Liverpool: you’re good, but you’re no Invincibles

March 1, 2020
Dream on, Scousers

Good morning Liverpool fans. I know that on Merseyside you probably think that “Hubris” is the new sporty SUV from Fiat, but I’m here to disabuse you of that misconception.

From the Cambridge English dictionary:

Hubris

noun [ U ]

 /ˈhju·brɪs/

an extreme and unreasonable feeling of pride and confidence in yourself

Just over a month ago I wrote a Post on Arsenal Arsenal suggesting that only one team could stop you from emulating our mighty Invincibles of 2004. I fancied that it would come down to Arsenal having to beat your lot in North London on May 2nd.

In the Post I was extremely complimentary about your side. And why wouldn’t I be? Liverpool have been terrific this season, easily the best team in the Premier League.

But that did not stop a bunch of you piling in to the comments with various shades of abuse.*

“Deluded… crawl back to your cesspit… dream on… don’t give up your day job… Man City may well beat us but your shower of sh*t certainly won’t… wake up and watch us trounce your 2004 records…”

Turns out I overestimated you.

I thought you were going to be a serious challenger to the claim of best team of the Premier League era and that only Arsenal’s special reasons to be motivated would give us a chance of stopping you.

But I overlooked something. I had completely forgotten that you had to face another mighty challenge. That’s right: an away trip to a ground which is third after only the Camp Nou and the Allianz Arena in the list of most daunting fortresses in world soccer. Not.

I mean, Watford? And to lose 0-3? And to let Troy Deeney score, a man more out of shape than the actual Troy was after the Greeks had razed it to the ground…?

Hahahahaha. We’re having a terrible season and even we managed a draw there. Under Unai Emery, no less.

I’ve heard there were angry scenes in Liverpool after the game, with shops and houses looted and burned, costing pounds worth of damage.

But I’m not just here to poke fun at you and your hubristic dreams of going through a season unbeaten.

I am also inviting you to come on here and comment to the effect that you now understand and appreciate just how good the Arsenal Invincibles were. 

To go through a full season unbeaten is almost unimaginably difficult and requires a team with qualities you probably only see once in a lifetime. You can only do it with total commitment, total concentration and total professionalism. You can’t have a single off day. No bad day at the office. No sudden stumble against unfancied opposition.

You know that now, don’t you?

I’m impressed that you went 44 games undefeated. Five more and you would have equalled the Invincibles’ record. But it’s so, so hard.

Come to think of it, your great teams of earlier eras never managed it either, did they? Not when you had Dalglish, or Rush, or Aldridge, or Owen, or Toshack and Keegan. You had brilliant teams, but none of them as brilliant as the Invincibles.

And before you jump on to say how crap Arsenal are right now, I’ll beat you to it: yes, we’re struggling. We’re going through a lean period. But you’d know all about that.

Both our great clubs have bragging rights. You have your European Cups, we have our Invincibles. Last Thursday night, when we had yet another disappointing end to a European campaign, the force was with you. Today, it’s with us.

You’ll still be champions this year. But you won’t make history.

These boys did: Lehman, Cole, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Lauren, Parlour, Edu, Gilberto, Campbell, Henry, Toure. 

And in their prime they’d spank your current crop any day of the week because they were mentally tougher. So mentally tough that they refused to allow anyone to beat them in 2003-4. Unlike your lot.

Happy Invincibles Day!

RockyLives

  • Not all the Scouse commenters were impolite. One or two (like C F S 118) made sensible and interesting comments.

A Ray of Hope on a gloomy horizon

February 28, 2020

So the result and the way we played were hugely disappointing! We conceded two cheap goals on set pieces where our defending was suspicious.

Leno was again guilty in the build up and in conceding goals and Bellerin was just horrible the whole game. Luiz had a tough night as well. Xhaka went back to his old slow habits and Ozil was also unseen for large parts of the game. Pepe was rather unsuccessful in creating danger and Laca was also not too good but he hardly got any service.

So out of the competition, probably no European cup for us next year and we will also now lose Aubameyang this summer.

But there is a slight Ray of hope:-

Auba is still with us and we better enjoy his goal scoring while we can.

Saka can be considered a starter now for us.

In a sudden twist of fate, Mustafi is now actually our most solid defender.

As we look to next season already, we know that we need new players and maybe a new GK as well.

Bellerin needs to be challenged big time at RB, Kola will need to go and a better LB option is also needed and we still need two CBs as it is time to get rid of our Greeks and maybe send Holding on loan.

At DM, we still need a player and if we don’t keep Ceballos, we need a player there too. We’ll need to replace Aubameyang as well.

But we have Saka and we have Martinelli and Arteta and this gives me hope.

COYG!

RC78


Arsenal v Olympiacos pre-match

February 27, 2020

Europa League football is upon us tonight and we have the return leg against Olympiacos at The Emirates. Last week’s game finished 1-0 to us and having scored an all important away goal we’ll be looking to add more to our tally and not concede (obviously).

I’m sure North London has a fair amount of Olympiacos supporters in residence and so the stadium should be packed and rocking for this game. Night-time football is so special and even though it’s not the Champions League, a European game under the lights has that inspiring feel about it. Now that we’re in the knock out stages of the competition there will also be a nervous edge. With the big prize of Champions League football for the winner of this competition every care must be taken to progress.

This was Arteta’s response when asked about how important European football was to the club and whether it affected his team selection.

“We have three different routes to Europe. We have to try to maximise the three of them and we go game by game,” he said.

“That’s all we can do at the moment because the objectives are still so far behind.”

It’s quite difficult to predict Mikel’s line up for games now that we know that he chooses players on their performance in training rather than reputation. I’m hoping that Saka managed some rest after Sunday but was also able to impress Arteta so that he is included tonight. We are short of left-backs now that Kolasinac is injured too.

Tonight I would hope to see Pepe, Martinelli and Lacazette ……… so how does he fit Aubameyang in?

Bellerin should return at right-back with Mustafi (first name on the team sheet after recent performances) and Luiz paired at centre-back.

Torreira should start alongside Xhaka with hopefully Ozil just behind the front three. Only who will the front three be? The FA Cup game on Monday could see some of these rested so lets play the best team tonight and progress in the competion.

Here’s my stab at a team …….

Leno

Bellerin   Mustafi   Luiz   Saka

Torreira   Xhaka

Ozil

Pepe   Lacazette   Aubameyang

It’s snowing heavily out of my window which is not great but according to all sources it’ll stop by midday. I’m looking forward to the game.

COYG

peachesgooner

 


Arsenal 3 Everton 2 … thoughts from the game …

February 24, 2020

A few random thoughts from the game from RockyLives …

What was Kola doing for the Everton opener? We have been excellent at holding a high defensive line on set pieces and on this occasion everyone did just that… except Kola, who went racing after Mina like a dog after a cat. It directly led to the goal as two or three Evertonians would have been offside from the free kick if he had held his position.

Luiz’s weak header didn’t help. But after the ball came back in I don’t understand how that goal was allowed to stand. I thought they had changed the rules about high feet in crowded areas, making it an automatic offence? Calvert-Lewin’s foot actually hit Luiz on the head (and if the Brazilian had gone down I’m sure the goal would have been disallowed). Have they rescinded that clampdown on high feet this season?

Maybe Kola’s injury (looked like a dislocated shoulder) was a blessing in disguise as it brought Saka on and led to our equaliser. Saka’s form continues to be spectacular (Sorry Sead…I feel bad making this point).

Xhaka played well overall (good pass to start the move leading to Eddie’s goal) but several times he passed straight to the opposition. Admittedly they were forward (progressive) passes, but I’ve noticed that he telegraphs his passes sometimes and oppo players are often able to anticipate them.

Richarlison is a nasty piece of work, but I loved how quickly Bellerin got in his face when he had the gall to start berating Ceballos after just clobbering him.

