Although it may not seem it, I do, where possible, try to be impartial in this newsletter. OK so that’s not really true is it but I will give credit where credit’s due, even if I’m seething inside, and I do try and talk about something other than Arsenal.
This hasn’t been too difficult over the past 20 months I’ve been writing this; while we’ve had some moments the overall vibe was still one of slow progress, trust the process, we’re building something. This season though something’s happened. Half the season done and we’re [still] top of the table. We’re five points clear of City. We’re playing beautiful, exhilarating football. Games we may have drawn or lost last year are being won. The team, god the team, those brilliant boys, have such a great connection and spirit to them. Mikel seems relaxed, happy and full of drive and passion (don’t let people like Richard Keys fool you into thinking it’s anything else). It’s hard to concentrate on anyone else.
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I went to bed last night absolutely full of it. It’s true what Daniel Kaluuya said, Arsenal fans are wankers, I don’t think anyone who supports the club could deny it, but I love it, I love us.
Quick disclaimer here: of course every club has its blots on the landscape. I’ve talked about one in particular many times and just last week there were some upsetting anti-Semitic incidents during the Spurs game. I’m not blind to that, even though it hurts and I hate it. I know most of you know that, you see it in here or on my Twitter time and again, but it’s always worth repeating lest anyone think the sudden, overwhelming success and the giddy highs it’s bringing mean it should all be swept under the carpet. True success means bringing everyone with us and making everyone feel welcome and wanted and safe supporting the club.
So I guess after that embarrassingly gushing tribute to Arsenal, we should start with their game against Manchester United yesterday.
Beforehand I was nervous. United are coming, maybe not as strongly as Arsenal but they’re on their way. Ten Hag is proving he’s the right man for the job and the results are starting to go their way. So even after the slight blip on Wednesday when Palace found a last gasp equaliser (something that made me dance in the kitchen like Pardew at Wembley that time) I was scared. Not just for the result and the practicalities of what it would mean for the table but for Twitter too. Losing a big game is painful, so painful. We needed a win!
It didn’t help that on 17 minutes Marcus Rashford unleashed a bullet past Aaron Ramsdale. I watch the games via NOW TV and have a delay of at least a minute, so I knew it was coming having started, after only about 7 minutes, checking LiveScore frantically. It was a beautiful goal, afforded him by the movement of Wout Weghorst, who drew Gabriel just out of position enough to give Marcus the space to shoot.
LiveScore gave me the equaliser too. I shouldn’t do it to myself but I do. A lovely header from Nketiah just seven minutes later to put things back to parity, which is how it stayed until half time.
After 53 minutes and without the aid of LiveScore this time, Saka scored a goal of such beauty and importance that I nearly burst my husband’s eardrums with the yell I let out (I say yell, it was more of a cackle to be frank). 2-1.
Within minutes the Butcher had headed home a frankly sexy goal to put United even. Like I said earlier, credit where credit’s due and Lisandro Martinez has a lot of credit in my ledger, ahem.
After that, despite all the frantic play, mostly in United’s box but occasionally at the other end too, it felt like maybe a draw was on the cards. Substitutions were made, including Arsenal’s new boy, the fastest transfer in history, Leandro Trossard.
Then, when I was resigned to a draw, who should pop up to flick home the winner? Yes, ‘spare part’ Eddie Nketiah, who got his brace. A short moment of fear when VAR were checking for offside held the crowd’s breath until it was deemed good and the roof of the Emirates was duly blown off.
Of course I then spent the next five minutes or so furiously refreshing LiveScore waiting for it to confirm Full Time and then it was done. And boy, the feeling afterwards. It was brilliant.
It was also a good weekend for two of my European teams. Milan don’t play until tomorrow for some reason but Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund were back in action.
Let’s stop first in Germany for Dortmund’s game against Augsburg.
Not only was this the first weekend back for the Bundesliga after the Winter Break, it was a chance for Sebastian Haller to play his first competitive game for Dortmund, just six months after receiving treatment for testicular cancer. And just look at him! Look how well he looks. I couldn’t be happier for him.
As for the game, it was something of a goal ping pong. Jude gave BVB the lead after 29 minutes, followed by a 40th minute equaliser from Augsburg, then a second Dortmund goal from Nico Schlotterbeck on the 42nd minute. After Augsburg equalised yet again just before the half time whistle, there then followed a mad three minutes in the second half when Dortmund retook the lead, only for Augsburg to immediately equalise and then Dortmund to run back down the pitch and have Gio Reyna score the winner. It was a rollercoaster getting the alerts I can tell you!
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, the break had done some teams the power of good, others not so much… After a 1-1 draw between Bayern and Leipzig, we then had three matches in which the winning team scored 3 goals, another rogue 1-1 and then Wolfsburg beat Freiburg 6-0 and my other German faves, FC Köln, beat Werder Bremen 7-1. The last match of the weekend was a 2-3 battle between Gladbach and Leverkusen.
The table has shifted a little, with obvious title contenders Bayern now sitting pretty on top but after them Eintracht are now in 2nd spot, with Union and Freiburg snapping at their heels and Leipzig and Dortmund not too far behind. Poor Schalke remain rooted to the foot of the table and look to yo-yo back down to the 2.Bundesliga at the end of the season.
In La Liga, Barcelona got the job done with a solitary goal from Pedri and sit three points clear at the top. Sociedad are in 3rd after an impressive winning run with Atleti, Villarreal and Betis all in European contention.
In Serie A, the biggest news was of course Juventus’ punishment for financial crimes. They’ve been deducted 15 points and now sit mid table in 9th after a hard fought 3-3 draw against Atalanta last night.
Napoli join Arsenal in the 50-points-at-the-halfway-point club and are 12 points clear of second place Milan. Even if Milan win tomorrow Napoli will still have a whopping 9 point cushion to relax against. It feels like with the form they’re in it would take an incredible run of both losses for them and wins for Milan to topple them but we’ve seen it happen!
Circling back to the Premier League quickly before we wrap up with a brief word about the WSL, there wasn’t really much to say about the rest was there? Haaland Haalanded and City seem like they’re back at it, Liverpool Chelsea was a snorefest and I guess the most important result was West Ham’s win against Everton which looks like it may cost Frank Lampard his job.
Finally then, the WSL. A league that has so few games per gameweek as it is, saw 50% of them postponed/suspended due to frozen pitches. Those postponed up front were Brighton v Arsenal and Spurs v Leicester and then there was the farcical situation at the Chelsea Liverpool game.
Having been deemed playable at 9:30am when, presumably, the ground was even harder and icier, the game kicked off at 12:30pm and within seven minutes had been suspended by the very same referee who’d given the go ahead three hours earlier.
Unfortunately the footage from the game that was doing the rounds has now been removed due to copyright but if you managed to see it you’ll know it was a nonsense of slipping and sliding, of cleats catching and players getting scuffs and knocks left and right. (There’s a little clip here).
Today’s episode hasn’t been published at the time of writing but I’m sure the Counter Pressed gang will have a thing or ten to say about this so definitely check that out when it arrives. To get up to the minute news on when it’s out why not follow them on Twitter.
To end on a nice note, with everything going on, it was lovely to see Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy making a brilliant gesture to the fans who’d travelled to see the Brighton game.
There we have it then. Another week of football done and dusted. FA Cup next week, starting with a tasty encounter, the first of the season, between Arsenal and City and then on Sunday (*cough* my birthday *cough*) the holders Liverpool attempt to retain their place in the competition at the Amex against Brighton.
There’s also cup action for the women with Conti Cup games on Thursday and FA Cup games at the weekend.
All the European leagues I keep an eye on are back next week as well as the Bundesliga having an “Englischwoche” with games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
My initial plan, when I reorganised the sections of the newsletter, was for ‘Half Time’ to be a place to talk about the more serious issues in the game or big stories of the week. I don’t want to ignore these things or pretend they aren’t happening, it’s clear I hope from my Twitter that I care very much about improving the game but I grow weary (as I’m sure everyone does). It’s the same few topics over and over again and it feels like sometimes there’s both only so much you can say and that sometimes it’s better to say nothing (as I should have done last week, having alluded to the situation at Everton without all the facts) and instead continue doing the work without having to yell about it. It’s something for me to mull over and think about how to proceed in the future.
This week however, there have been two stories that I feel can’t be ignored. The first is the John Yems case, the second is that of Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir.
To summarise them both very quickly: John Yems was accused of years of discriminatory behaviour against players while he was at Crawley Town, an FA investigation gave him a paltry 18 month ban and caused a furore with the use of the phrase ‘unconscious racism’. The Gunnarsdóttir case involves the failure of Lyon to pay her maternity pay when she gave birth to her first child.
Instead of writing a long screed about these stories I want to direct you to some pieces and listening that express it all much better than I can.
Firstly, for views on both cases, the boys on Stadio dealt with them excellently, as they always do. You can find the specific episode here. It’s also worth checking out Wrighty’s House for their comment on the case, that’s here.
Specifically on the Yems case, Mayowa Quadri penned this great piece in Versus, take a moment to read it.
And for the Gunnarsdóttir story we should go to the woman in question and her Players’ Tribune article about the way she was treated.
Sadly, we’ve got the Unholy Trinity of discrimination, misogyny and sexual violence this week as we also saw Dani Alves jailed pending an investigation into an alleged sexual assault in a club in Barcelona. His club, Liga MX side Pumas, sacked him immediately for going against their values, something I wish more clubs had the strength to do and for which I admire them greatly.
To continue the theme of discrimination, this is an important thread about a game between Stonewall FC and Camden and Islington United at the weekend. What Camden did, and the thread they’ve written is true allyship. We need to do whatever we can to stamp out homophobia and all other discrimination in the game, it benefits nobody. CN: homophobia, though no homophobic language
You can donate to Stonewall FC here.
Great news from the Championship
This piece by Jonathan Liew, on Arsenal v United, is beautiful.
Mikel has been hanging around with the Hale End boys too much
I’ve already spoken about the Dortmund game and Haller’s return. These were his boots.
A very good list of the Spurs Banter Era which has been endorsed by a Spurs fan so don’t accuse me of being mean!
Sweet, beautfiul himbo
And finally, come to this*! I’ll be there! It’s the most ambitious crossover event in podcasting history!
*the Wrighty’s House x Stadio x Counter Pressed one, which is on Feb 9th.
Shirt of The Week
There was only one choice this week: the new Italy home and away kits from Adidas.
The home kit is nice, I like it a lot but the away kit? Mama mia bellisima. I’m a BIG fan.
Captain my captain…
This week it’s Arsenal captain, Norwegian wünderkind Martin Ødegaard.
I love him. Plain and simple. He’s brilliant, a true leader, a lovely person, handsome af with the most perfect teeth and beautiful skin.
He’s also in one of my favourite videos Arsenal have ever produced (and let’s face it, everyone should do these when they join right? Save us from ‘Willan’ and ‘De Broyn’ and ‘Firmineeo’)
And we’re done. Another week, another issue ticked off. Please do share, like, tell your friends etc. etc. if you enjoy this. Also remember, because I haven’t mentioned it already at all, it’s my birthday on Sunday so jump onto Twitter and drop me a balloon or something. No you’re needy! Until next week!
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That was great! Thanks.
Seeing as you love Ødegaard so much and recognize his natural born leaderness, I thought you might like Arsenal Wonderland (it's only 3 articles old so far, I know, I know) where I dub him the world's youngest village elder. Give it a go, I'd love to hear what you think :)