For Arsenal, 50 is the number


By Admir Pajic

It’s been a season that only the biggest optimists could have seen coming. I have to admit that I was thrilled with our preseason performances against Chelsea (4-0) and Sevilla (6-0) where our passing and pressing game looked so sharp I had to put a bandage on my finger when I accidentally touched the screen of my TV when Olexandr Zinchenko was doing some of his magic against Chelsea. I had high hopes before the season but I didn’t think we would be able to give Man City a run for their money.

Our next game is going to be really special as we play against a team that is in a really good form. Also, it’s the only team that has beaten us in the league this season. What is even more important, it’s the team that was the ugly half of unparalleled rivalry in the Premier League era – the one between Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Since the defeat at Old Trafford, a lot of things have changed. The United Kingdom has lost Queen and got King, a job in the Prime Minister cabinet looked as safe as the managerial job in Watford, Howard Webb has returned to PGMO on a high horse, Argentina have become world champions and Arsenal have opened an eight-point gap between themselves and Man City.

We all remember the most painful game against Manchester United in the Premier League era – the one that ended our unbeaten run at 49 only because Mike Riley couldn’t watch skilful Arsenal players beating Man United fair and square at Old Trafford where, as Mark Clattenburg admitted, referees were intimidated to give calls into Manchester United favour. That game is still referred to as “Game 50”. Manchester United – using tricks that were so dirty that they would have been left out from “The Book of Dirty Tricks” for being too dirty – stopped us from reaching the “50” milestone.

Now, in what is going to be our 19th game of the league campaign, we are heading to another “50” milestone that only Manchester United can slow us down in reaching it.

After 18 games played, Arsenal have picked 47 points and as of Saturday, only Arsenal can theoretically get 100 points or more this season. One of the greatest Premier League achievements – Manchester City reaching a century of points in 2017-18 – is out of reach for the record holders themselves. Even if Manchester City win all of their remaining 20 games, they will have 99 points or one point short of a century.

If we beat Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, we will have 50 points after 19 games which extrapolates to 100 points in 38 games. So, once again, Manchester United stand between us and number 50.

If you think 100-point mark sounds like a delusion, I’d probably agree with you but not before writing these facts:

  • we have picked 47 points so far in 18 games,
  • out of 18 games, 10 were played away from home,
  • we have already picked more points against Big Six (Man C, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Man U – that’s the order from the final table last season) – last season we picked just nine points in 10 games while now we have 12 points in just five games v Big Six including two away wins;
  • we have been tracking the lead for mere 83 minutes this season which, surprisingly, is an area where we are not top of the league (Newcastle are top with just 80 minutes),
  • we have picked a clean sheet,
  • we have been given a written proof that VAR Lee Mason (surprise, surprise) wrongly disallowed our goal at Old Trafford that would have given us a 0-1 lead,
  • Paul Tierney was the referee in that game and he was the referee in three of our last six league defeats which is something we should think about,
  • we were a better team in all three games we didn’t win this season (Man United, Leeds, Newcastle) and each time an appalling refereeing decision stood between us and three points,
  • our football is positive, our players’ movement is intelligent and our brilliant manager is our 12th player on the pitch,
  • we use our weaker foot so good that two own goals we have scored this season (Guehi and Lloris) both came after a sharp right-footed cross from Bukayo Saka,
  • did I forget to say that, among others, we have Bukayo Saka, the best English footballer out there?

But first things first.

Man United have won against City after a dubious goal from Bruno Fernandes. Howard Webb’s return to PGMO has coincided with their great run of results but it’s fair to say they now have a manager who is similar to our Mikel:

  • Ten Hag has a positive football philosophy,
  • he wants his players to deliver it,
  • he doesn’t allow rotten apples to stay around for too long even if they are superstars or club legends and, most importantly,
  • has a support from the structures above him for his actions.

It will be a difficult game even if we play at home and will have a few days more to prepare for that game as Man U have a mid-week trip to Selhurst Park and our own Patrick Vieira.

Basically, it comes down to this: if we want to reach 50 (points), we have to give 100 (percent) on the pitch. And if we reach 50 (points) on Sunday, we may get our 14th (league title) come May!

4 Replies to “For Arsenal, 50 is the number”

  1. Admir Pajic

    “we were a better team in all three games we didn’t win this season (Man United, Leeds, Newcastle)” As Josiah pointed out, it was Southampton not Leeds, small matter.

    But you are basically correct, and it’s actually quite a Freudian slip because Leeds away is actually the only victory where I think we were slightly fortunate, and up until yesterday Leeds were the only side to have had more shots on our goal than we had on our opponents.

    Yesterday was the second time with Spurs having 17 shots to our 14, but unlike yesterday when we were clearly the better team, at Leeds we were not and if memory served we hade a few VAR calls go our way, correctly so, but the truth is, on the overall balance of the match if we had lost I don’t think we could of complained.

    Basically Leeds away is the only match I think we were second best.

  2. So we now know who’s going to be in charge of our home clash with United this Sunday, and quite unbelievable, we yet again have been given a referee and VAR operator from Manchester, as was the case at Old Trafford in September.

    This is by Tony in the build up for the Old Trafford match back then:

    “Paul Tierney is the referee for the Manchester United v Arsenal game. He is from Salford which is just a few miles from Manchester , while Lee Mason who is the VAR referee is from Manchester itself. But I am sure that doesn’t imply that anything will be wrong. After all both men are employed by PGMO and we know what a fair and reasoned organisation this is”.

    And we all know how that worked out:

    As reported by the Mirror, Among other outlets:

    “There were six incorrect VAR interventions in the first part of the Premier League season, according to a panel set up to investigate the controversial decisions The incidents, which include Gabriel Martinelli’s disallowed goal for Arsenal at Manchester United, were all looked into by a panel comprising of three former players and a representative from the Premier League and the PGMOL, the referees body.”

    Now we get Anthony Taylor (from Manchester) as referee and Michael Salisbury (from Lancashire) on VAR.

    So the The PGMOL disgracefully give us two Manchester officials for the match at Old Trafford. An independent body judges they got a game changing decision completely wrong in Manchester’s favour. But rather than learn from this The pig headed, arrogant, incompetent PGMOL, do exactly the same again for the return match.

    You just couldn’t make this shit up.

    I posted a version of this in an early article but I thought it worth repeating as this really is a disgrace. How can they get away with this???

  3. Frankly, I doubt Arsenal will win the league, mainly because I do not trust PGMOL.
    That being said, I’m happy with the show, the spectacle, the wow I see at every game.
    The young Gunners are really happy to play as a unit, they visibly have decided that nothing is impossible and they are fully aware that they are the better team in the PL as of now.
    Their manager, Mr Arteta, is a worthy heir of Mr Wenger and has bettered Guardiola in his recruitment and tactical choices. he defends his youngsters and shows his smarts at every press conference.

    As for the owners, you can see from their recruitment strategy that they have a long experience of pro sports in the US. They understand the issues involved in managing and balancing a squad long term, they don’t show any sign of panic buying like so many other teams. They have a cost/benefit target and stick with it. Say what you want, but the results are visible. And if Mudrik is worth 100 million ‘unproven’, try to compute the value or our forward line : Martinelli, Nketiah, Sakah, Oodegard, Jesus, ESR…. They have kept on investing. not spending. And the transfers have been largely successfull, have they not ? Arsene knows best should be completed by ‘so does Mikel’.

    So, I’m enjoying the games I watch, the situation Arsenal are in and the perspectives. Can’t be much better then that. We need to relax, sit back and enjoy the journey.

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