Auba played a captain’s innings today. Great work covering back at times.

I see Leno’s taken stick for Everton’s second. I’ve looked at it about 20 times and I think he was unlucky and pretty much did all he could have done. He made himself big and did all he could to make a block but the ball took an unlucky rebound. We need GiE to weigh in on this one from the Goalkeepers’ Union…

Ceballos and Ozil were excellent. Leno too.

Mustafi was a close run call for MotM in my opinion (I know RC disagrees) but it should go to Auba for his two goals and all round play.

Eddie took his goal so well. That was an encouraging moment.

Pepe is starting to feel like he deserves his place in the team.

I thought Torreira was sloppy when he came on. It can be hard to get straight into the pace of the game when you come on as a sub, but Terrier put us in trouble several times. Maybe explains why Arteta is not starting him?

Overall, we may have ridden our luck a bit at times but I felt we were the better team for most of the game, even though Everton played very well.

Project Mikel continues to inspire confidence!

RockyLives

And these Players Ratings from RC78

Leno had a great second half and kept us ahead. Bellerin seems our weakest player these days.

Mustafi and Luiz did not have a good day in the office but kept their cool and did not make any major howler. I was really impressed by Lewin and Richarlison – quality players.

Xhaka and Ceba did not play great in the first 15 mins and in the last 30 mins but Ceba put in a lot of efforts.

Pepe had a frustrating game I thought but he delivers an assist and did show some glimpses again – I think he really needs to read the game better in terms of pacing his runs because he seems at time either too far ahead or too far back.

The Saka-Auba axis on the left worked wonders again but Saka needs a rest. Maybe Soares will come in now.

As for Nketiah, he took his goal really well and could have gotten another one – his work rate was good but he also had many poor touches.

So another win but a more worrying one as we saw some of the ugly Arsenal face with the defensive gaps and playing too deep at times. Happy with the win but Arteta must find a way to make us more compact still. 4 points behind 4th place and 3 points ahead of 12th place – strange league this year.

COYG!

Leno – 7.5

Bellerin – 5.5

Mustafi – 6

Luiz – 6

Saka – 7

Ozil – 6.5

Ceballos – 6.5

Xhaka – 6

Pepe – 6

Nketiah – 7

Auba – 7.5

Kola – no grades and Douzi neither, not enough playing time.

 


Toffees pose sticky challenge: Everton preview

February 23, 2020
New bosses go head to head

Today we entertain an Everton side rejuvenated under the managership of Carlo Ancelotti and certain to give us a tough game.

The Italian took up his post at the same time as Mikel Arteta was given the reins at Arsenal and both new men have got off to impressive starts.

Arteta has stabilised the good ship Arsenal, which had been listing badly towards the end of Unai Emery’s spell in charge. We have lost only once under him, an unlucky defeat at the hands of Chelsea, and there has been a noticeable improvement in performances.

Everton, meanwhile, have suffered only one defeat since Ancelotti took over, and that was only by the odd goal to Manchester City. Their form now is in sharp contrast to their struggles prior to Ancelotti’s arrival.

The danger men for the Toffees are Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, who have scored nine goals in eight games between them. But I’m sure I’m not the only Gooner fearing the curse of the returning player. Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi both seem to have dropped down the favourites list at Everton but either could hurt us if selected. 

Nevertheless, I’m sure Arteta will want to focus more on what we can do to them rather than the other way round.

Injury wise we should be in relatively good shape. Torreira and Ozil are both available and while Bellerin and Sokratis are “being assessed” they also are likely to be in contention.

My predicted team is this:

Leno

Bellerin – Mustafi – Luiz – Saka

Xhaka

Ceballos – Ozil

Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang

When you think of where we were a few months ago it’s extraordinary that Mustafi is now a shoo-in at centre back. The German had become a lost cause on a par with the Charge of the Light Brigade, Rourke’s Drift and the Spartans at Thermopylae, so it’s a credit to him for sticking at it and the manager for rehabilitating him. Let’s hope he keeps this up.

David Luiz, meanwhile, is on his best run of form since joining Arsenal and seems to relish his partnership with Mustafi (with the German taking prime responsibility for dealing with aerial threats while Luiz plays a more anticipatory role).

If I was choosing the team I would probably go with Torreira and Xhaka to anchor the midfield, but I have a hunch Arteta will stick with the midfield formation that produced a four goal win against Newcastle.

In that match Ceballos played a key role in freeing up Ozil to dictate the play, which he did with aplomb. I think Ceballos will get another chance today unless Everton’s more dangerous goal threat (compared with the Barcodes) persuades El Patron to be more conservative and go for the Terrier.

Up front I don’t see us going with Eddie again. Lacazette now has two goals in two games and Arteta will hope to see that run continue. I also see Pepe keeping his place after his good performance against Newcastle, probably his best game for us since he joined.

I feel a little nervous about this one. Everton’s confidence is high and they have their eye on European football next season, so they have plenty to play for. 

Let’s hope we get the ball to Saka as much as possible. He’s on a wonderful run of goals and assists and will be raring to go. And if Pepe puts in another Newcastle performance we have a real threat from both flanks.

Meanwhile Ozil, of course, can unlock any defence when he’s on form, and there are signs he is enjoying the new regime at Arsenal.

We’re good enough to win it if we take our chances but I would not be surprised with a draw. 

A win would put us only three points behind the Spuds and allow us to start dreaming about the top five or even the top four.

Come on you Gunners!

RockyLives


What next for AMN?

February 22, 2020

One ‘B story’ from our trip to Athens this week was the fact that Mikel Arteta preferred to play a lumbering Greek colossus at right back rather than the man who has most regularly occupied that position for us over the last year and a half.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was on the bench and came on for a few minutes towards the end of our victory over Olimpiacos, but his exclusion from the starting eleven has led to speculation about where he stands in Arteta’s estimation.

So what do we think of Ainsley?

I find him a bit of a mystery, to be honest. Terrific name, of course. I always have the urge to append “MP” to it. Indeed, perhaps we should start referring to him as the Honourable Member for Colney.

We think of him as one of our crop of exciting young players, but he has made 90 appearances for the first team, which makes him something of a fixture. For most of those appearances he has played at right back, covering the long term injury to Hector Bellerin, although he sees his natural position as right midfield or right wing.

It’s fair to say his performances have not always convinced supporters that he could be a permanent answer at fullback, but there has also been an acceptance that he has done pretty well on balance in the role. He is athletic and strong enough to get up and down the line well.

I find his on-field demeanour fascinating. He adopts an impassive expression whatever the circumstances: a crucial sliding tackle to prevent a goal – nothing; trip over and fall on your backside to let the opposition in – nothing; we’ve just gone three goals up in a tough game – nothing; we’ve suffered another embarrassing defeat under Emery – nothing. I’d hate to play poker with the guy: he could be holding a full house or a lousy seven high and you’d have no clue either way. Perhaps the expression (or lack of it) is meant to be cool, or maybe that’s just the way he is. But I was genuinely shocked when I found this photo on the club website:

Mystery smiling man spotted at London Colney

Who was this charming, good-looking, happy individual? Surely not the Honourable Member for Colney? And yet it was. I’m probably a silly old fart, but I would love to see a bit more of Ainsley Maitland-Smiles on match days.

Ian Wright, one of the most natural goalscorers ever to have pulled on the famous red and white, said in his Desert Island Discs interview this week* that he could not understand modern players who don’t express joy when they do something good and I’m with Ian. Every fan in the stadium or watching on their sofa would give their left arm to play for Arsenal just once… and if that miracle ever happened they’d have a Cheshire Cat smile on their face from start to finish.

I don’t mean to criticise AMN for how he conducts his face. Every man is captain of his own boat. But I wonder if opening up a bit and sharing his emotions would enhance his relationship with the supporters.

Obviously how he looks takes a massive second place to how he performs on the pitch. An Arsenal player could look like the Elephant Man, Gollum, Dobbie the House Elf or Wayne Rooney and no-one would care one bit if his skills were those of a Dennis, Thierry, Liam or Patrick.

So how does AMN play? We have already mentioned the fact that he has seldom had opportunities in his preferred position. As a makeshift right back he has generally been OK (but no more) as a defender, and OK (but no more) going forward. When he has had one or two chances to play in midfield he has, to my memory, been unable to impose himself to any great extent.

Now his place is under threat in both positions. Hector is mostly fit again as our first choice right back and we have signed Cedric Soares as back up. Meanwhile in the right midfield/right wing role AMN is up against the likes of Martinelli, Pepe, Nelson and Willock.

So is the game up for Ainsley?

My feeling is no. It is not going to be easy for him, but I want to see him fight for that right wing berth. We have seen that Arteta’s style is to allow a way back for any player who puts in the work and does enough in training to force himself into the manager’s thinking. Ceballos, Mustafi, Guendouzi to name but three have benefitted from this approach.

And AMN has been given an advantage that most wingers don’t get: he has had a thorough grounding in how to be a fullback at the highest level, an understanding which will massively enhance his contribution if he does get to start at right wing. We can already see how Saka will be a better forward because of the experience he has been soaking up at left back. AMN too could end up forming a terrific relationship with his fullbacks thanks to this grounding.

Ainsley may not have Saka’s potential ceiling, but he has the ability and physical attributes to be a new Ray Parlour: strong, fit, tireless and with enough skill to make a significant contribution. Where the Romford Pele once ran riot, could the Goodmayes Zidane do the same?

The key thing will be a run of games in the first team, and Ainsley will only get that opportunity through hard work and application (possibly with a bit of luck thrown in, in terms of injuries and suspensions to other players). 

I’m not prepared to withdraw my vote from The Hon. Mr Maitland-Niles MP just yet.

What do you think?

RockyLives

  • If you haven’t heard Ian’s Desert Island Discs you really need to listen to it. It is full of Arsenal stuff and is moving, funny and revealing in equal parts. You can hear it via BBC iPlayer if you’re UK based.

Olympiakos v Arsenal – Is Greece, Arsenal’s Achilles heel?

February 19, 2020

We’re back to Europa League fixtures this week.

 

After the convincing win against Newcastle, it seems that there is a bit more belief in our chances in this very exciting European competition…but make no mistake, the Greek opponents are not going to roll over and let us go through this round that easily!

Our mission in Greece will be tricky as Olympiakos is unbeaten in 18 matches and currently leads the Greek Super League and is composed of solid players like:- El-Arabi, Hassan, Mor and Valbuena upfront;- Camara, Fortunis in the middle;- Semedo at the back.

El-Arabi is on fire and Valbuena always plays well in European matches but their winger Al Soudani is off injured so they will most likely play in a 4-5-1 against us (see below), which they used against Tottenham and Munich in the Champions’ league group games.

It is not the first time Olympiakos and Arsenal have met each other in Europe. We have previously played against them four times  in the group stage of the Champions League. The first 6 matches ended in home wins and the last 2 in away wins. The last away win was memorable, with Giroud scoring a hat-trick for us to win 3-0 in Greece.

Olympiakos’ record at home, with their very supportive and vocal fans, to English opposition is W7, D4 and L4 including a 2-2 this year against the Spurs. In the knockout phases, they have won 2-0 vs Man Utd in 2014 but lost 3-0 to Utd (Van Persie hat trick) at Old Trafford.

Our record in Greece is not great…W3, D1, L4 but if we win, we will set a new record for an English club by recording 23 wins in the Europa League (surpassing Tottenham by 1) so we better win tonight 🙂

Expected line ups:

Arsenal:

Martinez

Maitland-Niles   Sokratis    Mustafi    Kolasinac

Torreira    Ceballos

Pepe    Willock    Martinelli

Lacazette

 

Olympiakos: Sa – Elabdellaoui, Cisse, Semedo, Tsimikas – Masouras, Camara, Bouchalakis, Fortunis (or Valbuena), Hassan – El-Arabi

I think this game could most likely end up in a 2-2 draw BUT I also feel like we can snatch a win so I am going to back an Arsenal win 2-1 with a goal from Sok and a goal from Laca for us and we concede a goal to either Hassan or El-Arabi.

COYG – we want to celebrate Greek style by breaking plates right after the game!

RC78


How do you rate our young players?

February 19, 2020

We’ve talked a lot so far this season about the potential of some of our youngsters. Unai Emery started the ball rolling using Nelson, Willock, Smith-Rowe, Nketiah, Martinelli and Saka sparingly and now some of those are starting games for us.

Arteta (and Freddie before him) has continued to allow these talented young players to grow in the first team and in front of our eyes. Eddie Nketiah was brought back from a loan to Leeds where he wasn’t getting game time and last Sunday started in the Centre-forward position alongside Pepe and Aubameyang. He was unlucky not to bag a goal, having a terrific shot rebound of the post but that meant that Martinelli missed out.

The player that has impressed me the most is Saka. I’m sure that with all his attacking prowess he would not have expected to get minutes in the first team as a left-back. There was an interesting quote from him yesterday which, to me, sums up what an intelligent young man he must be.

Saka: “In the future if I do get to go back onto the wing I feel like I know how full-backs play and playing as a full-back I know what wingers do, what I like them to do and what I don’t like them to do. It’s a good learning experience for me.”

So yesterday, Rocky posed this question on the blog, it was rhetorical but lets explore what people think about the diamonds we might have produced.

 

RockyLives says:

I can’t quite make my mind up about Guendouzi’s ceiling.

At times I feel he could grow into a Vieira/Yaya type of player. At other times (when he’s running round like a headless chicken), not so much.

I would rank our young up-and-comers in this order based on their potential:

1. Martinelli
2. Saka
3. Willock
4. Guendouzi
5. Nelson
6. AMN
7. Nketieh

I know that seems harsh on Eddie, but it’s tough to make it as a central striker and we’ve seen many promising candidates over the years burn brightly for a short while before fading away. I hope Eddie is an exception.

I don’t feel I’ve seen enough of Smith-Rowe to include him at this stage but I know many fans rate him very highly.

How would you rank our youngsters in terms of their potential?

peachesgooner


Copenhagen 2000 – War and Peace

February 18, 2020

The Uefa Cup final between Arsenal and Galatasaray is better remembered for the violence that went on around the game than for the football itself. These are my memories of a very eventful few days in May 2000:

We flew out to Copenhagen a day before the Uefa Cup Final. We travelled with high hopes considering we had a great side at the time, but we knew the team were missing a killer instinct. Following the double of ’98 we had thrown away a number of opportunities of silverware. In my opinion we should have won the double again in ’99 but Fergie had different ideas.

When we arrived there were thousands of Galatasaray fans already in Copenhagen and the atmosphere was very hostile. Next to our hotel some Gala fans had decided to get onto the roof with drums to make sure everybody knew they were there.

We kept a low profile in the city centre and headed to the quieter dock area. We had some beers in a bar and chuckled as a Danish Robert Redford look-a-like sang Arsenal songs to a bemused restaurant full of Gala fans.

While we were sampling the local hospitality the Arsenal team walked past the bar. They must have decided to stretch their legs. It was a bit surreal. We chatted to David Seaman and a few of the players. They were in a good mood and confident.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at another bar. More Arsenal fans were arriving and it was clear there were many others who had come along looking for trouble. We chatted to members of the British armed forces, Chelsea hooligans, Leeds hooligans, Swansea hooligans: all were there for a fight with the Turks to avenge the murder of the Leeds fans in Istanbul at the semi-final a few weeks before. Outside the bar an Arsenal fan was stabbed by Gala hooligans. It was getting nasty.

On the day of the match there were thousands more Arsenal fans in the city. We managed to avoid the worst of the violence and made it to the stadium without too much bother.

The game was very disappointing.  Arsenal didn’t show up. The main culprits for me were Henry, Overmars & Kanu (when he came on). Gala lost their best player, Hagi, to a red card in extra time, so we played with a man advantage for almost 30 minutes. We didn’t put enough pressure on them when the game was there to be won. I was gutted after losing the penalty shoot-out. I wanted to rip up my season ticket and flush it down the loo. Luckily I didn’t as the next 5 years were among the best Arsenal have ever had.

That evening we decided to avoid the city centre instead staying in a bar near our hotel. It turned out to be a great night despite having the misfortune to meet up with the DIF Stockholm hooligan firm. They were a complete bunch of idiots that had been there for the trouble too. The bar owner threw them out before they could mug us (Thanks Sven!)

We stayed in Copenhagen for a few more days. Once the trouble had died down we enjoyed the mini heat-wave that the city was experiencing. If you haven’t visited it is a fantastic place. The local were very friendly and the bars stayed open until the early hours of the morning.

On the last day we encountered a small crowd surrounding who we thought was a local pop star. We managed to move through the group to be right in front of this mysterious character. It turns out it wasn’t a Danish pop star it was the Dalai Lama! ‘Hello’ he said as we stood there open mouthed.

A peaceful end to very violent few days that will live long in the memory.

Pete the Thirst

 


Dennis kicking up a storm at The Emirates ….. so what’s new?

February 15, 2020

So where were we ……… oh yes, we were on a run of draws.

As we go into each game with Arteta in charge there is a hope that ‘this’ game is going to be the one that brings a win. It doesn’t matter if I do the pre-match or Rocky does the pre-match, somebody somewhere isn’t wearing their lucky socks.

Today we have to hope that the brutally wild weather doesn’t go against us. As I write, the wind and rain are lashing against my windows and I have to wonder how much protection the high sides of The Emirates are going to afford all of us …… players and supporters alike.

It’ll be quite a contrast to the warm weather training and fun the squad have been having during the break in Dubai.

Burnley’s win yesterday means we start the day in 11th, on the same points as Newcastle who are our opposition today. We still have a goal difference of minus 2!!!!

We have won precisely 6 games in the EPL this season, the first of those was against Newcastle on the opening weekend. The hiatus of beating ManU on the 1st Jan has long since evaporated and yet as a work in progress I do feel excited at the thought of keeping a clean sheet 😁 and the attack coming together to produce some moments of magic (that end with the ball in the back of the net – no pressure lads).

I usually like to stick in a few stats about our current form and the head to head record against the opposition but our stats are crap currently although we do have a good record against Newcastle, winning 13 out of the last 14. Arteta is still talking about building defensive stability, here’s what he had to say ………

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: “I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep. I don’t like that.

“It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process – together as many times as possible in the most efficient way – has to be done properly from here.

“If not, in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent. So we need to do that well first to be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games.”

It’s how he makes us transition from defensive stability to scoring that will be interesting to watch. Maybe today we’ll take our early chances because that’s where we’ve been undone lately.

I’d like to see this team ……..

Leno

Bellerin   Sokratis   Luiz   Saka

Torreira   Xhaka

Ozil

Martinelli   Lacazette   Aubameyang

Actually I prefer to see Martinelli on the left as I think he and Saka have a good understanding but the front three are usually quite fluid. With a Europa game coming up, Arteta may play the team he wants to play on Thursday and use Willock instead of Ozil, how does he fit Nelson into the team? Ok, well that’s his problem.

Who would you choose to play?

Thank you to Fred for reminding us that today is the anniversary of our epic 2-1 win against Barcelona …… in 2011!!

RIP Caroline Flack …… be kind to each other on social media, such a terrible waste of a life.

peachesgooner