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The accursed interlull. This one crept up on me to be honest. This will probably sound incredible but it simply slipped from my mind at the backend of last week into Saturday. Normally, as you know, I would try to watch as many home nations matches plus as many as I can where Gunners are likely to feature.

I still cannot believe England were playing on Friday and I simply didn’t know or hadn’t registered it. As it turns out it was to prove a turgid affair and I missed the Three Lions first qualifying defeat in ten years. Is that true? Although I’m obviously aware we have been producing the goods under Southgate that statistic caught me by surprise.

My first game I discovered by accident. Bored as bored gets I did a little surf of the channels and came across the pre-amble to Scotland versus San Marino. They spoke of the Scots dismal recent record (tell me about it) and of England’s unexpected defeat in the Czech Republic (What? Where? When?). It was no surprise, but pleasing nonetheless for the hosts to roll over the weakest nation in world football in atrocious conditions. May this bring with it continued improvement against the mildly improved opposition to follow.

Wales scrapped admirably for a point against the World Cup finalists. So to Monday night and the talking point of the break. At this point I must warn of an abrupt end to this piece not originally intended.

England’s visit to Bulgaria would always have two focal points it seemed not unreasonable to assume. As for the match itself, it followed the path set out by Scotland a day earlier. If you get a poor side in front of you then all you can do is put them to the sword and draw some confidence and belief from a 6-0 win. The scoreline did not flatter the visitors who in truth should have had double figures.

Sadly the game will be remembered long as justifying the pre-match fears of racist behaviour by the hosts. Even with a chunk of one end of the stadium closed as punishment for previous infringements of the same nature we both saw and heard some pretty disgusting stuff. I wholeheartedly concur with the condemnation delivered during and after the match.

However, my sudden ending is covered by a tweet I published earlier. This is not just a problem with the rest of Europe which some of ours would have you believe. Examples of anti-social behaviour can be found behind the entire pyramid structure here as well and before those involved join in with the condemnation of Bulgaria I offered this opinion, correction, fact.

“Fully agree with the condemnation of the Bulgarians, unless you are guilty of hissing at the marshmen and singing all the Y word songs. That makes you equally as bad. Anti-racism/anti-semitism starts at home. Wake up.”

Can anyone disagree with that?

Here is the post I had hoped to run with last night, but was probably best left for a day, as things turn out. It is a bit me, me, me for a while I’m afraid, but it’s an international break so there isn’t much fresh football news to discuss, and eventually it reaches a point I hope will resonate with many of you.

By now most of you will know I have not been at my best of late and it is beholden on me me first and foremost to thank so, so very many of you for your good wishes and uplifting messages which have kept me out of dark places while with your great help I have been dealing with things. That seems particularly fitting on World Mental Health Day. If you know anyone who shows signs of suffering as such be available to talk to them.

Today I have taken a phone call that has changed entirely my perception of where the investigations I have undergone were I thought leading me. However I am a very lucky individual. The diagnosis I expected required that I change my diet and give up alcohol which I did a fortnight ago. By complete good fortune the actual diagnosis requires exactly the same, so I have a head start on the future.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to the world of social media. Stick with me, I think it will be worth it. It will be evident to my followers that my time on Twitter (I really was a rare dipper-in to Facebook anyway) has been massively reduced. The reasons are many and varied. First and foremost I am not suffering fools gladly right now and for all that I have handpicked who I follow, so many lovely people, I do get utter lamebrains retweeted onto my timeline.

I don’t blame those who do this. Some of the nonsense on there is incredulous and I understand astonished folk sharing what they find unbelievable. I also tend to get dragged into political stuff that I try to ignore but cannot if utter tripe’s being tweeted. I get and respect we have different views of the world, possibly better than most as a once one nation Tory who believed in a property owning democracy now utterly appalled by the far right rabble who have assumed power and are so busy abusing it. I digress.

