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I must admit that it is very hard to resist the temptations of wondering how significant this fourth weekend of the 2021/2022 Premier League season is going to be for the next stage of the Arsenal football club. The league, or, far more relevant to us (nowadays), the much coveted trophy of a Champions League spot, may not be won in the first weekend of September but anything less than three points would make the challenge look dispiritingly difficult staring up from the bottom of the league table. For a club with an already deliriously vocal (albeit minority) segment of the fanbase who thrive on incessant negativity in an ever amplifying feedback loop of resonance with a press not known to be kindly to Arsenal (in times both good and bad), anything other than a convincing three points at home against a newly promoted team, especially given what had transpired in the first three matches, is likely to create an atmosphere of toxicity around the club that would most likely claim a victim or two. Despite the fixity of purpose and confidence in the long-term vision — and self-confidence that they themselves will be fully trusted to execute that vision — exuded by Arteta and Edu in their latest communications, I am certain that they are also aware of how sometimes results, and results alone, matter in football. The knee-jerk reaction to results – especially in the pressure cooker of modern-day top-level football – is neither rational nor salubrious to psychological health, but tens of millions of people around the world maniacally following a group of athletes kicking around a spherical object from one side of a field to another is in itself neither a rational nor an emotionally healthy phenomenon. Just like most human pursuits of pleasure. Probably. 

If you wanted uninterrupted peace in your life, you wouldn’t be passionately following football, let alone Arsenal. 

It is to their credit that both Arteta and Edu fully accept the maddening reality of their jobs and aren’t looking for easy excuses or sympathies. And I myself would support them – while freely but constructively expressing my criticisms of their words and actions – as long as they are in their respective roles guiding Arsenal back into the upper echelons of English and European football, for I believe they do have the best intentions and while they both are evidently learning on the job, they have both demonstrated the possibility of their own growth in their respective current roles. Would their respective evolution be swift and efficient enough to satisfy the delicate balance of achieving short term results while moving steadily towards the long-term vision? I wish them the best, for if they are successful so would be Arsenal. 

If we are in need of perspectives about the fluctuating fortunes of a football club, our opponents this weekend provide a fascinating case study. One of the “yo-yo” clubs of English football in recent years, even though they had earned their first promotion to the top tier of English football only as recently as in 1972, since then they have dropped down and come back up with an uncannily consistent periodicity. Relegated in 73-74, promoted back for 75-76; relegated in 80-81, promoted back for 82-83; relegated in 84-85, promoted back for 86-87. In the premier league era, they have been promoted altogether six times, all of those coming in this millennium, often spending only one season in the Championship before coming back up, as they did for this season. 

In recent years we have enjoyed good performances against Norwich and scored possibly one of our best ever team goals, Jack Wilshere finishing off a mesmerizing string of passes exchanged with Cazorla and Giroud. There have also been memorable finishes from Ramsey in recent years, including a spectacular volley. 

Arteta had played with both Jack and Aaron, and I am sure he hopes to see that kind of inventiveness and skills from his midfield players. And we hope to see that flair and creativity, hope for that sheer joy of watching our favorite team play to be back in our Arsenal supporting lives. Hopefully starting this weekend… 

Based on the latest report all players away on international duty seem to have returned more or less unscathed. Though Emile Smith-Rowe is suffering from illness (which is not COVID – phew!), and Sambi Lokonga may have picked up a niggle while playing for Belgium. Gabriel and White – obviously Mikel’s first choice center-half pairing – both seem to be fit and have enjoyed some time together in a closed-door practice match against Brentford. Partey too has fully recovered, and a lot is expected from him this season not only as the midfield maestro but also as a key leader of the team guiding the young talents around him. 

If ESR is still recovering from illness I don’t think Mikel will take any risk with him. Even though our new (“versatile”, to quote Mikel) and ambipedal right back signing Takehiro Tomiyasu arrived safe and sound – after a starring role in helping Japan to beat China in World Cup qualifier – and obtained his work permit, I suspect this match will come too soon for him and the highly talented Hale End graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles will get a chance to make his case once more, hopefully shaking off any remnants of the positional uncertainty that has held back his Arsenal career. If Sambi is fit I think AMN will start at right back, but if Sambi needs to recover from any niggles AMN will take the midfield pivot role alongside Partey and Chambers will play at right back. Guessing (hoping too) that Sambi is fit, and guessing that Mikel will not risk ESR at all, my predicted line-up would be:


AMN – White – Gabriel – Tierney

Sambi – Partey   

Pépé – Ødegaard – Saka


While Lacazette, Martinelli, Eddie and/or Balogun would provide attacking options from the bench, we might see “Tomi” coming on as a sub later in the game to help see the match out. 

Norwich play positive, slick football built on moving the ball fast through the lines, and credit to Daniel Farke that they never really try to focus on stifling the opposition. I think this will be an entertaining match with Arsenal making their attacking superiority count. It would be great if Arsenal can win by a big margin to recover a bit from the depressing -9 goal difference, but I think this will be a much more closely fought game for that to happen and my prediction is Arsenal winning convincingly but by a narrow margin of 3-1. 

Happy viewing everyone! Come on Arsenal!

54 Drinks to “The Razor’s Edge”

  1. 1
    Cynic says:

    Not convinced by that centre back pairing, but that’s largely because I’m not convinced Gabriel is all that good. Not right for the league, although he should at least avoid getting a battering in the air today.

    Arteta needs to get his approach right. They need to drop that playing out from the back shit for a start. Cut your cloth accordingly. You’re not managing Man City and never will be.

  2. 2
    Bosnian Gooner says:

    Excellent preview, Dr F! I am in an upbeat mood for this one. Hope to see Tomi for at least half an hour. AMN should be our third option DM…with an option of becoming part of the first 11 (based on merit of course!).


  3. 3
    ClockEndRider says:

    Excellent preview, Dr. F. Personally I would like to see AMN at right back regardless of Lokonga’s availability. He was good enough there last season to play for England at right back and I don’t think he has the necessary awareness to play centre midfield. Come on Arsenal. Can’t wait to hear the crowd getting behind the lads this PM.

  4. 4
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Dr F!
    Written with your usual aplomb and I hope you’ve got the score right, although any win will do today. If possible with a clean sheet….COYGs

  5. 5
    Trev says:

    Thanks Dr F,

    a fine preview, and my newly awake brain enjoyed (?) the challenge of the mere 87 word sentence in paragraph one ! 87 is, of course, just a handful shy of your longest creation to date, and the number of passes in the build up to Jack’s goal in the photo at the top of the piece.

    I’ll run with your lineup if ESR is not to be risked – a Samba Party in midfield sounds fun 😏

    I’ve given up forecasting optimistic score lines for now – I’ll leave that fluffy sort of stuff to Cynic 😏. Any win and a decent stream would be a pleasant surprise.

    How the mighty have fallen.

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    Enjoyed your preview Dr.F which touches on all the key points . Sadly the Arsenal fan base is strident, very negative and large . Gooner Holics are very much at the benign end of assessment and the team need to start well and effectively. I think he may play Tomi from the start and even if he doesn’t I’m it sure he will start AMN .
    I’d love to have a feel good factor developing at the club and hope we can start that process today .
    I’m currently watching the Spuds at the moment and they are utterly pathetic which makes their top position an absolute joke . Let’s hope we can make our bottom position look thoroughly inappropriate as well
    3-0 to the Gunners

  7. 7
    TTG says:

    Sorry I’m not sure he will start AMN

  8. 8
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  9. 9
    OsakaMatt says:

    TTG is spot on with his utterly pathetic assessment of spuds against palace, be nice if PV4 could get a win today. Tanganga, who should of been sent earlier, finally got an entirely merited red

  10. 10
    North Bank Ned says:

    Always such a pleasurable indulgence to read your previews, Dr F. As Trev alludes above, the serpentine sentences are to be savoured.

    Your team looks about right, with the choice of right-back the only open question. I would take a 3-1 win in a heartbeat, but the margin may well be narrower. Arteta needs the team to give a convincing and committed display from the getgo. If the goals come late, the atmosphere in the ground may become antsy.

  11. 11
    Esso says:

    Looks like no Partey and AMN starts in midfield.

  12. 12
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Lokonga, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Odegaard, Saka; Aubameyang

    Subs: Leno, Tavares, Cedric, Mari, Chambers, Partey, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ramsdale, not Leno starting, will set some tounges wagging. Big call by Arteta.

  14. 14
    Sancho Panza says:

    Surprised not to see Partey in the side given the big build up yesterday. Needs to start making a name for himself but won’t do that from the bench.

  15. 15
    Sancho Panza says:

    Here’s hoping Ronaldo ‘a return is up there with Gareth Bale’s.

  16. 16
    Esso says:

    From training alone to straight on the team sheet – big week for AMN

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    We really need Partey in that side . He appears much frailer than we expected when we signed him . I expected Ramsdale to play and he clearly believes in Tomi
    Spuds were humiliated. NES will be under pressure soon especially if they lose to us

  18. 18
    Bosnian Gooner says:

    This lineup is more than what I wished for! Tomi starts and so does AMN in the midfield. I think Partey is still our first choice DM though but MA seems to be up to testing something…Let’s see! I am backing AMN to show leave his heart on the pitch today….the rest will come naturally.


  19. 19
    Sancho Panza says:

    Nice one Patrick Vieira. Well played Palace.

  20. 20
    OsakaMatt says:

    Spuds whacked at the end, enjoyable
    warm up for the main event.
    I guess Thomas comes back slowly
    then. Very new defense on the right
    and a new pair in midfield. Looking
    forward to seeing how they get on.
    Good options on the bench if needed
    too. I expect to see us attacking their
    right back from the off.

  21. 21
    ClockEndRider says:

    Unsurprisingly the media in the form of BT Sport already trying to make excuses for the LWC’s – bad ref, players out. Curiously enough they weren’t reasons when Arsenal were hammered.

  22. 22
    Bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable preview Dr F.

    I’m happy with Arteta’s starting 11 and desperately hope they deliver.

    Shocked by how much BT are trotting out excuses for the Sp*rz abject performance today. At least they are taking note of how negative Nuno’s lineup and strategy was

    If we can win today we will be 6 points behind them and by the NLD hopefully within striking distance.

    Go win, Arsenal!

  23. 23
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Anyone else in US having problem with peacock streaming for our match?

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    Palace 3 Sp))s 0


  25. 25
    bt8 says:

    Dr. F, peacock does not seem to be working here either. 🙁

  26. 26
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Well, it seems Peacock Premium is having problem streaming most matches now. F^*# NBC…

  27. 27
    bt8 says:

    Loved your first paragraph Dr. F.

    Must take a deep breath and a mug of coffee (not to mention going stream surfing) prior to tackling the second. 😉

  28. 28
    bt8 says:

    Dr. F, In one place in my TV listings the Arsenal game was listed as “Internet” more prominently than Peacock which might help explain something of the outage? Not sure about the resulting outrage though.

  29. 29
    Doctor Faustus says:

    bt8: No, lots of other games streaming on peacock isn’t working either. They messed up completely.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    For those of you without a peacock……..
    First 20 is mostly us probing without unduly troubling the Norwich.
    And Norwich getting a couple of testing crosses in.

  31. 31
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Finally they fixed the issue …

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    unduly troubling the Norwich keeper I should say

  33. 33
    ATG says:

    Emirates really quiet now we are allowing Norwich to take the initiative now.

  34. 34
    Las says:

    Thans Doctor F,
    I hope AMN wil have a good day out!

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    Good effort by Tomayasu

  36. 36
    Esso says:

    Really need to step up second half.

  37. 37
    Esso says:

    Word is Peacock is up and running again.

  38. 38
    bt8 says:

    Hey Esso. Are you at the game?

    Over here we got to see only the last 15 or so minutes of the half but I’m excited to see how these new players can do in the second.

  39. 39
    Gooner_KS says:

    Zaha was really good today. Why on earth we signed Pepe instead of him?

  40. 40
    ATG says:

    Good goal from us, need to build on this and not allow the back into the game.

  41. 41
    OsakaMatt says:

    First goal of the season, get in Auba

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    The first points, league goal and clean sheet of the season. Some progress in the right direction at last. For a team that will never have played together, it was a more cohesive performance than might have been expected.

  43. 43
    OsakaMatt says:

    Should have got a couple more in the end to put it to bed but was happy to see Partey come on and Aaron and the defense keep a clean sheet. One nil to The Arsenal.

  44. 44
    scruzgooner says:

    niece piece, dr. faustus.

    i watched from 30. just when norwich got into the game, and they did well the rest of it. never really threatened a goal, ramsdale was pretty commanding and at least as good as leno. i don’t recall him making an actual save.

    our lot looked sluggish into the second half, pepe mercurial, sambi looked good, but no flow. amn ran hot and cold in the midfield. defense looked uncohesive, but adequate against another bottom table club. tomayasu could be our new rb, assured debut and fired just over a beauty on the volley.

    once esr and partey came on we moved the ball faster and started breaking their lines. the goal was coming, pepe’s shot hit the post off krull, his second shot was saved then caromed off pepe’s legs to auba who was just behind the play across goal. a nice little tap in.

    closed out the game in fine fashion, still in the hunt for the second, nearly got it on a couple of occasions. never really threatened by norwich…. a decent win, our first goal, and maybe a glimmer of hope that xhaka is really not needed.

  45. 45
    ClockEndRider says:

    Hasn’t been any doubt for years that Xhaka is not needed. Unfortunately the blokes that matter keep on ignoring us and picking him. Let’s hope those days are gone. As will he be by next summer at latest.

  46. 46
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the preview Dr. F., as well as the timely heads-up that the formerly esteemed North American licensee for Premier League telecasts was actually able to get back on the air for the final 2/3 of the match after demonstrating its utter unfitness for purpose over the first 1/3. At least they didn’t miss the game’s only goal, and we scored it.

  47. 47
    bt8 says:

    Raducanu v. Fernandez is looking interesting. The first time I’ve seen either one play but Raducanu is a bit more powerful.

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    Raducanu is a true Brit sporting idol: born in Ottowa to parents who are Romanian and Chinese. 🙂

  49. 49
    Countryman100 says:

    She moved to England when she was two. 100% educated in English state schools. Still lives in Bromley. Totally English.

  50. 50
    bt8 says:

    I’d be proud of Emma if I got the chance. Compelling life story too.

  51. 51
    North Bank Ned says:

    It was a bit of a tongue in cheek comment, C100. We all have a bit of elsewhere in us. Emma Raducanu strikes me as a poised and accomplished person who seems well-grounded as well as being a deserved champion. I will readily admit to cheering her on today.

  52. 52
    OsakaMatt says:

    Winning the championship without
    dropping a set – an invincible performance😉

  53. 53
    Esso says:

    Cant say as I enjoyed it, but a win’s a win. And I’ve been enjoying that ever since.

  54. 54
    Bathgooner says: