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Liverpool H, Leeds A, Southampton A, Forest H, Chelsea A, Wolves A, West Ham H, Brighton A Getting it wrong and being happy And so I got it wrong. Could anyone really predict 7 wins out of 8 and even that one we were caught by 3 sucker punches? Well, yes, one of our own ASCB supporters did predict 8 out of eight in the comments section of my first attempt https://arsenal-bulgaria.com/site/team/london_calling/where-can-we-finish-2023-part-1-r506/ I predicted 17 points, we got 21. I have substituted Spurs for Everton as we didn’t play them but I predicted 4-1 so similar to the Spuds result. This time the World Cup could have a big impact on us or other teams and I have no way of knowing what players will be affected. So now I will have a go at predicting the next eight – eight wins! Ok, bye bye, see you next time! … Maybe the Liverpool machine is coming to an end Ah, ok, I can’t really say that but I am worried about Liverpool in the first. No, they haven’t played well. No they haven’t played a team of the quality of Arsenal and yes, we are playing at home. But we have not got a good record against them and worryingly, they have had the third highest shots on goal of any team, eclipsed only by us and the marauding City. Any Arsenal fan thinking Liverpool are ready to be beaten are fooling themselves. And they always seem to get the best of the VAR decisions. I am hoping for a win but will settle for a draw. 2-2 in an open game, but very feisty. We need to be brave and disciplined as Liverpool have seasoned pros who know all the tricks. 22 points Tomiyasu: Key for Japan - key for us? Leeds away? Last year we beat them 4-1 and might do it again. I do expect a win although they are not doing badly, a respectable midtable. I was at the game at the Emirates and we won 2-1 but how I don’t know. We totally outplayed them for long periods and yet had a nervy finish. Another 2-1 would do me. 25 points. Is there danger here? Southampton away? Last year they beat us exactly when we needed wins. We cannot allow them to do so again. If we perform well I would like to see 2-0. They are on a bad run but they were also on one last season so please Arsenal don’t let them be a bogey team. 28 points. Saka might be our only England player Forest at home? I am planning being at this fixture although tickets haven’t popped up yet. ASCB I need you. They are down in relegation position and surely cannot cope with our energy, our strikers, and the understanding we have forged. They have bought one billion players and seem to have no understanding. No Robin Hood for these boys as we send them home crying 4-0. 31 points. Maybe Jesus and our other Brazilians may not play much in the World cup We are all getting excited. Points keep coming in. Man City have also got a draw against Liverpool by this stage so we are still top. City are going like a machine but so are we. It is frightening to watch. Blue demons or not? Chelsea away? Our record at Stamford Bridge is not so great but last year we reversed games. They won at ours and we won at theirs. They have good players, and they are close to Champions league position. Surely this is not going to be easy. I would again settle for a draw but hopeful of a win. 1-1 and 32 points. Key for France - key for us Wolves away? They are doing disastrously. Now without a manager, Nuno Espirito Santo could make a comeback. He is doing ok in the Saudi league but surely would like to come back home? They could be a different proposition under him or a new manager. They gave us 2 hard games last year. But surely we will be too strong? 2-0 and 35 points. A world cup hangover? West Ham at home? I might try and get to this game. I expect a win although I feel the Hammers will be nicely up the table by then. We have a good record against them, particularly at home, and I think we can do it. Last year we did the double and this should be the start of another. This is our first match after the world cup and it is very hard to know what players we will have and what condition they will be in. Assuming no banana skins I am going for 2-1 in a hard fought game. 38 points. Xhaka has become key Brighton away? This is a game we could lose. We only took one point off them last year and they definitely look better this year. Roberti De Zerbi could be a excellent fit and the equal to Graham Potter. He did great work at Shaktar Donetsk. I feel we will need all our key players fit and firing for this one. If the world cup is unkind to us that will make it more difficult. Maybe another draw 1-1. 39 points. And Arsenal are soaring above everyone That would be a massive improvement of 13 points over last season, however City, at this point were 38 so 39 would probably see us still top. I am being optimistic but then again last time I thought I was being optimistic with 17 points after 8 games and we got 21 so I hope I am wrong the same way again. City are going so strong at the moment that it is hard to see them losing any match but they do have off days against lower teams sometimes. If we win all we have 45 and surely starting something unstoppable. Even a repeat of the 21 making 42 would make us very difficult to catch. Partey-We need a safe world cup Can we do it? My experience is that every team suffers a bad patch. Ours are often in November but this time November is short. As for the World cup it is possible that our Brazilians may not get much playing time. Saka may be our only English player. Xhaka will definitely play as will Partey, Tomiyasu and Saliba. So some key players will play. We need them to stay safe. Still it is not too bad unless they all struggle. We can probably survive one or two injuries. Let us hope for a great eight games. COYG.
Liverpool (a), Newcastle (h), Man u (a), Everton (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (h), Leeds (a), Norwich (a), Is this really back in our sights? 8 matches to halfway and 24 points to be won so we are halfway to paradise and 44 points. Regular readers will remember that I did a very early Where can we finish? After 3 games, all of which we lost. I was feeling bleak, and pointed out that Arteta has only one currency to trade in – wins. He needed a huge turnaround, but not just in results, in how we played. The defence, and particularly Leno, White and Holding were badly bullied by Brentford. We were outplayed by Chelsea and totally and utterly outplayed by Man City. On the back of that abject City display, I predicted that Arteta will face his marching cards from Kroenke sooner rather than later. The chinks of light were that our next matches were winnable and if we then beat the Spuds, Arteta would have breathing space. Although we haven’t won all our matches since then, we haven’t been beaten, Arteta has answered his critics for now, and, as fans, we can dream again. Even of Champions league. From bottom of the table, that is a good height. We brought in Mourinho’s bus The biggest change has been in the defence. Tomisayu, Gabriel and especially Ramsdale are not there to be bullied and all 3 have been outstanding. Tavares has come in for Tierney and done a great job. If you remember previous blogs I said without Tierney, who gets injured, we probably lose. That is no longer true and while I rate Tierney higher than Tavares, particularly for attacking, there seems little between them. Well done to Edu and Arteta there. A big part of our new defensive bus I still hold to my assertion, though. Those 3 losses will be a sword hanging over Arteta’s head till the end of the season. He has to continue winning and notching up points or we could tumble again. Fans are very fickle, the Kroenke’s are not liked, not seen as part of us, and they have been a bigger target than Arteta, who is seen as one of us, and a good person with a lot of knowledge who has promoted our young players. So they will get the blast from the fans first and another bad run may see the end of Arteta. A banana skin on an ice slide And this run we have now till Christmas is exactly the type of run that could go very badly. But in some ways we are potentially facing teams at their worst time, so it could be good for us. Don't look at him, boys The first one up is the hardest - Liverpool away. Klopp’s demons give every team nightmares. But a draw against Brighton and a loss to West Ham, shows their vulnerabilities. I say we have a chance if our defence plays at their best, our midfield holds their own, as we will get chances that we will have to take. It is hard to see beyond a draw, though. I will go for 1-1 and a tight game but still with chances for both sides. I would love to see better than that but Klopp will be anxious to correct his slide. Newcastle at home is a must win. Eddie Howe won’t have a transfer window to help him. They could be a different proposition in the second half of the season. So we must beat them now. Our players are better than them and we are at home. The new manager bounce might help them but I am going for 2-0 with the second goal coming late in a nervy match. Give us another fine mess, Olly Scratching your head won't help, Olly Ah Solskjaer, let’s hope you are still there and Utd are still a shambles. This one we can win as long as we win the midfield. And we should. They don’t look like a coherent team and if we play to our best, outrun them and out tackle them, we will win. A rare win at Old Trafford. This is a match I was scheduled to go to but smashing my ankle a while ago made it difficult to commit so I forewent my ticket. I would have loved to be there especially if we win. I am going to say 2-1 for us but a bit easier than that scoreline looks. Everton away. I like Everton as I have friends I grew up with in Ireland who are big fans. But I hope Benitez is still there and he hasn’t quite managed to correct their slide. It is a game we can win and we have a good record there. Another 2-1 but a more nervous one than against Man Utd. Southampton at home. There is no question about it, these are the games we have to win. Yes, they are on an uptick but they are still Southampton. A clean sheet and a 2-0 which we get in the first half. We allow them to come back at us in the second but we hang on. This could be our hardest The next match I feel we have to hope for a West Ham slide by then as I feel they are set up to give us a hard time. Their defence and midfield give nothing away and they attack with speed. They don’t have a weakness although we have a better goalkeeper. We might need to be lucky. Honestly I would take a draw here particularly if they are still playing well. The last time I was at this match a couple of years ago at the Olympic stadium it was 0-0 and a terrible match. And may be again. Leeds away? Bielsa’s team are always a difficult proposition. However they rarely play well for 90 minutes. We must capitalise on those times we are in the ascendancy and we have been a bit lucky against them in recent years as they have outplayed us for long periods but we managed to get results. This time I am going to say 1-1 but with our defence playing well. 2 draws in a row means we have to win our last match for halfway. 'Arry is the relegation specialist - hire him, Norwich Norwich away? Surely there is no banana skin here? I don’t know who they will have appointed but surely not someone top drawer? Sam Allardyce maybe? Why does Harry Redknapp not make a comeback? I am going to say 5-0 with Norwich eating too many of Delia Smith’s pies over Christmas. The only true easy win of this period. Surely we can see the top even if we can’t get there? And where does that leave us? On 38 points and if we can repeat that we have 76 which is probably enough for second place and definitely Champions League. However it is an optimistic scenario with 5 wins and 3 draws and no defeats. Possibly too optimistic. But I hope I have shown you a fairly realistic portrait of the task ahead of us. If we win all we have 44 points and double that to get 88 will probably win us the league. But nobody believes that. If we manage to do as well as I have shown here we have a good chance for Champions league. Be under no illusions, top 4 is going to be a big challenge, we need to win or draw matches we don’t deserve to, and win the ones we do. I feel that the 3 losses, the young team, the African championship, and good runs in the League Cup and FA Cup will consign us to fighting for a Europa League place but that, I think, we will achieve, on a much better points total than last year. Fighting for this one is realistic
A Magical 61 points? So, will we have one more day of hope after Wednesday?. First, we must beat Palace and that has proved tricky in recent seasons. Then we must beat Brighton to get the magic 61 points. They have also been difficult for us as has Graeme Potter. We absolutely need 61 points to have a hope. Everton look the most vulnerable as they can win and draw and we finish above them. They are only one point above us. They have to win both matches if we do. They have Wolves which they must win, and, finally, Man City away. City will not want to lose on their last day at home. There is some chance we can finish 8th, even without winning our last 2. However, that will not get us Europe. What will? We need Spurs and West Ham to drop points. If they both win on Wednesday we are out. Let’s take the Spuds first. They are on 59 points but a far superior goal difference. They have Villa at home and Leicester away. Even 2 draws is enough for them as we would need to make up 11 goals in the 2 matches. We haven’t been scoring at that level for a long time. We need Spurs to only get one point from these 2 matches, so, and it is possible but unlikely. They are the Totteringham specialists, though, so you never know. Do the Arse a favour and only get a point from your last 2 matches, thank you very much, Mr Levy. C'mon, Dan, you can do it for us, you are an expert at it. And Magically into Europe? West Ham also have 59 points. They play West Brom away and Southampton at home. This time we can allow them 2 draws as our goal difference is much better. It is possible, I suppose. Certainly a defeat against Sam Allardyce could happen as he would want to teach his old club a lesson. And then Saints? You never know. West Ham are not firing fully right at the moment so they could drop points. If they both flounder we go 6th and straight into Europa League. If one does then we go 7th and Europa Conference. Of course, assuming Everton doesn’t get 6 points but I am pretty certain they won’t. Make us smile, Sam. So, can we do it? Beat Palace and Brighton? Yes, we can. However, like most fans, I don’t have that much confidence after the season we have had. Do it, and we will finish 8th minimum, and that is an upgrade on last year in points but not position. Arteta, and the Kroenkes (OUT) can claim improvement. If it gets us 6th, they can definitely claim improvement. Also 7th but for me, this conference doesn’t seem attractive. It might be better to have plenty of weekdays free to concentrate on the League than travelling to the backend of nowhere. Less matches might be better for the young kids. A Dead Man Walking Of course, if we get very little from these 2 matches we will finish worse than the 8th place of last year. What then? Certainly better ammunition for the Kroenke out movement. And Arteta? I doubt if he will be fired but he will totally need a flying start to next season or he is a dead man walking, like Bertie Mee all those years ago, and Terry Neill, also a long time ago. He won’t get anywhere near as long as either of those. Wins are his only currency from now on. For me, his biggest weakness, and that of Emery, is his reluctance to have a settled team, partnerships that work, players that know each other. Look at Smith Rowe and Saka. They find each other. They strengthen each other. Wenger believed in a settled team, so did George Graham. They didn’t do too badly, did they? And can I mention Leicester? Rodgers has a team that play for each other and we all pretty much know what he feels is his strongest team. Even Tuchel does the same, plays his preferred players in the big matches. They are showing us the way For me, it would be develop the kids. Keep a spine of experienced players, but give these lads a chance. Fans keep saying buy, buy, buy, and I say why? Are they better than Willock, Maitland Niles, Reiss Nelson, Saliba, Balogun, Nketiah, and others? Then why buy? Only if they improve the team should we buy. Otherwise we are just bringing in players, interrupting the flow of understanding, constantly saying they need time to adjust to the Premier League and, critically, not improving. The young players already there know all about English football and what is required. Top players like Pepe and Partey have struggled. All I am saying is “Give youth a chance”, and next year I might be writing at the same stage that we have a good chance of Champions League. Up the Arsenal and Kroenke out.