barcelona, and so could our players to various major entities with large wallets. Now Arsenal are no Ajax, another recent team to have many young stars, who found their top players pinched. We have money and lots of it. If Arteta goes, though, maybe our players will follow suit. Success will be the key. The Munich disaster - a real tragedy for football There is another parallel with Busby. Busby, when he took on the job with Man Utd, insisted on a long term commitment and a five year contract plus total control of team affairs. He argued that 5 years was the time it would take him to bring Utd to the level required. There is evidence that Arteta argued the same and successfully managed to get the Kroenkes to back him longterm as he imposed his vision of how he wanted Arsenal to play, the type of players he needed and the ethos that will make Arsenal a true top team again. 13 league defeats last season and some bumpy patches never saw the Kroenke’s come out of the traps to criticize him. They believed in him, as did all of the Arsenal staff, it seems, even if that didn’t extend to all fans. A manager needs to be given a chance, even at a big club. The glamour and the glory Manchester United was the glamour club in England under Busby. They were the team players wanted to play for. There are signs that Arsenal are becoming the same with players from other teams such as Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Rio Ferdinand saying they love this new look Arsenal side. Does Arteta have the vision? We are young, we are strong, we play together and we could be immortal like all the greats of football that have flowed through our lives, making our time on this planet a brighter place. Arteta may not prove to be a big innovator like Chapman or Wenger but he could turn out to be an extraordinary manager like Busby. I would take that all day long. Bring us back to the future and the Swinging Sixties but this time Arteta and Arsenal.
  4. Our United Nations An Easy Pick? Ha ha. Supposing Don Corleone got Luca Brasi to put a gun to your head and pick 11 players from the current squad from different countries do you think it would be an easy choice? Surprisingly it’s not that difficult, except when it comes to the English and Brazilians. It begs the question – why does Arteta buck the trend of most managers of appointing players from their own country? In the team I have picked there is not one candidate from Spain. I decided that on loan players don’t count but anyway Pablo Mari would not have made mine or anyone’s final 11, I reckon. It is very unusual and, as he is there around 3 years, a bit surprising. I can’t think of any topflight manager who has done the same. Only one choice for goal - Matt Turner Anyway, getting back to my task, and difficulty with the 3 English players players currently first choice in the squad, Ramsdale, White and Saka. I am a big fan of Emile Smith Rowe as well and can’t wait to see him back but at the moment I am going for Bukayo Saka, he plays for England and is a constant threat to opposing sides. Which means Matt Turner the American gets in goal. Saka - we need our star boy fit and well The Brazilians are immense And so to the Brazilians, In some ways this is harder as all 3 are crucial but I will go for Gabriel Magalhaes in order to keep the defence as strong as possible. It kills me to leave out Martinelli and Jesus though. Alongside him the easy choice of William Saliba the Frenchman. Gabriel - won't go to the World Cup this time And so to fullbacks and I have decided to go for Kieran Tierney from Scotland and Takehiro Tomiyasu from Japan. Aleksander Zinchenko from Ukraine is a strong candidate but I have decided to have him as my 12th man as he is very versatile and he hasn’t had the body of work for Arsenal yet as those two have. Xhaka up front? Defensive midfield is a bit of a problem as I feel that I will move Granit Xhaka of Switzerland closer to the front as he seems to be revelling in his forward position. Which means Thomas Partey of Ghana and one other of Mohamed Elneny of Egypt or Sambi Lokonga of Belgium. Probably Lokonga is the best longterm option but for now I will go with Elneny. Xhaka - Immense for Switzerland The next midfielder is easy in Martin Odegaard of Norway. No argument there as he is one of our best. Out wide I will go for Fabio Vieira of Portugal and Bukayo Saka of England. And in the middle as a false nine I will put Granit Xhaka to see if he can plunder lots of goals. The only real other option is Nicolas Pepe of the Ivory Coast but I have already excluded loan players. We will struggle without our Brazilians in attack Yes, one of Jesus or Martinelli should be included but that would mean a rejig of the defence. I could put Tomiyasu in the centre with Saliba and Zinchenko and Tierney as fullbacks. But I feel that would weaken the defence and the understanding built up between Gabriel and Saliba. So my team is in Arteta’s established 4 3 3: Matt Turner Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Margalhues, William Saliba, Takehiro Tomiyasu Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Mohamed Elneny Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka, Fabio Vieira And Aleksander Zinchenko as 12th man All our squad will go to the next World Cup? It isn’t a bad team and not too far off our first 11. But what it tells us that we need our Brazilians and our English players badly, probably particularly our Brazilians. So maybe it is good that only Saka is likely to be first choice for the world cup of the Brazilians and English picked. The next world cup in North America will I feel decimate our squad as our players will be established top players by then. Luckily it will be in summer and not in the middle of the season. Partey - we need him to come back safe. Is it strange that 2 countries are highly represented but no other country has 2 players? It seems strange to me. And no Spanish players currently vying for a place at all? This team seems to be bucking all trends that I have known all my life. Arteta seems to have a focus that I have not seen before. Wenger liked the French, Ferguson liked the Scots, Mourinho liked Portuguese and so on and on. Is he the only foreign manager in the Premier League that has none of his fellow countrymen? George Graham sometimes had only Englishmen and rarely had Scots but I am not sure why. Those were different days and the pool of players were mostly English and UK and Ireland. Arteta the Alien No Spanish players needed here Anyway, what do people think? Could you do a better job of picking an 11 plus one sub from different countries? Does the makeup of players matter at all? Certainly when it comes to major tournaments it can make a difference. The African cup of Nations happens exactly when the English Premier League is going on, leading to complaints from managers. Jurgen Klopp anyone? Now only Partey, Elneny and maybe Pepe is a problem for us. Not so bad at all. And if all our players come back fit from the World Cup it could be a big bonus for us as other teams will have virtually their entire squads there. Some will come back injured or jaded. Maybe we can start to dream. It is a long time since I have dreamed of a big title with Arsenal, so can a Basque, with his only focus on the strength of his team no matter where they come from be the one to bring us back to the top and stay there? Let’s dream and c’mon the Arse!
  5. 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!
  6. Arsenal v Liverpool We got the only League Cup final win over Liverpool in 1987 Our biggest rivals? The strange thing is, when I started this series, I began with Tottenham. However, they have not been our biggest rivals at all. In fact, unless I concentrated on the past few years in which we were poor but they still won nothing, they have rarely been true hard opponents. And finding interesting angles was a bit tricky as there wasn’t all that many. Tottenham are worse than us, it’s as simple as that. But that is not true of Liverpool. When you look at our joint history there are so many angles that you will never get them all in. And I speak as someone who can look at only 55 years or so. There are so many fascinating matches and scores in the past and I would have loved to live through them. What it means though, is that Liverpool will take me at least two blogs. And this is the first where I concentrate on the cups. Liverpool are probably our true biggest rivals overall. We have had so many epic games. Heartbreak in the Champions League The Champions League was a big misery for me. Regular readers know that is my number one prize. You all remember we were drawn against them in 2008 in the last 8. The annoying thing about this tie was that we were better than them and had been for many seasons. We had gone a bit backward from the Invincibles but still above Liverpool. The first leg was at home and honestly we were quite a bit better than them, lots more chances and Hleb was robbed of a penalty but there was two early goals , one a nice header from Adebayor on 23 and then a bit of a scramble from Dirk Kuyt on 26 to level it. We just couldn’t score even though Jamie Carragher pretended to be hurt in injury time to waste time. We played on rightly. He jumped up when he realized we were playing on. Yes, Jamie Carragher, cheaters do win Then the next match at Anfield where we had given ourselves a task. But we had form there and our greatest win ever as well. Diaby popped up on 13 to give us a chance. Could we hold on? 30 minutes and Hyppia scores. Torres on 69 to give them the advantage. Then on 84 we get the second away goal from Adebayor. I really thought we had done it. Surely we could hold on for a few minutes? As always, Liverpool get a dodgy penalty and Steven Gerrard, who I never liked, banged in the penalty. We laid siege but it was Ryan Babbel who got a late breakaway. We should have beaten them and I was sickened. Bad memories as we were so close and had played better than them over the 2 matches. But they ruined a good chance at the one trophy I wanted. The forgotten man Abou Diaby almost did it for us Blockbusters in the League Cup And so the League Cup? Our first time was in 1968 in the 4th round. We dispatched them 2-1 to lay down a marker. Ten years later we faced them in a 2 legged semi-final but they won 2-1. Even Stevens. In 1981 in the 4th round we drew 0-0 at Highbury but they beat us 3-0 at Anfield. But in 1987 we had them in the big one, the final and beat them 2-1. George Graham was laying down the foundations of his great side. Next season we got them again and they got their revenge 2-1 after 2 replays. But only in the 3rd round. In the next season we got them again in the 3rd round and beat them with our old favourite One nil to the Arsenal thanks to Alan Smith. It was to be 1995 and the quarterfinals for the next and Ian Rush popped up with a goal for 1-0 to Liverpool. Then 1996, 4th round and a game of 3 penalties, 2 for us, thanks Ian Wright, and one for them but 4-2 to them and we go home crying. We all loved this one especially the Beast Ah, but then we come to 2007 and one of our maddest games ever in the 5th round. You all remember this one, 6-3 and Julio Baptista knocked in 4. It was the highlight of his Arsenal career and all done at Anfield. Take that, Steven Gerrard! Don't turn your back on us, Gerrard 2009 and 2-1 to us 4th round. Then our first Spanish manager oversaw an equally crazy match as the 6-3 with 5-5. The tie swung crazily both ways but we thought we had done it on 70 with Joe Willock. But Origi scored on 90 and they won 5-4 on penalties. Most of the players are gone from that side but Martinelli is still here and he scored 2 that night. Our second Spanish manager Then 2020 and our second Spanish manager. 0-0 and penalties and a young guy called Joe Willock scored the decisive one under great pressure. Most of those players are still with us and I guess our second Spanish manager didn’t rate the players of the first Spanish manager. So proud to be at Arsenal Then, of course, this year and the semi-final. We did the hard work in the first leg at Anfield and 0-0 but they beat us 2-0 and Jota scored twice at the Emirates. In fairness, they are better than us at the moment but I do feel if this group stays together we have a real chance of the Premiership. I am going to claim the League Cup rivalry for us as we beat them in the only final. However they do have 9 trophies to our 2. I don’t think we will overhaul them in my lifetime. We do a lot for Charity The Charity Shield? We have 2 wins each but I am going to claim this as we have 16 to their 15 and we won the last as well. Another penalty shootout as seems to be the case nowadays and we won 5-4 after a 1-1 draw to give Arteta his second trophy. And so over 3 trophies we did pretty well. I do want to beat them on the way to a Champions league title. Their famous front three are coming to an end as are some of their big stars. If they don’t get top replacements they could be on a slide. But I would like to beat them while they are at the top. We are Arsenal, we beat the top teams. Next week I will look at the FA Cup and the league. Where can we finish update: We have a massive 83 points in our sights if we win all. Might even get us second. But I am not that big of an optimist. Leicester are a tricky side on form but we are so good at home. If we win this one we are ahead of my predictions but I think we will do it. And then today’s featured team Liverpool at home. It would be so nice to win that one. It would make the fabled 3rd spot a much better possibility and nauseate the chasing bunch.
  7. Arteta vs the rest I love his smile Can he be the best? I think it is fair to say that Arteta has the support of most fans. Emery didn’t. Wenger did for most of the time and it is even difficult to say if he may have had the majority of fans at the end. George Graham had his doubters, too, and some indifferent seasons but came from a low base, we had won little in the years preceding him. Our glory days were under Herbert Chapman with a couple of nice cameos from Bertie Mee and others. Chapman: read the second line - Arteta did And so, today, I will attempt to see how we can place him against his Arsenal competition. I will start with Chapman. Chapman got nine years before succumbing to flu in 1934. He was a master tactician, credited with creating the famous W formation, which is still the basis of all line-ups today. He believed in coaching, innovation, counter-attacking football, and giving players the best facilities to increase their chances of success. He had a belief in how best to play and stuck to that, but was never afraid to refine it, to make it better. He had an emphasis on dwelling on the ball, dribbling, and possession. We were called lucky Arsenal, boring Arsenal by rivals but were the most successful team of the 1930’s. He was also unafraid to replace players he felt were past their best or no longer good for the side. Can he get nine years? As you can see from this, he has a definite counterpart in Arteta in playing beliefs. Now, will Arteta get nine years or more? It is hard to say. He needs to win matches and challenge for trophies, plus win some of them. He needs Champions League as well. That would get him the nine years plus. He does have a strong belief in what he wants and how to get it. So he could do it. Will he bring in similar big changes off the field championed by Chapman – floodlights, European footbalI, physiotherapy, marble halls for a sense of grandeur, the W formation? Probably not as I feel most big innovations are already here. But I will give him a sporting chance of being able to emulate Chapman as to me, this is the most exciting squad of youngsters Arsenal have ever had, and if we keep most, and they develop, they should be serious contenders. He seems to have their trust and he is credited by his players, not only at Arsenal, of being a great improver. If this squad improves, the sky is the limit. A mirror image of George And unto George Graham. In many ways, Arteta and he are most alike. He believes in strong coaching, in every player knowing their role, what to do if this happens, and what to do if that happens. Covering for each other, organizing each other, passing the ball only to your own players, and that strong belief in counterattacking that arose since the legendary Herbert Chapman. They all saw a clean sheet as a great goal. Graham saw his players as chessmen as, I believe does Arteta. He had an idea in his mind as to what type of player he needs for each position and will ditch a popular player in order to get it. Seaman for the hugely popular Lukic was an example. This is true of Arteta. You can see that in the type of player he gets as cover. Tavares is similar to Tierney, Lokonga to Partey. There's even a little bit of physical similarity Football as chess, highly coached players, and only having players around with full mutual trust. You can see George Graham in Arteta. I am certain he is well aware of what Graham achieved. Can he do the same? Again, if this youthful squad achieves its potential, why not? I don’t see him having the misjudgment that marred Graham’s career, though. But he does have to do what Graham did, topple a team or teams that have advantages over Arsenal. City, Liverpool, Chelsea and even Man Utd have advantages over Arsenal at the moment. Graham got nine years like Chapman. Arteta, if he manages 2 league titles like Graham and consistent Champions League could get longer. Certainly if he matches Graham with the other trophies, he should get longer. Graham might (he seems like a young 77) still be here if it wasn’t for his misjudgment of right and wrong. Yet different to Wenger And so I come to his part mentor, the extraordinary Arsene Wenger. Surprisingly, though, I don’t feel that they have similar beliefs. Wenger believed in coaching players on skills, short passing, one twos, quick movement, etc., but all the books I have read emphasized that he was no great tactician and also that he believed in players expressing themselves, knowing themselves what to do on the pitch, and so instructions were kept to the minimum. If you ever get a chance to go to the Emirates or an away game, you can see Arteta constantly giving individual and group orders to his players. Not so Wenger. The master is different from the pupil Wenger believed in attacking football, with Arteta much more a throwback to Chapman and Graham with counter punching. Wenger never seemed to fall out with players and didn’t like confrontation, preferring players to work out themselves where they had gone wrong. As far as I can see, he never wanted Anelka, Henry, Vieira, Fabregas, Van Persie, or others to leave. Arteta has already shipped out top players and seemed to be unable to deal with them. Ozil was a big puzzle to me as no manager before Emery ever complained about him. Now maybe the damage was already done by the time Arteta arrived or maybe it was Ozil’s Chinese comments which caused a huge backlash from the Chinese, a large part of the Arsenal fanbase. Maybe we will never know. But for sure, Wenger never fell out with players like Arteta does. Niko, you should have listened to the man who knows Wenger, of course, brought in the modern Arsenal, the superb stadium, the extraordinary training and medical facilities, and his long tenure was due to his incredible talent at keeping Arsenal competitive every year, despite the quality of player going down. Plus Wenger seemed an ace at getting players to perform for him. Often, when they went elsewhere, they were not as good. Anelka, in particular, must rue the day he forced his move from Arsenal. Can he do it? I think we can take it for granted that Arteta will never match up to Wenger and Chapman for the off pitch innovations. Most things are already there. Can he match their’s, or Graham’s achievements? I, as an optimist, have a belief in him. We, potentially, have players that can match the glory days of Wenger, Martinelli for Henry, Smith Rowe for Bergkamp, Saka for Pires, Partey for Vieira, Odegaard for Pettit or Ozil, Gabriel for Adams, White for Campbell, Ramsdale for Seaman, and so on. Arteta needs to stay competitive, he needs to keep his best players, he needs not to fall out with them, he needs to bring in the right ones, he needs to win matches and trophies, he needs to keep the support of the fans, and he needs that little bit of luck to get him over the line. At this moment, I wouldn’t dream of changing him. He is young, if he does all I am saying, he could outlast Arsene Wenger and his 26 years. I would love that to happen as it would mean we are heading into a great period of success. But even to get Chapman and Graham’s nine years would mean some more good years and trophies. If this guy becomes the new Henry we can do it I love the way the fans are getting behind him and cheering and singing like crazy. That is unique to him as we were not called the Highbury Library for nothing. That could be the little factor that brings us the great years, my long term wish for ten years of dominance. C’mon Arsenal and c’mon Arteta and the exciting young guns!
  8. The guy who ruined our club can put it right?, Yeah, right! We will win all our matches We will have 105 points at the end of the season. I am very confident that will be our final figure - if we win all our matches between now and the end of the season! That will, of course, be enough to win the Premier league. Even if we throw in a few draws or another defeat or two we will probably be able to win the league judging by previous seasons. Manchester United won with 75 in 1996-97 and that would allow us 10 more defeats. So why are we all saying Arteta out? So much is still possible for our season, including winning the league. We could be like a boxer who gets knocked down in the first round, to the collective groan of all his supporters, but claws his way back into the fight and wins. Look at Tyson Fury, effectively knocked out in his first fight with Deontay Wilder, still regarded as the hardest hitter in boxing. Fury’s eyes rolled around in his head, but somehow he got up, scrambled a draw and then learnt from that to win well the return and become champion of the world. We don’t believe that, though, of Arteta and Arsenal. Why? Tyson Fury got up from an impossible position Oh no we won’t Because they have been a shambles, and Saturday’s game against Man City was, I feel, the worst Arsenal performance ever. Bruce Rioch never presided over an embarrassment like that and he is generally regarded as the worst manager in my Arsenal supporting lifetime. We have been thrashed many times, even under our best, Arsene Wenger, but we were always playing, always trying, always dangerous. The only way we were dangerous on Saturday was when Granit Xhaka launched his foolhardy lunge to get himself sent off. To give an example, Man Utd and 8-2, which is the worst score I can remember offhand, we scored 2 and kept attacking all the time, leaving spaces for the Man Utd players to exploit. Truly, we didn’t play all that badly. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. But City on Saturday was almost entirely shameful. No shots, no marking, no organisation, no rhythm, no flair, we were like a hungover Sunday team flailing about playing a team several divisions above us in a friendly. It is very hard to see how to turn that around. But Norwich and Burnley are next. In theory 2 wins and confidence restored for the next biggie, the Spuds. It depends on whether confidence is the problem or bad coaching. Truly, it is starting to look like bad coaching or something wrong behind the scenes. However Liverpool, last season, went through a very bad run and a Liverpool friend was saying similar, that something is wrong. At one point Champions league looked very unlikely, but Klopp turned things around, they went on a late run and got top four. Can we do the same? The problem is that Arteta is not Klopp, he hasn’t got the credibility or the trophies to work on the players. Soon to be the last time we see such pictures? He has to trade in wins Those who have read my previous “Where can we finish” blogs will note that I have consistently said Arteta has only one currency he can trade in now, wins. He did finish last season pretty strongly but that is all undone now. The fact that the Kroenkes have backed him in the transfer market though limits their room for manoeuvre. Sack him now and a new manager has a team that he didn’t choose, made up of potential but maybe not suiting his vision. Another potential problem is the big stars attitude, I believe Aubamayang is a toxic influence, constantly pushing the boundaries of behaviour. I never liked players who go on strike for a move as he did to get to Arsenal. It seems he also doesn’t like having to accept the schedules of lesser players. Granit Xhaka is another toxic influence, I feel. Constantly screaming at players, but ignoring his own ability to get red-carded at vital times. Leaving us without the most vital midfielder – the defensive one, in a game against the best in England. A few weeks ago, he said his team-mates weren’t good enough to win trophies and now he is back as captain? I am sorry but Arteta is allowing unacceptable things to happen. The young players are watching these bullshit role models and learning bad habits. Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger never allowed players to be bigger than the club. Both players mentioned have top ability and, I believe, have genuine affection for Arsenal, but a good manager has to be in charge, and he is responsible for ensuring that he gets the best from his squad. That, I reckon, is now beyond Arteta. Realistically, what can we do? So, let’s look at the season. We have 16 matches to halfway and at the start of the season we would have been expecting a minimum of 9 points from our first 5 and hoping for above that if we were going to push for top four. Now we have a maximum of 6. But 48 for halfway if we win all. Last season we had 24. But in the second half we had 37. The latter has to be our target now. That means dropping no more than 11 points including playing against several teams who finished above us last term. Hands up any fan who thinks we can get 37? If we did, though, we are on target for 74 and last year’s second place. It truly is hard to see Arteta doing it now. He went big for his first job and it looks like he has got it wrong. Most managers learn their trade at lower clubs and then tackle the big ones but there are exceptions. Guardiola, his mentor, was one. He coached the Barcelona B team before landing the big prize of the senior team and he has enjoyed nonstop success since then. Antonio Conte would be my choice A top guy flies in? So could someone do a Tuchel? Come in and transform the results? Antonio Conte, maybe? It is very possible as I believe the players are Champions League quality with the right manager. We have lots of players that cost in excess of 40M. Lots of internationals who have played big tournaments and lots of eye catching youngsters. Probably that youth means a big prize is beyond us this year but next year? Why not? One possible ray of hope is the League Cup. Depending on the draw, it is very winnable and at least we are still in that and surely can beat Wimbledon to progress? I doubt if anyone believes we are still in the hunt for the Premier League but if we beat all in September, including the Spuds, all will be transformed. It is possible, I suppose. And puts it right? So what is my conclusion? We will continue to struggle. Kroenke will bite the bullet and sack Arteta at some point. The right decision? It looks like it at the moment. He doesn’t seem to be able to handle the big names and I suspect that is where our pitch problems lie. Leicester get where they are by the team playing in harmony and for each other, rarely having bad games collectively and without the large transfers that our fans think will solve our problems. I believe that a top manager can take our group of players to Champions league status even without buying. Arteta’s only hope now is to start trading in wins, and keep on trading in them until we are pushing for Champions league. He needs a fairytale, anyone out there believe in them?
  9. Defeated and out of everything? From Zero After that abject defeat by Liverpool, 66 points are available to us over 8 matches. Can we win them all? At various times in our past that would not have been a dream for us but now it is, a very big dream with few Gooners expecting it. We are way too inconsistent and rarely seem to play the same team twice, meaning that understanding is lost. Last time I said that without Leno, Tierney, Saka and Smith Rowe we look vulnerable. Hello, we were without them bar Leno when Liverpool fired in 3 goals against us and we didn’t compete at all. Odegaard, although he looks very good, is not better than Smith Rowe. Smith Rowe gets into more dangerous positions. Saka and Tierney have no rivals. Leno now has Ryan to push him a bit but it is obvious that Arteta regards him only as backup. Big players that don’t perform What is our reality? We have players that cost fortunes, Aubamayang, Lacazette, Pepe and Partey with Odegaard, if we buy him, also in that category. None have sparkled as consistently as our greats from the past. Henry, Vieira, Pires, Llungberg and many others turned it on every week. But, with our superb young players and these big cost superstars, we should have a team that is pushing Man City. Instead, we are asking can we beat Slavia Prague and Sheffield United in our next 2 matches. So can we? Prague at home is a worry for me. We seem worse at home. I predict a 1-1 and a performance where we mostly are better but don’t convert chances. Sheffield United are our bogey team lately but without Chris Wilder they seem lost. We probably should win and I am going to say 2-0 but an unconvincing performance. 45 points. Prague away. This could be better for us. They will park the bus but I feel we will find a way. We seem freer away from home. 2-0 to the Arsenal. Fulham? In all honesty, we have to put them away, send them home crying. 2-1 to the Arsenal. 48 points. A Blue heartache Then Everton, a hard one, but we can win this if we have done what I said previously, as our confidence should be restored. But I will say 2-2. 49 points. Newcastle? Without Willock? I think of Alex Ferguson and his "Lads, This is Tottenham”. Beat them or forget about being any use. 3-0 and our confidence comes back. 52 points. West Brom. Without Maitland Niles? I always like beating Sam Allardyce and I say 2 3-0’s in a row. Bye bye Sam and hello to your first relegation. 55 points. We are starting to think we can do it. A good run. Can we scrape into Europa League? Then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Tuchel wishes to make a statement. I am afraid he will. A good performance by us leads us to a sickening defeat and 1-2, and still 55 points. Palace and we have a horrible game against them, up and down, up and down, but somehow we get through it and a nightmare last ten minutes to win 2-1. 58 points. Brighton. Another bogeyish team for us. But they produce a lackluster performance and we suddenly look like world beaters and send them back to the seaside with 4 goals against them. 61 points. Not enough for Europa League but enough for Arteta to say things are improving as better than last year’s 58. Fans unhappy with the mediocre finish, though. We are no longer Arsenal at all. The Magician Pulls a Rabbit out of the Hat Good Ebening and Goodnight So, can we win the Europa League and Arteta, with one bound, becomes a mighty hero and all the rubbish performances are forgotten about? Let’s say Villareal in the semi’s with Emery anxious to show that he should never have been sacked and he uses all his Europa League knowledge against us? Arteta is also wily and seems pretty good in these head to head type matches. He gets us through by winning 2-0 in Spain before a nerve wracked 0-1 at the Emirates. The Yellow Submarine is sunk. We are in the final. Against Roma. Like us they haven’t qualified for anything. This is their defining match. But we don’t lose to Roma. And we don’t start now. We polish up the trophy in Poland 3-1, we look good, we look bad, but 2 goals in the last ten minutes mean we are Arsenal and it is a long, sad journey home for Roma. Paolo Fonseca has to find his way back to Rome In an alternate universe? Maybe. But I have hope. For all you readers out there, put 1 euro on an accumulator for all those scores and you will be able to say, Gus Worth made me a millionaire. You can buy a home in the old Highbury stadium along with a season ticket. Don’t thank me, I am happy to help. Our Hero, how did we doubt him?
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