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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!
The BFG’s tower above us They like winning trophies Last time I spoke about the hapless Spuds and how our biggest rivals are not really rivals at all. They only manage to be better than us when we are poor. So I never felt the hate that some supporters on both sides feel. Some teams and managers did get under my skin, though. And today the rivalry that I will talk about is a team that have got under my skin. I came to hate the sight of them whenever we drew them because they always seemed to win. This rivalry all but the younger fans among you will be well aware of. The BF Germans, our nightmare – Bayern Munich. The thing is, in these blogs, I am not trying to depress you, and so, when I write about a bad season, I try to find the positives, the good things that happened. And I will try to do so here. It’s not going to be easy. You see, regular readers know that my biggest dream is the Champions League, and these BF’s destroyed the dream season after season, often giving us a football lesson as well. But I could have taken the easy way and only write about English teams because, no matter who I choose in this series, if they are English, I can find plenty of good things. But the BF’s? They haven’t given us much. They are destroyers of dreams, wreckers of worlds, and, as they only appeared on the scene lateish in my life, maybe ensured I will never see my dream fulfilled. We are not even getting into the Champions league lately. Bayern Munich? We can beat them. Strangely, the earliest competitive match I can find is the Champions League of 2000 and we haven’t played them in any other competition. Of course, if you were to throw a dart at the Bundesliga winners of any season, you would most likely hit Bayern Munich. 31 championships, well ahead of any English club, and us. Kanu got the winner or did he? But back in those 2000 days, I was starting to feel more positive about our European ambitions. For the first time, we waltzed through the first group stage and got Bayern, Lyon and Spartak Moscow in the second one. We nearly did great in our first match at Highbury, Henry got an early goal and then Kanu got the second on 55. Except Bayern did what they always seem to do to us, they scored and seemed to crush our self-belief on 56 minutes. Ten minutes later and they scored again for the final score. We had a top side out, except for Manninger in goal and Kanu in place of Bergkamp so we had no excuses for quality. Adams, Keown, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Llungberg, Cole, etc., were all there. They beat us 1-0 at home and topped the group. We came second and qualified. The truth is, Bayern are one of the legendary teams in Europe, and had to be the target to aspire to. They were who I wanted Arsenal to be, imperious in putting teams to the sword. Feared from the moment you are drawn against them. In every direction they are better So, in fairness, we can not claim to be their equals. There are only 2 metrics I can find where we are their equal. 1 UEFA Cup and 1 European Cup-winners Cup. But then, they normally play Champions League. Even the German Cup they have won 20 times. Champions league 6 times. Don’t go looking, Arsenal fans, you will only get depressed. You shouldn't have taught Arsenal how to gift goals, Kolo The next time was 2005. We were getting better in Europe, qualifying for the knockout stages regularly. My heart sank a little when we drew them but we had such good players I figured if we played to our best, we could beat them and others like them. I felt head to head, our players were better than theirs. We were not long past being Invincibles. But in the first few minutes Toure did something that we have become familiar with at Arsenal since then. Our biggest problem, in fact. He gifted the BF’s a goal. They scored 2 more to leave us clutching at straws. Toure gave us that straw on 88 minutes to give us an away goal. We won 1-0 at Highbury but that, our first win against them, was rendered meaningless as we went out. A nightmare rolled up in Armageddon The next time was the start of a sickening sequence of results. 2013, the knockout stages and at the Emirates they taught us a lesson 3-1 after being 2-0 up after 21 minutes. Amazingly we beat them 2-0 in Munich to record our second meaningless win. Arsene Wenger complained about the away goals rule after the match but to no avail. Next year we got them again in the first group stage, and another lesson at the Emirates 2-0. Ok a draw in Munich 1-1 but they go through, we just look on bewildered. The Pep knocked out of us Next year again, but this time group stage. Pep Guardiola was their manager. 2 late goals gave us what looked like a meaningful win 2-0. Ah, Arsenal, you are having a laugh. 5-1 in Munich and we looked like amateurs and bye bye. Send us home crying? Screaming more like. Who are these BF’s? Guardiola taught us a lesson Our biggest nightmare, that is who. 2017 we get them again, first knockout stage. Carlo Ancelotti had replaced Guardiola but not the score. 5-1 in Munich and it was dreadful to watch. A pub team against the masters. The tie was over but I felt at the Emirates we could salvage some pride. Theo Walcott scored on 20 and we were 1-0 at half time. No real chance of winning the tie but I was hoping for a respectable score. Eh, hello, we went back to being an amateur team, they threw the ball into the net 5 more times for three 5-1’s in a row. And so did Ancelotti twice We were supposed to be Arsenal, not a Sunday kickabout team. There was only one way to watch these final 3 games against our BFG rivals, with your hands over your eyes. Arsene Wenger was our manager for all these matches here. I can only imagine the pain he feels when he hears the name Bayern Munich. Destroyed and made fun of And so, what does it mean? I’ll tell you what it means. The BF’s are laughing at us. They are laughing at me if they read this blog. For me pretending that we are rivals. Arsenal the bums, is what they think. I doubt if we have been beaten so easily 3 times in a row ever. And they don’t care that my biggest dream is winning the Champions League, and they don’t care that I am getting older like my dream. Close to the end, Arsene But surely we are Arsenal? Surely we can come back? Howabout these Arteta youngsters standing up to these BF’s at their own stadium in a Champions league final and sending them home screaming and crying with a 5-1 victory? That is one way I can say there is a metric that says we are better. C’mon the Arse!
Man City (H) Spurs (A) Burnley (H) Wolves (A) Brentford (H) Watford (A) Leicester (H) Villa (A) Wolves (H)? A sea of improbabilities This is probably the hardest time to predict results as a transfer window is happening all around it. I don’t know what players we will have or our opponents will have. Newcastle will probably spend big, for example, maybe transforming their squad. If Eddie Howe gets to pick players he likes they could be a lot better. But we don’t have them over the next few matches that I will cover. With 3 of these gone, will we miss them? The African cup of nations will deprive us of Aubameyang, Pepe, El Neny, and Partey with the last 2 the biggest problem at the moment. As far as I know the teams in this run are not going to lose significant players like us so that might have an impact, El Neny and Partey being defensive midfielders. If Maitland Niles goes and Xhaka gets sent off or injured I am not sure what DM’s we have left. Asking a lot of Lokonga who is still a little wild. It will more impact our 2 cup runs in this period and it could leave us out of both. But’s let’s be optimistic. I am hoping for a cup win this year. Can Auba make a deadline for once? Aubameyang? Can he come back, show the skills and scoring ability we all know he has? I have reservations about such types of players, who seem to think that the rules are for the little guys. But I do feel he has a genuine love of the Arsenal and if he got a wake-up call with this, knuckled down and worked like a demon, he could yet show us how he can be world class. And that would make a huge difference to the rest of the season. Listen to your manager, Auba With this Covid we also don’t know what or if any more matches will be postponed. I have included Wolves twice as I suspect they will try and include that match in this period. Neither ourselves or Wolves have European games. All the results – right here right now Anyway I am not going to give up, I will still try and predict the future. I have done pretty well so far last season and this, considering how impossible the task is. I seem to get to within 3 points all the time and again this time, I was optimistic by 3 points, we got 35 I said 38 in my last attempt. Waving your hands, Pep, may not help against your protege Man City at home. Surely the toughest match of all? They are knocking over teams in their sleep, good or bad ones. And we have looked poor against the top teams so far. So a guaranteed win for the Light Blues? I have a sneaky feeling that they are due a bad match. Why not against us? Arteta knows City in a way Guardiola cannot know Arsenal. If he can figure out a way, and we play to our best, we have a chance. Our big problem is the way we hand chances to everyone, including Norwich, with disastrous back passes and suchlike. City will destroy us if we do that. But if City misfire, then away we go. I am going to say 2-1 to us and a great start. 38 points What’s their new stadium called? And then the Spuds. In their shiny new stadium and their dogged new manager, I can’t see it being easy. We struggle with teams unafraid to defend. There are so many inponderables, Covid, injuries, transfers but I am hoping that we get an undeserved win this time. We don’t play all that well but somehow get a win a bit like Mourinho contrived against us some time ago. 1-0 to the Arsenal. 41 points Burnley? This is a game we have to win, surely? Sean Dyche has had a few unlucky defeats against us and this time the gods favour him and he gets a lucky draw where we totally outplay them but the ball refuses to go into the back of the net. 0-0. 42 points Almost Eaten by Wolves Wolves away? Away games are getting better for us but this is a banana skin. Wolves are an up and down team, like us and I feel this is going to be one of those games where, in the end, we get a late goal to give us 2-2 and the euphoria of the first two wins dwindles. 43 points Brentford at home and we are out for revenge. We are ready, we are pumped, we challenge for everything, Tomiyasu and Gabriel stand strong and Ramsdale laughs at the Brentford hard men and their jeering supporters and we run out 2-0. Back on track and 46 points No cojones? Wat For? Watford? We will never forgive Troy Deeney for saying we have no cojones and despite home advantage, we grind them into the ground 3-0. 46 points Stick your cojones in your ear, Troy Leicester. There was a time when Brendan Rodgers was linked with us. To be honest I didn’t feel he was right but he has done a good job with Leicester. They have good players and with them all fit, are a match for most. I feel that this is the one that gets away from us despite the fact mostly we do well against them. 1-2 to Leicester. Still 46 points Stevie G crying The Villa? Under Steven Gerrard? No, no, no. We bounce back. We play well. We send them home crying. First we sing 1-0 to the Arsenal then 2-0 to dee Arsenal. 49 points. 2-0 to dee Arsenal, Stevie G And Wolves in the rearranged fixture at home. We are just too good for them at home despite the fact they score an early goal. We are so annoyed that we can’t sing one nil to the Arsenal that we fire in 3 against them. 52 points We can see Champions League And so nicely set up for our final assault. With our closing 9 matches we can get to 79 points if we win them all. We can push up around the 70 if all goes well. That would be a repeat of the first half. Should be enough for Champions League. However, we badly need to keep our good run going and we need to do much better against the top teams. It is asking a lot of a young team to be so consistent. Like I said earlier, if Aubameyang finally acts like an adult, uses all his experience and abilities, that would make a difference. One more experienced player in the transfer window, maybe a class DM, could add another layer of maturity. We could finally get back where we belong, in the Champions league. Last season, I said in this blog that without Saka, Tierney and Leno we are in trouble. Now that has all changed, we have lots of key players all over the pitch. The only areas I am a bit worried about is Tomiyasu, Gabriel and yes, that man Ramsdale. We do not have like for like cover for those. Let’s hope they stay fit. Go Arsenal and a final little thought. Rumours persist that Jack Wilshire may get another chance. Now that is a fairytale thought, but sometimes, if you dream hard enough, fairytales come true. Go Jack! Come back, Jack!