You hope Arsène is a bit better informed than the media. In the space of twenty-four hours they have become very confused. The media that is, not his snitches. Well, perhaps the latter is as well. Perhaps Alavaro Morata is confused himself and the signals in newspaper reports reflect that. Having told Marca he was in a hurry for first team football and a bit frustrated – I’m paraphrasing, he was more diplomatic – the time for reflection passed and now he has hastily added that he is not looking leave Real Madrid, who seem to be changing their mind and are now willing to let him go on loan.
They are having a few problems with unsettled players. Summer target Angel di Maria’s decision to impersonate Michael Jackson as he was substituted has not gone down well, Opportunity Knocks is not expecting his application anytime soon now that he has apologised to the Madrileños. A summer departure is on the cards but for the moment no disciplinary action is going to be taken against the Argentine winger beyond giving him €500 to go to HMV and buy a better musical taste.
Which wraps up this morning’s speculation, all of which will fed Arsène’s pre-match press conference today. Theo Walcott will be a theme at these events for the rest of the month and every time form takes a dip subsequently. His spectre will haunt Arsène for as long as there is a need to fill some aspect of his game, be it the goals and not so obviously, the right side of attack. There are plenty of candidates for that position as the manager acknowledged, one who might have expected to feature prominently returning to training this week. Is it really five months since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain injured himself on a wretched opening day of the season? Five months? Time has flown by, helped no doubt by a swift recovery by the team in terms of the results. His return to match fitness began with a 45-minute runout last night in the reserves 1-0 win over Fulham, Thomas Eisfeld netting the winner for the record.
The path trodden by Oxlade-Chamberlain is one Walcott is familiar with, one he now tread again. According to PhysioRoom, this is Walcott’s 42nd injury since joining the club in 2006. 42. That is an average of 5 per season, not a big total but enough to make him unavailable for selection for roughly one-third of the Premier League games played in that timescale. It seems – it is – an incredible thought that he has missed over 100 games in that time. And yet has played over 300 matches in his career to date; all this from a man who is 24 years-old. Much speculation – and very little informed comment – surrounds Walcott’s current injury. He will, the great and good have told us, lose speed, power; become a Morris Minor compared to the BMW he is now. Or at least that is how it feels but in truth nobody beyond the medical staff knows the extent of the injury he has suffered. Perhaps those who believe this will not impact his pace in the future are right, maybe they are wrong.
It is one of those issues which is best left until the moment comes when you can see with your own eyes what impact, what toll they have taken on the young man. If they do have a negative influence on that aspect of his game, the likelihood is he will change his style of play. Contrary to what the received wisdom is in tabloid-land, Walcott does have a footballing brain, something which has been very evident in recent seasons. And he certainly has enough ability, belief and self-awareness to realise that changes are needed before any of us will. Perhaps the first we will know about it is when they happen.
Talking to Arsenal Player, Arsène noted that speculation and his desire for a forward were both intensified by Theo’s injury. Allowing Chuba Akpom to go to Brentford on loan is not going to change that. Bendtner is three weeks away from returning to training, Sanogo, well who knows when. The remaining wounded appear to be walking with Giroud and Özil, despite the manager’s caution, seeming ready to start on Monday; Gibbs and Ramsey perhaps the bench. It’s all looking positive in that sense, as a busy period of the season begins.
There is an interesting twist on the ‘Arsenal aren’t good enough to win the Premier League title‘ in this morning’s Daily Mirror. Apparently, if the Premier League is re-arranged to reflect points taken from matches against other teams in the top ten, Manchester City lead the way with 22 points with Arsenal lagging behind on 17. The logical extension is that Arsenal have taken 25 points to City’s 19 against the bottom half of the table but that seems to have been omitted from the article, an oversight I am sure they will be keen to rectify. The inference of course, is that the eventual champions will be the team which finishes top of this mini-league; the truth is that no matter how inconvenient the bottom half of the table is, those teams have as much a say in the destination of the title as those sitting more comfortably at present. And if we are applying spurious logic based on this table, Manchester City will finish on 93 points, two behind Arsenal’s 95. It’s easy this game, isn’t it?