In the early hours of the morning i try to catch up with who is saying what in case it provides a talking point for the blog, footballistically as it were. I see people who share my new hours and wonder what they are going through. On the odd occasion I’ll drop a friend a line to check all is ok, for this is where social media can do great good. So we reach a segway.

Last season when Crystal Palace came to The Arsenal they followed up on a walk they had already made to an away match. At Fulham as it happens. The organiser, Paul, a friendly, energetic young soul wanted to know if I would help to promote the walk and possibly get Arsenal supporters to join their Palace counterparts along the way. The cause was not fund-raising as such, but to raise awareness of mental health issues in  young men who tend to bottle things, and often end up paying the ultimate price.

Not only was I happy to help, but I also expressed a desire to join at least a part of the walk and shake his hand. Even then, although I didn’t have a clue why, that proved beyond me. “I’ll join you next season” I said, if it is run again. Little did I know what lay ahead at that point.

It is happening again, and this time Paul has acquired the backing of the Samaritans and CALM, thoroughly deserved endorsements. You’ll see a graphic below which sums the event up better than ever I could. I will add but this. Indeed a number of ours did join last years event, making for a better atmosphere, new friendships, and a different and thoroughly enjoyable pre-match experience.

Perhaps it is something you might consider? (Apologies, I am unable to shrink the graphic to fit the page size but check out @HC15OnTour on Twitter for the whole image. Thank you.)

The team pretty much was as expected for the visit of Bournemouth. I had speculated about Joe Willock and Gabriel Martinelli having opportunities but Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe held on to their Premier League starting status.

We went close in the sixth minute with a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang effort from the inside-left channel that missed the far post by inches. We had started the brighter but this was the first real opportunity. Two minutes later we had the lead with a glancing header from David Luiz, his first goal for The Arsenal, from Pepe’s perfectly flighted corner.

The Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth

We were served due warning that Bournemouth had some ambition when Solanke headed just wide of the target on seventeen minutes. A one goal lead is never comfortable, is it? Pepe attempted to double the lead with a delightful curler that just avoided corner off post and crossbar.

Midway through the half Aubameyang’s goal-bound effort was blocked to safety. Remarkably Martin Atkinson denied Pepe what appeared to be a blatant penalty, and VAR deemed it not to be a clear and obvious error, when he was brought down by Rico. Fair enough, you live by VAR and sometimes die by it too.

Granit Xhaka avoided a yellow card that would have earned him a suspension for a lazy trip on Wilson. Stacey was not as fortunate when he hauled back Sead Kolasinac.

Bukayo Saka lifted the spirits with a driving run at the Bournemouth left-back but he couldn’t cut the ball back and the ball was smothered at the near post by Ramsdale. Calum Chambers attempted a nigh on impossible volley from the inside-right channel and was closer than anyone expected. The half-time whistle should have seen a greater advantage, but didn’t.

The industrious Saka denied Solanke on the edge of our box as Bournemouth attempted to level affairs. The visitors had clearly come out with a little more appetite for the battle. Wilson all but equalised when he rounded Leno but cut the ball back square and Chambers cleared, much to everyone’s relief. Stacey drew a vital parry from Leno from a tight angle. How we needed that second goal.

Just past the hour mark the crowd were lifted by the sight of Gabriel Martinelli getting prepared for his Premier League debut. Pepe made way with another assist to his name. Bournemouth sent on Fraser (remember him?) for Solanke. Immediately Chambers had to be alert to deny Fraser as the Cherries again sought an opportunity.

Martinelli’s first involvement saw him get a yellow card for bringing down Wilson from behind. Joe Willock joined him on the pitch with a quarter of an hour to go in place of Ceballos, largely ineffective in the second-half. Bournemouth too rang the changes, with Stacey and Wilson replaced by Groeneveld and Francis.

