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  1. Next ten matches: Palace h Forest a Liverpool h West Ham a Burnley a Newcastle H Sheff Utd a Brentford h Chelsea h City a Where can we finish, 2024, part 3? And so it all went wrong. We have 40 points after 20 games and a mountain to climb to win the league. An inability to score goals in our last few matches cost us dearly. Moving the ball around ineffectively in front of goal was our speciality and we now need to perform in the second half of the season. Can we do so? We will look at what we need to do in a little while but first how did our predictions go last time? Pretty good until the last few matches. Dani Georgiev, our new guest predictor, went for 48 points and I went for 46, which was the furthest away I have been from our final total. Our new transfer signing In fairness, we were the best team at Liverpool and West Ham and the five extra points we should have got would have put me within one point and I would have been happy. Fulham we deserved to lose. What it all means is we now have almost no room for wriggle in our remaining matches. I am going to set a target of 86 points as the minimum needed this year. I doubt if much less will be good enough. That means 46 out of 18 matches with a maximum of 54 points. We can drop eight points in this scenario. As you can imagine, we could easily drop that in the next ten and be out of contention early. Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham are waiting for us. 4 draws and we are out. 2 losses and a draw and we are out. We need to be almost perfect for 18 matches and being honest, how many can really see that? Goals will come from where? To get 71 which might be enough for Champions League we need 31 out of 18 matches. Certainly a lot more achievable but not if we continue to lack scores. It doesn’t seem like a striker is coming and for me, we should play Nketiah in that situation. He does get in good positions which is our problem this year. Seemingly he is not considered a viable option, which leaves us an injury-prone and low-scoring Jesus or… Havertz? We are creating lots of chances, somebody needs to score them. But who? Why can't we bring this guy back? So we know, more or less, what we need to get. A very high total of wins gets us the league. We must beat both Liverpool and City, I feel, as they may not drop many. And put away all the lower teams for sure. But Arteta has had weak finishes so far and that has to change. Optimism is all we have at the moment. It won’t be enough as we also may have to contend with the Champions League, adding to our pressure. Honestly, I would like to see Arteta prioritise CL and top four as that would crown my Arsenal life. We need CL to cement our place amongst the greats. 7 matches is what we need, and if we create chances and score them, we could do it. We probably won’t win the Premier League anyway. Anyway, on to predictions and as always we give you the scores as well for a bit of fun Palace at home is a must win and I say 3-1 and Dani goes 3-0 which means we haven’t been watching our last few matches as we suddenly start scoring. Us Arsenal fans are always delusional. I hope there isn’t a psychiatric hospital waiting for us. But 43 points and a step on the ladder. Gus 43 Dani 43 Forest away is another must win. Aren’t they all? I go 2-0 but Dani obviously has remembered that we don’t score goals as he goes 1-1. He must be afraid that that psychiatric hospital is a real threat. For me Nuno Espirito Santo has lost his mojo and this is one we can win. And we must. Gus 46 Dani 44 Liverpool at the Emirates. They are a strange side for us. We seem to mostly play well against them without a lot of reward. But this could be an early six-pointer and Liverpool could pull away heavily with a win. I say we must win and I would take them playing better than us if we get 2-1. They owe us a win that we don’t deserve, yes? Dani goes 1-0 and I would say he agrees with me about winning this one any way we can. Gus 49 Dani 47 We owe you a mighty pasting, David West Ham away. We really need this one to restore the balance in the universe. They stole their 2-0 at the Emirates but this time I feel we will deservedly win 2-0. Surely Moyes won’t get lucky twice? Dani thinks they might as he goes 2-2. Gus 52 Dani 48 Burnley away. Vincent Kompany’s team have been playing better than their position shows but these are the teams we must put away. He doesn’t like playing blanket defence and that may help us. I say 3-0 to us and Dani agrees with me. Gus 55 Dani 51 Nuke Hassle at home and you never know what Newcastle you will get. He will most likely park the bus and hope for a breakaway. A couple of early goals will scupper his chances. I say 2-0 and Dani 2-1. Gus 58 Dani 54 Sheffield Utd away. So far they just cannot put points on the board and unless they have dramatically improved by this point I can’t see them getting any change out of us. We win 3-1 and Dani says we win 2-0 and we now have our last 3 results in common. Gus 61 Dani 57 Brentford at home and like I have said all along, we have no room for excuses, we have already dropped too many points. I predict a hard fought 1-0 and Dani surprises me by going 0-0. If we haven’t started scoring by now he could be right. They can be a tough team. Gus 64 Dani 58 We then have Chelsea at home and it is impossible to say what Pochettino’s team will be like by then. I am going 1-1 on a day we struggle to score. Dani sees us back to scoring ways with a 3-1. I hope he is right. Gus 65 Dani 61 Getting dark, too dark to see And then the biggie! City away and the old dark cloud comes down on both of us as we both say 2-0 to Guardiola. We could be Knocking on Heaven’s Door by then, particularly if Dani’s cumulative predictions are right. If De Bruyne and Haaland stay fit City are going to be hard to stop. The two of them are probably the best in the league. I would love either for us. Pep, you should have given us these two, not the two you did Gus 65 Dani 61 The Champions League should be the target It means I predict a very optimistic 5 points dropped but Dani says 9. Which means if the target of 86 points is correct we can only afford to lose 3 points from our final 8 according to me and Dani already has us out of winning the league even if we win our last 8. Probably we are being realistic and don’t wish to be candidates for the psychiatric ward but it is a little depressing, isn’t it? Here we are, just over halfway and we don’t think the league is likely. However, if we do manage to get these points 65 or 61 it does mean my CL target of 71 points is well within our grasp. The one that I want Mikel, win me the Champions League and I won’t care a jot where we finish in the league. There are only seven matches left and it is in Wembley. You always win there.
  2. Can our new striker come from within? Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus. If we stick with that current line one of them, at least, will have to start banging in goals in a way that they haven’t so far. Or we need someone else as suggested by Jamie Carragher if we are to win the title. Gaby our centre? Why not? So can one of these do a Thierry Henry like conversion from their current position to start hammering in the goals like a certain Frenchman? On the surface it is hard to perceive. We do see Martinelli and Saka, with backup from Trossard and Nelson, and even Jesus, marauding along the wing, aiming for that cross or pullback that will unleash a goal. That must be frightening for any team. So pulling Martinelli or Saka from their role seems unlikely. Unless I am mistaken, Martinelli would like to tackle the centre but I don’t honestly see that happening, and nor with Saka. I can’t remember reading that Saka would like a centre role but nor did Henry and that is the critical aspect to this argument. Not what they might like but can they do it? He will need to be given patience The one big drawback is that it might take time to find their feet, like Henry. Old timers like myself will remember Henry struggling to get goals despite showing some flashes of top play. All of the above names are in that category, they have shown flickers of light at scoring goals and causing mayhem for the opposition, but none have really been given a long enough chance to show whether they are capable. I suspect that Jesus will not become a goal machine, though. But a switch with Martinelli could well work. I feel Martinelli can score goals. That for me, is one option to transform the team. Has Eddie really been given a chance? Of course Eddie, as probably the only dedicated centre forward in that line-up could start to blossom. He has at underage. He does need a longer spell and patience as was given to Henry. I reckon he won’t get it, though, and maybe we will never know if he could turn into the goal machine we need. I doubt if many fans would vote for Eddie, but then fans don’t pick the team. A surprise turns up? So, let’s take a step back and look at the rest. Reiss Nelson? He can score goals under pressure, we know that. He is quick, he is strong, and to me, he has a bit of a Henry look about him. Henry’s biggest attribute, in my opinion, was the arrogance he found as the goals flowed. He had the belief he could score against anyone and that is what we need and don’t have at the moment. Reiss? It could be but again there seems little indication that such a gamble would be taken. Emile? I really think this boy could do it Smith Rowe? Have you noticed how often he gets into dangerous positions? Even with a short match time? I feel he could very easily be a focal point. I would like to see him given a chance. I would see him as a Son type player, popping up to score goals from everywhere. He may be a Spud, but Son is a super player. This may well be my preference. Who else? Saka I don’t really see in the centre. For sure he could shine with the ability he has, he wouldn’t let us down, but the mayhem, the wing focal point of the attacks that are so crucial would be lost without him. Getting the ball to Saka always gives players a chance to score. Trossard? Again a Son type forward, to pop up across the line. He knows where the goal is and a sustained run could see him undroppable. If given a chance he could well do exactly what we are hoping for. Odegaard - the new Bergkamp? Martin? A Bergkamp style forward? He could do it, you know. He keeps getting better and he is scoring. He is deceptively strong, able and willing to pick up the ball, and with his confidence up, could make that leap. There would be a sacrifice in his distribution if he was further forward and there seems little indication Arteta would be willing to risk such a move. Paul Scholes comes to mind when I see Odegaard. Oh Kai? And lastly Mr Havertz. We just don’t know, do we? He has shown less goal ability than any of the above for us or Chelsea. He has talent, he has nous, he has size, and perhaps it is that belief that comes from scoring goals that will give him the arrogance to get in the box and find the back of the net regularly. He is the wild card of the lot. All we can really say is that the backroom team and the statisticians decided he was worth the huge money paid and crucially, Arteta believes in him. He has got on the pitch in most games so far. As a midfielder, though, surely he is not above Rice, Odegaard, Partey or even Jorginho? Can he be a forward above Eddie, Jesus and Trossard? If not, then I suspect a bit part role is his destiny. He must score or die. It is what I would tell him. Does he Havertz a chance? The only job open at the moment is the striker’s. The internal candidates are the above. Only Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard are safe in their positions. The others, if they jump on the striker’s role, could also be first choice like Harry Kane at Bayern, and the rest would have to pick up the scraps. Jesus - out wide for the good of the team? And my preference? Martinelli in the centre with Jesus out wide is probably the move that could work. Martinelli gets in the right positions. He can score goals by himself. He does seem to have the arrogance required despite his humble words. I feel he believes in himself. The only way we will ever know is if he is given the chance. I say give him that chance. Ps. You may say why did I not include Vieira? I just don’t see him as a focal point for the attack. I could be wrong, of course.
  3. Arsenal, English? Really? My top 2 English teams for Arsenal (at least 100 appearances) David Seaman John Lukic Ashley Cole, Lee Dixon Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson Tony Adams, Sol Campbell Martin Keown, Steve Bould Peter Storey, Michael Thomas David Platt, Ray Parlour Bukayo Saka, David Rocastle George Armstrong, Charlie George John Radford, Ian Wright Alan Smith, Malcolm Macdonald Arsenal are an English team. Arsenal are an English team? Really? So who is our best ever manager? The Englishman Herbert Chapman or the Frenchman Arsene Wenger? Not so easy to say but Wenger has far more trophies and upgraded Arsenal to the top of the pile when Manchester United, full with money, stars, and a huge fanbase, were in their prime. I think you have to put the Frenchman ahead, just. More trophies = Better? Our best ever player? Also French. The magical Thierry Henry. It is very hard to put a real English contender against him, especially in my time, which, as I find it too hard to judge players from the past, means I can only go on their records. So, Cliff Bastin (396 appearances, 178 goals) is behind Ian Wright (288 appearances, 185 goals). Not a true reflection as they are totally different eras. Ian Wright is a big favourite of mine, as he is to us all here in ASCB, but I have to concede he wasn’t as good as Henry or Bergkamp. The tall one is Ian Wright Our English defence were so good Our best goalkeeper? Well, certainly Seaman has some competition in Jennings, or Lehmann, with all three having their champions. I would go for Jennings. With fullbacks there is an argument for English dominance as indeed in defence