The Emirates Cup is heading to Valencia, probably a good idea if it’s stamped “Property of Arsenal Football Club” so that this year’s winners don’t sell it off to contribute towards their new stadium. It was a bit “after the Lord Mayor’s show” following the 5 – 1 win over Benfica; Monaco, dismissed beforehand, were obdurate and a lacklustre Arsenal, not fully fit and out-of-sorts, fell into last season’s bad habits when faced with such opponents. Talking of bad habits, it was good to see that the standard of officiating in this country is as bad as ever with Martin Atkinson inexplicably letting his linesman overrule him, despite being further away; he’s finding out this morning that his two wrongs (ceding decision-making and awarding a free kick) don’t make it right (the penalty he was going to give). I am sure he will be relegated to a Tottenham pre-season tournament next year as punishment.
Arsenal lacked penetration in the first half with Olivier Giroud needing an awful lot of work to be ready for the start of the season, with only the Charity Shield to prepare for the Premier League campaign. He was enthusiastic about the arrival of Alexis – or as the commentary team called him several times, “Alexi“. Giroud noted,
“He is a fantastic player and I think we will have a good understanding together on the pitch. He is simple to play with and he can feel the game – I think it will be easy to play with him“
And when you start playing, Olivier, I am sure you will find out. If you think that is harsh judgement, Wenger was even harder on his compatriot,
“Giroud is not ready at all so I thought I’d take him out because he didn’t look ready”
Arsène can take some positives out of the Sunday performance. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided the spark needed on the right flank, Chambers did well again – aside from Falcao’s goal which will concern Wenger, repeating a pre-season theme of vulnerability from set-pieces – and in the second half, Alexis and Akpom were threatening as central strikers.
Chambers is being primed, you suspect, for the central midfield role, it’s a theme Arsène has consistently warmed to in the past week or so. Developed in midfield, he has the versatility the modern game seems to demand, reflected yesterday as he covered Debuchy’s bursts forward well. With the manager deflecting attention away from the transfer window in his post-match press conference, the inference of relying on Flamini and Arteta with Chambers as back-up is clear. My own view is that playing Flamini and Arteta together is a double-edged sword; what worked well against Napoli wilted at Old Trafford. Too often together they stifle the side’s attacking inspirations and it seems likely that one alongside Ramsey will continue. The question then becomes which one; warrior or aesthete?
On that subject, Wenger noted over the weekend that Arsenal had not made a bid for Sami Khedira whilst observing that he only knew the German was available from the newspapers. The general consensus has moved from Arsenal signing him to a free transfer next year to either Bayern or Chelsea. At least it was a longer played out drama that Juan Fernando Quintero who is still apparently arriving in London today.
The manager has much to ponder but it seems likely that the squad he currently has is the one which will be present for the first week of the season, new arrivals will take time to bed in, get to know their team-mates and achieve match fitness. The coming weekend’s meeting with Manchester City is going to be vital for sharpness, particularly those such as Giroud whose late return to training has impacted on his fitness. On dot com, there was a shortage of food to feed the press corps and they were not going to let it drop, forcing the manager to defend Giroud’s weight (“He’s not put weight on“) and then Cazorla (“No, he’s okay“). The newshounds gave up at that point but you wonder if it is going to be a recurring theme until a full quota of custard creams is served at half-time.
Elsewhere, knickers are getting twisted at Frank Lampard’s loan to Manchester City and the principles behind it along with FFP ramifications. I understand why but think there is too much being made of it, particularly in the case of Lampard and David Villa. It’s a long stretch to suggest that New York City Blues or whatever the hell they will be called are suddenly going to sign very good players and immediately loan them out. Whilst the principle is all well and good, it overlooks one thing; unless a player gets it writing that they will immediately be loaned out to Manchester City, there is no guarantee that it will happen. They could sign for New York, only for City to change their minds and not take them. Any agent / lawyer will want that in writing. Such things are called contracts and the minute a five-year contract is filed showing that the deal includes a loan to City, it rather falls down.
The fundamental problem is that having made a hoo-ha of FFP, the media and it’s supporters are having a bit of a hard time accepting that it is, if not dead in the water, certainly holed to the point of sinking. Two transgressors at the top-level were caught, in a time when clubs are still losing money hand over fist. Real Madrid have spent, so far, €115m whilst receiving roughly €36m and come the end of the season, they will still comply with the regulations. Barcelona have a net spend so far of €60m and they will still comply. FFP is not designed to curb spending, it isn’t even designed to curb excesses for the most part. It’s certainly not designed to level the playing field as Arsenal hoped for such a long time.
Anyhow, that’s the triviality for today over. Sometimes there are more important things in life.