Tag Archives: prem

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?

 

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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.

Who Will Win The Top4 Race?

There was a time when making the top four for the hallowed Champions League spots was much maligned.

 

When Arsene Wenger performed miracles on a shoestring budget by squeezing his Gunners side into the top table of European football season after season, instead of being lauded he was ridiculed for valuing the financial merits of making the Champions League.

 

Now though, making it into the top tier of club football is a huge deal, and one that six teams not only desire – but in order to maintain their standing and financial clout – they also need.

 

This season looks to be the toughest to call in regards to who slips into the top quartet of the Premier League. Manchester City and Liverpool have gone from strength to strength as they propel each other in their title fight, but the other two spots?

 

That is a straight fight between four teams.

 

As you can see in the graph on this page on the Premier League odds, the current odds on which team will get into the top4 is an ever-changing landscape, and no team can be sure of where they will stand at the end of the campaign. Tottenham were shaping up to be a third player in the title battle only two games ago, and now they are looking nervously over their shoulder with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United breathing down their necks.

 

It is even closer between Chelsea, United and Arsenal, with one point separating the trio – should Chelsea win their game in hand.

 

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So who has the advantage in the run-in? Who is nearer to pocketing the 70-100m of readies for Champions League involvement?

 

Arsenal

 

Much will depend on their next two games. Fixtures against tottenham and United are huge games and neither can be confidently predicted..Once those are out of the way though, the key is the away games for the Gunners.

 

From the remaining eight games after the United match, Arsenal have four games on the road. With Unai Emery’s men far from convincing on their travels, they will need to take advantage of the fact that they will have played all of their games against their fellow top6 colleagues.

 

United

 

United have three fixtures left against their top6 rivals, and a key spell will be April 24-28, which will have United host City and Chelsea in the space of four days.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made his team resurgent after the dour tenure of Jose Mourinho, and their climb up the table has been remarkable.

 

One thing to watch is their injuries, especially after three players were replaced in the first half in  their 0-0 draw with Liverpool recently.

 

If they can keep their big men fit, they will be there at the end. The likes of Pogba, Lindelof, Rashford and De Gea are vital to their cause.

 

Chelsea

 

March is crunch time for Chelsea. A London derby at the start of the month, then a trip to Anfield, a tough game against Burnley and then closing out the month with an away game against United.

 

Chelsea are also hugely reliant on Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante. Without those two and the Blues lack the proper world class to change games.

 

Maurizio Sarri has had a perplexing first season. On one hand, he has earned some big wins, and on the other hand, they have looked insipid at times, mocked by their own fans for their unimaginative substitutions. There have also been the odd blip – huge losses to Bournemouth and City made them look ordinary.

 

If Sarri can muster the better end of the blues performances, then they can keep pace with the pack.

 

So, to surmise, it is going to be ridiculously tight to call.

 

One thing is for sure, every match will be unmissable.

Newcastle Vs Arsenal PL Preview – What You Need To Know

The inane international break is over, and we can now look forward to proper football returning.

 

We travel to St James Park to take on Newcastle, who haven’t enjoyed the best start to their season, and are currently winless.

 

That only tells half the story though.

 

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Rafa Benitez has overseen a horrible run of just one win in nine games, and on paper this is a great chance to pick up a valuable away win.

 

If we want to get a taste of how tough this game will be, we just need to look at their last game – a narrow 2-1 loss to Champions City. The toon were mightily unlucky not to grab a point in this game, and their defence is looking a darn sight tougher than our own.

 

With our defence, even a slightly toothless attack like Newcastle’s have a chance – as we will probably gift them opportunities like we have in every one of our games thus far. In fact, we are averaging an exact two goals conceded in every game.

 

We only have ourselves to blame as we struggle to adapt to Emery’s tactics, but Newcastle will look to hit on the break. If our midfield doesn’t track back, we could open the door for the home team.

 

Team News

 

Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Laurent Koscielny are all ahead of schedule in their fight to start first team training, but are not close to making this game or the next few for that matter. Alex Iwobi is back for selection after missing our win over Cardiff with illness. The question is though, will Lacazette and Aubameyang start together again and strengthen their bond? Or will Emery play it safe for a hard away trip?

 

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez will be glad to have the services of Jonjo Shelvey again, and Matt Ritchie is also back. These two will likely represent the best chance the home team have of causing us problems, and they will be looking to feed Joselu, as Salomon Rondon only returned from international duty a few days ago.

 

Predictions

 

This game could be a real banana skin for us. Jonjo Shelvey returning could inspire the Toon, and the last time we played them at St James Park we lost 2-1 back in October.

 

Benitez has set his team up to frustrate and the fact that Newcastle have the lowest number of passes this season is evidence of a teak-tough team.

 

We may need a better defensive presence than Granit Xhaka, so Lucas Torreira could come in and mark the England midfielder. Matteo Guendouzi could make way, but it isn’t in midfield that our fans will be looking at in team selection.

 

Will Auba and Laca start? Which one will drop?

 

If Emery is keeping things tight, then Iwobi could come straight in at the expense of one of our star strikers, with an option on the bench to change things should the game get ugly.

 

Either way, we will need our star men to shine if we are to leave St James Park with the points and continue our recovery.

 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette

 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Swansea 0-4 Arsenal – 5 Keypoints From the Match

Four goals. A clean sheet. Three points. 

The very definition of the perfect day at the office.

This comfortable victory sees Arsenal climb to third in the table and match the result of the shadow dwellers who won at home to West Brom. Arsene Wenger can take some satisfaction from the manner of victory, especially as Swansea did provide some hairy moments when we toiled at 1-0. We showed the bottle that we needed in our recent comebacks against Preston and Bournemouth, but this time there was no comeback required.

This win also puts an end to our recent poor away record, with no win in three prior to this result, and this will hopefully be the start of a sequence of games where we can mount some decent form. The ninety minutes at the Liberty Stadium is reason enough for optimism to shine through the Gooner masses, as possession was bossed, chances were created and our defence stood strong.

The same team that heroically came back from capitulation against Bournemouth two weeks ago was named, and that meant Olivier Giroud again enjoyed a starting role. With four goals in his last four games, the Frenchman was on fire and he would be the man to break the deadlock. 

Some neat interplay saw Aaron Ramsey able to scorch a pass across the six yard box. Giroud was lurking but was inches away from the touch which the pass needed to divert the ball into the net. Alexis retrieved the situation wide on the left and his scooped pass was met by the head of Ozil. The header was blocked but Giroud cleaned up with a neat finish from six yards in an unmarked position.

It was deserved, as while Swansea were posing an intermittent threat, Arsenal were slowly cranking up the heat. This was to be the only goal of the half though, despite some pressure from both sides. 

Cech had dealt with whatever had come his way, and former Gunner Fabianski had also snuffed out some good opportunities in the opposite goal. At half time  the Gunners were ahead, and it was soon to be doubled in the second half.

Nacho Monreal stopped an attempted counter with an outstretched foot and the ball bobbled back into the Swansea box. Alex Iwobi was alive to the loose ball and he ran onto it and fired toward goal. The ball took a huge deflection from Jack Cork and the ball arced over Fabianski and into the net. It may have been a huge slice of luck, but it had been ten concentrated minutes of pressure from Arsenal after the break and the home side had been desperately doing everything to stop Arsenal from scoring.

Just over ten minutes later, Arsenal put the game to bed. Iwobi was involved again, as another quick conversion of possession and a great pass put Iwobi into the box. He was being tightly marshalled, but a few shimmies from Iwobi’s locker gained him half a yard of space. He chose to square the ball and that man Own Goal once again made the difference, spinning the ball in off of Kyle Naughton’s heel.

Alexis got in on the act six minutes later and Iwobi was again the difference maker. His slide rule pass set free second half substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his cutback found Ramsey. Ramsey was all set to fire but was clipped and the ball lurched forward. It was snaffled up by Alexis like lightning and the game was cooked.

There was much more incident and noteworthy stuff during the game, but here are the five keypoints from the match;

Giroud must start

Some are bemoaning the fact we have resorted to last seasons shape. They have a fair point. The fluidity and sharpness we have when Alexis plays as centre forward is not present when Giroud is up top. Five goals in five games though, tells the other side of the story. We always implore managers to pick a side based on form and not reputation, and this is the result. Whilst we all want Lucas to play and he cannot do anymore to implore Wenger to pick him – we must use Giroud whilst his purple patch is in place. Alexis is still our first choice, but a player must play when he is in form – otherwise what is the point of the rest of the squad trying so hard?

Iwobi over the hump






















The shaky spell that every youngster will suffer from after making their debut? Iwobi had that at the start of the season. The last few games – and increased competition from The Ox – has seen ‘Big17’ pull out of his slump and rise above it. He has shown he really is the real deal and his touch and passing was there for all to see. He can still be polished, but what promising signs from this youngster. He is only going to get better.

A competitive start for once

The last few games has seen the return of an ugly trait. The sluggish start. Too often we have let teams gain the initiative mainly due to our inability to wake up from the start. This game we at least were at the game, and we put up a fight. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially as we all know how we can start games, but this was a step in the right direction.

Ramsey and Xhaka bonding

This partnership has always had promise, and some have always seen its potential (I cannot claim to have seen this partnership as the best we have to offer, and I still do not). With Santi, Elneny and Coquelin all missing, this combo simply had to work. The mandatory starting of both has helped forge a partnership and it is slowly starting to form. The test will be our next big game – early February against Chelsea – but the signs are good. Balance between defence and attack has been sensible and both look to be potent. Good signs and long may it continue.

Winning the next few games

Every game is a must win. With the smallest margin for error, it seems any dropped points have the largest ripples in the Premier League pond. With the next games against Burnley (at home crucially) and away to Watford, six points are the order of the day. A draw at Stamford Bridge in the subsequent fixture would not be the worst result, but maximum points against these teams we should take to school will instill confidence and hopefully see the teams around us drop points as we have done recently. 

There was a lot more incident in this game. Ki’s booking for simulation after we had taken the lead, Cech’s return to a semblance of form, the return of Koscielny, the dissatisfaction from Alexis when taken off in the second half – but the points above encapsulate the game as a whole – hopefully. I hope you enjoy reading, and above all, enjoy the win. 

It’s not often we have nothing to moan about. Enjoy it.