Martinelli’s sighter was narrowly high and wide before Unai Emery decided to protect our slender advantage by sending on Lucas Torreira for Saka, who had enjoyed a mixed afternoon. It’s all a part of life’s rich learning curve. The signal of five additional minutes did nothing to settle the nerves. Chambers, outstanding on the day, teed up Aubameyang but for once the golden boot winner misfired.

We held on, and were treated to the sight of Wolves taking a last gasp 0-2 winner at the Emptihad. In the end not a bad day, eh? Third place and closing in on the Citizens.

A 2pm non-televised kick-off on a Sunday. It’s a result of only qualifying for the Europa League and why we need to win to leapfrog Leicester City and secure third place to defend as the season progresses.

Forget our struggles against Watford, Villa, and United. Bournemouth’s record at The Arsenal is indicative of why we should approach tomorrow with confidence and a positive attitude. We have won all five of our home matches against Bournemouth in all competitions.

The team selection for this is complicated by the young Gunners ripping Forest and Standard Liege for nine goals in then days. They have played with a swagger that has largely escaped their senior colleagues thus far.

However Thursday to Sunday early afternoon would be a big ask, particularly of players we might otherwise want to see but coming back from injury like Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney. Selecting the latter might also be a bit of a slap in the face to Scotland who agreed not to select Kieran in order that he could have a phased return to his club side.

Don’t be surprised to see Bernd Leno again start behind Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Shkodran Mustafi anyone?), David Luiz, and Sead Kolasinac. Hopefully the personnel will interchange a little for the post-international break trip to Sheffield United.

Lucas Torreira featured in both midweek matches last week so we could see Granit Xhaka (one booking away from a suspension) paired with Matteo Guendouzi ahead of the defence. Bukayo Saka must return on the left flank next to Dani Ceballos or Joe Willock in the centre. The teenager Gabriel Martinelli is on fire and could possibly be preferred to Nicolas Pepe on the right?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, strangely introduced late on Thursday, mercifully remains fit to be our talisman up front. He is looking to become the first Arsenal player to score eight goals in the opening eight Premier League games of a season since Dennis Bergkamp in 1997.

The visitors have made a solid start with eleven points from seven starts. Callum Wilson is looking to score in five consecutive league games and has form against us, with three goals in four Premier League appearances against The Gunners.

The ‘holic pound

I’ll allow Wilson his moment of glory, but am on us to win 3-1 at 10/1. I have to confess to a small back-up on 4-1 at 16/1. Here’s hoping that will pay for tomorrows fillet of beef joint.

Have a great one, ‘holics, especially those fortunate enough to be going.

We weren’t too far out with the starting eleven in the preview. Dani Ceballos got the nod over Mesut Ozil to start in midfield with Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock. Rather than Nicolas Pepe there was an opportunity for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to play in his desired role alongside Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson. Hector Bellerin captained the side on his return.

Three minutes were on the clock when Nelson tried hs luck from outside the box but he had the Gooners in the Clock End ducking to avoid being struck. It was a confident start by the young Gunners who were spraying the ball around nicely. Kieran Tierney’s cross was grasped from the head of Martinelli by the Standard goalkeeper, Torino loanee Milinkovic-Savic.

We were spared an embarrassment in the twelfth minute when Emiliano Martinez failed to claim a corner and we just about scrambled it to safety. A rare warning, perhaps. We went straight up the other end where the exciting Martinelli grabbed his third goal in two starts with a cute header from a wonderful Kieran Tierney cross. That was the future of The Arsenal, right there.

The Arsenal 1-0 Standard Liege

It was just two minutes on before Martinelli had his fourth Gunners goal with a class finish from Nelson’s left-wing cross. It’s so hard not to get excited by this lad. A brace in each of his first two starts and most of this match left to complete a hat-trick.

The Arsenal 2-0 Standard Liege

Tierney laid another one on a plate for Willock who contrived to make a real hash of a great opportunity. This rampaging young Arsenal side bears no relation to the safety first Premier League side. Are they ignoring Unai Emery and enjoying producing samba football? In the twenty-second minute Willock made amends when Nelson, teed up by Tierney, saw his shot blocked into the path of his friend. Willock finished with aplomb.

