Pride and dignity; we’re told that both are all that is to play for in a pointless European tie. I’d say both were stripped away in Munich and only in the event of another ‘heroic failure’ will they come close to being restored.
Straight into the team news. Petr Cech is reportedly unhappy at making way for David Ospina in the Champions League. The Mirror reports other players are unhappy that Ospina retains his place after conceding five in Munich. Of course they are; it means that attention can’t be deflected onto the goalkeeper whose saves kept us from our heaviest European defeat. Mesut Özil isn’t fit and scarily, Arsène the squad will be similar to the one which travelled to Anfield.
The chances of victory tonight are reasonable; Bayern want to win, and will do their utmost to. Arsenal ought to be completely motivated and that is reflected in the odds on sites offering the latest football betting tips; Arsenal winning isn’t long odds but 4 – 0? It’s upping the bookies profits, nothing more.
Before tonight’s match, there is a march from Highbury to the Emirates and Gunners Town has a good piece on the situation surrounding it. Change won’t come instantly but as the organisers rightly point out, no harm comes from letting the board know about the depth of supporter dissent. There’s nothing new about Arsenal supporters protesting about a manager, but it is new for several generations. Even Bob was a young man when the protests against Terry Neill took place, which shows how long ago it was.
You WIll Respect My Authoritah!
Per Mertesacker didn’t get the memo about discipline, giggling when the question about the player’s backing Wenger inevitably came. Arsène interrupted, sternly answering the inquisitor. A mistake; in my view. The BFG is experienced at toeing the party line and ended the discussion in a more PR friendly way. Arsenal don’t have a siege mentality; the manager does. How long before a hack is told, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries”? Look out for low-flying cows at Colney.
Arsène continued to lay down the law, this time over Alexis’ future. The Chilean, Wenger stated, would stay at Arsenal until the club decided his future. After everyone stopped guffawing, they looked at Le Boss to see he was completely serious. No-one was quite sure who coughed, “Nasri” or “Fabregas”, but there was a strong suspicion that the watching Arsenal fans sneezed, “Van Persie”.
The reality is that Alexis goes this summer or walks the following year on a free, if he wants to. As if Arsenal’s business model allows for the latter option. It’s an expensive lesson for the manager and board to learn. The cost of replacing him is going to far exceed the fee received and wages will most likely be higher. There aren’t any of the dreaded internal solutions and new contract or not, Arsène won’t survive not replacing him with a star name. And if we do sign a ‘star’, the angle will always be what might we be like with Alexis and ‘star’? It’s that kind of no-win situation for the manager.
It’s sad to see Arsène so beleaguered but at times, such as this line of answers, that he is his own worst enemy. The woe of the situation is that there’s no-one to save him from himself.
The Match Nobody Wants
Which is why the evening is taking place, after all. Arsène’s tribulations overshadow the match, overshadow everything at the moment. But the players have to perform tonight. So many questions hang over the squad about composition, mental strength and ability that this isn’t a quick fix; its major surgery to get it repositioned as title challengers. Futile arguments are put forward about entitlement, etc., but that has nothing to do with anything. Arsenal don’t have the right to win the title, no club does. Arsenal don’t have the right to win the Champions League or even be in the quarter-finals; very few clubs do.
But they must do better at the challenging and that’s the point so often overlooked. Saturday once again saw claims that the team wasn’t properly prepared, this time from a player. Arsène says it often enough, now Hector Bellerin agreed. Are they going to be at the races tonight?
I don’t know is the genuine answer but I don’t have high expectations of the evening and in that sense it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised. This is a match with nothing riding on it except pride and that has been in short supply in the performances recently.
With Özil out, Alex Iwobi most likely plays Number 10. It’s close to the point where he needs to be taken out of the firing line. Someone is always the scapegoat and Iwobi is drawing some of that fire although Francis Coquelin is number one target. I’d like to see Lucas Perez this evening, playing rather than sitting on the bench looking glum. With the options that we have, a forward line of Welbeck, Alexis and Lucas, has mobility and goals. We didn’t have that on Saturday in the first half.
Batten Down The Hatches
My one worry tonight is that we concede first. Then, with the fragile state of the squad, I fear the floodgates might open. Humiliation is not something which serves the club well at any time. Right now, it’s the worst thing which could happen. Lincoln on Saturday, in those circumstances, becomes a far more difficult match than it should be.
Finally, a reminder that Dad’s Jukebox is at 1994 in Times of our Lives. 1995 arrives on Thursday and is every bit as stonking.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.