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Friday evening football returns for the first time since the ill-starred opening day of the season at Brentford.

Yet, you will not expect me to start any preview by dwelling on anything so recent.

So cast your mind back to the October of 1904. 

That month, our Friday opponents, Aston Villa, were only our third top-flight visitors. Flush from our first Division One victory over Wolves, we saw off the illustrious Villains 1-0. Billy Garraty, like his descendant Jack Grealish, an England international, led Villa’s line. For those of you keeping score at home, Garraty was Grealish’s mother’s mother’s mother’s father.

Bill Gooing was our centre-forward that day. His prolific scoring in Division Two had been instrumental in our promotion and thus making London, not Birmingham, the southern frontier of the Football League’s top flight. However, his winning strike against Villa would be the only Division One goal of his 48 for Woolwich Arsenal, then a club record for career goals. 

Gooing would make just six further appearances. Finding himself second choice to newly arrived Charlie Satterthwaite, Gooing left for Southern League Northampton Town midway through the season. There he was briefly a teammate of one Herbert Chapman. He hung up his boots later that year, possibly because of injury, given he was only 31-years old.

By 1904-05, Villa was fading as the imperious force of Victorian football with five Division One titles and three FA Cups. Yet, regardless of its setback in Plumstead (avenged at Villa Park on Boxing Day), it was still formidable enough to finish fourth in the league and win a fourth FA Cup.

Since then, there has been the odd title and cup, most notably the European Cup in 1982. However, only three of its 15 major championships and trophies were won more recently than a century ago. Even counting five League Cups, a quarter of a century has passed since it last won silverware.

After relegation at the end of 2015-16, Villa returned to the top flight for 2019-20 following a takeover by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens. Sawiris is an Egyptian billionaire who made his money in construction but is not in the Gulf wealth class. Edens, an American, made his in private equity but is a borderline billionaire with a fortune of less than $2 billion. 

Since then, Villa has shown ambition and aspiration without delivering on either, finishing successively 17th and 11th. 

The Opposition
It goes into this game in 13th, a place and a point behind us. They arrive off a demoralising 3-2 defeat by Wolves in the West Midlands derby, squandering a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes. 

In the close season, manager Dean Smith strengthened his squad by bringing in Emiliano Buendia from Norwich, Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen, Danny Ings from Southampton and Ashley Young from Inter Milan, all paid for by selling Grealish to the Middle Eastlanders. 

That quartet joined the previous season’s trio of acquisitions, Ollie Watkins from Brentford, Bertrand Traore from Lyon and, of course, Emi Martinez, formerly of this parish.

Like us, Villa shops in the £30-something millions and under aisle.

Smith has fashioned his arrivistes into a 3-5-2, with young Ruud Gullit lookalike Tyrone Mings anchoring a back three in front of Emi. Matt Targett and Matty Cash play as the perpetual motion wing-backs the formation demands with Brazilian Douglas Luiz, the industrious John McGinn and Buendia or the 20-year-old Jacob Ramsey manning the supply lines to Ings and boyhood Arsenal fan Watkins upfront.

However, Smith needs to find a way to fit his creative players, Buendia, Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore, into the side and address the failure of the Ings-Watkins strike partnership to click. 

After successive losses, Smith could revert to the 4-2-3-1 with which he took all six points off us last season or the 4-1-4-1 he also used. Watkins would play as the lone striker, a role that better suits him, in front of some combination of the fit-again Bailey, McGinn, playing a more advanced role as he does for Scotland, Buendia and Traore. Douglas Luiz would pivot the midfield ahead of a back four.

Villa will be a danger from set-pieces. Only the Mancs and the Bindippers have a better record in that regard this season. However, Villa’s away form in the league has been poor, except for a win at Old Trafford. They have lost at Watford, Chelsea and the neighbours. We must hope the dyspepsia from travelling southeast again prevails.

The Arsenal
We shall need more intensity and, yes, consistency (h/t, Dr F.) against Villa than we displayed on Monday evening. 

In his press conference ahead of the Villa game, Arteta said, If we play 4-3-3 the way we played the first 20 minutes [against Palace], we win the games, but if we start to play the way we played the following 20 minutes, it doesn’t work, because again, that is a transition game and we don’t have the players to do that when we play in that formation. 

Parsing that as best I can, he appears to be saying we lack the specialist DM or a defensive-minded CM needed to make his favoured 4-3-3 work — a lacuna frequently noted in this fine establishment. That player is not Partey, but plays alongside him. Xhaka is the closest we have, of which I will say no more.

Arteta’s faith in his way of playing will not falter. Based on no evidence beyond sticking a finger in the air, I will speculate that Maitland-Niles will start in order to provide more defensive solidity alongside Partey. This would free up KT3 to attack more and Ødegaard to play as a true 8, not a false 6. The team’s shape would morph back and forth between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 in a game that is likely to be fought out in an overcrowded midfield. Our visitors will have five there whatever formation they play.

With Saka a racing certainty to be unavailable, having still not yet descended from whatever orbit McArthur booted him into on Monday night, and assuming the other unspecified knocks Arteta mentioned will be shaken off, this would be my expected line-up: 

Ramsdale

Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney

Partey, Maitland-Niles

Pépé, Ødegaard, Smith Rowe

Aubameyang

Arteta may have other ideas, including starting Lacazette, moving Auba out wide, and dropping Ødegaard, whom he has taken off in the 60th-something minute in the past two games, or the inconsistent Pépé in a more recognisable 4-3-3. Alternatively, he could play a midfield of AMN, Partey and Lokonga to keep ESR in the front three. Who knows? Clearly, not me.

Something to ponder before kick-off: If Emi had stayed as our no 1, would Ramsdale now be at the club, and, if he was, who would be between the sticks for us today? 

The ‘holics pound
The bookies favour a low scoring home win. Form and history are on their side. We have struggled to score in the league this season, and October games between the two sides have mostly been low-scoring affairs. In only four of the 21 fixtures has one side scored more than twice. 

The classic 1-0 to the Arsenal is available at eights and 2-1 at nines—both skinny odds but on realistic outcomes. So, hoping for an evening when we click with flair, panache and energy, I will plump for 3-1 at 16s. 

After two draws, three points are essential—time for heroes, not Villains.

Enjoy the game, ‘holics near and far.

Due to a rather unlikely confluence of a few unfortunate emergencies, I have been delayed – even by my own standard of always being late — in writing this match review. And now that I have started, with your permission (and forgiveness for the delay) I think I would like to avoid reminiscing the match in its minute details, not least because though eventful in a certain way, the match was not memorable by any standards. All the key actions have already been chronologically recollected and microscopically dissected in many other places and I don’t think there is much I can offer in addition to those perfectly fine recapitulations.       

However, I would like to bring out what I noticed to be an overarching theme of our performances for you dear readers to comment upon. It just also happens to be a theme that can equally apply to the performance of the match officials. I don’t want to offer any excuse for the former, neither do I want to overlook the relevance of the latter. 

Inconsistencies. 

Our performance – in its most holistic sense, including individual performances, team cohesiveness, the ability to control the match positionally, tactically and temporally – had all the trademarks of recent years of Arsenal inconsistencies over the context of a season where every step taken forward inevitably is followed by some backward movements almost with an eerily hypnotic quality of being under the spell of some invisible force. But not only that. 

I think the inconsistencies even within the context of a single match, as demonstrated yesterday, are no less concerning. We started brightly, scored a well-deserved early goal to take the lead, and then failed to use that lead to take control of the match. It was a baffling failure because we had superior technical quality in the midfield with Partey, Ødegaard, ESR and Saka all technically gifted in retaining possession. We had two perfect outlets in Aubameyang and Pépé for well-coordinated counter attacks when Crystal Palace was pressing high up the pitch, and yet somehow, we looked confused and bereft of ideas. 

This particular problem of the midfield failing to impose their technical qualities on the match in a cohesive manner has occurred way too many times for it to be just an accident or a rare coincidence of individual failures across all 3-4 players. It is also not a matter of physical prowess – which the midfield is sometimes accused of – because we have had dominating performances in the middle of the field with diminutive players like Cazorla, Rosický, Jack, or going back earlier, Cesc pulling the strings. Energetic, inspired, highly motivated and physically relentless though Palace’s pressing was (and set up tactically astutely by Vieira who had obviously noticed our propensity to incoherence under pressure) much of our midfield malaise was due to lack of courage on the ball. 

Courage is probably too strong a word, confidence may apply better. How is it that the once most trusted midfield anchor of one of the most demanding and ruthless coaches of current times makes so many wrong decisions and takes so many wrong touches while playing for Arsenal? Would Thomas Partey have dared to put in that performance for Diego Simeone even in a pre-season friendly? I am not questioning Partey’s professionalism, simply wondering what exactly is different for him in terms of the set-up and environment for him not to push harder to be at his very best. Yesterday was not his very best. And he has repeatedly mixed his superlative qualities with alarming bits of laissez-faire attitude on the ball, the likes of which we used to find completely unacceptable even from players of much less technical ability, for example say, Alex Song.  

In this mostly youthful team, players like Partey, Aubameyang, Xhaka, Lacazette, and even Pépé have the responsibility of leading by actions as much as leading by words. Partey, the captain (despite his early goal) and Pépé (despite his assist and contribution to the second goal) failed to lead by example yesterday, and not for the first time. Which was in stark contrast to Lacazette who brought a degree of potency and urgency back to the frontline play that should be the bare minimum standard for the majority of the entire ninety minutes, if not all of it.

Going back to the lack of confidence on the ball, I don’t think it is a coincidence that sometimes the entire team seems to have no idea that a thing called progressive passing exists, or they are allowed to invent new situational possibilities just by the strength of their individual abilities. This is not a team that lacks technical qualities anymore but many of them lack maturity. Moreover, the overall set-up and football philosophy should be such that they find in themselves the ease and freedom to express their qualities without losing positional discipline. Watching Martin, Saka and ESR, the word inhibited came to my mind. 

Also, whatever happened to our swashbuckling left back who used to go past players and provide cutbacks from the byline? Is he just going through a bad patch or did the system yesterday inhibit him too? I don’t remember ever seeing Kieran Tierney in Arsenal colors playing so many back passes from an advanced position. It was almost a homage to Xhaka. 

If we are to play minutely prepared, uber-choreographed football and not the “I give you a template, guidance and the freedom to enjoy yourself, and you solve precise tactical problems in the match” philosophy of Arsène Wenger then the choreographer needs to be more proactive when the dancers (not marionettes) are looking at each other for cues. I think we all expected these teething pains of Mikel’s managerial career where he struggles to balance his well-known attention to tactical details with the demands of allowing the team to play within the guardrails of a template, and even though much of Arsenal fan-base is patient enough to see his evolution work itself out towards success there has to be a more measurable indication of cumulative progress beyond the one-off euphoria of 45 minutes of demolition of the old enemy. 

Carrying on with the theme of inconsistency: a nine year old returning hurriedly from his school – and skipping his after-school program to be able to watch his favorite team play live – watched in disbelief and horror as an opposition player tried to volley Bukayo Saka’s (no foreigner this player, one of England’s most promising talents and a world class player in the making) standing leg into the stadium to see only a yellow card and asked me “Why is that not a red? Oh, that was Mike Dean!” Though he has been keeping me company watching Arsenal matches for a while now it is only in last three years the passion and the love have started to crystallize into an identity. And even he could notice the obvious on his TV screen from the other side of the ocean. Whichever way the media or the Premier League hierarchy want to spin refereeing inconsistencies, scandalous decisions like yesterday’s simply erode people’s trust in them.  

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Happy days!!

This week the Gunners will welcome Crystal Palace in a game that provides an opportunity for us to say hello to an all-time great, the one and only Patrick Vieira. Hopefully, he will be able to feel the love from the faithful before we go on to completely ruin his day. For myself, it’s been 16 years now since he last played competitively for us and I still miss watching him play. What a player he was. I thought MA summed Paddy up very well when asked if he’d like to have played against peak Vieira more often.  “No!”, he laughed. “Because he was very dominant, physically gifted, technically he had the right temper, he was brave, he could score goals, he could do a bit of everything. He was a remarkable player.” I think I will just let the last sentence stand as a statement on Patrick Vieira and say no more.

As for The Arsenal, we are entering a run of four games, three at home, which present us with a good opportunity to ascend the table, get the support excited, and show that the team are capable of more than they have shown in the league for the past two seasons. A chance too for our new look back five featuring future England No 1 Aaron, Tomi and call me Benjamin to continue the gelling process. Some suggestions in the media that talk of Aaron taking over from Pickford is premature and perhaps that is so, but ask yourself this – do I want to buy Pickford? Exactly. 

However, as pointed out in the drinks recently, caution may be warranted as our home performances against Palace and Villa last season were poor, yielding a solitary point. Can we do better than the drab 0-0 draw with Palace in January? Well, the first thing to consider is that only three of the starting XI that day are likely to start on Monday; a mere 9 months later!

The second thing is that those three are Saka, Smith-Rowe, and Aubameyang, who we will need to score the goals we signally failed to get that day. Let us pray. 

The Boys to Entertain Us

Selecting the side is I think, barring late injuries, a fairly simple task and so let me get that out of the way with our game face XI front and centre (and left and right too) ….

Ramsdale

Tomiyasu White Gabriel Tierney

Partey Lokonga

Saka Odegaard Smith-Rowe

Aubameyang

Although we drew 0-0 as mentioned with Palace in January, actually the last time we played Palace was a 3-1 win at their homely little ground in May, two late goals enough to take the points. That broke a run of 4 draws and a defeat and will in an ideal world give us the confidence to stick another three in their net. Certainly, the goal difference could do with a little good news. As far as I know, at time of writing, everyone is back and healthy after the damned interlull, and of today’s anticipated 11 I think only Tomi would be a concern as he had quite the little trek during the last week or so – first to Saudi Arabia, then Japan, and then back to the UK. I can tell you first-hand the jet lag is a pain with the 8 or 9-hour time-difference but hopefully he will be ready to go. Equally, I hope that he will have been fully briefed on the cheaty Zaha’s cheatiness. For the rest of the team, I suppose it’s possible that MA may consider moving Martin back to partner Thomas and finding room for Gabi or Pepe to add more goal threat, but I suspect that will have to wait until later in the game and only if we are chasing a goal. However, our major concern going into the game remains Auba’s form and our ability to bring him into the game, if we can get that right then all should be well. 

The Opposition

Crystal Palace are currently in their now customary mid-table position having managed four draws (Leicester, Brentford, Brighton and Wham) two defeats (Chelsea, Liverpool – both 3-0) and one highly amusing win over the spuds in their seven games to date. Patrick has them playing more attack-minded football, and he has also kept a settled back five (wonder where he got that idea from), behind the usual mediocre / journeyman midfield and, this season, a wider variety of forwards. The good news is that the defence is settled but isn’t particularly good and looks exploitable down both flanks. In attack Zaha, as usual, is a threat if he has one of his five good games a season and we will probably see Ayew and one out of Benteke, Olise or Edouard starting as well. Edouard looked good when he came on against the spuds but has been dragged off a couple of times since – could he be a flat-track bully against little teams?  In all honesty, as usual, I don’t much care which starting XI they put out as it will just be various shades of mediocrity and the only question is whether we can rise above it. 

The Holic Pound

Well, we’ve scavenged from Seagulls, what to do with Eagles? Eviscerate would be best. However, I think I’ll settle for a 3-0 win at 14/1. After all, Palace have lost 3-0 twice already this season so why not do it again. If we can remain as solid defensively as we have been in the last four league games then I think a clean sheet should be achievable. There is also a chance that Palace’s more adventurous approach under Vieira’s management will allow us the space to find Auba’s runs and give our captain the chance to knock-in a couple of confidence boosters. As it’s a 4AM kick-off for me I won’t be knocking back any pre-game confidence boosters, but I hope my fellow Holics, wherever you may be, will have the time and leisure for the pre-game beverage of your choice, enjoy all and Come on You Gunners!! 

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Most of us expected a tough game away at Brighton this evening and we were not disappointed as the rugged team in blue had the better of a bruising encounter.

The team selected by Arteta was a popular one, containing only the enforced switch of Sambi coming in for the injured Xhaka. To be fair, we started very well. Barely had the clapping to mark the sad death of Roger Hunt subsided when Saka was racing between two defenders and through on goal. His shot was somewhat tame and easily saved. Although, for all the pressure they were able to sustain, it took Brighton until the 80th minute before they managed a shot on target of their own.

Our front four moved well for the first ten minutes. The away fans were in great voice, clearly audible through my TV. Tottenham Get Battered got a good airing today as the supporters provided the entertainment that was missing from the football.

After about ten minutes we just tailed off. Brighton took charge of the match and fashioned a series of chances, none of which was particularly good, but cumulatively could well have built enough pressure to see us go behind. Maupay was a yard behind a dangerous ball across our box; White got across his man to head a dangerous ball over his own bar, the same player made another good block on his return to his erstwhile home ground, Maupay missed a volley from about 8 yards out and the giant Dan Burn missed probably the best chance of the lot when he headed over, unchallenged, from a similar range.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, Ramsdale had a dangerous moment in more ways than one. Being kind, we might suggest the pouring rain did not help him out, but he spilled a cross instead of catching it with his usual assurance. Replays showed the shoulder barge from Duffy was brutal. Ramsdale was face down, flat out and I was fully expecting concussion protocols to be followed. However, our keeper stood up and seemed okay. Dunk had missed the chance from the loose ball. I hope it would have been disallowed if he had scored it but who knows what VAR will do?

Auba did hit the post with a header from a Saka cross, but it was a fleeting moment of danger created by the young England international chasing a ball upfield from Tomiyasu and creating a bit of havoc.

Our new Japanese right-back had a torrid half, definitely his toughest test in red (or yellow) so far. He also chucked in a foul throw, just because, well, you know, someone should, right? However, that annoyance aside, to get out of the game without making any costly errors and, indeed, even with a clean sheet, will stand him in good stead going forward. I get the sense that the whole backline will learn from today.

We had a better last five minutes of the half, but we were all desperate for the whistle. However, before we reached that sweet stay of execution, the hopeless Jon Moss (who seemed to have decided that tripping opponents up was not something he was going to penalise today) managed to make me chuckle by doing the most Jon Moss thing he could think of. In the last seconds of injury time, he spent 20 seconds not allowing Tomiyasu to take a throw-in until he had moved back 5 yards on the half-way line. When he was happy that the position was correct, he let Tomi take the throw, before immediately blowing his whistle for half-time. Well played, Jon.

Aside from that, my other first-half highlight was when the Sky commentary dropped out and I got to watch a couple of minutes of football with full crowd noise but no commentary. Years ago, that was a red button option. I have no idea why they cancelled that choice and we are forced to listen to unwanted commentary. For two or three minutes there was a reminder of how nice it would be if paying extortionate subscription fees actually secured the service we want. 

We came out for the second half and it was more of the same really. Auba went through one on one but a defender got back before a late, late flag went up anyway. They should have called it earlier and I’m glad Auba was not caught more badly.

Brighton played robustly. They kept the ball on the floor a lot more than, say, Stoke or Burnley but they were very physical. That is a good test for our young side, and for all we lacked creativity and cohesion, our lads worked hard for each other.

Graham Potter appeared to have spent most of the summer focusing his energies on growing out some increasingly impressive facial hair, however, at some point he must have taken a break from that to pull his finger out and sign Marc Cucurella. The new lad had an excellent game and Alan Smith on Sky gave him a MOTM award that I doubt many would argue with. Although, from our side at least, that may be because we are all busy trying to forget this match as swiftly as possible. The Spaniard showed more guile than most on the pitch today.

We had a slight upturn in our performance on about 75 minutes but, in truth, we went from pretty bad to okay. Woohoo!

Partey, whose shooting today was so bad I was more amused than upset, played a killer ball to ESR. Our best player on the day, the young man ran it into the area and got a shot away which the keeper saved comfortably. I quite fancied a smash and grab 1-0 to The Arsenal but it was not to be.

Brighton began to have a couple of efforts on target but Ramsdale saved them without concern. He did however, produce one absolutely brilliant moment to keep us in it, springing forward to intercept a ball that was on its way to Maupay and into our net. It was a moment of top quality.

Both sides had nothing penalty appeals. Saka went off for AMN with a worrying injury and the game ended honours even.

A few impressions:

Partey had an underwhelming match but produced a couple of passes of real quality and got out of a couple of tight spaces with lovely touches. He needs a run of games to find his best level with consistency.

Sambi looks a good player. We struggled as a team today but I like what I see every time he plays. Our defence worked hard but had a tough game. The commitment was high from them all. Tierney needs to keep improving. Bellerin was an excellent player who stagnated and then went backwards. Tierney is a top player and we all love him, but he is not the finished article and he is nowhere near his ceiling. I want to see him push on as this defensive unit gels together.

Saka and ESR were both good, especially the latter. Odegaard and Auba quiet. We have the youngest team in the league, and I expect we will see a few more games like this. Young players will not play like they did last week consistently. I thought the attitude and spirit was encouraging today. I am bloody glad that we got a point, which I don’t think is anything to be sniffed at. We got another clean sheet and adhered to the truism that if you can’t win, don’t lose.

If we win most of our home games and don’t lose most of our away games, then we will be where we want to be at the end of the season.

Some will see this as a glass half- empty situation, others glass half-full. I am a glass half-full kinda bloke, but, wherever you stand on this, everyone is invited for drinks in the bar. First round is on me…

The Seagull Has Landed

Landed on me again, actually. The preview for last season’s away fixture at Brighton and Hove Albion in late December 2020 fell to me, and coincidentally the Seagulls have landed on me again this time around. Being just after Christmas, last season’s effort was a fairly pantomimic piece where Neal Maupay was cast as the villain having, in the previous fixture in June 2020, nobbled Bernd Leno and then added insult quite literally to injury by scoring their winner in the fifth minute of added, sorry, injury time. As if he needed to get any more annoying, Maupay repeated his 95th minute scoring trick against Crystal Palace on Monday night and robbed Patrick Vieira’s reinvigorated side of the extra two points they reportedly deserved.

From 1935 until the early 1980s, Arsenal dominated in games against Brighton. Three league games in the space of nine months in 1982 and a FA Cup defeat in 1988 saw Brighton repairing the balance sheet, and then after 1988 there was a pause of 25 years before the teams locked horns again in 2013. Our record against them since then has been W5, D2, L3, maybe a little too close for comfort against a supposedly much smaller club. The losses in that run occurred unsurprisingly between 2018 and June 2020. Hopefully our recent improvement will continue this weekend although it’s unlikely to be easy pickings as Brighton currently sit an impressive sixth in the table and have lost only once in the opening six games of the season.

Personally I have found them a bit of an irritant in recent seasons despite the fact that they have been playing some decent football under manager Graham Potter. Maupay is the real problem, an annoying little cheat of a player who does sadly have talent and will have to be carefully managed on Saturday evening. It does feel though that we should be beating the likes of Brighton without too much trouble, but they have been obstinate defenders and tough to overcome. They also score the majority of their goals from set pieces, so we will have to be well organised.

A much less irritating man to come from Brighton is comedian Simon Evans. I did include a clip of his in the above mentioned preview, about Brighton and Hove in general. This next clip reveals his opinions on football, and while not entirely complimentary about the fans, it does include a piece about another player which all Gooners will enjoy …….

https://youtu.be/Up7L0xvR45o

The Teams

After a very difficult and disappointing start to the season, our recent improvement has coincided with the introduction of some of our new players and the return to fitness of some older ones in crucial positions. Tomiyasu looks to be an excellent buy at right back / centre back, Ben White and Gabriel have the makings of a good partnership at centre back. Thomas Partey, on his return from injury, is finally looking like the player we thought we had signed from Atletico, and the promising Albert Lakonga is going to get a chance to establish himself alongside Thomas as Granit Xhaka has now been diagnosed with a “significant injury” to the medial ligament in his right knee and will be out for three months. Aaron Ramsdale has very quickly confounded his doubters and looks to have swiftly reduced Bernd Leno to second choice keeper.

Tavares has looked interesting too with lots of pace and determination to get forward from the full back positions, and should be good support, if not yet competition, for Kieron Tierney. These young, energetic and skilful players, when combined with “old hand” Martin Odegaard and the rapidly developing likes of Smith-Rowe and Saka already, and Azeez, Patino, Balogun and Martinelli waiting in the wings, are beginning to offer hope that we can begin to challenge again.

Mikel Arteta has come in for a lot of stick over the last twelve months with many already calling for him to be sacked. While some of his tactics have been extremely conservative and some of his selections – and substitutions – have driven us to distraction, last Sunday’s win against Tottenham was a revelation. Hopefully it was a sign of things to come as the manager begins to work with the squad that he is now overhauling. It is a cliche but the manager sees the players every day in training and maybe he genuinely didn’t believe they were capable of the kind of play that blew Tottenham away until he had made his own additions. At any rate there didn’t seem to be any lack of spirit or togetherness on Sunday and it was good to see some smiles back on the players’ faces. I would love to see Arteta turn things around and achieve success with the Arsenal. He took over a club that was a mess from top to bottom. The latest signs are that he deserves a decent chance to make things work.

I hope there won’t be a lot of changes to the team at present. We are six games into the season and need to develop partnerships and understandings. I would like to see the team that beat Tottenham, minus the injured Xhaka, given the chance to start this one. For once we have no other injuries or illnesses to prevent it.

Ramsdale

Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney

Partey, Lakonga / AMN

Saka, Odegaard, ESR

Aubameyang

For Brighton, Danny Welbeck is seeing a specialist about his hamstring injury, while Steven Alzate, Enock Mwepu and Adam Webster are ruled out. Yves Bissouma’s knee injury is “making progress” and will face a late test.

Interestingly both Mikel Arteta and Graham Potter have been nominated for the Premier League Manager of the Month award for September.

The Holic Pound

Typical odds for this game seem to be around 11/5 for a Brighton win or a draw, and 7/5 for an Arsenal win. Better returns are available through betfair.com for things like Martin Odegaard to assist a goal at 5/1; Aubameyang to score first at 11/2; Saka to have 2 or more shots on target at 7/1. You pays your money …

If it helps to make a decision the head to head record in all competitions is P23, Arsenal wins 14, Draws 4, Brighton wins 5.

The referee for this one is cuddly Jonathan Moss, and manning the VAR will be Chris Kavanagh, for anyone who holds strong views on him …… Kick off is at 17.30 UK time and is live on Sky Sports.

Enjoy the game, all!

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