The Arsenal 3-0 Standard Liege

If the sting deserted us for a while it was still a joy to watch the lads knocking it about with confidence, and whisper it, even out from the back. Six minutes from the break Martinez made his first save, a straightforward block from a near post snapshot by Gavory. As the half approached we were denied a blatant penalty when Nelson was brought down in the box by Milinkovic-Savic.

We started the second-half with Martinelli and Nelson high pressing enthusiastically and the former was inches away from his hat-trick with a right foot curler from just outside the box. When the visitors attempted to respond Torreira was usually around to do just the job he was brought to do. This was absorbing to watch. Martinelli was inches away from another Nelson set-up. Surely he would get the third goal his performance thoroughly deserved.

Dani Ceballos got off the mark for The Arsenal courtesy of an amazing improvised chip into the goalmouth by, you’ve guessed it, Martinelli. The North Bank roared their approval for both players.

The Arsenal 4-0 Standard Liege

On the hour Martinez was forced into another near post save from Mpoku. Standard hadn’t quite given up but must have fully understood the meaning of the word futility at this point. Tierney’s cheeky back heel freed Nelson to cross for Martinelli to glance a header just too close to Milinkovic-Savic.

Twenty-five minutes from time Maitland-Niles was replaced by Nicolas Pepe. Could he strike from open play? He was almost immediately denied a penalty when possibly brought down by Cimirot as he dribbled into the box.

Seventeen minutes from time things didn’t look much better for Standard when Matteo Guendouzi supplied fresh legs in place of the excellent Willock. What must they have been thinking? Ceballos and Torreira saw successive efforts blocked as the Gunners attempted to match last week’s five goal performance against Forest in the Carabao Cup.

I’m not sure why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was risked for the closing eleven minutes. Nelson departed the action, another to have enhanced his reputation on the evening. Bellerin went close with a rising drive from an angle as we continued to assert our superiority. Another scrambled block denied Torreira before Vojvoda saw yellow for a pointless chopping down of Martinelli. That horse had already bolted you clown.

Ceballos powered a header straight at the goalkeeper as a fifth was threatened and Aubameyang flicked one marginally off target. We were finishing as we started, very much on the front foot.

Spare the hype, don’t heap the pressure on I saw said in some quarters. I’m sorry, normally I would concur, but twice in ten days we have seen the future, maybe of English football, not just the Arsenal. This team looks that good. Marks out of ten? Seven for Martinez, eight for everybody else bar Tierney and Martinelli, nine!

If you are something of a fossil you will recall with clarity and pleasure our first coming together with Standard Liege in our successful 1993/4 Cup-Winners Cup campaign. We brushed them aside 3-0 at home and 0-7 away. Imagine an English club scoring 7 away from home. Surely no shambles of a club could concede 7 at home? Our second and last meeting in the Champions League group phase in 2009/10 ended with two more wins, 2-3 in Belgium and 2-0 at home. Can we make it 6 out of 6 this season?

The official club website is adamant that only Emile Smith Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette are unavailable for selection. That gives Emery one choice to make in the back four for me. Surely he will want to at least start Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney as full-backs? Rob Holding surely gets another match under his belt left of centre with Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi in contention for the right side. Of course Calum would be the popular choice but Mustafi’s experience could be invaluable in a young defence and his record in European competition is not that ropey.

How young do we want to go with the pairing ahead of them? It’s an opportunity perhaps to pair Ainsley Maitland-Niles in a preferred role alongside perhaps Joe Willock? Mr safety first may opt to retain Lucas Torreira for one of them, As long as he is told to sit in front of the defence and head off any danger at the pass that would be welcome.

A creative midfield trio with added goal threat? Let’s not risk burn out for Bukayo Saka when we have Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli chomping at the bit. Saka has become too important to the Premier League side while Lacazette is sidelined. On that basis it might be an idea for Nicolas Pepe to have another chance on the right flank against the sort of defence he is more used to from his days on the continent. He needs a confidence boost. Mesut central, anyone?

If Nelson starts on the left Martinelli would be a good call to lead the line, as against Forest last week. There is potential aplenty in that starting line-up, and the Carabao Cup/Europa League teams appear to have expressed themselves far better than the first team, whether by choice or design. I suspect the former.

Both clubs are looking to top group F after opening day wins. Standard winning 2-0 at home to Portuguese visitors Vitória, while we went to Frankfurt and posted an impressive 3-0 away win. Standard arrive at Arsenal on a run of three clean sheets in the competition, home and away. They currently sit in a Champions League qualifying second place in Belgium with 19 points from 9 matches. This could be an absorbing contest.

The ‘holic pound

As I have already said, I like the way the youngsters and squad players have approached their opportunities this season. I have been drawn like a moth to the flame of 3-1 to The Arsenal at 10/1. Shop around for 21/2.

The ABW Preview

For this game Danny has been joined by Richard, please see below.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Unai  Emery made two changes to the side that defeated Aston Villa last week. It’s fair to say they got a mixed reaction. Calum Chambers preferred to Ainsley Maitland-Niles at right-back generally got a thumbs up, but Dani Ceballos making way for Lucas Torreira gave us a very lightweight, creativity free midfield. So typically unadventurous Emery.

With nine minutes gone Chambers picked up an early yellow card for tugging back at James who was clearly quicker than the Gunner. Lingard avoided similar censure when he brought down a breaking Bukayo Saka.

The opening quarter of the match was devoid of any excitement or chances. In all honesty that probably suited us just fine as the away team. Finally the yellow was flashed at Rashford for scything through Sokratis Papastathopoulos by the goal-line.

The first save was forced from Bernd Leno when Pereira wriggled free and let fly from the edge of the box. It had been almost half an hour in coming. At the other end Saka teed up Nicolas Pepe but his left-footed effort sailed into the Stratford End. Pereira featured again, picking up another yellow card for upending Matteo Guendouzi as the Gunners advanced.

Ten minutes from the break Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang picked out Pepe at the far post but de Gea was equal to the youngster’s shot. Young’s late, late hit on Guendouzi brought United another yellow card. Sokratis had to be alert to deny Rashford in a clear run on goal and Leno tidied up.

As the half drew to a close de Gea had to be at his sharpest to deny Saka and Guendouzi in quick succession, but against the run of play United countered and McTominay fired one beyond the stranded Leno. Did Xhaka really duck under the shot? It was a bitter blow for a team that deserved better out of the opening half.

We had the first opportunity of the second-half but Lucas Torreira (what was he doing in their box?) couldn’t get any power behind a cross from Aubameyang and de Gea once again saved. It was the Uruguayan’s final involvement as he made way for Ceballos. Luiz went close, but not close enough, with a free-kick that slammed off Lindelof..

VAR came to our aid and ruled out a poor offside call when Aubameyang pulled us level just before the hour mark. It was a thoroughly deserved equaliser. United”s response was a curler just beyond the far post from Pogba. A game had broken out.

Lingard was next into the referee’s book for another rotational hack at Guendouzi. The young Frenchman had obviously been identified as the danger man. United poured forward but the Gunners were holding firm. Maguire unleashed a drive from the edge of the box and drew a fine save from Leno.

Time for substitutions. Reiss Nelson came on for Pepe. United introduced Fred and Greenwood for Lingard and Pereira. Xhaka finally collected the yellow card he had craved all evening for catching young Greenwood. Joe Willock was introduced for Saka who had flickered brightly on occasion. We were looking for a breakout to nick something at the death.

In the final minute Luiz body-checked McTominay on the edge of the box. Leno was equal to Rashford’s strike but four additional minutes were signalled. Nelson scuffed an effort at the other end. Our last chance? No, we had one last free-kick. Everybody poured forward. Ceballos crossed but United dealt with it and the whistle blew.

So a top four berth at the end of the night and a precious point away at a rival which is acceptable, no?

There’s no point in pining for those halcyon days of 1997-2006 when Manchester United versus The Arsenal encounters were battles in a war-like atmosphere. It was probably the last decade where blood and thunder battles between the giants of the day were allowed to push the spirit of the laws to breaking point.

Today the instructions to the PGMOL officials and the ‘after you, Claude’ nature of the players means that there are too few spiky characters looking to work the dark arts from first minute to last.

So on Monday night at Old Trafford (we won the league there, you know!) we will send a bunch of lovely lads to attempt to beat their lovely lads to remain within two points of the other Manchester club. Few expect a thriller, more a chess match where much will depend on the finishing ability of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

United, unless a bit of kidology is going on, are decimated by injuries to key players. Pogba, Martial, and Rashford are tipped to miss out. Should be an easy trip, eh? When was the last time were humiliated up there by virtually a reserve team? Wait, Rashford 2016, you say? Our torturer this time around may be the 17 year old Greenwood.

Our Achilles heel this season has evidently been a poorly protected back four, but the options ahead of Bernd Leno tomorrow are improved by the return to fitness of Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney, both of whom I would start. I suspect Ainsley Maitland-Miles and David Luiz will make up the four although this would require Sideshow Bob or Rob converting to the right-sided role, a concern.

Personally I would switch Luiz into the security guard in front of the defence, but that would put Unai Emery in a spot because after appointing the inconsistent Granit Xhaka to the captaincy he is almost compelled to pick him on Monday. Expect Xhaka to be paired with in-form Matteo Guendouzi and yet again affording little protection for those behind.

To record a rare win at what has become a bogey venue we’re totally reliant on the front four. Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe have become shoe-ins on the flanks. I’m worried about the form of Danni Ceballos since his mercurial home debut against Burnley. If Emery still has lost faith in Mesut Ozil then in God’s name start Joe Willock in the hole man. Trust Aubameyang to bring out the best of him. Rant over.

The ‘holic pound

I’m somewhat surprised that the bookies have United favourites at 6/4 with us quoted at just under 2/1. Bogey ground or not United are struggling, the wheels are coming off the bus. For all that we have been far from convincing only the runaway train that is Liverpool have beaten us.

I’m persuaded that young Greenwood has that goal in him but surely there are two in us? I have put the pound and a fair few of his mates on that at a best of 11/1. Here’s hoping.

The ABW preview

I hope you are enjoying this feature. Danny and the team put a huge amount of work into the various podcasts that they do midweek, pre-match, and post-match. We don’t always agree, but there is much respect between all of us.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

 
Many thanks to our good friend Countryman for allowing me to use his earlier drink, which I quickly hid from view, as our Forest match review. It is particularly helpful as he saw twice as many halves as I!

I know it was only Forest reserves. At home. But boy oh boy that was an evening brimming with positives.

As always for the league cup it was a very different atmosphere at the Grove last night. Season tickets don’t apply, there were none of my the usual regulars around me.

Tickets are very cheap, so there was a decent crowd (haven’t seen any numbers but I’ll guess at 45k to 50k). There was a lot of kids with their parents so in the North Bank we had the highly unusual experience of sitting down, so as to not block the view of the small ones behind us. Parents ferried a constant stream of crisps, pizza and coke (of the cola variety) to their kids. They didn’t know any songs except the ones about Tottenham. The language was notably cleaner than usual. But oh how those young faces shone as we stuck five past Forest in front of them.

Forest brought 8000 fans and they comprehensively outsung us all game. Well played.

So where to begin? I’ve been saying for some time that those doubting Emery have to wait until the first choice defence is available. Well last night we saw Holding, a point of calm serenity at the centre of defence, chipping in with a set piece goal. Emery’s strategy (or so we are told) depends on top full backs overlapping. Well, in sequence rather than parallel we saw Tierney and then Hector. I liked what we saw. Tierney bombs on, tracks back, has a real engine and, unlike Kola, has a set of golf clubs on his left foot. How Willock missed the pinpoint cross from him with the goal gaping at the back post nobody , least of all Willock, knows.

Hector, greeted like a God on his return, took only a couple of minutes to lay on a goal for Willock to atone. Everything Hector does is so much faster than our alternatives at right back. Holding, Hector and Tierney in the starting line up at Old Trafford? I do hope so but after the inter lull all three will be first choice and we will be a much better team for it. Big shout out for a good performance from Calum as well with two assists and playing both left and right full back but I still think he is too slow to play full back in the PL. However a good choice at centre back, or maybe DM.

Moving forward, the Xhaka less midfield, anchored by Torreira, seemed considerably quicker than at the weekend. To be fair there was a complete lack of pressing from Forest. But Willock continued his Ramsey impression and looks first team ready. Ozil was disappointing again. Some good passes, some rubbish ones, but he slows down the play so much. Second half he got to the edge of the area, had a clear shooting chance, but hesitated and got robbed. I think we’ve seen the best of him. Certainly we looked better when Ceballos replaced him.

Moving to the forwards, Reiss did well without pulling up any trees. As did Smith Rowe before he went off concussed after a brave header. But Martinelli did really well leading the line. I’m not sure if he’s a 9 or a wide man, but his first goal was a real striker’s effort. Reacting really quickly from Calum’s volleyed cross he forced his way between two centre backs to bullet home a header. In injury time he picked up the ball in midfield, ran at the defence and curled in a lovely shot in the top corner. A very good performance. Saka, when he replaced Smith Rowe just carried on his recent form. A threat every time he gets the ball at his twinkling feet.

Towards the end (bearing in mind we kicked off late) a sudden excited buzz all around me brought the news that Spurs had succumbed to Colchester. Perry Groves would be so proud.

A very good night. Well worth the £20 I paid for two tickets and the true shape of things to come for this team.

A quick look at the Villa match before turning my head to the Forest preview.

Once again we allowed a struggling side two sloppy goals. After McGinn had run beyond a static defence to flick the opener home Ainsley Maitland-Niles was given a second yellow card in a fifty challenge which has provoked opposing views. Being out of the firing line might be a good thing for him. Emery responded by sending on Calum Chambers for Saka at half-time, a shame for the man of the moment.

We drew level when Matteo Guendouzi, who along with Bukayo Saka provided the few bight sparks of the first-half, slalomed and was brought down by a posse of Villa defenders. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang generously allowed Nicolas Pepe the kick and the expensive you scored his first Gunners goal. Let’s hope that opened the floodgates.

Grealish left three defenders trailing in his wake before putting the ball on a plate for Wesley to restore Villa’s advantage. That stung the ten men into action.

Chambers alertness allowed him to collect his own cross and play a delicate flick over the keeper and into the far corner. With nine minutes remaining we had an unlikely point against lowly opponents. Three minutes later Aubameyang was fouled on the edge of the box and climbed off the turf to drive the ball into the net to clinch the remarkable triumph that sent us into the top four.

Character, certainly. On the other side though we need drastic changes to this defence, and soon.

Finally, a word of thanks to all who have sent their good wishes after my condition deteriorated yesterday. It is much appreciated.

Villa yesterday – Forest tomorrow

Seems madness as we are not playing again until next Monday night. We are pretty likely to change most, if not all of yesterday’s side. Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Kieran Tierney, Mesut Ozil, Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock, and Lucas Torreira were snapped in training today on the club website. Not a bad basis for a side.

The ‘holic pound 

Obviously there is not much value around. We are huge favourites, but I could do with a win and fancy 2-0 at 17/2.

Josh and Danny have put together a preview of the Forest game for the ABW team and it is faithfully reproduced below.

Take care all, and stay healthy.

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