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Hello again from an unusually warm and pleasant West Country. Don’t forget we have a competition running at the moment.

Our friends at Art of Football have launched another outstanding range of teeshirts for the upcoming European Championship. The theme is inspired by the 50 blank years that have followed England’s World Cup triumph in 1966.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings. The teeshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small to XXL. Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your T shirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just answer this 1966 related question.

Name the Arsenal player who was a member of  England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966?

A) Peter Storey,

B) George Eastham, or

C) John Radford.

Please send your answer to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 31st May, will receive the shirt of their choice. There is no cash alternative. .

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

Talking of England as I sit here it is just under four hours until England continue their warm up for the Euros with a match against Australia at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. I don’t mind admitting I am still finding it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for the national team at the moment. That may be harsh given their impeccable record in qualifying for the upcoming tournament in France.

Those fifty years of hurt have seen moments of hope, all brought to an abrupt end by our opponents in the World Cup Final in 1966. Mexico ’70, Italia 90, Football’s coming home in ’96, but that’s too few for a nation with a massive following.

Added to that Danny Welbeck’s injury, Theo Walcott’s loss of form, and Kieran Gibbs loss of regular football have limited our possible contribution to Jack Wilshere. I wouldn’t be at all sorry if he were to be one of the three cut players this weekend as the squad of 26 is cut to 23 players. A summer of resting in the sun would do his dodgy ankle no harm whatsoever. Now watch him star tonight and clinch his place on the plane.

By the time the tournament kicks off a fortnight on Saturday I may feel differently. I have to admit though I do spend a lot more time watching the other nations in the big tournaments. The likes of France, Spain, Germany, and of course Brazil, have shown us how to play the game and we don’t appear to be learning those lessons. Fortunately I still find pleasure in other good teams winning in style, so whilst I may not be anticipating an England triumph it will be fascinating to see who does turn it on and thrill the watching millions.

To the many Aussie readers of this blog I hope you put up a good performance tonight too. Right, I have cricket to watch, and beer to drink for the rest of this Bank Holiday weekend. I hope you will all be doing whatever is enjoyable for you.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Well, out of the blue Arsenal today announced the signing of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach. Who could have seen that coming? The undisclosed fee has been rumoured to be an initial £25m possibly rising to £30m depending on how successful his stay at the Gunners is. The Arsenal social media team showed good humour as they unveiled the new man, quipping “Here’s your second look at our first summer signing.” They were quick to distribute the video below.

The first interview with Arsenal Media was also aired and a selection of the questions and answers follow.

Granit, welcome to Arsenal. How does it feel to be an Arsenal player?

“I am very happy to be here. It’s a dream come true and I’m happy.”

You’ve said before that England is your dream and you have not hidden that fact. Why is it so important for you to play here?

“I remember I was young and the first game I watched was in the Premier League. It’s a big dream for me and now that I’m here I am very, very happy.”

What do you like most about Arsenal?

“I like so much. I like the style of football in the Premier League. It’s aggressive and I like the way Arsenal play football. It’s not like other countries but it’s very nice here.”

You say it’s aggressive, and every game in the Premier League is a fight…

“Yes, it’s a fight. I like that but Arsenal can also play football and that’s very good.”

Arsenal finished second last season. Do you feel as though they’re on the cusp of great things?

“Of course. I’ve looked at Arsenal before, on every weekend, and I know they are a big  club. This year they finished second and that was a very good season.”

So a big welcome to Granit from all of us. Arsenal have moved quickly to get one very desirable target. Now another two or three to raise the quality of the squad even further please.

Win An Art of Football ’50 Years of Hurt” Tee

Our friends at Art of Football have launched another outstanding range of teeshirts for the upcoming European Championship. The theme is inspired by the 50 blank years that have followed England’s World Cup triumph in 1966.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings. The teeshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small to XXL. Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your T shirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just answer this 1966 related question.

