Feed on

We Are Top Of The Leagues!

On 10th May this year, around a mere four and a half months ago, I handed over the preview for the Tottenham vs Arsenal match at the Armitage Shanks Arena to be played on 11th May. It was a pleasure to write, poked lots of fun at Spurs, included our new anthem by Louis Dunford, amongst other comedy songs, and the mood and expectations were high that a point from that game would virtually assure us of a coveted place back in the Champions League.

There, however, the fun, the expectation and the pleasure all ended.

We blew it. Or at least Mr Paul Tierney blew it – his whistle, that is – a time or two too many and our season was done. A penalty awarded against Cedric for a challenge you see go unpunished every week. Apparently he jumped, is my recollection, and stopped Son, from memory, getting to the ball. Those of a certain age will remember Frank McLintock making a career out of doing that with Peter Simpson. But those were different times. Now, or at least last season, defenders were required to go about their business like panicking waiters – hands tucked behind their backs and making all efforts to avoid the slightest brush with a paying customer. Who was Son paying, remains the only question for me ?

One – Nil to Tottenham – the penalty converted by the ever more gargoyle like Harry Kane. He who is causing concern to England’s management ahead of the upcoming World Cup as he just can’t seem to master the new words, since Queen Elizabeth’s demise, to our national anthem. Two more blasts of Mr Tierney’s whistle and two soft bookings for stand-in centre back Rob Holding, and our evening was done.

A little under five months later and things have changed. We sit proudly at the top of the league at the end of this latest international interruption, as indeed do the Arsenal Ladies following their 4-0 demolition of the Lady Spuds a week ago.

We have world class new signings in William Saliba (LANS), Gabriel Jesús, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Granit Xhaka. Whaaat ?! I hear you shout. Well let me tell you doubters, in his new role as a “left 8”, Xhaka is equal top chance creator in the Premier League this season. Equal, that is, with Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah – thereby proving that literally all things are possible.

“Top of the league ?” the cynics cry – “but we haven’t played anyone yet !” Well, as the cliché goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you and apart from Man Utd – who for the most part we comprehensively outplayed – we have. In climbing to the top of the table, we have played opposing teams in an average league position of 11.8. Tottenham’s opposition, meanwhile, has occupied an average position of 14.4, and Manchester City have been whacking teams down at 15.2. So, cynics, we are very worthy of our place at the peak of the hardest league in the world. So there !

Things have changed at Tottenham too. In the summer window they signed a total of seven players, the most notable being Christian Romero from Atalanta and Richarlison from Everton. Romero has already shown himself to be something of a thug with a series of nasty looking, violent challenges, while Richarlison will fit nicely alongside Kane and Son in a front three of diving cheats. I imagine long hours of planning were involved at the Lane, in working out quite how to make themselves even more dislikable than they already were. For his part Richarlison must have thought long and hard about where his greatest strength was most likely to go unpunished. 

Note: However objectionable I, or we, may find Richarlison as a player, following the recent incident involving him, it goes without saying that throwing bananas, or any other racist acts or chanting is totally unacceptable. Fortunately that sort of thing does not happen at the Arsenal, but it is still worth making the point.

The Statistics 

To be honest I would rather do a few Spurs jokes at this point, but the current cost of living crisis and general financial turmoil seem to have dampened down my, and probably all our senses of fun a touch. Well, that and the fact that there aren’t many good Spurs jokes left that haven’t been done before. Instead it might be worth a look at a few stats to give hope for optimism ahead of this difficult but very winnable game.

This fixture will be the 171st game between the two clubs but only the 162nd true North London Derby since The Arsenal moved up from south London in 1913. Tottenham were incensed at the time that we had invaded “their” territory and we have been royally – quite literally it turns out as the late Queen Elizabeth II was a gooner too – pissing them off ever since.

Arsenal actually lead the all-time Football League head to head record in this fixture, with 68 wins to Tottenham’s 55, although just four of those wins have come in the last 16 meetings (W4 D6 L6). Taking only our home fixtures, the record is very different as we have lost only one of the last 29 home league games against Spurs (W17 D11) and we are unbeaten against them in the last 11 encounters at The Emirates, since a 1-2 loss in November 2010. Overall, the clubs are closer, as in the table of Best English Top Flight Win Ratios, we sit 3rd behind Man Utd and Liverpool, with our ratio of 45.7%, while Tottenham are fourth with 41.8%. In total, we have accumulated 1,948 points while Tottenham are almost 500 behind on 1,471.

What does that all mean ? Basically, however much the Spuds huff and puff about power shifts every time they win a game, there never has been one. Their trophy haul will confirm that they are, as Jack Wilshere has famously had it, quite shit.

Team News

Firstly, everyone is no doubt aware that Emile Smith-Rowe has now undergone surgery on a tendon in his groin following around ten months of recurring problems. Countryman100 has asked me to give a view on that situation which I will try to do, as fairly as possible, after this preview is published as I’ve just run out of time.

Martin Ødegaard played both games for Norway and is fit for the weekend despite some previous concerns expressed by the Norway management. Kieran Tierney was subbed off during his Scotland game after a clash of heads. While that was thought to be precautionary, the club has not released any expected availability date as yet. Thomas Partey is also currently a mystery, having returned early from international duty because of a knee problem. Oleksandr Zinchenko is reportedly fit and available again. Takehiro Tomiyasu also returned early from duty with Japan, due to what they have reported as “club circumstances”. Your guess is as good as mine!

Bearing all that in mind, I am taking this as an optimistic stab at our line-up:


Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney

Ødegaard, Xhaka, Zinchenko

Saka, Jesús, Martinelli

The Holic Pound

The bookies seem to have us as favourites to win this one with Paddy Power offering typical odds around 21/20, with the draw at 13/5 and a Tottenham win at 12/5. If you are looking for a bit more value, you can get Gabriel Jesús at 5/1 to score the first goal, or Gabriel Martinelli at 7/1 to pull off the same feat. In terms of correct scores, Arsenal are around 9/1 to win 2-1, or 17/1 to win 3-1.

Match officials 

The referee will be Anthony Taylor, who should have sent off the aforementioned Christian Romero for violent conduct against Marc Cucurella of Chelsea in their 2-2 draw this season – he threw Cucurella to the ground by his hair. Taylor was also in charge on the opening day of the season when we beat Crystal Palace 2-0 and had a pretty decent game. The fourth official will be Peter Bankes and VAR will be Stuart Attwell.

There are differing opinions on referees’ decisions, impartiality and VAR. Some are in the school of “everything evens itself out over the season”, some are convinced it doesn’t because their team are constantly on the wrong end of decisions and, in turn, some believe those unfavourable decisions are genuine mistakes while others are convinced of bias. VAR was supposed to end all the controversy but few people would deny that it has only made everything worse. Nobody seems to be sure when VAR is meant, or allowed, to intervene and when not.

VAR has made a total of 94 decisions so far this season and apparently the league table would look very different if those decisions were to be wiped away. ESPN has done an analysis of the effect of the first VAR decisions of each game, form and expected goals at the time of those incidents. In the new table Arsenal would remain top, having seen the 1-3 defeat at Man Utd converted to a 1-0 victory. Man Utd would drop down without those three points and Tottenham would rise to second, as their 1-1 draw at West Ham would be converted to a win. Leeds and Everton would rise while Liverpool would drop. Bournemouth and Wolves would each rise four places, while West Ham would regain one of the points lost to Spurs, as Cornet’s strike against Chelsea would ultimately have counted.

I can’t imagine anyone now has a mentally redrawn picture of the league table in their heads, but did anyone really imagine that VAR would be distorting the sport to this extent. Is this really what it was intended for ?

However, there will not only be VAR available to our match, but there will also be Olympic Diving judges on duty to help Anthony Taylor with controversial penalty box incidents involving the Tottenham Tumbling Team. They have a lot of experience in dealing with incidents like this:

Kick off is at 12.30pm on Saturday 1st October. TV coverage on BT Sport.

Enjoy the game, Holics! We are top of the leagues!

46 Drinks to “We Are Top Of The Leagues!”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    What a great preview Trev, humour, stats and a decent dig at the divey ones. I have to say I hate this game as I always get very nervous before it. Always have, always will. Just one request to the team. Please don’t play that high line we played against Manchester United. Give yourselves 10 more yards and mop up their counters. COYG!

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    Cheers Trev and thanks for your excellent preview. I assume you will tell all the old Spurs jokes inn the drinks? 😆

  3. 3
    North Bank Ned says:

    Great going, Trev. As C100 says, humour, stats and a decent dig at the divey ones.

    Bath@previous drinks: Excellent and considered thoughts on ESR’s injury.

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    Marvellous preview for a game that I hate until we win it when I love it to bits. I’m just detecting a degree of frustration amongst Spuds because despite not losing in the League , the fare has been pretty ghastly . Honest Spuds ( if that isn’t an oxymoron) tell me the football is no better than under Mourinho but with that very good forward line they are dangerous especially on the break.
    I thought Partey was fit and so was Ben White who I think has the right back berth at present . Key players for us apart from Granit, who has been superb this season , are Partey , Saliba and Jesus . The latter two are the huge difference between our team in May and now.
    I’m going to be bullish and say 2-0 to us with Saka and Jesus scoring

  5. 5
    Cent says:

    Excellent preview, Trev. Take a bow.

  6. 6
    Ollie says:

    Cheer Trev. Great preview. I’ll go for 3-1 but perfectly happy with 2-1. I am reasonably confident due to home comforts.
    As usual I am pretty much as much stressed by travel than by the actual match so I’m looking forward to actually being there!
    And very good point about the high line, C100

  7. 7
    Sancho Panza says:

    I like to think Spurs will shit themselves again and go for another 3 nil to the Arsenal.

  8. 8
    ClockEndRider says:

    Great review, Trev, for which many thanks.
    To TTG ‘s point #4 above, I am heartily sick of watching T*tt*nh*m, United and Chelski score the same goal against us: Our corner, ball cleared, break, goal. I hope Arteta ensures this is prepared for tomorrow. Failing this, the only way they can score is through their Tom Daley/ Greg Louganis tribute act front line. I have no faith in either referee nor VAR to see through their farcical attempts so think we’ll have to outscore them. 3-1 to the good guys.


    C100, catch you at your block around Midday.

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    CER I’ll come to block 9.

  10. 10
    Bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable and entertaining preview, Trev, of a match that, like others, I dread – your preview is far, far more enjoyable to me than the match itself will be until it has ended with the right result.

    I failed to get tickets for it because of a glitch in the Online Ticket Office that prevented me completing the purchase of the three tickets in my basket and forced me to start from the back of the queue with inevitable failure. However my negative feelings about the experience of watching that game has made it far easier to relax about missing out on the match day experience and to watch it instead from the comfort of my couch with a bottle of fine Franschoek cabernet sauvignon at my elbow to assuage my anxiety (and a toast to Chris, Oskar the Dog and HD television).

    I share C100’s concern about the vulnerability of our high line and CER’s heartfelt sickness at watching us concede the same goal over and over again to the usual suspects of whom tomorrow’s opponents have able exponents as observed by TTG.

    I sincerely hope that Thomas Partey is fully fit and matches his dominant performance against Brentford and that Jesús thoroughly enjoys his first NLD. For a number of years I haven’t been confident about winning this fixture but I will be far more confident that we will get the right result if Partey is playing because he makes this exciting young team more secure and more dynamic.

    Nor can I ever predict the result of this fixture in part because form frequently goes out the window in the the frenetic turmoil of the NLD. Any kind of win will do me but 3-0 would be very nice, thank you.

    COYG (please).

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Superlative preview Trev! Fluidly entertaining style executed on robust foundations: with the poise of Saliba, creativity of Ødegaard, panache of Gabriel Jesus, verve of Martinelli … the entire piece conceived and executed with the meticulousness of Arteta!

    Looking forward to the team creating the positive feedback loop with the home crowd to drive themselves to a dominating, exhilarating performance and a just result. Such that even those of us sitting thousands of miles away in front of the TV will feel the joyous energy …

    Come on Arsenal!

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great stuff Trev, I feel more bullish after reading your preview so I will go with 2-0 to
    The Arsenal after Taylor sends off at least one spud in revenge for making him look an
    incompetent clown before. Also looking forward to your thoughts on ESR’s surgery, his injury has been one of the very few flies in our royal jelly this season

  13. 13
    Ollie says:

    A red card wouldn’t surprise me Matt. Hope it’s their way obviously.
    Maybe resulting from some Brazilian on Brazilian action Gabriel vs Richarlison.

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    Re: Brazilian on Brazilian action. Sounds intriguing, with hints of crude acts. I can only imagine some of these words might be used to some considerable effectiveness by the boys on our side.

    A comprehensive guide to swearing in brazilian portuguese from Portuguese

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    My apologies for the length of the previous drink. At least I hope it serves some educational value. FOYS, or in this case, VAM (Vá à merda)S.

  16. 16
    Ollie says:

    We depart on time! It’s looking good.

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Heh bt8. 😁

  18. 18
    Sancho Panza says:

    The ever more gargoyle Harry Kane made me chuckle.

    Slack jawed indeed.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Match day good people. Setting off shortly for God’s own country in North London. Come On You Gunners!

  20. 20
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hope so too Ollie. After reading Trev’s preview I watched the lowlights from the last NLD again. Can’t remember what I thought at the time but now I think the penalty was an absolute joke and Rob was the author of his own misfortune. Must be smarter this time.

  21. 21
    OsakaMatt says:

    Safe trip all!

  22. 22
    Ollie says:

    Cheers Matt. Yeah that’s what I thought at the time on these ‘incidents’ . It was painful, and annoying sacrificing an evening out in Barcelona for this (hindsight and all…).

  23. 23
    Bathgooner says:

    The tension is building.

    This is a test we have to pass.

  24. 24
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Any win, anyhow is the only acceptable result.

  25. 25
    Trev says:

    Thank you for all the positive feedback and comments, fellas ! Much appreciated.

    Strange feeling this morning of being convinced we are a much better footballing side than Tottenham but worried that they will get a dodgy decision with their diving antics.

    As a few people have commented above, we have to protect ourselves by not playing a kamikaze high line and avoiding the vulnerability to that one long ball between the centre backs.

    Other than that – We are the Arsenal and We are the best ……….

  26. 26
    Las says:

    Thanks, Trev. A truly enjoyable preview! I wish the game itself would follow your lines.
    A year ago we made there manager sacked. I am not expecting the same efficieny only the same result from us.
    I read that Tomi is nursing a knock so I go for Ben White as RB.
    Jesus scores first!

  27. 27
    bt8 says:


  28. 28
    bt8 says:

    It could help if Thomas finallyfinds his shooting boots. Just saying.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Reiss Nelson on the bench, along with Tomi and KT3.

    White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko
    Xhaka, Thomas
    Saka, Odegaard (c), Martinelli

    Bench: Turner, Tierney, Holding, Tomiyasu, Lokonga, Vieira, Nelson, Marquinhos, Nketiah

  30. 30
    Bathgooner says:


  31. 31
    Gooner_KS says:


  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Smilin’ Thomas ya beauty

  33. 33
    Bathgooner says:

    Frustrating and disappointing first half. We played SO well for 30 minutes but didn’t turn total dominance into goals. If we are going to win this game we need to finish more of the chances we create and also somehow we have to blunt those counterattacks.

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    Even half and the penalty was a penalty. Keep it level and calm, chip away, and it’ll be Jesus or Saka for the winner. 😎

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    Jesus has two feet and a body to go with it. You could pretty much say the same about Saka. 😂

  36. 36
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-1 Jesus !!
    Tense stuff but we’re playing well

  37. 37
    Gooner_KS says:


  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Stupid Emerson, Great Xhaka, Sneaky Kane cheat
    Happy me

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    North London is Red and We are Top of the League
    Great day, deserved too we were better and smarter
    than them

  40. 40
    Sancho Panza says:

    We look very very good.

    Be good to see Shitty City lose tomorrow.

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath’s right about the need to turn first-half superiority into goals. But in the end, job done. The red card turned the game at a beneficial juncture for us. Yet, today’s North London is red, so what’s not to like?

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    Also, a huge shout-out for Saliba, who was so impressive today.

  43. 43
    Bathgooner says:

    Predictably, I only began to enjoy that game at 3-1. Until then, while we controlled the second half, we remained vulnerable to their breakouts but we managed them better than we did in the first half. Once their second rate right back got his silly red card they threw in the towel. What a second half performance! That result is a massive boost to the psychology of these players.


  44. 44
    Ollie says:

    Got the scoreline right and the Brazilian on Brazilian red card too though I got the wrong protagonists completely. Fantastic. If Heineken did… Off back to the station shortly. Gutted I can’t stay here to celebrate longer but not really gutted because…we are top of the league and battered them!

  45. 45
    Bathgooner says:

    Safe Journey, Ollie. Happy journey! 🍻

  46. 46
    Bathgooner says: