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Arsene Wenger surprised many by selecting Kieran Gibbs over Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi for Mohamed Elneny, and Olivier Giroud ahead of Theo Walcott. That meant positional changes for Ramsey and Alexis. One can only assume that Theo was considered close to the much-discussed ‘red zone’. David Ospina came in as the Champions League goalkeeper. The starting eleven had more of an attacking feel to it than a ‘hold and hit them on the break’ setup.

In the opening exchanges space and time were at a premium as both sides looked to press the other when in possession. The first big chance was handed to the visitors from a fourteenth minute corner when a deflected header from the unmarked Cavani was kicked off the line by Gibbs. Three minutes later Cavani got his inevitable goal when again he arrived unaccompanied at the far post for a tap-in from Matuidi’s cross.

Arsenal 0-1 PSG

Arsenal’s carelessness in possession in the minutes that followed made for worrying viewing. When we did keep the ball at this stage of the game we saw a lot of slow, sideways passing with no end product. PSG were also cute, and Marquinhos took a yellow for the team when he prevented Alexis from joining an attempted breakout in the Gunners half. The match was looking very similar to the one in Paris on match day one.

Unsurprisingly Francis Coquelin was next to be carded for a nasty challenge on Motta with little over half an hour gone. He will now be suspended for the last day trip to Basel. On rare forays into enemy territory The Arsenal floundered on the rock that is Thiago Motta. A couple of weak penalty appeals aside we were unable engineer any attempts on goal until a strong penalty appeal was granted when Alexis was tripped by Krychowiak. With the last kick of the half Giroud converted our first attempt of the night from the spot.

Arsenal 1-1 PSG

The break, and whatever was said in it, led to a different looking Arsenal start the second-half with much more intent than had been displayed in the first forty-five minutes. Alexis and Mesut Ozil were setting the example, both sprinting to apply pressure on the PSG defence. However the visitors were doing the same and when Laurent Koscielny surrendered the ball he was booked for the resulting foul on Lucas. The victim thumped the free-kick against the crossbar with Ospina beaten.

Verratti was next in the book when he cynically pulled down Alexis as the Arsenal battled back. Carl Jenkinson’s cross found Giroud beyond the far post and the Frenchman’s on-target effort was blocked by Marquinhos. Astonishingly we were ahead when another Jenkinson cross saw Aaron Ramsey’s blocked effort turned in by the unfortunate Verratti.

Arsenal 2-1 PSG

Cavani’s blatant dive earned him neither a penalty nor a yellow card, somewhat surprisingly, as the visitors threatened an immediate response. Ben Arfa, once of Newcastle and Hull was introduced for Krychowiak to strengthen their attacking options. We threatened a third when Alexis just failed to connect with Ramsey at the far post. PSG were denied by a brave Ospina as Cavani lurked with menace.

The reprieve was temporary. From a corner Lucas dropped behind Jenkinson at the far post and Iwobi at the post could only help his header into his own net. The ‘holic pound was lost with thirteen minutes remaining.

Arsenal 2-2 PSG

Ospina again denied the unmarked Cavani on the break. The goalkeeper didn’t deserve to have two put past him. Ramsey’s attempted response drifted wide. Walcott, Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were introduced as Arsenal sought the winner in the closing stages. That created space for the visitors to attempt to exploit. Cavani’s diving header took a coat of paint off the far post. The second-half was as compelling as the first had been embarrassing.

And then it was over with a sense of anti-climax. PSG need only to beat Ludogorets as their away goals in the head to heads with us gives them the advantage. Our superior goal difference is but a secondary consideration in this competition. Still, November is almost at an end and somehow we remain unbeaten since the opening day of the season in all competitions.

That is something to cling to and when we do hit form again we will be in healthy shape.

Art of Football teeshirt competition

A reminder, if one is needed, that two Art of Football Arsenal teeshirts are ‘up for grabs now’ in this post. It’s almost your last chance to enter so get your entries in before it is too late, and good luck. The result will be announced on Thursday evening, and if you are unlucky in the draw you will still be able to get a 20% discount from Art of Football on this Black Friday.

