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After last Thursday’s purposeful and penetrative performance in Prague the pressure that was building up on the Arsenal team and their rookie manager should now ease up a little. The manager and the players alike should now feel that if they play to their strength – which most definitely is in the opposition’s final third – and approach each match with the intent of playing positive football from the first whistle, they have enough sparkle (individually and collectively) in the team to end the season with a noticeable and healthy glow of progress. 

The team’s enjoyable performance mid-week was accentuated further by their laudable togetherness to take a stance against the cancer of racism, and their visible support of each other at every phase of the game. Those who had just started to pander to their negativity about the club must also be disheartened by the news that our talismanic captain’s latest performances and body-language that had generated such concern – to be honest less among Arsenal fans but more amongst those who have always liked a cheap shot at the club – as a potential Mesut Özil saga part deux was caused not by his hairstyles or fast cars but by the most potent assassins in human history, mosquitoes. Away on international duty he must have been assaulted by a cluster of female Anopheles mosquitoes, flooding his bloodstream with Plasmodium parasites to wreak havoc with his internal organs. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicines – especially when it reaches a malaria patient at the right time, which unfortunately still isn’t the case in many corners of this global village – Aubameyang is on the path to recovery.

However, he will not be anywhere close to fit enough for this weekend’s match against our west London rivals. We played Fulham away in our opening match of this league season where captain Auba had simply carried on from where he had left off last season. Kieran Tierney and Martin Ødegaard too remain sidelined for this match. Whereas the Norwegian playmaker is expected to be match fit in the coming days, Tierney still has a few more weeks to go. If you add David Luiz – who has lately shown more of his unquestionable quality and leadership and less of his unpredictable calamitous tendencies – to that mix, we have four key players missing. But when has that not been the case towards the end of an Arsenal season? 

Fulham has had a difficult season until now where a lack of defensive solidity and not enough goalscoring threat have undermined their effort and often pleasing on the eye football. They are in a relegation battle and will have to put together a string of very good performances and results to avoid immediately dropping straight back into the Championship after being promoted last season. We should be ready for a tough game and not take our matchday one performance and result as any indication of how the game may unfold. 

Curiously, our away form has been significantly better than our home form this season. We can theorize a lot about why that is so – mine is that the team and Mikel assume more of a demand on themselves to get results at home, and respond to that pressure of responsibility by overelaborate game plans at the expense of throwing some unnecessary caution to the wind – but whatever might be the reason, we must rectify this trend (that is, make our home form at leastas good as our away form) if we are to end the season positively: four of our remaining seven matches in the premier league are at the Emirates, as well as the second leg of the Europa semi-final against the yellow submarines. 

The changes in personnel, formation and tactics that Mikel had brought in to compensate for the absence of Tierney and Ødegaard in the last two matches have been quite effective, and despite a degree of predictability in how we play without possession we have been more precise and dynamic with the ball. I think he will continue with the same strategy and will keep Xhaka as the left-back with Dani Ceballos rejuvenated in a surprising left sided midfielder role, especially given that before our next league match against Everton we have a bit of time to rest and recover. Then comes the crucial Europa semifinal double header against Villareal sandwiching a league match away at Newcastle. Given that Tierney will remain unavailable for all of those matches, building familiarity and consistency with these latest changes will serve us better. 

The only change I would like to see is Saka getting a rest as not only has he played a lot of minutes, but all oppositions have targeted him relentlessly and I would like to see his minutes managed to make sure that we have him available at his sharpest in matches against oppositions stronger than tomorrow’s opponent. His replacement – Gabriel Martinelli – is particularly useful against teams sitting deep and defending in low blocks as he will drive at them relentlessly. We may also want to bring Bellerin or Cedric in for Chambers though right now he performs better than either of them. Given that Chambers is coming back from a long injury lay off a break will do him good as I think he should – just like Saka – start against stronger oppositions. 

My preferred line-up would be:


Bellerin – Holding – Marí – Xhaka

Partey – Ceballos 

Pépé – ESR – Martinelli


In addition to the last two away wins being by noticeable margins, it was also very pleasing finally not to concede goals after a run of every conceivable way of gifting goals to the opposition. So, let us start positively from the very beginning, stay on the front foot and take the inevitable chances that will come our way. I predict another 3-0 win, though this time the match will be harder than the score shows.  

Come on Arsenal!              

And, in case you don’t have the dates in your diaries:

And, it’s probably worth giving this historic moment from the last 24 hours a further airing:

106 Drinks to “Bringing it All Back Home”

  1. 1
    Osakamatt says:

    Fine preview Dr F and great work
    on the clock gentlemen 👍👍

  2. 2
    Trev says:

    Thanks Dr F !

    That clock is indeed a beautiful sight 😆🤪

    Sixty-one and never again,
    Sixty-one and never again 🎼🎶🎵🎶

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Very well done preview Dr. F., and also very good rationales for picking the team you picked but any win will do. Love that clock. Not sure the Spuds love it so much though.🤣🤣🤣


  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Just for the sake of accuracy, Holic’s clock now says 59 years 11 months 29 days 22 hours 20 minutes 26 seconds since Spurs won the league big club my arse

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    ! and counting …

  6. 6
    Osakamatt says:

    though it’s a fair argument Dr F,
    I’d probably play Cedric to give
    Xhaka a rest.
    With Calum and Xhaka as full backs
    it’s a little reminiscent of the run to
    the CL final. Hopefully a happier

  7. 7
    Osakamatt says:

    though of course MA may think
    Calum is actually a potential RB
    for us for all I know.
    Can’t see it myself but he’s done
    well enough so far

  8. 8
    scruzgooner says:

    funny, matt, i’d much rather see callum there than hecate, and i love me some hecate. he has done really well this run of games, next to capitola rob; they are best mates, so maybe that helps.

    dr. faustus, super preview. i’d see callum for hecate, and in a surprise move give balogun the start in front. laca can come in later if we need. i could also see nelson in for pépé, what the hell make it an all younguns front four.

  9. 9
    scruzgooner says:

    and bt8, i’m still at 21 hours!

  10. 10
    Goonersince54 says:

    Have just read a quite superb interview on Sky sports conducted by Sky journo Nick Wright, with our young manager.
    It is essential reading for any lover of our Club.
    Titled ‘ Arteta on Arsenal’s youth revolution ‘,
    It gives us an insight into what are the non negotiable to get into the first team as well as what it takes to stay there.
    Also reading between the lines, the reasons for Gabi not getting much game time.
    Plus much more.
    If one of the clever clogs in the bar can post it on here, I guarantee you it will lift your spirits about the future direction we are heading in.

  11. 11
    ksn says:

    Agree with the team you have preferred for today’s match in your fine preview, Dr.F, as there are only nine matches (10 if we reach Europa final) and I am sure most of them will manage the work load comfortably, though I am also tempted to give ESR a rest and play someone like Nelson for at least sixty minutes. Nelson should have gone on loan as it would have given him plenty of playing time and a chance to prove himself. AMN and Willock are doing well on loan. I liked this video on Willock:


    Can’t take Fulham lightly as they have improved considerably since we last played them, though I think we will win comfortably.

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Lovely to see you here Clive .
    I certainly don’t count as a clever clogs but here is the Sky Sports piece to which you refer

    Superb preview as ever Dr.F . I agree with every word except perhaps that I feel the home form is a malady shared with other clubs and is a function of tactical attitude mixed with the fact that the lack of fans makes teams less inhibited away from home. Fulham have never beaten us at home . Let’s keep that record and increase the momentum and confidence in the club. Restoring Bellerin and Xhaka to their usual positions would undo the reasons why we are playing better although can we do it at home ? I think a 2-0 victory beckons as we maintain an excellent late run towards Europe and towards tge arms of St.Totterigham

  13. 13
    Goonersince54 says:

    many thnks TTG
    I will be interested to read what others including your good self think after reading the interview.
    Particular whether they agree with my thoughts re Gabi.

