Friday, 13 March 2020

Arsenal’s Season In Turmoil As Mikel Arteta Contracts Covid-19

Arsenal released a statement last night that came as a shock as they told us Mikel Arteta has contracted Covid-19 and has gone into self isolation for two weeks. As a result anyone who has come into contact with him recently has had to go into self isolation too as a precaution. That means the entire first team squad are unavailable for the next 10 days as it started from their last contact with him which was apparently on Tuesday.

As I write this the Chelsea squad have followed suit as Callum Hudson-Odoi has been diagnosed too and some players from Manchester City and Leicester have had to go into self isolation after coming into contact with people with Covid-19. As a bare minimum both Arsenal and Chelsea have to call off all of their games for the next two weeks, but that’s only the start of it and the Premier League have to act now. Even when the players end their self isolation they won’t be match fit and realistically both clubs games should be off for a minimum of a month. The Premier League will meet this morning and indefinite suspension of the season is the only sensible decision they can make, but they have never been known for making sensible decisions.

Arteta is a young and fit man and the chances are he will make a full recovery, but our thoughts are still with him and his family. With so little known about this virus in reality we don’t know the effects of him having it, but if there’s a 14 day isolation period that probably means anyone who has come in contact with him in the last two weeks is at risk. Think of the games Arsenal played in that time and the hands of managers, coaches, referees, assistant referees and so on that he shook and you get an idea of how much it could have spread from just him.

Do all of those people have to go into self isolation and then what about the fans who held their hands out as he walked to and from the dressing room looking for a high five. Juergen Klopp (which just autocorrected as Koala) showed what he thought of Liverpool fans trying to do just that on Wednesday night. There can be no argument for continuing as normal when you see what is happening elsewhere.

I came to work this morning (I still have to earn a living) and I have never seen so few people on my mode of public transport. Even in the height of the summer holidays there isn’t a seat to be had, but this morning there were seats aplenty as Ireland brought in it’s first measures to deal with the virus. I have no doubt the measures will gradually be upgraded and it’s difficult not to be at least a little concerned.

From an Arsenal perspective it looks like the season will be put on hold until the all clear or something near it is given, but who knows when that will be. Euro 2020 will probably be put back to next year and the season will resume and finish some time in the summer. What that means for players whose contracts end on June 30th is an entirely different matter and one that will have to be dealt with if and when it happens.

For the moment though all we can do is wait and see what happens and wish Mikel Arteta a full recovery. We’re in uncharted territory and we really don’t know where there is going, but it’s not looking like we’re going to get off easy.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 30

It’s that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did reasonably well last week with two perfect predictions, three correct outcomes and five incorrect outcomes, but it wasn’t good enough to stop me losing more ground in my predictions league. Here’s a look at how the top five in that league stands with me nowhere to be seen.

POSITIONPLAYER NAMETHIS WEEKPOINTS
 1 (1) GoonerLaw

+55
1885
 2 (2) Invader 67

+65
1535
 3 (4) Mystical 

+90
1525
 4 (5) AFCDAVE 1515
 4 (3) Feel

+65
1515

Saturday March 14

Watford v Leicester City

12.30pm GMT, Vicarage Road, Watford 

Watford lost 1-0 away to Palace last week and they’re only outside the relegation zone on goal difference. They have taken 14 points from their last seven home games and they kept clean sheets in five of those games. They have only won once in their last seven games although that was against runaway league leaders Liverpool.

Ismailia Sarr, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Troy Deeney are the Watford players who might make a difference for fantasy managers.

Leicester strolled to a 4-0 victory at home to Villa last week to move eight points clear of the team in fifth place. They have only taken one point and scored one goal in their last three away games with only City and Chelsea scoring more away goals and only Liverpool and Sheffield United conceding less. The win against Villa was only their second win in eight games, but they only need a few more wins to guarantee Champions League football for next season.

It looks like Jamie Vardy might be back in form for fantasy managers while Harvey Barnes could be worth a punt too.

This isn’t an easy game to call and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was nothing between the teams at the end.

Prediction: 1-1

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace 

3pm GMT, Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth 

Bournemouth lost 1-0 away to Liverpool last week to remain in the bottom three, but only on goal difference. They have taken seven points and scored seven goals in their last three home games. They have only taken one point from their last four games, but four of them were away from home and if they’re going to beat the drop it’s points won at home that will do it for them.

