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  1. Invincibles Our best ever? New Boys Or could these be? Player + age Lehmann 34 Ramsdale 24 Lauren 27 Tomiyasu 24 Cole 23 Zinchenko 26 Campbell 29 Saliba 21 Toure 23 Gabriel 25 Gilberto Silva 27 Partey 29 Vieira 28 Xhaka 30 Bergkamp 35 Odegaard 24 Pires 30 Saka 21 Henry 26 Jesus/Nketiah 25/23 Ljungberg 27 Martinelli 21 Are we better than the Invincibles? Ramsdale above Lehmann? Of course, Gus, you are joking, right? Better than the Invincibles, our greatest ever? I think we have to call BS on this one. Eh, no, let’s take a look at what we have and what we had and then we can say more clearly. Now, for sure, we are looking at different systems, different eras, different challenges but still there are similarities, maybe the most massive being a giant from Manchester is standing in our way. Plus, the Invincibles were a seasoned, hardened team who knew how to win big trophies. In comparison, we are a bunch of kids with potential and we are unsure if they have that killer instinct, that never say die attitude, or even the skill level required. Sorry Jens, I am a bitter man But let’s start at goalkeeper Lehmann vs Ramsdale. I am going to go Ramsdale as I was never a huge Lehmann fan. Maybe it is the Champions League final that sways it for me but it seems I am a petty man with a grudge. So 1-0 to the Arsenal, sorry, to the new boys. When I see 1-0 I automatically say to the Arsenal. Lauren vs Tomiyasu. Now first I have to say that I am choosing Tomiyasu over White as I feel he can put players in his pocket better. Lauren was a super player, unruffled and reliable. A good body of work with Arsenal and 7 trophies, I probably have to give it to him just about. Tomiyasu is similar, reliable, works hard and doesn’t let us down. A very tight 1-1 so. Cole vs Zinchenko. Tricky but if we take Ashley Cole’s career as a whole, his 107 caps for England, his huge trophy cabinet and compare that to Zinchenko’s body of work for us it is hard not to give it to him. Cole was under-rated at Arsenal but not at subsequent clubs or internationally. A lot of Arsenal fans can’t forgive him but I feel they should have recognized that he was world class. We had Gael Clichy waiting in the wings and I feel that was a big influence on the decision but Arsenal have always had a touch of stinginess about them. Maybe they should have given him the money his class deserved. Zinchenko might surpass him and I would love if he did but for now 2-1 to the Invincibles. Sol Campbell vs William Saliba William Saliba reminds me of Campbell. Both unruffled, classy in the tackle, comfortable with the ball and above all reliable. Big names can appear against us but these type of guys give us confidence. Campbell is a huge favourite of mine and he was part of the holy Trinity at Arsenal, him at the back, Vieira in midfield and Henry upfront. You have no idea how happy I would be if Saliba turned out to be better than Campbell. But for now it is 3-1 to the Invincibles. Kolo Toure vs Gabriel Magalhães This is tough. Toure combined very well with Campbell and was almost Bobby Moore like in how he won the ball but his career was never as good when he left Arsenal. I feel he was in the right defence and maybe looked a bit better than he was. So I am going to give it to Gabriel. I would certainly pick him if forced. 3-2 and one back for the new boys. Gilberto Silva vs Thomas Partey The easy answer every time for this exercise is Invincibles first but Partey is good, very good. If he had gone to Barcelona or Real early on I might have to give a different answer here but marginally the vote goes to Gilberto, I mean he won the World cup, his body of work is stronger. Again, though, Partey could change my mind over the next seasons. 4-2 to the Invincibles. Patrick Vieira vs Granit Xhaka Xhaka has done miracles, we can all agree, but Patrick is Patrick. Maybe we will never see another midfielder as good as him. 5-2 to the Invincibles. Bergkamp vs Odegaard Dennis - better than all the rest? Of course here the systems make it difficult and Odegaard plays a different role but I feel it is the closest comparison I can make. Bergkamp did not play on the wing so I can’t compare him to our wide men. Thierry Henry says that Bergkamp was the best he ever played with, which means he is up against Messi and Zidane and wins. The amazing thing is that maybe Odegaard could surpass Dennis. He is good but Dennis was Dennis. 6-2 to the Invincibles. Robert Pires vs Saka Nowadays, Pires would be criticized because he wasn’t a great defender whereas Saka can and does do both. Pires body of work is greater but I am just going to give it to Saka because I love him so much. 6-3 and another back for the new boys. Thierry Henry vs Gabriel Jesus/ Eddie Nketiah Well, you all know the answer to this one. Our greatest ever up against either Jesus or Eddie Nketiah as I am truly not sure who is better for the team, but Henry would go in all day long. We had 4 unbelievable strikers in Henry, Bergkamp, Wiltord and Kanu then, and maybe we will have 4 similar in Nketiah, Jesus, Balogun and Trossard to terrify the opponents, but at the moment I would certainly put Henry, Bergkamp and Kanu above anyone we have now. 7-3 to the Invincibles. Kanu- an Invincible sub would get into our new team? Ljungberg vs Martinelli Freddie just kept on doing it, he was loved by us all and Martinelli is also strong in our affections. Ljungberg had a more all round game and played a different role than Martinelli and I feel that I have to pick him for now but that could change in the future. 8-3 to the Invincibles. So, there you have it. A comprehensive win for the team of 2003/4. I doubt if anyone would give me a serious argument at the moment but in all seriousness, if this team could surpass our legends and go on a ten year run like the great Liverpool and Manchester United teams of the past, winning leagues and Champions league with abandon, then you can all come back to me and say, Gus, you were talking nonsense, our new boys, let’s call them the Incredibles, are better than the Invincibles and hardly any would get into an Incredible 11. Ah, I can dream.
