FIXTURE FURY

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The Premier League dropped the fixtures for some of the reworks needed before the end of the season… and they have not been kind to Arsenal or Aston Villa.

The big issue? The break Tottenham Hotspur has been given before meeting us.

Crazy as it might seem… they have been give 15 days.

Tottenham play Newcastle on April 13th.

Arsenal then play:

Aston Villa (h) Apr 14th

Bayern (a) Apr 17th

Wolves (a) Apr 20th

Chelsea (h) Apr 23rd

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KIT DETAILS – WHY THEY MATTER!

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Good evening, my darlings; how are we on this fine day?

England plays Brazil. Should be a fun match-up. Shame the pre-game drama is about a kit detail.

That said, I do want to weigh in on it because I live in this world.

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ANOTHER ONE

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TOMIYASU SIGNED A NEW DEAL.

We all love it.

Worth noting that Edu and Richard Garlick opted to give him a 2 yr extension (option for one yr), instead of the 3-5 everyone has been signing onto.

This reflects two things for me:

  1. Lack of availability is a concern and has affected his long-term value
  2. 2 years means we have a get-out-of-jail-free card if he doesn’t get fitter
  3. He’ll be a potential exit next summer

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WITHDRAWAL AMOUNT: JUST RIGHT

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Arsenal finally moved towards earning their diploma in the dark arts by withdrawing the following players:

  • Gabriel Jesus
  • Big Gabriel
  • Martinelli
  • Thomas Partey
  • Tomiyasu

By withdraw, I mean, the players themselves have told their county they cannot play.

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NEW STRIKER LINKS

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I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed a hit of CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW reaction. So here it is now:

I like it.

Bayern Munich is the perfect blend of super club at a lowish ebb that is very beatable. If you win, you’re really happy. If you lose, that’s just the level of the Champions League for you.

I’d give us a 40% chance of making it through to the next round. Bayern has nothing to play for, the away leg is going to be really tough, and I’m not sure how the boys are going to handle the bright lights away from home.

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BENNY AND TOMI PUT PEN TO PAPER

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What are you doing Friday? That’s right. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER FINAL DRAW.

Feels sexy, right?

That is a very nice collection of top tier clubs. No Qarabag for us. Just pure heritage clubs that’ll have American gooners crying off sick for sure.

For me, the who do we want and who do we NOT want lists are very simple.

DO NOT WANT:

Manchester City: They are the strongest team in the world and we do not have a particularly great record against them over the last 10 years. Though cup games are not that bad – league games are bad. Very bad.

The counter-point to the fear here is that the one team Pep doesn’t want is Arsenal. We have had their number this season. Arteta puts extra on City games, and they will know the jeopardy involved in losing to Arsenal. Weirdly, I think it would be far worse for City to lose in the QF than for Arsenal. We have nothing to lose because we’ve never won anything major…  they carry the bigger rep and when you are the king, you cannot lose a public power struggle to a young princeling because all your power dissipates.

Atleti: No. No. No. No. This is not a peak Atleti side, but it is a technically gifted shit-bag iteration that can turn anyone over with the darkest of dark arts. Inter Milan has been on fire, they defend like monsters, and they were easily beaten by the Spaniards. I want a nice quarter final, not one I’ll need therapy to get over.

DO WANT:

All the teams that will come to play football against us. Bayern, Madrid, and Barca are all weaker teams than Arsenal, but they aren’t going to shut up shop against us. Their fans wouldn’t allow it. Dortmund are decent but 4th in the Bundesliga. If we lose to them, it’s two very, very bad days.

So who will we get? City or Atleti. You just know it.

Still, the Champions League is like Pokemon… you gotta beat em’ all. Right?

Josh Kroenke was in town for the BIG game. No one gets on a PJ for 14 hours to watch 120 minutes of excruciating football in the Champions League. So what was the reason? It would seem like he might have wanted to be around for the BIG re-signing of Benny Blanco and Tomiyasu.

MAYBE MIKEL AS WELL? Who knows. That’s just irresponsible speculation by me.

Back to the full-backs.

Two extraordinary talents that people didn’t quite get when they landed… now we do. Ben White arrived as a centre back and now he dominates the right side of defence with outrageous performances every week. Tomi arrived as a right back and now he plays wherever he’s needed.

Two top talents, though I would put a lot of pennies on one of them not being here in two seasons’ time.

Once again, I find myself saluting the sporting execs who have signed player after player to new deals with minimal fuss. Tim Lewis, Edu and the MIGHTY Richard Garlick find a way every time. If you’re a young person thinking this is normal, please review the history books from 2015 onwards. It wasn’t pretty. We’d lose big players on free transfers (Aaron Ramsey) or we’d panic and sign declining players to deals they couldn’t get anywhere else (Ozil). It was a mess. We live in a much more sensible world these days.

Ok, short post today. We’ll be dropping a lovely Thursday Therapy session a little later this afternoon. So keep your ears PRICKED for that.


DAVID RAYA CEMENTS #1 STATUS WITH HERO PERFORMANCE!

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Arsenal is through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2010.

Wow.

14 years out in the cold. And here we are. What a feeling!

I’m a touch emotional about it because I wasn’t sure we’d ever get back the peak of European football. The club allowed itself to sag and bloat under a manager who had declined, they made a horrible mistake hiring a meek replacement paired with a horrendous football director… they finally saw the light and hired Arteta.

So few wanted to accept hiring someone with City and Pep ID was a good idea, no one wanted to accept he had the sauce, and people constantly ridiculed the idea he was generational.

Where are these guys now? They’re Steve Ballmer laughing at the iPhone. Alan Hansen saying, ‘You don’t win it with kids.’ Gary Neville scoffing at the Arsenal strategy.

There are so many people that have helped pull Arsenal back from a very dark place and I hope all of them are enjoying this moment.

Arsenal has been honest about who they are, what the strengths of the club could be, and they’ve gone all-in on a strategy that required taking a lot of pain along the way.

4 years into Arteta’s tenure, and we’re one of the 4 best clubs in Europe.

That is mad. Wild. Crazy. Too good to be true.

The FC Porto game was absolutely disgusting. We won, but I felt dirty. Like I’d tripped an old lady to win a sack race. I’d forgotten what the Champions League was about – the nostalgia always takes you back to attacking free-flowing football. The reality is closer to a brutal chess game in a very nasty prison cell.

Arsenal weren’t at their best, but they handled a very streetwise Porto side, then nailed them in a penalty shoot-out for the ages.

I told you I wasn’t selling my stocks in David Raya, and thank goodness I didn’t; he’s just gone NVIDIA on the base. As Matt said on the Arsenal Opinion, ‘he’s been near perfection since Dubai.’

That was his best game in an Arsenal shirt. He made saves, caught crosses, distributed like a king all night, then pulled off two world-class penalty saves (nearly three) and sent us into the next round.

There were rumblings we had two number twos at the club. Those silly proclamations can be laid to rest. David Raya is a special keeper and he’ll be knocking on the door of Ederson and Allisson very soon if he isn’t already.

Other notable performances: Martin Odegaard. He was an all action hero again. He pressed, he dropped deep, he drew players from all over the pitch to track his danger… then he struck with a Bergkamp like assist, serving up Trossard with a stunning pass he could dink home.

Not a big game player? Please.

There weren’t too many individual performances worthy of paragraphs – so I want to talk about the team.

Only Jorgi and Havertz have been this far in the Champions League. No one else in that team had. The game was tough, the opponent relentless, the jeopardy serious. Those boys did men things out there. They showed the type of maturity many a Wenger team could not. It was a very, very professional performance under huge pressure.

Then the penalties came… my word. They were stunning.

Odegaard – BANG

Saka – BANG

Havertz – BANG

Declan – BANG

I doubted every single one of them – but those guys didn’t. They were brutal penalties struck by young men keen to impress on the greatest club comp in the world.

We moved into the next round. Bayern, Madrid, PSG, Man City, and Barcelona… the sort of names you dream of! The only team I fear is Man City… and I suspect the only team Man City fears is Arsenal.

Let’s enjoy the moment and see what the Friday draw kicks up for us! x