Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Merci Arsene And A Fond Farewell

It’s hard to believe Arsene Wenger is no longer the manager of Arsenal, but it has come to pass and there’s no going back. While I may have been of the opinion it was time for him to move on it still doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what he did for Arsenal or that I won’t miss him either. I’m still not sure his departure has sunk in after he spent nearly 22 years at the helm on the good ship Arsenal.

I think I won’t really consider him to be truly gone until I actually see someone else on the sideline when Arsenal are playing. With a World Cup still to come it’s going to be a while before we get to see that, but it is coming one day in July. That’s assuming the club know what they’re doing and have the right man for the job lined up and ready to go.

I had hoped Max Allegri might be that man, but it looks like he’s going to stay at Juventus and we’ll have to look elsewhere. It appears Luis Enrique has priced himself out of the job too and Mikael Arteta is quickly becoming the bookies favourite to take the role. I’m not going to criticise a new man before he gets the job, but I will be surprised if it’s Arteta considering he has never managed a club before.

He has served a two year apprenticeship under Pep Guardiola at City and he was Arsene’s captain when he played for us. Comparisons have been made between him and Arsene, but Arsene arrived at Arsenal with plenty of managerial experience which included a French League title. There’s a vast difference between an assistant coaching role and managing one of the six richest clubs in the world. There’s still plenty of time for the club to get their man though and hopefully they know what they’re doing.

I digress though and I should be writing about the departure of the man who has run our club almost single-handedly at times over the past 22 years. He brought us some highs we could probably not even have dreamt of and we saw our team play some beautiful football too. I honestly think his legacy could have been damaged if he stayed any longer and I’m glad he went soon enough to make sure that legacy is intact.

The final game at Huddersfield was so like so much of this season except we at least managed to get the away win for which we had waited so long. Huddersfield probably deserved something from the game, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang snuck in at the far post to score a goal that was so typical of him. He is the parting present Arsene has left us with and it’s one which should make the job of the next manager so much easier. We have needed a goal scorer of his calibre for a long time and he can be the player to help us improve on this awful season.

Arsene has left some pretty good attacking players behind, but the defensive problems of the last few years are one of the main reasons for his departure. Those problems stem from a lack of quality defenders and what seemed like an inability on his part to get the best out of the team as a defensive unit. The priority has always been in attack and the quality of defenders and defensive midfielders we had in the past meant we could do just that, but as their quality has diminished we have let in more goals season after season.

I have no doubt Arsene will be looking to our results first every week and I hope he succeeds at whatever he decides to do next. I never doubted his love for the club or his desire to do the very best for us, but his ability to do so has waned for far too many years now. I’m sure he will be delighted for us if we succeed without him, but he will probably feel we would have done so with him too.

As a man you only have to read the glowing tributes to him from just about anybody who knows him or who has played for him to know how well he was loved. Huddersfield gave him a great send off on Sunday and they are to be admired for it and I think that send off portrayed how he is seen by many in the game. It was an emotional day for one and all and one which I will remember along with all the great days we were lucky enough to share with him too.

At this point I think I should thank him for everything he has done for our club and wish him well in the future. I don’t know if I truly believed this day would ever come and now that it’s here it’s more than a little surreal. I’ll always remember the beautiful football and the incredible talent he introduced us to and I’ll always be greatful to him for everything he has done for the club we all love.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Arsenal’s Trip To Huddersfield Previewed

The day has come when Arsene Wenger bids his final farewell and its got more than just a tinge of sadness about it. In almost 22 years at the club he took us to some highs which we never really dreamed of and introduced us to football we could only dream of. Those in charge at the club have decided a new man is required to move us forward and make us truly competitive again. I don’t think Arsene himself is too happy about the decision and I have no doubt he still believes he is the right man for the job.

He’s been given a fantastic send off by our fans and opposing fans alike as they put rivalries aside to pay tribute to a manager who had a huge impact on the Premier League and English football. With nothing on the line for either team today it looks like Huddersfield will give him the send off he deserves after the fantastic send off he got in his final home game against Burnley last week. I just hope the team he selects today can be a part of that send off and somehow or other put an end to a disastrous run of league results away from home.

We have finished the season with only three points less than City at home, but a defeat today and a win for them would see us finish 39 points behind them. I know nobody else has come close to them either, but they could end up with 36 points more than us away from home. There are only three teams in the whole league who have taken less points on the road and it’s that statistic which has got the manager the bullet more than any other one. 

If we had got 10 to 15 more points away from home I don’t think the decision about his departure would have been taken out of his hands. The number of games away from home where we have scored first and lost is amazing and off the top of my head I can remember Watford, Swansea, Newcastle, Brighton and Bournemouth all coming from behind to beat us. We are currently on a run of seven away defeats in a row and that is enough to get any manager the bullet.

The players have one final chance to put an end to that run today and they need to do it for him. Only Burnley have scored less goals at home than Huddersfield and only Swansea have scored less goals overall and surely they are a team we should and can beat. Scoring is as alien to Huddersfield as defending to us though and we have the ability to make any team look good at home to us.

We have lost away from home to two of the relegated teams and if we lose today we will have lost to all three of the promoted teams too. Our only away wins came at Everton, Burnley and Palace and we haven’t taken a single away point in this calendar year. That’s the worst away record in all of the top five leagues in Europe and all four English leagues this year and one which we have to put an end to today for Arsene’s sake if for nobody else’s.

I imagine he will play the strongest team he can as there are no more games to worry about resting players for with the season over today. We should see Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette return to the team which lost at Leicester on Wednesday night. I thought we played very well in that game considering we had to play for 75 minutes with 10 men, but again our inability to defend cost us the game.

We don’t have the ability to control a game away from home and we are far too open and too easy to attack. I can’t see that changing today and the chances are the individual mistakes which have haunted us this season will continue, but we just have to be strong enough in attack to counter our dodgy defence. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the team we have a player who can and will score bundles of goals for us so we have to make those chances for him and others today.

I have no doubt tears will be shed by many fans today and we’ll never see the likes of Arsene Wenger again at our club. We have to move forward though and it had reached a stage where the belief in him to be the man who could do that had gone for me and many other fans. Let’s just hope he gets the send off he deserves for all he has done for our club both on and off the field today.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 38

It’s that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did very badly last week with only five correct predictions and 11 incorrect and the season can't end quickly enough for my predictions at least. Here's a look at how the top five in my predictions league stands with me nowhere in sight as we enter the last week.

NAMETHIS WEEKPOINTS
 1 (1) Dr_AFHMK
7

+10
2615
 2 (3) betojohn 
ioannis papanikos
9

+70
2460
 3 (2) immycader 
Imran Cader
8

-5
2415
 4 (4) ArssenaL14
6

-55
2195
 5 (5) Rutland Gooner
3

-30
2155






Sunday May 13

All games kick off at 3pm BST.

Burnley v Bournemouth 

Burnley lost 5-0 away to Arsenal last week to end their chances of finishing fifth, but they will play in the Europa League next season. They have actually taken more points on the road than they have at home and no other team has scored less goals at home. They haven’t won in four games and they haven’t scored in two with only five teams scoring less goals.

If he’s fit to play Ashley Barnes could do well for fantasy managers in this game and the Burnley defenders and keeper might be worth considering too.

Bournemouth won 1-0 at home to Swansea last week and they’re one of five teams fighting for the last place in the top half of the table. They haven’t won in five away games, but they have only failed to score once in their last eight games on the road. Their win against Swansea was only their second win in 11 games and only three teams have conceded more goals.

I can’t see any Bournemouth players to recommend to fantasy managers.

I don’t think we’ll see too many goals in this game and the chances are Burnley will get a narrow win.

Prediction: 1-0

Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion 

Palace came from behind to win at Stoke last week and they can still finish in the top half of the table. They have won their last two home games and scored eight goals in the process, but only four teams have taken less points at home. They have taken 11 points from their last five games and they scored 12 goals in those games with clean sheets in two of their last three games.

Wilfried Zaha could be the Palace player to make a difference for fantasy managers this week.

West Brom won at home to Spurs last week, but Southampton’s midweek win at Swansea meant the relegation trapdoor eventually caught up with them. They won their last two away games without conceding a goal, but no other team has scored less goals on their travels. They have taken 11 points in five games since Darren Moore took temporary charge of the team and they kept clean sheets in three of those games, but only Swansea and Huddersfield have scored less goals.

I’m not too sure there are any West Brom players who will do well for fantasy managers in this game.

I think Palace will give themselves every chance of finishing in the top half of the table by taking the three points in this game.

Prediction: 2-1

Huddersfield Town v Arsenal

Huddersfield got great draws away to City and Chelsea in the last week to guarantee they avoided the drop ahead of this game. They have only scored one goal in their last four home games and no other team has scored less goals at home. They have only won once in theit last nine games and they failed to score in six of those games with only Swansea scoring less goals.

I can’t see any Huddersfield players for fantasy managers to consider this week.

Arsenal thrashed Burnley last week to confirm sixth place, but their away day blues continued in midweek when they lost at Leicester. They have lost their last seven away games with only three teams taking less points away from home. Only City and Liverpool have scored more goals, but they have conceded far too many goals for a team who wanted to challenge for a top four spot.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the Arsenal player to have for fantasy managers and I don’t see that changing in this game.

I think Arsenal will put their dismal away form behind them and see Arsene Wenger off on a relative high with a narrow win in this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Liverpool v Brighton And Hove Albion

Liverpool lost 1-0 at Chelsea as their impending Champions League final weighs heavily on their minds, but they only need a point in this game to make next season’s Champions League. They are the only team unbeaten at home and only United have conceded less goals at home, but they have drawn seven of those home games. They have only won once in their last five games and they failed to score in three of those games, but only City have scored more goals.

If they play Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are very good choices for fantasy managers.

Brighton won at home to United last week, but they lost away to City in midweek and they still have an outside chance of a top half finish too. They haven’t won in 12 away games and they failed to score in eight of those games with only Stoke taking less away points and no other team scoring less away goals. They have only won once in their last eight games, but that win was enough to make sure they avoided relegation.

I can’t see any Brighton players to recommend to fantasy managers when they play away from home.

Despite their minds possibly being elsewhere I still think Liverpool will do enough to narrowly win this game.

Prediction: 1-0

Manchester United v Watford

United lost at Brighton last week and could only draw at West Ham in mideeek, but it was enough to confirm second place. Only City and Arsenal have taken more points at home and no other team has conceded less goals on their own patch. They have failed to score in three of their last five games and only City have conceded less goals.

The United defenders and keeper are the best choices for fantasy managers in this game.

Watford won 2-1 at home to Newcastle last week and the right result in this game could see them finish in the top half of the table if other results go their way. They have only taken one point in their last 11 away games and they have failed to score in their last seven on the road. Their win against Newcastle was their first win in eight games and they failed to score in five of those games with only Stoke and West Ham conceding more goals.

I can’t see any Watford players to recommend to fantasy managers in this game.

I think United will win with a couple of goals to spare despite their recent lack of goals.

Prediction: 2-0

Newcastle United v Chelsea 

Newcastle lost at Watford and Spurs in the last week and it’s just as well they secured their Premier League status a few weeks ago. They have only lost once in their last eight home games, but that was their last home game and only five teams have conceded less goals at home, but only two teams have scored less. They have lost their last four games since securing their Premier League status for another season.

If Newcastle can catch Chelsea with their minds on the Cup Final Ayoze Perez and Kenedy could do well for fantasy managers.

Chelsea beat Liverpool last week, but their midweek draw at home to Huddersfield means they’re almost certain to miss out on the top four unless Liverpool lose at home to Brighton. Only three teams have taken more away points than Chelsea and that will be one team if they win this game while only City have conceded less away goals. They have taken 13 points from their last five games, but the nine defeats they suffered have cost them a top four place.

It’s not easy to know which Chelsea players will play in this game and that makes it hard for fantasy managers to choose them.

I think the chances are this game will end with the spoils shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Southampton v Manchester City

Southampton got a draw at Everton last week and followed it up with a hugely important 1-0 win at Swansea to almost guarantee their Premier League survival for another season. Only West Brom have taken less points at home and their win in their last home game against Bournemouth was their first home win in 10 games. They have taken eight points from their last four games to avoid the drop, but it might only be on goal difference in the end.

I can’t see any Southampton players who might do well for fantasy managers in this game.

City could only draw with Huddersfield last week, but their midweek win over Brighton saw them add to the Premier League records they have set this season. They have won their last five away games and a win in this game would see them secure as many points on the road as they have at home while they’re the top scorers as well as having the best defensive record away from home. They have taken 13 points from their last five games and three more points in this game would see them reach the magical 100 point mark.

It’s hard to know what team City will play, but the chances are Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne will be in it while Leroy Sane and Raheem probably will too and they’re all great options as long as they play.

With Southampton as good as secure I think City should take the three points to reach the magic 100 mark for the season.

Prediction: 1-3

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City 

Spurs lost at West Brom last week, but the midweek win against Newcastle confirmed Champions League qualification for them again this season. They have won six of their last seven home games and they kept clean sheets in each of those wins with only United and Liverpool conceding less goals at home. They have only won twice in their last five games, but a win in this game will see them finish third.

Harry Kane remains the best fantasy option in the Spurs team while Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and all of their defenders and keeper are good choices for this game too.

Leicester lost at home to West Ham last week, but they managed to finish their home season on a high with a 3-1 win against Arsenal on Wednesday night. Only six teams have taken more points away from home, but they have lost their last two away games and conceded seven goals in the process. They had only taken one point in five games before beating Arsenal, but they could still finish eighth ahead of Everton if they win this game.

Despite beating Arsenal in midweek I can’t see any Leicester players shining for fantasy managers in this game.

I think Spurs will finish their season on a relative high with the win they need to secure third place.

Prediction: 2-0

Swansea City v Stoke City

Swansea lost at Bournemouth last week and then at home to Southampton in midweek and only a miracle can save them from relegation now. Only three teams have taken less points at home than Swansea and only Burnley have scored less goals at home. They’re the lowest scorers in the league and nothing short of a cricket score will give them a chance of catching Southampton.

If Swansea are going to try to do the impossible then Jordan Ayew might just do well for fantasy managers.

Stoke lost 2-1 at home to Palace last week and that defeat saw them relegated to the Championship. They have taken less points away from home than any other team and they haven’t won in their last 13 away games. They haven’t won in 13 games and no other team has conceded more goals while they will finish at the foot of the table unless they win this game.

Xherdan Shaqiri is the only Stoke player to have done well for fantasy managers this season and he could do again in this game before he exits stage left.

I think Swansea will get the win they want, but it will fall far short of being enough to keep them up.

Prediction: 2-1

West Ham United v Everton 

West Ham won away to Leicester last week and got a creditable 0-0 draw at home to United on Thursday night. They have only won once in their last five home games, but they will hope to finish on a high in front of their own fans. They have only won once in their last six games and no other team has conceded more goals, but most importantly of all they managed to avoid relegation.

Marco Arnautovic is the only West Ham player fantasy managers should really consider.

Everton came from behind to get a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton last week and it looks like they will finish eighth unless they lose this game and Leicester win at Spurs. They have taken seven points from their last three away games after only taking eight in the previous 15 with only West Ham and Stoke conceding more away goals. They have taken 15 points in their last eight games and they only need another point to make sure they finish eighth.

Cenk Tosun might be the Everton player most likely to succeed for fantasy managers, but probably not in this game.

I think West Ham will just about manage to take the three points and send their fans home relatively happy for once.

Prediction: 2-1

That’s it for this week.

See you next week.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Arsenal’s Trip To Leicester City Previewed

The events of the weekend are still fresh in the memory and it’s back to action for Arsenal tonight. Sunday was a pretty emotional day for the manager and the fans too as we bade farewell to Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the club. He might have two games left to play, but they’re both away from home and we won’t get to see him manage Arsenal at the Emirates again.

While I do think it was time for him to go it doesn’t mean it wasn’t an emotional day for me and he will always be remembered as our greatest ever manager. The football he brought to the club was exceptional and the players we got to see were those of our dreams. He won three Premier League trophies, seven FA Cups and brought us some memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

There are still two games to go though even if there is very little to play for in those games. We are guaranteed to finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League next season, but we’re nine points behind fifth placed Chelsea. It’s hardly been a season of dreams and for the most part the football has been average at best.

We have a great home record and as it stands no other team has taken more points at home this season, but City will surpass that points total if they don’t lose at home to Brighton tonight. They are the only team to have scored more home goals than us too and it’s a home record we should be proud of. The problems this season have been away from home though  and that’s why we’re 34 points behind City.

No other team can match their fantastic away record of course, but none of the other teams in the top six are so far behind them away from home either. We have lost 10 of our 17 away games so far this season and we have only managed three wins. Only three other teams in the Premier League have taken less points on the road this season and our away form is that of a team destined for relegation rather than fighting for a top four finish.

There are two games left to rectify that record as much as we can rectify it and the first of them is away to Leicester tonight. They seem to have given up the ghost on their season with only one point in their last five games and surely they must be there for the taking. They haven’t won in six home games either and it looks like they’re trying their best to part ways with yet another manager.

The manager has said there might be a few changes tonight as some of the players who played against Madrid on Thursday night played on Sunday too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes to the team, but I think he will keep a fairly strong team. I can’t imagine he wants to go out on a low and he will be anxious to win tonight and at Huddersfield on Sunday too.

I would be very surprised to see either Hector Bellerin or Granit Xhaka miss out as they seem to be the two players capable of playing game after game without fatigue becoming a factor. Others aren’t quite so durable though and it looks like we won’t see Mesut Ozil again this season after a recurrence of his back injury in the Madrid game last week. I don’t buy into the theories that he isn’t mentally or emotionally up to playing and that he picks and chooses the games he wants to play. 

He has been one of the players with the most appearances for us every season since he joined and to suggest he doesn’t want to play is ridiculous. Ever since he joined us there have been critics who claim he is “nicking a living” and like nothing more than to accuse him of not trying. I don’t buy into any of it though and I think there is plenty more to come from him now that we have added other top class attacking players to the squad.

I hope to see the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette continue tonight and Aubameyang is now our second highest league scorer behind Lacazette despite only joining at the end of January. He is the striker we have been craving for years in my opinion and I can’t wait to see him flourish in the team next season with Lacazette, Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey. We have attacking players to strike fear into any team as long as we can sort out the defensive part of our game for next season.

The performance on Sunday against a very strong defensive unit like Burnley’s was excellent and it wasn’t as if Burnley had nothing to play for. They had a great defensive record away from home this season before Sunday and they hadn’t been thumped by any other team. We turned on the sort of performance which the occasion deserved, but which was a real rarity for us this season.

One of our problems away from home this season has been an inability to hold on to a lead with Swansea, Watford, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Brighton all coming from behind to beat us. We seem so vulnerable when teams attack us away from home and so often teams don’t pick up the pace against us until they are trailing. These are all worries for whoever the new manager might be next season, but for the moment the current manager has to try to install a little belief for two away games.

We have to hope the players want to see him off in the best possible style by continuing on from where they left off on Sunday. Leicester might try to finish on a high themselves by beating one of the “top six”, but I think we should and will beat them once the level of commitment required to play at this level is there. As bad as our away form has been this season we can still average a point a game away from home by beating Leicester and Huddersfield.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.