Morning all, the weekend is upon us and the few days between matches has flown past with the visit to Cardiff City imminent. Focus naturally will be on the homecoming of Aaron Ramsey and it will be interesting to see the reactions on the part of player and supporters. Ramsey for his part will no doubt be a source of pride for his parents and employers in the manner in which he conducts himself. Not for him the role of anything more than a pantomime villain and I am not about to suggest he becomes anything more than that.
Unless he wants to, of course. The trend for players returning to former stamping grounds to treat this as a pilgrimage, a prodigal son return even though circumstances are more likely than not, improved. With rose-tinted spectacles on, I recall an age when such occasions were anything but respectful with the passing of the first shrill whistle of the match. Few players showed the measured respect of today when scoring. There were incidents of this, most famously Denis Law when scoring for City against United, a goal wrongly described as that which relegated his former club. Taking out the menace which pervaded the air at the time, the atmosphere had a little more edge on such occasions which begs the question whether too much respect is now shown?
The reaction of player and former supporters to Robin van Persie’s goal at Old Trafford shows that it still simmers beneath the surface, occasionally flaring but I guess it is a manifestation of the globalisation of football that not many former heroes return to undo their worship. Unless there is speculation of a more permanent return than one leg of a European tie. In some ways, van Persie’s reaction was more honest; he didn’t care, probably enjoyed the moment more having endured considerable abuse from the moment his work of fiction was created.
Had Liverpool succumbed to that bid in the summer, would Luis Suarez have celebrated like a loon in the event of a goal at Anfield, especially with the apparent acrimony or are football clubs now so concerned with the product that indiscretions are tolerated off the pitch more readily than anything which may appear to sully those on it?
For Arsène such matters are not a consideration and there was a sense of business as usual on Tuesday, losing Kieran Gibbs through Kieran Gibbs through illness registers as a minor inconvenience compared to the maladies suffered by others. Not least of which is Lukas Podolski who appears to have entered the dreaded three-week phase of recovery, a time vortex into which players disappear than turn up usually a few weeks later. For some that would be a blessed relief; Abou Diaby’s character and mental strength are about to tested for the umpteenth time as he has begun running again. I read that March was targeted as a potential return time and assumed they mean 2014 but such is his misfortune, it is by no means guaranteed. Perhaps he would be better in the longer-term with a full season out, recuperating? Whatever the case, the midfield is well-stocked and it would surely take a huge dip in injury fortunes to necessitate a return on Wenger’s part.
Talk of such matters was put into perspective with news of Pat Rice’s battle against cancer. Thoughts are with him and his family at this time.
The manager spoke yesterday of Wojciech Szczesny’s potential,
I am sure is that he has the potential to be a historical goalkeeper for Arsenal Football Club.
Would he have said that six months or so ago as he dropped the Pole to the bench? Possibly; he probably did. It was a rare interruption on the young goalkeeper’s path to the top of the game. Was it deserved? That is largely irrelevant now beyond the positive impact which has resulted and offers an interesting aside on Wenger’s view on how misleading statistics can be.
Key to the future is Wenger’s assessment of why the Pole has achieved so much, so young,
I personally believe his composure is better, his reading of the game is better, his level of concentration is much stronger and that comes out with his numbers. He is still a very young goalkeeper because he’s at an age where other goalkeepers start to play.
He has already a vast experience. That’s why I think it’s very good news for the Club that he has extended his contract. But rightly so as well because this Club has given him a huge chance at a very young age – and that is not common at in the top, top clubs.
There were fears it was too much, too young or perhaps more accurately that the plateau which impacts on all young players careers at some point, was longer in this case than expectations dictated it should be. I think crucially, too much blame was assigned to individuals in that spell when there was a collective individual error, in that too many were happening for it not to have been institutional, a culture within the club. Defensive mistakes are more noticeable because they invariably end in a goal being conceded, undermining aspirations of victory. Reaction to them tends to be harsher, less forgiving than a forward who enters a barren spell in front of goal. I think that it is why the depth of feeling emerged; the players were recognised as being talented but as a group there was something wrong. The iron rod was part of the answer and the fruits of the entire solution are now being borne, the attention to defensive detail forming a strong base from which to attack, feeding confidence in the squad.
It is a busy spell of fixtures, given the intensity of the away matches and the quality of some of the visiting teams. Confidence might well carry tired muscles through a couple of those fixtures.