Name the Arsenal player who was a member of  England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966?

A) Peter Storey,

B) George Eastham, or

C) John Radford.

Please send your answer to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 31st May, will receive the shirt of their choice. There is no cash alternative. .

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

The Long Good Saturday

What a day that was. I had planned to cover the Arsenal Ladies trip to Doncaster yesterday but the great British weather put paid to that idea. The downpours also restricted me to a day in front of two screens, a test match, four cup finals, and a farce of a boxing bout.

One of our own would not have been happy with whatever happened at Hampden so I will gloss over what was probably the most entertaining of the four finals. It finished at around the time that England’s bowlers, and Jimmy Anderson in particular, were clinching a very quick victory over a young and inexperienced Sri Lankan team totally unprepared for Yorkshire conditions.

There followed the strangest of all feelings. The last two FA Cup Finals at Wembley were joyous affairs involving superb pre-match food and a strange mixture of experiences and memories. Of course we won them, in contrasting fashions it’s true, but I cannot help but think they provided more of a spectacle than yesterday’s dour struggle. Indeed future generations will probably only have the Pardew ‘dance’ by which to remember this turgid affair won by a crumbling giant about to dump their dull-as-dishwater manager for his even duller-than-dishwater replacement.

Thank goodness for our German cousins (please note this is neither a pro or anti Brexit reference). Bayern and Dortmund showed how a 0-0 should be played out over two intriguing hours. I was drawn more to this than the stalemate that looked likely in Rome. Alvaro Morata starting on the bench for Juve added to that. Dortmund, having given their all, were untypically German and made a complete hash of the penalty shoot-out presenting Bayern with a second double in three Guardiola years.

As the Bavarians celebrated it was time to focus on a dramatic ending in Rome. Morata was summoned at the death and with his first touch gave the Old Lady the win. I have been sceptical of reports linking us with him on the basis that he does not have the strike rate that warrants such an investment. However I was chatting to Kris at ABW last night and he made the very good point that Morata has largely been a back-up player at both Real and Juve and his record hints at a significant potential for improvement if given more starting opportunities.

The less said about the opponent selected for David Haye, the better. I felt for those who had paid top dollar to be in the O2 to witness that farce.

All of which followed a fascinating Twitter morning with photographs of Granit Xhaka in the new kit at Shenley being leaked. One suspects the club and Puma will have hurried discussions before announcing his arrival and the new kit on Monday. For all that we weren’t meant to know about the deal quite yet the club deserve credit for moving quickly to address one of their vacancies in the close season. Don’t stop there.

Oh, and it is exactly a week since that day. 1-1, I mean 5-1, at Newcastle. Still laughing.

“I’m Rosicky” “No, I’m Rosicky” A guard of honour forms

The morning after the night before. Ouch. The last match of the season invariably results in a tour of Highbury pre-lunch. It doesn’t get any less emotional with time. The old girl looked gorgeous, resplendent in the spring sunshine. Then on to join those who have shared a roller coaster of a season. They have been there through every gut-wrenching setback, and the rarer than usual highlights.

It being the last day there was one tiny ray of hope that we might have a St Totteringham’s Day to celebrate, but surely not? Relegated Newcastle surely wouldn’t see off their best team in over fifty years? Not happening, we largely agreed. Another pint? Yes please, thank you.

We arrived at the ground in time to see Tomas Rosicky being awarded with a gift to mark his ten years with the club. Pure theatre was about to follow for an amazing couple of hours. Olivier Giroud’s header from Nacho Monreal was an early indication of why the visitors finished rock bottom. Not that you would have thought that from the away support who cheered each shot and corner as if they were goals. Brutal irony.

Around the twentieth minute the roars started going up from both ends of the Grove. Surely not? The stewards in the tunnel looked up nodding and smiling. The stadium erupted, but surely they couldn’t hang on? We were being Arsenal, weaving pretty patterns in and around the box. Alexis and Jack Wilshire came close to what would surely be a killer second goal. It was a long time coming.

As half-time approached yet another low cheer spread into a joyous roar. The highly unlikely was unfolding in the north-east. That called for a little wine at half-time. After the break it was fair to say our play became a little less urgent, a little more lethargic. Then the collective groans that told a tale. The neighbours comeback was underway and Newcastle were down to ten men. Even more worryingly Villa were just a lucky strike away from completely ruining the day.

Jack Wilshere was withdrawn to a standing ovation having got over an hour under his belt. His replacement, Mohamed Elneny hit one of his trademark sighters over the bar. With around a quarter of an hour to go the slow crescendo returned. Surely not? With ten men? More euphoria and pleas of ‘Come on Arsenal’. They were about to be answered.

Olivier Giroud came out of his bad patch last week at City and completed his hat-trick by applying the finishing touches to chances created by Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin. “Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again” boomed around the bowl. Amazingly the ten men struck twice more, each greeted with as big a cheer in north London as in the north east.

Santi Cazorla (how we have missed him) and Mesut Ozil were withdrawn, again to standing ovations. Joel Campbell and Mikel Arteta came on. The emotion when Mikel’s fierce effort found the net via crossbar and goalkeeper was there for all to see and experience. The final whistle has rarely produced such scenes around the stadium. The dissent of recent weeks was pushed to one side (well done all) to show appreciation for the Premier League runners-up.

Tomas Rosicky came out to a guard of honour. He, Mikel, and interestingly Joel Campbell hugged each of their team-mates in turn. After the lap of honour Tomas went and stood in the midfield he has graced when fit in the last decade. The players children played on the hallowed ground. It was one of those moments you try to soak up. It made up for so much of what had gone before in this fractious season.

The queues to get into the pub post match told a tale. The mother of St Totteringham’s Day celebrations was unfolding. Twenty-one and counting, and the most wonderful people shared that celebration. Thank you.

The Arsenal Ladies have won their fourteenth FA Cup Final this afternoon, but their first at Wembley in front of a record crowd of 32,912. I saw lots of Arsenal supporters (including some ‘holics!) took the opportunity of going along and if Twitter was anything to go by even more watched the BBC coverage of the Final.

Chelsea, and their clutch of former Gunners, went into the match as firm favourites, but as the match unfolded is was clear that Pedro Martinez Losa had brought back his most experienced players with an effective game plan to subdue the holders.

The Arsenal manager recalled Emma Mitchell, Fara Williams, Jordan Nobbs, Asisat Oshoala, and 37 year old Kelly Smith after a disappointing goalless draw at Birmingham. From the first whistle Arsenal were on the front foot and inside the opening minute Danielle Carter had the Chelsea goalkeeper, Swedish international Hedvig Lindahl, looking back nervously but her long-range chip landed in the roof of the net.

Chelsea, with only one change from the team that defeated the Gunners 2-0 in the League a few weeks ago, were being effectively pressured off the ball and unable to establish any rhythm by the hard-working Gunners. Carter was the tormenter in chief, giving Hannah Blundell a torrid time down Chelsea’a right flank. In the eighteenth minute she produced what would prove to be the decisive moment of the match.

I had seen much talk on social media of the standard of the Ladies game today. References to a lack of technical ability might have been more valid a decade ago, but the winning goal today was as good a winner as Wembley in it’s various forms has witnessed. Carter killed a lofted ball superbly and not for the first time twisted her full-back one way, then the other, before cutting into the box and curling an absolutely wonderful right foot effort over Lindahl and inside the far post.

Anybody expecting the Gunners to retreat into their shell and defend for their lives were soon made to realise that was not the case. To be fair Chelsea did fashion a couple of opportunities in the opening half. Sari van Veenendaal, so impressive in her first season and keeping Emma Byrne out of the Arsenal goal, denied Fran Kirby’s somewhat hopeful effort at the near post. Then Ji So-yun, Chelsea’s normally dangerous playmaker, hurried an effort over the crossbar.

Arsenal could, perhaps should, have doubled their advantage either side of half-time. Smith was denied by her former team-mate, Katy Chapman, and then put Oshoala in the clear but the Nigerian international failed to make a clean contact and the chance was gone. There was more of the same at the start of the second-half and only the crossbar came to the rescue of the West London club when Smith got on the end of an Oshoala cross.

Arsenal’s high pressing started to catch up with them in the final quarter of the contest, but the defence now came into their own. Chelsea seemed incapable of creating any clear opportunities, whilst on the break Carter remained a real threat and she drew a fine save out of Lindahl. The Blues best opportunity probably fell to the surprisingly anonymous Ji, but again she was off target.

A late Alex Scott block ensured she would be climbing the steps to collect the trophy. In a lovely touch the ageless Smith joined her to share the magical moment. Arsenal had come into the contest as underdogs, but showed that reports of their demise are indeed premature. There is much to look forward to in the summer.

Well played girls.

…here’s to the first three points of the season, please. Should they be gained we have a base on which to build. Damn you hope, this is your time.

So I previewed the opening match of the 2015/16 season. We didn’t get the three points. Here we are readying ourselves for the last match of the season. Damn you hope, indeed.

A funny old season draws to a close with the title secured and relegation resolved. The only places up for grabs are the European qualifying places. The neighbours require a point at relegated Newcastle to ward off the hilarious last day humiliation of being overhauled by us. We need a point to ensure third place and automatic Champions League group stage qualification. Below us, well, who who among us really cares about the fights for the minor placings?

We can’t pretend it has been a lot of fun. Rarely has the free-flowing Arsenal turned up and again long-term injuries have had an impact, making the failure to strengthen the squad further last summer a gamble that failed. Perhaps the post-mortem would be best left until next week once we have digested what happens this weekend. Damn you hope, second place would be pant-wettingly funny, but with both us and the neighbours playing relegated clubs it would be a surprise for our current places to be traded.

Aston Villa arrive at the Grove an absolute shambles of a club, so what’s the betting that they show the fight and ability that has not been in evidence in their previous 37 matches? They have won three, yes three, Premier League matches all season. They were three points ahead of us on the opening day of the season after a single goal triumph at Bournemouth. They next defeated Palace and Norwich at home in January and February respectively. What has happened there is another warning about what can happen to a club when the owner/s withdraw their investment.

As for Arsenal, well, we didn’t have a fully fit squad for long. A week in fact. Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have suffered the heartbreak of missing out on the Euros. Arsene Wenger also suggested that Mathieu Flamini has an ankle problem that could prevent him pulling on a Gunners shirt for the last time. Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky will be hoping for one last call. We signed Mikel years after we should have pounced for his services, but he has earned our thanks and who knows, he may be back one day in a coaching role, or more?

Personally, I hope Tomas gets a last performance in front of the supporters who have seen what a footballer he truly was, only for the endless run of injuries to deny us his services too often. With him in midfield we were always more dynamic, quick to counter, and he lifted those around him with his enthusiasm, his positivity, and his goals. Should he be given even a cameo on Sunday I’m sure the reception he will get will match those afforded to Arsenal’s finest and most loyal servants.

The ‘holic pound

I asked earlier what’s the betting on Villa, and it’s a first for me. I cannot remember a Premier League club being quoted at 20/1 to win a match. In a two horse race I’m sure some may be tempted to punt a pound or two to counter a hefty bet on the Gunners, who are 1/6 at best.

We might as well throw a hail Mary on Sunday. Should the neighbours draw at Newcastle we only need a thirteen goal triumph to pass them. Hang on.

Back again. There are no fairies at the bottom of the garden. But Villa really should be convincingly beaten, right? And a decent return requires a big win on the correct score markets. It is shameful that the best price available on 5-0 is 16/1. Arsenal have scored five in a match just once this season. Ironically away to Leicester City, damn them! So I am looking at a scoreline we used to get towards the end of the seasons when we played with a swagger. I’m having a very modest few groats on 7-0 at 70/1. Don’t join me.

As it is a Sunday kick-off, and there is the remote possibility of a bit of a party afterwards if the Geordies bow out in style, there will be no match report until Monday when I have booked a hangover holiday. Those who are going I will see many of you in the usual place I hope. We may be glad this season is ending but you are missed in the summer months, believe me (unless we go to the cricket together, obviously!).

As for the rest of you ‘holics, have a great one.

Specialists determined surgery was required after scans and tests revealed significant cartilage damage… his full recovery is expected to take approximately nine months.

Those who saw Danny Welbeck’s obvious discomfort on Sunday will have been dreading the arrival of the announcement on Arsenal.com today. It looked a bad one at the time, and a year after he picked up an injury to his left knee which required surgery, the timing is cruel for the player.

Danny was surely bound for the Euros this summer. His England record of 14 goals in 35 appearances, and his impressive form since his return from last year’s injury, would surely have made him one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s squad list.

In his two years at Arsenal Danny has established himself as a fan favourite with 13 goals in 49 appearances. Two of those goals will live long in the memory. The winner in the FA Cup quarter-final on his first return to Old Trafford stuck in the craw of the United faithful, still angered by his sale to a rival. His return from that first horror injury in February saw him grab the last gasp winner against champions-elect Leicester City and sparked the celebration of the season.

It will be interesting to see what difference Danny’s injury will make to our summer transfer business. While Theo Walcott’s people look to secure their client’s future one cannot help but feel we would have to replace both he and Danny in the summer if he is to move on. Two goalscorers in today’s market may be a bit rich for Arsenal’s blood, particularly with a major midfield signing rumoured, and the other obvious weaknesses in the squad which will need addressing.

Newcastle relegated so what of Sunday?

There is a dream scenario this weekend, so unlikely but the prospect is hilarious. Should the best Tottenham team for over fifty years lose at Newcastle and we beat Villa then the most underachieving of Arsenal’s recent squads will be celebrating finishing the season as runners-up to Leicester, and an incredible twenty-first consecutive St Totteringham’s Day party will unexpectedly be hastily convened.

There were those wishing for Newcastle to have something to play for in the match but Sunderland’s thumping of a poor Everton side tonight has ensured their local rivals drop to the Championship. I’m not sure a team in black and white stripes will want to face the wrath of their devoted support on Sunday so remain hopeful that they will give a hundred percent, and then some, to avoid a real caning from the Toon army.

Howay the lads, one last time.

For UK ‘holics

Those of you who have, like me, gone grey watching the Arsenal in recent years will have fond memories of Copenhagen 1994, and that win against Parma in the European Cup Winners Cup Final. One nil to the Arsenal indeed. Well, you have a chance to relive it.

Layth Yousif (tell me you read him on Arsenal in the Islington Gazette) launches his book ‘The Miracle Of Copenhagen’ at Piebury Corner on Thursday evening, from 7pm. I have it on good authority there may be free beer and pies on offer, so you can imagine how disappointed I am that I cannot be there. You can be absolutely sure I will be reading that book though. That week was one of the best of my life, and I can’t wait to relive it.

Good luck Layth.

News that Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil were ruled out of the team at Manchester City by injury took some of the gloss off Southampton’s victory at the other end of Seven Sisters Road. City started on the front foot and the Gunners were pinned into their own half. In the eighth minute Fernandinho head a ball down to Aguero and the prolific striker found the bottom corner through Mohamed Elneny’s legs.

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal

Two minutes later former Gunner Clichy mistimed a header back which grazed the wrong side of the post. From the resulting corner Olivier Giroud ended his goal drought with a towering header from the centre of the six yard line. The Frenchman’s first goal since January will hopefully restore his confidence.

Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal

Five minutes on and Aguero found himself with a right foot volley from close range but the recalled Gabriel managed to deflect it over the bar. As the clock ticked round to twenty minutes Danny Welbeck injured his knee making a challenge and limped down the tunnel. It looks very much as though his season is ending as it started. What a shame for him, and us.

Jack Wilshere came on to continue his comeback from a broken leg. City came close to restoring their advantage but Petr Cech came out of his box to deny Aguero with a desperate clearance under pressure. Navas was giving Nacho Monreal a tough time but first Aaron Ramsey and then Laurent Koscielny denied him any effective cross. From both left and right flanks de Bruyne fired low and hard into the welcoming arms of Cech.

Arsenal managed a rare break shortly before half-time but a deflected cross from Alexis was comfortably claimed by Hart. The arrival of Wilshere had caused Alex Iwobi to move out to the right flank with Alexis switching to the left, and in fairness neither looked particularly happy in their new roles.

Fernandinho was put clear in the fourth minute of the second-half but thankfully he was driven wide and fired over the top. At the other end Hart punched a lofted free-kick clear as Alexis and Giroud were clearly being pulled back. Nothing was seen by Anthony Taylor of Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester.

City went ahead when Hector Bellerin failed to deal with a  bouncing ball and de Bruyne was allowed a free run at goal by the back-tracking Gabriel. The Belgian’s shot went through the Brazilian’s legs and just inside the post.

Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal

As the hour mark approached Iwobi was withdrawn and Theo Walcott was introduced. Arsenal threatened at last and Giroud was denied a spectacular looking volley by an equally spectacular Otamendi clearance. It was a rare moment of hope in an otherwise lacklustre Gunners performance to this point. That was about to change.

Walcott was allowed a clear run behind Clichy but his cross was dealt with by Otamendi, and then Giroud put him through for a one on one against Hart Theo hurried his chip high and wide of the mark.

When Alexis picked up a ball from Monreal just inside his own half there appeared to be little danger. The Chilean’s direct run drew five defenders like moths to a flame and they were all taken out of the equation by a wonderful one-two with the excellent Giroud. Alexis sent Hart the wrong way as his finish too found the bottom corner.

Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal

City narrowly missed going back in front when de Bruyne teed up Aguero for a left foot volley that thankfully flashed just wide of the far post. With a quarter of an hour remaining Francis Coquelin was sent on for the tiring Elneny. It was a suggestion that Arsene Wenger was happy with the point, a result that would mean we need Newcastle to beat the neighbours next week for us to claim second place.

City, vulnerable to being overtaken by their neighbours, went for broke sending on Toure and Bony. It was Arsenal, breaking the siege, who came close to snatching a dramatic winner but Koscielny mistimed his run and headed against the bar from an offside position. Hearts were in mouths at the other end as Bony volleyed Sagna’s cross against the bar too.

In the three added minutes Otamendi was booked for a bad challenge on Alexis as the Chilean threatened to sprint free, and Fernandinho saw the same card for a foul on Giroud. When he repeated the act in the last added minute the referee from Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, saw fit to take no further action.

The point apiece satisfied neither club. We will seal third place by beating relegated Aston Villa next Sunday, but will Newcastle be capable of giving us an even better present? City’s situation is desperate. If Manchester United win their last two matches Pep Guardiola will be taking over a club in the Europa League and not dining at the top table of European competition.

Haway the Toon!

So, a season defining week for the good folk of Leicester comes to a conclusion, and we have an opportunity to seal third place at least in the Premier League. We have just the small matter of winning in the Etihad between us and avoiding the Champions League play-off in August. A draw would keep that third place finish in our own hands. By the time we kick-off in Manchester we will know if a second place finish is still a possibility as the neighbours entertain Southampton at lunchtime.

We will journey north just one short of a full squad. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s horrible season came to an abrupt end when he picked up another knock in training this week which will sideline him for eight weeks. Hopefully that will prevent him being hawked around to other clubs during the summer. It will be interesting to see just who is regarded fit enough to start against the side who lost their Champions League semi-final in midweek.

It would be a surprise to see a change to the back five who kept a clean sheet in an otherwise disappointing performance against Norwich last week. Arsene Wenger does have a welcome selection problem in midfield though. Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have forged a useful partnership in front of the defence, but we have missed Santi Cazorla’s influence for much of the season, and the little man is back.

Hopefully the not so secret now fallout that Alexis’ early departure last weekend revealed is a storm in a teacup and he will again start on one flank. Mesut Ozil is due a performance and it would be wonderful for him to finish a fine season with two match-winning displays. The manager may be thinking of rotating Alex Iwobi and will surely consider Danny Welbeck for a start ahead of the confidence-drained Olivier Giroud up front.

City will be without Zabaleta, Kolorov, Company, and Silva. The latter pair especially will indeed be missed. However Aguero’s hamstrings have proved stronger this season than last and keeping him quiet should form a significant part of the Gunners preparation. The blue half of Manchester will know that only two wins will guarantee they make it back into the Champions League next season. Neighbours United and ‘have a new stadium for nothing’ West Ham are ready to pounce if they fail in Manuel Pellegrini’s final two matches in charge.

The ‘holic pound

As ever we will have to wait to see which Arsenal turns up. Last season this fixture saw a turnaround in our fortunes against our major rivals, and we have carried that on this season. We are unbeaten against the other clubs in the top four, somewhat surprisingly. Last season goals from Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud gave us a 0-2 win, but this time around I like the look of the tens available on a 1-2 scoreline in favour of the visitors.

I envy the travelling Gooners. The current forecast is for sunshine and a scorching 24 degrees in Manchester at kick-off. Hopefully we will produce a sunny performance for you to cheer. As ever I wish you, and all ‘holics, a good one.


Regression And Delirium

Well, that was very funny, wasn’t it? I think last night provoked the most astonishing range of emotions, and that it ended with most of the football world delighted was a bonus. For one evening the warring factions of Arsenal social media were united by a shared hatred. Great, I thought, I can write all about it tomorrow.

Then I woke up this morning and saw Arseblog’s observations and realised I was too late. I was particularly taken with this part,

I know our season was a huge disappointment, but if you can’t enjoy what happened last night then you’re dead inside.

Therein lies the rub. I know several, this old boy included, reverted to childhood last night. Our interactions with supporters of other clubs are formed in the classrooms and playgrounds of schools. When you lose you know who is going to be giving you the biggest grief and intense rivalries spread from these early experiences. When you win you delight in the reprisals.

So forgive us our collective regression as fury at what was unfolding at the bus stop in Fulham turned to despair, then hope, then glee, and finally complete and utter hilarity. There is no doubt that our friends and neighbours would have been giving it to us had they clung on, or if the bottlers had kept a grip on their tempers and sought a winner they could well have scored had they maintained any semblance of discipline.

Talking of which it will be very interesting indeed to see what action the FA will take against two clubs already warned about their failure to keep their teams under control this season. The points deduction we received in 1991 (we still romped to the title so stick your two points up your bottle) was for far less than the scenes witnessed last night.

Forgive us too, Leicester City supporters for enjoying the plight of our friends and neighbours before paying tribute to you for a remarkable triumph. In any season whoever is top after 38 matches are deserving and worthy champions.

I will repeat what I said the other day. We may be very disappointed at our failure to maintain a challenge for the title when our traditional rivals have suffered a collective cold, but had you suggested we would finish above a team that lost just three matches all season most would have agreed not. Please don’t let us down and lose your last two matches now! What you have achieved is a once in a lifetime experience on a par with Alf Ramsey’s Ipswich Town lifting the title at their first attempt in 1962. Congratulations.

For one night it was fun to be a Gooner again.

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