generally. David O’Leary, Terry Neill, Frank McLintock, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson were super players but as you can see from my 2 teams up above, the English defenders could hold their own against the best of the outside brigade. In midfield not so much. Brady, Vieira, Fabregas, Cazorla, Pettit, Pires, Ljungberg, Rosicky, Ozil, Ramsey, and others would have to be just that bit stronger than the 4 I have nominated above. On the wing, I chose Saka and Rocastle with just behind them Charlie George and Geordie Armstrong, who often played in a 4-3-3 which was a bit different from today. But are they better than Brady, Pires and Ljungberg who often played on the wing and Marc Overmars, Sylvain Wiltord and others? I would say that again the outsiders were a bit stronger. Super, super foreign stars up front Up front, it is very hard to make a claim that the best English forwards are a match for the best foreigners. The four Englishmen I have chosen were super players but the contest is phenomenal. Henry, Bergamp, Kanu, Anelka, Sanchez, Aubameyang, Van Persie and others of the Wenger era were true superstars. In the end, I probably have to concede that only in defence, including goalkeepers, can Arsenal claim to be an English team and even then with strong competition. Anyway this week I decided to take a look at who would be our first and second best English team. One rule was at least a 100 competitive matches so it knocked out guys like Ramsdale, who is surely itching to make my list. Send me VIP tickets for every match, Aaron, and I will put you top . I chose Seaman over Lukic, mostly because that is probably the consensus choice but truly John Lukic was a superb keeper and only a shade weaker. Ashley Cole and Lee Dixon over Kenny Sansom and Viv Anderson, Very little difference. Superb players with lots of England caps. Adams and Campbell, wayhey! In central defence, I chose 2 legends, Adams and Campbell over Keown and Bould and probably most people would agree with that. Again I should say that I am choosing from 1969 onwards, the year of my conversion to the Arsenal cult, so the great defenders of the past are omitted. Surely a dream defence? In central midfield, I chose Peter Storey, who was true class. He could play across the defence and in midfield, always won the ball and made himself available for a pass. Alongside him the legend that is Michael Thomas, who scored what was for me our greatest ever goal against Liverpool at Anfield to win us the title. It’s only Ray Parlour and David Platt provide good backup but probably the first 2 have the edge here. Saka our future GOAT? On the wing, Saka is surely destined to be a world great and we all love David Rocastle but the competition is huge with Charlie George, a massive fan favourite in my time, and the sublime Geordie Armstrong, our top appearances up to David O’Leary. Very little difference here. Ramsdale next to make my list? I chose John Radford and Ian Wright up front against SuperMac and Alan Smith. Radford was my hero, scoring vital goals, always leading the line and scoring 149 times. Always someone ahead of him for England and he only got 2 caps. Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton, anyone? Ian Wright also lost out to Lineker and Shearer but battled his way to 33 caps all the same. In my time no Arsenal centre-forward claimed the top English spot for any length of time. Can Nketiah? He has managed to be the underage top scorer. Time will tell but at this juncture it seems unlikely. Does Englishness matter? And so there you have it. Would My top English team beat my second best? I guess so as in one or two areas they are stronger. But it is tight and could not be guaranteed. I don’t feel they could beat the best foreign 11 though. Spot the Englishmen! So, to answer my question, posed at the start – is Arsenal an English team? Sort of is my answer. The best players come from everywhere, including England. The fans also come from everywhere as anyone who has been at the Emirates can testify. The owners are American and lots of the staff are from everywhere. Is it important? I don’t know. I think it could be if Arsenal don’t get back to the top. You do need the locals to support and a strong English presence will always help in that regard. Now we have so many English guys playing and starring in all sectors that we probably have the strongest English team at the moment of the teams in the top five. I await the day the Irish make a comeback and we get a Bulgarian superstar for our English team. And c’mon the Arse! These Englishmen looked to be the future. It is hard to make it at Arsenal
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