West Ham United v Arsenal

Preview Percy is taking a bit longer than usual to get over the flu bug that is doing the rounds. So much so that his local hostelry began to experience severe cash flow issues. Then they came up with the concept of "Beers on Wheels". While they are trying to see if they can copyright the names "Just Drink" or "Deliverbooze" The grumpy one had time to look at Monday night's visit of Arsenal...

Next up we are at home to Arsenal. It's a Monday night match which will kick-off at 8pm. Usual rush-hour stuff to contend with rather than engineering works but check before you leave anyway.

Well here's a rarity. A club that's having more of a soap opera vibe about them than us. They had a fair enough start to the season with two wins out of two before they came up against PGMOLiverpool by whom they were comprehensively beaten. They were ticking over for a while but, although they went unbeaten in the next five, three of those were drawn and there ought to have been a warning light on the dashboard when they blew a 2-0 lead at Watford to come away with only a point. Still, after eight games they were still in third place having beaten Bournemouth 1-0 at the Library.

Then the cracks that the league position had been covering began to show. A 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United kicked-off a winless run which, to date, totals seven in the league and has included defeats by Leicester and Brighton, the latter at home, as well as 2-2 draws against the likes of Southampton and Norwich.

The board lost patience after five of those matches and dispensed with the services of Unai "Dick" Emery, appointing underwear model and sometime footballer Freddie Ljungberg, who somehow managed 25 matches for us between costume changes. Ljungberg was promoted from the position of First XI coach to take over as boss on an interim basis, the phrase "caretaker manager" apparently having gone the way of "linesman" and "competent refereeing" in the lexicon of football.

If Arsenal had wanted the short term boost that getting rid of one's manager often provides, they will have been sorely disappointed, the 2-2 Norwich draw and the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton being the two results since the change.


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So what's the problem then? Well if you can be bothered to listen to Arsenal supporters - and let's face it why would you - they seem to think that they have a team without a clear identity, with no idea of a style or system of how to play. These conversations are funniest when the Arsenal fan concerned is older of course.

After years of telling you their dishwater-dull style of scraping 1-0 wins together was unimportant as it was the result that matters, in more recent years they have been extolling the virtues of more entertaining football - a Damascene conversion that resulted from the Wenger years. At the moment they don't quit know what they want but they do know that what they have now isn't it.

So what did Dick do during the summer that failed to come off? Usually one of the more frugal boards, they did make six additions to the first team squad during the summer. According to Daisy, the full-time personal assistant with the beautiful smile, the first new arrival was teenage winger/striker Gabriel Martelli, a ?6m capture from that well-known Brazilian outfit Ituano.

Martelli started out in the youth system of the rather better-known Corinthians and had had trials with both Barcelona and Man Utd without anyone taking things further. His starts this season have come largely in the League Cup and Thursday Night League, his seven goals this season having all come in those competitions. In the league his seven appearances have usually been as a late substitute, 63 minutes being the time of his earliest introduction.

The next "arrival" probably didn't bother packing a suitcase. They spent ?27m on Saint Etienne teenage defender William Saliba, and then loaned him straight back to the French team, who had also agreed a fee with Spurs.

The next arrival actually made the journey to London, which is just as well given that the ?72m paid to Lille for Nicolas Pepe broke their transfer record. Usually employed on the right wing he has just the three goals to his name. The only one of those to come in the league was a penalty in their 3-2 defeat of Villa. On his own admission he hasn't set the world alight so far this season but he does have a bit of pace about him so Cresswell might have to be on his guard.


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There are probably dozens if I could be bothered to check but Kieran Tierney is the only Isle Of Man-born player I can think of at the moment. Since the IOM isn't a full member of FIFA or UEFA I believe that the player had the choice of all four home nations when it came to international football, so, playing for Celtic he opted for Scotland. Having said that he sat out a couple of recent Euro qualifiers with a hip injury that had repaired itself once the league programme had restarted. Arsenal paid a reported ?25m for the full back who came south after finding the intensely competitive SPL a bit too exciting for him.

Arriving on the same day as Tierney for ?7m was Chelsea defender David Luiz. He has often looked like an accident waiting to happen since his arrival, the penalty he gave away at Anfield being just plain stupid at a ground and against a team where referees need only the flimsiest of excuses to point to the spot. Let's hope he can keep that sort of form up.

The final arrival was Dani Ceballos who came in on a season's loan from Real Madrid. However a thigh injury will mean that he is absent from this one along with Rob Holding who has a long-term knee problem.