I can’t see any Bournemouth players to recommend to fantasy managers at the moment.

Palace won 1-0 at home to Watford last week and they’re only in the bottom half of the table because Burnley have scored more goals than them. They have only lost one of their last five away games and they will fancy their chances in this game. They have won their last three games by the same 1-0 scoreline after failing to win the previous seven or keep a clean sheet in the previous 10.

Palace’s defenders and keeper have done very well for fantasy managers recently and they could do well in this game again.

I think Palace might just have enough to win this game by the only goal in it.

Prediction: 0-1

Brighton And Hove Albion v Arsenal 

3pm GMT, AMEX Stadium, Brighton 

Brighton drew 0-0 away to a Wolves last week and they’re only two points above the relegation zone. They have only won once in their last eight home games and their next four home games are all very difficult. They haven’t won in nine games and they failed to score in their last two. 

Given their current form and upcoming fixtures I can’t see any Brighton players to recommend to fantasy managers.

Arsenal won 1-0 at home to West Ham last week to move up to ninth place and then their midweek game at City was postponed with players in self isolation due to a minor risk of Covid-19. They haven’t lost in seven away games, but they drew six of them and they have only won two of their 13 away games. They won their last three games and are unbeaten in eight games with clean sheets in four of them, but no other team has drawn more games.

If this game does go ahead Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and maybe even Bukayo Saka as a cheap option are the Arsenal players of interest to fantasy managers.

I think this will be another very close game with Arsenal just about emerging with the three points.

Prediction: 1-2

Manchester City v Burnley 

3pm GMT, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

City lost 2-0 away to United on Sunday and then their midweek game at home to Arsenal was postponed to leave them 25 points behind Liverpool at the top of the table. Only Liverpool have won more games and scored more goals at home while no other team has conceded less goals on their own patch. They have only won three of their last six games, but no other team has scored more goals.

If he’s fit to play Kevin de Bruyne is the City player to have for fantasy managers while Sergio Aguero can’t be ignored too.

Burnley drew 1-1 at home to Spurs last week to move into the top half of the table. They have taken seven points and only conceded one goal in their last three away games and that included a win away to United. They’re unbeaten in seven games and they kept clean sheets in four of them, but no other team in the top half of the table has conceded more goals.

Nick Pope has been the best Burnley player for fantasy managers while Dwight McNeil and Chris Wood are worth considering too, but maybe not in this game.

I think City will prolong their agony for just a little longer by winning this game.

Prediction: 3-1

Newcastle United v Sheffield United 

3pm GMT, St. James’s Park, Newcastle 

Newcastle won 1-0 away to Southampton last week to move eight points clear of the bottom three. They haven’t conceded a goal in their last three home games and no other team has conceded less goals at home. They have only lost two of their last eight games and they kept clean sheets in four of those games, but no other team has scored less goals.

Newcastle’s defenders and keepers look like good bets for fantasy managers when they are playing at home at least.

United won 1-0 at home to Norwich last week and they’re only two points off fifth place with a game in hand. They have only lost two of their 13 away games with only Liverpool conceding less goals on their travels. They have taken 10 points from their last four games and they only conceded two goals in those games with only Liverpool conceding less goals.

United’s defenders and keeper continue to be very good options for fantasy managers and everybody should have at least one of them.

I think this will be a very tight game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end in a scoreless draw.

Prediction: 0-0

Norwich City v Southampton 

3pm GMT, Carrow Road, Norwich 

Norwich lost 1-0 away to Sheffield United last week and they’re still rock bottom of the table with only nine games left to play. They have taken eight points from their last five home games, but only Southampton have taken less points and conceded more goals at home. They have only taken four points from their last six games and they only scored two goals in those games with no other team scoring less goals and only Villa conceding more.

Despite some good defensive performances recently I still can’t see any Norwich players to recommend to fantasy managers.

Southampton lost 1-0 at home to Newcastle last week, but they still have seven points to spare over the bottom three. Only five other teams have taken more points away from home, but they have lost their last two away games and they conceded seven goals in those games. They have lost five of their last seven games and they conceded 13 goals in those games with only Villa conceding more goals.

None of the Southampton players have done much recently for fantasy managers and it might be best to avoid them.

This is a game Norwich really need to win, but I think Southampton will take the three points narrowly.

