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Throughout Pink Floyd’s song “Fearless”, from their album “Meddle”, is woven a recording of Liverpool’s Kop singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. I’ve always thought it odd to be there: Roger Waters and David Gilmour are huge Arsenal fans. Right, let us listen to the song in a different way, not as (somehow) a paean to Liverpool.

You Say the Hill’s Too Steep to Climb

Consider the events of the past three weeks. Liverpool’s false positive Covid tests led to the first leg of our Carabao Cup semifinal tie being postponed until tomorrow at the Grove (20 January, 7:45 pm GMT). We were beaten soundly by Nottingham Forest, ending our FA Cup run before we’d really begun. Then we played the putative first leg of the semifinal at Anfield last Thursday. We held on for a 0-0 draw, showing grit and determination with 10 men for the last 70 minutes of the game after Xhaka’s inability earned him a red card. And Sunday’s league game with the Hampstead Woad Wearers was postponed on request from Arsenal. Since the first leg postponement Liverpool have continued their winning ways, beating Shrewsbury in the FA Cup before the draw at Anfield. They beat Brentford 3-0 in the league on Sunday.

So which team is heading into tomorrow’s game with less fear?

The Idiot Faced the Crowd, Smiling

Arsenal comes into tomorrow’s game potentially still missing a raft of players. Thomas Partey won’t make it back from Ghana’s AFCON exit in time for the game. Auba is still out of favor, and now has left AFCON with Covid-related heart lesions. Pépé and Mo’Neny are still involved with Ivory Coast and Egypt at the tournament. While Ødegaard should return from his Covid absence, Tomiyasu, Saka, Cedric, Smith-Rowe, and Chambers are all recovering from knocks. No announcement has yet been made about who will pass their final fitness tests and be available for selection. Xhaka is suspended, and we no longer can call on Kolasinac (now a Marseille player), AMN (on loan at Roma), Balogun (loaned to Middlesborough), or Marí (heading to Udinese on loan).

Until we know which of our injured players are returning this leaves us with a really skeletal squad. Are we going to involve the really young kids? It could be something like this, from who we have available:


White — Holding — Gabriel — Tierney

Lokonga — Mø

Laca — Patino — Martinelli


Of course, this leaves us with a bench of Ramsdale, Tavares, and…and… They are the only known remaining first team players available. Maybe we’ll see Osei-Tutu and/or Rekik in support of the defense? M’Hand for the midfield? We’ve recalled Azeez and John-Jules from loans, but are they ready to be on our bench? That would be 7 subs, covering most of the necessary positions…but wow, you can see through it it’s so thin. A very steep hill to climb, indeed.

Who’s the Fool, Who Wears the Crown?

In second place in the League, in the Champions League knockout stage, in the FA Cup: Liverpool have had much success this season. They beat us badly in the league at Anfield two short months ago. Arsenal has a threadbare squad. All the signs and portents point towards a Liverpool victory.

Herr Klopp, he of the 40 false positives (still waiting for all the names, Jurgen!), will not be able to select Phillips, Elliott, Origi, or Thiago due to injury. Mane, Salah, and Keíta all remain at AFCON. Oxlade-Chamberlin is a doubt after Sunday’s Brentford game, where he rolled an ankle. They can still field a comfortable squad:


TAA — Matip — Van Dijk — Robertson

Henderson — Fabinho — Jones

Minamino — Firmino — Jota

They’ll have a solid bench of Alisson, Konaté, Gomez, Tsimikas, Milner, Williams, Gordon, and Morton, at least.

I daresay Klopp will be frowning on the touchline, but that’s his usual state, isn’t it?

Every Day is the Right Day

It’s going to be a tough game for us to win. Unless we get folks back from injury it’ll take even more grit and determination with 11 than we showed with 10 last week to get a result. Liverpool is favored by the bookies to win, but a 2-2 draw at full plus extra time will get you 15s. If you want to back the Arsenal to win, you can get 11s for 1-0, and a tasty 23/1 for a 2-0 victory. If our defense can keep another clean sheet, either of those scorelines could be winners.

The Sound of the Faces in the Crowd

I want to close this with a comment about how magnificent our away fans were at Anfield. They outsung the home supporters, and lifted and supported our players as they ground out the 10-man draw.

For the Arsenal fans who are making their way the game, make it a right day. As has been reported here in prior posts and comments, the unity among our supporters is strong this year. We can expect the home support tomorrow to be loud, proud, and generate the right kind of energy to lift and support our boys again and again throughout the game. Give them everything you can, everything they deserve. Let’s hope by the end of Thursday evening we’re all singing about Wemberley, having climbed that hill in our own way.


69 Drinks to “Fearless”

  1. 1
    Pangloss says:

    Inspired stuff, scruz. Positively Fabersque.

    FX: Pangloss rises from his seat, applauding wildly.

  2. 2
    Las says:

    Thanks scruz, uplifting preview!
    I might put Tavares in as right DM instead of Nketiah and playing a 4-3-3.
    I fancy the 2-2 going through by pens.
    And thanks for the song 🙂

  3. 3
    Trev says:

    Cheers scruz, good job, sir, although trying to guess a team for tomorrow is pretty much an impossible task.

    I hope Ramsdale will start – it would be odd not to having played last week. If he’s fit I would continue with Chambers at full back if Tomiyasu is still out. He did well last week and that would allow White to partner Gabriel in the middle. Anyhow, we will see soon enough.

    For the pedants, tomorrow is the 20th January – not 19th if anyone is setting the TV to record. [fixed – thanks, trev]

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    Scruz ,
    Great preview and the reference to Pink Floyd was interesting. As you say there were some keen Gooners in that band!
    I had a note from a journo with strong Arsenal connections last night who reckoned all but Cedric would be fit for the game. Arteta was more measured this morning but I think of your teams you have Liverpool spot on but the Arsenal team will be stronger . They won’t waste White at right back when we have Chambers if Tomi doesn’t make it .I don’t think Odegaard can play this deep ( but he may have to) and Patino is nowhere near ready for a game like this . We might either play three at the back or push Chambers or White into midfield with Sambi pushed on .
    Anyway I think we can win but it might be after extra time

  5. 5
    Doctor Faustus says:

    What a fantastic Meddle-y of a review Scruz! Even though this song ends with that “You Never Walk Alone” bit, but I guess that was one of the reason you chose it. 🙂

    If Tomi is fit we can play either White as a central midfielder and Holding in defense, or my preference would be White partnering Gabriel as usual and Chambers in the middle. That way we just make one alteration to the winning combination. Both White and Chambers had experience playing in that role, Chambers doing well for Fulham in that position.

    Even if Tomi is not fit I would rather we use both Holding and Chambers (defense and right back, White in the midfield) than Patino.

    Ramsdale had one of his weaker games with us in the first leg, so Leno might get back his cup competition spot tomorrow.

    I think Liverpool will play their full strength, Alisson included.

    I am sure the supporters on the ground will inspire the team to perform at the level necessary to win this one.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for a great preview scruz and I’m hoping for an industrial strength perforformance, as well as technical brilliance and wizardry from all those we have available to play. Oh, and before we march on to Wemberlee I don’t mind accepting the invitation.

  7. 7
    North Bank Ned says:

    Good going, Scruz. I think we know the dark side of the moon better than Thursday evening’s teamsheet. Tyreece John-Jules and Ryan Alebiosu could make the bench alongside Patino and Salah-Eddine. There is talk that Alebiosu could start if we are as short of full-backs as it appears. Party could also make the bench even if he is too jet-lagged/deflated for a full game

  8. 8
    bathgooner says:

    A fine preview, scruz.

    As you suggest, this is going to be quite a challenge unless we get more players back than you anticipate. I couldn’t begin to speculate about our team but reckon you’ve got the Bindippers’ selection pretty much correct. I expect Klopp to go for the jugular. I hope we have enough fit first team players to do likewise – and to succeed.

    Nor can I predict a scoreline. On the available data it could be anything from a famous triumph to a dispiriting defeat and all points between. My gut instinct is that it will be close and hard fought. The crowd could indeed play an important part.


  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    This doesn’t sound good:

    The Football Association is looking into a yellow card received by an Arsenal player in a Premier League match earlier this season following reports of irregular betting patterns.


  10. 10
    North Bank Ned says:

    Conte time the new Fergie time?

    Leicester was leading until eight seconds short of the 95th minute and loses?

  11. 11
    TTG says:

    I hope Alebiosu is nowhere near the team tomorrow. He is nowhere near ready defensively. I think Tavares and Chambers would be safer choices . I have heard Tomayisu will be fit though. I hope this is right .
    John-Jules hasn’t got near the Blackpool team so again he’s unlikely to be ready tomorrow. Nketiah May start but again I heard our injured men are fit .Except Cedric .
    Re your previous note we’ve been discussing it in the WA group. It appears an investigation is going on . It could have potentially very serious implications for the player ( hopefully not the club) if proved true . I have been told who the player is and mentioned it in the WA group but as it is unproven I will not mention it here .

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great stuff scruz👍

    1-0 to The Arsenal will do nicely.

  13. 13
    bt8 says:

    Tim Stillman with an interesting piece on Arteta’s impact so far: https://arseblog.com/2022/01/come-together-arsenal/#

  14. 14
    bathgooner says:

    Some investigative journalism from the Athletic.

    (I know, it’s a very rare thing in Sports Journalism where, as highlighted by Tim at 7amKO, these numpties are generally simply paid to write down what their contacts tell them, what managers say in pressers, what they think they see on the pitch and what their foetid imagination tells them):


    Over the last ten days, The Athletic has been able to establish the following:

    1) Liverpool decided to send their players for precautionary PCR tests using a laboratory called BioGrad after a round of negative lateral flow tests
    2) Liverpool requested the postponement before knowing the results from this additional round of testing
    3) Liverpool conducted this additional testing because they were fearful of a second outbreak at the club, but it went beyond what was needed to get the tie played
    4) Positive results were then returned for 13 players
    5) When these erroneous tests were discounted, neither the club or any of the other authorities in the process highlighted that development publicly
    6) Klopp’s incorrect terminology triggered the EFL into thinking it might have to open an investigation. However it is clear that Liverpool had no motive to get the game called off
    7) Some Liverpool players were unhappy and frustrated they were unable to play in two games and were forced into isolation, away from their families, despite not having COVID-19

  15. 15
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Great stuff, Scruz. A lovely, original preview that I enjoyed very much.

    I’d pick your team, except with Chambers playing in Odegaard’s position, and the Norwegian pushed up to take Patino’s spot.


  16. 16
    Noosa Gooner says:

    2-0 no worries.

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@11: I, too, would play Chambers and Tavares ahead of Alebiosu at full-back. The talk came from assumptions the first two were either not fit, or needed elsewhere.

    John-Jules will have to rebuild his confidence after the flop of the Blackpool loan. I’d agree that a semi-final against Liverpool might not be the best arena for that.

    The internet seems to have tracked down yellow-card man. Who’d have guessed?

  18. 18
    Ollie says:

    Cheers scruz. Unpredictable but huge match tonight. Will be tense. Let’s do it, Wemberley awaits.

  19. 19
    Cynic says:

    The internet seems to have tracked down yellow-card man. Who’d have guessed?

    If the photo used on Sky Sports is the player in question, it should be pretty easy to work out who it is. Someone who played for us in 2015/16 and had an Adidas boot deal at that time.

    If it’s not the player in question, why use a six year old photo?

    If the player IS who the internet thinks it is, the only odd thing is why anyone would be suspicious about loads of bets being placed on him to get booked. He’s always the first name I look at when mulling over a bet involving a yellow card.

  20. 20
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I have to agree with Blogs that Arteta played a blinder at his presser yesterday. Loads of daft old bollocks has been written and said about our club in the last week and he gave some fantastically dismissive answers, without getting drawn into any tit-for-tat bollocks, even when goaded to do so.

    And, he got it spot on when drawing together those who are part of the club in the fight against every other fucker out there. Bring it on!

    Also, I absolutely love that he has decided that we won’t defend our club tooth and nail, but “with teeth and nails”. That’s much better!

    Imagine our enemies waking up fuzzily to find themselves tied to chairs in our Rosicky signing dungeon, facing a full on Arteta death stare before noticing the garland of teeth and nails round his topless chest. Absolutely terrifying!

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cynic@19: Sky Sports seems to be running a picture of the club badge now, like every other media outlet that doesn’t want to be sued for defamation.

    As for your final point, as Francis Urquhart used to say in the original House of Cards, ‘You might well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.’

  22. 22
    Cynic says:

    Yahoo News is still carrying the image

    Old Puma kit, either white wrist bands or tape around the wrists, black Adidas boots with white stripes.

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    GSD@20: That is quite some image you conjure up. You probably want to lay off the pickled onions last thing at night…

    I am advised that in Spanish, the idiom is ‘con uñas y dientes’, or ‘with nails and teeth’ but Arteta’s formulation sounds much more menacing than either a straight translation or the English usage.

  24. 24
    Gooner up north says:

    Thank you bt8 for the Tim Stillman link. It was a good read.

    Come on the Arsenal!

  25. 25
    scruzgooner says:

    cheers all. glad you enjoyed the post. it was fun to write.

    the team available is as vague as i’ve known it. i’m heartened that we might be missing fewer players than our absentee list suggests, ttg. cedric is the least of our worries.

  26. 26
    bt8 says:


    Beware the Roumanian shepherd.

    Hint: Any similarity to the Australian shepherded is purely coincidental.

  27. 27
    Esso says:

    Cheers Bill! Great stuff mate.

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    esso! thanks 🙂

  29. 29
    Esso says:

  30. 30
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Lokonga, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette

    Subs: Hein, Holding, Alebiosu, Tavares, Partey, Patino, Salah-Eddine, Nketiah, Biereth

  31. 31
    Esso says:

    Where’s Leno? On his way to Newcastle?

  32. 32
  33. 33
    scruzgooner says:

    wow, hein instead of okonkwo, and some real youth on the bench. partey as well! i like the midfield of lokonga/esr/mø. COYG!

  34. 34
    Ollie says:

    That’s the rumour, Esso.
    Very strong team and Partey back on the bench already, I certainly didn’t expect that.
    Come on Arsenal!

  35. 35
    scruzgooner says:

    leno is clearly in negotiation with them, esso…if that’s how we take his absence. bigger than that for me is hein on the bench…where’d arthur go?

  36. 36
    scruzgooner says:

    great clip, cynic.

  37. 37
    Silly Second Yella says:

  38. 38
    bt8 says:

    Strong first XI, and no XIAKA so what’s not to like?

    C O Y G ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. 39
  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    Strong looking team. Hope they are all fit enough to last 90 mins or more…

    Alebiosu on the bench, as predicted, with Chambers off games, but mighty pleased to see Tomi back.

    John-Jules not on the bench, but being behind Nketiah and Biereth in the pecking order seems right.

    Partey on the bench, however, (also as suggested). I suspect we shall see a few minutes from him this evening.

    Okonkwo played for the U23s earlier this week, suggesting Hein was already pencilled in for this one. If Leno really is off up North, I hope we extract a lot of moolah for him from the Saudis.

  41. 41
    Esso says:

  42. 42
    Uplympian says:

    Firstly thanks to Scruz for a rip roaring preview – a real good read.
    Great to see a full strength team starting tonight but I share Ned’s worry as to how fit the returnees are – hoping they can all the full 90 + minutes without going into fetlock.
    Let’s send those bindpipers back north with nothing to show for their efforts. COYR

  43. 43
    bt8 says:

    Banish the thought of an injury, unless it’s a scouse one.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    The US rumour mill links us with Matt Turner of the New England Revolution in the MLS to replace Leno. Turner also keeps for the US national team, though battles for the gloves with Zack Steffen, who is Ederson’s back-up at Man City. Would Turner want to come to us to be a back-up, though, especially as we could get Leno back if Newcastle gets relegated?

  45. 45
    Silly Second Yella says:

    “Would Turner want to come to us to be a back-up, though, especially as we could get Leno back if Newcastle gets relegated?”

    Who gives a fuck NOW, ten minutes before the 2nd leg of the semifinal???


  46. 46
    bathgooner says:

    Good to see returnees strengthening the team but central midfield still looks light. Partey on the bench may have a big role as the game progresses. It’s going to require 100% commitment.


  47. 47
    gedo says:

    C’mon boys let’s go

  48. 48
    bt8 says:

    BBC reports: “Mikel Arteta is flying around as if he is standing on hot coals in his technical area.”

    Maybe he is.

  49. 49
    scruzgooner says:

    we aren’t playing badly, but what a shitty goal to concede.

  50. 50
    Silly Second Yella says:

    no flow, no ideas

  51. 51
    bathgooner says:

    After an encouraging start and lots of threat we lost our way after their flukey goal against the run of play. Our right flank is terribly quiet. Tomi seems to have lost his edge and we can’t get the ball to Saka or else Robertson has him in his pocket. In truth our threat has largely been Martinelli alone.

    We may need Thomas Partey to dominate this MF in the second half and wrest back control of this match. ESR doesn’t look 100%. I’d sub him and push Ødegaard further forward.

  52. 52
    ATG says:

    Massive improvement needed in the second half if we want to get anything out of this game. We started well but that was over after 15 minutes.

  53. 53
    bt8 says:

    Sky Sports’ Simeon Gholam reports:
    “Liverpool are 45 minutes away from a first domestic cup under Jurgen Klopp.”
    Hoping he’s wrong on two counts.

  54. 54
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Don’t worry SSY @50.

    I’m sure your usual elegant wit will return to you soon.

  55. 55
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Baff spot on @51, but I’d have given it 15 mins from half time.

    We are fast approaching the time to follow his suggestions.

  56. 56
    scruzgooner says:

    good eye kt3, corner!

  57. 57
    Gooner_KS says:

    Maybe now we play better with 10 men?

  58. 58
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Nothing. Not a thing.

    (the man in black by the sideline screaming and shouting 90+ minutes was good)

  59. 59
    Gooner_KS says:

    I feel we were more outsmarted rather then outplayed.

  60. 60
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Personally, I saw a huge amount that I liked this evening.

    We had more absentees, against a team far more developed in its push for success (if Liverpool are still up there in a couple of years when our current crop are challenging seriously they will have a bunch of new names on the teamsheet) and we dominated the opening 15 minutes.

    Pool scored a lucky goal from a miss hit shot.

    Gabriel, Tomi and ESR were all off the pace. Odegaard played CM. We had bugger all on the subs bench.

    I’ve still not seen the standard shot of the offside/onside call for the second goal, which looked very dodgy to me.

    And The Athletic have exposed some extremely dodgy happenings around the postponement of the first game.

    All in all, I’m not thrilled we lost, but I thought there were some good performances tonight, and I’m not gonna get down on anyone at the club when the odds were so clearly stacked against us.

  61. 61
    bathgooner says:

    We started the second half well but there are a lot of subpar minds and legs out there whether due to Covid, match-sharpness or carrying injuries. The lack of midfield muscle was a major weakness despite Sambi and Ødegaard working their socks off. The Dippers reversed the roles from the Anfield tie and we just didn’t have the guile, smarts or speed of thought and passing to penetrate their two ranks of defence. Several of our lads were running on fumes in the last 15 minutes. No disgrace but we weren’t quite good enough.

  62. 62
    North Bank Ned says:

    G_KS@59: Fair point. That was a team with a lot of experience of getting through big games just keeping everything under control. Save for the first 15 mins, we were never able to get going. And then didn’t get much by way of the breaks — as you tend not to do in games like that. Deflating and disappointing all round.

  63. 63
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’ve had another look at the offside, and it appears correct. Although, as I’ve consistently said, if it takes more than 20 seconds, you can’t tell whether it is office or not, and you need to draw lines to ascertain which way to call it, then it is not a clear and obvious error, and the onfield decision should stand.

  64. 64
    North Bank Ned says:

    GSD@60: That makes two of us on the offside call against Gabriel. On the stream I was watching, all that was shown was a line across the pitch somewhere between Gabriel and White and a label saying ‘onside’, not the customary pair of lines for the attacker and last defender. It did look as if Gabriel played Jota onside by the width of a shirt sleeve, but why weren’t we shown the lines on which the decision was made?

  65. 65
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    We have now gone out of both domestic cup competitions because we have been forced to play inexperienced and unfit players, as well as senior players out of position to make up the numbers.

    Yet we have taken more abuse than any other club for asking for a postponement.

  66. 66
    TTG says:

    I’ve sent tonight’s report to the techies

  67. 67
    TTG says:

    I was interested in the news on Turner unlike one of our number .
    I suspect as we have freed up four gaps for non-homegrown players we may see a lot of recruitment activity .

  68. 68
    Cynic says:

    Personally, I saw a huge amount that I liked this evening.

    So did I until they scored, then it was game over.

  69. 69
    Bathgooner says: