A highly winnable fixture to start 2019…
Arsenal’s have not had a good run in the Premier League lately. Four points from four matches is a poor return given the quality of the opposition faced, Liverpool excepted. Still, the one win was at home to relegation threatened Burnley. And lo and behold, 2019 starts with another home match against candidates for the drop in the shape of Fulham. Frankly, if Arsenal cannot win this game, they might as well write off any hopes of finishing in the top four this season. January sees matches at Blackpool and West Ham before the crucial visit of Chelsea. Arsenal can start to get momentum going before that as all three matches before facing Maurizio Sarri’s side are winnable.
Make do and mend time
The BBC’s David Ornstein’s stated yesterday that, where Arsenal were concerned, “Any permanent acquisitions, loan fees and salaries will be drawn from a modest budget and therefore loan deals are more probable.” In other words, no permanent signings. Hence stories linking us with the likes of Gary Cahill. Not that there was ever any chance of Stan Kroenke investing some of his own cash into the squad, but if he had a change of heart, Financial Fair Play would be a barrier. Then again, Chelsea and Manchester City have got imaginative with their funding in the past, so if the will was there, there is a way. It isn’t though. Of greater concern with the self-sufficiency model is the prospect of Silent Stan actually dipping into the pot to take out something in the region of £18m a year to pay his interest on the loan he took out to buy out Usmanov. Still, £18m isn’t going to buy you Virgil van Dijk. Mind you, it would have when he was at Celtic. Who was in charge of scouting back in 2015? Sven Mislintat needs to find bargains as good as that.
A Fulham link with Arsenal
On the subject of scouts, I attended an AISA do a couple of months back at which former Gunner Brian Talbot was the guest speaker. He was very candid and it was an enjoyable evening. Talbot is currently Fulham’s chief scout, and must be feeling the heat a bit given the club spent £100m last summer on three players. He told AISA members that he is now effectively the director of football at Craven Cottage, which puts even more responsibility on him for the club’s ill fortunes. There’s no question the Cottagers have underperformed so far this season, and all the stats from past campaigns suggest the drop is inevitable. In fairness, there has been some improvement of late. Two draws were followed by a much needed home win against Huddersfield. Three wins and five draws this season have given them 14 points after 20 matches. Claudio Ranieri is in charge now, and you might say that he is beginning to turn things around.
I was emailed this morning by an expert on footballer’s cars with the subject ‘I think our no.10 may be in trouble’. Referring to this story, his email read, “not sure any other player (who would be in the area) I am aware of has one of these …”. Now I’ve watched the video, and the question is this. If you are going to overtake, and the outside lane is free, why use the slip road? Or maybe the driver in question thought he was exiting at the junction and then suddenly had a change of mind. Anyway, if it is who my correspondent believes it to be, we’ll find out when he appears in court. A fine would be meaningless to a highly paid footballer, so if there are any chauffeurs looking for a gig in the north London area, stand by…
Peter Hill-Wood RIP
There will surely be a minute’s silence before the game this afternoon, and there are good and bad things to be said of Arsenal’s former chairman, especially for those that attended the last few AGMs before he stepped down due to ill health. But we don’t speak ill of the dead, so here’s a significant thing that Hill-Wood did in his time at the club which is worthy of mention. In the 1980s when fencing was going up around English football grounds to prevent pitch invasions, Hill-Wood refused to contemplate having them at Highbury. As a consequence, the club lost out on the opportunity to host FA Cup semi-finals for a few seasons after four consecutive semis were played there between 1981 and 1984. Given what occurred at Hillsborough in 1989, credit is due to the Arsenal chairman for his refusal to treat supporters like cattle. There were certainly incidents in this time that might have proved dangerous were fencing employed, such as the spillage onto the pitch from the away end in an FA Cup tie against Millwall in February 1988. I remember someone being stretchered away from the area, across the front of the goal while the ball was still in play at the other end. But for PHW’s stance, thankfully it was the only one seen that day, and there were no fatalities. His family played a significant part in Arsenal’s development, with his grandfather becoming chairman in 1929, before the club had won either the FA Cup or a league title. The rest, as they say, is history…
It has to be a home win. There are only three questions. Will Arsenal keep a clean sheet? How many will they score? Will Mesut Ozil be in the 18? I’ll go for a 3-1 scoreline with Ozil’s knee pain keeping him at home.
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