And so to the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Look out for Chelsea's youth set-up being mothballed once more as their transfer ban gets lifted next month. Part of the Pensioners' appeal against their punishment was that it far exceeded that given to Man City for similar infringements, something that the authorities justified by pointing out that the Citizens' lawyers could bankrupt them if they wanted. Or at least they would have said that had they been honest.

Meanwhile, even in a month with a General Election in it, a Man City supporter staked a claim for Moron Of The Year by making monkey noises at Man Utd's Fred. As if that were not moronic enough - and it is - he chose to do it in the front row of a football stadium on live TV. In front of millions. Once that case goes to court I am really looking forward to hearing the idiot's defence - it's going to be a corker. My money is on " I was simply shaking my arms to keep warm you honour" or "I was dancing to Wham's 'Last Christmas', honest guv".


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And so to us. Well it was a case of "after the Lord Mayor's show" wasn't it? I guess if there was any sort of positive to be gained from the visit to Wolves it was that it wasn't as bad as we have been in recent weeks. But that's only because, Chelsea away apart, we have been terrible. Throughout the match our touch was appalling. Players are trapping balls further than I can kick it. A case in point was Snodgrass whose touch when clean through was dreadful - a goal then would have levelled the scores remember. And the passing, which seemed decent at Stamford Bridge, seems to have reverted to the "touch it in the general direction of a team-mate and hope for the best" tactic that we have been relying on in recent weeks. Not good enough all round.

The absence of Antonio showed just how much we missed his mobility in forward positions and this is an area we need to be looking at next window. Antonio's hamstrings are fragile enough as it is and the fact that they can't be relied on for two matches in a week is a worry. Antonio is 75% likely to start according to the usual websites, whilst Snodgrass is said to have recovered from the slight knock he picked up at Molineux.

Other injury news, Fabianski is getting closer but won't be risked. My guess is that with a week off while PGMOLiverpool jet off to the sun, his next match will be Palace away. Lanzini will still be the new year, whilst Wilshere is unlikely to be fit to face his old club. Similarly, Reid is taking his time, understandably.

So, prediction then. Well even more than usual this season we have been the "go to" team to play to put a bad run to an end. However, somehow this feels different. I can't put my finger on it but I don't see us losing this. However, much will depend on how fit Antonio is. I'm looking at that 25% chance of him not being fit and worrying slightly. I'm thinking that this may be one where a point apiece is the final result (although if you want an accurate prediction you could do worse than asking the match referee who has probably decided the final score already - see below).

So this week's ?2.50 which was going on the "buy Antonio a bionic hamstring" fund will instead be heading in the general direction of Winstone the Turf accountant, where, assuming he is accepting wagers on matches involving this particular referee, it will be placed on a 1-1 draw.

Enjoy the game!


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When Last We Met At The Olympic: Won 1-0 (Premier League January 2019)

A fine, if rare, finish from Declan Rice was enough to give us all three points, the assist coming from debutant Samir Nasri. The match being the last home game before the window closed Arnautovic made a great show of waving goodbye to the fans in the hope that he would be heading east for a big payday in China. Two weeks later he signed a new contract which he managed to honour for nearly five months before heading east for a big payday in China.


Referee: Mike Dean

The Wikipedia page on quantum physics comments thusly on the concept of the "Finite Potential Well":

A finite potential well is the generalization of the infinite potential well problem to potential wells having finite depth. The finite potential well problem is mathematically more complicated than the particle-in-a-box problem as the wavefunction is not pinned to zero at the walls of the well...... and so on.

All of which is much easier to understand than the fact that Mike Dean continues to have a career as a referee in professional football despite that career being based on a total and constant disregard for the laws of the game for his own ends.


Danger Man: Mike Dean

It's a live TV match which means he has a large audience. Something he traditionally can't resist.


Percy's Poser

Last week, we played a round of "guess who is starring in provincial pantomime in their neck of the woods." Well done to Mrs Maisie Yule-Log of Ingatestone who correctly completed the missing words from the The Wolverhampton Express & Star headline which read:

"Pantomime stars Su Pollard and Jeffrey Holland open Dudley Zoo's Santa's Grotto"

I dunno about you but I can't wait.

This week we move on to the Islington Gazette. One normally tries to steer clear of the crime pages but on this occasion we make an exception, given that our headline comes from the paper's "60 years ago" section.

To win the prize, simply identify the unusual loot purloined by filling in the missing words from the following headline:

Islington man arrested for having 800 stolen XXXXXXX XXXXXX stuffed in his jeans pocket"

Good luck everyone!

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