It is quiet this morning, the ceaseless baiting of the footballing authorities over the lunacy of their football fixtures, for once, does not involve Arsenal and few are complaining on behalf of down-trodden Manchester City who having played on Boxing Day night, have a traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kick-off. With Crystal Palace as opposition the expectation remains that they will sit atop the Premier League tonight with an even healthier goal difference.
Consolation comes to you in the form of a new playlist this morning click here for Sticks & Stones, or listen using the client in the right hand sidebar under Dad’s Jukebox. Archive playlists can be found here. Something to listen to whilst frittering a few minutes looking at Wojciech’s Szczesny’s appearance in Paul Trevillion’s You Are The Ref. You don’t need to wait until Monday to find the answers, just assume Arsenal will be punished and lose out. It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya.
Arsenal travel to Newcastle hoping not to fall foul of refereeing indiscretions but more importantly that the players recently returned from injury, are eager to make up for lost time. Theo Walcott certainly has been, if four goals in three games doesn’t fire the enthusiasm, nothing will. Tomas Rosicky believes it will,
The goalscoring threat is the main thing with Theo. You can see he is a very good finisher. Since I joined Arsenal – Theo came six months earlier than me – I’ve seen him grow from let’s say the kid when he arrived. You could see that he would be good finisher [then], which is what he’s showing now. He’s a real threat in the box, he’s got an eye for the goal so it’s very good to have him back because you never have enough guys like that.
The Czech international believes Podolski’s return is crucial to the side, as does Per Mertesacker. The BFG spoke of the transfer activity he hopes for next month but stressed it has to be balanced with players who are out at the moment and their return over the rest of the season,
We need the right additions. We said that a lot in the summer then Mesut Ozil came. But at this time, in a very special period that only happens in England, you need to get the right additions with players who come back from injury.
We lost Aaron Ramsey [against West Ham] so a good player is maybe out for two or three weeks so we need the right additions now. We have a good squad and that’s going to be vital in the next couple of weeks.
I think it will be a surprise if any additions arrive in the transfer window and this time, it won’t be as a result of mishandling negotiations or being led up the garden path by agents. Crucially, players of the calibre Wenger wants to attract to Arsenal, will have one eye on the Brazilian summer they want to enjoy. The manager may encounter problems enticing players out of the comfort zones, reluctant to move to unfamiliar cultures and lifestyles. This is before negotiating with clubs who are taking a risk selling now; one good World Cup and a player’s value will soar so some account will want to be taken of that. The converse never seems to be true, an unenhanced reputation is often excused by collective failure.
But crucially, as Mertesacker points out, the players coming in are not replacements but complimenting a squad which has done well, exceeded all expectations so far. The myopic bleat about failures from the past at other clubs, how imbalances arise with new signings. That attitude presumes Arsène does not know how to integrate players into the squad, that he will not have done the research beforehand; in short, that he does not know what he is doing in the transfer market which is a baffling way of supporting the club and the manager in their aim – challenging for, and winning, silverware.
Whilst Arsène will be looking at strengthening positions where there is a lack of depth in the squad, he will be mindful that two of his most experienced players are in a position to walk away from the club next summer. Rosicky and Bacary Sagna are reportedly in talks with the club over new deals but can also talk to others from Wednesday, if their Mr20%s have not already been doing so. For the pair it is the chance for a last big payday and I don’t see why anyone should begrudge them that. I don’t think the manager will look to bring in a replacement for Rosicky now, there is time in the summer for that. With Sagna, it is a different story; the manager needs an insurance policy for any loss of focus if the player decides to move to a new club and whilst Jenkinson is promising, it would be brave to promote him into the starting XI in a pressure situation, which chasing the title certainly is. I think he is capable of handling it but the decision depends on the Wenger’s belief in the player.
Arsène’s main focus ought to be in the striking role. It is nonsensical that the minute this is mentioned, the assumption is that you want to replace Olivier Giroud. There is no sense in that, the player works hard for the team and is exceptionally unselfish. Equally, he is suffering from a relative goal drought; it has been eight games since he last scored (a brace against Southampton) and whilst Arsenal are working well at covering that, as we discovered against Chelsea, a striker can make all the difference. Manchester City as well, those who think we could have drawn will note the Frenchman was culpable as well as unfortunate in not scoring. More to the point, the player might benefit from a rest occasionally. Wenger can put Lukas Podolski in on a short-term basis but that is cover, not depth. Podolski adds goalscoring threat when on the pitch, more so than other more creative players. As West Ham found, the German is dangerous from anywhere within twenty yards of goal and that is not something you want to diminish.
Mertesacker noted the players thought the same as a lot of the support during the summer, that strengthening was needed. Now, the necessity to do so still exists but if it does not happen, is it going to be such a bad thing?