Tag Archives: city

The Best PL Side Ever?

A recent BBC poll – one of many – asked a question that many would think redundant. It wasn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last – to prove my point, a poll recently after this was to decide which pairing was best – Yorke and Cole or Bergkamp and Henry…

The poll in question however, mused on which team was the best in the PL era.

There have been a few.

Chelsea’s title-winning team of 05/07 under Jose’s first spell was a beast of a team, and their defensive record still stands.

Our own Double-winning team of 97/98 were included, the perfect blend of rough with smooth.

Then there were the main contenders.

The United Treble-winning team of 99.

City’s winning outfit last season, the first to 100 points.

And The Invincibles.

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Putting aside my fierce and indignant bias, let us look at the numbers.

Firstly, if we are deciding which club had the best Premier League side, then external achievements need to be cast aside. So, United’s famous CL win cannot affect this judgement.

Fergie’s winning team won the league by a solitary point from Arsenal that year. This doesn’t scream out unparallelled quality, it shows that they had a team that was its near equal.

What of City’s steamrollering team of last year?

The first to reach 100 points, 106 goals scored and 27 conceded, 32 wins from 38 – only six games where they failed to get the win.

Truly frightening statistics.

What of The Invincibles?

Well, 12 draws means 12 games where we failed to win – double that of Guardiola’s side.

Seventy three goals scored, 26 conceded, a goal difference of plus 47.

The only stat we can boast that is superior is our defence.

Aside from one small factor – the losses column.

What weight does that zero carry? Is it heavier than the avalanche of goals City scored? Is it worth more than that and the paltry six games they failed to win? We went 49 games without defeat – still a record.

To decide which team trumps the other is fiendishly difficult, but the Gunners are still the only side to go through a campaign unbeaten – and the only recipients of a gold League trophy.

When City were putting teams to the sword last season, the world and his dog were predicting that Guardiola would oversee an unbeaten season. The matches ticked down and no team looked likely to beat them, but beaten they were.

City achieving what they did was miraculous, and they did so in an arguably more difficult league, but they couldn’t manage a loss-less season.

Will this poll settle the argument? No. But ask yourself this;

If any other set of fans had an unbeaten season in their recent history, would they let us forget it? Would they admit that other teams were better? Not a chance.

Our Invincibles side, no matter what objective view is aired, will always be the barometer that all amazing sides need to match up to.

From back to front, we were packed with talent and did the unthinkable with a smaller squad than City, and with just as much swagger, if not more.

Yet it wasn’t our Invincibles side that won the poll, nor was it City’s squad of last season.

United’s Treble-winners won the poll.

Ignore the poll, we know the answer.

Turncoats and Enemies

The bond between player and fan is an intriguing one.

We all have our favourites for varying reasons.

They scored a history-making goal. A titanic man of the match performance in a crucial game. An attitude that meant everything was left on the pitch after every game.

Fan favourites come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to those we despise? The turncoats, those that have desecrated the badge?

All of us share the hate.

There have been a few that we look at with venom, especially in recent years. Emanuel Adebayor cemented his villain status with his pitch-long run to gloat in front of Arsenal fans when he scored against us in a City shirt, the pain made even worse by the recent wound caused by the Togo striker abandoning us in our hour of need to cash in at the City revolution.

Samir Nasri isn’t looked at with quite so much vitriol, his move to City viewed by some as a player who wanted Arsenal to progress but refused to, so the French player moved to a club that could give him the glory he craved.

Robin Van Persie was shown untold patience and faith during his time at Arsenal, through consistent injuries, shows of petulance on the pitch, and growing pains. we enjoyed the Dutchman in his prime, but not for long. He maintains that the Arsenal board were not showing the same ambition that he had, and United came calling.

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The rest is history.

Ashley Cole was on the back of the greatest ever season that the club had ever had. The world was his oyster, and we recognised that Cole had a gleaming future, so we opened negotiations on a new contract.