Get your entries in before you forget. Cheers all.

In the last post I pointed out that match day provides both Arsenal and PSG with a ‘winner takes all’ opportunity to clinch top place in group A. Only a repeat of the draw in Paris will lead to a decider on matchday six. However that prospect may not be quite as attractive as it has been in recent seasons. Currently occupying second place their groups are Bayern Munich, Real Madrid (before their match in Lisbon) and Juventus.

Arsene Wenger said earlier that Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott had been ‘on recovery’ rather than training today. Both are expected to be fit although we will still be missing likely starters, if they were fit, Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla. Also it is likely that David Oooooooooospina will come in for Petr Cech as our Champions League goalkeeper.

There seems little point in messing around with the back four. Carl Jenkinson is gaining match fitness and should continue to stand in for Bellerin alongside Skhodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal. The selection alongside Francis Coquelin is one that will have caused Arsene sleepless nights I’m sure. Neither Granit Xhaka nor Mohamed Elneny has made the place theirs in the absence of Cazorla. I still think Ramsey could do the job if told to curb (not eliminate) his enthusiasm for getting forward at every opportunity.

Such a selection would make room for either Alex Iwobi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left flank. Alternatively Alexis might be switched out there to allow Olivier Giroud a start. His ability to play with his back to goal might be invaluable if the visitors build a head of steam. We saw in Paris what an attacking threat they pose and how little they give the ball away. For just that reason Theo Walcott should start on the right and look to use his pace on the break.

PSG will be missing some well known faces too, among them Kurzawa, Ongenda, Pastore, Rabiot, and one-time rumoured Arsenal target Serge Aurier. The latter has controversially been denied an entry visa to the UK and that is a stroke of good fortune for the Gunners quite frankly. The squad will still be a showcase for the oil dollars that have poured into the club and they are clearly the only serious competition we have faced in the group phase. Cavani to score is nailed on, isn’t it?

The ‘holic pound

This is one of those matches where the head says one thing, but the heart another. The head is screaming draw after consecutive 1-1 results against Tottenham and Manchester United. Of course I will be going with my heart which believes we can nick a 2-1 if we defend their strengths and play to ours on the break. I’m on it at 17/2.

Art of Football teeshirt competition

A reminder, if one is needed, that two Arsenal teeshirts are ‘up for grabs now’ in the last post. The result will be announced on Thursday so if you are unlucky in the draw you will still be able to get a 20% discount from Art of Football on this Black Friday. Get your entries in before you forget.

 

With that I shall leave you to watch the second half of one of the Tuesday matches. Have an enjoyable Wednesday if you can. Better than that, have a great one ‘holics.

The week of a huge Champions League meeting with PSG has arrived. It’s a winner takes all fixture guaranteeing the victors top place in Group A. It’s also competition time again at Goonerholic thanks to our old friends at the Art of Football, who will help two lucky Gooners celebrate or cheer them up depending on Wednesday’s result.

Unbelievable

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings, including a couple of recent iconic additions. The teeshirts and sweatshirts 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 teeshirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

You can also buy a couple of prints (sizes A2, A3, and A4 available) which would make a welcome Christmas present for the Gooner in your life. The ‘Invincibles’ and ‘Kneeslide’ are endearing images of a wonderful era at the Arsenal.

Va Va Voom

Now for the good news. Art of Football have offered a tee to two lucky Goonerholic readers. To enter the competition just answer this question.

Who scored the only goal of the second-leg against PSG that took us through to the Final of the European Cup-Winers Cup in 1994? Was it…

8: Ian Wright

9 Alan Smith, or…

10 Kevin Campbell

Please send your answers to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winners selected after the competition closes at 5.00pm UK time on Thursday , will receive the tee of their choice. There is no cash alternative.

That’s not all we have for you from the Art of Football. If you are not one of the lucky winners you could still get a discount of 20% off everything you buy from the Art of Football website on this coming Black Friday. Watch Goonerholic, or follow @Art_of_Football on Twitter, for the code later this week

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you. Come back tomorrow for a preview of the PSG match. Thank you.

Arsene surprised some by preferring Mohamed Elneny to Granit Xhaka alongside Francis Coquelin, and Aaron Ramsey to Alex Iwobi on the left. For United the fading Rooney was left on the bench.

There’s no doubt the hosts started much the stronger and their early pressing had Arsenal rattled. Herrera’s dive under minimal, if any, contact from Elneny gave Mata the chance to curl a free-kick just past the far post. Arsenal’s first chance came when Alexis had an effort deflected for a corner that pinged around the box before United cleared.

United threatened again when Valencia picked off an Elneny pass, sprinted to the line and cut the ball back. Thankfully the alert Coquelin cut out the danger. Pogba did likewise minutes later but this time Skhodran Mustafi was in the right place to clear. Alexis was the recipient of a rare yellow card when his challenge on Herrera brought another exaggerated display from the United man.

Another cross from the Gunners left flank by Rashford caused momentary panic but Martial failed to convert the chance and Pogba was flagged offside. A moment of light relief came when Koscielny shepherded both ball and assistant referee into the pitchside track. Arsenal were next to try their luck, but Coquelin is not a finisher and his long range effort sailed into the Stratford End.

Darmian was next into the book for an innocuous looking trip on Walcott as Arsenal settled into the contest. Jenkinson’s cross was hoofed desperately clear by Rojo. An almost suicidal back pass from Carrick just reached de Gea before Theo Walcott could intercept. Darmian’s awful challenge on Jenkinson should have resulted in a second yellow but Andre Marriner bottled an obvious decision. Perhaps he had been told by the fourth official that the first yellow was a tad harsh?

When Valencia tumbled dramatically in the box under a Monreal challenge Marriner played on, and in so doing drew more amateur dramatics from the not so special one on the sideline. That Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp didn’t think it was a spot kick was telling. Mata looked likely to open the scoring but was denied by a superb Pettr Cech save. Arsenal responded with an Elneny effort that just cleared the bar.

United were coming on strongly again as the half drew to a close, and Cech had to produce a good tip over when the lively Martial engineered an opening on the edge of the box. From the resulting corner Cech again denied Rooney’s young replacement. Arsenal would have been the happier side to hear the half-time whistle. Arsene had much to ponder, particularly with Rambo looking like a square peg in a round hole on the left flank.

The Gunners restarted more brightly but Elneny’s cross from a short corner routine with Ozil was comfortably clutched by de Gea. Martial again tried his luck from the edge of the box but hit his effort tamely straight at Cech. We could well have gone behind when Rashford shot from close range but Mustafi spread himself to make an impressive and important block.

A one-two between Walcott and Alexis resulted in a corner that Jones cleared from the head of Koscielny. The travelling faithful burst into a rendition of the Olivier Giroud chase as the pace slowed and few risks were being taken. Certainly the match needed an injection of something. United were first to act, and surprisingly introduced Rooney for the excellent Martial, and Blind for the fortunate Darmian. Even more surprisingly Arsene didn’t react immediately despite his midfield misfiring badly.

He paid the penalty for that when the visitors defence could not hold out under a wave of United pressure. Herrera picked out the unmarked Mata near the penalty spot and the simplest of finishes gave them a just reward.

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

Too late it seemed, in the 73rd minute, Giroud was brought on but surprisingly for Elneny. It made no immediate difference and when Rojo mercifully headed wide of the far post Granit Xhaka came on for Coquelin.

The final swap was made, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing Carl Jenkinson. It was very much an attack-minded eleven on now, but still progress  into advanced areas was limited and muted. Mata came off to be replaced by Schneiderlin as United battened down the hatches. Ramsey’s frustration resulted in a yellow card for his second poor challenge.

The most frustrating of afternoon’s turned with just over a minute remaining the the Ox broke free down the right and crossed to the far post for Giroud to grab the unlikeliest of points for the Arsenal. Finally Arsene’s substitutions had paid off.

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal

To say we were fortunate is something of an understatement, but this incredible unbeaten run since the opening day of the season goes on. There is something to be said about the heart and spirit in this squad at least. Perhaps Lady Luck looked favourably upon us today as well.

The annual visit to Old Trafford is upon us. As in February, when in our preceding Premier League fixture we had completed the double over Leicester City, we go to Manchester in better shape than the hosts. However the 3-2 defeat we suffered that day to a weakened United had a far-reaching effect on our bid for the title. In our last nine visits there we have come away with a solitary point just twice, in 2013 and 2014.

The positive me takes heart from beating Chelsea, Southampton, and Swansea already this season. We are in hoodoo-busting mode. It is a double whammy jinx we face this time. Not only are we up against United in their own fortress, but now they are managed by the loathesome Mourinho, yet to experience a Premier League defeat by Arsene Wenger.

That should ensure that the edge returns to a fixture that used to crackle in the days when Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane would lock horns with the Premier League usually won by one or other of the combatants. Our last league win there was in 2006. In the decade that has followed, a notable FA Cup win for the visitors two seasons ago aside, we have failed to turn up in Salford.

Both sides will be sweating on fitness tests ahead of the match. United are definitely without the suspended Ibrahimovic and the long-term injured Bailly, Smalling, and Valencia, whilst ‘Elbows’ Fellaini is troubled by a calf injury. Returns are predicted for Rooney and Shaw, with Herrera too returning after suspension.

Our situation is well documented. Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez, Per Mertesacker, and our gift from United, Danny Welbeck, are all out. Carl Jenkinson should deputise for the former, while Arsenal will need to work out his midfield shield by deciding on two from Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny, and Granit Xhaka.

Further forward there are two key decisions. Will Alex Iwobi get the nod over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and will Alexis be recovered sufficiently to start ahead of Olivier Giroud? Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott are a given. This is a day when Arsene will have to earn his salary, and his decisions should prove decisive.

The ‘holic pound

Listener’s to this week’s A Bergkamp Wonderland podcast (see below) will already know I am somewhat optimistically going for a 1-3 away win. Recent history is stacked against that, but we were brutal in our defeat of them at home last season, and the squad must surely be in the mood to attempt a repeat of that scintillating display. I hope, rather than fervently believe, that my little dabble is successful at 28/1.

So that’s that. Have a great day all those who are at the game, and wherever you are watching it, as ever, have a great one ‘holics.

A ‘window of opportunity’ has presented itself. There is a gap of an hour between England finishing and Alexis, I mean Chile, starting. I may even stay up long enough to see Alexis hop off the pitch on his good leg. Seriously, how much bandaging did he have on just to get through training with Chile for this match? They are fooling nobody.

I really don’t mind if he doesn’t start at Old Trafford on Saturday. He will arrive back so soon before a Saturday lunchtime kick-off as to make the selection of either Giroud or Lucas much more sensible. Had Chile done the best for the player and sent him back with whatever degree of ‘muscle’ tear he has then he could have been allowed time to recover properly. Right now we are praying he doesn’t turn a match or two off into six or more weeks.

Enough of that doomsday scenario. I may be back later with much better news. Let’s see. Now England, what can we say about tonight’s not always friendly against Spain? Well, the fact that is wasn’t entirely played in the correct spirit owed much to a horrible Jamie Vardy challenge in the opening minutes. Salt was rubbed into Spanish wounds when the Albert Steptoe lookalike was upended by Pepe Reina for the penalty that Lallana despatched for 1-0.

He got the second himself, and the England forwards, confident that the job was done put on a ‘mannequin challenge’ celebration. Sadly the defenders who had missed out on the fun took umbrage, and decided to do their own challenge in the last minute of the ninety and again in added time. Result 2-2, a draw snatched from the brink of a frankly unexpected victory.

I tweeted in the aftermath, maybe a little tongue in cheek, that Gareth Southgate has earned a crack at the permanent England manager job for going unbeaten with this utter shambles of a squad we currently have. I honestly cannot remember a weaker one. Much of that is down to his experience with the under 21s who are now starting to make their passage into the senior squad.

Surely we won’t mess him around any longer, will we? Over to you, @FA.

PS. Alexis was, of course, the man of the match, scoring twice as Chile came from behind to defeat Uruguay 3-1 in their World Cup qualifier. He was substituted with just over five minutes to go. Now we wait!

Arsenal: The Making of a Modern Superclub review on ABW

Apologies if you have missed this since it was published on Sunday, but I had the privilege, along with presenter Raj and producer Danny, to spend just under an hour talking to Alex Fynn about the updated version of the book he co-wrote with Kevin Whitcher. Additional chapters update the book to the end of the transfer window this summer. Alex provides personal insights on the Arsene Wenger era at the club from the viewpoint of a friend of David Dein, and one who is seen as one of the architects of the Premier League. It was a fascinating podcast to do. Thank you Raj, Danny, and of course, Alex.

To buy the book please go here and, as Alex advises at the end of the show, if you use the promo code ‘AW’ then six of your finest British pounds will secure a copy.

That’s it for now, but there may well be an updated version of this blog shortly as the Chile kick-off is now just twenty minutes away.

Apologies for absence since Monday. I haven’t been resting, and next week you will hopefully enjoy the product of one evening this week. More on that to follow.

So what to write about at last knockings on a Friday night after England have beaten Scotland 3-0, and not even the team knows quite how. I wish Arsenal would win so comfortably when misfiring so.

I was wondering how I would feel as the night progressed. My relationship with both teams (this is a football, not a country thing) has changed since I used to attend the home internationals up to the 1980s. They were very different times and Scotland were considered similarly to the way we look at Tottenham at a club level.

I still remember celebrating England wins rather more than I should have when I was young and thoughtless in front of my mother, born of mining stock and who lived in both the east and west of Scotland as a result. A cousin or two might have clipped my ear!

The matches at Wembley were quite something back then, and any aliens would have been forgiven for thinking they were being played north of the border. Whether there or Hampden Park the Scots dominated the crowd numbers wise. I remember vividly, and more than once, hoping rather than expecting to get out of our national stadium in one piece.

Then in 1984 the home international week became a thing of the past, and not long afterwards so did Mum. Naturally I reflected on my relationship with those north of the wall.

So tonight one of the rare meetings since took place at a time where my interest in international football has waned, but not set. I had considered actually going. Surprisingly tickets were relatively available in a way they weren’t back in the day, but getting back from a late Wembley kick-off by public transport isn’t a given. I settled for television coverage.

I was surprised at my being able to watch an England v Scotland match with no burning bias for either. I know that will lose me readers and followers, but it is none the less true. Scotland were the better team in the opening half, I thought. England came in at half time with the advantage, but goodness knows how. The hosts finished off opponents shorne of confidence in the second-half.

The only time I felt as passionate about the match as an Arsenal game was when Danny Rose was shot by a sniper in the first half and Glenn Hoddle tried to justify the absent award of a penalty. How biased was the ITV coverage. And yes, I accept I probably wouldn’t have posted this if we were playing Macedonia or Latvia.

Maybe I do think more about some international matches than I believed?

The absurdly early start to make the North London derby in time did nothing to dissolve my confidence ahead of the match. On arrival to find out that Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott had passed fitness tests, and that Alli was ruled out by injury, only added to the feel good factor.

We took our seats and the crowd were commendably silent as the last post was played by an accomplished army bugler. It was atmospheric but as soon as the match got going the two tribes were at each other again. With Tottenham fielding three defensive midfielders Arsenal were expected to press them high and quickly with the gusto that blew Chelsea away. That didn’t transpire.

A couple of years ago Mark Clattenburg was the best referee on the PGMOL list, but in the last year or so he has been criticised after high profile matches. Again yesterday he found himself in the firing line after the match. One cannot help but feel that if Francis Coquelin had tackled Wimmer in the manner that the Austrian took him out that the colour of the card might have been different.

As it happened the referee had done us a favour, and Wimmer went on to give us the lead when his header beyond the reach of Lloris settled in the corner of the net. A WhatsApp message informed me at half-time that two Gunners were in an offside position but the officials missed it. Another one in our favour. Wanyama got away with a number of fouls throughout, a couple of which looked worse than the challenge that saw Granit Xhaka sent off against Swansea.

Before the break our best moments other than the goal were Theo Walcott’s fierce drive against the woodwork, and a rare but thrilling break at pace which ended with Alex Iwobi’s sidefooted effort being comfortably pouched by Loris. With a half-time advantage there was still a feeling that we could build on that and go at the neighbours to put the match beyond doubt.

That didn’t happen either. Xhaka is a wonderful footballer but I think he found the intensity of his first North London derby a bit overawing. Iwobi too has looked a little tired in the last couple of weeks. Tottenham were possibly surprised with the ease at which they were able to advance with the ball. They too were not at their best, thankfully.

The equaliser was another controversial moment. I will say from my vantage point nearly half a pitch away that it looked as though Koscielny had brought down Dembélé, another escaping punishment for persistent fouling. The neighbour-for-the-season checked with the press box on the way out and there was more than a suspicion of a dive there. I can understand why Clattenburg gave it and we should have dealt with that by responding to Kane’s goal better.

Aaron Ramsey came on for Coquelin, surely for an injury as the Frenchman had been one of our better players to that point. Rambo fired two efforts over the top but it was Eriksen who twice came closest to pilfering the points, first with a drive that Cech saved superbly, and then with a free-kick against a post.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was sent on for a bizarre cameo, and Olivier Giroud gave us another option but we couldn’t sustain any pressure on the visitors and both sides seemed to content to see out the draw. A most unsatisfactory ending.

The earliness of the kick-off allowed an extended post mortem in splendid company. The spirits lifted as the delicious drinks hit the spot and friends lifted each other again. Three NLD stalemates in a row now. Let’s hope Arsene can celebrate a success over Pochettino in the return fixture at the pointed end of the season.

With the North London derby being put back to Sunday it has been a mixed Saturday for us. Middlesbrough, having held us at the Grove in their last away fixture, repeated the achievement at the Emptihad. That gave the bus stop in Fulham the opportunity to leapfrog Liverpool, ourselves, and Citeh, to top the table. As I type they are slaughtering Everton so we, and indeed Liverpool, will have the chance to knock them off their temporary perch.

To do so by defeating the neighbours would be doubly delicious, but this is always a tight game, right? Well, depending on who gets to play in the match I have a feeling a confident and in-form Arsenal could make a real statement in this one. Yes, I know the visitors are undefeated in the Premier League this season sparking fanciful and preposterous chat by some click baiters about being Invincible. Even they know that is laughable.

True, we have only drawn the last two home games against them, and Pochettino has done a very good job in strengthening their defence. Indeed with only five goals conceded they boast the best defensive record in the top flight.  However a key component of that defence, Alderweireld, is ruled out by injury, as is key midfielder Dembele. Sadly Sissoko is suspended despite Arsenal appealing to the FA to overturn the ban.

Then there is Kane. The window licker always has a decent game against us, but they have patched him up and rushed him back from an ankle injury possibly too soon. Certainly he is not match-fit.

The Arsenal also had doubts ahead of the match but I am thinking the only significant absentee tomorrow might be Santi Cazorla. I don’t see Arsene risking rushing him back, and with the midfield options open to us does he need to? For the purposes of the ‘holic pound (wait for it!) I am hoping the other fitness tests have gone our way. That means Petr Cech should start behind a back four of Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal.

If Santi hasn’t made it then the boss has to decide who starts alongside Francis Coquelin. The deciding factor may be the potential for early yellow cards if Granit Xhaka were to be paired with the equally occasionally rash Frenchman. That would suggest Mohamed Elneny will get the nod, although there is an option of Aaron Ramsey if we are looking to out press the visitors and attack from the off in the fashion that destroyed Chelsea earlier in the season.

If Rambo isn’t offered that role it is unlikely he will start the match. The front four who have fired us to within a win of the summit should be given the chance to continue their very impressive form. That means Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, and Alexis, starting. A substitutes bench including the likes of Ramsey, possibly Xhaka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Olivier Giroud is a powerful indication of how confident we should be going into this one.

The ‘holic pound

The last time Tottenham started the season with ten matches unbeaten it was the Arsenal who lost just one match all season and romped to the 1990-91 title. An omen? Let’s hope so. I’m also praying my guess about the outcome of our fitness tests is correct, because otherwise I am about to make a huge mistake.

I haven’t felt this bullish about the NLD since those first thirteen years of Arsene’s reign when I often wrote confident posts dismissing the neighbours with disdain, knowing we would usually turn them over. I’m already on 4-0 at 40/1 and have placed a little back-up punt on 4-1 at 33/1 in case the window licker gets his customary goal.

There, I’ve placed the bets and shared them with you. There’s no going back now. Unfortunately Network Rail have ensured a number of people from the west and south of the capital will have awful journeys to make the midday kick-off. That will, hopefully, be the only bad news on the day however.

NORTH LONDON IS RED!

Have a great one ‘holics.

There are few matches in football that mean as much to the supporters as those against the nearest and dearest. They don’t come much more ‘passionate’ than Arsenal versus Tottenham. As the match is on Sunday lunchtime there will be two preview posts tonight and tomorrow.

We tend to remember more the triumphs at the Lane perhaps more readily than at home. Two League titles, Rocky’s League Cup semi-final, and Liam Brady’s goal in ‘5-0 at the Lane’ are always talked about with particular satisfaction. However there have been good days at home and most recently we still hold in high regard the consecutive 5-2 beatings dished out in February and November 2012.

During the Wenger years we have massively dominated the fixtures, winning 22 drawing 19 and losing just 7 in all competitions. Only once have our visitors from Middlesex left Asburton Grove with three points. It’s fair to say that in Arsene’s first decade we went into the derby games expecting to win. In fact in his first thirteen years Tottenham had just one Premier League win to celebrate against us.

They have worked hard to stop us being their bogey team and recent history shows how much more close the matches have been of late. We haven’t beaten them in four Premier League matches since we last did the treble over them in League and FA Cup in 2013/14, although we did beat them in the League Cup at the Lane last season. It is fair to say, however that the mysterious ‘shift in the balance of power’ is still fictional nonsense.

The rivalry between the supporters of both clubs has intensified in my lifetime although the atmosphere at the southern end of Seven Sisters on derby day is markedly different to the return fixture. Up until the seventies the matches were not even all-ticket affairs, so there would be many more visiting supporters at both matches but a decade of violent clashes forced a rethink. Then the Taylor report and the introduction of all-seater stadia reduced the numbers further.

This is one of the more atmospheric matches at the Grove every season, and even after all the years I have been watching it the anticipation kicks in long before the kick-off. A potent mix of confidence and belief is tempered by that nagging little doubt in the back of the mind. The game itself is usually a tense and nervy affair. This degree of pleasure one takes from this match will always depend on the outcome. Win and the pints and songs will flow on Sunday afternoon, draw and we will all have a big attack of meh!

What? No, there is no third option, it won’t happen! Come back tomorrow evening for a look at the team news and the ‘holic pound. Until then I am digging out the best derby matches on YouTube and reliving some wonderful goals and matches. Roll on Sunday.

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