Feed on


Much of grown-up life is spent in a state of perpetual perplexity. Being bewildered by the things done to us and the things we choose to do, the freedom – a freedom that is our essential condition, a freedom that was bestowed upon us without our approval, so to speak — of having to give our life shape and meaning at every waking moment makes us, now and then, run away into the sweet certainty of unchoice, into the comfort of rituals. Rituals built on myths ancient and modern, myths necessary to keep us in just enough harmony.   

The annual football calendar with its comforting cadence, its pleasing predictability is a modern ritual, a ritual that also fulfills our deep need for battles and heroes, our thirst for relatable myths. Being thrown into the world with our eyes mostly closed by the blindingly ferocious light of life, we find in football – just as we find in other passions of love, art, music, literature, science, pursuit of knowledge — a reliable pair of eyewear to look at the world without becoming completely blind. 

And deep inside we realize how so very existentially crucial this passion is, how strongly it binds us to our fellow beings and how much we need that bond, and we find within us a surprising indefatigability to fight for that ninety minute of rituals, however unfavorable the surrounding conditions might be.  

Arsenal prepares for the first premier league match of the 2021 calendar year with the limitations of the pandemic-enforced isolations and absences. Just because this is not a fate uniquely suffered by our club – all teams living through personnel uncertainties while doing their best to keep the ritualistic certainties going — makes it no less strange.   

Manager Mikel and a few other members of his coaching team are self-isolating. While Sambi, Mari & it seems Ainsley Maitland-Niles too are all back from their own quarantine periods, the right back incorporated of Tomiyasu, Cedric and Chambers are all still unavailable. Among four of our AFCON participating expected-to-be-absent players only Aubameyang has left to join his Gabonese teammates (and one suspects he wasn’t available for selection just yet anyway), whereas Partey, Elneny and Pépé have all remained back one is given to understand until January 3rd and hence allowing them to be available for the New Year’s Day lunchtime home game. Even though only one of them is likely to start, having two experienced players – each with their specific qualities — on the bench in a match against the best team in the league has its benefits. 

Our opponents are flying high and based on the current league standings and the recent performances of other title competitors, it appears that they are on their way to retain the premier league title.  Our recent record against Manchester City, especially in the league, has been horrendous, with last five results being 0-5, 0-1, 0-1, 0-3, 0-3. In between Mikel – in his debut season and on the way to our record setting 14th FA Cup – had of course guided Arsenal to a famous semifinal victory against his mentor-and-friend Pep, a counterattacking 2-0 in an empty Wembley in July 2020. 

Our last two league victories against Manchester City came consecutively in the calendar year of 2015 but spanning two different seasons.  A Santi Cazorla masterclass saw us winning 2-0 (a penalty by Santi, and a typical Giroud header) away in January 2015, and in December of the same year we had beaten them at home 2-1, Theo and Olivier (again) on the scoresheet with YaYa threatening to ruin the day by a late goal.  In that December match our forward line was Theo, Giroud and Joel Campbell(!) – with Rambo and Mesut on their midfield roles — and their front three were David Silva, De Bruyne and Aguero.

If Arsenal’s recent record against City is mostly very gloomy, we have some reason for optimism looking at our home record on January 1st. We are unbeaten in our last 11 home matches on the New Year’s Day, winning 9 and drawing two, a record that goes all the way back to a time before premier league in 1985. Our last league loss on January 1st was in 2015, away at Southampton. 

Our recent mini-run in the league – winning the last five with keeping a clean sheet in the last four of them – included some enjoyable attacking play, and admirable defensive solidity. We scored a few lovely goals, showcasing the individual abilities of our young talents as well as demonstrating a growing attacking chemistry within the team. That level of individual performances and team cohesiveness would be the minimum requirement if we are to get something out of this game, and then we would need some exceptional individual moments both defensively and in the attacking third. 

While Mikel will be kicking every ball and shouting at the television from the confines of his living room (I fear for the sofa), his assistant the Dutchman Albert Stuivenberg will be in charge on the sidelines. In his career as an assistant coach, he seems to have always played the role of the calmer foil to the easily animated big personalities like Van Gaal or Mikel. Whenever things go wrong and Mikel wildly gesticulates, his inscrutable expression gives nothing away. It would surely be unnatural for this team to not hear the passionate polyglot directions from the sideline all throughout the match. 

I think tomorrow we will see a spirited performance by the boys in the famous red-and-white, and if the team starts well, the growing connection they are forming with the Arsenal faithful will create that positive feedback loop that can inspire a team to overcome superior oppositions. 

I think we will start with the same eleven as the last match. We would surely miss Tomiyasu down the right, and probably this is the only area where Mikel and his team may want to make some changes, for instance pushing White back in his familiar central defensive position and bringing Ainsley in as a right back. But I think that is unlikely. 


White – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Partey – Xhaka

Saka – Ødegaard– Martinelli 


I think most Arsenal fans would be happy with a draw and a point. A continuation of the winning streak – however unlikely that might be — will help us put some more distance from the chasing pack for the fourth position, and as importantly would give us a genuine confidence boost for the remainder of the season. I am hoping for that rare league win against City, it has been a while!

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a healthy, joyful and prosperous 2022!

64 Drinks to “Geworfenheit”

  1. 1
    scruzgooner says:

    nice, dr. faustus. i agree we will be happy not to lose, and if our defense can tighten up just that small percentage we might just nick a point or three. nonetheless i fear the getting trounced.

    cheers to all on the last ton, timing is everything. makes me wonder what happened to lurky from dave’s bar.

    happy new year! it’s just turned in the uk, hope everyone has a safe and glorious new year!

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    Heidegger on New Year’s Eve. Where else but in this estimable establishment?

    Bravo, Dr F. Another preview opening from you for the GHF pantheon. Here’s hoping the team can reach such heights on New Year’s Day.

  3. 3
    Bathgooner says:

    An excellent opener for GHF 2022, Dr F.

    As Ned says, here’s hoping the team can reach your heights.


  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Happy New Year Dr. F and thank you for a truly inspired preview. Very enjoyable stuff but is hope enough of a stake on the 1-1 score? Holic himself might have suggested a hefty New Year’s Day wager on that same result. Cheers! 🙂

  5. 5
    North Bank Ned says:

    Happy New Year, ‘holics.

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    Terrific and very readable preview Dr.F although it falls to me to tell you it is now 2022! I’d be delighted with a draw and that is not beyond the bounds of possibility looking at a flat and tired Citeh on Wednesday . We have made real progress this season .
    Your preview recalls to mind that 2-0 win at the Emptihad . I was in Barbados and watched it from the beachside hotel bar. A settee was drawn up for me by the screen and I was supplied with beer and nibbles throughout the match .Bikinied beauties passed through continually . That comes fairly close to my definition of heaven . I was known by the chief barman as ‘ Mr. Arsenal ‘ for the rest of the week .
    Mrs TTG fails to provide this service at home to her shame . 1-1 today with Saka notching for us

  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Splendid philosophical preview, Doctor.
    I’ll take a point today (but give me three and I’ll be happier).
    Happy New Year all!

  8. 8
    Las says:

    Dr. F what paralell you just drew from the basic human psychological need to the hope we have today. I can not imagine what it cost you having this geniality but it is worth. 🙂 I love it.
    I am not sure that we will be able to hold ManCity at the gates but I am sure we will put up a good fight.

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    A wonderful preview Dr F. We owe the blue Mancs for that spanking up there in August. It’s a very different team now.

  10. 10
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette

    Subs: Leno, Holding, Cedric, Tavares, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Lokonga, Smith Rowe

    Man City: Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez

    Subs: Steffen, Walker, Gundogan, Grealish, Fernandinho, Kayky, Mbete, Palmer, McAtee

  11. 11
    Esso says:

    + Ederson for Citeh!

