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Found 15 results

  1. Current Premier league managers and their possibility of not being there in August Arsenal Mikel Arteta Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 30% Aston Villa Unai Emery Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 20% Bournemouth Andoni Iraola Likelihood of being fired 15% Likelihood of leaving 30% Brentford Thomas Frank Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 70% Brighton Roberto De Zerbi Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 70% Burnley Vincent Kompany Likelihood of being fired 80% Likelihood of leaving 0% Chelsea Mauricio Pochettino Likelihood of being fired 75% Likelihood of leaving 20% Crystal Palace Roy Hodgson Likelihood of being fired 100% Likelihood of leaving 0% Everton Sean Dyche Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 20% Fulham Marco Silva Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 50% Liverpool Jurgen Klopp Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 85% Luton Rob Edwards Likelihood of being fired 60% Likelihood of leaving 0% Manchester City Pep Guardiola Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 35% Manchester United Erik Ten Hag Likelihood of being fired 80% Likelihood of leaving 10% Newcastle United Eddie Howe Likelihood of being fired 25% Likelihood of leaving 30% Nottingham Forest Nuno Espirito Santo Likelihood of being fired 70% Likelihood of leaving 0% Sheffield United Chris Wilder Likelihood of being fired 95% Likelihood of leaving 0% Tottenham Hotspur Ange Postecoglou Likelihood of being fired 0% Likelihood of leaving 10% West Ham David Moyes Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 5% Wolverhampton Wanderers Gary O’Neil Likelihood of being fired 5% Likelihood of leaving 40% Go or please stay If the table above is right 11 managers could be gone by the start of next season as they are 50% or more likely to go whether sacked or leaving themselves. I suspect that managerial change will be a huge factor for the Premier league 2024/25. Bizarrely, all could be gone and a complete sea change happens. Jurgen Klopp’s announcement has just followed on from a host of big clubs struggling at the moment and major countries looking for managers with Ireland being the biggest prize of all . If these win La Liga Real Madrid will surely need a manager What it means is that successful managers at small clubs, and De Zerbi, Frank, and Silva spring to mind, are going to be thrown into the mix for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Germany and many others, but crucially, managers at big clubs like Arteta will also be in the frame. I have rated him at 30% to leave. Barcelona will come calling for sure with Xavi on the way out. Will he go? I don’t know, but logic dictates that it is easier to win big trophies there than at Arsenal. Real and Barcelona win most things in Spain and even in Europe. He may feel that he is the right man for the job. He is not short of confidence as he applied for the Arsenal job with no experience. Home is where the esteem lies To be a big man in your own country is always a huge factor. Roy Hodgson made his name abroad but was always looking to prove himself at home, and he was never regarded with the same respect as he was in other countries. Arteta may go, people, and that will only please the Arteta out brigade which, I still feel,is a minority of Gooners. I am not sure who can come in and do better. I want him to stay. Jurgen Klopp - will he really go? You will notice I have put Klopp at 85% to leave. I feel I may even be generous as I reckon they will put huge pressure on him to stay. However, the announcement may lead to a dip in performances and perhaps he will go. He should get Champions league, though, and that is a prize for the Kop this year. Assuming he goes and Alonso comes, as is speculated, it means both Bayern Munich and Leverkusen could be looking for a manager. Pep to Barca? Erik to nowhere? Pep’s position could be anything, the Fair Play sanctions could come into play and they get relegated or even kicked out. A bad end to the season may also happen. Barcelona could be a nice homecoming. If the second outcome happens it leaves a vacancy at City which is still a big draw for an ambitious or established manager. A very bad sanction could leave City unattractive to a big name. Pep- Tiki-taka Barca Erik Ten Hag needs a very strong finish to retain his job. I suspect he won’t and that leaves a position at Man Utd, which is still one of the big achievements to tell your grandchildren. Unai Emery and Ange Postecoglou are the big Premiership names currently in the top five who will assuredly come into the frame for the top positions mentioned above. Surely they will want to go to a great European team whether in the Premiership or not? Is Arsenal a top European team? Probably they are on the cusp but Villa and Spurs are definitely not. Who are certain to go? If Pochettino doesn’t have a strong end to the season he will also be gone leaving a vacancy at Chelsea – still the most successful 21st Century English team, and the merry-go-round continues. Ange Postecoglou - to go to one of the top clubs? If you were to ask me who will go by next August, I would say Klopp, Ten Hag, Pochettino, Kompany, Wilder, Espirito Santo, De Zerbi, Frank and Hodgson are close to certs. If you put down all of them in an accumulator you would make good money. There will be too many top teams looking for managers for De Zerbi and Frank to stay. Silva also must be a target. I feel that David Moyes is the closest to a cert to stay. He won’t be offered a top job and he would need a really bad finish to be fired. Poor Chris Wilder looks doomed I wonder what the odds would be on all change? Retirement money I reckon. It could happen. Go for it! Arteta out and Barcelona in? I will finish on Arsenal and Arteta. He won’t be fired. He will be in the frame for all the top jobs. I am not sure whether he would get more money at Barcelona where he is seen as maybe the best candidate short of Pep coming back? He has been working on a long-term plan at Arsenal, with so many top young players locked into extended contracts that he can create a working dynamic where players play together hypnotically, which could mean he could create the best team in Europe. It leaves the pull of his boyhood team, his home country, and this may be his one chance at it. If Arsenal go a bit backwards now under his stewardship he won’t be a candidate in the future. Roy Hodgson - great foreign days but thrown out this year? I would say he would be tempted. Against is the certainty that only success is what matters at Barcelona. If you don’t win all and quickly your career there will be over. The uncertainty over their finances may also be a factor. I feel he won’t go but I am certain he will be offered it. I think the deciding factor is that he has been allowed to pursue his vision at Arsenal and that will not be the case at Barcelona or any of the other big names mentioned. I could be wrong.
  2. Three managers to top them all George Graham -deserves a statue George Graham Player 308 apps Football League First Division: 1970–71 FA Cup: 1970–71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup: 1969–70 Manager 9 years Football League First Division: 1988–89, 1990–91 FA Cup: 1992–93 Football League Cup: 1986–87, 1992–93 FA Charity Shield: 1991 (shared) Football League Centenary Trophy: 1988 European Cup Winners' Cup: 1993–94 Mikel Arteta Player 150 apps FA Cup: 2013–14, 2014–15 FA Community Shield: 2014, 2015 Manager 5 years FA Cup: 2019–20 FA Community Shield: 2020, 2023 Terry Neill Player 241 apps Manager 7 years FA cup 1979 Arsenal managers through and through In my lifetime we have had 3 Arsenal managers who played more than 100 games, won at least one trophy as manager, and who were fulltime managers of this great old club. Terry Neill, George Graham and Mikel Arteta. Now, all of you out there know who the current best one is – George Graham, who is ranked behind Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger. He took on the Liverpool machine and came out on top, who were the best ever English team at the time. He won 8 trophies at Arsenal as a manager, which puts him well ahead of the other 2. Arteta has won 3, an FA Cup and 2 Charity Shields, and Neill has just the one, the FA Cup in 1979. Of course, only Arteta has the chance to overtake Graham. I wonder how many Arsenal fans feel that he will? Am I really hearing Arteta out? The Arteta out brigade have already started with our current bad run, so if that is an indication getting George’s nine years will never happen. Even Terry’s seven won’t. I am, however, optimistic that Arteta is the right man at the moment. Of course, he now cannot afford the bad runs that he has had at the end of every season so far. We must finish strongly to collect trophies. I suspect that if he doesn’t get Champions league or a trophy it’s possible the Arteta out crew will get their wish. Certainly no European qualification could see him out for good. Terry Neill took us upwards Terry Neill never had that pressure. He took over in 1976 as the club were struggling. Relegation was somewhere on the horizon as the great double team were broken up and Bertie Mee lost his mojo. Neill took us up the table, got us 3 FA Cup finals in a row and a Cup Winners Cup Final appearance. His two best league efforts were 3rd and 5th. But competent rather than spectacular was the lot of Arsenal’s youngest ever manager. Bizarrely, Arsenal were his 3rd club despite being only 34 when he took over at Highbury. He had already managed Hull and a team from North London, I can’t remember their name. Terry Neill - a top class defender As a player, Neill didn’t win anything at Arsenal, and was gone just before the Mee/Howe axis started winning things. He did manage 241 games and was highly regarded as a top notch defender. He had 59 international appearances for Northern Ireland, way more than the other two. Arteta didn’t even manage one for Spain. He was our youngest ever, he had way more caps, and he had one of our greatest days under his belt, the 1979 FA Cup win over Manchester United, the famous Liam Brady final. Overall, one of our own, and he could be seen on matchdays escorting VIPs. He deserves more recognition And, of course, he also had a huge hand in creating the extraordinary amount of Irish at Highbury, cementing a massive fanbase across the pond. Ok, he is number 3 on this list of players/managers at Arsenal but for me, it was a colossal boost watching all the Irish superstars strut their stuff. Terry Neill - a fan till the end Will he get a statue? Probably not but he remained Arsenal through and through all his life and was one of our most dedicated followers, always being seen around the Arsenal on matchdays. The rookie could beat them all Mikel is number 2 and he has a long way to go to catch up with George Graham. Will he? Maybe not but I feel he will get somewhere before he has to leave. The only one on the list who was a rookie, and he did make rookie mistakes, allowing Aubameyang and Ozil a latitude that he shouldn’t, have, but he learned, and if he has learned how to finish strongly this season, then we might be celebrating. He needs to stay in touch, as at the end City may have lots of high pressure matches like last season. Arsenal capitulating made that easier for them last time, and they won the league easier than they should have. That, above all else is his benchmark, stay in touch and finish strongly. Mikel -Our captain, my captain He won the FA Cup and the Charity Shield at his first attempt, a wonderful achievement. His immediate predecessors were 2 greats, Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger, and he has done better than any Manchester United manager since Alex Ferguson in fashioning a team in his image, consistently getting better. When an immense manager goes, such as Arsene Wenger, the void becomes a giant chasm to fill. Arteta has the capacity to fill that void. Will he get a statue? Time will tell. Graham conquered all And so George Graham, the mighty tactician, disciplinarian and creator of a team that moved together like puppets, always catching teams offside, with a magical midfield of Rocastle, Merson and Thomas to feed the strikers. He gave us probably our best day ever, when we went to Anfield in 1989 needing to win 2-0 for the title, and won in injury time. It never got better after that. George Graham - an elegant player The critical thing about George is that he made Arsenal great again over many years. The last such time was the 1940’s. His nine years with our only 2 League Cups, the only European Cup Winners Cup, and the only ever winners of the Centenary Cup, plus 2 league titles and an FA Cup means he is number one on this list and number 3 overall in the pantheon of prodigious Arsenal managers. He didn’t get many caps for Scotland but won trophies as a player and was a vital member of the Double winning side of 1971. Tactics, discipline and teamwork He was responsible for bringing many top young players through at Arsenal and Leeds. He had one defining belief, that you get the best possible player for every position even if it means removing a fan favourite as he did with John Lukic, replacing him with David Seaman. Football was chess for him, you had to stay ahead of your opponent by thinking ahead of them. Can any of them get a statue like the legendary Herbert Chapman? Will he get a statue? He deserves one. The scandal that removed him certainly seemed to have a lot of extenuating circumstances, and an honest review of that could see him getting the recognition at Arsenal he deserves. And so there you go. We had 3 top players that became top managers, something that not many teams have achieved. Liverpool had 2, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, but I cannot think of any other top team that had trophy winning managers who also played for them. Good old Arsenal, we always lead the way. And if Arteta knocks out George Graham, boy would we be happy.
  3. Christmas crackers This year I have decided to give awards up to now in the season – the totally serious Gus Worth awards which are better than Ballon D’or, MOTM, or the Oscars. The Award ceremony will be held in Mar De Lago, Trump’s place in Florida, on New Years Eve. You are all invited. Tell Donald I sent you. Come to Mar De Lago, ASCB, for New Years Eve Worst defender of the season award – Declan Rice for allowing Alexander Arnold to get a shot away. There was only 5 Liverpool attackers, he should have just tackled them, taken the ball off them and sent them home crying. Only five Scousers, Declan? No Problem Biggest arguer of the season award- Mikel Arteta for constantly arguing with officials and getting cards. He will probably get the most cards of the whole squad and have to send himself home crying for not obeying the manager. Best goalkeeper award– Aaron Ramsdale for 27 games he has been there and only let in 9 goals. Worst Gabby of the season award– Martinelli for having the worst defensive record of all first choicers. He should be told to stop scoring goals and creating chances and get back there and… oh sorry, we have Declan Rice, we don’t need anyone else, the rest should be up attacking. Most drunk player award– William Saliba for drinking tequila all through the matches. How is that allowed? Mikel needs to show him who’s boss. The Saliba brand is the best Most useless player regarded by the fans award - Eddie Nketiah despite being our joint top scorer with Saka having 5 goals from 9 appearances, 8 as a substitute. No wonder the poor guy goes home crying every night. Almost a BFG award – Kai Havertz but still a bit smaller than the real one. My suggestion, Kai, is to wear high heels on the pitch, then you really will be the new BFG! Kai - you would look so good in high heels! Kicked up the arse every match award – Bukayo Saka. It is probably why he gets picked every match as his arse is too sore to sit on the bench. Saka - gets kicked so often he thinks he is in a Tom and Jerry cartoon Most successful pass rate award – William Saliba at 77.3 passes per match and 92.7 success rate. Probably because he is so drunk he gets rid of the ball quickly. Only alliterative name award – Takehiro Tomiyasu so perhaps he should be known as TT, but then that also stands for teetotaller and it might be a bit difficult playing alongside Saliba the Tequila. Should be our striker award – Martin Odegaard, at 2.3 he has the most shots per game. Shoot, Marty, shoot! Should be known as LFP award– Fabio Vieira, our smallest player, should be Little F… Portuguese. Fabio - The LFP Ball loser of the season award – surprisingly to me, Gabriel Jesus at 2.1 dispossessions per game and 2.6 bad controls per game. Mikel, you need to hide Saliba’s Tequila from Jesus. He obviously can’t handle his control or his drink. Scoring goals in the smallest number of minutes award – Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah who have the most sub appearances and yet 3 and 5 goals. They must keep away from the Tequila. And finally: The Referee and VAR team of the season award is Arsenal. They see fouls, handballs, no penalties, offsides and cards that no one else can see. It is great to know that we keep them happy. Maybe we ask Saliba to stop giving them presents of Tequila before the matches? They get so drunk they think it’s great fun messing us about. Don’t miss Mar De Lago and the awards ceremony. You can pick up your flights and hotel tickets for free from Georgi Stoyanov, Stan Kroenke himself has sent them on. This guy has all your tickets. Have a wonderful New Year.
  4. Have yourself a Mikel little Christmas It’s Christmastime and there’s no need to be afraid as Santa Klopp is coming to town. As regular readers know I predicted 2-0 for this fixture here in a repeat of our most famous night at Anfield when we won the title on the last match of the season. That was a very late Christmas present from the Scousers and it would be nice to get an early one this time. Aston Villa will be top if they beat Sheffield United as expected on Friday. So us and the Red Santa Clauses will be fighting it out to jump above them with a win. A draw would see Villa top at Christmas. So we know what we have to do. All we want for Christmas is two (goals) and to rock around the Christmas tree with three points. No, all we want for Christmas is two Can we do it? I say yes. If we play to our best, then I feel our attack will have to much for their defence, which is not as strong as in the past. Our defence is definitely better than last year, down to Declan Rice protecting it and surging forward to take the pressure off and cause problems at the other end. Our advantage is that they have to attack, they are at home and Liverpool do not play defensively anyway. I suspect that this time, though, they will try to do what Aston Villa did, their usual high line, but I cannot see them sitting back in defence at home as much as Villa did. We will get chances, but so will they. We need to take them. Klopp has been no Kris Kringle to us Of course our recent record is not so good against them, of our last ten, they have 5 wins and 3 draws (if you count the Charity Shield as a draw) so they are clearly better. Over our last five we have one win and 2 draws so we have improved. And we all remember the last match, also at Anfield, where we totally outplayed them until Xhaka had a meltdown, and they somehow managed a draw. Rice, who is I suppose Xhaka’s replacement, does not have meltdowns and rarely sees cards. Xhaka was good as a player but Rice definitely seems better in every respect. Under Klopp, Liverpool fans probably feel it is most times they play us So what is our Christmas record against them? As always I delve into our deep history to try to ascertain any patterns. Strangely enough we have rarely played them over Christmas. I am defining Christmas as from December 23rd to January 1st which is generally when most people are off. The Arsenal Santas So the first time was way back on Jan 1st 1894 and they won 2-0 at home in the old second division. We were the Santas. Then 30th December 1905 they won 3-0 again at home and we were becoming Santa plus for them. I suppose we also dropped off a pot of Scouse to them to make sure they had a happy Christmas. On the 27th December 1909 at our home we drew 1-1 to show them we were coming back at them. We were Arsenal and we would show them. Eh, no, we played them a few days later on January 1st at their home and they thrashed us 5-1. We obviously had the wrong name. Our real name should have been the Saint Nicholas Arsenal as we guaranteed them a nice present for Christmas. Oh Arsenal, what are you doing to us? Even Tim Burton saw Liverpool as a nightmare for us On the 30th December 1911 in Scouseland they destroyed us 4-1. Maybe we should really be Santa and his elves Arsenal. They must have wished it could be Christmas everyday. We played them at home the next year on 28th December and drew 1-1. They were never coming to us with presents in their sack, it seems. Mister Chapman is no Father Christmas Ah but 27th December 1927, with our master Herbert Chapman fighting for us we had a nice sweet 2-0 at Anfield. He put down a real marker of what the Arsenal can do. What could you hear, Liverpool? They were Jingle Bells and they were playing for the Arsenal. Herbert Chapman showed us how to win at Christmas On Christmas day 1935, we again beat them at Anfield but with 1-0. We were setting a much better Christmas pattern, we were the ones driving home for Christmas happy. Except the next day, they played us at Highbury and won 2-1. Chris Rea must have been delighted as both teams drove home happy even though he wasn’t born yet. Up and down the Christmas tree But did I mention a shape was forming? We played them in Liverpool on 25th December 1947 and won by 2 goals 3-1. We were now the Anti-Santas for them, nothing for them for being naughty boys. But 2 days later they came to us and won 2-1. A yoyo was becoming both our presents. But on 31st December 1949 they showed us we don’t own Anfield at Christmas as they won 2-0. We never got a chance to show them as they next played us in 1995 at Anfield and won 3-1. Looks like we were back to being Father Christmas Arsenal. A Nightmare at Christmas And in the year 2000, our next time was also at Anfield and it was so lonely for us at Christmas as they hammered us 4-0. Maybe we should stop playing them at Christmas and just send them up 3 points and a pot of Scouse for one and all? Roberto Firmino gave us a horrible nightmare 2 years later 29th December, we were at home and drew 1-1. They were mean Old Nicks to us for sure. 29th December 2018 was a day we all remember with horror as Firmino lashed in a hat trick as they won 5-1 at home. Michael Oliver gave them 2 penalties as well. They sent us home crying for a miserable Christmas, no playing Chris Rea, Santa Klopp kicked us out of town. And the Scouse fans singing once again We wish it could be Christmas every day. We want to go home happy And that was the last time at Christmas. So you can see we owe them. We owe them a juicy 2-0 spanking and let them eat coal for Christmas. I genuinely believe we are the better team. They may be the ones in Santa red on the day and they will deliver like that big fat man 3 points from his sack as we show Jurgen we are not coming from the North to shower gifts, but assassins coming from the South to demonstrate our superiority. 3 points and we are top of the league and it is a Merry Christmas to all Gooners. All we want for Christmas is 2.
  5. Are we moving in the right direction? Today I am going to take a look at Mikel Arteta from a couple of different perspectives, one is his first 13 matches of his seasons with the addition of the first 13 matches of his Arsenal start in December 2019. Why 13 matches? Because it is almost exactly 1/3 of a season and we are at 13 matches now. The other perspective is his players. I will look at this first. Raya Tierney Saliba Gabriel Cedric Smith Rowe Elneny Nelson Saka Nketiah Martinelli Was Raya the right option? Hands up those who can say what is unique about the above line-up? It is not so easy to guess but 9 of those are there since Mikel Arteta took over in December 2019. I added Raya and Gabriel as first choice from the current line-up to make an 11. Some are bit players, some are first choice, some get on in many matches, and Tierney is out on loan. Despite the belief that Arteta has changed everything around you can see that there are many players still available for him to select. We can assume that these are all players he gets on with as he seems to have difficulties with certain players, particularly big stars who were there before him. There are now no such. Can he cope with a big star with a big ego? That does indicate a weakness in Mikel, as what will happen if any player starts to act the big star and tries on an Aubameyang by not adhering to the rules? One presumes they would be out the door but we can’t easily do without Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard, Saliba, Gabriel, and Rice to name players that must be worth huge money. Or a big name player comes in (Mbappe has been mentioned)and does an Aubameyang after becoming a fan favourite? Can he now deal with them without them having to leave? Can he now get them to accept that it is his way or the highway? That is one tester he must answer. Of course if he wins big trophies it makes all that easier. Declan Rice looks like a great buy That is definitely not a given. There are now many big teams eager for the same, all with established managers. Arsenal fans are notoriously fickle and entitled. I reckon that the bare minimum for Arteta is qualification for Champions League, pushing for the Premier league and getting close to a final. If, after two seasons of not achieving those targets, he may well find the fans turning on him, the big players wanting to leave, and a great difficulty in keeping control. Are his targets too difficult? I feel we have now created an expectation that he must achieve those targets but if he does, then the next prospect is to win the league or Champions League. What if he doesn’t? Do we allow him to forever do a Pochettino with the Spuds and get top four but nothing else? A bad run, such as Pochettino got could see him out the door and that was at the Spuds who have never had such a sustained time near the top in my football lifetime. We see ourselves in a different category to the Spuds and, of course, they have a worse attitude to ditching managers than we have. But I still reckon that top four will not be enough to save Arteta forever. Am I right? Edu, Arteta and Timber - I feel this one is right too Can the team be consistent? And so to the next connected part, the 13 matches test. 12 points first season from Bournemouth to Chelsea from December 2019 when he started. 14 points 20/21 23 points 21/22 34 points 22/23 30 points 23/24 There is progress, yes, although a drop from last season which I believe is due to the higher standard this year at the top of the league. The bottom seems to be much worse this year and that will mean, if it continues, that the big teams will hoover up many points from them, meaning Arsenal must do the same. We are top of the league but it will be a real challenge to stay there. A loss next week against Wolves could see us slip to 4th. And I have to say that I am worried about our weak finishes under Arteta as shown here. We only had 12 points from our last 10 matches last season and it cost us the league. Arteta has, so far, never managed a strong finish to a season. That must change. Partey has not really been missed This will be his fifth season in charge and that is an achievement considering the difficult start he had. It was ameliorated by winning the FA Cup and Charity Shield but the above figures show he did struggle. Unai Emery got fired in Arteta’s first season despite getting 18 points out of the first 13, much better than Arteta achieved with the same players. A new hope? What gives us hope? Many things. There is a real togetherness in the team although the goalkeeper situation has not worked out for either player. The rest seem very happy together and partnerships are developing all the time. Declan Rice looks like an inspired buy and even Havertz must be doing lots of good stuff that fans can’t easily see as he gets on every time. The defence looks as solid as any in the league and that always gives you hope. Great teams have great defences. The backroom team seems to work very well. We are very good at scoring from set-pieces. We are good at keeping our shape and we have got much better at buying than before. Raya (if we buy him), Rice and Havertz have all impressed Arteta, and Timber looked amazing until he got injured. It would be great if we got back to the old Wenger days when most players bought were good and most players sold were past their best. We give everyone chances We are getting points when we haven’t really been all that great in matches this season, in fact, even Burnley, the easiest I can remember so far, had a couple of good chances. And Newcastle should never have been a loss. My only comment on that though is that players must always play to the whistle and that is something that can be drilled into them. Excuses will not win you titles. The fans are so important We do seem to be moving in the right direction. Consistency will be the key. We seem to have good players to come in. Thomas Partey has not been badly missed, long regarded as key. Our young players are getting older and more matchwise. We have a settled group. Togetherness from staff of all kinds and fans will be a great help. We need to be united and I guess that’s where the name came from in so many teams. If we stop the petty cards for arguing, slow play at corners and throw-ins and kicking the ball away which can easily be coached out of them, it will help. Losing players at wrong times is a weakness, a margin that can be corrected. I include Arteta in this. All he has to say is he didn’t agree with whatever decision he is arguing about. No other comment. Let’s work with the refs And players, managers, coaches, and fans need to realise one thing, and that is that we now need teams of referees for matches and there is a worldwide shortage. We badly need to stop harassing refs. We also badly need to set up academies to encourage refs of both sexes to join up and, crucially, train them to the highest standards from a very young age. It should be a clear career path that is seen as desirable from school age. It would be amazing if they were all like Pierluigi Collina We are not a dirty team at all. We are petulant and have become time wasters. These traits are trainable. Let’s get back to being Arsenal, the fair team and in a right refereeing world we would have an advantage. Arteta, being so young still, may even outlast Wenger. I have outlined some areas that need to improve, but the fans will play a crucial role. They must support even through bad spells. Arteta can get things right, if given a chance. I say, give him that chance even if things go wrong and our expectations go in a yoyo direction. ps. RIP Terry Venables. He has got quite a few mentions in this blog and he was supposed to become our manager when George Graham got the job. He was at all the major London clubs except us. Check out his book, They used to play on Grass, it is a great read. A gentleman, a scholar of football, and like our own Arsene Wenger, all his players loved him. And he turned Barcelona into a major team.
  6. Arsenal were garbage? And so we were rubbish. Chelsea were much better than us for most of the game. I am struggling to remember any recent match when we couldn’t hit a pass so often. And our shots on goal were so pathetic that it must have been embarrassing for the players. Poor Jesus must have wondered what had he got on his feet. And for those criticizing Raya, I am sorry, he certainly wasn’t the worst. He at least made some good saves. Zinchenko, Gabriel and Saliba were poor at most things. Our midfield were overrun and we had scarcely a pot at goal for the whole match, certainly up till we scored. We seem to have a lot of managers at Arsenal So were we bad because we had a bad day or did Chelsea simply outplay us, did Pochettino out tactic Arteta and leave us confused as to what our roles were? It is hard to give a definitive answer but I feel that latter explanation was a bigger factor than the former. We looked bewildered by what was happening on the pitch and didn’t seem to know what to do with the ball. My mouth fell open as I watched pass after pass go astray, tackles missed and the ball constantly taken off us. All subs were on the pitch with a fair bit of time left. We could not afford a late injury. Arteta pushed on players to try and make a difference. A bit of luck, absent for most of the match, got the belief back and Chelsea’s fragility from their bad run helped us to get in control late on. Our good players are bad? Now, I know what you are saying. Gus, you don’t do post-match analysis, you leave that to the experts at ASCB and that is true but I do want to comment on bad matches that we have and scapegoating players because of it. We have several per year. Leeds away in the first half of last season was one such. We got a win we never deserved. We played poorly. And we got a draw at Chelsea on Saturday we didn’t deserve, even though the penalty was dubious and Sanchez should never have been allowed to get away with smashing Jesus. Given our penalty prowess we probably would have scored and won. The earlier we scored against Chelsea would have affected their self belief and bolstered our confidence. We once again would have played badly and won. Eboue's life was destroyed by fans This is one of the strong points of this team. We are starting to get to that champion’s level where we are playing rubbish and get a result. Honestly, though, it was our usual stars that looked lost, heavy footed, and incapable of rudimentary control of the ball. Odegaard was subbed, Zinchenko was subbed, Saliba, Gabriel, White and even Rice were giving the ball away all the time. The whole team seemed nervous, not just Raya. I will declare now that I prefer Ramsdale as I think he brings a better presence at the back but I always liked Raya at Brentford. Arteta’s way or the highway? Arteta seems to like players to follow his instructions and Ramsdale and Tierney seem to have lost out because of that. As my friend Stan won’t give me that job, I have to accept that Mikel's decisions are what matter. We do seem to be moving in the right direction but playing the ball constantly out from the back is a bit of a nightmare for fans to watch. Particularly like on Saturday when we didn’t know how to pass the ball. Would we accept the level of success he had as a player? But I do want to say one thing loud and clear. Targeting players never helps. It is bad enough for the opposition supporters to do that without us joining in. If Raya is our goalkeeper then he should be supported, simple as that. Otherwise we weaken our team and surely we don’t want that? I can remember many players over the years getting targeted, Emanuel Eboue being the worst instance I can remember, the poor guy was relentlessly hounded and could never achieve his potential. We should never ever target our own players nor, in truth, players from other teams. The bully boys in the crowd are wannabe dictators It is pure bullying. Destroying a player from our position of anonymity in the crowds. Every player is different, with different emotions and reactions. How many players careers have been devastated by abuse from fans? Could you imagine that happening in your workplace? That insiders and outsiders decide you are useless and give you a hard time when you are trying to do your best? Unai Emery - the miracle worker of Aston Villa Granit Xhaka survived all that. He went about his playing business relentlessly, taking dog’s abuse all the time, but mostly putting in good shifts. In the end it was “Granit Xhaka we have” ringing out from the fans. I doubt if anyone wanted him to go. But he was blessed with a tough mentality. Not all are capable of taking abuse from your own. I know I would want to get out. Emery is now having a good evening We hounded out Unai Emery and made constant fun of him. I suspect if he had been given the latitude Arteta was he could have come very good for us. It is almost miraculous what he has accomplished at Villa. They might even finish above us. He has come back from challenging times at Arsenal and PSG to show he is a warrior. A gentleman one, yes, but still a warrior. He has not managed to fully correct his difficulty with English but he has restored his reputation. Could Arteta survive the fans turning on him like they did with Emery? If we are lucky we will never know. Will anyone ever win this again? My point is that it is cowardly to attack the team we say we support. We wouldn’t walk up to them and abuse them, we do it from the safety of the crowd. It never helps and we have seen even top teams drop down heavily. And no-one is safe from that mob mentality that says we should eat our own. Arsene Wenger, our greatest ever, had to endure such tribulations. It wasn’t right then and it is not right now. What is success for Arsenal fans? Let’s be realistic about Arteta. The giant teams all around him will want to gobble up all trophies. What is success for Arteta, according to the fans? Winning the league? Never going to be easy. Champions League? Ditto. And if he doesn’t? Picking up an occasional minor trophy and CL qualification? Would that be enough? CL qualification by itself? The problem is that he has set the bar high last season. He has left himself in the position that if he doesn’t better it, he has failed. He has gone backward. Does Mikel have to win Old Big Ears? I will say one thing now. I think he is the best option we have. Who do we think out there could do a better job? We need to keep the faith and give him the backing. If Raya is his choice, then we should support that. If this season turns out to be disappointing, then he should be given the chance to do better. He is up against teams that have better resources, both here and in Europe. Being up there challenging is a great achievement. Being up there winning would be stupendous. We must never forget that. C’mon the Arse!
  7. Erling Haaland is the difference Those of you with long memories may remember this blog at the start of the last season when I asked could we win the Premier League and did so by comparing City’s likely top 11 against Arsenal’s. I struggled to put any of Arsenal above a City player but I gave a draw between Jesus and Haaland on the basis that Jesus is proven in the PL and Haaland might not succeed as greats have not before him, one notable such was Andriy Shevchenko, who I believed was going to make Chelsea unstoppable. I also said that this was probably going to make me look foolish as I expected Haaland to shine. He did, in an unbelievable way. Pep, the Spanish guardian of the Viking god So, honestly, have you ever seen a better striker? I can’t think of any and I have been watching football for a long time. He had 52 in all competitions last season in 53 matches. Arsenal had 103 in 49 matches. So one guy gets more than half of all our players? He has 8 goals from 9 appearances so far. We have 15 from 8. So he is still scoring more than half our goals already? City get the Viking God, not Arsenal If he stays fit, I think he may be the main reason that City do extraordinarily well again, leaving the lesser teams to pick up the scraps. The fact that City changed their style of play to suit this machine tells you everything about him. Now, it seems he wanted to come to Arsenal, and Odegaard was pushing for this but he elected to go to City and nobody could blame him. Barring City getting punished for irregularities, he will win lots of trophies and Arsenal will struggle to get the big ones. Sterling's record to go? I want to put him into Arsenal terms. He has 62 goals for City already. Many big Arsenal names have fewer for us. Kanu has 44, Wiltord 49, John Radford and Kevin Campbell 53, Fabregas has 57. They all played for many years for us. If Haaland gets 53 again he will jump up into 6th place above Olivier Giroud on 105. He was the fastest to 50 goal contributions since they started tracking such things. If he gets similar figures for next season 2024/5 he will be pushing Ian Wright’s record. It is incredible. Bye bye Sterling’s record? Of course it may not happen. He may lose form, get injured, lose confidence, in fact anything could go wrong, but I have a feeling that this guy will keep pumping in the goals. For City, most probably. If he does manage 50 plus he will jump up into 3rd on City’s all time list behind Raheem Sterling on 131 and Sergio Aguerro on 260. Aguerro’s is a good target but Sterling’s certainly isn’t. 500 for Haaland, why not? Would he have scored so many for Arsenal? I don’t see why not, but Arteta would have to be humble enough to be willing to change Arsenal’s style of play to accommodate him. Pep, the modern day genius did. The point about Haaland is that he doesn’t get many touches. He makes many runs, often into great positions but regularly doesn’t get the ball. And so he is the epitome of the old commentators cry, “He did nothing in the game except score a hat trick.” Arteta too much of a purist for Haaland? Arteta seems to prize hard work above all else, and a guy who doesn’t seem to do much except score may be a big ask for him. A long ball aimed at De Bruyne and Haaland may feel a bit Sam Allardyce to Arteta. Plus Pep has the assurance of a guy who has won big trophies at big clubs. Arteta is having his first go. He may have felt it was too large a risk with the ball to go long. I guess we will never know. Would Arteta have controlled him or unleashed him like Pep Nobody else among the top teams play like City do now. Yes, City have a strong pressing game aimed at getting the ball back quickly as do all the major teams but Pep is willing to lose it by directing all efforts ultimately at the Norwegian. All their players know that this guy is unique. He will win trophies for them. They will get caps and acclaim as winners. Is there anyone for us out there? Despite all the goals and the big transfer fee allied to the incredible hype, he seems a very likable person. I reckon he would have loved Arteta’s Arsenal as Odegaard worked his De Bruyne magic for him. I think Haaland would have been the missing link, the goalscorer that we have been waiting for since Henry. Although Henry could score by himself and that is not really Haaland’s forte. Henry could get us the win. Haaland is getting them the win. And there is one big advantage of the long ball, so beloved of all the underdogs everywhere, you can keep your players back, ready to fight if the ball is lost. Ivan Toney the Wright guy? I do not see any one else out there in the Premier League who might come to us. Ivan Toney is being promulgated but, while he will bring a physicality and a target to all our incredibly talented suppliers, I am not really convinced of his class. Ivan Toney - can we take a bet on him? But he does seem the best option there is. I feel he would score for us. He could supply enough of them to give City a very hard time and, if he blooms totally by being surrounded by Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Trossard, Jesus, etc., and knocking in 30 plus a season then City had better beware. Ian could always score for us We are scoring lots of goals at the moment without our strikers knocking in too many. What would we be like with a striker who would score lots of goals? I suspect it is the missing link. We didn’t get Haaland but we need to get as close as possible to the next best thing. Maybe Toney is that. If he turns out to be an Arsenal player not a Brentford one, January could be interesting yet. Another gear in our car would be very nice at that point. And hey, Ian Wright was 27 when he joined us and scoring for a lower London team when he came, same as Toney now. Could he be our new Ian Wright Wright Wright?
  8. Change the manager is the answer? On the right path so no change, please Top five teams and their managers since a first trophy in the Premier league era Clubs Managers Trophies First trophy Man Utd 7 40 Prem League 1993 Chelsea 19 27 FA cup 1997 Arsenal 5 22 League cup 1993 Man City 3 20 FA cup 2011 Liverpool 8 19 League cup 1995 Ah, football was invented in 1992-93 by the wonderful people at Sky and the 5 teams above have dominated since. Now it is annoying that statistics are often confined to the Premier League era but in this case maybe it is justified. Huge amounts of money made their way into England and exposure, hype, sponsorship and many other factors came into play since then including a ruthlessness with the sack never seen before. Pep Guardiola is the benchmark to which all aspire My question today is: is there any correlation between managerial change and winning trophies? It is very hard to make out a case either way as you can see in the table above. I should point out that I have included exclusive trophies like the Charity Shield and the various Super cups in this list despite them being very confined in terms of who competes. Arsenal and City have never qualified for any type of Super cup although obviously that changes next season. The Glazers are unpopular at Man Utd I have not included in this list the teams who have won only one trophy plus Leicester who have won 3 as they cannot seriously be regarded as contenders. For the 5 teams concerned the figures are from the first trophy in the Premier league era. I have also not included caretaker managers. Money screams not talks What we can see clearly is that that money plays a huge role. These are the richest clubs over the Premier League era. Manchester United dominated at the start simply because they had the most money and a manager whose style very much suited the new Premier league. The backpass rule was changed to stop you passing to the goalkeeper and wasting time. It became dangerous to pass back to the keeper. Ferguson loved this because he liked to attack. Attacking football suited Sky as they promoted their new brand. They hyped Utd, Utd had the most money and this helped them make even richer. Liverpool and Arsenal had a much more counter-attacking style and struggled initially with the new demands. Smaller teams like Blackburn and Newcastle were the only real danger as Utd mopped up trophies. Roman Abramovich changed how football is run Even when Arsenal appeared, they were almost Utd’s only competition which meant Utd continued to take many trophies. The money kept growing and billionaires were starting to eye up potential candidates to take on these giants. Roman Abramovich was the first such and, after failing to buy Arsenal, he opted for Chelsea, a team who had improved enormously over the past seasons. He brought a level of money unheard of as he built Chelsea into a worldwide brand. It is very true that fans are fickle. If a team starts winning, a lot of fans switch allegiance. The point here is that Abramovich’s ownership style was critical to Chelsea’s constant success. Other teams have had money thrown at them without success. PSG, despite unheard of amounts, are still only big in France, the weakest of Europe’s 5 big leagues. Copy the Arsenal and Man Utd benchmarks Something similar happened with City as with Chelsea. Big money came in but the ownership style was geared for success. As with Chelsea, the academies flourished and incredible training grounds installed. This holistic style was pioneered by Arsenal and Arsene Wenger but the other area they borrowed from Ferguson - his willingness to splash the cash to get supreme players. They combined the strategies employed by Arsenal and Utd to get to the top. Sheik Mansour- created the structures to make Man city win Traditionally, Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal are the big trio in English football in terms of trophies won. City and Chelsea are right on their heels now and Chelsea are second in the Premier league era. This is a testament to the importance of owners. Owners at the traditional big clubs know they are coming into a machine designed for success, owners at emerging clubs know they have to emulate that machine. And so benchmarking becomes critical. Looking at the Rolls Royce in the different areas of success and striving to become better. The scouting, the academies, the training facilities, the medical and rehabilitation facilities, the relationship with fans, the branding, the management structures that ensure that people can manage their own areas successfully but all towards the main goal of making the club function as a whole and continuing to win. If one area breaks down, for example, at Chelsea, where the manager seemed bewildered at all the players coming in and could not create overnight the partnerships that are essential to a winning team. The manager needs to have the final decision in team matters. The owners must create the right conditions I believe that the managers are important, yes, but in the modern era, the Premier league one, the owners have to work for the manager to enable him to concentrate on getting the team right. There are areas he needs to be in charge of and areas where others take responsibility. Ferguson and Wenger could not use their method of managing now, they would have to accept that they can’t control everything, it is just too big, but as long as all decisions are with the aim of getting the team to win, that the manager can get the players he can work with, that he has the power over team matters, then all areas are in harmony. City, I believe, has this. Arsenal, I hope, also. Stan Kroenke seems to have quietly put the right system in place Because then, and only then, can you win in the modern era. The manager, if rightly supported, can make a big difference. If Guardiola goes in two years as has been suggested, he will be a huge loss as all structures have been designed for him to succeed. Another manager will probably need the structures adjusted to ensure he becomes a winning machine. This is where good owners come in. They need to be clever enough to accept the changes necessary to suit what is, ultimately, the critical role, the manager’s. To give one simple example, the medical and rehabilitation areas should be able to have a veto over whether a player is fit to play. If a manager can overrule them then that relationship breaks down. If a player then gets injured, then all the team know that the manager doesn’t care about them, only winning. Ask Jose Mourinho. John Henry - are Liverpool fans happy? There are too many areas to be managed by one person And so, as we can see from above, Chelsea have made the most changes of manager and continued to win. City the least but they were also by far the last to achieve success in the Premier league era with an FA cup win in 2011. Todd Boehly -does not seem to understand soccer My conclusion is that how an owner runs the club is the critical factor. The football manager cannot manage a worldwide scouting system, the financial contracts of players, the medical teams, the academies, the relationship with fans, the branding and marketing, the list goes on. He can have an impact in all these areas but to be successful he cannot spend too much time on these matters. Just trying to look after the team he must work with an array of coaches, the goalkeeping, the set piece, the attacking, the midfield and the defence experts. The statistic guys, the tactic guys and also work out all the media commitments. Plus deal with all the players problems, the disappointed, family problems, medical problems, international commitments, scheduling, and keep up, as best he can, with all the areas he hasn’t got the time to manage. You need good owners to be smart in how they manage the manager’s time, to allow him to do what he does best, get the team to win. Guardiola is the benchmark for Arsenal’s owners. They must ensure the same for Arteta.
  9. Squeaky bum time is when it matters. Key to below – These are the points total for the last ten matches under Arteta per year and the results for Arsene Wenger over the last ten matches for his era. The stars denote title wins. Mikel Arteta 2023 12 -18 points 2022 15 points 2021 20 points 2020 16 points Arsene Wenger 2018 18 points 2017 24 points 2016 20 points 2015 21 points 2014 20 points 2013 26 points 2012 18 points 2011 14 points 2010 17 points 2009 23 points 2008 18 points 2007 13 points 2006 23 points 2005 28 points 2004 23 points * 2003 18 points 2002 30 points * Max 2001 20 points 2000 25 points 1999 25 points 1998 24 points * 1997 20 points We must never finish Spursy again We have gone all Spursy, falling apart at the end. As you can see from the table above we have never had a strong last 10 games under Arteta. In all seriousness, it is a fault that we need to correct. The maximum we can now get from our last 10 games is 18 points. The minimum is 12. Last season we had 15 and we might be worse this season. If it continues then we will never win the league. You cannot win the league by losing games. For our 3 title wins under Wenger we had 24, 30 and 23. As 30 is the maximum and City has a tendency to get close to that in recent seasons, you can see the necessity to address this issue. We need to change our state of mind We are never likely to be so far ahead at squeaky bum time that we can afford to lose even the 10 points that has been Arteta’s best finish to a season so far. We will definitely lose at least 12 this season. It is the most pressing problem facing Arteta for certain. We cannot drop points against lesser teams I think we can fairly say that last season we were good enough to get points from Spurs, Newcastle Brighton and Southampton but we didn’t and fell out of the Champions league spot. This year we should have beaten Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton and, yes, Brighton which would have given us 9 points more and we would have been looking forward to beating Forest and claiming the title. This year we have been better than all those teams but failed to be clinical when it mattered. No more looking like this at the end of the season, Mikel One point to keep in mind is that Man City would still be regarded as better than us even if we had managed to get those extra points and won the league. I could live with that, Arsenal the under-dogs punching above their weight to snatch the title from City. They could do the double over us and lose the league just as we did over Leicester when they had their win. Next year we may be at the business end in Europe, the FA cup and League cup. That will bring extra pressure. Address this problem and all will be well But I really do believe that our biggest problem is having a Spursy end to the season. And, like I have said, it is not getting better and this season may be the worst under Arteta. So, what can be done about it? To talk about this, I would like to explain why I came up with this as a topic. My memory was that under Arsene Wenger, we normally finished strongly and so I took a look. The figures above show that I was right for most of the time. We finished with 20 points or above lots of times and for sure did on our 3 title wins. Arsene Wenger knew how to finish strongly. Bring on the evil flying monkeys Arsene knows and he is the answer And this is what I would offer. For Arteta to talk to the maestro and ask him what he did to produce such strong finishes. Because this is not about tactics, it is about man-management, and Arsene Wenger was maybe the greatest ever at that. As I have said above, we are better than the sides who took points off us but we allowed them to beat us when it mattered. Wenger normally didn’t when it got to squeaky bum time. As you can see above, even in the lean times as Arsenal were trying to pay for the Emirates, he regularly got 20 or above. Call on our greatest for help, Mikel Man management was Arsene’s forte I have alluded to before in this column about how very few players ever complained about him and also that quite often, once players left Arsenal, they didn’t perform to the heights that they did under Wenger. Most players say that he improved them enormously in their effectiveness. This is Arteta’s first job in the hotseat. He is doing great. But he must ensure that we finish strongly or his good work will be compromised. And who better than our greatest? Well, possibly Guardiola but I doubt if Arteta could ring him up and ask him to help him to win at the business end of the season. Of course, he would have seen what Guardiola does to make sure they have a strong finish when he was there. And Guardiola can rotate seamlessly, which we can’t. Arteta has been using his first choice players whenever he could as he doesn’t seem to have the same belief in his second string. Guardiola is happy at the end of the season but he won't help us Of course, I do accept that a lot of players are young. They probably need to get more football wise and yes, improve their consistency. And injuries haven’t helped. But that is the pressure point Arteta has to address with urgency if we are to make the jump up into champions. And my strongest recommendation is to ask Arsene for help. Arsene knows, we all know that. He can help you, Mikel, so that next year City and any other challengers see Arsenal as the juggernauts who keep winning and sicken them all, that despite their best efforts, Arsenal will be champions. At the end we need to be juggernauts Listen to this Irishman, Mikel, there is an answer out there. Use it. We are all Arsenal, we are behind you. We have your back. P.s I would just like to say thank you to the Arsenal Supporters Club Bulgaria for letting me write this column, and for putting up with my sometimes strange mode of thoughts which I fashion into a blog. It is refreshing to be allowed to write what I like, and I truly appreciate the support I get. I have brought in George Orwell, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and even Abba and crafted my story around them. Probably few football writers do but the Arsenal Supporters Club here have never complained about me when I drift off into the matrix. Thank you very much!
  10. The Table of Doom Update Arsenal Current 73 Max 97 Man City(a) Newcastle (a) Brighton(h) Man City Max 94 Brighton (a) Arsenal (h) Man Utd Max 83 Brighton(a) Tottenham(a) Newcastle Max 83 Tottenham(h) Arsenal(h) Tottenham Max 79 Newcastle(a) Man Utd(h) Brighton Max 76 Man Utd(h)Man City (h) Arsenal(a) Liverpool Max 71 gone The first team to go has emerged. Liverpool’s max is 71 and we have 73. Bye, bye Scousers, yes, you gave us a crazy upside down match, but we are the only ones still vying for the top place. Brighton are now given an almost impossible task of winning all their matches to catch us and surely they will be next to go. I have removed Liverpool’s games from the list as they are no longer eligible for the Table of Doom. City, Utd, Newcastle, and the Spuds all won (although they should have been reported to the police for robbing Brighton of 3 points) and it may be a tight end of season for the fourth place CL. At the moment you have to fancy that the top four will stay in place. Can we do it? Yes, we can and if we do, then only the craziness of the Liverpool game will remain. Man Utd’s hammering at the same ground may not so easily be erased but unless Liverpool can scramble an unlikely maximum points by winning all and fourth place is at 71, which seems unlikely, then they are also out of CL for the first time since 2016. A huge letdown for the team, who, last year, looked like a different kind of invincible as they chased all 4 major trophies. What’s it like being an Arsenal fan? The Arsenal double winners of 1971 - the only time it was won by a bunch of granddads I feel being an Arsenal fan is different to all others: 1. We were the innovators, instigating many features which are still around today 2. We are the top FA Cup team 3. We had the first successful foreign manager 4. We were the winners of the most dramatic end of a season ever 5. We had marble halls to show our class 6. We were the only team ever to call foul on itself when offering to replay an FA Cup game against Sheffield United because we took a throw in wrongly 7. We have never been relegated from the top division 8. We have been renowned for looking after former players 9. We had 7 Irishmen on the pitch at one time and an Irish manager 10. We beat Real Madrid, Juventus, and Villareal on the way to a Champions League final without conceding a goal 11. We are the only team to win the double in the old First Division and the Premier league 12. We are the Invincibles Seven Irishmen on one team - only at the Arsenal And there’s probably lots more that are not coming to mind at present. But it is hard It’s also the most infuriating thing ever being an Arsenal supporter. My first 3 years being an Arsenal supporter included winning the old Fairs Cup (Euro League) then the amazing double as we weren’t considered anywhere near the best team in England then falling apart to the point that relegation seemed a possibility. Coming back with 3 FA Cup finals in a row, then going downhill again, only for George Graham to appear and put us back on the winning track. Rioch, the worst manager in my lifetime Then he gets done for taking a bung, despite it being prevalent in English football at the time, he is the only one I can remember being sanctioned for it. Then a hopeless manager in Bruce Rioch (he famously didn’t rate Ian Wright, who went on to be our top scorer) and then Arsene who?, a manager plucked from the Japanese League in a moment of pure idiocy. But somehow, it was good idiocy as he quickly delivered a double, and pummelled the entitled team and fans of Manchester United into despair. They recovered, though, and we went through ten years of back and forth battles as we vied to be the best team in the land. Our first Premier League double - can we make it four and break the record? The Emirates put us back among the big boys Then we put together the Emirates stadium at a huge cost to the finances of the team. We suffered as we struggled to even hold a place at the top table, never mind the top place. Then we lost that as well, falling down to Europa League and even not that. The Emirates stadium was necessary, though, as Highbury was not sustainable for a top team. But we sacrificed the man who was responsible for making us the top team in the land, filled with exciting stars, shining brighter than any other, such as Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira. Wenger knew that without the Emirates, that decline would have happened anyway. He persisted in creating the conditions that would make us the best again. We struggled to find a successful manager without him and finally took a chance on an unproven former player in Mikel Arteta, who impressed with his love of Arsenal, and his knowledge and vision of the game. He had a great start but then he had problems with big stars who didn’t want to listen to him. The performances suffered and we were criticized for having a weak underbelly, falling apart when it mattered. Arteta tries to add steel Arteta has worked hard to correct that, believing that the only way to combat it is to win even after setbacks, to encourage every player to have constant improvement, to have routines in training that inspire partnerships and understanding and that crushing will to win. Unai Emery frustrated me at Arsenal That has been my life up to now, hoping and hoping that Arsenal can win. Screaming at the screen with the possibilities that my heroes can score. Complaining each time we drop points that the manager should have done something different, done it my way. Rarely for me, though, calling for the manager to go, Bruce Rioch being the main one and Unai Emery as well, although Emery is, obviously, a good manager, but maybe better with an emerging team than an established one full of big stars with big egos like Aubameyang. Our most exciting player and never a complaint by the manager Most of the managers I have seen have been Arsenal through and through, Wenger being an obvious exception, but he grew to be the true embodiment of Arsenal, a love affair that persists, just like all us fans. I wake up in the morning thinking of Arsenal, although the constant pings from the web group at ASCB help in this regard. Us fans also have our favourites, different from other fans, as we wonder why the manager persists with some players, and doesn’t play others. Zinchenko for me is the former and Smith Rowe is the latter. Tierney is a better defender as far as I am concerned and Smith Rowe should at least be among the first subs to be used. Joys and heartaches Ah, but that is what it is to be a fan. We all have opinions, and sometimes we change them. It is only fans like me, that write every week, where you can see me getting it wrong, changing my mind, and can challenge me on it. The written word doesn’t fly away. And so we scream, we shout, we cry in despair, we jump for joy, we hug all around, and we are in bad humour for the weekend after a defeat. We send messages on the forums and social media, we try to get tickets, but most of all we are part of one big Arsenal family and long may it be so.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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!
  15. 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!
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