Rivals’ Roundup—The wind that shakes the barley…


Okay, so I was going to go with a reference to Peaky Blinders. Sorry. No hits. Deep tracks only. The bigger problem with a Peaky reference is that we’re hardly a plucky upstart from northwest of London stepping on the big city folks’ toes, so let’s set the whole analogy aside. It’s business time. Conditions are perfect. That’s what I’m trying to say.

  1. Arsenal (23W 3D 3L: 72 pts.)
    We swept past Leeds in breath-taking style after some early jitters, bringing us one step closer to winning the Prem, but because we didn’t somehow managed to seize six points from one result, the narrative continues: we’re still pretenders to the throne. Look no further for incontrovertible proof of this than the late consolation goal we conceded; we’re clearly too porous and open, and no side with serious Prem-winning credentials takes a 3-0 lead, concedes late on, and scores again to come away with three points and an improved goal difference. We’re only top because we’ve had no injuries, preferential refereeing and VAR decisions, and off-years for everyone else. By the way, I’m being sarcastic.

  2. Man City (20W 4D Dl: 64 pts.)
    The girm, mirthless march trods on even without its Terminator T-800, annihilating all that dare stand before it. Oh. Wait. I’m being told that they briefly showed signs of weakness, even of humanity, conceding first to a Liverpool so inconsistent that its own manager admits he probably should have been sacked by now but for his past successes. More seriously, though, it was a bit frightful to see just how much Man CIty don’t need Haaland and may in many ways be better without him. He’s pretty much the only one in the squad who’s unfamiliar with the rigors of this kind of run-in, not that this blunts his scoring record any. We may yet lose to this side thrice in one season but could (should) still finish above them.

  3. Newcastle (13W 11D 3L: 50 pts)
    If Newcastle had figured out how to score goals like this a few months ago, they’d be fighting with us and Man City for the top spot. As it stands, they instead find themselves grappling with Tottenham and Man U to stay in the top four. Having thoroughly dominated Man U by a 2-0 scoreline that flattered their visitors, they have two games in hand over Tottenham (whom we’ll have to hold our noses to discuss momentarily) and seem to grow in confidence by the week. Their campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are they so popular? It’s starting to feel like the only thing that can derail their campaign is a three-eyed fish, carved with a bonesaw and served for dinner.

  4. Tottenham (15W 5D 9L: 50 pts.)
    This club are turning into a parody of a limbo competition. Just when you think they can’t go any lower… Most clubs that sack their managers experience some kind of bounce. Tottenham bounced back from sacking parting ways by mutual consent with Conte with all the elasticty of undercooked Jell-O, squandering a straight red to Doucoure at the 58th minute and a somewhat soft pen awarded them in the 68th and succumbing to a brilliant last-gasp stirke from Michael Keane, postponing for at least one week an answer to Everton’s existential crisis. Tottenham had to know that Everton would fight tooth and nail but played as if they expected a pedicure (Umm…). Lurking in there somewhere is a clever play on words on a sinking ship and what we think of Tottenham. I just can’t land it.

  5. Manchester United (15W 5D 7L: 50 pts.)
    Something funny happened along the way to Man U’s coronation as a top-three side. Was it Casemiro’s second red card? Was it Rashford’s regression to the mean? Maybe it’s their vaunted and impressive tilt at a treble. Having won the League Cup and bravely soldiering on in the FA Cup (courtesy of a not-at-all generous red card to Fulham’s Willian for a handball, followed by a red card to Mitrovic for, well, being Mitrovic), they also have a chance at winning the Europa League. However, they’ve now been battered 7-0 by Liverpool, drawn at home to Southampton (which some managers get sacked for), and have now lost away to Newcastle. No shame in that last one, I suppose. At this rate, those two games in hand they hold over Tottenham are a blessing as well as a curse.

From there, it’s really just a matter of watching how other clubs’ campaigns affect their managerial options next year. Should Tottenham fall out of the top four, that probably means that de Zerbi stays at Brighton, Frank stays at Brentford, and Nagelsmann stays away, perhaps opting instead for Chelsea. If Liverpool fail to find a top-four spot, would that mean the end of Klopp’s tenure? He’s already exceeded his time as manager of Mainz 05 and of Dortmund.

I feel just a little like we (and Man City and maybe Newcastle) are a bunch of patricians watching gladiators go at each other, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that.

One last thing: this month, you can enter a raffle for a £25 Arsenal Direct gift card by commenting on this and other posts. Yes, it’s a direct attempt at bribing you to join the conversation. The more often you comment, the better your chances at winning!

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11 thoughts on “Rivals’ Roundup—The wind that shakes the barley…

  1. Mike

    Mate, I love these! I will be curious to see who catches the Simpsons references, but those are the easy ones. It is starting to feel like we might just pull this off. If we can just get a result at Anfield on Sunday, will be in even better shape!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Okay, so I’m playing fast and loose, but, technically, I’m still only analysing what’s already happened (with a brief eye to what could happen). I’m still dodging any actual predictions!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I’m trying to resist the urge to see that as three points in the bag given their form. If we can get a draw, I’ll be satisfied. Anything more than that would be fantastic!

      1. Matt

        given how tough it will be to win at St James and the Etihad, 3 points this week feels essential… is it too early to be biting my fingernails?

  2. Praveen Nair

    This and arsecast are how I want to start my week. It’s downhill from there until the weekend game lol.


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