Prediction: 1-2

Aston Villa v Chelsea 

5.30pm GMT, Villa Park, Birmingham 

Villa lost 4-0 away to Leicester last week to drop back to second last in the table. They have lost four of their last six home games and they conceded 17 goals in those games. They have lost their last four games and they conceded 11 goals in those games with no other team conceding more goals.

Jack Grealish has been by far the best of the Villa players for fantasy managers, but his output has fallen off in recent weeks.

Chelsea won 4-0 at home to Everton last week and they still have three points to spare over fifth place. They haven’t won in their last four away games, but only the top two have taken more points on the road and only City have scored more goals. They took seven points from their last three games after failing to win the previous four and they scored eight goals in winning those seven points.

With a good run of games coming up players like Mason Mount, Willian and even Olivier Giroud could be worth considering for fantasy managers.

I think Villa’s woes will continue with Chelsea winning this game by at least a couple of goals.

Prediction: 1-3

Sunday March 15

West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers 

2pm GMT, London Stadium, London 

West Ham lost 1-0 away to Arsenal last week, but they’re still outside the relegation zone on goal difference.They have taken eight points from their last five home games and they scored 11 goals in those games, but they conceded seven with only Southampton taking less points and conceding more goals at home. They have only taken five points from their last nine games and they have a very tough run of games coming up.

Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals have all done reasonably well for fantasy managers recently and could be worth considering.

Wolves drew 0-0 at home to Brighton last week and they’re now two points behind fifth placed United. They have taken seven points from their last three away games and only the top four have taken more points on their travels. They have taken 11 points from their last five games and they kept four clean sheets in those games.

Raul Jiminez and Matt Doherty remain the best bets in the Wolves team for fantasy managers while Adama Traore, Diogo Jota and all of their defenders and keeper are worth a look at the moment too.

I think Wolves will be too good for a West Ham team who have improved recently, but could end up in the bottom three after this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United 

4.30pm GMT, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London 

Spurs drew 1-1 away to Burnley last week to drop back to eighth in the table with the teams behind them catching them quickly. They have won three and lost three of their last six home games with only the top three winning more games at home. They have only won three of their last 10 games and they conceded eight goals in their last four games with no other team in the top half of the table conceding more goals.

Dele Alli is probably the only Spurs player for fantasy managers to consider at the moment.

United won 2-0 at home to City last week and they’re in fifth place only three points behind Chelsea. They have only taken seven points from their last six away games, but those away games do get easier after this one. They have taken 11 points from their last five games while keeping four clean sheets in those games and they have a very good run of games to finish their season.

United players seem to be at a premium for fantasy managers at the moment with Bruno Fernandes the pick of the bunch while all of their defenders and keeper are doing well too.

I think this will be a very close game and I wouldn’t be surprised if the spoils were shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Monday March 16

Everton v Liverpool 

8pm GMT, Goodison Park, Liverpool 

Everton lost 3-0 away to Chelsea last week to drop back to 12th place, but they’re only two points off the top half of the table. They have taken 15 points from their last seven home games and they kept clean sheets in three of those games. They have only taken one point in their last three games and they conceded eight goals in those games with only five other teams conceding more goals.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are the Everton players most likely to make a difference for fantasy managers.

Liverpool won 2-1 at home to Bournemouth last week to move 25 points clear at the top of the table and within six points of winning the league with nine games left to play. They may have lost their last away game, but they have won 12 of their 14 games on the road and no other team has conceded less goals on their travels. They have won 27 of their 29 games and the title is theirs despite going out of the Champions League in midweek.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are still the best options in the Liverpool team for fantasy managers along with all of their defenders.

I think Everton will give their all to get something from this local derby, but Liverpool will take the three points.

Prediction: 1-2

That’s it for this week.

See you next week.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 29

It’s that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. Last week was my worst week ever and I couldn’t have done worse if I had tried with every single prediction wrong. Needless to say the quest to reach the top five in my predictions league is in ruins with time running out to repair the damage. Here’s a look at how the top five in that league stands.

Don’t forget there’s an extra game this week for both Arsenal and City after their meeting at the Etihad was rearranged for next Wednesday.

Saturday March 7

Liverpool v Bournemouth 

12.30pm Anfield, Liverpool 

Liverpool’s incredible winning streak and unbeaten run came to an end at Watford last week when they lost 3-0, but they’re still 22 points clear at the top of the table. They have won all of their home games though and no team has scored more or conceded less goals on their own ground. Despite the defeat against Watford the Premier League should still be a stroll for them and four wins in their last 10 games will give them the title no matter what City do.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are still excellent options for fantasy managers while their defenders and keeper should be too even if they have conceded five goals in their last two games.

Bournemouth drew 2-2 at home to Chelsea last week, but other results meant they dropped into the relegation zone on goal difference. They have lost their last five away games and they failed to score in four of those games with only Norwich and Villa taking less points away from home. They have lost seven of their last 11 games and they failed to score in six of those games.

I can’t see any Bournemouth players to recommend to fantasy managers at the moment.

I think Liverpool will bounce back in this game with a fairly comfortable win.

Prediction: 3-0

Arsenal v West Ham United 

3pm GMT, Emirates Stadium, London 

Arsenal didn’t play last week, but other results helped them stay within five points of fifth place and they now have a game in hand. They have taken 10 points from their last four home games and they scored 10 goals in those games with only five other teams scoring more goals and conceding more goals at home. They’re unbeaten in seven games and they kept clean sheets in three of those games, but no other team has drawn more games.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the Arsenal player to have for fantasy managers while Nicolas Pepe and even David Luiz and Hector Bellerin have done well recently too.

West Ham won 3-1 at home to Southampton last week to climb out of the relegation zone on goal difference. They have lost their last five away games and they conceded 12 goals in those games with only three other teams scoring less goals on the road. Their win against Southampton was their first win in eight games and only two other teams have conceded more goals.

If they can play like they did in their last two games fantasy managers might just show an interest in players like Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen.

I think there won’t be too much in this game, but Arsenal should make home advantage count to take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Crystal Palace v Watford 

3pm GMT, Selhurst Park, London 

Palace won 1-0 away to Brighton last week and they’re now only one point off the top half of the table. They won their last home game, but it was their first home win in four games and no other team has scored less goals at home while only four other teams have conceded less. They won their last two games without conceding a goal after failing to win the previous seven and only Newcastle have scored less goals.

Palace’s defenders and keeper are pretty good options for fantasy managers at the moment with Patrick van Aanholt probably the pick of them.

Watford won 3-0 at home to runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool last week to move out of the bottom three on goal difference. They have only won once in their last eight away games with only Norwich and Villa taking less points on their travels and only Norwich scoring less goals. The win against Liverpool was their first win in six games and only three other teams have scored less goals.

Troy Deeney, Ismailia Sarr and Abdoulaye Doucoure are all looking quite tempting to fantasy managers at the moment and could certainly be worth a shot.

I think this will be a very close game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end with the spoils shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Sheffield United v Norwich 

3pm GMT, Bramall Lane, Sheffield 

United didn’t play last week, but they’re only two points off fifth place with a game in hand after most of the teams around them failed to win. They have only lost one of their last six home games, but only two other teams have scored less goals at home. They have taken 11 points from their last six games with only Liverpool conceding less goals, but only five other teams scoring more.

United’s defenders and keeper have proved invaluable for fantasy managers this season and there seems to be no reason why that shouldn’t continue.

Norwich won 1-0 at home to Leicester last week to breathe some life into their attempt to beat the drop, but they still have six points to make up on seventeenth place with only 10 games to play. They haven’t won in their last seven away games and they have only scored one goal in the last five with no other team taking less points or scoring less goals on the road. They have taken seven points from their last six games and they kept clean sheets in three of those games, but only Newcastle have scored less goals and only Villa have conceded more.

I still can’t see any Norwich players to recommend to fantasy managers at the moment.

I don’t think we will see too many goals in this game, but I expect any we do see will go the way of United.

Prediction: 1-0

Southampton v Newcastle United 

3pm GMT, St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton 

Southampton lost 3-1 away to West Ham last week, but they still have seven points to spare over the bottom three. They have taken 13 points from their last eight home games, but no other team has taken less points or conceded more goals at home. They have lost three of their last four games and they conceded nine goals in those games with only Villa conceding more goals.

Danny Ings has been by far the best of the Southampton players for fantasy managers and he is certainly well worth having.

Newcastle drew 0-0 at home to Burnley last week and they’re still five points clear of the relegation zone. They have only taken two points from their last six away games and no other team has conceded more goals away from home. They have only won once in their last 10 games and they have failed to score in their last four games with no other team scoring less goals.

I can’t see any Newcastle players to interest fantasy managers at the moment.

I think this will be a close game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton And Hove Albion 

3pm GMT, Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton 

Wolves came from behind yet again to win 3-2 away to Spurs last week and they’re only three points off fourth place. They have taken four points from their last two home games and they kept clean sheets in both of those games, but no other team has drawn more games on their own ground. They have taken 12 points from their last seven games and they have kept clean sheets in three of their last four games with only Arsenal drawing more games.

Raul Jiminez and Matt Doherty have done very well all season long for fantasy managers while Diogo Jota has impressed recently as have all of their defenders and keeper.

Brighton lost 1-0 at home to Palace last week and they’re now only one point above the relegation zone. They haven’t won in their last six away games and only Norwich have won less games on their travels. They have only won once in their last 13 games, but they did draw 13 of those games and they have some very difficult games coming up. 

I can’t see any Brighton players to recommend to fantasy managers at the moment.

I think Wolves will continue to climb the table by taking the three points in this game.

Prediction: 3-1

Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur 

5.30pm GMT, Turf Moor, Burnley 

Burnley drew 0-0 away to Newcastle last week to move up to ninth place and they’re only four points off the top five. They have taken seven points from their last three home games and they only conceded one goal in those games with only four other teams winning more home games. They have taken 14 points from their last six games and they kept clean sheets in four of those games, but their next two games are far from easy.

Nick Pope is the Burnley player who has done the most for fantasy managers while Dwight McNeil plus all of their defenders could be worth investing in too.

Spurs lost 3-2 at home to Wolves last week to drop back to seventh place, but they’re still only five points off the top four. They have only won three of their 14 away games and only one of the last five and they have only kept one clean sheet on their travels. They lost their last two games and they conceded five goals in those games with no other team in the top half of the table conceding more goals.

Spurs players aren’t exactly setting the world alight for fantasy managers at the moment with their top two scorers injured, but Steven Bergwijn and Dele Alli might do well in their absences.

I think Burnley will give Spurs a real run for their money and a draw is the most likely outcome.

Prediction: 1-1

Sunday March 8

Chelsea v Everton 

2pm GMT, Stamford Bridge, London 

Chelsea drew 2-2 away to Bournemouth last week to stay in fourth place, but the teams below them are getting closer with each game. They have lost four of their last eight home games and they have struggled to score goals at home. They have only won once in their last six games and no other team in the top half of the table has conceded more goals, but they have a fairly good run of games coming up.

Chelsea players aren’t exactly over performing for fantasy managers at the moment, but Marcos Alonso has done well in an attacking sense recently.

Everton drew 1-1 at home to United last week and they’re only in the bottom half of the table on goal difference. They have only won two of their last eight away games with only Newcastle and Villa conceding more goals away from home. They have only lost twice in their last 13 games and they haven’t failed to score in their last 10 games.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has done very well recently for fantasy managers and Richarlison hasn’t done too badly either.

This will be another very close game and I think it might just end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Manchester United v Manchester City

4.30pm GMT, Old Trafford, Manchester 

United drew 1-1 away to Everton last week to stay fifth in the table and they’re only three points off fourth place. They have taken 18 points from their last nine home games and they kept clean sheets in three of their last four home games with only Liverpool conceding less goals at home. They’re unbeaten in four games and they only conceded one goal in those games, but they have two tough games in a row.

Bruno Fernandes is the United player to have for fantasy managers while their defenders and keeper have done quite well recently too.

City didn’t play last week as they were busy yet again winning the Carabao Cup, but they didn’t lose any ground on Liverpool. They have won five of their last seven away games with only Liverpool taking more points on the road and no other team scoring more goals. They have taken 19 points from their last eight games and no other team has scored more goals, but they have two tough games this week.

With two games this week City players are looking very good for fantasy managers and Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are probably the best options.

I think this will be a very close game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end in a draw which won’t really suit either team.

Prediction: 2-2

Monday March 9

Leicester City v Aston Villa 

8pm GMT, King Power Stadium, Leicester 

Leicester lost 1-0 away to bottom of the table Norwich last week and they’re slowly drifting back towards the teams chasing them for a Champions League place. They have only taken five points from their last six home games, but only the top two have taken more points at home. They have only taken five points from their last seven games and they have failed to score in their last three, but only Liverpool and Sheffield United have conceded less goals.

On current form there aren’t too many Leicester players to interest fantasy managers, but they will hope to bounce back soon.

Villa didn’t play last week as they were busy losing the Carabao Cup Final to City and other results meant they dropped into the bottom three. Only Norwich have taken less points away from home and only Newcastle have conceded more goals. They have only taken four points from their last six games and they conceded 15 goals in those games with no other team conceding more goals.

Jack Grealish is the only Villa player for fantasy managers to consider, but his output has fallen off in recent weeks.

I’d love to think Villa can get something from this game, but the chances are Leicester will win.

Prediction: 2-1

Wednesday March 11

Manchester City v Arsenal 

7.30pm GMT, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

City get to play for the second time this week as they play the game they have in hand on Liverpool and nothing but six points will do them just to prolong the inevitable. They have taken 13 points from their last five home games with only Liverpool taking more points, scoring more and conceding less goals on their own ground. With so many competitions to play in City’s squad will be stretched, but they have the players to do it more than any other team.

As I said already de Bruyne and Aguero are the City players to have for fantasy managers, but the likes of Riyad Mahrez and David Silva are worth considering too.

Arsenal get to play their game in hand too after their midweek schedule freed up thanks to their Europa League elimination. They’re unbeaten in seven away games, but they did draw six of them and no other team has drawn more away games. Anything they can get from this game would be a huge boost in their bid to make it to one of the European competitions for next season.

Arsenal players might be good captain choices for fantasy managers this week with two games and the players I mentioned previously are all worth considering along with Bukayo Saka possibly.

I think Arsenal might just have a chance to shock a City team who play their local rivals three days before this game.

Prediction: 1-2

That’s it for this week.

See you next week.

Monday, 2 March 2020

49, 49 Undefeated

It was a very good weekend for Arsenal considering they didn’t play and they went out in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday night. Firstly only one of the teams ahead of us in the fight for fifth (or maybe even fourth) place managed to win and we have to consider ourselves in with a shout if we can put a decent run together. Secondly what seemed inevitable for Liverpool this season suddenly ended as they fell short of matching the “Invincibles” unbeaten Premier League season.

Liverpool might have the league as good as won already and the pressure was mounting on them to beat all sorts of records on the way to lifting the title. Three of those records went by the wayside when they lost 3-0 away to the team in second last place in the league on Saturday evening. Not only did they fail to match our unbeaten season of 2003/4, but they failed to better our record of 49 unbeaten games and 55 continuous games in which we scored.

The detractors will say there is nothing special about going a season unbeaten and Liverpool have already won as many games as Arsenal won that season. Their points haul so far is certainly incredibly impressive, but the level of consistency we showed to go unbeaten for the whole season was an incredible feat too and Liverpool learned how you cannot let your standards slip for even one game if you want to match it. I have no doubt they will go on to win the league, but you can’t deny their form has dipped since their two week mid season break.

There have been a few times since that incredible 2004 season when I thought others were in with a chance of matching Arsenal as Chelsea and Manchester City in particular seemed almost certain to do so. Each of them failed in their attempts just like Liverpool did and our incredible achievement remains ours alone with the exception of a 19th century team doing so well over 100 years before us. In a season full of disappointments so far that has to be one that we can at least celebrate.

It’s FA Cup action for Arsenal tonight when a place in the last eight is up for grabs at Portsmouth. They’re two leagues below us and on the face of it we couldn’t have asked for a better draw unless it was at home, but Fratton Park is never an easy place to get a result. The result from Thursday night will still be fresh in the memories of the players and they have to show a reaction to that result by advancing in the FA Cup tonight.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mikel Arteta make wholesale changes to the team, but he has to be sure he has enough strength and quality in the starting 11 to get the job done. If he does make a lot of changes I hope he has a very strong bench to call on in case it is needed to get us over the line or back into the game. The FA Cup might not be the most glamorous trophy any more, but it’s still a route to the Europa League and we’re struggling on that front at the moment.

Champions League qualification might be our goal for this season, but the FA Cup is our only back up plan if our hopes of making it or the Europa League through our final league position fail. I hope to see the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Rob Holding staking a claim for more game time tonight and given what happened last Thursday they should all believe they have a chance of getting it. I’ll be happy to progress to the next round however we do it and then let the players concentrate on putting some league points on the board over the next few weeks.

That’s it for today.