Is This The Year?

Here we are in the winter of 2016 and Arsenal currently sits at the top of the English Premier League standings with the 16 (league) matches still to be played. Many pundits have insisted that if Arsenal are going to break their title drought in the EPL then this is the time to do it.  Mainly because the first half of the season was unlike any in recent memory or in other words “the teams that normally contend for the title have been terrible.”  So with that in mind I get to spend the next 5 months trying not to lose anymore hair.

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Arsenal has its next three matches at home. League matches versus Chelsea and Southampton with an FA Cup tie against Burnley sandwiched in between. The Gunners will be looking to rebound after two tough draws at Liverpool (3-3) and Stoke (0-0). Most fans will agree that the match at Liverpool should’ve been a win. Earlier this season, Arsenal lost 2-0 at Chelsea and were thrashed 4-0 at Southampton in December. These two matches will be key as it will give Arsenal a chance to get Alexis Sanchez – HOPEFULLY – back on the pitch. We’ll also see the return of the great Mesut Ozil as he sat out on Sunday with a foot injury. This stretch of matches could also bring about the first appearance of new signing Mohamed Elneny. If Elneny is able to bring on some positive play then it would give Arsene Wenger the opportunity to rotate his squad and rest some players. Another positive would be the return of Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck but they seem to be a few more weeks away.

As if trying to win the Premier League isn’t enough, the team will face Barcelona in February and March in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League. This will prove to be a crucial stretch for the Gunners as they could play as many as 12 matches (consisting of EPL, FA Cup, and CL) in 41 days versus the likes of Leicester City, Barcelona (twice), Manchester United, Tottenham, and Everton to name a few. It’s easy to say that this will definitely determine whether Arsenal will be in the running for the title. I want them to be competitive in the matches versus Barcelona and have a good showing. If wins are there, go for them but most importantly don’t get anyone hurt. I’d like to see them win the FA Cup matches. The match above mentioned against Burnley (please win this to avoid a replay at Burnley) and then a possible Quarterfinal match versus an opponent TBD. They’re currently going for a three-peat in the competition having won in 2014 and 2015. That leaves the seven league matches that are split 4 away and 3 home. All 21 points would be great but if I were being realistic then I’d take 15-18 points.

The closer Arsenal is to 20 points total from those 7 EPL matches the better. They currently sit at 44 points after 22 matches. My gut feeling is that the club that gets closest if not to 85 points by the end of the season will win the title. That’d mean that the Gunners would need 21 points in their final nine EPL matches. Then there is the whole goal differential situation if the decision has to come to a tiebreaker. Petr Cech’s clean sheet on Sunday was a good start. I also think the squad will find the back of the net more often as the 2nd half of the season progresses. The return of the players I mentioned earlier could play a big role in that. It’s been rough at times but I’ll take the (1-0 or 2-1) results as long as it is a win. May 7th could be a big day in the Premier League but I don’t want to get too far ahead – as I’ve already done – being that it’s only mid January. Hopefully when I return to talk about the last quarter of the season it’ll be positive for Arsenal and my hair!

Is This The Year?

2016…Be Great…Be Positive

We’re at day 7 of 2016 and things are “looking how they looking” as my wife would say.  We have the Presidential race to look forward to this year as well as the Summer Olympics in Brazil.  This happens to be a leap year so that means Wale will get to work an extra day this year.  I don’t know about y’all but I love off days.  Shout out to Wale tho.  All of that is fine and dandy but most importantly I’ll be celebrating something a lot more important within a few weeks.  I’ll blog about it when it happens.

Ok now on to a few sports thoughts…shout out to Ken Griffey Jr. for being 99.3% great.  He’s beloved by many that watched the game of baseball in the 90s.  “The Kid” best known for his sweet swing, home run saving catches, and wearing his hat backwards.  Thanks for the memories.  Congrats to Mike Piazza too.

In the NBA my Pelicans are still trash.  As of today they’re sitting next to last in the Western Conference at 11-23 but are only FOUR games away from the 8th seed.  This has caused a lot of confusion for fans as to whether the team should fight for that playoff spot or blow it up and acquire some assets.  I’m sure we’ll know by the end of this month.  Over in California, the Golden State Warriors (33-2) are still in striking distance of the best overall record for the regular season in NBA history.  Draymond Green has been a monster for GSW, he leads the NBA so far in triple-doubles with 7.  The 2 losses for the Warriors have been on the road and in both games the team was missing key players. With all of that GSW only has a 3 game lead on the San Antonio Spurs.  There’s space between San Antonio and Oklahoma City but the Thunder is picking up momentum and is looking solid.

In the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers are still at the top.  Kyrie Irving returned from injury in December and he hasn’t disappointed as he gets in game shape.  Right on their heels are Da Bulls.  Chicago has had a few lumps this season but look to be getting things together.  Thanks in-large to the play of Jimmy Gets Buckets.  After a few ugly losses and some comments about head coach Fred Hoiberg, Butler has upped his game.  He and Paul George went at it on New Year’s Eve in an excellent game.  Butler ended that OT thriller with the game-winning points and a blocked shot/contest against Paul George.  After that the Bulls bounced the Knicks easily by 27.  Then on Sunday night Mr. Butler went for 42 against Toronto.  After a slow first half – with only 2 points – Jimmy dropped 40 points on 14-19 shooting to help his team pull off a close victory.  The 40 points in one half broke Michael Jordan’s old Chicago Bulls record.  The Eastern Conference race promises to be exciting as only 6 games separate the top 8 teams and only 6 games separate teams 8 thru 13.

In football news, we’re at the best time of the year.  The NFL Playoffs start on Saturday and in college football we get the National Championship game on Monday night.  I don’t like making picks but I’ll do so.

NFL Picks:

Kansas City over Houston

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh

Seattle over Minnesota

Washington over Green Bay

FBS Championship:

Alabama over Clemson

If any of the teams teams I chose to win are dear to your heart then be very afraid.

I posted the words “Be Great…Be Positive” in the title of this blog for a reason.  2015 while it had its ups also had a bunch of downs.  I don’t recall a year where I saw so many people so set on being divided and tearing others down.  I can point out a lot of examples of negativity but instead I’m challenging everyone that reads this blog to not only heed my words but to also encourage others to “Be Great and Be Positive.”

2016…Be Great…Be Positive