  14. 14
    Bathgooner says:

    An excellent preview Dr F. I fully agree with your logic that we should retain the new defensive arrangements to embed their familiarity and while I understand your concern for young Calum’s fitness, I believe that his involvement again is part of that process. In addition after so long out, he will be champing at the bit to play every game. I agree that Saka should start on the bench here and perhaps also ESR. They are such diamonds that one wants to wrap them up safely to preserve them for special occasions but without Ødegaard, ESR’s link play and drive are THE difference between the pre-Christmas miasma and the post-Boxing Day verve.

    bt8 @4 and scruz @9, you colonials are just going to have to accept that as the Marshdwellers last won the league on UK time, it is UK time that determines how long it has been since they last won it. Your own parochial little (and erroneous) clocks are a convenience for the fact that in your backwaters the sun rises and falls somewhat later than it does in the centre of the universe (N5). While you are considering this truth, you might have a go at rectifying your spelling too. 😉

  15. 15
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks DrF
    Glad to see you’ve joined the 3-0 club.

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    I’ve read the article and it underlines the fact that Arteta has a vision for the club that he communicates very strongly and clearly ( hence why we manage to sign some of the players we do and got Balogun to commit to the club long-term) .
    The most interesting quote in my opinion was this ‘ “For me, if we want to strengthen our position and we need to recruit somebody, first of all we have to look in our academy,” he says. “It’s part of the DNA of the club and we have to do that.‘
    We have got some real emerging talents — Azeez, Hutchinson , Taylor- Hart , Cirjan , Flores , maybe Patino …but they all play in a similar position . We need more robust young defenders !
    His management of Martinelli is interesting . He is a boy with a really positive style but his emergence in the professional game is very different to most players . The player I’m particularly interested to watch Arteta handle is Saliba . His distribution is superb and he is hard to get past . I’d much rather see us develop him than buy in an expensive replacement or renew Luiz although he may emerge as a coach

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    How about Joe Willock? He seems to have had a very successful loan spell at Newcastle. Steve Bruce is saying he would love to keep him and even said he would build a team around him. Surely there’s a place for him, possibly to take the place of Danny Ceballos as a number 8 ahead of Partey?

  18. 18
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Esso says:

    Watching my scottish team Hibees in the Scottish FA cup first.

  21. 21
    bathgooner says:

    Clive @10, thanks for highlighting that article and TTG, thanks for the link. I had read Arseblog’s summary yesterday but forgot to follow his advice and read the full article.

    MA8’s comments are indeed very encouraging for the club’s future, and the not too distant future either. His relationship with Per also comes through strongly and is another key element to our future success and stability.

    It’s clear that the last year hasn’t been easy for Martinelli with the recovery from a serious injury and the frustration of not being picked as soon or as frequently as he wanted to be. He will be a better man for the experience and the advice of older heads. It’s something that fans often forget, that a player has not only to strut his stuff on the field but also learn how to handle not being picked and still conduct himself in a manner that is in the best interests of the group rather than behaving like an egotistical prima donna. I’m sure that it’s one of the parameters that Arsene Wenger used to look for in ‘signing players with the correct character’.

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

  23. 23
    Esso says:

    yan, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Xhaka, Elneny, Ceballos, Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette

    Subs: Leno, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Partey, Willian, Pepe, Nelson, Nketiah

  24. 24
    bathgooner says:

    Bellerin Holding Gabriel Xhaka
    Elneny Ceballos
    Saka ESR Martinelli

  25. 25
    bathgooner says:

    Despite the distraction of the Hibees, Esso, your thumbs are faster than mine!

  26. 26
    bathgooner says:

    Close to Dr F’s preferred starting 11 too!

