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I am not a pundit. (It’s a funny old game)

by Blacksheep

Let me make something quite clear, I’m not a proper football pundit. The evidence for this is obvious.

For a start I don’t own a wardrobe full of designer shirts. Nor have I played football at the highest level (I’ve not even played at the lowest level). I have no highly paid contract with a major media outlet. And no, I don’t have a fake tan, overly bouffant hair or strangely independent eyebrows.

Most of all I don’t have an Anti-Arsenal agenda.

So I think we can take it as read that I’m am not a proper football pundit.

But I do have some thoughts on this rather strange football season, but (unlike a pundit) I would say feel free to ignore them or argue with me below

First, this is the first season for 100 years or so that Manchester United have gone into a season with a new manager. The problems they have had are the result of having a very average squad managed by a new boss who is having to adjust to a very different environment. Sir Alex virtually shouted United across the line last season; his personality and his relationship with other managers and match officials was worth a lot of points to his team. Without him the Reds were always going to struggle.

City and Chelsea have the best squads and anyone who finishes above them will win the league. Citeh are by far the best equipped to go all the way. The investments that Abu Dhabi United Group have made are really coming to fruition this season.  Roberto Mancini struggled with ego and motivations; Pellegrini seems to have got his side playing as a team. They are favourites

The second coming of El Moanio is not going quite to plan. Josė has cut his hair (badly), he’s put on weight, he lent his best striker to Everton and he doesn’t know his best team. But they are in the mix and they know how to win titles. Don’t write them off just yet. But we can beat them – home and away.

Liverpool are over performing. And that is because Suarez is the best player in the league at the moment.  Rogers has got a good team game going but the bitey one is a different class. Which means we must again congratulate Kos and Per for keeping him quiet at our place.

Likewise Everton are great right now. Martinez has set them free and as a secret toffeephile I am pleased to see it. I never enjoyed watching Moyes’ Everton but this team is easy on the eye and tough and well organized.

Our noisy neighbours are in transition and this was the season they were supposed to kick on. A last chance to make 4th place secure and finish above us before they needed to stop spending to fund a new stadium. Not going that well is it Tiny Tots?

Finally, its my belief that the league will be won by the team that gains the most points NOT by the results of games between the so-called ‘top four’.

So where does that leave Arsenal?

Top of the league I hear you say, well yes we are. For now.

But I think we too are in transition. Last season’s game at WHL was a watershed, as much as the win at Bayern. Since then we have defended better and played much more as a team.  Adding steel to midfield and class to attack has put us where we are. Staying there in 2014 will be harder though.

However, lets look at our expectations as fans. At the end of last season we scraped into fourth on the last day of the season. We started this season with a 1-3 defeat to Villa (a Villa that have just rolled over and let Cleverly look good against them) with boos ringing out around the Ems.

Against the odds we have played our way to the top of the table. We also came through the Group of Death in the CL despite a couple of wobbles. So all the talk recently has been about us winning the PL.

Well we might. We certainly could. But it wasn’t my expectation at the beginning of the season, and be honest – was it yours?

I’d be happy if we finished in the top three, continued to develop as a team, and then reinforced in the summer ready for a title winning campaign in 2014/15. I want AW to stay for a few more seasons but also smooth the transition for the next boss – and so avoid the trauma that is happening to the Mancs.

So I believe this will be the table at the end of May

  • Abu Dhabi of Manchester PLC
  • The Arsenal
  • Chavski  Gasprom FC
  • Luis Suarez’ Reds
  • Evertoniz FC
  • Manchester Disunited
  • Tiny Tots
  • The rest

But what do I know?

————————

Arsenal books for Christmas at discount prices – last day for ordering is Thursday

————————-

 

Blacksheep

54 comments to I am not a pundit. (It’s a funny old game)

  • Chris

    It was a reality check on Saturday. Giroux is a good striker, but not World Class striker. If we are to compete with the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United for that matter, there is a dire need to sign a World Class finisher. If you look at results from the past week, when pundits were saying that Arsenal will falter when tested against the big boys, and that is what has happened. The ManU are in their worst form, and yet we lost to them, we could not even win at our own backyard against Everton and now this disrespectful score line against Man City.
    The chances we create in our mid-field, and the possession of the ball we have, and the END PRODUCT is zero. It adds up to the frustration and then we start panicking. And then other team gets a single chance they score and we are never back in the game and from that frustration.

    Arsenal NEED a WORLD CLASS FINISHER. Oliver is a good quality striker, but not a world class finisher in the mould of Suarez, Cavani, Falcao, Messi. And yet alone Oliver Giroux can finish the Arsenal season, is living in fool’s paradise. Now is the best chance that Arsenal can finish this trophy less eight year at the Emirates, provided with the start we have. BUT Mr. Wenger and the Board HAVE to SPEND on a WORLD CLASS FINISHER.

  • blacksheep63

    the team was sick against Utd, they got a goal. We went toe-to-toe with City and defended badly. We scored 5 (two disallowed) and maybe things would have been different had those counted. No team has scored 3 against City this season in Manchester. Giroud had a poor game by his standards but he is very important to us. We have Theo back and Pod on bis way so Ollie will have support

    But which world class striker would you sign? Who is available who would come? If you are a team in the CL or aiming for top 4 in the PL with a top class striker why sell him to us?

  • Mick

    @Chris
    It is not necessary to use capital letters to emphasize your points, it is so annoying and patronizing, most of us on Untold have the mental capacity to understand what you are getting at.

  • Tasos

    Saturday’s result against Man City was never going to be a true reflection of Arsenal’s title credentials. After such a ridiculous fixture schedule, 3 tough games inside 6 days whilst travelling to and from Naples in between before your toughest game of the season is a recipe for disaster in modern football.

    I thought Arsenal actually performed really well, considering, and although we might have scored a few more goals I got the impression Man City would’ve scored more and won the game regardless. Simply put, Arsenal were there for the taking on Saturday.

    Small details will impact the big matches but fatigue can and generally does have a massive effect on the outcome of these matches, you only have to look at how fresh Liverpool looked in comparison to Spurs yesterday as yet more evidence to this point.

  • Colario

    Tasos
    You forgot to mention the Referee’s mandate.

  • nicky

    A team will never win the EPL title on home results alone. Unless Citeh improve their away record they will struggle to finish in the top four.

  • Ben

    We are planning to buy a striker again from Barcelona! 🙂

    http://www.caughtoffside.com/2013/12/14/toni-sanabria-to-sign-five-year-arsenal-contract-gunners-set-to-sign-barcelona-striker/

    I dont know about other guys on here but i do like to read about young prospects moving to Arsenal and to see how they develop.

  • Gianni Dioro

    Prior to the match on Saturday, City had only conceded 2 goals in 7 matches at home this season.

  • ARSENAL 13

    what are we made of? what are we made of?……well, we’ll see in a weeks time. Our big defeat is not the test. How we recover from this is the real test of our character….

    And by what I’ve seen in the game the day before, I have no reasons for any doubt.

    I think we’ll be there come the end of may. May be we wont win it. But definitely will be in the hunt….

  • Mick

    Champions league draw sees us paired with Bayern Munich. No problem for the Gunners, bring them on.

  • Micheal Ram

    Tasos,

    Im with you, man. Even my fellow football mates who supports other clubs didnt make funny faces at me like they always do when arsenal lose. They were in fact surprised arsenal scored 3 goals not to mention lousy refereeing. These corrupt and bias football admins lack class and ethics. Who in the right mind would arrange a fixture like? Like a tortured innocent lamb thrown into a wolf den. It was logically and completely avoidable at the first place and no harm done for anyone expect the greedy and pathetic tv broadcasters. Why do you english fa bend down with your backside open for these morons while you at it? Enuff said…

  • While unhappy about Saturday’s result, I am not depressed by it one bit. The reaction of fans and pundits to every game is ridiculously predictable in its repetitiveness. You win a home game this weekend: “Oh this team is great, they are unbeatable bla blah”. You lose an away game the following weekend: “This team is shite, they are so terrible. They need to buy a striker (all lists always include “a striker”), a midfielder bla bla blah”. MoTD will always provide diabolically edited videos to justify a win and to knock the losing the team, no matter how flukey the result or how terrible the officiating might be.

    It is a league and as such, we should be looking at trends and not just individual games. Liverpool lost 3-1 away to Hull but went on to win at WHL 5 nil. Man City lost away to Sunderland 1-0 despite all their goals at the Etihad stadium. This last bit is perhaps the worst result by any top team in my opinion and something tells me that if Man city fails to win the league, as I hope they do, their fans will look back and blame that loss for their failure.

    If Arsenal fail to win the league, it will not be because we lost to the top 4 teams, it will be because we lost to Villa at home and to a less extent lost 2 points when Everton visited. I am not knocking the team over these results, I’m just asking for us look at results in context and not just fixate on one particular result irrespective of how much we want to beat the opposing team in question.

    Other than the psychological boost and bragging rights, I have no idea why people get so fixated about beating the big boys. All 38 games have equal points; all the teams are big teams!

    The short termism that Blaksheep is talking about is perpetuated by the punditocracy, the media and the complicit fans. As I have said before, I care less about results from Man United or Man City, I care about results from Cardiff and Stoke Cities because there are many more of them. Consistency is still the factor that will determine the winner of this league as it has always been.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Hah, Bayern Munich. Time to show, last seasons result was not a fluke…

  • Tasos

    rantetta

    Typical Spurs.

    ARSENAL 13

    The only one I didn’t want.

  • It’s Bayern Munich and I say bring it on. It’s either we dump out the defending champions to show our pedigree or get out in February so that we can focus on the EPL (the one that I most care about).

    On AVB sacking, well that is what spending over £100 million gets you. I wonder what those screaming “spend the fucking money” from our side are saying now. Spending helps to improve results but it does not guarantee them.

  • rantetta

    Tasos

    I’m upset. I wanted to see what spurs and avb produced by the end of the season, with mass embarrassments along the way. How come they’ve never thought of sacking Danny Levy?

  • Tasos

    rantetta

    What with their proposed stadium move an all, are we looking at the new Leeds United. You know, spending big and living the dream n all that crap.

    In Arsene I trust.

  • Pete

    Typical Spuds – anything to try to overshadow Arsenal in the CL draw…

  • Pete

    I am looking forward to an article on Spurs managerial situation. Quite incredible. Spend £100mm on players and now back at Square One. No doubt the new manager, whoever the poor misguided soul is (I hear Jol is available…), will no doubt want yet more squad changes.

    Having written that, I was kind of hoping AVB would hang on until 4th Jan as there is a risk of a short-term bounce.

  • nicky

    On the disgraceful sacking by the Spurs Board of manager AVB, did they even consider
    1.The aftermath of Bale’s departure and the effect on the team.
    2. The need for the new signings to “bed in” for a whole season.
    3. The fact that the poor displays on the field was due to the players and not the manager.
    My advice to Spurs is this….Get rid of your Board rather than your manager, otherwise whoever is appointed to replace AVB can expect little loyal support from his employer.

  • Tom

    Blacksheep

    Good read. Agree with most of your points, though Suarez has been the best player in PL for a while now, when he is not biting people or serving suspensions that is.

    For all the talk about how strong and talented our bench is( mostly by Tony),we don’t come even close to matching City and Chelsea in that department and probably never will.
    Having said that , I believe we can still win the league with our squad ,which apart from a player or two practically picks itself.

    Our league result will depend on how far we go into CL and FA cup competitions . I don’t think it was a coincidence that our great run at the end of last season began after we had crashed out of both of them at the hands of Bayern and Blackburn respectively .

    Wenger will try his best again to get past Bayern this time around and also pick a strong squad against local rivalTottenham for the FA clash( I wish he wouldn’t ) and if Arsenal manage to go deep into both cup competitions it will jeopardize our league effort.

  • Oh, Arsene just outlived another Scum manager. Sweeeeeeet!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I wonder if Levy has thought about the short time they had to recover from beating that world top team Anzi Andsomemore?

    Serious now, I told after going out for the league cup that this was a blessing in disguise. Just look at Liverpool. They only play one game a week and this gives them an extra advantage in many games. Tottenham had to play on Thursday (be it at home so no real travelling like Arsenal) but a match is a match and it brings extra fatigue. It showed against Liverpool who had a whole week to recover from their previous game.

    Arsenal drawing Bayern Munich can have a double result. If we go further we know we can beat anyone. If we go out, we can focus completely on the PL (and maybe the FA cup)

  • Walter,

    Honestly, if not for the blowback from our trophy junkie brigade, I would prefer we get the hell out of the champions’ league and the FA cup. Especially the latter. We focus on the league, the one with highest mathematical certainty and that is much less dependent on luck. If we win the league this season, strong belief will be generated as a result and that will enable us to successfully attack on more fronts next season.

    Of course, my hope is still that we win all the competitions that we are still in.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    It’s Monday and the ref announcements for next week are due to be made later today so I’m going to try and be a pundit and second guess our referee for next week.

    From the links I posted to Walter’s reviews from last year Andre Marriner has a score of +17 for Chelsea and -24 for us so a net balance of 41 in favour of Chelsea (he did our game on 04 Dec so it is probably too soon to have him again though), Phil Dowd has +14.5 for Chelsea and -19.667 for us so a net of 34.2 (again he was in charge of the Chelsea game on 4 Dec so again probably too soon). Howard Webb has -1 for Chelsea and -25.75 for us so a balance of 24.75 (but he was in charge of our game on 8th December so much too soon) and Neil Swarbrick with +2 for Chelsea and a mammoth -61 for Arsenal giving a grand total of +63 in favour of Chelsea.

    My bet is on Swarbrick – his Chelsea game this year was on 6th October so a sensible time span and we haven’t yet seen him this year. Mind you with -61 against us last year we really don’t want to see him at all!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Andrew having a relative ‘unknown’ ref for a game that will decide the top spot in the league is very unlikely. I don’t think even Riley would risk his neck on that. But then again….he has done bigger things in the spotlight without blinking an eye to screw us

  • Mahdain

    @Andrew arent the big games mostly reserved for Webb,Atkinson,Dean,Marriner,Dowd,Clattenburg and to some extent Foy? I just dont see Swarbick doing it and im convinced it will be Dean(though might be wrong if has ref’d chavs lately)

  • Mahdain

    @Walter yep. Riley will want his best for this one though i can see Oliver coming into play here. Im not sure i want seeing that he doesnt have any balls and tends to lose control of the match very oftenly

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Mandarin,
    Webb did our game v Everton on 8thDec
    Atkinson was in charge of us this last week
    Dean is a possibility as he hasn’t done either Chelsea or us since September
    Mariner did our game v Hull on 4th Dec
    Clattenberg did the Chelsea game v Palace on 14th Dec
    Foy last did Chelsea v W Ham on 23rd November so is (just about) a possibility.

    I discounted Dean as he had a negative v Chelsea last year of -8.667 and a negative against us of -19.25 so is relatively neutral.

    Foy was -25 for us and -11for Chelsea so also fairly neutral.

    I’m sure that with a thorough briefing Swarbrick will be capable of showing himself worthy of promotion. But there again I’m only a retired Engineer so what do I know?

  • Persian gunner

    I think taking Flamini out of the game made us weak in midfield battles
    Maybe it was better to bring a player like Rosicky or Santi who can manage the fluency of our gameplay
    The most bright side of the game, which is surprisingly overlooked these days, was Theo!
    He scored 2 goals by two chances he had and it’s really encouraging to see that goals are coming from different players

  • Persian gunner

    It’s really important to beat Chelsea next week
    Our rivals will be fighting against each other soon after that in a compact series of games
    And they will drop points for sure
    If we beat Chelsea next week, we will be in a very strong position

  • Persian Gunner,

    Can’t agree with you more. Optimistic as I’ve always been, I’d be losing it if we fail to beat the chavs. Don’t worry, I won’t bring my craziness here but I’d be mad nonetheless.

    We’d be home to Chelsea after resting for 9 days. We’ve got to beat the Russians. Plus John Terry has been running his mouth again – that is always a good sign. He typically follows his boasts with crappy performances.

    Next Monday’s match is the real must win game for me. Win that game and we have at least 2 points cushion as we navigate an easy January schedule.

    Finally, whatever happens, I believe that our fate in the league will be determined by how steadfastly we accumulate points against the lowly teams. I’d HATE the team to lose to Chelsea but my faith in them will not waiver.

  • WalterBroeckx

    And taraaataataaaaaaaa…. it is …… DEAN!!!

    bang boom whatever…
    He was destined a long time ago for this fixture… Wasn’t he Mr. Riley?

    But surely we at Untold are just a bunch of deluded nutters who see conspiracy when there is nothing to see. yet us nutters seems to know what the PGMOL is going to do before they do it…

  • Mahdain

    Mike Dean for chelsea it is… so predictable

  • Mahdain

    @Walter Mr Riley is getting clumsy.. predicted that a week ago and even in this post

  • Mahdain

    As if Dean wasnt enough they give Probert for the Newcastle match… Bravo Riley bravo

  • Mahdain

    In a nutshell we are going to have Dean vs Chelsea, Dowd vs Westham and Probert vs Newcastle but ofcourse we here at Untold are deluded

  • WalterBroeckx

    And then they come with the silly question: but why would Riley hate us?

    LOL if you don’t know the answer to this question you have never heard of the unbeaten run and the humiliation that was for SAF.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Mahdain… I think you are wrong. I think it will be Dowd against Newcastle. Just his face in such a game…
    Mind you I don’t mind him in another match that much

  • Mahdain

    @Walter they have already announced them and it will be Dowd for westham and followed by Probert for newcastle…. check PL twitter account

  • Pete

    Oh lordy…

    http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/referees/appointments/

    Dean/Dowd/Probert.

    At least it means we shouldn’t get Dean for the FA Cup – no skipping here!

  • Mahdain

    We get Dean in a crucial match once again and then we have to deal with both Dowd and Probert in two crucial away matches… Utterly pathetic

  • Pete

    The thing is, Dean is Riley’s “Go To” guy for situations like this. He may not have been quite as biased last season as some – but his record over the last half dozen years is beyond a joke.

    What I am unsure about (and I know the articles are out there somewhere) is Dean’s record with Chelsea.

  • Thato

    I am a religious reader of this website but have never really been moved to comment on any of the articles. I still am not, because i agree with them 99% of the time. My thoughts on this past weekends game.. The Arsenal was in it until half time. Fatigue got the better of the players. A gruelling game in Italy on Wednesday, back to England for a clash against a Top 4 team early on Saturday? The result was bound to turn out the way it did, but the lads put up a brave fight. Bodes well for the rest of thr season i think. If we can finish the year in our current position, we are taking the league.

  • Gord

    A while ago, Andrew noted that some referees are appearing too regularly for his liking. Well, I have the 1997/98 results for the league sitting in front of me (because I just finished calculating them).

    There were 18 referees to choose from, so one kind of expects that each referee is seen about twice for each team on average. The highest number of occurrences is 5. The total number of game assignments range from 34 (Burge) to 47 (Poll). For each team, there are between 16 and 18 referees appearing.

    The most number of referees seen only twice is 9, West Ham, Tottenham and Everton. Sheffield and Newcastle had the fewest of twice only officiating at 3 and 4 respectively. The most occurrences of more than 2 is 8 (Arsenal, Sheffield). For most teams, the most common situation is many referees at 3 viewings and few for 4 (or 5). But, ManU, West Ham, Sheffield and Everton have about the same number of 4 or more as compared to 3 viewings. The largest number times a team only sees a referee once is 6 (Newcastle and Blackburn). The teams that have the fewest single viewings West Ham, ManU, Arsenal, Leeds, Everton, Coventry, Southampton all at 3 (except West Ham is 2).

    To go through this was useful in that I found 3 referees with errors (wrong first initial or different spelling of surname).

    —-

    People have remarked about us getting Bayern in Champions League. Swansea is perhaps the team in the EPL most like Arsenal, they got Napoli in Europa League.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Shit happens –
    Q -What does a cannibal do after dumping his girlfriend?
    A – Wipes his butt !

    Q -What’s the last thing that goes through a bug’s mind when it hits a windshield?
    A – Its butt !

    Q -How did Darth Vader know what Luke got him for Christmas?
    A – He felt his presents!

  • Gooner S

    I reckon you have it about right. If we finish above Chelsea and/or City we will be doing well.

  • AL

    That man riley is evil, these appointments are designed to halt our momentum and ensure that by the new year we are third or fourth.

    This is why I think it was criminal of those muppets on motd to carry on spouting daily that Arsenal will not win the title, saying it with conviction as if they are psychics. Riley and co will be thinking, well, everyone will not be shocked if Arsenal end up fourth or thereabouts, after all this is what the media was preaching on a daily basis. At the same they kept talking up utd’s chances for the same effect conversely. But the evidence in both cases did not back them up. T*ats

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I’ve just been punishing myself by looking again at the City game – shocking in all respects.

    I think the preview for the next three games will probably be pithy – Don’y bother to turn up the results are fixed. But then I’m having a bad day today – went down to the Post Office with a parcel on behalf of my Wife and they refused to accept it as I hadn’t got a clue as to what was in it!

    I may be paranoid but it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.

    Ah well it will pass and I will try and say something fresh by the weekend.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Didn’t know it Mahdain.

    But we seem to be getting Probert always around new year. In order to screw us over and have a bad finish/start of the season…

  • Gord

    I don’t know how many of you are “technically sophisticated” (I am hoping Bootoomee and Andrew are), but arXiv.org has many papers on football (they call it soccer more often than not, even people from Europe).

    The following is what I have used via Google Canada.

    https://www.google.ca/search?q=site%3Aarxiv.org+soccer|football&btnG=Search

    In the first couple of pages of hits, I even seen an analysis of the commentary that ESPN uses, and I seen a paper talking mostly about Arsenal versus Chelsea. Much of the analysis is from the Bundesleague.

    There are many different ways of estimating the strength of a team. But all the references I seen in the one paper give authors and journal, and not title. Where I live, I am not going to find those journals. There is little reason for a university transfer college to carry physics journals that students in 4th year physics might have difficulty with.

    But, a different paper said that the ability of the home team to score at the beginning of a game is a measure of strength, in particular the first 10 minutes. If we measure time in minutes, the weighting factor to apply to a goal will be exp(-0.1 t). Team strength apparently has a correlation of 7 matches (42 days) in Germany, so if we measure time between games in days, we want a time weighting factor of exp(-t / 42). And if we sum that over all goals continuously, we should have a (poor) approximation of the strength of teams.

    In terms of actually predicting the score in a game, it seems a simple place to start is to assume the scoring rate is Poisson, and not quite constant. Total goals divided by minutes gives an overall scoring rate (per minute) (which will be a small number). What people are seeing, is that the actual scoring rate (from Germany) is not quite constant during a game. It is a bit less at the beginning of the game, nominally increases slightly over the course of the game in what looks like a linear function, and then at the very end of the game (injury time?), goes up significantly. A person could probably model this as a piecewise linear model, with a variable slope to the main line (10% per 90 minutes or so?), and then say from 89 minutes on, a steeper line which goes fro the main line value to maybe double that (or so).

  • Gord

    I hope people weren’t insulted by the “technically sophisticated” comment. But if I was to say convolution integral (or similar), those two words bring a lot of knowledge along with them. I am not trying to keep people without a lot of schooling out, I am just trying to look for people with that schooling to bounce things off of. So far with no effect.

  • Gord

    Gianfranco Zola resigned from Watford today (yesterday for those of you in the UK). Arsenal had a loanee (Bellerin) at Watford.

    Should loanees come back to Arsenal on a change in manager?