2017/18 Season Preview: Meet The New Boss…Is He The Same As The Old Boss?

That time of the year. Hope springs eternal and the tribulations of the season are yet to rear their ugly Mike Dean-shaped head. So time to look at the coming campaign.

The season is, as usual, dependent on injuries with the added spice of players coming to the end of their contracts. Most people are fairly relaxed about Mesut Özil extending his deal; even Barcelona’s reported interest should they not land Philippe Coutinho didn’t send social media into apoplexy, which in itself is some sort of achievement.

Most accept Alexis Sanchez’s departure as inevitable while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain divides opinion. Footballers come and go; you don’t want to lose the good ones, particularly with the list below of those which we’re struggling to shift (or just ones I think we can afford to move on). But when players do move, it’s up to the manager to find replacements which improve the XI.

However, as Arsène admits, uncertainty over contracts creates a negative environment in the dressing room. Will it have the same effect with two key players and perhaps the most versatile member of the squad in limbo? It’s hard to see how, the longer it drags on, it can’t.

On the pitch, we’re in fairly good shape as a squad. Improving the group is always a matter of personal preference but the consensus is for a central midfielder. The flat back four isn’t consigned to the history books but a back three is the formation du jour.

Much of this season’s success or failure will depend on how quickly Arsène reacts to problems on the pitch. The crumbling form in winter / spring of this year can’t be repeated nor ignored. It’s not about knee-jerk reactions but resolving the problems. There’s a small army of analysts and coaching staff watching matches; Arsène, as well as his own experience, has to take on board their views in finding the solution. No man is an island, etc.

Not Just Down To The Manager

While Arsène is responsible for preparing the side, once they cross the white line it is down to the players. A common theme through the years has been a lack of mental strength during hard times. We lost six Premier League games last season in back-to-back clusters: Manchester City & Everton; Watford & Chelsea; Liverpool & West Brom. The issue isn’t new, we’ve always reacted badly to defeats but I don’t recall us losing so many back-to-back games and ultimately, it cost us the revered top four finish.

Defensively, we are in a better position than before and while I think trying to land Virgil Van Dijk is a no-brainer, I suspect we’ll go with the central defenders we have. We saw in the cup and Community Shield that it can function, and survive when it is rocking under pressure. That has to become a force of habit until confidence returns.

My guess is that the opening games will be tougher than normal with Koscielny’s suspension and Mustafi’s fitness in question. However, neither Leicester nor Stoke should hold any fear in our minds.

In midfield, the usual question marks about fitness exist. Santi Cazorla is the new Tomas Rosicky and I can’t see plans being made around the mercurial Spaniard until (if) he proves his fitness. Two season’s lost is a lot of ground to make up in the twilight of his career.

Sunday gave us an interesting glimpse into Arsène’s thinking. The Xhaka / Elneny partnership is a case of needs must but it did give us a stability defensively, and provide a strong attacking platform in the absence of so many key players. Can they replicate that in the Premier League? It’s a different intensity to the friendlies but there’s no reason yet to believe it won’t a good pairing. Until Aaron Ramsey returns and I suspect he’ll drop into the XI without a second thought.

Alexis’ contribution will be scrutinised like no other and I expect to see a lot more criticism of the Chilean on social media. It’s almost a defence mechanism against him leaving, with a subset of fans declaring that he’s not as good as everyone thought. That will ratchet up when Alexandre Lacazette begins scoring on a regular basis. Pre-season saw some good movement and linkage on the tour and at Wembley; hopefully it won’t be long before consistency in front of goal becomes evident.

 

Where We’ll Finish In Premier League

Anywhere from 3rd to 5th, depending on the investment by Liverpool and Tottenham, as well as our own winter wobble. No higher than 3rd.

Cup Glory?

Never say never. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t make a decent fist of winning the Europa League (last four). Domestically, the FA Cup is our personal property and to win the cup again at Tottenham’s home ground is rubbing salt into their wounds.

Fixture In Which The First Groundhog Day Surfaces

The optimist in me: Chelsea (A). The pessimist: Stoke (A). In Reality: Liverpool (A).

Elsewhere in the Premier League

Top four: 1. Manchester City; 2. Chelsea; 3. Manchester United; 4. Arsenal

Relegated: Huddersfield; Watford; Brighton

First manager to be sacked: Tony Pulis (WBA RFC)

’til Tomorrow.

79 thoughts on “2017/18 Season Preview: Meet The New Boss…Is He The Same As The Old Boss?

  1. Afternoon peeples.
    Been a very quiet morning, after yesterday’s excellent back and forth.
    Good post YW, careful with the pessimism, you’ll get Nicky all stirred up.
    One more sleep – excited in spite of myself…

  2. I hope you are right about your league predictions, Yogi. I expect those other 3 teams to be better than us typically these days but finishing behind Pool and Spuds is somewhat shameful.