  2. A Day Out at the Emirates The 12 Pins lifts our hopes It all started by getting the train from Homerton to Highbury and Islington on a cold, wind-biting Sunday in January, the day after my birthday in which I had a great day, meeting old friends. Normally I walk to the stadium from here but this time I had to meet up with my brother Myles and his son Niall, both huge Arsenal fans and fairly regular travellers from Dublin. They were in the 12 Pins in Finsbury Park, which merited a change to the Tube and one more stop, a fabled Irish pub which accommodates enormous numbers of verified Gooners both inside and out. They have at least one mighty attribute, the drink comes quickly no matter the numbers, a testament to the ability of the Irish staff working there and always served with a smile. The best pub in London? The songs constantly break out, from Super Mik Arteta to North London Forever and back to the old favourites we all love to hear. Tributes to Rocky, winning the title at Old Trafford and many more increase the good vibrations and the happy expectation that we would get revenge for the unlucky loss earlier in Manchester. We fell asleep that day, and Var was unkind, but we are home, we are top of the league, and Arsenal are the greatest football team. Ah, it is great to be back, the buzz and the thrill level increasing all the time. Deep talks about the future But of course, a trip to the Arsenal and meeting with my family is always replete with serious discussions of where Arsenal are, are the buys likely to be good, and can we finally do it? We all agreed that Leandro Trossard could be the perfect choice as he can provide competition and cover all across the front three, an area where we badly need it at the moment, an injury could have been a calamity but now we can breathe again. I opined that a win today pretty much guarantees top four as we would need relegation form from now on. Myles laughed and said top four is certain, we want the league. We do, indeed. Me and the gang I also said that United will defend without embarrassment, same as they did at home, particularly without Casemiro, they will be afraid of a tonking. They will look forward to a Rashford or an Anthony finding us asleep again as they hammer a long ball upfield. I really hoped we would be vigilant, use our awareness and our speed to guard against such tactics. They both agreed that we must not outplay them and lose. The Hungarian Emperor My next stop was the Arsenal supporters club bar and a meeting with the extraordinary Alexander Sztranyovszky, a major superfan who tries to attend all matches. Everyone knows Alex. He is Hungarian, and I had to deliver some ASCB presents from Georgi Stoyanov , our esteemed chairman. I found him around the corner with Peggy, the fabled owner of the shop which supplies refreshments to all Arsenal explorers, both physical and mental, as can only be found in the presence of so many dedicated Gooners. Alex alone brightens up your day with his broad smile, his welcoming attitude and the inevitable selfie which is an enduring memory of a fantastic day. Alex and me at Peggy's place There was one bad note for me, though. I had printed out my ticket in case my phone wouldn’t work but I couldn’t find it. I was staying in my friend’s Krum’s apartment in Homerton not far from the ground but had spent the previous few days in a hotel in Lancaster gate. I guessed I must have left it there. As my ticket had no name on it I was worried that someone had got hold of it and may try to use it so I left the superb atmosphere emanating from the Supporters Club to get to the ground early so I wouldn’t have any problems. Maybe they wouldn’t let me in Krasi, Lily and me I got in no problem and quickly as normally I leave it a bit late and the queues can snake around quite a bit. Inside I had a beer and then found my seat. The position was great, a nice spot in the corner, at a convenient height to watch the action well. We got a present of a clacker to make noise tucked into our seat and on inspection it was the campaign against discrimination. Good, I thought, and it had the added bonus of increasing the noise levels to unprecedented intensity which reminded me of my days in Highbury in the George Graham 1980’s. My next surprise was my Bulgarian buddy Krasi Kolev and his wife Lily came along to sit beside me amid much hugs. They were accompanied by Kristian, a Bulgarian ensconced in Scotland who I had never met before. A mighty nice man with a big smile on his face. More selfies followed. They all made plenty of noise, singing and cheering all the time. Sometimes I am on my own and the atmosphere is never as good. I was so happy to see them. When we got our goal to equalise a Rashford breakaway which I had feared, the stadium erupted in a cacophony of high decibels which the local residents of the graveyards could hear. A half-time surprise Despite a 1-1 halftime, our feeling was good, we were playing much better than the Mancs, and surely our pressure would lead to goals. I got a big surprise when we went to the bar as my old friend Tsvetomir Tsetkov was there with a selection of beer waiting for us. He is Arsenal, a great ambassador for Bulgaria, for Shumen, and London where he has been living for 15 years. He always lifts my spirits, and this time was no exception. I owe you pints, old friend. Krasi, me and Tsvetomir at halftime We went back inside. Soon we scored, a Saka masterpiece, and we jumped so high we thought we would never land. Mancs, prepare to die. No more humiliation for us, and a few more goals would be very nice. We shall overcome But we are Arsenal, and you need a strong heart to be an Arsenal supporter. A mix-up in the box and Lisandro Martinez loops a header over the stranded Ramsdale to get back to a position their play never merited. Saka the master It went on, us pressing, Utd defending, and all the while the noise and the singing never stopped. We all believed despite the clock ticking and ticking. Our hero, Eddie the undroppable, sneakily tucked the ball in the net and we had done it, the clackers, the singers, the screamers and the shouters coalesced to frighten the poor local graveyard residents out of their tombs. What noise, what atmosphere, what smiles on our faces, but then the demon VAR was summoned. Ah, we will be cheated once again. I couldn’t see how, though, the goal looked good. As the ghosts settled back peacefully into the ground, a searing crescendo erupted to frighten them up once more. The Arsenal had won, and the almighty sounds erupted and boomed throughout the stadium, and all the pubs, clubs and gathering places worldwide. We were united, not Manchester. Arsenal ARE the greatest football team! Go home crying, Ten Hag, Rashford, Martinez and all the rest. You have come to our home and we have shown you the Champions! Eddie is our winner Ps. I predicted the correct score here. The printed word doesn't fly away.
  3. 5 Football myths debunked 1. Buying players for huge money is the answer Would Mudrik have destroyed our run? Fans are always screaming buy, buy, buy without ever analysing why we need them. For me it is simple, are they better than what we have? If not what’s the point? The next reason to buy is as cover and that makes sense. Cedric was brought in cheaply as cover. He did a job. Paying big money should only be for proven players and even then they often don’t work out. Am I the only one who is happy that Mudrik didn’t come to Arsenal? The huge sum paid brings with it several problems. The most crucial is, is he good enough? That will take time to establish but Chelsea have so many top players that he is going to have to knock some of them off their perch and then they are not happy. Suppose he had gone to Arsenal? He would have had to displace Martinelli or Saka. Is that what people want? Not me, unless, of course he had turned out to be better than one or both of them. But then they would have been unhappy, being relegated to a bit role. Surely no-one can replace this guy? Another problem is his temperament – can he handle the pressure of being Arsenal’s most expensive player? Many top buys haven’t at various clubs. His huge salary demanded would have possibly brought about dissent in the dressing room, particularly if he is not seen as the best player i.e. good enough to get a place but not the best. Would his personality suit the strong team bond created or would he be a bit of an arsehole like Aubameyang, thinking he didn’t have to follow the rules? Plus after a chairman ratifies a huge signing, they want the player to play. He is not like other players, easy to dispose of by the manager. Aubameyang - a destructive influence? He also has not got anywhere near the body of work for such a big fee. Aubameyang had, but you then have to hope that this young kid can come in and prove he is the man. Big transfers have been a mixed bag at most clubs. Arsenal are no different. Can I mention Lucas Torreira, Shokdan Mustafi, Nicolas Pepe, and even Ozil, Lacazette, Sanchez, and Aubameyang as big money signings who didn’t work out as we all hoped. Shevchenko at Chelsea was a big example of a wonderful player coming for a huge fee. I remember thinking Chelsea will be unbeatable with him. It didn’t work out. Buying big, as fans screech, is an art that you have to get right and few do. Far better to work at a strong team bond and bringing players on from the academy or like Martinelli at £6m, turning him into a world class player. 2. Goalkeepers are part of the football team By this I mean that they have a specific set of football skills that is just as important as a strikers. If Saka destroys a team with a hat-trick we don’t say Arsenal were lucky but if Ramsdale makes a string of saves most people will say that we were fortunate, as Gary Neville disgracefully implied by awarding Ramsdale Man of the Match against the Spuds. Ramsdale was good, yes, but in the first half he had little to do and most of his saves were normal enough in the second half. Saka, Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka, and even Nketiah were better in a great team performance. But if Ramsdale truly had a difficult day and had lots of outstanding saves it is because his performance was the difference between Arsenal and the opposition and his football skills enabled Arsenal to win. Let’s have no more of a team is lucky because a keeper pulled off a string of fine saves. It is a football skill that all top teams need. 3. Managers are the reason teams win. Will he end up at Bolton? I have always had a difficulty with this one. Some managers can seem like geniuses but end up being ridiculed by their own fans. Poor Arsene Wenger was one such. Probably our greatest ever manager, I was embarrassed at the Emirates watching fans shriek Wenger out. It took us several years to get back to being competitive again. Mourinho is one of the big modern examples, when Ozil came to Arsenal, one of his early matches was against Mourinho. They warmly embraced each other and when asked about it afterwards, said that Mourinho was the greatest manager in the world, I am sure much to the chagrin of Arsene Wenger. Now Mourinho’s record is truly impressive, he made Chelsea the best team in England, Porto the top European team for one season, and Inter into the best team in Italy and Europe. But now? Man Utd, Spurs and Roma are not examples of a fantastic manager and even at Real Madrid, he is not in their pantheon of greats. Roy Hodgson was superb at some clubs and the fans couldn’t wait to get rid of him at others. A very sad time There are plenty of examples of this but a manager is only a part of the reason teams win. Yes, they can make a difference but not to the extent that people think. The players must be kept happy and willing to die for each other. Sometimes players only think of themselves like Cristiano Ronaldo that affects the team’s performance and Ten Hag has fashioned a truly impressive run with him gone. It can be difficult to get rid of players for various reasons and if they contribute to a bad atmosphere it makes it hard to win. Even a small bad run sees managers targeted, certain players targeted and makes it harder to turn things around. Once fans turn against you, a manager’s job becomes almost impossible. I say it is a combination of factors that make a team successful, not just the scapegoated manager. 4. Statistics This is a real bugbear for me. We are always seeing statistics, particularly on social media about all sorts of things. But an awful lot of them are dubious. For instance Liverpool a few seasons ago had 52 points out of 18 matches with all wins and only one draw. Any statistic could have been made up without any correlation. For example, if Klopp had a piss just before a match Liverpool would win. If Kenny Dalglish was in the stands, Liverpool would win. It’s the same with Arsenal this year so far, we have won nearly every match and you could throw in any random factor and say Arsenal always win when this happens. Bullshit, yet fans lap it up. The top teams that win most matches, you could make any arbitrary correlation as to why they win but it wouldn’t be true. Shevchenko- if a Ukrainian comes to Chelsea they always succeed 5. Strikers scoring and winning Finally, this has always been a annoyance of mine and following on from what I was saying about statistics, and this has gone on since I first started watching football. A journalist/commentator would say a team always win when such and such a striker scores, but these teams are invariably running away with the title and they would have to lose or draw when a player scores which means the opposition has to score at least twice, which doesn’t happen that often. I have heard this old canard many times about so many strikers including our own Thierry Henry that it is irritating but for sure I will keep hearing it forever as journalists and commentators try to fill up space. It’s nonsense, people. Tell them to go fuck themselves when you hear such rubbish.
  4. Oh dear Jesus, we need you to save us And so we are nearly there. Most likely France vs Argentina and no Arsenal player gets to play this time in the final. Only one of our boys involved in all the four teams left in William Saliba and he doesn’t look likely to play any part in it. I think it is fair to say that it is not a great World Cup for Arsenal. Saka and Xhaka were probably their team’s best players. Turner did great for the States and has come out with his reputation enhanced, surely? Partey was good but Ghana were not so great. Our star star boy Jesus gave us a big setback and here in the Arsenal supporters club there was awful despondency with his exit. Martinelli showed glimpses of his talent but some Brazilians seemed reluctant to give him the ball, seemingly down to rivalry. Once I saw that I got a feeling Brazil would go out. I predicted to several friends that Croatia will give them a hard game and probably win to general scorn from them being convinced it would be a many goal victory for the Samba boys. You need a united team to win a World Cup and, I reckon that Tite felt he no longer had full control and that is why he exited sharply. A manager knows that all players must go through fire for each other despite any personal differences. Brazil, with the most talented squad in the competition, obviously allowed egos to dominate and Tite couldn’t stamp it out. No manager can perform miracles if the players refuse to listen. Brazil deserved to go out. Saka the great, Southgate not so Saka has made excellent strides into cementing his place among the elite players of his generation with most observers putting him at the top of England’s players. I have doubts about Bellingham despite the noise being created about him. He did it against weaker teams. Against France he was anonymous. Southgate is still lauded by England but I have reservations about him. Klopp, I feel is right. He lets the media pick his team. Everyone screamed Foden, he played him. The pundits were saying Bellingham was the greatest midfielder in the world, so he played him. Kalvin Philips played very well whenever picked and I think he was the better option against the French. Bellingham is playing in a Dortmund side that has lost six in fifteen in the Bundesliga, and that league is not as competitive as the Premier league. He may well fulfill his potential but he needs time. Gareth Southgate - does the media pick his beard? The thing is, Southgate, Ben White apart, seems to have the support of his team. He didn’t have to pander to the media. He could have played what he sees as his best team and would have been supported. Bring Bellingham on if he needed to freshen things up. And don’t take off your most effective player when you were still in with a chance of winning the World Cup. Southgate has been very lucky as a manager, mostly getting weaker teams at major championships and that conflates to a heightening of his reputation. I don’t accept him as a good manager. The Ben White situation is an example of why I feel Southgate is overrated. White has not attracted a reputation of being difficult at anywhere he has been, and a player being sent home, or going home voluntarily from a major championship is an extremely rare occurrence. That is down to Southgate, I feel. Jude Bellingham - not the finished product yet Egos are in charge The contrast with Tite, who is dealing with almighty egos in the Brazilian dressing room, is stark. One example is that our own Unai Emery, when coach at PSG, famously said that Neymar is in charge. Players should never be and as Tite picked Martinelli, the players needed to work with him. Tite believed in him as he played him, but other players decided differently. Those players should never be allowed compete for Brazil again unless they accept the manager is in charge. Tite was given an impossible job And what does it all mean for Arsenal? Bring Balogun or Pepe back as backup for Jesus? Can Nketiah step up? Eddie has been training with Jesus and reports suggest that it has improved his game. England’s under 21 all time top scorer, if he reproduces that form, could make it difficult for Jesus to get back in. That is the most optimistic scenario. He does seem a more effective goalscorer than Jesus but Jesus brings an enhanced element of threat with his all round game which has translated into many wins for us. There are rumours of strikers being bought but there always is. Arsenal should be ready Turner and Karl Hein have shown they can truly challenge Ramsdale. That has to be good for our season. Ben White’s difficulty could mean he has a mental challenge to overcome but I feel the Arsenal family will rally around him. Saliba should be fresh unless he gets picked for the last (possible) 2 games but that is unlikely. Centrebacks rarely get subbed. Xhaka and Partey, so essential to our side, look fit and well. Martinelli will be raring to go as always. It could be worse. Olivier just keeps getting better I predicted France at the start in a previous blog and still feel happy. They have a strong defensive structure and that is essential. Their midfielders and forwards are top class and they surely will stop the Morocco dreadnought that has lit up this World Cup. Morocco have done it without kicking and cheating to anywhere near the extent of other teams ( I am looking at you Argentina) but France will probably be too gamewise to let it slip. A sporting World Cup? Argentina have always been thugs without any class and this World cup is no different. Football is a sport and, as such sporting attitudes should prevail. I hope they lose against Croatia. I think that Croatia will more likely lose, though. Argentina will find a way to win. If Croatia does win, even though I have predicted France, I would love to see Morocco go through. I think that only France can stop an unsporting Argentinian team from winning the World Cup, however. Contrast several French players consoling the England ones and the Argentinians sneering at the Dutch. This has been a pretty sporting World Cup, Argentina aside. I still like Emi I will finish with a little tiny bit of praise for myself as a forecaster. So far, since I started predicting what we will do in tournaments, I have done pretty well, generally getting to within 3 points of our eventual tally. And I hope I have got this World Cup right. I will do my next prediction next week and as usual, give you all our scores in advance. That part is a bit of fun, but I do get a lot of results right, if not always the scores. Maybe I should start betting, this Arsenal team still look like a good bet to me.
  5. Jesus, Martinelli Brazil World rank 1 Paddy Power 4/1 Saliba, France World rank 3 Paddy Power 6/1 Saka, White, Ramsdale England World rank 5 Paddy Power 8/1 Xhaka, Switzerland World rank 14 Paddy Power 90/1 Turner, USA World rank 15 Paddy Power 125/1 Tomiyasu, Japan World rank 23 Paddy Power 300/1 Partey, Ghana World rank 60 Paddy Power 300/1 No Saka in the picture? Why is that? Arsenal come out on top And so can Arsenal win the World Cup? Of course, I don’t mean the actual trophy but an Arsenal player or players get a winners medal? Judging by various metrics it is certainly possible. Above are the players going and their countries ratings according to 2 different metrics – World ranking and betting odds. By those guides we have a chance. I suspect it is fair to say that only the first 3 countries have a chance, for the others it would be as big a shock as if Arsenal win the Premiership. Ah, only joking, Arsenal are, however, a massive 11/2 to win despite being clear at the top. That figure would put us ahead of France and England winning the World Cup as possibilities, though. But we do have 3 teams rated in the top 5 by ranking, and in betting. Argentina at 11/2 are 2nd but 4th in world rankings and Spain at 7/1 are in 4th but 7th in rankings.. Amazingly Belgium are ranked 2nd but are way higher in the betting at 18/1. We don’t have any Belgian players at the World Cup unless an injury brings Lokonga in late. A new winner? I have to say one thing here now and that is we rarely get a new winner and that is reflected in the betting. Belgium have never won it and are banished to the outer regions but all of the winners at some time were new winners so do not let that put you off if you fancied them nor even the team I regard as our best Arsenal outsiders, Switzerland at 90/1. If Xhaka’s team come through their group, which I expect although Brazil, Serbia and Cameroon will provide strong opposition, they will then avoid Brazil in subsequent rounds. They could be a good each way bet although it is very hard to see them winning it. Croatia almost did last time out, though, and there is often a surprise team in the semi’s. There definitely was in the USA in 1994 but I can’t remember the name of the team. Just joking! Only 8 teams have won it and Italy are not here. Uruguay have been eclipsed by Brazil and Argentina and do not look likely to win but the other six are the top six in the betting – Brazil, Argentina, France, Spain, England and, perhaps surprisingly Germany are the final one at 10/1. Could be good value but we don’t have any Germans any more BFG or not. A non-playing medal? Jesus and Martinelli then are our best chance. Will they play? It is hard to say but it doesn’t look good. They would need to get a chance and take it. They may get a go as a sub if Brazil are struggling and if they come on and help them to win, well you never know. But the competition is strong and it doesn’t look very good. A non-playing medal is of course more likely. Saliba: Our top chance? France and Saliba have to have a great chance. Saliba has already played 7 times for them this season and I feel he will play. Their group looks winnable with Denmark, Tunisia and Australia and Mbappe, Griezman and Benzema always give you a chance. I reckon Saliba is our best chance of actually playing in the final and winning. England? Surely a big shocker if they fail to get out of their group with the USA, Wales and Iran. They have been stuttering, though, and it will definitely be the end of Southgate if that happens. Can they win it? I just don’t see it, to be honest, they have too many players with mistakes in them. However if they do, Saka will most likely play and possibly Ben White if he is given a chance and shines. Verdict – a maybe but I believe if they do, Saka will be on the pitch for the final. None of our players get a chance for the big teams? France are my tip to win it. Strangely enough, for the big teams, all our players are doubts, even Saka and Saliba. The competition is strong. This does not apply to the rest of our players as they will certainly play if fit. Can the lower players win it? The betting and their rankings say no. The lowest ranked team to ever win it was France in 1998 at 18 but look at that side, full to the brim of extraordinary players including several Arsenal legends. Their ranking was a joke as they often are. Many teams are in there now beyond 32 in the rankings with Ghana at 60 the lowest. Does not look good for Partey, does it? Still, Portugal might implode with Ronaldo, and Uruguay and South Korea look beatable. Get through the group and you never know. But a quarterfinal would be a surprise. Partey's Ghana could surprise As it would be for Tomiyasu’s Japan. Spain, Germany and Costa Rica stand in their way and it seems a mountain too high. We won’t see him lifting any medal. The USA could be dark horses Turner will play as he has cemented his spot with the USA and I think they have a good chance of getting out of their group as England could well stumble, Wales are unpredictable and Iran are well lower than them in the betting at 500/1 to the USA 125/1. Wales are also 125/1. The USA have often done well in World Cups and could be a surprise package. I feel that quarterfinals are their best hope, though. I don’t see Turner holding a medal but you never know. They do have players such as Pulisic of Chelsea who are playing at the highest level. Turner - Can the USA win in an airconditioned stadium? My conclusion is that Saliba represents our best chance of playing and winning. Jesus and Martinelli our best chance of winners medals and probably not playing. England probably won’t make it. Xhaka as our best outside chance. Brazil- always a great chance It would be great to see England or Brazil do it with all our boys playing, and World Cups always throw up players who shine though not going there as first choice, it could be Arsenal’s turn to have such players for Brazil or England. I really hope our 10 players play and show the world what it is to be Arsenal, to play with skill and abandon and that we have at least one player a winner in the final. Then Arsenal would be on top of the world. Let’s do it, Arsenal!
  6. Southampton -our bogey team? Are we on a slide? Is it fair to say we haven’t played well these past four matches? 4 teams below us in stature, and yet we struggled to put them away easily. Southampton, fast becoming our bogey team, scrambled a draw. A bit of bad luck in all four and we could have lost all of them. Cries of Arteta out, Edu out, Kroenke out, and cleaning ladies out would be ringing around the halls of the Emirates. Is it fair to say we were lucky, then, to have come out with 3 wins and a draw from these encounters? I say yes. I said in an earlier blog that beating teams below us is what matters and that is exactly what we have done here. Bodø/Glimt - our equals? Bodø/Glimt, Leeds Utd and Eindhoven all one nil to the Arsenal, our good old reliable score and then we got to sing it against Southampton but they didn’t let us finish with it. In the context of what we can achieve, these wins and the draw are the important ones. Lesser teams have to be put to the sword if you want to win trophies. Only City better than us? Arguably there is only one team better than us in fans and pundits minds, if Liverpool are indeed on a fall from grace, and that is Man City. Chelsea and the Spuds are bubbling around us and also last year there was little difference between us. Man Utd and Newcastle are the best of the rest. Liverpool are always capable of putting together a run. That leaves 7 teams chasing Champions league, if no one pops up from below. All with big squads and plenty of money. It now comes down to various factors, confidence, managers, team styles, the will to win, and luck. If it is fair to say we have had some luck so far in the past 4 matches, we will also need some again. So, against Southampton our goalmouth stats were only slightly better than the hosts, our 12 shots to their 10 and both 3 on target. We had 10 chances to their 8. We had a lot more possession. So we should have won, just. We didn’t, so that could be classified as bad luck. Or bad finishing. Bad finishing is the problem? For PSV Eindhoven it is very clear, we had lots of chances, 25 to their 4 and 18 chances to their 4. We had 8 on target to their 4. All other stats were in our favour so that could also be classified as bad luck. Or bad finishing. Unlucky Leeds? Against Leeds it was all a bit different. A team struggling near the bottom created more shots, 16 to 9, more chances, 11 to 7, and we both had the same shots on target at 4. Possession for us was a bit better then them. Surely good luck is clear here? Still worrying finishing from us, though. Against Bodø/Glimt the stats were remarkably similar. One shot on target apiece, our 7 shots to their 6, and our 6 chances to their 5. We were better with possession. We can’t say bad luck or particularly good luck. I feel we deserved to win, just. We have to beat lesser sides Worryingly, if we are talking about the luck factor, as I have said, bad luck could have seen us lose all four. To me, though, the biggest worry is conversion of chances. The figures are clear up above, we are creating chances, even on this bad run, and it is a bad run, as all teams are clearly below us in standings. What would Bodø/Glimt be the equivalent of? The Championship? PSV? At best a midtable Premiership side? And Leeds and Southampton looking like they will fight against relegation. So, let’s be clear, this is a bad run in which we have come out smelling of roses. We fought and we scrapped but didn’t play well for anything like 90 minutes for 4 matches in a row. And got 10 points! Xhaka - converting chances We do need to start playing well again, that is very clear. Even if my argument is that we were only truly lucky in the Leeds match and a touch unlucky in the Southampton one, we lost our goal scoring touch. 4 games and 4 goals is not going to win us the league unless we live up to the old one nil to the Arsenal trope. A bad spell to come? Should we be worried? Maybe. I don’t mind us having a bad spell but what I have suggested above is that it is not a bad spell at all. We deserved to win two of the 3 we did win and probably should have won the 4th. Which means the inevitable bad spell is still to come. Games we deserve to lose which we actually do. We had many such matches last term. This year we are much better. We seem to have found a solidity, a will to win, and a staunch defence to get us out of trouble. The Leeds second half was our worst so far. It happens all teams every season, they go to an unfancied side and fail to win. We won this time. Scored a wonder goal against Leeds I solve our problem So are we on a slide? The stats suggest otherwise. Are we looking tired? The stress of playing every week is hitting our big stars? If we discount being lucky as I have said, then it could be that factor. Do we have the strength in depth? A certain amount for sure. But I am sure of one thing, we need to score more goals. We need comfortable wins sometimes. If we are scrambling to get goals every game that will come back to bite us bigtime. Xhaka and Saka have been scoring wonder goals. My proposal is that all players get their names changed legally to an Aka ending to give us a big chance of winning everything. Gunnersaka Ramsdaka. Whaka Gaka Salibaka Tomiyaka Paka Xhaka (no change) Saka (no change) Martinaka Odegaka Jesuaka My problem is that no one at Arsenal ever listens to me. Please Artaka, our wonderful manager, listen to this Irishman and we will win everything, be Arsenal and send these teams home crying.
  7. Any Arsenal superstars out there? Can we match these boys? Ramsdale, Turner Tierney, Tomiyasu, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko Partey, Xhaka, Lokonga, Vieira, Odegaard, Saka, Jesus, Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Pepe, Balogun Arsenal are the greatest football team Can any of our players become world superstars of the calibre of great names such as Messi, Ronaldo, Cruyf, Beckenbauer, Pele or Maradona? Or eclipse our own great heroes such as Brady, Jennings, Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Campbell or Adams? Today I will take a look at the possible candidates (above) and see where we are, at the moment, in such aspirations. I am going to choose from the list above and I reckon there are some surprises there. I will list those you probably will jump on first, Turner, Pepe, Balogun, Nketiah, Lokonga, Vieira, and maybe even Jesus and Zinchenko. Our Best Chance? A world superstar is a player universally recognised as a supreme exponent in their position, someone, who, if any fan were compiling a list of the world’s best team at the moment, would definitely include them in their deliberations. They have to have built up a body of work to achieve that position, titles, international achievements, etc. None…Yet Now, I don’t want to rain on any Arsenal fans parades but none of our players are currently in that position. Some may be heading that way, though. One big change over the past two seasons has been that we can no longer easily say who our most important player is. Saka has been our best, for sure, over the past few seasons, but now? Is Jesus, Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka, Ramsdale, Saliba or Martinelli more crucial to our success? This is the great thing about this emerging team, I can talk seriously about the notion that some could move into the realm of the huge names mentioned above. Surely Saliba is Dynamite? Ok, let’s look at the players. Ramsdale and Turner in goal. Ramsdale needs to grab the England position and keep it for a long time to even dream of being a great in the line of Zoff, Banks or Buffon. He also needs to win titles and global awards. I am not sure where he is in Gareth Southgate’s mind but certainly not number one. This does not apply to Turner, who seems to have cemented his place as US keeper with 20 appearances, and he has got impressive awards such as goalkeeper of the tournament Concacaf 2021, winner of that cup as well, and MLS keeper of the year 2021 among others. This boy might surprise us, I believe he knew the risk coming to Arsenal and challenging Ramsdale, so do not write him off. Nor Ramsdale, if we become a major title winning team over the next few seasons and he grabs that England place. Beasts at the back? Kieran Tierney has all the talent in the world but seems injury prone. 34 games for Scotland and first choice if fit but it is at Arsenal or another top team that he will need to make the transition to world great as Scotland are not a world power. He would need to stay fit and improve. A maybe? Maybe. Super Tom kept Salah in his pocket Tomiyasu – again Japan are not a world power but this guy is good. He is first choice for Japan with 29 appearances and he is one who could do it. He put Mo Salah in his pocket recently. At only 23 this guy could make it. White – the argument against Ramsdale is the same, he needs to force his way into Southgate’s squad and win big trophies for Arsenal. Just about young enough at 25 to do it as some players careers blossom late but becoming a true world great doesn’t seem likely, I’m afraid. But he may still turn out to be top class and just below the level I am talking about and that would do me. Saliba – now here is a player who could do it. 7 appearances for France and I feel they will never let him go. He could be the rock on which both teams rely. Yes, this guy could do it. Gabriel – At 24 still young enough if he can get into Brazil’s team and eliminate his mistakes, sometimes partnerships make centrebacks and Saliba may propel him into the super league but at the moment the level I am talking about seems questionable. Zinchenko – 25 years old and 52 caps for Ukraine but unlikely to win a tournament with them. Let go by City when he should have been in his prime. Probably never to be a world great but very useful and top class. Monsters in midfield? Partey – at 29 is not going to make it into the pantheon. Prized by Ghana although surprisingly only 40 caps. Has won titles with Athletico Madrid and hopefully with us but below world class unless he suddenly turns out to be a true demon. Xhaka – at 30 almost the exact same applies to Xhaka but an astonishing 106 caps and counting for Switzerland. Maybe this attacking role could finally propel him into superstar mode but it is a maybe. Lokonga – too early in his career to say. Needs to force his way into the Belgian and Arsenal teams and stay there. Some of the things he does show possibilities. Vieira - same applies. Odegaard-On his way to the top? Odegaard – would be helped if Norway can play well in big tournaments. But this boy could do it if he wins big at Arsenal. One of our strongest possibilities for this prize. Animals in attack? Saka – our star boy really could do it. Huge competition at England but I believe he will nail down his place. Big chance. Jesus – Body of work for Brazil at 56 caps and 19 goals plus being let go by City in his prime seems to indicate that he is not the next Pele. Needs to become a beast. It’s possible. Maybe he could become the next Pele? Martinelli – Still only 21, he is starting to push his way into the Brazil side. This boy really could do it. I hope it is at Arsenal. Any ogres among the others? Pepe, Smith Rowe, Nketiah and Balogun are imponderables. Time is running out for Pepe but I believe he has tremendous ability. If he got in the right side that suited him he could yet blossom. The other three all have great ability. Goals will make them. They have all shown an eye for goals especially Smith Rowe in a Lampard role, if he could equal Lampard’s goal scoring record, then the sky’s the limit. To me he is the best of that bunch. And of course, young players such as Patino could come through as well. So, I would say our best possibilities are Saliba, Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli. If they go on to do it and stay with Arsenal, of course, I would say Man City and others would need to buy big to stay with us. 4 true world class players like the players named at the start, and the rest almost so, would make us the best team in the world, I feel. Am I right? I hope so but I would take them being the equal of Wenger’s best when we felt we had a great chance in every tournament we entered. C’mon the world class Arsenal.
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