The week has passed and attention turns to, aah, well, um, er, a blank weekend. Arsène will no doubt hold a pre-match press conference at some point, perhaps today, maybe tomorrow or Monday. Were he so minded, he might well arrange it Sunday on the basis being that the Premier League have inconvenienced Arsenal with the fixture list so why not everyone else. He isn’t so churlish of course, when others such as I might be. As The Yardbirds opined, Mister, you’re a better man than I. OK, Mike and Brian Huggs wrote the song but we’re into semantics and pernickety behaviour at this point. Why not, I hear you ask, there’s not much else going on.
And a better man is what Greg Dyke thinks Jack Wilshere will be for his two-match ban. Speaking after a disciplinary committee claimed that their last sentence was standard punishment despite that being double its immediate high-profile predecessor, the man whose reign at the FA is surely in terminal decline thanks to his puerile neck-slitting gesture at the World Cup draw observed,
As a supporter I sympathise with the players because of the flak they get from the crowd. People can lose their cool very quickly, but [Wilshere] has got to learn. He’s very well paid to play the game and he’s got to learn to cope with it.
You think back over many years of players who were hot-headed when they were younger, but not when they get older. They just learn and mature. That is what happens. It is part of life.
Roland Rat. Roland….Rat. That is all you need to know about Dyke. He thought Roland Rat was a good idea. Dyke is such a poor choice of chairman that he makes Shaun Harvey seem the perfect candidate for CEO of the Football League despite his behaviour at Leeds United. Richard Scudamore must be working his socks off to keep the pair gainfully employed. No doubt Dyke believes that the chairmen around the country are in the same boat – himself included – due to the salaries drawn from a sport that they do little to enhance.
Wilshere will no doubt have already been discounted by the manager as far as the upcoming London derbies were concerned. He is too long in the tooth to believe that the FA would change its spots and accept their own inconsistencies. With two games in three days, Wilshere’s actions have put pressure on the squad but Wenger has enough options to choose from; he has to use them how best he sees fit. The immediate concern is Chelsea and I wonder if his philosophy for the next fortnight is simply to get through the volume of games and survey the wreckage when he gets to the other side.
Monday night is important but it is not the end of the season if Arsenal do not win; it might mean dropping from top to fourth in the space of one weekend but that is how close the Premier League has become in recent weeks with Arsenal encountering more of the top four. Points were expected to be dropped but in the next month that could all change once more as others, particularly Manchester City, have a raft of fixtures which will be testing for them in the same way these recent matches for Arsenal have been. It is part of the ebb and flow of a season.
What does a win mean on Monday in that context. Three points; there are no bonuses beyond those in the players wage packets available. Arsenal taking the spoils keeps the gap between the two sides at two points yet that could easily be restored the next time that Chelsea lose. It does not diminish the need to win but it does not place any more importance on the result than the Boxing Day fixture at West Ham. An almost phlegmatic outlook is needed once the emotions of the moment have passed, heeding Rudyard Kipling’s advice on victory and defeat.
It won’t happen, of course. Defeat will bring forward a rabid clamour for spending in the transfer window. The proximity of January’s madness ought not to be underestimated. Wenger needs to strengthen the squad, it is always the case with any manager, any club. That ongoing process never rests but this window, despite the back page headlines that scream to the contrary, will be quiet. A headline deal may be struck but will players move with Brazil six months away? Will they risk upsetting their own chances of a starting line-up in the World Cup? It is a short-term view no doubt but that is exactly what football is best at. Equally, why move now when they might get a bigger deal in the summer?
Arguably, the calibre of player that Arsène needs to be looking at ought not to be concerned by their place in the summer travel plans of their national association. With the improvement in the club’s financial position, they are shopping in Harrods, not casting envious glances through the window. The manager will no doubt apply his valuations and the same criticisms will emerge about them; ’twas ever thus.
But inactivity this time might not be down to the club. This transfer window might be different from the last and the much-needed support for Olivier Giroud may not arrive; Nicklas Bendtner could yet be at the club to fully run down his contract. For Arsène, the question is whether he stands firm on the players he wants or compromises? Perhaps the solution will be a loan deal to satisfy his immediate requirements.
Irrespective of the dealings, Monday night should not be the trigger for them. It is about pride, about the differing philosophies of the clubs, the different histories but above all is else, it is about three points.