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The past, and the future. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Last week, while idly pondering Manchester City’s stadium name, I discovered that Etihad is only the second-largest airline in the UAE, trailing Emirates, the leader.  What with Arsenal having named their stadium Emirates and signed a long-term “Fly Emirates” shirt sponsorship, some people might think Arsenal should be able to get better commercial deals than City, seeing as Emirates must have plenty of money to spend, but I will leave that point for others to determine.  In any case, Manchester City sport a much larger transfer budget than Arsenal, who never seem to be pursuing the same players as City in the transfer market, at least not in my reading of the headlines over the dozen years since they were purchased by Sheik Mansour of the Abu Dhabi royal family.  None of this is to say Arsenal cannot compete with their oil-rich rivals, or even to defy the odds and come up with a win on any particular occasion, but let’s just say the scales are tilted against them.  But enough of the grim reality.

On Wednesday evening Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad, the site of his top-level coaching apprenticeship of three and a half seasons under Pep Guardiola, to lead Arsenal into a battle that most observers will give him little chance of winning against the two-time defending Premier League champions.  Guardiola will do his best to give his protege another coaching lesson, but this time not a friendly one.  Pep was not only Arteta’s mentor but gave him his first chance to coach at a big club, albeit in an assistant role.  Arteta was Guardiola’s right-hand man during City’s 2017/18 and 2018/19 Premier League title-winning seasons so this match; being the first time Arteta faces his old employers since he left to become coach of Arsenal, it should be an emotional and memorable occasion for the two men.

Arsenal last played Saturday at home when they saw off West Ham by 1-0.  Their opponents will be playing on a day’s less rest, last having played Sunday at Old Trafford when they lost by two goals and were unable to score.  Arsenal next play Saturday away at Brighton while the Citizens host Burnley the same day, so on Wednesday both clubs will be playing their second of three games within a week, and the managers will need to consider the fatigue factor in their team selection and substitution decisions.  Arsenal currently sit ninth in the table, trailing Manchester City in second spot by 17 points.  The positive spin is that City lag league leaders Liverpool by an even larger margin of 25 points, which made me feel much better until I realised Liverpool have collected more than twice as many points as Arsenal, but Liverpool will not be the opponents at hand in any case.  Despite their recent decline City are still more than capable of outclassing any opposition, particularly when playing at home.  In their last four league encounters, City have outscored Arsenal by 11 goals to one, and by five goals to nil at the Etihad, so Mikel will need to come up with a better game plan than his two predecessors were able to do.

There was some fairly egregious last-minute rescheduling of this fixture, which was postponed from the weekend before last when City defeated Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final, and Arsenal dispatched Portsmouth in the FA Cup.  The Premier League announced the new date just seven days ago, presenting considerable added difficulty for teams and fans who will have had to readjust their travel schedules.  Arsenal announced: “The game will be played next Wednesday to avoid potential fixture congestion for both teams towards the end of the season.  We are pleased to confirm that the club is subsidising coach travel to/from Manchester for this match.”  Hopefully, more than just a few traveling Gooners will be able to take advantage of the travel subsidy, hastily rearrange their plans, attend the match, and see a performance that justifies all their effort.

Pending appeal Manchester City are banned from European competition for two years because of financial shenanigans, so the race is on for fifth place, the final Europa League spot, and despite all odds Arsenal are still in the hunt.  Will Guardiola be able to motivate his players to expend maximum effort when there is relatively little of tangible meaning left to play for?  Having just lost the Manchester derby, the air seems to be coming out of City’s sails a bit, so it might not make a great deal of difference to some of them whether they finish in second or third place, but there is no way to know for sure until the game is played.  But young players like Phil Foden must have greater motivation compared to older teammates like David Silva.  City are still in the Champions League and the FA Cup but their season has an air of disappointment about it.  This week Raheem Sterling was quoted in the press saying the players have been “slacking” which could be a rallying cry, a call for help, or both at the same time.

City have suffered the loss to injury of central defender Aymeric Laporte for much of the season.  Last year Laporte looked capable of becoming Vincent Kompany’s successor in the heart of defence when the club’s long time captain returned to Belgium.  But Laporte was injured in August and missed the next five months.  He played in three of City’s last four league games but has not yet played 90 minutes so their defence is still in a relatively unstable situation, and the team news says Laporte will not play on Wednesday.  Most of the season Laporte’s position was filled by 34 year old defensive midfielder Fernandinho who did a decent job but apparently not quite good enough to keep City in the Premier League title race.  Nicolas Otamendi at centre back and Kyle Walker at right back have been near certainties in the team but Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko have shared the left back position.  City’s midfield foursome has been stable with Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva starting most Premier League games.  David Silva has played a significant number of minutes but fewer than last year as he winds his career down, and Riyad Mahrez has featured on the wing more often than last season.  Sergio Agüero has played less often as he and Gabriel Jesus have shared time at the main striker position.  Speedy Raheem Sterling has played more minutes than any other player excepting De Bruyne and their dependable goalkeeper Ederson.

Team selection

Against the Hammers Bernd Leno was most observers’ Man of the Match, and he will surely keep his place in the Arsenal goal.  The back four must feature David Luiz, who has so much experience against big teams on big occasions, but Arteta has an interesting decision as to Luiz’ centre-back partner between Pablo Marí, who played calmly and effectively against Portsmouth and West Ham earlier in the week, and Shkodran Mustafi, who returned to full training last Thursday after his 2020 resurrection as Luiz’ regular partner was interrupted by injury.  Hector Bellerin and Bukayo Saka should be the fullbacks assuming both are fit.

Under three managers Granit Xhaka has been one of the only constants in the Arsenal team, despite my protestations, and I see no likelihood the Swiss will be left out of this one.  Dani Ceballos is in an excellent run of form and it would be a shame to rest him now, but it would be great to see Joe Willock get a chance in the advanced midfield role filled since Arteta’s appointment by Mesut Özil.  The timing of this match, given the number of games Özil has played in a brief period, suggest there could be an opening for the young man.  Reiss Nelson impressed in his 30 minute cameo against West Ham in place of the frustrated Nicolas Pepe, and it would be refreshing to see Nelson play there from the start at the Etihad.  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, who scored in his last two substitute appearances, should take their places in the remaining attacking positions.

The ‘holics pound

Arsenal will concede in this game, I don’t think there is any way around it.  If we can avoid conceding two goals we will be doing well considering all the creative players and finishers at Manchester City’s disposal.  But I don’t think we will manage quite that well defensively, which is why I’m going for a scoreline of 2-3 with Gabriel De Jesus to score first and Sterling second, but Auba to go bang bang bang in a scorching second half salvo.  Quite enough to cure your halftime blues, I would think!  Come on Arsenal, let’s see you hang with the big boys.  Have a good one, ‘holics.

56 Drinks to “Mikel’s men to mash the oil magnates?”

  1. 1
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great stuff, thanks bt8!
    The poster we appreciate
    Holic pound is on two-three
    Who am I to disagree?

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    2-3? Sweet dreams are certainly made of that, OM.

    Good going, bt8b. Another cracking preview.

  3. 3
    Pangloss says:

    How great to wake up and find anew posting in the bar. And such a positive one!

    I’ll be keeping everything crossed this evening for a favourable result. Woe betide any goat of sacrificial age that crosses my path during the day.


  4. 4
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers bt8. Lovely preview that sets the scene for the match well.

    I like the holics’ pound too. We must follow Dave’s example of betting on results in favour of the good guys, so why not assume we will concede and plump for an attacking response to see us to three points?

  5. 5
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Welcome to Mulerise14 who showed up in the last drinks. If there are any other long time ‘lurkers’ (readers who don’t post comments) from Dave’s bar who fancy adding your voices to this new bar then we would all like to hear from you.

    There is a tipple of your choice on the bar…

    Plus one for all the old hands, both regular and returning. Always a pleasure.

  6. 6
    bathgooner says:

    Great preview packed with info, bt8. As Pangloss observes, it’s a wonderful thing to wake up to!

    I’d love to start the day with a glass of whatever you were drinking while you wrote it because at my most positive, I can just about anticipate a draw. It’s the Celtic gloom that drags me down!


  7. 7
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheer up Baff.

    I’m sticking the Dino pound on 1-0 to The Arsenal. I’d love to see us put on a rearguard action and keep a clean sheet as we hold on to an early lead bobbled in off David Luiz’s arse.


  8. 8
    bathgooner says:


  9. 9
    Mulerise14 says:

    Thanks Gunnersaurus……Man city has nothing to loose by the outcome of this game and we have everything to gain by the by not loosing.If a’thing Man city of this season looks like a pale cousin of the last season’s team.They sure can be gotten at,they are vulnerable at the back,we should set up in a way that would magnify their vulnerability a la counters.
    Please could someone help me play the videos of our first 3 or 4 games for Arteta-i remember bournemoth,chelsea,man united games-the energy to our pressing,the pace of our passing and the speed of our counter,we need to go back to that.We have started being ponderous in possession of recent.
    All our pace burners should start(Aubumeyang Martinelli and pepe).Martinelli should start central,that would throwing city a curveball alright,for he is a gadfly,the likes of which defenders hate to play against.Laca can be braught on later.
    Here is to holic pound……2-3 Arsenal and Arsenal won it against all odds…cheers

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    The odds on a 3-2 win for The
    Arsenal are a mouth-watering
    54-1 and even a 1-0 win is 33s.

    I was quite shocked until I thought
    about how bad we’ve been away
    for quite a while. Time for a change.

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Thanks to all for your kind comments on this post, especially to Scruzgooner for a great photo caption! And welcome to the drinks, Mulerise14 !!

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    Tempting if daunting odds there, OM.

  13. 13
    ksn says:

    Great preview, bt8. I would prefer Mustsfi over Mari, Nelson over Pepe and Martinelli over Laca to start. However, Laca is likely to start given his recent goal scoring form and experience. A draw is the best I can hope for.

    Congratulations to all concerned for getting this site going. A great way to remember and honor Holic.

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    Sobering reminder of bigger issues than football in Olympiakos’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis, testing positive for Covid-19. He was at the Ems for the Europa League second leg last month, though the club says that no Arsenal staff who came into contact with him then have reported any symptoms since. Stay healthy, all.


  15. 15
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hello ksn, nice to see you here!

  16. 16
    Brendan says:

    I’m sorry for what I said last night
    Some of the boys brought out bottles of stout they’d made.We all were there. It is like the United Nations there. I was born in Scotland with all the vocal joy that gave himself
    I really don’t think though that I will be around much but me da told me to so I’m observing the oul cunts wishes
    He really was a nice man . He said stuff to provoke reactions.
    Indeed the English grandchildren one of mine included still had to wipe their feet over exaggerated to give back any Donegal soil they were thinking of stealing AGAIN ! 😃

    They loved it We did it this morning

    Thank you David’s family and cheerio

  17. 17
    Pangloss says:


    I think I speak for all when I thank you for your kind words @16. You are right of course, we didn’t know your dad. All we knew was the character he chose to portray in the old blog. That was a character that we loved and were exasperated, quite often at the same time.

    Remember him with love and affection. We will.

  18. 18
    Cynic says:

    To find out cba may have liked jazz is a crushing blow… I thought he had taste (minus his inexplicable infatuation with The Ramones, which we “discussed” occasionally)

    He made me laugh when he accused me of being an ex soldier once. Me! I was shit scared of being in the cubs.

    Good times.

  19. 19
    ksn says:

    Thanks,OM. Nice to be back; really missed the company.

  20. 20
    Countryman100 says:

    I don’t think Feo likes jazz either. More a hip hop kinda guy.

  21. 21
    bt8 says:

    ksn and Brendan, It’s good to see you both back. Cheers!

  22. 22
    ksn says:

    Thanks, bt8.

  23. 23
    TTG says:

    Lots of activity around the blog. Marvellous to see !
    Firstly another really good preview by Bt8 – comprehensive analysis of the background to the game and likely team selection . I’d go with Mari , I’d play Guendouzi and Ceballos in midfield and Martinelli wide on the left . I’m not sure if Bellerin will play and Arteta hinted that Soares May be in the squad . Its hard to envisage anything better than a draw with the midfield he will actually play but if Bt8’s prediction comes true I will be ecstatic!
    Welcome Mulerise , Welcome back Ksn and great to hear from you Brendan . Your da was very much loved in this bar .
    Nice to have a long swig of Red Bull !

  24. 24
    Countryman100 says:

    Spuds one down, 2-0 on aggregate. Not great from Lloris

  25. 25
    Potsticker says:

    Lloris is no Leno. Bit conflicted, as Spuds crashing out may allow them to focus on the league.

  26. 26
    Countryman100 says:

    2-0 (agg 3-0). Game over. Sliced open down the left

  27. 27
    bathgooner says:

    I can see the match reports now as the commentators are working up to it:

    Plucky Tottnumb were desperately unlucky to be knocked out of the CL in a tie that should have been postponed until their fatally injured key players had recovered and become available for selection. This depleted team really deserved to go through and certainly would have done if MeltyFace and some other c**t had been fit. No other team has ever had to suffer such a handicap.

    In other news Jermaine Jenas is in therapy.

  28. 28
    bathgooner says:

    Jermaine, Glenn, Gary and Crouchy are een that you know that Sp*rz were depleted tonight. They dared to do.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Spuds dared to be done and
    were, nice of them to cheer us
    all up with their amusing antics
    on The Buffon Show.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Oh dear – The Buffoon Show
    I meant to say. I have spuds
    for fingers and mash for
    brains 😥

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    Anyway best get the mockery
    in now in case things go sideways
    at The Emptihad.

  32. 32
  33. 33
    Countryman100 says:

    Heavy rumours around that City game cancelled Wednesday night due to corona virus and linkage of cv positive Olympiacos President

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

    Confirmed, it’s on Arsenal.com

  35. 35
  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    You beat me to it, C100.

    If none of the players has developed any symptoms 13 days after some of them were in contact with Evangelos Marinakis (and I assume we would have heard of it if they had), then hopefully none of them, or the club staff at risk, have contracted Covid-19.

    Here’s hoping all stay fit and well.

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    Heavily washed fingers crossed
    that everyone at club stays well

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks CM – a very enjoyable
    read though I’m a bit with
    Potsticker in that I don’t want
    things to disintegrate completely
    yet as then even Levy might pay the
    money to get rid of Maureen.
    A draw with Manure this weekend
    would be good.

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    And I must spare a thought
    for bt8 who will have to rewrite
    later in the season!

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    That could be three fewer goals for Auba this season, Matt. 🙂

  41. 41
    OsakaMatt says:

    Left foot, right foot, header
    hat trick too 🙂

    The Olmpiakos guy is in charge
    of Nottm Forest too. Though
    their next match isn’t postponed
    yet and the Olympiakos / Wolves
    game is also going on albeit behind
    closed doors. That might make me
    a little nervous if I played for Wolves
    and doesn’t seem a logical decision.

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@41: I think the reason that our game is off, but Wolves’ is on is because our players met Marinakis 13 days ago. Thus, the game falls within the 14-day quarantine period. Had it gone ahead, the Man City players would then have to go into isolation for 14 days as they would have been in contact with possibly infected individuals (i.e. our squad) during the potential incubation period. The Wolves’ game is on Thursday so the Olympiakos players would be beyond the incubation period even if their game with us were the latest date that they were first in close contact with Marinakis. This assumes no one else at Olympiakos except Marinakis has shown symptoms or that everyone there has tested negative for Covid-19. The same logic probably applies to Notts Forest’s next game.

    Alternatively, UEFA could be a bunch of tosspots who don’t know what they are doing.

    The latter may be the correct explanation.

  43. 43
    OsakaMatt says:

    I must admit I’m leaning to the
    latter as well Ned.
    The former has a few assumptions
    whereas the latter has a neat
    Occamist (is that a word?) ring
    to it.

  44. 44
    ksn says:

    Thanks Countryman100 @32. Nice read and made me laugh. Not everyday that you see Mourinho feel so helpless. Saw the first half of a Spurs match and was surprised by the sort of dominance Leipzig had over an outclassed Spurs team.

    Thanks TTG @ 23.

  45. 45
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Good to see the bar re-opened and thanks to all involved in that process. Onwards.

  46. 46
    Trev says:

    Nice preview bt8, even though it took me three days to read it !

    And now the game is off due to the Coro…. well, you know. Seems eminently sensible in the circumstances, if costly for would be travelling fans and disappointing for the rest of us. Hopefully the club will do the right thing when those travelling fans eventually get to make the trip.

    Thanks for dropping in, Brendan. Your dad was brilliant in here. I had a bit of offline contact with him a few tears ago now, in trying to remotely help him with his neck pain. He’s sorely missed.

    Good to see the activity on this new site – have we gone viral yet – er, oh well …..😳

  47. 47
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hello Noosa,
    Nice to you here again too.
    I imagine Noosa is a little
    quieter than usual…..

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    Not strictly football, but this is an informative read in the London Review of Books on SARS-CoV-2.


  49. 49
    scruzgooner says:

    hilarious from mediawatch today, even as covid-19 is scaring the piss out of us: “At what point does just carrying on largely as normal [playing games to full houses] even as Italy and Spain take ever more drastic steps become actively irresponsible? Do Spurs deserve credit for being ahead of the curve and proactively ceasing all football activity several weeks ago?”


    Why is English football just carrying on regardless?

  50. 50
    scruzgooner says:

    and let’s hit the half ton, just for fun.

  51. 51
    Brendan says:

    I apologise fellas
    Didn’t mean to whatever

    I don’t know any of you
    but my father said
    shout hello
    they’ll know me

  52. 52
    C says:

    was gonna say nothing

  53. 53
    Brendan says:

    Goonerholic was a name I knew when I stayed
    In Donegal
    respect his memory
    He was a good person to my father
    and vice versa

    Nice people die

    It’s shite

  54. 54
    Brendan says:

    Fuckin sorry
    Himself would laugh
    but it s one of mine
    wrote that


    me da was a good man
    And he loved all of you

  55. 55
    Countryman100 says:

    Sorry Brendan. Join us in the next article!


  56. 56
    Brendan says:

    And himself knew music but he called people who set great store in who played this or that ‘trane spotters . He gave me two guitars. I have a garage

    We really are missing him he was brilliant just so nice