Morning all. Happy New Years Eve.
As always, I went out last night. Have done for years.
New Years Eve Eve is much more chilled. There is still Christmas spirit in the air, but the pubs are not filled with those “once a year wankers” who do not know how to behave.
As we get older, it also means I can get together with mates, and then everyone goes off on New Years Eve to do things with family and loved ones.
So we returned to West Ham the bang that we needed.
A solid 3-1 win with goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah.
The goal for Eddie feels very important. Pressure is on him to perform, but that is now his 6th goal in his last 9 Premier League starts.
It has been mentionmed by a few team mates about how hard he trains, and you can see that with his ever improving hold up play and work rate. He is no longer just a goal scorer.
We now move into a very tricky period – one which I think is a lot harder than people realise.
Brighton – away
Brighton have become a bit of a bogey team for us in recent years.
Since they returned to the top division of English football in 2017, we have beaten them just 3 times in 10 games. Add in the recent League Cup defeat and that is 3 in 11. We have lost 5.
Despite losing their manager and coaching staff to Chelsea, as well as the best two players, they are performing very well this season – currently 7th in the table.
Trips like this are what we need to win to be remain title contenders.
Newcastle – home
Over the Christmas period, Newcastle moved to 2nd in the league.
I have already begun speaking about a “Big 7” rather than a “Big 6”, and I think the Geordies will finish in the top 4 this season.
Eddie Howe is a top manager – and hopefully the next England manager.
There players were never as poor as how they were performing under Steve Bruce and having spent £260million in the last 12 months, it should be no surprise they are where they are.
Last season, a trip to St James Park killed our top 4 hopes, and Newcastle are a better team now against then.
Whilst we have home advantage, we need to begin treating them how we treat Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Tottenham – Away
The North London Derby should probably be renamed “The Home Advantage Derby”.
In the last 25 league meetings of the two teams, the away team has won just twice – once each for Tottenham and Arsenal.
The last time Arsenal beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane was 2014. 2010 was the last time Spurs won in Islington (league games).
Of the 25 games, 16 have produced home winners, 7 draws, and 2 defeats. It is an incredibly one-side game where both sides dominate at home.
No matter how bad they are, they will always be up for it against us.
Manchester United – home
Arsenal’s only defeat (at the time of writing) of the season. We lost 3-1 at Old Trafford, but in reality could have won.
Our opener was controversially disallowed, and then Manchester United took advantage of our high line with Marcus Rashford getting in behind a couple of times.
It felt for a long time that no matter how poor Man U were, we still lost. We were playign the name rather than the team.
That form has changed and we have only lost twice in the last 8 meetings. Although both of those defeats have come in the last 3 games.
Manchester United have beaten us just once in the league at the Emirates since 2014. But they are a Jekyll and Hyde team and still a danger.
This season, in games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea, they have lost just once. 6-3 to Man City. They have however failed to win either of the away fixtures on that run – drawing to Chelsea and losing that Manchester Derby.
My worry is they look well set up to beat us.
They defend deep, with a low block and 2 defensive midfielders. The forward line is then filled with electric pace as they look to beat teams on the break.
To come away with 3 points, we will need to be aggressive in attack but ensure we do not leave the back door open.
Everton – away
I do not care how poor Everton are, Goddison Park is never an easy place to go.
We have not won in the blue side of Stanley Park since the 5-2 victory back in 2017. We have won just one in the last 4.
That one win is enough to hold hope though – it was a 5-1 win at home on the last day of the season.
Under Frank Lampard, Everton are going backwards quickly. they are not the team of Lukaku, Cahill and Fellaini. I honestly think they will be relegated this season.
Brentford – home
Our only “easy” fixture in this run of games. A home game against Brentford.
By the time we face the West-London side, Ivan Toney will probably be suspended and he is a huge loss for his team.
Brentford are a home / away team this season – just 1 defeat at Griffin Park (or whatever their new souless ground is called), which was against Arsenal. And just 1 win away from home. Against Manchester City.
That win at the City Ground should serve as a warning for Arsenal. Do not take any game lightly.
We need to come away from this game with 3 points to stand a chance of winning the league.
Manchester City – home
The re-arranged fixture from October, and probably the most important game in the title race.
At this point, I expect Manchester City to have closed the 5 point gap; we will do well in the previous 6 games to win 4 from 6. Man City also have an extra game to play an extra game before they face Arsenal.
The winner of this game will probably finish top of the table after the 90 minutes.
Momentum is so important in football. We are a bit like Leicester City in 2015/16 and can not stop winning right now. But it is what happens once we stop winning and potentially full behind City.
They have shown themselves in recent seasons to be great front runners. Whilst losing a couple and being second may well knock our confidence.
Last season, we were some dodgy refereeing decisions and mistakes by Arsenal players from being City.
Granit Xhaka gave away a penalty that never was and City equalised. Gabriel Magalhaes booked for “scuffing up the penalty spot”. Gabriel Martinelli missed that open goal when it was easier to score before the other Gabriel got a second yellow card.
A mad 3 minutes where nothing went our way.
In the end, City snatached a win with the last touch of the game. It was a defeat that had many Arsenal fans still feeling bouyant. The team were applauded off the pitch and the process was beginning to be trusted by more.
If we come away from City still top of the league, that hope might begin to grow. But what I actually expect is for City to be topping the league after our 23rd game of the season.
We are in for a tough time over the next 7 games. The press are trying to build us up as favourites, but the bookies still have City as 2/5 odds on favoruites and we are 5/2.
If after this run of games we are behind City, and they go on to win it at a canter, we should not view finishing 2nd (or 3rd) as failure.
The only people hyping us up right now are doing it so they can write about “bottlers” in the future. They have no interest in Arsenal winning the league. They want us to finish as low as possible. Arsenal as champions does not suit their agenda.
Next 7 games is going to be tough. But it is those sort of games you need to win if you want to be crowned champions.
My prediction? I think we win 4 of them. Not sure which 4 though.
Draw for Tott and Brighton the rest are winnable.
Would normally be happy with 3 wins and 4 draws from that lot but I don’t think this group of players approach things like that. I think they see every fixture as winnable and are disappointed if they don’t pick up all 3 points. Big big game later today, it’ll be another statement win if we pick up maximum points at Brighton.
City also have a tricky spell coming up and we’ve got to try and maintain the gap on them before our meeting in February. Would like to see us cement a top 4 finish as quickly as possible as well so that we can concentrate fully on going all out for the title. Still don’t think the gap back to 5th spot is that big, a couple of bad results and all of a sudden we’ll be looking over our shoulders.