Football is a sport short on loyalty but some city’s never forget a defining manager. Take Stoke for example. Most of us would quite happily take Stoke into the middle of the Atlantic and sink it but not this morning.
The city council, mindful of the £3.7m hit to Tony Pulis’ pocket, is keen to chip in to their Welsh folk hero’s cause and has decided to raise funds by fining the denizens of the Potteries for leaving their bins out too long at Christmas. At £80 a time, that’s 462,500 bins. Presumably they are hoping for repeat offenders to help with bin-a-thon.
News that Stoke had bins surprised me; most of the rubbish was strewn across the streets last time I was there.
I await FIFA’s disrepute charge for making an overt political statement on the site.
Arsène is preparing for tomorrow’s EFL cup tie with Southampton aware that rotation is his biggest task. The fixture list for the next 19 days is daunting:
|03-Dec||West Ham||Premier League||A|
|10-Dec||Stoke City||Premier League||H|
|18-Dec||Manchester City||Premier League||A|
If anyone is in any doubt about what side we will field tomorrow, that underlines the second string XI nature of it all.
After the 2 – 2 draw with PSG, it’s fairly safe to say that we will chop and change for the Basel game as well. Anyone likely to play in the final three Premier League games of this run who has even the vaguest injury concern, is likely to be rested for the trip to Switzerland.
It would be just our luck that we field a weakened side, succumb to a last-minute goal, only to find that Ludogorets score an equaliser in Paris just as Basel are celebrating.
There is such a need for a unlikey turn of events that we should accept second place and the horrors that it will bring. If we finish top, we’d draw Bayern or Dortmund/Real Madrid anyway.
The concern is that injuries are starting to appear. Whilst Hector Bellerin is close to returning, Olivier Giroud’s hamstring appeared to give out on Sunday. Although Arsène said afterwards it was a twitch – and when anyone mentions a twitch I immediately think of Jack Douglas in the Carry On films which could explain how Ollie ended up on the turf – so we wait and see.
We are short of options up front though. Alexis seems OK but surely won’t be risked tomorrow; Giroud with a possible tweak of the hamstring is surely out which leaves Lucas Perez or Theo Walcott to lead the line unless the manager dips into the Academy side and gives Stephy Mavydidi a runout. Either that or Yaya Sanogo.
More will become clear at his pre-match presser. It’s sign of the precarious nature of our squad at the moment. With Akpom and Welbeck both out until the New Year, Arsène has to manage the fitness levels without necessarily having the depth to do so in the short-term.
It only becomes a problem in the worst-case scenario but we’ve seen the worst-case scenario happen once too often in the past.
It’s only the EFL Cup tomorrow so it won’t be a major surprise if we don’t win it; we haven’t threatened to do so since Abou Diaby did what few rarely get the chance to do: kick John Terry in the head – very hard as well, the lucky bugger. And with no European reward, a meaningless competition took on even less meaning, if that’s possible.
Since I started writing the piece, I’ve become aware of the tragic events in Colombia. Thoughts and prayers go to those who lost family and loved ones in the crash, as well as the injured.
Heartfelt sympathies to the club’s officials, surviving players and supporters.