The Casual Fan Base: Arsenal FC

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke FT

Saturday’s victory over Stoke was by no means the most convincing of Arsenal wins but the Gunners continued their fine form, turning up the heat on Antonio Conte’s Chelsea ahead of their game on Sunday.

Theo Walcott’s equalizer, Mesut Ozil’s sublime header and Alex Iwobi’s calm finish cancelled out Charlie Adams first half opener and sealed the Gunners’ tenth league victory of the season.

I was offered the chance to move seats this weekend and I reluctantly took up the offer.  However, it was an opportunity to sit in what I call ‘the prawn sandwich section’ and view the game from a totally different angle.   I was right on the half way line, dead centre, a few rows behind the away dugout and the view was awesome what more could you want?

It sounds like a dream but in reality it was one of the worst experiences I’ve had at the Emirates stadium.  My season ticket is situated in Block 6 of the North Bank; without doubt the most atmospheric part of the ground.  I can count on one hand how many times I have sat in other parts of the ground and when I have it’s only ever been the odd league cup game.

Despite only moving 6 blocks around it felt as though I was sitting in a different stadium and to be honest, at times it made my blood boil.  We often hear fans of rival clubs calling us a ‘prawn sandwich club’ and if they’re basing it on what I saw this weekend you’d have a hard time arguing against them.


The Casual Fan Base

As the game kicked off this weekend the four seats directly in front of me, the two to my left and the three behind me were completely empty.  We’ve all been in a situation where the transport around the ground has been an absolute nightmare and so you can forgive the odd fan for strolling in a minute or two after the kick off but this is a far deeper issue.

Since the Gunners moved to the Emirates stadium just over ten years ago we have acquired what I can only describe as a casual fan base.  Football is no longer a working man’s sport due to the sky high prices and to put it simply, half of the spectators in the Emirates stadium are just there for a day out or because a casual season ticket holder gave them his ticket for the day.

The bigger the stadium, the more room there is for the casual fan and it’s an issue that almost every big club suffers from.

The Typical Casual Gooner

 The reality is, these people don’t really care about Arsenal football club.  They don’t share the same love and passion for the club that you and I do.  They turn up ten minutes late to every single game, disappear before the first half ends in search of the bar, and return ten minutes into the second half having gotten carried away talking with their mates inside.

Best of all, no matter what the score is, however finely poised the game is or whoever the opponent they choose to leave ten minutes early in a bid to avoid the crowded trains.

Is there any point in even coming!?

I’m sure every Arsenal season ticket holder can think of at least one person around them who fits this description.

The Impact

Having a stadium plagued with casual fans can have a detrimental impact on the team and causes divide amongst fans.  The club itself will never see this as an issue as long as they’re balancing the books..

I am a firm believer that a vocal crowd can give the players performance an extra 10-15%, can carry a team through a difficult period in a game and can influence refereeing decisions.  These factors, especially in the big games can sometimes get the team over the line but what kind of atmosphere can you generate when the ground is half empty at kick off, before and after half time and ten minutes from the end?

During the course of last season I witnessed a number of clashes inside the ground between our own supporters.  In particular when our title challenge began to de-rail.  There is no better example of the division in our support than the Wenger IN/OUT debate.  The casual fans acceptance of just finishing 4th in recent years has distanced them further from the real Arsenal hardcore.

Sadly, it’s the direction modern football is heading in. Inflated prices, casual fans and even the most historical of clubs are beginning to lose their identities.




‘Nacho’ typical November

‘Nacho’ Typical November…

The Match:

After three straight draws the Gunners finally registered their eighth league win of the season.  Steve Cook’s calamitous back pass allowed Alexis Sanchez to break free and calmly slot the ball past the onrushing Adam Federici.  A slightly fortuitous start for the Arsenal but even still, this was by no means an easy victory.

It wasn’t long before the Cherries were level, Callum Wilson leveled from the spot after being brought down by a clumsy Nacho Monreal.  Some argued it was not the clearest of penalties but here is how I see it.  If you raise your arms into an unnatural position, make contact with the striker who has managed to get the wrong side of you and fail to make any contact with the ball the referee has every right to point to the spot.

It’s not the first time Nacho has found himself in this kind of situation and his recent performances are nowhere the levels he reached last season.  Perhaps it’s time Kieran Gibbs got the run of games his patience has deserved.

The Bournemouth equalizer seemed to turn the tide and Eddie Howe’s side grew in confidence.  They are a side that play the game in the right way and deserve a lot of credit for their ‘ballsy’ approach.  It’s not very often you see the  so called ‘smaller’ teams come to the Emirates and play expansive, attacking football in search of all three points.

Bournemouth spurned two good opportunities to take the lead when Adam Smith headed over and Brad Smith’s shot was saved by Petr Cech.  Alexis Sanchez fired a shot from a tight angle just on the stroke of half time which he saw crash off the bar.

