Arsenal v West Ham United

When we met up with Preview Percy the other day he was wearing shorts. A most disconcerting sight to behold on a full stomach. Thankfully rain is forecast. In the meantime here's his look at Sunday's visit to Arsenal.....

Next up we travel to the Library where we will be hosted by Arsenal . Kick-off is 1.30pm on Sunday 22nd. At the moment. Apologies for being so vague but this fixture has been shifted so many times in recent weeks it wouldn't surprise me if it had already been played and nobody had told us. I think the one thing I can guarantee is that it won't be played at 20:00 hrs on Monday 23rd April. Which is the time and date printed on the ticket. Well on my ticket anyway. Yours may be different. As the match will be taking place on a Sunday, probably, It seems that there is little in the way of engineering work in the manor, presumably because we are away. Some early morning stuff and in the evening the ginger line to Highbury & Islington faces a bit of disruption but we'll all have gone home by then. Probably.

So good old Arsenal then. Damn them. In an unusual state of preparedness I had most of this written and ready to give to the short chubby one pending a couple of updates. So what happens? Wenger goes and announces his resignation from the end of the season. Apart from anything else that will knacker the Wenger hokey-cokey song, not that I can do all the actions at my age. I'm not sure how old Wenger is but if he is retiring he may well qualify for free prescription spectacles, in which case he would be well advised to get shot of those ones he has been wearing for the last 22 years. He hasn't seen a thing through them in all that time. All sorts of names are being linked with the soon to be vacant post with the front-runner being former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel, the state of whose eyesight is unknown at present. There is of course one very, very large down side to Wenger's departure. I refer, of course, to the fact that the resignation will make Piers Morgan happy, something of which no sane human being could approve.

So where will the myopic one leave the club after 22 years? Well they currently sit in 6th place with 54 points from the 33 played to date. This is before any results come in on Saturday mind. After the midweek fixtures that's 9 points (less a game in hand) behind Chelsea who occupy the automatic Thursday Night League spot, though that particular place is, as ever, dependent on who wins the Cup, the direction of the wind and the timing of the Spring equinox. They are, of course, still in this year's Thursday Night League, hoping to win the thing and thereby qualify for the so-called Champions League. That particular plan took a bit of a dent when they got drawn against Atletico Madrid who are by far and away the strongest club left in the competition. Especially as the Spanish side will get to play the second leg at home, something that is usually perceived as an advantage.

The first leg of that particular tie is on Thursday which may or may not have a bearing on the sort of side that they field on Sunday/Monday/whenever Sky tell us. The likelihood of qualifying for Europe via the league will depend to a large degree on Southampton not winning the Cup in which case qualification could go down to 7th. That's probably the most likely scenario so there's no real need to worry too much about Burnley who prior to Saturday's fixtures, are two points behind. On the other hand should Southampton do the unthinkable they could face the very real prospect of not being in Europe next term. With the Chelsea v Southampton semi-final not taking place until after this match Wenger will have a decision to make come Sunday morning. By the sound of things from interviews given this week it looks like this match is down the pecking order so that even if we may not be looking at a side of League Cup level it is likely that there will be a few rested.

Their problem lies in the disparity between their home and away form. The work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises knocked up something on his or her laptop that showed different league tables for home and away. Form. If home games only were included they would be third in the table behind the child poisoners and the human rights abusers of Salford and Manchester respectively. On the road however they would be 12th. For information we would be 12th and 15th respectively. Oh and on the road Arsenal have picked up precisely one more point than us (though we have played a game more away from home. They must be unused to noise, one imagines. Of course, their away form is a bit academic given that this match will take place in the peace and quiet of the library. However it does give a pointer to why all is doom and gloom up there at the moment.

There had been rumblings of course in the run up to the transfer window. Just about anyone who was any good, and plenty who weren't was being linked with a move away from Islington. In the end the main departures were Sanchez, who chose the child poisoners over the human rights abusers, Giroud, who took his daft beard to the money laundry and Debuchy who they had forgotten was there anyway. He took his mutually agreed cancelled contract to Saint Etienne where his defensive partnership with Sarah Cracknell is expected to take time to bed down.

Incoming on the radar was Mkhitarian who arrived as part of the Sanchez deal, striker Aubameyang who arrived from Borussia Dortmund for a cool ?56m and a rookie defender in the form of Konstantinos Mavropanos, who cost ?1.8m from Greek outfit PAS Gianina (no me neither).

Being active in the January markets is unusual for Wenger - and I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will spot the Dortmund link between possible new boss Tuchel and Aubameyang who I vaguely recall was probably one of those French strikers Sullivan was definitely going to sign until their club raised the possibility that a transfer fee might be payable.

Aubameyang himself is likely to cause Wenger a bit of a selection headache. On the one hand you'd definitely want to pick a striker with six in his first 8 Premier League games on form alone. However, Wenger did leave out a number of regulars against the Geordies last weekend, presumably with the Thursday Night League in mind. Aubameyang himself is ineligible for Thursday so the quandry is whether or not to give his place to someone who will be in the squad for Athletico to give them a bit of match fitness.

Well Monday night saw yet another appalling and unacceptable performance from the match officials. Not that you would have noticed had you been following the instructions issued by the Baroness in her twitter account, which, with 15 minutes to kick-off was more concerned with drumming up support for her latest foray into the world of television. Sorry Baroness I was busy. Just as I will be for every other episode of whatever it is you want me to watch. Priorities you see.

Meanwhile for those of you who could drag yourselves away from the latest bunch of people trying to succeed in business by taking advice from someone who has spent a career working for people successful in business, for the second time in a week ref Oliver had a dreadful game that he will get away with because in amongst it all he managed to get a couple of high-profile decisions right; something that again distracts from the basic inadequacies of his game. As with the now infamous Real Madrid v Juventus match Oliver was quite happy to ignore cynical foul after cynical foul without bothering to look for his cards, the production of which might have nipped the cynicism in the bud. In a match where Stoke gave away 21 fouls, most of which were designed to break up play and prevent shots, it says everything you want to know about the appalling state that English refereeing has gotten itself into that the first caution of the evening went to one (only one mind) of the four or five players that went towards the crowd to celebrate their goal. The first two disallowed goals were fair enough-ish (I look forward to seeing us presented with the 1981 League Cup now that it has been clearly established once and for all that Clive Thomas is a cheat and a liar). The third one however should have either been allowed or given as a penalty.

The worst thing of all is that now FIFA have wised -up and have realised how bloody terrible our referees are you stand a good chance of having to share a beach with one of them this summer. One day, maybe not soon but it will happen as sure as eggs is eggs, an English referee will be caught up in a match-fixing scandal. Then someone will look back and try to analyse how we got to a position where matches could be fixed and nobody would notice. And they will put out one of those big reports much beloved of Government select committees and everyone will be amazed that nobody did anything to prevent it.

Back to the current situation and we can be grateful that Stoke - who averaged a foul every three minutes or so - did not inflict further damage to add to our injury list, which is comprised of the following:

1) James Collins (hamstring). Earlier on this week it looked like he was getting closer by the hour and had a 75% chance of making the bench. I then re-checked before submitting and lo and behold that chance had gone down to 25%. I'll take that as a "no" then.

2) Pedro Obiang (knee) Next Term

3) Winston Reid (knee) Next Term

4) Michael Antonio - (hamstring) - due to have had an op by now. Next term

5) Sam Byram - (ankle) Next term

All of which means that neither Carroll nor Lanzini picked up anything nasty on Monday night. Well not at the ground anyway. Post-match the manager's concerns for each were contrasting. For Carroll the main worry was match fitness, everyone being more than happy that the broken foot had fully healed. For Lanzini there was still an element of shepherding the knee ligament back to full fitness. For that reason I suspect that both will be on the bench at the start of this one. In fact it wouldn't be a great surprise were we to start a third consecutive match with the same starting XI, something which is almost unheard of given our injury record.

And onwards we move to the land of predictions. Of course the already iffy atmosphere at the place will have had a whole can of aerosol uncertainty sprayed over the place with Friday's announcement of the forthcoming managerial change. It would be hilarious were we to get the win that would confuse the hell out of Piers Morgan (is it Wenger's fault for going or staying?) but for all their problems their home form is decent. If they put out a League Cup side there's a chance of our first XI (or as near as we can get to one) doing a number on them but I think that if the head rules the heart here we would expect to get beaten. On the other hand the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and even Matron has a smile on her face. So with all the logic of someone seeking business advice as part of a tv show (you do realise that the tv company wants you to fail spectacularly don't you?) I will go for a draw as we inch slowly to safety with all the speed of Preview Alastair getting a round in. Make that a 1-1 please Mr Winstone and I'll settle up with you on my way back from the Swan and Superinjunction.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Library: Lost 1-0 (League Cup Quarter Final - December 2017)

Having enjoyed the heroics of the previous round we meekly shouldered arms in this one. Welbeck's effort just before the interval was enough, even though Carroll and Sakho were given 25 minutes apiece to turn things around.

Referee: Lee Mason

Showed a degree of common sense in the debacle that was Burnley at home when he would quite legitimately have dismissed Noble for his altercation with a supporter. I suspect he has been told off accordingly by the powers that be and don't be surprised if the usual village idiot turns up this time.

Danger Man: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

On form at the moment. Depends on what sort of side Wenger picks I suppose.

Percy's Poser

Last week we asked you what major problem did Josiah Wedgewood have to overcome to set up his company in the Potteries. Congratulations to Mrs Bridget Arnold of Dartford for knowing that Mr Wedgewood, having lost a leg to smallpox, was completely unable to operate a potter's wheel, something of a potential handicap for a budding ceramics entrepreneur. Thankfully back then there were no tv programmes from which to seek business advice for the entertainment of others so he just got on with it, rather successfully one would say. Well done Bridget!

For this week's poser we ask you a two-part question: 1) What is Arsene Wenger's current spectacles prescription? And 2) What should it be? First prize is one of those dreadful "magic-eye" books that were so popular all those years ago. You know, the ones that you stare at for an hour and still fail to see the 3D picture you are supposed to see, ending up with an image of a badly drawn dolphin riding what appears to be a unicycle imprinted on your retinas. And a splitting headache.

Good luck everyone!

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