Arsenal top of the table for Christmas

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate. Here’s a quick recap of the last few weeks.

Arsenal got a draw against Liverpool at Anfield and it was a good example of how far the team have come over the last 6 months. If folks remember, the last time we went to Anfield, Arsenal jumped out to a 2-goal lead before Granit Xhaka went full Xhaka and butted heads with Liverpool’s local lad*, Trent Alexander-Arnold. “That woke the sleeping giant” and Liverpool suddenly wanted to win the game and Arsenal had less of the ball than a Sam Allardyce side in its pomp. Arsenal suffered what felt like 200 shots on goal that day and clung on to dear life for a 2-2 draw.

So, how’s this one any different? Arsenal once again had a fast start and once again were pegged back when Liverpool decided that they could, actually, play football. But for me, the difference is Saliba, Rice, and Havertz. Those three players give Arsenal a surety and strength that we lacked last season. I know that some regulars on here are going to balk at including Havertz but I think those folks might be misunderstanding what Arteta wants from the German: he wants a defender up top who, coincidentally, also scores goals. The goals and assists aren’t all that important, but the feisty and yellow-carded nature of Havertz’ play is exactly what Arteta wants. He adds size and steel to Arsenal’s front line and to the Arsenal press. He was out there breaking up counters on the weekend and getting in the face of the defenders when they wanted to play the ball forward. And he’s without any question a much better defender than Granit Xhaka ever was for Arsenal. The simplest way to put it is that Arteta needed to play Xhaka in the forward CM role in order to cover for his deficiencies: he gets to play Havertz there and it plays to his strengths.

My impression with this version of Arsenal is that it’s the best of all the previous versions so far. I have a lot less anxiety during matches and less angst after and before. It is enjoyable to watch, even though we do play a bit of a boring brand of football. But the key thing is that it’s a sort of boring brand of football that gets results because it presses when its supposed to and goes forward when it can. I liken it a lot to the way I’ve been playing disc golf lately: I can’t throw 400′ so I play a plodding style, try to stay in the fairway, and focus almost everything on putting and short game. I don’t even try to throw 100% hardly ever. It’s all easy, smooth game, playing to my strengths (putting and approaches) and ignoring the temptation to try the spectacular. I rarely get double bogies now and I get a lot of pars. This style will still have a few blow ups but overall, I’m playing the percentages, and that’s fine with me. It’s a much more enjoyable walk in the woods this way and I lose a lot fewer discs!

People are already tipping Arsenal for the title and I think it’s a fair suggestion. We seem to only have one or two “problems” and both showed up against Liverpool. Zinchenko is Arsenal’s Alexander-Arnold. That is to say he’s a huge asset in possession and a huge liability in defense. I was embarrassed for him when Salah scored. It was an elementary mistake on his part to lunge for the ball the way he did when all he needed to do was stay with Salah and not try to tackle the ball away. He was also at fault for the five-on-two breakaway which Liverpool should have scored. He tackled Ødegaard and slipped to the ground, taking out two of his own defenders on the counter attack.

After he got burned for Salah’s goal, I looked over at the team sheet to see who Arteta was going to sub on for Zinchenko. The only fullback on the list was someone named “Cedric”. I’m not sure who that is. Have we ever seen him play? I suppose he could have used Kiwior in a pinch but it feels like we are a bit light in that department. I feel like the left back position is a bit of a problem until we get Tomi and Timber back, which isn’t expected until the new year.

As for the other teams in the League, Arsenal are only one point clear of Liverpool and Arsenal play West Ham next. Liverpool face Burnley and I think both sides should take 3 points this week. Aston Villa aren’t a serious title contender. I understand that Unai Emery has them playing good football but I’ve seen this before with him. They are currently +8 over expected points this season, which is the exact same position that his Arsenal side were in in December of 2018 and the wheels came off so quickly, so so quickly.

Now, obviously he may have solved his away games problem but I won’t believe it until I see it. Right now Villa are best in the League at home (thanks to the referees in the Arsenal match) and 6th in the League in away games. When he was in his first season at Arsenal we were 8th in the League in away games and third in home games. I feel like there’s a lot of room for things to go wrong for Villa.

Meanwhile Spurs keep getting a bit lucky. They had a 2-1 win in their last match but they also did a funny thing when they were two-nil up: they tried to play defense first football. I have been told that this is a betrayal of Big Ange’s philosophy, which is supposed to be attack attack attack and it nearly didn’t work. Normally, I wouldn’t worry about Spurs at all but because Ange is such a darling of the media (basically for hating Arteta) we have to hear about it when he farts. So, the nightmare situation is if they somehow go above Arsenal this season. And they are only 4 points behind us so anything is possible, especially with the referees working hard to not give any calls Arsenal’s way.

Man City, meanwhile, are playing in the Arsene Wenger club world cup in Saudi Arabia and all I wonder is if they could somehow stay there, forever. It’s actually fun to watch football when they aren’t around.

Newcastle have been good and bad at the same time. West Ham are in 6th and Man U are in 8th, prompting some to wonder if United should have kept David Moyes. I just hope that United keep Ten Hag for a decade. What’s happening there isn’t entirely his fault but he’s also not adding anything.

Meanwhile Chelsea are in 10th. And man, that feels really good to say, even if it does feel a bit like they are a lot better than that. On paper they are, no question. But the problem as I see it – and I almost NEVER mention this sort of thing – is that when they play I swear to you that the players give up for long stretches of their games. Like they are totally disinterested. This is the same thing that afflicts Man U. There are guys there who just don’t give a shit. And I feel like as an Arsenal supporter who sat through late era Wenger, Emery, and early Arteta I know EXACTLY what that looks like in a game. It’s almost imperceptible and I know a lot of folks will call BS on it, but it’s a feeling you get from watching the players.

For example, when Liverpool got that 5-2 break against Arsenal, watch how many players were busting a gut to get back. They had no chance of getting back in time to stop the attack but they ran full speed anyway. That’s commitment to the cause. That’s what Man U and Chelsea lack.

Anyways, that’s your lot for today. Have a happy and safe holiday and remember “never in doubt!”


*I think they have two Liverpool-born players but can’t think of the other’s name.


  1. Merry Christmas Tim and 7am community!
    Looking forward to an amazing second half of this season
    And hoping all my wishes come true!

  2. Merry Christmas all. Feeling pretty good about where we are, if we have everyone healthy. If we had Tomi, Timber and Partey available as options, we’d be in an excellent place. Really only needing an extra goal scorer to be as strong as any team out there.
    But absent those three, we’re thin at the back. If we lose either Rice or Saliba at the moment, the level is going to drop a lot. Cross your fingers.

  3. Merry Christmas! I hope that God showers as much mercy on you as you’ve shown to the children of Gaza!

    1. There is no god. I have infinite mercy for the children of Gaza and everywhere else. I also have virtually zero power to enact my mercy but what power I do have I exercise in that direction.

      1. Thank you. I have known to be fair and decent man through your comments. My comment wasn’t directed at you but at the broader world (apologies for hijacking your platform). Just wrote that in a moment of frustration that life goes on as usual even as children are being killed with our tax dollars by people within power structures they we participated in. It’s important to speak out in any way I can. I know you will not too. Mercy for all kids everywhere.

  4. Merry Christmas y’all.

    It was good to hear Tim’s view on Arsenal after many weeks.

    The other local lad in the Pool team is Curtis Jones apparently!

  5. Happy Christmas to all 7 am-ers and a Happy New Year to Gooners everywhere.
    It’s going to be a tussle second half – getting Partey back will be a big plus, and Tomi, but Timber seems unlikely until the end of the season.
    I’m not sure of the wisdom of buying such an important position as CF mid-season, but Jesus’ goal return is v low this season, even by his historic standards. Of all the names mentioned, I like the sound of Leipzig’s Sesko, but that’s mainly Harling-envy, as he seems the nearest equivalent.
    A competitive second half awaits – here’s hoping Gooners!

  6. Good to hear from you again, Tim.

    For a while i was worried, like not hearing from a member pf the community, and wondering if they are alright.

    Merry christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

    As for what’s happening in Ukraine and Gaza, having recently listened to the Guns, Germs and Steel audiobook, i feel a morbid sense of indifference. Human history is a history of spiteful violence against its own kind for perhaps some of the most irrational reasons and in completely unethical ways.

    This doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean it’s not possible to be better than this as a society, but i guess i am resigned to homo sapiens submitting to their base emotions over and over again.

  7. I haven’t heard the audiobook. But is this what being a human being is about? Just submit to our base emotions? Whose base emotion is it anyway? I have never felt the urge to kill anyone or even hate someone because of their race, religion and sexuality and I hope neither do the vast majority of human beings.

    Yes, scarcity, famine etc can make human beings do terrible things, but what’s the point of all the scientific progress that human beings have made if we can’t resolve these issues in a more civil manner?

    I suppose human beings need to reassess the purpose of our life. It shouldn’t be the blind pursuit of consumerism. We all need to relentlessly pursue more humanity and more spirituality rather than things and carnal pleasures.

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