  27. 27
    Esso says:

    Hibees take the lead 1-0!

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    You are maintaining your fine preview form, Dr F. It shows how key Saka and ESR have become to the team that Arteta dare not rest them, especially with Ødegaard still out.

  29. 29
    bt8 says:

    Bathgooner @14. Who knew the ‘holic clock was actually tied to GMT? Not this colonial ingenu. Oh well, the clock has passed 60 and is well on its way toward 70 now, even in these farflung parts. ⏰🎶🎶⏰👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😎

  30. 30
    bathgooner says:

    Me neither, bt8 @29. That cunning tech maestro, ATG engineered that!

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Clive@10 and TTGG@12: Thanks for the Sky interview link. A couple of things that stood out to me were the shout-out to Edu for preventing Balogun from walking out the door and the comment about Martinelli’s anxiousness holding back his development. We may forget when Gabi first broke into the first team, he was said to be ahead of where he was expected to be (he was signed for the U-23s). Perhaps we are now seeing a reversion to the mean, which will require patience on his and our parts.

    I also wonder when reading about how important Arteta feels dealing with being on the bench and all the other aspects of being a professional footballer at an elite club, which requires individual discipline for the good of the whole, reflects his own international football experience. He had the misfortune of playing when Spain had a golden generation of midfielders that kept him out of the team, even though he was undeniably an international-class player.

  32. 32
    scruzgooner says:

    we look good so far. two chances in the first ten minutes…

  33. 33
    Countryman100 says:

    Utterly dominant. Fulham have entered our area once. Fulham defending very, very deep so we’ve got to pick the lock.

  34. 34
    ksn says:

    Lucky us, deflection didn’t go in.

  35. 35
    Countryman100 says:

    But Fulham nearly get a bobbly one, a deflection off Rob.

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

    Lovely steal and run from half way from Martinelli.

  37. 37
    scruzgooner says:

    how easily we put ourselves under pressure.

  38. 38
    scruzgooner says:

    martinelli doing a fine job, though.

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    No penalty, off his back

  40. 40
    scruzgooner says:

    hector thinks too much these days. or not enough.

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

    Gabi running straight at the Fulham defence is good to watch

  42. 42
    Countryman100 says:

    TommyR used to do it. Defenders hate it.

  43. 43
    Countryman100 says:

    Get in Danny!

  44. 44
    ksn says:


  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

    Was Saka offside?

  46. 46
    Countryman100 says:


  47. 47
    ksn says:

    VAR says Offside. No goal.

  48. 48
    scruzgooner says:

    capitola rob playing front right!

  49. 49
    ksn says:

    Another goal chalked off for offside, this time rightly so.

  50. 50
    scruzgooner says:

    ok for esr, but that saka one is really bs.

  51. 51
    Countryman100 says:

    Well it’s all a bit after the Lord Mayor’s show following the pyrotechnics on Thursday.

  52. 52
    Esso says:

    I’ve had enough of fucking VAR. Its pure toilet.

  53. 53
    Esso says:

    Like Scruz said – ESR fair decision made in real time by a live official. So Saka’s big toe is possibly not conclusively off-side, not given in real time by a live official = no goal.

    Absolute fucking joke.

  54. 54
    Steve T says:

    Bit of a strange first half. We started well but at times it does look a bit disjointed. We need to be both sharper and more clinical in the second half. We need more urgency in midfield. All a bit lacklustre and lacking any real quality.

    I bet people are now overjoyed that VAR has been introduced to right all of the horrendous errors made my officials? If only Saka had cut his toe nails. Let’s hope they bring in the Arsene Wenger recommendations very soon.

    Need to go up a few gears in the second half.

  55. 55
    Esso says:

    I’d like to know when the offside law changed. I thought previously benefit of doubt was given to the attacker and linesman was asked to look for clear ‘advantage’ for the attacker before flagging. Now seems to be – every single millimetre of the attackers body must be clearly behind the line. Don’t remember the law changing, but VAR effectively has changed it.

  56. 56
    bathgooner says:

    What a crock of shit!

    What Steve said @54 and Esso said @55.

    A triumph for the Roundheads over the spirit of the Law.

    Great teams win despite the referee!

  57. 57
    Countryman100 says:

    We’re back to making chances but not taking them.

  58. 58
    bathgooner says:


  59. 59
    Steve T says:

    Xhaka has been Xhakad.

  60. 60
    bathgooner says:

    Not looking good for Xhaka.

  61. 61
    bathgooner says:

    Good to see him up again. Made of Granit.

  62. 62
    Steve T says:


  63. 63
    scruzgooner says:


  64. 64
    Countryman100 says:

    That is a dive

  65. 65
    ksn says:

    VAR is out to fuck us today.

  66. 66
  67. 67
    Countryman100 says:

    Hah. At the other end the Fulham player collapsed, leaving Martinelli free on goal. Foul given wrongly. They break, the Fulham player dives. 1-0 Fulham.

  68. 68
    bathgooner says:

    Now WAKE UP Arsenal!

  69. 69
    Osakamatt says:

    i can’t believe we’re finding a
    way to be losing to this lot

  70. 70
    bathgooner says:

    What C100 said @67.

    30 minutes to beat Fulham, the ref and VAR!


  71. 71
    ksn says:

    Everything from the ref and VAR have gone Fulham’s way.

  72. 72
    Steve T says:

    Well, as has been said so many times this season, we’ve only got ourselves to blame.

    Let’s consider waking up and who know what is possible?

  73. 73
    Steve T says:

    “There was contact, he’s entitled to go down.”

    15 years ago now was the first time I heard that mentioned in the media from a retired former international on national media. The game is haunted by such comments in my opinion.

  74. 74
    Steve T says:

    Our movement off the ball is shocking, bordering on non existent at times.

  75. 75
    ksn says:

    Laca’s hamstring problem?

  76. 76
    Countryman100 says:

    Hammy for Laca

  77. 77
    bathgooner says:

    Laca hammy? That would be typical luck for us!

  78. 78
    Countryman100 says:

    How did that not go in?

  79. 79
    bathgooner says:

    Steve @73. Nutshell, mate.

    I recently watched a highlights collection from ’70-71. Even the notorious Frannie Lee tried to keep his feet after a strong challenge in bad conditions in those days.

  80. 80
    ksn says:

    Game management time for Fulham and they are doing a good job of it.

  81. 81
    bathgooner says:

    Will Pawson add the appropriate amount of time for this tactical time out? Or will it just be the usual 4 minutes?

  82. 82
    Steve T says:

    Must be about 8 minutes to add on here.

  83. 83
    Countryman100 says:

    It’s just not our day is it?

  84. 84
    Steve T says:

    7 mins. Nearly right…

  85. 85
    Countryman100 says:


  86. 86
    ksn says:

    Nketiah but is it on side?

  87. 87
    Countryman100 says:

    Ryan won the header

  88. 88
    bathgooner says:


    If they disallow this, it’s corrupt and I’m done with it.

  89. 89
    Ksn says:

    Holding, in an offside position, was not interfering with play and VAR rules it is a legit goal.1-1.

  90. 90
    Countryman100 says:

    I hope all the naysayers on Twitter who wanted Arteta’s head go and fornicate with themselves. Jeesh the negativity of our fan base.

  91. 91
    Osakamatt says:

    Eddie finally – it would have been
    a travesty if we had lost that

  92. 92
    ksn says:

    Eddie kicks the former spud, Scott Parker, in the teeth. But, though, Parker is doing a good job, Fulham will be relegated.

  93. 93
    bathgooner says:

    Neither what we wanted nor what we deserved but given the circumstances, it’s a hard-earned point and a display of character in the face of VAR disappointments.

  94. 94
    bathgooner says:

    Couldn’t agree more with C100 @90. I never go near Twitter during games. Too many villages give their idiots free rein at such times. Never an edifying experience.

  95. 95
    North Bank Ned says:

    That was another flat post-European evening display. Should have been two up in the first ten minutes and then coasted to victory. But at least we kept going to the end to salvage a point.

  96. 96
    Steve T says:

    2 points dropped. Lacklustre, rudderless and shocking for the most of it. Personally I’m so bored with watching these types of performances. No energy, no drive and virtually no movement off the ball. It was almost as if it was a pre season friendly. I dread to think what the excuse will be this time. Is this the 9th or 10th one off this season? I’m losing count.

    I can accept that there are sides better than us. What I’m massively running out patience with is the just going through the motions type of performances.

  97. 97
    Steve T says:

    Off to cut the lawn, whilst displaying some of the same urgency and enthusiasm that I have just witnessed from those in red. Yes, it will be that lacklustre

  98. 98
    bathgooner says:

    Keane agrees with Steve @96. He thought “Arsenal were dreadful!” “Arsenal were worse (than Fulham)!”

    I beg to disagree with both. Don’t hit me (Steve)!

    I thought we were flat and displayed tired legs and tired minds against a team that had 10 men between them and goal at all times and got all the lucky breaks in the game.

    Hope Laca has a very minor tear if any.

  99. 99
    bt8 says:

    Our second half was lethargic I thought. VAR disallowed goal completely against the purpose of the offside laws, if not the letter. Lucky point in the end.

  100. 100
    bathgooner says:

    Have it!

  101. 101
    Steve T says:

    Bath. It genuinely disappoints me that I share an opinion with Roy Keane.

    That said, we made 5 changes from Thursday. Our two best players today, ESR and Saka, started on Thursday and played the majority of the game. We started brightly, but were then blighted by the same shite that we have been blighted by far too often this season. We hardly got out of second gear. We were slow and lacked any sense of real urgency. We continue to play tippy tappy handball type football which creates virtually nothing and is so easy to defend against. Let’s also not forget who we were playing today? This wasn’t a fave against title contenders. This was opposition who may well find themselves in the championship next season.

    As I said earlier, if this had been a one of then you could take it. But this has to be the 9th or 10th time we have played like this, this season.

    I genuinely dread to think what the atmosphere would have been like had the ground been full today? My guess is that more than one of the regulars would have shared my opinion and that the vast majority would have informed the playing staff accordingly.

  102. 102
    Steve T says:

    Still, it will all be different when we’re playing in the European Super League.

  103. 103
    Doctor Faustus says:

    A game of little margin where everything that could have gone against us did. I didn’t see any problem with how we set up. Or approached the game. The well known limitations in certain areas were obvious to see. ESR, Saka, Martinelli were all good. We have had problems breaking down teams sitting this deep for quite a few season now but slowly in the combination of Saka, ESR, Martinelli, Ødegaard, Pépé we have players who can drive at the defence and play at tight spaces better. None of our fullbacks were very good today in the attacking sense — one wasn’t even expected to be — and we needed quicker and more precise passing in transition, which we all know a limitation in this team now.

    Today we didn’t try to play over cautious football or anything like that, in a few key moments we were below our expected standards. The inconsistent league form isn’t that much of a surprise to me. We will be better next season with a few changes.

  104. 104
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the ton, bath.

    Dr F@103: Well observed. We don’t have the squad depth we need. Nor do we seem able to inject pace when we needed it except when all the first-string are on the field and firing on all cylinders.

    If Gabi had scored either of the two chances he had in the first ten minutes, it would have been a different game. Perhaps that final moment of composure in front of the goal being missing was what Arteta meant about Gabi being ‘anxious’.

  105. 105
    TTG says:

    Stan Kroenke is set to be on the board of the New European Super League .A very American concept one surmises

  106. 106
    Bathgooner says: