24 January 2023

Rivals' Roundup: Golly, maybe we're good enough to, uh...

Another week, another win. Ho-hum. This is getting boring. Having avenged our only loss of the season (and doing so thanks to VAR actually confirming a goal rather than wrongly disallowing it), it's starting to feel just little teensy bit like we might be onto something. Apparently, limiting your opponent's goal-scoring opportunities is a good thing, and equalising quickly when you do concede is also, again, a good thing. Who knew? We've just come off a couple of fixtures that were meant to measure our ambition and our ability, and it just sort of kind of feels like we prove a point or two. Below us, there does seem to be developing a three- or four-horse race followed by a few others hoping for Europa League or at least Europa Conference League play. There's still a we
ek left in the transfer-market to track as well, but let's got to what we know.

1. Arsenal (16W 2D 1L: 50 pts.).
We're about as hard to describe as we are to defeat. On one hand, we're ahead of the points-total that the Invincibles had claimed to this point. On the other, we're still exploring what we're capable of and could stand to improve in key areas. On the other, other hand, we're surpassing any pundit's predictions. On the other, other, other hand, we're trying to strengthen, having added Trossard and Kiwior and welcoming Smith-Rowe and (eventually) Jesus back into the fold. Impressive wins over Tottenham and Man U suggest, even if they stop short of proving, that we might actually have a legimitate shot at finishing the season right where we are. Our win over Man U probably flattered our visitors, their goals coming from our errors rather than their strategy, and we should have scored a few more. Turns out this Arteta character knows a thing or two, and squad plays rather well to boot.

2. Man City (14W 3D 3L: 45 pts.).
It's getting hard to separate Pep's public mind games from actual admissions that he's worried. Despite demolishing Wolves, he's gone so far out of his way to compliment us and criticise his own squad that it's starting to feel like he actually believes that we're superior—not just ahead of them for now, but actually superior. Pep spoke of his own lack of hunger after winning four La Liga titles and said that he dares his players to go out and win the Prem for the fifth time in seven seasons. As it currently stands, though, it's just beyond his control. Yes, we have to face them twice, and the gap is just five points, but we do have a game in hand.  On a purely mathematical level, we could lose twice and still be ahead (not that I recommend we go that route). Maybe he's right, though. Maybe his players have glutted themselves and lack that hunger that separates the really good from the truly great? I could live with that.

3. Newcastle (10W 9D 1L: 39 pts.).
Newcastle continue their apparent push to win the Prem through scoreless draws, something they briefly abandoned by actually scoring a goal last week against Fulham. Against Palace, they again continued their campaign to prove that scoring goals is overrated, settling for a dour draw at Selhurst Park. They may have to re-evaluate their plan now that they trail us by 11 having played one more. Still, you should never underestimate a side that refuses to be scored on. If they do ever decide to start paying any attention to the other side of the equation and score an occasional goal, they could start to put some pressure on the two clubs they trail. And, with just over a week left in the transfer market, it's anyone's guess how much more the entirely esteemable Saudi Arabian government will invest while also obeying both the letter and spirit of FFP regulations.

4. Man U (12W 3D 5L: 39 pts.).
Much was made of Man U's ten-match unbeaten run. Somewhat less was made of the fact that they were beating the Evertons and Charltons of the world. Still, the thrill that came from their admittedly exciting derby win was justified. I guess our tutorial was well-timed. Despite a great deal of talent in attack and midfield, I'd suggest that Man U are still a ways away from where they once were. De Gea is showing his age. The defense is shaky at best. Without Casemiro, they're desperately short of options, and it was quite telling that Ten Hag sent Fred on for Antony, as if he was admitting that a draw was the best he could hope for (even if Antony was essentially a non-factor). The move felt like a capitulation and stood in stark contrast to Arteta's decision to send Trossard on; indeed, his introduction quickly set the stage for Nketiah's game-winner. There's still a gulf in class, and it may just be wider than the table suggests.

That's where we'll stop for now, for to dig any deeper would again expose us to some rather unpleasant environs. Best not to lay down with dogs and so on. 

Beneath us, literally and figuratively, lie Tottenham. Congratulate Kane if you'd like, for he scored to equal Jimmy Greaves' club record. Along the way, he helped Tottenham stay above Fulham in fifth and again distilled almost perfectly his legacy: plenty of individual achievements, no trophies. Below Tottenham (and who would stoop to that level?), there's an unholy mess of hopefuls that includes Fulham, Brighton, Brentford, Liverpool, and Chelsea (and that's the order they're in). By the time we check in next, it's not out of the question for Aston Villa to overtake one or both of Liverpool and Chelsea. The drop-off not just in points but in overall quality seems to drop precipitously once we look past the top four, and it's getting harder and harder to see any of them suddenly or even eventually rising up from that crabs-in-a-bucket squabble to threaten anyone in the top four. Will any of those clubs sign anyone? I hear Chelsea's kicked the tires on a few players here and there. Will Conte last the season? Will Klopp? We'll find out...


  1. Jon, I can't sign in to comment, it wants me to set up a blog when I try to sign in with Google.

    Anyway, great blog! I didn't see any Simpsons references today though.

  2. nice work as always John. I also had trouble using my Google account to sign in though.

    1. Weird. I'll look into that. It did seem that this commenting widget was better than Disqus but maybe not...

  3. Discus was better. Google is hopeless. Other sites don’t require me to sign in at all….just saying…


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