The Week Ahead: Part 1 - The Schedule

Talk about your all-time sigh-of-relief moment.  I can't say I'm entirely out of the woods in my nervousness related to Arsenal and their direction.  That said, the fact that they, you know, scored a couple goals and didn't have any players thrown out of the match was a nice step forward.  Winning on the road in the Champions League, even the qualifying stages, isn't easy and the fact that it came after both Nasri and Cesc were gone provides some nice closure.  That new addition Gervinho was integral to the critical goal was yet another positive sign that not EVERYTHING is going in the wrong direction.  Gervinho looked good and the combination of he and Walcott will clearly cause problems for their opposition based on speed on both sides of the field.  If one or both gets more comfortable with their end product then that's even better.

You can imagine a very strong Starting XI that includes Jack Wilshere replacing Frimpong/Rosicky.  The issue continues to be depth.  Targets for Arsenal in the transfer window can now be reassured that they will be moving to a team in the Champions League group stage.  Will that be enough to get a big name like Eden Hazard? Hard to say.  Regardless, it will be critical to find some cover at CB and CM.  It might not be a bad idea to find another left back and another forward unless Bendtner will indeed be sticking around.

Only with some critical fortifications can Wenger and Arsenal ensure that their supporters don't go immediately from worrying about THIS YEAR'S Champions League to worrying about NEXT YEAR'S Champions League where Liverpool and Spurs will give them a run for their money even with the acquisitions suggested above.
The Home Teams

  • Chelsea vs. Norwich - Norwich has done enough to earn points in their first two matches back in the Premier League.  My guess is that the same won't be true this coming weekend.  In Chelsea they face an opponent that is just more talented.  With Hilario back-stopping Chelsea, I have to say I'm dubious about Chelsea getting a clean sheet even with a newly promoted opponent but you have to like Chelsea's chances of scoring a few goals and generally breaking out of their attacking doldrums. The big question for fantasy managers is what AVB will do with his starting line-up as Torres continues in his attempts to remember where the goal is. Verdict: Advantage Chelsea Attack. 
  • Wigan vs. QPR - Wigan hasn't been great so far in drawing its first two matches with newly promoted teams.  With the third such match-up on the trot happening at the JJB this coming weekend fantasy managers must hope that the third time is the charm.  In beating Everton last weekend, QPR managed to not look particularly good.  I don't see Wigan scoring a ton of goals under any circumstances but a solid attacking performance combined with a strong defensive one could make a few Wigan players attractive. Verdict: Advantage Wigan Overall. 
  • Man United vs. Arsenal - As big a momentum boost as Arsenal may have gotten from their Champions League win, its hard to see them keeping it going on their trip to Old Trafford.  With Song, Frimpong, Wilshere, and Gervinho unavailable and United's attack looking strong and likely getting Chicharito back it looks fairly grim for the Gooners. With the second team defense still featuring, I can't say I'm TOO optimistic about United getting a clean sheet but likewise, United's attack should be prolific with no holding midfielder available to stem the tide.  Verdict: Advantage United Attack. 
  • Liverpool vs. Bolton - I can't say I have a great deal of confidence in my take on either of these teams so far.  Liverpool, who I expected to be very good, was hardly dominant against a significantly weakened Arsenal team at the Emirates last weekend.  Bolton, who I expected to struggle mightily, have been much better than expected in whipping QPR and keeping it close with City.  My expectation is that we'll see some attacking in this match going both directions with Liverpool's winning the day.  Verdict: Advantage Liverpool Attack. 
The Away Teams
  • City @ Spurs - My guess is that we've seen the blueprint for City's season.  At home, they'll always be a threat to win with a clean sheet.  On the road, they'll give up more goals but now have the firepower to win shootouts.  On the road, City will definitely struggle to keep a clean sheet facing a team that a) needs points; b) went forward well on Monday despite not scoring; and c) generally has attacking talent.  Still, while they'll very likely lose at some point this season, fantasy managers won't do well betting against City this season.  Verdict: Advantage City Attack.  
NUFC and Villa are both solid-but-not-spectacular options at home that favor their defenses while Rovers are probably slight favorites at home against an Everton squad that looked pretty bad last weekend. 

We'll be back later today with Part 2: Player Picks. 


  1. Arsenal talk before EVERY post is growing tiresome.

  2. blatz9:48 AM

    Then go write your own blog.

  3. KPM/MPFC10:12 AM

    Geez what is it with the bitching? Be grateful for the valuable information Neal and Jeremy provide every day.

    It's like bitching about a Bentley because the radio station is tuned to easy listening.

  4. The blog is brilliant, and I am a big fan. But, this is the comment section and I merely commented on what seems to be a fairly recent trend of every post starting with As The Arsenal Turns.

    The rest of you get a grip. Neal is a big boy and I doubt he cares!

  5. Anonymous12:18 PM

    I personally like the Arsenal talk. I have a friend that supports Arsenal and I feel bad for him right now. If I wrote a blog, I'd start every post with the Liverpool update. It is natural to talk about your favorite teams. Keep up the great work, Neal!

  6. MPFC/KPM1:00 PM

    Did I just draw an analogy between Arsenal and Easy Listening music?

  7. From Snatch: "when I feed a dog a bone, I don't give a **** how it tastes." Or something like that. Good start lads...

  8. To me, it's not just about the Arsenal talk before each column... it's about the unrealistic, overly optimistic Arsenal talk. They're a shit team and the words used are "You can imagine a very strong Starting XI that includes Jack Wilshere replacing Frimpong/Rosicky." when they should be "Wilshire, Frimpong and Rosicky are three below-average players playing for a below average team who have no trophy hopes this season". If you're going to write about it, at least be honest and accept the crap team you support.

  9. Denny Z with the staggeringly insightful and measured contribution there. Well done.

    Below average is a ridiculous comment. Frimpong and Wilshere will probably be stalwart England internationals for the next 10 years. United will definitely hammer Arsenal on Sunday but they are still a very good team who beat an Udinese team who were considerably superior to Liverpool.