We didn’t figure on Cashley being greedy and having his head turned by nouveau-rich Chelsea. The difference of #5k a week saw Cole enjoy his best years at Stamford Bridge, and win all there is to win with the Blues.

Cole hurt badly. This was an Academy graduate, he was one of our own. To see him go to a close rival smarted. To make matters worse, we got William Gallas as part of the deal. The French defender was a great player, but his mentality was sorely lacking and one of the few opportunities at a title tilt in 07/08 was partially ruined by the deconstruction of Gallas’ state of mind on the pitch.

Do these enemies of The Arsenal stand a chance of forgiveness? Will we ever look at these players with fondness? Or are they destined to be part of a rogues gallery of sorts, but far more nefarious:?

At the time of writing, the sands of time haven’t done much to dampen the way we view these players are looked at. How long will it take, or what would it take, for us to forget their past misdemeanours?

If Ashley Cole were to come out and declare he is still a Gooner, and give another reason other than his bare-faced greed for his departure? This will never happen of course, but would we erase his errors?

Like it or not, we have ex-players that crossed a certain line, and it certainly appears that once that line is crossed, the way back is then blocked from view. Outcast, all bridges burned – they are forever a nemesis.

Part and parcel of being a supporter is having a target for our spleens to vent at. Normally it’s a referee, a spurs player, Chelsea, but a former player who has wronged us?

They are forever reserved a spot in our mind, specifically for those that have cardinally sinned in the face of the Cannon. They form part of our history, after all, there can’t be the force without the dark side.

Cardiff Vs Arsenal Match News

Off the mark, but not out of the woods.

 

That would be a fair assessment of last week’s win over West Ham.

 

There are a few negatives to take from the victory last weekend over the Hammers, but there were far more positives to show that Unai Emery’s new regime is kicking into gear, although it is far from the finished article.

 

Our defence is probably the most worrisome point of conjecture. West Ham on more than one occasion took great delight in probing our high line, and while we held firm, Petr Cech saved us on a few openings we should never have had.

 

Still, it is a work in progress, and with a visit to shot-shy Cardiff, we can hold out hope that this game will see our first clean sheet of the season.

 

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To be honest though, three points and a decent performance would suffice for most!

 

Team News

 

Emery revealed in his press conference that Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson are still some way from being fit, with the Bosnian the nearest to returning to first-team training.

 

Mesut Ozil has recovered from illness and will most likely play a part, but will it be from the bench? The refreshing thing about Emery is that he is giving all players a chance, but poor performances are seeing changes – just ask Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil himself.

 

We could see the much heralded duo of  Lacazette and Aubameyang start together for the first time. With Neil Warnock enjoying two clean sheets from his first three league games, the emphasis will be on our side to break down a stubborn, rigid and packed defence.

 

I have a hunch that Torreira may make his first start ahead of Guendouzi, given the physical edge that Cardiff will exert on us. The Uruguayan will relish the battle.

 

That will be a lot easier with both our French and Gabon strikers on the pitch simultaneously.

 

Our Opponent

 

Warnock has two 0-0 draws and an opening day defeat so far, and midweek saw them humbled by Championship side Norwich. The experienced Bluebirds manager will see that Arsenal still haven’t cemented their defensive style, so set plays will be decisive.

 

He will have to make do without Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, after he was injured last weekend, and the pace he would have offered would have been a valuable outlet. No goals so far, but that isn’t to say they will be without a threat.

 

Predictions

 

Cardiff are looking not only for their first win, but their first goal of this Premier League season, and I’ve got a horrible feeling they’ll get it in some horrible mess of a scramble in our box.

 

I do think we’ll win though, and I think it will be comprehensive.  It all hinges on if we can break them early. Warnock will be keen to frustrate us, so an early goal would change the complexion of Warnock’s tactics.

 

If we score inside the first half – I think a 4-1 win.  If we don’t, then I’m going for a 2-1, and an awkward game for all concerned. It is no coincidence that Cardiff’s opponents in the last two games have had red cards. They know how to fight.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang

Arsenal Vs City PL Match Preview

Finally, the new season begins.

 

Finally, the new Arsenal era begins.

 

Unai Emery’s first step in his Gunners journey to take the club back to the top of the game sees perhaps his toughest test of the season – against Champions Manchester City.

 

Emery has acted early in his efforts to fill the gaps in the squad, with five signings early in the window, and those signings may well be involved in some capacity, if our pre-season results are anything to go by.

 

That’s the kicker – for the first time in quite some time, we have no idea what formation or lineup Arsenal will have before they kickoff – and it’s mighty refreshing.

 

Emery has a hell of a task to get off to a winning start, but if there is a right time to play City, it is right now.

 

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With a host of their players either only just returning, or still on leave after their World Cup efforts, they will have a mixture of a weak and tired team, and they will be far from their strongest.

 

Still, a point would be good enough, especially as this is Emery’s first proper game in charge.

 

Let the games begin!

 

Team News

 

Emery will be unable to call upon club captain Laurent Koscielny until at least December, and Sead Kolasinac is out for around ten weeks. In terms of other injuries, Nacho Monreal has returned to first team training, but will not be risked, with Emery declaring in his first press conference that youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be given the job of holding down the left flank. Aaron Ramsey should be fit for the game.

 

In terms of who makes the team, who knows? If Emery is looking to keep it tight and hit on the break, then Lichtsteiner will be preferred to Bellerin. Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis look to be the preferred pairing in the centre, with AMN coming in on the left.

 

In midfield, Matteo Guendouzi has impressed, and Lucas Torreira will most likely be eventual first choice defensive midfielder, but both will be an outside bet of making the eleven. Guendouzi’s lack of experience will cost him, although a spot on the bench is still testament to how good he is and how highly he is rated. Lucas Torreira has not been in training for long enough to be a guaranteed start, so it could well be last season’s pairing of Ramsey and Xhaka – but Xhaka should benefit from a much clearer idea of his role this season.

 

We have an embarrassment of riches up top, but it is unclear who will play after some heavy rotation by Emery in pre-season. Most likely will be that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be a wide forward, with Lacazette playing as a more traditional number 9, both being supplemented by the able talents of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil.

 

City will have the force of Aguero and Jesus available, and both Silva’s should be able to be called upon, although Mahrez should get the nod too, with Sterling still unavailable.

 

Pep has only signed Mahrez thus far, but his squad was already filled with talent, so a heavy recruitment drive was never on the cards. They will arrive at The Emirates with a gameplan, and we need to apply Emery’s instructions to the letter if we are to succeed.

 

We lost emphatically on three occasions to City last season, as we stumbled to 6th place and lost in the League Cup final. Things are a little different now, and we should at least provide a stiffer test than what we produced back then.

Let’s embrace the unknown!

 

Fingers crossed the Emery Era begins with a bang – and 3 points! UTA

 

Predicted Lineup – Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, AMN, Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-2

Arsenal Revive the FA Cup

Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.

The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.

The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.

It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.

It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.

Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.

Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.

Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.

Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.

The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.

It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.

The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.

Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.

We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.

It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.

Leicester City Vs Arsenal – PL Preview

We go to Leicester tonight, in a bid to finally end our torrid away record. We have two away games left in our season – can we win away from The Emirates in 2018?

After the fantastic send-off we gave Arsene Wenger at our last home game this season – the weekend’s 5-0 thumping of Burnley was a perfect display of football that Wenger adores – these remaining two games can seem a tad pointless.

But with an away record like ours, this needs rectifying. Now.

Foxes Vs Gunners

Also, this game is the perfect opportunity to blood our youngsters further, against top opposition. We can see them playing at the level they need to in order to make it at our club, and they could well represent our future.

Two players who seem like they have a bright future in the red and white are Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The Man United loss a week ago was a close tun thing, and these two youngsters stole the show with their discipline and performance way above their years. The Greek defender should get the nod again as he did in the last two PL games, and with Koscielny out for six months, this could see a budding partnership with Calum Chambers.

Then there is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He started the season as a member of the squad, filling in at full-back. His displays are such, that he’s ending the season as a viable choice in central midfield.

With the contract situations hanging over Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, it’s a good thing AMN is showing his talents.

Mesut Ozil has probably played his last game this season, after Wenger confirmed his back complaint will end his season prematurely. That means there is a spot in our attack free too, and that could mean a start for Reiss Nelson, although he could also be used at full-back.

Jo Willock is another youth who could get the nod, and starting alongside Granit Xhaka means there will be an emphasis on his defensive duties. Wenger can have some fun with his selection here, although if he wants to destroy the away curse, then a strong side is the way to go. Our attack should be at full strength, with both Aubameyang and Lacazette set to start together again.

Then again, if he doesn’t give the kids a chance, then there will be the inevitable detractors who think this is the ideal chance for the kids to shine. With Santi Cazorla and Mohamed Elneny also out, then the very least he can do is give some of them the first half.

For Leicester, Claude Puel is going backwards after a promising start as Foxes boss. They’ve lost their last few, and a home game against an undercooked Arsenal backline could be just what the Foxes ordered. They have the capacity to pack the midfield and clog our runners, and then with Jamie Vardy in their ranks, they have the perfect counter-attacking blade to slice us with.

Eight goals conceded in our last four away games, and just three scored. That’s what we have to contend with. Low confidence, tactics set to stifle, and poor form. With our win over Burnley, hopefully we have the wind in our sails.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mavropanos, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Stoke PL Preview

After an intolerable international break – what already seems like the 89th this season – we can finally look forward to the Premier League returning, as Arsenal take on Stoke City at The Emirates.

Before the international hiatus, we had recovered a little from a hellish period that saw us slump out of contention for any sort of respectable league placing, but our handsome wins over AC Milan and a professional victory over Watford has seen at least an improvement.

We’ve got plenty of work to do though.

The Europa League is only at the Quarter-Final stage and we’re still eight points behind fifth place, so every game is pretty much win or bust at this stage. Good thing we’re playing Stoke City then, right?

Before we panic and hark back to the many nightmares we’ve had against the Potters, there is a contrast to this match-up that has a derby feel of sorts. When we travel to Stoke, this is when the nightmares begin and we have a truly sketchy record against them at their home ground.

When it comes to welcoming them at our ground though? They’ve never won at our place in the Premier League era. In fact, you have to go back to 1981 to find a Stoke win at our ground.

Can we make it continue though? We need to, and we have the chance to nudge Paul Lambert’s side towards the exit door a little more.

In terms of our team, Wenger revealed that Alexandre Lacazette should be fit for consideration for the game, but the length of his layoff should mean a probable substitute appearance for the French striker. Lacazette will be keen for minutes too, with the World Cup looming.

Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey were doubts too, but both have been passed for fitness according to our manager. Chambers may slot in to preserve Koscielny for the CSKA game on Thursday. Jack Wilshere may miss out though, after injuring himself whilst on England duty, although he’s in full training.

In attack, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should be ably assisting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with one spot on the right up for grabs. That will be either Danny Welbeck’s or Alex Iwobi’s.

We do at least have Petr Cech’s 200th clean sheet out of the way, after waiting nearly four months. We will have to be up for a fight as Stoke will bombard on set plays and have the height to cause us problems.

The reverse fixture was another nightmare – a 1-0 win for Stoke where Jese scored his one and only goal in his loan spell thus far – and despite their lowly league placing, they will again pose a threat.

We need to rack up the wins and this game is a great opportunity to not only keep up our slim chances of breaking the top four monopoly, but also giving our match against CSKA Moscow the appropriate foundation.

A loss in this game would quickly see a return of the cloying negativity that has been the hallmark of this season. The only answer is winning, and we really should be getting maximum points in this game. Our home form alone is the biggest factor.

So, let’s see our boys put in a decent performance. #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal