Pleasures and wayward distractions prevent Big Al’s normal weekly contribution, his family fearing for his sanity when he came home with 60,000 white permanent marker pens and a plan to buy a Sea King helicopter to transport them all to The Emirates tomorrow. Apparently it’s off some bloke he met down the pub is keen to shift one before departing for a gap year trip to South America. Al, is protesting at the black bag protest, planning to draw smiley faces across the bags that are being left in the stadium on empty seats in protest at the way the club is being run. Being Arsenal fans, it is a useful protest and in the current environment, economically viable with the stewards being encouraged to remove the bags and save them for use by the cleaners at the final whistle.
And that’s all I have to say on the matter, save for the fact that it won’t actually achieve anything. Laudable as standing up for your views are, an end target ought to be obvious; in this instance it is another of mish-mash of views that do not have clearly stated demands or aims.
It has been media fodder, announced at a similar time that the AST announced its own agenda for the coming weeks. Quite rightly, they have steered away from – and made a definitive statement to that effect – commenting on managerial and playing performance. That is however twisted to suit agendas that want to promote dissention in order to sell advertising space.
There is nothing contentious in the AST observations, which along with the AISA statement recently, show that the genuine concerns of ordinary supporters can be reflected maturely and constructively. Even if you do not agree with all of the observations, both organisations do good work on behalf of the whole fanbase in engaging with the management of the business side of the club. Like both, I find the silence of KSE disconcerting in that it allows speculation over their long-term vision for the club to become fact rather than any truth does. To me, the lack of engagement with supporters simply emphasises just how much of a reluctant owner Kroenke is.
Away from that the playing squad came into focus with the revised squad listing submitted to the Premier League. Manuel Almunia is left kicking his heels, an ignominious end to his Arsenal career with the Spaniard making way in the main list to allow Thierry Henry’s inclusion. It essentially means that he will not be playing first team football until the summer unless he can find a loan deal with Wojciech Szczesny preferred as substitute on Sunday against Aston Villa.
It also shows how loaded the squad is with non-homegrown players, the economics of which possibly hampering signing of the talent desired in the January window. It is simple to sell the players on paper, the same simplicity noticeable by its absence in the real world. The club could have omitted Abou Diaby to allow him to regain full fitness but took in my view, a positive step with his inclusion. It gives the player a tangible target rather than a vague promise of next season. Whether than backfires or not will only be known come May.
Andrey Arshavin will not be making any space either. His agent is reported this morning as stating the diminutive Russian will be at The Emirates until the end of the season. That may be needed with rotation of the squad coming to the fore over the next month with the chase for fourth place and Milan. A return to the central role cannot be dismissed, especially if Robin van Persie is rested as speculated this morning. Henry may be the more obvious replacement this weekend but for a home match against a team in the relegation zone, Arshavin may well start.
The fight for fourth has left Mikel Arteta optimistic, realistic and chastising in equal measure. Reflecting how most Arsenal supporters feel about the current situation, the Spaniard observed,
It’s going to be tough to finish in the top four but I think we have the quality and the desire to do it. I know how good we are but we need to start showing it. We need to get on a good run and start winning games like we were doing a month ago because Chelsea are doing well.
Arsenal are reliant on teams dropping points. Equally, we must beat those teams around us in the coming months; the outcome of the games might be decisive. There is little point in hoping Spurs drop points in their tough matches; we have to win ours first, something that has not happened in the Premier League this year. When that changes and gaps to Chelsea and then those above have been cut, we can look at the situation then. At the moment, the first point and clean sheet from Wednesday has stopped a losing rot. As Arteta opined, a winning run has to start against Blackburn this weekend.
Finally, the last time Arsenal scored twice at Old Trafford in the League and won is the subject of today’s Arsenal On This Day.