by Bulldog Drummond
The big stat doing the rounds for this game is that Arsenal are the only side without an away point in English league football in 2018, having lost all six of their matches.
Well, I think we knew that. But what you might not have seen (although it has turned up in one or two places) is that the last time we lost seven in a row was in January 1966. And that season, like this, saw the end of a manager. Mr Billy Wright left Arsenal at the end of the season, having taken us to 14th in the league. He was replaced by Bertie Mee whose season endings gave us 7th, 9th, 4th, 12th, 1st.
Bertie Mee is of course quite rightly remembered for winning the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, and then the cup and league double. But since those days (when even the two League Cup finals were considered a step forward) things have changed and all that matters to some is winning the League. Bertie Mee did indeed deliver that in his fifth season.
But after that his finishes were 5th, 2nd, 10th, 16th, 17th – the last two flirting with relegation. So in fact in ten seasons, he managed to exceed Arsenal’s position of sixth this season just four times.
Of course Billy Wright was even worse, so here the run of away defeats under the ex-England captain…
|16 Oct 1965||Blackpool v Arsenal||L||5-3||Division One|
|30 Oct 1965||Leicester City v Arsenal||L||3-1||Division One|
|13 Nov 1965||Leeds United v Arsenal||L||2-0||Division One|
|11 Dec 1965||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||4-2||Division One|
|27 Dec 1965||Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal||L||4-0||Division One|
|01 Jan 1966||Fulham v Arsenal||L||1-0||Division One|
|15 Jan 1966||Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal||L||2-1||Division One|
|22 Jan 1966||Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal||L||3-0||FA Cup|
As for today’s match, last I heard, Leicester are still waiting to hear if Marc Albrighton will face any sort of punishment for his reaction to being sent off at Crystal Palace. He missed Saturday’s defeat to West Ham and could have his punishment extended.
The latest from the apparently “under pressure” Leicester manager Claude Puel is that, “We need perspective because we will finish in the middle of the table. A lot of teams would like to finish in our position.” (Well yes, Bertie Mee’s and Billy Wright’s teams on quite a few occasions.)
“We need stability for the future for next season and the seasons beyond. If we finish mid-table it is not bad because it has been a tough season. We had difficulties in the beginning and now at the end we have difficulties to manage.”
Ah yes, perspective. Now there is something you don’t find very often in the Premier League.
Elsewhere Cohen Bramall has thanked Birmingham City after he returned to Arsenal following his loan. He only made eight appearances during his season-long loan from Arsenal and didn’t get a single outing under Garry Monk.
Along with Carl Jenkinson, Chelsea’s Jeremie Boga and Southampton’s Sam Gallagher, Cohen Bramall paid the price as Monk decided to use the club’s own players in their fight against relegation rather than any of the loan players.
But despite this Cohen Bramall was very measured in his comments and said that his time at St Andrew’s has strengthened a career in the professional game which only began 18 months ago. He tweeted: “Thank you @BCFC for giving me the chance to experience Championship football. Although I didn’t get on the pitch as much as I wanted to, I’ve learnt so much from the club, my teammates and the staff. Thank you to all the fans for supporting me. I wish BCFC all the best.”
Now that, in my book, is style. Some journalists could take note.
Meanwhile we had the Under 23 International Cup Final at Stadium Wenger, and unfortunately lost. But it was noticeable that Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah were not in the team, suggesting that they could be at the least on the beach tonight.
But I expect a mainstream attack, given that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored eight goals and got four assists in 11 Premier League appearances so far. Two more goals for the magic “double figures”. Alexandre Lacazette has already passed that milestone and indeed has scored eight goals in his last nine games in all competitions.
So the prime question over the team is will Nelson, Willock or Eddie start? Those guys will be wondering what the future holds in store for them with Mr Wenger going. Let’s hope the board bring in a manager who understands that nurturing young talent is something particularly appreciated by many members of the Arsenal support.
Here’s a possible starting XI
Bellerin, Mustafi, Mavropanos or Chambers, Monreal or Kolasinac;
Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Ramsey or Wilshere;
Mkhitaryan or Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Now I would whittle this down personally to
Bellerin, Mustafi, Mavropanos, Monreal
Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Ramsey
Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Aubameyang
which gives us a beach of Kolasinac, Wilshere, Iwobi, plus the three youngsters Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah, plus Ooooooospina as the reserve keeper.
We shall see. It will soon be time to get up and go.
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