April 11, 2017

FREE KICKS: Gunners shooting blanks

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It just keeps getting worse for Arsenal.

This week, in a prime-time slot no less, the Gunners were run over by Crystal Palace. If there were still some Gunners fans that supported Arsene Wenger, it’s difficult to see them backing the French manager now.

Arsenal looked sloppy all over the place. The defence was in shambles and the attack couldn’t get anything going, despite the amount of talent it has.

This is just the latest setback for the perennial Champions League squad – but that title likely won’t apply next year.

Since the final day of January, when Arsenal yet again failed to make any remarkable purchase in the transfer window, the Gunners have won two league games. Those were against Hull and West Ham. On the other side of the ledger, in that time period, Arsenal has lost five and drawn one.

Arsenal now sits in sixth, ahead of Everton by just a single marker in goal differential. Its only saving grace may be that it has two games in hand over the Toffees, but we’re not sure a season in Europa League would be much help for a side only interested in the best.

Here’s a little food for thought: Arsenal is 21 points behind leaders Chelsea and just 20 points ahead of 16th-place Crystal Palace.

This recent skid and the threat of a season with the lucrative European campaign should be a wakeup call for the owners. If they want to keep up in the most competitive league in the world, they have to start spending and also get a manager that’s willing to spend, too.

It’s time for change at the Emirates. And I’m sure we’re going to be seeing a lot of it this summer.


You may not remember this, but Son Heung-min was actually the Premier League’s player of the month back in September.

Well, he has hit that sort of form again, this week piling up two goals and an assist for Spurs in their win against Watford.

Now, it must be said that Watford was playing with a back four decimated by injury, but that’s no excuse in this day and age.

That’s six league wins in a row for Tottenham, which looks poised to finally cancel St. Totteringham’s Day this year, the annual celebration by Arsenal fans when they clinch a finish above their North London rival. Considering the state of both teams, we may see it be the other way around for once.


Happy birthday to Dele Alli, who turned just 21 years old. He’s one of the few English youngsters that has the potential to lead the national team to some big things in the future … I find it a bit ironic and concerning that after Spurs brought on Harry Kane – returning from an ankle injury – that Spurs’ attack fell silent. He did hit a nice free kick, but it wasn’t good enough … Stoke looked a lot better than it has in the past few weeks now that Xherdan Shaqiri is back in the lineup. The Swiss winger really adds something in attack and nearly opened scoring with a beauty early on, but was ruled offside … I bet there’s more than a few players thrilled that yellow-card accumulation has been reset … What was Georginio Wijnaldum thinking heading that corner back towards his own goal? There were four Stoke players waiting and should’ve scored their second if not for Simon Mignolet’s big save … Teenagers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn got the start for Liverpool, but were subbed at half while a goal down. Probably not good for their confidence that the Reds started picking it up with them off … This week’s goal of the week was no contest: Roberto Firmino’s dipping half volley on a beautiful lobbed through ball was pure class. Even better, it came just moments after a huge save by Mignolet on Saido Berahino … Romelu Lukaku now has more goals (23) than Middlesbrough (22). More interesting: Both may not be in the Premier League next if Lukaku is sold off and Boro is relegated … It shouldn’t be surprising that Manchester United performed a lot better with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back in the lineup. This opener set the tone for their win against Sunderland and the Red Devils never looked back against their former manager, David Moyes … Hull’s clumsy own goal against Manchester City just goes to show the gulf that can exist between the top teams in the Premier League and the lower lights … Chelsea got back to its winning ways after a midweek wobble. Honestly, we didn’t see the Blues falling apart with just one loss, though.


This North American bid for the 2026 World Cup would be great for soccer on the continent, but could be a logistical nightmare.

There’s no denying the growth the sport saw after the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup and we could be in for that type of boom again if the U.S.-Canada-Mexico bid wins the rights to 2026.

The best part about the bid is that with the amount of stadiums in the three countries, there wouldn’t have to be many – if any – new venues built for the event, like there were in Brazil at a huge cost.

There are some problems with the bid though, first and foremost being the ability of some countries to even compete in the United States. It’s no secret that current U.S. President Donald Trump is working on travel bans to and from certain countries, so what if a country like Iran or Iraq qualified for 2026’s 48-team tournament?

Next is the sheer amount of travel that could be required. This affects not just the teams, but also the fans. While considerations will be made when drawing up the schedule, some teams and their supporters will be racking up thousands of air miles, no doubt.

Overall, this is a smart move by all three countries. Shedding light on soccer in North America only opens up the game for further growth, especially for a league like MLS, that is finally shedding its “retirement league” label.

And heck, we might even get to see Christian Pulisic hoisting the trophy at the end, right?

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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