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Interesting that Nketiah isn’t on the bench given that Auba is out .Presumably Martinelli will slip into the centre if necessary . Time to take care of business !

  13. 13
    Countryman100 says:

    Nketiah has tested positive for Covid according to Layth Yousif on Twitter.

  14. 14
    Silly Second Yella says:

  15. 15
    Trev says:

    Great job, Dr F, philosophical as ever, win or lose !

    TTG, your match day experience (ugh) sounds just like Block 91 at The Ems. You must be sitting in the wrong place 😳

    We are definitely much improved since we last played $ity but I can’t decide how I feel about this one. I want to be optimistic but two things bother me – our habit of leaving opposition wingers in far too much space and ….. Granit Xhaka. We simply cannot afford to go down to 10 men against this lot and he cannot lose position in midfield. Fingers crossed 🤞🏻🤞🏻

    Come on you Reddsss !

  16. 16
    Esso says:

    Nketiah has tested positive for Covid according to Layth Yousif on Twitter.

    confirmed by Club Twitter

  17. 17
    Trev says:

    Cheers Esso !

    …and a Happy and Healthy New Year to Holics and Gooners everywhere !

  18. 18
    bt8 says:

    COYG let’s see what you can do on this big stage.

  19. 19
    Esso says:

    Cheers Trev!

  20. 20
    Bathgooner says:


  21. 21
    bt8 says:

    A day for our youngsters to grow as leaders.

  22. 22
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great preview Dr F, thanks and happy new year to you


  23. 23
    scruzgooner says:

    come on arsenal!

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    Get in!!

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great finish Saka

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    Difficult first 15 but since then we’ve been playing really well

  27. 27
    bt8 says:

    Thomas bossing the midfield so far. 👍🏼

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just wide Martinelli, he’s having a good game and so is Partey in midfield
    This is so different from the last time we played them

    Saka down, hope he’s ok

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    So unlucky Martinelli, did brilliantly but just wide

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Half time and a deserved lead, best half I have seen us play against Shitteh for ages

  31. 31
    scruzgooner says:

    amen to that, matt. chalk and cheese to the game up norf.

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Saka and Martinelli look such a dual threat, no wonder City look (relatively) tentative in their play. I’m sure Pep will have a few tricks up his sleeve but so far so excellent.

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    2nd half – Come on Arsenal!

  34. 34
    Las says:

    Xhaka is just being Xhaka, but it was very very soft.

  35. 35
    Sancho Panza says:

    Shitty City. Such a pointless boring waste of space club. Go back to Division 3 and lose to Gillingham again and again.

  36. 36
    Las says:

    I can’t beleive it.
    C’mon Arsenal

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    That went pear shaped quickly, bastard of a 5 minutes

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    ESR coming on, could do with his customary goal

  39. 39
    Gooner_KS says:

    Is Attwell the new Dean?

  40. 40
    Gooner_KS says:

    Hear hear OM

  41. 41
    Cynic says:

    Is Attwell the new Dean?

    No. Jared Gillett is.

  42. 42
    Gooner_KS says:

    Well both of them in my humble opinion. So PROUD of the boys, Shitty can f… themselves

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    We deserved at least a point out of that. Doubly gutting to lose it to a goal in added time after battling so long with 10 men.

    The Gabriel red was soft. Still don’t understand why Ødegaard did not get a penalty early on when Ederson clattered him. Their penalty would not have been a penalty if Xhaka had not shirt-grabbed.

    Lots of performances to praise, especially when we were at full strength.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    It also says all you need to know about Attwell’s performance that City didn’t get their first yellow until the fourth minute of added time, and that was for Rodri, one of City’s rotational fouling maestros, taking off his shirt.

  45. 45
    bt8 says:

    If the original call had been a penalty on Ederson it would not have been overturned either. Depending on the camera angle I at times thought it a penalty and other times not.

  46. 46
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    @ bt8. It’s a clear penalty

  47. 47
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Brilliant performance.

    They were all wonderful and I’m very proud. Except for Xhaka, who played very well apart from the bit where he did something stupid that cost us 3 points. That’s what he does.

    Ref shafted us. Gabriel second yellow is soft as shite, and totally unwarranted in the context of the match.

    VAR told the ref to review a debatable penalty (although Xhaka grabs his shirt, so even though he dives I have no issue with it being given) but not told to review a clear penalty that replays demonstrate to be a clear penalty.
    Absolute shitshow from the officials, as usual. Totally undeserved by a team who played their hearts out and absolutely dominated the best team in the country.

    This one hurts. But I’d we keep playing like that we will be top 4 this year, and looking to climb higher next season. Our best display in years. We’ll done everyone!

  48. 48
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Only 364 bloody days

  49. 49
    Las says:

    Excellent game! I’m very proud of the boys. Absolutely dominated the best team in the country. Duboius refereeing and bad luck cost us but we we played awesome football.
    Upwards and onwards.

  50. 50
    OsakaMatt says:

    Wot Las said.
    And GSD too, we played great.

  51. 51
    bt8 says:

    GSD. If the VAR saw this zoomed picture they should have believed their eyes and called the penalty. What’s unclear to me is whether VAR is allowed to zoom in like that picture. All the angles that were shown on the tv coverage were less conclusive, and I have never seen zoomed in still photos as part of the live tv coverage. I may be wrong but I thought VAR base their decisions on the same pictures that tv viewers get to see. What’s a poor lad like me supposed to think?

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, OM

    Refereeing aside, yet again we found a way to lose a game we should have won, while City found a way to win a game they should have lost, as is the wont of title-winning sides. We have to find and embed that extra degree of resilience.

    After the game, Guardiola had the good grace to say we were the better side on the day and was complimentary about the club, recalling how tough games against us were when he was playing for ‘the best Barcelona ever’. That is always easier to do when you have got the points, but he also quietly implied that we were the architects of our own downfall with the penalty and the sending off.

    I hope this defeat is not too deflating. With the two legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool sandwiching a potential FA Cup banana skin and then the NLD over the next couple of weeks, we could be looking at a disastrous run of results in the first half of January.

    Also, if the reports are right about the Ødegaard penalty review, that VAR decided that Ederson had played the ball, then VAR has entered an alternate universe.

  53. 53
    Sancho Panza says:

    Another issue with officials are these teams that rotate their fouls between players. Shitty City do this in every game. When are officials going to pull captains together and say I can see what is going on and book players for first offences.

  54. 54
    Ollie says:

    I’ll have to disagree for once, bt8 at51. I thought the replays on TV were pretty conclusive about it being a penalty.
    Still, extremely encouraging performance. I’d say given the opposition our first half was our best this season.
    Fine margins, a couple of brainfarts and crap refereeing meant we lost, but despite Spurs’ jammy win, I do fancy us for fourth. Although after this performance, if looks like we are badly going to miss Partey…

    That pass from Ramsdale and the touch from Martinelli in the move leading to our ‘penalty’ were out of this world.

  55. 55
    Bathgooner says:

    It’s a long time since we have seen such an excellent performance from an Arsenal side.

    It’s a crying shame about the failure of VAR officials to be even handed in their analysis of penalty incidents and that two of our players had brain farts at critical moments that changed the course of the game.

    However it’s a significant step forward from that limp performance at the Etihad and I hope that our players harness their anger about the injustice of that result and bring that fire to the remaining games, particularly the next four.

    I’m proud of that team (with a couple of qualifications).

  56. 56
    Ollie says:

    Yep, all of this, bath!

  57. 57
    TTG says:

    I think most drinkers in this bar are realistic and supportive of the club.Despite our Cup win in 2020 ain’t is hard to recall when I viewed our prospects with any optimism. The latter years of Wenger , a large part of Emery’s tenure and last year’s awful struggle under Arteta were deeply discouraging. But this team looks like a work in very encouraging process and today I think most of us thought victory was highly unlikely but wanted to see us trade blows with probably the best club team in the world.
    We more than did that, it was immensely encouraging and with a window now open we may be able to give a very good squad a boost . Things at last seem to be moving in a positive direction and the club’s supporters seem united in their belief . That’s wonderful news

  58. 58
    scruzgooner says:

    i’ve been sitting here processing what i saw in the game, though as it was before sparrowfart i would have to watch it over again to be sure. but that first half was the best, most comprehensive half of football we’ve played against a team of al-citeh’s quality in a long, long time.

    tomi and kt3 played nearly flawless games on the corners. they kept city throwing horseshoes, rarely allowing penetration into the box. our cb’s were imperious, though the rushes of blood that earned gabriel both his yellows need to be addressed and eliminated from his game. same can be said of xhaka: why grab his shirt? why get so heated in the argument? that stretch derailed what was a magnificent game by him (sorry, ttg).

    praise for partey: holy shit. do that every game (and we’ve seen him moving towards that in the last month) and we have a rock that’s been missing from our midfield for years. the timing of AFCON couldn’t be worse.

    gabigol and saka were running their backs ragged, along with support from kt3 and tomi. laca worked tirelessly, but both he and mø were ever so slightly not at the races with the rest of the bunch. i was so pleased at how our pressing was causing city problems, and it took them exploiting two of our remaining areas of weakness (our strength in mind, and xhaka) to get something out of the game.

    but man, that pleases me: they couldn’t beat us at football, but beat us with cuntery. i can certainly see that building in our squad, though it will take a while to excel at their level. and if we simply build our inner strength, and get rid of xhaka for someone less mercurial and more mobile (while bringing at least a modicum of whatever it is that three straight arsenal managers have divined resulting in his participation in our team) we should be so well set to return to the top end of the table, and quickly.

  59. 59
    Bathgooner says:

    what scruz said. (applause)

  60. 60
    Trev says:

    Many good drinks above – my view fairly well encapsulated by TTG and scruz just above.

  61. 61
    North Bank Ned says:

    One thing that’s has not been much mentioned is how quiet De Bruyne was kept in the first half especially. Some smart tactical play at work there.

  62. 62
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words about the preview.

    That was a magnificent performance by the team. Tactically flawless, brave, incisive, on the front foot, decisive and completely outplayed the most expensively assembled squad ever in all areas of the pitch. The anger of this unjust result, once channeled constructively, would only hone the team’s desire and discipline.

    Premier league refereeing has not been of acceptable standard for a very long time now, VAR simply has held a magnifying glass to further expose the incompetence (it surely has to be that, because the other alternative is worse…) of the lot. I look back at our away game against the other big team from Manchester and remember a block of cement pulling Tomi by the shirt down to the ground in the penalty box, and compare that to the penalty we conceded today. The penalty that Martin didn’t get is the one he gave away in the same match… the list is endless.

    Two 20 year old wingers completely tore apart the “premier league’s best ever team” defense by their skill, intelligence and work ethic. Partey had his best game for us and dominated the midfield. Tomi made “world class English talent” Sterling look like a Sunday league player.

    Even when we went down to ten men we played with not only a lot of character but also composure on the ball and willingness to attack. Their winning goal was fluke-y as well.

    After our excellent goal, my second favorite moment of the match was when Gabi intercepted a pass in our half, ran with the ball past players, turned Conchelo and another of their defenders insider out in the penalty box, and his left footed spinning finish beat Ederson but just missed the goal. We have had lot of quality forward players even after the invincibles, but since Henry left we haven’t had anyone who could do that — the alertness, the speed, skills, confidence, audacity — to a high quality opposition.

  63. 63
    bt8 says:

    Loving the positivity of our performance yesterday, and must agree with the comments by Blogs who wrote this: “You can measure football in all kinds of ways with all kinds of stats these days, but it boils down to how you feel, and to me it feels like something good is happening.”

  64. 64
    Bathgooner says: