Tag Archives: leicester

Is The PL The Toughest League In The World?

They say the Premier League is the toughest domestic league in the world.

It may be hyperbole scripted by the TV Execs to justify exorbitant subscription fees, but there may be something in it.

Looking at the top European leagues, the usual suspects duke it out season after season for the top honours. In Italy, Juventus have won countless consecutive Scudettos. In Spain, if your name isn’t Barcelona or one of the Madrid’s, you aren’t welcome in the VIP section. Ditto for PSG, Ajax, PSV, Dortmund and Bayern in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Of course, there are exceptions. FC Twente in the Netherlands, Monaco in Ligue Un, Leicester City and the odd guest appearance in the Champions League from a surprise runner means that there is indeed depth that on the surface appears to be non-existent.

But in the Premier League, the true fact is that every single one of the twenty teams that take part in the Premiership is capable of gunning down one another. Every weekend, the so-called ‘Big6’ go into their respective fixtures with a healthy degree of respect for their opposition. No matter if they are Premier League debutants or top-flight veterans, every club has the chance of ruining an accumulator.

The fact that it is now a ‘Big6’ rather than the already established ‘Top4’ shows that there is no room for error when fighting for the summit. It means that there are opportunities for those who invest wisely the ridiculous sums of money doled out for TV rights.

That brings us to a salient point for us Gooners.

Are we able to maintain the gap between us and the chasing pack?

 

Chasing Pack.jpg

We have spent wisely in the summer and purchased players that will enable us to go the distance a little easier than last season, which saw us crawl over the finish line rather than kick on and claim our top four spot.

Then again, the peloton that is breathing down our necks have also strengthened significantly, and have owners more than willing to back their Managers to the hilt with regard to transfer activity.

Leicester City, West Ham, Wolves and Everton have been backed by their investors. They have been active and purchased players that wouldn’t look out of place in our squad, or even City’s and Liverpool’s talent pool.

The Foxes have made a strong start to this season, and the additions of Youri Tielemans, Caglar Soyuncu (from the previous season) and Dennis Praet mean that along with the likes of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy, boss Brendan Rodgers has all the pieces required to assemble a challenging squad.

West Ham have been very active, and spent heavily on Sebastian Haller up front and the highly-sought after Pablo Fornals in midfield. The Hammers now have a squad littered with top class names – enough to seriously trouble our hopes of re-entry to the Champions League.

Wolves, led by the tactical nous of Nuno Espirito Santo, went mightily close to piercing the Top 6 bubble. Up top they have the prolific Raul Jimenez who is ably assisted by Diego Jota. In midfield, Joao Moutinho rolls back the years and Connor Coady does the mucky stuff, and with Matt Doherty in defence providing a constant outlet, they have a spine that will continue to push bigger teams.

Everton have some serious wealth behind them. Their owners are not shy in their ambition, and that means Marco Silva has spent on some big name players. Moise Kean, Fabian Delph, Yerry Mina  (from the previous summer) and our Hale End product Alex Iwobi join an already dangerous squad, with Gylffi Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Adrien Gomes, Bernard, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott showing that the Toffees are justifiably excited for this season.

While we have our eyes very much upwards, it means that points that were normally a lot easier to grab will now be a slog, and squad’s will have to rotate, but it will be difficult for manager’s who rotate heavily.

The same goes for the likes of Champions City, Liverpool and our top four rivals. No more points bagged as soon as the game is kicked off. These teams can not only hurt them, they can run for the majority of the season’s distance.

When the likes of Crystal Palace are beating United, promoted Sheffield United drawing with Chelsea and Burnley and Bournemouth doling out slip-ups on the regular, every game will need meticulous scrutiny before the game begins.

It means some trophies may have to be sacrificed, with our promising youth filling the void as our established players take a breather.

All of this makes for palpitations, and also is the perfect league to watch week in and week out.

Dipping Into Deep Pockets – Spend Some Money!

Time for a game of ‘Spot the Difference.’

Farhad Moshiri.

David Sullivan and David Gold

The Srivaddhanaprabha family.

Stan Kroenke.

 

Any ideas?

They’re all owners of Premier League clubs.

They all enjoy an incredible bank balance.

The difference you’re looking for is that the first three have all invested plenty of their readies into their respective clubs – aside from Stan Kroenke.

In fact, Kroenke has actually taken money out of the club, as payment for consultancy fees.

The result of this lack of spending in comparison to Leicester City, Everton and West Ham is that instead of progressing with our supposed gameplan to haul Arsenal back into the big time, we could instead be battling it out with the above three teams to keep our Europa League status.

Never mind the Champions League for now. With Liverpool and Manchester City going from strength to strength, Manchester United and Chelsea not afraid to spend in the transfer window and Tottenham enjoying lucrative new incomes, Arsenal, now more than ever, have to break free from the restrictive budgets that are shackling our growth, and recognise the shifting landscape.

More clubs than ever can break the bank and land a superstar, and with West Ham signing Pablo Fornals, this is another piece of evidence to support the warning.

For just £24m, the Hammers have a Spanish international that has years ahead of him. Fornals has been a target of ours for some time, and to see him ship off to East London sticks in the craw a tad.

They also reportedly have another +£20m target in their sights from Celta Vigo, and are also after one of our other targets, Alexis Claude-Maurice from Lorient. Let’s say both of our bids are accepted – can we honestly say that we will offer more money than the Hammers?

So we will rely on our allure – the third biggest club in England, a host of domestic trophies and an attractive brand of football with a global fanbase.

Is that enough for the modern day footballer? Will it be enough to continue to snare the top talent? When they are well aware they can earn far more elsewhere – where the expectation will be lower? So they can enjoy the adulation for performing well within themselves?

How long can we continue to trade off the back of our reputation? Are we in danger of becoming a former glory – one that slumbers in the comfort of midtable as our owner cashes in and our rivals enjoy the spoils?

Kroenke 2

 

That may be an overreaction after our last season saw us miss out narrowly on both a lucrative Champions League spot and a European trophy, but you can’t deny that you’re alarmed when you see teams that don’t share our illustrious history or potential, spending shameful amounts of money that we can only dream of.

The self-sustaining model that Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi are keen for us to follow keeps us on the straight and narrow and crucially – without any dependency on our owner who could give two shiny pennies whether we win trophies or not. As long as our cash udders are ripe and producing the goods, he’ll be more than happy for the status quo to continue.

Which means we stay in limbo – not quite good enough for the Champions League, but with teams all around closing the gap.

Financial Fair Play made a mockery of our frugal approach a while back, and it will continue to ignore those teams that are spending well beyond their means – which means we will not be rewarded for our mindful approach when it comes to our balance.

We were told that whatever profit we make can be reinvested into our team. Fair enough, but with us needing a big step up from our current position in order to catch up to the rest, that requires more than what we are making right now. We need to go wild in the aisles and buy the players that makes this squad Emery’s men – rather than the majority being leftovers from the Wenger era.

We don’t want Kroenke dipping in his pockets endlessly, but we do want a fighting chance to regain our standing – and we need a bit of help for that to happen.

 

 

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 4-3 Leicester City – What a Game! 

What a way to start things off. 

Seven goals, a hatful of chances, shambolic defending and beautiful attacking play. Arsenal are back. 






Upon seeing the teamsheet before the game though, we should have heeded the warning.

Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal and new boy Sead Kolasinac were our back three, and the lack of chemistry was evident, especially when passes were played in between them for the voracious Jamie Vardy to run onto.


Lacazette made his mark first though, his quick reaction was a superb header into the bottom corner from Elneny.


Minutes later though, Leicester drew level. A short corner was eventually played in and Harry Maguire headed the ball back in from the byline. The loose ball was headed in from close range by Okazaki with Petr Cech floundering.

Cech was all at sea and our defence were deliberating who should go with Vardy’s runs. It was painful to watch at times, but our attack was the antithesis of the mess at the back. 

Twenty nine minutes in, the Foxes were a goal up. A wide ball across goal and Vardy had stolen a yard and finished from close in. 


Our defence should never have let it happen.


Just before halftime though, we had a lifeline. Alexandre Lacazette showed incredible strength to keep possession, and the ball squirmed through to Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian tank had enough composure to square the ball to Welbeck and he finished calmly.


An excellent time to score and at half time we drew our breath. 2-2.


Eleven minutes and it was joy for Leicester – and Vardy – when they scored again. A corner was fizzed in and Vardy again ghosted past our players to flick in a near-post header. Cech coming out for absolutely nothing, Xhaka guilty of ball watching as Vardy whizzed past him.


With Leicester a goal up and the pressure building on the pitch but no score, Wenger changed things up at his signature time – the 67th minute – with Ramsey and Giroud coming on for Elneny and the beleaguered Holding. It changed our setup, with our team opting for a 4-2-3-1 with Giroud up top and Lacazette out wide.


The Foxes were clawing for purchase as we cranked up the pressure and they held out until the 83rd minute. A great Xhaka pass found Ramsey at the back, and his first touch was artistry. It fell in the perfect place to lash home. 


His fellow sub Giroud will grab the headlines though. His header was the epitome of strength, firstly to hold off Maguire and then the way he arced his neck to put strength on the ball so it went in off the woodwork. Wonderful stuff.


The game petered out after such ridiculous pace, and we grabbed the points. There is much to be done though.


Would a better side see out the game 3-2 up at The Emirates? Can we count ourselves lucky that is was Leicester? Our defence will get stronger obviously. Our three first choice defenders were out of the game and this match would have been markedly different had Mertesacker been playing. Holding would have missed his experience too. 


Cech needs to shape up too, as well as Xhaka who needs to move the ball quicker at times. 


We also need to remember though, that it is the first game of the season. We will improve, but we got the points, which is what matters. 


Let us enjoy the fact the Premiership is back. 


And maybe take a breath. Phew. 

Arsenal Vs Leicester City Preview

Arsenal kick off their Premier League season by welcoming Leicester City to The Emirates, and Arsene Wenger will be keen to arrest one startling stat.

The Gunners have won just once in the last eight opening day games – a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace two seasons previously – and maximum points in this game will be huge with so many rivals jostling for honours this year.











Our win over Chelsea in lifting the Community Shield will have filled our players with belief and confidence, but we will have to make do without some of our big names.

Alexis Sanchez is sidelined with an abdominal strain and could miss the next game against Stoke City also. Mesut Ozil is a doubt with an ankle complaint as well, but by beating Chelsea without our stars, we showed that we can cope without them if we need to. Aaron Ramsey is another who is a doubt, and Shkodran Mustafi’s lack of minutes in pre-season could put paid to his hopes of starting the game.

With Gabriel still missing and Laurent Koscielny suspended, it means Per Mertesacker will be given every chance to prove his fitness after his facial injury from last weekend. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are both making good progress in their respective injury returns, but both are not near to being considered for selection.

Arsene Wenger mentioned in his press conference that his focus will be fielding a side that has had as many minutes in pre-season as possible, with perhaps one or two inclusions that are a doubt. We may see Mesut Ozil after all….

Foxes boss Craig Shakespeare is sweating on the fitness of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho, but in Jamie Vardy he has an able body to fulfill striking duties. Fellow new boy Harry Maguire will line up in the centre of defence with Robert Huth out, and Alexandre Lacazette will be given a real test of his physicality with Maguire and Morgan facing him.

Arsenal in recent years have found the games against Leicester tight affairs, with a goalless draw and a 1-0 win the results against them last season. Then there was the fairtytale extra-time ending from two years ago when Danny Welbeck scored a 93rd minute winner. Make no mistake, this game will be a toughie.

A winning start is imperative, but then again, we could say the same before every game of the season. The bottom line though, is that winning is a habit. We know that when we are on a roll, we get better and better. It is the starting of the winning habit that is hard to pick up. Let us hope we grab the three points tonight and start a roll that is hard to arrest.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Elneny, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.

The Stick or The Carrot? Always the Stick.

Originally posted on Goonersphere

It appears as if every occurrence involving Premier League teams can now be tied to Arsenal. 

Our club, apparently, are intrinsically linked with the other 19 clubs that make up the Premiership, and their results are essentially barometers for us.

Even though there are a whole mess of variables which segregate every team in our league, we now see comparisons being bandied around every form of media whenever any of these teams play.

The latest set of ludicrous comparisons centre around Leicester City defeating Sevilla and getting to the Quarter-Final stage of the Champions League. This quite obviously spells out that Leicester are a far better side than us as they have effortlessly leaped over the Last16 stage – the same stage that Arsenal have stumbled on in the last seven years.

It was the Foxes first attempt in Europe’s finest competition, and they sailed through against a highly-rated opponent. They also did it with a manager who has never had a managerial position before. 

This only emboldens Arsenal’s failure in the Champions League, and Arsene Wenger’s errors on judgement. 

It cannot be simply celebrated. No, it must be brandished as a weapon of sorts to beat Arsenal with. It isn’t opposition fans peppering us all with ‘banter’ and memes. This comes with the territory of being a supporter. No, it is when supposed professionals in the media world actually use Leicester’s success – or any other team – to bash our club.

When we fail to beat a team and then a fellow Premiership club then does what we couldn’t do – it is held up as evidence of our failings rather than a positive result from that team.

It means that efforts and victories from teams loses all perspective, and instead it is twisted into some mawkish piece in which the Gunners failings can be scrutinised even more. 

That mess of variables I mentioned earlier? Well,  the precious details that are overlooked regarding comparisons between Arsenal’s Euro failings and Leicester’s success are found in the class of opponent. Aside from when Arsenal drew Monaco, six of the seven years we have been pitted against teams which are stronger than ours. We have been underdogs. Of course, Leicester have made their name from doing the same and against Sevilla they were odds on to be dumped out, but Sevilla are not Bayern Munich, they are not Barca.

And yet the berating and baiting of Arsenal continues. It is our fault really. Our online presence and vociferous protests in response to the bashing means that these blinkered ‘experts’ get exactly what they wanted. They cast the tempting worm into the waters of social media and wait for us to bite.

And we do. Every time. 

Turn on your radio and listen. Every day there is an item in which Arsenal is mentioned, even if we haven’t played for a week or two. The same with the plethora of websites there are out there. We are popular and we grab clicks, listeners and viewers. 

It will continue, but it is important we ourselves do not skew reality. We have failed in the Champions League, of this there can be no doubt. We should inspect the wreckage of our campaign with keen eyes.

We cannot compare Leicester’s success to ours. The same as we cannot compare United’s record to ours, and Liverpool’s. What we do is completely different as in every game, there are so many different parameters to measure. 

We have had a difficult season, we do not need to make it worse by subjecting ourselves to pointless comparisons. 

Arsenal Vs Leicester City – Match Preview

For the first time in a while, we are looking to a Premier League fixture with a dash of optimism. 

Our win over Manchester City in the FA Cup showed guts and character – traits we have been painfully short of – and hopefully it sparks a run of positive results that we so desperately need.

It isn’t just confidence that we will take from our Semi-Final win – tired legs will be an issue as well as the players left everything out on the field at Wembley. Rotation may come into the equation so players who have been on the sidelines may figure against a resurgent Leicester City side. 

There was no fresh injuries incurred in the weekend, but Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez and David Ospina are again out. What is of interest is the players who may come into the side. Danny Welbeck was originally thought to be out of the game against City, but was fit enough to make the bench. With Olivier Giroud registering a blank in his last game, could Welbeck again return to lead the attack? His pace could be key against a Foxes defence who will be without captain Wes Morgan. 

Alexis is pretty much undroppable at present, as is Mesut Ozil, and both were industrious and key against City. One player who has really enjoyed some form of late is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his excellent grasp of our new formation has seen The Ox rise to prominence. His deliveries, his running at the defence, has been chief among reasons why we have won our last two games. 

Theo Walcott has missed out in those two games, despite his excellent run of goals. The speedy attacker may just come back into the side in order to keep legs as fresh as possible, and with our next game being the North London Derby, eyes may drift toward the weekend rather than this game. 

Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi may all feature in this game as it is the least demanding when compared to the next two – which is tottenham and Man United. Objectively, should our peak-fitness footballers be able to hack these fixtures in such a small space of time?

Shkodran Mustafi is one who looks to be out for the game, and with our switch to 3-5-2 coinciding with his time out of the team, will the German find a passage back into the team as easy as before? Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Rob Holding have taken to the tactical switch like ducks to water, and with the formation still new, a change in lineup at the back may be detrimental to performance.

One thing is for sure, the game won’t be easy. The Foxes have been in imperious form, and Jamie Vardy has rediscovered his touch in front of goal as well. We failed to beat them in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, and now they have found their form again, a real test to grab all three points is on the cards.

With the negativity of recent months just a bad result away and our European hopes resting on every ninety minutes, it will be the true characters who come to the rescue in every game. We need every one of them to stand up and be counted. 

One thing to note, Leicester have not won in their last four games in all competitions and their record against us is pretty awful – one win in the EPL in 21 attempts. Then again, so was Palace’s record against us and look how much that counted for. 

A win here would be the first time in over three months we win back to back PL games. That is something that needs to be rectified immediately.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0