Thursday, 24 May 2018

Arsenal Get Their Man As Arsene Wenger’s Successor Is Announced

With the season finished less than two weeks ago and the cushion on Arsene Wenger’s office chair still warm Arsenal moved quickly to appoint his successor. Social media was buzzing with the supposed imminent arrival of Mikael Arteta, but the club seemed to surprise almost everybody when Unai Emery got the job. On the face of it he has to be the more sensible and the better appointment.

Arteta is of course a former club captain at Arsenal and he’s very well thought of, but there is no comparison between the managerial experience of both men. Arteta is one of the coaches under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and he seems to be doing a very good job, but he has never managed one single game of football. It would have been a huge risk to appoint him, but his inexperience probably would have bought him more time with the fans at least.

On the other hand Emery has a fine track record and is a proven winner in club management. No other manager has won more trophies in the top five leagues in Europe in the last five seasons than him and he will be expected to deliver silverware at Arsenal too. He has won eight trophies in that time with five of them coming over the last two seasons at PSG as well as three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla in the previous three seasons.

Interestingly Wenger won three trophies in that time too and five if you count the Community Shield (which I don’t). They were all FA Cup victories though and we need a manager who can challenge for Premier League and European titles. He won a league which he was expected to win with PSG after failing to win it in his first season there and his achievement with Sevilla was fairly spectacular no matter how poorly you might rate the Europa League.

He didn’t challenge for league titles with Sevilla though, but the Barcelona and Real Madrid stranglehold is very difficult to break in Spain. He’ll have a bigger budget and better players at Arsenal and he will be expected to get us back to title challengers over the next few seasons. His first task has to be to get us back into the top four and Champions League qualification.

We’re facing into our second season in a row in the Europa League and that has to have hurt our finances. There just isn’t as much TV money in the Europa League and that can be seen in the reported transfer kitty of £50 million for this summer. Emery can add to that kitty by selling some of the players he has and you would imagine he will look to offload a few players.

He was announced as the “Head Coach” though and that would suggest all of the transfer dealings won’t be entirely down to him. Wenger was most definitely the manager and he was in charge of almost every aspect of the club, but there are others at the club to take over many of the responsibilities Arsene either didn’t want to let go of or for which there was no one in place. That should leave Emery with more time to concentrate on coaching and tactics which will hopefully be of some advantage to the team.

By all accounts he’s quite meticulous in his coaching and preparation and that seemed to be something we were lacking in recent seasons. Maybe that’s just a perception and we’ve got it all wrong, but if he is that thorough you would expect to see an improvement in both of those departments. He has plenty of very good players to work with and even a few of the very best players in the Premier League.

Trying to challenge City won’t be easy when you see what they achieved last season and consider the amount of money they have spent and will continue to spend. There isn’t too much between the rest of the top six though and we can certainly hope to overtake at least two of them next season if he can get things right. It’s something I hope he can do and his appointment has certainly filled me with hope for the future.

It’s going to be an interesting summer for us Arsenal fans as we wait to see what players come and go and how our team will come together for next season. I hope he has the affect we all hope for and we can get back to being genuine challengers again. I’m genuinely looking forward to the return of the Premier League in August and getting to see us prosper in the post Wenger years.

That’s not taking anything from Wenger though and he will always be remembered as our greatest manager ever. As happy as I am to look forward to Emery sitting in the dugout (or patrolling the sideline) I’ll still miss Wenger. It’s going to be very strange watching Arsenal play under anyone other than him for the first time in almost 22 years.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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.