    As far as Europa, this is an interesting one. I’ll expect we can rotate massively in the group but in the knockouts, it will be a real issue trying to manage Thurs/Sun or Mon schedules. I’d like to see us do well in a European competition since, on current business, I don’t expect us to challenge for the league.

  3. I fancy us for fourth, possibly third – I don’t see Spurs competing like last year – a lack of strengthening and playing at Wembley will likely see to that.

    Burnley will surely go down.

  4. Great preview Yogi.

    This season is all about Arsene somehow getting us back into the CL. The FA cups have been nice and full credit to Arsene for giving us some silverware. The trophy free run of seasons had become harder and harder to dismiss and he FA cup gave us an obtainable trophy to target. However Arsene’s true legacy during the Emirates and the thing hat kept him relevant was the run of top 4 finishes. I suspect he wants to manage Arsenal and maintain the status quo into his mid to late 70’s which takes us to about 2025. He can dismiss finishing outside of the top 4 last season as a 1 off. However if we miss the CL again this season it becomes a trend and that would really ratchet up the pressure and for the first time put his reign in jeopardy.

  5. Jonny

    You may be right about Spurs. The fact that they did not freshen their squad puts them at risk for growing stale and losing focus. However surprisingly they did not lose any critical players. Statistically Spurs were easily the best team in the league. They were the top scoring team ant the best defensive team. We on the other hand were 5th best in goal scoring and 6th in defense and 5th in goal differential. Spurs goal differential was 27 better then ours. That is a very large gap to close.

  6. Since Leeds United lurched out of the top division Man U have been my bete noir, although I had a sneaking respect for Old Rednose, now that dislike has been redoubled stirred up by their appointment of the Despicable One. It may be that my view of Man U is skewed by my feelings but I don’t believe they will finish in the top four this time around.

    So, Yogi, while I agree with your view that City and Chelsea will fight it out for the top spot third is ours for the taking.

  7. Hmmmm. Never rule out ‘second season Jose’.
    Lukaku will score a boatload I fancy – especially if they get the best out of Pogba – Matic is a strong addition and should free them up in this respect.
    Defensively we know they will be very strong.

  8. Vis a vis Spurs it’s also worth pointing out that – Son-Heung Min, Erik Lamela and Danny Rose will all miss the start of the season.
    In fact, Rose is further causing serious issues in the dressing room as he obviously wants to go to Man Utd.

  9. Jonny,

    Yep, they look a pretty decent and well rounded outfit if they can keep the key people fit for the most part. Worryingly so.

  10. Jonny

    There is certainly risk for some regression from spurs. However, Alexis will miss the start of the season for us and if he leaves and is not replaced or has a mediocre season for whatever reason we are also at significant risk for regression. Ozil is not getting any younger. Unless Ramsey has a really good year we are not going to get goals from our midfield and without Alexis we are looking at a starting front 3 of Ozil, Welbeck and Lacazette. Neither Ozil or Welbeck is a threat to reach double digits in league goals and I doubt Giroud will score 12 league goals in limited minutes again. Realistically Lacazette is the only player on the squad who would be a legitimate threat to get into the mid teens or higher in league goals. In theory our defense should be better then last season but hoping for an Arsene Wenger team to play consistently solid defense for a full season is certainly not a slam dunk.

  11. Orson Kaert,

    I would love to write Maur Utd off as title contenders but I can see them going very close this term.

    I expect the Twatty One to revert to type & gather points at the expense of football, entertainment, morals etc.

    Apart from the dirty tricks they have more goals in them & one of the tallest teams in Premier league history so they’ll be tighter than a nun’s chuff defensively too.

    The Spuds’ season is difficult to predict. As Bill says , they’re mainly still intact but if Rose follows Walker out of the door I can see a few more being affected & looking elsewhere in their minds.

    Who knows what City will bring. I doubt Pep is truly confident as their central defense has to be a concern.

    Pool’s season could mirror ours & depend on the sale or not of their biggest match winner & whether they can replace if he leaves.

    As for us , I’m prepared to be positive (at least until half time tomorrow)& hope we get off to a flier & hang in for a real title challenge.

  12. If Alexis stays and has another good season we could potentially see some improvement this season Our other potential path to a good season would be on the defensive end if we can cut out goals conceded down to the mid 20’s but that is a huge stretch.

    If Alexis leaves or sleep walks thru the season we would need Lacazette to start scoring from game 1 and to be a legitimate challenger for the golden boot if we hope to improve. That sort of production from him is asking for a lot.

  13. Excellent Post, Yo W,

    Realistic, analytic and graphic — hopefully it will lift us all for the KO (kick off – not knock out) tomorrow night.

    Call me a faint-hearted chicken, call me a cab, but whenever my pulse starts to race at times like these, a pusillanimous performance from the Arsenal on the opening match of the season can swiftly bring a dose of reality to the fore.

    But colour me an old fashioned optimist ( and with my anti-Andy tin foil hat pierced by knitting needle antennae constructed yesterday and firmly in place on my noggin) but I smell an entertaining victory tomorrow night.

    [Betwixt the two of us – I do not know why Jonny emits a discrete ‘Beep’ after reading your Post – but I worry in case his wind problem should grow to a full throated ‘Parp’ and signify the start of Arsenal’s hopes blowing in the wind.] 😀

  14. Rose is a good player for Spurs but if we are comparing our situation to spurs, its much much easier to replace or compensate for the loss of a fullback then it is to replace the leading goal scorer and assist creator

  15. Ramsey has evolved into perhaps the most disliked player on the squad for a lot of people. However, I agree with something Andy said a couple of days ago. If we gave him a role similar to Lampard or Gerrard then he has the potential to have a good season. I am not suggesting he would replicate his 13/14 season or morph into the second coming of Frank Lampard but Ramsey is the only midfielder on the squad who has any potential upside in front of goal.

  16. HenryB,

    Kaylen is scoring goals for Wolfsburg this pre-season and he scored 5 goals in 3 matches and the interesting part about that is that the actual Wolfsburg twitter account (both German and English official twitter for the club) have tweeted about it. He is said to play a key role for Wolfsburg this season either on the flanks or as their lead striker.

    I think this boy will come good for sure at Wolfsburg under Jonkers and I think this latest crop of players (Kaylen, Willock at Benfica and Nelson) are showing early signs of being better than the more recent crop of wingers that have come through sans Gnabry who we all know seems to be one that we have missed.

  17. Oh, God — that’s invitation enough for jonnygunner to get into syncopation mode with the ‘Barp’ then.

    🎼”Syncopated rhythm you’re gettin’ to me, – 🎼 syncopated rhythm Beep Beep, Boom, Barp Barp”🎼

    Yeah —dats good …….. hmm hmm …… 🎼 Beep Beep Boom di Barp 🎼

  18. C,

    I am delighted for the lad, C, and severely disappointed that we let him go. Another on the list of young talent we will never see in an Arsenal shirt — damnblastbollocksfart!

  19. I just can’t see us finishing above Man U.
    If Alexis stays and has a good season then maybe.
    They have added a young PL experienced CF.
    lukaku will be Jose’s new Drogba. Add Rashford who is a very promising youngster.
    Midfield is no comparison at all, pogba and Matic are in a different class to any of our midfielders. I really couldn’t tell you who plays in their defense but I do know that Jose gets his players to run through walls for him. He could take the most underwhelming group of defenders and have them form a tighter unit than Wenger even if Wenger was gifted the best defensive players available.
    I also don’t see us overtaking Spurs, the only reason they haven’t strengthened is because they haven’t really needed to.
    It’s nearly the start of the season and we are once again not even sure what our starting line up is or who is staying or going.

  20. I wouldn’t say underrate Leicester, but with their new acquisition Iheanacho, I figure they could be trouble. TH14 rates him as a good striker and to be honest, he plays his best football as an assisting striker or in an attacking midfield free role and with his accurate passes and shots, both from distance and within the box, Arsenal would do well to neutralize him and watch closely to prevent a Friday night upset.

  21. Excellent stuff for the season and I see you are already in fine form!

    I think it would be a shame if people started the whole, “Sanchez isn’t as good as we thought, blah blah blah blah blah” non-sense because he is quality, make no mistake about that. Does he have his faults that are allowed to get played through at Arsenal more than most other big clubs, absolutely, but there is no doubt in anybody (well some around here) that a front 3 of Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette could surely push us to at least 3rd, a Europa title and an FA Cup title; the question will be how well they all gel (early signs of Ozil and Lacazette are really promising) but also how the squad as a whole gels.

    Lacazette will score goals, I can count 5 times that if Welbeck could have made a simple pass Lacazette was free in the box and he is deadly accurate. The Xhaka/Elneny partnership does offer us more defensive stability as well as an attacking platform with Xhaka brilliant at those balls over the top or long diagonals while Elneny operates in the Santi role very similar to the Spaniard. Ramsey will be interesting and this is a massive season for both he and Ox especially when you consider how long both have been at the club, how many matches they have played; both need to show some sort of consistency and for Ox final product and Ramsey form and consistency not to mention both need to stay fit or they are good squad players at best.

    Defensively I’m not worried but I think the GK situation is one that needs to be and will be scrutinized because Ospina was literally on a plane before a deal collapsed, Szczesny was sent packing, Martinez who was told and we were all told was the #2 this season is out on a season long loan and Cech showed last season that he is on the decline but still is a veteran presence.

  22. HenryB,

    Yup, its how I felt and the fact that Jonkers took him with him and has immediately put him in the first team on the flanks as a key member just shows. I think Jonkers was getting the Youth together when you think of the players not only that he brought in but that have developed under him.

    Hope he goes and has a Gnabry type season honestly and I think with his pace, good quick feet and eye for goal, he will be a smashing success for them.

  23. The Leicester match will be a fun one simply because Leicester have the possibility of a really good squad. I absolutely LOVE Ndidi, I think he has all the makings of a quality DM in the PL, Iheanacho is some good business for them and the addition of Maguire will certainly help in defense. With that said, I think it will be an interesting match but Arsenal will most certainly pull it out, call me an optimist but I think it will happen.

  24. I see a couple of quick reports:

    Ozil and Mert have been passed fit and Ramsey is a late fitness test.

    Jack will start the season with the U23’s.

  25. C…I agree. It is possible that Alexis could be up for staying at Arsenal. This team has potential from the start of the season. They will not be run over by anyone.

  26. The other interesting thing is the whole Dembele situation. Apparently he not only didn’t show up for training but any attempts to reach him were unsuccessful as he didn’t answer his phone. With personal terms agreed, I think the deal for him to Barca will happen.

  27. Two Owls,

    I do think Sanchez would be up for staying especially if we show improvement or make a real run at the Europa title, but I think its all about how well we are doing and the improvements in teh team.

  28. Sky is reporting Dembele is actually on his way to Barcelona but Dortmund just issued a statement:

    “Ousmane Dembele today missed the BVB-training-session without any excuse. The player seems to have done that intentionally.

    “Because of that behavior we will sanction him. The player is still in Dortmund. In consultation with our coach we have suspended him from all practice and match-activities until next week after our cup game.”

  29. Season preview,
    The Manchester derby will be quite something this year. The Premier league trophy will be won by a team wearing red home kits, which means Arsenal, Man United or Liverpool could be up for it. Lol. It has been 3-4 seasons with blue kit teams winning the league.

    Arsenal’s previous high season for points gathered was 2007-8; gifting the title to Man United in 2012-3 by selling the league’s highest goal scorer Robin Van Persie to Man United. That was the last time Man Utd won the premier league. This season, EvertonFC have provided a similar treat, so Man Utd possess the most potent premier league strike force,going into the 2017-8 season (Lukaku, Ibrahimovich, Lingard, Rashford, Mhkitaryan,Mata, not all strikers though, but men familiar with the location of the goal net.)

    Liverpool should have won the 2013-4 season, if not for some last minute jitters which ruined their chances to win and that gave Man City the opportunity to begin blue blitz, which was Man City, Chelsea, Leicester, Chelsea. This season is a genuine chance for the Merseysiders to prove their mettle.

    Given that Chelsea has sold Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa is in limbo, it is an active sign that they are not in the running for the competition, thanks to Hazard’s overwhelming individual skill and underwhelming team play, without a stable presence upfront, Chelsea will falter in their steps.

    Tottenham are a good team, but when you lose to West ham FC, it is like a freak accident that happens to the overconfident driver. They are the only trick this season. Injuries and mentality will be key in how they play, it wasn’t so long ago they tottered on the final day of the season true to their name and they fell apart like a loosened pack of cards.

    Arsenal, my beloved Arsenal added a striker. The issue as correctly posited by YW is: will Arsene Wenger intelligently use the squad at his disposal ?

    If I were the manager, I would keep Perez around. Injuries will come and its better to have experienced legs than to leave the team at the mercy of inconsistent performers. Promote Reiss Nelson or send him on loan to Brazil to a team like Corinthians, Fluminense or RiverPlates in Argentina. A mid field destroyer would be my last necessary upgrade, but if there is an internal solution in the youth ranks, someone who could do a job like Frimpong without the cards or lack of awareness, then he could fill in.

    Bottom line is for betting men, I would not bet on Arsene Wenger to win anything until March, same for Klopp. Though I hope Arsene will surprise me and prove me wrong, its has been 13 years and I still have the same chant: Wenger OUT!

  30. Arsenal are 1 or players away, but maybe….
    They have looked much better in the last 12 games then in a long time, and I am talking toughness, grittiness and a little bit of nastiness to go along with wonderful passing.

    I think this group should be able to squeeze out victories this year better than last-maturity and a few new players added to the mix, young ones playing better and jelling as a unit.

    manure, where do they get there printing press? lost count of how many players have come and gone in the last three years.
    they got passed off the pitch by an out of shape Real, and I got to see close up how well lukaku fisnishes-think courtois’s penalty.
    d looks average, and rashford does not yet have the body to play that many games without breaking down. Would enjoy seeing moaninho get the axe again mid year.

    pool are just Coutinho away from being good, not top class-he is as good as gone. Can they get a replacement this close to the start and assimilate him into Klopp’s system? Don’t believe it to be so. They should still be competive, but off of the top spot due to them running themselves into the ground as they have lately.

    spuds sold walker, trippier is injured and they are a song, erikkson and a kane away from mediocrity. The injury bug looms large for them, if they stay healthy, the will be competitive as they are well coached.
    $h*ty are one company and toure injury away from having a tough season in spite of all their offensive superpower. The money they spent is obscene, and if they don’t compete then they should be relegated, and everyone can get off pup’s sack for being the end all be all in coaches

    Everton could give many teams problems, along with other teams on the up and up-dare I say Leicester….

    Health will determine many teams final place in the standings as it goes without saying, but many of those mentioned above have a lot of miles on them in the last few years or are relatively young to get so many games-including CL, and all the travel, and wear and tear that comes with it. (Arsenal have Europa, but Arsene might have other ideas with that as many know)

  31. forgot about chavs…
    Hazard late, Costa off, and Morata not yet integrated- and he will not be the success many think he will be. Kante played into the earth and who will help him this year?
    Conte will have a sophomore slump and the blues will have the blues…

  32. My position on Wenger leaving is purely from a leadership perspective. He needs a new challenge, Arsenal needs a fresh perspective. He could prove me wrong though, I look forward to May 2018.

  33. For any cricketing aficionados about;

    Stoneman in to replace Jennings. (Surrey)
    Leg spinner Mason Crane in to replace Liam Dawson. (Hants)
    Woakes back for Fin.

  34. This year is the first time I have spent the whole summer in Colorado and everyday is great but today my dogs Dillon and Willie and I we went deeper into the forest and did a few extra miles on our morning walk. The wildlife smells make it a dog paradise. I put on the playlist that had Jethro Tull and Meatloaf songs and I have the worlds worst signing voice but with no other humans in range I can sing Aqualung or Bat Out of Hell and the dogs don’t mind. There are a few black bears living in the forest and they are not dangerous unless you surprise them and all the noise we make alerts them that a human is coming. The Colorado mountains are mostly known for winter skiing, however, the summers are really the best time of year to be here. If you ever have a chance to visit its really awesome.

  35. Aaron,

    Think you need to take the rose tinted glasses off old bean. I haven’t read as much off kilter twaddle in a while.

    I can’t be arsed to go through it all, but if you think City are a Kompany and Toure injury away from imploding, you’re simply proving that you’re about 4 years behind current football in the Premier League

  36. Damon,
    Thanks for the compliment!

    Take a look at the stats mate.
    With Kompany they win, a lot. Without they barely make top four.
    Toure, and Silva have played a million matches, and we shall see if they hold up for another season- stones and their keeper will keep them from leading the league in clean sheets.

    Rather the optimist than a pessimist; and angry to an early grave.

  37. Today seems to be about predictions. I’m not into that as much myself. So Don’t worry. I won’t hold you all to them! How can anyone have a good sense of the teams when the window is still open? I really wish it would close a day or two before the league season begins.

  38. Bill
    I have never been to Colarado in the winter. Only the summer. I would love to go in winter to see the place in all it’s snowy glory, and I do love snowboarding.
    But as a avid fly fisherman I’ve spent many a day. Standing knee deep in a Colorado stream casting to high country trout. Mainly Telluride and Estes Park but some other areas too. It is stunningly beautiful and I’m very envious right now.

  39. Good, good, good.

    Particularly pleased to have a look at the brilliantly named, ‘Mason Crane’ who sounds more like a hard-boiled detective than a cricketer.

    HenryB:
    For any cricketing aficionados about;

    Stoneman in to replace Jennings. (Surrey)
    Leg spinner Mason Crane in to replace Liam Dawson. (Hants)
    Woakes back for Fin.

  40. Arron
    The problem I have with your comment is that your highlighting other teams weaknesses and potential injury cenarios as a reason for us to have hope.
    What myself and Many others wish for is that we could be discussing our hope for the upcoming season based on Arsenals improvements and good astute use of the transfer market. We should not have to pray for others misfortunes, we should be building a squad to challenge them regardless of how their seasons play out.

  41. Pistol, apparently it is a virtue to rely on the best case scenario for your team and the worst for all the opponents. And you aren’t a “real” supporter if you don’t follow this. I wouldn’t mind, but unfortunately, I think our manager often thinks this way too!

  42. Limestone
    Like you say, it’s fine for supporters to think this way. But the manager? Especially after being bitten in the arse by it year after year and not learn anything?

  43. “Take a look at the stats mate.
    With Kompany they win, a lot. Without they barely make top four.
    Toure, and Silva have played a million matches, and we shall see if they hold up for another season- stones and their keeper will keep them from leading the league in clean sheets”.

    Bizarre the things you’ve highlighted when the real problem is the lack of a decent DM.
    I’d not be surprised to see City spend though.

  44. The point I am making is that I believe Arsenal will remain healthy this year, and just the number of games the other top four teams have to play will wear their robots down.

    Not wishing or hoping other teams getting injured, just pointing out that humans will fatigue and get injured.

    Arsenal look deep this year, and there is no pressure of CL.
    Leicester and chavs both won the PL without those constraints.

  45. Aaron,

    I think we may have more games on a tougher Thu/Sun schedule. Shouldn’t that and our injury record factor? I’m actually concerned about how well we will adapt to that change.

  46. I don’t think we have ever had a bigger squad.
    Ridiculous depth – still lacking in one or two top quality additions for the first XI but there is no shortage of bodies.

    F365 put it thus –

    “ARSENAL
    Arsenal’s first XI: Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolisanac; Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette

    Arsenal’s second XI: Ospina: Gabriel, Holding, Mertesacker; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Elneny, Gibbs; Welbeck, Iwobi; Giroud.

    That’s right, no Theo Walcott; he is fifth choice for those two positions behind the striker. The good news is that he is in good company alongside Calum Chambers, Carl Jenkinson, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez. And Santi Cazorla will leapfrog the lot if either of his glorious two feet ever work again.

    Wow, Arsenal have a lot of players. It’s just that rather a lot of them are a much of a muchness. And a lot of them are often injured. But they are better prepared than almost any club to send a second-choice side into European competition this season and concentrate on the league”.

  47. Pistol Fish

    The Blue River is close and has world class fly fishing. I am a novice but slowly improving. I spend more time hiking, bicycling, kayaking, paddle boarding and horseback riding. The latter is really special on the mountain trails as opposed to the sweaty dusty trails in Texas.

  48. Bill
    Stick with it, the fly fishing. Once it hooks you It will really hook you. im all for the other activities you mentioned, but none give me the same spiritual satisfaction. And I dont even keep anything I catch. I can’t stand any fresh water fish. They all taste like the bottom of the river they came out of. Just the experience of being alone out there and trying to figure out the rhythms of nature, from which bugs like which trees or what conditions you can expect a hatch. All the little things that lead to catching a fish.
    I do enjoy the mountain biking too, but I’m 40 in a months time and my bones don’t heal to well these days.

  49. Bill,

    Riding in the mountains is wonderful. Last time I did it though it was pushing a herd of cattle up into the summer pasture. That got dusty and sweaty. A recreational ride on a nice mountain trail would be fantastic. You’ve got me thinking that I should take a vacation packing in the Sierras or Rockies next summer. I was in the Sierras and White Mountains camping in July, but no chance to do any riding. You seem to be living an outdoorsmans paradise right now, Bill!

  50. Actually, Jonny, why would we give a bollocks?

    That’s ‘Sky and Arsene’ talk. Surely, what we as fans want to be thinking about is winning the Title, not losing it!

  51. United worry me. It’s not just their growing physicality but that Mourinho knows he has to deliver.

    Last year Mourinho was in a precarious position (regarding owner/board and fans). He dicked around with selection and played silly games. He eventually settled into the most sensible team (which fans had been outlining from early days) later realized he had no option but to place all his eggs in the Europa League basket. They were sixth, way off Chelsea and lagging behind City by a margin.

    The relief of the Cup win and entry to the CL did not disguise the fact the football was dire, the least inspired of any upper echelon team. Which leaves the grind – the only way that becomes palatable is if he chalks up relentless wins. If United come third and do not win anything even more will question Mourinho than last season – he knows it and in credibility terms knows this season is make or break. He will be all out for the title and I pray he falls well short.

    City look so strong its a pointless discussion.

    The next two ‘best’ sides are Spurs and Chelsea.

    Spurs face the Wembley hurdle and if they suffer a few poor results confidence will shatter. This is without factoring in the rumors which will inevitably surface all season about the team breaking up – they cannot hold that wage structure for more than 12 months. That will be a unique Spursian distraction which will dog all season. So, they like United also know they need momentum from the off

    As for Chelsea – something is awry (it started seasons end with what seemed like a ridiculous claim Conte might leave) and things have not been resolved. The Telegraph posed things could be so tenuous that Conte might not see out the season. The present standoff concerns Conte not getting the backing/player(s) he wants or even feels the club needs. In spite of this, game to game I expect Conte to be focused. However, if temperament gets the better of him with players feel they are on the receiving end of his frustrations it could be a combustible situation.

    I feel those three are Arsenals primary rivals. Liverpool look to be in an absurd no man’s land. Everton, if they can sort out a striker could be a spoiler.

    The point being 4 of the top 6/7 teams look to have issues they need to resolve, pressures unique to the club.

    No idea how each team will fare but if a few have faltering starts I could see Arsenal taking their foot of the gas and excusing themselves for a mediocre spell -it’s default position. The problem being like last season, one (or two) team will be relentless and consistent from the off- my guess City- and all contenders will realize too late they cannot catch up.

    I hope it isn’t the case but sense the title is going to be in the bag before the end of the season and the ‘drama’ will be who slots in top four.

  52. C

    I saw that Wilshere was going to start the season playing for the U23s to get his match fitness up. I also read that Wenger had indicated that he wanted Wilshere to stay, but that he was a bit down the pecking order at the moment. He indicated that Xhaka and Ramsey would be his starting pair with Elneny providing cover. Sounds like there is no intention to buy another CM whatsoever.

    Whilst no one else is expected to speak out in the way that Rose did, it sounds like there is a bit of unrest in the Spuds dressing room. With their top salary being £100,000 a week and most players being nowhere near that, they may find it harder to bring in new players with all the money sloshing around in football at the moment. A large number of the players are on fairly long contracts, so there won’t be a mass exodus, but it may be they have to rethink some of the player deals. Toby Alderweireld has a contract until summer 2020, but apparently has no interest in signing a new deal on the wages they are offering. A great player and one that I really wish we had bought after his loan spell at Southampton, but apparently we didn’t think that a good player with experience as a CB in the PL would be able to hack it as a CB in the PL. Maybe Wenger didn’t agree with the statistical analysis.

  53. I really wish people would dial back the faith in Sanchez thing.

    He could have a great season, yes, but it will be on his own terms. Kiss the badge all he wants, I will repeat its Sanchez in Sanchez world. If we hit a slump, he’ll be pissy just like last season and it will not look good. This time it will be in front of players and fans who know he is a definitive want away.

    Further to that there will be a dynamic with Lacazette and I now think this is a coin flip too. The given view is it will work. I am not as sure as I was – if I have more time later I’ll explain why.

  54. Wavey,

    I thought and figured that there wasn’t going to be a CM coming in (though I would and do want one) because of the players (Ramsey, Elneny, Jack, Le Coq, Iwobi and Ox to a lesser and much lesser extent) that we we and since we were and thus far have been unable to move the likes of Jack and Le Coq, I figured none were coming unless players leave first. The one thing that I did find very interesting about Arsene’s comments is that generally even when a player is injured and is a key part Arsene will still mention them (think Welbeck before he was even fit as part of the reason Perez wasn’t going to see much match time last season) but Arsene failed to mention Le Coq. I get the feeling that Le Coq is now 3rd when it comes to the DM or deepest midfield position behind Xhaka and Elneny and also at the CM position behind Elneny and Ramsey. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Le Coq and even Jack are sold or loaned out and a CM is bought but it could be unlikely.

  55. I do find it interesting that this window we have seen quite a few of the English players that were once thought of as the “next generation” simply not wanted. Its interesting to see how both Barkley and Jack were once thought of as the future midfield pairing of England, yet nobody seems to want them even thought both are clearly on the outskirts of the clubs they are at. Jack because not only for his fitness but also because he simply hasn’t performed due in part to his fitness, while Barkley seems to simply not be wanted. For instance, there was chatter that Barkley could potentially make the move to say Citeh but Bernardo Silva is simply a better player and then there is talk of him going to Spuds, but is he more dynamic or would he get into the team ahead of Dembele; for me no way in hell.

  56. C,

    I agree. The fact is with players I like (and sometimes those I don’t ‘appreciate’), I find to easy to see them a better fit elsewhere, sorry to say.

    Coquelin is one such player. I really like him but think Wenger remains conflicted as to the player and his position – I do not think Coquelin simply opted himself for a more adventurous, advanced role.

    I would really like to see Coquelin move on and feature (yeah, it’s now a cliche) in a structured role as a midfiled enforcer elsewhere.

  57. Wavey,

    By the by (sorry I keep popping in and off the internet) I think mentioning the Danny Rose situation is particularly apt – its what I thought, and it made me accelerate my thinking on how this would play out (just recently I said I thought this would play a year from now). Naive.

    I think Danny Rose is a sort of canary in the coal mine.

    Walker wanted out, everyone knew it and the fact that he has been a knob at times masked the fact he had valid reasons to move on (bigger pay, City an exciting team etc).

    I think Spurs are in a no win situation. If they settle into Wembley, play well, the vultures will circle and pick off the team. If they falter, the vultures will circle and pick off the team.

    I genuinely admire what Pochettino and Levy have accomplished in recent years but just can’t see how they can stem the tide. The timing was off by a year. If they were moving into the new ground this weekend and could then promise sizable ( not incremental) increases at season’s end they might have pulled it off – now, I am doubtful.

  58. DFS-,

    I do think that Le Coq is a player that is suited for one role and must be played next to somebody who does the rest of the work i.e. the passing and quick counter and possession stuff because Le Coq simply struggles with it.

    I think the thing with Le Coq is that he was originally and came through the ranks as a CM/box-to-box player but struggled to make that leap and good for him on being able to re-invent himself as a midfield enforcer.

    I think the thing that Le Coq is that much like a couple others, they need a specific system and role otherwise they get exposed. I think that is the thing with probably Ramsey and Ox if I’m being honest, both are suited for specific roles in a specific system but go outside that system and style and their weaknesses are exposed. I would be really interested to see how Le Coq would do in a more tactical league like La Liga.

  59. C,

    Holy Crap.

    CNN International is reporting the deal has been made for Kylian Mbappe to join PSG for over 200 million….actually that news is now springing up all over.

    I’m honestly sat in disbelief. If this is real, what an absurd world football is morphing into.

  60. C,

    “I would be really interested to see how Le Coq would do in a more tactical league like La Liga”.

    Could not agree more, I think it would be a great move!

  61. DFS-,

    I can’t see the Mbappe deal being real, no way that PSG would be able to pull off two 200m+ deals without players being sold first.

    I know it is popping up everywhere but could it really be real, no way, but then again I also thought there was no way in hell that Neymar would leave Barca to join PSG.

    I think Klopp said it best, just 2 weeks ago nobody would have even thought that Messi’s 300m release clause would even be possible and now it doesn’t look that far off.

  62. DFS-,

    The problem is, I wonder if his aggressive style and slide tackling would work without seeing quite a few yellows and reds.

  63. C,

    Yeah-I am hoping someone is way ahead of themselves on the Mbappe story and everyone has picked up on the single source and run with it.

  64. C,

    It could be he would have to amend his game again under that circumstance.

    However, his record is essentially one foul a game (but admitedly a number have been strategic and gotten 17 yellows) and a red. That came against Spurs and I argued he was frustrated at having to cover Ramsey deserting the wing …so stupidly went over and took out Kane breaking down the touchline.

    I agree though, in terms of style he might have to amend, but the opposite might be possible. If refs saw he was enthusiastic but not malicious (I do not think he is regarded a a dirty player by anyone) he might be embraced in the role by fans and league alike.

    That said I would also like to see him in an ambitious PL team trying to consolidate into top half/top eight.

  65. Jonny,

    Spurs might not have strengthened but we are also unlucky welbeck is fit from the start. Just like Ramsey Wenger will do anything to find him a place on the team. Start him on the left and all that end product from Sanchez is lost. Start him upfront and we lose all those goals from Giroud (and potentially Lacazette).
    But you have to stick him somewhere to keep him happy.
    The fans love his headless chicken runs too so all we hear is excuses. ” he may not be doing his primary job (scoring) but …….”

    As for a CM to replace Santi, Wenger’s love for experimenting with/ sticking with Ramsey is all the answer you need. He will never buy someone better than his favorite players. Finally he doesn’t have to throw him on the wings to get him game time. He’s the new Santi replacement.
    He trusted him to replace fabregas all those years back and it was very very disastrous. Thank God Rosicky came back from injury and Benayoun hit form as we went on that run to overhaul that might double digit deficit to Sp*rs. Thanks to the FA turning Harry’s head too.
    Now Ramsey is older and better, not the best we can do with but since when has Arsenal given themselves the best chance they can?

    Hate it or not but reality is, like YW puts it, we know there are three teams better than us. On paper that is.
    Now the other two we will be competing with will look at us and fancy their chances too.
    The difference between us and those two is that we are static. We’ve been for a long time now in terms of the total points we achieve. On the other hand the other two have been improving for the last two seasons, they finished above us last season and now we are looking for reasons to believe they’ll decline and us stopping the stagnation.

    I’d put us anywhere between 4th-6th

  66. …so that Mbappe story looks to evaporated within hours.

    I wonder is there was anything to it or whether it was total fabrication?

  67. Well it looks like the Mbappe side put that out as he wants gone from Monaco….now they are saying the deal will be done on Monday -though PSG and Monaco are saying its not on.

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