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Soccer Football – Premier League – Chelsea v Arsenal – Stamford Bridge, London, Britain – November 6, 2022 Arsenal’s Gabriel celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

So accustomed I have become to see us play in the Premier League this season on Sundays I had completely overlooked that this weekend’s away match at Molineux is a rare Saturday evening affair. Fortunately, I read this wonderful (possibly the best, if you haven’t heard of them yet) Arsenal blog called “Goonerholics Forever” where a bunch of misty eyed — but with a steely resolve and an overdeveloped sense of humor – Gooners keep talking about Arsenal in honor of their spiritual leader, the inimitable Goonerholic, who had sadly left us way too soon, and one of their posts sent a jolt of reminder to me that I need to write this preview today, not tomorrow.

But it is only a pleasure and a privilege. And while mentioning ‘Holic in the previous sentence, the thought came to my mind that how much he would have loved this version of talented, hungry, humble, disciplined Arsenal team and their fearless approach to the game. And I must confess that at a time when some of the worst proclivities of mankind are on brutal, shameless display, it has often been very difficult to look forward to weekend football. And yet, for that very reason enjoying the simple pleasure of watching Arsenal play felt a kind of defiance, and also a source of inspiration. Good people outside the Goonerverse may have kept their admiration limited to Arsenal’s results and the performances, but I myself – and going by the full-throttled singing reverberating across grounds home and away, may be also the match going fanbase – found an emotional resonance that I felt goes beyond the regular connections of a football fan, beyond tribalism, beyond pride, beyond the vicarious triumphs. The only explanation I can offer – aren’t we always a mystery to ourselves? – is that the kind of lucid fearlessness that has characterized Arsenal’s performances this season is perhaps a glimpse into what I myself can strive to be.  

Not that we always played swashbuckling attractive football, or always played with tactical acumen, or always shown the right know-how to control matches. We have shown all those qualities to indicate a team that is constantly growing in abilities and confidence, but not consistently enough to be called anywhere close to the finished article. However, what we have consistently shown is the ability to respond to any situation, especially difficult situations, with resilience, camaraderie and an unpanicked focus on the end goal – unruffled by persistent thuggery or incompetent officiating. That kind of authentic courage is a rare quality, whether on a football field or in a nation. It is not entirely impossible that my impression of the Arsenal team is somewhat influenced by witnessing such rare courage on a larger, grander, national scale, as it has been unfolding in a troubled corner of Europe.

This last match before the unfortunate hiatus in the league season offers Arsenal a golden opportunity to strengthen their position at the top until the season restarts after Christmas, when different players will resume their club duties with wildly different levels of rest, physical/mental preparedness, and as a consequence teams will likely to find it very hard to maintain consistently good form and even by the unpredictable nature of the premier league, results are likely to throw up surprises with unexpectedly high frequency.

Arsenal has ten first team squad members traveling to this unique winter World Cup in the desert, but not all of them are expected to go too far in the knock-out rounds. The Brazilian duo of Martinelli & Jesus, the English trio of Saka, Ramsdale, White, the young Frenchman Saliba and maybe Xhaka captaining the Swiss team are the ones likeliest to go far enough to require post-World Cup recovery to potentially render them not fully ready for our first match at home on Boxing Day once the season resumes. I myself think the encouraging showings by Reiss and Eddie notwithstanding, and even considering ESR’s likely return from injury, we will struggle significantly in the final third if all three of our current forwards cannot return to the squad quick enough back to their absolute best. 

On the other hand, we will have some key players fully rested during this month-long break and that should counterbalance some of the concerns about players’ unavailability: Ødegaard, Gabriel the defender, Zinchenko, Tierney, ESR (hopefully he recovers completely by then and with enough practice under his belt).

Returning back to the immediate concerns of the away trip to Wolves, my predicted starting eleven has no surprises.


White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko


Ødegaard – Xhaka

Saka – Jesus – Martinelli

The 4-1-2-3 is purely a nominal formation. As many here have already observed, Arteta’s team attacks with all the five front players down parallel channels, Zinchenko drifts in towards the left sided central midfield position next to Partey, and the three- man defense of White-Saliba-Gabriel stays as high up the pitch as possible, relying on their qualities on the ball and athleticism to thwart breakaway attacks from any quick turnovers. The superior technical qualities and the calmness in possession of Partey and Zinchenko also allow Arsenal to play rapidly and incisively through opposition press without losing tempo.   

Arteta and his coaching team are meticulous in preparing specifically for the opposition with often surprising but highly effective tactical tweaks – Tomiyasu as a left back against Liverpool to cut off the long diagonals to Salah was an inspired move, and like a Holmesian de-puzzling to Watson, feels obvious only after the genius has been explained – and I am sure they will have something special in mind for the dangers of Traore or Neves. I haven’t followed Wolves closely – well, haven’t really followed them at all – this season but a look at the league table and their recent run of results tells me that they haven’t been as consistent as often have been the case in recent seasons. The team still has many seasoned internationals, some technically gifted players in key positions and despite the recent spate of managerial changes retain the high pressing physical qualities that make them very hard to beat, and anything less than our very best will be punished.

It is possible that the World Cup bound players would be – albeit unconsciously and not intentionally – little less committed in fifty-fifty challenges compared to what they have shown until now, but I am hoping the spirit of fearlessness and that admirable professionalism that now runs through the spine of this team would be enough to see us through. In our last two league encounters – both in February earlier this year – we had beaten them 1-0 away before winning at home by a similarly slender margin of 2-1. We should expect a tight and cagey affair like those two games, but a match to ultimately turn comfortable for us towards the end, giving us a 3-1 victory is my (acceptedly optimistic) prediction.

Enjoy the match everyone. Come on Arsenal!

33 Drinks to “Fearless”

  1. 1
    scruzgooner says:

    love it, dr. faustus. your title always makes me think of this:

    excepting the refrain at the end, of course.


  2. 2
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks Scruz!

    Lovely album that. All the political preoccupations and the world weariness of the latter years yet to intrude (nothing against those), the magical imagination and sometimes silliness of the early Floyd honed by tighter playing.

    Speaking of rockstars, I remember seeing Plant in the Wolves crowd watching the matches a few times …

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great piece thanks Dr F. Much to ponder, and much to enjoy in your writing.

    When we played Wolves twice in February they were challenging for a Europa League place and playing quite well. The two closely fought defeats against us seemed to dent their confidence and they fell away afterwards in the league and haven’t recovered their mojo this season. Let’s hope this isn’t the game they get it back.
    I expect full commitment to be honest and bugger the World Cup, 2-0 to The Arsenal.

  4. 4
    ClockEndRider says:

    Fabulous preview, as ever, Dr F, commencing with a perfect description of the band that runs the GHF show! I think you’re right that The Guv would have loved this current incarnation of The Arsenal, blending silk and steel in equal measure and making the pulse race with the fluency and speed of attack.
    21CG and I went to the league game at Molineux last February as did C100 and the away fans made a tremendous racket that night. We saw the above mentioned silk and steel, with the emphasis on the latter, in that performance, having to deal with forbearance with the only occasion I can remember (Anyone? Anyone?) when a player has been sent off for 2 offences in one passage of play as Martinelli was by Michael Oliver, who has since recovered his composure sufficiently to be included as one of only 2 English referees at the World Cup. I think you’re right that Mikel will need to have a plan for Neves and Traore. I also think it is made somewhat easier in the case of the latter by the fact that he doesn’t seem able to last 90 minutes and seems to make most of his appearances as an impact sub after 60 minutes. Perhaps if he didn’t spend so much time in the gym bulking up to the size of a rugby union centre, he might be a more effective footballer. Hey ho, their problem not ours. I fancy an easier game than the last encounter up there with Jesus returning to scoring form and a clean sheet being kept by us. 3-0.

  5. 5
    Ollie says:

    Splendidly written preview, Doctor, cheers!
    And of course, Wolves was always a bit more of a special match for Dave & family I think.
    I’m going for 3-0 to the Arsenal. And so hopefully the longest stay at the top of the league without playing during a season?

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    You set a high bar for yourself but that is one of your best pieces and underlines your affection for this bar which is warmly reciprocated. This will be a nervous affair because we’d love to go to the break in an undreamed of first position and if Brentford storm tye Etihad ( which sadly they won’t ) we might be able to go into the Interlull ( or is it a World Cup ?) with a serious lead. But I get ahead of myself .
    Your team is ( late fitness news permitting ) exactly the one he will start with and we hopes for all players ( even those at the Swamp) that they come through unscathed to take part in a tournament to be played in a country that should be never allowed to host it at a time that inconveniences the whole of football and at an environmental cost that is massive when the world is supposed to be doubling down on sustainability . What on earth coukd have persuaded FIFA to hold it there ?$$$$$$$$$?
    I shall be at our beloved home this afternoon watching the RLC semi but will return for the match, peck Mrs TTG on the cheek and shut myself away to file the last report on a match for some time . I think it will be a winning one – 2-0 with Jesus breaking his goal drought. COYG !

  7. 7
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks Doc
    1-0 will do it and that is my prediction.
    Is Costa still suspended? Hope so or blood could be spilt.

  8. 8
    Uplympian says:

    Many thanks Dr F for your high quality preview – it suitably reflects the high performance of the team.
    With the opportunity to cement first place for the next few weeks ( whilst the disgracefully allowed WC to take place mid season in a most inappropriate location ) the motivation is high for a big performance from the team. Your team selection should be the starting XI barring any unknown injuries. Notwithstanding the fact that there are no easy games in tbe EPL, I still believe we will come away with a well earned 2-0 victory.

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    A great preview Dr F. I loved the fond references to Dave. Last year was one of the great away days, as CER mentioned above. Wolves for flying then. I have an old University friend who is a Wolves supporter and he was taunting me that they were going to leap frog us in the table. Well as CER says, after Martinelli was ridiculously sent off, it really was backs to the wall. We were one nil up, but still in the first half . As the game wore on, we dropped further and further back and activated the emergency Rob Holding “what we have we hold” package. Capitola Rob must have headed away 6000 crosses. As we streamed out of the ground, through the narrow away concourse of Molineux, only one song would do. “One nil to the Arsenal” rang out loud and clear into the cold Wolverhampton night.

    This year things are different. My old friend, now a recently retired full Professor at Bristol tells me if they can keep the loss against us to to 0-5 he’ll be happy. A masterly piece of expectations management methinks. I believe complacency is our biggest threat here. Wolves’s new manager will be watching from the stands before taking over on Monday. That should put new urgency into their legs. I have no doubt we will create chances. We always do. We need the clinical finishing we showed against Forest and the competitive pressing we showed against Chelsea. I think a comfortable win is in the offing.

  10. 10
    Trev says:

    Dr F, that is an excellent piece of writing – for me, your best yet.
    Maybe that’s because I have a, ahem, less developed interest and experience of literature than yourself, but that piece is right up my alley, Guv !

    And what is this overdeveloped sense of humour of which you speak ? 😳

    3-1 would be lovely but at this stage, it’s another case of any win will do for me.

  11. 11
    Trev says:

    And some of the drinks above would almost make previews on their own too. 👏🏻👏🏻👍🏻

  12. 12
    Bathgooner says:

    As eloquent a match preview as I can remember, Dr F and you are indeed correct about the Guvna’s likely reaction to this team – he would be full of optimism for this exciting young group of players. You are correct, Olllie, about the family connection and he expended much energy luring a grandson towards the Gunners rather than following his local gold and black tendency.

    Wolves have struggled to score all season but seem to have sorted their early defensive vulnerability which followed the inexplicable loaning of Coady to Everton. Neves is the catalyst of everything they do well and Moutinho, despite the ageing limbs, remains a danger from free kicks near the box. Costa is still suspended and goalless.

    2-0 to the Arsenal is my bet.


  13. 13
    bt8 says:

    Excellent job Faustus of setting the stage with some eloquent sentiments thrown in. Come on you fearless top of the table Gunners!

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    Delightful, Dr F. Just delightful. You bring a smile to my heart.

  15. 15
    Sancho Panza says:

    Thank you very much Brentford.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Top at Christmas!

  17. 17
    ClockEndRider says:

    The referee, a Mr Bankes, at todays Citeh game was absolutely excellent, with the exception of allowing 7 minutes of treatment for a City player on the pitch.
    His performance should be watched by Dean and Riley and used as an example of how the game should be refereed for the rest of our mediocre officials. Correct decisions time after time, despite the diving and spurious appealing from the City players and crowd.
    I hope he continues in this vein and we get him at some point.

  18. 18
    Ollie says:

    Splendid result at the Oil Aren it seems. Definitely top of the league at Christmas then, but let’s make sure we win tomorrow.

  19. 19
    OsakaMatt says:

    Ha de ha ha…..
    But as others have said, we’ve got to cash in tomorrow
    I’m a believer!

  20. 20
    Ollie says:

    Tomorrow for you, Matt, tonight for a lot of us, this afternoon for some. Let’s do it.
    (Yes I am guilty for the mistake. Force of habit after all these Sunday games! 😬)

  21. 21
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words! It indeed is a privilege to write for you all.

    Countryman, CER and others going to the match — enjoy your trip. We TV bound remote fans take a lot of pride in the irrepressible enthusiasm and positivity of our match going away fans.

    Come on Arsenal!

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    What Dr F says @21 about the away fans. It is uplifting for us far-flungs glued to a screen when the singing comes through loud and clear.

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@17: Without the treatment break, would Toney have scored a 98th-minute winner?

  24. 24
    Ollie says:

    And, inspired by Ned : if Toney had been selected in the England World Cup squad, would he have scored a brace?

  25. 25
    Gooner_KS says:

    Jo Wiillock sinks Chelski, get in

  26. 26
    scruzgooner says:

    faustus and ned @21/22, spot on. it is uplifting as hell.

    sitting in what used to be my usual spot in our supporters’ bar, jack’s in san jose. great game time to return for the first time since covid. COYG!!

  27. 27
    scruzgooner says:

    where is esso with the lineup? 🙂

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus.
    Subs: Turner, Tierney, Cedric, Holding, Elneny, Vieira, Marquinhos, Nelson, Nketiah.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Slowish start and losing Xhaka makes it more of a challenge. COYGs!

  30. 30
    bt8 says:

    Looks like we did it! Top of the league at Christmas. Which seems to have come early this year.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    1947 was the last time we were top at Christmas and went on to win the league. I doubt anyone in the bar can remember that. Only eight of the 22 teams who were in the top flight that season still are.

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yes, a great result. 5 points clear, 6 points from two away trips and Bath, TTG and I nailed the score. It’s raining gooners😃

  33. 33
    Bathgooner says: