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  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. Can we wait? Whether you are a supporter of Mikel Arteta or not, you are unhappy with the performances of our team in the league. If we were doing ok in the standings, say like on 24 points and 6th like Southampton, but had the same great run in the Europa league, the pressure wouldn’t be so great on Arteta. But it is what it is. We are struggling to win in the league and the reasons are obvious. We don’t put enough pressure on teams in the box because we are too slow to break forward. We play with fear. In the Europa league, by contrast, we chase down everything, the young players move the ball faster forward and there seems to be no fear. It is asking an awful lot at the moment. So, let’s break down the strategy as I see it. He persists with a measured build up all the time and doesn’t want to change that. The logic being that if we keep the ball, the opponent cannot score. Trying to get the ball forward quickly risks losing the ball, our runners being forward, and the opponents finding space. Under Arteta, we don’t go forward without cover, for example, if Tierney bombs forward, Xhaka covers for him. Punting the ball forward, hoping that our players can win a first or second ball, the famous long ball, is not part of the strategy. Those with long memories will remember Palace, with twin strikers Mark Bright and our own Ian Wright, playing with 2 banks of four at the back, relying on the speed and tenacity of those two to get goals, being a great exponent of this style. A perfect system He believes in this process, believes he has good players and I believe that part, by the way. Our players are good, mostly. He believes that once we get confidence, hold the ball, frustrate and tire your opponents, find a way to score, and continue to hold the ball and frustrate your opponents, they will give up more chances. The young players, with their exuberance in the Europa league, bomb forward, lose their shape a bit, and concede goals against lesser teams. If I understand correctly what Arteta is trying to do, he is trying for a perfect system, where you have a machine that holds the ball, only gives it up when the ball is in the net, then chases down the ball to get it again off the kickoff, to start the process again. That explains the amount of passes, the build up from the back, the covering movements, the reluctance to shoot until a perfect opportunity arises. The going back when forward seems better, because going forward risks losing the ball. Can we win this, our ultimate dream? Is it possible? So, can he make it work? First let’s look at Klopp, Liverpool worry first about scoring and can live with conceding as long as they score more, they play an aggressive style which is about getting at the opposition. They need top class defenders to minimise the goals conceded. It works for them. Guardiola’s style has echoes of Arteta’s, keeping the ball, but he often has his players breaking like lightning and there are elements of Klopp’s style there too. Again Guardiola tries to also have a top defence as he accepts that aggression means concession, so you must concede less than the opposition. Arteta seems to want no risk, a patient buildup, frustrate the other side, and win all. Arsene Wenger was a proponent of winning every match and perhaps that is where Arteta gets his vision from. He is right, let’s concede that point. If you keep the ball until you score, you will win every match. Of course, nobody in the world thinks it is possible. They laughed at Wenger when he said they could go through the league unbeaten. He saw it as possible. It was. However, could Arteta be right? If you look at what is coming through, the amount of talent, Saka, Willock, Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, Balogun, Smith Rowe and many others, coupled with Aubameyang, Tierney, Gabriel, Partey, etc., maybe it is. It is a very big ask, to ask players to be disciplined, hold the ball, pass only to your own players, wait, be patient, play as a team, be a unit as disciplined as the famous George Graham defence. If you watch the youtubes of Dixon, Keown, Adams and Winterburn, you will see what I mean, moving as if on string, which took a long time to perfect but brought us glory against arguably the greatest team in English football, Liverpool in the 80’s. Or are we staring at competing in the Championship? A visionary or a false prophet? So we are tasked with waiting, to see if a new style can work, holding, discipline, learning to be a unit, a minimum of aggression, and good football winning out. And I don’t feel the system is negative, as always the intention is to score. In the meantime, as they are working on it, they get beaten, the extraordinary levels of discipline that means no hoofing it into the stands but always trying to find a teammate, or getting the ball back, has brought about a pressure that has led to sendings off, leading to defeats. Let’s contrast Mourinho, who believes the opposite, give the opponent the ball, let them come at you, then break through the holes they have left. A park the bus approach that relies on defence, and top class movement a handful of times per match. Certainly, an easier approach, but also requiring discipline. The big problem, as I see it, with such a system, is that the weaker teams, which are still good in the premier division, play a tight game, inviting the opposition to come at them. They are happy for us to keep the ball, have a slow build up, and hope they get a chance or two. Stringing 20 or more passes together will not give us any necessary advantage. And they know if they pressure Leno and the full backs, mistakes will be made. The big teams will give us chances, and judging by the Europa League, we can beat the weaker ones, but can we notch up enough wins against the Brightons and Burnleys of this world with this system, which will be necessary to win the league? The only way to find out is to wait and see. If Arteta is right and a collective 11, working in harmony, squeezing the opposition, playing beyond their individual abilities, brings us to the equivalent of Real Madrid or Liverpool in their prime, then we should be willing to wait. Of course, he could be wrong and disaster could strike. The question is are we willing to wait to find out? I would love to have foresight I will mention 2 managers here, Alex Ferguson took many years for success, and he booted out some of United’s top players like Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside and others at their peak in 1989 because of a drinking culture. But at the time he didn’t say that was why, to hold their transfer values. The fans didn't like it. It took 3 more years before he won the league. A lot of United fans were calling for him to go, if they had succeeded, maybe United would still be scrabbling for success. And Klopp has been at Liverpool for 5 years. For 4 years he won nothing. He could have been let go but if Man U and Liverpool had known what was to come they would never have complained. One never knows. I do feel that we should support Arteta to the end of the season. Stop the constant abuse from some quarters and get behind the team. We are still in 3 trophies, although the best we can hope for in the league is a Wenger trophy, and we would bite your hand off if that was offered to us now.
  7. Arteta vs Neill You know, the situation with Arteta now is similar to when Terry Neill took over. We were happy when he took over but results didn’t improve as much as we would have liked. Arteta got us two gongs and Neill didn’t do that but he got us up to 8th in 1976-77 from 17th . Neill went on a losing run of 9 defeats from 11 - sound familiar, Gooners? It started in January and finished in March whereas I am hoping December brings us Christmas joy at the moment. Wenger fans will be aware that November was always his bad month and I am hoping Arteta has inherited that from him and we start winning again. But there is one thing that happened that year, a small team that most of you probably never heard of got relegated. Seeing as Mr Neill had left them well ahead of us in 9th. It was a big shock to them, I am sure, to finish bottom with everyone’s boot on their neck. 2nd division for them. I don’t suppose that could happen this year, though, unless Mourinho punches Harry Kane and he loses the dressing room. But you never know. He has a weak chin, Jose, go for the knockout. Arteta understands the shirt And so did Terry Neill, pictured here with some unknown footballer Always some good in the Arsenal Enough with the schadenfreude, though, and I am trying to point out that with Arsenal, I could always find some good in the season. Even not long ago, Emery got us to the Europa League final in what was the worst year in recent history. I do believe in Arteta, Partey and Gabriel have improved us as has Saka, Willock and others. I feel we will come good. And I did believe in Neill. He had lots of players I liked not just the Irish. Brady and Jennings would have walked into any team. Stapleton, O’Leary, Hudson, Macdonald and others were at the top of their game. That front 2 of SuperMac and Stapleton were scoring freely, and I can scarcely remember any 0-0 scoreline. I have just checked, only four 0-0 for the season out of 42 league matches then. I meant to say at the start (many weeks ago) that I try to write this from memory rather than relying on fact checking so I may get things a bit wrong. I have done ok up to now. If Stapleton didn't score I think football, for us fans, in those days, was somehow better than now. Now you see the whole game, all the boring bits, the passes gone astray, and who did nothing. Then, we got 10 -15 minutes, the great play, the goals, the dribbles, the saves, and our players looked better. Now, we can make our own mind up, and we are far more critical. For instance, that year, in the FA cup in the 4th round, we played Coventry, then a good mid table club, and beat them 3-1, SuperMac scored 2 and Stapleton scored one, I saw those goals and I was happy. I could dream of the cup. We were hammered 4-1 by Middlesbrough next round and the dream was over. But I can remember the Coventry game and only vaguely remember the Middlesbrough one. We would try not to get the results until we watched the game on the BBC Saturday night. Often we failed in that, though. It added to the memories though when we didn't know. SuperMac would A small team goes down Anyway, we contributed to the Spuds downfall, with a win and a draw. I never really felt we would go down, which was always my biggest fear, as our bad patch didn’t start till January and we had clocked up a good amount of points by then. A strong finish from March meant we really didn’t have to worry. We had a draw against Stoke, then 3 wins ending in beating the White Harts 1-0. Then a 2-0 away defeat against Liverpool, who had become the juggernauts of English football, and then another 3 wins in a row and we were dreaming of next year. We finished 8th, but next year would be much better, yes? On our day, we could win. And that seems to be true at the moment. We can win if everything goes our way. The 2 Manchesters, Liverpool and Chelsea have fallen by the wayside on our good days. That wasn’t happening before under Emery or the later Wenger. Now we can’t beat the Brightons and Burnleys of this world. All I had to do was dream Next season we would finish 5th and get to the FA cup final. It was actually a good season, one that sticks in my mind. We were playing well, most of the time. And in this crazy season, we can still have a good one. We are still in 4 trophies, if we beat Guardiola, we can do that one. FA cup, Newcastle? Why not? Europa league, if we get our youngsters to keep playing, again why not? The league, well only if we put a 20 game run together we might start dreaming. And that was what I had in those days, dreams. We’d fire in some goals, win a few matches. Brady and Hudson would mesmerize, the 2 S’s would notch up great goals, and the hope would rise. Were we Arsenal? I think so, but the hapless Spuds certainly weren’t. And sometimes we had to take the Arsenal we were given. And I liked Terry Neill. White Hart Lane turned into a one way street without him. Dreaming of The Europa League final! (Photo from the Arsenal end at The Baku Olympic stadium, 30 may 2019)
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