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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) ….


Tomiyasu White Gabriel Tierney

Partey Lokonga

Saka Odegaard Smith-Rowe


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!! 

52 Drinks to “Hello Patrick. How are you?”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    My God it seems a lifetime since our last game! Nice preview Matt. A Monday night game under lights, a full house (it eventually sold out), and a return of a legend. How could it possibly go wrong? A nice fast start like against Spurs please boys. Bottle Zaha up, remember Mike Dean is the ref, and let’s send our neighbours back to South London with their tail between their legs.

  2. 2
    Countryman100 says:

    We’re four points behind the red Mancs with a game in hand. 10 points from our last four games. Let’s keep this going. Win Monday, win Friday against Villa and we could be top four as next weekend starts. COYG.

  3. 3
    TTG says:

    That’s a very fair and insightful preview Matt and your comments on jet lag returning from Japan very apposite . Playing on Monday may be an advantage in this instance . I am very torn about attending . I think Tube travel to a football match is a high risk enterprise if you are trying to avoid Covid but I’m very loathe to let two more home games go. I will make a decision on Monday .
    Villareal at home in May was mirrored by England on Tuesday . The lesson was that if you normally play with two holding midfielders you can’t convert an 8 into a 6 unless the opposition is pretty flaccid and you therefore need to keep the basic structure. I don’t think Odegaard can play deeper as effectively so I’d play Sambi alongside the goal machine that is Partey. Palace under Hodgson were a very much better team away from home but Paddy may have changed the mentality . I think a tight game will be won by the Gunners 1-0 with Thomas notching his first goal for us

  4. 4
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks OM
    I’ll put my admiration of Paddy on hold behind my dislike of Palace – a wholly inappropriate name over the years.
    I’m thinking 2-0 with Auba on the scoresheet.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Thanks Matt for a tidy preview. Palace have that Chav loanee Gallagher who we need to keep in check but that young Eze bloke the bought from QPR seems to be injured. It looks like three points should be in order (not written with any intention of jinxing us of course). 🙏

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    Nice one, Matt !

    You’ve managed to make 3-0 sound quite the formality, so I’m going to go 4-1, simply because Zaha and Dean seem certain to produce a goal between them. Tomi will have to be aware of Zaha’s bag of nasty tricks. We used to have a bloke called Lauren who sorted out the likes of him. We’ve had a few “one and onlys “ haven’t we ?

  7. 7
    OsakaMatt says:

    We have Trev! Might just have a couple more now, fingers crossed.

    Just watching Iwobi for Everton, I didn’t réalise he was playing
    for the first 15 minutes.

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    Sharp preview, OM. I hope, as you say, that Paddy gets the ovation he deserves but we send him home pointless.

    I will take your 3-0 in a heartbeat. The three points have to be non-negotiable. I had seven points pencilled in for the Brighton, Palace, Villa run of three games, so we have no margin of error.

    I can also attest to your jet-lag comment. It was better in the days when London-Asia flights were at least five hops, not this non-stop nonsense. I won’t mention travelling by Black ship…

  9. 9
    bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable preview, Matt. It’ll be nice to welcome Patrick Vieira back and even nicer to give his team a proper doing. One of my treasured memorable moments was Bobby Pires’ slide tackle to disposess Patrick and set up a move leading to a goal when he played for Juventus against us. Let’s give him another learning experience.

    I like your starting XI and would be delighted to accept your 3-0 scoreline. However I tend to agree with TTG that this will be a somewhat tighter game than we would like. We ought to win against Palace every time we play them and this Palace team strikes me as “no better than they should be” but this Arsenal team has yet to discover consistency in performances as well as in chance creation, goal scoring and game management. Hopefully Arteta has taken the advantage of two extra days on the training ground to address some of those deficiencies.

    A clean sheet would be very acceptable but I expect a nervy 2-1 to the Arsenal.

    Go win, Gunners! PMBD

  10. 10
    Las says:

    Thanks, Matt, one hell of a preview
    I hope MA will go for a 4-1-4-1 team starting with Pepe on the field instead of Lokonga. It is important starting on the front foot and put Palace under pressure.
    I also expect Palace under Viera will be a more adventurous and less compact team than under Hodgson.
    3-0 would be a dream but I could be satisfied by a 2-1 home win.

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Matt! Vieira was not only a magnificent player, but also an extraordinary leader.

    Paddy’s return to Arsenal as a non-Arsenal player was in CL quarter final when we beat Juve 2-0. Cesc and Henry scored, and looking at the team sheet I see that a forward line of Trezeguet and Ibra failed to score against Eboue-Toure-Senderos-Flamini … well, those were the days. 🙂

    I hope his return as a manager is equally satisfying to us. 🙂

    Partey’s long-rangers have been seeing the back of the nets for Ghana in the qualifiers, here is to his first (among many) goals in red-and-white tonight…

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    That defence was something else, Dr F. Flamini was the best right-sided midfielder playing left back in Europe that season.

  13. 13
    Doctor Faustus says:

    NBN@12: 😂 . If I remember correctly Keown helped out too in coaching that defense … winning the CL that year would have been such a wonderful achievement in so many ways.

  14. 14
    Uplympian says:

    I’m just back from a week in the delights of Scotland and looking forward to some real football tonight. You have set up the match perfectly OM and I will be happy if the boss goes with the team you have suggested.
    These past few seasons we seemed to struggle to put dominant performances against Hodgson’s teams who played very compactly – the gulf in class did not show on the pitch.
    Palace now under our great past captain PV4 are playing a little differently with some new recruits to their squad – an opportunity for us to impose ourselves. Let’s hope neither the damp weather or Mike Dean refereeing will interfere with a good result.

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    Ibra and Trezeguet not scoring against that back four surely must be a testament to many things, not the least of which is that there is indeed a God in the universe. The genius of Wenger, the fabulousness of Kolo and the great quality of our midfield at the time could be secondary elements.

  16. 16
    bt8 says:

    Beware: Mike Dean has been itching throughout the pandemic for the opportunity to show a red card to an Arsenal player in front of 60,000 Arsenal fans and knows that today his chance is finally here.

  17. 17
    Doctor Faustus says:

    bt8@15: There is only one god, who wore #10, and was on the bench that day. 🙂 Vieira kicked a few of his old mates in that match … 🙂

    This stretch of games before the next interlull can see us move up the table significantly if we can get our best performances out.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@16: Watch out for penalties, too. He has awarded Villa 10 in 56 games as opposed to giving us seven in 77 games — and United an incredible 21 in 81 games, which is a penalty awarded to them every 3.86 games as opposed to every 11 games for us. For City, the number is one every five games, for Chelsea and the neighbours, one every six games.

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    Tomiyasu, While, Gabriel, Tierney
    Pepe, Saka, Ødegaerd, Smith Rowe

    Pepe starts in what looks like a 4-1-4-1.

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Leno, Maitland-Niles, Lacazette, Lokonga, Tavares, Holding, Cedric, Elneny, Martinelli

  21. 21
    Countryman100 says:

    No Zaha in the Palace squad! He’s ill evidently.

  22. 22
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Perfect starting eleven!
    Let’s hope for a breathtaking start only to get even better …

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    Zaha is unwell and will miss the game. Benteke will replace him for Palace.

    BBC is lining us up in a 4-2-3-1 with Ødegaard in the Toblerone roll. We shall see.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    I do like structure and we have not experimented successfully with it previously . I share Ned’s doubts about Odegaard in that deeper role . Palace have three attacking players and with Benteke on the field will go direct. He is a bogeyman for us so I hope White and Gabriel deal with him .
    Pepe caused them major problems at Selhurst last time . Let us hope he does tonight

  25. 25
    TTG says:

    I may have done you a disservice . Rereading your comment I think you are sceptical about BBC’s interpretation of our line-up rather than dubious about Odegaard playing deeper. If he can become our left sided holding player I will be delighted

  26. 26
    bathgooner says:

    I share your scepticism about Ødegaard’s defensive abilities. We are at home against little leaguers from the wrong bank of the Thames, so we want a high tempo start and an early barrowload of goals.

  27. 27
    bathgooner says:


  28. 28
    bt8 says:

    Dem’s da goods.

  29. 29
    bathgooner says:

    We’ve been much too passive for the last 20 minutes. Come on Arsenal, the job’s not done yet.

  30. 30
    Gooner_KS says:

    I missed the start, but in 10 mins saw that Mike Dean is still the same c..t. A clear yellow not given on foul on ESR

  31. 31
    bathgooner says:

    We scored a great goal and looked as if we could build on that for about 10 minutes but from then on we have been far too passive and really quite poor. We need to wake up and get another effective body into central midfield. Sambi is that man.

  32. 32
    Cynic says:

    Such a boring team to watch. Wrong sub too, should have put Martinelli on.

  33. 33
    Cynic says:

    Fuck’s sake.

    No desire in this team.

    Oh well.

  34. 34
    Gooner_KS says:

    We don’t deserve much from this one

  35. 35
    Gooner_KS says:

    Thank you, will take that. Lacaaaaaa

  36. 36
    Sancho Panza says:

    Well it’s great to draw level at the end but it also masks a lot of shite. Eight games and 11 points is the true picture.

  37. 37
    North Bank Ned says:

    A point salvaged, but a flat performance and we were twice bullied out of possession costing goals. We rarely looked like scoring and were in the debt of a couple of flashes of sharpness from two elite strikers. We have to be beating teams like Palace consistently if we are to say convincingly that we are making progress.

  38. 38
    Sancho Panza says:

    Ned I see no progress. Sorry to say it but the performance was flat. You can’t humble Spurs and then put in lackadaisical efforts against Brighton and Palace. It’s not flipping good enough. Arteta will be gone in the Summer.

  39. 39
    TTG says:

    We will debate this game after the report is filed but Ned’s summary is spot on. We were flimsy in our challenges against a modest but much more physically determined side and I’m afraid that on this evidence I’m unimpressed with the quality of our signings . I might exempt Ramsdale but Tomayisu looks neither effective defending or attacking, White is not strong enough, Sambi did Ok but Odegaard was very poor and is neither creative enough or anywhere near strong enough in possession . I was also mega disappointed in Partey. Please no comparisons with Vieira it is heresy to begin to compare them . Partey is Jensen in front of goal and doesn’t provide creativity or drive . Laca and Auba did well but I’m not sure this squad is even capable of a top- half finish .
    Assessment of Arteta is for another day but this was eerily reminiscent of the same time last year

  40. 40
    TTG says:

    While I’m in a curmudgeonly mood please stop suggesting we play all the balk-playing midfielders in the centre . It doesn’t work particularly with poor tacklers like Odegaard in there . Arteta needs to play two holding midfielders and he needs to strengthen in the January window. And by strengthen he needs to find athletes who can win the ball . We lost almost every challenge in the last seventy minutes of that match .

  41. 41
    Cynic says:

    Too many players in this team whose first thought is to slow things down, whether by passing it back or stopping the ball to decide what to do with it.

    I remain convinced that Odegaard and ESR in the same team is not going to work, the occasional game apart and Partey, for me, offers nothing. He doesn’t score goals, he’s weak under a challenge and he doesn’t win the ball when the opponents have it. For all we criticise Xhaka, he can win a tackle and very occasionally might pop up with a goal.

    I wish Pepe would snap out of his coma more often too. He looks half decent when he’s awake.

    Nothing was good about that game apart from not losing it.

  42. 42
    bathgooner says:

    A very disappointing evening’s work from the fifteenth to the 75th minute. Even Arteta cannot explain why we stopped trying to run the game after 15 minutes and simply conceded possession and ground. We could not complain had we lost that game. Thank goodness Laca declined the tea with bromide in it. We need someone in that midfield who wants to control the game and sees the pass quickly and understands the need for urgency in setting up attacks. Can’t see that man in this squad – maybe Sambi in a couple of years.

    At least it looks as if PV4 is capable of motivating and organising a team of journeymen to get within seconds of winning against an opponent who on paper comprises more talented players. He’s a fella worth keeping an eye on if there’s a coaching vacancy at the Arsenal in the next year or so.

  43. 43
    Cynic says:

    I have to admit I did not see the equaliser, I had switched it off in the 80th minute. I know there have been some doubts about Martinelli’s fitness this week, but we still don’t know what sort of player he is going to be, because it looks like the current manager doesn’t want to give him a fair shake.

    He might turn out to be yet another player of unfulfilled potential, but we’re never going to find out if he doesn’t get enough minutes. When we have a tepid, turgid, performance unfolding in front of Arteta’s eyes, he lets it drift and continue.

    I wouldn’t pick Odegaard on Friday and I’d be giving serious thought to dropping Partey as well, for reasons outlined above. I just don’t see a player in him, has he ever had a really good game for Arsenal?

  44. 44
    OsakaMatt says:

    A step back as several have suggested, I am as baffled as Arteta. The game was set-up perfectly to go on and win well after 15 minutes. Puts more pressure on for the next one against Villa now.

  45. 45
    TTG says:

    Fair points Cynic
    Martinelli had double coverage on him but still put in some dangerous crosses .
    Partey doesn’t convince me at all. He’s not a poor man’s Vieira he’s a bankrupt’s Vieira . He has a decent passing range but very little else and his shooting reminds me of John Jensen !

  46. 46
    bt8 says:

    Disappointing performance and disappointing result to be sure.

    To lighten the mood a little, this is Gary Neville on Manyoo’s performance against Lesta: “They don’t press very well, they have no intensity, they walk around the pitch – particularly their front players – and they must think they are better than they are.”

  47. 47
    Cynic says:

    You naughty man, that’s us that is.

  48. 48
    Countryman100 says:

    There’s no doubt about it, after a fast start it was a disappointing night at the Emirates, redeemed only partly by the last minute equaliser. Although the crowd stayed positive, walking back to the car, all I could hear was puzzlement and grumbles. Not anger or toxicity, but lots of grumbles. I couldn’t help but wonder what Dave would have said. Well I think he’d have grumbled, but stayed positive.

  49. 49
    North Bank Ned says:

    I think that is exactly how the Guv’nor would have reacted, C100. He might also have asked why Laca does not get more playing time, given the commitment and energy he brought. The team lacked both for most of the game, lacunae that Dave justifiably thought were cause for grumbling about any Arsenal team.

  50. 50
    ClockEndRider says:

    C100, your post match experience is echoed by mine. People not angry, more puzzled by the lack of intensity and, indeed, an apparent plan. Hugely frustrating after the Spuds performance, which does appear to be the clear outlier in this seasons games.

  51. 51
    Countryman100 says:

    All my North Bank pals were keen to tell me what a great game I had missed in Spurs, and how much my son and his mate had enjoyed it. Cheers chaps!

  52. 52
    Bathgooner says: