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The Table of Doom is Over Arsenal Current 81 Max 90 Brighton(h) Man City Max 94 Brighton (a) Gone: Man Utd Max 75 Newcastle Max 77 Brighton Max 70 Man City (h) Arsenal(a) – kept because they play key matches. Liverpool Max 71 Tottenham Max 66 And so my Table of Doom is over. The countdown of those teams that could catch us for a Champions League slot are all gone, having bit the dust early. Will we get 90 points? Maybe. I am hopeful. We are certainly better than our 3 final opponents but that may not translate into wins. Brighton have become an up and down team of late being beaten comfortably by Forest and Everton, both of which may be having their last days at the top table. We have to hope they are up against City and down against us. They are a good side on their day. Will Jurgen Klopp stay as Liverpool manager? Anyway I will discontinue this slot until next season as you all know who we will play, who City will play, and all the permutations. The only surprise will be if we win the championship without winning all our last 3 matches, I think we can all agree on that. City will now have another mind-bending game against Real and that might take its toll. We can only hope. Look what losing to them did to Liverpool in the final last year. They were rubbish for most of the season. We have hope. So bye bye Table of Doom. Who will be the top four next season? Today, I am going to take a strange tack and look at next season and who will be up against us. I am going to say from the bat that I expect us and City to be top four leaving only 2 places to play for. We assume Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and the Spuds are contenders even though 3 of those may not play Champions league next season. That could be an advantage for them as they may not be in Europe at all like Chelsea or in one of the minor European trophies. They can play fringe players in these. They all have big income streams from many years at the top, bigger than the rest of the league and so have a natural advantage. Can we now expect Newcastle as well? I am not so sure. Champions league will play its toll assuming they get there. They, despite having some super players and a great manager combined with big pockets, might do a bit of a Leicester and go down a bit next time. They didn’t have Europe this year. They need to buy top players because some of these guys, like Dan Burns and our own Joe Willock, are not quite of the calibre they need as first choice if they are to battle on 2 big fronts. Sponsorship and merchandising income is still a lot smaller than the established sides although they do have an attendance capacity of almost 53,000. Their money plus their overall structure means they have a good chance of getting into the big boys club. Into the Big Boys Club So who else can we look at based on this season? Brighton for sure. They still have an outside chance of Champions league but that will surely stretch them. They may go back a bit and they may lose top players but they seem adept at producing young players and buying in superb ones. However a top attendance of less than 32,000 and without the ability to attract the sponsorship deals and marketing of merchandise of the more attractive clubs, combined with a rich, but not as rich as the top clubs, owner, means it will be really hard for them to truly compete at the highest level. Unai Emery could chase a Champions league slot next season Aston Villa, under Unai Emery, have been the real surprise packet of the season. Sprinting up the table with league winning form when under Steven Gerrard they were in relegation trouble, it has been astonishing how Emery has transformed them. They have a ground capacity of almost 43,000 and incredibly rich owners. They would have pretty good merchandise sales and sponsorship, although not like the big boys. They could jump up and take a slot very easily. Even this season, with a maximum of 63 points, they could be in Europe. Unai Emery seems to be at his best with an emerging side and I believe they will be a threat. Who else is there? Brentford's new stadium still only holds 17,250 Brentford? I think Champions league is beyond them. They have a good team with a potentially great manager but low revenue from merchandise, sponsorship and attendances. 17,250 is not going to get you Champions league. Their owner is only worth 20M pounds and that is a pittance by today’s standards. Lose Thomas Frank to a big team and they could suffer from 3rd season malaise and even get relegated. If they keep him and their best players they could still do well. But I am putting them out of contention for Champions league. Matthew Benham - probably the poorest Premier league owner Fulham? They could well surprise again. Marco Silva has done wonders with them and they have a multi-billionaire owner. Shahid Khan is surely a serious contender with big plans otherwise why Fulham? Lower income streams and attendance at 22,238 is far less than the big boys, though it will be brought up to 29,600 for next season. I feel they would need a long-term project and a much bigger ground to get up there but that should be his plan. No Champions league for them next season, I predict. But I feel they will make strides and 5th or 6th may not be beyond them. Fulham's new stadium will only get them to 29,600 The Dark horses and the Shambles For me the 2 dark horses may be Wolves, and Notts Forest (if they stay up). Both sides have had some terrific performances this year. Wolves 3-0 vs Liverpool being one standout. Forest drew with City and beat Liverpool and Brighton. Both sides big disadvantage is that their grounds are around 30,00 capacity. The astonishing Chelsea collapse The other factor is the shambles of Man Utd (at times), Liverpool, Spurs and incredibly, Chelsea. Can they turn themselves around? I think it is possible Jurgen Klopp may resign if he does badly in his last 3 games. Even if not, he may decide to go for a new challenge. I am not sure what will happen to them if he does go. They are a big side to manage and they will need a big manager and there are not many out there. The Spuds will be in the hunt for one as will Chelsea. All 4 may well not make Champions league next season but I do feel that Ten Hag is a good manager. As long as he gets Champions league this season he is safe unless the potential new owners think differently. They are my strongest tip of the four above. Chelsea and Spurs seem to have a lot to sort out to really challenge. So who am I going to predict? Arsenal number one, Man City number two, Man Utd number three and yes, Aston Villa in fourth. Unai Emery has a great record in pushing Real Madrid and Barcelona from the much lower base of Sevilla, Valencia and Villareal. He likes being with the underdogs. And hey, you read it here first. You can also bash me over the head for getting it badly wrong. Don’t bash me too hard, though.
What’s the worst that can happen? Arsenal 99 Liverpool(a) Man City(a) Newcastle (a) Brighton(h) Man City 94 Liverpool (h) Brighton (a) Arsenal (h) Man Utd 86 Brighton(a) Newcastle(a) Tottenham(a) Newcastle 83 Man Utd(h) Tottenham(h) Arsenal(h) Tottenham 81 Brighton(h) Newcastle(a) Man Utd(h) Liverpool (a) Brighton 81 Man Utd(h) Tottenham(a) Man City(h) Arsenal(a) Liverpool 78 Man City(a) Arsenal(h) Tottenham(h) The above is the league table at the end of the season with the maximum points for each team plus their games against the top seven. I will make a prediction, if we win all our matches to the end of the season, we will win the league and Europa league. Wow, Gus, you are brilliant. How do you know such things? It’s because I am a genius. Well no, it’s because I can do basic maths. Let’s say we have a bad end to the season, dropping points and going all Spursy, how bad can it get? Not so bad really. I am going to concentrate on the league and see whether we can relax, at least as far as Champions league is concerned. I have decided that I need to go down as far as Brighton for potential CL slots. So I have put together a bad hypothetical situation for us and that is relegation form and 11 points from 11 draws for 77 or 7 losses and only 4 wins for 78. We currently have 66 from 27 games which should be enough for CL. In reality, looking at the maximum points as I have below I reckon in or around 70 will be good enough this year. I have calculated each teams points total based on them getting the same amount of average points they have got so far. Are the contenders good enough? The wrong blue and whites Brighton are in 7th with 39 points and 24 games. They can get 81 if they win all but do have to play 4 of the current top 7 including ourselves. Based on results so far they will get 62. They won’t come near us as they are bound to drop points. We play them at home in our 3rd last match and a win for us there will for sure mean they have no chance. They probably won’t see near 70 points which they would need. I would say around 60 is what they will get. So Brighton out. Liverpool have an even tougher job to do as the maximum they can get is 78 if they win all. We play them on April 9th away and a win or a draw knocks them out. They surely have no real chance of finishing above us. You will not walk into Champions League Liverpool have City away and us and the Spuds at home. Drop points there and CL might be very difficult for them. Make no mistake, mighty Liverpool, the mentality monsters, will need most of that 78 points to get Champions league. I don’t think they will do it. And if we beat them it will be even more difficult. They may well make 68 or so points if they start being consistent. A repeat of their current form gives them a maximum of 62. Liverpool out. Not a black and white year Newcastle can get 83 and they play us, Man Utd and the Spuds. They play all at home and may well garner some points but of course, if they do they make it harder for other teams to catch us. If we beat them we stop them getting near us. They seem to be finding it more tricky as time goes on and I believe they will struggle to secure CL. And only a disaster would see them finishing in front of us. A repeat of their current form would give them 67 and that’s what I am going to say 67 points and a battle with the Spuds for 4th place which they don’t quite make. Newcastle out. A Spursy year? They always are And now I am in the current top four and the marvellous Spuds who unfortunately get battered everywhere they go. They can muster 81 points. They play four teams, Brighton at home, Newcastle away, Man Utd at home and Liverpool away and those matches are almost one after the other. Conte would need them to be at their best but even that will see them dropping points, they are Totteringham after all. Still if they get some points they will do us good, particularly if we happen to have this bad spell I am talking about. They may well get in though as the teams below them have stuttered. A repeat of their current form to date gives them 68 but maybe 70 points if they have a non Spursy end to the season. Spurs in, but not above us. 4th At least they got one trophy Manchester United can get 86. They play Brighton, Newcastle and the Spuds away. The Spuds can do us a favour. C’mon the Spuds Those 3 matches alone will be hard, not to mention that points are very spread out in the league this year. To prove my point, Southampton are bottom on 22 and 26 games but win all and they have 58 and pushing for Europa league. Getting back to United, they should get above 70, a repeat of their current form gives them 73. Most likely 73 to 75. Man Utd 3rd Man City can get 94. If they do I feel they will win the league. They play Liverpool at home, Brighton away and us at home, all matches close together. We need them to drop points as the above disaster scenario for us would see them jump right over us. Beat them and it would be a great boost. And we will for sure be Liverpool and Brighton fans for the day. If they repeat their current form they will get 86. I expect somewhere around 86 to 90 may be their final tally. I will plump for 87. Remember if we beat them they have to win all their matches to get 91. We can lose 2 and draw one in that scenario. One monster left in our way We don't want a blue and white year Man City 2nd but first if we have the disaster situation or even stutter somewhat. We can outgun them all That leaves us. We can get 99 and, like I said above, a maths wizard such as myself will tell you confidently we will win the league if we get such a tally. We play Liverpool, Man City and Newcastle away and Brighton at home. We will need to gather points for sure. If I am right we will need at least 87 to overcome City. We will get 93 if we continue our current form. We can do it, we are the Arsenal. However, if it all goes wrong and disaster does strike us, we should still have enough to make Champions League. And we can afford a little stumble if I am right, we can drop maybe 10 points and still win the league. The teams below us would have to almost win all, and they are all playing each other which means they have to drop points. Even a bad spell now will see us in Champions League. We do have a great chance. 11 matches to prove we are the Arsenal, the team that sends others home crying. Gary Neville, are you listening? If we hold our nerve, we can do it. I believe we will. And I am hoping that Arsene Wenger will attend to see it. It would be astounding to hear our fans singing about Wenger and Arteta, master and apprentice turned master.
Ours is gold Rocket powered Gunners Games: Newcastle (h) Spurs (a) Man Utd (h) Everton (a) Brentford (h) Man City (h) Aston Villa (a) Leicester (a) Bournemouth (h) Fulham (a) Palace (h) So, here we are, flying turbo charged into the stratosphere, looking at all the lesser teams floundering and gasping in our wake, and singing Arsenal are the greatest football team. Can we continue? Yes, we can. Will we continue? Ah, that is the question. But then, that is my job, and why ASCB pay me my huge salary every week, to answer the difficult questions. I am going to do 11 matches, give you the results and what that will mean for our chances. Our old matadors Of course, this has been a very difficult season to call, it’s virtually win win win, which given recent years, was hard to see. This spell is going to be a challenge, partly because this is a dangerous stretch of matches against the best out there and 4 derbies. Because the winter is generally when leagues are won, digging in when cold rain is pelting down on you and every item on your body is soaking ice into your veins and you can hardly see in front of you. January, February and March are tough times and only the strong survive it. Are Arsenal such a team? Yes, there is a steel there, plenty of players like Saka and Martinelli who take all the kicks and still play exhilarating football. Getting out alive of the bullring Anyway, on to predictions. If anyone read last weeks missive, then you would know I predicted an Arsenal win against West Ham. It brought us up to an astonishing 40 points. Then I predicted a draw away to Brighton here as they seem to always cause us problems. But we got a crazy win, 4-2, strolling through the match like matadors against calves, until suddenly, Brighton became tigers and we were a bit lucky at the end. I didn’t know calves could turn into tigers and neither did Arsenal – a lesson to be learned. Our new matadors I also normally analyse what we need to finish in certain positions, like Europa League, Champions league and not realistically the title, but this time, well, it is massively different. 22 matches to go and even relegation form at 22 points gives us 65, enough for Europa League, probably not enough for Champions League. Beat the weaker animals Looking at the 11 matches above I have insisted many times that we must put away the 7 lesser teams so that would give us 21 points. If we achieve that it is 64 and 11 matches to go. A great position. Against the four teams close to us in the table I would take 4 points and that is 68 with 11 games to go, an even better position. But let’s go through them one by one. And I do hear you saying that they are all lesser teams at the moment. Nuke Hassle at the Emirates. It could well be a real Nuke Hassle as they never concede goals. A statement win here and confidence and belief will soar. They are bulls, yes, but we are the matadors. I like this one, so one nil to the Arsenal would do me nicely. 46 points and fear coursing through the rest. Don’t let the Spuds upset us Conte's teams like upsetting other teams The Spuds away. They are very up and down this season. But this one, and Conte’s physical, negative, counterattacking style, could discommode us. They are not bulls, more like hyenas, snapping away at us all the time. We must not lose concentration or control of our emotions. We could be gored badly. If we remember we are the matadors it could be a win but I fear it could be an ugly match and an uglier draw. 1-1 and 47 points. We can never sleep Man Utd? I should be there and I am hoping for a nice birthday present and a win. We owe them for the last time. We fell asleep and gifted them 3 goals. They were not really bulls, more greyhounds finding us snoozing in the traps. They may well have a new striker by then but surely our defence can cope? I believe we will win in a high scoring game 3-2 and 50 points. Maybe Man Utd will bring this guy back? Everton away. We must win here by my above logic but they are starting to put their defence together. Not so much bulls as sheep crowded in front of their goal. They have conceded few despite their lowly position. We may need to draw our sword and cleave a way through. This may well be a draw unless we can break them down. If Calvert Lewin is back they may even be able to score. I am going to go for a 0-0. 51 points. Brentford home. I fancy this one. I think we can win. We know how dangerous they can be. Bees, yes, but ones we can control. If we marshal them well, allow them to fly around aimlessly, distracted by our red shirts, then we can fire in 3 goals. 3-0 to the Arsenal and 54 points. Bullfighters versus bullfighters We can beat them, you know Then the match of the season for us. If all goes as I have said so far we will still be comfortably in front. City must play Chelsea away, Man Utd away and the Spuds home and away. They could easily drop points. They have 36 points now at 16 matches, 2 less than last season. This tough schedule ahead of them could see them a few points less than the 53 that they had at 21 games last season, maybe 50 or less. This match could easily be crucial for them to get back in touch and they will be desperate to win. They are more matadors than bulls, they try to control games and put teams to the sword but this time our red shirts show that we are the best, we are the Arsenal and at home we deliver a strong blow to Guardiola’s self-belief. 2-1 to the Arsenal, 57 points and City don’t know what is happening to them. He could make it a bad ebening for us The euphoria of that win puts us super confident against the Villa away. Unai Emery seems to up his game against us, though. Somehow we forget our red shirt, complacency sets in, the Villa think they are wolves and we allow ourselves to be outfought and end up running towards the stand rather than applying a short, sharp blow with our sword. 1-0 to the Villains and we stay at 57 points. You must be able to fight for your wins It was the wake up blow that we needed. Fight brings you wins over the season, not fancy dan moves. So, next, Leicester again away and they try to prove they are Foxes but are easily cast aside by our determination to play 90 minutes. We fly out of the traps, score an early goal, and stay in control, keeping a tight rein on them, not allowing them space or any place to hide. They scurry back to their lair with 3 goals conceded. 3-0 and 60 points. Bournemouth at the Emirates. Again the sore memory of defeat by Villa mean we are ready to play, to fight and to work as a unit. No slippage as we run out 2-0 winners. 63 points and everyone knows that we are Arsenal and we are back. 2 derbies in a row Fulham are doing so well under Marco de Silva and at Craven Cottage they show why. We struggle to get a rhythm, our sword seems to be left at home and we give them chances. Our defence and Ramsdale have one of their best games and a draw is the best we can manage. 0-0 and 64 points. Patrick will make Palace fight Crystal Patrick next. He badly wants to beat us but we remember the indignity of last year. Arteta has them so well prepared it is unbelievable. We show them we are the matadors but they show us they are fighters and clever to boot. 2-1 sees us home in one of the hardest fought games we have had. We show steel, grit, adroitness, speed and pure ability, as we cement our place at the top after 27 matches. 67 points, one ahead of where City were last year but nicely in front of them now. Yes, I am being optimistic here, but I feel justifiably so. This team are good, getting better, growing together. We now have so many key players we can unlock any team. We have a team of matadors, ready to confront any animal put in front if us, even the hyenas of Spurs. C’mon the Arse!
Arsenal are the greatest football team But not without our black players Chants. Where would football fans be without them? Ones that say your team is the greatest football team, or that certain players have unique attributes, or that the opposing team or the ref has very negative ones. Coronavirus stopped all that for a time and we were forced to watch matches without the chanting. The experience is poorer. They have been around since the late 50’s/early 60’s and seemingly Liverpool and Everton were among the first to adopt such elements to their repertoire. Very quickly, all teams started coming up with their own or adapting other ones to suit themselves. They now form an irreplaceable part of the matchday experience, in my opinion. Easily offended at Euro 2020? My blog today was inspired by two elements. One was the revelation that the Italian team were seemingly annoyed by the English fans singing You can stick your twirly pasta up your arse to the tune of She’ll be coming around the mountain. It didn’t stop them winning and I reckon if I was on that Italian team I would just find it funny. The other, more serious one was the abuse that Steve Bruce revealed during his time at Newcastle, most of it from Newcastle fans and the press. He was called an idiot cabbage head, a fat waste of space and worse. Our own Mikel Arteta went on record supporting him and it is not right, that a manager or a player, who has worked hard to be selected for his team and get to where they are in their career, is out there trying his best, gets dogs abuse for no fair reason. In the real world of work where most of you work, such abuse is rare and there are many laws to protect you. We're up to our necks in Fenian blood I also want to talk about the dark chants of football, where Rangers bloodthirsty chant about the Billyboys probably takes pride of place. If you don’t know it, google it, truly vile. There are also the racist ones, directed at Black players since they started appearing in English football in the 70’s but adopted worldwide, it seems. And of course, the anti-German ones beloved of English fans praising the death toll in 2 world wars. Is there a purpose to such songs, other than the venting of bile? Well, they might upset some players, throwing them off their game, helping your team to win. Truth be told, I reckon they upset all players, if they are on the receiving end, but some choose to try and use them to up their game, in essence, to get the fans to stick their chants up their arse. However, what about the chanting against your own team? This is, in the context of what I said in the last paragraph, is paradoxical. Singing, in order to undermine your own manager, owner, player or players, is more likely to affect your team’s performance and make you lose. So it doesn’t make sense, does it? Often it is very personal, about characteristics they can do nothing about such as the aforementioned Steve Bruce who, like most people, including you, dear reader, has put on some weight as he has got older. Toon toon, barmy army Plenty to chant about with Mike Ashley Let’s take Mike Ashley, possibly the most hated of owners in the Premier League. Why? As far as I can see, it is because he is a cockney wideboy, who only bought Newcastle to make money. As opposed to the trend started by Roman Abramovich and continued by Newcastle’s new owners, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, where direct profit is not involved, but rather an improvement in status, in enjoyment, a chance to move in circles hitherto not available. The money advanced is seen as a payment that brings all sorts of benefits, which are not easily quantified, but are connected to improving the perception of the entities involved. But, again, it is not because they care passionately about the team, only about the benefits. There is little evidence that these new owners cared about the team and the football community in which they are grounded. Maybe that comes over time and it is the peak that Mike Ashley never conquered, as Newcastle fans never felt that he cared. It is not a charge that can be levelled at Abramovich, but is it really that? Chelsea have had continuous success, Newcastle none, and that is more likely the reason for whether the fans like the owners or not and also whether the owners get a buzz out of their team. Abramovich has had many great nights to bond with the fans, Ashley very few. Consistent winning seems to be the difference You're getting sacked in the morning Steve Bruce recently complained about the abuse he suffered at Newcastle. Bruce was a top player, playing for the best team in the land, Manchester United, and won many honours in his time. He was never given a chance to manage at a team that was likely to win trophies but is generally regarded as a good coach and manager who clocked up 1000 appearances as a manager, a testament to his ability. Sam Allardyce famously said that if he was given a chance at Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, he would have won everything. Maybe Bruce feels the same. Instead he gets called an idiot cabbagehead by his own team’s supporters. It’s not right, is it? A good human being gets sacked - ask Saint-Maximin Can anything be done? Can we ban all offensive chanting? Should we? We could, of course, pick out a food from a country and sing about it. The Italian team, apparently, were offended by the English fans singing, You can stick your twirly pasta up your arse, at the Euros Final. To me, it was just funny. I can think of others that would work well. For the Scottish, there are several choices, You can stick your fried Mars bars up your arse, or, You can stick your smelly haggis up your arse. For the Irish, You can stick your bacon and cabbage up your arse, or, You can stick your soda bread up your arse. For the French, You can stick your slimy snails up your arse, and of course, many of the European countries have smelly and even live cheeses that I am sure inventive football fans can dream up chants about. The Germans have their sauerkraut and curryworst and many others for English fans nostalgic for a replacement for the world war chants. When you're sat in row Z, and the ball hits your head, that's Zamora I always liked the funny and the inventive chants that fans can come up with, and, honestly, I would much prefer if they were the only ones I heard. I don’t want to hear abuse of black players or any players, managers or staff for that matter. I don’t stand up to show I hate Tottenham and I see no reason to hate them. I loved it, back in the 70’s, when Manchester United fans were losing in the FA Cup final at Arsenal, they reversed the traditional chant sung at the qualifying rounds of Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wemble lee, to, … we’re losing at Wemble lee. A nice touch, funny and sad at the same time. As for me, I am not hopeful of change, but I am glad to get my feelings out there. And for all those that know me, you know I don’t eat cheese and I don’t like tripe, so the traditional favourites beloved of Bulgarians are out for me. You know what you can do with your Shopska salad and your Shkembe Chorba! I do eat it without the cheese