The Gunners lead was restored on 53 minutes when Theo Walcott ‘rose like a salmon’ and headed home a Nacho Monreal cross.  By no means an unlikely goal scorer but let’s just say it’s not the type of goal you associate with Theo.  The England forward, whose wife gave birth to their second child this week registered his eight goal of the season and continues to impress back out on the right.

The man of the moment Senor Monreal almost conceded a second penalty of the afternoon when he appeared to handle Simon Francis’ pass.  I think it’s clear that it wasn’t intentional but when your arms are dangling all over the place you’re just giving the referee an opportunity to call it.  Bournemouth will feel hard done by, particularly with that decision and who can blame them.

Thankfully, Ozil, Giroud and Sanchez combined in the 91st minute to seal the points and ensure Arsenal moved to within three points of the top spot.


Final Thoughts:

Hardly a spectacular performance but there were signs, flashes if you like that Arsenal are beginning to click again.  There’s been a real lack of creativity lately and Arsene has struggled to find the right balance in the middle of the park.  Granit Xhaka impressed in the second half and made a real claim for a place in the side at West Ham this weekend.

Having not won in three games, it was imperative we took all three points yesterday all be it under slightly fortunate circumstances.  I still don’t know who our best XI is and the midfield area concerns me.  With Santi missing we struggle to find the right balance at times and our fluency has suffered as a consequence.

The sooner we get Hector Bellerin back the better, it was a real shame to see Debuchy limp off so early on but throwing him in after so long on the sidelines always had an associated risk.  One thing is clear, neither Carl Jenkinson nor Gabriel are competent enough in that role and the absence of our marauding right back weakens us defensively and offensively.

The good news is, November is over and we survived it without defeat.

Despite a number of changes from the PSG game midweek the team achieved the desired result, demonstrating the strength in depth we now posses among this current crop of players

There is plenty of football to be played and there is no reason why Arsenal can’t mount a serious title challenge.  December, arguably the most challenging month of the Premier League season is around the corner and we will need to utilize all of our squad to avoid a case of burnout.




EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.


Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!


Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

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Is it happening again?

Is it happening again?

It looks as though once again, Arsenal will finish the Champions’ League group stage as runners up behind PSG.  In recent campaigns the Gunners have often failed to win their group and as a consequence been drawn against the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the last 16.

Arsenal tend to throw the tie away in the first leg with a disappointing home performance, thus leaving themselves with an almost impossible task going into the second leg.  The second leg arrives and free from the weight of expectation the Gunners often produce one of their strongest performances of the season.

Flirting with the possibility of completing the mother of all comebacks, yet just falling short.  Sound familiar?  Well it should do by now because it’s been happening for as long as I can remember.

Let’s not forget we still have match day 6 to come and so it’s not unthinkable that we could still top the group.  However, with PSG welcoming Ludogorets to the Parc Des Princes and us travelling to Basel I wouldn’t bet on it.


Arsenal have failed to perform anywhere near the levels we are capable of in the last 3 fixtures.  Consecutive draws with Spurs, Man Utd & PSG are respectable results in isolation but it’s the performances that are a cause for concern.

Our spark is missing, there’s a lack of creativity and the fluidity you associate with Arsenal is no longer there for the neutral to admire.

The imbalance in our midfield is clear for all to see.  The absence of Santi Cazorla has had a far greater affect than anyone could have imagined.  Despite having a number of options in Xhaka, El Neny, Coquelin and Ramsey, none of the aforementioned players posses similar qualities or attributes to the little spaniard.

It’s hard to judge Granit Xhaka completely until he has a consistent run of games in the side but what I can tell you for certain is that none of the others mentioned are comfortable enough on the ball and all of them are lacking in terms of creativity.

We are missing our deep-lying playmaker and I fear if he remains sidelined for too much longer we could see our title chances fade away.

Hector Bellerin put a smile on all of our faces this week by committing his long term future to the club.  Without doubt the best full back in the league and certainly one of the best in Europe.  He’s no doubt been a huge component of our recent success and we are evidently missing his ability to join in the play and carry the ball down the right hand side.

It’s clear to see the gulf in class between Bellerin and Jenkinson and you’d be silly to underestimate the impact this is having on our attacking play.

Olivier Giroud has been in fine form of late and although he got his name on the score sheet again, his overall performance last night was disappointing.  There’s a clear lack of mobility and he’s inability to press allows the opposition to settle on the ball in defensive areas.  What he does give you is a target, somebody that can hold up the ball and an aerial threat of real potency – assuming he gets the service.

Who should start up front versus Bournemouth on Sunday and what should the midfield pairing be?  These are the big decisions Wenger faces going into the weekend and he cannot afford to get it wrong versus a useful Bournemouth side.


Check out the latest episode of the podcast by clicking on the image above.

Is it happening again?

Arsenal are a side lacking ideas and it appears as though some of our stars are running on empty.  We need to find some inspiration from somewhere and despite failing to win in the last 3, I have to agree with Mr Wenger, it’s a bit early to panic and say ‘It’s happening again!’

There is still a lot of football to be played this season 😉


Juggling the Champions League & A New Stadium


It’s no secret that Arsenal’s move to the Emirates stadium was a painful one.  During a tough period stretching over a number of seasons Arsenal were a club under great financial strain, struggling to build a competitive squad on limited funds and facing a constant battle to keep their own star players due to them not consistently challenging for the games major honors.

Recent years have seen the Arsenal splash the cash on the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka.  This is now possible at Arsenal due to the stabilization of the clubs finances.  Arsene Wenger managed to steer Arsenal through a turbulent and challenging time and now the club are reaping the rewards.  One of the countries biggest clubs, a talented squad, state of the art stadium/facilites and the ability to compete financially with MOST clubs.

During that period Champions League qualification was an absolute MUST and the financial reward of that is essentially what got the Gunners through this challenging period relatively quickly.  Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for that.


History repeating itself?

Now, ten years later we are seeing the same cycle just a few miles down the road.  Spurs find themselves fighting for Champions League Qualification whilst battling with the financial implications of redeveloping White Hart Lane.

Last night saw Spurs crash out of Europe’s premier competition in the group stages and it seemed to me as though Pochettino’s eyes were firmly on their EPL clash with Chelsea this weekend.

My view prior to the start of this years Premier League campaign was that Spurs’ squad did not possess the depth nor quality to maintain a title challenge whilst participating competitively in the Champions League.

That view hasn’t changed and based on Pochettino’s selection last night you would have to question whether he believes in his fringe players as much as some of the supporters do.


He is a smart, innovative and brave young manager but by the same token he is fully aware of his squads limitations and thankfully for the club he recognizes the longevity of this project.

Spurs will have to remain patient and understand that they too will face similar challenges to those overcome by their fiercest rivals.  A lack of funds will be compensated by the promotion of youth and their lack of strength in depth will be compensated by prioritizing certain competitions.

A development as costly as a stadium expansion can be a long and painful transition but without this period of suffering the club will never progress to the level of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool etc.

Pochettino will be kicking himself.  I’m sure hes beginning to recognize the squad required further strengthening over the summer, given the step up in European competition.

Perhaps with the stadium coming the funds just simply were not available?  Remind you of another club in North London?


Football is a business…

Spurs supporters have often accused Arsenal of turning into a business. The reality of it is that Spurs will have to focus all of their efforts on making the Champions League year in year out because the financial reward and the status of being a Champions League club is the foundation on which the club can grow.

The buzz of travelling with your team to places like the Bernabeu, the San Siro, the Allianz Arena etc and competing with the worlds best teams is what the Champions League is all about.  To say you don’t crave that as a fan is to disbelieve in the magic of the game.

The sad thing is, a clubs objectives are set out in line with their business interests as opposed to achieving just their footballing goals.  Spurs may have gone out of the group stages with a whimper but their only real goal is to qualify for next years competition.







Brand New: The latest edition of the podcast!

The latest edition of the SSN official podcast. Harry & Alavi are joined by the last editions popular guest Andrew to discuss the latest footballing topics. As well as answering YOUR questions they discuss Spurs v WHU, Man Utd v Arsenal, The Milan derby, The Madrid Derby and the latest refereeing howlers. Sponsored by TagPay!

What, if anything, have we learnt from the NLD?

What, if anything, have we learnt from the NLD?

Arsenal 1-1 Spurs, probably a fair result overall.  The first 20-25 minutes or so were pretty subdued, possibly down to the diabolical kick off time, I don’t know about you guys but I was still half asleep and nursing a hangover when the players emerged from the tunnel.

First Half

The Emirates was packed to the rafters in time for the kick off, the prawn sandwich brigade were out in full force and on time for once, creating the kind of atmosphere only a derby match is capable of.  Prior to kick off I was concerned that the scum’s midfield would dominate our own physically and there’s no doubt that Dembele bossed the middle of the park for most of, if not the whole game.

We began to turn the screw towards the end of the first half and were unfortunate not to take the lead in particular when Theo Walcott’s effort came crashing off the frame of the goal.  On 42 minutes Arsenal’s pressure paid off, Kevin Wimmer rose like a salmon to head into his own net with an exquisite header, the kind a centre forward dreams of.

Happy days, 1-0 up at half time and we were looking as though we were on the up.  Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez’s pace a constant threat, Ozil spraying passes, Bellerin & Nacho joining the play, Xhaka and Coquelin enforcing in the middle but most importantly we had a lead to show for it!

Second Half

You have to question what happened in the Arsenal dressing room at half time.  If I was to take a guess, I’d say the players went in, had a nap and failed to wake up in time for the second period.  We were abysmal throughout the whole of the half and you could argue we were fortunate not to have conceded a second.

The intensity dropped dramatically and as Arsene likes to say “We dropped a little bit physically”.  The Spuds had their chances and we failed to create anything of note.  In fairness to Arsene, I think he recognized the need for fresh legs a lot earlier than he usually does.  He made all three substitutions on the 65th, 70th and 71st minutes.  Unfortunately for the manager, they looked just as off the pace as the players they’d replaced.

The worst performance of the lot award has to go to The Ox; he failed to make any impact on the game and made a mess of even the simplest of tasks.

The introduction of Olivier Giroud provided us with a target, however he was swallowed up by Spurs’ 3 central defenders and failed to cause them any problems whatsoever.

Aaron Ramsey was the first of the substitutes to take to the field and probably made the biggest impact of the three, he injected a much needed energy into our fading midfield but unfortunately his final pass/shot let him down.

With Manchester City slipping up the day before it was an opportunity to jump to the top of the EPL but it just wasn’t to be.  I guess when you perform that badly the main priority is to get something rather than nothing from the game, in this case the point.

A poor performance but we will take our point and move forward.  No need to panic just yet.


What, if anything have we learnt from the NLD…

It’s hard to pass sensible judgment on one particular fixture; however during that second half we saw the type of naivety that has been our downfall in recent seasons.  Forever putting ourselves under pressure with risky passes, half hearted clearances and failing to react quick enough to the second balls contributed to an uneasy second half.

One of the worst performances I’ve seen from the Arsenal this season.  There is no scientific or tactical reason for the way we played; I put it simply down to an off day.  Fortunately perhaps, we held onto the point and let’s hope we are back to our normal selves at Old Trafford in a couple of week’s time.

I’m still not 100% convinced of Arsenal’s title credentials but the fact we are picking up valuable points even on our ‘bad’ days has to be an encouraging sign at this stage of the season.



It pains me to say it but Spurs are a far better side than I have given them any credit for in the past couple of seasons.  A solid defensive unit, a powerful midfield and a striker that will always score goals are some of the key ingredients for a winning formula.   Pochettino’s record versus Wenger since arriving at Shite Hart Lane evidences his tactical understanding and I don’t think I remember them having a better boss, in my life time anyway.

I still don’t see them as genuine title contenders but I’m pretty sure they will be in the top 4 come May. With the development of the lane around the corner if Poch can keep them in the Champions League spots with limited resource that will be a marvelous achievement.

I would hate to see them make the top 4 but the positive is that means we will at minimum finish 3rd!



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The NLD: Gooner View

The NLD is upon us and I’ve been feeling a mixture of excitement/nerves for the whole week.

With both sides having played their midweek Champions league games it’s time to concentrate solely on Sunday.

Current Form

On Tuesday night Arsenal were poor, it was far from the best performance of the season.

I just can’t put my finger on it, Arsenal are very good away from home domestically but pretty poor away in Europe and it’s been that way for a long while.

Anyway, the main thing is we found a way to take all three points and qualify for the knock out stages once again.

Spurs on the other hand look as though their heading back into the Europa league after Wednesday night’s home defeat at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen.

They were poor, extremely poor.

Their form heading into the NLD is pretty bad, having beaten Man City before the international break so convincingly they failed to continue the momentum and have since drawn four and lost two (in all comps).

In comparison, Arsenal have won five and drawn one (in all comps).

I’ve been more than pleased to see Tottenham drop points and fail to win games in the last few weeks but there is something extremely dangerous about playing one of the ‘stronger’ teams when they are so desperate for a win. Are they due a win?

On the flip side you can say Spurs remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League. Are they due a defeat?

We all know who the form team is going into this fixture.  However, it is a NLD and so the form book tends to go out of the window.

I still expect Spurs to come to the Emirates on Sunday and be up for it, hard to beat and a threat to our goal.

Arsenal vs Pochettino

A fact not many people may know is that since Pochettino’s arrival, Arsenal have not won a NLD in the league (4 draws, 1 Tottenham win).  The Gunner’s only victory over Pochettino’s side came in last season’s League Cup.

Arsenal need to come out of the blocks quickly on Sunday, go for the throat, pass and move the ball quickly and make things uncomfortable right from the start. This is a wounded Spurs team that are clearly lacking confidence and so we shouldn’t allow them the chance to settle early on.

If Arsenal play the way they can and go with the above I can only see one winner.

The problem will come if the other Arsenal turn up and we are slow moving the ball and lack movement.  In that case, Tottenham’s high intensity pressing game will see Arsenal struggle and could play into Tottenham’s hands.


Team News

Tottenham go into the game with some key players such as Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane, Moussa Dembele, Erick Lamela as injury doubts going into the NLD. I expect to see Lamela play but am unsure as to whether Dembele will make it, only the coming days will tell the extent of his midweek injury.

I am still none the wiser as to whether Kane or Aldeweireld will make it but as a Gooner I’m hopeful they wont.

Arsenal have some injury doubts of their own with Theo Walcott, Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal facing fitness tests. I must admit, I expect Walcott, Bellerin and Monreal to feature.

With Arsenal travelling to Old Trafford next and Spurs having another two London Derby’s against West Ham and Chelsea around the corner the three points become even more important.  Especially with Liverpool and Man City playing Middlesbrough and Watford at home this weekend respectively.

I know it’s early in the season and we shouldn’t really be too concerned about the table but neither side wants to be playing catch up.

As previously mentioned, Arsenal are the form team heading into this North London Derby but over the years one thing I’ve learnt from being a football fan is this game is very unpredictable and football can change very quickly.  We shouldn’t take anything for granted or get carried away.

I’m going to predict a tight game, both sides will play good football for a lot of the game and a fantastic fixture for the neutral.

As for the result it’s very hard to call and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up in a score draw.

For the latest Odd’s on all of this weekends fixtures Click Here!





Official Podcast – Arsenal Talk

Sofa Sports News Podcast Ep.1/11/2016 – Harry is joined on the sofa by Andrew and Tony to discuss the Gunners. They discuss tonights win over Ludogorets and their hopes for the season. Can Arsenal go all the way this year? They also look ahead to this coming weekends North London Derby and give an overall assessment of Arsenal’s season so far.

Giroud brace keeps the Gunners in the Race.

The Match

Arsene Wengers side travelled to the stadium of light this weekend as the firm favourites prior to kick off. With Granit Xhaka serving the last game of his ban Mohamed El Neny continued to fill in for the absent Santi Cazorla. Kieran Gibbs was handed a premier league start after some impressive performances of late and he’s making a real case for that first team spot.


The Gunners were boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey to the squad and having got a few minutes under his belt midweek Olivier Giroud was also named on the bench. A welcome boost having lost Lucas Perez for around about 6 weeks, welcome to Arsenal buddy!

The game unfolded as many expected, the Gunners dominated possession having a huge 67% of the ball. Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring on 19 minutes. A smart header having got himself on the end of a dangerous Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, leaving the keeper with absolutely no chance.

From then on Arsenal dominated the game and squandered a number of very good chances to put the game to bed.

Around about the hour mark the Gunners had a clear penalty appeal turned down despite it appearing as though Alexis Sanchez was pulled back in the box. So you could imagine my disgust when Sunderland broke away just moments after and won a penalty of their own.

Duncan Watmore found himself through on goal, rounded Petr Cech and the veteran goalkeeper brought him down. No arguments about that decision but the one at the other end further enhanced my argument for technology in football. Up stepped Jermaine Defoe, the former Spurs striker was always going to score & rub salt in the wound!

Just as predicted, he made absolutely no mistake and with little over 25 minutes remaining we were in danger of throwing away 2 points. Some Gunners will tell you we were so dominant the victory was never in doubt but when you play so well and fail to kill a game you often end up being punished.

Fortunately on this occasion David Moyes’ side were so bad and capitulated even further having drawn level.

Many of our fans are quick to criticise Wenger for his changes at times but on this occasion he got it right and deserves a mention.

On came Olivier Giroud and with his first touch restored our lead! And people say he’s not clinical enough. Ha.


Just moments after, the Frenchman got on the end of an Ozil corner and sealed the 3 points. A fine run across the front post and a fine header towards the back post meant Pickford was unable to keep it out. The more times I see the replay I just think “Olivier really had no right to score from there”.

There are some people that will still be uncertain on whether he is a top class striker or not but one thing is for sure, he’s a fantastic centre forward and although he may not be good enough to be the ONLY option he’s certainly an effective one.

Giroud essentially wrapped up the 3 points but Alexis put the cherry on top with his 2nd and Arsenal’s 4th. The Sunderland faithful began leaving the stadium and it was job done. A minor scare in the end but there’s no doubt the best side won.


Despite the handsome away victory the biggest positive for me was that Arsenal displayed strength in depth and the ability to change it up. We’ve been accused numerous times of not having a plan b and only being able to play the one way.

I’m a big advocate of the system we’ve introduced this season with Alexis being the front man – his goal record speaks for itself. I’m also a huge fan of Giroud & feel he gives us a presence & aerial threat when teams sit back on us.

It’s nice to know that if needed we can change it up & even if the Frenchman comes off the bench I’m confident he can impact games.

We have two fantastic centre halves and an array of attacking talent. This is quite possibly the strongest side we’ve had in years. I’m confident we can mount a serious title challenge & despite what happens over the coming months you won’t hear me calling for Wenger out.


A victory in Bulgaria tomorrow night will set us up nicely for progression into the last 16 of the UCL. The small matter of the NLD coming this weekend and I’m buzzing!



Sofa Sports News

EFL Cup -Betting Tips! (Tuesday)

Tuesday night see’s 5 EFL cup tie’s taking place with the stand out game being that between Liverpool & Spurs at Anfield. (Live on Sky sports)

Betting: EFL Cup

Arsenal: 2/9   Draw: 6/1   Reading: 14/1

Bristol City: 13/10   Draw:  5/2   Hull City: 9/4

Leeds United: 15/8   Draw: 12/5   Norwich City: 8/5

Liverpool: 7/10   Draw: 16/5   Tottenham Hotspur: 4/1

Newcastle: 2/5   Draw: 15/4   Preston: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

Harry’s tip:  “I expect Liverpool vs Spurs to be a good EFL cup tie and I think the host’s should just edge it.  However, Spurs at 4/1 is excellent value and I am feeling lucky so I will certainly be backing an away win!

Interestingly, if you like an accumulator a treble of Arsenal, Tottenham and Hull City is at 19/1.  Worth a tenner surely!”


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The Most Exciting Title Race in Years! EPL Week 9 Review.

EPL Week 9 Review

After another weekend of unpredictable results this is shaping up to be the most exciting title race in years.  Of the top eight only Liverpool and Chelsea were able to take all three points from their respective fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp’s side continued their fine run of form with a narrow victory over West Brom.  Having been held to a draw vs Bourinho’s United last Monday the title talk around Anfield had somewhat evaporated, at least temporarily.  Saturday’s victory which ultimately drew them level on points with both City and Arsenal has set the Liverpool band wagon rolling once again.


Are Liverpool EPL Title Contenders?

Any team joint at the top of the EPL must be considered as contenders.  However, let’s not forget it is only October and so if I was a Liverpool fan I wouldn’t be getting carried away just yet.  Sorry Liverpool fans but I just can’t see you going the distance for a number of reasons.  Two dodgy keepers, the inability to defend any form of set piece and a lack of strength in depth will ultimately cost you.

The Return of the Special One…

Jose returned to the bridge this weekend and prior to kick off it was all about him, just the way he likes it.  Having gone to Anfield last week and parked the bus it was pretty obvious he was going to try and do the same thing in the hope of avoiding defeat.

I’m a huge critic of his ‘anti-football’ approach especially when you are the manager of such a prestigious club and spending hundreds of millions of pounds on ‘top players’.

Nothing pleased me more than to see his game plan go out of the window inside a minute and their vulnerability was clear for all to see.  Chelsea continued to stick the knife in on their old boss and were far superior in every department.


“I know you sold me the wrong Pogba”

In a poor attempt to deflect the headlines away from his teams awful performance Jose reportedly whispered in the ears of Conte something to the effect of “you don’t celebrate like that at 4-0.  You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”

Despite his side being horrendous and Chelsea completely out playing them he still had to make it all about him come the end of the game.  He had an issue with the current Chelsea manager celebrating?  That’s rich coming from this man…


Jose slides on his knee’s in celebration during his Real Madrid days.

City without a win in five…

Once again individual errors cost Pep Guardiola’s side dearly and John Stones’ decision making doesn’t seem to have improved just yet.

City were held at home by an in-form, well organised and resolute Southampton side.  Credit to the Saints but there’s no doubt the blue half of Manchester will be somewhat disappointed with the nature of the goal they conceded.

It appeared to be a mix up between Stones and Vincent Kompany but none the less a goal that could have been avoided had a bit of common sense been applied.  It wasn’t to be City’s day in the end but the results around them gave them some breathing space, a draw this weekend wasn’t as damaging as it could have been.

A constantly changing formation and  a lack of confidence are certainly contributing to City’s bad run but there’s no need for an over reaction, they are top of the EPL!

Arsenal & Spurs stutter…

Neither North London club were able to take all three points this weekend and I would put it down to both suffering from a Champions League hangover.  It’s been years since Spurs have been able to use that excuse!

Spurs failed to dazzle at the vitality stadium and Bournemouth could have nicked it late on. Perhaps the biggest talking point was the moment of madness from Moussa Sissoko where he appeared to throw an elbow at Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter.  The Frenchman was lucky not to see red and I expect him to face retrospective action in the coming days.

I was at the Emirates on Saturday and the Gunners were simply off the boil.  A leggy Arsenal side struggled to create as many openings as they would have liked against a stubborn and well organised Boro side.

The absence of Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park was a big miss for the Gunners.  He plays a vital role in Arsenal’s midfield, a player who is so good at both collecting the ball from the defence and play making from deep was always going to be missed.  The man who normally makes us tick wasn’t in the side and it disrupted our fluency in possession.


Arsenal missed their deep lying playmaker on Saturday.

It’s worth noting had it not been for Petr Cech Arsenal could have ended up losing that one.  Adana Traore was a constant threat down the right hand side and its hard to believe that he spent last season sitting on Aston Villa’s bench!

Boro were good value for the point.  Both North London clubs suffered a minor stutter but it’s nothing to worry about at this stage, I expect both to be there or thereabouts come May.

EPL Results:

Bournemouth 0-0 Spurs, West Ham 1-0 Sunderland, Swansea 0-0 Watford, Leicester City 3-1 Crystal Palace, Hull City 0-2 Stoke, Burnley 2-1 Everton, Arsenal 0-0 Boro, Man City 1-1 Southampton, Chelsea 4-0 Man Utd.

Click here for the Premier League Table!


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What a difference a few weeks can make! – Theo & AFC

In the end it was a nail-biting encounter, another stressful afternoon at the Emirates resulting in a vital 3 points for the Arsenal.  In the past I’ve criticized the Gunners for missing opportunities when the teams around us dropped points.  Although it was far from being the most comfortable of win’s we got over the line and the favorable results around us saw us leap above that lot down the road as well as drawing level on points with Pep’s Manchester City.

Arsenal’s best and worst were on display for all to see in what was a thrilling encounter for the neutral but essentially the points are all that matter.

Granit Xhaka saw red and you can argue the decision was extremely harsh but a part of me was proud of him for making that challenge and preventing what would have been a Swansea 4 versus 2 counter attack.  He will be missed whilst he serves his ban but for once we have a squad capable of plugging the holes.

What a difference a few weeks can make…

After week 2 many were writing our title chances off and calling for a change in management. Admittedly I was furious with Arsene after the opening fixture and the failure to prepare for the very start of the campaign was keeping me up at night.  Six straight league wins later and we have caught up to many peoples favorites for the title (Man City) and only one goal separates us.

Credit where its due, Arsene has found a new way of playing that has seen us (with the exception of saturday) defend effectively and attack with the fluidity we all associate with Wenger’s teams.

The Rise of Theo…

He could have scored 5 at the weekend but nobody can deny the significant improvement in Theo’s game.  So why the sudden upturn?

I put it down to a number of things.

  1. There seems to be a hunger/desire to succeed and his omission from the England squad last summer could have been the boot up the a** he needed.
  2. Anybody who has watched Walcott recently can clearly see he has done a lot of work physically over the close season.  The combination of his electrifying pace and improved ability to hold players off when in possession is enough to scare any full back in the world.
  3. Theo Walcott is quite clearly ten times more effective playing from the right.  Starting from the wide position gives him the licence to drift inside without necessarily being marked by the two or sometimes three centre halves and he often finds himself free in the box to devastating effect.


The fact that Theo, Sanchez and Iwobi are all free to interchange at will has been a huge element of our success thus far.  It makes them so difficult to defend against and with Mesut Ozil pulling the strings, at times we can be unplayable.


Onwards and Upwards…

Prior to Saturday’s game I said I’d only be happy with 9 points from the Swansea, Middlesbrough and Sunderland fixtures and I stick by that.  I’m confident we can get the remaining 6 points over the next two games but this is the Premier League and anything can happen so we will need to be at our best!

We head into Wednesday night’s champions league tie versus Ludogorets in pretty good shape and I expect us to wrap up another 3 points on the way towards qualification for the knockout stages.

Thank god the Premier League is back and we can sit back and now we can watch Liverpool and United tear lumps out of each other knowing we’ve done our job for another week.



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The Referee’s a WENGER!

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger(or the Chicago Gunners basketball team) were yet again gifted a decision on Sunday. Whether the goal should have stood is not debatable. Although there is a debate as to whether the biggest joke was the decision itself or Koscielny’s interview following the game.

The first bone of contention was whether Oxlade-Chamberlain made contact with the ball. The answer is yes. Had he not, the subsequent contact made by Koscielny would have been onside as he was behind the ball when Walcott flicked the ball on. However, because Oxlade-Chamberlain made contact with the ball, it leads to phase two – in which, Koscielny is clearly offside as at this point, he had run beyond the ball. The second contentious point is the handball itself. You cannot legally use your hand to score a goal. It’s quite simple. I won’t even begin getting into the added injury time because there is a wider issue here that the prawn sandwich Arsenal boys are only too aware of, which is that Mr Wenger has built a backbone of a side this season to include Mark Clattenburg in goal, Craig Pawson in defence, Michael Oliver in an attacking midfield role and Martin Atkinson spearheading the attack.


One team has been gifted all the decisions so far this season and I’m sure it will continue. The penalties not given at Leicester, the Giroud penalty against Southampton and the hand of Kosc against Burnley. Two of these games were away from home by the way. Not that the 90 minute silence so impeccably observed at the Emirates would make a difference anyway. 5 additional points right there. Just like that. Of course, there were other decisions like Coquelin not being sent off against Liverpool etc, but I’m concentrating on the games that Arsenal ending up winning or drawing.

Below is a snippet from a well-known Arsenal website written by one of the few honest Arsenal fans:

“Arsenal travelled to the East Midlands today to take on Premier League champions Leicester City, and will have to consider themselves lucky to come away with a draw. Ranieri’s side should have had two penalties, Coquelin was let off a yellow card for a deliberate foul just outside the box, and had the most clear-cut goal scoring opportunities also. This will certainly not have pleased any Arsenal fan, but it is a result they will take. We were then given another gift by referee Mark Clattenburg, when Francis Coquelin, who had already been booked, brought Mahrez down just outside the box. A yellow card would have been hard to argue, but we were allowed to continue with 11 men, and the free kick was put over the bar.

The snippet was by one of the few fans who watched the game as opposed to the regular fans who stare at their Bovril and programme all game debating the house price increases in their home town of Surrey from a nice comfortable Emirates seat. Likely to be called Sebastian.

A lifelong Arsenal fan told me as soon as big Sam was sacked that Arsenal would get the benefit of every major decision because the FA need Wenger to rebuild English football from the grassroots up as soon as his Arsenal contract expires. The theory proposed to me by the Arsenal fan makes perfect sense.

Sam Allardyce left the post last week after just 67 days in charge, with the FA deeming his position untenable in the wake of newspaper allegations suggesting he was prepared to accept a £400,000 payment to represent a Far East firm and offer advice in circumventing rules on player transfers. Southgate’s appointment as caretaker buys the Football Association (FA) time and, given the four-month hiatus following the Spain fixture until England face Lithuania on March 26, they could be prepared to wait until next summer when Wenger’s contract expires if he indicates a willingness to take the job.  According to several reports, the FA have their set long(ish)-term sights on finally tempting Arsene Wenger into international management with a “fresh approach” for the Arsenal boss set to be launched in good time

How does that make any sense?

How can you have a football association that want a man as their national manager, yet is the same association that referees must answer to? The same association that essentially dictates referee selection, discussions with officials, retrospective punishment and many other factors that contribute to where a side finishes at the end of the season. It is a complete conflict of interest and explains why they want to keep the Arsenal boss happy.


Wenger has previously advised the FA in their hunt for the new England manager. The French manager, who emerged as one of the potential candidates for the job following Big Sam’s departure has already met with the FA in an advisory capacity. So now you have a committee that rely on the Arsenal boss for consultancy too. I mean if that isn’t further conflict of interest then someone please explain it to me.

For the record I think the FA should bend over backwards to get Wenger. I’ve always been a big supporter of his as I’m sure our SSN listeners have heard on many a podcast. And for the record I’d have only given one of those penalties at Leicester.

Do I think there’s corruption in the sense that money is exchanging hands? Probably not. Do I think that the FA need to keep Wenger sweet and this is how they are doing so? Absolutely. Let’s see if Arsenal can win the title with their 20 point head start. For the sake of football and fairness I sincerely hope not.


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It was late, perhaps not great but the Gunners run continues! – Arsenal FC

Burnley 0-1 Gunners

It was late, perhaps not great but the Gunners claimed their fifth straight Premier League victory at Turf Moor this weekend.  Arsene Wenger celebrated 20 years in charge of his beloved Arsenal and for a while it seemed as though there wouldn’t be much to celebrate.  A resilient, stubborn and well-organised Burnley side frustrated the Gunners for 92 minutes and will be desperately disappointed not to have taken anything from the game.

Our last premier league outing was the decimation of Chelski and so it was always going to be difficult to live up to that performance.  Even the most biased of Arsenal fan would have to give Sean Dyche’s side credit for the way they defended and they may feel on another day they could have been the ones to nick it 1-0.


The Performance

The Gunners just simply weren’t at the races, the passing was off, there was a lack of sharpness and Mr Wenger said post match that we made a lot of ‘technical mistakes’.  Take Alex Iwobi’s shot in the second half for example, he opened his body up and looked to bend one into the top corner.  The problem was he bent it out for a throw in!

That pretty much summed up our day. The movement and fluidity that we’ve seen over the past few weeks just simply wasn’t there and around about the 85th minute I began the process of trying to convince myself that a draw would have been a point gained on the leaders Man City.  Deep down I knew the draw wasn’t good enough and we needed to capitalize on their slip up.  I just really couldn’t see where the goal was going to come from!

The Goal

There is no doubt Koscielny’s last minute winner was a controversial one.  There were suspicion’s of a handball and an offside shout but were the officials correct in letting the goal stand?

Absolutely not, but we will take it!

It is however, worth noting that the handball by Koscielny certainly wasn’t deliberate and so you could say it was the bit of luck we deserved for fighting until the death.

The strong run continues and with the international break coming it was vital to close the gap on Pep’s Man City.

In the end Monsieur Wenger was smiling on his 20th anniversary game and it was nice to hear the crowd chanting “There’s Only One Arsene Wenger.” It reminded me of the good old days!


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