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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!
Our very own ‘Nam In contemporary American folklore, Vietnam (The ‘Nam) has a unique place. Many soldiers came back traumatised or got attacked for having been there in the first place. It was an unpopular war and the ‘Nam has a grim place in American folk memory. But we here at Arsenal have our own ‘Nam – Totten-Nam! But as we will see here, In contrast to the American one, they have a happy place in our folk memory. And why? Because they were mostly crap and we flew high above them. I will take a look at the 90’s this time and our position versus London clubs and the ‘Nam. It is good reading. Even their badge is a cock on a ball. What were they thinking? What cocks! As I have mentioned before in these pages, most of the time I have been an Arsenal supporter, The ‘Nam were second best. The only real times The ‘Nam were better than us was when both were struggling. The ‘Nam have not won the league since I became an Arsenal supporter (1969) whereas we have won it six times. They have won the FA cup 3 times compared to our 10. The League cup is better for them at 4 times to our 2. They won the Uefa cup twice compared to our one and European cup-winners cup one apiece. Overall we are very clearly ahead up to the end of the 90’s. The same is true of the other London clubs, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, QPR, Watford, Fulham, etc. 3 Immense managers Mr Chapman, you gave us so much class I think it is fair to say that Arsenal have had 3 great managers: the incomparable Herbert Chapman, who brought titles, innovations, marble halls, physiotherapy, training, and an Arsenal way of doing things that oozed class. You could be proud of Arsenal. George Graham took on the mighty Liverpool, then undisputedly the best team ever in English football, and cut them down to size. He won many trophies and brought a level of onfield organisation that has never been seen before or since. And of course the magnificent Arsene Wenger, who comes close to matching Chapman in how he organised the club off the pitch, with his superior stadium, training and medical facilities. And he, of course, surpassed the previous 2 in terms of trophies, although he did get a lot longer. Graham and Wenger coexisted in this decade, the 90’s, and that is unusual, to have 2 superlative managers in the same decade. So we were easily the kings of London in this decade as The ‘Nam were pretty good by their standards , as also were Chelsea, and other London teams were popping up and sometimes doing good things but we were well ahead. For the previous 2 decades I made a case that we were the best as we were the only team to win the league, which is the ultimate domestic trophy. But in the nineties, I do not have to make a case for Arsenal. We were the best. Not the best in England, as Man Utd had that distinction, but Kings of London for sure. A little stutter at the start 4, 1, 4, 10, 4, 12, 5, 3, 1, 2 was our final league standings giving us 2 league titles, one better than the previous decades. We had 2 Fa cups compared to The ‘Nam one. We both had one league cup but we had 3 Charity Shields to their one. The emerging Chelsea won the Fa cup once, League cup once, Cup-winners cup once and Uefa Super cup once. West Ham had 2 promotions from the second tier in this time. Promotion was the best for the others. But let’s take it year by year. 1989-90 we were 4th, the ‘Nam 3rd and Chelsea 5th with the rest down the table. Palace were 15th but got to the final of the FA cup to be beaten by Man Utd. So the ‘Nam in the lead but waiting for us to knock them down again as we always did. But then we took off Bye, bye, Spuds 1990-91 we were top, Palace were 3rd, the ‘Nam, Chelsea and QPR were 10th, 11th and 12th respectively. The ‘Nam won the cup but now us clearly in the lead. Can you even see us? We can sell you binoculars. 1991-92 we were 4th but Palace were next in 10th, QPR 11th, Wimbledon 13th, Chelsea 14th, The ‘Nam 15th and West Ham had come up but went straight back down. Further into the lead. We can offer you a telescope. 1992-93 10th but we did the double of both domestic cups. QPR 5th, The ‘Nam 8th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 12th, and Palace relegated. I say further into the lead. A long range telescope might help. 1993-94 4th. Wimbledon 6th, QPR 9th, West Ham 13th, Chelsea 14th, Tottenham 15th. Chelsea got to the FA cup final but we won the Cup-Winners cup. Again further into the lead. A space telescope might be needed. 1994-95 12th. Tottenham 7th, QPR 8th, Wimbledon 9th, Chelsea 11th and Palace relegated. The ‘Nam got to FA cup semi and Palace got to both domestic semi’s. But we got to the Cup-Winners Final. Maybe we moved back a tiny bit. 1995-96 Again top London team at 5th. The ‘Nam 8th, West Ham 10th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 14th and QPR relegated. A semi in the League Cup fpr us as well means back out in front. By now the ‘Nam need to start tracking us by satellite. We are that dot in the sky laughing down at you. 1996-97 We were 3rd, Chelsea were 6th, Wimbledon 8th, Tottenham 10th and West Ham 14th. Chelsea won the FA cup. Possibly a little bit back this year because of Chelsea but still well out on front over the ‘Nam. They need to get on to the Space Station telescope to see where we are. We put a rocket up our Arse 1997-98 Ah, but now Mr Wenger had properly come and we nearly did a domestic sweep winning League and Fa cup and being beaten by Chelsea in the semi of the League Cup which they won. Chelsea 4th, West Ham 8th, The ‘Nam 14th, Wimbledon 15th and Palace up and back down. We had flown so far ahead at this point no other London team was remotely close. The poor old ‘Nam now needed the Hubble telescope to find us. This could help you, Spuds 1998-99 Arsenal 2nd, Chelsea 3rd, West Ham 5th, the ‘Nam 11th and Wimbledon 16th. We got FA cup semi-final and Chelsea Cup-Winner cup semi. Further away from the pack for us. Oh, what fun we had as the ‘Nam went down to Greenwich observatory begging for advice to see where the stars of Arsenal were, and will they ever be able to get into our orbit again. Spuds scurried down to Greenwich to find where we were Ah, we had a great big laugh No London team got close to us in the 90’s as you can see. Chelsea had started the investment process and were moving closer. The ’Nam and the rest were nowhere near. I have to say that was the case for me regarding the ‘Nam, they were mostly well behind us. I never hated them as they were very rarely serious challengers when we were good. I think that is why they always seem to hate us more, because we were much better. And we had a habit of humiliating them on their own ground. And they couldn’t afford space telescopes. And we had got the magical Wenger. The guy we didn’t know we wanted was our saviour. He transformed Arsenal, we had great great players, he was to give us a magnificent stadium, unbelievable training and medical facilities, an exhilarating style of play, lots of trophies, 2 doubles, an unbeaten season, oh, the wonder of it all. We still needed to be better In fairness, though, yes, we were clearly kings of London but not of England as the Millennium approached. We had a good decade and in most other decades it would have been a great one but Manchester United had an unbelievable decade. They had to be our target. The ‘Nam were a joke by comparison and Chelsea were still well behind us. We needed to be Arsenal and we needed to send the Mancs scurrying home north crying all the way. We could not, and should not accept second best. Having a laugh at the ‘Nam was good fun but that was easy, getting on top of the Mancs was harder.