Russian divers believe that they have recovered part of the meteorite which fell earlier this year. Despite breaking the scales, it was still lighter than Ju-young Park’s wages. The Korean’s baffling diversion into English football continues with Arsenal apparently unable to subsidise his wages whilst he plays for Wigan. Instead, the club are determined to pay it all; someone in Payroll hasn’t quite grasped some of the nuances in the club’s new financial philosophy.
And new realities are becoming clearer. Supporters Groups are not everyone’s cup of tea, routinely dismissed as ego-trips with insults traded in both directions. The problem is that the support is fractured, the team applying the plaster. Accusations are routinely thrown into the air with the imposition of ideals of what defines a supporter underpinning them, countered by equally facile arguments about how wrong those ideals are. Insurrection and acquiescence reinforcing prejudices. Instead of ignoring each other, the opposite ends of the spectrum are intent on conflict. Whilst blaming the other for starting it, of course.
Personalities are dominating perceptions of what the groups are trying to achieve. I understand why a meeting is desired with Stan Kroenke on the basis of talking about the future of Fanshare; he is the majority owner and it is directly affected by his plan for the future, whatever that may be. Other clubs do not give anywhere near as much access to the senior management and genuine progress is made on issues such as ticketing.
There is a tendency to dismiss the existence of the groups as reactions to the lack of silverware. Some are, others were active when The Invincibles were in their prime. Consider this though; Newcastle United are considering implementing a proposal for £20 tickets for away supporters so long as their fans are extended the same courtesy. This scheme was the result of direct protests about prices being charged for supporting your team, an idea put forward by supporters groups. Next time you dismiss supporters groups as irrelevant, think about what you would be charged without their direct interaction with clubs. If you could get a ticket, of course.
England are preparing for the World Cup, Roy Hodgson focussing on young players who can inject something different into the squad beyond the usual inability to reach the unrealistic expectations of the media. In a country desperate for midfield class and defensive reliability, we look on in bemusement and envy when the likes of Arteta, Cazorla and Monreal cannot be assured of a place in the Spanish starting line-up. Poor old Mikel isn’t even going to get a cap out of sympathy from the footballing aristocrat, Vincente Del Bosque. Quite rightly, Del Bosque would argue that he isn’t in the business of largesse, just successfully defending the World Cup.
At 31, Arteta has given up hope of achieving that dream. Even the unlikely outcome of Arsenal winning the Champions League would come too late for him and being 32 by the time of the Brazilian summer, so has any prospect of appearing on the biggest stage of all. He isn’t alone in that, great players from the past such as George Best have not done so; even contemporaries such as Ryan Giggs won’t have either. Two years ago, he still harboured the hope but when footballers cross the Rubicon of their third decade in life, some dreams fade.
He is reconciled to this state of affairs and I guess as his career progressed, he became more aware of this outcome. Timing is everything, of course, and having moved from Spain in 2001, has he suffered from being out of the public eye? Despite the number of ex-pats, I doubt there was much demand for Scottish football in Spanish broadcast circles. As he came into his own and moved south of the border, the Spanish began to enjoy more success internationally and the settled midfield axis formed from club level. No disrespect to Everton but Iberian eyes were more focussed internally at the dominant pair of clubs than to the English league where one of their own was thriving. He wasn’t entirely forgotten. Arteta has a healthy collection of caps at the junior levels which makes his omission from the senior squad all the more surprising; it is unusual for a player to not make the jump on at least one occasion. It nearly happened but injury robbed him of his chance in 2009. The national team further dented his ambition by winning the World Cup; breaking into the national team is hard enough but when they are World and European champions? I guess the manager becomes a little more choosy, more inclined to rely on the players who have served him well.
Should we be worried by that? On a human level, it is a shame when someone with his abilities is not able to display his wares to the world. Then again, the saturated coverage of the Premier League means the rest of the globe gets to see the players whilst those in England who are unable to attend find themselves hunched over a stuttering stream. From an Arsenal perspective, it is good news. Ten days of rest most months of the season can only do Arteta good in prolonging his career. I know they train, the coterie of players who are not on international duty but it isn’t the same wear and tear as playing or the same intensity of preparation for a match. What he loses in one sense, he gains in another. If it means plain bread and butter for a meal instead of adding jam to it, I am sure that Mikel won’t be complaining too much.
Perhaps it is the jam tomorrow which keeps him going and this weekend is a match with much to consider from the manager’s point of view. Santi Cazorla’s return brings into question what is his best midfield combination. The signing of the Flamini has been rightly praised and it was evident from the moment he sauntered onto the pitch in the North London Derby, he had the bit between his teeth. However, with Theo Walcott returning shortly to take the right-sided attacking spot and Cazorla operating on the left, either of Flamini or Arteta is going to have to miss out to accommodate Ramsey and Özil. There will be occasions when both are needed to offer a defensive barrier but it means a shift in emphasis from the team, pulling the throttle back when the natural order of selection seems to be towards attack.
It is the sort of headache that Arsène wants to have, of course. The problem is that those headaches rarely happen; Mesut Özil is the latest injury concern; when did we ever have a fully fit squad to choose from?